Thursday, May 31, 2007

Some Nice OC Running :)

As this is the last week before my Marathon, I'd normally spend the week (and, honestly, the few weeks before as well) tapering and taking it easy, to make sure I was all ready for the big day.

However, tapering means less running, and, really, that just seems like no fun at all! So, I made a compromise with myself, nothing too hard, but I still wanted to get in 40 miles this week (including the marathon), meaning that I'd still do normalish runs Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday.

Tuesday's run was an easy 6.2 twice around Mission Viejo Lake just by myself. I still haven't located my Garmin from the move (note to self- unpack everything before the marathon!) so I was running without a clock. I usually purposefully do this before the marathon so that I don't get concerned about time, so perhaps it was good it was temporarily lost. I did, however, feel like I might have been pushing it a bit, since I was curious to how the hills around the lake would feel after a semester of trail work. They did seem to feel a bit easier, which was exciting, though my legs were still a little tired at the end. Afterwards I went to the gym to to weights, after a month or so haitus, and was reminded of how much fitness can be lost in a month :P

Wednesday called for a 5:45 am wake up call to meet up with the OCTR at 6:30 for a local trail run. I had such a good time and got to meet lots of wonderful people (many of whom are also doing the SD marathon this weekend). We did an easy 5 miler through Whiting Ranch, apparently also the home of at least a mountain lion or two, as Jessica recounted for me her own mountain lion encounter on these trails, as well as reminded me of the attack a few years back that had actually happened on the trails around there. Needless to say, I was glad to be running in a group! Afterwards Wendy and Skip very kindly invited me along to 24 hour fitness (Wendy nicely offered me a free day pass she had) where the proceeded to emphasize just how out of shape I was (in the nicest way) by putting me through a 'normal' workout for them that was probably one of the hardest non-cardio workouts I've ever experienced. Suffice to say, my abs and arms are letting me know today just how much they liked that workout :) They were both really so great and taught me a ton of moves that, with practice, will be great additions to my workout routines. I've always been sort of clueless about strength training, so it was really wonderful to have two knowledgable people showing me a really great routine.

This morning, I decided it would be great to go for a run with my dad, which meant another early wake up call so that we could be out the door by 5:45. We headed back down to the lake, since I only wanted to do 3 miles today, and had a very nice lap in the early morning light. Thankfully, since that was my only thing to do today (thank you summer vacation!) I was able to come home and go back to sleep after the run until 10:00 :).

Now the taper is officially in gear, with no running tomorrow or saturday. I leave for SD Saturday morning and will hopefully meet up with some OCTR people at the expo. Wendy and I are looking at running a similar pace, so we might try to set up running together at the race.

And, since it's the last day of the month, here's the total!

Miles run: 153.7

That beats my current best (which was, not too surprisingly, last month) by 10 miles! This month also featured my highest mileage week ever, with 51.2 miles the week before last. How exciting!

I'm aiming for at least 160 miles in June (i.e. 40 a week). Let's see if this works :)

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

Saturday, May 26, 2007

We Made it!

Report will be forthcoming (As well as lots more pictures) but the Baldy 'run' was a complete success. It was great meeting Jessica, as well as my running partners Eric and Pete. We had a great time up there!
Now, after 4 nights in a row of less than 5 hours of sleep, I'm going to bed for a full night's rest!
I'm excited :)

Friday, May 25, 2007

Home in the OC

Well, I'm back in Orange County and off to a great run on Mt. Baldy with Jessica's group tomorrow :)

The drive today was quite long and traffic-y going through LA and Long Beach, but I'm glad to be here and getting settled.

5 weeks in Orange County

With nothing that I have to do, besides run

This'll be interesting :)

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Insomnia Revisited

Apparently my skills at pulling off all nighters to write papers aren't so much connected with school as they are with stress. I'm having trouble winding down from packing even though I only slept about 5 1/2 hours last night. I'll be waking up in 4 1/2 hours to go on a sunrise run with a friend.

The good news is that everything has been put into a box or bag (for the most part) so that tomorrow all i need to do is fit it all in my car! (and taking things to the dump and goodwill that I no longer want or need)

My room is full of boxes, paper grocery bags filled with things, trash bags, and other assorted goodies. I've tried to be sensible and toss things that I don't really need to keep, but I've still ended up with just so much stuff. I'll be trying to load the car tomorrow afternoon and, if it doesn't work, I've had some offers to store some of my things :)

Had my last transports run for a while, which was really nice. A good and comfortable 6 miles in Redwood and Joquin Miller Parks. We went on part of the trail that The Sequoia race covered, and it was nice to be back when I wasn't feeling so out of shape! It really is such a beautiful park and I really enjoyed taking in the redwoods.

Tomorrow should be great as well, running with the rising sun on a beautiful trail. It'll be my last Berkeley run for a while, so I'm hoping it'll be a good one!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Run shortened by cows!

On Sunday I went out for what I hoped might be a 10 mile run on the beautiful but paved Nimitz trail (the same one I was on the night before with my friend Sarah).

During the day it was much less scary, though I still ended up letting my fears dictate my run :)

My garmin has been temporarily misplaced (I constantly lose things, so I"m sure it'll turn up as I pack things to move) but I consequently am without a means of measuring mileage as a result. Luckily, this trail has posted mile marking to keep you informed :)

As I headed out, there were plenty of people out enjoying the beautiful summery day. Though it was a bit windy, it was still fairly comfortable in temperature, and the sky was completely clear.

I decided to try out the outfit I was thinking of wearing for the marathon, which included my brand new drifit cal shirt. Thought it would be fun to sport some school pride with blue shorts and my bright yellow shirt for the race, but wanted to make sure that the shirt would be comfortable to run in. It was!

It was hard to keep a continuous pace as I kept wanting to stop to take photos! The perils of bringing a camera on the run :)

Click on this one above to get a better look. The golden gate is in the left part of the horizion and mt tam is the peak to the right.

A close up of the golden gate!

After I got a few miles out, the number of people that I saw began to dwindle. It was really enjoyable to be out there, but my legs were definitely feeling the effects of the 10 miles the day before (and especially the 6.5 fast miles with the group) I was still feeling optimistic about the distance.

I love the treat of being able to see Mt Diablo when I'm out running and knowing that that mountain has some special meaning for me :) It looked so pretty sunday with these beautiful hills in front of it.

The run was going quite well, but a little after 3 miles I ran into a formidable obstacle.

Cows! Not just on the hillside but meandering on the pathway! Now I'm very much a suburban girl (slightly urbanized by living in berkeley) but definitely one with no rural experience. So interacting with cows is definitely not within my comfort zone. I thought about trying to walk around them, but the pathway wasn't that wide, and the thought of getting kicked or something was fairly unappealing. After walking closer, I decided that this was divine intervention telling me 6 miles would be enough today and turned around to head back.

The sky was an absolutely brilliant blue and I really enjoyed how nice the evening was even at 6:30pm. These light evenings of summer are just so wonderful.

The 3 miles back went well, though my legs were getting pretty tired by the end. I was glad I only ended up doing the 6, a number that still put me over the 50 miles per week goal with a finishing number of 51.2 miles. My highest weekly mileage ever by 5.2 :)

Driving home I had to pull over because I was given a simply gorgeous view of the city (click on it to get a better view of the skyline).

Can't believe I'm leaving all of this in less than 3 days :(

full album can be found here

Sunday, May 20, 2007

San Francisco Photos

As the run itself was fairly unexciting I thought I'd just post some of the best pictures up here :)

It's 6am and I'm driving down to my parking spot. Lots more cars than normal since it's a weekday, but still not much in the way of traffic :) I love early morning runs!

The view from the start of my run of Alcatraz with Marin in the distance

The always fun hopper's hands, that I high-five on every city run. Read the story behind these hands. After I knew the meaning behind them, it made seeing them on each run more special.

The Golden Gate in all its glory

A pensive stare

Looking towards the City

Flowers at the gateway to the pacific

Last visit to the golden gate for a while!

Open Arms


The entire album can be found here

Mt. Tam and darkness falling

Well, I headed out saturday for a slightly later but incidently much harder run than my normal mt tam jaunts. My friend Sarah had invited me to join her on the "Saturday Morning Run" loosely associated with the Tamalpa Runners. Now, I probably should have remembered that Sarah is much faster than me when I agreed to go along. But, she'd been doing low heart rate training so I thought that I'd be fine :)


We showed up and all the runners looked super fit and fast. Few had water, and only one other had a camelbak. Apparently, as the Dipsea was in 3 weeks, many of the runners were training intensely for it, and today's run was going to be timed intervals on the trails of Mt. Tam. Not exactly what I'm used to!

The first mile was a fun fast downhill that I could keep up on, but as soon as we started heading up, it became clear that I was in a whole different league! I did my best to hold onto my sights of Sarah, who was keeping the runner in front of her in sight. I kept having flashbacks to Sequoia, one of the most mentally difficult trail runs (my 2nd ever) in which the hills felt huge and I felt out of shape. But each time I started to feel discouraged, I reminded myself how far I had come and that I really did feel stronger than even a few months ago.

Luckily, after that 2nd section, it got a lot better. The next part was much flatter and Sarah and I didn't get that far behind. We caught up with the other runners at a nice meadow, and actually had a chance to breathe and snap a picture.

(click on the picture to get a closer look) Resting on a huge rock. Check out the remnants of the poison oak from Mt Diablo 3 weeks ago! (the red splotches on my leg) Hopefully that'll eventually go away.

From there we headed back to the car, ended up with a short 6.5 miles that felt much longer ;)


Since this was such a short run, Sarah and I decided it would be really fun and exciting to go up to this paved trail in Tilden park and run at night! Now, while this idea seemed fabulous at around noon, by 11pm when we were driving on a dark winding road up to the trailhead, I was feeling a little less confident. We saw a beautiful buck on the way up, which was great, but reminded me of the less friendly animals that could be out there (read: mountian lions). We parked and were surpised to see that we weren't the only cars there. Apparenty this spot doubled as a "makeout" spot as well.

With the headlamps lit, we went off. The weeds along the trail seemed to have grown since we were last there wednesday, and there seemed to be lots more trees. All a bit spooky. I tried to keep the conversation going, and would periodically swing my light up to the hills to see if anything was looking back at us. At a little after a mile I suggested that we only do 3 miles tonight instead of the planned 8. Running in the dark was spooking me! (Mike, if you're reading this, apparently I would have made a bad pacer after all ;) ). However, doing 3 left us with an uneven 9.5 miles for the day, so we did another 1/4 mile out and back and ended with the lovely total of 10 miles for the day.

After we stopped running and turned off the light, I turned my sights up to the sky. The stars shined down on us, and the hills and mountains surrounding us could be seen silouetted by the night sky. It was beautiful.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Thursday, May 17, 2007

A lovely evening run

Well, I told Mike I probably wouldn't do a real write up for our run tonight, but after having such a great time, I thought it deserved a post :)

Mike Palmer kindly invited me along for his run tonight, and I decided it would be fun to push limits and opt for the longer 8 mile loop (with the potential of getting to use my headlamp!). After about half a mile going up the claremont canyon hill, I was regretting my choice but felt to embarrased to ask Mike about switching to the 5 mile option. So, on we went. Those hills were killer! My legs were just burning. But turning around and being greeted with panoramic views of the bay area definitely made it worth it. After the first mile we were in new territory for me, which was really wonderful. I love going on new trails, especially ones that are practically in my own backyard!

After a while we reached chaparrel peak (I think it's called?) and the worst of the climbing was over, thank goodness! Soon, we reached a road and headed into Tilden park, where we got onto the most delightful little singletrack. The bay trees (I think?) were just so beautiful, forming a canopy over the trail. I was walking much of the uphills while Mike trudged along a bit ahead of me, but I was able to keep up. Soon we popped out onto another road, and I recognized it from having driven up there before. It was so cool to connect all these areas I knew of in Berkeley through trails! It was wonderful to have company as well, as I never got afraid that I was going to be eaten by a mountain lion :)

After being on the road for a bit we arrived at the top of the familiar and well loved strawberry canyon firetrail, and enjoyed a fairly 'fast' trip down that. It was funny, I felt like Mike was really pushing the pace, and was happy at being able to keep up. After a few miles he commented to me that I was really making him run faster than he would have on his own. Ha...we both thought the other wanted to go faster! It was good though, I love running fast downhill, and there was lots of that here (all the downhill we earned from the earlier climbing!) We moved at a good enough pace that we didn't end up needing our headlamps after all (drat! I'll just need to find people to do night running with some other time!)

Mike ran me back to my car and then we parted ways.

It's funny, for the first year that i started running, I only ran by myself. People were always surprised when I said that I did all my marathon training solo. I never really minded the time alone, and generally enjoyed my runs.

However, now that I've been doing lots of running with other people for the last few months, I finally really understand where other people were coming from! Running with someone else is so much more fun, and really makes the run go by so much faster. Those 8 miles really flew by. So much in fact that I think I'll be joining Mike on a repeat of this run next week :D

Over the last 3 days I've run 35 miles! I'm going to have some awesome mileage for the week!

I love running :)

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Awesome Recovery

So, yesterday I decided that I needed a long run before the San Diego marathon June third, and ended up going out for a great 20 miler through San Francisco (report forthcoming, as I had my camera with me!). Anyways, after that, I was imagining that I'd need some recovery time, and was unsure about doing the normal wednesday night run. However, it ended up going great! I didn't feel much more sore than normal and completed 7 miles at just over a 10 min/mile pace easily. The run was great (though on pavement) with fabulous views of diablo, mt tam, and the bay (including the golden gate) wish I'd had the camera, but glad I wasn't lugging the extra weight. The mental images will hopefully keep!

Can't believe that I've done diablo one weekend, the 23 miler w/ mike the following weekend, and then the 20 miler just over a week after that and was still perfectly fine for an easy 7 miles (and it actually felt easy!?!). I think my body is finally getting used to these long distances :D. Mike's going to take me for a challenging run tomorrow through claremont canyon, so we'll see how well the legs do then, but for now I'm really pleased with my level of conditioning. I think I might want to shoot for a 4:45 marathon after all!

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

A belated Mt. Tam Run Report!

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