Pre Race Rambling – Holcomb Valley 33

Sitting next to a morning campfire with the rising sun casting light through the trees and a nice brisk chill to the air, gives a person a chance to think and reflect.

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By the time you will have read this, my race, the Holcomb Valley 33 miler will have already been completed. Since I’m a stickler for leaving technology at home while enjoying the outdoors, I didn’t bring along my laptop to type this all out for you before the big day. What I did instead, was bring along paper and pen to document my thoughts, ideas and worries before I take off to run my heart out through the hills of Big Bear and Holcomb Valley.

This race is my race of the year. At least that’s what I decided when I signed up for it earlier this year. I had a plan too. Take the family camping (which I love) and also spend one of the days running. The logistics were perfect since the race’s start and finish were located steps beyond our campground. Now here I am though sitting at the campground and realizing that in my planning for the event, I failed to include one very important detail. Training.

Two weeks ago I ran my first trail half-marathon and for a week after I was hurting. I knew though what the problem was, and fortunately for me, I can recognize these things pretty quickly. My training for this race was minimal if not really non-existent, and I went out the start gate like I had actually trained and was prepared for it. I had to keep reminding myself that this race was merely a training run for a much bigger race. That race did it’s job of checking me mentally and forcing me to realize that I’m not going into the Holcomb Valley race as prepared as I should be.

The Holcomb Valley Trail Run consists of three distances, 7 miles, 15 miles and 33 miles. Me being the badass that I am of course signed up for the 33 miler. Being that I’ve never run any of the trails in Big Bear area, although I have hiked some of them, I only have expectations as to what kind of challenge I’m up for. This is going to be no walk in the park. When I ran my 50k last year, I trained 80% on trails. I ran the course and knew the difficult areas before toeing the line, and I still struggled to finish under 6 1/2 hours. This one though, I knew when I signed up, could never be compared to the last or any other ultra race I ever run. So up until the last week, I knew that I would be destined to run 33 miles. Then I received one of the final information packed emails with last-minute instructions for the race. Those running the 33 miles have the option to drop down to the 15 mile race while running the course at aid station #3.

The Thoughts of Others

Nearly everyone who knew about my race in Big Bear said, “What about the altitude?” Yes, I understand that the altitude is going to play a big factor in whether or not I can do this thing, especially since I live in a nice valley in San Diego county. Did I ever run a practice run in an area of higher elevation? No. Is that going to alter my chances of completing this race? Perhaps not.

We arrived at our campsite on Friday and in the evening I had a slight headache which I credited to the altitude, but I think that giving myself a couple of days of camping before the race also helped me adjust. The air is definitely different here. Maybe it’s a shock to your system as you pass through the thick layer of smog on your way up the mountain, and you finally get to breathe good clean air. My lungs, as well as my mind are definitely appreciating the yummy mountain air.

People have also told me to just drop down to the 15 mile race before it starts. I don’t want to do that because I signed up for the 33. If I wanted to run 15 miles or thought that I couldn’t go anymore, then fine. That’s not the case though, and my stubborn competitive attitude won’t allow me to start off that way. If during the race I believe it’s a no-go, then and only then, will I drop down. Until then I have 10 hours to complete the race. 10 hours that I can take my sweet time with. I know my disadvantages coming into the race, so I’m not going to push it, but I do plan on enjoying myself, the trails, and the wonderful opportunity I have to be here and able.

Not The Same Ol’ Run

I wear many hats; waitress, student, mom, girlfriend, runner trail runner. Between delivering omelets, studying on the psychological effects of steroids in baseball, laundry, soccer practice, softball games and my new found love of yoga, I don’t have much time to do the latter on my list of hats, one of my most favorite things, trail run.

Don’t get me wrong. I can squeeze in a 3 mile run around the neighborhood, or most recently I took advantage of the track at my son’s baseball practice. These runs are all fine, they will work. They are not what I love though. In fact I don’t desire them. Sometimes you have to take what you can get. And on this particular day, I did what I wanted to do.

I set aside most of my morning for myself, my dog Rosco, and the trails. Rosco knows when and where we’re going by watching to see what I’m changing into for the day, and what shoes I’m putting on, and he was beyond ecstatic.

Rosco and I made our way to the hills. We ran on the same trail that we have run numerous times before. We could run the same trail every day but it would never feel like the same run. The trails offer so much diversity and so much life that no two walks, hikes, or runs would ever be the same. This is one of the reasons I love to go. There is so much to see and hear and learn from the land, it really is a place to appreciate life.

I decided just a bit into the run that I wasn’t going to let time restrictions change my desire to run far. My life is driven by places I have to be at and things that I have to do, and I wasn’t going to let time take away my run today. I knew Rosco would appreciate our time together as well.

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So off we went to explore.

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The weather was very cool and there were not many people on the trail.

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Whenever Rosco and I get out to a place like this, I believe he loves the run for different reasons. 1. He is a dog, and dogs like to be outside, 2. He knows he is doing his job of protecting me, 3. He loves to run, 4. He thinks he is hunting. Today we saw no animals on the trail which brings me back to the fact that every day out on the trail is different.

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A couple days ago we had a pretty hard “rain storm” in So. Cal and apparantly this trail has seen better days. The signs placed out do not deter me as an adventurer, instead they only strike my curiosity.

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The trail was muddy still from the rain, and trees were broken and knocked down, but that was about all. Rosco enjoyed running through the mud.

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Then we started our climb.

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It still amazes me that my own two feet take me to see things that most people will never see in their entire life. The places I go are not accessable by car. They require hard work and perserverance. This is why I do it. The rewards are amazing.

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Rosco loves it too

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Rattlesnake Encounter While Running – What to do?

This past weekend I headed out to some local trails, for an afternoon full of running adventures. The weather was starting to cool, but in some parts of the trail, the sun was very bright and warm. So after running past native shrubbery, horses, and rabbits, I turned the corner and heard a hiss like noise that sounded the way a bush would sound if it were really agitated. Now, while running on the trail, hearing bushes shake and sounds 3-5 feet off the trail is completely normal. There are plenty of animals that are camouflaged in their natural habitat that we never see, but that get startled as you run by. This was a different sound, probably because it wasn’t 3-5 off into the bushes jus off the trail, it was more like a foot away from where my foot just struck the ground. I looked down, and there is was sitting there in the sun… a rattlesnake.

The rattlesnake camouflaged in the landscape

My reaction to jump steps back happened before I could even gauge what was going on, which I was thankful for. Then I remembered, among all the types of animals you would see on a trail in Southern California, rattlers are one of them that you should never forget about. It’s easy to though. Once you get going in your own running adventure, without actually seeing a threat on the trail, you can tend to forget that these things are out there. So after announcing to my running partner what I had just discovered, we stood there and watched it watch us for a bit, until it decided that it was safe to slither away.

We stood amazed as how beautiful it was, and how scary it was at the same time. After it went on its way up the hillside is when we continued on the trail. This was the first time my partner had ever seen a rattlesnake out there on the trail, being that she just moved here from the other side of the country. I was glad that she got to see what kind of nature we have here, but then she asked, ” what would we do if it bit one of us?” Well, we would surely be in trouble is what I told her.

So this got me thinking. Considering the fact that I run on trails, and that these things live in trails, I really should know what to do if I (or anyone else) suffered a rattlesnake bite. So I did some research. I by no means am a doctor or any other type of certified rattlesnake expert, but here’s a bit of information that I discovered.

Rattlesnake Facts:

  • The majority of rattlesnake species live in the American Southwest and Mexico.
  • Rattlesnakes are the leading cause of snake bite injuries in North America.
  • Rattlesnakes are predators living off of birds and rodents.
  • They will generally avoid humans if they can sense their approach.
  • Rattlesnakes have a venomous bite that destroys tissue.

Symptoms Of A Rattlesnake Bite:

  • Swelling
  • Severe pain
  • Tingling
  • Weakness
  • Anxiety
  • Nausea and Vomiting
  • Hemorrhaging
  • perspiration
  • Heart Failure

If treated properly, rattlesnake bites are rarely fatal!

If A Bite Occurs:

Rattlesnakes rarely bite unless they feel threatened or provoked!

In Southern California, rattlesnakes are common in rural areas, but it is not uncommon to find them in residential areas that are located near hills and open land. Just because you may not be on a trail doesn’t mean you could never encounter one. Here’s what to do in a bite situation.

  • Remain calm, and retreat from the snake at least 10–15 feet. The victim needs to receive medical help as soon as possible. While on a trail the arrival of medical personal could be difficult to get depending on how far in the trail the victim is, so act quickly.
  • Remove restrictive clothing from the victim including watches and jewelry.
  • Stay calm. The victim’s heart rate does not need to go up which will only allow for faster circulation of the venom. Walking back to the trail head if the victim is not too far into the trail could be an option, if the pain is not too severe. Doing so might help get assistance faster. If it is too far or requires too much work, staying put is probably best while waiting for medical personnel.
  • Tourniquets, incisions or sucking the venom out of the wounds should not be used or performed. These are proven to be ineffective, and may actually cause more harm than good.

These snakes live out on the trails, so it’s not fair to harm them when we enter into their territory, but it’s important to know how to coexist with them. If you are running and run into one like I did, stop and step out of its way a good 10 feet. These animals don’t want to bite you because doing so will waste energy on something that they are not going to be able to eat, but they will if they feel threatened. Calmly walk away, but remember where you saw it as to warn others that are approaching in the area. Also check out this site for more information on the topic, Wildlife Encounters – Part I.

Be careful out there on the trail!

Happy Running!