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Tuesday, March 31, 2015


A few of my friends and acquaintances think that I’m crazy to run where snakes, specifically rattlesnakes, cross my path. I have actually seen people on the trail run away screaming, even at the mere mention of a rattler. Being that I got in a two-snake run on Monday, I’d like to clarify some things regarding these snakes that I have grown so accustomed to on the trail. To begin, it appears that I do not fear rattlesnakes.  Truth is, I do not fear a rattler that I can see.  If I’m out there snapping pictures of my slithering friend, everything is a-okay. It is the rattlesnake that I do not see that I fear. If I can see him, I can tell if he’s ready to strike. If I can see him, I can determine his striking distance. I have no qualms about walking around a snake on the trail. If I can see him, I can estimate the length of his body. And since no rattler that I have ever heard of can strike the distance of his body length, I give him that. Say the snake is about three feet long. I can very safely travel around him within six feet. (I should note that my research says that rattlers can only strike up to 2/3rds its body length. So on a good day a three foot rattlesnake can only strike two feet away, and I give him six!). You can see then, there is no need to fear if I’ve got him in sight. 

So when I’m running along, and I am suddenly up on a snake (because I was not paying attention) I waste no time looking for its rattlers or other tell-tale signs (like the shape of his head). I back off immediately. Immediately. I’ve seen how fast a rattler can coil – it takes a split second. And once he’s coiled, he is good to strike. This is my rule: Look for the rattles later – back off now.

It’s those guys I cannot see who are the real problem. This is why I am always on the lookout for rattlers, and why I am so happy when I see one. But even if I can’t see him, I may hear him. Fortunately, rattlesnakes are spooked quite easily, and their warning system is loud.   There is no mistaking a rattlesnake’s rattle. You may have wondered if that sound you heard was from a rattlesnake or a cicada (a grasshopper-like insect out our way). But once you’ve heard a rattlesnake, there’s no mistaking it. It is loud, vigorous and determined. As I’m running along that trail (fa-la-la-la-la-la), and a rattling overtakes the serenity, I run away from the sound. Away. This is my second rule: Do not try to determine where the rattlesnake is – put distance between you and that sound. Then you can go about tossing pebbles if you want to know where he’s at.

Basically, I’m on the lookout, and I give the snake its space. Simple as that. Enough of my snake rules (for now). Let me show you the lovelies that I ran up in Wood Canyon on Monday. The first one was a friendly guy, good for a close up:


The second guy was not so good for a close up:



Miles run: 10

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Breaking Thirty

A couple weeks back, my mind actually entertained the idea of stepping away from trail running, or all running for that matter.  It’s true.  And I can’t believe it myself.  Can’t believe that I let the thought even enter my mind.  But it was a relief really to contemplate the notion.  I have been suffering physically and mentally for quite some time now concerning this hobby that has defined me.  I felt anxious and confused about what to do about it.  When the thought crossed my mind, I was in the middle of coordinating Old Goat 50, and I was busy with work.  And then spring break hit for one of the schools I teach at.  I told myself, just run until you have time to think about this new notion of actually stepping away.  And so I ran this week, and without realizing it, broke a 30 mile week.  The last time I broke 30 miles was the 3rd week of January this year.  (The first 3 months of 2014 I broke 30 miles seven times.)

Maybe, just maybe (& perhaps this is just wishful thinking), I can run myself right through this mini-crises and come out on the other side in shape.  Winking smile

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESMonday’s run:  7.4 miles (11.91 km), 1,006’ (307 m) elevation gain, Laguna Wilderness and Crystal Cove State Park.  Bommer Ridge to Old Emerald Trail into Emerald Canyon, up Old Emerald Falls (which was a nice hot climb in the sun), Moro Ridge back to Bommer, back to my truck. 

I felt good in spite of the heat and the elevation climbs that I have grown unaccustomed to.  The views were spectacular.  The skies were blue with giant wispy clouds.  Coming up out of Old Emerald Falls a helicopter circled an area above Moro Ridge.  Upon reaching the ridge, I witnessed a rescue worker lowered to the ground, where a mountain biker lay, victim of a fall.  (I passed the mountain biker later on Bommer Ridge; he was conscious, hooked into a stretcher with a neck brace, and i.v.)


Helicopter lowering rescue worker to the ground:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Wednesday’s Run:  11.78 miles (18.96 km), 787’ (240 m) elevation gain, Tijeras Creek Trail to Arroyo Trabuco and back. 

With more time to spare than usual on Wednesday, I headed out for a shady trail with a little less elevation gain that the run prior.  Thank goodness for the shade.  It was a hot one for sure.  These trails are several miles inland, alongside two creeks, so it can get quite muggy without an ocean breeze.  I relished the shade when I got it.  Even the rattler I came up on was digging the shade.  My first rattler sighting of 2015. Smile


Sunday’s Run (today): 15.21 miles (24.48 km) , 2,641’ (805 m) elevation gain, San Juan Trail (from the Lazy W trail head) up several miles and back.

Today was my big run, and I had three other lovely ladies to accompany me.  We took off early this morning to head up a giant climb called San Juan Trail.  We could see for miles and miles, with the Pacific Ocean at first covered with a blanket of clouds.  It was a dang difficult run or me, and the downhill wasn’t much relief.  It was slippery, steep, and narrow, and much of the trail was riddled with ruts.  I needed something like this.  And I needed the company.  Smile


3 29 15a

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Old Goat 50 Behind The Scenes

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESNearly a week has passed since Old Goat 50.  There were defeats and there were triumphs for an amazing group of runners.  There were firsts, and I’m sure there were lasts.  Thankfully for me, Chimera had already broken me in.  Old Goat 50 was a cinch compared to that monster.  Only a day long, I was not delirious in need of sleep during Old Goat.  The skies were blue and sunny, but the weather was not too hot.  There were very few glitches in fact during Old Goat 50.  With the experience of Chimera in my back pocket, I knew what to expect, and in most cases saw potential problems before they occurred.  I even brought my scooter so that I could quickly get up Long Canyon Road and back (in case I needed to make a phone call, check on things, etc).  I might add though, it’s pretty much useless riding a scooter uphill.  I don’t know how many people told me I needed to put a motor on that thing.  (No motor for me!).  But the down hills through the campground were a blast, and I was back again, quickly at the start line in a flash.  (So I got in some exercise too).

Of course, coordinating Old Goat wouldn’t have been a cinch if I didn’t have such a wonderful pool of people chipping in.  I am continually amazed how much of themselves people will give.  In addition to the race directors Steve and Annie Harvey, we had about 22 HAM radio operators, two parking attendants, one medic, four drivers, four sweeps, and 34 workers to staff nine aid stations.

A little glimpse behind the scenes ~

Check-in:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSteve at the bullhorn with race instructions:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWorking the finish line:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESAid station crew waiting to take the trip up the mountain:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESBlue Jay aid station (located at the start/finish line):SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSweeps:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESTiming:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESWhat it’s all about – runners crossing the finish line:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Friday, March 20, 2015

More Valuable Than Money

A popular saying I’ve heard throughout my life is:  “Time is Money.”  Well, I am here to say that time is not money.  Time is way more valuable than money. 

During the past week, I have been too busy to hit any trails.  But I have managed to get in two runs locally.  I guess that’s not so bad. 


Run 1:  Sunday, 5.29 miles

Run 2: Friday (today): 9.45 miles

If I had more time I might spill more beans about these runs – as I am going through a rough time wondering if I’m really up for all this running anymore.  But of to bed I am for a 3:30 AM wake-up and drive up the mountain.  Tomorrow is Old Goat 50, of which I am I’m coordinating volunteer activities.  

Sunday, March 8, 2015

This Week

Woe is me who can hardly find time to get in runs nowadays.  This week I managed to get in three runs, and I am grateful for that.  Still, I need more miles.  I want more trails

Run #1, Trabuco Creek Trail (in San Juan Capistrano) to Arroyo Trabuco (in Mission Viejo) 6.0 mile (9.66 km) out-and-back:


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI call these trails “urban” trails, as I could hear traffic whizzing by along Camino Capistrano and graffiti dressed the walls as I ran beneath eight lanes of traffic travelling along Interstate 5. 

I crossed Trabuco Creek beneath the train tracks where I saw these high school students walking down to the creek.  I half expected them to pull out a joint, or at the least a pack of cigarettes.  Instead, they took fishing poles out from their packs.  Smile


Run #2, Aliso Creek Trail to Wood Canyon, up Cave Rock Trail, back to Wood Canyon, Dripping Cave Trail, Mathis, Oak Grove, and then up the big incline called Car Wreck Trail, back to Mathis Trail, West Ridge to Top of the World, Meadows, back to Aliso Creek Trail, 9.33 mile (15.02 km) loop:

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI got out late as usual, as I have little time for household chores and must tend to them first when I have spare moments.  As such, the weather was warm, and I overdressed because (hark!) it still is winter. 

I stopped by my favorite places in Aliso / Wood Canyons, such as Cave Rock, Dripping Cave and even Car Wreck Trail.  Of course, my loop included Top of the World for a quick view of the lovely Pacific. 

Everything was green and beautiful. 


Run #3, ran inland from my house so that I could catch the bike trail down to Monarch Beach, to Salt Creek Beach, Dana Strands (AKA The Strands), up to The Headlands, and Highway One back home, 8.45 mile (13.6 km) loop:

Got out late (3PM) for once again some winter heat.  Winking smile  Fortunately, I got some of that coastal breeze that keep so many coming back.  I had really hoped to get in at least fifteen miles for my last run of this week.  That was not possible – there were clothes to wash, bags to pack, floors and dishes to wash and toilets to scrub today.  I let the dream of fifteen miles flitter away and enjoyed half the miles anyway.

And they were difficult.  I think the main reason for my struggle was the winter warmth, and the fact that I set off toward the end of the day.  Regardless, I am better for it. 


Here’s the funny thing about run #3:  according to my garmin, the elevation gain was 1,238’.  I find this absolutely amazing, especially since I only reached a maximum elevation of 350’.  There were lots of ups and downs, I suppose.  And they add up.  (I have not scrutinized the graph below to figure out whether Garmin got the total gain correct). 

3 8 15

Monday, March 2, 2015

Sycamore 100K

I woke earlier than the crack of dawn Saturday morning.  3:15 AM I was up and dressing for the Sycamore 100k relay.  3:45 AM Hank and I were driving in my truck to Poway, a city I’ve never traveled to, which is a good hour and fifteen minutes away.  (Often when we talk distance in my parts, the measuring system we use is time. Smile )

Once I exited the 5 Southbound, I was in unfamiliar territory.  I drove the 78 in the dark, in the rain, and then onto the 15S, still in the dark, and in the rain.  Of course we missed our turn-off into Sycamore canyon.   Did I mention that it was dark and raining?

Our first stop about 5 miles after missing the turnoff was a gas station.  When I was young (so very long ago) a gas station was exactly where one went when needing direction. Apparently, that’s not the case any longer.  The employee at this station pre-5AM had never heard of Sycamore Canyon.  They also didn’t have public restrooms.  Grrrrrr.

Next stop, a 7-11 convenience store.  Neither of the employees could give me directions.  And again, no public restrooms.  It looked like we were going to have a problem.  That is until Hank suggested going into the pawn shop a couple doors down that was open at 5AM in the morning.  Well, I thought it was a pawn shop because the pawn shop in that strip mall was so brightly lit, it looked like a casino.  The establishment that was actually open at the time was East County Bait and Tackle.   Hallelujah!!  There are some things that fisherman and trail runners have in common.  First off, we are apt to get up at “ass-o-clock-in-the-morning.”  Secondly, we are interested in canyons and other wilderness areas, and generally enjoy helping people figure out how to get to their destinations.  We both love an adventure. 

Not only did the gentlemen (there were two) behind the counter tell us how to get to Sycamore Canyon, they printed up a Google map to aid us on our journey.  They definitely saved our morning.  (If you happen to be in the Lakeside/Poway area – give them your business. Smile)

We pulled into Sycamore Canyon at approximately 5:20 AM, in plenty of time for check-in and race directions.  For the moment, rain had ceased.  I wasn’t that nervous because I feel confident that I can trudge through almost any misery.   

This 100k course consisted of 9 loops along a figure-eight route.  Each loop measured about 7 miles with 1,000’ of elevation gain.  My strategy for HL2PY (our team) thankfully was agreeable to Hank.  That strategy was, he took the first loop to get us out ahead, then he took the last loop to catch us up again. 

The rain began to fall just minutes after the first runners went off, taking the loop counter-clockwise.  About a half hour later, the early starters began to dwindle in from their first loop. 


Hank came in from loop #1 slightly earlier than I had expected (1:15), so I felt good about the course not being overly difficult for me. 

I was wrong.  I took the course clockwise, up a rocky terrain, stumbling some in a light drizzle.  Though I encountered difficulty on the downhill portion where I was hoping to make up some time, I finally found my groove and was able to keep a decent pace for several miles. 

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESThe mood was festive, even with gloomy skies.  I saw lots of runners that I know, or know of.  Twenty-two of the runners ran solo.  There were seven 4 person teams, and three 2 person teams.  HL2PY was the only mixed gender 2 person team.  It was going to be tough for HL2PY to make the cutoff (last lap by 7:30PM).  But based on Hank’s first lap, and my first lap (which was 1:50), we would be able to make it, even if we slowed a bit.  Problem was, that first lap for me was tough.  Really tough, and I worried that I wasn’t going to be able to keep up a 1:50 (or even a 2:00) lap.


SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESI welcomed the rest after lap two (my first lap).  Rain poured down as soon as Hank took off for lap three, and I bundled up in layers beneath the E-Z up belonging to a very friendly 4 man team (all who were Navy men).  With rest, my doubts about completing lap #4 (my 2nd lap) vanished.  Taking in lovely views as the rain departed, I sat by the timing table waiting for Hank to come in.  Before he arrived however, the weather grew colder as drizzle set in.  In addition to my running jacket, I put on a “rain” jacket fearing that a downpour would return. 


Hank returning from lap #3 (his second lap), with an approx. time of 1:30 (I am writing times from memory, so I could be off some):SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

With Hank’s first two laps coming in well under 2:00, I felt good that we could make it, especially if I could stay around 2:00.  It was cold when I took off.  But within a mile, I began to overheat, TERRIBLY.  I struggled to tie my rain jacket around my waist while running the rocky terrain, and dropped my beanie in the process.  I back-tracked a bit to collect my beanie, then took off downhill, still overheating tremendously.  Within the next mile, I had my running jacket also tired around my waist, in addition to gloves and a beanie in my pocket.  I felt so miserably hot and muggy in this drizzly weather, that if I would have passed a campfire I would have gleefully threw all my warm clothes into it.  I was aggravated me that much.Baring teeth smile


I tossed my jackets, beanie and gloves at the aid station which was located at the center of the figure-eight.  As I ran to what is called “Cardiac Hill” (Not “Cardio”, but “Cardiac”), I felt so fatigued that I wondered how in the heck I was going to manage another lap.  I struggled up that last hill back to race headquarters, coming in at around 2:05.  I felt on the verge of tears.  I didn’t think that I would be able to manage another loop. 

The rest and camaraderie did wonders.  After calling home and taking in some refreshments, I felt confident that I could pull off another lap at around 2:00 (but hopefully less). 

My rest and wait were long.  It was so long that I began to worry.

Below is a view of my climb back into headquarters:SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES


I knew that something had to be wrong with Hank still not back an entire hour longer than his last loop.  I imagined the worst.  He turned an ankle and was limping his way back.  Eventually, Jessica sent a runner out to check for him.  She knew that 2:25 was much too long for Hank, and pondered that perhaps he had gotten lost.  Meanwhile, a runner occasionally dropped from the race for various reasons.  Though the rain had ceased, we were wet, and some suffered from chaffing and the pure difficulty of the course.  Though it was not a excruciatingly difficult course, it was nowhere near easy, and some parts were pretty dang tough.  My typical 7 mile run is an out-and-back to Top of the World in Aliso Wood Canyons, and this course was much more difficult than that. 

Turns out that Hank took a wrong turn, resulting in running one portion of the figure eight twice.  This added at least three additional tough miles to his loop.  With my usual slow pace, this put us in the deficit, especially since I wasn’t going to be able to make up time.  Turns out for me, loop six (my 3rd) was terribly, TERRIBLY difficult.  Pain in my right heal flared up, and I experienced a slight tinge of pain in my right hamstring as well.  I put us in the hole even deeper, coming in around 2:10 (perhaps even later – I stopped looking at my garmin at a certain point – I felt too low to deal with the facts).

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESSAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURESHank took off on loop seven at approximately 5:15 PM.  He looked strong and good to go.  Even with no rain, I felt that it was impossible for us to make the time requirements.  He wanted to give it a try, so I hunkered down and waited his return under darkness.  Runners continued to drop as the night grew wetter and colder.  Hank would need to run a record loop 7 if we had any chance (record as in, better than his first lap).  Even then, honestly, I do not think I could have performed a pace good enough to make the cutoff.  I knew that we had no chance and resolved to call this inaugural Sycamore 100k a DNF. 

As we waited beneath headquarters' cover, I chatted with many wonderful runners, watched other wonderful runners  drop, and yet others finish triumphantly.  Jim Tello and a lady whose name I know on paper and on the internet, but only met for the first time on this day (Desi Klaar) both urged race director Jessica Deline to allow Hank and I to complete laps 8 and 9 simultaneously.  Can you believe that she agreed to that?  I can believe it.  I can believe it, because Jessica genuinely wants people to finish her races.   She shows no outwardly joy for low completion rates.  Believe me though, her agreeing to let us run the final laps simultaneously does not come as great news when one has already resolved to a DNF.   The rain had stopped, but who knew if it would pour again? Besides that, it was cold and wet, and I really didn’t think that I could do a 2:00 loop.  And quite frankly, I didn’t want to disappoint myself again.  But I dug through my gear and put on my headlamp nonetheless.  And if Hank would have come soon, I would have headed out for lap #8 (my 4th). 

Now, if Hank pulled of a great lap 7, he would come in about 6:30PM.  That hour came and went with no Hank.  7:00 PM hit, and the rain fell in a down pour.  That’s when I made the mental decision that I could not go out there again.  Hank was already at a 1:45 loop, which meant something was up.  I didn’t see things heading toward an upward momentum.  7:20 rolled around and Jessica advised that runners should really head out by 7:30 on the last loop if they planned on finishing on time.  The park had a hard cut-off for locking the gates at 9:45PM. 

There was no way we were going to make it, even with running laps 8 and 9 simultaneously.  I started packing up the truck.  Hank came in at around 7:30 PM. 

I was relieved that he was “done” as he put it.  Turns out, he missed the turn off to climb out of the canyon, which accounted for his 2:10 lap.  He was in good spirits, and hopefully he wasn’t too disappointed in not finishing.  The race had to be called.  We were done.  The only team to DNF, though 60% of the solo runners had DNF’d.

I am a-okay with not finishing.  I got in a dang good workout.  And quite frankly, I would have never gotten in 21 miles under off and on rain left to my own accord – especially with that elevation gain (3,400’).  Heck, who am I kidding, doesn’t matter what elevation?  I would have stayed home bundled up if it wasn’t for Sycamore 100K.  I am at the point now in my trail running that I am grateful for the experience, and even more so for the camaraderie.  I loved being in the atmosphere.  My team partner Hank was a true champ.  He was supportive all the way, and I never saw him lose his cool concerning the extra mileage he put in due to the wrong turns (his mileage totaled around 31 miles). 

Next year, I think a 4 “man” team might be best. Smile