by Brandi Howell
Last Sunday’s run was a “recovery” run, which in marathon lingo means a 14 mile run instead of an 18 mile one. Believe it or not, calling it a “recovery” run and shaving a few miles off of it makes it less intimidating and much more enjoyable.
The four of us met at the base of the Santa Monica Mountains at 8:30 am on a clear and breezy day. The air was clean and cool, following a three day rain storm that blew over just in time for our run. Stretching at the trail head, we were excited to be running a different route than the usual beach run. There was also some apprehension in our minds, for although we had a new course ahead of us, we had traded in our flat coastal path for a steep mountainous one. Warmed up and anxious to tackle the hills, we set out along the muddy trail, chatting and hopping over the puddles. Within minutes, we were climbing steep, sticky surfaces, surrounded by fragrant trees and wild flowers. Each of us settled into our own comfortable pace, spreading out from a tight group to a long single-file line, with me bringing up the rear. We huffed and puffed our way up to several flat stretches, before finally reaching our first plateau, fully equipped with panoramic views. Here, we stopped for a quick stretch and then pushed on.
As the narrow trail led us higher into the mountains, the terrain started to change. Trees became brush and flowers were replaced by tall grass and boulders. As we soared high above the valley and the city, we realized that we were on a ridge, flanked by views of the choppy ocean on one side and snow-capped mountains on the other. Finally, I spotted our turnaround point in the distance. The guys had already turned around, and were charging down the mountain towards me. Although they were tired and enjoying the downhill momentum, I made them stop to take our weekly team picture. Such is the power of a team captain. I reached the turnaround point just minutes later and headed down the hill, simply lifting my legs and letting gravity pull me home.
After flying down some switchbacks, admiring a gushing waterfall and descending into the lush valley, we were out of the woods and back at the cars. Each of us tacked on a few more miles–either back on the trail or on the paved beach path-and by 11 o’clock, we were stretching out our sore legs and dreaming of hot showers and breakfast burritos (well, I definitely was).