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!