St. Joseph’s Hill: Lessons from my first trail run

I’ll preface this post by saying I’m sorry I ever complained about not having enough hills to train on for the San Francisco Marathon.

I went on my first “real” trail run today – the husband and I checked out St. Joseph’s Hill Open Space Preserve south of Los Gatos. For anyone local, it’s really easy to get there without a car, which is the primary reason we chose to go there. Both the #48 and #49 bus will drop you off really close to the Los Gatos Creek Trail  entrance on Main St. Just follow the trail for a couple of miles and boom, you’re at the hill. Easy peasy. Word of caution: fill up your water bottles at the fountain in Los Gatos – there is NO water at St. Joseph’s.

After following Los Gatos Creek Trail for 2 miles, you will hit Lexington Resevoir. There’s a parking lot with a few port-a-potties…these are the only bathrooms at St. Joseph’s so plan accordingly. From the parking lot you will see Jones Trail…with a very, very steep grade to welcome you to the Open Space Preserve.

“Let’s do this!”

What followed was probably the most enjoyable run I have ever had. The Open Space Preserve has about 4 miles of trails that go up and down all over St. Joseph’s Hill. There is a 1,285 foot elevation gain on the way to the summit. Some of the trails are quite wide and well maintained, others are little goat trails with rocks and sticks poking out all over the place, but that’s the fun of trail running!

Sure it doesn’t look steep here, but the picture is deceiving!

Here are some take-away lessons I learned during my first trail run yesterday:

1. Stop and appreciate the scenery.

I’m pretty Garmin-obsessed. At first I was constantly looking at my GPS, monitoring my pace, time, etc. But pretty early on I started looking around and noticed beautiful scenes like the one below. All concerns about maintaining a steady pace fell by the wayside. Sure, when running on a boring paved street it makes sense to be looking at all of my Garmin data. But up here on a gorgeous hill? You better believe I’m going to stop and enjoy the sights.

Great view of Silicon Valley

We even took a little ‘lunch’ break at top for refueling and to appreciate the view:

2. Bring more water/liquid than you think you will need.

Just to reiterate, there is NO water at the Open Space Preserve. On a hot sunny day like yesterday, you will absolutely go through a ton of water running up and down the trails. My husband has a spiffy new CamelBak but I just had my FuelBelt. I have the four-bottle FuelBelt which means I only had 32 oz of water with me. Not enough. On long runs in the city I just plan my route around a water fountain so I can refill. Not so easy on the trails. I think it might be time to start looking for CamelBak sales. Added bonus of the CamelBak: pouches and pockets to put snacks and things in! My little FuelBelt pouch was packed to the brim and all  had was a ClifBar and my tiny little camera.

FuelBelt was NOT enough liquid when there are no water fountains to be found

3. Bring a map!

The Open Space Preserve isn’t that big, but there are a lot of loopy trails and the signage isn’tthatgreat. We weren’t sure if we would get cell reception out there, so we took a screen capture of the trails from Google Maps and put it right on a phone so we could look at it even if we didn’t have reception. Of course, this also means that you should be able to read a map. More than once we had an “oops” moment where we got turned around and couldn’t find where we were on the map.

4. Chipotle is an awesome way to re-fuel.

I don’t think this needs further explanation.


One thought on “St. Joseph’s Hill: Lessons from my first trail run

  1. That looks gorgeous- I’m so jealous! I used to do a bit of trail running in NY but none here in TX yet… it’s definitely worth stopping to enjoy the scenery, take fueling breaks, etc. And Chipotle, yum!

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