Summer has definitely arrived in Southern California—beach goers swarm the coastline in droves, convertible tops come off among other things, the magic kingdom in all its mousey glory stays open till midnight, and the Santa Ana Mountains sizzle with hell's breath itself.
Looking down the canyon from Harding Truck Trail
I knew that this Saturday's training run was going to be a tough one. We were running entirely on parts of Jessica's Twin Peaks 50/50 course. The first part of it was going to be a brutal 9.5 miles up Harding Truck Trail to the Main Divide, a constant grind of over 3,650 feet of elevation gain. Some in our group were heading out even further and higher towards the towers of Santiago Peak about four-and-a-half miles away, dropping down to Holy Jim, then trekking back out to the end of the planned excursion at Blue Jay Campground. Their total mileage for the day would have been around 31 miles.
I opted for the "shorter" out-and-back course up Harding Truck Trail, then back down to the start for a cool 19 miles. At least this was the route when I started my run.
When I got to the top of Harding at the Main Divide however, there was a slight change of plans. Alexa, who I've been running with, and I decided that we would run up to the towers then drop down to Blue Jay where we can get a shuttle back to our cars from one of our OCTR mates. We were still feeling pretty good, and it would be nice to get in over 20 miles for the day and a more interesting run down. We also regrouped here with late starters Kevin, Keira, and Jenn. Jessica rolled in on the dirt road in her pimpin' brand new ride with a payload of smilin' Kayla, water, and cheers for the hot and dirty runners.
The towers at Santiago Peak, a distant four miles away
By this time, it was already after 10am, and the sun was starting to really beat down on us. The mercury continued to climb, and the ascent to the towers became more difficult. But we made it eventually—almost 15 miles of hot, steady climbing with over 4,500 feet of gain. Whew! I'm getting worn out right now just thinking about it again.
The rest of the run was all downhill from here—three more miles on the wide and uninteresting Main Divide, then five more on Holy Jim single-track to the end of the trail. The faster group of K, K and J went ahead, while Alexa and I stayed together so we wouldn't miss the turn for Holy Jim.
With a little under five miles to go, we discovered that we only had less than 20 ounces of water left between the two of us. Yikes! I started the day with 100 oz. in my Camelback and another 24 in my handheld, while Alexa had over 70 oz. with her; however the blazing heat made us consume more water than we'd anticipated. Parts of HJT were shaded, but it was still exposed for the most part. Scorching updraft blowing up from the canyon stifled us even more. The Holy Jim Trail, reputedly a joy to run in the cool winter months, now felt like a furnace. Jessica, in her blog, commented that temps registered in the mid-90s. Ouch!
Though we were conserving our water, we eventually ran out with about two miles to go. Fortunately, other late starters Michael, Marisa and Lisa caught up with us and generously shared their water. Further down, trail angels Keira and Jennifer were hiking back up with ice cold fluids for Alexa and me when they became concerned that we hadn't arrived at the Holy Jim trail head yet. We weren't in any real danger, but it just wasn't cool not having enough water to finish our runs. Thanks for the support, guys!
Because of the extreme heat, the long group decided to cut their run short at Holy Jim as did everyone else. Approximate mileage for the day – between 22 to 23 scorching miles.