Running up Jesusita & Swimming in Lightning

Trail running is a heck a lot of fun.  Swimming in the pool, gracefully gliding through the water, is very sublime.  As a triathlete, one of the best parts of my training is the variety of workouts I endure.  In fact, I have such a variety during some weeks that I feel like an athlete with ADD.

Running Up Jesusita

With the Malibu Canyon Trail Run just a week away, it was time to hit the local trails to get some workout time in.   After I hit the first incline however, I suddenly realized that I should have started getting trail running time in more than just a week in advance.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves.  The Jesusita Trail that runs through the San Roque Canyon of the Santa Barbara foothills, is described as a strenuous hike with moderate slope over the seven mile round trip (out and back).  <Jesusita Trail mapping by Trimble> The 2,000 feet gain in climbing altitude, makes this the perfect warm-up for the less strenuous Malibu Canyon Trail Run.

Having never run or hiked Jesusita before, it took me a few drive-by’s to find the trail head.  Located just off San Roque Rd, but hidden by bushes and down an incline, the trail head is not directly visible from the road. I have a feeling this is intentional.

After changing shirts, grabbing my running pack and bottle, I headed down the trail, somewhat leisurely.  But this was trail run practice, so I better get the move on, which was easy to do going downhill.  However, my hesitation wasn’t from lack of enthusiasm, but from unfamiliarity.  With forks in the trail and new scenery, I really didn’t feel comfortable cranking out speed… I really had no idea where I was going or what to expect.

This turned out to be the theme of the run, discovery.  I discovered that the Jesusita is literally an upward slope all the way to the top (duh, it is a hill!) and that my legs quickly reach exhaustion even on the slightest of inclines.  Taking it slow gave me a great opportunity to enjoy the scenery under the low clouds and canopy.

Those low clouds were vital in helping me determine how high I was actually climbing.  It seemed like I run up through a narrow canyon and started up some switchbacks, about a 1.75 miles only to realize that the conditions were much colder and much wetter than I remembered a few moments ago.   Continuing on up the backside of the hill, the tree canopy gave way to a wide vista of cliff and grey fog on the right with a wet, slipper slope on the left.  I had reached the ridgeline at 2.30 miles.  I was on the fence about going back or continuing on due to the conditions (cold/wet, my lack of familiarity with the trail, my fear of heights, and being on the trail alone).

I decided to push on to 2.5 miles, but didn’t make it.  I turned around at 2.45 miles after encountering a very narrow trail, even lower visibility, and an area of rock slides (that made the trail seem even narrower).  Instead of finding the top, I started back, fast.

Going downhill is obviously a lot easier than going up.  You have gravity in your favor and I just come up the same trail so I knew what kind of footing to expect on the way down.  While it took 45 minutes to come up, it took about 22 minutes to go the same distance down.

I was exhausted, yet gratified that I had done it.  I was even more satisfied with the trail run after I got home and uploaded my GPS data and saw that I had climbed 1,400 feet.  Wow…  it sure felt like it, but wow, I was proud!   Can’t wait to do it again… in the sun!

Swimming in Lightning

With all the nasty, Seattle-like weather we’ve been having in Santa Barbara lately really makes it hard to get a good workout in.  Granted trail running is one of those sports where you do it no matter the conditions.    On the opposite end of the spectrum is swimming.  In general, you don’t swim in foul weather.

So, the other evening, with a thunderstorm rolling in from the east and a swim workout highlighted on my training calendar, I headed over to the gym to sneak in a workout.

Arriving at the gym, changing and heading down to the pool, everything seemed great.  The weather was fine, a little chilly perhaps, the aqua aerobics class had just concluded and I had the pool to myself, and the thunderstorm was still a ways off in the distance.

Things started going downhill when I hit the water.  I am used to ocean swimming, so with cold water, I’ve learned to just suck it up and go.  On this evening however, there was something extra in the air that made getting used to the cold water more difficult.  I couldn’t put my finger on it, but that instinct said something was up.

Then the chilling, cold breeze that floated over the pool on my third lap sent shivers down my arm and through my spine.  The edge of the storm had arrived.  The peaceful world of the pool was a profoundly calm place to be compared to the chaos that began above the water.  The dark, gnarly, vicious clouds soared overhead like a monster in a scifi movie.

Sucking it up and going back to my peaceful sanctuary of water, I started another set of 100’s.   With the dark clouds masking the low sun, the pool had suddenly become quite dark.  With the pool lights off and my tinted goggles blurring the tiles below, I became infatuated with this new world…  a dark, spooky world of water below a thunderstorm.

Then it got interesting with the first bolt of bright lightning.  Scary at first, the sudden light illuminates the water around you, placing a rather interesting shadow of your body on the bottom of the pool, while I gasp for air in shock of the sudden new but brief swimming conditions.

With one more lap to conclude this 100, I decided to go all out back to the starting end of the pool.  Along the way, the lightning created a disco effect of shadows, blinding light, and darkness.  The randomness was sublime.

Then reality sets in and you remember that your mother always told you to never swim when there was lightning.  With the growing breeze, horrendously evil clouds, and bang of thunder, this evening was not a time to argue with mom.

After 11-minutes and 350m, I had the pleasure of experiencing a world that few others even begin to consider.  Swimming with lightning is not recommended, but boy, oh boy, is it an experience that one will never forget.

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