Monday, December 29, 2008

¡Viva España!

I promise a much longer entry covering the much-heralded Spanish Trail Running Extravaganza when I get back, but let me just say that it was muy, muy fabuloso. Muchas gracías a Luis, quien me ha invitado de correr con el y sus amigos. It was a wonderful day, and it has given me ideas for yet another new project (because I needed more to do with my life)!

Here are some pics from the day, taken by one of the other runners in the group.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Happy Holidays from Ms. Flirty n' Dirty...

By the time this blog posting is up, I will be on a plane somewhere over the US or possibly the Atlantic heading to Spain (and more running adventures)!

I wanted to wish everyone a very happy holiday, a fabulous New Year, lots of celebration, much running and a healthy dose of flirting. It's the best holiday gift-- it's free, it makes people feel fabulous (when it's done well) and everyone could use a little more in their lives!

I will try to post from España, but if I don't, I'll be back in January.... hopefully not too stuffed full of jamón and red wine, ready to get started on 2009's race calendar!

Besos y abrazos para todos!


Monday, December 22, 2008

Video that will make you want to run in Marin

This is a link to Rick's race report from Saturday. I am in the first video, but beyond that-- check out the view behind all the runners. Very beautiful.

I might be adding another couple of 1/2 marathons onto the race calendar as well. Just to keep everyone up to date.

Race Calendar 2009!

Ok. So I *should* be buying or wrapping gifts, but I'm so much more excited about planning out my racing year, that I decided to spend some time figuring out what I want to run next year. Provided I don't break anything or injure myself, here's the tentative plot:

February 7th: PCTR Woodside 35K

March 21st: PCTR Pirates' Cove 30 or 50K

April 4th: American River 50 miler

April 26th: PCTR Skyline to the Sea 50K

May 31st: Ohlone 50K

July 18th: Tahoe 50K or 50M
July 25th: White River 50M

October 10th: Dick Collins Firetrails 50M

I would like to do Santa Barbara 9 Trails or, if I don't get in, the Quad Dipsea, but I might be going to Mexico for a wedding Thanksgiving weekend, so I won't put that on the schedule just yet.

Yeah. Putting this down in print makes it seem a little bigger than it was in my head. I know that committing to it will provide motivation to get out there and do the long weekend runs... which reminds me-- anyone want to do some long runs on the weekends?

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Rodeo Beach 20K

Rodeo Beach 20K
Race Report
PCTR Course Description

I was a little apprehensive about this run. Not because of my foot, which is fine, but because I hadn't really run much more than 7 miles since I started up again. However, seeing as how I am running in Spain in a week (Whoo-Hoo!!!) and I don't want to shame the trail runners of the US, I wanted to get some mileage in and assess what next weekend would look like.

Another interesting part of yesterday was my pre-race breakfast. Normally I am a "small bowl of oatmeal" fanatic, but since I was out of oatmeal and too lazy to go to the store Friday afternoon, I had a spicy tamal for breakfast. This could have been a bad move on several fronts-- new food, spicy-- all kinds of things could have gone wrong. However, it was what I had.

Driving to Rodeo Beach was a treat by itself. The race starts at Rodeo Beach, in the Marin Headlands, right by the water. As you can see from the picture, the weather was spectacular. Clear and sunny-- not a cloud in the sky!

The course heads straight up the hill, as you can see in yesterday's posting. I tried hard to hold myself back and not take off simply out of the excitement of actually being in a race again. One of the reasons I was so happy with my race at Skyline to the Sea (until I fell) was that I had managed to hold myself back in the beginning of the race and was feeling great after 20 miles. My goal today was to go out easy and then try to be steady throughout the whole race.

Heading up the hill, I talked for a while with Rick. This is probably the only race in my whole life I will be able to say that I ran with Rick for a bit. He was out just for a fun run with some friends, so he wasn't trying to stick with the 50K leaders. Rick is a very fast local ultrarunner who has had an amazing year with a TON of improvement. Plus, he's a really nice person. After a while, he decided to catch up on the gossip his friends were dishing out ahead of us and he took off.

The trail leads up Coastal for while before heading towards Tennessee Valley on Old Springs trail. This is one of my favorite trails in Marin-- running this direction at least. The trail is a nice, gradual downhill that one can practice speed without feeling out of control, and I'm not going to lie to you-- I'm still feeling a bit worried about falling.

After hitting the aid station at Tennessee Valley, the trail led up Marincello Road. I hate running this section. It's only a mile and a half, and it's not really steep uphill, but it's continuous and seems to go on and on. Yesterday I don't know what happened though-- I just decided I would be slow and steady and I ran the entire hill! I didn't break any speed records, but I felt so much stronger than I thought I would!

I will say this: the views from Marincello Road are rather lovely. As we were running, it was possible to see Tiburon, Sausalito, the Richmond Bridge and probably Mt. Diablo if the visibility was a little better. Not so bad--even if the climb is irritating.

After getting to the top of Marincello, the race took two trails that just might have made Victoria's "Must-See" list for Bay Area trails. Alta trail, from which the top picture is taken, was beautiful, as was the SCA trail. Unfortunately I was not paying much attention to the effect of the light, and so the pictures do not even remotely do justice to these trails. Coming round a curve to see the tips of the Golden Gate Bridge peeking out, and then running along a ridge with the Golden Gate Bridge beside you and the rest of the Bay beyond? Let's just say I was having a moment of smugness-- especially since it was sunny and the middle of December. If it's nice on Tuesday I might go back with my camera and try to snap some better pics.

Just after that, we hit the second aid station and I realized that I only had about 3.5 miles left, and I was feeling MUCH better than I thought I would, and so I pushed it a bit back to the finish line--and still felt great!

All in all, a great race. I have extolled the fabulous qualities of the race directors before (Yay Sarah and Wendell!)-- they put on beautiful races with extremely friendly people. Can't wait to get back from Spain and plan my next few races!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

AND..... She's Back!

Ok, so I thought I would post a race report, but it's too late and I have to go get ready to celebrate the holiday season, so I'm just going to leave you with a picture of all the 50K and 30K runners starting this morning--and the update that my first real race since the breakage of the foot was fabulous! As you can see, a gorgeous day and I am very, very happy with how things went.

More later--enjoy your weekend!

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

EBRPD: The Love Affair Continues

OK. So I already talked about Bob Walker in this post. But it was a while ago, and I hope you will all forgive me. Today I was wandering a used book store (pretty much standard practice for this girlie) and I came across a copy of the book from the exhibit from the Oakland Museum, After The Storm: Bob Walker and the East Bay Regional Park District. Because it was used and cheap, I bought a copy-- and I am so happy with it. If you have any EBRPD fans on your Christmas list, I heartily recommend a copy. Beautiful pictures abound, and Bob Walker's story is enough to make me want to go out and start joining conservation leagues so we can preserve more land for trails. 

My favorite quote from the book:

"Find something outside yourself that is yourself.
Then devote yourself to it with all your heart."
(Bob Walker)

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Lizard's Mouth in Three Teenaged Acts

Act One: Hanging Out
Time: The Early Nineties

If you take San Marcos Pass out of Santa Barbara, turn onto West Camino Cielo and follow the road for 3-4 miles, eventually you will come to the Winchester Canyon Rod and Gun Club. Just before the entrance to the Rod and Gun Club, there is a large rock. If you happened to be with a local, you could find the faint, unmarked trail out to a huge rock outcropping called Lizard's Mouth.

Lizard's Mouth. So many people who went through their teenage years in Santa Barbara know this place. Much underage drinking took place here, although it is a testament to the teens that very little glass mars the landscape. (I myself did not participate in such debauchery in high school-- it took me until I got into college to fall off the wagon.) I'm sure plenty of random groping (let's leave it at that) happened as well-- Lizard's Mouth is at the top of the ridge that overlooks Santa Barbara. On a clear night, the entire coast is lit up-- to say nothing of the twinkling oil derricks in the channel. There are few places I know of around Santa Barbara with such stunning views. Add to that the starry night and a bit of seclusion and it really doesn't get much more romantic.

Beyond that, Lizard's Mouth felt like our place. I can't remember how many times my friend Katie would suggest we go up to Lizard's Mouth just to hang out and talk. We never took a flashlight, using the light of the moon or stars to walk out to the rocks. If there happened to be people (a rarity), we'd just find another section of the area to sit and stare out to sea for a while. Our parents never questioned our safety or our judgment-- and having had a teenager for a year, the judgment part continues to amaze me.

Act Two: Stranger Than Fiction
Time: August 2000

In August 2000, Jesse James Hollywood (his real name, I swear-- feel free to google it!) kidnaped 15 year old Nicholas Markowitz as revenge for money his older brother owed Hollywood. Hollywood's henchmen took Markowitz up to Lizard's Mouth, where they bound him, shot and killed him, and buried him in a shallow grave. Six days later his body was found, but Jesse James Hollywood was missing until 2005. During this time, Nick Cassavetes approached the Santa Barbara district attorney, interested in making a movie about the still-open case. In a rather renegade move, the district attorney decided to share the Hollywood case file with Cassavetes in the hopes of creating a larger search net for Hollywood. Eventually Hollywood was traced to Brazil, extradited and still awaits sentencing, but the DA's decision resulted in Hollywood attempting to recuse the DA for misconduct and sharing confidential evidence. The case has yet to come to trial, but it has been a long and strange series of events since the tragedy.

While there is much more I could say about the case, I will not, for fascination with criminal cases does not lead to wanting to write about them. What I have been thinking about is how our relationship with places changes when we know something new about the place. I cannot see Lizard's Mouth in the same way as before. Being up there, I can't help but t hink about that 15 year old kid, and how he saw the same rocks and trees and trail that we walked on over and over again before he was hit over the head with a shovel. Lizard's Mouth is no longer a site of simple nostalgia.

I recognize that multitudes of events, both glorious and tragic, have probably happened in places I freque nt all the time. I'm sure I've stood on the site of horrible tragedies before and not known about it--but I DO know about what happened at Lizard's Mouth and it's not the same.

Act Three: Only YOU Can Prevent Forest Fires
Time: July 2008

This summer, my parents' house came the closest it has ever come to the huge fires that have burned countless acres in Santa Barbara County over the years.
I mentioned the Gap Fire in this post, but no one knew at that point exactly where the fire had started. Well, it turns out that a 16 year old (teenage theme here?) started the fire at-- you guessed it-- Lizard's Mouth.

We went up to Lizard's Mouth over Thanksgiving (my mom had never been!) and once again, Lizard's Mouth has changed.

Driving on West Camino Cielo, the fire's path followed the road. Black charcoal twigs raise scraggly arms and I am surprised so few buildings burned--this fire raged over the hills. This time when we get to the trail head, I almost missed the rock because all the foliage was burned. In the intervening years, the county has put up a sign indicating the way out to the rocks, and I wondered if that meant more people have been coming out to Lizard's Mouth now that one could find it without a local guide.

I was amazed at how the fire left some areas scorched and others, merely a few feet away, remained untouched. I found myself imagining what it must have been like for the teenaged boy who was charged with starting the fire. How fast did the flames start to leap over the hills? Was he scared as he drove down West Camino Cielo? When did he realize that he had started a fire that would leave the land so changed?

Act Four: As Yet Unwritten

(But I'm sure some teenager will play a starring role...)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

More New Trail News!

Well, to be honest, this isn't about new trails but more precisely, new races. While perusing the RW trailrunning forum, as I am wont to do, someone pointed out a new race in California-- The Dirt Roads and Trail Endurance Ultra Marathon, happening on Oct 2-3, 2009. Normally a new race is cool, but not THAT cool... possibly not blogging-worthy cool. (And yes, I realize not everyone is as enchanted as I am by some of the things I post. But it's MY blog!)

So what's so great about this new race, you ask? Well, for starters, it's rather insane. The preliminary numbers suggest almost 35,000 feet of cumulative elevation gain (and subsequent loss, because it's a loop course that ends almost at the starting line). More importantly though, this race is in the Santa Ynez Valley, the site of my Thanksgiving trails and revels. I had been thinking while I was there, it was too bad there wasn't an ultra in Los Padres, the National Forest stretching back from the Santa Ynez Mountains, the area that is referred to as the Santa Barbara "back country." (Incidentally, Los Padres stretches over huge areas of California-- it's much bigger than the Santa Ynez Mountains section.) And lo, someone was already on top of that idea!

The very end of the race will be, from what I can see on the race map, on some of the trail we ran up to Knapp's Castle, or very, very close. I guarantee the picture above looks toward the terrain the race course will cover.

Additionally, the race will take a short trip (short in ultra terms, you understand) through the a section of the Santa Barbara front country, on some of the trails from 9 Trails, the ultra that unfortunately had to move to Ojai because of the fires this year. This is actually quite nice, as it might allow more people to cheer on runners at a rather tired section of the course, since the trails are very near the city, unlike some of the more remote trails in the first 50 miles.

I would love to support the land of my roots, but I'm not sure this is an intelligent pick for a first 100 miler. (Some might question if a 100 miler was ever an intelligent pick, but we're ignoring that...) If you are blazingly hardcore and have quads of steel, I think you should run this! I don't know what my school schedule is next year, but if I don't have class that weekend, I will probably try to come down and help out.

However, for the less-hardcore amongst us, I also found the same group is putting on a 50k-50miler-100K in the same area on June 6th- the Blue Canyon Trail Race. Most unfortunately, this race will be a week after Ohlone, which has been moved to May 31st. While there are several trailrunners in the Bay Area who would think nothing of running back-to-back insanely hilly 50K courses, I am not sure I am one of them. It's too bad, because I think this could be a fabulous race as well (and much more accessible for the mere mortals). This time of year has way too many cool races-- Ohlone, this race, the Reno-Tahoe Odyssey that I have always wanted to do, PCTR's Mt. Diablo-- the list goes on!

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Jenner Headlands- more trails coming soon!

Last Thursday, the San Francisco Chronicle published an article about the Jenner Headlands-- a large (5,630 acres) piece of land bought by the Sonoma Land Trust, various other nonprofit groups and government agencies. This section of the California Coast is truly stunning-- just up from Bodega Bay and Sonoma Coast State Park on Highway 1. You can find a map of the area here.

Apparently tours of the land will begin in March or April, but it probably won't be a trailrunner's paradise for at least a year or so afterwards. They are currently trying to raise more money so that they can afford to manage the land, but I'm pretty excited. This is a beautiful section of California and not one that generally receives a lot of attention.

This is a (foggy, not great) picture taken from the beach where the Russian River meets the Ocean-- the land you can see in this picture is probably part of the Jenner Headlands. At least, that is my highly scientific deduction. You can see more pics of the Jenner Headlands here. (There's a very adorable picture of a spotted owl that I highly recommend.)

I realize we don't have a shortage of beautiful trails out here in California, but it's nice to know we have even more to look forward to!

Sunday, December 7, 2008

A Reeeeeeeally Funny Picture

This picture needed its own posting because I think it's so funny.

At first glance, it looks like a lovely picture of two friends, posed with their happy dogs, everyone nice and exhausted from a morning running around on the trails.

Aw... it almost looks like a Christmas card, doesn't it?

Well, Jo Lynn pointed out that Neko (my dog) looks like she's just seen a ghost. If you can't see her expression, zoom in and look closer. She looks terrified. Seriously.

Maybe I need to get out more.

Garin, or Why I Love The Internet

Garin/Dry Creek Regional Parks
(Meyer's Ranch- Dry Creek Trail- Old Homestead- Ridge Loop Trail)
(6.99 miles)

When I first started this blog, I had no preconceived notions about what would happen with or because of it. I just wanted to write about the trails I ran on, and give myself a kick in the seat of the pants to try new ones. To borrow from Toni Morrison, who once said, "If the book you want to read has not yet been written, you must write it yourself," I started writing because I wanted a website that would cover as many Bay Area trails as possible. Like Jane Huber's site, only with more long trails for runners. (Yes, I realize I have not been taking advantage of these long trails recently...) The blog/website I wanted to exist had not been created yet, so I decided to start on it myself. (And no, I do not have the compilation of trails yet that I want....)

At first, I thought only my best friend and a couple of other select people were reading it, not having discovered Google Analytics. Imagine my surprise when I was at the PCTR Sequoia event in July and while I was checking in, the person behind the desk said, "Hey-- aren't you Victoria from the flirty n' dirty blog?" Wow! Such celebrity! Being recognized from my blog! Suddenly I had a public!

Besides giving me the illusion of one moment of fame (kidding, people), Jo Lynn has become one of my trail running friends, and when we were running in Garin/Dry Creek Regional Parks this morning, I had a moment of thinking about how much the internet can do to create community amongst and between people.

Take today, for example. We met up at the Dry Creek Staging Area, and then ran the Meyer's Ranch Trail until just past what used to be Meyer's Ranch. Jo Lynn told me it used to be a working ranch, and you can still see old farm equipment under the trees.

This picture also shows the amazing color Garin has right now. Fall leaves still cover the ground, but because of the recent rains, green has started to fill in the dry areas, adding even more color to the trails.

Garin also has adorable little bridges--just big enough for one person to run through at a time. The bridges confused Neko, who kept trying to go around them. I have never seen bridges so narrow on local trails.

We also ran by Jordan Pond, pictured in the first photo. We finally ended up on the Ridge Loop Trail that runs along the side of the ridge with the hills spreading out to your left. Great views.

In short, Garin/Dry Creek is a lovely park whose existence I would have been completely unaware of had I not started this blog. Well, perhaps I would have looked at a map and thought, "There's Garin," but I would not have thought to make the trek to Hayward (much the way I wouldn't have ended up at Las Trampas, and we know how I feel about THAT!).

Beyond that though, without starting this blog, it's doubtful I would have met Jo Lynn and had such a good time running and chatting today, watching our dogs run around in circles with each other. I had a fabulous time today, and it never would have happened without this sooooper cool thing called the internet. Yay internet-- you are my friend. (The pups, in case anyone was wondering, were very happy to meet and play with each other like crazy dogs today.)

I felt very thankful today for this-- and for all the people I have met, whether in person or virtually, because of the internet. If I haven't let you know before, you are all great. Love you mucho.

p.s. The saccharine will stop tomorrow. Promise.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Ticked Off

Knapp's Castle(Snyder Trail- Knapp's Castle- Snyder Trail)
(6.4 miles-if the run is completed)

Knapp's Castle is a little bit of Santa Barbara County history. Built in 1916 by George Owen Knapp, legend has it was the site of many extravagant parties. When I was growing up, rumor said the mansion belonged to Charlie Chaplin, but I have since learned that he was a guest at some of the parties, not the owner. As you can see in this picture, it was an impressive place. Unfortunately, just after the property changed hands in 1940, it burned to the ground, and the ruins are what you see in these pictures and this picture, a great aerial shot. While Knapp's Castle is well-known to Santa Barbara locals (particularly the high schoolers), it's not something many tourists see, as it's a few miles outside of town off of East Camino
 Cielo Road. I had been here many times but I had never done the trail from the bottom of the valley up. As we had biked and hiked already, Jen and I needed to do some trail running. Tough little trail with a great destination at the top? Sign us up.

We started off at the Snyder trail head, near the Los Prietos Ranger Station, on Paradise Road. (Just to warn you- parking passes are supposedly required but we couldn't find anyone around to sell us a pass at the ranger station.) The trail climbs out of stands of oak trees fairly typical for the Santa Ynez Valley to dry scrub with little shelter. And it climbs. And climbs. 

The good (or not so good) thing about this trail: you can see where you are going from start to finish.
 Just to the right of Jen and Neko, the top of the valley (where we were climbing) is faintly visible. 

And yet, the silver lining for such steep trails? In back of us, the views kept getting better and better as we climbed. The Santa Ynez Valley is one of my favorite places. I am definitely a Santa Barbara "town local" (straight out of suburbia, I am), but the Santa Ynez Valley is a little bit of wildness in the backyard. It's hotter here than on the coast and trails are pretty brutal-- either straight up or straight down. Many more people know the trails on the other side of the mountains or the valley's wineries--but few come to the Santa Ynez Valley for the trails.

As we stopped to take this picture however, I looked at the dog. She was covered with ticks. Absolutely covered with them. I had forgotten the recent rains just before Thanksgiving would increase the tick appearance. Even with Frontline, an aussie's fur attracts them like a magnet. As far as I was concerned, it was not worth it to run for another few miles and pick twice the number of ticks off the dog so they didn't get in the car. Or on us. Eew. Ticks gross me out.

So we turned back and ran down to the car, but then took the road up to East Camino Cielo so we could at least see the ruins and take a bunch of pictures before heading back to Santa Barbara on Painted Cave Road (the site of yet another Santa Barbara fire's start).

I would definitely come back and do this trail again--just not after a rainstorm or perhaps not with the dog. 
Plus, then I could stop by Cold Springs Tavern for a cold one and perhaps some live music on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon...just to experience some more Santa Barbara history, of course...

Monday, December 1, 2008

A Tippler's Thanksgiving weekend...

Clearly I didn't take this picture. 

And this wasn't a day spent on dirt trails.

However, it was a day with lots of beautiful scenery and much fun. We drove out to Santa Rosa Road, just outside of Buellton, where my mom dropped us off and then we rode to Lafond Winery, 
tasted and picnicked, then rode to Alma Rosa, formerly known as Sanford Winery. 

As you can see from this picture, the weather was absolutely beautiful. While we really didn't ride much, it was a great day. The Santa Ynez Valley is really, really amazing. So many people come to Santa Barbara and don't ever visit here. Or they visit and only stick to the wineries (which, as you can see, are perfectly lovely) but don't get to the trails, which you will see evidence of tomorrow. (Yes, I did a lot of blogworthy things this weekend. I think we took full advantage of the weather and all the stuff to do in and around Santa Barbara.)

One interesting thing that I discovered on this trip: I am a much more relaxed rider when I have been wine tasting. While I am definitely not suggesting anyone ride when they are inebriated, I tend to be a "clutch the handlebars WAY tightly" rider, as I spend a lot more time on trails than on my bike. Not being used to my bike= very afraid of falling. And yes, I know the answer to this whole issue is to spend more time on the bike, not to toss back a couple of copas de vino before heading out on the bicicleta. In fact, if we had actually ridden any significant distance, I'm sure the negative effects would have presented themselves. However, I think a tasting bike tour of Napa or perhaps Sonoma might be in order...

Next up on the agenda: Two super-cool spots just outside of Santa Barbara that many tourists never see!

Friday, November 28, 2008

Thanksgiving Trot + Trails

Event #1: Turkey Trot
(4 miles)

This picture is from the trails portion of the day, but today was my first race back! True, it was a short four miles, and it was definitely not as fast as I've ever run, but it was a race and my foot didn't hurt at ALL. (I would like to say the same thing about my poor hamstrings, who were forced to run hard when I'd only done easy running up until now.)

It was lots of fun though-- my mom and I did the race, while my dad and my friend Jen went on a 25 mile bike ride. The weather was beautiful too, as can be seen in the one picture I actually took during the race.

Event #2:
Hiking on the Jesusita Trail (portion of the 9 Trails course)
(Tunnel Trail- Jesusita-Tunnel)
4 miles

Then we picked up my brother and his dog and took off for our family's favorite trail destination-- a small outcropping off the Jesusita Trail that has views of all Santa Barbara in the front and the Santa Barbara foothills behind.

While I did not get to do the 9 Trails course, (well, no one really did, as it got moved to Ojai because of the fires), this trail is part of the race. I've mentioned Santa Barbara foliage and general appearance in postings and this trail is very typical of other Santa Barbara trails. Steep climbs through dry scrub and sandstone lead to beautiful views.

One reason the city has been very worried is because of the post-fire qualities of scrub bushes like this manzanita- this bush has certain oils that keep the small bit of water it needs to survive inside, but when this plant is burned in a fire, the oil makes it difficult for water to sink into the ground, heightening the flood danger in any kind of storm.

Another fairly typical sight on Santa Barbara trails is streams like this, overhung with big sycamore and oak trees.

I hope to run some more in the next couple of days, but for now-- time to prepare for the wine-tasting biking adventure!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Tramping (Tramps?) around Las Trampas

Las Trampas Regional Wilderness
(Elderberry- Rocky Ridge- Devil's Hole- Sycamore- Rocky Ridge)
(6.0 miles)

And lo, didst a miracle occur. A new trail was explored today!

I have sung the praises of the East Bay Regional Parks before, so I will not enumerate their virtues, except to say that I am continually amazed at the good fortune I have to live near so many miles of trails.

We were actually going to run at Garin this morning, but unfortunately La SingleTrackJunkie was sick yesterday so the two of us who remained decided to run a little closer to where my friend was staying, and thus Las Trampas became our destination.

I have a confession to make. I'm somewhat of an urban snob. I tend to avoid suburban enclaves oh, say, like the plague. I would take the grittiness of 23rd Street in Richmond over a strip-mall in Tracy any day (No offense to Tracy meant at all). I like either being in the heart of concrete and grime with tons of people and huge varieties of food to eat or out on a mountain somewhere. (Yes, I am a woman of intense extremes. Or an extremely intense woman. But that's probably a different blog posting.) What this has meant is I tend to run places that are close to cities, like Tilden, Wildcat, Redwood and, of course, all over Marin County (usually not north of San Rafael, though). Add to that the intense bitterness I feel for the 680 due to a year of commuting to San Jose twice a week, and poor Las Trampas didn't have much chance to make it on the radar.

Today, I humbly apologize to you, Las Trampas, for my short-sightedness. You are a worthy park, and indeed, your views are better than the much-trafficked Tilden. Plus, you have some behind-kicking trails.

We started out at the Staging Area, and took Elderberry trail (wide fire road) up, up, and more up until we were on top of Rocky Ridge. From the map, it looks like there is about 1,000 feet of climbing in less than 2 miles. Rather steep. The trail winds up through some oak groves and then climbs up open hills to reach the top of the ridge.

The view from the top of the ridge is well-worth the climb. We could see Diablo (as evidenced by the first picture), but views also stretched all the way to San Francisco and I think we also saw Mt. Tam peeking through the clouds.

Our original plan was to continue along the ridge, but we were intrigued by the "Devil's Hole" trail and so decided to make a detour. While this detour was a mere 2.5 extra miles, we dropped over 800 feet in 1.3 miles and then had to climb all the way back up. Steep, steep trails. Presumably at the bottom of "Devil's Hole," we met up with the single-track Sycamore trail and climbed, through Santa Barbara-esque scrub back to Rocky Ridge. This trail was what I would call rather technical. For such a low-profile park, Las Trampas has some intense running opportunities. Those who are trying to improve their downhill technique (or uphill strength!) should come straight here.

Once back on the ridge, we continued on the loop back to the parking lot, stopping only to observe this group of turkey vultures taking care of a dead calf. While I am sorry the calf had such a short life, I think turkey vultures are the coolest creatures ever. What a brilliant balance, that a being would exist who finds rotting flesh a delicacy. It makes me feel like I should go home and recycle more--the turkey vultures are out there, decreasing the waste matter--guess I better do a better job of attempting to keep up...

In short, Las Trampas= worth visiting. Perhaps not every weekend, but absolutely worth the time, and a guaranteed hill workout. Looking at the map, I would guess one could cobble together a good 12-14 mile loop, and maybe an extra 5 if you wanted to do an out-and-back along Las Trampas Ridge trail, so there is some mileage to be had as well. As Las Trampas is an EBRP, you can bring the pups and have them off-leash. (side note: the little dog in the above picture is my friend's new dog and she went running off-leash for her first time EVER today! Very, very happy dogs.) Additionally, since it's an EBRP, cows are a part of the landscape, but apparently the cows at Las Trampas are more mellow than the cows at Wildcat or Briones (or, from what I've heard, Mission Peak) and one actually moved AWAY from us.

Next posting: not running, but about my extreme productivity this weekend!

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Mt. Tam and Wildcat Canyon at Sunset...

"He who can no longer pause to wonder and stand rapt in awe is as good as dead." (Albert Einstein)

One thing I have loved about writing this blog is the way it forces me to pay attention to different details when I run. It is so easy to slip into autopilot in life, whether running or in work or relationships. Yet this attention to detail is what creates a sense of wonder and awe in us. I had a conversation about relationships a long time ago with my father, and he said that every day, the person you come home to is a different person in some way. What makes the relationship continue to work is finding out what has changed about the other person--how are they different today than they were yesterday? What new detail can you learn about them today? How do we keep a sense of wonder and excitement about talking to someone we've talked to countless times before?

Extending that outwards, how do we keep a sense of wonder and excitement about our world in general? The sun comes up and goes down every day, and while that is the most routine event EVER, I have been amazed lately at how much wonder there is to be found in the same landscape.

I haven't been running any place new lately because it seems like a hassle to drive for a 25-30 minute run. Instead, I have been running at Wildcat at sunset. I don't normally run at sunset because it requires very precise timing and I don't particularly want to be caught in the dark by myself, but since I'm not running long right now, it's easier. Plus, it's given me a whole new perspective on the beauty of Wildcat Canyon. Every single sunset is different, even though the same mountain presides over the bay every time. I love exploring new trails (duh) but I have also been thinking lately about what it means to really know a particular place in all its seasons and different forms. Being forced, in a way, to examine Wildcat Canyon over and over again (even if I don't write about it) has taught me to pay more attention to everything in my life, and to celebrate the quotidian.

I have developed a great appreciation for Mt. Tamalpais, living in Richmond. One might expect to say this living in Marin, but it's hard to see the mountain's silhouette while standing close. (Apparently there is no evidence of Miwok settlements ON Mt. Tam, but plenty in Sausalito-- perhaps they, too, preferred seeing the mountain from afar.) From this side of the bay, it's easier to see the entire mountain. On top of the ridge in Wildcat Canyon, I can see the two giants of the Bay Area--Mt. Tamalpais and Mt. Diablo (whose intricacies and crazy steepness I have yet to explore at all, believe it or not!). Regardless, the sunsets have once again drawn my attention to the wealth of detail available at any given moment. In ten minutes, the light changing behind Mt. Tam gives you 50 different pictures, all of them unique and ephemeral. Most of the time, I miss them--as we miss the majority of the miracles happening around us all the time.

Even this tree--something I have run past hundreds of times--is worth looking at a second time. And a third. And a fifteenth or two hundredth.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Volunteering at Stinson Beach- Summer in November!

Only one picture today because I kind of forgot about taking pictures. Whoops.

However, I would like to draw the reader's attention to the sky in this picture... and the number of people on the beach. And then kindly remember what month we are in. If you are a Bay Area native or someone who has lots of experience with the area, you should be further shocked by the location. Stinson Beach is notorious for having cold, foggy and windy weather even in the height of summer. (Actually, it's usually the worst then, but it's not usually like this in November!) 

The Bay Area is currently experiencing a record-breaking heat wave for this time of the year. I spent the day in a tank top and jeans, convinced that I had over-dressed. Even though the weather can be clear and sunny this time of year, it is very rare to see this many people flocking to the beach, splashing about in the water. 

Anyway, volunteered for another PCTR race, and as seems to be the norm for my volunteering experiences, had a great time. Even driving out to Stinson in the morning felt like a treat-- there was not a cloud in the sky and I could see up and down the coast. 

Once I got there, I helped sign runners in (over 400!), then set up food for a bit, and then was responsible for handing out t-shirts when people came in. This meant I got to hear from lots of runners about their experience with the course-- which was rather amusing. Responses ranged from "Wow! Beautiful day! Gorgeous course!" to "Wow! So many hills! So much pain!" or some kind of combination of the two. Lots of falls coming down Matt Davis-- I believe I fell on my first PCTR race at Stinson as well, coming down that section of trail. Band-aids were a frequent request. 

One thing I appreciate about trail races is that their start/finish is usually somewhere gorgeous, so people hang out afterwards, watching others come in and snacking on the various forms of sugar (and soup and chili) that are part of the PCTR post-race buffets. Yesterday's amazing weather meant that the post-race atmosphere was a big lounge-on-the-grass fest. 

I am hoping to run my next PCTR event-- which just might be Rodeo Beach-- although I have not decided if I am running the 8K (which seems a bit short) or the 20K (depends on the foot).

Speaking of which, I believe it is time to get myself and the Neko out in the sunshine for a run/walk before I gorge myself on a winemaker's dinner my friend is cheffing (can we use this as a verb?) tonight. Must burn lots of calories!

Friday, November 14, 2008

Santa Barbara- burning yet again!

Last night around 6pm, a fire started in the hills behind Santa Barbara/Montecito. It is still burning and as of the time of this article, 80 structures had been burned. (And according to this article, over 100.) Fortunately my parents live on the other side of town, but we have lots of friends who have been evacuated-- I am hoping they (and their homes) are all safe.

Additionally, the entire 9 trails course is either burning or shut down for fear it will be in the path of the fire. It does not look good for the race either.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Fall Color

Well, we're up to two miles right now.

Don't worry, I'm not going to post a daily update with each mile added for the next few weeks. That would not make for interesting reading.

I am loving the fall color right now though. The East Bay Hills are shades of greyish green for the most part, but splashes of color treat those who pay attention to little moments of brightness.

I love this berry plant because it had lost most of its leaves (with the exception of the leaves seen in this picture, to be sure)--the primary adornment of the branches were explosions of red berry clusters.

The leaves looked much yellower in person-- you'll just have to trust me on this one.

I realize many people do not find this plant attractive because of its rather terrible (yet earned) reputation. Yet if a confession were dragged out of me, poison oak is my favorite plant to LOOK AT during the fall. I would be happy to find a dress in this color--really.

I mean really-- who can deny the beauty of such vivid color against the muted shades of the branches in the background?

Oh fall, you are my friend.

Monday, November 10, 2008

Hitting the trails again!

Well, I wouldn't exactly call this a new trail or even a mileage worth mentioning, but hey-- I RAN YESTERDAY!!!

I went out yesterday with Jenn and Neko, and we did a whole bunch of walking-- we started up this trail (notice the exceptionally blue sky showing through) and then ended up doing the cow-infested Mezue Trail. Fortunately, this
 time we had only one tricky cow moment and I figured out my foot was fine to run when the cow started lumbering at us and I decided it would be a good time for Neko and I to start running away from the cow.

It was a glorious day yesterday though-- the air was crisp and clear. Fall is definitely my favorite time of the year in the Bay Area and I'm glad that my foot got better in time to do at least a little running before the rain.

Yes, you heard it right-- a little running! I ran a mile yesterday! I did not want to push it, so I thought I'd try just a short run, and I am absolutely ecstatic to report that it was fine-- I am definitely not in "running" shape, but my foot feels great this morning and I think I will try to run a little more (2 miles?) on Tuesday. 

So all is good. Hope everyone is enjoying the great fall weather...

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

A Mixed Bag

  • Voter turnout yesterday.
  • Hearing disaffected high school students EXCITED about the election, talking about who could vote/who couldn't.
  • Feeling hopeful about the future. 
  • This sunrise.
  • My foot is feeling much better.
  • Possibly start running this weekend?
Very Uncool:
  • People trying to be hall monitors for the rest of the population. What do you care who gets married to whom?
  • The number of kids in the foster care system who a) do not have a place to go and b) are waiting for adoption. If you are not involved in the foster care system, let me help you out-- we, as a country, let so many children down, and leave them feeling unwanted and alone, it is shameful.
  • Arkansas decided to increase this problem by deciding that they should decrease the pool of adoptive parents (which isn't big enough to begin with) based on who the prospective adopters love. 
That's the end of the rant. I'm really hoping the next posting will be a run! (Perhaps a very, very short run, but hopefully a run all the same...)

Sunday, November 2, 2008

More Haruki Murakami...

A while back, I wrote a quick posting about an article Haruki Murakami wrote in the New Yorker about becoming a long-distance runner. I recommended the article for anyone who liked writing and running. Well, I was unable to resist the hardback copy of the book the essay came from, and I now pass on the recommendation of the book as well.

The book is called, "What I talk about when I talk about running," in a nod to the famous short story by Raymond Carver (who, incidentally, is one of my favorite short story authors as well...). The essays loosely follow Murakami's training for the New York City Marathon in 2005, but are mostly reminiscences of his running and writing life. 

As he points out in the beginning, the book is not a treatise on how to run better, or how to stay healthy. Murakami concentrates fully on the role running has played in his own life. He's not a particularly fast runner, and those who are interested in reading jaw-dropping tales of athletic feats should look elsewhere. He simply shares some of his running (and writing) experiences. It felt like having coffee with a good friend who said, "Sit. Let me tell you about this running thing and me."

Fans of Murakami's fiction will already know his writing tends to be understated-- no grandiose flowery prose. His essays are perhaps even more spare--Murakami is clearly a private person, and the desire to share this portion of his life despite a tendency towards reticence creates introspective, rather quiet prose. One of my favorite passages comes towards the end, when he is talking about participating in a triathlon:

"Of course it was painful, and there were times when, emotionally, I just wanted to chuck it all. But pain seems to be a precondition for this kind of sport. If pain weren't involved, who in the world would ever go to the trouble of taking part in sports like the triathlon or the marathon, which demand such and investment of time and energy? It's precisely because of the pain, precisely because we want to overcome that pain, that we can get the feeling, through this process, of really being alive--or at least a partial sense of it. Your quality of experience is based not on standards such as time or ranking, but on finally awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself. If things go well, that is." (p. 171)

"..awakening to an awareness of the fluidity within action itself." I love that. This captures (for me, at least) the best moments of running I ever have. Murakami's essays made me wish there were other authors (well, I'm sure there are some out there, I just don't know them offhand) who have written with such introspection about their involvement with a sport. We have writers who write about sports, and we have athletes who decide to write books, but not so many writers who decide to write about the role a particular sport has played in their own life. It's too bad, because the combination of personal insight combined with running, all told in prose from a master made for a great read.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Volunteering at the SF One-Day (12/24 hour event)

San Francisco One-Day Event
Crissy Field, San Francisco
(12 and 24 hours!)

I'm not going to lie to you-- I've never had any desire before yesterday to do a fixed time event. Running all day on a single course? Unchanging scenery? Boooring! I run because I love seeing changing views, getting to know new terrain-- if I'd wanted to be a track runner, I'd have become one!

Well, I may have shifted my view a little bit. Not completely-- I don't think I'd do one every weekend, for example, but I do see the appeal after yesterday.

To start with, the event location was absolutely gorgeous. Crissy Field is at the edge of the Presidio and right next to the beach, shadowed by the Golden Gate Bridge on one side and a view of the city's skyline on the other. I love the above picture because it shows two things-- one, the stunning backdrop for running around in circles (so I guess it's gorgeous scenery-- just unchanging), and two, the huge amount of food this race required. Yes, that's all food-- and what other reasons might one have for running a race, pray tell? Food and scenery are my top two reasons. Add in some great company, and you've got yourself a pretty good way to spend a day-- even if you're volunteering!

Anyway, after a little bit of a excess driving (I have very good "general" ideas of how to get around SF-- they're just not always the most direct...), I got to the check-in station at 6:45 in the morning-- in time to see this gorgeous sunrise over the city. Rick had already arrived at the start-- he spent the entire 24 hours volunteering-- how's that for some ultrarunning love?

Jo Lynn, Flora (another impressive ultrarunner), Sarah (RD) and I checked people in, handed out transponders and goodies until just before the race, at which point, we hastily broke down the check-in tent and turned it into the aid station. Yup, ONE aid station for a 24 hour race! That sounds rather sparse until one remembers that the race course was 1.067 miles long... not so far to go between aid stations, right?

After the start of the race (notice the RDs' son out in front-- several impressive showings by kids of ultrarunners at this event), Jo Lynn and I got busy at the aid station, chopping up all kinds of goodies into manageable bites.

(Note: The child shown in the picture below ran a marathon over the course of the day. I thought my parents got us to do impressive physical feats as children. Clearly, they weren't hanging out with this crowd...)

After several hours of manning the aid station, Jo Lynn and I did a lap around the course (and caught Mike in this action shot)-- very lovely place to be spending the day, I must say.

I think what stood out for me overall about this day was the fun of seeing people multiple times. Most long races, the only people you see are those who are running at very similar paces to you-- the people in front and behind you are rumors you can check out later ("How'd your race go?") but it's not a very social event. This event was definitely social. It felt like a big ultrarunning party-- people coming around again and again, having different conversations with us, and I'm sure with each other as well. People can run with their kids on this course, and there is always an opportunity to say hello to someone as they go by you or you go by them... again and again and again. Sarah and Wendell both did laps with their son at different points during the race-- how many trail races can one both direct AND spend some time with one's child as they race? (I'm going to go with none, off the top of my head.) I also saw people come out and run one or two laps with friends-- ideal for getting to spend some time with people who aren't well, as crazy as most ultrarunners.

I think this kind of event might also be more of a mental challenge than physical. Don't get me wrong-- I think running for 12 or 24 hours is plenty challenging physically-- but I think the mental challenge of running the same course over and over might be one of those Zen moments-- i.e., how can you stay present while doing something which has become mundane, like washing the dishes (only more physically painful, I might add)?

Yes, it is entirely possible that I could do this event next year. Perhaps "just" the 12 hour, because I was exhausted by 9:00, and I didn't run a step. Thinking about being out there for another 12 hours seemed overwhelmingly painful. Either way, a great day volunteering with some fabulous people (our morning volunteer crew in this pic), and helping out a bunch of really gracious runners. (If you feel you are not appreciated in the world, I recommend volunteering for an ultra event-- people thanked us profusely every time they came through the aid station-- it made me want to open more cans of coke and chop up even more potatoes...)

Can't wait to get out there and be one of the runners!