Post sponsored by Mirum Shopper. All opinions are my own.

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It’s probably no surprise, but I am no longer a well-conditioned running machine. For me, the hardest part about not running is trying to get back into the groove of things. I constantly have to remind myself it’s ok to take it slow, and to make it easy.  Taking a running hiatus usually leads to some aches and pains because I tend to pressure myself into running xx miles, forgetting I’m not trained like I used to be. Lately, when I try to go out for runs, I’ve been experiencing the same type of pain I felt in my knee last fall when I jumped into running 14+ miles without ramping up. It feels like my knee isn’t moving smoothly in a forward motion, but rather tracking out to the side.

I couldn’t have found the Whole You Dynamover knee compression sleeve at a better time. Normally I would never wear a traditional, bulky knee brace. However, the compression material in the Dynamover sleeve intrigued me because both compression socks and calf sleeves have helped me in the past when I used to suffer from plantar fasciitis.

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The Dynamover is seamless and very sleek. It has a 5 zone design, providing different levels of compression to different areas of the knee. Here’s what all of the zones help to achieve:

Zone 1: high stretch for strong compression around the patella to support the knee.
Zone 2: moderate stretch allows flexibility around the thigh and knee.
Zone 3: elastic weave to prevent slip-down during even the most active exercises.
Zone 4: (behind the knee) has a high density weave to stabilize the knee.
Zone 5: delivers exceptional breathability and flexibility thanks to the honeycomb weave.

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I’ve worn this sleeve on several runs, including an off-roading adventure into some swampy lagoon trails. It definitely held up to the test and my standards–I almost forgot I was wearing it! The Dynamover sleeve allowed for natural movement and mobility, while helping to correct my knee issue. It was comfortable and breathable, providing just the right amount of compression without being too tight or constricting.

If you’re interested in trying out Dynamover, use promo code ASHEEJOJO for 50% off and free shipping (plus there’s a money-back guarantee). Hurry before it expires 4/12!

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The La Jolla Half Marathon. Back in 2010 this was my first half marathon ever. I thought it was kind of a one-and-done type of thing. Not even this race specifically, just half marathons in general. Fast forward to Sunday afternoon — 6 years, 4 La Jolla’s and 20 half marathons later…here we are.

The race started at 7:30am at the Del Mar Fairgrounds. I thought I was being smart coming from the north and exiting on Lomas Santa Fe to Stevens Ave. However, instead of being able to cross over Via de la Valle to the Del Mar Fairgrounds parking lot, cars were forced to turn left and head east. I ended up flipping a U and parking in the surrounding neighborhood. I ate a little more of my oatmeal, lubed up with body glide, fastened by bib and walked over to the start. I had to go to the bathroom so I easily slid into the Del Mar Surfside Race Place hall where I waited in a short line of 4 people. I exited the bathroom and had a brisk jog to the start. I popped into wave 2 and waited 2-3 minutes before the race officially began.

It was already hot and I knew by the time I hit the first aid station I’d be taking water. I didn’t bring a water pack but I probably should’ve. I mean, I carried my fanny pack last week on a 6 mile trail run in the lagoon (and even though I felt like an absolute kook it was completely necessary). I didn’t have a playlist prepared so I ended up just listening to my NYC Marathon playlist (and I forgot, it’s actually a good one!). I didn’t pay much attention to my pace, I knew I just needed to listen to my body since I haven’t run over 10 miles since my last ultra in the beginning of February…

This course I pretty much know like the back of my hand (but probably even better than that). From working in Del Mar for the past 4 years, to attending UCSD the 4 years prior, these are all streets and routes I’m very familiar with. The race traces the coast from Del Mar, through Torrey Pines State Park Natural Reserve, past UCSD, down La Jolla Shores, and into La Jolla Cove.

The hardest thing for me was the heat. I should’ve worn a hat to 1. catch some of my sweat that started mixing with my sunscreen and dripping into my eyes and 2. for some sun protection because my face felt burnt and completely dried out by the end.

One of the best parts was coming from Stratford Court before 4th Street in Del Mar. I encountered Dallas from Run North County Monday Night Runs. I trekked the short but steep hill up 4th Street and saw Bartley (from Run North County too), then Susan and Marc from Seaside Striders. Just seeing everyone gave me a little pep in my step. After this brief incline we were rewarded with a downhill before we came to Torrey Pines and I started to feel a literal runner’s high. But to the point where my body felt no connection to my brain and I might actually pass out.

So for the first time while running this race, I walked (most) of Torrey Pines. While everyone else continued to run around me, I kind of had to tell myself “who cares what everyone else is doing.” Because I knew if I tried to run the whole hill mountain, I would have died. I channeled my “ultra” mentality and power walked most of the hill, with quick and smooth bursts of running, in which I actually passed people who continued to run while I took my walking breaks.

After exiting Torrey Pines State Park, the course transitions into the rolling hills on Torrey Pines Rd. Usually this road can seem arduous and long, but I don’t even remember where my head was. Maybe texting people (lol)… because I found myself pulling off to the side to semi-walk and text. Someone ran up next to me and gave me words of encouragement to continue, and I just thought YOU DON’T KNOW ME. Let me text my friends!!! (Just kidding…kinda 😛 )

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Right after I grabbed water at the top of La Jolla Shores (around mile 10) I heard someone yell my name and it was Evan (who’s opening up the really cool Tasting Room Del Mar next month). We ended up running together until the last-ish hill(s) that goes Spindrift to Princess and finally Torrey Pines (and then I pulled ahead…muaha). I thought I was going to walk at least part of this section, but I knew the end was just so close. And once I hit Prospect it would be all downhill.  Luckily my watch/GPS was hitting close to the mile markers so I knew it would be pretty spot on (and not something like .5 longer than 13.1).  Overall it was a hot and challenging day, but I think all in all I’ve become a stronger runner, and learned that when I don’t care too much, good things can still happen (even a course PR…4th times the charm!).

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Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:45:32):
1 – 7:27
2 – 7:41
3 – 7:56
4 – 8:17
5 – 7:24
6 – 10:13
7 – 8:33
8 – 8:14
9 – 7:49
10 – 7:56
11 – 6:56
12 – 7:44
13 – 8:05
Last .21 – 1:12

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Thanks to RACEPLACE for the opportunity to run this race!

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The was my last trail run with Kate before the SOB 50k.  After a lazy and overcast morning in Encinitas, we grabbed coffee from Ironsmith and headed down to Alpine.  After an hour of driving, we arrived at our destination, or so we hoped/thought.

We parked in the apparent lot and spotted the sign “Espinosa Trail –> Secret Canyon rail.”  By the time we made it out east to the trailhead, the temperatures had risen.  No need for an outer- or wind-layer and we both stripped to tanks and shorts.  We headed out with the intention of running 10 miles.  The trail was wide and evident, and we followed along this main trail for 5 miles.

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At this point, we had never reached Secret Canyon.  I guess the big indicator should have been the fact that we continued to gradually climb and never dropped down into a canyon.  In our defense though, the climb was very gradual and we didn’t realize it until we turned around to run back.  We did take some walking breaks on the way up, but I just assumed that I was out of shape/getting my bearings back (not the greatest feeling the week before the race).

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On our way back we also realized we clearly missed the split off for Secret Canyon.  It was maybe a mile or so in, but at a quick glance, the small wooden sign was misleading.  It clearly said “trail –>” but since I didn’t read it and the wooden sign was kind of shaped like an arrow in the opposite direction, we just stayed on the Espinosa Trail the whole time.

The Espinosa Trail extends 7 miles out.  Kate was obsessed with how green it was and kept exclaiming “it looks like Ireland!”

Although we ran the wrong trail, it just gives us another one to try the next time!

Espinosa Trail

Entrance: 21697 Lyons Valley Rd, Alpine, CA
Route: From the trailhead parking lot walk to the trail.  Espinosa is the main trail and will take you out 7+ miles.
Miles: 10 miles +

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Ok, last post for this 50k!  I can’t believe it was only over a week ago…it feels so much longer!

This time I paid a little less attention to my fueling, in terms of what I ate and when I ate (and didn’t do the best job at remembering either). But I made sure to eat before I started to feel hungry. In my 50oz camelbak I carried:

1 almond butter & jelly sandwich
2 Nuun lemon lime tabs (both split in half)
2 packs Probar BOLT Energy Chews (only ate one pack)
5 Fig Newtons

In addition, I ended up eating some random stuff at the aid stations.  Here’s a rough estimate of what I ate and when (separated by the start and each aid station).

Start

2-3 chews, 1 Fig Newton

Aid Station #1-Corral Canyon- Mile 7.5 — Nuun, potatoes

Aid Station #2- Latigo Road Crossing- Mile 11.8 — refilled water, 1/4 sandwich, chocolate covered espresso beans, salt tab

1 Fig Newton

Aid Station #3- Kanan Trailhead- Mile 14.6 (marathon turn-around) — Nuun

3 fig newtons

Aid Station #4- Zuma Fire Road and 50k Turn Around- Mile 16.3 — 1/4 sandwich

Aid Station #5- Kanan Trailhead- Mile 18 – Ginger ale, potatoes

Aid Station #6- Latigo Road Crossing- Mile 20 – 1/4 sandwich, plantain chips, salt tab

Aid Station #7- Corral Canyon- Mile 24.5 – 1/4 sandwich, ginger ale, potatoes, Nuun, refilled water with ice

Remaining chews

Finish

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The week of the race we received an email from race director Keira Henninger. At the end of the email was this sentiment: “stay positive, and remember to enjoy the day. Be in the moment. Life goes fast. Someday Saturday will be a faint memory in one of your life chapters. Have fun, and just be stoked to be out on the trails. Its a gift!”

This completely resonated with me and Elisa, and we both approached the race with this in mind.

The Sean O’Brien 50k started at 7am. Around 6:45 we walked over to the starting area, grabbed our bibs, checked out bags (with only our new Patagonia race tech tanks in it) and lined up. We shivered next to each other while we were given a few pointers, much of which we couldn’t hear (save for how to pass other runs). A few minutes later and we were off.

We started towards the group camping at Malibu Creek State Park, up some single track switchbacks (the same ones I started with at the Malibu Canyon 50k), that rolled down the back. I already wanted to pass the girl in front of me, since her stride a little bit shorter than I would like on the downhill portion, but I knew it would open up soon enough.

We came to the creek, but this time it was pumping. There were two options — to grab the rope and run through the creek, or to cautious walk on top of the rocks. Elisa and I both opted for the latter, preferring to avoid soaking our feet less than 2 miles in.

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The first part was pretty much the same as the Malibu Canyon 50k until we reached the first aid station at Corral Canyon. I knew what to expect, as the first climb took us over 1,600 feet in four miles. Going into this we knew we would hike the steep portions and run everything else that we could.

After the Corral Canyon aid station, instead of continuing to head up like the Malibu Canyon 50k, we continued on the Backbone Trail heading west. We popped onto rolling single track that provided a much needed reprieve after all of the uphill. The scenery transitioned from dry chaparral to shaded oaks saving us from the increasing 75 degree temps.

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4.3 miles after the first aid station, we came across the Latigo aid station. I thought this was going to be the last aid station before the turn-around, but was pleasantly surprised there would be another one in just a couple miles (where the marathoners turned around).

At the Kanan aid station we prepped ourselves because we knew there wouldn’t be any aid until we were back there again. I was feeling pretty good at this point (around 14.5 miles) and could hear some volunteers talking about how I looked so fresh (definitely made me feel good and boosted my spirits — damn right I look fresh!!).

The turnaround point was further than I anticipated and I keep wanting it to come around. The goal was always to make it to the halfway point and then we’d be home free!

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A little over 16 miles we made it to Zuma Ridge where we received our high-fives before turning around.  Mentally, the out-and-back made it easier. It also made it feel like you weren’t the only one out there because you would pass runners both ways. And it
made the race seem like 2 different courses.

On the way out, I wasn’t focusing on anything but my footing on the downhills (because it wouldn’t be a trail run if I didn’t almost trip several times). So coming back up them seemed like completely different terrain and I kept saying “I don’t remember this.”

Before we hit the Kanan aid station again, I wanted 2 things. Ginger ale then. And beer after (the race). Luckily, at the Kanan aid station THERE WAS GINGER ALE (not just coke). Elisa also informed me there would be beer at the finish line. I sighed the biggest relief like this was the best news I had ever heard. EVER.

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In addition to sharing the single track with other runners, we also had to share it with mountain bikers. It was fine and we pulled off to the side. The one thing that bothered me was one biker who rode by and said “I want to get in this sport, if all you do is walk.” …ok buddy….

We started to make every aid station a destination. We discussed how we would fuel, what we would eat at the next aid station. We also decided how we would celebrate after the race (Blue Ribbon Pizzeria BABY!).

At the last aid station, we were completely pampered. Someone filled my camelback with water, another person added ice. Someone fetched me run goo, ushered me to sit down, and another handed me baby wipes. There was one guy that was so kind and willing to do anything, I would like to hire to be my personal assistant for life!

After Corral Canyon, we knew we would literally be home free. With a big downhill (the uphill of which we had to endure on the way out) was waiting for us!!!

We flew down this but still encountered some uphill that I’m pretty sure we shouldn’t have (but then again, I wasn’t paying attention when it came to any downhill on the way out).

We reached the creek and decided that we would both run through it. I was worried even if I attempted to walk across the rocks, I would fall in anyways. It felt so refreshing, but also made my Hoka’s feel like they had mini puddles inside. My toes started to feel frozen too. I was definitely glad we didn’t run through it the first time!

We knew we had just a little bit left and powered through. I was really proud of how strong we were both running, after 31+ miles. Just a little bit of uphill and then down the switchbacks we started with. We hit the base of the group camping, and the finish line was less than a quarter mile away. Elisa started to pick up the pace and I said “ok badass!!” as I checked the pace and watched it drop to 7:15. We continued with this pace, rounding out to the road. I pulled a little bit ahead and dropped down to a 7 minute pace. One quick turn as we shot by the spectators and into the finish line.

I turned around with Elisa right behind me as we gave each other the biggest embrace. WE DID IT!!! I was so happy and it was such a special feeling I felt the most emotion I ever have at the end of a race and could feel my eyes swell with tears of excitement.

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We were adorned with our cool wooden medals, picked up some ice from the med-tent, grabbed subway sandwiches, and headed for the beer station.

I would definitely recommend the Sean O’Brien 50k. Although it lists all of the distances as challenging and not recommended for first races, I enjoyed it so much! It was a well run and well organized event, with overabundant aid stations, extremely generous and attentive volunteers, and a great course. I will most likely return next year.

I ended up placing 52nd overall and 7th in my age group (Elisa was 53rd and 8th).

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Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (7:28:18):
1 – 11:49
2 – 11:14
3 – 16:43
4 – 19:03
5 – 12:27
6 – 14:09
7 – 11:49
8 – 14:57
9 – 10:50
10 – 15:58
11 – 11:51
12 – 15:00
13 – 12:22
14 – 15:23
15 – 12:40
16 – 12:25
17 – 14:29
18 – 12:37
19 – 17:42
20 – 16:02
21 – 13:21
22 – 18:04
23 – 15:51
24 – 11:00
25 – 13:40
26 – 22:04
27 – 13:33
28 – 11:05
29 – 10:04
30 – 8:46
31 – 11:03
32 – 13:16
Last .82 – 6:46

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This picture basically illustrates how frigid it was on race morning!  It was probably around 35-40 degrees at the start, warming up to around 75-77 degrees during the race.  Luckily, we were able to drop our outer layers and warmer gear at the first aid station around mile 7.5 and pick it up on our way back.  Here’s what I wore during the race:

–GapFit long sleeve
–Lululemon Power Y Tank
–Lululemon Trail Bound Shorts
–Buff Original Buff
–Asics Felicity Fleece Gloves
–Patagonia P6 Trucket Hat
–Injinji Compression 2.0 OTC
Hoka One One Huaka
Body Glide
–GoPro HERO4 Session
–Garmin 620 Forerunner
–Camelbak Mini M.U.L.E.

–Probar Bolt Energy Chews x2
–Lemon Lime Nuun Tabs (x2 split in half)
–PB&J sandwich
–Fig Newtons x 5
–Toilet paper

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After a beautiful but VERY chilly morning trail run with Marissa and Heather, I had the later afternoon to myself. Per one of Marissa’s suggestions, I went to South Table Mountain for a solo hike.

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The trail was a mix of snowy, icy and muddy. It was pretty easy except for one part when it got a little technical, steep and icy. On my way down I contemplated if I would be able to get down without slipping completely off the mountain, or if I would have to spend the night there (in which case I would freeze). A little overreacting, but I conquered my fear and slowly but surely (and on my butt) got down.

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Every so often on the switchbacks up I had to stop and just take in the view. It had warmed up to around 26 degrees, the sun was just resting on the mountains, and you could see the whole town of Golden.

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The view from the very top, on Castle Rock, was unbelievably spectacular. I took some time up there by myself to take it all in. But then it started to get chilly and I knew the sun would set soon enough.

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After making my way down I drove into downtown Golden to explore. Not before long it got super cold and I grew an appetite. Channeling my inner Wild/Cheryl Strayed, I sat down alone at the Old Capital Grill bar for a bowl of chili with some Texas toast and a Boulder Brewing Mojo IPA.

It was a very satisfying afternoon and Colorado is pretty amazing, even despite how cold it was.

South Table Mountain

Entrance: 19th St & Belvedere St, Golden, CO 80401
Route: A sign says “Golden Trail Rules,” but there’s no sign with the trail’s name. From here, you start up a series of switchbacks to the top. At the top of the mesa, head north towards Castle Rock. Keep heading north and the trail will lead to cement steps climbing to the top of Castle Rock.
Miles: ~2 mi

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On Sunday I completed my last race of 2015…the San Diego Holiday Half Marathon. The San Diego Holiday Half Marathon starts in Rancho Penasquitos and ends near Torrey Pines State Beach, with a net drop of 714 feet.

This was not a race I was expecting. In a good way.

The morning started off FREEZING —below 40 degrees (very cold for San Diego)! My dad and brother dropped me off near the start, I used the porta-potty and then lined up with around 8 minutes to spare.

I had forgotten my gloves but was wearing a tank, long sleeve, throwaway sweatshirt, compression socks and shorts. Right before the start I threw off my sweatshirt and kept my long sleeve layer on until around mile 4.

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I lined up and ran into Jen and Tyler. We started off together but within the first tenth mile I was already pulling ahead. I just decided to run my own race and see where it would take me.

Around 1.5 you encounter “the hill” which wasn’t too bad. Due to my trail running (and beating up my quads), I let my legs roll on the downhills, which ended up being pretty fast. I was worried I was going to blow up, especially trying to deal with the gradual uphill during the rolling hills because I am so used to walking all hills now. I just told myself to keep it at or under an 8 minute pace.

I just tried to really focus on feel. I checked my watch briefly to make sure I was in the range, but I tried to not focus wholeheartedly on it. I knew if I saw a fast pace I would freak myself out. I already had enough self-doubt with running an ultra 2 weeks before and a 12 miler 2 days prior. The only time I saw my time was around mile 6 when I realized I was at 43 minutes and I could potentially have a good time.

At mile 6 I started to take a Gu. However, it took me a while to finish it and I ended up not finishing it because it was so cold it started to harden up.

Once I got to mile 11 I knew I had this. My favorite part of any race has increasingly become the last 2 miles because I know I can do anything for 2 miles (and that includes cranking it).

I count this as my first legit half marathon PR in a while (the last one was in Fontana, 1:32, with a 2,125 ft net downill, and before that Nike Women’s Half in DC with a 1:40).

It was a nice course with a smaller number of runners (limited to 3,500 max) because it runs on the bike path next to the 56 freeway. I liked being on the bike path because it kept the race very small and focused vs. being on expansive and wide streets.

I ended up running a 1:35:01 and getting 6th in the age group. It’s funny, I didn’t realize what pace I was running (what was my fastest and what was my slowest mile) until the next day when I reviewed my watch and checked my splits.

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Mile splits recorded by my Garmin (1:35:04):
1 – 7:31
2 – 7:04
3 – 7:35
4 – 6:44
5 – 7:19
6 – 7:11
7 – 7:33
8 – 7:19
9 – 7:13
10 – 7:25
11 – 7:06
12 – 7:13
13 – 7:01
Last .13 – 0:44

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Thanks to RACEPLACE for the opportunity to run this race!

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Back and at the trails!! One week after my 50k, Elisa and I took to Iron Mountain + Ellie Lane. Iron Mountain is a very popular hike in San Diego, however this was my first time visiting the trail. Elisa suggested we take the offshoot of the Ellie Lane loop because it’s less trafficked and it adds a little distance to the run/hike.

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Even pre-holiday weekend, it was still pretty busy, especially when we reached the top. My legs were still tired from the weekend before and were definitely feeling it. We took the casual approach of walking the uphills, and running the downhills. However, in general it was really nice to get out. I couldn’t imagine running if it had to be on the road, but the trail was exactly the freedom and diversity I needed.

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And because PB&J sandwiches are my FAVORITE (and such a large staple in my diet now) this post is filled with pictures of me stuffing my face!!!

Iron Mountain + Ellie Lane Loop

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Entrance: Hwy 67 & Poway Rd, Poway, CA 92074
Route: Follow the Iron Mountain Trail until it comes to a split. Head left for Ellie Lane. Continue on this until you meet back up with the main Iron Mountain Trail.
Miles: 10 miles

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Elisa and I ran this trail probably 2 weeks before my 50k.  This trail run ended up being a lot more hiking than running.  However, I think it ended up being good preparation!  With over 4,000 feet of elevation gain, there were some good, steep sections of climbing.  It also allowed for a lot downhill.  Meaning, getting those legs used to rolling, feeling the impact and dodging stones.

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It was warm at the start, however, once we got to the highest point, we realized we were severely underdressed compared to everyone else (donning full pants, jackets, etc. while I was merely wearing a tank and shorts).   Our favorite part of any trail run are the breaks at the top (to eat our PB&J sandwiches, always).  However, after we scarfed down our snacks, we were quickly on our way, experiencing huge goosebumps from the settled sweat and cool breeze.

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We ended up running all the way down.  I don’t think I’ve been this sore in a long time!  This run definitely took a toll on my calves on the uphill, and for sure my quads on the downhill.

El Cajon Mountain in the El Capitan Open Preserve

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Entrance: 12777 Wildcat Canyon Rd, Lakeside, CA 92040
Route: Begin at the staging area just off Wildcat Canyon Road and walk .5 mile uphill to the proper trailhead. Continue along the main trail to the summit.
Miles: 11 miles

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