Tuesday, March 31, 2009

The OZ Update!

Hi friends and greetings from OZ. Norma has finished her race in the beautiful Bogong High Plains and I certainly enjoyed tagging along for the ride. Unfortunately, you are going to have to wait for an official posting, realistically, not until I get home. I'm off to have my own running adventure now for a few days, with no internet access. Another beautiful national park with hopefully, some great trails. It was dry and warm in the mountains, but here in Sydney it is wet and humid. The air feels like liquid gold! Time to get runnin',

Happy Trails from Leslie

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Trail Running in the Marin Headlands: A Fastpacking Adventure from San Francisco to Point Reyes - Part 5

I really wanted to run the entire distance back to the Marin Headlands, so this time I got up early. My pack was feeling quite a bit lighter, I had eaten most of my food and I think I was getting used to the weight! When I headed out of the door of the Point Reyes Hostel, it was 7:30 in the morning and there was frost on the ground. I love this photo of me looking oh-so-sleepy-but-excited, ready to begin my last big day!

The temperature was perfect for this Banff girl, but anyone who was awake were complaining about how cold it was outside (snicker). I wanted to run the singletrack back to the Randall Trail and pick up where I got the lift. I took a beautiful route through the interior of Point Reyes, a combination of Fire Lane with a quick blast to the top of Mount Wittenburg. I didn't take long for me to warm up and the frost to disappear and I had once last peek at the Point Reyes Shoreline, before heading over to the Visitor Centre. From there, the Rift Zone Trail and the Olema Valley Trail took me back to the Randall Trailhead. These trails were a pleasant surprise of rolling green trails, moss covered logs and even took me through some agricultural land. I had to run through a cow pasture full of babies cows and some of them ran with me. Their moms were getting cranky and one even took a run at me. Bitch. It took me almost 4 hours to get back to Randall. I cranked it up the Randall Hill, flew across Bolinas Ridge and charged the Coastal Trail back to Pantoll. I felt like a Rockstar!

......Note from Keith....

We interrupt this post to let you all know how funny it is to watch Leslie running around in a frenzy trying to prepare for Australia (leaving in 3 hours)...and complete this post, and basically remain calm and collected. It's really 'tornado like'...and I'm going to go hide and stay out of the way!!

What's this?! It looks like I've been hijacked! Continuing the story, yet another glorious day and such a sweet run. I worked hard at keeping focused and moving on this day and finished, elated, ten and a half hours later. I think it was around 37 Miles of super fun trail goodness. I loved it every moment of it.


The finish line.

The next morning, I took my time and strolled my way back to San Francisco. No running this time! Surprisingly, my legs felt great but my brain was a little fuzzy with all of the noise and smells of the city. I went straight to my favorite restaurant Pacific Catch and ordered me up some fish tacos, smelly clothes, pack and all. I told the waitress, "You have know idea how happy I am to be here right now!" and I was. I completed the journey by walking all the way to my hostel downtown, where I went for yet another feed at a Vietnamese place and collapsed into bed. Happy, content, satisfied. My self-propelled adventure was one of my best holidays ever. I flew home early the next morning and slept the whole way.

Hope you've enjoyed this adventure, but now I am off on another one! If any one is interested, all of my photos of this trip are here.

Gotta' go to OZ, another airport shuttle, so bye-bye!

Also, good wishes to my friends Bryon and Meghan as they embark on their own self propelled adventure at Marathon des Sables this week! Have a fun adventure friends!!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Trail Running in the Marin Headlands: A Fastpacking Adventure from San Francisco to Point Reyes - Part 4

For my final day at Point Reyes, I awoke to a perfect calm beautiful morning. The wind had disappeared and everything was quiet (except for the sounds of 12 high school girls getting ready in the morning!). I decided on Drakes Head as a destination, via Estero Trail. And just for something completely different, I walked! It was about 7.5 miles to the head and from the beginning, it really was a National Geographic kind of day. We awoke to frost and when the sun hit the frost, the place really came to life! I was really taking pleasure in the walking and observing all of the little things around me.

When the sun hit the frost, the birds became solar powered. I barely recognized any of the birdsongs, they were all new and different than in my back yard! I saw some rabbits feeding on some newly emerged greens and shortly after, I ran right into a Bobcat on the trail. He had the proper reaction when he saw me, which was to turn and run down the trail before disappearing into the thick brush. I suspect he was after the Easter Bunnies. After that I came across something that looked suspiciously like ELK SHIT, but I thought it must be something else. Sheep? Goat? What the hell kind of scat is that? I was super surprised when I heard a whole bunch of noise in the woods and sure enough, there was a small herd of elk. I hadn't realized that there were elk in Point Reyes! Who knew?

My walk took me to Drakes Estero, a beautiful inland backwash of coastal water, with a crazy amount of bird life. For all of you bird nerds out there, Point Reyes is paradise for bird watching. It would be an easy place to spend many days observing, looking and watching. In the Estero, I got to see lots of the tall, long-legged, fisherman variety of birds - you know, cranes and herons. The scenery was completely different in this corner of the park, a little more barren and rolling. It actually looked like Southern Alberta ranch country! My reward was the view at Drakes Head.

..... and the cream cheese and Toblerone bagel that I had for lunch - yeeeeah! I also had a small bag of Doritos that the kids had given me. I was truly, totally completely in heaven.
The views in all directions were so gorgeous and fortunately, the wind was quite calm. There all sorts of raptors cruising the coastal air above me - Red Tailed Hawks, Vultures, Kites, Sparrowhawks and I caught a glimpse of a hungry Peregrine, fishing in the shallow waters below. The big excitement was in the shallow water below. I saw big sharks and massive manta rays, later I was told they were probably Tiger Sharks and Bat Rays. My day just kept getting better and better.

I walked home the entire 7.5 miles and it was good to stretch out the legs and use my walking muscles. On the way I saw 2 more herds of elk! Later, I learned the story of the Tule Elk in Point Reyes. Now that the sun had heated up the day, the Garter Snakes were out in full force. The first one I saw scared me, but by the end of the day I was trying to catch them. I did get bit by one of the little buggers, serves me right for messing with the wildlife. The 15 miles took me all day and I even got a nap in a sunbeam.

That evening, was blissfully relaxing at the hostel. The teachers and kiddies had left me, but not without leaving me some leftovers!! I ate well that night. Over the few days I was there, I enjoyed some great company in the hostel staff of Laith and Hannah. These girls are really good at what they do and just downright cool people. The environmentally conscientious hostel even had a "self-propelled" discount. My dorm bed cost me $20.00 and I got a free towel to use! How cool is that?

I relaxed away my final evening and enjoyed a long luxurious shower, but I was already thinking about my "big run" the next day. I looked more closely at my map and calculated it to be about 37 miles back to the Headlands. I was excited. I was motivated. I was feeling great!

***Extra note: Yes, I realize this is the "post that keeps on giving" but bear with me folks! One more installment to go and it's a wrap. Hope you've enjoyed reading as much as I've enjoyed writing.***

Saturday, March 21, 2009

We Interrupt This Programming

.....to catch up on real life! When I returned from California last Friday and drove back to Banff, I had something to be excited about! The lovely, Danni was coming for a weekend visit. We went for a ski on Saturday and a run on Sunday. I went back to work on Monday, a wee bit tired from my week of adventure. We had a great weekend, which she posted about here.

This week, I have taken it easy. I took 3 days off, cold-turkey-no-exercise and it felt right. Thursday I attempted a short walk/run up Tunnel and felt unbelievable tired, but I sure did enjoy getting out. After slow-slothlike-hurtin' effort, I decided to take another rest day yesterday. I needed it! I'm working a few extra shifts this weekend, to make up for my spontaneous play time. This morning, I woke up feeling great so I will venture outside for a run after work. Back in the saddle! Yiiiiiihaw!

But the exciting part is, I have 4 days of work left and then I am off to Australia with Norma for the Mind Alpine Sky Run! There is something to look forward to. It's all going to be a blur until then.

I hope to finish up my post on my trip to California in the next few days, so you'll have to wait for it!

Happy Trails,


Thursday, March 19, 2009

Trail Running in the Marin Headlands: A Fastpacking Adventure from San Francisco to Point Reyes - Part 3

Point Reyes National Seashore, Day 1
My first day in Point Reyes, I felt compelled to go to the ocean. I really needed some quality time with The Ocean. All I wanted to do was go to the beach and take in the smells, sights and sounds. It's like that when you don't live near the ocean, you just want to inhale that sweet smell and sit there and watch the waves crashing in. And maybe go for a run.

I love beachcombing. It's one of my favorite things. The coast line and beaches of Point Reyes certainly deliver the goods. It's a rugged, wild place and I had the whole place to myself. I ran into a couple of groups of hikers at Arch Rock, but apart from that brief encounter I didn't see anyone else. I have always been a girl who needs a little time and place to herself sometimes. The solitude I found here was simply blissfull.

When the wind picked up, I left the beach and hit the trail. It was much more sheltered inland and the Coast Trail was a real pleasure. Gentle and rolling, it hugged the shoreline and offered glimpses of magical places and beaches below. I ran out on the Coastal Trail for almost 6 miles and enjoyed breaking it up with lots of walk breaks. The legs felt surprisingly good, but it was the mind that was enjoying the walk breaks. Looking. Observing. Breathing. Smiling. Do you know that the sound of wind through trees is different depending on the trees? The coastal brush and woods sounded nothing like woods that I run in. I saw lots of garter snakes with blue and green stripes and there was definitely a new hatch of butterflys. The only similarity in nature, was The Raven. I had one come to visit me at lunch time, trying to mooch a few treats. I laughed at him and we had an interesting conversation. Hey Raven! You ever been to Banff?? I swear I've seen you around.

It was a great day. By the end of the day, I had travelled probably 12 miles and got a good taste of the Coastal Trails and the interiour trails. Sky Trail was sweet and Woodward Valley delivered me back to the ocean. I thought I would walk one last mile on the beach at the end of the day and ended up getting sandblasted. The wind picked up when I was on the beach and was gusting so hard, I had to turn my back on it. The sand was like needles on the backs of my legs and I got a complete exfoliation. I had to get out my down coat and hunker down. It was the first time I have gotten a sandburn, my white legs were pink and raw from the gusting sand.


After enjoying a shower and a huge feed of burritos (thank-you students and teachers from Walnut Valley High!) I had an interesting coversation with a student that just made my day.

HER: Why do you like, run?

ME: I like the simplicity of it. I like putting one foot in front of the other. I like that by doing this one simple thing, I can transport myself to amazing places. I like that it makes me feel powerful and strong. I like that it makes me stand up just a little bit straighter. I like that it makes me feel like superwoman.

HER: Wow, that's like, profound.

You heard it here first friends, someone actually called me, like, profound.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Trail Running in the Marin Headlands: A Fastpacking Adventure from San Francisco to Point Reyes - Part 2

The wild turkeys made me smile. I had flashbacks of staying in a hovel in Hawaii and being awoken by roosters. It boded well for my day. On a whim, I phoned the hostel in Point Reyes and they told me they had only one bed for one night. Oops. A large group had booked the place well in advance of yours truly, Ms-Flying-By-The-Seat-Of-Her-Pants. Oh well, I thought. So I unpacked most of my food and left it behind. One night it is.

The turkeys and I awoke to a beautiful day in the Headlands. After only 5 minutes, I had ditched my arm warmers by the time I reached Rodeo lagoon. However, between my re-packing and daylight savings time I had a slightly late departure time. Oh well, I thought. I'll get the extra light in the evening.

Flowers at Rodeo Lagoon

The first 5 miles of the Coastal Trail from Rodeo Lagoon to Muir Beach offer up some stunning scenery and some huge ascents and descents. The trail climbs and descends twice, but the scenery just pulls you along. I shared the trail with two mountain bikers, climbing out of Tennessee Valley. We were going the same speed and managed to chat a little as we climbed upwards. At the top of this climb we were rewarded with a long clear view of the coast and I let out a giant, "Wooooooohooo!" The boys laughed out loud and told me, "You're just happy to be out running in your running skirt."

They had me figured out already. I am a simple creature.

Outside of Muir Beach, I made my way up the Heather Cutoff and climbed upwards for almost 4 miles to the Pantoll Ranger Station. I enjoyed a hillside of pink flowers, I saw a coyote pouncing on some invisible prey, I was buzzed by hummingbirds and lazy turkey vultures and I scared a couple of deer who crashed wildly through the woods. Near the Dipsea Trail, I was joined briefly by a guy on a mountain bike who looked like Santa Claus, except the fitter California version. As we were filling our water bottles at Pantoll, Santa looked at my legs and exclaimed, "Hey girl, you're all pumped up!!" It's good to know my quads are still show stoppers. I was still laughing when I hit the Matt Davis Trail and continued on to the Coastal Trail.

The miles flew by as I cruised the 6.5 miles between Pantoll and the Bolinas Ridge Trail. This part of the trail is just so sweet. The singletrack. The colour of the earth. The views. The flowers. It's all so pretty.

Up until this point, I had no problem navigating the well marked trails. Between my maps and my memories of the Miwok 100km, I was doing well. Only one problem came up, and this was because my memory failed me and there was a gap in my maps between the Headlands and Point Reyes. I had a little detour, but figured it out and found my way on to the Bolinas RidgeTrail. I enjoyed the change of scenery as the singletrack changed to double-track and my world became dark, muddy, lush and green. I felt small running through these quiet, massive trees. I ran 5 miles on the trail, before I took a sharp detour down the Randall Trail.

When I reached Highway 1, I had been running for 8 hours and it was already 5:30. I quickly realized that I wasn't going to make it before dark. Thanks my late start, day light savings time, my propensity to take photos and the stunning scenery that kept stopping me dead in my tracks, I was going to need a Plan B. I had my headlamp, but I was nervous about the unfamiliar trails. Fortunately for me, there was a couple of hikers at the trailhead who gave me a lift to the Olema Point Reyes Information Centre. From there I enjoyed my first taste of the trails of Point Reyes and cruised the last miles into the hostel before it got dark. I was tired, happy and hungry. My energy and my legs had been great all day. I couldn't believe how good I felt after my 32ish miles!!

When I arrived at the Point Reyes Hostel, I immediately met up with the group leaders who were responsible for the 20 high school students who were the "group reservation" at the hostel. When I told them I had travelled by foot, on trail, from the city, they thought that was pretty cool. I had to repeat it a few times: Yes, I ran here. On trails. By myself. You ran 40 miles? Yes. On trails.

After that, it was my turn to be surprised. In turn, they told me it was no problem for me to stay additional nights and that they would be happy to share their food with me. Woooop! Here's to good people and good fortune. I was going to get to explore the trails of Point Reyes afterall!!

Monday, March 16, 2009

Trail Running in the Marin Headlands: A Fastpacking Adventure from San Francisco to Point Reyes - Part 1

Sometimes the best trips are the spontaneous adventures. My adventure started on a cold day in Banff, with a few too many cups of coffee. It was cold and grey outside and I found myself on the internet, browsing the travel websites and dreaming about trails in special places.

Special places like the Marin Headlands and Point Reyes in spring.

On my last trip to this area, an idea had planted its' seed in my brain. For the last 4 months, a map of Point Reyes National Seashore had become my prime next-to-the-toilet-reading material. I wanted to explore this area further, but first I had to get there. My idea was to get off the plane, take the public transportation to the Golden Gate bridge and run all the way from San Francisco to the Marin Headlands and continue through to Point Reyes. A self-propelled adventure. So I bought a ticket, packed my Camelback and started running 20 hours later.

The journey starts here.

When I arrived at the Golden Gate Bridge on Saturday, it was a swarming mass of humanity. The citizens of San Francisco and the tourists, like myself, were out in full force. It was a clear, sunny, warm day and it seemed like the world was out walking on the bridge. I was giddy with excitement, awe and disbelief that I found myself in this incredible place on this particular day.


For my first day, the plan was to get out of the city and run to the Golden Gate Headlands Hostel. The moment I crossed the bridge and found the trail, I couldn't get over the difference. The lack of people. Beautiful trails. Great views. Scented woods. Flowers. Hummingbirds. Solitude. And it was all less than 2 hours from the city.

So close, yet so far.

The trail took me straight to the hostel in under 2 hours. I slept like a baby until the wild turkeys woke me up at 6:30AM. The wild turkey alarm! Maybe it was an omen. Either way, I awoke to a perfect bluebird day and I was stoked to get running. Day 2 was going to be long and scenic and I could hardly wait to begin the adventure.

Monday, March 9, 2009

I did something spontaneous!!

I got a last minute ticket. Calgary to San Fran for $320.00 return. And then I got on the public transit and I got off at the toll for the Golden Gate Bridge and then....I started running! I'll tell you all about it soon.

Love from Leslie

Monday, March 2, 2009

The Long and Short of It: A Tale of Two Runs

This past week, I enjoyed two runs. One, was a gift and the other was planned but they both turned out to be great runs. Both showed me that the hardest part of running is just getting out the door.

The first run, was short and spontaneous.

Thursday was a quint-essential Banff In All of Its Winter Glory kind of day. The fresh snow had fallen the day before (the Treadmill Debacle) and it was clear, crisp and startlingly perfect. Everywhere you looked, the world was sparkling. I unfortunately, spent my day at work gazing out the window. I dawdled home a little tired and hadn't given any thought to a run. I had a few big ones planned for Friday and Sunday, so I was going to take it easy. When I got home, the world was STILL sparkling outside and the sun was setting. It didn't take me long to have the revelation: JUST GO!! RUN!! JUST A SHORT ONE!! GO!! So I did. It would have been morally wrong to let this perfect day slide by and I almost did out of sheer laziness. Not ten minutes later, I found myself running on perfect packed snow climbing up the Tunnel Mountain trail, with a big grin on my face. As they day was ending, he trees were still sparkling, the temperature was lovely and the world was so perfect up there. It was so calm and quiet, except of course for the sound of my breathing. What a gift!

The second run was long and planned in advance.

I had to get my long run in on Sunday, but was lacking in motivation. So I called my buddy Mike. Long runs are so much better with a friend! We ran to the top of Sulpur and did a bonus sprint to the top of the weater station. The weather was perfect for running and the time flew by. After running to the bottom, I did a bonus loop by myself for a total running time of 5 hours. I love my long runs! And that's the Long and Short of It.

Just check out that view!
Lake Minnewanka in the distance- last week, blue and icy...this week white and snowy.

Sulphur Gondola Station and Sulphur Ridge

Mount Edith and Corey Pass