TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Thursday, February 26, 2015

Beauty Vs. Brawn

Sunday, we got a good downpour here in the land that seldom sees rain.  I know that we need the rain, but rain spoils things for me, especially since Mondays are one of the few days that I can get out and run.  As expected, all my local tails were CLOSED “due to wet and muddy conditions.”

Well, I had me a full tank of gas, so I thought, “Hell with it,” and headed up Ortega Highway in my beloved truck.  I know that I would have been better off staying home and putting in miles right out my front door.  I would after all, have time to get in some good mileage if I had chosen that route.  But what I wanted was beauty, not brawn. 

I pulled into Blue Jay campground an hour later, and felt calm and joyful being back to this lovely location.  The ground was still muddy, a few campfires smoldered beneath overly cloudy, cold skies.  Gosh, it had to be 50 degrees F!  (I’m so sorry – I know that isn’t cold for the rest of the world, but it is cold here).  Branches were strewn about; no trees were down, though a few widow makers hung precariously from branches above.  I felt so at home that I could have pitched a tent and stayed a week.  

I cannot adequately relay just how happy and peaceful I felt.

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Since hubby had indicated that he would pick up the boys from school, I took off down San Juan Trail feeling like I had all the time in the world.  I did not see another soul on the trails as I made my way toward the San Juan / Old San Juan Trail junction.  But I was not alone.  The forest was alive with sound – critters scrambling through the brush, birds singing anonymously among the trees.  Listening to this music, I had no desire for man-made music, and kept my ear buds hanging over my shoulders. 

I spotted my destination, Sugarloaf Peak, a mile out.  It took some trial and error to find the path that leads to the entrance at the top.  Then it was climbing time, scooting over boulders, grabbing onto branches.  My legs were scuffed with scratches.  Oh the glory. Winking smile 

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0223151244-00I summited Sugarloaf Peak and took a seat on a large flat boulder. I could see Los Pinos Trail climbing up the mountain on my right.  I could see as far as the Pacific Ocean, with ridgeline overlapping more ridgelines reaching out to my left.  I had my beauty.  And it took some brawn to get it.  (The best of both worlds).

The wind picked up; the temperature dropped.  And I simply sat there on that rock and took it all in – the sights, the sounds, the chilling wind.  It was a little spooky, like the wind might swoop me off my rock.  I dug around in my pack and replaced my cap with a wool beanie, and I was good for the cold.  Then I sat some more.

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Eventually, I felt that I ought to get going – not that I wanted to go (I could have stayed all day).  I just needed to get back to reality because I do have a wonderful family back at home (young sons that I desire to see, since I miss out on so much with this crazy work schedule).  And I also had a meeting with my boss later in the afternoon.  

I finally glanced at my garmin when my feet hit Old San Juan Trail.  It read 1:10.  Flabbergasted, I thought to myself, “This must be time elapsed – it CANNOT be 1PM!”  But, alas it was after 1PM (time elapsed was much greater).  One might think that since it was so dang late, that I would have picked up my step a bit.  But I did not.  Instead, I lackadaisically ran back (because that is the way roll) toward my truck. 

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At the Old San Juan Trail / San Juan Trail junction, I decided to take a so-called short-cut by going straight up Old San Juan instead of meandering San Juan.  (Okay, we have two trails out here called “San Juan Trail”, not to mention an additional “San Juan Loop.”  We have an older, less travelled trail, the original San Juan Trail, that we call “Old San Juan Trail.”  And we have a new San Juan Trail that we call “San Juan Trail” or “New San Juan Trail”.  Just thought I’d straighten that out).  Now, speaking of so-called short-cuts, I know darn well that “short-cut” never really means that the trip is shorter in time.  In fact, short-cuts are usually much more difficult.  And that it was.  But it was a lovely struggle getting back to the truck.  All that beauty was well worth the brawn. 

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Saturday, February 21, 2015

Training for Sycamore

I’m trying to put in some last minute miles.  How it will help me for next week . . . well, I don’t think it will.  But I am going to show up at next week’s race anyhow.  Reason 1) because I am running a relay with my friend Hank which will be fun (and as such will only need to do half the course), and 2) the Sycamore 100k is Dirty Feet Productions’ new race – and I want to support Jessica Deline, the race director.

If it wasn’t for Jessica, I may not have put in ten miles along these awesome trails on Friday.  They were tough miles (because I am so DANG tired), but they were awesome and worthwhile.  Trail miles always are, and I might have never known that. 

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Before Jessica Deline, like Friday’s trail, I was mentally sensitive.  I was scared to death to venture out in the wilderness alone.  It all started like this (not Friday’s run, but my first trail run): In an effort to get trained on trails (because I had stubbornly decided that I HAD TO run the Calico Trail Run, as I had camped there when I was in the fifth grade, and it made a big impression on me), I sought out other runners for help.  I searched the internet until I stumbled upon a Yahoo group, called OCTR (Orange County Trail Runners), which was founded by Jessica.  The group was free, so I signed up right away, and some time in June 2008, I signed up for a group run in Peter’s Canyon. 

I got lost on the way to Peter’s Canyon, parked no where near where the group was supposed to meet, and anxiously looked about for any group of runners.  Feeling defeated, as I had missed my chance to hit the trails with a group, I stubbornly decided to run them nonetheless.  I. WAS. SCARED. TO. DEATH.  Seriously, I didn’t know what was going to get me – a rattle snake, a mountain lion, an axe-murderer?  I think that I may have even picked up a stick as I headed off down a trail that was surrounded by tall dry, brown grass.  I remember meeting two women coming up from the trail.  And I asked them if it was safe to venture there, to which they seemed hesitantly to agree that it was okay for a while if I was alone. (hehe!)

The first hill nearly knocked me to the ground, panting.  Those were the days that I thought I needed to run every inch (I have since wised-up Winking smile).  My confidence grew as I made my way around the lake.  Each step was exciting and offered something new – a strange plant, a lovely boulder.  I asked every group that I came up on, “Are you the Orange County Trail Runners.”  Finally, I came upon a group, and they answered “Yes!”  It was a small group, consisting of Jessica Deline, Tom Fangrow (the guy who since taught me almost everything I know on the trails), a swimmer named Laura (that I ran with one more time), and a couple more males.  I kept up with the group fairly well because I was a road runner back then with a much quicker pace.  They all carried jugs of water or packs on their backs.  And they ALL wore shorts.  I only wore pants back then – lesson learned on this day:  don’t wear pants running trails (not unless it’s snowing!).  Tom asked me on that first day, “Where’s your water?”  I laugh now at my answer:  “I don’t run with water.”  Little did I know that you can die trail running without water.  I went on to run some solo miles with Tom that day when the group ran back to their cars.  I put in 9 miles total (my long run on the road was 14 miles).  For several days afterwards, my glutes ached to lower myself into a chair.  I felt exhilarated.  I couldn’t wait to get back out on trails, which I did about a week later, at Aliso/Wood Canyons with Jessica, Tom and Laura.  This time, I wore shorts.  And I carried water. 

Oh my gosh, little did I know how that day in Peter’s Canyon would alter my existence.  I cannot imagine a life without wandering about trails all by my lonesome.  And I cannot help credit Jessica and Dirty Feet Productions for helping me find this part of myself.  And for that, I ran on Friday so that I could somehow go out and attempt the Sycamore 100k and be a part of Jessica’s new race.  Thankfully, I have an awesome partner in my relay who will probably make it possible for us to finish the race within the time requirements. (Yay Hank!) 

Friday’s run:

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Before trail running I was like this tiny caterpillar I came across on Meadows trail as I made my way along this oh-so-tiring 10+ mile trip in Aliso and Wood Canyons:

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Thursday, February 19, 2015

I am Fifty

Monday I completed my fiftieth revolution around the sun.  It was a good day. I felt fortunate to have made it 50 years.  So many people are not so fortunate.  The day came as a holiday (President’s Day), which was also a good thing, because I got out for a run with my friend Sheila, then spent the rest of the day with my family (pretty much just lounging).  Sheila and I ran ten miles along Arroyo Trabuco Trail out in Las Flores and Rancho Santa Margarita, a trail often travelled by myself.  We chatted during nearly all of it.  Arroyo Trabuco, unlike myself, was in full glory, abounding with spring.  The creeks were full, and the grass grew tall in the meadows.    A great place to complete my 50th trip around the sun. Red rose

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Friday, February 13, 2015

Lessons Learned

Can someone please remind me that I need to run every single day.  It screws my head on tight.  Otherwise, I go around with a loosely screwed on head, and I don’t know what the heck I’m doing.

Seriously!

Being a school holiday, I left the house with the boys still sleeping and hit the trails in Wood Canyon today at 9:30AM.  It felt like summer with a slight breeze.  (By the way winter – please do not skip us completely).  

Wood Canyon was crowded with hikers (twenty plus!) and mountain bikers as I headed up Cholla Trail on my way to the ridge (known as West Ridge).  As I suffered up that short trail, I passed two struggling mountain bikers – one guy laughed and said “Vamos!!”  He walked his bike up a super steep portion, while the other stood by his and rested a bit.  I thought to myself, I know that spot – don’t worry, there is someone you can pass.  There is always someone you can pass.  (Anyway, I had translated “Vamos” as the command, “Let’s Go,” however but wasn’t sure, because I had always thought “Vamonos,” was the word that meant “let’s go.”   At home, I researched the two words and found that Vamos is not so much “let’s go,” but instead, “we are going.” That’s the new thing I learned today, besides the new thing that I learn all the time, which is that I really should run every day. Smile)

Anyway, my run helped lift stress right off my shoulders.  Spring flowers littered the hillsides and the deep blue ocean stood out sharply against the pristine clear skies and the rocky outline of Catalina Island.  It felt like life was grand, and that all the things that weigh had vanished.

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I made my way to Top of the World, recalling once when the two guys I met earlier on mountain bikes passed me.  I paused here and there for a photo, and delighted in the fact that I had my legs moving beneath me up and down rolling hills once again. 

On my return, I passed my two mountain “Vamos” bikers – this time I headed down Cholla as they headed back up.  They stopped me and laughed, stating that every time they’d see me, I was up ahead of them and they would remark – “she passed us again!”  I had no recollection of passing them again, and remarked that it must have been during the times I took the side trails off of West Ridge.  These guys, by the way, were out for a tough route today with three (3!) trips to Top of the World. 

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I ended this run with slightly over 6.5 miles completed and about 1,000 feet of elevation gain.  I ended today’s run with this:  toward the bottom of Cholla I spotted a robust young lad (very young, as in elementary school) making his way up Cholla.  A man, who was probably his father, followed closely behind.  And then a little ways down, I ran past another young lad (about the same age as the first).  Red faced, and appearing like he might burst into tears, he struggled, trying to push down on those pedals in an attempt to traverse up the hill.  Passing I said to him, “this might be a good place to get off the bike and walk – it will be more worth your effort.”  It seemed like relief set in when he realized this was an option.  His face relaxed, his shoulders lowered.  Very quickly, he hopped off his bike and strained to push it up the toughest portion of Cholla.  Remember those times when you thought you had to run every second (or ride, in this case)?  It took me a long time to realize that when running was going to lay me out on the trail, it was wiser to go ahead and hike so that I could run later.   I hope this boy learned that lesson today. 

Lessons learned.  Winking smile

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Green!

So busy lately I haven’t had much time to run.  I squeeze in trips to the gym here and there – but the trails are just a memory.  I wish that I could blog about my last run, which was last Saturday, but I don’t recall much (though my garmin says it was 11.13 miles).  I do vividly recall one thing.  There was so much green.  Finally, green is here! (I hope it’s still green by the time I finally hit the trails again Winking smile)

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