Sunday, May 27, 2007

Mount Baldy with OCTR (The Whole Report!)

Over the past year and a half, as I've attempted to transform myself into a runner, I've increasingly found the necessity of a good run to deal with the more unsolvable and unavoidable stresses of life.

So, when I found myself leaving a city, school, house, and friends that I've grown to love and value over the last four years, I knew that the perfect antidote to the stress and sadness that these changes were bringing would be finding a great run to kick off my time at home.

Enter Jessica and OCTR :)
(Part I)
I sent Jessica an email letting her know I was coming back to OC and asking if she had any runs going on with her group that I could join in on. She immediately let me know about a few, one of which being the Mount Baldy run.

As I'd never actually run on trails in Southern California, running on a beautiful local mountain sounded like a great introduction to the trails of my hometown (and the surrounding areas). Mt. Baldy (also known as San Antonio Peak) is the highest peak in the Los Angeles area and, at 10,064 ft, much more formidable than the northern California mountains I had been running around on (Diablo, for instance, peaks at just 3, 849 ft). It's located in the San Gabriel Mountain range, which is located between San Bernadino County and Los Angeles County.

Though I'd been waking up early the last few morning with packing things, I eagerly awoke Saturday morning, ready to go. Jessica kindly offered to drive us to the meeting spot, where we would meet up with a few other runners, so I drove over to her house, and by 6am we were out the door and on our way!

After about a half an hour, we arrived at our first destination, where I was introduced to Eric and Pete, the rest of our crew. We then all moved over to Eric's truck and drove through scenic Chino and Upland to the Mountain.
As we started approaching our final destination, Jessica and I both broke out the cameras. We laughed over both being 'running tourists' and attempted to take good pictures of the vista as we went along the winding roads.

Because Jessica has been dealing with an injured foot lately, she decided to take it easy and take the chair lift up to meet us at "the notch"- a food/hangout place at the top of the ski lift- while we 'ran' up the 4 miles of firetrail. I say 'run' in parentheses because, while Eric is super-human and just powered up these hills, Pete and I were definitely feeling the altitude and so traversed the trail in a manner much more akin to hiking :)

Pete and me on the firetrail (photo courtesy of Jessica and her view from the chairlift!)

Eric, being an amazingly nice guy, would excuse himself to run ahead, and would go maybe a quarter or half a mile in front of us, and then double back to see how we were doing. He was always very encouraging, though I think both Pete and I couldn't help but be a little jealous of his fitness level!

Occasionally Pete and I would try to run for a little bit, but we would soon get short of breath and be reduced to hiking once again. Our run started at 6,000, and we would hit 8,000 once we reached the notch. As the Tahoe Rim Trail 50k that I'm doing in July takes place between 6,800 and 9,200 ft, this run was a perfect chance to see how I handled altitude. Apparently the way I handle it is slowly.

After approximately 4 miles, we reached the notch and found Jessica. It was so wonderful to have her out there and so great that she came despite being unable to run. We spent some time at the notch taking pictures, refilling water, and using the facilities, and then all headed out on the first part of the trail together.

When the trail started getting steep, Jessica opted to stay behind, to keep her foot safe from further injury, so we parted and continued on our way. As we started climbing higher, we were greeted with some truly spectacular vistas. One of my favorite points of interest were the San Bernadino Mountains in the distance.

Eric continued pressing on ahead and then doubling back to tell us about any points of interest ahead (or how far the 'runnable' section was :) ). I was really thankful that Pete was more my pace, so that I had some company on this tough climb. It was great, because whenever I was feeling in need of a break, Pete would invariably also feel the same, so we were able to stop for some breathers (though there wasn't exactly a lot of oxygen with which to breath) as we continued on our way.

Though the going was tough because of the elevation, the trail was fairly non-technical, until we reached the last few miles, which featured a bit of tricky footing. The last climb, especially, to the summit reminded me of Diablo, and made me nervous for the necessary decent that would be happening later. However, by this point I was starting to feel a little off from the lack of oxygen and decided not to think about that until I had to. Pete and I offered each other many refrains of the common question "Are we there yet?" until, finally, we arrived.

The summit was a happening place, with probably 30 or so other people up there resting, eating, and relaxing. The views from the top were great, despite the cloud cover down below. We could see Saddleback Mountain (Twin Peaks), which is the mountain near my hometown of Mission Viejo, as well as the desert to the east. According to Eric, a clear day grants you views of Catelina Island!

After resting and eating (and signing the logbook!) we headed back down. Despite my trepidations, the downhill wasn't nearly as difficult as I had feared. I still moved slowly in sections, but Eric was really great and never got too far in front of me, making sure that I was doing okay.

(Part II)

It was nice to finally be running a good portion of the section (As opposed to the labored hiking on the way up), and we seemed to be quickly heading down the trail. In not too long we were able to catch up to Pete, who had gotten ahead of us, and the three of us stuck together fairly well after that.

Of course, since I'm addicted to picture taking, I'd occasionally fall behind to get a shot, and then sprint (well, my level of sprinting anyways!) to catch back up. I actually really enjoy this kind of running, as it gives me an excuse to go quickly for just a short period of time, and feels like being a kid :)

We continued on, and soon found the perfect picture spot, where Eric decided we should all pose for pictures. We then proceeded to each run up and down this section while the others snapped photos, and, honestly, got some amazing pictures. I think this might be the first picture of me running that I actually like!

I was so glad to be with others that seemed to enjoy photo taking almost as much as me :) It makes the runs extra entertaining, and it really is so nice to have such great mementos from the experience.

One of the most visually spectacular (and also slightly nerve wracking) part of the trail was the section labeled "Devil's Backbone". It featured a single track with sheer drops on either side. Despite my trepidation, it never felt that unsafe, but you definitely ran with the knowledge that tripping and falling to the side up here would have potentially fatal consequences.

On these more technical sections, I made sure to stop when I wanted to take photos, instead of trying to take them on the run, as I had been experimenting with for some of the day.

Sections like this one above show how slippery the area is right to the side of the trail. There were definitely some sections here where the footing was slightly precarious, and everyone going both ways was eager to exercise some care when passing someone else.
Before we knew it, we were back onto the wider firetrail section and easily heading down towards the notch once again. As each mile brought us significantly down in altitude, the run began feeling easier and easier and it was nice to enjoy some beautiful downhill trail running.

Soon enough we were back at the notch to where Jessica had been waiting patiently for us. We took a bit longer than expected, but had a great time. After rehydrating at the notch, we all hopped onto the chairlifts to return to our cars and to orange county, after a lovely day on the mountain.
Thanks again to Jessica for inviting me along on such a great run! You can read about her account of the day here.
You can see the rest of the pictures from the run here and here


Jessica Deline said...

Cool! Can't wait for part 2. Leaving me in suspense. Geesh :)

Backofpack said...

Nice! Aren't runners the best? They just gather you in and take off. So cool.

Anonymous said...

thanks for sharing your experience with some great shots as well! can't wait to check out the mountains in la area. i'll be doing the tahoe rim 50m. i am doing my last min prep right now after speaking to scott dunlop a couple of weeks ago. he really got me a bit scared. :)



Sensationally Red said...

Thanks for your careful descriptions of the geography for your blogger friends on the other side of the country not familiar with the area. I'm glad you're addicted to taking pictures and blogging about your runs. It gives me lovely locales to fantasize about. We have some beautiful running around here, but not the eye-popping vistas you get to enjoy in California.

Sarah said...

Wow. That looks like an awesome run. Thanks for sharing your pictures. Your report is fantastic!

Bob Gentile said...

Great Report Addy & love the pics, well done!!

Addy said...

jessica- :) my breaking it into two parts wasn't so much to build suspense as it was a result of being kicked off the computer. The perils of being back home!

Michelle- they really are. It's such a wonderfully inclusive community.

hao- thanks for stopping by! How exciting that you'll be doing the TRT 50 miler :) It should be really great. I've read scotts reports for the 50k and 50miler and it just sounds like such a good race (though, admittedly, tough!) I'm sure you'll do great out there

Red- Glad you enjoy all my picture taking :) We really do have some spectacular vistas in california

Sarah- It really was such a cool run! Glad you enjoyed the report!

Bob- Thanks!

e-rod said...

hi addy,

i wish i could've joined you guys up there on saturday, but i did make it up for a hike on baldy on sunday. anyway, it was great to meet you at whiting today.

hope to run more with you while you're down here.


Gretchen said...

Awww, Mt. Baldy! I'm jealous! It's not that I don't have plenty of mountains to run, but your write up definitely leaves me feeling nostalgic. I too orininally hail from OC, but I also ran track and XC at Scripps College, one of the Claremont Colleges, which is located essentially at the base of Mt. Baldy. We used to train up there all the time. Of course back then, I was more of a mid-distance trackster than a mountain runner, and the "Baldy Run" was a much dreaded endeavor. Sounds like a blast to me now though!
Can't wait to meet you, and Jessica too!

Pete Vara said...

Addy thank you for keeping me company on the long hike. I had a great time getting to know you. See you soon.

Skip said...

Hey Addy had a good run with you at Whiting Ranch yesterday and wasn't cool to see a skunk lumbering around the trail.
Let me know if your post run workout you did with Wendy and I was fun for you.

Addy said...

eric- Looks like you had a great time on Baldy yourself! It was really nice to meet you yesterday :)

Gretchen- I'm sure you'd get a lot more out of a Mt Baldy run nowadays! I'm really looking forward to meeting you as well! Can't believe it's coming up so soon.

Pete- Thanks for sticking with me as well! It was really nice to meet you and have such great company while we were struggling with the altitude :) Have a great time at shadow this weekend!!!

Skip- It really was so nice to meet and workout with you yesterday. I had a really great time (and yes, my abs are every bit as sore as I thought they'd be!). Thanks again so much for bringing me along and teaching me so much great stuff! I'll hopefully see you saturday :)