August 31, 2008

Back in the Saddle -- On Saddleback Mountain

Today marked the first day since the Western States debacle I’ve really felt like I’m back in the saddle. Maybe it was because we ran Saddleback Mountain. I was joined by Kevin S, Rob M, and Jeff D on some of my favorite trails on the mountain, including Holy Jim, Main Divide and Trabuco canyon. Much of the Saddleback Marathon is run on these trails.

We started at 7 am. Things livened up right away as we began climbing the ever relentless Holy Jim trial, a 2,200 feet climb over four and half miles. Holy Jim throws a dozen switch backs at you that march straight up the mountain, ending at Bear Springs along Main divide Road. Jeff D turned around close to the top of Holy Jim to finish early enough to write a warm message on the dust of my car. Thanks Jeff, very sweet of you.

Kevin and Jeff -- Holy Jim

From there we ran south for eight miles along the Main Divide road, which serves as the boarder of Orange and Riverside counties. The views along this road never cease to inspire me, and today was not a disappointment despite the hazy smog that hung in the sky. Mt. Baldy, Mt. Gorgonio and Corona on the left; the Pacific Ocean and Orange County on the right.

Me and Kevin -- Main Divide

We then reached Trabuco trail and began the long windy descent down one of the more rock strewn trails on the mountain. Today Trabuco claimed one victim, that being Rob M who slammed his toe into what appeared to be a sword like stone. Stoically he walked, then ran through the searing pain, not to be concerned about the Angeles Crest 100 miler, his next run starting in two weeks. Total trip: 18.3 miles with extra mile back to check on guys at end.

August 20, 2008

Sugarloaf Mountain Redux

Ever since hiking to the foot of Sugarloaf Mt. last June during my Western States taper, I’ve been angling to “run” all the way to the summit of this rounded peak. Indeed, getting so close but not making it to the top last time left me with a lingering motivation.

I started my trek around 8 a.m. The air was a cool and crisp, and the sun was shining brightly on the horizon. I carried two water bottles and no food, thinking the round trip would take two hours or less. Of course, as it turns out, that was “flatlander” thinking. And flatlander thinking doesn’t account for the little things peculiar to running in the mountains. Things like when you run at altitude, say between 9,000 and 10,000 feet, you go a little slower. Or, when you have to deal with 4,000 feet of elevation change over nine miles, or make your way up steep grades that bring you to all fours, things can take a little longer. Ok, I’m still learning.

Trail Marker -- San Gorgonio Background

I ran along the ridge that connects Sugarloaf to the Bear Mountain Ski area. The view is quite stunning along this ridge, and I found myself stopping several times to simply gaze at what lay before me. To my right, Mt. San Gorgonio, Southern California’s highest peak at 11,499 feet. To my left, Baldwin and Big Bear Lake, nestled under an eastern horizon that reached a distance far beyond what my eyes have ever seen. Quirky mountain peaks jutted, randomly, from the desert floor that unfolded all the way to Arizona. Joshua Tree, Twenty Nine Palms, Palm Springs lay below me, unnoticeable amidst a painted landscape.

(Click on picture below for full view)

As I approached the end of the ridge, past the location where I turned back last time, I glanced up to see the peak. Tall pine trees covered every square foot of the mountain. But I couldn’t see the peak, only a rounded, seemingly endless forest of Pine trees. I glanced at my watch. Should I turn around? I was already over an hour and a half into this quest, and I hadn’t even started the steepest section. I pressed forward thinking that if I didn’t make it this time, when would I?

Sugarloaf Mt. Elavation 9,952'

Despite a lack of food and limited water, things were going well. The single track trial I'd been following was narrow yet visable, at least most of the way. But just as I was ready to attempt the steepest section, the narrow trail that led me this far had vanished. Gone, just like that! Ok, I was in a hurry to get up the mountain and I didn't really look for it. Instead I decided to keep going straight up the side of the peak, leaving markers behind me to help find my way back.

Disappearing Trail (2E18)

Finally, after crawling over giant, fallen tree trunks, loose rock fields, the steep grade began to flatten. I had reached the top! I walked toward the monument that marked the peak, stopped for a few photos and signed the registry.

Then I stood in the silence. And a light wind blew from the south.

August 3, 2008

A Small Space

This morning my oldest daughter left for summer camp. Gone for two weeks, she confessed she might miss her family "a little bit". But as she boarded the bus, I noticed the tears as we waved goodbye. It was then I knew, as Washington Irving once said, that there is a 'sacredness' in tears. And tears are not the mark of weakness, but of power.

Last week she completed her first year of Junior Lifeguards, a program for kids that mixes ocean safety and a little run/swim competition. On her last day she competed in the vaunted Monster Mile Race. Here kids must run a mile on the sand and then swim a mile in the Pacific Ocean.

Friends on first day of Junior Lifeguards
I don't think I've ever swam a mile in my life, let alone in the ocean, and certainly didn't at nine years old. It’s a big event for the kids, and many dress up in costumes for pre-race reverie. As race day approached I knew she and her friends were getting anxious.

Waiting to Start the Monster Mile

When the whistle blew, she kept with her plan and stayed in the middle of the pack. But as she neared the finish of the run portion of race, she found herself, surprisingly, in the first group. Right next to the faster runners! Since swimming is her strength, she told me later that as she approached the swim leg of the race, she thought she had a shot at a strong finish. Clutching her swim fins she hurried toward the beckoning sea. Then, like fires that rise from dry forests, the waves rose from the darkened sea. Pushed by winds blowing thousands of miles away, the surf had grown so high that the lifeguards wouldn't let the kids in her age group enter the water.

As she stood seaside waiting for the waves to subside, my daughter listened to the instructor explain to her that they would have to cancel the rest of the race. It was just too dangerous with the big waves. It couldn't be, she thought. So much work. So much anticipation. At that moment a tear emerged from her eye. As it rolled down her cheek, she knew she had done her best to prepare for this great race. And as that tear fell from her cheek, it traveled through a small space. A space where dreams grow from hard work, but occasionally give way to greater forces. A space where you can hold the cup of success in your hands, but you just can't drink from it.
Just then, she looked down and she saw her tear, falling. As it touched the ground she felt its power, and then she understood what it meant to be there.

Welcome to this small space, little one. It's not so bad there. I love you.

August 2, 2008

Internet Explorer Cannot Open the Internet Site

To my fellow bloggers who've been scratching their heads because they can't open their blogs or blogs of fellow bloggers, Sitemeter is the culprit.

If you're own blog is affected, simply remove Sitemeter from your blog until Sitemeter gets this worked out. To browse other blogs that havn't figured it out yet, simply add sitemeter to your restricted sites under tools/internet options/security.