Wednesday, February 18, 2009

running to the sinks at limestone canyon

Early morning at the "ranch"

I think myself fortunate to know that the Irvine Ranch Natural Landmarks is within less than a half hour drive away. Access to parts of the wilderness area is by permission only, so when I saw a posting about a docent-led trail run through Limestone Canyon, I signed up for it. It was advertised as a 9-mile intermediate-level run through parts of the county that is not always open to the public. The official website describes the area as having beautiful geological formations - including an unusual formation called "the Sinks."

Several of the Trail Headz were there including Jon, Kurt K., Sue, Jenn G., iDad Doug and Pete K. Also joining us were volunteers and guides to show us the way.

Because the run had to be rerouted to avoid an area due to "raptor nesting," we ended up doing 11.5 mellow miles instead of the estimated 9. No worries though. That was just more time I got to spend running in this seldom visited local treasure.

Group photo before the run. Eric, Jenn, Robert, Carol, Kurt, Pete, Mike, and Tom.

Nice view of the snow-covered mountains

Taking a little breather

Up, up, and up

But what goes up must also come down.

At the Sinks with part of the gang.

To experience the beauty of these less traveled trails, visit the website and sign up for one of their many outings.

Photos courtesy of Doug M.

Sunday, February 15, 2009

the wtrs mudfest 18k

Typical trail conditions.
The beauty of trail running is that no matter the weather and the conditions, the run must go on (well usually anyway). Such was the case for the Winter Trail Run Series 18K when the trails, fresh from a serious dousing of wet winter downpour just hours before, were just right for some down and dirty trail runners.

WTRS Race Director Baz Hawley

Is Mike trying to prove something here?

Gather 'round as Baz assures everyone that he had the trails groomed this morning.

On Saturday, February 7, parts of Blue Jay Campground were still partially closed and apparently so were several of the trails. The 18K was really only about 9.3 miles, so for the third race in a row, we were running approximately the same distance. But all's well since with Baz's races, the numbers don't really count as much as the fun that you can have out there. And there was fun aplenty as over 100 runners frolicked and kicked around in the mud–a completely acceptable and encouraged behavior–miles away from the rigid constraints of the civilized world.

Looks like some of the faster runners stirred up the mud for the people behind them.

"Hmm, which way do I go?"

"No, Jean, no. Just go through the middle." There was so much water that at some parts, a stream was flowing through the trail.

For the record, I finished with a time of 2:06:28. Not very impressive due to the fact that those darn shin splints came back again. But the hell with it. One foot in front of the other and despite the bogs and mud pits I eventually finished (and had fun doing it because of them). My brother, who ran his first WTRS finished just at around 1:56.

Rhodri finishing his first WTRS.

Doug M. is all smiles as he approaches the finish line.

Saturday, February 21st is the final run of the series. With the next winter storm due to arrive tonight and expected to dump lots of rain and snow, who knows what the trails are going to be like and how long the the 21K REALLY is going to be. Maybe our race director Baz does, but somehow, I doubt that.

One thing's for sure though, there will be plenty of magic in the woods for everyone. So if you haven't already, sign up now and get your fix of trail and quite possibly wet fun.

The winter/spring wildflowers are in bloom.

The speedsters and race winners, Lisa O. and Dean D.

Click here for my 2007 WTRS 21K and the 2008 WTRS 21K postings. Read the official race report from me mate, Baz.

Photos courtesy of fellow SoCal Trail Headz Jean Ho and Big Baz Trail Races.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

running surf city half

These have to be among the coolest medals runners want to covet, my dream hardware notwithstanding.

When I got the wake-up call at 5:45am from my sister-in-law, I checked the current temp. It read 45ยบ F. Oooh, it was a going to be a chilly race start Sunday morning for the running of the Surf City Half (formerly known as the Pacific Shoreline). Fortunately though, it wasn't going to be a washout like it was the year before. The forecast this morning called for sunny skies.

This was going to be the 7th year in a row my brother and I have signed up for this race although I didn't run it last year because of an injury. My brother, Rhodri was shooting for a sub 2-hour time, something that has eluded him in the past. I was hoping to better my PR of 1:59:39 set in the 2007 edition of this race.

Team Duke represented at Surf City.

What's always fun about these road races is the expo which is a runner's shopping paradise. We visited it on Saturday and picked up our race bibs with Karen, my sister-in-law who was running the 5K, and cruised around checking out some of the running stuff and wares. A booth was selling the Digital Therapy Massager and my brother and I ended up getting one each. We spent a bit of time chatting it up with Greg at the Team Duke booth. He generously gave us each a long-sleeve Team Duke technical shirt which we promised we'll wear on race day.

Runners huddle for the chilly start.

Since Karen's start time was at 7:15, we dropped her off as close as we can to the start line and parked the car about a mile and a half away. We were jogging to the start but opted to get on the shuttle bus to escape the frigid cold. At 7:40, we got dropped off, the Star Spangled Banner was being sung, and the half marathon started soon after. Eight minutes after the gun, our wave was set free.

For the first three miles, Rhodri and I ran together. Pretty soon he started to pull away and before too long I couldn't see him ahead of me anymore. I was trying to find my rhythm and the same time keeping a close eye on my Garmin. I wanted to maintain a 9:15min/mile pace or better if I wanted to better my PR. I was right on target running at about 9:11. My heart rate was a bit high, but I was feeling pretty good.

I ran with a hand-held water bottle with Cytomax so I can save time through the water stations. I found this very helpful and a sound race tactic. I can keep myself hydrated throughout the race without having to drown myself at the aid stations.

During the run, I felt like I was in a groove. Around mile 8, a runner who forgot her watch, asked me the pace we were running. I was surprised to see that it was around 8:40. I was in the zone–my breathing was comfortable and my legs felt great. I wasn't sure what pace she was shooting for but she stayed relatively close to me. I wonder if she was using me as a pacer.

After the last turnaround with less than 5 miles to go, I pushed the pace up a bit more. I was well under my goal. Is it possible, I thought? Could I finish in 1:55?

The last uphill section of this relatively flat course came at Seapoint, about 2.5 miles to go. The pier was getting closer which meant that the end was near. 1.5 miles to go and I checked my time–about 1:44. 1:55 was not meant to be today, but still I pushed to see how well I can beat my PR. With about 100 meters to go I sprinted to the chute. I clicked my Garmin to see my time of 1:57:39.

My official time was 1:57:34. My brother crushed his goal coming in at 1:52:46, and Karen finished her 5K at 30:48.

Karen and Rhodri

Proudly showing our well-earned medals

After the race it was a nice surprise to see two of my T-Headz friends, Corrinne (2:01:51) and Wendy (2:00:26). I hadn't seen them in awhile so we spent the next mile and a half walking leisurely back to our cars while catching up and planning out future runs.

This year's Surf City Half was a fun race. The last couple of runs have turned into PRs for me. Here's hoping that it becomes a tradition.

Pictures courtesy of Rhodri and Wendy.