With the new year came a sickness that sidelined any prospective training that I hoped to achieve this month. I ran less and focused more on rest and the occasional hot yoga to stretch and sweat the tightness away. This last week, however, was heavenly. All of a sudden when Monday rolled around- POOF! My sickness had disappeared, I had finally two solid nights without the cough of death and I couldn't be more ecstatic! On Monday I thought it was merely a test from my body and had went for another hot yoga class and to work without even considering running. I thought to myself, maybe I can run this week. Perhaps this plague is finally gone and I can spend some quality time outdoors. The thought sent shivers down my spine, oh the outdoors! I look over to Juniper who was laying on her bed looking bored. We are going on some adventures! I stated as I picked her up, fumbled a bit, and hugged her so tight she started to lick me face to stop.
GRIFFITH PARK, HOLLYWOOD
Tuesday I woke up with excitement, another night of peaceful sleep. WHAT A JOY! Juniper and I managed to do a tempo run up to the Hollywood sign that left me smiling from cheek to cheek. I live about a mile from Bronson Canyon and the batcaves- you know, where the filmed batman, and it's normally my go to entry point for the Griffith Park trails. In Griffith Park it's a choose your own adventures trails, with immediate scrambles that take you straight to the Hollywood sign or pristine fire road that, although take a handful of miles, will also lead you to the Hollywood Sign and Observatory. There is also great opportunities to skip the fire road and head straight to lush single track, but today we stuck to fire road and were able to let Juniper off leash as we managed to keep a faster pace than normal.
Afterward I recovered with a walk to the climbing gym to work on a few problems. As I sat in the Sauna afterward I pondered the rest of my week, I had some free time to devote to "time on feet" in the mountains and I wanted to choose it wisely with my Costa Rica trip approaching soon and with a nice little wind storm blowing our way Friday and Saturday. I giggle with excitement- the opportunities are endless.
BACKBONE TRAILS, MALIBU
Initially for Wednesday I figured I'd do a long run on Mt Baldy but with the current snow conditions I didn't think it would be quality training for the heat in CR, although, what in January would be? Instead I figured a good 'ol run on the Backbone trail in Malibu would suffice. This trail offers single track, fire road and ocean vistas in a 22 mile lolipop loop that is part of the Sean O'Brien 50 mile and 100k course. I have some fantastic memories with friends on this trail and one not so very fantastic memory of the actual race four years ago. Overall it's a great loop if you're looking for something that consist of more running and rays of sunshine.
We parked at the trail head and were ready to go by 8:30am. At first I had Juniper off leash but with a distance like this I quickly grabbed her raddog leash (that looks like just a collar) and kept her close- I didn't want her to get too tired too quickly. The first part of the trail is single track for about 3 miles and opens up to Zuma Ridge fire road for a small climb up to Buzzards Roost where you get a beautiful view of Malibu and sometimes, if weather permits, Channel Islands. Following the fire road down, it's hard not to focus on the ocean, a view I'm not accustomed to seeing on my normal long runs. Once we got to the parking lot at the bottom of the fire road, I was able to give Juniper lots of water and a few treats before heading back onto a single track to Canyon View trail- back up we go. At this point it was getting very warm and without having to hold onto Junipers leash she stayed right infront of me. She's pretty good at staying close to the person that will give her treats and water! I could feel my shoulders getting sun kissed as we continued to climb up the trail as my friend Phil commented that we'd be in polar opposite conditions on Mt Baldy. I didn't realize how hot it was going to get, both Phil and I were drenched as we hiked and jogged up the single track. During the climb I had picked a few ticks off that I notice had jumped on Junipers fur and I was instantly disgusted. Ticks give me the hibeegeebees. Blah. Excuse me while I go shower from disgust.
I kept Juniper on her leash closer to me, thinking that the farther away from the brush we were- the less likely she'd get ticked. Once we got the the fire road to run down I stopped to give Juniper water and there may have been 12 new ticks on her fur. Poor Juniper waited ever so patiently as I aggressively shook them off her in sheer frustration. About a few feet later she had 5 more jump on her. If there was a way to say "Hey trail, I'm done!" I wouldn't stopped running right there and then. The idea of having to constantly brush Junipers fur of ticks made me not want to continue- but what needed to be done, I realized, was to run faster. After 15 minutes thoroughly checking her back, neck and chest we started to run down the fire road. I found that if we didn't stop, the ticks would have the least amount of time to jump on her.
We ran down to the creek and as I sprayed some water on my neck, Juniper was able to cool her body in the cold water. I stared at the water, her fur and continued to stare at her fur the duration of the loop. I couldn't tell you how many ticks I flicked off despite having her close to me on lead.
We ran, when I say ran I mean jogged very slowly, back up to Buzzards Roost. With Juniper on leash and my water getting low, we flew down the fire road and jogged back to Kanan were the safety of the car and a coca cola waited. I then proceeded to pick more ticks off Juniper- OH THE JOY. This area isn't normally infested with ticks but we did just get our first rain storm last week and they are everywhere, not just on the Backbone trail. The best part was after all the time brushing the off Juniper I felt as though they were crawling all over me. A hair tickle- omg it's a tick, my backpack strap touched my arm- omg it's a tick, my shoe lace on my ankle- oh wait no, that's a tick crawling up my leg. I shivered with disgust as I flicked it off me. Giving my body another check of possible crawling monsters before I said farewell to the BB trail, it'll be a while before I return. Cue tick nightmares for the next week.
WESTRIDGE TRAILS, SANTA MONICA
On Thursday I had initially planned to run with the Socal Coyotes at 6am in Santa Monica but ALAS! I had woke up at 6 am realizing I had forgotten to set me alarm. Whoops. I had an appointment to renew my passport and the office is located in Westwood. What a breeze that was- signed, sealed, delivered and I'm off to CR soon! Since I was already on the Westside I figured it was a great opportunity to run one of the trails in Santa Monica- Westridge trail being the closest. Technically the trail would be considered Los Angeles, with countless connectors it can take you to Topanga Canyon, The Valley, Brentwood, Santa Monica and if you want a really long run, Malibu. The best thing about these trails are that you choose your own adventure; single track scrambles, long fire roads, nice climbs or all flat- you choose. I stuck to the flat fire road and was able to lose track of time as I shook my heavy legs through Westride and to Topanga Canyon and back for a nice unplanned 16 mile. Once I arrived back at my car I realized it was 75 degrees out which made the exposed fireroad even more heated- not a bad heat training day! Pretty stoked with the days event I was able to chill for a few hours with Juniper and head back to the West Side for some recovery hours at the climbing gym with fellow coyote Pedro. Productive day indeed!
STRAWBERRY PEAK, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS
I woke up feeling a bit depleted. I knew I hadn't drank enough water- big NO NO, Sawna. I slept poorly as the wind roared against the window beside me. Juniper and I haphazardly collected ourselves and set out for another run, this time meeting in the San Gabriel Mountains. as I prepared to leave, ominous dark clouds blanketed the sky as the roaring wind whipped the palm trees from side to side, leaving me thinking that today may not be all that sunshine I was hoping for. As I exited the freeway and started up highway 2 my fears quickly disappeared as I drove out of the dark clouds and into a cobalt blue sky. Feeling like I just entered a Disney movie as birds began to sing, butterflies landing on my mirror, squirrels talking on nearby trees all welcoming me to paradise- you know, the whole shebang. Shockingly at 8am in Los Angeles, I cruised on the freeway and along HWY 2 and was parked at the trail head 30 minutes later- this must be a personal record. Andrew, Rhea and their paw-sitively energized furkid, Lola, showed up just a few minutes later. We ensured we had all the necessary gear as Juniper and Lola chased each other and then we were off on the trail that led us up Colby Canyon, one of the trails that connects to both Josephine peak and Strawberry Peak.
Our destination today was not Strawberry Peak itself but around it. With the winds being over 25 mph at the peak we figured we'd avoid the extra mile to the top and continued on, making a big loop. We began running on the trail, fur kids chasing each other up and down the trail as we crossed a few stream beds that led us to up the canyon. As we hiked up the switch backs to the saddle, we couldn't help but admire being above the marshmallow clouds. It had been a couple of weeks since last seeing Andrew and Rhea, we had spent those first few miles catching up, but at this point we couldn't help but talk about how beautiful the day was. As we approached the saddle we couldn't help but feel giddy for the day. There were two other guys who had just left the saddle and began hiking up the neighboring peak as we set out on the single track to Strawberry meadow. The single track runs along the canyon side as we loop around to the back of Strawberry peak and then proceed to go down to the Meadow before shooting back up to the Strawberry Peak saddle. Before we turned the corner I stopped to take a few photos of Andrew and Rhea together and noticed the two guys that had set out before us were standing on top of the peak looking over the blanket of clouds- it was a beautiful sight.
As we turned to the backside of the mountain and began to run down into the meadow we couldn't help but admire the soft trail under our feet and beautiful sky full of cumulus clouds above us. Both Lola and Juniper continued to chase each other, back and forth, as we all stabilized ourselves trying to not get knocked over. Their happiness shown from the smiles on their faces to their tails wagging so deeply that their bodies moved along with it.
Once we reached the Strawberry saddle we finally got a taste of the 25 mph winds, sending any warmth from the sun away. Both Rhea and I instantly put our windbreakers on as we stopped to take a few photos. We continued running along the single track toward Red box when I spotted a tick on Juniper. Not again! I thought. I brushed it off and we scanned both Juniper and Lola for any others. 'Tis the season. As we passed Red Box and continued down to Switzer Falls we began running into the clouds. The air moist and the blue sky quickly disappearing into the dense fog it was refreshing to be running in such a different range of weather. We finished the run with a jog down highway 2 to our cars and some quality time searching for my ticks, you know, my favorite.
The day didn't end there. We left the San Gabes, back to the city, for some quality fuel at Vin Loh, a Vietnamese vegan joint that is located in an unassuming strip mall deep in the heart of Reseda. Kevin Tran, the owner, is know for his athleticism and good judgement, will suggest something better than what's on the menu. Tell him what flavors, textures you're in the mood for and he'll bring you the best dish in the house- the food is that good. We picked up a few different dishes and headed to Andrew and Rheas house. As we sat in their backyard enjoying the food, both Juniper and Lola continued to play, unphased of the 14 miles ran earlier.
Afterward we hung around the climbing gym until our hands and arms too sore. It was a multi sport kind-of day!
MT WILSON, SAN GABRIEL MOUNTAINS
I wake to hear the strong winds roaring outside. From my window in the loft I see the palm trees that line my neighborhood swaying side to side, looking as if they'll snap any minute. I look down from my pillow and spot Juniper passed out on her dog bed, unaware of me starring as I begin to climb down the ladder. I shoot Pedro a text about today's run, maybe altering our original course to something less exposed to the wind, he quickly agreed. I take Juniper for a quick jaunt before packing my things to leave. This week has been great for her, lots of time with friends and hours on the trails that deserve a nice day off to get some quality rest. She sits by the door as I continue to pack, her eyes begging me to let her join the party. Rest, Juniper, you need rest. She continues to plead with her eyes as I try to leave. I motion her to go to her bed as I quickly make my exit.
I'm sitting in my car, as I turn the ignition to start Junipers eyes burn my mind. "Well, we have adjusted the miles today, so it's not too long", I think to myself. I've convinced myself. I turn my car off, run upstairs and grab a bag of her favorite Zukes treats and call her over- "JUNIPER, LETS GOOOOO!". Her face gleaming and her body shaking from not being able to contain the excitement. She wisps by me and almost slides into the hallway wall as she flies down the stairs and sits by the car door as if to say "Come on Mom, you're moving too slow- ADVENTURE AWAITS!".
We park about a mile from Chantry Flats trail head as the main parking area was completely full. Cars lined the side of the road in every which way possible in order to park as close to the main trail as possible. We jog our way up and begin running past Chantry parking lot up toward the winter creek trail to upper winter creek. I keep Juniper on leash the entire climb in hopes that she saves any energy she would normally use running circles around us instead of staying beside us. The weather was perfect, tucked inside the trees we could feel a slight cold breeze, but nothing of the 30 mph winds predicted. I kept my long sleeve on knowing that the peak was only going to get colder. We continued climbing, settling into a nice comfortable hike. We both agreed that we wanted to take the run moderately easy in order to have sufficient energy to spend at the climbing gym afterward.
Our route led us to the Mt Wilson observatory. The peak was 32 degrees and windy. My hands and face frozen as Pedro and I began running, more like shuffling, trying not to step on any of the ice covering section on the ground. Of all the dozens of times I've ran around Wilson, I have never been to it's lookout. Shocked. Amazed. Baffled. Crazed. I don't know what I was thinking. Pedro showed me where it was and my mind was blown.
The look out was shockingly warm and we embraced it's heat as we defrosted a bit before heading down the trail. I have to admit, I was uncomfortably cold. With gloves and a long sleeve, I could've definitely found comfort in one more layer. But ALAS! We focused on just moving to maintain heat.
Both Pedro and I have yet to run Mt Wilson's rim trail and today seemed like a fitting day to both experience it's wonders. And boy was it wonderful. The air crisp, the ground soft and gentle yet offering a very thin single track that demanded attention. I lead the way as Juniper, now off leash, stayed between Pedro and me. Pockets of frigid air gave way to the warmth of the sun as we cruised down in a single line, passing several green patches of tall trees with leaves of orange, yellow and some bearing no leaves at all. As we approached Newcombs saddle we stopped to savor the moments passed, a trail I had failed to experience for years welcoming us with its beauty and minimal technicality. I take a glance at Juniper, happy as can be, ready for more miles as she smiles eagerly at me. "I can't believe you almost didn't experience this" I think to myself. Juniper, off leash still, leads the way. The excited pup begins to prance, soaking in the sun as her tongue flops to the side of her face, offering the trail a wide open smile as she gracefully glides down.
As we continue running down, we pass several streams. With each stream passing, the water fueling Junipers energy as she speeds up and runs harder and faster through the canyon. This girl is unstoppable. After a long week outdoors I truly thought she would be tired, but her stamina and strength continues to surprise me. As we climb the road back to the Chantry parking lot we pass several dozen people and their dogs. Juniper, by my side, looks up at me with each passing dog- knowing full well she'll get a treat if she stays by my side instead of bolting to say hi to the dog. Not only is she fast and strong, she's one smart pup.
Another day of adventuring in the mountains and then a few hours of bouldering at the gym is pretty much my favorite kind of day. I ended the night at a friends house in the hills for a get together with some fellow Team In Training teammates. Still to this day, I can't believe how far I've come. Training for my first marathon almost 6 years ago and then entering the Ultra community. How my life has shaped ever so differently than I expected, and how I'm so thankful for what I have and the beautiful people that surround me.
Since this week of adventuring, Juniper and I have enjoyed several more outings with friends as I prepare to take off to Costa Rica. That's another story in itself.
Alright, time for me to shower these stinky feet and head to the airport. Headed to Costa Rica for 6 weeks.
Till next time,
Peace, love and happiness