It all started on Saturday.
For this week’s “run in new places” adventures I headed out to Rancho San Antonio in the Los Altos Hills.
I’d only been to Rancho once, about 5 years ago with my friend Megan. From what I recall, we spent most of the time confused by all the different trails. So I did some prep work during the week and asked around to find out what was a plausible route for a 10-miler.
A couple of friends, Lan, and Tanya both gave me relatively similar routes to take, just starting at opposite points. Both warned that it would be challenging workout. Tanya also warned me to get there early because parking tends to be an issue. Since the route is about a half hour from my house, I was up early and out the door by 7:30 am.
Luckily, I got one of the few remaining parking spaces. I wasn’t quite sure where the trails started but there were lots of people wearing fuel belts so I just followed the crowd. Turns out a Fleet Feet running group was having a group run.
In addition to the challenging route, I wanted to run at Rancho to break in my new trail running shoes.
Both my regular and trail running shoes are Pearl Izumi syncroFuel’s. Their mantra is “Run Like An Animal.”
Well the whole time I was afraid of running into animals. At the start of the trails there are signs everywhere warning patrons of the “cats” that could be in the area. We’re talking coyotes, bobcats, etc. I’m not gonna lie – I said a small prayer to not run into any of these creatures.
Next to the warning signs, there was also a map of the entire preserve. I realized that I was on the side of the park that Lan told me to start at. So my route would be: Rogue Valley Trail > High Meadow Trail > PG&E Trail. That would loop me back to the starting point in roughly 10 miles.
I stood at the start of the trail and looked up to this…
…not realizing that my adventure would take me well into those mountains.
I started out with the Fleet Feet group. Less than a mile into the run I became quite educated with the differences between trail and road running. I had to pay attention to every step I took, to avoid the rocks, tree stumps, mud, animal droppings (again, I was concerned…).
Almost immediately, the climb began. At first I couldn’t really feel it, but the rolling hills became more prevalent. Less than 2 miles into it I was already tired, and had no idea of what else was to come.
One of the Fleet Feet runners came running back so I asked her how much further the climb continued. She said that the group had told her if she wanted to run “flat” then to turn around because the hills would be starting soon. Ummm, if the rolling hills were considered “flat” then I knew I was in trouble.
But I kept going. And climbing, and climbing….and climbing. Every time I made a turn I expected to see some flat ground, but it would only turn out to be more climbing.
But the views were worth it.
While there weren’t any mileage markers, the trails were well-marked and I had no trouble finding my way. It’s a good thing too because with the exception of another runner or two, I was all alone out there.
Somewhere along the 3rd mile I ran into a group of hikers and asked them how much longer would the climb be before I would start to descend. They told me I was about to start the PG&E trail and it would be about another mile or so of climbing, but even then, the descent would be rolling hills down. Oh, and the last bit of climb would be a serious steep hill.
At about 4.5 miles in I was dying. I didn’t know how much more climb I could take. At 4.85 miles I hit that steep hill they warned me about. I could barely walk up it, let alone run it. That’s when I hit the wall. I was done climbing. So I took a breather, ate a Hammer gel, and then turned around. Instead of doing the full loop, I turned the route into an out ‘n back.
I don’t know what was harder – the almost 5-mile climb up – or the 5-mile descent down. While it felt good to fly downhill (serious improvement in pace), I knew my quads were going to get thrashed. But I couldn’t stop myself. I just kept running and running and running….until I ran smack into 2 deer. We stood there looking at each other. Then one started walking towards me and I screamed. Then they looked at each other and walked away into the mountainside. I was more afraid of them than they were of me. More motivation to keep going.
When it was all said and done, it looked like this:
I was wiped out for the rest of the day. I mean we’re talking “on the couch, can’t move” wiped out. I even changed dinner plans so that I didn’t have to drive to the City. I had no energy left.
My chiro and massage therapist have been encouraging me to mix up the surfaces that I run on. To be quite honest, I really didn’t think it would have that much of an affect on my body, but it really does. Other than massively sore quads and hip flexors, the rest of me felt okay! Much better than I expected. The trails are much kinder than road.
That being said, I had 3-miles scheduled for Sunday. I never run on back-to-back days because my body usually can’t handle it. But its what my coach scheduled for me so I went with it, staying local in my neighborhood.
It was rough, especially that first mile. While it got easier with every step, I still feel like I hobbled the entire time. My legs were done.
Thankfully, today I was scheduled to see my massage therapist! After a morning swim, I drove out to the East Bay to see her. She spent 2 hours working on me – that’s how many tight muscles I have in my body. ☺
As difficult as a place Rancho is to run at, I am most definitely going to do it again. It was so exhilarating. I put the word out to my friends and am compiling a list of all the other local trails that I need to tackle this year. I’m hooked!