I don't think I've ever been yelled at by a rattlesnake before...
Monday, May 05, 2014
How's that for an interest grabber? I'll get back to that title soon enough. First...well, last week I had this AWESOME post in my mind and I was ready to put all down and put it up here and then my keyboard wouldn't work. Actually, to be fully honest, approximately half my keyboard wouldn't work. I type and only certain keys register. It would have been horrible to try to read. So, did I grab my hubs' computer and get it done? No, the kids were playing something vitally important like Animal Jam or Minecraft. So, the total awesomeness has mostly passed but I still want to share some of last week that still stands out before it is totally lost.
My running coach has set out this really incredible workout schedule for Saturday runs and is totally focused on getting me ready for my mountain 10k coming up. I'm so glad I finally invested in someone who can help me reach my goals as outlandish as they may seem. Okay, so I'm WAY too poor to afford a professional coach, but I do still have my sister and that's what I'm calling her now, my running coach. She is training for her first MARATHON (I think that should be all caps all the time it's that huge) and dragging us behind (far behind). Mom, sis and I are all in training for the same 10k up in the mountains while sis concurrently trains for the MARATHON and we've found the BEST place to train and workout. If you've been reading for awhile you are already familiar with our favorite local hike, North Hills Trail (just minutes from sis' house and incredibly challenging) and The Beast, our favorite hill for repeats, etc. Incredibly we've been hugely short sited in our running patterns and until last week hadn't ever run INSIDE the area that The Beast leads up to. What we've done is run UP this huge hill and then stop there and turn around and run back down, totally ignoring the fact that at the top of this hill is this really pretty lake with this really incredible trail around it. The whole thing is man-made as a reservoir. They (the people who do things like this) built several dams between some hills, filled it with water and fish and created a gorgeous lake. They built a trail around the entire thing and our town actually runs a Marathon, Half, 5k and kids' run up there every year. We FINALLY did the 5k this year and ran a very small portion of the trail in brutal rain and mud and STILL had so much fun we started considering the trail as a viable running option.
Three Saturdays ago we headed out to North Hills and when we got to the lake overlook we stood there, admiring a view we've seen before and watching as bikes and runners cruised past and we decided it was time...time for us to make the leap to the inside trail. As soon as we finished our hike we hopped into my sis' car and drove up to the top of The Beast and purchased an annual trail pass for each of us. At $25 a pop we felt like we were getting a HUGE deal. Parking costs more than the trail admission so we decided we would use The Beast as a warm-up. We would park at the bottom and walk/run our way to the top for the lake trail and thereby skip the cost of a parking permit.
The very next weekend (two Saturdays ago) we showed up at the base of the hill ready to go. Well, I wasn't quite since I'd dressed for the weather we'd BEEN having instead of the the weather we got. We had been given an icy cold and very strong wind that day and I was wearing short sleeves and capris. I was FREEZING, but off we went shortly before dawn. By the time we reached the upper portion of The Beast the sun was just starting to peek above the mountain and tinge the clouds gold. It was BEAUTIFUL and made it possible to mostly ignore the HUGE headwind I was battling. A turn towards the lake put us between some hills that shielded us from the wind for a bit and then it was back. We don't often have to run in wind here and this particular wind was so icy and so strong I was wondering where it came from...Alaska? We checked in at the kiosk and started off again. I fell in love with the trail almost immediately. It's wide. The ground is even. The trail is dirt in most places and bedrock in others. There are few places that pose a threat of a turned ankle, at least until further along the trail. The deeper into the trail the more you find those possibilities, but for the most part the trail is extremely well kept and much like running on an open road without any threat of any cars coming by. The best part? Sorry, but it's the porta-potties. Weird, huh? Seriously...these are the CLEANEST portas EVER. They have t.p. They have soap. Sometimes the water function isn't working the best or there is a spider in the sink you don't want to disturb, but that's why we carry water and sanitizer with us. I'm pretty sure they are serviced every Friday so when we show up on Saturday we seem to be the first to utilize the service. SO nice. And there are PLENTY of them. I think the agency that runs the lake is so set on keeping the lake water clean that they want to make sure that the fishermen/women/kids have no excuse to use anything BUT the portas when nature calls. In fact, it is a no contact lake so no swimming allowed, so no anything else allowed. Fish only please :).
I had SUCH a great time on this trail that going 6.2 was a pleasure. My longest distance in a VERY long time and I hardly blinked and sort of wanted to keep going to see more of what was ahead, but I used my head and turned around instead of pushing it.
The run back was just as pleasant as the run out and, in fact, better. The trial that was the headwind on the way out became a tailwind on the way back. The hill that had to be climbed at the start was now downhill all the way. The wind pushing at my back was so...I don't know...pleasant doesn't seem to describe it well, but pleasant is the best I can come up with at the moment. A gentle hand resting on my back as it guided me back down the hill. I was still very cold, but the warmth of the workout kept me from feeling it until I stopped and got in the car. It was an incredible workout that left me hungry for more.
So....that brings us to this past Saturday. We put North Hills trail back on the schedule and showed up bright and early ready to tackle the challenge...and it was ready to fight back.
Oh. My. Goodness. The trail chewed me up and spit me back out again. It was hideous almost from the beginning...well, that's not entirely true. I killed the first mile. I set a great pace. I maintained a great pace, knowing that later I would go very, very slow. I felt amazingly good going up the first challenging hill and that's where it stopped. That's where the beauty ended and the horror began. The second challenging hill section is the part we ALWAYS dread. It's hard, really, really hard. It's steep. Really, really steep. It burns. It really, really burns. Oh, my aching butt. However, we persevered and made it over the really hard part, on to the nice part that is more flat than hills and shadier than other sections and feels more remote and more like being out in the wild hiking than "I can see your house from here" hiking.
That part was pretty good, but I was still feeling pretty beat up from the really hard section. We got to the lake overlook and I decided I could run for awhile, so I did for about a hundred yards or less when suddenly I hear this sound to my right. It took me an amazingly short amount of time to identify the sound and then jump about a dozen feet up and to the left, especially considering that was the first time I'd ever heard the sound in real life. Don't ask me how big it was, all I know is that I'd put its head at about my knee. I have NO CLUE how much of it there was after that, but only slightly to the right of being right smack in the middle of the trail was a nice brown rattlesnake yelling its head off at me for disturbing its whatever it was doing. Oh my heart rate. If my HRM had actually been working properly I can only imagine what it would have shown, but alas, I think it needs a new battery because it was very off on its readings the entire day.
I made it a safe distance past the critter and then turned and watched it curl up in the sun. I waited until my mom came around the corner to warn her and then we were off again. This time I was watching every inch of the trail and turning corners only after I could see what was ahead. I put in my distance and turned around. My friend had continued on his journey by now and my sister didn't see him coming or going, lucky duck. But, she'd gone a lot further down the trail and had a lot more hill to deal with than I did. Mom and I paused at a good waiting spot and watched for her return, when we saw that she wasn't too far behind us we simply waited and then we made the BEST decision we've probably ever made. We walked to the point where we could hop the fence into the inside trail (the awesome one we'd done the week before) and finished our time on the much more kind trail and down hill of the beast instead of the trail we'd been on. We had our passes so we only felt a little bad and we were able to finish in much better shape. At the point we jumped ship we still had a LOT of downhill to do and a really long (seemingly anyway) trek under the hot sun. The distances didn't really change, but the exertion needed to complete the task did. Even mentally the difference was sufficient to change torture into something doable. We still had to do uphills and downhills, but because the trail was smoother and the transitions between uphill and downhill smoother it made it more doable on that day. It didn't help anything at all that we were just coming off 3 days of HORRID windstorms that left debris everywhere and brought with it mid-summer style heat. The interior trails were also more frequently traveled and so, in my mind, less likely to have rattlesnakes in the middle of them. I finally made it to the down hill and pushed to make a certain time before my sis came and picked up mom first and then me. She was first to a car and we'd decided that enough was enough, forget distance, exertion level would be allowed to rule the day. In the end we all made it home safe and sound and for me at least, was able to enjoy what the rest of Saturday held in store.
Yesterday was a rest day and I had a great one. My kids are part of a piece of hometown history this year. The town hosts this BIG play every year and there is a part for the town kids who want to participate and this year all three decided they wanted to do it. We live quite a bit west of the play's location so hubs and I have been dropping the kids off and then loitering for a few hours. We've been going different places in town and on Saturdays include a store or two for the shopping we need done. This past weekend we headed for a place called Simpson park. It is a great location for hiking and mountain bike riding. Sunday we saw some joggers. We just picked a table and literally loitered. We sat, I read, we both took a little nap under a tree. He slept most of the time away. I did more reading. When the wind picked up and it got a little chilly we headed for the car. I had a computer along and popped in How to Marry a Millionaire while hubs napped in the tilted back front seat. The park was pretty empty, but it still felt strange being so lazy at the park where I could be hiking, I was seriously tempted at one point, but considering we'd gone from church to dropping off the kids to the park, I wasn't dressed for a hike, not one bit. Besides, I was still wary of rattlesnakes. This was much later in the day and I felt it was probably prime sunbathing time for any rattlers out on those trails. So for about an hour I just sat in the car and watched a movie...my own personal drive-in theater :). I caught a movement in my peripheral vision and looked up just in time to see a roadrunner watching me before he turned and went into the underbrush.
I much preferred that run in with nature than the one the day before. I've seen roadrunners off in the distance before, usually running across the road, I don't think I've ever seen one that close before. He was only marginally further away from me then than the rattlesnake had been the day before.
In the end, I LOVE where I live. I love that I have a few options for fitness activities that are TOTALLY local and mostly under-appreciated. None of these trails is ever packed with people. Yes, during later spring and summer months we have to use caution. We have to watch out for snakes and we especially have to be aware of the effects of heat on the body and be prepared for that. Water, water, WATER. I need to remember that it is best to start a hike on a summer morning already well hydrated. Overall, I'm already looking forward to Saturday's run. It's going to be a good one no matter what because we already decided that North Hills isn't going to work for running training and we'll definitely keep doing it...AFTER my sister's MARATHON for the strength it will give our glutes, quads and lungs. For now, the rattlesnake can have the trail, come October, he better be ready to hand it back over though.