Wednesday, September 28, 2016

Hoboing Business Trip Report

Several months ago, I was invited to speak at a state-wide conference for pharmacists taking place in Sun Valley, Idaho.

We began preparations for the weekend trip to central Idaho, weighing our options. Family trip? Solo trip? We looked at logistics of skipping kid's soccer games, foregoing a local 5K, and traveling with a tyrannical 3-year-old. Ultimately, cost was the deciding factor in how this trip would play out. The "conference rate" for the cheapest rooms at the Sun Valley Inn were in excess of $200 a night. We were looking at 3 nights, so this option was laughably expensive. We looked at other hotels and Air BnBs, unable to find anything within 60 miles under about $150. The prospect of making this a family trip fell apart; the next logical option would be for me to go alone and to camp out.

This created another set of logistical challenges:

  • Finding a campsite near the conference
  • Staying warm in early fall Sun Valley
  • Having access to my presentation materials so I could adequately prepare
  • Keeping my phone charged (this ended up being surprisingly difficult. Outlets were hidden behind secret panels at the Sun Valley Inn and I didn't have my external power bank with me all the time)
  • How to fit in running adventures in an area completely saturated with world-class trails
  • Bathing, grooming, and appearing/smelling professional in front of colleagues (including my direct supervisor and boss) with whom I needed to maintain long-term working relationships
  • (And as a last-minute added challenge) Safely transporting 3 full-size (roughly 3' x 5') posters of our pharmacy residents' research projects
I mentioned my plans to several coworkers who in turn offered to share a room or use of a shower. Aside from the awkwardness of these potential arrangements, I had already mentally committed to the camping approach, so I respectfully declined. At this point, I viewed it as a challenge to make this trip work exclusively utilizing ancient hobo technologies (Hobotech®).

Going into the trip, I had prepared very little. I had a general idea of what I needed to accomplish, but not many specifics as to how I would do so. I had a mental list like this:

Day 1 Schedule:
4:00 Wake Up
5:00 Leave for Sun Valley
7:30 Summit Hyndman Peak, one of the Idaho 12ers
12:00 Find Campsite, set up camp
13:00 Conference Begins
18:00 Poster Session (residents would need intact posters)
19:00 Return to campsite, bathe, prepare dinner, review presentation for tomorrow

Day 2 Schedule:
6:00 Wake Up
7:00 Continental Breakfast at conference
8:00 Conference begins
15:00 Presentation
18:00 Find a suitable trail to explore
21:00 Return to campsite, bathe, prepare dinner, read

Day 3 Schedule:
6:00 Wake Up, break camp
7:00 Continental Breakfast at conference
8:00 Conference begins
10:00 Sun Valley Ward Sacrament Meeting
10:30 Required Law Continuing Education Session
11:30 Drive Home

Day 1 started off weighing contingencies. It was raining on and off across the state, so I brought some rain gear and knew there would likely be some snow at the higher elevations. I made it to the Hyndman Creek Trailhead on time and headed up the trail. It was drizzling steadily, but not a downpour. And it was colder than I was accustomed to in the Treasure Valley aka the Banana Belt of Idaho. I ended up running with my rainjacket over my running pack because the winds were picking up and it was getting hard to stay warm. My feet got soaked early on after slipping during a creek crossing. At 8500' it began to snow and the weather was becoming more overwhelming. I pushed on to Sundance Lake at 9740' and there was 6" of snow on the ground. I did some soul searching at this point. I knew the remaining 2000' of climb was over scree and involved some scrambling. The weather wasn't improving and there was certain to be more snow the higher I went. I opted to head back down rather than risk death. I was on a tight schedule as it was and I needed to get the residents their posters. They would have a hard time finding them in the back seat of my car at a remote trailhead were I to perish in the wilderness. On the descent, the weather began to improve, so I was slightly bummed at this decision, but still glad I wasn't navigating snow-covered scree fields with semi-frozen feet. I made it back to the car and began the next task of securing a campsite.

I had tentatively planned on staying at the Boundary campsite for $10/night. It is a mile or so up Trail Creek Rd. from the Sun Valley Inn, where the conference was taking place. When I arrived, all the sites were occupied. It was a no-reservation site and I knew it was a gamble. I knew there were other campsites further up Trail Creek Rd., so I headed up that way and saw a sign for campsites on Corral Creek. I pulled into the first open site and set up camp. I got a text from one of the residents while I was pitching the tent (it was about 12:45) they were looking for their posters. It was still raining some and fairly windy, so I put on the rainfly, added my cot and some chairs for weight to hold the tent down if the wind picked up and went straight to the conference. I was still wearing my running gear which consisted of long pants and a long sleeve tech tee. I added a down jacket as a makeshift sportcoat to look slightly presentable. I figured there was always some guy at these conferences wearing a Hawaiian shirt, so I wouldn't look any more casual than that. I wasn't overly sweaty because of the cold, but I was wet and that doesn't smell great. It was a short day at the conference and I figured I could keep a perimeter around me when possible and try to lay low. Walking in, I sat down with a one-seat spacer between the nearest pharmacist and settled in for the first presentation. I noticed a guy a few rows ahead of me weaving snowflake Christmas ornaments out of fishing line and he was wearing a Hawaiian shirt. I relaxed. I ended up socializing a lot more than I had planned this day, but no notable grimaces on people's faces at my wet-dog aroma. One acquaintance did comment: "you look like you're going camping!" I responded unironically that I was. Reaching my threshold of introversion suppression for the day, I left and had a hankering for a burger (my go-to post-run food) and went to the McDonald's drive-thru in Hailey then returned to camp. Bathing was the next order of business. I brought baby wipes as a last resort to be used for a makeshift sponge-bath. However, Corral Creek was a mere 20 yards from the campsite and had good tree cover, so I grabbed my Peppermint Dr. Bronner's and shivered my way to the creek. I had taken cold showers for 2 years on my LDS mission and had hoped to be done with them for good. The first hot shower I took upon returning home probably lasted an hour. This creek bath was definitely next-level cold and would serve as stunning contrast of how truly amazing a hot shower is. I focused on high-stench areas (use your imagination) to minimize the misery factor of lowering my core temperature with a full-body submersion. I had some foresight and brought a towel, which was essential in shortening the suffering. I got into dry clothes, crawled into my sleeping bag and began to read. I hoped to review my presentation materials, but I had forgotten to download them to my phone and didn't have a signal. So I read The Brothers Karamazov instead. As I warmed up, I instantly became comatose around 9pm.

Day 2 I woke up after sleeping 9 hours! I was periodically cold, but slept mostly well. I dressed up fancy with a tie and fresh clothes. I slathered on some deodorant, hoping that between the targeted creek bathing and artificial aromas of Old Spice, my vagrant quotient would remain below the acceptable levels for a professional society. The morning CE sessions went well, only I was in need of some last-minute cramming to prepare for my presentation since I didn't have all my materials and crashed early the night before. I skipped the end of one session and sequestered myself for some highly focused review of current treatment recommendations for sepsis. In the end, it didn't make much difference. The format of the session I was speaking at (along with 3 other pharmacists) had changed at the last minute. This led to increased anxiety and a true test of my stench-prevention measures. Three hours later, the session ended without me betraying my true nomadic nature and hopefully imparting a few pearls of wisdom about antibiotic use. I left and headed straight to the trailhead. On a whim, I chose the Pioneer Cabin trailhead. Looking at my National Forest map, I found another trail that connected a loop I estimated to be at least 6 miles. I get the impression it's hard to choose a bad trail in Sun Valley and this ended up being about as perfect as I could have hoped. I climbed a steep trail for 3-4 miles in cool temps with a clear sky, eventually reaching the eponymous Pioneer Cabin with large lettering emblazoning the roof: "The Higher You Get, The Higher You Get." This summit coincided with the sunset, creating some highly rewarding views of the Pioneer range including Hyndman Peak and Devil's Bedstead. The cabin itself was interesting, similar to Appalachian Trail shelters, but more elaborate. It was full of hiker paraphernalia, including a guitar, sleeping bags, pot leaf graffiti, some food and fuel, and even had an old wood-burning stove. It reeked of putrid humans, which was probably a good sign that I hadn't ripened to that point myself. It was now getting dark quickly and I wasn't sure how far I had left in my planned loop, so I pressed on. The temperature was dropping quick now, so I put on my wool gloves and headlamp. To my chagrin, the batteries were nearly spent and my lighting situation was pretty crappy. This fact hastened my pace, so as to avoid a moonless stumble down the mountain if possible. The weak beam got me down the mountain eventually, but not before a minor twisted ankle and a few near face-plants. I ran into some bow hunters at the trailhead who asked if I heard the elk bugling, and indeed I had.

Strava Activity

I got back to my campsite around 9 and performed an even more targeted creek bath as the temperature was now approaching freezing. I remembered seeing the fully enclosed bathrooms at the Sun Valley Inn where I could finish my bathing in the morning and wash the grease off my head. Bones chattering, I warmed up a Mountain House lasagna in some boiled creek water and whipped out The Brothers K once again. A friend of mine used to say "hunger is the best sauce" I would agree and add that a warm meal or drink when you are freezing cold and hungry is sauce for that sauce. It was great to not have cell service as a distraction this night. It helped me get fully immersed in Dostoevsky, reading a large chunk at once. Up to that point I had read small sections when I could and it was still great, but this was better and obviously how this book (and probably most books) should be read. Stepping out of my tent to water the plants, I looked up to an unpolluted night sky. The Milky Way was clear and prominent and constellations easily recognizable: Orion, big dipper, Cassiopeia, the north star. I opted for warmer arrangements this evening as the temperature was continuing to drop. I put my army surplus wool blanket inside my 20 degree down sleeping bag and stayed toasty til morning.

Day 3 I woke up groggy and it had frozen. The tent was covered in ice and my running shoes were blocks of ice. I warmed up my herbal tea while I broke camp. Made it to the conference at about 7 and secured my private bathroom stall for phase 2 of my bathing. Attended first CE session, then went to Sun Valley LDS Congregation Sacrament Meeting at 10:00. The chapel was a tall A-frame with large windows on the South side of the building. The chapel was packed with young families and Elder Hamula of the first quorum of the Seventy was visiting. I took the sacrament and headed back to make the last CE session starting at 10:30. This was the law session they intentionally put at the end of the conference so people don't leave early. (All Idaho pharmacists need one hour of law CE annually for their license). I filled up my water bottle and hit the road.

The trip was a success. I maintained some level of credibility among my peers, explored new trails, stayed alive, learned some new travel skills, and enjoyed most of the trip.

And lastly, I saved a ton of money (I estimate about $750):
Lodging: $0
Conference Registration: $0 (covered because I was presenting)
Food: about $20 (I mostly ate for free at the conference and also brought protein bars, gels, Mountain House)
Gas: about $20
Total: $40

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Mammoth Lakes mini trip

A few weeks ago, we took a quick trip to Mammoth Lakes California for a wedding. We left Thursday morning and drove the 9 hours through some of the less exciting parts of Nevada.

Sidenote mostly for myself: always get gas when you have the chance in rural Nevada.

This was my first trip to the Eastern Sierras, so I was excited. As fate would have it, I got sick on the way down and stayed that way for a full week. I blame allergies and running an ultra one week prior.
Friday morning, I was still functional, so the Mrs. and I climbed up to a ridge above Crystal lake to get a good view of the area.

That afternoon was the wedding, which was grown ups only. I volunteered for babysitting duty and got progressively more ill whilst a moderately sized militia of children enjoyed minimal supervision during their reign of terror.

Sleep and coughing dominated my time until Saturday night. During that interval I stayed confined to our condo, lamenting the fact that there was so much amazing trail out there that I wasn't enjoying. By Saturday night, I was completely stir crazy and feeling worse, but decided to get out and see how it went. I had picked out a loop around Gem and Agnew lakes during one of my non-comatose moments that was 12 miles with "2000" feet of vert. As with most trail distance/elevation estimates, this was a significant underestimation. It was over 3000 feet of climbing, which was even harder considering how crappy I felt.

My time estimate for finishing this loop was not particularly accurate, either. I ended up getting back to the car minutes before Deanna was planning on calling 911. I can't blame her as it was right as the sun was setting and I was an hour late! She has been my most trusty shuttler and has put up with a lot of poorly estimated meet-up times.

The loop was fantastic despite the problems. There looks to be so much more to see in the Eastern Sierras; I would love to spend more time in this area.

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Tony Bennett, The Cure, Southeast Idaho Rockers, and an Ultramarathon

A few days ago, I found out Tony Bennett was playing at Outlaw Field by the old penitentiary. As an admirer of lounge singers in general, this was big news. Unfortunately, I had already purchased tickets to see The Cure the same night at the same time. As luck would have it, The Cure had an opener, Twilight Sad, which I had no interest in seeing. So at 7:00, Deanna and I ascended the Old Pen Trail above Outlaw Field and enjoyed the smooth croonings of 89-year-old Bennett for free, from a distance. He still sounds awesome! I figure if you're touring as a soon-to-be nonagenarian, it is a labor of love.

We left to hoping to catch the beginning of The Cure's set, unsure of how long the openers would take. We came in to the packed Centurylink Arena a few songs into the set and were immediately blasted with some of Simon Gallup's bone-shaking bass lines. I'm a casual Cure fan at best, really only delving into the early albums and having a superficial familiarity with everything since, ie "Lovesong," "Why Can't I be You," "Friday I'm in Love," etc. I had read that Robert Smith didn't really like the Boys Don't Cry/Three Imaginary Boys album, so I didn't expect to hear them play any of the songs I liked. (It turns out they haven't played any of those songs since 2011 other than "Boys Don't Cry"). But, this outing was mainly one of curiosity for me and an chance to spend some time with my much more legitimate fan wife. Despite my pessimism, I was blown away by how good these guys are and feel like I get their later stuff now after seeing them live. Some notable performances: "A Forest" "Let's Go to Bed" "Lovesong" "Sleep When I'm Dead" "Never Enough" "The Lovecats" Really the whole show was great-here's the entire setlist. They played for 3 hours with 3 encores!

How does this relate to running? People think about lots of things while they are running: nature, their place in the universe, how to solve a complex problem at work/home. And while I do contemplate each of these, I primarily get caught on a loop of one or two songs repeated over and over again. In the case of this weekend's Scout Mountain 60K, it was obviously The Cure. A fantastic way to focus on cadence.

The race was extraordinarily well organized. More so than any race I've run and that is probably because a decorated runner, Luke Nelson, is the race director. We arrived Friday afternoon to the Mink Creek Group Campsite and checked in, finding out that I randomly won a Black Diamond backpack. There were sponsors and giveaways galore-La Sportiva, Zeal Optics, Ultraspire, and even a local pharmacy-Shaver's.

Our pre-race meeting was short and to-the-point: don't litter or you'll never run the race again, take twice as much water as you planned because it's going to be hot, and be nice to the volunteers. Sage advice. Deanna and I set up our tent and headed back into Pocatello for a night on the town. We settled on sushi for dinner, a risky choice, but ultimately a good one. We walked around downtown and heard quite possibly the worst band in existence playing 80s hair metal (big surprise) at a record store with obscene prices. Exploring, we found what was once The Roche Motel, a small venue that was shortly in existence during my high school years. Notably, I attended my first concert here, Dropkick Murphys, which was a wild, wild punk rawk show! I remember bloody people emerging from the mosh pit and the lead singer threatening the venue staff when they turned off the power because they thought it was getting too violent. They played with Oxymoron, a now defunct German band, as well as The Ducky Boys and Randumbs. I had never seen such a spectacle in my short Snake River Valley tenure!

But back to running-we crammed into our ultralight 2-man tent to call it a night. I brought my obnoxiously large cot to make sure I slept well whilst my beloved found herself smashed against the wall of the tent. What a gentlewoman. At 5am, the 100k runners toed the line and made surprisingly little noise. We were able to sleep another hour or so before getting up and packing my race vest and trying to find the appetite to eat something. I had some nausea that was lingering from the day before, maybe due to nerves. It stayed with me off and on the whole race and after wards, probably exacerbated by dehydration. Never puked though. Ultimately, I ate a stinger waffle and chugged water. Then it was time to get on the bus that took us to the starting line. Before:

Luke gave us some final instructions and at 8:30 sharp, we were off. We followed city creek up a gradual incline in a mostly-cohesive pack of runners. Eventually we parted ways with the creek and hiked straight up the side of the mountain (not a soul was running). It was warming up and I was already pouring sweat off my face. Fortunately, this would be the steepest section of the race. We reached the top of the ridge near Kinport Peak and things flattened out on a jeep trail. This would be the most runnable section of the race and most of the shuffling took place over the next 15K. I made it a point to hold back the pace on this section, keeping my heart rate below 160. I wanted to be cautious about running conservatively the first half of the race so I would have something in the tank for the end. I'm glad I did this, because things got exponentially harder after reaching the Mink Creek aid station at the 25K mark.

The climbing from that point wasn't particularly steep, but it was getting hellaciously hot and I already had 25K behind me. My standard long training run on the weekends is about that long, so there is a psychological wall once I get to that point. This is where I went into phase 3 of running: where there is jogging to exhaustion followed by hiking, rinse, lather, repeat. (phase 1 is feeling great, phase 2 is able to push with some discomfort). Level 4 would come later...

I pushed onward, eventually catching up with some of the 35K runners. I also realized I had been followed for some time. I couldn't shake this older guy behind me who started messing with me and threw a rock in a puddle trying to freak me out. Turns out he was using me as a pacer and would run when I would run and hike when I would hike. Eventually, coming up the South side of Scout Mountain he caught up to me and told me as much. Bill and I became well acquainted over the next 20K or so. He had a camera and we snapped pics from the summit, glissading down a big snow drift, and generally acted goofy trying to get our minds off of how difficult this climb actually was. It worked. We made small goals to run to the next bush or rock, then walk a section. This section would have not gone well at all without my new compadre to share the pain with. This was a really cool experience in the Ultrarunning culture; people are competitive, but collaborative. In general, everyone is absurdly polite and chatty. It's a survival method to deal with these ridiculously long runs, I suppose. If ultrarunners were jerks, I don't think many people would be drawn to ultras. I've found the same culture among Boise trail runners. Running in groups is genuinely fun and mutually beneficial because everyone pushes each other to run faster and distracts each other from the pain. While I still enjoy most of my running solo, I'm a firm believer in group runs and races to push me beyond my normal efforts. And to spend time with some genuinely cool people!

Back to the race-passing the summit of Scout Mountain, we began our mercilessly steep descent. My legs were hurting in new ways at this point so this downhill was excruciating. Bill and I pressed on in an all-out effort to the 50K aid station. I was confident in my downhill running and put everything I had in this push. We started passing other runners who were walking downhill sections, so I knew we were making great time. Finally we hit the aid station and I was exhausted. I plopped down in a chair and one of the volunteers made it her mission to get me anything I needed-fruit, electrolytes, then she started massaging my calves! I will note here that the aid stations were unlike anything I have experienced previously. It was like a NASCAR pitstop. The second you rolled in, people were all over you applying sunscreen, filling bottles with ice, handing you food. It was great!

Sitting down was necessary at this point, and also dangerous. I did not want to run 10 more K in this heat. I took a few short minutes to compose myself. Looking around at the volunteers, I noticed none other than Karl Meltzer chopping up strawberries! Bill was ready to go at this point, so I joined him and we headed....straight uphill again! This is where Phase 4 began. The sun was beating down on this exposed climb and I could not physically run for any distance. When I tried, my breathing and heart rate would go wildly out of control and I would get dizzy. I literally felt like I would topple over. I feel very fortunate that I could at least hike as my primary goal at the start of this race was to keep moving no matter how hard it got. Bill seemed to only gain momentum and eventually he trotted off into the distance, but not without yelling at me to "come on!" A gentleman and a scholar...

Phase 4 was ugly. After finally cresting this blasted hill, I began a downhill section and found myself too exhausted to run. Downhill. That was demoralizing. Now I was getting passed by the occasional runner. If that wasn't enough, there was one last brutal climb over grassy exposed hills. I was overcome with thirst and chugged water and electrolyte, which did nothing to satiate my thirst. It was oppresively hot and I thought briefly that I would now die. I slowed the pace and pressed on. Delirious now, I stumbled on toward the last few kilometers. When the road to the finish came into sight, there was to be no more walking. I would run no matter how painful. The campground came into sight and Deanna met me a few 100 meters from the finish to taunt me that she was running faster than me. I couldn't even laugh! Focused completely on the finish, I crossed in just over 8 hours, 17th overall.

Sitting down was wonderful. After:

Strava Activity

Altra Superior 2.0 w/ Gaiters
Zensah Compression Sleeves
Half Buff
Suunto Ambit 3 Peak
Ultimate Direction SJ Ultra Vest 2.0
Darn Tough Herringbone Micro Crew Light
Pearl Izumi Maverick Shorts
Brooks Shirt
Spy Dirk Sunglasses (found on the Appalachian Trail!)

Started with 100oz water, 60 in bladder, 40 in bottles
Picky Bars
Ginger Chews
Gu Gels
I took other food, but ended up not needing it because of the well-stocked aid stations.

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Race to Robie Creek

Final Time 1:41:46 89th Overall 16th 30-34

After moving to Boise, the Race to Robie Creek was immediately on my radar because of the overwhelming consensus among runners that it was a great race. I was not disappointed. It was highly competitive, well run, and a fun/challenging course. There is roughly 2000' of climb in the first 8 miles, with the final mile of climbing being the steepest, but still runable (slowly).

Registering for the race is a nightmare. When the race opens online, it sells out within 15 minutes. I tried at 20 minutes to no avail. I entered the second-chance drawing and also failed to get in. Eventually I listened to some seasoned Boise runners and bought my bib from someone else.

My training has been very specific to Robie conditions. Initially, this wasn't intentional. I just did most of my training in the foothills close to the course. As race day drew near, I ran more specifically on the course to get familiar with it. That training was extremely beneficial from a mental perspective as I knew exactly how long I had to suffer through each climb. I also proved to myself that I could run the entire climb without stopping or hiking any sections.

The night before the race was surprisingly cold, there was a light freeze and frost on cars/roofs. The day was sunny and slowly warming up. I opted to wear wool compression leg sleeves primarily for warmth, but also to feel some lower leg security for the traumatic course. I brought a handheld water bottle and a single Gu gel. There would be aid stations, but I didn't want to rely on these.

My pre-race goal was to break 1:45. After running most of the sections, I calculated that I could achieve this goal if things went moderately well. I had a secondary, lofty goal to PR my half marathon time and go under 1:37, something that would take a miraculous effort.

I used my heart rate monitor to pace myself on the uphill while training, keeping in the 165-170 range. My max effort was about 190, which I would save to push through the steepest sections, if at all. What I found on race day, however was that my HR was averaging around 180 from the start (race environment). This was a good thing as I was able to keep a faster pace while feeling I was putting forth my normal effort.

The uphill went remarkably well. I blew past all the strange folks lining the course handing out booze and condoms and began the steep descent to Robie Creek. This section I had never run in it's entirety. I pushed really hard down from Aldape Summit and even clocked a sub 6 minute mile thanks to gravity. I tried to trust my legs and the steep training I had done. But I hadn't trained a lot at this red-line pace. So at mile 10, things started to go haywire. I developed a major side-stitch and leg cramps. This had happened during the few intense downhill training runs I had done, so I was frustrated but not terribly surprised. I attributed it to bad timing of my nutrition, but may also be a result of just not training enough at that intensity. If I could do this race over, I would have taken gatorade in my handheld instead of water. I would forego the gel at mile 3-4. I don't see this helping the stomach situation. During low-intensity training I don't have a problem with gels, but doesn't seem to work with this type of race.

Miles 10-12 were rough. My breathing was all over the place and my side-stitch made me feel like I was suffocating. I pushed through as hard as I could, but could not maintain the pace I wanted. Eventually I reached an aid station and speed-walked through while drinking a cup of gatorade. This short break was the reset I needed; I felt great for the last mile and upped the pace again. I'll keep this in mind for future runs when I have stomach issues: sometimes a break can set things back to normal.

Post-race consisted of a surprising amount of food (turnip greens?) and a bus ride back to town. Overall, a really fun, tough race that I'd like to make an annual tradition. I think on race day I was capable of breaking 1:40, but made some mistakes that prevented that from happening. I'm happy with my effort, however. This is the hardest I have raced at that distance and I was glad I held up as well as I did. After running a lot of races with poor training during college, pharmacy school, and residency, it feels great to train adequately and perform well on race day.

After the headache of registering and spending money to do something I can do on my own for free, I wasn't sure how much racing I wanted to do in the future. But after running this race and finding again that I simply don't reach my full potential during everyday running, I am a firm believer in the importance of periodic organized racing. It provides structure to training and competition that pushes me more than I would on regular runs. Next race-Scout Mountain Ultra Trail 60k

Sunday, April 10, 2016

California Spring Break Running Round-Up

Spring break ended two weeks ago. I got some great runs in:

Sat 3/19:
Claremont Wilderness Trailhead/Potato Mountain
After arriving in SoCal and finding the higher mountains still had a fair amount of snow, I looked for lower elevation trailheads close to the IE and Claremont Wilderness looked like a good choice. The morning I pulled up to the trailhead I realized how fortunate I am to live in Boise, where a busy trail means you see a few people. This was ridiculous! There was PAID parking at the trailhead that was completely full; people were circling the lots waiting for others to leave. I eventually parked in a nearby neighborhood (like a lot of other people). The trail was just as packed and the single track was wide enough to drive a car on, but that didn't stop people from walking side-by-side, blocking the entire trail. Aside from those annoyances, the trail was fun and the views were great as the smog had blown out of the IE.

Mon 3/21:
Skyline Drive Trailhead/Pleasants Peak
Another arbitrary find on the map, this was close but to the South from where we were staying. I found the "Skinsuit Trail" on the map and decided to take that up, which was a mistake. It was a motorcycle trail that was excessively steep and overall crappy. Once I connected to Skyline Drive, it was more runable. At that point I had a 2nd act experience with some Mexican food and was glad I brought the proper amenities (I've been unprepared enough times to never make that mistake again). Pleasants Peak was nice, but cloud cover prevented what would have been a great view of the ocean. The run down was more terrible motorcycle trails and me trying to stay on my feet. I got off course near the bottom and ended up in an old orchard where I came across a pack of large dogs that looked like possibly guard dogs for the property. Fortunately, they didn't see me, but I had a big stick ready if I needed to go down swinging. I eventually found my way out unscathed and hopped a fence to freedom.

Tues 3/22:
San Clemente
Strava was helpful in finding some routes to run in a city I've never spent any significant amount of time in. I got up early and climbed up and over into a valley that had a view of a great looking ridge that went down to the ocean. I started across the valley and ran into the boundary of Camp Pendleton, which was heavily marked as "no trespassing." Bummed, but still graced with great views, I ran down to the beach and then back to our motel.

Wed 3/23:
Pacific Gateway Park
The afternoon before this run, we hiked as a family out to International Friendship Park along the Mexico/US border. We ended at the beach, which was interesting to see where the border fence juts out into the ocean. The Mexican side is fairly busy and the US side is almost abandoned, marked with signs warning about raw sewage in the water, I presume from the Tijuana River that crosses the border and empties on the US side. Border Patrol was heavily patrolling the area, in multiple SUVs and six or seven helicopters that circled overhead. The kids wanted to get close to the fence, but the fuzz weren't having it and turned on the sirens once we got within about 20 yards, prompting us to change our course northward.

With that experience under our belts, I decided I needed to do some more border exploration the next morning. I did some quick internet research on the ACLU website to determine what I could expect from BP if I got stopped. It looked like they couldn't really do all that much, so I decided to press my luck. My original plan was to run up Otay Mountain. It had some Strava tracks on it, so I figured it was a safe bet. The spot I chose to get on the trail was heavily marked no trespassing, however and the official trailhead was far out of the way, so I went to plan B, Pacific Gateway Park. This did not have any Strava tracks, so I didn't know what to expect other than it was shown as a park on the map. I found an entrance through a warehouse park and got out of the car, promptly dropping my phone and shattering the glass right across my camera, making everything look like a cheesy soap opera. I could see the border fence from where I parked and headed out on what were clearly jeep trails used by the BP. I came over a little hill that opened up to a nice panorama of Tijuana with a hillside residential neighborhood a stone's throw away. In fact, the first thing I noticed when I crested the hill was the sound of all the roosters going crazy. I followed the trails, which were not next to the fence, but close to it. I wanted to stay away from the fence if I could, so as not to provoke BP, who were cruising up and down the road on the US side and in no-man's-land every few minutes. Ultimately, the trails led to the fence and I snapped some picks and ran along the fence for a few hundred yards, noticing many signs that would indicate this might be a sub-optimal choice. Eventually, a trail took off away from the fence up a hill and I took it. A few hundred yards up, I heard an SUV tearing down the road and up the hill and he turned on his siren. I made it a point to stop running and walk back toward the SUV and have a chat with Mr. BP. The agent got out and walked toward me asking how/what I was doing. Tempted to answer in Spanish, but deciding against it, I responded and struck up a convo. He informed me that I had set off motion detectors and they had me on camera running along the fence and that normally when they see people running in this area it is for non-recreational purposes (who knew?). He asked where I was from and if I was a US Citizen and despite my dark-chocolate complexion and heavy accent, left me on my merry way. I asked if it was OK to keep running along the fence, to which he replied I could expect to get stopped every few minutes if I did. So I didn't.

Thurs 3/24:
Mt. Jurupa
Back to the IE with my payload of international contraband, I hit up a section of the Jurupa Hills that I've never tread in previous visits. This was not particularly noteworthy, but a good hill workout and a decent view even with some smog moving back in. Mount Jurupa was flat as a pancake on top and I found what looked like a collapsed mine near the top. I shot for some course records, but had a GPS fail, apparently pausing my watch unintentionally. I was nowhere near setting any time records however, so this was frustrating, but not losing any sleep over it.

Fri 3/25:
Mt. Baldy
The only run I had planned for spring break was this one and I wasn't sure it was going to happen with all the snow when we pulled into town. Fortunately, it was a warm week and by Thursday, I knew it would work so I tracked down a NF adventure pass (surprisingly hard to find a daily version) so I could park at the trailhead and headed up at sunrise. As a side-note, the first time I hiked Baldy a few years back, I didn't know you needed an adventure pass to park in non-fee areas of the Angeles NF. Everything is a hassle and/or costs money in SoCal. I decided to do the same loop I'd done before since it was great last time. I took Baldy Bowl up and passed a few other hikers/runners on the way up, all of us questioning what the snow was like toward the top. It turned out that Baldy Bowl had a few sections of snow hiding the trail, but enough people had been up that there were tracks to follow. After getting up on the ridge, the snow was sparse. The summit sneaks up on you after some very steep hiking and you nearly get blown off the mountain. It was bitterly cold this AM, so I snapped some pics and started down Devil's Backbone, where some winter climbers had died a few months prior. There are certainly some high-consequence sections on Devil's Backbone, but with no snow, the risk was negligible when walking carefully. Overall, a great hike up/run down loop that I plan on doing whenever we make it down to SoCal. It's close and easy to do over the course of a morning. Although at some point I would like to take the longer Bear Canyon Trail up and spend more time exploring around the area.

I used my Nathan HPL 020 for most of these runs w/ a 70oz bladder and never got close to running out of water. This pack is great for runs up to 3 or 4 hours, but could use more up-front storage space so you don't have to take the pack off to get at food/supplies during longer runs.

I also used an Ultimate Direction handheld for the Mt. Jurupa run. I like the UD bottles with the kicker valve caps. The handheld is nothing to shake a stick at, it does its job, will hold a key or a gel, that's about it.

Altra Superior 2.0 (2nd pair) the upper problems continue with this replacement pair Altra sent me. Apparently they've fixed this now, which is great because I really like this shoe. It's softer than most shoes I run in, which I've found more and more important for long technical runs where feet get bruised in other shoes.

New Balance MT101-these are relatively new in my line-up and I like them so far for shorter runs. they are light and a lot tougher than the Altras, but don't provide much protection on long runs despite the rock plate.