Sunday, April 4, 2010

Easter on Burma Road

I find it hard to believe that between my marathons at Long Beach and Los Angeles, I did not step upon Burma Road even once. The last time I ran upon my favorite local trail was last August, when Valerie and I lamented the damage from a recent wildfire. This had been my prime destination for hill training and impact sparing, a challenging five mile out-and-back, a picturesque shortcut through Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve. My training options, especially my number of long distance routes, were significantly reduced without it.

This morning, Valerie and I have returned. Spring has sprung, not quite erasing all evidence from last year's fire, but triggering a dramatic recovery. Black trees contrast with an El NiƱo-fueled bloom of yellow wildflowers. Occasional splashes of purple dot the hillside. I am quickly reminded why I love running here.

I fly down the hill, completing my first mile in 6:03. I am a little disappointed that I did not crack 6. Perhaps I would have had I not stopped to appreciate the surroundings.

As I reach the lowest point on the trail, I am amazed by the amount of erosion. The top soil has completely washed away, revealing grooves etched in Palos Verdes stone. The uneven and jagged surface wreaks havoc on my weak ankle. The surface softens during the steep climb towards the gates of Rolling Hills, but one dip needs cones to warn how much has slipped away.

As I continue my ascent around the bend, the trail appears even more beat up. I thought potholes were bad on the streets throughout L.A. County, but the pits formed here are deeper, potentially ankle twisting. Though it is not hard to find footing while climbing, I must remember to be extra careful when I traverse back down.

I quickly catch my breath when I reach the halfway point...and wait for Valerie to catch up. She says that she did not remember this hill to be so steep or long. I remind her that this half mile climb has always been tough for both of us.

Valerie takes off ahead of me since I plan to stop for pictures on the way back.


Once again, I fly downhill, pausing at the treacherous spots to record pictures and avoid injuries. I complete 5km shortly before the final climb towards Del Cerro Park with a split just under 22 minutes. This is not as fast as my previous post-high school best, but, given the inclusion of a steep half-mile-long incline, it is far more impressive.

The etched rocky surface once again aggravates my ankle and the incline increases the pain. As I complete mile 4, a man on horseback passes me. My pace is dropping...I could use a one horsepower boost. A woman on horseback passes next, her steed spewing road apples on the ground in front of me. I make a mental note to never draft behind a horse. With a half mile to go, I finally catch and pass Valerie.

Upon returning to Del Cerro Park, I am surprised to learn that I have completed the out-and-back averaging exactly 8 minutes per mile. This is by far the fastest I have ever completed this trail run. I guess I am still benefiting from a post-marathon speed boost.

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