The Connector

In addition to spending some serious time in the kitchen, there was also a substantial (for someone of my fitness trying to keep up with someone accustomed to the Berkeley hills) amount of running done over last weekend.

Now, as someone who takes pride in generally being a strong hills runner, it was was a very humbling experience to have to take two oh-my-god-I-need-to-stop-right-now-or-I-am-going-to-throw-up breaks just one the way out. Two if-I-don’t-take-a-minute-I-may-drop-dead-right-here breaks within 3 miles. Not fun. I guess the silver lining is that my well-acclimated got in quite a bit of bonus stretching while patiently waiting for Dr. FatA$$ Trot to collect herself.

The first day out I unfortunately didn’t have the presence of mind to bring my camera with me. Apparently I had other things to worry about at the time (see above). It’s a shame, because we ran through the Berkeley campus and up through residential neighborhoods with incredibly beautiful views to a turn around point deep in some surprise woods at the “top” (think local maxima) of the hill we were on. Up here there were a handful of crazy incredible homes, all nestled into the woods and hillsides. I am absolutely, convinced that either families of dwarfs or hobbits inhabited these homes. (Or a combination of both? Dwarfs and hobbits can get along well enough to be neighbors, right?) Anyway, I kept my eyes peeled for Snow White but there were sadly no sightings of either her or her 7 little compadres. (P.S. This was an excellent distraction from the perpetual I-think-I’m going-to-barf-now feeling.)

As if the first day out wasn’t enough, the second day was, by design, the “challenging” day. (I assumed day 1 was going to be used as a test to see if I could handle day 2, but this must not have been the case as I can not fathom having received a passing grade on day 1.) For the unnecessary extra challenge we were going to run as much of the Berkeley Fire Trail as possible, both the lower and upper parts of the trail as well as The Connector between the two, and then cut back and go up to the Berkeley Botanical Gardens.

To get to the start of the trail we took a similar route through the campus, cut back behind the football stadium and up the road just a short distance. The trail surface itself is absolutely perfect for running. Its wide (a fire truck has to get down it after all, I should hope that’s more than enough for a few runners!) and largely shaded by enormous trees, largely evergreens.

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Just wide enough for a runner…

There are streams here and there and clearings that offer wonderful views of Berkeley, the SF Bay, and the Lawrence Berkeley National Lab.

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One example of said streams (as well as my crappy photography skills)

Although you are definitely working hard (I suppose I should just speak for myself here, but let me live believing that this climb isn’t exactly easy for other people…yes…it is a climb…EVERYTHING in Berkeley is a climb…yes, in both directions) there is so much to take in around you that it’s the really really fun kind of hard work.

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So-much-to-take-in-around-you Exhibit (a)

And then you arrive at The Connector. 😦

In the event that you actually clicked on the link above to the Berkeley Fire Trail and actually looked at the map, you’ll notice that although they really seem to be all part of the same system two different labels are given to the Fire Trail trails: the Upper Fire Trail and the Lower Fire Trail.

Any guesses as to the reason for these two names?

I’ll give you a hint: there is no indication of elevation on the map.

So, although both trails are winding up (yes, always up, never down) through the hills, the Upper Fire Trail is substantially higher in elevation than the Lower Fire Trail. Enter The Connector — the connection between the lower and upper parts of the trail. The very short (<300m) VERY steep connection between the two parts of the trail.

To briefly revisit a previous topic, I take pride in my hills running strength. Quite a bit of pride. And <300? That’s nothing! I can do anything for 300m! Right?

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Pre-connector him

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Pre-connector her

WRONG!

Dr. Fata$$ Trot made it just over half-way up before she seriously thought she might keel over and not get back up. So, although already “running” very slowly, she figured that slowing down just a bit more would do the trick and she could, however slowly, still make it up the second half “running.” Unfortunately, slowing down any more at that point meant “running” –> walking. 😦 With a grade that steep, the lower limit of strength and momentum that you need to keep “running” is much higher than on lesser hills, never mind flat ground. The “fastes” pace that I could muster after the half way point was no where near what I need to achieve that lower limit 😦 So, poor Dr. Trot had to walk up the last part of The Connector. 😦

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Post-connector-defeated her

Of course, someone else was able to skip their way up to the very top, and was kind and (per my personal theory) tired enough to wait for me to finish. 🙂

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Post-connector him

The Upper Fire Trail is similar to the Lower Fire Trail but with even more spectacular views of everything previously mentioned.

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Spectacular-views Exhibit (a)

We didn’t make it all the way to the top of the trail, which comes out at Tilden Park, as we still had the Botanical Gardens to see. The top of the trail will just have to happen another day.

The Botanical Gardens were not super bloomy, so we’ll have to go back some day when they are. Even so, it was a fun walk through the different beds and it’s pretty obvious that when things are in bloom there must be SO MUCH TO SEE…like, we saw a flower bed #706b kind of SO MUCH TO SEE. The plants are organized by region of the world that they are from and there are also a few indoor structures for tropical, airid and/or sensitive plants that need very specific, constant environmental conditions.

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Just a few carnivorous plants

Affiliates of UC Berkeley get in for free, students and seniors are only $8 and normal people 🙂 are $10. They also offer a number of seasonal memberships for individuals, couples and families.

And with that, we managed to find the one-and-only little, teeny-tiny section of road with a negative grade and made our way back home. Although defeated by The Connector this first time, I will be back (and next time I will win), and running either/any/all of the Berkeley Fire Trails is highly highly highly recommended by moi next time you are in the Bay Area.

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