Sunday, March 31, 2013


As the pattern has been lately, I felt great after the Canyon Meadow Trail Marathon last Sunday.  But I didn't run on Monday, in large part because I took the shuttle down from Berkeley rather than riding two miles into work.  Hard to get a morning run in with that kind of commute.  And then Tuesday, still behind on sleep, I couldn't manage to get out of bed before 8:30.

Wednesday and Thursday I got a run in, and made them longer on purpose to try and make up for missing a pair of runs.  Meant I missed out on speed training this week.  Haven't done that for a solid three weeks now.  And then Friday, after staying out late on Thursday night....slept in again.  Ugh.  Five days, only two runs.  Not even close to staying on schedule.  On a positive note, those two runs were both pretty good runs.

Decided I'd run on both Saturday and Sunday and did about 13 miles each day.  I actually meant to do something more like 10 and 20, but the first one wound up being longer than expected, and the second I had to cut short since I kept getting lost on some trails, and I needed to make it back in time to go to an Easter get-together.

The longer one just didn't go well in general, but produced some nice views, and it was in the same area as next week's race, the Grizzly Peak Trail Marathon.  Maybe the experience will be worth something.

I might add that when you use your cell phone as your camera for things like trail running, biking, and backpacking, the lens gets smeared and dirty very easily, resulting in blurry photos in all conditions.  If some smartphone maker would actually start putting those little trapdoors over the lens like you see on every point-and-shoot, that alone might earn my loyalty.  Better battery life too.  Do that and you'd think the phone/GPS/music/camera device was built specifically for geeky outdoorsmen like me.

I started at Athan's place and ran through the UC-Berkeley campus and up a ridiculous hill towards Tilden Regional Park.  The first three miles of the run, all uphill.  Gets you right away.  At one point, my route had me cut across only about 20 meters of grass to get from a fire road into a parking lot, at which point I'd hop onto the paved road and keep going.  When I got to that point, there was a chain-link fence with barbed wire at the top.
"Oh man," I thought, "do I need to go down the hill again, then all the way around and come back up?  I really don't wanna have to do any part of that hill again..."  I stopped running and walked up to the fence.  The gate was unlocked.  I let myself in and kept running.

Now past the fence, I could tell I was in some kind of complex where I probably wasn't supposed to be.  I was holding my phone to use the GPS and find my way when I needed to, but something told me that if I was stopped, they'd be upset about the phone and accuse me of taking pictures.  When I reached the other side of the complex, there was a huge security gate, two levels to it.
"OK, clearly, I wasn't supposed to be here...."  I saw that there was a simple door for bike traffic and let myself out.

From there, my route took me to Lake Anza, and kept going farther into the wilderness on a mix of trails and fire roads.  I gotta say, the trails in that area are beautiful, scenic, and nice for running, but that's supposing you know what you're doing.  There are also a lot of un-maintained trails going every which way, and the correct trails are rarely marked.  It's very easy to get lost and frustrated.  On top of that, it had been raining that weekend, which meant you couldn't go full-speed on the trails, and had to slow down and walk some of the trickier parts.  I still haven't had a serious fall since I started trail running, and I'd like to keep it that way.

I made my way to a spot called Inspiration Point, where there was a small, completely full parking lot and a lot of people taking pictures.  One group was speaking French.  I wondered if they were French or Canadian.  I saw some people going off to the side of the lot, down a small trail, to take pictures from another spot.  You had to let yourself through an unlocked gate to get there.  As it would turn out, that was where my route headed anyway.  I kept running past the photographers and headed down towards a reservoir on a fire road that had been completely over-run by grass.  Looking around, there was a barbed-wire fence on either side, and past that, plenty of cattle.  After less than half a mile, the wire stopped, and yet, there were still cattle. Unfenced.  Either I was running through someone's private land, or the open range exists only about five miles from Oakland, CA.  The cattle, standing right in the middle of the road, would look at me like I was from another planet, then hurry away.  I was worried an angry bull might show up behind me and defend his herd.  Luckily, that didn't happen.

At the bottom of the hill, right near San Pablo Reservoir, I came to the end of the fire road.  There was a six-foot high gate with a prominent "NO TRESPASSING" sign, complete with details on the legal procedure you would go through if you got caught.  Why do I keep finding the more obvious sign on the other side?  I climbed over the gate and kept running.  It started raining.

From there on out, I actually had to climb back over the ridge that I'd earned in the first three miles.  It wasn't exactly easier the second time around.  I was trying to hurry back to make it to that Easter get-together, so I cut the route a little short and mostly stuck to roads from there, not trails.  Coming back down on Berkeley on the other side of the hill, I probably could've finished the run a little quicker, only the roads were now slick.  I couldn't even take full advantage of the downhills I'd earned and instead had to tap the brakes and head down gingerly.

Even though the run didn't go as well as I'd hoped, any training is better than none.  And it's good to run on days when things don't go right.  If you only work in ideal conditions or when it's convenient, you'll only been any good in ideal conditions or when it's convenient, and you'll never get enough practice to become great.

I've been eating less-than-healthy lately, mostly due to Easter festivities.  But it's pretty hard to turn down a rack of lamb and Athan's montrous dessert creation, a cookie-cake-brownie-pie known as the Diabeta-bomb.  Not good as a habit, but something to try once before you die.

Only a week before the Grizzly Peak Trail Marathon.  After last week, I'd love to get a lot of running in, but it'd be best to not go too hard the week of a race.  Ahh, such a paradox.