TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Monday, November 25, 2013

Sometimes When It Rains, It Pours

I decided to break from running after my November 13th run.  I continued strong on at the gym, burning calories, lifting weights.  I even counted calories at home. 

1378186_10202441127848131_393212527_nAlmost week later, on a Tuesday morning, I got a call as I packed for my first run back.  Yes, I admit, it was too early, my foot still ached, but I was dang tired of waiting.  The call was from the school nurse. Our youngest son injured his leg.  He was crying in pain, couldn’t walk.  They had to wheelchair him out to my truck.  He was smiling by then, but walked about the house with a limp.  He insisted he didn’t fall or hurt his leg during recess.  Still, I worried.  My guess was a hamstring injury.  He is our most active boy, always jumping and running.

I kept him home the next day.  And I called our family orthopedic surgeon (I think that’s funny that we have a family orthopedic surgeon).  I made him the first available appointment – Friday morning.  Thursday I  got my two oldest boys off to school, left baby boy at home with his papa and went off to a substitute teaching assignment (middle school fine arts).  I phoned home frequently to learn baby’s leg was much better.  Still had a limp, but no cries of pain.  Then my throat began to ache and my sinuses grew sore as well.  By lunchtime, it seemed every single joint ached.  I just wanted to crawl into bed and sleep.

Back at home I lay in my bed with our baby boy, and every so often he would cry out from leg pain.  Ice and heat did nothing.  And he refused pain medication.  As I lay there with him, I noticed the pain came in waves.  It seemed to me he was having either spasms or cramps.  I kneaded around his leg to find some specific areas where he cried – around his outer back thigh.  This wasn’t his hamstring.  My concern grew.

Friday, I was so dang sick I could barely get the boys off to school.  I foolishly packed my bag for the gym, then brought baby boy to the doctor.  He was doing much better, no more cries from pain.  But I wanted to check this out anyway.  Turns out, he has bursitis.  Bursitis!  VIRAL Bursitis.  I saw the swollen bursa sacs right there in the x-ray.  I was so dumbfounded, my doctor simplified it for me and said, “It’s like he caught a cold, but in his hip.”

bursa

Can you imagine?  A cold in the hip?  Our baby healed very quickly.  I on the other hand, grew sicker.  Didn’t make it to the gym.  Instead, I slept off and on for the next two days, achy and lethargic. 

This morning, the first official day of our week-long Thanksgiving recess, I felt good enough to make a trip to the gym.  I rode 27 miles on the gym bike and noticed that my heart rate rose significantly higher than normal.  And so I neglected the weights, went home and took a nap. 

Twelve days have passed without a run.  But my son is well.  And that is most important.

Happy running to those who can make it out there.  I’m hoping for tomorrow, or the next day, or the next.  Winking smile

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Holy Jim Aid / Chimera 2013

Just because I can’t run (and I’m still a little angry and don’t want to accept it) doesn’t mean I can’t go to Chimera.  What’s Chimera?  Chimera is a 100 mile race in the very mountains that I run, The Saddleback Mountains. 

I worked the Holy Jim aid station, mile 40.7 in this enormous race on Saturday.  As always, I met new friends, had a great time, and was inspired by awesome runners.  Truly awesome – every last one of them. 

Prepping:

We waited about two hours for the front runners to come in on this cloudy day.  The first three came in pretty dang close together (within minutes).

The first runner in to Holy Jim (placed 2nd overall):

The second runner to come into Holy Jim, Fabrice Hardel.  He placed first overall (I came into this event on “team Fabrice”):

At one point we learned that Trabuco Trail was not marked.  Only a couple people complained.  If you’ve run the trail before, you pretty much cannot get lost.  If a runner had never taken it though, there are a couple places to take wrong turns to dead ends, and one place to take a wrong turn that would be detrimental to your race.  I set out in my truck and marked about a half a mile.  Then I hiked the single track to mark the next half mile.  Before I returned, I handed the tape off to a runner’s crew members to mark the trail up to West Horsethief.  This is the trail that would be a big mistake to take.  However, a runner would have to make a hard right to take this trail, so we felt pretty secure that no one had done it. 

The runners were amazing.  They ran on into our station from about 12:30 until 7:30 PM.  The first eight or so just filled up with fluids and were off.  After that, the runners began sticking around.  Some went out to their personal crews parked in the Holy Jim lot.  Others had some warm soup or pumpkin pie at our station.  The later they arrived the longer the runners stayed.  All but one took off to the next station.  The one who stayed eliminated himself from the race.  And I have to give him huge credit for that.  I know how hard it is to make the call yourself.  It was excruciating when I did it at Bulldog 50k.

I recognized many faces, runners I’ve seen at events but don’t know.  Runners I know by name, but still don’t know.  And runners I do know and have run with.  The delight of my day was my friend Robert W.  I knew that he’d do well.  But he seemed to come in closer to the top than I figured.  And then, best of all – he placed 4th overall.  I am still thrilled, ecstatic to be precise. 

Way to go Robert!

After about the twentieth runner (133 runners started this race), the station grew active with clusters of runners coming in right after another.  What a lively bunch!  Great personalities, great jokes.  And they were oh so gracious. 

John H. looking strong!  (Deborah, one of his crew peeks out behind him):

So, what did we have to offer besides a radio for communication, a fire chief and first aid kit?  Let me see if I can recall.  We had pumpkin pie, oranges, salt, gels, endurolytes, sodas, Heed, water, ice, cookies, potatoes, candy, peanuts, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, bananas, potato chips, slices of a veggie sub sandwich, pretzels, M&M’s, and chicken noodle soup.  Oh, and we had light and a heater when the sun went down. 

As nighttime rolled in, the weather grew cold.  We had a big moon beneath partly cloudy skies. Dave, the Holy Jim Fire chief, brought out some extra lights and also a heater.   Dave was another high point of the day.  I remember this man telling me to be careful one early morning as I headed up Holy Jim.  He said there had been a dozen rescues the day before.  Chimera 2013, I officially met Dave.  He was such a pleasure to meet (as were all my crew members).  He was full of interesting stories, and I got to learn were the resident mountain lion lives.  Right off Holy Jim!!!  Dave opened up the firehouse for me and the other lady in the crew so that we could use the bathroom.  And when it grew dark, he drove us in his huge red, mountain fire truck to use the restroom.  He didn’t think us ladies should have to use the outhouse!

The arrival times between runners grew greater beneath the dark skies.  I saw my friend Kurt E. and Randall T.  Both were smiling and looking pretty dang great for having endured the course so far.  Did I mention that this course is BRUTAL?

A night group fueling up to take off up Holy Jim in the dark (Kurt E. on far right):Our radio guys, and Dave, the Holy Jim fire chief (wearing a skunk cap):

Our last runner came in about 7:30 (I believe).  And then we waited.  We kept the soup hot, but began cleaning up some.  We made radio contact several times, but could not learn the number of the DFL and his/her estimated time of arrival.  Finally we learned that the last runner had made our station some time earlier.  Thing was, all runners had not made it to the next aid, Bear Springs.  We could not leave until all runners had reached the next station, just in case they had to double back.  And so our captain, Doug and one radio guy stayed behind, while the rest of us cleaned up and headed out.  I left the scene at 8:30 PM.  The guys who stayed behind, didn’t leave until 10:00 PM.  In all, 121 runners reached our station, 12 dropped before reaching us, 2 of those did so because they took a wrong turn early on in the race. 

Back at home I tracked the race all night.  I didn’t learn until morning that Fabrice had won (yay!), but more importantly, Robert placed 4th (YAY!).  What a day.  What a wonderful day.  Sadly, my foot ached from standing so much.  Cheers to a QUICK healing. Winking smile

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

13 on the 13th

The Sock initially helped my foot immensely.  Almost immediately, my arch and heel improved.  I could walk around in the morning with very little pain (mornings were always the worst).  After two days, improvement came slowly.  Still, I felt good enough to run.  So, I set out this morning along Trabuco Creek Trail (not to be confused with Trabuco Trail in Trabuco Canyon).  Immediately, my right foot hurt.  But it was bearable.  So, I continued onward.

Trabuco Creek Trail:

Aside from the foot pain, my calves felt extremely tight.  I stopped beneath the train tracks for a long stretch before continuing on. 

To get to my destination (Arroyo Trabuco Trail) I got to run along orange groves.  Oranges were slim pickings, but I found a couple trees bursting with the sweet fruit.

I got to run beneath Interstate 5.  A bit scary due to the darkness and nooks and crannies for scary people to hide.

At last I made Arroyo Trabuco Trail.  My foot still aching, but not too badly, I made several creek crossings without falling in the creek.  That only happens about fifty percent of the time on this trail. 

I enjoyed much of Arroyo Trabuco before finally turning around, a little over 6.5 miles, giving me 13+ miles today.

Turnaround point:

During the last 4 miles, running with THE FOOT became increasingly difficult.  Finally, with two miles, my pain was immense.  I was so close to phoning my husband for a ride to my car.  I just couldn’t take him from his work.  So I pushed onward, despite the pain. 

I’ve been icing off and on since I arrived home.  I’ve taped, I’ve rolled, I’ve applied heat.  Right now I’m wearing The Sock.

13.28 miles run today.  And I think I’m convinced that I really need to give the foot a break.  Bummer.  Sad smile

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Searching for Bedford

I got The Sock (The Strasser Sock) and slept in it last night.  I woke able to walk, and with little pain.   I slept in a little and got a later than usual start for a mountain run.  That was a-okay.  I’m ready to roll with the punches.  I merely decided on a shorter route to The Main Divide for my search of Bedford Peak in the Santa Ana Mountains. 

My shorter route was straight up, and I mean STRAIGHT UP the Silverado Motorway (AKA Silverado Trail).  It’s a bear of a climb, though most of it is runnable (a very slow run for me!).  The gain is 1,800 feet over 3.25 miles.  I didn’t stress over it though – still rolling with the punches Winking smile.  Besides, the views made the trip well worth it.  And best of all, the weather was cool, almost on the cold side.  (One mountain biker in the trailhead parking lot was wearing a jacket, shivering and told me it was “freezing.”  Giggle.  It was perfect running weather for me.)

Running up the Silverado Motorway:

Well, I studied maps, looked at satellite photos, read articles in order to narrow my search for Bedford Peak.  It seemed to me, that the peak was near the start of the first giant “U” The Main Divide made.  The first peak looked too small, I passed it up.  The second, much larger peak looked promising.  I made my way up the steep single track and ran along the top looking for a surveyor’s marker.  The trail was overgrown and seemed seldom travelled and I thought I probably had not found Bedford Peak.  I ran to the edge anyway, and lo and behold, found a bench.  A bench!  Next to the bench were granola bars and jugs filled with water.  I thought for sure I had found Bedford Peak. 

Views from this peak:

I searched the entire peak for a surveyor’s marker.  Nothing.  I double checked the rocks, looked carefully for pieces of slab.  This peak was completely void of any markers.  Usually, they are pretty easy to find, so I figured I had not found Bedford Peak.  Slightly bummed, I ran down the peak and at the bottom came upon a ranger whom I know as “Hollywood.”  He asked if I was okay.  I said I was,  then asked, “Where the heck is Bedford Peak?”  He thought it was 3 or 4 peaks away.

So, I took off along The Main Divide, climbing every peak, large or small.  Then I came upon another ranger.  He asked if I was okay.  I said I was, then asked, “Where the heck is Bedford Peak?”   He studied his map some.  I sensed he wasn’t quite sure when he pointed off in the distance and said, “It might be that peak.”

Well, I ran to that peak.  I so didn’t want to climb it because it looked quite steep.  But I scrambled up it anyway, sometimes on all fours it was that steep.  About halfway up, the trail ended, and I found myself bushwhacking along the peak looking for a surveyor’s marker.  Nothing. 

The climb up another peak:

Its view:

Not wanting to go back down the way I came up (I would fall for sure!), I ran along a ridge off of this peak to another smaller peak.  Again, no surveyor’s marker.  I bushwhacked my way back to The Main Divide knowing that I would have to turn back and try another day.  I had already run up every peak for two miles without any luck. 

Running back along The Main Divide, just about a half mile past the first peak I explored (the one with the bench), another ranger drove up.  He asked if I was okay.  I said I was, then asked, “Where the heck is Bedford Peak?”   He took out his GPS and said, “Gosh, its about 300 feet away from here.”  What???  Nearby, there was the peak I had already explored (the bench peak), plus the smaller one I skipped on the way in, and a peak at the top of the Silverado Motorway.  Tying up loose ends, I ran up the two remaining (small peaks) and searched again to no avail, for a surveyor’s marker. 

Well, judging by my garmin, the time had come to run back down and head home.  So, I kicked up my heels and took that 3.25 mile downhill switch back as quickly as I could.  I worked on my downhill speed, despite an aching foot.  I felt pretty good about my pace and progress running down that tricky/technical trail.  So what if I didn’t find Bedford Peak this time, I had a heck of a lot of fun racing down the Silverado Motorway.

Back at home, I washed my feet, put on The Sock and got on the internet for more research.  I found nothing different about Bedford Peak’s location that I had learned days earlier.  Either these hikers who wrote about it were wrong, or I actually did visit the peak.  I found a topographical map, and with my husband’s aid, determined that I was indeed on Bedford Peak this morning.  Still, I wasn’t convinced.  So, I researched some more until I hit the jackpot.  I found a number of write-ups that noted the bench on Bedford Peak.  One mountain biker even filmed the bench and posted it on YouTube.  And the surveyor’s mark.  Well, I learned about that too.  I found a picture where it used to be and learned that the marker had been “destroyed.”  I’m not sure exactly what “destroyed” refers to, but I have a feeling by the way the rocks were broken up, that it was actually taken.  Someone out there may be collecting surveyor’s markers.  Hopefully not. 

The climb:Running Silverado Motorway looking for Bedford Peak 11-10-2013, Elevation

Friday, November 8, 2013

Four-By-Four

This morning, I had lots of time, but lots of chores.  Fortunately, I had a goal of only eight miles to run.  For the life of me, I could NOT decide where to run.  I’ve been blasting through gasoline like water lately, so I couldn’t justify driving a great deal.  Finally I decided on Aliso/Wood Canyons (surprise!).  I ran Aliso Canyon, turned right into Wood Canyon until I reached four miles.  Then I turned around and ran back.  I saw four coyotes (not all at once, actually two at a time).  I saw the loner blue heron I always see.  And I came across many hikers. 

My foot felt pretty darn good, just some slight pain toward the end of the eight miles.  And I ran faster than usual, so I was more fatigued than usual after this length of a run. 

Result:  success

Time to turn around:

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Back To My Stomping Grounds

This morning I was back in my stomping grounds, Aliso/Wood Canyons.  I cut my 14.5 mile out-and-back 2 miles short by looping the route and taking a side trip to Dripping Cave.  Downhills were just too much for the foot.  THE FOOT.  Any day now, I’m going to purchase one of those plantar fasciitis socks (for about 50 bucks).  Regardless of the now quite bearable but annoying pain, I ran myself fatigued.  And what a lovely day it was to come on in fatigued.  After stretching my calves, I lay in the grass next to my truck.  A cool breeze blew through the tree canopy above.  And I got several minutes of thoughtless relaxation.  If that doesn’t make a struggle worth it, I don’t know what does.

A regular photo – selfie from Top of the World:

View of Saddleback Mountains from Top of the World:

Hydrating on Mathis Trail:

Off to Dripping Cave for some cool shade:

Running Wood Cyn Cholla Westridge TOW Mathis back 11-7-2013Running Wood Cyn Cholla Westridge TOW Mathis back 11-7-2013, Elevation

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

It’s just a matter now of putting the pieces together

Last night I pressed and rolled my foot down on a tennis ball as hard as I could.  No pain.  After icing, heating, rolling etc., FINALLY no pain.  I continued rolling through the night, even taped to go to sleep. 

This morning I felt REALLY optimistic about a trail run.  Then after dropping the last of my boys at school, he informed me that he forgot his clarinet. I drove all the way back home, grabbed his instrument, then rushed back to his school.  Then I RAN through campus to get the clarinet into the music room before the tardy bell rang.  I made it.  The bad news is, upon my first running step, my right foot hurt.  IT.  HURT. Smile with tongue out

Darn it.  I went for a trail run anyway.  And I’m especially glad because today I finally put together the last piece of my puzzle for the Tides to Towers run that I’m eventually going to do. (That is a run from the beach up to Santiago Peak, AKA Talking Towers Peak)  I’ve finally “punched” through Arroyo Trabuco and ran to the mouth of Trabuco Canyon.  I even had some spare time after that and ran up Rose Canyon because I heard a runner can get to Santiago Truck Trail from there.  If this is true, it will open up a whole new array of running for me.  Anyway.  First things first.  I’ve got the Tides to Towers route.  Put together, it’s 29 miles one way.  I still haven’t decided about the return trip, whether I’m going for the full 58 mile round trip.  I’m toying of taking the bus when I get off the mountain or having hubby pick me up.

I’m aiming to do this “Tides to Towers” run late winter, early spring.  Now, my job is to find one or more trail runners to do this with me.  Any takers?

Running Arroyo Trabuco:

Running through O’Neill campground with drinking fountains galore and sparkling bathrooms with running water sinks and flushable toilets!!:

Standing at the mouth of Trabuco Canyon:

Rose Canyon:

Time to turn around in Rose Canyon and head back.  The foot was aching by this point.  Bummer.  But it was still a good run, because any run is better than no run, especially in this pristine scenery.  (Today’s total: ten miles)