Thursday, February 28, 2008

sunrise at el moro

Sometimes there are runs that just make you feel good to be out there. Today was one of those. The weather was perfect, the air smelled of life, the conversation was good, and the body felt like it moved effortlessly through the miles. It just felt great to be alive today.

After a less than exciting solo 4.5-mile street run on Tuesday, I was happy to join my OCTR mates for an early jaunt out at El Moro. At 6am, amidst the fog and cold, I met up with Pete, Michelle M., Skipster, Stephanie S., Beiyi, and newcomers Natasha and Andrew at the park entrance.

Our route today took us from the top of El Moro Canyon on Bommer Ridge down towards Laurel Springs in Laguna Coast Wilderness Park. We did a little loop on Willow to meet back up with Bommer on the way back to our starting point.

I enjoy this course and run it when I can. Not only is it pretty and scenic, but the vegetation is fairly lush (by Southern Cal standards), has a nice wide trail at for a warmup start, and a decent amount of fun and fast single track on the way down. It also has a good one-and-a-half mile steady ascent for a nice uphill workout that will get those heart rates up.

For some reason, Skip was tearing up the trail this morning. He is the self-proclaimed "love from the back," but today I wondered if someone had moved the back more to the front. According to him, he had his mojo on today. Less than a mile into the run, he went ahead of the pack, and disappeared into the fog. We wouldn't catch up with him again until our quick break at about mile 5.

We finished the run with a great view of Newport under a blanket of cotton candyish fog. Simply beautiful. My Garmin clocked the run at about an hour and 19 minutes. Not bad, not bad for 7.5 miles on the trails.

Monday, February 25, 2008

off the dl

I was off the Disabled List (DL) on Thurs., February 21st. As MM mentioned, what better way to get back into the swing of things than jumping right back into a race. I can't say that it's the smartest thing to do really. I haven't been doing much in the way of maintaining my physical fitness over the last several weeks save for a few swimming sessions and a couple of short walks. I did run 5.5 miles earlier in the week which I felt pretty good about. Of course this was on a treadmill where it was flat and smooth, very much unlike the course I set about doing.

Installment 3 of the Winter Trail Run Series was this Saturday, the 23rd. The distance was 18K, about 11 or so miles. I volunteered the last time around, but I suited up for this one and headed out to Blue Jay Campground to meet Baz, the race director and 107 other starters. Among those running were OCTR mates Chaz, Greg, Keira, Kevin, iMichelle, Michelle M., Beiyi, Leon, and Corinne. I met L.T. who wasn't racing due a couple of serious blisters on his heels, but was still there to lend his support nonetheless. Kirk was there also tugging along a couple of his kids.

At about 8:30, and with temperatures in the high 30s F (brrrr), Baz gave us the go signal. I started out slowly and in the back of the pack. My plan for the day was to take it easy and just get my lungs and trail legs back. It didn't take long (maybe less than 2 miles) before the hills revealed to me the extent of how out of shape I was. My breathing was labored and my calves and quads were already burning. I had to slow down a bit. Any sort of incline, however minimal, was reason for me to walk. About three runners passed me, but that's ok, I thought. I reminded myself that this is just a training run. Still there's something about racing that lights any runner's competitive fire. Whenever another racer showed up ahead of me, I would slowly inch my way up to them, shadow them, and when it felt right (usually on the downhill), I would pass them.

Despite my heavy legs, it felt great to be out on the trails again; it has been a while. The last race I ran was the SB 9 Trails back in November. Negotiating my way on the course, I felt at home. The rhythmic sound of every trail step was like meditation. It was very zen-like really. Things that might've been bothering me over the last couple of weeks fell by the way side. Being alone out in the woods for a few stretches at a time was just pure, unadulterated, utter bliss. How's that for redundancy? Hmm... I gotta remember this paragraph next time someone asks me why I run.

About 2 hours and 12 minutes into the race, I crossed the finish line, happy that despite the tough terrain for which these hills are known for, I ran the race pain-free. I was tired, but I know that with regular training, I'll get my racing fitness level back up again within a few weeks.

Photos courtesy of Wolfman aka L.T.

Monday, February 11, 2008

winter trail series 15k

Saturday was the second installment of the Winter Trail Run Series. The series is held every winter in the Cleveland National Forest with. This string of races starts with a distance of 12K, and progresses every other week with the next longer distance of 15K, then 18K, and finally, 21K. I was at the race, but because I was still nursing myself back from injury, was not running. Our friendly, and a bit of a foul-mouthed race director, Baz Hawley, sent out a call for assistance. Well, I like the guy, so I thought, why not come out and help him.

It was a beautiful day, typical of Baz's races. There were somewhere around 135 runners or so that showed up for this fun romp in the woods. A few OCTR cast of characters were out there to race, Corinne, iMichelle, LSD Chris, Eric K. and his son, Kyle, Doug M., Fred Pollard. A few of us weren't suited up but still managed to make it out to give the old guy a hand, Chaz, Ryan, and Kirk.

This was the second week in a row where I showed up for a race and not run it. It's pretty strange, to say the least. Seeing all those runners getting ready to start while Baz gives his usual pre-race briefing gave me the itch. Dang injury! Another couple of weeks, and I'm hoping that I'll feel well enough to join them for the 18K version.

After the start, I chatted it up with the other volunteers, Ryan and Kirk. It wasn't too long before the race's eventual winner, Dean Dobberteen came cruising through the finish line. After a short while and a few runners, running phenom iMichelle crossed the line to claim the women's overall title–no surprise there. There were a few bloody knees, which isn't all that unexpected given the technical and tricky terrain, but otherwise everyone came out of the woods safe and sound.

Despite not being able to run, it felt good to be out there today. One of the benefits of trail running is just being part of the community. It was nice to see some friends whom I haven't seen in weeks because I've been missing in action.

Click here for more pictures from the day.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

surf city wash

If anybody had come out to run the Surf City Marathon expecting typically great Southern California weather, they would've been sorely disappointed. Not only was the sun not out, but the wind and rain were in full force. I don't think I've been out at a race yet with worse conditions than we did this Sunday.

Well, I had originally planned to walk the 5K for this event, but unfortunately, my lallygagging did not help, and the event sold out on me. But undeterred, I still went to the race to support my brother, Rhodri who was running the half and his wife, Karen who was doing the 5K. There were OCTR runners at the race too, though I only saw Wendy and her kids, Jake and Tiana.

Perhaps I should've stayed in bed. If there ever was a day to sleep in, this would've been it. The storm joined the thousands of runners at the race. Gale force winds forcing the rain to fall horizontally ruined my umbrella. I was soaked and cold and I did not even run.

There were three events for the race–the full marathon which started at 6:50am, the 5K at 7:15, and the half-marathon with the first wave at 7:45. My brother and I waved Karen off for the 5K start, then moved to the half-marathon start. I moved to the front of the pack to get a better view of the runners where I saw wet albeit excited and jubilant runners. Was that a pang of envy I feel because I'm standing here on the sidelines?

Karen, who finished her race by the time the half-marathon started joined me in search of dry and warm conditions. We retreated to the comfort of the Waterfront Hilton sipping coffee and drying off our clothes. A little over two hours after he started, Rhodri finished the race. Because we were wet and cold, we just got into the car and drove home instead of enjoying the expo and post-race activities.

That's ok though. There's always next year and the next race.

Grab an umbrella and check out the photos here.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

south of the border

It had been over a year now since I'd gone down to Mexico to visit one of the homes that Corazon De Vida supports, so it was with a bit of welled-up anticipation that I joined about 40 or so other early risers on Saturday morning to head down past the US-Mexico border. Our destination was Hacienda Imaculada, just outside of Tijuana.

Corazon De Vida (Heart of Life) is an Irvine-based not-for-profit organization that clothe, feed, shelter, and educate the children living in the orphanages in Baja, Mexico. Currently, out of the 50 Baja shelters, CDV is supporting 14. Many of the kids living in these orphanages were mostly found living on the streets. Some were brought by their parents who do not have the resources to care for them. While others are abandoned and orphaned.

As soon as I walked into the orphanage, outstretched arms beckoned me to pick up the owners of those limbs. A five-year old boy (I think his name is Luis) immediately "adopted" me and played with me. With only a handful of adults supervising over a hundred kids, it's not surprising that Luis, like all the others, crave for some attention. While we were there, we cooked up a birthday lunch for the February birthdays, played soccer, pushed the kids on the swings, did face paintings, put together some jigsaw puzzles, and basically, just hung out with the children for a few hours.

Upon our departure, the children gathered at the front of the home and waved an enthusiastic good-bye.

Click here to find out more about CDV, the work that they do, and information on sponsoring a child.

More pics here.

Friday, February 1, 2008

what a little thought can do

What a pleasant surprise when I went to check my mail the other day. Inside the mail box was a get well card signed by several friends from OCTR (Skipster, Wendy, Michelle M., Chaz, Robo, Jenn100, Vinnie, and Shelli). It's nice to know that though I haven't been on any runs with them lately, that they haven't forgotten about me. Awww, you guys... :)

The card came at an opportuned time too, since I was feeling kinda funky that day. It sure helped turn me around that day. Thanks everyone!