May 29, 2012

Anza Borrego Hike - Borrego Palm Canyon Trail

We were spending time in the San Diego area prior to running the Rock 'n' Roll San Diego half marathon and had a free day to do some hiking. After doing some searching online we found that a must-do hike in the area is the Borrego Palm Canyon Trail at Anza-Borrego Desert State Park. We left our campsite at Carlsbad State Beach early and made the two hour drive to the park. The park website listed the visitor center hours so we expected it to be open so our plan was to go to the visitor center, get a map and suggestions on what other things there are to see there then head out on our hike. When we arrived there was a notice that the visitor center was closed on weekdays for the summer. Luckily we had brought some information with us so we headed over to the park campground where the trail head was. We placed our $5 day use fee in the designated envelope at the campground kiosk and placed the tear-off tag on our dashboard. We drove through the campground to the day use parking lot. We still had not seen a single person in the park. It was a hot day and we thought that maybe people were staying away because of the heat. Still, we thought it was unusual to not see anybody camping at all. We got to the parking lot and were relieved to see a couple of other cars there, as well as a park ranger. She was ticketing cars that did not have the paid tag displayed and made certain we knew it was going to be a hot day and to take plenty of water. We grabbed our packs and water and headed out towards the trail.
A quick stop to the bathroom ended up being a stop at a stone building without a roof, with two bathroom stalls without doors, hadn't seen one quite like this before so had to take a picture. The trail head was well marked and close to the women's restrooms. There were pamphlets there for the self-guided tour on the Borrego Palm Canyon trail so we took one. Initially the trail was flat with packed dirt and some loose rocks. It was easy to follow the trail out at first then as it became more difficult to follow there were rock cairns to lead the way. The marked numbers that matched up with the pamphlet we picked up at the trail head also reassured us that we were going the right way. We made our way on the exposed trail in the surrounding desert, making sure to hydrate along the way. The pamphlet taught us about the history of the area, about the flora and fauna of the area as well. It even mentioned Peninsular Bighorn Sheep which made us excited and hopeful that we would see some. On our way along the canyon towards the palm oasis we heard something and when we looked it was there-a bighorn sheep! It was walking in the middle of the canyon, going across the dry creek crossing that we had passed several minutes earlier. We always enjoy seeing wildlife on our hikes and with the exception of our trip to Yellowstone National Park, this was the only other time we have seen bighorn sheep. Once it was out of sight we marched on towards the palm trees.
 The trail became even rockier and a bit more uneven before it turned a corner and led us to water. On the other side of the water was the palm tree oasis. It was a refreshing sight in the desert. The air was cooler here too so we took a few minutes to cool down. We decided not to continue on to the oasis as we could not tell what the ground or trail conditions were from that point. Besides, the view from this side of the water was beautiful already. We snapped pictures then turned around and headed back on the trail. On our way back we kept hoping that we would see the sheep again but knew that we probably wouldn't. Imagine our excitement when we did see it again. There it was-right in the middle of the canyon again but this time standing on a big rock. We got as close to it as the trail allowed and took more pictures. It didn't seem to be bothered by us at all so we took our time before making our way back to the car. On our way up the trail we came across two groups of hikers and with the heat we thought we wouldn't see any on our way back but we actually saw several people heading out on the trail. The temperature was well in the high 90's when we finished our hike and we were glad we had started out in the morning. This hike was three miles round trip with about 600 feet of elevation gain. Driving out of the campground we still didn't see any people camping but realized that it's probably too hot in the summer for people to camp there in the desert. It was a nice hike and definitely a place to go if you are in the area, although it may be better to hike in the park during a cooler time of the year. The park itself is quite large, it is actually the largest state park in California. So there are lots of other trails to hike if you have more than one day in the area, just be sure to bring plenty of water!

Anza-Borrego Desert State Park Website

May 20, 2012

Avenue of the Vines Half Marathon

Avenue of the Vines is a 5k and half marathon race that takes place in Lodi. It was in its sixth year this year. I have participated in the 5k twice before and enjoyed the flat course. This year a couple of friends decided to do the half marathon so I decided to join in. The race benefits the local emergency food bank and takes place at Woodbridge Winery in Lodi, about 45minutes south of Sacramento. Early bib pick-up was at Fleet Feet Stockton, a local running store. I stopped by the store the day before the race and got my bib, timing chip (disposable D-tag), goodie bag and technical fabric shirt. A couple of great things about the shirt this year were the color-black, which is rare for race shirts and it was gender specific. Included in the goodie bag was a wristband to wear if you are 21 and over. This was required to participate in the wine tasting postrace. It wasn't mentioned that you had to wear the wristband to get the free wine glass included with your entry fee, even if you skipped the drinking itself, so I was glad that I had worn mine even though I hadn't planned on drinking any alcohol. Since the race started and finished at the winery, there was a large parking lot and once it filled up there was plenty of street parking. I had learned in the years prior to get there early enough to park in the lot and did so again this year. There were porta potties close to the race start with a large line. Luckily a few other people and I found the winery's unmarked public bathrooms that were empty and I was in and out quickly. There were a few booths set up, most were informational pre-race but they did have some goodies post race. Race start for the half marathon was 7am and 7:15am for the 5k. The half start was right on time. We headed out on the main road in front of the winery and shortly after turned left to head north. The half marathon course was a loop course through wine country and farmlands. It was on a one lane paved road the entire time and was closed to traffic most of the time.

It was a well marked course with mile markers at each mile. There were police officers at each major intersection directing traffic as well. The main hazards were dogs in the area that would come out to fences and bark at us. There was one in particular that was running towards a group of runners in front of me but stopped at the edge of his owners property, just shy of the runners. There was an aid station at about 1.5 miles-close to the 5k turnaround point. There were about four or five more aid stations on the half marathon course-all with water and a sports drink but some of the volunteers were very young and didn't notify the runners if they had water or sports drink. Surprisingly there weren't any energy gels or chews offered on the course. After turning east again we passed through some cattle farms and ranches and could really feel the sun beating down on us. It was getting warmer quickly. After a few more turns the course headed south on a road that was lined with large trees that thankfully provided some shaded areas.  At about mile 7 or 8 there was a cooling station where cold sponges were handed out. This was the first race I have done where this was provided and it was great. A few more turns and then it was back on the initial street but heading west this time toward the finish. The course was lined with spectators as I got closer to the finish line and their cheering helped me pick up my pace near the end. Once across the finish I was handed my finishers medal and then was ushered to walk around the winery's visitor center to get water. It would have been nice to have the water closer, especially on a warm day. Another stop to get my wine glass and then there were wine tasting booths which I skipped. There was some post race food such as fruit and wraps. There were also a few sponsor booths set-up at the finish line but my favorite booth was one that had free race photos that had already been printed out. Even though I didn't find any of me I thought it was a great idea.

May 15, 2012

Tour of California

We were able to catch a stage of the Tour of California again this year. Stage 3 of the tour this year started in San Jose, went up through part of Mt. Diablo and ended in Livermore. People in the area have been waiting for years for the tour to go to Mt. Diablo and although it didn't go all the way up to the summit it was still exciting to have the route go through a place we know well. Mt. Diablo is a State Park with lots of hiking and mountain biking trails and a campground. The road up through the park is always busy with cyclists. We've hiked at the park before (Balancing RockFalls Trail) and have camped there as well. When the route for the stage was released we knew we definitely wanted to make it to the finish in downtown Livermore and decided to try to see them on Mt. Diablo as well.  We decided to ride to the park from a friends house who lives a few miles away. After about seven miles of riding we starting climbing. Not doing much riding I was a bit concerned about how I would do and got even more worried when my thighs starting burning at the bottom of the climb. Once the climbing began the discomfort continued but I had the  reassurance that we would only go as far as I could. I climbed up with a mountain bike but it was very light in weight so that helped. There were tons of other people there as well, lots of them passing me by but I did manage to pass a few. After a few miles we stopped for a break. After water and some energy chews we started climbing again and then we saw signs for the KOM (King of the Mountain). We decided to try to get to that point and after a few more tough miles we made it!! There were lots of other people there; some cycling groups and others who had driven up earlier and set up to watch the tour. At this point we had ridden about 14 miles.
We hung out for a little while and took some pictures. It was getting warm and I was glad that I took my CamelBak. We scouted out a place to wait and watch for the riders and found a section of the shoulder of the road that was empty- we had it all to ourselves. We had our PB&J sandwiches and waited in the heat. We were lucky that someone was giving out free ice cream at that time-they were promoting their product and we had jasmine flavored popsicles that surprisingly tasted really good. After waiting a little longer the breakaway came by, then the peloton. It's amazing how fast they ride. As soon as the road was open to us we started making our way down the mountain. This was a new situation for me-descending. I hadn't really thought about it before since I didn't think we would actually climb that much. I made good use of my brakes as I flew down the mountain. There were a few sketchy curves but I managed to stay upright. It helped that the road had very few cars and was taken over mostly by cyclists who could maneuver around me. Back down at the bottom of the mountain we rode back to the house. After just under 30 miles of riding we were back at our starting point..  I couldn't believe I had ridden that far, and up/down part of Mt. Diablo. We were soon in the car and heading over to Livermore. We parked downtown, just a few blocks from the finish. We made it in time to check out some of the booths before trying to elbow our way to a view of the finish. We didn't have a good view but did see the riders just after they crossed the finish line and as they headed to their team cars. We made our way by the team cars and took some pictures before heading back to our car. The tour riders completed 115.3 miles, but I did my own ride of just under 30 miles in under three hours and it felt great. It was a great day with an amazing ride and great Tour of California stage route. Can't wait until next year!

Amgen Tour of California Website
Our Tour of California 2011 post
Our Tour of California 2009 post

May 1, 2012

May Events

Here are a few things going on in May:

5/5   Western Pacific 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon at Quarry Lakes
5/5-5/6   The Relay
5/6   Peace Officers Memorial 5k, 10k in Modesto
5/6   Big Trees Trail 10k, Half Marathon, 30k, 50k at Joaquin Miller
5/6   Divas Half Marathon in San Francisco
5/6   Mermaid Run 5k, 10k, Half Marathon, 18 mile in Fremont
5/6   Delta Century Ride in Lodi
5/6   SF Sunday Streets bike event
5/12 CPOA 5k and 10k in Pleasanton
5/12 Cinderella Trail Run 10k, Half Marathon, Marathon, 50k at Joaquin Miller
5/12 Folsom Lake Triathlon
5/12 Ride for a Reason bike event
5/12 Ride for Mom bike event in Modesto
5/13 Mother's Day Duathlon and Triathlon in Folsom
5/13 Run Like a Mother 5k in Elk Grove
5/13-20 Tour of California cycling event
5/19 Wildcat 5k, 10k and Half Marathon at Wildcat Canyon Park
5/19 Scavenger Dash in Sacramento
5/19 Golden Gate Headlands 7 mile, Half Marathon and Marathon
5/20 Avenue of the Vines 5k, Half Marathon in Lodi
5/20 Daffodil Duathlon in Livermore
5/20 Ohlone Wilderness 50k
5/20 Bay to Breakers 12k in San Francisco
5/26 Danville Half Marathon
5/27 Wounded Warrior 5k in Manteca
5/27 Earthquakes Challenge 5k and 10k in San Jose
5/28 Stockton Rotary Run 5k and 10k

REI Free Clinics (all at 7pm)
  Basic Cycling Basics
    5/15 Stockton
  Intro to Bike Safety
    5/22 Stockton
  Cycling Destinations
    5/29  Stockton
  Bike Maintenance Basics
    5/1    Saratoga
    5/2    Brentwood
    5/2    Concord
    5/3    Mountain View
    5/31  Dublin
  Half Dome in a Day
    5/10  Brentwood
    5/29  Saratoga
  Marsh Creek State Park: A California Treasure
    5/3   Brentwood

REI Used Gear Sales (all at 10am)
  5/5   Berkeley
  5/5   Concord
  5/5   Mountain View
  5/5   Saratoga
  5/6   Fremont