If sneaking a run in while only in Pennsylvania was a motivation enough to boldly test the Achilles (now STOP, that’s not an insult to Pennsylvania, it only reflects that it’s not very far away!), notching a run in the Golden State wasn’t even a question of motivation. It was obvious. Oddly, despite having travelled there extensively in years of yore, I’ve managed to avoid the place entirely since the mid-nineties, so it too was missing from the Obsessive Compulsive list of states within which I have donned shoes and treaded miles.
Alas, have you looked at a map of Anaheim, California? It’s been forty-five years since the song came out, but I’ll give you a hint: L.A. is still a great big freeway. In fact, even the “surface roads” as they say in California lingo, are, to my view, nearly freeways. Granted, they have traffic lights, but they’re wider than most freeways back east, and traffic moves, well, faster than it does on most of the clogged freeways. It’s not conducive to gentle, calm, and peaceful outings.
Morning One’s target was a circumnavigation of the spot on the map called Disneyland. Knowing I’d be out in the early morning dark (early morning not being my forte by any means, but doable when still on east coast time), this option offered the advantage of relatively few street crossings. And gee, perhaps a sighting of some tall landmark within the Marketing Empire of Disney?
Not a chance. Far be it for mere mortals to actually see into the empire without having paid a large quanta of wampum. The Imagineers are masters of landscaping. I might as well have been circling a typical California gated community, expertly hidden from prying eyes. So rather than something interesting to behold, it was merely concrete sidewalks and headlights screaming by at close to fifty on the flat boulevards, boulevards of sameness. Amusingly, a club-mate from back home related he’d been in the same convention center trap, had tried the same lap for the same strategic reasons, and experienced the same disappointment. It wasn’t just me. I felt no regret for being limited to only a few miles in my hobbling state, since I knew that adding more miles really wouldn’t have changed the scenery.
Morning Two, accompanied by a couple co-workers, one a local friend, the other a new one in from Germany (a high point of these conferences is the people from all over the world), I targeted a meander through the residential neighborhoods to the south. This wasn’t a simple exercise. They are a maze of twisty passages, all alike (for those of you who remember the original “Adventure” game from the seventies). Even had it been daylight, it would have been easy to get lost; bad enough on my own, but downright embarrassing when dragging along a couple of colleagues. But I used my usual strategy of minimizing turns you have to find, instead leveraging roads that end in a T and force your next move. And so we made it back alive, the experience far better for the presence of friends, the empty streets, and the ability to use of asphalt rather than concrete. But still, rather unsatisfying. I’m sure each homeowner’s estate we passed was a place of pride, but to us, they all looked the same. But I knew that would happen, so I prepared for the experience by planning redemption.
As it turned out, my recent romp in the world of clots had a secret sunny side. Dr. Lady Doctor made it crystal clear: if you’re flying, you’re active on that plane, walking every half hour (which at one point turned into push-ups in the galley, but that was another story…). As a result, I couldn’t take the red-eye home as corpo-directed (sleep and walk around? Incompatible!), which offered up a post-conference afternoon to escape the L.A. basin grid. But where to go? With only a few hours between busting out and dusking out, it had to be close, and after days of urban captivity, it had to be great.
Run Run Live, and I’ve wandered over to her blog, On the Run, from time to time. We online literate runner types are nothing if not willing to connect and chatter endlessly via the web, so it was worth a shot to look her up and beg some tips. And tips she did provide. So it is with great thanks to Lauren that I happily report that my urban anesthetization was erased with a delightful, if a bit dusty, amble through some fine California trails. Rescued by the Blogosphere, indeed.
Our target (I say ours, as co-worker Vic tagged along to walk the trails, likewise needing a convention cure) was the Aliso & Wood Canyons Wilderness Park. Honestly, the part that I saw, while pleasant and highly enjoyable, didn’t qualify as wilderness by any means, but I’ll also hedge by noting that I certainly didn’t see the whole park. Mattered not, it was wilderness by comparison. Lauren vectored us into an entrance at the park’s northern extent, and suggested a trek to the Top of the World, where vistas of the Pacific awaited. What’s not to love?
OK, it wasn’t really that dramatic, but it was worth the laugh as I plucked my way carefully up the trail, treading carefully on the healing Achilles, the footing being tenuous from what was obviously a lot of mountain bike abuse.
The geography of the place befuddles and deceives. Just before reaching the Top of the World, about a mile from the coast and a thousand feet up, civilization suddenly encroaches unexpectedly with an park entrance from a neighborhood of homes, but not from the direction you expect. Combined with the angle of the coast, it’s hard to figure exactly which way is north, and where the rest of the park, the southern extent I didn’t have time (or a healthy-enough Achilles) to explore, actually is. But it mattered not, the views to the sea, with Catalina Island barely visible in the foggy haze, were sublime. And the company up top, a friendly local couple, Rene and Phil, kept me engaged in chatter so long that Vic, even in his jog/walk (which couldn’t have been all that much slower than my injury-induced tortoise-like pace), caught up and arrived to share the summit.
We strategized our return, I opting for a longer route and he a shorter, with a plan for signaling at our point of convergence with a pile of rocks to know who’d arrived first, and set out. After a stretch back down the
Vic had just finished creating his signal – V marks the spot! – when I arrived at our meeting point at the base of the Lynx Trail, at which point my poor abused Achilles had had enough, so we walked it out from there. It was sore, yes, but also nicely stretched and loosened, and actually working better than when I’d started. Running state number twenty-two was in the bag, and happily, with the memory of a great afternoon on the trails far overshadowing the earlier grid grinds.