TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

click on any picture in a post for a larger view

Monday, March 31, 2014

Modjeska Peak in Black and White

Sunday morning, I eventually ended up in Silverado Canyon.  I write “eventually,” because I first found myself parked in a lot up Ortega Highway.  I was sitting in my truck before the sun came up, waiting for the rain to stop.  It didn’t stop, so I drove home.  The best thing is, I was running up Maple Springs much later that morning.  The weather was cool, almost cold, the skies were big and beautiful.  I ran to Modjeska Peak, a peak I have neglected far too long all because I wanted the bigger cookie, Santiago Peak.  Modjeska Peak was delightful.  It was quiet, and it was lonely.  It was so well-worth a climb. 

My trip in black and white:  (14.19 miles, +2,464’)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Finishing up the Wretchedness

The skies have been dark, cold and gloomy the past few days.  Yet, no rain.  Today, I set out on hilly trails in Aliso/Wood Canyons beneath these dark moist skies, trying to kick troubles from my mind.  It wasn’t until the rains came down as I ran through green meadows, that I was finally able to let go.  When I write “let go,” I mean to run in the moment, to think about nothing, to just be in the present.  And the present only.

I encountered some difficulty maintaining this, as the outside world pounded on my brain to be let in.  I relented and let it in occasionally.  I’ll tell you what though – climbing up Mentally Sensitive (see the steepest climb in profile below) took all my troubles and dashed them on the rocks.  In a nutshell, the climb was murder.  The best thing about it was finishing up the wretchedness.  After that trial, it was all pretty much easy going from then on.  Best thing was, I received a text message from a good friend that I haven’t heard from in a long time.  Bad thing was, she was in town, and I was too far to get to her in time.  Still, I enjoyed the awesomeness of this spring day, rain, intruding troubles, steep climbs and all!

Here’s to trying to running ridiculously difficult climbs.

Miles run:  11.02  Route:  Aliso Creek Trail, Wood Canyon, Meadows, Mentally Sensitive, Top of the World, West Ridge, Mathis, Wood Canyon, Cave Rock Trail, Wood Canyon, Aliso Creek Trail

Running Up MS down Mathis (cave rock detour) 3-26-2014, Elevation

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Old Goat Sweep

I drove up the mountain before sunrise this morning.  My destination:  Lower Blue Jay campground in the Cleveland National Forest.  Today, I had the honor to sweep Old Goat 50 Miler.  Oh, the privileges of working a race!  First off, I was able to drive all the way to the front lot to park.  I also didn’t have to sign in or sign any waiver.  I walked around in the big tent.  I knew the race director, his wife and the race coordinator all by name.  I saw lots of running friends, both runners and volunteers.  And best of all, I got to take off running whenever I was dang ready.

The sweeper’s job: 

Sweepers run behind the last person in the race.  They pick up trash, take down course markers, and look for anyone left on the trail.  Sweepers in the first parts of the race have it pretty easy.  Runners are still relatively happy.  Sweepers don’t have to pull anyone from the race.  And the weather is nice and cool.

My route: 

I swept the first ten miles of Old Goat this morning.  It entailed a loop referred to Cocktail Loop, which consists of running San Juan Trail to Old San Juan Trail, back to San Juan Trail into Blue Jay campground.  There’s no aid stations along the route.  It’s all single-track, and technical.

I had an overwhelmingly enjoyable run sweeping Old Goat.  I felt utterly stress-free, with all the time in the world to complete this loop.  The run was so easy, I don’t think I took even one sip of fluids until about mile 8.  I met new people, some I recognized from Facebook.  I fell once, skinned my knee.  And I practiced maneuvering over ridiculously rocky terrain.   Back at the San Juan/Old San Juan Intersection, I got to help direct runners out for their second loop (The Candy Store Loop).  I wasn’t jealous one bit that I was not running this race.  Winking smile I much preferred my easy-peasy, happy time over any inevitable death-march today. 

On Cocktail Rock:Running Cocktail Loop Loop - Old Goat 50 Sweep 3-22-2014, Elevation

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Rolling Ridges

I felt at a loss where to run this morning.  I’ve had too much of Aliso/Wood Canyons, its shady groves, spring flowers, creek crossings and wretched climbs and descents to and from the ridge.  I’ve had about enough of Arroyo Trabuco trail too, with its multitude of creek crossings, lush groves and relatively flat terrain.  This morning it was, “Ho hum, where do I run?”

I suspect hubby could tell that I was approaching the door to the blues.  I’m guessing that’s why he handed over his debit card and said, “Get some gas and go run in the mountains.”  I took it in a heartbeat (I have yet to get the bank to get my own debit card).  But then I took so long getting out of the house, I opted for something entirely different – a run in Crystal Cove and Laguna wilderness.  This time though, I didn’t pay the exorbitant cost of the toll road.  I took the long way and drove through Laguna Beach. 

Wonderful Laguna Beach. 

Many, many years ago, before our three boys were born, I drove every day through Laguna Beach to get to my job in Irvine.  Oh, how I longed to be one of those wanderers strolling along the boulevard as I drove bumper-to-bumper, puffing cigarette smoke out the open window of my Toyota Corolla.  The Greeter, the original greeter, an endearing old man, stood on a corner and waved at me every single day as I drove by.  He waved at everyone.  For years.   And years. 

This morning as I drove though this town, I couldn’t help delight in the idea that I am one of those wanderers now (not exactly how I imagined, but I am).  The greeter is no longer on this earth.  But a larger than life statue stands on the road replicating his wave.  In front of that statue, stood another man this morning.  He wore a red coat as he waved at the drivers moving along Highway One.  Sure, he wasn’t the original.  But he put a smile on my face, just as the original greeter had so many times. 

Oh ya!  Lest I forget . . . I ran today.   I made a three-ridge loop (with a connector trail along the way).  Though I was still tired from yesterday, I enjoyed every perspire of sweat.

First, I ran along Bommer Ridge, high about the Pacific Ocean.  It’s a mainly downhill ridge, rolling though, with some up’s. 

Bommer Ridge:

After Bommer Ridge, I hopped onto El Moro Ridge.  It’s more rolling than Bommer, and heads directly toward the ocean.  I spied many coyote and bobcat tracks.  I explored the campgrounds.  And I stopped to photo this green meadow:

El Moro Ridge:

From El Moro Ridge, I took B.F.I., which stand’s for Big F’ing Incline.  For me it was all down hill.  I stopped for at bit at the WWII bunker.  Ate my snack there as I gazed down at the Pacific.  Then I was off again, headed for the BIG rolling climb up No-Name Ridge.

View from B.F.I. bunker:

I took no pictures (prisoners?) from No-Name Ridge.  I found the climb quite taxing.  I ran when I could.  When the ascents were too steep, I practiced my power hiking.  In all, I covered 9.82 miles on this loop.  And as usual, I believe I’m better for it. 

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Meeting up with Mr. Mathis

My feet did not hit dirt today until 10:30 AM.  That’s pretty dang late for me.  Usually, when I push off my start until this late, I am hard pressed to run at all.  It wasn’t like that this morning, I arrived to the trails when I could get there.  And I was fine with that.  The air was cool and breezy.  The skies were clear.  Lizards and squirrels scampered about.  Two large gopher snakes crossed my path.  And I ran up on this lovely field of flowers:

I elected on running up Mathis trail to the ridge today.  Why?  I have no idea.  I pretty much hate Mathis, and only take it when I’m a glutton for punishment.  It ascends rather steeply for about a mile, doesn’t really switch-back at all, and is totally exposed (no shade!).  The trip was pretty much murder – which made reaching the ridge all the much better!

First sightings of California poppies (on Mathis):

About to climb Mathis with only one thing on my mind:  ONE FOOT IN FRONT OF THE OTHER!

After topping Mathis, I had a significant climb remaining to Top of the World where I took in my usual Pacific Ocean view.  From there, I got some flat running all the way to Mentally Sensitive Trail.  I still cannot take Mentally Sensitive with any speed at all.  It’s just too steep.  All the ruts left from our last rain made the trip even more nerve-racking.  Then with just about fifty yards remaining, I came upon a section under trail maintenance.  It seemed as if the trail had been plowed, or rototilled.  As soon as I spotted all that loose dirt, I grew apprehensive.  Perhaps it was my fear and the fact that I slowed down that caused my fall.  I’m not sure.  All I know is that one second I was upright, and in a moment my feet slipped out from beneath me, and I flew to the ground.  I landed hard on my rear, my palms slamming into the rocks and dirt.  Then I fell onto my back, my pack once again softening the impact.  I was left with a backside covered in dirt and two small punctures in both my right and left palms. 

The slip jarred me some, mainly because the impact was so fierce.  But it was still all worth it – meeting up with Mr. Mathis again and also facing my fear down that wretchedly steep Mentally Sensitive.

I guess I’m a trail runnin’ fool. Winking smile

Running up mathis down ms 3-19-2014, Elevation

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

A Little Run

Time was short today.  And time got shorter and shorter all morning.  I switched my work-out plans several times, with each hour passing too quickly.  Finally, after my regular morning chores, and then photocopying student handouts for tonight’s class, working on my latest discipline project and also picking up groceries, I decided for a little run out the front door.   That worked out great since the fuel tank in my truck was dang near empty. 

This week is “Easy” week on the running plans, so I was happy to get in any miles, especially beneath these clear, cool, blue skies.

Miles run:  3.05, and I got a great sweat out of it.

DSC01330

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Spartan Up!

spartanup-coverRecently, I read an advanced synopsis of Joe De Sena’s book Spartan Up!  (Scheduled for release May 2014.)  I can tell you that after reading this synopsis, I’m jazzed about reading his book – I’m jazzed about training for a Spartan Race.  Yes, I am going to register for a Spartan race.  But first I need some of that mental strength – the kind that says, “I think I can.”  The kind that squashes my abundance of self-doubt.  Spartan Up!  promises to help do that. 

I had no idea who Joe De Sena was before reading this synopsis.  Now I am seriously intrigued.  He is definitely an endurance athlete, an adventure runner and an over all crazy guy, all wrapped into one.  At one point, De Sena completed Bad Water (135 miles), the Lake Placid Ironman (140.6 miles), and a one-hundred mile trail run ALL IN ONE WEEK.  I have a feeling he can give me some tips on my endurance running. 

SPARTAN UP! 

Self-doubt, the want for instant gratification, these are things that thwart us (especially me) in our personal lives, in endurance running, and according to De Sena, in a Spartan race.  He predicts if you can complete a Spartan race, you can succeed in life.  Spartan Up! pledges to give us guidance over our stumbling blocks.  He writes about the last half of the race, “when your mind can quit on you or will you forward.”

Spartan Up! will bring us through Spartan races many obstacles, with each obstacle a metaphor for life’s obstacles.  There’s the mud that sticks to us and slows us down.  There’s passing through barbed wire on hands and knees.  Just as in many of life’s problems, these  obstacles don’t take merely strength to conquer, but efficiency as well.  There’s all sorts of trials and tribulations similar to climbing the greased wall found in many Spartan races.  It takes great perseverance to conquer the wall.   Sound familiar?  Life’s toughest problems always take perseverance to overcome. 

It seems that De Sena’s book focuses on this:  when it’s all said and done, it’s not our triumphs that teach us how to succeed – it’s the failures.  Climbing that greased wall, only to slide back down to the bottom again and again, that’s what helps learn how get past that obstacle.  

I need me some of that.  (Look out Twin Peaks, here I come!)

Expect a full review when I read Spartan Up! come May.

Happy running!

Friday, March 14, 2014

One Fell Swoop

I have been toying with the idea of running The Harding Hustle this year instead of working it.  Ummmm.  I’m pretty sure that I won’t be doing THAT.  This morning I drove to Modjeska Canyon and ran up Harding Truck Trail to “4 Corners.”  From there, I turned around and ran back down.  This is the same exact route as the 30k in the Harding Hustle. 

Mama Mia!  In July it’s going to be hellish.  And I’m not ready to wrap my mind around “hellish” quite yet. 

Talk about tough!  Even the downhill was tough.  I arrived to “4 Corners” twenty minutes later than I planned, so I booked it downhill to make up those lost minutes.  It’s dang tiring to run downhill for NINE plus miles. 

On the good side, the scenery was beautiful; no, it was majestic.  And in one fell swoop, I got dang close to my 45 mile weekly goal.

Running HHT out-and-back 3-14-2014, Elevation

I will sleep very well tonight. 

Miles run:  18.55

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Night and Day

Wednesday and Thursday

It’s tough to fit in runs when time is short. Inevitably, this means I need to run when I absolutely do not want to (I know, kind of a familiar story lately). Wednesday, I subbed at a middle school several miles from my home, alongside Aliso Creek. This is the same creek that runs through my stomping grounds in Aliso/Wood Canyons. During lunch I phoned my faithful husband and asked him to pull up the school on Google Maps to see if there were any trails nearby. (Yes, I do not own a smartphone – nor do I plan on purchasing one soon. Why? Because I destroy phones, just like I destroy cameras). Anyway, he found that a bike trail ran along the creek in both directions.

I took off at 4PM on the Aliso Creek bikeway. It was paved and very safe. All the creek crossings were over bridges. I came upon numerous runners, adults and high school students. Had I not been so sluggish, I would have found the atmosphere festive. As it was, I could hardly move. If I had not known that I will have days like this some time or another, I would have chucked the shoes and went home thinking What the heck am I doing? I’m no runner! But I wobbled along, across the asphalt with clear views of the Saddleback Mountains anyway, determined to get in at least five miles.

You can imagine my glee when I came upon a dirt trail. My heart grew lighter, as well as, my step while I ran long this single-track, only to be dumped out on the bikeway again. Don’t get me wrong. The bike way was lovely, and on any other day, I would have enjoyed it. Overall, I was miserable during my run on Wednesday. Miserable, only to be turned around by a locked gate!

I did get in my five miles, thankfully. (5.2 miles)

Grrrrrrrrr:

Thursday was like night and day compared to Wednesday’s run. First off, today, I got my run in during the morning hours. The weather was cool. I wasn’t fatigued from a day of working. I still ran on asphalt. But my step was much quicker. The gorgeous clouds and crisp colors of the ocean and everything else stole my attention. I felt happy to run. I got in my miles (5.52) with a zero misery factor.

Monday, March 10, 2014

Where You Are, Be There

I set out on trails in Aliso Canyon this morning, not in the best of moods.  Things that annoy me lately plagued my thoughts.  And I also kept trying to figure out how I was going to fit in my forty-five miles this week.  This almost obsessive preoccupation really frustrated me.   I can’t do this when I run!  Troubled by my dilemma, I recalled the words one of my son’s taekwondo masters used to say to him.  That is, “Where you are, be there.”

Where you are, be there.

Where you are, be there.

Every time anger surfaced, and every time I started thinking about anything other than what I was doing this morning on the trails, I repeated this mantra.  Where you are, be there.

I was able to put in 12.11 slow miles this morning, despite difficult beginnings.  I enjoyed the wind, the caterpillars, the deer.  I stood in awe at the ocean’s deep blue color.  All this was fantastic payback for forcing myself to be there.

Running Big Loop counter clockwise 3-10-2014, Elevation

12.11 miles, +1,215’ / Route:  Aliso Creek Trail, Wood Canyon, Wood Creek, Wood Canyon, Cholla, West Ridge, Top of the World, Meadows, Wood Canyon, Aliso Canyon