Friday, February 25, 2011

Running in La La Land

Trails Galore

Yes, trails galorious, trails. And right across the road from my hotel. I’m in Lake Forest, California, which is in Orange County and not too far from Irvine. It seems strange to have these hills and canyons so close to suburbia, but that’s California for you.

Since I did the Hinckley Triple yesterday, and also had to fly here last night, I’m a little tired today. My goal of running 50 additional miles this week means that I’ve got to jog around for an hour and a half or so today in spite of the weariness.

As I cross the road I pick up some trails right away. They’re sandy and a little muddy. Jogging around a bit, I discover that some trails even lead underneath the road and eventually to a couple corners of my hotel’s strip-mall parking lot. I note that the one corner contains a plastic surgery center. This is California, after all. I didn’t even need to cross, or encounter the road at all. I’d come back this way to avoid it for sure.

Heading back under the road and further into the park, I arrive at a closed gate. The park is called Whiting Ranch, and I believe it’s a county park. The sign on the gate indicates that the park is closed for 48 hours for each day of rain. California had had quite a bit of rain for the previous couple days, so I’m not sure how many hours that works out to. The weather is fine right now, but I am already encountering mud and can understand the need to preserve the trails from erosion. I could go around the gate and fence to get into the park, but decide to head back out instead.

Back on the sidewalk, I head north on Glenn Ranch Road, which is adjacent to a mile or so of the park. I encounter a couple other park entrances that are also closed. Eventually I come to a trail that has no gate. I suppose that I shouldn’t enter due to the information about it being closed on the other sign, but I can’t help myself. I start on this trail anyway.

I’m treated to great views of canyons and hills. It occurs to me that I’m having an experience not unlike those of the out-west ultra trail running video I love so much. Only one problem: the mud. It’s getting caked on my shoes so much that they get to the point where they feel like they weigh five pounds. I hate when this happens. I try to kick it off, but eventually it’s time to turn back anyway.

I’m treated to a beautiful sunrise as I’m heading back to the hotel. What a great run!

The California weather is to be clear and 40 at night and 60 during the day. It’s the same for each day of the entire week. I don’t know if that’s normal for late February here, but it’s absolutely perfect running weather.

I start out at about 5am, which is a wee bit earlier than yesterday. For Tuesday’s adventure, I decide to stay on the roads but head further (way further) up into the Portola Hills and then into Modjeska Canyon. The park and its trails are still closed anyway.

The route brings me north up (and I do mean up) Glenn Ranch Road, left (north) up Saddleback Ranch Road, left (north) DOWN Ridgeline Road (this is a steep downhill section, but it’s short – probably less than ½ mile), left (north) up Santiago Canyon Road, and finally right (north) up, up, up Modjeska Grade Road. That final one is the real doozie.

Parts of the route are near Whiting Ranch, but other parts are past entrances to subdivisions built into the hills. At about half-way (2.5 miles, give or take), the sidewalks end and I’ve got to run off to the side of the roads. There is plenty of room, but the cars are traveling mighty darn fast. Modjeska Grade Road, my last, is partially blocked to traffic (and therefore NOT busy), although you could drive around the barrier. This is also by far the steepest part.

I reach the summit at a little before mile four. After a mile or so of no habitation whatsoever, there’s a major mansion here at the top with a commanding view. The views, in fact, have been wonderful the entire way. It helps that it’s beginning to get more light. I go down the other side of that hill and see more mansions perched on cliff sides. It occurs to me that California is so beautiful that I’d recommend that anyone and everyone visit here. It’s just that no one should live here. It just doesn’t seem like there ought to be mansions on cliff sides where there should only be trees, scrub and roadrunners.

My pace has been pretty slow. I reach my 5-mile turnaround point at about 52 minutes. I hope I can get back down faster. I do. But not that much. I return to the hotel at a time of 95 minutes. Not one of my faster 10-milers.

One more thing about the route: if you click the link for it, you can see the interactive gmap-pedometer map. From there you can also look at the elevation. That indicates that I made it up to 1600+ feet, but my starting elevation is shown as 800 something. I think Lake Forest is actually at 300 something. So my total elevation gain is between 800 and 1300 feet.

More Verticality, More Trails Galore
For my Wednesday trick I decide to do that whole hilly run a second time. Everything goes pretty much the same, except that I’m able to run a couple minutes faster for both the outbound and the return. It’s funny how just knowing the course seems to enable me to run it faster.

Since I still have a bit of time before I have to get to the office, I jog around on the trails for a bit. This time I run further into town instead of running into the park. It’s great how they have these dirt running trails amidst all the freeways and strip malls.

It’s now Thursday, and it would be nice to get in something that I can call 18 miles to make 80 for the week. I won’t be able to run Saturday because with the red-eye, I won’t be home in any kind of time or disposition to run. And it would be nice to take Friday off from running as well.

I am able to get out the door by 4:30, so I’ll have enough time. I begin by doing the Portola Hills 10 for the third day in a row. Will I be able to do it faster still? The answer is yes! I get back down to the hotel a half minute faster than yesterday.

Now I still have 8 more to do. I run past the plastic surgery place and enter the world of trails once more. I go directly into the park and the gate is open this time. I go on in and immerse myself in the wonders of California wilderness. Those trails sure are nice. I think that I ought to be able to link up with the same trails I ran on Monday, but I get lost trying. That’s okay though. I run on relatively flat terrain until I hit a hill. This one is steeper than any I’ve encountered on the roads – I end up only getting half-way up before turning back. I also take some side trails off into wilder areas.

So I got my miles in for the day and for the week. It’s bee a good one.

Friday, February 11, 2011

Quantity vs Quality

Before the Plantar Fasciitis injury I was struggling to get up to 70 miles per week. At some point in there I made up a half-baked goal to do 3,650 miles this year. But back to before that injury: at least some of those miles were at some kind of speed. I wasn't setting the world on fire, but at least I'd do some kind of quality run once or twice per week. Some of it was on the mill.

And, who knows, those mill miles may have been part of the cause of my injury. But the result of the PF has been reduced quality. This is mostly out of fear of making the injury worse.

The quantity, however, has not been reduced. In fact it's the opposite. I've increased both my weekly mileage and the distance and quantity of my long runs. The weekly mileage for the last two weeks, and probably this week as well, is now well up into the eighties.

Regarding long runs, in a previous post I described the trials and tribulations of running three iterations of the Hinckley loop. Since that time I've done some long treadmill runs (24 along with 6 outside in the snow, and 30), and a second incidence of running three Hinckley loops last Sunday. Moreover, I'll often do 20ish and 30ish mile long runs in the same week. This weekend I'm going to try to do them back to back.

The PF is on the run now, although it's always still there. And the mileage is still up, whilst the quality is still down. I'll need to work on that.


I'm taking an online class to complete what's needed for me to renew my Project Management Professional Certification. I do this every few years, but this may be my last, since it'll take me until I'm 60.

The thing is, it's 5 required practice exams with 200 questions each, and then a final exam with 50 questions. If I'm doing the math correctly, that's 1,050 questions. And each one takes time because I have to look almost all of them up.

So, besides running gobs of miles and work, and work, that's what's been keeping me busy.

Hinckley is Back

Okay, okay. Hinckley never really left. But a lot of us did; we hadn't been meeting there for our Sunday morning runs for quite some tim...