It was back to Huddart Open Space for me today. I don't think I've run here since the dry heat of last summer.
Fun Facts About this Run
- 5 banana slugs
- 1 yellow bellied salamander
- no mountain lions, coyotes, bobcats or deer
- a really wierd bluish fungus covers horse poop in rainy weather
- I think I may hate it when it gets hot here again
The drive to Huddart was epic in itself. The fog was thicker than I've seen in a few years up on 280. At one point I had about 30 feet of visibility in a blanket of dim white. Luckily right after its worst point the fog lifted enough to give a decent view of the road for the rest of the way to Woodside.
It was foggy and cold at the start at the Zwierlein trailhead. I hemmed and hawed but in the end I decided to keep on my thin windbreaker as I wasn't sure what the weather might end up doing. It could rain or even snow at the top for all I could tell. It's happened before!
The start was slippery, muddy and cold but breathtakingly beautiful in the redwood forest. Once I passed a "no horseback riders" gate on the trail the churned up mud on the trail stopped and my footing was smooth and easy. The vibrams were a bit slippery on the sludge, but I think that anything or barefoot - it was going to be slippery there. My hands were cold and icy.
About a 1/4 of the way up the hill the fog thinned and the sun peaked through the redwoods and California oak. As soon as that sun comes out around here it gets warm. I stopped and stashed my windbreaker in my Wink UD backpack/waterbladder.
At about this point I was cursing those extra 10 winter pounds that I was dragging up this hill along with an almost full water pack. My lack of significant hill training these past few months was pretty obvious to me. I was glad to see only two other runners on the trails this morning, and they were going back down so thankfully they couldn't see my slow upward progress. I chalked up my starting and stopping up the mountain to being "hill intervals." Yeah, that's what I'll call it...
But oh I love the wet lushness of this place right now! The weather was perfect, cool and crisp with clean, damp woodsy air. The oak trees have dropped a lot of acorns along the trail. I stopped to inspect them and found a yellow-bellied salamander. I haven't seen one of these in years. He was a nice size too, longer than my hand.
I didn't push too hard to get to the top. I felt it wise to temper my enthusiasm as this would be my longest run so far this year, so today is for distance and time spent on the feet on not for speed. There were a few new trees down across the trail since the winter storms, but no washouts that I could see. Also, more of the trails have been worked on with some gravel stuff since I was last here. I'm not sure how I feel about this, but I guess this gravel stuff isn't too bad or too unlike the natural trails. It's not pointy rocks but almost like soft chunks of asphalt that kind of glue themselves together. I can't imagine how they get all of this stuff up here - If you don't know Huddart, it's very steep and definitely deep-woodsy, not really the kind of place you can bring equipment into. I'm surprised that they went through all the effort to resurface these trails.
Once I made it to the top I GU-ed up, took a picture or two and headed out towards Chincapin Trail for the rollercoaster ride down. In a few weeks I'll take the connector trail towards Wunderlich to add some more miles back and forth and eventually run into Wunderlich for some very long runs. For now, this was ideal. I tempered my downhill on Chincapin because there are some sections that tend to get narrow and wash out. Also trees tend to fall over this trail a lot more than some of the others. But Chincapin had been gone over too quite a bit with some of the narrow sections shored up and stabilized and all of the fallen trees removed. I'll let it fly more next time I'm here.
There were lots of birds chirping on this run. It really felt like early spring. I saw maybe two squirrels the whole time which is amazing because the bushes are usually shaking with them. I guess they are still winter hibernating or such. The lower down on the trail I got the more confident I became so I started to push the pace. I had no problems with the vibrams or my feet. No stubbed toes or stepping on pointy things...just a nice stable pitter pattering on the trail.
I know some people worry so much about barefooter/minimalists stepping on rocks on the trail or turning ankles. One great thing about trail running in VFFs is that I know I won't turn my ankle. You really can't in VFFs or barefoot because there is no platform (sole or heel) to catch and roll off of. Plus, think of your landing, it's forefoot, heel touch and up again - no rolling from heel to toe where you turn your ankle as your weight transitions to midfoot. And rocks? Well, stepping on them isn't nearly as bad as you'd think, plus, just look out for them and don't step on them. Easy.
I ran the last mile the fastest and let my legs churn freely beneath me. There was an even downhill and then an uphill finish to the trailhead. It was about 11 miles in 1:40, which was actually pretty good. It feels good to be back!