Sunday, March 21, 2010

A huge backyard to enjoy, and maintain!

I am rich. Well, with a backyard of several hundreds of acres, I feel rich. I even feel blessed to be able to run tens of miles right in my backyard! Granted, these acres and trails are not mine but we are not that many to use and enjoy them so they feel like. And, although I don't own them per se, I owe to get involved in their preservation and maintenance.

I already posted on the wonderful work of POST (POST: developing Silicon Valley's green wealth) which we contribute to, financially. This Saturday, I joined several of my Quicksilver club mates to do trail maintenance at Almaden Quicksilver Park. Next week, Gregoire will join me and that will be the turn of my other club for some trail maintenance at Stevens Creek County Park. And, this Sunday, I did a long run to enjoy my... backyard. Here are short reports.

Trail maintenance at Almaden Quicksilver 

This Saturday morning was yet another morning where my watch got me out of a good and deep sleep before 7 am. It was time for a quick breakfast before driving down to San Jose, to the Almaden Quicksilver County Park (see map). We went to bed late again, not because of work this time but to enjoy the premiere of Charlie Brown at Cupertino High School. Max is Snoopy, Charlie Brown's philosophical and smart pet dog, a role which suits him very well. Two more representations next weekend if you live in the area and have missed it (Friday and Saturday at 7:30 pm).

We were supposed to meet at the Webb Canyon entrance but I was 3 minutes late so I had to rush up the steep trail to find the rest of the group. A small group composed of 2 of my RhoQuick running team, Adam and Pierre-Yves, and the organizer/coordinator, Michael, and another volunteer and member of the Quicksilver running club, Andy. Mike gave us some tools and here off we were on the New Almaden Trail. Pierre-Yves and I teamed up to work on the upper section, starting at the Prospect #3 trail, while Adam, Mike and Andy were working on a section damaged by all the streaming water of the past weeks.
We worked really hard for 6.5 hours non stop, cutting and tearing off hundreds of poison oak branches, widening the single track trail to make it at least 3 feet wide, removing grass and rocks from the trail. We saw a few hikers and runners, most of them thanking us for the work we were doing and the improvement to the trail, while a few others were probably thinking we were from a nearby prison and doing some community service as they didn't even thank us (I couldn't believe it). Unless they were upset that we were actually working on the trail of they prefer hiking through the poison oak...
Anyway, it felt really good to give back to these trails which give us so much pleasure either for training or racing (we go by this trail on the Quicksilver 50K/50M in May). The ground was still a bit wet and soft, in perfect condition for doing such maintenance, not too muddy, not too hard. Overall I was really tired, more tired than running 50K last weekend, especially my upper body, back and arms, and my hands were cramping. But I was amazed by the work we did, just the 5 of us in this long morning, yet realizing that there is so much more to do in the area. It is really a huge backyard to maintain and I was happy to contribute locally. Last time I did trail maintenance was on Mount Diablo, teaming with Tom Kaisersatt. I certainly prefer local opportunities rather than having to drive for an hour to trails which I don't run on, and I look forward to the other opportunity organized by Peggy with the Striders next week (if you can join us, we will meet on Saturday 3/27 at the main parking lot of Stevens Creek Park at 8:30, see website).

Black Mountain Loop

As you can see from the scale, my backyard is large, isn't it? I even have a mountain in my backyard as the elevation chart of this morning's run shows.
And that's only part of it, I can run down to the Pacific from these mountains on the Skyline to the Sea trail for instance. I ran 29.5 miles this morning, from my house. Went through Stevens Creek Park to see the reservoir which has been full for several weeks now (yippee!). Like the Annual Diocesan Appeal (ADA) at Church where every dollar above the goal comes back to the parish, all the water collected by the reservoir goes into our city creeks now!
I passed a few cyclists going up Montebello Road yet was passed by one super fast mountain biker, that's unusual! ;-) The Bay was still under the fog and it was great to see Mt. Hamilton, Mission Peak and Mt. Diablo emerging in the distance. I reached the top of Black Mountain in quite a good time (1:37, 11 miles, 2,800 feet) and stopped there to make a 360-degree panorama (click on the picture to enlarge).
I ran or actually flew down the other side and up to the summit of Black Mountain again before going down another route through Rancho San Antonio Park, then Cupertino. 3:55 for 29.5 miles and a cumulative elevation of 4,148 feet, much better than my counter performance at Way Too Cool last week.

From a botanical standpoint, I saw several deers and rabbits, but the most unusual creature was a snake crossing the fire road near the pond in Rancho San Antonio Park. I will let you identify it from this resource page. I'm leaning toward the Racer or Whipsnake, although I'm not sure it had 2 yellow stripes or only one.
So, not sure if it was a Racer, but it was moving quick at least, as you can see in this short YouTube video (Agn├Ęs, you can skip it...!).

Form a running perspective, the week has been quite good. It actually started not so well when I tried to run on Sunday, the day after the race. Thank to VeLoyce's massage, the legs felt good but, 300 yards in the run, I had to stop to catch my breath. I felt so old (yikes), I did walk around the block and walked and trotted 1.10 miles at 9:30 min/pace. My shortest run ever I believe. Fortunately, the asthma and inflammation were gone on Monday and I ran a total of 38 miles during the week, even managing to go to the track with Bob on Thursday morning. Almost 68 miles this week, that had not happened for a while!

See more pictures if you are interested about these two activities on my Picasa album.

Have a good week, with some running and exercise hopefully! And if you live or visit the area, feel free to use my backyard, it's yours too! ;-)

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