Trail work & Training: Week ending April 22

Race Director Hal Winton, Shortcut Saddle

Race Director Hal Winton, Shortcut Saddle

I picked the first day of trailwork because I reckoned the temperatures would be lower, and because we would be working on a section of trail that wasn’t exposed or covered in poodle-dog bush. It was also my birthday.

My plan worked out halfway, as we were hit with a heatwave and temperatures were in the high eighties – warm for April.

Manual labor is not an area in which I excel. I work at a desk. Swinging a pick-axe for 7 hours to widen a trail is not something that comes easily to me. This was a workout, not just for me but for all of us. A least a few people wondered aloud why it was that prisoners on chain gangs weren’t doing this sort of work.

That said, one’s appreciation for these trails must go up considerably after just a single day is spent working to maintain them. If everyone who uses these trails spent some time widening them, clearing them, cleaning them, there’d be a lot less tendency to discard trash, rut them up with mountain bikes, and all the rest.

At some point in time, we saw just about everyone. Tiffany Guerra and a crew of Coyotes stopped for a moment to say hello while running up the trail. There was one guy running hill repeats up Winter Creek trail, which is impressive, since I think that stretch is tough to run just once. I even met Gil Blank, who has the distinction of being the slowest official finisher in race history, coming in at 32:59:43 – 17 seconds shy of the 33 hour cut-off. He was proud enough of his accomplishment to speak it. Imagine the pressure – knowing that after having run 99 miles you were in danger of not making the cut-off at the finish.

Sunday was a training run from Chilao to Chantry – the 3rd quarter of the race, more or less, and a stretch that will probably be run almost entirely in the dark. Andy Kumeda led a group out early, marking the trail, which was especially important on the climb from Chilao to Charlton Flats. This year, the race will be back on the Silver Moccasin trail for sections that were closed last year due to the Station Fires. It’s easy to get off course (although getting completely lost would be a little harder as there is a paved road that zig-zags to Charlton Flats as well).

Charlton Flats is where I expect my lights will come on. The trail then heads down an exposed mountain side, somewhat rutted and technical, and then there’s a short, covered climb back up to Shortcut Saddle, where Bill Ramsey will be running the aid station of all aid-stations, tempting to hang out, eat dinner and spend some time.

I’ll pick up my first pacer at Chilao, and swamp him/her out for pacer #2 at Shortcut. I won;t see my crew again until the 75 mile mark at Chantry.

From Shortcut to Newcombe’s Saddle is a long climb down and then back up on wide, rocky fireroad. Despite being rocky, this should be easily runnable at night. From Newcombe’s Saddle, however, the trail gets somewhat technical – rocky singletrack downhill – possibly a bit tough in the dark on tired legs. It bottoms out in Sturdevant Camp. There will be a few miles on a much wider, more travelled and touristed trail, ending with a short, steep uphill climb on pavement into Chantry.

The Chilao to Chantry section of the trail has 4,000 feet of climbing and 7,000 feet of downhill. Sunday’s run was fun. I kept an easy pace, and got it done faster than I thought, especially given the heat.

I ended the week with a climb up Eldred Street. When I got back from the mountains, Kista was just returning from this climb, so excited but without words to adequately explain it, so the best solution seemed to be to just do it again and show it to me. Eldred Street is just behind our house. It is also the steepest street in California, with a 33.5% grade, dead-ending at a set of stairs that finishes the climb to the top of Mt. Washington. The neighborhood up Eldred has a particular and peculiar character, sort of young mets old, hillbilly artist. It’s also where the roosters live that wake us up every morning. It’s all the eccentricity of Mt. Washington but magnified and concentrated, without the distracting pockets of wealth. We did a short run through tiny Moon Canyon Park, admired the sometimes dizzying cliff’s-edge views of the city below, and had a great time exploring the neighborhood. One of the blessings of living in LA (there are a few) is the wealth of odd, eccentric, and beautiful neighborhoods, especially in the hills just north and northeast of downtown: Echo Park, Montecito Heights, El Sereno, Mt. Washington, Highland Park… It’s easy to forget in the sprawl and show-biz crassness that this is an amazing town.

Tuesday: Cherry Canyon, Griffith Park – 15 miles,
2000 feet climbing

Wednesday: Debs Park – 7.5 miles
1,200 feet climbing

Thursday: Cherry Canyon, Griffith Park – 16 miles,
1,900 feet climbing

Saturday: trailwork, Wintercreek Trail

Sunday: Chilao to Chantry – 22 miles
4,000 feet climbing.

Totals: 61 miles, 9,000 feet of climbing.

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