One of the most amazing things that I enjoyed the most this past off season is the surrounding Berkeley hills behind Memorial Stadium. My friends have always talked about the Berkeley Fire Trail as a unique spot to work out. It incorporates a great uphill quad burn exercise along with a distance that the average runner is challenged. (I believe its about 6 miles, but you can weave your way through areas if you want to keep going to extend it into North Berkeley.)
In December 2008, a close friend of mine, a former Cal Rugby player, invited me to come on a run with him. The team had just beat Miami in the Emerald Bowl and the days off between the game and the semester were being taken advantage of with nothing but lounging around. Taking those days off are important to recovery, that is if you played a lot in the season...
With the time off I saw a perfect opportunity to start getting back in great shape. I had knowledge of our Rugby team running the trail as a conditioning test and thought it would be kind of fun to see how I fit with my time trial. The rugby boys run from their club house on the East side of Memorial Stadium up to the top of the connector. The connector is an extremely steep portion of the trail which is approximately 100 yards longs and about 30+% steep grade to it. The distance from the club house to the top of the connector is about 1.3 miles.
On a chilly January morning, I got up early in the day, threw on my workout clothes, my lucky high school football socks, grabbed my iPod and began hiking to the south parking lot of Memorial Stadium for a quick stretch. After the stretch I began walking to the Rugby club house. I took about 5 minutes to think about the path, the pace at which I wanted to run it, where water was, etc etc etc until I realized, you just have to run it! I pushed play to my workout mix on my iPod, started the timer on my watch, and started sprinting. I worked my way along the side of the softball field, up to Strawberry Canyon Pool, and to the parking lot of the entrance to the Fire Trail. I then began running up the constant uphill climb of the trail and soon got to the beginning of the connector. At this point, I took the time to look up the connector. I knew it was going to be an extremely hard challenge, especially after that past portion that I just completed, so I turned my music to my Game Day playlist. Within the 5 to 7 seconds I took off to look up the hill, my quads began screaming at me. I could only imagine it was four letter words my mother would slap the heck out of me for, but they didn't like what we were doing, and neither did the neighboring Calf muscles; they were screaming too. With my counter argument consisting of death metal screams in the background I proceeded sprinting up the hill. I was almost finished. I got about 3/4 of the way to the top and couldn't sprint any more and began jogging. As soon as I got to the top I laid down on the dirt. My heart was racing easily over 200 beats per minute and my breathing was as if I was hyperventilating. Out of the corner of my eye I saw a "Call Box". As I laid on the ground I began laughing. I started imagining why there happened to be a "Call Box" right there. This is where my warning comes in.
WARNING: NEVER SPRINT THE CONNECTOR OF THE FIRE TRAIL UNLESS YOU ARE IN THE BEST SHAPE OF YOUR LIFE. AND IF YOU THINK YOU ARE, I CAN ALMOST GUARANTEE YOU AREN'T IN SHAPE FOR THE CONNECTOR.
(Picture you and a friend racing up the connector, you get to the top and turn around to see where his progress is. He should be right behind you, Right? Wrong, He's laying on the ground turning blue... use the "Call Box")
I finished in the low 15 minute area. I never checked to see where that fit in with the Rugby teams times, but after it all I was very pleased with what I had accomplished. I began walking home after and realized that the Fire Trail was a natural geographical advantage that I should exploit on a regular basis. From then on I ran the trail religiously from January to early March. I dropped about 20 pounds faster than the Stanfurd tree can fall and was probably been in the best shape of my life then. I occasionally run it to see how I hold up. Every time I try it still kicks my behind.
(If you're looking for something to do prior to the Maryland game, take a hike up it and check out the amazing view and scenery! http://www.yelp.com/biz_photos/EP_xvm_E4JAlx_9PXgVt9A?select=2czvdpMHF5wmg-G6sJGkgQ )