Ed and I had a wonderful 3ish hours on the trails together this Saturday. Our weather has taken a turn for the beautiful, and this weekend graced us with clear, blue skies and bright sunlight.
Earlier this week, Ed suggested that we sign up for Coastal Trails' Horseshoe Lake run, coming up in 3 weeks. They have a half marathon distance, which fits perfectly into my current running ability, and sounded good to Ed, too. However, we will be running this race separately :). We realized two great things about this - first, that he will get to finish a race before me for once, and second, that we'll be crossing paths a few times on the out and backs and get to say, "hi."
To get ready, Ed suggested a training run on the race trails. We've run up here together, before, and I love it. To me, it is the "poor man's Mt. Tam." Similar in terrain, beauty, and microclimates. Not quite the same, but satisfies my love of open vistas and grassy fields. I picked 12 as our distance, because I actually want to taper for this - no hard runs right before! So, this is my last "long run" before the race.
We parked by Horseshoe Lake (which is apparently where the race begins, though we didn't realize it until later). From here, we took a beautiful singletrack up to another beautiful singletrack (a great theme in our day).
It's a wonderful moment, when you leave the redwoods and the cover and are greeted with the view of the tree covered mountains.
This singletrack is really fun, too, because it gets flatter here, and there are amazing views with every step.
There is even an area that looks like our wedding spot! If you can see it in the photo below, there is point just like ours :)
With some more vistas and rolling hills, we finally started getting some downhill running, which took us to Alpine Lake.
This lake was going to be our water stop for the run - it has an awesome water fountain with very cool, fresh tasting water. Unfortunately, it was only 1.75 miles in, which proved to leave us with lots of unsupported running on a hot day. In any event, we were okay at this point :).
Ed was really excited about the next part, because it was going to be new trails for him.
This section on the Russian Ridge was popular while we were out there, with lots of hikers out enjoying the wildflowers. If you zoom on any of these photos, you should be able to see the fields of yellow, purple and orange that surrounded us.
I felt so lucky to be out there!
Of course, there were many uphills in this section, so we slowed to some hiking. Ed was great about it, and we had amazing views to keep us company. Now, instead of viewing the mountains, we were looking down on the Peninsula. We could see Mountain View and Palo Alto, even making out Stanford University.
We took a slight detour to the top of a vista point (which didn't even have the dignity of being called a peak - this was apparently just a hill).
Luckily, what goes up, must go down, and we had some nice runnable trail for the next bit (you can see our trail in the distance).
Along this section, I realized how much I love the open vistas. There is something so special about being exposed in nature like that, with civilization far, far below.
At this point, we were sort of making it up as we went, and went off on a thin singletrack that seemed promising. Imagine our surprise when we discovered a big, wooden deck, complete with benches and a side table!
It had just the right amount of shade, and seemed a perfect place to have a "picnic" (i.e. some cliff blocks). Here Ed is comparing the electrolytes in gus and blocks (apparently the gus have more potassium - who knew?).
We stayed for about 5 minutes, enjoying the rest and the gorgeous day.
However, it was soon time to keep moving. We continued along, with rolling hills always present, and finally we reached the end of the road - literally.
Hitting Skyline Blvd (the busy road that goes along the ridge), it was clear we were out of trail and needed to turn back. We were at 5.5, so a little short, but figured we'd make it up somehow on the way back.
We reached the fireroad and decided to head off on a different trail, to add some mileage and hopefully have less climbing.
Well, we were right about the mileage part. This new added section was nice and shady, but I was getting tired and water was getting low. Running on the unknown is also hard, because I had no idea how much climbing we still had left. Ed could tell I was getting tired, and was a good sport.
We had one more choice in ways back, and I think I picked the right one. We got to see some more beautiful vistas and flowers.
Finally, we started seeing more hikers, and soon we were back to familiar trails. I breathed a huge sigh of relief (and may have even let out a small yell of joy). It was downhill back to Alpine lake. Ed reminded me of the hill to come after the lake, but all I was worried about was getting to some water and resting a bit.
We probably rested for at least 5 minutes (well, I sat on a bench and hydrated - Ed visited the nature center and took a look at the wildlife). After drinking an entire bottle of water and eating a few more blocks, it was time to move on.
Less than 2 miles left, and I was tired! We tried to add a little more mileage by taking a fireroad rather than singletrack down by Horseshoe lake. However, we were still going to be a bit short. Ed suggested we add some mileage around the lake, but by this point I just wanted to be done. I was hot, tired, and (as I would discover later) ridiculously sunburnt.
We finally made it back. Total? 11.78 miles - 22 hundredths of a mile short. We're just going to round up :).
I'm still a little worried about the half marathon, after my last one, but I'm so glad we got to have the time on the trail.