Sunday, March 02, 2008

Los Pinos Rock 'n' Roll

We had a great time at Los Pinos this morning. I met Linda, Andy, Tim, Gabby and Steph Kinley in Las Flores and then we carpooled to the Lazy W Ranch. Actually I took my car as I was not sure how it was going to turn for me. I kinda injured (stretched) the Achilles’ tendon on my left leg last Thursday. I was running at my home hills in Ladera Ranch late at night – the ones that go under the power lines – and I failed to recognize a gap in the trail. And when I was running on Friday my leg was really soar and I was not sure at all I would be able to run on Sunday let alone running one of the toughest trails around – Los Pinos! On the other hand I was hoping I would be able to run all the way to Main Divide and consequently will need to leave after everyone else. That’s what actually happened and my tendon did not bug me at all. Another miracle of RECOVER-ease?
One of the first things that became pretty evident right at the parking lot was that I looked overdressed and over-equipped. I had long pants, long-sleeve shirt, camel bag with 40+oz of water, two 20oz hand bottles with Gatorade, GPS, MP3 player and a white Patagonia cap with a huge visor and a curtain behind it covering my neck. I though I looked like Badwater runner until someone told me I looked like a Badwater finisher. What? That bad already? We have just started the run! And it also looked like I had more water on me than the rest of our group all together :)

The first part of the run from the parking lot to the actual trail head was on a paved road that had three wide and at least one foot deep stream crossings. I felt a bit lost especially when we ran up to the first stream but Steph quickly found a bridge just 50 yards up the stream. Two other stream crossings were easier - the bridges were a way closer to the road.

When we hit the Los Pinos trail we saw a dozen of various signs with religious content and a big cross right at the trailhead. I had a feeling all those signs were telling us: “Guys, are you sure you know what you are doing? Think one last time before it is too late!”
The trailhead started with a pretty steep incline – so steep that at times it needed stairs. In almost no time we had to climb from 900ft level of the trailhead to about 2000ft which seemed even a way higher than that when we were looking at the Lazy W Ranch white roofs at the bottom of the canyon.

We did not see much of Steph after that. She took off and quickly disappeared in the trails ahead and above us. I could still see her as a small black dot quickly ascending another mountain from time to time but there was no way we could possibly catch her. I even worked out an official excuse based primarily on my potential tendon issues and a need to run conservatively to be able to continue ascent after everyone else turns back around mile 6.5. The excuse was lame but helped me, as well as the visor of my cap that completely hid the steep ascending trail ahead and the front runners.
Talking about front runners, we – guys – have to admit a complete defeat today. We were left behind. Pretty soon Gabby and Linda lost us as well. I saw them again only at the turn-around point at mile 6.5. If they did not stop there I doubt I would be able to catch up. So I was always wondering why Male and Female results are treated separately at the races, while there are a lot of extremely fast female runners like Nikki Kimball or Michelle Barton that tend to leave a lot of men behind if not all of them. I guess the men do not want to be intimidated like that and want to make sure they always get all the first places if not overall than at least in Male category :)
In a word, Steph, Gabby and Linda kicked our butt big time today. Gabby told me this was the second trail run for her – the first one was a 9-miler not that long ago. And before that she was mainly running marathons. I hope Los Pinos did not spoil the trail running impression for Gabby. If I were a road runner who went to try what trail running is at Los Pinos, it would become the last trail run in my life. I would never leave roads and track after that. But Gabby seemed to do great and looked strong at the turn around point.

One of the most memorable moments: around mile 3 we turned back and saw how clouds rise up from the canyon right in front of us, and how the wind tears them apart and throws pieces right at us. I wish I had at least some of a talent needed to describe it! Suffice to say it was so freaking awesome and surreal I was standing there nailed unable to take my eyes off it for quite a while.
The trail is extremely brutal. It is all covered with rolling loose rocks and running downhill is not much easier that going uphill. The incline is pretty steep and unless you are a complete animal – I know personally some folks that actually are, in a good way – there is no way you can run it. Crawling is a better word for it. My average pace today was about 17 min/mile, which is an absolute PR as my slowest 17 miler ever. Sometimes I could see that my pace was falling to something as low as 37 min/mile on certain uphill sections – a number I never saw on my Garmin before! Another PR: the slowest pace ever!
Add to all of that a hurricane wind on the ridge. We were having face wind or side wind all the way up. Had it been just a notch more furious I would be blown away from the trail down the slope into the canyon.
The cool thing about the trail was that I expected an overgrown singletrack – and it was overgrown indeed but not like the one we ran through with OCTR gang at San Mateo in December – this trail was not one of those that peels the skin from your legs as you run through it.

The elevation at where we parked is 800ft. The elevation at the highest point my GPS detected was at 4,550ft. So the net elevation gain was 3,750ft. I bet considering all the ups and downs, the overall elevation gain for the out and back should have been about 5,000ft, which is pretty close to Mt. Disappointment 50K :)
The ugliest part of the course was all of those last 5 miles (or 1 hour and 20 min) after mile 12.5, when I realized that I completely ran out of water and Gatorade. It was getting hot – now I would not mind some of our morning wind but it got pretty calm. I got to my car pretty dehydrated and had the most refreshing Gatorade bottle of my life. In a single very long sip.

Distance: 17.4 miles
Time: 4:55:05
Average pace: 16:58 min/mile
Overall elevation gain: something like 5,000ft

I ran all the way from Lazy W Ranch to Main Divide and back. And next to the Main Divide trailhead I did find those pines the trail was named after.

Tim's recap:
Los Pinos is BRUTAL that is the hardest trail run I have ever done....and it didn't help on the way back running what I thought was the wrong way...then doubling back and running/crawling back up that section of the trail only to determine I went the right way the first time. On the way up the wind gusts of 300 MPH and the cloud formations were was strange seeing the clouds come UP the mountain at us. We turned back about a mile from Los Pinos...I drank 40 oz's and ran out about 4 miles from the car...I think I'm a better person from having run/walked this....that's why if you come by my house early Thursday morning you can get a free pair of trail shoes before the trash truck picks them up! :o)

Steph's recap:
I must say I think the only reason I was ahead is that I didn't really stop to look around, I was just trying to get to the top. The one thing I will say about that run is I always enjoy the downhill it's my reward for all the climbing but that trail was no reward It was almost as hard going back down.Oh and that wind was crazy it seriously blew me into the bushes a few times but that made me laugh. So needless to say that when I got home I took a nap, but I loved that trail it was amazing.

More photos from our today's run:

Los Pinos Trail: March 2, 2008


LT said...

Cool recap Dmitri! I'm glad to see you didn't end up in "a shallow grave by the trail." LOL ...and that you took our advice and took lots of water (even though you ran out). Now that you survived the dreaded Los Pinos, you should come up and run my version of Twin Peaks in two weeks! We haven't run together in a while. If things get bad you could always break a leg ;-)

olga said...

I love "Happiness is a habit, cultivate it" post! I shall steal it for myself!

Jessica Deline said...

you all got chicked on that trail. that's awesome. Great recap!

Anonymous said...

cool. and i didn't know i was running this one!!!!

love the blooming trees!

e-rod said...

i have yet to run the infamous los pinos trail. i'll have to join you one of these days out there.