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Athletes for Real Medicine:

LA Marathon Training...Trail running!

February 03, 2011 - United States

by Brandi Howell

If I had to choose one word to describe Sunday’s training run it would be "ouch".  Ouch during the run, ouch after the run, ouch still, three days later.  Nonetheless, we had a great time, we were elated once it was over, and we are now one training run closer to the finish line.

Sunday’s run was a grueling fourteen miles, six of which were uphill…2,000 feet uphill.  We started at the base of Temescal Canyon and followed the trail into the Santa Monica Mountains.  We were immediately surrounded by trees, creeks, paths and the sounds of the wild.  Within minutes of setting out, we were climbing steep switchbacks, dodging hikers, breathing hard and feeling the burn in our legs.  We climbed 900 feet for over two miles before getting a break.  When we reached the first plateau, I thought my lungs were going to explode.  Taking a minute to catch our breath and to stretch our already tired legs, we were able to enjoy the panoramic views and cool breeze.  We saw the clouds thickening overhead and realized that the "chances of rain" were more like definite rain.  But, we pushed on and on, covering another three miles and 800 feet of elevation gain.  It started to sprinkle.  The smell of wet dirt and fragrant sage wafted through the air.  We ran through waist-high weeds that whipped and soaked our numb legs.  We finally came to our turn around point.  I thought it would never come or that I would collapse trying to reach it.  The truth is, the guys were much faster than me and I was just feeling wimpy that day.  Running is such a mental game.

Once we headed back down the mountain, I knew I was going to be fine.  We let gravity pull us down, as we swung our arms faster to speed up and widen our stride.  We hopped over boulders, caught ourselves before tripping, and took advantage of the physical ease to guzzle down oxygen.  We came to a familiar fork in the path and turned left instead of right.  This took us around new corners and bends, over a bridge, past a few waterfalls, and down more steep, rocky trails until we eventually saw Sunset Blvd. and our parked cars.  As tired as we were, we took a water and nutrition break and then set out to run another seven miles.

We headed down Temescal Canyon Rd, at the bottom of which we joined the bike path and our usual route.  We ran north until the path ended, then turned around, ran south for a few miles and looped back to the bottom of Temescal.  One more huge hill to conquer.  I later found out that Temescal Canyon Rd is one mile long and climbs 300 feet.  This was a tough way to finish an already intensely difficult run, but we had to get to the top.  When we made it back to our cars, it felt like 8:30 am and our pre-run chat was weeks ago.  We were completely spent, ready to shower, get warm and relax.  We were also very proud of our accomplishment, a little bit closer to one another for having gone through it together and excited that while we could have been sleeping, we were out there making a difference.

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