Wednesday, June 25, 2008

My Last Cali Run: The Sawyer Camp Trail

I’ve been physically back home in NYC for a few days now, but I guess my mind and soul is still lingering back in San Francisco because I can’t seem to get this song and this song out of my head. It’s a bit annoying actually, but rather than waste my time rereading the same page in my textbook over and over again, I’d like to be productive and share with you all my final run in my final day in Cali. Other than my 20 mile adventure over the Golden Gate, it might have been the most beautiful and scenic run I had while I was over there.

The funny thing was I originally wasn’t even planning on running that morning. My flight out of SFO was scheduled for 1:30pm, which meant I had to be at the airport at around noon or so. I had just run ten miles the day before in San Mateo and was scheduled to take my travel day off so I could do another long run of 16 or 18 miles once I got back to New York. Too bad no one forwarded my running itinerary to my cousin (JS) who I was staying with the previous night, because sometime over dinner, she threw out the idea that we should get up early and run together. Not only so, but she knew a great running trail that a co-worker had told her about a little while back. Now I’m not saying I would’ve turn down the offer if someone else had asked, but if my dear cousin who doesn’t ordinarily run wants me to run with her I think I would have done it if even if I had just completed a marathon and was forced to shuffle my feet just to keep up. This might seem a bit dramatic, but if you were in my family, where no amount of begging and pleading on my part in the past had been successful to convince anyone to join me for a leisurely stroll around the neighborhood, you’d know this was a big big deal. You could say I was even a bit apprehensive, knowing that this was my first time running with a member of the family.

The next morning, we got up early, around 7:30am, dressed, and got ourselves ready for the trip. In retrospect, we probably should have gotten up an hour earlier because the sun was already blazing with both barrels by the time we made it out the door. They were expecting record high temps in the bay area by around noon so we knew we had to get a move on if we were to avoid being fried bacon! We were picked up by my cousin’s boyfriend (BF) and the three of us headed over to our destination on the other side of town. During the thirty minute car ride, I found out that the impetus for this spontaneous training run was because JS and BF were both signed up for a fun 10K mud run in San Diego during the fall. They both had not run very much recently and wanted to start training for the event. Although my cousin admitted that she has at most done about 2.5 continuous miles over past year, I felt that given her past running experience (she ran high school track for a year) she should be good to go for her race if she could manage to run about 3 times a week consistently over the summer months. She promised me she’d try to be better at getting up early in the morning and running a few miles before work. I told her that I was going to give her a running quiz when I come back to San Fran in six weeks to track her progress. After some more running-related conversation and a few swervy turns, we arrived at our destination: The Sawyer Camp Trail.

The Sawyer Camp Trail is a seven mile paved running trail that stretches from the Crystal Springs Reservoir to San Andreas Lake in the outskirts of San Mateo, California. Although it is a nature walk per se, the popularity of this recreational path for cycling, roller blading, running and strolling was evident by the fact that we had to drive a good half-mile past the entrance to find a parking spot along the side of the road! Once we parked and walked to the start of the trail, I got pretty nervous because I could feel the ultraviolet radiation bouncing off the pavement. Luckily, the running trail is well shaded by large trees on both sides which made conditions bearable. Once we stretched, tightened our shoelaces, and started running, the heat became somewhat less of a factor. Instead, I became enthused by the natural scenery all around me. On one side was the tranquil lake with the waters so calm it reflected the surrounding summertime foliage perfectly. And on the other were trees, shrubs, and plants in all shades of green and brown swaying every so gently to the mid-morning breeze. [For a more detailed description and photographic evidence of this picturesque landscape, visit the Bay Area Hiker website] While I was admiring my surroundings and running ever so slowly next to my cousin(who was keeping a 10:13 min/mile pace), I tried to be as supportive as I could and gave her some small pointers on improving her running efficiency where appropriate.

Then, as I am running easy and thoroughly enjoying myself, something my cousin told me a bit earlier about this running path made me panic. She told me that although the woods surrounding the trail look rather innocuous, there have been sightings and tales of wild animal at various points throughout the path. Hidden behind the tall trees and dense shrubs were deer, raccoon, a few bears and even a lion. There were even reports of some trail runners and wildlife enthusiasts who dared to venture into the deep woods only to disappear and never be heard from again. [Haha! Okay, I made up the last part, but she was dead serious about someone reportedly seeing a lion on there!] So as I was running, I thought about what I would do if I saw a lion. I’m probably screwed if I saw a lion. My first instinct was to jump into the lake, but then quickly remembered from my experience over the Golden Gate that I’m deathly afraid of the water. Then I thought about just out running the lion, which wouldn’t be possible, unless there was someone else next to me, and all I have to do is outrun that other person. But if I were by myself, I’d be screwed, in which case, I could try to just lie there and play dead, but then I remembered that that only works as a defense against bears, which left me back to my original point that I’m probably screwed either way. Suddenly, in the middle of my panic thoughts about the lion and me, we reached the two mile marker and my cousin and BF started to turn back. My adrenaline was pumping wild at this point, and I really needed to release all the tension so I told them to go back first and I’d continue on the trail for an additional 1.5 before heading back. After she left, I sped through the rest of my 5 mile run (1.5 miles forward + 3.5 miles back) at tempo pace, imagining some ferocious lion nipping at my heels ready to attack. I don’t think I had any other thought through that entire run except trying to save myself from my imaginary carnivore. In the end, I think I made it faster than 6:40 min/mile pace and was totally wiped by the time I made my way back to the trail entrance again to meet up with cousin and BF.

After we all devaporized and decompressed from our exhilarating trip, we drove to Stacks at Burlingame for brunch. I had eggs, bacon, home fries, pancakes, and a Jumba Juice wannabe substitute strawberry milkshake. It was all so deliciously satisfying and was without a doubt one of the best getaway meals I’ve ever had in my traveling life.

(If any of you are in the Northern Cali area and looking for a place to run outside the city, I highly recommend the Sawyer Camp Trail. It is definitely one of the not-to-miss running highlights of the Bay area.)

(I’m also secretly hoping that my cousin will go back and do some of her training runs there so the next time I visit, we can both run the trail all the way to the end and back without stopping...yeah!)


Xenia said...

Sounds like a great place to run. Except for the potentially bloodthirsty wildlife. ;)

btw, Tony Bennett received an honorary degree from my undergrad uni during my graduation ceremony. We chanted his name enough that he sang a bit for us. And it was that song. :)

Non-Runner Nancy said...

Sounds like a grand place. I just had a revelation. I am going to have to train for years before we can ever run together. If you had to be extremely supportive at 10:15 you would be bored to tears at 12:30 :P Man, it sucks to be slow.

SJ Goody said...

I can totally relate to that lion panic attack. I recently panicked over the thought of a bear... and also thought of jumping in the water...

sRod said...

Sounds like an excellent place to run. But I'm confused about the lion. I'd think that with all the dangers that lurk in Central Park--buses, dogs, bicyclists, pigeons that fly in your face--that a lion would be a welcomed relief.

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