Chaz (front) and Kevin in the early stages (mile 5 or so) of Saturday's run in El Moro/Aliso and Wood Canyons.
Like most runners I know, heat annoys. It sears the skin and saps the soul, and the salt stains it creates on my clothes and face -- well, I just love seeing the horrified looks on the south Orange County Starbucks crowd as I go in for my ritualisic post-run tonic, a venti Americano. The women practically jump out of their Uggs and the men look confused, not knowing whether they should ask me to wax their luxury SUVs or call the cops.
Still, heat is great for training, so Saturday proved to be a good day as I continue to ramp up my running for the San Diego 100.
Martin, Charlie, Ryan, Kevin and I met at 6 a.m. at the Newport Coast entrance to El Moro for a planned 19-mile run. That's not a ton of miles, but with lots of hearty uphills and temperatures that would shoot into the 90s in the nearly five hours I was out on the trails, those miles (19) really add up to more, as far as conditioning goes.
Wow, I thought as we started our run: What a lot of talented dudes I get to run with.
Indeed, Chaz will be running the SD 100, too, and is one tough hombre: he's a solid, strong veteran of several difficult races who never lets excrutiating pain stop him. By comparison, I'm Hannah Montana on a bad shopping day at Claire's.
Kevin is scary talented, a true marvel to watch as he jack-rabbits up hills that reduce my legs to warmed-over oatmeal. He is gunning for a good finish at the PCT50 in San Diego in a couple of weeks, and I predict great things. Kevin Nasman is his name, listening to Steven King novels on his iPod while running is his game. See, I told you he's scary talented.
Ryan, who will be pacing me from miles 50 to 75 in San Diego, is relatively new to the SoCal TrailHeadz and like Kevin is super fast and very strong on hills. He hasn't done (relatively) long miles yet, having recently got in his first 20-miler with me and some others on a run last week, but there's no doubt he will be tearing up some ultras soon, should he decide to go that route. Ryan and Kevin are doing some regularly scheduled nasty speed work in El Moro that I hope to join soon, job sked permitting. I need to break myself down more in order to get stronger.
Martin, like Ryan, hasn't run a lot of ultras, but he's a stud. The man with the James Bondian vibe came in sixth at the recent Old Goats 50k, passing me on the dreaded West Horsethief Trail and never looking back. The jerk. It's one thing to be fast, but it's not fair to also be such a hit with the ladies, and to have 5 percent body fat and a cool accent, to boot. Is there no justice in the world? Nope. Consider this: Bush is still president.
The five of us started down the Bommer Ridge trail, mostly smooth fireroad, then took a fun, technical detour that Ryan, a born explorer, discovered for us and has dubbed Snakestep, a 1.5-mile, highly technical trail over large boulders and past a habitable cave. We looked, but Bin Laden wasn't there.
We then hit a cool El Moro single-track section through Willow Canyon (via Cougar Ambush ) before we reached the Laguna Wilderness parking lot off of Laguna Canyon Road.
Then, the real work began.
We crossed Laguna Canyon Road and negotiated the short way to Stair Step, a 0.7-mile severe uphill that leads onto the west ridge of Aliso and Wood Canyon. I trotted up most of Stair Step, walking in parts, behind Kevin (of course) and Ryan. Stair Step is steep enough to really work you but short enough to prevent you from quitting ultrarunning forever and taking up a job waxing SUVs owned by balding males with beer guts.
Kevin shoots video of Charlie conquering Stair Step.
Anyway, we then ran up to Top of the World, taking a few single-tracks that roughly parallel the wide, mostly smooth fireroad along West Ridge. We saw a dog (a vizsla, one of my faves) wearing sunglasses, a ghastly pool of blood off of a curb that had attracted the attention of three police squad cars (party from the night before?), refilled our water bottles, then headed down another new trail for me, a too-steep downhill (I have a thing with steep downhills) that dumped us onto the charming residential street of Canyon Acres Road.
We ran the short distance down Canyon Acres and crossed Laguna Canyon Road again and headed toward the ocean. Soon we caught the Big Bowl trail right next to the grounds of the Pageant of the Masters. This was a new trail for me, a steep grind that took us back into the network of trails within El Moro. We made our way back to the Bommer Ridge trail and were back at our cars at mile 14.5 or so.
We already had gotten in a good workout, and it was hot. But Kevin and I wanted to get in more miles. Another SoCal Trail Headz member, E-Rod, had shown up and joined us. I finally have grown a brain after all this running and the day before had bought a small ice chest. I dumped ice into my water bottles and slammed a diet Red Bull and half a sandwich of peanut butter and honey and was ready to go. Having cold drinks in the midst of a long run really helped. I rubbed ice cubes on my face and neck and felt a bit rejuvenated. My typical running fuel includes Perpeteum and, every hour, three Endurolyte pills to replace depleted electrolytes. I have a couple of Hammer gels with me when I run but rarely consume them. At three hours of running or so, I usually need some solid food, but only a few bites. Peanut butter and honey works for me. Sometimes I switch to Heed or diluted Gatorade after three hours of Perpetuem, or just water.
Kevin, E-Rod ( Eric Lumba ) and I retraced some of the route the five of us had taken earlier, getting in 7.5 more miles or so that included the very hot, depressingly steep climb up Bommer Ridge out of the Laguna Wilderness parking lot.
By the time I got back to my car, I had been running for 4 hours and 45 minutes, for nearly 23 miles. I had wanted to run closer to 30 miles but the heat and hills did me in. I still felt like I had gotten in a very good training run for the SD100. We saw two of them and heard another (angry) one.
Every runner trains differently. I hope that by increasing my average weekly miles to 60, with a week of 80 miles, before San Diego will get me through the 100. Who knows. I am pushing myself more by attacking hills more aggressively, hoping that will help.
I wonder, though, if I need to concentrate more on "time on my feet" by running longer runs of 30 miles-plus. I hope to get in two runs of that length before San Diego, but that's it. I guess I will find out if my so-called training strategy works come race day, when 100 miles will be separating me from the finish. That's a big number to get my head around. Then again, I used to wonder if I could ever do a marathon. If 100 miles prove too much, I always could wax SUVs for fun.