Saturday Morning Run Down Sycamore Canyon to Ranch Center Road

SycamoreCanyon FR_sign.JPG

For those of you who have walked, run or cycled down the paved Big Sycamore Canyon Road in Pt Mugu State Park from the Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa area, you may have noticed the fork in the road about a mile from the bottom of the steep hill.

Sycamore Canyon Road / Ranch Center Road juncture

Sycamore Canyon Road / Ranch Center Road juncture

Sycamore Canyon Road / Ranch Center Road junctureMost folks continue straight down Sycamore Canyon towards the beach. But if you veer right, you are headed down Ranch Center Road. I don't get up that way very often on my runs in the canyon. In fact, I can't even remember the last time I was up that way. But this past Saturday I decided to divert myself up that path.

In general, I don't see a lot of people down in Sycamore Canyon. As beautiful as it is, it is a lot of work getting down there and about five times tougher getting back out of it up the steep fire road to Newbury Park. I'd estimate easily two thirds of the folks I see down there are on bikes and the rest are hikers and runners.

But  there are significantly less people on Ranch Center Road. This past Saturday, I was surprised to see two young teenage-looking gals jogging up the trail, chatting away, having a nice run. Otherwise, I saw about 8 cyclists as I made my way up Ranch Center Road to the dilapidated, burned down Ranch area structures where Ranch Center Road meets Wood Canyon Fire Road.

Wood Canyon Fire Road is more interesting to run than Ranch Center Road as it is all dirt trail and surrounded by trees.

Wood Canyon Fire Road is more interesting to run than Ranch Center Road as it is all dirt trail and surrounded by trees.


Wood Canyon Fire Road is more interesting to run than Ranch Center Road as it is all dirt trail and surrounded by trees. I saw two cyclists rolling up this trail as I was coming down. Quite peaceful.

Trail runners' heaven is Wood Canyon Fire Road. I could run on trails like this any day.

Trail runners' heaven is Wood Canyon Fire Road. I could run on trails like this any day.

Several miles downhill the trail links back up to Sycamore Canyon Road, where I ran up past the Danielson Multi-Use Area, where I saw a group of campers, then back up the canyon.

Less than a mile north of the Danielson Multi-use area is this well placed porta-john.

Less than a mile north of the Danielson Multi-use area is this well placed porta-john.

I was out there for about 1 1/2 hours. A good, mid-summer fun run.

Ran My First 5K in Over Three Months and Earned a 54,750% Return on Investment

The sky above Dos Vientos the morning of the race on July 20, 2013

After messing up my right hamstring in my last 5K on April 13th, I finally felt "safe" enough to try another race.

It took a dozen visits to my chiropractor to finally get to the point where I felt I could run "fast" again without pain in my hamstring. That said, on Saturday, I had not done any speed interval training or races since getting sidelined with my issue.

Having run pretty much one speed...slow...for the past 13 weeks, didn't give me much confidence. So I treated this race very "unseriously." What does that mean? Very little preparation, both logistically and mentally. I'm talking about:

  • Didn't sign up for the race until the night before
  • Didn't do anything special the night before, like eat "the right" food, go to bed early, pin my bib number on my shirt, etc. (though I did brush my teeth I'll let you know)
  • Didn't set the alarm, figuring, well, uh, hoping, that I'd awaken in time to drive 5 minutes to Dos Vientos for the 8am race, even though I didn't get to bed until 12:30am
  • Didn't wear my special racing flats - instead, I wore my Skechers "Go Run" shoes that I use in my training shoe rotation (that said, these shoes, are really, really light, so they are just fine for racing in, in my opinion)
  • Got up at 6:45 am, brushed teeth, laced up shoes, and decided to get a car wash and gas (for my car, not me) first instead of driving directly to the race to warm up
  • Got there in time for some brief warmup, a little socializing, and a few photos on this cloudy Saturday morning (like the image above)

So basically my strategy when I know I'm not physically prepared for a race is to take my mind off of that by, just, well, going with the flow. Life's too short to treat every local 5K race too seriously!

Well I guess the strategy paid off because I ended up winning the race overall in 18:53. Now this was quite a slow time for me, but the course was not an easy one, with multiple climbs along Borchard Road. This was a race where hill strength was more important, in my opinion, than leg speed (though some of both would be nice). Some younger guys took the early lead. I passed them on the uphill. They flew past me on the downhill. But after the turnaround, what went downhill, had to go back uphill. About halfway into that uphill, the guys looked like they were running the wrong way on an escalator. I just kind of plodded and plugged away and passed them by, figuring I'd see them again after cresting the top of the hill.

Lo and behold, somehow I maintained the lead through the remainder of the race, good for an overall win. In most races, even hilly races like this one, a winning time of 18:53 would normally not take first place overall. But hey....I'LL TAKE IT! The key I've found to winning a race through all these years, is finding a race where your faster competition will not be present.  Ha!

This race had a decent payback for me. I spent $35 on the entry. The t-shirt and goodie bag had a value of about $15, leaving $20 invested. I won a $50 Roadrunner Sports gift certificate, so my one day return on investment was about 150%. Annualized, that would be a 54,750% return. Yay!

Now back to the grind. I'm still a bit sore from this race 2 days later. Ouch.

Had Good Intentions to Run the Miller Family YMCA 5K on the 4th of July

But...I didn't actually run the race. In fact, I had signed up myself and my 10 year old to run the 5K together but he ended up sleeping until 9 a.m. that morning and I didn't want to drag him out of bed.

The Miller Family YMCA in Newbury Park hosted its 3rd Annual Independence Day 5K/10K, Classic Car Show and Pancake Breakfast on July 4th. I hadn't done a race since the 5K in April that trashed my right hamstring and am still not 100% recovered to run another "full on" race. But I thought it would be fun to run with my son to start out the holiday.

Near the start of the 5K.

He was out too late the night before bottom line, and with plans to watch firewalks that evening, I didn't want to wake him. So I went over to the race anyway to check it out. I actually placed my bib number on my shirt and timer card on my shoelaces, but changed my mind before the race based on how my hamstring felt. So I decided to just go for a run instead and cheer on some of the runners.

I spoke with John Fedoroff of Thousand Oaks, age 44 and overall winner of the 5K in 17:19, a somewhat pedestrian time for someone who was the overall winner of last year's Malibu Marathon in 2:37. He noted the hill in the first mile of the race was pretty challenging. Maybe he's right, as only 3 of the 430 finishers completed the 5K in under 20 minutes, including 2nd and 3rd place finsihers, Brandon Rista, age 21, of Newbury Park (18:55) and Justin Spina, age 33, of Newbury Park (19:55), respectively. John's entire family ran the race as he went back to cheer them on after crossing the finish line!

Top female finishers in the 5K were Sara Pearson, age 20 (hometown not indicated) in 20:18, Swathi Samuel, age 15, of Newbury Park in 20:47 and Nicole Burch, age 13 of Newbury Park in 21:13 (wow!).

The 10K started 10 minutes before the 5K and I managed to catch the eventual winner, Logan Beteta, age 15, of Newbury Park, running below between the 2 and 3 mile mark of the race. He handily won in an outstanding time of 34:24.

Miller YMCA 10K winner Logan Beteta, age 15, from Newbury Park.Filling out the top 3 of the 10K were 38 year old Chris Clarke of Newbury Park (36:41) and 30 year old Steve Cox of Newbury Park (38:50). Thirty eight year old Jennifer Todd off Newbury Park was way out in front in an outstanding time of 39:10, followed by 30 year old Janelle Achenbach of Thousand Oaks (44:35) and 51 year old Tina Burch of Newbury Park (45:54). I strongly suspect a family relationship between Tina and Nicole, 3rd place finisher in the 5K. Like mother, like daughter, as they say! (again, I'm making an assumption here...)

Waking Up My Body Once Again With a Local 5K Race on the 4th of July

With no particular race plans and no real focus to my running these days, I don't have a lot of motivation to run fast. It has been 3 1/2 months since I started back with my running after 5 1/2 week hiatus. I've been running consistently, but not spectacularly.

Part of my problem continues to be lack of adequate sleep...getting to bed too late. I'll have to work on cloning myself. Too tired in the morning, my daily runs have been slow. My long runs in the 8 to 9 mile range over the last 3 to 4 weeks.

In any case, I thought it would be fun to do the local Miller Family YMCA 5K in Newbury Park on the 4th of July to give my body some shock treatment again. When you don't do speedwork on the track or in your training in general, I'm a fan of running a periodic 5K to force a little speed with peer pressure surrounding you in a fun environment.

There were over 400 runners on hand for the 5K. The weather was overcast, the course was semi-challenging. I felt decent. Not speedy, but not bad.

As usual for pretty much any local 5K/10K, there were dozens and dozens of teenagers toeing the line. Although I know most of them will be out of the gate like a sprinter, then fizzle out before the first miler marker, I don't bother trying to squeeze into the front where I know I belong (I did, even at my advanced age of 47, still manage to finish 9th overall). I chose standing in the 2nd/3rd row and relaxing, though slightly annoyed, to jostling with a pimply 16 year old for a spot.

The race starts and, sure enough, 50 people bolt out ahead of me as I work my way into it. But within 1/2 mile most of these folks are behind me as I slowly but surely reel them in. At that point I was pretty much in the spot I'd end up at at the finish line.

While the speed that carried me to 17 1/2 minute 5K times 2 years ago was not there, I felt more competitive than the 10K I ran 2 1/2 months ago. So I was able to keep a couple teenagers on their toes most of the race, trading positions with them a few times. At the end, they were able to accelerate while I stayed in 2nd gear, and they beat me 8 seconds.

The results show me in 9th place in 18:31, roughly 5:59 per mile. The first mile was uphill, which forced me into negative splits, which is a good thing. The two kids in front of me were 14 and 16. The 10th place finisher, 25 seconds behind me, was 15. WTH?? I'm older than the combined ages of these 3 guys. Too much fun!

Ran Another 5K But Back Came My Injury

Encouraged with my performance at a local 5K on July 10th, I decided to sign up for another local 5K in Newbury Park on Saturday, July 16th.

The First Annual Care and Compassion 5K run in support of Mary Health of the Sick Convalescent Hospital in Newbury Park was one of the smallest races I've run, with about 75 participants or so, and not particularly exciting as it looped around Peppertree Park 4 1/2 times, but it was fun and enjoyable and the people were really nice. Plus it always feels good supporting a local race that supports a good cause.

Before the start of the raceRight after the start of the race

But I knew going in I was there more for fun than for competition, as my little psoas muscle soreness was back. Darn it!

Some injuries you can run through, some you can't. My psoas injury causes me pain and thus slows me down quite a bit, but I can still run. So I did the best I could with the obnoxious pain in my left lower navel area. I finished in a pedestrian 19:30 or so, roughly 2 minutes slower than my typical 5K times and a minute slower than the prior weekend's 5K (which was run on tight, sore calves).

Yes indeed, I'm getting old. And feeling it. But the older and (relatively speaking) less competitive I get, the more I enjoy the camaraderie of a local race. Pretty much everybody at these local 5K races are there to have fun and enjoy a nice morning.

This race was so small that there were only 2 age divisions - under 40 and 40 and over. I handily won the 40+ division and was rewarded with a cool water bottle with a freezable center to keep my drink cool. It is now sitting with the 12 other water bottles in my garage, ready for action.

Today it is Wednesday, July 27th. I spent a 5 day long weekend out of town with my family and am back at it. Still sore, but in good spirits. Even though I'm sore I'm signed up for the Bulldog 25K trail run a month from today. We'll see how that goes.

Ran Up to the Old Danielson Cabin Site and Monument Today

Danielson Monument

Danielson Monument

At 10 a.m. today, I ran from the trailhead at Wendy and Potrero in Newbury Park up to the Danielson Monument and old cabin site.  Generally I prefer to run early in the morning but my wife needed some extra sleep today so I ran later.  It is definitely getting warmer out there but there was some light ocean breezes in the trails.

Danielson Monument Sign

Danielson Monument Sign

This is roughly a 7 mile round-trip trek and it took me an about an hour, 32 minutes up and 28 minutes back.  Some of the trails are a little overgrown but overall it wasn't too bad.  Butterflies and lizards were out in force today.  In fact a baby lizard ran with me for about 20 steps as he decided to veer off the trail.  There were only about 2 dozen people total on the trail today so it was nice and quiet.

I run at a decent clip.  For many of you, assuming you run the whole way, this would be about an hour and a half run.  If you hike the trail, it is more like 3 hours. Details at THIS LINK.

I was out of gas at the end of the run today. This is a challenging run because it involves a lot of hills.  The net elevation climb is 1200 feet but I suspect the total climb, factoring in downhills is a lot more. Courses like this are great for building endurance, strength (uphills) and speed (downhills).  Lots of rocks and turns though so be careful!

Danielson's Old Deer Cabin - Only the chimney remains

Danielson's Old Deer Cabin - Only the chimney remains

There was shade along a decent section of the trail today but overall it was pretty warm.  There are some areas, particularly near the stream crossing, with poison oak to watch out for.  I didn't carry water with me as I knew it would only be an hour, but I'd recommend bringing some.

Now go on, stop reading this blog, get out there and start RUNNING!