Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Forthcoming Rat Race in OC

As the Twin Peaks has been officially postponed till November 2008 in best case, I tried to locate another race somewhere nearby in February:

The best I could find so far is the Orange Curtain in February 2008.

Basically it is a 3 mile course (or 10K out and back) you do either 5 times (shorter 50K variant of the race) or 10 times (if you are completely nuts). "100K" sounds totally scary to me as it is a three-digit number. But if we convert it into miles the number becomes more reasonable and manageable: “just” a 60 miler with a couple of bonus miles at the end :)

Overall elevation gain is “blistering” zero as the course is completely flat :)

I will totally miss mountains and all the scenery but on the other hand no need to carry camera all the way (or otherwise constantly regret I did not care to take one).

This should be something similar to those 12h and 24h rat races.

The best part of it the race is held in Cerritos, which is pretty close to us.
The worst part – I never tried anything like this before but I guess this out-and-back course should bore me to death :)

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Fall in O'Neill Park

No, I did not fall. I meant "autumn". And it is totally spectacular in O'Neill Park :)

I had my last “long” run before the Ridgecrest race in O’Neill Park today. Well, it was only 8 miles, which qualifies as a long run only during a pre-race taper period.

As much as I tried I did not manage to keep my feet dry there - thanks too all those streams you have to cross in the canyon.

There is no shortage of poison oak in the canyon either. It is bright red this time of year and you can even enjoy seeing it all over the place - as soon as you don't get into it :-)

Monday, November 19, 2007

Mont-Blanc videos

Just came across a couple of cool old videos from Mont-Blanc 2006 race on YouTube:

What is really amazing is too see this absolutely enormous crowd of the 2000+ runners at the start of a 100-mile race!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Sitton Peak

Today I ran to the Sitton Peak with Linda, Andy, Jim and Oline. We parked next to the Candy store on Ortega highway and started off on the same Morgan trail we did before. It was pretty chilly this morning – around 50 degrees – and windy too. We were all wearing long-sleeve shirts – except for Oline who was wearing a t-shirt. The rest of us regretted wrong clothing decision almost right after we registered at the trailhead.

Usually morning chill goes away slowly (or at least gradually) during the first hour or so. But this time it was different. Right after we hit the switchback ascent the temperature abruptly jumped from 50 to 80. At least it felt that way. It was like someone switched on a gigantic heater and turned off the wind, or as if we ran through some door into a heated room. We passed two or three more areas with the cool air but the temperature stayed pretty much up since then. The amazing thing is that this change happened in a matter of seconds.

Around 1.2 miles into the Morgan trail we turned right onto the Bear Canyon / Sitton Peak trail. It has a lot of small uphills and downhills, but in general it is pretty flat. Nevertheless those uphills wore me down pretty quickly for some reason and I had to walk several sections of the ascent. At the same time Jim ran pretty much all the way to the top – I could hardly get a shot of him as all I could see was his back – and even that mostly from quite a distance :)

The most exciting part was the final climb to the Sitton peak – it totally exceeded my expectations. The whole segment is about 0.4 miles long (or even less than 0.3 miles if we subtract a small flat section in the middle of the climb) with 410ft of elevation gain. With all due respect to my favorite Meadows ascent, I have to say that compared to Sitton climb Meadows does not feel like a climb at all.

The 360-degree view from the Sitton Peak above the cloud blanket covering Orange County was absolutely breathtaking as if rewarding us for inhumanly steep climb we had to do to get there.

We found a journal on the peak – right at the triangulation marker on the very top of it. Some guys wrote there that the only thing they had to regret about was they did not take any beer with them. I could only second their opinion.

As much as I love descents, going down from the peak was even less fun than going up. Let alone running was out of the question, I had to walk slowly leaning on boulders and carefully watching every step. Due to small gravel the trail was extremely slippery and despite I was moving slowly I still almost felt a couple of times. The outsole of my North Face Arnuva shoes, which usually provides enough traction on technical trails, felt as if it were absolutely flat and smooth providing almost no grip at all.

The distance from the Candy shop to the Sitton Peak is about 5 miles, which makes it 10 miles out and back. As we got back to Ortega, we went to the Candy store. It is a very neat little place featuring a lot of candies indeed and an ancient-looking fire truck in front of it. The store also has a big fridge with cold drinks, and the latter was the only thing I could think about for the last couple of miles of our run after I ran out of my Gatorade. The Snapple ice tea I got there was arguably the best Snapple I ever tasted in my life :)

More photos from our run:

Sitton Peak, Nov-07

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Sitemeter, cheating & Badwater :)

I noticed some strange search activity surge through the Sitemeter today: several distinctively different people (Tennessee, Illinois, California) were searching info on “cheating at Badwater in 2007”, or “Badwater cheaters 2007”, etc. Such searches never came up in my stats before. Was there some press release recently about something like that?

While trying to find out what is going on with that I discovered a cool AdventureCORPS' archive of Badwater and Furnace Creek 508 race magazines (all in PDF format):

Just went through the most recent Badwater magazine:
It contains a detailed historical note about the race as well as a bunch of interviews and useful pieces of advise about running in high-temperature conditions, although the latter does not seem to be extremely applicable to us right now: I even had to use running gloves a couple of days ago :)

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Runners. Yeah, we're different.

It was such a neat campaign! It beats even Pearl Izumi with their "We are not joggers!" slogan. It is funnier and less arrogant, and resonates with me one more than a Pearl Izumi's promise of dead bodies on "dumpster-laden back alleys". Pearl Izumi is a bit too serious and even grave at times. Adidas laid out exactly the same message, but it sounds like fun and does not intimidate anyone.

Not sure when Adidas did this campaign, but it was definitely before I got into running. So I was not among its target audience at that time - otherwise I would surely remember it!

Here are more posters from the same campaign:

P.S. Jess, thanks a lot for posting this link on the OCTR site today!

Sunday, November 11, 2007

El Moro 15 Miler

We have had an amazing run this morning in Emerald and El Moro Canyons. I overslept though, and had to rush to get there on time – so I forgot the camera – and no one else had one... But this was really the only hiccup… Well, almost the only one – after we hit the crazy uphill between miles 4 and 5 Steph decided to head back to her car as she did not feel quite herself this morning. As she seemed to be confident about finding the way back I did not run back with her. Thanks to Greg who took a role of my conscience this time and made it clear he would never let Steph go back alone like that, we were worried about her whereabouts until we eventually got to the parking lot and found that Steph’s car is gone already.

I forgot to mention, by the way, there were 7 of us, who left the Park Ridge at 6:30am this morning: Diego, Greg, Jeff, Ryan, Shelli, Steph, and myself.

The first 3 miles we had a pretty curvy single-track trail with a thick brush on both sides and a nice canopy above. After that we ran in a canyon surrounded by rocky hills with a lot of natural caves in them. There were so many of them that the place looked like a cavemen’s city :-)

At mile 4 we touched down Laguna Canyon road – right on the opposite side from the Stair Step trail – and ran uphill for a couple of miles. Then after a crazily exciting downhill we found ourselves in Emerald Canyon. We ran it all the way west until we found ourselves in front of a rather high fence with a barbwire on top, protecting some posh Laguna Beach gated community from trail runners and other animals. But we managed to sneak in anyways constantly looking around in anticipation of a SWAT team and helicopters – or at least several guards with guns :-)

We ran along PCH for a while until we reached the Crystal Cove Park, were we started on El Moro Ridge, than took Eastern Cut Across to the El Moro Canyon, and eventually Slow ‘N Easy trail to the Bommer Ridge that got us to our Park Ridge parking lot gate, which was exactly mile 15 of our run. I was pretty impressed with Ryan’s precision :-)

As Ryan said about the Slow ‘N Easy trail, it was Slow indeed but we almost never got to the Easy part. I guess it is “easy” only compared to Elevator trail, which is a mile shorter with the same elevation gain. I should try it next time.

Here is Jeff's post about our today's run:

Saturday, November 10, 2007

The Meadows scored again

I was anticipating Saturday morning for the most of the week nurturing the thought of my forthcoming revenge on the Meadows trail ascent in Aliso Canyon. Last Sunday I burned out very early and just walked up almost all of it. When I thought about it afterwards it seemed a little ridiculous that I could not push myself to run for just one mile… well, one pretty steep uphill mile… but a mile is just a mile after all…

So I got there this morning determined to conquer the darn thing this time and run all the way to the top. I managed to run (or better to say jog to be brutally honest about my incredible performance) for the first 0.6 mile of the climb, but could not help switching to walking after that.

Still I managed to pass by a group of mountain bikers on my way up. Those guys were definitely struggling more than I did as they also had those bikes to carry – and sure enough they were walking up too.

The Meadows-Dmitri score is 2:0 now. But I will be back!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Cleveland National Forest is still closed... No kidding...

Our trails in Cleveland National Forest are really closed although in many cases there are no signs warning about it. I was itching to run to the Old Camp, but after I checked USDA Forest Service web site I am going to opt out until they open up the trails officially - thanks to timely warnings I got from Jess and Linda that kept me out of trouble.

"A violation of these prohibitions is punishable by a fine of not more than $5,000 for an individual, or imprisonment for not more than six months, or both."

Probably they are just bluffing and it is not THAT serious - but the incentive is pretty sound to keep me from checking on how serious they are about it :)

Sunday, November 04, 2007

Aliso & Wood Canyons with Jess, Jeff and Greg

We had another splendid run in Aliso/Wood this morning with Jess, Jeff and Greg. As we started at 6:30am, the additional hour of sleep we got due to the time change came pretty handy.

This time we took Meadows trail. Greg mentioned that he will be able to say he is in an excellent form when he is able to run it all the way to the end. As we were running through those beautiful meadows on an absolutely flat trail I could hardly understand what Greg was talking about. But the understanding came to me pretty quickly – right after the first 50 yards of the crazy uphill section of this trail we hit around mile 3. The Meadow climb was quite humiliating – I had to walk 90% of it, while Greg and Jeff disappeared in the dense fog ahead of us pretty quickly. According to my Garmin the climb was about a mile long with 650-700 feet of overall elevation gain.

Whenever I get a false feeling I am an endurance athlete or something like that, I will do the Meadows climb again to get myself back into senses.

Greg left us around mile 5 where he took the Stair Step Trail – he was totally obsessed with the idea of doing an ultra-long run this morning and could not waste any more of his precious time with slow kids like us, who consider 12 miles to be enough for a Sunday run. As the Stair Step Trail is a very steep downhill, we took a couple of pictures of Greg in case we do not see him again in one piece.

The most fun part of our run was running down the Cholla Trail. I totally feel like a 10 year old kid on this section. All it takes is to turn off your brain along with the self-preservation instincts, and pray there are no mountain bikers doing the same right behind you.

Some more photos I took in Aliso & Wood Canyons today:

Aliso/Woods Canyon, Nov-07

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Elite iRun in Aliso & Wood iCanyons

I ran at the Aliso & Wood Canyons this morning. I was supposed to meet with OCTR group at 7am there, but decided to come a bit earlier and run an extra couple of miles before that: as usually on Saturdays I need to be back at home by 8:30 or otherwise Irina will not make it on time to her Saturday Kung-Fu class.

It was still dark at 6:40 when I started running. Runners and bikers were gathering and stretching at the trailhead, but the trail itself was dead-empty. 5 minutes into it I heard someone approaching me very quickly. I was sure it was one of early bikers, but I was wrong. To my utmost surprise and amazement it was iMichelle! Michelle Barton is the OC running legend who won a lot of ultra races like Lake Hodges 50k, Mt. Disappointment 50K, Wild Wild West 50K and lots others.

She tends to constantly embarrass a lot of other runners who see her only at the finish line well-rested, smiling, usually with a first-place trophy in her hands and her hair looking as if she spent previous 4 hours in a beauty salon, and was not running 50K or 50 miles on steep mountain trails.

Here is a nice recap from one of iMichelle’s races:
I can only second the author's opinion that "this girl is from another planet" :)

I ran for about 3 miles next to iMichelle at a pace of around 8 min/mile. After we turned on Mathis Canyon trail and hit the uphill section of it, I started to struggle and had to switch to walking in a while. Michelle probably did not even notice the uphill as she kept her pace constant and had to circle around me – back and forth on the trail – cheering me up.
Unfortunately I had to turn back after mile 4 to return home on time.
I also met Alexa, Wendy and Michelle M on my way back, and shortly after that Sue and Skip.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Asics Gel-Trail Attack (review on 500M anniversary)

I ran 500th mile in my Asics Gel-Trail Attack II shoes yesterday, which also happen to be my first trail running shoes. I still clearly remember my first ever trail run around the lake in Peters Canyon in less than an hour after I bought them. This makes it even more difficult for me to say good buy to them, although 500M is the age for nearly any running shoes when it is highly recommended to do so.

- Superb cushioning – same GEL cushioning system as in the Asics road shoes – they feel like road running shoes whether you run on concrete or dirt
- Very light shoes, 11.2oz
- MONO-Sock Fit System with Sand Guard protects your feet from sand and gravel
- These shoes are completely seamless inside: your feet will feel no stitches – even while the shoes are still new

- The outsole is more all-terrain than designed for trail. I do not feel comfortable in these shoes on technical steep downhill sections as the outsole does not provide me enough traction
- Same can be said about wet rocks and wet concrete – the shoes become slippery there

I did not try the new Asics Gel-Trail Attack 3 yet, but if they are as good as the Trail Attack II, I would certainly recommend them!

As a replacement to my Trail Attack II shoes, I got myself Asics Gel-Trabuco 10 last week. It is too early to comment on them yet, but I can already say that they are heavier, and I miss ingenious MONO-Sock seamless design of Trail Attack shoes. On the other hand Trabuco shoes have a more robust outsole that will provide much better traction on technical trails. And I also hope they will compensate their extra weight with even better cushioning system :)