Saturday, February 20, 2010

Running Hard in Rancho San Antonio (and an Unfortunate Interaction with Nature)

This has been such an interesting week - a full 9 days of vacation (including weekends) in the middle of winter. I had enjoyed it immensely, doing little but resting, reading, and wedding planning. I got some important parts finished (made the invitations, got the envelopes mostly addressed and stamped, and got rooms at the inn sorted out) which is wonderful. I spend next to no time doing wedding things while I'm working, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to get caught up!

Of course, I've been doing some running, too. After the 12 miler last week, I really wasn't in the mood for anything too long. However, having done 12, my perspective of long has finally changed. So, this week, I chose to do 2 "not so long anymore" 7 milers. I wanted to take advantage of being able to run in the middle of the day, in the middle of the week, since it'll be a few months before I can do that again. They were both nice, though I did feel it in my legs afterwards.

So, in the spirit of being lazy, Ed and I decided on not going super long this weekend. It was supposed to rain and my legs were tired, all good excuses :).

We decided to go around 8, and chose to do our mileage in a nearby and apparently very popular park, "Rancho San Antonio." This was my first visit to the park, and I was impressed! Apparently, I wasn't the only one, as the place was packed. Every lot (and there were at least 5) was full, with multiple cars circling, looking for an opportunity to move in. It reminded me of holiday shopping at the mall (or, funnily enough, a sunday afternoon at my local library, where it is often filled past capacity). After joining the ranks of circlers for about 15 minutes with no success (and seeing Ed's stress level rising exponentially) I suggested that we abort, and retreat to the neighborhood outside the park.

This was a great decision (if I do say so myself), and we happily found street parking in a nice little neighborhood, maybe 30 ft from a bike path that took us into the park.

It was probably less than half a mile until we reached blessed dirt, and then we were really on our way.

(Ed turning back, as he often does, communicating to me, "Are you really taking a picture? Again?")

Now, Ed promised that, while this park didn't have really steep uphills, it certainly had mild ones. And, right of the bat, we were going up one. 

I impressed Ed and myself by actually running!! I was definitely huffing and puffing, but we were making progress and I was feeling pretty good. The hill kept heading consistently up, and I kept considering slowing down, but I was enjoying pushing myself. 

Finally, I told Ed that at the next tree, we would walk, but, when we got there, I changed my mind. It seemed to level off up ahead! In a wonderful surprise, "up ahead"was actually the end of that hill :). I had run up the whole thing! Even better, our pace for that mile of uphill was 11:46. Slow for many, but seriously awesome for me going uphill!

From there, we enjoyed a wonderful stretch of rolling downhill that paralleled a creek. Ed warned me that this would be short lived, but I enjoyed it while it lasted. We passed a number of hikers out enjoying this day, and I was having a blast.

Just like Ed promised, the uphill did eventually catch up to us and, while I tried to hold on as long as I could, this time I did decide to do some walking. Whew....I was really being pushed today.

We continued climbing, eventually going up a nice switchback, until we reached an open area that had a path up to the top of a hill. Looking like a viewpoint, we headed up, and were greeted with a spectacular view of the Silicon Valley.

The clouds were certainly coming in, 

so we took an obligatory - self portrait...

...and then we were off. Ed showed me our route, telling me about the lovely downhill coming up and then the flat section after that. 

However, when we headed out, he started going uphill! "Didn't you hear what I said about the first part?" he asked in response to my complaining. Apparently my selective hearing had totally ignored his explanation that the first stretch would be climbing further upward. 

We continued hiking (and Ed sadly revealed that this mile was at 17:30 pace..."I didn't realize we were going so slow!" he lamented). At another fork I yelled, "Come on downhill!" cheering for the pathway to the right that looked just lovely. Unfortunately Ed directed us to the uphill to the left. Luckily, he realized that that was a mistake, and we did get to go down that beautiful downhill.

This next stretch was a blast, as it was perfectly sloped downhill fire road for the foreseeable future. 

(Ed circling back as he waited for me to take a picture. He likes to do this...)

As we thundered down the hill (clocking a 9:30 mile!!) I looked out to my left and was treated with a view of the valley below, and of the trail that we would eventually be on. It's lovely to see your future laid out so clearly for you. 

All good things must end, and soon we had reached to bottom of our decent. While the downhill had ended, the rest of the run was relatively mild - almost completely flat for the last 3 or so miles. 

However, I have to admit that at this point, my legs were certainly feeling the effort of those uphill pushes. And, running with Ed, we weren't going to slow down to a slog on such runnable trail. He kept pushing me as we continued to wind next to a different section of the creek, eventually reaching the "Dear Hollow Farm," a cute little place full of sweet looking toddlers. 

I continued slowing down, ever so slightly, as Ed continued to push us forward. We had now found where all those people who filled up the parking had been hiding. The last few miles to the cars were simply full of people - many of them young families enjoying some time outside before the storm came in. 

The last mile was on the verge of being tortuous. I was very much desiring to walk, or at least slow down considerably, but Ed would have none of that (not that I really asked - just running with Ed makes me feel obligated to push farther, and run, not walk, whenever possible). 

As we neared the parking lots, Ed headed up to the right, which didn't seem right. I questioned it, and we decided to go back and try the other trail, which was the correct distance. Thank goodness, because at this point, we were not going to tack on an extra mile, "just because." As we got closer to our car, we reached a small uphill, which looked huge to my tired eyes. I gritted my teeth and up we went. 

Finally, our car was in front of us, and we were done. 

My legs were burning, after only 7.7 miles, but, I have to say, it was a hard, full effort, 7.7. 

Back in the car, I was happy to be done. I justified my sheer exhaustion by telling Ed that I wasn't planning on doing a long run this week, just a bunch of 7s. He responded by saying, "You mean, you didn't plan to do any short runs."

Hey, I guess he's right! 7 is on the longer side. 

How special that it's now feeling "shorter" :). 


It a separate, but running related note, I made a huge runner faux pas over the last few weeks. Somewhere along the trails, I came into contact with the dreaded poison oak. It's been so long since I've had it, I thought it was a particularly troublesome bug bite at first. Ed and I thought perhaps a spider or something along that line had infiltrated our bed, and as more of my leg became itchy, it got a little worrisome.

However, when the full "pattern" from the poison emerged, after a week or so after the first itch, the root of my pain became all too apparent. 

(My first "outbreak," which is slowly getting better. The poison seemed to have sort of wrapped around my ankle!)

(What convinced me, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that this was poison oak. This part is the most itchy lately. It's driving me crazy!!!)

Two weeks later, I am still very itchy, and now much more cautious as I travel on the trails. 

Darn Poison Oak!


Sarah said...

Yes, it's all how you look at it. "Only" 7's is pretty good! And your stopping to take pictures is worth it....great pics! They make me want to run there too.

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