Okay. You can pick yourself up off the floor. Three days in a row. Get your coats out. Hell is about to freeze over.
I made it out in the late afternoon for some more hill traipsing. My plan (yes I have one) said 5 miles. My body was still rebelling from Tuesday afternoon. But, who am I to listen to my body. I headed up to Newport Ridge to get in some miles in Laguna Coast.
I parked and looked at my watch. 4PM. Let’s see, 5 miles at 4 mph (hills and such) should put me back to my car a little after 5:00. The sun should just be setting, and the winds should be blowing off the ocean. I filled a handheld, donned an Underarmour, dialed in the iPod, and went off into the wilds of coastal Orange County.
Being one who gets bored pretty easily, I decided to be adventurous and hang a left onto an unmapped single track.
I had been this way before, but it had been a few months (Who am I kidding? It’s been months since I’ve done any serious training).
Up up and away I went on this magnificent single track. The views toward the ocean were amazing.
There are some cool things to see. I can just imagine the wildlife that must congregate at this watering hole – just a few steps off the beaten path. Water is a precious commodity in these normally dry hills.
Eventually though, what goes up, must come down. The problem with these single tracks is that the mountain bikes have found them too. One thing that big knobby tires have a tendency to do is to tear the crap out of trails. Then, when The Running Fat Guy gets his mighty mass hurtling downhill, it’s easy to step in the wrong place and turn an ankle. “Jog” is reduced to “walk” in the interest of safety and injury prevention.
Ever so slowly, I worked my way down into a wonderful meadow (meaning an old cattle corral area when this used to be a working ranch) where I could once again break out into a 14 minute per mile dash.
The only problem is I had spent the last two miles crawling along at a sub 20:00 pace. I had just worked my way down 800 vertical feet in a mile. Which meant that I had to climb back out of this canyon and make my way back to the car. I was glad that I had my sleeves on, as it was beginning to get chilly.
I worked my way up the hill in front of me, taking frequent gasp/wheeze stops (have I really let myself get this out of shape?). I crested the hill and got to Bommer Ridge just in time for a spectacular sunset.
I turned around and noticed that I had quite a view to my north as well. The only problem? It was a view of lights. Hmmm.
That pretty much meant that I was going to have to get back to my car in the dark. The sun had set and all I had was some water. No headlamp. Hmmm. This could be interesting.
Trail running in the dark comes with a different set of dangers. Most would be worried about animals like coyotes and mountain lions. But the #1 danger on trails after dark, are the trails themselves. In fact, here is how I would rank after dark trail running dangers:
- Trails: Most trails are uneven, rutted, and filled with obstacles like rocks and ridges (just take a look at the photo above). Stick your foot into a rut or a hole and you could end up with a turned or broken ankle, a knee injury, or at worst, a concussion from smacking your head on a rock or hard surface. For this reason alone, I walked back to the car.
- Snakes: Here in California during certain times of the year (like when the temperatures are in the 70’s like they have been this week), snakes will often pull themselves out of hiding and stretch out lengthwise on fire roads or flat rocks. They do this to capture the heat dissipating from surfaces that have been in the sun all day. In the dark, a snake would look like a long stick. Or with an iPod blaring, you may not even notice a coiled snake until…. Wait! What’s that?!?!?! It looks like a coiled snake! Oh wait a minute….
- Which brings me to trail danger #3: Steaming piles of coyote poo! Yes. They look pretty innocuous. Like a rock in the middle of the trail. Step in it and you’ll never know until you climb in your car at the end of your trek. “Ooooo! What’s that smell?” Don’t ask me why, but for some reason, animals love to poo on trails. Maybe it’s because it’s the only place they can squat without putting a thorn in their butts.
Seriously though – other than leaving my headlamp behind, it was a magical night on the trails of the Laguna Coast. I mean, where else could you snap a picture like this without having to wear 5 layers of clothing and risking hypothermia this time of year: