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Weekend of Trails

What a weekend…

We got it started with a drive up to LA on Friday to work the timing for the Griffith Park Trail Half Marathon Saturday morning. It’s only the second time I’ve ever actually gone in to LA and what an awesome venue for the event. In case you don’t know, Griffith Park is the location of the Hollywood sign and is an impressive park in the middle of LA. It has a great system of trails and the observatory gives impressive views of the city. We got lucky with the weather and Keira Henninger did an amazing job putting on a top flight race which everyone was raving about. Wish I could have been running but I still had a good time despite some problems with the timing system when we got started.

After the race Carrie and I got on the road back to SD and it wasn’t our best road trip. I picked up a rough case of poison oak on Thursday in Tecolote (yes…AGAIN) and it really flared up Saturday morning. Adding to that, Carrie wasn’t feeling well and we had brutal rains. Fortunately, I have an amazing wife and she stepped up and drove us home while I forced myself to sleep under the influence of Benadryl in an effort to avoid the insane itching.

Saturday night sucked and I was up til 3am because the itching wouldn’t stop and I couldn’t get to sleep. I woke up on Sunday after about 2hrs of sleep and decided I would head out to Mission Trails with all the best intentions of completing my scheduled 13 mile run. Unfortunately, good intentions can only carry you so far when you are exhausted, dehydrated, and lacking proper nutrition in your system. And how far is that? Apparently it’s 6.5 miles of hiking and “running”. I knew from the first mile that it wasn’t going to be a good day on the trails so I decided to get what I could out of it and try to enjoy it. I hit my goal of making the summit of both Fortunas and I was able to snap a couple pictures since I wasn’t breaking any speed records out there.

View of downtown, Point Loma, and the Pacific from 16 miles inland

Then there was Monday….and Monday more than made up for Sunday. Yesterday was about as good a day as someone could ask for. It started with a trip to the pool for a solid workout of drills and intervals. Carrie is starting to up the distance of my swims and it’s feeling good. After the swim, I went home to refuel with a delicious breakfast before heading out to Lake Hodges to meet Toby for a mtb ride. We ended up hitting a new-to-me trail (always a favorite) along with Raptor Ridge and rode all around Lake Hodges. We covered a bunch of ground and ended up getting in over 25 miles of incredible variety. We hit single track, fire road, hills, fast flats, downhills, and even a bit of paved road for what is probably the best ride I’ve done so far on the mtb. Every time I get in the saddle I’m feeling more comfortable and confident. I’ve still got plenty to learn but progress is being made! We capped off the ride with some great brews and ridiculous burgers at Urge Gastropub. Between the ride and Urge, I need to start spending more time in that area!

What a perfect day….

Top of Raptor Ridge

Defending his turf with everything he's got!

Lake Hodges


Otay Lakes Run on 11/6/11

My training is continuing to go well and I have to credit Carrie for putting together a well balanced training plan that has me feeling stronger every week and is keeping me healthy.

This weekend I went south and east to explore the trails around Otay Lakes in Chula Vista. This is where we’ll be holding the Wild Horse 1/2 Marathon in January and I wanted to check out some alternative trails in case the lake is too high and we need to deviate from the current plan. Also, I really just wanted to see some more of what is down there. The trails around the are some great single track that are a blast to run but what I was interested in were the mountains that surround the lake. When you fly in to San Diego you start the descent just east of this area and every time I fly over it I see the trails snaking their way through the mountains and wish i was on them. Well I finally got to experience just a taste of what the area has to offer. And I can’t wait to get back out there to check out more of it!

I started with a nice flat run around the lower lake headed up around the north lake then followed the trail up and over the peak of one of the closer ridge lines. The trail was barely runnable in some sections and it was all I could do to manage a fast paced hike in other areas but I loved it! I will defintiely be heading back out there to get in more hill training in the future.

The Route

A nice little climb

Click any of these pics to enlarge and check out some of the awesome views from the run…and the pic of me.

What does success mean to me?

My youngest brother is in his freshman year of college and on Sunday asked if he could interview me for a class project. In typical Kyle fashion, I wasn’t given any other details but of course I said yes. He sent over the questions and on Carrie’s suggestion, I’ve decided to post my responses below.

I later found out he was asked to interview a role model…I hope my answers are worthy of that title. I also hope he stops emulating my school work tactics so much and waiting until Sunday to start a project that’s due on Monday!

1. What does success mean to you?
Athletics are a very important part of my life so that is going to be where I approach the answers to these questions. Sports have taught me more about myself and developed my approach to life in more ways than I could have ever imagined.

Something I’ve learned over the past few years is that there are many measures of success. However, only one is important, that’s the success that’s found from reaching your own personal goals. External influences can drive you to be successful, but in reality this will make you to try to be the best that other people think you can be or want you to be.

Success means that I set a goal that I want to reach, no matter how unattainable some people might think it is, and I strive to achieve it. I put everything I have in to making that goal a reality and I will become successful. Even if I don’t achieve the planned outcome, I will have learned something about myself in the process that will change the way I chase down that goal or other goals in the future.

Pushing myself out of my comfort zone to find new limits of what I am and who I can be, that is success.

2. What does hard work mean to you?
Hard work is doing what has to be done to be successful. Endurance sports have taught me a lot about life and hard work is one of those things. No matter how much I love running, biking, and swimming for hours at a time, there are times when I just don’t want to do it. The bed is much warmer than the cold pool deck. My legs are sore from last night’s gym session and the miles on the trails just sound painful. I have no desire to get all my gear together and get out the door for a bike ride.

Then I stop and look at the big picture. What goals do I want to achieve? What’s it going to take to get there? The hard work is doing the little things that need to be done to reach my goals. It won’t always be fun and sometimes, it’s just going to suck, but I do it anyway, because that’s what it takes!

3. What achievements make you most proud?
As important as it is to be internally motivated, the achievements that make me most proud aren’t the ones that show how good I can be at something or show me what new levels I’ve accomplished. While that is a part of it, the achievements I am most proud of are the ones that I can look at and know that I’ve done the best that I could to demonstrate the incredible influence on my life that my wife has had; knowing that my family can be proud of what I have done and that I have opened their eyes and minds to new possibilities in myself and their own lives; and knowing that something I have done may motivate someone else, even someone I have never met to push their own limits and challenge themselves to try new things.

4. What are your work values?
Honestly, I wish I had better work values from a traditional standpoint. I truly despise work, especially when it’s something I’m not passionate about. I hate the thought of getting up every day and doing the same thing over and over again simply because I have to pay the bills or support a family. To me, there is nothing more terrifying than being stuck in a position where I have no choice but to continue showing up to a job every day because I can’t afford not to.

I know I was raised in a working class family and taught to work hard so that I could retire and enjoy my old age, but unfortunately, I see a major flaw in that. Why would I want to enjoy myself when I’m too old to take advantage of it? Why should I work myself to the bone during the prime of my life only to be able to relax when I have no other choice but to sit around and relax?

My work values from a job standpoint rely on one simple thing; do enough to support the things I truly love. When you find the things that you truly love, work like crazy to be the best you can be at them and enjoy them to the fullest! If you can make those two things; your job and your passion, the same, then you have found a place in your life that can make you happy for a very long time!

Recovering and Moving on

After last Monday’s crash I was a little worried because on Tuesday I could barely walk my hip hurt so bad. The good news is that even though it’s got a disgusting looking bruise (purple, black and yellow while being a solid lump that you can move around) the soreness and pain has mostly subsided. It’s still really tender to touch so bumping it or laying on it is uncomfortable.

In an attempt to let it heal as quickly as possible, I skipped 2 of my 3 runs this week but was still able to get in both swims, both rides, and both strength sessions so overall I’m still pretty happy with the week. Especially since it ended with 14.5 miles on the trails yesterday with Carrie. We kept an easy pace and I felt strong throughout the entire run. I wish I could say the same about Carrie, an old IT issue flared up and caused for a painful last 2 miles. I’m keeping my fingers crossed because we’ve got big plans, but more about that later this week.

In all, I’ve been feeling stronger, healthier, and in better shape than I have since I was training for Silverman in ’09. All my workouts are going well, Carrie is pushing me in the pool and gym, and my runs, while not fast, are at a pace I want them to be at while still feeling strong. As long as I can keep my wheels under me when I’m on the mountain bike, I’m becoming optimistic for what’s ahead!

Only 800 miles, let's get started!

Map and Elevation for Sunday's Run w/ Carrie

Pullharder Run and Mountain Bike Crash

This weekend was the 2nd Annual Pullharder Marathon, a fun, low-key get together with a bunch of friends to enjoy some trail running. For the second year, I ran the 10 mile option and had a blast. I ran with Toby and Ben (who was running the full 26.2 yet still paced with us the first 10, he’s gotten crazy strong!) and it was great to be able to catch up with these guys.

The run itself went really well and I pushed a much quicker pace than my normal training runs. By the end we averaged just under 8 min miles, with mid-7s on the easier out section of the course, and I felt really good and strong the entire time. My training seems to be coming along really well and As long as I can stay healthy I think I have a legitimate shot at taking on and completing my first 50 miler.

Course Map and Elevation Profile

Now, back to that staying healthy part of the equation. Yesterday, I went out to MTRP for a mtb ride and was once again reminded of how awesome this park is. We’re incredibly lucky to have a park with this many miles of trails so centrally located in San Diego County. There are hours and hours worth of fire road, single track, brutal climbs, fast descents, wild animals and beautiful scenery. I’ve spent a lot of time on these trails but there are still more for me to explore and I love being able to do that now via foot and on the bike. It gives me the chance to explore more frequently without the risk of increasing my running miles too quickly.

However, it does increase the risk of my accident prone ways to take over and inflict potential damage to my training schedule. After some great riding I was coming back down the trails and carrying pretty good speed. I got too much in to enjoying the ride and must have lost concentration for a split second. As I rounded a turn and started to accelerate out of it the sun blinded me and I didn’t see a rock in the trail. My pedal came down at just the right moment and caused it to jam in to the rock. It was basically like the front of my bike slammed in to a wall and all my momentum carried me up and over. Yep, my first front flip while carrying the bike with me. I came down pretty hard on my back but the worst of it was my right hip/glute that slammed down on a rock and my right lower calf has a nice line of imprints from the chainring.  It’s not something that should cause long term damage but as of this morning pretty much any position other than laying on my left side hurts. Hopefully I’ll be able to still get in some runs this week and most of my workouts.

And what does a sudden stop look like on the speed chart?

I’m assuming the sharp drop in speed from 16.5 to 2 then back up to 12 before coming to 0 was a result of slamming to a stop and then the sudden increase in speed of flipping forward.

I’d post a pic of the bruise on my arse but I don’t want to sexy up this blog too much. Anyway, here’s to hoping I’m not out for more than a day or two.

Tips for Post-Rain Trail Runs

I know I promised a recap from the Vegas portion of our trip but honestly I’ve been too busy and by this point it’s been too long and there isn’t much point. So I’m gonna recap it bullet point style because I’m a huge dork and I like bullet points:

  • Thanks to an incredibly generous person, Carrie and I stayed in a gorgeous condo in the Mandarin Oriental right on the strip. This place is so far out of my league it was insane. The best part was the look on the doorman’s face when we strolled up with our huge hiking packs and filthy dirty.
  • We had pretty much the perfect combination of relaxing, checking out the sites, and hanging out at some of the bars.
  • We saw three exhibits and I would highly recommend you check them out when you go to Vegas
    • The Bodies Exhibit: Amazing. It was unreal being able to see the inner most working of the human body and i was made even better because I had Carrie there to answer all of my questions.
    • Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden and Dolphin Habitat: What’s that? Big cats and dolphins? Two of my favorite things in the world? Ummm…yes please! We stayed here for a while doing nothing but watching the beautiful tigers and baby dolphins. The highlight was definitely the tiger that was seriously over-protective of the giant ball.
    • Shark Reef at Mandalay Bay: It’s billed as the largest predator based aquarium and had some gorgeous animals. The sharks were awe inspiring and the jelly fish tank looked amazing.
  • We went to Interbike for a few hours the one day; my head almost exploded. I got to see a few of the vendors I work with at SDRI but the overwhelming amount of displays and the disorganization of the set up was too much so we didn’t stay too long. What we did see was impressive though, so many cool toys!
  • Got to see a good friend and celebrate her birthday while we were there.
  • If you want to check out some pictures, especially of the three exhibits you can see them here: http://adventuresofcarrieandpaul.shutterfly.com/pictures/79
OK, now on to the main reason for this post, this morning I had a great run in Tecolote Canyons and with the rains yesterday I decided to do a “Tips” blog over on the SDRI.net site and thought I’d share it here too. Check out the blog post here and let me know if there is anything you think should be added or things that have or haven’t worked for you in the past.

Birthday Week Recap pt 1 – Catalina Island

I know it’s already Thursday and we got back to town on Sunday afternoon but I can only work with the time I’m given so this post is coming later than I would like. Sorry about the delay but hopefully it will be worth it. I’m going to warn you ahead of time this might get lengthy so grab a beer and I’ll try to keep from using the words awesome, great, incredible, and unbelievable to often but no promises. Also, I’m gonna do a separate post for the Catalina portion of the trip and the Vegas portion.

Carrie and I both turned 30 last week so we decided this was the perfect excuse to take a much needed and long overdue break from work and life in general. We made a plan to hike and camp on Catalina Island from Saturday to Wednesday then head to Vegas from Wednesday to Sunday. 10 days away from San Diego and with no one else but ourselves. This was going to be the longest we had ever spent consecutively in each other’s exclusive company. Time to find out if she made a big mistake back in April!

We got on the road early Saturday morning to drive up to San Pedro. There are closer Ferry Landings to SD for the trip to Catalina but we were going in to Two Harbors, not Avalon so we had to make the longer drive. Fortunately, Carrie is ok with long drives because with my habit of getting very tired when driving, she doesn’t have much choice. Got there, checked in and watched as a downpour dumped on the area. I was a little concerned about what this would do to the trip but in less than a few minutes it had passed and we ended up with a really nice ride out to the island. We saw about 5 to 6 massive pods of dolphins playing along side the boat and in the wake so that helped the ride go by pretty quick.

Lighthouse on the way out of San Pedro

Once we got to Two Harbors we grabbed breakfast from “The Best Restaurant in Town.” It’s also the ONLY restaurant in town. Who says island folk don’t have a sense of humor? The food was actually pretty good so we scarfed it down before getting our camping/hiking pass and then setting off for Little Harbor.

I would first like to say that I had no idea what I was getting in to when we decided to do this. It was our first time backpacking/camping where we were carrying everything (minus water) that we would need while we were on the island. I had never gone out with a 40# pack before and the island was much hillier that I thought it was going to be. Not to mention the lady at the desk said the hike was 7 miles. Based on the map and

this sign that was right at the trail head I was expecting 5-5.5. This combination made the long steep climb out of Two Harbors pretty rough. Once we got to the top, it was all worth it…

Carrie climbing out of Two Harbors

We made it!

All smiles at the top

Fortunately, the rest of the trip out to Little Harbor didn’t have any climbs that were as long and steep but there were plenty of ups and downs along beautifully scenic terrain. The trail was a mix of double track and single track that followed a ridge line with the ocean to our right and the island to our left. It was everything I love about being outside and on trails. Every time I see a mountain range I daydream about running along the ridge line following the contours of the mountains as I look out to the horizon in each direction. Something about traveling along the precipice of the series of peaks and dips of a mountain range provides me with endless joy and I couldn’t have picked a better way for this hike to take us to our campsite.

Carrie doin work

After about 2 hours of hiking and this crazy descent…

Pretty sure that's Carrie and not an ant

Carefully descending

…it was time for a break. We probably waited too long to rest but we both have a bad tendency to not want to stop moving when we are making progress and I know I was enjoying the trail and scenery so much I wanted to see what was next.

Taking a load off

One of Many Amazing Views

Once we stopped I realized how much work we had done and we quickly started putting in some calories, drinking water and enjoying the view over the ocean. One of the best parts of this trip was that when we were out on the trails we didn’t see a single person unless we were less than a 1/2 mile from camp. It made for a truly surreal experience of overwhelming calm and quiet. The peacefulness of the hike is something that will stay with me and something I hope to reacquaint myself with on a more regular basis.

At this point we were probably just over 4 miles in to the hike and we still weren’t sure whether we were going another 1-1.5 or 3 more miles so after we felt like we’d taken enough of a break we were back on the trails. Once moving again I noticed that I was feeling better after the break but I was also very aware of how much we had already done. I was silently praying the lady at the check in was wrong about the distance because going another 3 miles wasn’t sounding all that appealing at the time.

It was my lucky day and the trail immediately took on a descending nature, my favorite kind. As we were working our way downhill we noticed a camp that seemed way too close so while I was telling myself it was the right one, Carrie kept reassuring me that Little Harbor was AFTER this camp. (She’s a big fan of making sure it’s the right place before getting her hopes up and then realizing you have 2 more miles to go.) As we got closer the layout looked a lot like the overhead map for the site and I got more excited. Sure enough, in less than 1.5 miles we were entering camp and looking at this:

Little Harbor

Our campsite was nearly perfect. It was up above the majority of sites so we were set apart from most of the people that were there (there weren’t many to begin with). We shared a large area with 4 other sites but only two were occupied on our first night there. Even with a few people around we were still able to enjoy some quiet. The only problem was out site seemed to be the only one without a single flat spot to set up the tent.

Overall, we covered just under 5.5 miles and 1800 ft of elevation gain.

The climb out of Two Harbors Was not easy!

It felt incredible to take off the packs and we made quick work of the tent set up. Once everything was in it’s place we headed down to the water to soak our feet and take some time to completely relax. And relax would be a reoccurring theme for the next week of this trip.

The Majority of the Weight in my Pack

Shark Harbor just next to Little Harbor

Before anyone asks, there are no bears on Catalina. I brought the bear canister after numerous warnings of wild boar that have a nasty habit of tearing through just about anything to get to your food. I wasn’t about to let anything get to my food. Much to my dismay we didn’t get to see any of the “wild piggies” while we were there. Surprisingly, calling out “Here wild piggies!” does NOT work.

After a little while of that we headed back up to the tent site to make dinner. The first night was Asian noodles with tuna and it was surprisingly good. Carrie added an Agave #9 gel for dessert and I was more than jealous that I didn’t think to bring some.

Our breakfast while we were there was oats with some nuts and raisins mixed in and it served as a great source of fuel before our hikes.

Carrie was sure to bring some Starbucks Via for her coffee fix

Day two was a day to explore the area around the campsite and some more of the Trans Catalina Trail. Our biggest goal of the day was to see a buffalo. Catalina is famous for the buffalo (bison) that roam the island. They were brought there by movie producers in the 1920s and then were left after the filming wrapped up. This became a mission because Carrie ran a marathon on the island and didn’t get to see a single buffalo, however everyone we talk to that has raced or been on the island has seen one. Needless to say, Carrie isn’t happy about that and wanted to see one for herself.

After a two mile trek around the coastline we headed east across the island on the TCT following endless buffalo and wild boar tracks. Again there was a long uphill to leave the campground which was considerably easier with our Ultimate Direction packs vs. our Osprey backpacking packs. We made it to a peak that overlooked the ocean to the east and could see California. Just over the next ridge was Catalina’s “airport in the sky.” We sat and enjoyed some snacks and more wonderful peace and quiet.  All told, we tallied another 8 miles, 1900 ft of climbing and not a single buffalo sighting. I’m starting to think that these massive beasts are skillful masters of deception.

Day 2 Hike

Day 2 Topo

Dinner that night was couscous and chicken. Not bad but the couscous didn’t cook long enough. The night before we found a great stone bench overlooking the harbor so we headed over to our new favorite spot for dinner and a gorgeous sunset.

Trailhead right by our campsite at sunset

Everyday should end just like this

The next morning was going to be the big day. The goal was to hike from Little Harbor, back to Two Harbors, then out to Parsons Landing. It would have been about a 12-13 mile day and the section from Two Harbors to Parsons is rated as a tougher section that what we had already done. As you can tell I’m talking like this isn’t what ended up happening, and you are right. As we started to descend the long climb back in to Two Harbors Carrie started to not feel well. I knew from the look on her face earlier on that something was wrong but this was the first time she said anything. For her to say something, I knew it wasn’t good. We slowly made our way down the hill and I was quietly thinking about how tired I was and the fact that we were heading back to the place where the ferry is to go back and how it wouldn’t be the worst thing in the world if this was the end of our Catalina trip.

Finally! All downhill to Two Harbors!

After we covered the 5.5 miles back to Two Harbors and the 1875 ft of climbing we sat down for brunch and realized we were pretty beat. We looked at the map to Parsons and at the mountain that was looming over us with the TCT going straight up the face of it. After some hemming and hawing we both finally said out loud what the other was thinking. This has been an awesome trip with three fantastic days of hiking and camping. We could either force ourselves up and over the mountain to Parsons Landing and be exhausted and potentially sick for the rest of the trip, or we could get on the ferry and head to Vegas for two extra days of complete and total relaxation.

A lot of the time I would have said no, we’re doing the rest of the trip like we had planned and I want to push through this and do the hike. But this time, no way. This was a vacation that I had full intentions of enjoying. Carrie and I haven’t been able to spend much time together let alone without the stresses of work for this long since we’ve been married. The decision was a no brainer. It was made even easier when they gave us full refunds for the campsite and a free ticket transfer for the ferry. When Carrie questioned the full refund the response was, “We want you to be happy and come back and see us.” Well Catalina, don’t worry about that, we’ll be back…and soon!

We finished out lunch and sat around while we double and triple checked with each other that we were OK with leaving early, we both were and it was definitely the right decision. As the ferry headed out of the harbor everyone was looking around for dolphins, whale spouts and at the view of the island from the water when Carrie heard someone say “Buffalo.” She jumped up and I thought she was gonna tackle the guy asking “Where?!” Sure enough, on the hillside was a huge buffalo just chilling in the sun and enjoying the breeze off the water. I’m convinced he came out to say goodbye to Carrie. The ride back was made even better with more dolphins and two pods of whales. They were too far off to see but the spouts that shot up were huge. It was my first time seeing whale spouts and it was really cool knowing these huge animals were out there.

Being our first real excursion in to the backpacking/hiking world I was happy with the way things went but we definitely learned a few things. I would say the biggest thing we learned from this trip was food related. It was our first time having to take food with us in our packs so we needed to take meals that wouldn’t spoil and would be easy to make on the burner stove. The oats were a great breakfast but we definitely put too much in each bag and not enough dried fruit. As for the dinners, the rice noodles were money so I will definitely be doing that again. The under-cooked couscous wreaked havoc on our stomachs for the next couple days so I would avoid that in the future. Just takes too long to cook and not worth the trouble of eating if it’s under-cooked. The packaged tuna and chicken were surprisingly good and a great way to get protein in the meals.

The other major point of emphasis coming away from the trip is planning. We were lucky we had the out at Two Harbors. Next time we need to do a better job of knowing what we are getting in to. The exact distances, profiles, etc. It’ll help now that we have one trip with the packs under our belts and know what it’s like to carry the added weight, but we still need to be better prepared for the actual hike itself. As for gear we were perfectly prepared and I was happy we were able to avoid bringing any extra, unnecessary stuff. The one thing I need to invest in are some good pants that I can take in case of rain.

If you want to see any more pictures, here’s a link to all the shots I took on the trip: http://adventuresofcarrieandpaul.shutterfly.com/pictures/8

I’ll hopefully get “part 2- Vegas” up tomorrow or this weekend. Until then, I can’t recommend highly enough a visit to Catalina. Especially after summer is over and most of the people are gone. What an amazing/incredible/beautiful/unbelievable (did I get them all?) trip!