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Hiking, Outdoors, Running

Various Hikes & Runs Q4 2019

Bright Angel in the Snow

Bright Angel in the Snow

These posts are usually just collections of notes on hikes so I don’t forget them. Q4 2019 looks to be more of the same, with some half-assed training for a 50k race in December (didn’t happen due to rolled ankle), and hopefully the rapid onset of cool, wet weather to make the brown mountains around here…less brown.

Dec 30 / Black Star to Crest (9.5m)

Was going to ski Baldy, but wind was high and coverage poor. Good run up to crest on Black Star instead, a bit over 9.4 miles with 8 or so run. Felt good but legs were chewed up by end and Achilles feeling it. 0:59 to crest, which isn’t bad for being out of shape and whatnot.

Dec 27 / Grand Canyon R2-Something-2R

Couldn’t get back from Vegas after dropping mom off due to snow / traffic on 15, so took a detour to GC to try hiking there. Kam agreed to meet and we made feeble attempt at R2R2R. Snow was nice, fresh and beautiful, but incessant rain below 4,000′ made the going wet and cold. Turned around just short of Cottonwood. Very bonky for some reason as well. Still, a pretty day. Ankle 95% better, but still a bit sore when done.

Xmas / Various Wee Hikes with Mom in Death Valley

Including one hike around Ubehebe Crater up near Scotty’s Castle, which I’d somehow never seen before. Just a few miles around the craters but beautiful with snow on the mountains around us.

Dec 16+ / Various Wee Hikes on Black Star

Quick walk maybe 2-3 miles with slight bit of jogging to test out ankle on Monday / 16th. Longer walk with more jogging on 18th inc. some uphill. 8 miles out and back on 20th with 4+ jogged, feeling pretty good, but Achilles tight and rolled side shin hurtin’ on way down, so walked a lot of the return. A few more days and I should be good to start training again. Aerobically, didn’t feel bad. Legs not too bad. Just fat. 🙂

Nov 29+ / Accidental Grand Canyon Trip with John (Rolled Ankle)

So, that happened. Lots to write about, but biggest issue now is badly strained left ankle below Indian Gardens (came very close to breaking the poor thing), which is swollen and bruised today so…no race for me next week. Some day I’ll do an ultra uninjured and healthy,  but it won’t be this year. 2019 can suck it.

Nov 28 / SJ via Tram Partial

On Thanksgiving, decided to check out the fresh snow on San Jacinto. Lots of gear and a tram pass later, I was tromping through feet of fresh powder on the way up from Long Valley. Beautiful day. Unlike the last time, it was snowing (vs. freezing rain) at the tram, so I hoped for less wet / warmer (for me) conditions, but it turns out that unzipping things to avoid sweating in the blowing snow also leads to wetness. Very nice day, but turned around below Wellman as my hands got colder (and honestly the energy wasn’t there). Breaking trail in the powder was fun until then. Once again carried snowshoes without wearing them. Seems to be my thing. Ran into one other guy, Eric, following my tracks up. Hope he had a good day. On the drive back, it was snowing in Beaumont and over the 60. Pretty crazy to see So Cal freeway foliage all bent down and sad under a load of wet snow and hail. Almost made the traffic worth it.

Nov 23 / Skyline Partial (10m+ in 5)

Weird day. Met Kam to due Skyline out of Palm Springs and then run down if we were feeling it. Turned out one of us was having a bad day, so we moseyed up to around 5,000′ and then jogged down. Felt fine going up, but downhill was a bit ugly. Very low energy. Suspect I wasn’t eating enough or drinking enough, but hard to say. But legs are all tore up, so some training was done. On the way back, ended up being one of the first on scene at a car accident. Still pondering what happened there. Not a great afternoon.

Nov 16 / San Jacinto via Devil’s Slide (15m+ in 4:19)

Did this with Kam again b/c honestly couldn’t think of anything else to do in the warm weather. Asked Kam to push the hills to see if I could improve uphill time while working on nutrition. Turned out a bit differently, but still accidentally beat best time by one minute.

We started around 7:50 am from Humber. It was nice and chilly, and Kam pushed hard at the start. I was out of breath quickly, which remains a bit of a mystery for me; until this year I was always stronger on the uphills and altitude than I feel now, but fortunately Kam seemed fine. Then about half-way up we ran into the rangers, did the quick permit check, and I pulled away. By the saddle at 0:48 (exact time as last week) I was about 1-2 min ahead, and waited for her to see if all was ok. It was, so I took off, and for the rest of the hike I led and she stayed a switchback or two behind, almost always in sight.

Made the junction in 1:24, one min behind last week (felt tired on the climbs, but better energy on flatter sections). I was trying Gus and cookies this time, no salty foods, and for the most part this worked. Hit Wellman at 1:50, so a few min behind last week still, and was definitely feeling tired. Slowed to eat at drink. Was trying to hydrate better, but by the end I still only drank the exact same 2 liters.

Ran into my friend David L. on the traverse toward Miller, stopped and talked for a few min. His group also started in Humber, but was going to head over to Skunk or whatever it’s called for a longer run. Need to catch up with him soon.

Definitely feeling it on the way to the peak. Made it to top in 2:37, so only one minute off of last week. Funny how the body just does what it can regardless of environmental variables. Probably would have been closer to 2:30 without stopping to wait / talk, but then again maybe the rest helped. Kam showed up around 3-4 min later, we did a moderately quick turn, and then ran down.

Run down was okay; legs and energy better than ever recently, but still a bit wonky in the stomach. Right contact also blurring so I had to slow to avoid running into things now and then. Made good time all the way back to saddle, and waited for maybe 1-2 min for Kam, who Kam limping in on slightly twisted ankle (apparently she’d hurt it running at night a few days earlier and not mentioned it). So, I took off and she jogged more carefully behind. Didn’t think a PR was possible, but still felt like running hard now that I had energy.

Powered down feeling pretty good, but even so by 2/3 of the way down legs were definitely feeling it. Somehow made the bottom in 4:19, beating last week’s time by one minute. Kam came in at 4:22, easily beating most of my better times. I imagine if she weren’t limping and did some altitude training, she’d kick my ass.

Overall, felt better. Definitely going to try more with Gus / fast sugar and better hydration.

Lessons: Drink more if I can w/o upsetting stomach. Need to do more mid-week aerobic / speed workout to improve aerobic capacity or spend time at elevation, as climbing seems plateaued. Had a fair about of pain in IT band on run down so need to work on hip flex and rolling legs. Definitely slows me down a bit, and makes stride asymmetrical. Only real pain later was tight back and plantar tightness in right foot. Achilles mostly ok, but still lets me know it’s there. Post recovery beer was quite nice.

Nov 11 / San Jacinto via Devil’s Slide (15Mm+ in 4:20)

Weird weekend. Yesterday drove to Baldy to do some hikin, wasn’t feeling it, walked 100 feet, got back in the car and drove home. Hoping for more enthusiasm today, but drove to Idyllwild instead to run the “usual” Devil’s Slide to SJ route. Made myself badly carsick on the drive up (I don’t get carsick so…?), sat in the parking lot for an hour thinking about just driving back to Santa Ana, but that also sounded terrible, so off I went.

My goals were 0:45 to the saddle, 2:30 to the top, 4-4:15 down. Ambitious, but nominally doable if I could avoid the bonk and age and entropy. Made the saddle in 0:48 (that last three minutes is a challenge, apparently), 1:48 to Wellman, which was still okay, then 2:36 to the peak. Would have made closer to 2:30 but had weird heartrate increase on the last switchback and had to sit for a minute or two then slowdown. Simon says, dehydration. Oh, I tried Gus this time. So even though I forgot to drink water, I felt energetically fine.

Quick turn around from the peak, felt generally fine, but her bonkiness appeared on the way to Wellman. Got it more or less under control, but slowed to eat / drink and keep the stomach in check. Finished in 4:20 (took two minutes off 4:22 finish time due to having to show permit to rangers and struggle to find said permit). Tired, but not terribly tired. Need to role IT band. As always.

Lessons: Gus not bad; water good; 4:00 flat doable with some training and bonky mitigation. Also, trees are pretty.

Nov 2 / Palomar Divide to High Point (25m+ in 6:15)

I really, really wanted to get out of Orange County after a hard work week (understatement) and called Kam about doing the climb from near Holcomb Village up to the Palomar fire lookout. This climb was first 25+ mile distance I’d ever run (back in 2014), it was also fun to see how my condition compared to fire years earlier.

Met Kam and got started at 7:20 after lamenting the toilet paper and crap (literally) scattered all around the parking area. I swear humans are regressing. It was pleasantly cool and, while I never really felt energetic, we kept up a good steady hike / jog pace almost the entire way to the summit. Never bonked, which was a miracle for me, and topped out in 3:09 (goal was 3:15). So that was great, but apparently Kam had badly cramped calves by this point, which meant a slower run down (largely to avoid injury). She rocked it despite the pain, but we walked several miles and finished in 6:15. Which was fine; it was hot (80) lower down and I was stiffening up nicely on the pavement section. Again, never bonked, so 90% win, 10% lessons learned. Good day.

Things to consider: (a) need to stretch hips, roll quads more, cause damn; (b) some nausea at end probably (?) from dehydration, but not sure; (c) still need to work on diet / sleep / stress b/c legs never felt anything but heavy (d); Achilles pain back on right, so maybe long steady uphills still a problem; (e) tried a little five-hour energy (sip) with my mini Sprite on top, and it certainly didn’t hurt, so worth trying again..

Oct 26 / San Jacinto via Devil’s Slide (15m+ in 4:34)

Thought I’d try this again on my own, and honestly there aren’t that many options in the heat around here.; too much smoke on Baldy from the Tick Fire. Started off well, feeling energetic, but my heartrate was high all day. Can’t quite figure that out. Anyhoo, my goals were 0:45 to the Saddle, 2:45 to the top, 5:45 down. Seemed reasonable.

But, the heartrate. Odd. Made the saddle in 0:49 w/o too much effort, but by the next climb I was tiring and by the climb above the fern garden below Wellman, I was really feeling it. Food seemed okay. Water seemed okay. Just fast heart rate and heavy legs. 1:56 to Wellman, which was still okay, then 2:43 to the peak — goal reached, but sucking wind hard. Decided to try for 4:30 RT. Made it in 4:34. Just couldn’t wake up the legs or get over the bonk / heart rate. So odd.

Oh, and I totally wiped out right at the end. Literally the last step. Took a digger at the trail head right in front of a couple. We all laughed. I only bled a little, but man I was tired. TIRED. Not sure this endurance thing is for me…

Oct 19 / Santiago via Silverado Canyon Road (22.3m in 5:28)

This was my first real training hike / run in months; just trying to see if I can run again at any pace without bonking or hurting myself. Managed both. Some low energy points near the top and end, but managed. No Achilles pain. Some back and IT band tightness, but not bad. Pretty conservative with a lot more water than the last time (March 2019), and a full hour faster (including cutting off 1.8 miles by using Joplin Trail at top). Overall positive day despite a lot of truck and motorcycles, and hence dust. Next time, if there is a next time, need a dust mask and an earlier start. Route includes 4,200′ of elevation gain, so more than Baldy by a wee bit.

For reference, the Ray Miller 50k I’m allegedly doing on December 6th claims to be “…a rugged and tough 50k trail race with almost 9,000 feet of gain and loss,'” which means roughly 4,500′ of gain. I’ve run it twice and that sounds about right. Prior finish times were just under 6:40 and 6:20. My goal this time was 5:45 – 6:00, but honestly now it’s just finishing w/o injury. I’m not great at estimating current fitness, so some related notes. In Feb 2017, I did Nate Harrison (18.6 miles, 5,200′) in 3:57. I was pretty fit then, so I’d say less fit than that now, but no races that year…so this note is pointless. NVM.

Oct 12 / San Jacinto via Devil’s Slide with Kam (15+ in 4:54)

So, my hopes here were low. I’d been sickish all week, had a great wheezing cough, etc., etc. So much whining. But it was supposed to be a relatively cool day on the mountain and Kam’s positive energy always make things a bit more entertaining.

Started off from Humber Park at 8:07 am after checking out Kam’s sweet new ride. Expectations were for a slow, steady hike up just trying not to bonk. Never really had any energy, but Kam kept a nice, mellow pace (thank you, bc she could have kicked my ass if she’d wanted) and made the 7+ miles to the peak in 2:54. This isn’t bad considering no running, my low energy levels and lack of training. Cool temps really helped.

Jog down was fun, but I was oddly lightheaded the whole time and had to be extra careful with foot placement. Just felt wonky all day. That said, we finished at a good clip and got back to Humber at 1:01 pm making for a 4:54 roundtrip. Felt pretty crap for a few minutes at the end, but otherwise made it through w/o bonking and no major post-run agony other than traffic. Oh, and I didn’t trip or fall. Weird.

While this hike was going down, something far less impressive but perhaps noteworthy also occurred. A vaguely talented athlete named Eliud Kipchoge broke the two-hour barrier on marathons. That means 26+ miles at a sub-5-minute  pace. What a loser.


I always find accomplishments like these both amazing and amusing. There’s nothing inspirational in them for me (he’s already so much better than I’ll ever be at anything, that it mostly inspires me to watch more TV), but it is undeniably amazing. Beyond amazing. Incomprehensible.

Oct 5 / Baldy Ski Hut Register Loop with John

Mellow hike up in the (too) early AM, about 2:30 to the top. Ran down with two girls M&A (yes, I ditched John b/c we’d driven separately) and managed to stay ahead of their 20-something fit selves — largely bc of technical downhill on Register. Good day until I got back, then incipient cold took me down for the entire weekend. Not a great start for the first hike / run of Q4, but at least no injuries or pain.

Oh, I almost forgot. I was able to run about 1/4 of the way up. Aerobics not bad, legs not bad, Achilles just hanging on. Nice feeling after so long…

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