Monday, April 20, 2009

Leona Divide 50 !!

He said/She said

Jan 1st: "Hey, Honey, let's do Leona Divide!! I'm out of shape, need to get in shape, and need a target. They have an Old Farts' 28 miler, but I'm going for the 50!"

What Chris fails to mention is that being in constant atrial fibrillation for the past four years has prevented him from entertaining the thought of really running, to say nothing of entering an ultra. Four cardioversions, two ablations, and (finally!) the optimal medication dosage has enabled him to once again feed his addiction of 30 years. (Any '78 Pepsi Tahoe runners out there??)

What Sue fails to mention is my not-so-subtle encouragement for her to rekindle her own interest in the sport, that having taken a detour over the last couple years while she discovered long trails out West (yes, she still has the overall JMT supported speed record). So, I needed to find out if the ticker could handle a "real" ultra again, and I wanted her company (as always) for the adventure that involved. Check's in the mail for Suz Johnston and EuDene Keezleburger...

We start training... or at least the Scott/Johnston version of "training," which is #1 unorthodox (or "freeform" if you like), and #2 fun, starting off with my running the Ouachita Trail in January, a handful of 20 milers in Point Mugu State Park, a couple of Mark Wieneke Sespe Wilderness blood-letting adventure runs, a Grand Canyon R2R2R, many hours on the elliptical trainer & yoga sessions (Sue) and lap swimming (Chris) at the Y, and many, many Ray Miller loops.

All told, much more running for Sue (e.g., Ouachita) than I, so ratio of hiking to running is about 70:30. Not the kind of base one would expect to produce a sub-9 hour Leona. Operative question: does a 16 hour R2R2R equate to a 13 hour Leona? I'm about to find out... Here we are at the start: Jack Fierstadt, Justin Monast, me and Sue. (photo by H'ard Cohen)

Before the start, fellow Venturian Kim Abundis asks what kind of time I'm shooting for. My response is something like, "Well, in my day (haha) I would hope to break 9 hours, but I'm just not sure what's going to happen out there today. I want to finish, and I don't want it to turn into a death march." I have no splits, time goals, or "plan"... then again, even in more competitive days I always ran by feel and not by my watch. That freeform thing again...

Watch? How the hell is a watch going to get me off the course any faster? As the Beatles noted, I'll just follow the sun. Trudging up the first hill at 6AM, not in any hurry to see the sun, anticipating it will only roast my (rhymes with putz) later...

Trudging? I run all the way up that f*cker!! Feeling great in the first few miles and knowing that it will get toasty later, I try to get miles in the bank early while temps are still in the 40s and 50s. By the first aid station at Mile 8, off come the long-sleeve shirt and gloves. Then we're on the "new" section of the course. (Of course having never run Leona before, it's all new to me.) Apparently the old course traversed mostly singletrack trail in the next section, while the new course does a bit of singletrack PCT before a long 12-mile out and back on a gravel fire road with quite a bit of elevation loss and gain. I actually enjoy this section: the trees, plants, animals are obviously different, but the surface reminds me of my old dirt roads in Vermont.

Ugh, 12 exposed miles of dirt road, with dust, more dust, and still more dust as the sun rises in the sky and signals how toasty today will be. Gosh, my favorite conditions!! One bright spot: as I'm still trudging toward the turn around point (way the flock out to nowhere), here comes Sue returning from same, chipper as if she were on her Vermont roads. After the turnaround (in the flocking middle of nowhere), it's more trudging -- with dust and niggling little rocks in my shoes -- back to the "old course" and the promise of trail.

And what a fun piece of trail it is! Four miles of smooth downhill on the PCT to the Mile 28 aid station. Whheeeeeee! I turn on my music for a dose of female empowerment--Ani DiFranco yeah!--for the long climb ahead and humor myself by spotting runners ahead and trying to catch them. Final count from miles 25-50 is a dozen, all guys. The 7 women ahead of me, especially Krissy Moehl (wow!), look very strong.

On that same downhill, Rick Hodges, dressed like he's just hiking, spends only as much time as needed to let me know this is the longest he's run since last year's Hardrock (we're just past Mile 24). 'Bye, Rick, have a great day!! OK, he's tough, I'm a flippin' wimp. Once across the road after Mile 28, that first mile is relentless (at least for a wimp -- I stop more than once because of light headedness, a younger dude in front of me turns around back to the A/S) and I'm thinking I'll turn around at the next station. My (rhymes with putz) are over an open flame now...

After a bunch of "Good jobs!" to everyone I meet on the trail, I reach the turnaround at mile 35 and catch Ken Hughes, who makes a comment about not being able to shake me (hee hee). It is getting a little warmer, not terribly so--I think it feels great--but can't pass up an orange popsicle at the next aid station. Yum-O! A few minutes later I meet Chris, who looks good (Chris always looks good) albeit not quite as cheery as on the first out and back. I share my ice water and tell him about the popsicles ahead. Soon afterward I meet Rock Star Leigh Corbin: "Hey, you should catch up to Chris. He could use your encouragement to get to the finish!" I cruise the beautiful singletrack all the way down to the mile 28 aid station which is now, thankfully, mile 42, drop my Nathan pack in favor of a handheld bottle, and start up the last climb.

Well, of course, it's not hot for you!! You're coming DOWN hill while I'm on (rhymes with putz)-roasting UP hill. But, yes, the popsicles (all 3 flavors -- they felt sorry for me), beer, and chips 'n salsa at the Aloha station boost me enough to actually think of finishing this cooker. (Did I mention the dust already?) Leigh DOES catch me at the furthest aid station; leaves before me (just one more gulp of Dew); and I vow to stay close to her for as long as my dust/niggling rock-invaded shoes will allow. More beer & popsicle at Aloha, but gotta press, cuz now cutoffs have become an issue (at least in Leigh's mind and on her watch which I don't have one of; I'm oblivious but keep her optimistic (meaning, I lie)).

The climb from miles 42 to 46 would be completely runnable were I fresh. Alas, I am not fresh. Hmm... maybe it IS just a tad bit warm out here. And darn if I didn't preload the handheld with Perpetuem when all I really want at this point is ice water. Just have to suck it up and mostly power walk up this thing. I keep seeing two guys ahead of me on the switchbacks but don't seem to make any progress in catching them until the final aid station. From there it's another half mile of climbing followed by about 3 miles of downhill to the finish. I pass the two switchbackers, plus a poor soul emptying the contents of his stomach with only a mile to go. Soon I hear cheering. Yay, the finish line!! My time is 9:22:19, good for 28th overall. Knowing that Jennifer Henderson was ahead of me, I'm confused when the RD hands me the awesome Women's 40-49 first-place trophy. "But what about Jennifer..." I ask. "She's 50." Gulp. Way to go Jennifer!

Let's see... 9:22 is 3:22, we're dipsy-doodling the rollers after Aloha (Mile 38), the sun still a scorcher (tho Leigh's like Sue -- heat-impervious). Mile 42 & 46 stations, ahead of cutoffs by 20 & 15 minutes, but the finishing miles arguably in question -- the map says one thing (4.5 to finish), the aid folks say something else (an easy 3.9, yeah, right!!), what's a lamebrain to think? Oooh, maybe we could be DFL Royalty? Let's slow down. (wtf??? you idiot, finish!!) At least the (rhymes with putz)-roasting sun is no longer a factor (but once roasted, is there regression back to life?). Two others finish after us, so we're D(Almost)FL Royalty, tho my head's light again, my feet are trashed, I couldn't hold a conversation with a praying mantis right now, got a beer? OK, soup will do. Let's go home and ponder Laurel Highlands...

What Chris fails to mention is that he and Leigh crossed the finish line in 12:43:43 (16 minutes to spare!), just shy of double his 50 mile PR (any '84 Half Moon Bay Fat Assers out there?) of 6:24. YOU ROCK, CHRIS!!! :) But Laurel Highlands?! Are you... (rhymes with putz)??!!

(Above photo by H'ard, below--Leigh and Chris finishing--by George Velasquez)

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Channel Islands National Park

Chris and I decided to finally visit the national park that sits right in our back yard. That would be Channel Islands National Park which encompasses five (of eight) islands: Anacapa, Santa Rosa, San Miguel, Santa Barbara, and the one we visited, Santa Cruz, the largest at 96 square miles. We were deposited at Scorpion Anchorage (below) by Island Packers on Thursday morning and walked the flat 1/2 mile past the old Scorpion Ranch to the Park campground, our home for the next two nights. In this photo Anacapa Island is visible in the upper left corner:

Like the better known Galapagos Islands of South America, Channel Islands' isolation has allowed evolution to proceed independent of the mainland. Eight plant species and one bird, the island scrub jay, are known only to Santa Cruz Island. The island fox, which wouldn't stand still for a photograph--we saw about a half dozen--lives only on the Channel Islands and is making a great comeback after numbering in the double digits in 1994!

The topography of Santa Cruz is remarkably diverse with grasslands, rocky mountain ranges (high point 2000+ ft.), pine forests, chaparral, and 77 miles of jagged coastline, with lots of sea caves, tidepools, beaches, and solitude. With over 50 miles of accessible trails and old grassy ranch roads--and no cars!--the island is a runner's paradise. :)

Montanon Ridge was surprisingly rugged. The grassland above was only minutes away from this rocky scramble.

We crested the ridge, then took a well-worn herd path almost a mile to the summit. There was even a register up there!
Some of the grassier trails were mowed, a joy to run on.

It got into the 40s at night, hence the down jacket. Daytime temps were in the 60s. This is part of the two-mile scenic loop from the campground:

Crazy trees out of the Wizard of Oz!

Part of the fox recovery plan involved the controversial eradication of non-native feral pigs. We were told that about 8,000 of them were trapped and shot--both on the ground and "Palin style" from helicopters. The last pigs were killed as recently as October 2006. We found a Golden Eagle trap (?) on stilts, next to a piggie cemetery.

My, what big teeth you have...

Santa Cruz Island, cont.

More island shots & vegetation representation. Cacti:

At different spots, the island reminded me of Scotland, Ireland, Newfoundland, the Maine coast, Wyoming, and the Flint Hills of Kansas!

Trying to be artsy:

Gorgeous green. :)

Hard to believe this is within 100 miles of about 15 million people.

Running here was pretty cool:

Signed junctions on the more popular trails:

I don't know what it is, but it's NOT a dandelion:

Blue dicks (stop laughing) were everywhere:
Don't know the name of this one, but I like it:

One of many, many fields of blue dicks:

This blossom is little bigger than a pencil eraser: