TALES FROM THE TRAIL (AND SOMETIMES THE ROAD TOO)

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Friday, October 17, 2014

Preoccupied

I got a run in yesterday – eleven miles.  They were not fulfilling miles, as my mind was so busy.  And I am not the type of runner that is within myself when I run – I don’t think much at all when I run.  Instead I like to experience the moment outside of me.  Not so yesterday.  I became way too preoccupied with my thoughts.  I don’t like that.  Still, it was all worthwhile.  If I had to be preoccupied with my thoughts somewhere, I’d rather it be on the trails.

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Wednesday, October 15, 2014

To Go Or Not To Go

With Twin Peaks Ultra just around the corner, I am in deep do-do.  Saturday I was able to squeeze in a ten mile out-and-back up Holy Jim Trail in Trabuco Canyon.  It was a slow struggle up the mountain that convinced me that I’ve never been more out-of-shape or unprepared for a running event.  Never!  While running that long five mile uphill on Saturday, I seriously considered not running Twin Peaks on the 18th.  I thought that I might just work it instead, or possibly pace another runner.  I thought about this long and hard on the giant switch back often referred to as Holy Shit or Holy Cow.  But my mind kept wandering over to the logistics of getting aid station workers and sweepers on and off the mountain for Chimera.    What would you do?  Would you show up and try a race you have no business running?  Are you that crazy?

What I’ve decided is this:  If I don’t make the twenty-one mile mark in six and a half hours, I’m dropping to the 50k option.  Under no circumstances am I going to go onward to the fifty miles if I can’t make this time.  And I won’t make this time unless some sort of miracle occurs.   And so, the 50k I shall attempt.  And it will be the longest 50k I’ve ever run – that is, if I can do it.  To get my sorry butt to the start line, I decided to go into Twin Peaks with this mindset:  This will be my first long run getting back into shape.

In the meantime, I took in some wondrous beauty during the best ten mile out-and-back that I have:  Holy Jim. 

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Friday, October 10, 2014

Chock-Full

My schedule is chock-full.  To the brim.  My running schedule:  Nil.

Instead of satisfying my wanderlust, this is what I’ve been doing the past couple weeks: During the days I substitute teach at mainly high schools and middle schools (only taking elementary assignments at my youngest son’s school).  During the evenings I teach between 11 and 17 hours of adult education:  math, computer software, and high school equivalency test prep.  I also sit on a program advisory committee for AB86, which meets periodically for several hours at a time.  (I don’t feel like explaining AB86 right now, so here it is for your reading pleasure:  http://ab86.cccco.edu/).  And finally, the most exciting edition to my busy schedule, I have taken on coordinating the volunteer activities for Chimera 100, “co-director” as the race director, Steve wrote in an e-mail. So, I’m running with that title (but I probably won’t use it again.) Winking smile 

This wonderful new position is hectic, it is difficult, but it is so, so, so wonderful.  I am right in my element coordinating Chimera.  And the people, they are amazing – truly amazing.  So far we’ve placed over a hundred, yes 100,  volunteers on the course to aid runners through this monster event.  I am in awe.  (Looking forward to sharing the experience in some future blog posts). 

All of this of course, makes running trails, or even cross training at the gym, quite difficult.  Since last Sunday, I got in only two runs.  TWO.  Sunday, I took off in the afternoon up Harding Truck Trail.  It was hot as hell.  What happened to autumn?  Consequently, the trip was extremely sluggish.  But heck, it was Harding Truck Trail, which is constant uphill.  The whole thing was an exercise in struggling, even the downhill. 

View from Harding Truck Trail:

10.13 miles, 2,386’ elevation gain:

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This afternoon, I got in my second run, this time in the coastal hills.  I ran about the same amount of miles as Sunday’s run, but less than half the elevation.  I wasn’t in my groove, but that’s okay.  I can’t remember the last time I was in my groove.  I’ll get it back; I will I tell ya!  Until then, I’ll enjoy the trails regardless. 

For now, it’s back to work!  Nah, I’m going to bed.  I’m tired. Smile

10 miles, 903’ elevation gain:

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Friday, October 3, 2014

Redemption Run

There are some runs that are left unfinished, unfinished because I could not complete them. I don’t have lots of them, but I have them. And those runs always linger in the back of my mind as unfinished. Last Sunday, I got out and finally finished one of those runs. This run: I bet my walk of shame is bigger than yours. Sunday, I redeemed myself by finishing the twenty-one miles that I set out to complete in the summer of 2013.

The run started off cold, yes COLD, and I was oh so grateful. I slowly made my way up The Main Divide with views of Lake Elsinore to my right, and the Pacific Ocean to my left. The air remained cool, and the skies cloudy as I ran along the ridge. Not a single person stirred for quite some time, when finally, as The Main Divide curved around to the Riverside County side, a lone mountain biker came pedaling by. An instance like this always amuses me – I mean, here we are, two lone travelers passing each other on a lonely mountain road. I couldn’t help but wonder why more people weren’t flooding this desolate mountain road. I mean, doesn’t anyone else know just how wonderful it is out here?

i

I felt good and strong . . . well, let’s just say “not weak,” as I ran the nine plus miles along the divide.  I came along one other person, a barefoot hiker, and we talked for a short bit when he asked where he might find West Horsethief.  After telling him that it was about a mile and a half on his right, I realized too late (as he was long gone) that I calculated my math with Trabuco Peak as my frame of reference.  Drats!  He actually had three miles to West Horsethief.  I wanted to yell my error to him across the divide, but that effort would have been of no use. 

I met no other people along The Main Divide, and came up on Holy Jim feeling surprisingly good. 

I literally raced down Holy Jim in a race against time to make up for my regular slow speed along the rolling ridge called The Main Divide.  Best thing was, gnats were nowhere in sight.  What a welcome relief – no tiny bugs banging against my ear phones, no little critters flying up my nose or into my eyeballs.  The tide had definitely turned; there was no better day to attempt this redemption run. 

I ran out of Holy Jim Canyon with 14.25 miles on my garmin.  According to EVERYONE who has something to say about it, I had less than five miles to travel up Trabuco Trail back to The Main Divide.  I had always doubted people’s claims that the trip was 4.5 or so miles, and then eventually doubted myself that it was a little over 5 miles.  I was after all, somewhat out of my mind last time I made that trek out of the canyon via Trabuco Trail.  So this past Sunday, I set my mind on a 4.75 mile trip, with an arrival distance of 19 miles at the top of Trabuco.  This somehow gave me peace of mind.  It was less than five miles, and no matter how hard anything gets, I can always do less than five miles!

The first two miles were lovely, and not extremely difficult.  The climb was gradual.  I stopped at my water stash along the way and refilled, though I really didn’t think that I’d need the extra fluids.  One of my number one rules, if not my actual number one rule,  is to ALWAYS refill fluids when I can, even if I don’t need it.  I’ve made the mistake not to, too many times. 

Well!  At about mile 17, my trek went from tiring, yet comfortable, to pretty close to hellish.  The climb grew steeper, and fatigue kicked me in the head.  I couldn’t believe that I had tried this during 100+ degree weather in the summer of 2013.  I recognized spots where I had collapsed on that “run,” and though it comforted me some that I was no where near as bad off as I was then, seeing those spots of prior despair added a little anxiety to this terrible march. 

My eyes glued, and I mean glued to my garmin, I was counting down tenths of a mile until I reached The Main Divide.  I did not need to stop and rest, and thankfully, the weather was not overly warm.  But, still, it seemed as if this trail was never going to end!!!

I just might flip out the next time someone tells me that the Trabuco Trail trek is less than five miles.  I’ll tell you exactly how long it is.  The trail is 5.25 miles.  And I’m never going to doubt that again. 

I was so dang relieved to finally run down The Main Divide, I wept.  I had been gone from my family way too long on Sunday.  I missed my guys.  This is just about the only true negative aspect to my hobby – I’ll take the terrible uphill treks, the loneliness (in fact, I kind of like that), the utter fatigue, the failures (which ultimately are triumphs), the gnats, the heat, the cold, the falls, and everything else.  The absence of my family for so many hours, well, that kind of sucks!

redemption run

Saturday, September 27, 2014

Happy Places

Booked solid with work, some of which I hope to elaborate on in a later post, I am barely able to fit in trails (or anything else for that matter).  This of course is most unfortunate being that Twin Peaks Ultra is just around the corner.  I am so far behind in my training that I am not even shaking in my boots.  I’d be shaking in my boots if I had a chance at finishing the fifty mile course.  As it stands (and will continue to stand), I don’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell at finishing.  (Still, I will line up at the start line). 

Until then, I will continue to live when I can in my happy places.  Thursday, I was finally able to run out to the coastal hills.  I dropped by some low-lying caves along Cave Rock Trail, and sat in them to enjoy life from their perspective. 

Then I ran over to the “big” cave, Dripping Cave, also known as “Robber’s Cave,” for much needed coolness in the air, as the heat had returned on Thursday.   

And since I was so close to Car Wreck Trail, I ran on over to the wreck, which has apparently slipped even further down the slope.  Miles totaled 7.13.  The best thing I witnessed was a crawdad sliding backwards down a small waterfall along Wood Creek.  Looked like so much fun. 

I didn’t make it back out to the trails until today, Saturday.  Today, I worked the Holy Jim Aid Station for The Saddleback Trail Marathon.  Most fortunate because I got to hang with a great group, and see lots of friends.  I also got to hear the awesomely loud cracking sound of giant trees falling to the ground.  Several Holy Jim firemen were chopping down dead trees along Trabuco Trail.  To top today off, I also got 5.4 miles of trails run today while I marked the course.  Worst thing:  a bee stung my upper arm. Best thing:  the weather was cool, very cool! 

Did I mark this junction enough?  Winking smile  No one, and I mean no one was going to take W. Horsethief by accident on my watch.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Crawdads!

This past week has been so hectic, with work and other projects (more later on the “other projects”), that I opted to cross train three days in the gym.  Finally, on the last day of the week (or first day for some), I made it out to the trails in the coastal hills above Laguna Beach.  I ran fifteen miles, and I tried to kick up my heels a bit.  But I was so dang fatigued.  Still, I tried, and that has to amount to something, if not a tiny bit of improvement. 

The best thing about Sunday’s run, besides the fact that my feet were finally pounding dirt, was that the heat had finally broken.  Yes!  There was a cool(ish) breeze blowing my way, and all I could think was, “Thank God!”  I have really let this summer’s heat take its toll on me.  I needed it to end.  And on Sunday it did.  At least for now.  Autumn, my friends, has stepped through the door.  And with autumn, I spotted my first cluster of crawdads.  I don’t know if they suddenly come out in autumn, or if I just happen to notice them in autumn (because I’m not dying from heat otherwise). 

Crawdads playing in the autumn waters Smile

Wood Canyon:

Greetings from Top of the World:

Monday, September 15, 2014

Summer Be Gone

All week I had been daydreaming about running in Silverado Canyon.  Since I had received a transfer on my Spartan Beast race (more on that later), I looked forward to making a trip out to Silverado Canyon for a jaunt up Maple Springs on Saturday.  Friday a fire erupted in Silverado Canyon.  It burned partially up Maple Springs and I’m pretty sure all the way up Silverado Motorway.  Sad smile

Saturday the fire continued to burn.  And it was so dang hot (news reports said 103F in the local mountains) that I decided on air-conditioned cross training in the gym. 

Sunday, I read that the Silverado fire was contained, and being that I didn’t want to waste another weekend day, I headed off for the mountains.  Not Silverado Canyon, but several canyons away to Trabuco Canyon.  Pulling into the parking lot late, 8AM, I noticed only one car parked in the Holy Jim lot.  And I thought, “Oh crap.  There’s only one other person crazy enough to go out in the hellish heat – and that person was at least smart enough to arrive earlier.”

I nonetheless trotted off happily, with visions of making Santiago Peak.  I hoped that I could lookout and ascertain fire damages from afar.  The canyon was eerily lonely.  It seemed that no one even stirred in the cabins.  About a mile later, I came upon this note from The Holy Jim Fire Department taped up at the trailhead:

Then I crossed the bone-dry creek pictured below.  I could have ran right down through the dry creek bed.  But I chose to run the wood plank instead. 

Within about a quarter mile, I ran off trail to the “ladies room,” and found the remnants of some semi-recent gold mining.  I’m not sure if it’s legal to mine in National Forests.  If it is, one rule should be that the area is put back the way that it was found.  In addition to the bits of trash, a pair of underwear and a shirt strewn about, there were two dug out holes – one in the ground, the other in the mountain wall.  The hose was also left behind, which probably syphoned water from the creek (that used to flow). 

So, I continued onward, up through the forest.  Gnats swarmed my face.  They fought to get into my ears, into my eyes.  I coughed up more than one gnat when I remembered to keep my mouth shut!  The only solace that I felt running through those buggers was knowing that when the giant switchback began, I would lose them (but gain the burning sun). 

And gain the burning sun I did.  I didn’t fret; I hardly fret anymore because  I know how to cool my body temperature.  For those of you who get caught out there in the heat, here’s what you MUST  do:

1)  Hydrating is not enough.  You must cool down.

2)  Get in the shade (or expose yourself to a breeze if you can)

3)  Stop moving, preferably sit, if you are feeling really bad.

4)  Wet your clothing

5)  Rest. 

6)  Do the above OFTEN, and every time you feel lightheaded, nauseated, or strange in any way (like seeing colored spots, tiny flies, etc). 

In addition to the above, I didn’t push myself.  How, might you ask, is running up a mountain, not pushing yourself?  Well, I took it lackadaisically, just one foot in front of the other.  On the way up, I passed my spring in the mountain wall at about mile three.  It’s just an occasional drip now.  But I did notice that there were two small containers beneath the drip, both filled to the brim with the mountain water. 

The shade came back strongly at about mile 4.5.  And the gnats swarmed in worse than before.  I struggled out of Holy Jim, as the dirt was so dry and loose that I slid back with each step. 

Safe from Holy Jim, I was once again fooled by the shade and The Main Divide’s beauty.  Forget the fact that gnats swarmed my face – I took that bend in the road willingly, and headed upward toward Santiago Peak. 

I struggled immensely traveling the next 1.5 miles up The Main Divide.  I no longer ran, or even trotted.  Painstakingly, I put one foot in front of the other.  And I rested in the shade.  This was my view the last time I rested – here I sat in the shade for 18 minutes, poured water over my shirt, and took in my surroundings, feeling, seeing, hearing and smelling all of it.  I experienced NOW– and it was wonderful.  I really didn’t need the peak anymore.  I had received what I sought -- tranquility, as I sat there on The Main Divide.  I looked up and snapped this picture before traveling another half mile up the rocky road: 

This is where I turned around and headed down Upper Holy Jim back toward The Main Divide closer to Holy Jim (lower):

Upper Holy Jim was treacherous and hellish with heat.  The ground slid away beneath my feet with each step.  I couldn’t help regret my choice.  It was the “short cut” that added at least a half hour to this “run.” 

I came off Upper Holy Jim in a slide and ran The Main Divide back to Holy Jim dreaming about those two containers of water in my mountain spring.  As I stood at the top of Holy Jim, the earth slid beneath me and I fell onto my bottom.  Then it was onward for 5 more miles of hellish heat.  (105F, I read later). 

I COULD NOT WAIT UNTIL I REACHED THE SPRING.  I needed to cool down my inner temperature.  Badly.  With little shade ahead, drenching my clothing was my best prospect. 

I arrived to the spring exasperated. I felt even more exasperation when I noticed the empty container in the wall spring.  And then my heart filled with joy when I saw that the other container was still full.  Someone had come along and used only one container.  Only one!  And they left the other for someone else – a stranger . . . me!  Well, I ripped off my pack to make sure that I had enough electrolyte water to make the next three miles.  Confident I had enough, I took that water and poured it over my head, down my back and chest.  It felt ice cold.  ICE. COLD.  And for a short while there, I felt cold running down the mountain.  Glorious. 

GLORIOUS. 

Summer.  I am done.  Now be gone. Winking smile

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