I sit- stuffed in a box.
My hands on both sides and yet still touching my face.
Completely confined in this restricted space- with the little space that I was given.
You see, I was put here.
Why? You ask.
Well, that is what I'm about to tell you.
As I sit here in this thick glass cube I can barely see through the gloom that surrounds me and you know what I see?
I see me.
But it's not me, it's an impersonator!
A fragment of who I am.
We shall call her Doubt.
Doubt is what controls my being when I'm lacking the motivation or the strength to do what I believe makes me happy.
That very idea of happiness is questioned.
And instead I am overcome by a darkness, a lack of mental strength, an overwhelming amount of negativity and most of all doubt- doubt in myself.
Many times I find myself in this situation, whether it's by an injury, poor diet, stress levels, and possibly just a mere lack of motivation.
A month ago I raced Javelina 100 and ran my way back into a re injured right ankle.
I brushed it off as a mere ache.
This "ache" ignited every morning once my foot hit the ground- ultimately making me train less.
Inevitably with less training, I'm more willing to eat poorly and drink more thus jumping into a downward spiral head first..
Doubt swooped in, and took charge of the situation.
It's Monday and I wake already lethargic before my day has even begun.
It's gloomy out and the sun has yet to begun rising and yet here I am.
The construction next door that seems to have been going on for years starts at the crack of dawn.
I consider it a free alarm clock.
Pouring my coffee I shift around the filter and eventually it breaks and leaks all the grinds into my already filled cup.
So it's going to be one of those days.
If I could I'd crawl back into bed and pull the sheets over my head but I have an appointment for a dog run and the construction noise is enough to get me out of the apartment swiftly.
The morning continues like clock work.
A ritual I perform almost 4 days a week.
With the day off I feel as though I should do something productive and I send my friend a running invite.
I immediately regret the offer.
The idea of sleep overwhelms me.
I don't have the energy.
I'm too tired.
My foot aches.
Listening to Doubt give me all the excuses on why I shouldn't go- I confirm with my friend and eventually meet him off Lake and Loma Alta dr. At the cusp of what is called Echo Mountain, a portal to the San Gabriel Mountains front range.
On January 6th 1993, Echo Mountain was delineated as part of the Mount Lowe Railway monument. ON top of the mountain are the ruins of the "White City", a resort along the scenic Mount Lowe Railway, which could easily be seen from the valley below. Echo Mountain's name is derived from the number of repetitions one's voice could emit into Castle Canyon. During the days of the Mount Lowe Railway "echophones" were set up to assist in voice projections near the best sweet spot.
Doubt reminds me to say that I'll be going extra slow today,
that I'm not strong enough to push myself.
It had rained all day the prior day making the trails very soft.
We converse the entire way to echo mountain and then splitting off to Castle Canyon, one of the steeper routes to Inspiration Point.
The more I hike up the mountain the more sense of relief my body feels.
I could feel the goosebumps shoot down my body as I look out- What a sight!
"A gift", I thought.
A precious gift, a spectacle, a show given by mother nature.
We stop a mere minute to enjoy some trail butter and jelly wrapped tortillas made by Tony, my partner in crime for the day. (Along with my sidekick Juniper the ultradog as well).
I can't believe I almost missed this.
With this new burst of energy we continue forward before our bodies get too cold.
On toward Mt Lowe.
Tony and I continue our slow jog up and stop almost instantly when we turned the corner of the trail.
I tilt my head back to face the sky.
A beautiful sight lay before me and I feel the bone chattering cold take over my body.
We continue climbing upward toward Mt. Lowe in a giggle fest.
We are completely stunned at the cloud spectacle before us.
Any ounce of doubt, negativity, or pain escaped me long ago.
It didn't matter how fast I ran.
It didn't matter if I received the CR (Course Record on Strava) for this section.
It didn't matter if it was even recorded.
I was thankful to be outside, so very thankful to enjoy this gift.
I threw my hands in the air and screamed THANK YOU at the top of my lungs.
Time stood still, and I rejoiced in the splendor of that moment.
Nothing else mattered.
And for the rest of the run, leaving doubt behind, I remembered what a gift this truly is.
The trails, the beautiful weather, the company- all things I need to remember to appreciate despite having a set back.
I realized I may not always be at my peak performance pace and I'm ok with that.
Driving home that evening I was glowing with the days events.
Wishfully thinking that all days in the future will be exactly like today.
It's Tuesday night, I'm working and it's 9:30 pm.
Stress overwhelms me with tomorrows activities.
Doubt tells me to cancel.
Doubt tells me I can't do it.
I brush doubt aside and know I can at least try.
My mental strength holding on to what strings it has left and begins to rebuild itself.
With a dog run appointment early at 7.
I carpool with my roommate Derek and Juniper and drop them off at the trail head.
Not knowing whether both dogs would get along I didn't want to run them together unless having a meeting on trail.
After my dog appointment Derek, Juniper and I make our way to Sierra Madre where we are to pick up Tony and off we go.
Where do you ask?
It's Los Angeles best kept secret!
Please don't tell anyone.
Do you really want to know?
Well for the non Angelinos...
it's the mountains.
Just like Echo Mountain and Mt. Lowe, the San Gabriel Mountains offer a wide range of spectacle.
And today we are headed to Mt. Baldy.
Mount San Antonio, colloquially referred to as Mt. Baldy, is the highest peak of the San Gabriel Mountains, and the highest point in Los Angeles County.
Mount San Antonio's sometimes snow-capped peaks are visible on clear days and dominate the view of the Los Angeles Basin skyline.
The peak is pyramid shaped, with a steep south face (Baldy Bowl) and a shallower north face. The summit is accessible via a number of connecting ridges along hiking trails from the north, east, south and southwest.
In Los Angeles- you wouldn't believe it.
We try to keep it a secret, we try to not give it so much hype.
But today, right now- I'll show you!
We had a group of impressive runners today including Juniper my ultra dog sidekick.
We decided to go up the skihut, not even considering the dangers that devils backbone could produce.
I was already tired from the days events yet glowing from excitement for the adventure that lays ahead.
The sun was shining and we all slowly stripped off layers of clothing.
The entire group minus Tony and me were in tights and extra layers on top and were now understanding why we stuck to our shorts.
The sun kissed us with warmth despite the snow on the ground.
Welcoming us to it's gift from a few night ago, patches of snow carpet the trail once leaving the ski hut.
Hikers pass us expressing their concern of our lack of equipment.
We brush them off knowing full well what we are doing.
With this being Baldy's first snow and it still being fresh- the need for spikes was not dire.
With each turn, the trails gifted us with soft snow beneath our feet delicately commanding our attention as the technicality rewards those with short attentions spans a hefty mouthful of cold rock hard ice patches.
I took a moment to thank my body for this amazing gift of endurance, both physical and mental.
For ultras are not just for who are fit but who have the mental strength to continue forward despite the distance and demand on the body.
For we all can DNF (did not finish) because we didn't feel like pushing through or we can test our mental strength and finish despite possibly being DFL (dead fucking last).
Along the ridge line before the summit we feel it- the wind.
Despite the heat emanating from the sun, the wind blew a bone chilling cold.
From where we were we could see the blizzard at the top, almost arms reach away.
Here we go!
We reach the peak and mini bullets of snow pummel our face and bodies.
Juniper looks for a spot to hide from the fierce wind and yet cant find relief.
As quickly as we summit- we are off the peak and begin our descent down back to the Ski Hut.
Once we pass the ski hut the snow disappears and the trail allows you to gain momentum.
What a relief it was to let my legs stretch out from all the jarring technical terrain.
From that point I realized how amazing my body felt.
Not for a moment did I question any aches or pains or even fatigue.
Adrenaline rushing through me along with pure happiness.
OHHHHH endorphins... how sweet you are and how addicted I am to you!
We hit the fire road and for the first time in what seems like months I finally feel as though I can open up my stride and run down.
My feet feeling as though barely touching the trail, they move swiftly sin any ounce of pain.
WHAT A DAY!
A true friendsgiving spent doing something we are all passionate about- running in the mountains.
A thin material that envelopes me, it's dark here yet there is lights seeping through the cracks.
I feel the warmth against my check, my left calf and my pinky.
I embrace it, with a new feeling overcoming my body.
It's starting to build.
Through the cracks I can see myself in the distance, Doubt.
You little son-of-a-bitch.
She looks nervous.
It's Monday again and I wake with a sudden alertness.
Despite working till nearly 1 am I am awake before my alarm clock and again before the sun.
This week will be different.
This week is when I start rebuilding my strength and balance.
I'm heading back to the gym.
Crossfit Ganbatte for their endurance wod.
I can't stress enough how welcoming this group is and how vital it is to find someone, whether a coach or a trainer that understands what you as an athlete needs.
As an ironman athlete and ultra runner, coach and owner JP is one bad ass mother f'er.
It's comforting to be surrounded by like minded endurance athletes all looking to become stronger in their sport.
After class I rushed over to my dog running appointment and head out for a five mile run.
Today is my day off from work which means I have another opportunity to play in the mountains.
I re consider that idea.
Perhaps I should rest.
Maybe I'm pushing myself too much?
With a quick text from Vince, solidifying our meet time- I'm out of the door before you could say Mt. Baldy.
And that's where I'm headed.
I sit in front of Vinces house waiting for him to get back from a run with some other friends.
YES, I'm a bit ticked that we are starting an hour later but tardiness with Vince is inevitable(Vince is fully aware of this and I am too).
I am filled with worry that it'll get icy, it'll get cold, we won't have time for anything before the sun set.
I get anxious and hurry Vince as he brushes away my anxiety with jokes and puns.
Arriving to Manker Flats, we are met with several hikers leaving.
Knowing full well my dream of using my snow shoes would not pan out so instead I pack my spikes and grab my hiking poles and we head past Ski Hut trail to Register Ridge.
Steeper than most of the other standard routes up Mt. Baldy. You gain about 2600 ft. of elevation in 1.7 miles. There is also an optional short Class 3 rock climb that you can do (option to hike around available).
The use trail fades away just before you get to the Devils Back Bone trail where you have the option to continue upwards toward Mt. Hardwood peak or left toward Mt Baldy Peak (or right back down Devils backbone toward the lodge and eventually to the parking lot).
Vince and I banter basically the entire way up Register Ridge.
I move extra slow- starting to feel the soreness in my hamstrings from the dead lift done earlier in the morning.
He makes fun of my hiking poles, being a mountain goat himself- he doesn't understand their use.
I slip and slide a little.
Thankful for my new Salomon sense pro trail shoes.
These shoes have been great for technical trails along with wet terrain.
My feet were TOASTY!
My fear of time loss quickly escaped as we reached the top.
Vince had made the executive decision of not going to Baldy peak but Hardwood instead.
It's closer and with the sun quickly fading- we are less likely to be stuck in the dark.
Just before we hit the backbone trail we are almost knee deep in snow, unable to find the "trail".
Following another set of tracks we continue upward- knowing that is the only direction.
I am amazed at how warm I feel despite the frigid wind.
Thankful for such quality shoes in such insane wet weather.
Having a lot of friends outside of Los Angeles, and mostly outside of California.
They are normally shocked at our quality of mountains when I show photos or post my daily activities.
I know, it's pretty astonishing.
A 10K mountain in our backyard!
We are pretty blessed with these local trails.
I know you probably correlate LA with traffic, high rises, beach life, and obnoxious people.
But when I describe Los Angeles I portray the mountains, nature, weather, and wonderful outgoing people.
It does exist outside of the Pacific Northwest ;)
I have an some pretty stellar runs in the San Gabriel Mountains.
Some of my most favorite times have been the last two that I've written about.
But this takes the cake.
I can officially name it my favorite time on ANY mountain.
Which says a lot.
The photos may not due the moment we had justice- but it comes pretty close.
I find myself back in the box, or what was the box.
The once thick confining cube I sat in lays fragile blanketing my body.
The once thick darkness opens up to fresh mountain air.
I stretch my legs out- wondering why it seemed so hard to move before when it comes effortlessly now.
The box disappears.
I stand up with strength beaming from my toenails to my dark brown bun.
And that's when I see her... Doubt.
With happiness, shoulders back, head up high I walk toward her with a new sense.. an overwhelming sense of confidence and
With her sense of doubt, darkness or weakness that I may have felt overridden with a new power.
The knowledge and understanding that when life gets turbulent it can also quickly become calm if you just believe and be patient.
Mental strength is just as vital as your bodies endurance.
Believing in yourself is the first step toward building that physical strength.
No, I may not be as strong of a runner as I have been but I feel like my mental strength has truly grown.
When I think of past races, it hasn't been my key endurance training that aided me in finished rather my mental strength that enabled me to keep moving forward during low moments and just continue even when I feel like shit. (or when I raced with sprained ankle at Broken Arrow but I also never have laughed that much and had so much fun during a race).
I can run any given day for any given distance when I'm feeling great- any one can!
It's having some degree of mental strength to keep you moving when you aren't having a good day instead of just quiting.
My body put me through that test this month.
Challenging me everyday.
Putting me through what seemed like an ultra marathon just to make it through a day.
I've enjoyed the journey- embraced the suck and continue forward.
What I can do now is work on my weakness instead of embracing doubt and rebuild.
Become stronger and efficient in every aspect- not just in the mountains.
Sometimes in life, your situation will keep repeating itself until you learn your lesson.
I think I'm starting to learn that lesson...
Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness.
My computer from 2006 is on its last leg. The amount of time it takes me to write, edit, sycronize photos, links, etc. on this computer is MIND BLOWING.
Hey Monday, it's been real nice sitting on the couch allllll day.
Thankfully both Juniper and I spent allll day in the mountains yesterday (and then I worked a closing shift at work) to allow some rest today...
I believe in a new computer is in my near future... maybe.