Discovering New Trails, Recovering Old Things*

* Things = Feelings, but that seemed way too melodramatically corny for a title

A significant portion of my daily duress comes from feeling like I’m not making the most of my free time during the day. I know, super spoiled first world problem, right? But one of the main perks of piecing together this hodge podge medley of part-time jobs is being able to hop around town when everyone else is cooped up in offices and meetings. Sunshine! No crowds! You can almost drive on the 405 without hitting your brakes!

This morning after doing some Oiselle sales stuff I stood up, shut down the computer, locked the girls up in a sports bra, and bolted out the door without a single thought about the rest of the stuff on my to do list.

After a 20 minute drive (woulda been 40 in traffic) I pulled up to Quail Hill Preserve with a very vague game plan: explore a few miles of a new trail. I’ve been sticking around 4-5 miles lately, partly because it’s comfortable and partly because I’m scared pushing it any further will flare up my injury again. So anyway, I figured that’s probably what I’d run today.

The trail starts with a pretty gnarly half mile hill, and since I’m in bad anything-other-than-flat shape, I walked that bitch then shuffled into a slow jog once I got to the top.

Luckily in Orange County a lot of our “trails” are really just man-made, un-paved paths, which means there aren’t a ton of road hazards you have to worry about face-planting over if you get a little too caught up taking in the scenery. Which is good, because I did a lot more looking up than I did looking where I was stepping.

shady canyon 1

sweet, sweet dirt, my concrete-abused legs love you

Nothing felt spectacular, not bad or painful, just not OMG LOVE RUNNING GREAT – maybe because I was so preoccupied fretting about all the descending I was doing…

“Uhhh you know we’re going to have to turn around and run UP all these nice little hills, right? Your legs are most definitely not ready for that.”

Shut up, brain.

At mile two where I planned to turn around the trail popped open at Bommer Meadow, with a god-send bathroom and water fountain, which I helped myself to.

shady canyon 2

also a trail map that you can’t see because, hiiiiiii selfie

I decided I’d come this far, might as well explore the meadow trail a little if for no good reason other than prolonging the march back up the hills that brought me here. I’m not sure if it was the bladder emptying or a sudden moment of clarity (or maybe someone was smoking something funky behind the shelter), but I couldn’t stop looking around like, “holy shit is this really Orange County?”

shady canyon 3

shut up, Irvine, get outta here with your cute little bridges

I turned around at 2.5 with an extra pep in my step, ready to tackle the climb back to the car. Another mile beeped on my watch, another hill crested, a nice tailwind joined me and before I knew it I was back where I started, at the top of that ol’ bitch overlooking the parking lot.

But I didn’t feel like stopping yet.

So I ran down it.

And then I still didn’t feel like stopping, so I ran through the parking lot, past my car, and hopped on the Quail Hill Loop which I thought I remembered from the map down in the meadow was a mile long.

“I can run another mile!”

I picked up the pace a bit, said hi to a guy as I passed him, and my watch beeped for 6 miles. It’s been a while since I’ve run six miles and felt this good.

Half a mile went by and the trail didn’t seem to be looping back towards home anytime soon, but I didn’t care. Chug, chug, chug, my stride finally feels natural and rhythmic instead of forced and choppy. Finally a bend, and around the turn a big ol’ hill. Ok, you ran all those earlier you didn’t think you could, what’s one more? Garmin beeped for 7 miles. Pushed up another hill, and at the top – my car shining down in the distance. Just kidding it’s coated in dirt and sand but I refuse to wash it because we’re in a drought and that seems frivolously irresponsible. Regardless, the finish was in sight.

shady canyon 4

I forgive thee, hill, for I know you’ll make me stronger and because you look like you could belong in ohio

I descended that final hill (the loop was 1.8 miles, ftr) and jogged around the parking lot like that stupid OCD watch-hawker everyone likes to make fun of to clock an even 7.5 miles. The last time I ran that far was December 28th – back when I still thought I was training for Carlsbad, before I’d been diagnosed by Dr AJ or became a regular at my chiro, when I was cursing every mile and my rebelling body but was too stubborn to wave the white flag.

Here I am almost five months later, finally back in a place of pre-run excitement instead of dread, where “ah what the hell let’s keep going!” is a mid-run thought, and the post-run basking is in endorphins, not sorrows or frustrations.

If you’re dealing with burnout or waning enthusiasm towards running, I strongly encourage you to hit up a new scene. Search Garmin Connect or Strava for other users’ routes, poll the locals, or just pull up Google Maps and head towards the first decent-size plot of green you see. It’s amazing what a fresh view can do for your outlook.

Literally and figuratively, I guess.

shady canyon garmin

my garmin connect activity for this run, if you’re interested

Sarah OUaL


6 thoughts on “Discovering New Trails, Recovering Old Things*

  1. That place looks amazing!!! I wish, wish I had a place like that to run in. I think it’s time to go exploring, I’m totally having a case of burnout. Glad you’re getting back at it mentally and physically. :)


  2. That’s my go-to long run route, and I LOVE it. Bommer connects to the back end of Crystal Cove -> Laguna, if you’re SUPER motivated.

    That first gnarly hill is what the XC team calls “easy” hill repeats. Jerks.


  3. Congrats on the milestone run! I am so bad at trying new places but this is inspiration to do it. I did try a new track yesterday at least (and there were people playing lacrosse in the middle of it but whatever…).



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