Back to Running!!!
Well, it's been a week and a half since my awesome run with Mike Palmer, and now that I'm done with all things school (for two months!!!) I have time do give it the write up it deserves. We'll see how good my memory actually is! (note- it ended up really long. Just imagine its length if I did it when I still remembered all the details!)
Now, going into this run, I was nervous. I had just done Diablo the week before and then went ahead and did a hard fast 6.5 miles on wednesday and a decent sized run Thursday. Then I volunteered at Miwok for 7 hours saturday, which left me completely drained. And now I was going on a 25ish mile circumnaviation of Mt. Tam. Sounded amazing, but, really, was I up for that?
I planned to meet up with Mike at 8am, which is late by my Mt Tam standards (I usually run with a group that starts around sunrise! Generally 6:45 or so, so 8 was sleeping in!)
Still, I wanted to make sure I had more than enough time, so set the alarm for 6am. I was planning to leave by 7 or so, since I wasn't exactly sure how long it would take and I wanted to be on time!
By the time I packed up everything I needed (was going to try a camelbak for the first time!) I was running a little late, and ended up out the door by 7:20 or so. I also managed to lose my car keys at some point between coming home Saturday night and Sunday morning so, after a fruitless search, had to go with my spare pair (note: the keys are still missing. I'm hoping that when I pack to move they'll magically appear!)
The drive over was easy, like always, and had the extra benefit of ended a good 15-20 minutes sooner than normal, as we were meeting in the town of Ross, rather than actually on Mt Tam. Good for us east bay folk.
As I drove over the San Rafael bridge, the mountain came into view and I started grinning. I develop a strong attachment to places that I run, and Mt. Tam has become very special to me over the last few months. I was still nervous, but now excited as well!
I wanted to find a bathroom before we left, so drove around a little after locating the meeting spot, but didn't see anything promising so headed back to park and get ready. Mike had mentioned a water stop 1/2 a mile in, which I assumed would have facilities as well. I'm somewhat ocd about using the bathroom right before a run "just in case" but would have to get over it for today :)
I sat in my car for a bit, making sure I had everything and getting ready and then finally headed over to Mike, who was sitting on the back of his car getting ready. He looked up and smiled, commenting, "I didn't think you were going to show up!" Ha...I didn't realize that that was an option.
As he finished getting ready, some other runners he knew showed up. They were going out as well, but faster and not as long, so we weren't planning to all run together. He introduced me, and then we went our ways.
Just a few minutes into the run, a beautiful doe was standing across the path (still asphalt here). We stopped and admired it, but then moved towards it a little, ready to move on. It ran away gracefully and we continued, still running by houses, on the way to the trail.
Our first point of interest would be phoenix lake, where we stopped to use the bathroom and admire the waters. I hadn't been here before and was duly impressed by the sights!
Mike told me that running on the North Side of Mt. Tam is his favorite because of all these beautiful spots, and he definitely didn't dissapoint. Of course, I got lots of indulgent looks for all the pictures I took, but he was a great sport about it :D And really, with all these great views, it was hard not to have that camera constantly out! I really need a hydration pack with the front pockets, so that I don't spend a good minute getting that camera out every time!
As we ran along the lakes and the more general north side, we had some fun ultra talking. Because he's such an awesome and well run individual, he let me pick his brain on all the races I'd heard about but only online. He told me about Western States experiences, Angeles Crest (which he's planning to do this year), Hurt 100 (he told me exactly how hard it is! Not sure that's a race I'll want to try!), and some others. I asked him about the Dick Collins Firetrails 50, which he had nothing but good things to say about. Even cooler, he told me that Ann Trason is the RD! I had just sent her an email, not realizing "Ann and Carl" were the Ann and Carl :) How awesome. Mike also had nothing but nice things to say about Ann, and highly encouraged me to take on this race. Being in Berkeley, it'll have lots of sentimental value as well, to do my first 5o there, on some of my first running trails, so I'm really looking forward to it.
We ran into one of Mike's running friends on the trails, and chatted with him briefly before he continued on.
Our conversations were fun and varied. For a while we talked about the infamous DK (or Dean Karnazes) and the pros and cons of his fame/image. I'm really torn about him because I really respected and admired him for a while. He was the first to introduce me to this sport, to which I'm incredibly grateful, and I do find much of what he's done inspirational. And, from what I've heard, he's a really nice and down to earth guy in person. However, that said, he's not the best runner out there, and it's somewhat odd and contrary to the sport, it would seem, that he's posessing of this level of fame when better runners (Ann Trason for example) are much more approachable. Still, Dean does good work with his charity organization and seems to really be a nice guy. This whole fame thing is just weird.
As we started to near our next sightseeing point, the Cataract Waterfalls, we ran into some wildlife!
It's a newt :) Such a cute little guy and fun to see!
We continued on and soon reached our destination. The falls!
Mike humoured me with a photo by this beautiful sight. A few moments later a running group came by that knew Mike. He introduced me (thus reinforcing my belief that he knows pretty much every trail running in the bay area :D) and we chatted for a bit. One of them made the comment that "You'd better watch out! Mike will have you running hundreds in no time!" to which I replied "I sure hope so" :). Everyone was so nice (as is almost always the case with trail runners). We all continued on our journey and so it was just the two of us again.
We soon reached another great spot to view a different section of the falls! How pretty with the sun coming through the water and trees
I got Mike in there for a picture, convincing him that no one wants to see just scenery and that people make it more fun :)
I had previously been to the falls once before, but really, it's one of the most special places in the Bay Area. Just gorgeous. Mike showed me the spot that he believed Carl proposed to Ann Trason, which was pretty cool. What a romantic place to become engaged!
Soon we were out of the forest briefly and into the meadow.
There was a decent bathroom stop here, and then we headed off for our next goal, Pan Toll. I had worked the aid station at that location yesterday, and it was fun to get there on foot instead of by car.
We entered back into a more covered area, when Mike announced that we'd reached one of our side goals for the trip: the WWII airplane engine!
To answer the question I posed earlier, this engine came to be on Mt. Tam through a crash between two WWII planes on October 4, 1945
From what I understand, two planes were practicing flying and the one ran into his teacher! Thankfully, both parachutted to safety, but their planes crashed down onto Mt. Tam. Most of the debris has been taken, but this bohemeth of an engine is still in the creek. I believe it's something like 2600 horsepower, and is really giant.
As we were admiring the engine yet another group of runners came by that Mike knew. One, Bob Agazzi, who runs Mt Tam runs on the weekend, is apparently a huge fan of the history surrounding this engine, and shared with us many details (that I've unfortunately forgotten).
After fully taking in this cool sight, we moved on, heading towards one of my favorite views ever.
The wildflowers were just beautiful and painted the grasses such pretty colors.
Finally we reached the lookout point, and I was far from dissapointed with what greeted my eyes.
I was just blown away by the view. The Pacific was such a deep color and blended in with the sky above.
We could see twin peaks over in San Francisco from where we were
As we headed down towards Pan Toll, it was hard to keep my eyes on the trail, when I kept wanting to look up at the sights. I wisely stopped to take pictures, and then would sprint to catch up with Mike. This kind of running really made me feel as though I were 6 years old again, and running for the pure joy of movement.
The ocean had this two toned quality, I'm guessing from the underwater drop off, but it really was just gorgeous.
Finally we arrived at pan toll, and stopped to refill our water and have a snack. A group of bikers over from San Francisco were stopped there as well, so we chatted with them for a bit. Everyone was enjoying this perfect summery day.
Mike showed me on the map where we were, where we had come from and the trails we were taking to get back. It was cool to see it all laid out!
The sign at Pan Toll, warning about the two most dangerous animals on the mountain. Luckily we saw neither today. Mike entertained me with stories of his close encounters, reinforcing the thought that I'll have my own someday. Eeks!
We continued on and reached some awesome exposed trails that featured great views. I had been on this trail before, and it was fun to be in a familiar area. Mike explained that this part reminded him of Angeles Crest, which, I think is possibly his favorite 100 from the way he spoke of it. Based on how much I enjoyed this trail, I'm eager to try it out for myself some day!
There were so many beautiful sights everywhere that I kept oscillating between wanting to keep my camera out to take as many pictures as I could, and being afraid that I'd get so distracted by the view that I'd end up falling and breaking the camera, thus destroy the pictures I had already taken. I compromised and would take pictures for a few minutes, put it away (and catch up to Mike!) and then when I became too overcome by the beauty again, I'd take the camera back out. It's no wonder I ended up with over 130 photos :)
We continued on Matt Davis
I remembered these stairs from my first trip ever on Mt. Tam. Part of me wanted to take so many photos since I hadn't had my camera on my two previous visits, so I was sort of taking pictures for 3 runs in one :)
We made our trail change, onto Mike's favorite trail in the park
The Hoo Koo E Koo Trail :) What an awesome name!
From here we headed up a firetrailesque road, and as we gained elevation, we were going to gain some great views.
While beautiful, the day was getting hot and all this exposed area definitely emphasized the point.
Luckily, on Mt. Tam, a redwood forest never seems to be too far away :) We soon entered back into a much cooler covered area, and I glanced around in awe of these trees. California is really such a cool place to live!
These forest sections were great because it kept the heat from ever feeling too oppressive (We later learned it was in the 90s all day!)
As we got out to the exposed area again, we were greated with some new views
Mt Diablo! It was so exciting to see it, since I had just been there last weekend. Very cool that I went up 2 mountains in two weeks :)
Not wanting to bother Mike, I took a picture of myself enjoying the view. I really have too much fun with this camera
But then I decided to bother Mike anyways ;)
It was fun to have such an amazing view of everything around us, from northbay, to eastbay to san francisco
After much climbing we finally reached some fun downhill firetrail. A bit technical at spots, but compared to Diablo, it was easy :) This was the place where we did the most continuous running, and it was fun to be moving, even though I was a bit sore by this point. Amazing how much faster time flies when you're doing 10 minute miles instead of 20 minute miles
Soon we thankfully headed back into the cover and onto singletrack, as I was getting hot (and I love singletrack). We entered onto a beautiful trail, apparently Ann's favorite, and it's no wonder why.
I enjoyed doing my sprints to catch up with Mike after each picture, which I figured was a good little speed workout within the long run ;)
Soon we reached the treasure tree!
"Neighbors bring food with death and flowers with sickness and little things in between. Boo was our neighbor. He gave us two soap dolls, a broken watch and chain, a pair of good-luck pennies, and our lives. But neighbors give in return. We never put back into the tree what we took out of it: we had given him nothing, and it made me sad."-Scout (Lee, 293) As Josh and Michelle guessed, the book that this tree is a reminder of is To Kill a Mockingbird, by Harper Lee. One of the best books and movies ever made. If you have missed out on either, get yourself to a library and a video place, and find a copy. It's one of the few occassions in which a movie accurately and wonderfully captures the book on which it was based.
Mike Brought a Dragon Fly to add to the tree. I had nothing with me besides food, which seemed like a bad idea. Next time I'll bring something to contribute!
Before too long we were back at the tail end of Lake Phoenix! Only a little bit more to go now until we'd be back at the car.
The hill behind me, aptly named, bald hill, looked as though it had some fun trails on it. I can't wait to check them out!
Three short miles later we were back at the car! It took us 8 1/2 hours to complete the 23 mile loop. Not sure how accurate this is, but when I uploaded that data onto the MotionBased software, it claimed that of that 5 1/2 hours, 3 of them were spent not moving! If that's even partially true, than I've really got to work on my picture taking skills while running. Well, it was worth it. I have no qualms about having spent all day out on Mt. Tam. There's really no better place to be!
Thanks again to Mike Palmer for being an excellent tour guide and humouring me with my picture taking obsession :) You're amazing!
If anyone wants to see more pictures (yes there are more!) you can go here and here