Saturday, January 26, 2013

Pacifica Run With Other Runners

Toshi organized a fun point to point run in hills above pacifica saturday.  Claire, Scott, Marc, Toshi and I took to the trails and had a great day.  First we met up at the Grey Whale Cove parking lot and then hopped in Toshi's car and drove up to some place near a Lutheran Church on Highway 1.  We then proceeded to climb up out of Pacifica on a trail behind the church.  It was a foggy morning, but still really nice for running.
Starting out from Toshi's car.
Climbing up out of Pacifica from the "Church"
Foggy Morning.
Toshi got hungry.
 We got a reminder that we were not the only meat eaters around...

Photo credit: Marc Laveson
The hills were really nice.

 I had had limited exposure to these coastal hills.  Oddly enough, my first trail race ever was here, a 21 km race that just killed me, but other than the two times that I have raced here I have not explored the area much.  This was a great treat to be able to get to see more of the area and the trails that Toshi brought us on were great.

Toshi is very photogenic.
At top of Mount Montara.  Trail Runners showing their "battle scars"
 We did a lot of off-roading, meaning that we didn't necessarily stay on the established trails.  This was sometimes because of the logistical issues with connecting the trails on this run, but sometimes it was because we just wanted to go explore something.  By the time we got to the top of Mount Montara we had already accrued some good damage from the local shrubbery.

A little off-roading action.

Photo credit: Marc Laveson

If you look really close, you can see runners among the brush...
 At one point during the run, Toshi took us down a really steep and technical trail through the shrubs.  We had a blast cruising down the trail, hopping rocks, slipping and sliding, and feeling the adrenaline of the experience.  Climbing back up was not as fun.

The fog lifted, and it turned into an awesome day!
 The fog got us on the early part of the run, but then it lifted and the sun was shining, and it turned into an awesome day to be running by the coast.

Descending through a Eucalyptus Grove.
Pretty gnarly trail.
I guess this is Mount Pedro at 1969 ft?  Don't really know what to make of these markers.

Photo Credit: Marc Laveson

Where we came from.
A bunch of trail runners soaking up some rays...
 From the grassy knoll pictured above, we had a short, but steep descent back to the cars.  Toshi was showing off his exuberance by doing summersaults up and down the hill.  It was pretty funny.

Perfect end to a perfect day.
After a great trail run we met up at a local cafe and had some breakfast burritos.  19.something miles of a lot of beautiful trails, scrambling, joking around, blood and sweat: perfect.

Here is a compilation of video clips that I got:

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Trail Work and Mt El Sombroso Climb

I wish I could say something eloquent or important about doing trail maintenance, but really, I am doing this because it is mandatory "volunteer" work.  TRT 100 requires eight hours, our club requires some time, etc.  It is not that I am against it, actually I like the work and I do think it is important, so I bite the bullet.

Our running club, Quicksilver, has "adopted" the New Almaden Trail at Quicksilver County Park.  That means that our club is responsible for the upkeep of that trail.  We have a volunteer named Paul Fick who has dedicated himself to coordinating the various club volunteers who want to (are required to) do trail work (oh, and he does a heck of a lot of the manual work).  

Saturday was a "Trail work day", so if you happened to be venturing along the New Almaden Trail in Quicksilver County Park, and saw a bunch of skinny, weak lookin people with shovels- that was us.  I find it mildly amusing that someone thought that people who are completely optimized for covering a hundred miles of mountainous terrain within a single day would be good candidates for "moving dirt".  Anyways, persistence is sometimes as good as brute force, so it seems that we were able to do some pretty good work.
There is Morgan (with the shorts) oblivious to what Poison Oak can do...

Gettin to work! (Before Pic)
The above is a classic picture.  Jim Magill (to the left) is a 65 yr old guy who still runs 100 milers, Jean Pommier is basically a rockstar in the 40 year old age group -  nearing on 50, and way faster than me, and Amy Burton who completed the Western States 100 run last year.  And it doesn't matter, they are all gettin down and dirty!

(After Pic)
At first look it might seem like we made the trail a muddy mess (which we did), but actually, the trail is now contoured to guide the rain off the hill instead of creating ruts and mini ponds within the trail itself.

Creating a "Berm" to redirect rain water away from the trail...
 So we were hiking along the trail, looking for our next project, and Paul Fick, with sledgehammer in hand, is staring at this big rock that was jutting out into the trail.  I asked him, what's up?  He said he was going to break the rock.  I said, wha...?  And then I said:  Can I help?  So we both took turns hammering away at this thing.  Eventually we emerged victorious and the rock submitted to our will...

There use to be a rock here
That is where it went.
I did some trail maintenance last month (during my time off) and one of our projects was to "destroy" an old trail, so that hikers would be forced to take the alternate.  Below is a picture of our attempt.  After we were done with our work this month (around 1 p.m.) I decided to get in a quick summit of Mount El Sombroso.  On the way I got to run over our new trail work and do some recon of last months work as seen below:
Recon of trail work from last month.
I think it is working for the most part.  I still see some tracks of various sorts of things that tried to use the old trail, but the real evidence will come when we get new growth in the spring and if the grass and shrubs are able to take over.

We are basically creating the best trail there is.
 Above you can see some of the trail widening and cleaning we were doing.

Even at 1:30 p.m. you can find ice in the bay area...
 I found ice in various spots (sun shaded of course) on my way up the mountain.  Out of the shade it was nearing in on mid 60s, but the ice was still getting by in the shade.

I am going to the peak to the right.
 In the picture above there are two peaks.  The one on the left is Mount Umunhum, where there lives the "box", or the General Electric AN/FPS-24 long range search radar antenna (long out of commission).  That peak is off limits, but could be reached with enough courage and skill...  The peak to the right is Mount El Sombroso.  Woods road goes past the peak and turns into the Kennedy trail in Sierra Azul County Park (next door to Quicksilver).  It is a fun and challenging climb and was about a 20 milish round trip from my car through Quicksilver.

Views as I am getting closer to the summit.

Views from Sombroso.  See the "box"?
More Views from Sombroso.

Sun is setting as I am heading back to the car.
It ended up taking me about 4.5 hrs to do the trip, which is way longer than usual, but reminded me of the fact that I am still getting back into shape.  Also, because of my overzealousness with trying to get back into shape, I have incurred some achilles tendonitis issues that I have been managing.  The achilles held up relatively well on this trip, so I was encouraged...

Thursday, January 17, 2013

San Francisco Urban Orienteering Adventure

 This past Saturday Toshi invited me to try some Urban Orienteering.  I had read about these type of events before, so I was interested in trying it out.  The basic idea is that you are given a map that lists various checkpoints that you are suppose to reach during a given time period.  Different events have slightly different goals/rules.  In this particular event we were given three hours to reach as many of 35 different checkpoints in San Francisco as possible.  If you reached all 35 checkpoints, then the winner would be based off of the time when they returned to home base.

This event was hosted by terraloco.  Home base was Sports Basement on Bryant Street.  We were given a map of 1906 San Francisco with no street names at 8:30 a.m.  The checkpoints were historical markers from buildings/sites that survived the 1906 Earthquake.  We were also given a question sheet.  When you reached checkpoint you had to answer the question on the question sheet.  The question might be:"plaque in sidewalk for Audiffred Building begins with letter: A / B / C".  You would have to answer the question correctly to prove that you reached that checkpoint.

5th Floor of this Sports Basement.  This is where we got our maps and people started designing their routes.
There are a couple of tricks/skills that help you succeed in this event.  One, you want to design an efficient route to reach all of the checkpoints.  This route should be the shortest possible distance and probably should take the hills into consideration.  Local knowledge of the city would help.  There are a few differences between the 1906 map and todays grid, and that can mess you up too.  Another skill is finding the plaques once you reach the location.  You have to read the arrows on the map to decipher which side of the street and where (generally) you might be able to find the marker.  Even then, it might take a couple of minutes to actually spot the marker.  In terms of nerdy running events, this has to take the cake!
This has got to be the biggest Sports Basement I have ever seen...
The Sports Basement on Bryant Street has five floors!  Insane- I could have spent all day in that store, but I had other things to do.  After we got our maps we had one hour to do our research and figure out how to design our routes.  One of the first tasks was to try and put street names on the map.  The funny thing was that Toshi and I ended up going back to my truck to pull out an Atlas to start figuring out where the checkpoints were.  Everyone else was using their smart phones...

1906 map of SF.
As race time got nearer we headed back to floor five for our pre race briefing.  This is where we received our question sheet.  At 10 a.m. we were off.

Question Sheet.
You have the option of teaming up, but there were a bunch of other "runners" there that decided they wanted to compete against their friends, so basically we had a bunch of one man teams.  I think this made the task more difficult, but it was what it was.  Toshi and I designed completely opposite paths, so we went off in our own directions.

One of the "markers" or checkpoints we had to reach and inspect.
Running to the first checkpoint I was completely clueless for what I was supposed to be doing.  I had not realized how important the arrows on the map was to finding what we were supposed to be looking for.  Also, the clues were getting me as well.  But after a couple of check points I started getting the hang of it...
Up and down the SF hills.
I spent way too much time at some of the points trying to find stuff, and I designed a terrible route that had me going up and down the hills of SF all day long, so I ended up having to re prioritize on the run. At one point near the middle of the run I crossed paths with Toshi.  He had just descended this long path of stairs that slalomed up a cliff.  At first I thought it was weird that he came off of the hill, but then when I went a couple of blocks further, fully expecting to take a right on union street, I noticed that I was staring at that same cliff, with no road in sight.  I then realized my mistake and backtracked to those steps and proceeded to climb.  It was at this point that I figured out I wasn't going to reach the norther two checkpoints within the time limit, so I started south along Van Ness.  As I proceeded south across Market street I had to make another call to not go after the farthest south-western point and started back for Sports Basement.

By the time I arrived at Sports Basement it was about 11:45, so I had 15 minutes to spare.  I thought I had missed three checkpoints, but it turned out I missed one in the middle too.  Then I found out that all of the other "runners" were already done.  The winner got all 35 points in 2:12 or so, Toshi finished third after a sprint loss against his arch rival in like 2:30 something.  Anyways, I was totally in awe of their performance and realized how important the planning and experience part of this was.  I don't know if I want to do another big city type event.  While I like San Francisco, dealing with the traffic and crowds was not that fun to me.  I think a more rural event might be more fun.

After we were done we went and got some lunch, and then Jason Reed, Toshi, and I went on a SF "peak bagging" adventure.  I didn't know there were any "peaks" in San Fran, but it turns out there are a bunch of them, and you can keep track of which ones you have summited.  Jason was on a quest to get them all, so we went with him to get a couple.  It was pretty fun and I definitely got a good day of nice slow running in.

Anyways, I recommend trying these orienteering events out.  They are really fun.  You can do them as a team, family, whatever, and you can pick the length of event you want to do.  This event had a 90 minute and 3 hour option.  The events are totally laid back.  At one point I crossed paths with a dad, mom, and their son who were out trying to find one of the markers.  It was fun to watch the boy running around with total enthusiasm trying to find that marker.  I can see why kids would like this stuff, it is like a treasure hunting type of thing...

Sunday, January 6, 2013

I'm Back! Hello 2013...

I took a month off after the Quad.

So now I need to start getting ready for an already full racing schedule that includes:
  1. Lake Sonoma 50 miler.
  2. Miwok 100k
  3. Tahoe Rim Trail 100 miler.
This is going to be awesome!

So I start things off with a run from Arastradero park to Alpine Pond and back.  I wasn't sure that this run was such a great idea.  I just got back from a two day-1900 mile drive from Kansas the day before.  To add to that, at one of the rest-stops on the second day, while playing tag with the kids, I threw a juke on Hayley and totally did something to my neck.  This old man stuff sucks!  It made the rest of my drive that day miserable, and I was all messed up this morning.  But I think running is probably pretty good for a neck injury, here is my theory:

I believe the body tries to immobilize the neck once injury has occurred.  This is evidenced in the fact that if you hold the neck in a certain position long enough, any attempt to change that position results in a penalty-big pain.  This is the body trying to send a message to you that during rest, you need to keep the neck in one position to allow the body to do it's healing thing.  Running is not rest.  And it is a full body exercise.  If the runner is practicing good running posture, the head should be aligned with the spine, transferring all loads efficiently through the body to the ground, not allowing for off-center head forces that would result in pain due to the injury.  Also- your neck muscles are connected to all of the other muscles, and running is a workout that engages the whole body.  Therefore the neck muscles are being contracted, and this means that the neck is not at rest.  Blood is delivered to the injury, and the aforementioned pain is avoided.

Anyways, the run actually felt really good with respect to the neck injury.

Here are my pictures from the run:
Start of run at Arastradero
I think it is interesting to see the remnants of a tree at the top of a hill. 

I like the mossy trees.  I also like weeping willows, or old oaks.  Anything that seems just a little sad...

First Deer encounter.
I didn't do this.  I can appreciate the work though.  Tastefully done.

View, Descending into Foothills Valley
Visitors Center at Foothills Park.

Beautiful place to play football, or what is more commonly done by the Palo Alto residents: ultimate frisbee.

I was headed up into those clouds.

The Los Trancos trail is beautiful and fun, but it is way overgrown.  I have to run it jungle style, all hunched over and primal like.

You can kinda see the bay.

Madrones are cool.

I think I am finally in the clouds.

I you look closely at the middle, you can make out a shape.  This was my first coyote encounter.  There were a couple of them.  Too bad the clouds were in the way. 

Coyote tracks, and also size 13 NB 110s-strategically placed in the middle of the puddle, Seth would be proud.

More Deer.

Furry Tree.

Even more deer.

This is my families favorite stretch of trail, can't see much today.
Usually you can see the Ocean from here.

Even deer slip in the mud!  And they have quad traction.  Makes me feel better about my clumsy mud running.

Still more deer.

Alpine Pond.

The clouds are lifting a little.  Maybe...

Who's that ugly dude?
I was running down the Page Mill trail that connected with Foothills Park, and I heard an awful dog yelping sound.  At first I thought to myself that it was weird that someone had their dog up here, but the sound was so strange from what I have heard before.  Then I thought that maybe some scary dog like creature, with Toshi's face on the head would jump out of the bush and come after me.  I started looking around for the cornucopia so I could retrieve my weapon, but then a couple more coyotes came frolicking through the field.  False alarm.

I found a good trail to train for the Diamond Peak climb at TRT.  I believe they call this the "Charlie Brown" fire road.  Sadly, no sand- then it would be perfect.

Random Mushroom.  I like mushrooms.  I don't know if I can eat any of these, but I do like to take pictures of them, especially when they are all by themselves- it makes you wonder: why did it grow here?

I really realized how out of shape I am on this run.  I have a lot of work to do before I get back to racing.  But this sure is fun!

Here are some Video Clips: