Sunday, January 30, 2011

Muddy Day Run

So today we set out to run 12-ish miles in Nisene Marks. After the 35-mile bike ride I embarked on, basically alone, yesterday, the hill-intensive run seemed like a bad plan. However, with the opportunity to crank out the run with Rich, Scotty, Blair, Steve and the crew, the trails seemed less daunting.

Oh my gosh, it was fun! I love running in Nisene but rarely hit the trails. Typically I stick to the fireroad because I'm either running alone (safety) or want to do an exact distance. With a half-dozen "over 40" men to run with, no need to worry about off-the-grid pot growers, getting lost or how I would make it back should I break an ankle.

For anyone who knows the park, we ran West Ridge Trail from the fire road up and up and up to the turn to Hoffman's Home Site. Essentially, it's the half-marathon course backwards.

The trail was all kinds of muddy. Steep, too. We ran, they sang Beatles songs and it drizzled on us. All that uphill paid off with about a mile of extreme downhill. I'm not sure the guys enjoyed it, but I just rolled down making Indian whoops and stretching my arms out like a kid playing airplane. Soooo fun!

At the end of all this, we did have to grind out about three miles on the fire road, which was grueling and made me wish I had eaten breakfast.

We finished muddy and exhausted, but out-ran the downpour (it started just as we were loading up to head home or out to breakfast). And we got in a great 13-mile run, well on our way in our marathon training plan.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The Land of Peace and Tranquility

Running in the Land of the Medicine Buddha in Soquel is just serene: few people, a challenging trail that's all uphill at the beginning, all downhill at the end and plenty of room for Callie to romp.

The trails allegedly wend all the way up the hill to The Forest of Nisene Marks State Park, which could make an amazing point-to-point long run. But on this particular day, we only ran about 4.5 miles to a nice little lookout where the redwood trees gave way to orchards and green hills.

The property -- open to dogs, closed to bikes -- is part of the Tibetan Buddhist retreat tucked above Soquel.

The trails themselves are bark dust and redwood duff, under a canopy of trees with sporadic benches and small altars. If you drive up the road, there are more altars and a wishing temple (which was closed -- no wishes for us). All together, we saw six people and a standard poodle.

However, the highlight of the run, of course, is finishing. In the Land of the Medicine Buddha, the trailhead is marked with a gong, an ornate bell and many, many wind chimes. We rang and donged all of them!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Perfect Run

First, yes, I'm back at the run blogging. I didn't stop running, just gave this up for a long while. But no more. With the whole running group training for marathons together (Eugene, May 1) plus the new incentive at work where I get paid to exercise (no joke!), there's all kinds of fun running to share about.

So mid-morning, Christy dragged me out of the house to run at Waddell Creek. It's a decent drive up the coast to the trailhead. It's part of the Skyline to the Sea path that winds through several state parks in Santa Cruz and Santa Clara counties. In the past, I've only done this run as a 13-ish mile out-and-back to Berry Creek Falls, but today we ran shorter, about an hour.

It was gorgeous and muddy and sunny. The trail starts at the beach and heads up through some small farms. The fire road is all torn up this time of year from farm trucks, mountain bikers and the rain, so keeping my new shoes clean was not an option.

Lots of other people had Christy's same awesome idea and were out hiking the trail. Mostly couples, and none of them looked happy. (Probably because they weren't rocking out to the Dixie Chicks like I was!)

The first two miles or so just felt icky. I think it was because I took Coach Rod's advice to carb-load with beer last night. (We'll have to talk about that one later, Coach.) But once I got a little muddy, the run felt great.

There's a side trail that spurs from the fire road just after the ranger station and reconnects about 1.5 miles up the route. Taking the trail back seemed like nice way to mix things up, plus there'd been a lot of bikers and hikers to dodge and Christy claims the trail is less hilly on the return.

It's not. It's still really hilly.

You also have to be a little adventurous to get to the trail. There's a creek crossing that, when the water flow is low, is covered with a plank bridge. However, this time of year, the creek is up to a couple feet deep in some spots and the little bridge is leaned up a against a tree on the riverbank. Hikers were putting their boots back on when I jumped in and splashed across. (Cleaned the mud off my shoes that way.)

Christy, who was not running with me because she can run 11 miles in 32 minutes, or something really fast like that, did the same thing to the next group of hikers.

We finished the run with a romp in the ocean, my special "Dead Body Tour: North Coast Edition" and treats from Swanton Berry Farm. Sure, it took half the day to get in a 6.5-mile run, but it was totally worth. Callie is definitely jealous.

What are you searching for?

"So be prepared to quit. Do it willingly and with honest resolve. You'll be back. The marvelous thing about running is that you will never become jaded by it. Boredom, injury or anguish may overtake you from time to time, but the reward that first drew you to begin logging the miles remain untarnished and available -- always. Just put on your shoes and head out the door."