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Posts Tagged ‘Santa Ana River Trail’

For my fifth (?!) round of full marathon training I’ve kicked it up a notch and taken on the competitive marathon training plan from Smart Marathon Training. To be honest, it’s kicking my behind. It didn’t help that my youngest daughter got sick, as in so sick that she needed my help a few times a night to steam her up in the bathroom so that she could breathe and recover from her croup-like cough and chest congestion. Then, of course, in my sleep-deprived state, I came down with the cold/cough too, albeit in a much milder form. So the last few weeks have been a muddle of trying to juggle sick kids, sick me, and the rainy (?!) weather here in Southern California. Today the training plan called for 80 miles on the bike. I mapped out a loop from my house that stayed off the roads as much as possible, taking the Santa Ana River Trail to the Huntington Beach Path to the San Gabriel River Trail and back on the Whittier Greenway. It came out to 73.3 miles and I called it good.

The 73.3-mile bike loop I mapped out on MapMyRun.

The 73.3-mile bike loop I mapped out on MapMyRun.

I left at 7 a.m. just after the sun rose and I completed the first half in just over two hours. The second half proved much more challenging. I went from a relatively easy 3:20 pace to a tough 4:00-4:20 pace as I went back uphill (slightly) into the wind. My legs and lungs were fine but I do most of my biking on the spin bike so I wasn’t used to holding my head up with my helmet on, and now my neck and back are really sore!

It proved to be an absolutely gorgeous day out though and I have no complaints. I’m so lucky to be able to get out on the bike in mid-December, and to have family members that support me on a bike ride that took 5 hours and 24 minutes (including all the stops at stop lights and for water refills etc.) On my ride I saw an incredibly wide range of things:

– The Christmas tree farm where we cut down our tree each year.

– A strawberry field.

– Angel Stadium.

– The Pacific Ocean, and lots and lots of surfers!

– Oil drilling platforms and massive cargo ships from China. 😦

– Catalina Island. 🙂

– From the beach I had the best view of the snow-capped mountains in the east behind me.

– The naval ammo base in Seal Beach.

– Pelicans skimming across the top of the water over the San Gabriel River as they hunted for fish.

– It was 47 degrees F when I started my ride at 7 a.m. and the best chalk sign I saw on the beach path was “The cold never bothered me anyway!” No matter that I couldn’t feel my toes for about 2/3 of the ride. Note to self: wear wool socks and consider investing in bike shoe booties!

When I got home I immediately refueled with some leftover rouladen baked by my wonderful mom who was in town visiting from Idaho. My favorite meal and the perfect mix of protein and carbs when paired with some leftover mashed potatoes! I took an ice bath (much as I didn’t want to) and propped my legs up while wearing some compression socks. I’m not taking any chances here!

What did you do on your workout(s) this weekend? What’s the longest swim/bike/run/walk you’ve ever done?

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To make up for my absence on this computer diary of life, let’s play a game called: What’s Fit Fun Mom Been Up To? Has she:

(A) Been kayaking, hiking, horseback riding, trail running, doing yoga, standup paddle boarding, biking, and running,

(B) Narrowly avoided being bitten by a dog on a bike ride (I mean, Fit Fun Mom on a bike ride, not the dog on a bike ride — now that would really be something to write about),

(C) gotten lost on a 70-mile bike ride (gee, maybe the title of this post is a hint?),

(D) panicked about the fact that the Santa Rosa Marathon is less than seven weeks away, or

(E) all of the above.

If you picked E, you are a winner!

While I would eventually like to talk about A, B, and D, let’s start with C because dude, 70 miles on the bike! A new personal distance record! And it was awesome. By which I mean that at mile 20 all the Legos were dancing in my head and singing “Everything is awesome!” and I worried that by mile 60 I would be dragging. But at mile 40 the Legos were still dancing and singing, and at mile 60 they were still dancing and singing. Even when I realized that yep, I had indeed missed the turnoff for the correct trail and there was no way I was going to make it home in a total of 63 miles as planned, and I needed to call my husband to tell him I’d be a little longer, and could he maybe finish making the kids breakfast and come pick me up somewhere between where I was and where I wanted to be (our house), depending on how far I made it in the next half hour? K thanks bye.

I had carefully plotted out a 63-mile loop from my house to the Santa Ana River Trail, along the Huntington Beach Path and Pacific Coast Highway to Seal Beach, up the San Gabriel River Trail to the Coyote Creek Trail and back to my house.

My bike, Bullet, next to the Santa Ana Water Bottle Filling Station. How cool is that?

My bike, Bullet, next to the Santa Ana Water Bottle Filling Station. How cool is that?

I had mainly been concerned about riding on the roads, because I simply do not trust cars not to squish me, so I’d paid particular attention to how to get to the dedicated bike paths on side roads or roads with bike lanes. That meant I didn’t pay much attention to how the Coyote Creek Trail breaks off from the San Gabriel River Trail almost immediately after the trailhead in Seal Beach, so the singing Legos and I happily followed the San Gabriel River Trail for miles and miles, wondering where the turnoff would show up and suspecting I’d missed it but who cares because Everything Is Awesome! The funny thing is that my husband and I had ridden the Coyote Creek Trail to the San Gabriel River Trail and back before, just to go to Seal Beach for Thai food (isn’t that why everyone bikes 35 miles?) So I thought I knew where I was going. Except the path was in pretty poor condition when we rode it, and it passed through some ugly industrial areas, and yet on this ride the path was newly paved and mainly followed a pretty garden nursery, the San Gabriel River, and horse properties. I kept celebrating how they’d repaved the path and done such a good job beautifying the trail, and I kept waiting for the industrial section to appear. But of course that was never going to happen because the “newly paved trail” was actually a section of the San Gabriel River Trail I’d never ridden before.

Eventually, about 18-19 miles up the San Gabriel River Trail, after I was pretty darn sure I wasn’t going the right way because I should have reached the other trail by then, and I kept getting closer and closer to the mountains and knew I’d have to turn right sometime, I came to a trail exit on a road I recognized and I knew how to ride the roads until I got to the Whittier Greenway Trail and get home. Mike ended up meeting me at mile 70.09 (4 hours and 21 minutes into the ride) and driving me the remaining three miles home. At that point you might think, “What’s another three miles?” but when I was only supposed to ride 60 for my plan, and 63 was pushing it, and I’d actually ridden 70, it was, I think, smart to stop there and not ride another mile or three.

And that’s how I inadvertently rode 70 miles last Sunday. I texted my friend Seth who has ridden a century (a 100-mile bike ride) before and he confirmed that a 70-miler is indeed enough to train and taper for a century. It’s one of my goals to complete a century someday, and there are two Bike MS century events in Southern California coming up in October. I’m tempted!

Are you an avid bike rider? I ride two to three times a week, either in spin class or on the roads/trails. Each ride is at least 20 miles.

Do you ride as part of your running training? Yes, for a long time I have followed training plans from Run Less, Run Faster or Smart Marathon Training, both of which call for three runs plus at least two cross-training workouts (biking and/or swimming).

Have you ever ridden a century? Nope, but Everything Is Awesome and I totally believe I could do it.

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Week 12 of marathon training is in the bag and THERE IS ONE MONTH LEFT UNTIL THE RACE! Pardon my shouting while I have a minor freakout here. It’s getting real! I got the email from the Mountains 2 Beach race directors the other day with the race packet attached. I don’t think I’ve ever gotten a race packet so early — I’m impressed!

Training is going well, if by “well” you mean: doing all the workouts without missing a single one, and putting all the miles in (but not always at the prescribed training pace). Today’s 15-miler was tough, probably due to the fact that I had spinach salad and scrambled eggs for dinner last night because that’s what I had on hand. Carb-loading FAIL.

I’ve reached a point in this training round where I’m not exactly running for the joy of it anymore. I’m hunkering down and putting the time in and hoping it all pays off. I’m cutting myself a break for feeling this way — you know you’re in the thick of serious training when your mid-week tempo run (not your Long Slow Distance run) is 10 miles plus warmup and cooldown.

Thankfully several sights have cheered my way on recent runs. I tried out a new bike path in Diamond Bar, California the other day, and got a giggle thinking about whoever designed the path:

Diamonds for the Diamond Bar bike path!

Diamonds for Diamond Bar!

The city of Diamond Bar was named for the “diamond over a bar” symbol on the branding iron used by a local rancher. I passed a dog grooming shop with this clever name:

D Bar Grooming sign

Around mile 8 of 15 today, the river rocks spoke to me from the dry Santa Ana River bed:

River Rocks say Run!

And this was one of the last sights I saw as I finished up my run, tired but grateful:

Boston Strong

Boston Strong

How is your training going? Have you seen anything interesting on a recent run?

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Yesterday morning I finished off week four of Mountains 2 Beach Marathon training with my first 20 mile run (the plan calls for four 20 mile runs — am I insane to follow such a rigorous plan? Feel free to discuss that in the comments). Anyway, it was an EPIC run. I’d say all 20 mile runs are epic runs, but this was epic with a capital EPIC because I ran all the way from Anaheim in North Orange County to the Pacific Ocean at Huntington Beach.

This map from 1921 shows how the trail follows the Santa Ana River from Anaheim to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

This map from 1921 shows how the trail follows the Santa Ana River from Anaheim to the ocean. Photo courtesy of Orange County Archives.

I chose the Santa Ana River Trail because its gentle downhill grade to the ocean mirrors the Mountains 2 Beach course grade from Ojai to the ocean at Ventura.

It's all downhill from here!

It’s all downhill from here! The Santa Ana River Trail looking west from Yorba Regional Park.

Over the course of 20 miles from Yorba Regional Park to the Pacific Ocean, the Santa Ana River Trail loses 280 feet in elevation. It doesn’t feel downhill though, and with several road underpasses and bridges over the river, it manages to squeeze in 72 feet of elevation.

The first several miles of the run I felt great yet intimidated by the sheer length of the workout before me. At mile 2 I couldn’t keep myself from doing the math: “You’re a tenth of the way done.” Mile 4: “You’re a fifth of the way done.” What had I gotten myself into?!

The weather cooperated with temps starting in the low 60s and rising to the high 70s three hours later. I carried one 20-ounce water bottle in my hand and another 24-ounce bottle in my fuel belt. There are several drinking fountains along the way but not nearly enough to rely on alone. With the dry SoCal air, I ended up needing approximately one gallon of Fluid sports drink and water!

Passing mile 10 and the halfway point gave me a boost in spirits but my energy started to wane a bit. I still hit my desired 9:35 pace but my effort to get there increased. I planned to take a green apple PowerGel with caffeine at mile 13. Before that though, I got just the injection of energy I needed. A cyclist riding up the trail saw me toughing it out and called out, “Keep it goin’ girl!” I called back a grateful “Thanks” and rode the wave of his kindness for the next mile. It amazes me how a few simple words of encouragement from a stranger can make all the difference! I have to laugh though and wonder what it is that makes strangers know I need that encouragement. Remember the man who lifted my spirits when I bonked on my first ever 20 mile run? Yesterday I did not bonk on the run, thank goodness, but somehow people still knew I needed the boost. Had the cyclist passed me on his way down the trail an hour ago and recognized me on the way back? Did he see my Garmin and know I was in for a long haul? Did I have a grimace on my face or the hunched back I cannot seem to avoid when I get tired, no matter how hard I pay attention to form? Was I flinging sweat left and right? Or did I give that cyclist a jealous look that said, “I want to hop on your bike like it’s Brad Pitt!” Whatever it was, he recognized a need in me and I am so thankful he made the effort to say some kind words.

At about mile 16 the breeze picked up as I approached the ocean and it became harder to hit the 9:35 pace. I used my struggle to practice what it would be like at the marathon. I pulled out all my mantras, this time throwing in what the stranger had said: “Keep it goin’ girl!” I thought about what it would be like to hit that 20 mile mark, having met my pace goal for the day. By mile 18 I was having to dig deep and fight it out. And then it happened again! A female cyclist passed me from behind and called back, “You are hauling! Go girl!” I nearly burst into tears! Instead, I managed to say, “Thank you! I needed to hear that!” More words of encouragement that helped me pick up the pace and knock out 20 miles at an average of 9:34, with the last mile at 9:06.

When I hit 20 miles I threw my arms up in the air and yelled like I just didn’t care: “Twenty miles!” There was no finish line photo, no arch of balloons over the line, but I celebrated anyway. And when another kind couple saw me walking rather stiffly on my cooldown walk and asked if I was alright, I assured them: “Yes! I did 20 miles!”

I’d done the 20 miles in 3:11, and I walked for another 40 minutes. In retrospect I should have had Mike pick me up after I’d walked for about 10 minutes. That last 1.6 mile walk to the beach might have been the hardest part of the workout! I desperately needed more water, and I texted my husband to make sure he and the rest of my support crew (three cute little girls in beachwear!) would be waiting at the parking lot at the end of the trail. I’ve never been so thrilled to see the ocean and to see my family waiting there for me! We walked (well, I hobbled) down to the shore and I kept on walking, right into the ocean for an “ice bath.” I could barely stand the cold on my feet but it felt glorious on my calves and thighs.

Today I feel surprisingly good. My neck and shoulders are sore, which tells me I’ve got to work more on correcting that hunchback form! My knees are a little sore, which tells me it’s a good thing I am training on the downhills to prepare for Mountains 2 Beach. Mentally, I am relieved to have met my pace goal for my first 20 miler of this training series. Spiritually, my faith in humankind has been boosted by the good-hearted strangers who made it possible.

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26.2 on the Garmin

Here it is January 1st and I’ve already gotten in my first 26.2 of the year . . . on the bike. Mike and I took advantage of holiday babysitting by Grandma and we got out on the section of the Santa Ana River Trail that runs through Riverside County in California. Fun fact: Riverside County is so massive that it rivals the state of New Jersey in total area.

We started out at the trailhead located at the Hidden Valley Nature Center entrance in Riverside. There’s a fee to park inside the wildlife area so we chose the free parking outside the entrance, right next to the bright yellow sign that warned not to leave your car unattended due to a rash of recent break-ins. Several other cars risked parking there too, their drivers probably hoping any local delinquents were too hungover from New Year’s Eve celebrations to be out vandalizing cars.

At the trailhead we stopped to admire the view of snow on the San Bernardino Mountains.

Riverside County Regional Trail

Winter is the perfect time to ride in Riverside County. The desert area magically turns lush and green from the winter rains, the Santa Ana River actually has water running in it, the air is relatively clear, and you can’t beat the views. It’s a little chilly (50s, SoCal chilly) and windy but that drives away the crowds.

Hardly anyone was out on the trail. Imagine our surprise, then, when we came along the caravan of homeless people led by a man wielding a hatchet. I KID YOU NOT. Thank goodness I had not chosen to ride the trail alone as originally planned (when I was the only one awake at 7 a.m. and a certain someone slept in until 10:30). Luckily we sped right past Hatchet Man without incident and he was gone by the time we returned back there an hour later.

In spite of the hazards (and the smell from the sewage treatment plant and the view of the garbage dump, I KID YOU NOT), I would totally return to that section of the Santa Ana River Trail. I love a dedicated bikeway and this one offered a lot of beautiful views of the river, the mountains, and the surrounding horse country.

Now I’m safely back at home and I’ve resumed my work as Chief Bed Lump. I got about three hours of sleep last night (I KID YOU NOT) — party details to follow. Combine lack of sleep with a 2-hour bike ride and you’ve got a girl who wanted to fall asleep tonight at 6 p.m. Lucky for you I’ve stayed awake long enough to hit Publish on this post. Happy New Year everyone!

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No, I did not run 15 miles again, this time I retraced my running steps on the bike. My two older girls got invited to a birthday party at Mission: Renaissance, a great little art school tucked in a shopping plaza just five minutes from the Santa Ana River Trail. While they drew this:

owl pastel

My seven-year-old’s owl, which she named Spring. Love those eyelashes!

and this:

red brown owl in pastel

My 10-year-old’s owl, which she named Amber. Love the shading on the sky!

I rode my bike on the trail for 65 minutes. I thought it would be cool to take a different look at how far I’d run the day before. Ha ha, I said “cool.” I should have said “absolutely broiling hot.” It was 100 degrees Fahrenheit (37.8 degrees C) and I could swear it was even hotter on the black asphalt. By the time I walked my bike from my car to the trail, my elbow pits were sweating. Elbow pits? Please wait while I Google that term to see if it’s real. Hmm, it appears everyone knows what you mean by the elbow pit, but its scientific name is the cubital fossa. Good to know. I’m sure that will come up a lot in the future. Anyway, my cubital fossa was dripping with sweat and I hadn’t even started riding. Not a good sign. Then I hopped on the bike and it seemed like I stopped sweating altogether. The breeze, and by breeze I mean blast of hot air from an inferno, evaporated any sweat before it could even appear on my skin. Ooh, let’s have another scientific lesson, this time on how sweat evaporates:

In general when water evaporates it requires heat energy. The amount of heat energy required is called the latent heat of vaporization. If the water is not sitting on a stove that supplies the energy, the energy must come from someplace else…. When we sweat, our skin and clothing become covered with water. If the atmospheric humidity is low, this water evaporates easily. The heat energy needed to evaporate the water comes from our bodies. So this evaporation cools our bodies, which have too much heat.

(Source: Suite 101: Physics of Sweating). Nifty, our very own human cooling system! Except I didn’t feel very cool. I didn’t cool down until I headed back to Mission: Renaissance and grabbed some leftover fro yo from the birthday party. Chocolate with cookie dough topping, to be exact. Question: is 41 too old to call it fro yo? Just wondering. I fear I’m not that “cool.”

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The oddsmakers keep revising the betting odds for whether or not I will run the marathon on November 10, a mere six weeks away. I had pretty much resigned myself to bowing out of the race due to plantar fasciitis, but then a devilish little birdie whispered in my ear. “Come on. Just take a look at your training plan. Let’s think about how you could juggle the long runs and get back on track. See how you do and then decide.”  I listened to that little devil and ran 12 miles last Sunday, a three-mile aqua jog on Monday, followed by another six on the trails on Wednesday. Those runs felt okay, not great. Good enough to continue. So this Saturday morning I watched the sun rise as I started out for what I hoped would be 15 miles, a new personal distance record. I jogged along the dirt path, shunning the asphalt trail, all the better to pamper my delicate feet.

An internal debate started. Should I just go out a mile and then turn around, so I could easily bail at any point 2 or 4 or 6 miles into the run, or should I commit to the full 15 and go out 7.5 miles?  I committed. I know, I know, you’re thinking I should be committed for this crazy push to continue the training. I too questioned my sanity at several points along the run. One of the first things I asked myself was why I hadn’t gone out to buy some KT Tape yet, or some Superfeet Insoles. Then I answered myself, well Self, probably because in the 45 minutes before school on Thursday morning alone, you did the following:

  • Made breakfast for three girls and myself
  • Ate said breakfast
  • Dressed a preschooler and made sure the other two were appropriately dressed (even at this stage it’s necessary to check that my free spirit 7-year-old isn’t going commando under her dress)
  • Hair brushed? Teeth brushed? Sunscreen? Shoes? Remind remind remind children eleventy-billion times until the answer is yes. Remind 7-year-old to get out the laminated “Good Morning Checklist” we made last year so I can stop reminding them!
  • Packed three lunches (usually the older girls do this themselves but sometimes I surprise them and myself by doing it)
  • Made sure three girls had their school bags with all the necessary papers
  • Ensured that all the necessary papers were signed in all the necessary places. That sounds easy enough but for two elementary school children, that meant no less than FIVE signatures. (1) Homework for 7-year-old, (2)-(5) agenda, practice spelling test, reading log and pass-back folder for the 10-year-old. RIDICULOUS.
  • Helped 7-year-old practice her poem recitation one last time.
  • Remembered it was picture day and remembered to (finally) log on the computer to choose portrait styles and pay for them and print the receipts for the girls to take to school.

My point to myself being, I have some things on my plate that shove “extraneous running gear shopping” to number 95 on my to do list. So I stopped berating myself and got on with the run, which actually felt great.

At one point I saw a sign from the universe. You all know how I feel about signs, given the one before I ran my first half marathon, and the one that inspired me in my training for my first Olympic distance triathlon. This time, the sign looked like this:

Mile Marker

Just add .2

Well, oddsmakers, what do you think now?

I continued on the run and hit 7.75 miles before I turned around. I was more than happy to turn back at that point, given that the view from the trail looked like this:

view of 91

Worst trail view ever. Might as well be running ON the 91 freeway.

I started to get tired toward the end of the run. I’m pretty sure no one saw me give the finger to the hill I faced 13.5 miles into my run. As my preschooler would say, “I remember not doing it.”

It was all downhill after that, and I finished the last two miles strong. 15 miles in 2 hours 20 minutes, for a pace of 9:22, ahead of my training goal pace of 9:26. I stretched, ate a PB&H sandwich on whole wheat, hurried home, became intimate with my foam roller, soaked in an Epsom salt ice bath, showered, put some arnica gel on my feet and iced them for a bit. Whew! 15 miles in the bag!

What’s the longest distance you’ve ever run?

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