Monday, December 28, 2009

Trail blazing

I had two great trail runs this weekend.  Today's, seriously, kicked my ass, but I'll get to that in a bit.

Saturday morning, Kelly and I met to run the Santiago Creek Trail.  It had been a while since we had run it and we were both looking forward to it.  It was COLD* and it took a while to get in the groove.  I was tired from Christmas activities and woke up with a headache.  I'm glad I had arranged to meet Kelly, otherwise I think I would have opted to stay in bed.

The morning was beautiful, once we warmed up a bit.  We were soon struck how beautiful the creek was.  The trees even had some color, something we don't get a lot of around here.  In this picture you can see a good example of southern California foliage- colorful trees and cactus. 

We had a great run talking about everything from family to religion to travel.  It was just the kind of run I needed during this chaotic time.  We both have stressful things going on in our lives and it was nice just to run and chat.

When we were heading back towards our car, I wanted to add a little mileage and suggested we run over the dam.  The last time we had run here, the "lake" by the dam was completely dry.  Saturday, it was an actual lake.

We ran across the dam, where the path ended.  We could see another trail a few hundred feet away, on the other side of the hill.  We decided to see what that other trail was like, so we decided to blaze our own trail.  I snapped a picture of Kelly climbing up the hill.  It was a fun little adventure.

As we made our way down a steep bank and onto the trail we said good morning to a woman on her horse.  She asked if we saw the sign saying to stay on the trail.  Ummm... no?  She informed us that she was an off-duty ranger for the park and that we need to stay on the trails for our safety.  Uh oh.  She was very nice and scolded us in the nicest way.   As we ran off, we both laughed.  Of course, the one time we break the rules and do something rebellious, we get caught!   We still had fun.

We ended up running nine miles at a nice, easy pace.  I am glad we didn't go too hard, especially knowing now how my Sunday run would end up.

Sunday, I set out to complete the run I started last week and was cut short.  I had done a quick estimate that it would be approximately fifteen miles.  However, it is nearly impossible to measure the distance of the trails on Gmap or Mapmyrun., especially when they are single track through the hills.

It is about five miles (mostly uphill) to the trailhead.  Once I got past the steepest part, I settled in and relaxed.  I took a Gu right before I got off the streets and into the canyons.  As I ran in, I thought for a moment about the fact that I was running by myself.  I remembered seeing so many hikers, bikers and horseback riders the day before that I wasn't worried.  But this sign gave me pause**:

Holy CRAP.  I wondered if I looked like lion food in my long-sleeved pink compression top and black running tights.  I doubted it.  There were lots of tasty rabbits all through those hills.  Why would a lion want me?  It still made me nervous.  I ran into a couple other runners who assured me that the only people who get hurt by them are the ones that get too close to the dens, especially when there are cubs.  Those mamas are very protective.  I had no intention of searching out a lion's den during my run.

The trails were tough.  They were rutty and steep.  I admit that I had to walk a few times. I didn't get to fly going downhill because I really had to watch my footing.  But it was all still a lot of fun.


The weather had warmed up nicely and it was a gorgeous day.  It is hard to believe that there is still an expanse of wilderness in this area, so close to LA.***  Looking east, all you see is wilderness.  And all this is less than five miles from my house.







There were plenty of other people on the trails.  Hikers, bikers and runners enjoyed the gorgeous morning.  Three runners blew by my like I was standing still.   As I was running behind them, I noticed footprints in the loose dirt.  One set were bare footprints!  Wow, out here on this rocky trail?  It made me think of Born to Run and the fantastic runners in that book.   I looked ahead during one of the switchbacks and realized that none of the three runners were barefoot.   Then I looked more closely at the prints and there was tread on the bare ones.  Aha!  One of those guys was wearing Vibram Five Fingers!  Cool!   What a great place to feel the ground!   I wondered briefly if I would ever get the nerve up to wear something like that on a trail like this.  I was having enough trouble in my comfy trail shoes.  Who knows?

My plan was to run along the canyon and then cut back to the streets to head back to my house.  Once in the canyon, I rarely saw any houses.  The trails took me southeast away from the neighborhoods.  After a while, I knew that I needed to get back home.  I saw some homes and started taking trails that headed that way.  But the trails kept turning away from civilization.  There was no trail access from the homes I encountered.  At one point, I was ready to hop a fence and go through someone's backyard.  I climbed a hill to get a look at where the trails went and saw one with a nice wooden fence-- definitely part of a neighborhood path.  The only way to get there, however, was to go all the way around this little canyon.  It would add several miles.  I was starting to get tired.  I had been running for about twelve miles and knew I was several miles from home and didn't want to push it too hard.  Once again, I went off the trail and cut between trails.  This time, I stayed near the houses.  It was obvious that I wasn't the first to do this.

When I finally found an outlet from the canyon into a neighborhood, I had no idea where I was.  I had forgotten to charge both my Garmin and my phone the night before.  The Garmin ran out of juice just before I found pavement and my phone was pretty low.  I didn't want to risk using all my batteries to try to find Google Maps on my phone**** since I needed to call my husband to let him know where I was.  When I found a familiar street,  I realized I had gone further than I had thought.  Had I not blazed my own trail, I would have ended up further east and MUCH farther out of my way.

It turns out, I was about six miles from home.  That was a LONG six miles.  The trails had worn me out and I was tempted to call home and ask for a ride.  My kids were sick, so I really didn't want them to go out and about.  I would just tough it out.   Those six miles were very reminiscent of the last six miles of a marathon.  My legs were hurting all over.  I was tired.  I was almost out of water and had no more Gu or candy.  I just wanted to get home.

When I finally got to my neighborhood, I took the shortcut up some stairs to get home, rather than run around the block and up the hill.  It cuts off about a half a mile or more.  I realized later***** that I am only one mile from 1000 miles.   Had it been December 31, I don't know if I could have run that extra mile to reach that milestone.   I was that tired.  I had run 18.2 miles on a very difficult route. 

I made myself take an ice bath.  Brrrrrrrr..... NOT fun in 50 degree weather!  I am pretty sure it helped, however, since I don't feel too bad today.  I am more sore than usual, but I ran three miles further than my longest run so far this training cycle.

Overall mileage for the weekend: 27 miles!  
Overall mileage for the week: 43 miles!
Overall mileage for the month (so far): 135 miles!  That is a monthly mileage PR!


*Cold for us is in the high 30's and low 40's.  I know it isn't cold by standards of the rest of the country, but i definitely needed my gloves and a couple of layers.
** It read: Mountain lions may be found in this area.  They are important members of this natural environment.  Lions are quiet, secretive and seldom seen. Give them distance and respect.  RECENT SIGHTING 12/11/09."  
*** The picture looking toward the west makes me glad to be living in the hills to the east.  It was a beautiful clear day where I was... that haze in the distance is smog!
****I have only had my phone for a couple of weeks and still don't know all the applications.
*****Since my Garmin ran out of juice, I had to map out the rest of my run.  Luckily, the Garmin captured the trail portion of the run.  I had known that the batteries were low, so I didn't even turn it on until I reached the trailhead about five miles into the run.  I ran about seven miles in the canyon.

4 comments:

Kristin said...

Wow, I would be so scared to be running off on trails where I wasn't sure where I was going. Getting lost is one of my great fears! :) Impressive running weekend, though!

momof3 said...

I love the photos!!! They make me want to visit "out west" of here. The scenery is beautiful, and wildly different than anything we've got here, even the photo of the SIGN. Because in Richmond VA, if you see mountain Lions, there's a seriously SERIOUS crisis going on....

MCM Mama said...

I'm such a city girl I would freak out not knowing exactly where a trail was going to come out. I get a little wiggy on our bike trails and they run near the highway LOL.

Terri said...

Wow, beautiful pictures! And you don't need an asterisk, 30 degrees is on the cooler side, enough for me to wear two layers on top, and probably Capri tights on the bottom, and gloves and a hat too!

That is a LOT of running, so way to go on toughing it out at the end. I don't think I'd have had the guts to tough out that many miles before trying to head to the houses. I start to freak out when I think I might be lost. So, kudos to you, and also HAPPY NEW YEAR!!

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