LA to Camp Pendleton training run
“How come my clothes aren’t wet? It’s friggin blazing out here.” I asked myself that as I ran on the beach boardwalk under the flight path of LAX about 15 miles into my run. I noticed the super low humidity sucking the moisture right out of me. Because of some silly delays on the train, at Union Station and in getting to Santa Monica Pier, I didn’t start running til noon which ended up being the hottest time of the day and ironically probably on the hottest day of the year, despite it being late October. Just my luck.
I had several goals this go-round. After a very successful season of qualifying for the Boston Marathon, doing very well at Badwater then having the race of my life at Tahoe 200, I just wanted a fun, no pressure, off-season adventure and a really long workout to maintain my fitness over the winter. I figured a two-day, possibly 125 miler would do it!!
Starting off at the Pier as is the tradition, I was giddy with excitement. This jaunt always challenges me but I sure get a great amount of pleasure from it. Because of the heat, I had to hold myself back in these early miles. After only a mile or two of Santa Monica I entered Venice Beach. With all the bums along the boardwalk and the innumerable pot shops, I got a contact high just by running through here. Soon I entered Marina del Rey. It was amazing. One minute I was in the slums and in the next I was among million-dollar beachside condos. With a tour along the bike path around the marina, I then entered Playa Del Ray. Next I ran under the flight path of LAX. I always feel empowered running under the huge jets. To help pass the time, I imagine people going to various cities on the other side of the planet while I’m simply going a hundred miles or so down the road.
The next beachside town is Manhattan Beach which I consider the nicest of all the communities. The houses look impeccable and are perfectly maintained. I never see litter anywhere.
Next up I pass Hermosa Beach then Redondo Beach. I usually make my first fuel stop in Redondo and I did just that this time. Because of the warm weather, I made a point to get tons of liquid and calories at a Subway. The lady at the counter got a kick out of the fact that I asked for three extra servings of avocado and some strips of bacon on my vegetarian sub. I chowed that down along with a bag of Fritos, two bottles of Gatorade, a chocolate milk and a chocolate chip cookie. I refilled my bottles with Gatorade and put a spare in the back pack. Leaving the cool air conditioned restaurant and re-entering the near 100° temperatures, I was quickly reminded of the challenges ahead. My bloated stomach made running too fast uncomfortable so I settled into a slow jog with periods of fast walking.
I experienced the hottest temperatures of the day as I headed away from the ocean for the slog through Torrance. I ran on the westbound sidewalk of Pacific Coast Highway with tons of traffic in both directions. I made sure to be super careful with the many super busy intersections and cross streets. I put my head on a swivel, relying on my eyes only as I was rocking out to pounding electronic dance music.
Making it through Torrance, I then started the push through Long Beach along Anaheim Boulevard. I moved over to the eastbound sidewalk. In some places semi’s driving 50 miles per hour flew by my left shoulder. For the most part I enjoyed a nice wide sidewalk about 10 feet away from the heavy traffic. Off to my right/South were the many huge oil refineries and shipping terminals. Though now late in the afternoon, the area was bustling with activity. Trucks hauling shipping containers were on their way to destinations across the country.
I crossed the crazy busy intersection of Alameda and Anaheim. The heart of the Wilmington industrial district, this area always invigorates me. In a sea of cars and trucks, I was truly “a fish out of water.” Occasionally I received a nod of approval as a passed in front of a trucker waiting to turn onto Anaheim Boulevard..
When I had made it to the Lomita area of Long Beach, I decided to stop at a Mexican carryout to refuel. After a Coke, some string cheese, chocolate milk, coconut water, a Kind bar and some Motrin, I felt like a new man. With the sun low in the sky, the heat became much more tolerable. With renewed energy, i made great progress. The Motrin completely refreshed my aching quads. My spirits were sky high. High-fiving homeless people as I passed them, I told myself I probably shouldn’t been doing that. Before I knew it, I made the right turn back onto the PCH. Waiting for a gap in the heavy traffic, I darted across the road into the northbound lane. For about 3 miles I was forced to run on the road as there was no sidewalk. If the oncoming traffic didn’t veer over away from me, I would have to periodically jump up on to the curb. Like I always do, I played it super safe during this stretch.
Next up came Seal Beach then Sunset Beach. In Sunset, I made my third fuel stop. “Dinner” consisted of more coconut water, Coke, Gatorade and good old string cheese.
Still feeling really strong, I made good progress as I headed towards Huntington Beach. During this lonely, completely dark five mile section, I don’t think I saw another person. I actually enjoyed the change from all the hustle bustle and congestion that I experienced just a few hours ago.
Fueled by music pumpin’ in my ears and very positive energy, I moved southward. The usually busy towns of Newport Beach. Corona Del Mar and Laguna Beach seemed like ghost towns at this late hour. In downtown Laguna, the police made a sweep of homeless people congregating on the beach-side benches. In Laguna Niguel, I laid down on the sidewalk to stretch my again aching muscles. It felt so good to lay flat that I took my pack often use it as a pillow. I close my eyes to rest for a minute or so. I caught myself starting to doze off. “No no no!” I told myself. “Sleep when you’re done buddy.”
So I peeled myself off the sidewalk, ate a BiO2 bar and drank some coconut water, then headed on down the road. Feeling kind of silly, I decided to tempt fate by running smack dab in the middle of PCH having not seen a single car for about five minutes. I even considered laying down in the middle of the road just for the hell of it. But, with all these silent electric vehicles nowadays, I might not hear the car coming and I could get run over before I knew it. If I survived, and have a tough time explaining my stupidity.
Next town up: Dana Point. Still being in the heart of the night, I felt like I had the world to myself. As I ran the stretch along the coast before San Clemente, the first train of the day headed north taking commuters up to LA to probably start their early work day. Way off in the distance to the east, I could see twilight on the horizon. Normally this would be the welcome sign of daylight coming soon. However this time, I knew that before long the heat would be back upon me.
It was here that I made my decision to cut the run short. Instead of going all the way to La Jolla to get 120 miles, I chose to stop at mile 90 at Las Pulgas Rd. Having not expected it and having not prepared for it, the heat had really taken its toll on me yesterday. Since my goals for this run were to have fun and to use this run to just maintain my fitness during the off-season, I didn’t feel like suffering through the heat of another day. I would call my wife Diane later to have her come pick me up.
In the South part of San Clemente, I made another fuel stop this time at an Arco gas station. I made sure to load up with liquids, especially coconut water. This would be my last chance before the hot slog through Camp Pendleton. The guy at the checkout counter took a long look at my goofy outfit. Thinking I was on my bike, he asked me how far I was riding. I told him I was running from LA to Camp Pendleton. After five seconds of silence, he said “Man, that’s awesome. Good luck.”
I entered the bike path with the I-5 freeway to my left and Trestles surf break off to my right. Now 8:00 in the morning, I remember it being 5:00 in the morning last time I came through here. It sure didn’t take long for the temperature to rise. Even though I was drinking tons of fluids, my clothes were still bone dry and covered in salt. I hadn’t pee’d in hours.
As I passed the guard shack of the San Onofre Nuclear Power Plant, the guard at the gate let me fill up my water bottle. Then as I passed the San Onofre State Beach Park campgrounds, I drank from almost every water fountain.
Soon I would cross under the I-5 for the last mile down to Las Pulgas Rd. I had called Diane earlier to meet me there at 10:30. Sure enough, she was at the right place at the right time. I plopped myself in the front seat and reclined. I kicked off my shoes and put my stinky feet up on the dashboard. I was so glad to be done but was now having major remorse about having cut it short. I told myself 90 miles in the”off-season” in these conditions was a pretty good day at the office. It’s always disappointing though to not complete fully what was planned. So I called the ride home “the drive of shame.”
I’ll be back next month!