May 31, 2015: The Bulldog Loop, starting at Malibu Creek State Park, is a beast of a trail. We ran an out-and-back, 10 miles. It was tough and I wasn’t very strong on trails at that time. I’d been running trails for about 2 months. In fact, my coach’s pre-run talk scared me. He warned us about snakes, mountain lions and the challenges of the course. (To avoid being mountain lion bait, do not hunch over in the middle of the trail to tie your shoe laces.) I’m glad my SoCal Coyote teammates and I stuck together for the 10 miles because it was hard and blazing hot! This trail gets notoriously hot! We didn’t even run the loop and I just couldn’t imagine ever running it.
August 8, 2015: Three months later, we decided to run Bulldog again. My teammate, Consuela, wanted to run her own marathon at Bulldog so we decided to support her by running parts of the loop with her. Since we began our training with the Coyotes in March, I’d been running more trails than I ever had, sometimes once or twice a week. Yet I still wasn’t confident I could run the loop. It’s 14 miles or so and lots and lots of climbing. I still feel like a newbie on trails at times. My footing isn’t so great, I get scared on the downhills and I am very cautious. My teammate, Holly, kept saying, “You’re running the loop.” I kept saying,”Well, I could turn around if I need to. You guys can keep going…” Holly kept insisting, “Nope, you’re running the loop.” Well, I thought, I’d better get mentally prepared to run the loop because it doesn’t look like I’m going to be able to turn back if I don’t think I can make it. Holly was training to run the Bulldog 25k and this run was important for her. I didn’t want to hold her back but I also wanted to see what I could do after 4 months of training.
We started at the entrance of the state park and ran in. Luckily, Holly stuck with me and showed me which way to go. Just before the Bulldog climb, you get to run through the outdoor set of the M*A*S*H television show. So cool!
Next is the Bulldog climb! Miles 3 to 7 and it just keeps going up!
When I ran, well, power hiked this climb in May, I didn’t feel so strong. I struggled. I felt weighed down. I really had to push to keep up with my teammates and I was far behind. This time around, I felt much stronger. It also helped that we started early and it wasn’t super hot yet. Holly and I had a great time climbing Bulldog and chatting the entire time. The best part about running is going to know fellow runners. There’s nothing like bonding over miles.
I shared a story with her about a painful experience I had gone through. We both had similar stories and it was on that mountain that I felt a release. It’s amazing how much we hold onto things, even a year later. The physical pain I felt climbing Bulldog helped me unleash some emotional pain that was still lingering. With every step, I felt liberated.
At about Mile 6, our friends caught up to us, as we had a bit of a head start. We met with our other teammates at Mile 7 who were waiting for us with cold water, Coca Cola and snacks. Thank you, Fernie and Corazon! We ran the rest of the way together and stopped by Jim Morrison’s cave.
The next stop were these amazing rock formations! In May, we didn’t get this far so I didn’t get to see them. I was very excited to check them out in person!
We were only half way done at this point and the latter half is tough in its own way! Climbing and more climbing and more technical terrain than I have ever experienced. I was a little bit scared but I did it!
We even crossed a creek! I remember saying, “Wow! I really feel like a trail runner now!” (I know, I know. Sounds cheesy.) But I was very excited!
I didn’t fall in. I didn’t get wet. It was awesome! After that, we still had to run Chihuahua. There’s nothing small nor cute about her. She’s kind of annoying actually. I just kept wondering how much farther we had to go. It was really hot by this time. Luckily, I kept myself fueled with my Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews. Fruit Smoothie is my favorite!
We met up with our teammates, Consuela and Laura, in the last couple of miles and they looked strong and amazing. They were running back on the loop so that Consuela could finish her marathon. We ran to the picnic area, our finish, and completed 14.5 miles. 2,854 feet of elevation gain. I couldn’t believe it. I couldn’t believe I had run the Bulldog loop. It was the farthest I had run on trail. It hurt and I was in a lot of pain afterward and days following, but it was incredible.
I believed, endured and achieved! I’m grateful for my friends who believed in me when I wasn’t sure of myself. They waited for me so I wouldn’t get lost. They ran back for me to make sure I was okay. I learned a lot about myself that day at Bulldog. I was able to let go of hurt feelings that didn’t matter anymore. I gained confidence in myself on the trails that I didn’t have before. I really felt like a trail runner. In that blazing heat, on that crazy course, I felt bold and badass and was happy to share it with friends.
(I’m excited to volunteer at the Bulldog 50k/25k tomorrow with the Coyotes! Shout out to everyone running it! Special shout out to Coach Jimmy and Holly! Kick ass and we’ll be waiting for you! Howl!)
Your path, your pace, Tam