Monday, December 8, 2014

Horse Hill Trail to Alto Bowl Trail, Mill Valley, California

Horses doing horse things on Horse Hill.
A few days ago I posted about running the Alto Bowl Trail in Mill Valley, CA.  At that time, I knew it connected to Horse Hill but didn't know from where to connect down to it.  This weekend I had the opportunity to stumble upon Horse Hill and find Alto Bowl.  I had literally been 50 yards away from it the last time I ran it but was too scared to keep venturing on the trails because I was alone and almost out of water.  What I discovered was one of my new favorite trails!

Here is the Marin County Parks Map for the area.  I ran over from Corte Madera from the Alto Path and had intended to only run the flats (I didn't wear my trail shoes and my ankles had been hurting so I figured I would just run the bike path).  As I made my way down Lomita, I saw the trail sign for Horse Hill.  I deliberated for about thirty seconds and then decided I wanted the adventure of going up the hill, even if I couldn't figure out where the trail connected.  I knew there would be some great photos to be taken even if I had to come straight back down and continue on the flat bike path.

Clockwise from Top Left:  Entrance to Horse Hill on Lomita; Horse watering station; The stables on the right above the hill; The ascent of Horse Hill.
San Francisco peeking through at the top of the hill.
Looking down on Mill Valley, CA from the top of Horse Hill.
When in doubt, follow the markers.  Oh and no biking!

It's about a mile from the base of the Horse Hill entrance on Lomita to where you turn left to go down the hill to connect to Alto Bowl.  I stayed on the main trails the whole time.

Luckily, I followed the path to where I got lost last time (the intersection of Meadowcrest) and even down to Benson Circle where I connected up to Alto Bowl and then got to run down Chapman.  I hooked up with the Larkspur/Corte Madera bike path and did a nice big 10 mile loop before the rain caught me.

Where I thought I was "lost" and froke out last time!  This is where Meadowcrest intersects with Meadowsweet where you are not supposed to trespass.

And here we are back at Alto Bowl!  Yay!

Ran with my horse friends!

Horse Hill Trail and Alto Bowl Trail are two of my favorites now!  Definitely will never take over my home trail of Ring Mountain, but I feel so blessed to have these amazing places to run just a few miles from my front door!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Alto Bowl Trail, Mill Valley, California

I have been exploring neighborhoods and trails I can connect to and get to with my own legs.  I found the Alto Bowl Trail in Mill Valley, CA when I ran up Chapman Street from Corte Madera.  I knew there was a way to connect from Corte Madera to Mill Valley and then back to Corte Madera via Meadowsweet.  This is where I found the Alto Bowl Trail.  Here is a link to the Alto Bowl Open Space Preserve with the actual map of the trails in that neighborhood.

I picked up the trail from the intersection of Chapman and Camino Alto.  The GPS coordinates are 37.916929, -122.525542.

GPS: 37.916929, -122.525542 top intersection of Chapman and Camino Alto.

The trail is mostly exposed like this.

Oh look!  It's San Francisco in the distance!
There are some heavily wooded areas but they don't last long.

The main part of this trail takes you down to a residential neighborhood and then up a very steep trail to Horse Hill.  There is no official connection to Meadowsweet from this trail, but I did some "light trespassing" and got down the street.  What I mean by that is there is a street you can go down which takes you to Meadowsweet.  It has a pedestrian gate.  I didn't see the "No Trespassing" sign until I got on the other side of the gate.  The gate is monitored by video surveillance.  I would suggest the better way to get down if you want to loop to Corte Madera is run to Benson Circle and take that to the bike path, over to Lomita and then pick up the Alto Path that goes by the freeway and connects back to Meadowsweet and Casa Buena.

When you see this gate you have a decision to make:

This is Benson Circle.  From here, you can take Benson Circle to Coach Road to Underhill Road to Vasco Drive to Vasco Court which intersects with the bike path.  This will take you to Lomita.  Take Lomita east until you connect to Alto Path which takes you next to the freeway and back to Casa Buena/Meadowsweet in Corte Madera.
If you choose to continue up the trail and not on the street, follow this marker up the hill:

Where you will pass a gas pipeline!

The top of the hill looks like this and there is a lot to explore.  I ran some of the other trails and then ended up back at the top here when I thought I was lost.

There are gorgeous views of Mt. Tam here.

Watch out for horse poop if you go onto Horse Hill!  I ran a bit of it but it was too poopy so I turned around.  When you see the cow gate, that is where the residential street intersects with Meadowsweet.  

Eastern view from the top of Meadowncrest.

The street is Meadowcrest that you are coming down and there is a gate on your left for pedestrian use when you see the big scary metal gate for cars.

Please note:  I am not advocating trespassing, merely pointing out where the various public trails intersect with roads.  I encourage you to stay on the public trails and roads.

What have you discovered in your neighborhood that you didn't know what there?  Do you run or hike with a plan?  Or do you just go on and adventure and hope for the best?

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

24 Hour Denver Trip

Last weekend we packed up and flew out to Denver.  Mind you, I have not done a ton of traveling in the last few years, due to my fear of flying.  I seem to have knocked that anxiety down this year though, first with our trip to Ohio in September and now with this quick trip to Denver.  And when I say quick, I mean we landed at 11:50 on Saturday and were on the plane at 11:50 on Sunday!  It was literally a 24 hour trip.  We lucked out with the weather.  It was a gorgeous fall day when we landed and we were able to scour the Park Hill neighborhood and frolic in the changing season.  Yesterday the temperature dropped 40 degrees and it started snowing.  (I don't do snow very well with my capri spandex).

We stayed with one of my best friend's from law school.  Ashley and I met our first day of law school.  We were in the same section and we sat next to each other pretty much every class that first year.  Our peer mentor for our section is my now husband.  I was so happy we were able to spend time with them for their wedding celebration and that the weather held!  The last time I visited Ashley she had just bought her house and didn't even know her now husband and I had been dating my now husband for a few years.  It's crazy how things have changed in 5 years!

While they took pictures, the Husbando and I wandered around the neighborhood.  They live in the Park Hill neighborhood of Denver.  If you've never been there it is blocks of wide, tree-lined streets, with brick homes, people running, biking and walking with their children and dogs, and everything is flat.  Here were some of our favorite things:

It was so nice to feel like I was actually in FALL!  In CA it's been HOT HOT HOT and not rainy and we haven't had much of a fall, just a never ending drought.  (Hopefully that will change tonight with the low pressure system moving in!)

When Hubs and I got married, Ashley came out for about 24 hours as well.  We drank and danced and partied through the night with major hangovers in the morning.  Her wedding was a bit different and we were all in bed at reasonable times and drinking plenty of water!  Things definitely change...Here was the reception:

Ashley and her Hubs have an adorable black lab named Sam.  I thought we were going to be so lonely without Ralph but we had company in the bed!  We love Sammy!

And here are the plane photos, that I thought would be amazing.  I didn't realize until I started to edit them that my sparkle phone case actually reflected back into the plane window causing all kinds of light marks on the pictures--so this is the best I could do.

It's nice to have a friend for a decade.  I feel very blessed by my friendships and also by my relationship with my husband.  He made this trip so much more fun than it would have been if it was just me.  I'm looking forward to our next adventure which will hopefully be longer than 24 hours!

Have you ever taken a day trip?  Where did you go and what did you see?  Have you experienced Denver before?  Or the changing seasons there?  

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

Camp Bothin and White Hill Trail, Fairfax, CA

Last weekend I had the opportunity to visit the Northern California Girl Scouts camp site at Camp Bothin in Fairfax, CA.  What a fun day!  We had a chance to hike around on the Girl Scout trails and then up and down White Hill trail which is a public access point through Marin Open Space.

Camp Bothin is just past the downtown of Fairfax, CA and is on your left if you are driving toward West Marin on Sir Francis Drake.  Although the camp is privately held, you can rent out the camp or stay over under certain circumstances.  You can check out information about how to rent it here.

When we pulled into the parking lot, a few things struck me immediately.  One was the yurt (I love yurts), and the other was the Art Barn.  I have a weird love of barns and am also a creative person.  Basically having an Art Barn on my own property would be like the holy grail for crafting!  But I don't think our HOA would allow me to build a barn.  Maybe in another life.  I was never a girl scout so it was neat to see all of the things they actually have access too.

We gathered in the morning (it was freezing) and watched a new trail be dedicated.  We also got to brand little pieces of wood.  I'm not great at branding (but isn't that a hot outfit!?):

Once we started hiking, the trees enveloped us.  It was so different than other places I had hiked.  The trees were different and dense.  And then we came upon the ropes course.  Holy bleep that was cool!  It looks like something out of Endor--total Ewok Village style.  I definitely want to come back and try this.  One of my new years resolutions is to try a slack line but I feel like a ropes course would qualify.

We took the Skyline Trail up to White Hill Trail.  There are a ton of privately operated trails on Camp Bothin as well as the Boy Scout Camp next door.  There is some access for hikers and mountain bikers but I believe you have to pay a fee on the weekends to use those trails.  White Hill Trail is open space and accessible to the public.  Bay Area Hiker has a good description of how to get on the trail and where it goes, etc.

The clouds were spectacular because it had rained the day before.  Here's what Camp Bothin looks like from the top of White Hill Trail:

It was so beautiful and crisp out.  Here were some of our hikers!

Hopefully we will get some rain and the next time I go up here this will all be green!
 I will definitely be trying that trail again and the surrounding trails that connect to open space.  Thanks to the Girl Scouts of Northern California for hosting me!

Did you participate in Girl Scouts when you were growing up?  How did it help you grow as an adult?  Do you ever hike in groups?  Have you ever gone on a camping overnight with only women?

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Road to (Half) Ironman: Vineman 70.3

One of my New Year's Resolutions for my 31st year is to train and compete in Vineman for 2015.  I was lucky enough this Saturday to get a slot for Vineman 70.3 in Napa.  A half Ironman distance, sometimes referred to as a long course triathlon, consists of a 1.2 mile swim, 56 mile bike ride, and a 13.1 mile run.

So far, I have been able to swim more than the required amount as well as run longer than the half marathon.  The biking is another story.

(I have also included my flu shot in my collage for this because overall health is important people!) 

I did a trainer session this weekend for two hours.  It was a 10 minute warm up and computrainer calibration followed by an hour and fifty minutes of a course.  The hubs recommended the Kona course since it's "relatively flat" and I wouldn't have to deal with the humidity in the living room.  I have never biked for more than 90 minutes and GOOD LORD is it different.  I biked the farthest I've ever gone before and it's not even HALF of what I'll have to do in July.  So apparently the biking is where I need the most help.

I've started doing the TriMore Fitness classes with Coach Neil and am hoping that will help me build my endurance.  I don't think there is any substitution for actually riding outside though, so I need to get comfortable going on long rides.  Outside.  With cars and suicidal squirrels trying to hit me or trip me.

My main issue is the lady area pain.  I have bike pants but after two hours I feel like nothing is comfortable.  I'm sort of hoping that area gets adjusted over time but also thinking that I don't want to live in a world where my lady area tries to pull a South Carolina on my body (it's a secession joke--come on I was a History major!)

I'm hoping to get into higher mileage and longer rides by the first of the year.  It really makes me look at what my motivation was to sign up for this race.  The biggest factor in this expensive and time intensive decision was that I wanted to see how far I could push my body.  I have no illusions that I will win, in fact, I think I will come in toward the back of the pack.  I'd like to finish in under 8 hours--that is my goal.  The point is to do it, not to win.  And I'm excited for the adventure of the next nine months.  It's basically a place holder for my inability to get pregnant.  I have nine months of intensive training to give birth to a better me.  And then hopefully next year, or the next year, or sometime in the future I'll be able to get pregnant and maintain a healthy pregnancy.  This has been the first time in the last three years we've been trying to conceive that I have felt okay about not having children.  It's not that I still don't want that.  I desperately do.  But I'm trying to channel my energy and tears elsewhere for now.

How did you get comfortable on a bike?  What do you differently on indoor trainer sessions versus outdoor sessions?  How do you find the time to train?  What do you do to make biking more comfortable?

Monday, November 3, 2014

Pool Swimming Etiquette (aka How not to be an @$$hole)

I grew up swimming and have always loved water.  I just signed up for Vineman 70.3 in July 2015 and will need to ramp up my swimming over the next few months.  In anticipation of doing my first long course triathlon, I've been swimming probably once a week, just to keep my feet wet.   I can already swim the distance I need to for the half Ironman but I need to be able to do it consistently, and in open water, and be able to do the two other things after it.  So, into the water I go.  

I've been resistant to signing up for Masters because I'm pretty slow and don't have amazing form and am not a professional swimmer, etc.  Basically, I think I suck and will be humiliated by my lame performance when they see me walrusing about in my lane line.  I've been thinking about this post for a few months and today I finally had some experiences that put me over the top to wanting to join Masters.  So here is my guide to pool swimming etiquette that I have subtitled "How not to be an asshole."  All of these things are totally common sense but apparently the people of Mill Valley do not understand that it's not their personal pool.  Side note:  this is probably the hottest picture I have ever taken:

1)  Wear the appropriate clothes for the appropriate conditions:  Bathing suit, shorts, jammers, tri gear, neoprene pants or tops, caps, goggles, and even wet suits all have their place in the pool.  That said, I was confused by the woman who wore a full wet suit in the pool--in summer--in an indoor pool that's heated to eighty something degrees.  It wasn't even a swimming wet suit, but a thick, Nor Cal surfing style wet suit.  If you have crazy hair, at least pull your hair back.  You may or may not need a cap depending on your pool's rules.

2)  Follow the pool rules:  If there are three lanes of lap swimming and the water walkers are relegated to the shallow part of the pool, don't be the idiot water walker in the medium lane.  This public pool is not at your house--don't treat it like you own it and inconvenience everyone else.  If you're supposed to shower before getting in the water--do that.  If there are transition times that the lifeguards need to set up the lane lines, let them do their jobs and don't get in before you're supposed to.

3)  Alert whoever you are sharing a lane with that you're entering the lane:  Now this one is sort of two parts.  You as the person swimming in the lane already need to be aware of your surroundings enough to know when someone is trying to get your attention and enter the water.  It's generally not a problem unless you have a super packed lane and there are arms and legs everywhere.  If it's just two people sharing a lane, you can split the lane, or circle swim--ask the person whose lane you are entering what their preference is and go with that.  If there is a third person (or more) make sure you are circling in the correct direction and maybe do one or two test laps to see where you fall in in the line of swimmers.  You don't want the slowest person to be in the front of the pack.  Today I was in a lane where a dude had to physically stop a totally clueless thrashing swimmer doing flip turns in the fast lane to tell him that there were two of us getting in the lane.  Don't do that!  Don't be the guy not aware of your surroundings and don't be the guy grabbing onto someone else!

4)  Pick a lane where you can keep up comfortably with the other swimmers:  I swam in three different lanes today and had to keep moving.  I started off in the fast lane because it was empty and then filled up with faster people, so I moved to medium.  The medium lane is where I should pretty much always be swimming.  There were three of us and we were all about the same speed.  It was great and my drills were going swimmingly (haha) when we had a fourth entrant into the lane.  This woman should have been in the slow lane.  She only did backstroke and LITERALLY flailed her way down the pool.  There were arms and legs everywhere.  She kept crossing over the middle of the lane and catching the dude in our lane in the face.  One time I was getting water at the wall and had stopped to reset my watch--pushing myself in the corner to get out of the way of the swimmers.  Flaily came in to rest and just STOPPED IN THE MIDDLE OF THE LANE.  The dude ran into her and she said "He keeps running into me!!!"  I just kept swimming.  I eventually had to change lanes because a 5th person came into our lane who seemed to have similar skills to Flaily and I went back to the fast lane (which had slower swimmers in it than an hour before).  Get out of the way if you are slowing people down.  

5)  Be nice:  Say hello.  Talk to the people in your lane (briefly) about entering their lane and always say "do you mind if...." or "is it okay if I hop in the lane with you....".  Regular courtesy goes a long way.  Always say good morning/afternoon/evening to your lifeguards and thank you when you leave.  Same with any staff checking you in--they are there working so that you can have the privilege to get in the pool--don't be on your cell phone, don't ignore them.  You know--just generally be a decent human being.  Can't deal with the talking?  At least smile.  

6)  I don't want to hear your life story:  Wait, you just told me to be nice and now I shouldn't listen to someone?  What I mean by this is that if I'm taking time out of my day to swim, I want to swim.  I don't want to talk for a half hour about whatever you want to talk to me about.  Obviously it's great to have some social interaction, but if I'm going to do a long workout and only have limited time, I need to swim.  I find that this is more of an issue with outdoor pools in the summer--the weather gets nice and people get chatty.  Respect the people around you and what they've come to the pool to do.

I think I'm ready for Masters.  I need to be able to swim longer and as much as it will suck to swim outside in the winter, I just can't deal with the people at the pool I've been swimming at.  

What have you encountered in the pool that you were taken aback by?  How do you deal with people going too slow/too fast in your lane?  How do you politely maneuver the situation?  Have you had a good experience with a Masters program?

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Writing, Reading and Insomnia

Normally I have no problems sleeping.  Or the problem with my sleep is that I sleep too long and too extravagantly.  Last night was not one of those nights.  When I was awoken at 1 AM I thought it would be no problem to get back to sleep as I had had a major swim that day and had broken my 5k record by almost 5 whole minutes (FIVE MINUTES!  This is a big deal in my life, and I swam farther than I ever had before as well).

I surveyed what I was feeling.  Normally the prompts for me waking up would be one of the following:  dog, husband, pounding heart due to anxiety, pounding heart due to nightmare, heard a sound inside or outside the house and think we are about to be murdered, coughing due to dehydration, or having to pee.  None of those was the culprit although there were multiple bathroom trips (and even one to eat!) while I was lying in bed for those five sleepless hours.

Normally I obsess.  I obsess over minuscule and insignificant trivialities of my past failures, even if objectively they weren't necessarily failures.  I freak out about my future and can wind myself into a tornado of "what if this never happens???" faster than your Porsche (with the better engine) can go zero to sixty.

So I'm laying awake for these hours, not really knowing what else to do with myself but remain somewhat horizontal and read.  Reading is one of my favorite things to do.  To get wrapped up into a whole world of fantasy or someone else's reality, where I can work through my own anxiety on these fictional friends I care about or loathe.  I used to only read books that I thought people seeing me reading would raise their esteem of me.  That my worth was defined by what I read and how I could look down at other people for liking anything but classic literature.  I read Classic therefore I was Classy and all that other horseshit.

I must have been fourteen when my mom and sister and I took a road trip up to Oregon.  There are few things worse than family road trips when you are a teenager but I remember being mesmerized by the cold coast and the forest.  Endless trees and winding roads with significant grades to climb and descend.  At one stop we went into a used bookstore and I chose a book that was out of my wheelhouse but that I liked the cover on.  (Don't we all really choose books by their cover?  I know I avoid ones with bad covers!)  It ended up being a romance book, a genre I had never read before, and was sort of horrified to discover as I sat in the backseat of my mom's Jeep for hours of that trip reading in the car, something that would probably make me car sick today.  (Although my friend and I did read Harry Potter back and forth to each other on my first trip to Vegas--voices and all!--in 2005--AGAIN in a Jeep but a different color--Hi Mike!)  So part of me is horrified that I just bought a USED book because at the time we were super poor.  My dad had died and had ruined our family both financially and emotionally with his suicide.  I was a bit obsessed with having money and very much cared what other people thought.  The first time my mom tried to buy generic brands from the store I threw a fit and almost cried.  It was such a basic way our life had changed and I wanted to resist every step of it.  Down to the canned beans.  I did not want to be poor.  (I almost exclusively buy generic or store brand now).  So I'm doubly horrified buying this used romance novel.  But I cannot stop reading it.

In me, it awakened something I hadn't had in most other books:  a description of feelings of loss I was having and also loyalty and love and of course sexy times!  I never finished the book, getting hung up with my pulsing hormones on the sex parts and re-reading them.  I tried to get through the book again as an adult and I remember reading the sex scene and finding it SO unsexy and clinical and I think in one of our many moves, the book got recycled or donated.  I could go look for it now but I have to finish writing so I can get back to the regular world.  I remember the name of the book and could find it with a quick search of the internet, but it's sort of embarrassing and also weirdly intimate, like sharing a part of my long lost soul with the world so I'm deciding to keep it to myself.

So this morning, I'm reading a new book that I started yesterday, listening to the coyotes outside chasing down their dinner, and the rhythmic breathing of my husband beside me, feeling the patterned kicks of my dog's paw who is running in his sleep, probably chasing the same bunnies those coyotes are, and I realize that I am enjoying myself.  I know I will be tired this morning (terribly terribly tired), and I know I will probably need a nap later (no operating heavy machinery today), but I had this very special moment alone, where I was still with the people who love me the most (hubs and dog), but that I was intensely alone, enjoying the elicit luxury of reading a mystery book and being sucked into a new world.

I finished my first book (that I wrote) two weeks ago and just started editing it this week.  It's also a mystery, which is my favorite genre.  I've been vacillating between thinking it is brilliant to thinking it is the worst possible dribble ever written.  This morning, when I finally got vertical after my non-sleep, I realized that it doesn't matter.  I created something out of my own mind, as fucked up or banal as it is.  I created something that I need to put into the world.  Even if no one reads it, I will know it's there.  I will finish it for that fourteen year old me that was so concerned with what people thought of her and show her that it's safe to do what you love, even if it's embarrassing or hard or doesn't result in anything.  I will continue to create.  And try not to judge myself.  Because this has been the most fun process of my life and I feel like nothing too horrible can come of something that is so fulfilling.

Read on!  Write on!