LA to San Diego Training Run #8 May 20-21, 2018
Last year I decided to change my training such that I would do one very long run per month with moderate miles in between as opposed to a high average weekly mileage leading up to Badwater. I found so far that this strategy has worked very well. Plus, this more closely simulates race conditions. There’s no substitute for forcing oneself to run when nearly exhausted. And, I love taking the train up to LA then running home.
So here I was on a late Sunday evening about to embark on my eighth Los Angeles to San Diego training run. I met my good friend and training partner, Tom Atwell (“Coach”) on the train. He had just finished a two day water polo tournament in Huntington Beach. Tom’s brother, Marty picked this up at Union Station and took us over to Santa Monica Pier. Because of some train delays, we didn’t start until 9 PM. That’s later than I wanted but we’d be starting Badwater in a few months at about the same time so it actually was a blessing in disguise. We took some selfies on the Pier then embarked on our journey heading southward. We navigated through all the tourists in Santa Monica then the assorted characters in Venice Beach. The unique smell of you know what nauseated me. I couldn’t believe how strongly we could smell it. I couldn’t wait to get through Venice. We headed inland to go around Marina del Rey. Along here, Coach noticed that his backpack somehow had opened. He realized that one of his favorite jackets and his beanie had fallen out. I felt horrible for him. He retraced his steps a quarter-mile but couldn’t find the items. Some homeless dude probably thought he won the lottery and likely put the items in his shopping cart.
Effortlessly, we cruised through Playa Del Ray with the huge jets from LAX departing over our heads. It seemed like we could reach up and touch them. As we passed through Manhattan Beach, Hermosa Beach then Redondo Beach, we noticed less and less people out on their evening walks, many with dogs. We saw lots of couples on a romantic stroll, scattered joggers getting in a late night workout and an occasional young lost soul, contemplating life’s challenges.
In Redondo Beach, we decided to take our first food stop. Having gone only 18 miles or so, we both had become quite hungry already. With a fresh infusion of sugar and fat in our veins, we both felt much better. I noticed the pace quickening.
Next up, we headed east into Torrance. At this late hour, we were able to cross Pacific Coast Highway easily. Normally, during the day, we would have to take our chances running across six lanes of 60 mph traffic. We made good time heading due east on Anaheim Street through the Lomita/Long Beach Harbor/Wilmington District. During the daytime, this four lane stretch is packed with very noisy and nearly continuous semi tractors shuttling shipping containers to and from the international docks. Now, we had this busy thoroughfare almost to ourselves. What a strange but pleasant change.
At around 2 AM, we tiptoed past some pretty shady characters walking the streets and alleys and business entryways, trying to stay virtually invisible in this really rough part of town. I offered Coach $500 to go snuggle up with a guy sleeping on the sidewalk. He passed. After only 15 more miles, we had become hungry yet again. I couldn’t understand why I needed so much food at this very comfortable pace and under cool conditions. We chowed down some pretty unhealthy yet necessarily high calorie foods, making pleasantries with yet more late-night characters. One customer gave us his great respect when he learned that we were running all the way down to San Diego. He shared our story with his girlfriend who waited in the car while he ran inside to get a few items. Coach and I wondered what he was getting at this late hour!?
In another mile, we made the right turn back onto PCH to head south towards Seal Beach then Sunset Beach. With a big public golf course on the corner, this turn marks a significant milestone to me in that we leave LA proper and head towards the nicer parts of LA then on towards Orange County. Up till this point, my legs felt pretty stiff requiring me to stretch them whenever I had a chance. From here on however they seemed to loosen up and would never cause any problems for the rest of the run.
Next up, we hit Huntington Beach then Newport Beach. Now morning time, we were able to enjoy the gorgeous coastal views that I previously could not see during the nighttime. The busy Monday morning traffic along PCH made conversation between my training partner and me difficult. We stopped again at one of our favorite gas stations in the south part of Newport. The owner actually recognized the two of us from one of our previous journeys. We both thought that was pretty cool. Coach and I got a breakfast sub with egg white, guacamole, bacon and lots of vegetables. I loaded mine up with mayonnaise and black olives. For “dessert” I had a chocolate chip cookie and a Twinkie, washing it down with a good ole Coca-Cola. Not really the breakfast of champions!
We proceeded in to Laguna Beach. Along here, we actually got a little bit wet from a fairly heavy and chilly mist. I made sure to fully enjoy the beautiful, oceanside scenery to our right. Next up we passed through Dana Point then headed towards Capistrano Beach in San Juan Capistrano. Twenty yards off our right shoulder, the Amtrak train that we took last evening, rumbled northward.
We stopped again at a 7-11, albeit briefly. I hated stopping so often because I wanted to “keep my foot on the gas” the whole way. I must admit though that the frequent breaks felt great. I psyched myself up for the monotonous segment along Trestles surf break and the San Onofre nuclear power plant in the north part of Camp Pendleton. I have never liked this section. It just seems to go on forever.
We caught an Uber ride for the 15 mile section of Camp Pendleton that we can’t run through. As usual, the driver was really cool and got a big kick out of our story. She dropped us off at the northernmost exit in Oceanside, where we immediately resumed running. We stopped again a few miles north of Carlsbad to consume more calories. This time my snack was healthier but included another Coke. Our pace slowed somewhat as we passed out of Carlsbad. Coach had started walking morealong here. As I pulled several hundred yards ahead of him, my phone rang. It was him. He told me he had a problem. He said the top of his foot had started throbbing back in Oceanside. It had now become so bad that he could barely walk on it and simply could not run on it. He painfully deliberated as to what he should do. He wanted to soldier on but he didn’t want to injure himself knowing that Badwater was just a few months away. He had worked so hard over the last several years to get accepted into Badwater and now was his chance. He didn’t want to jeopardize anything. I supported his decision to stop at this point. I couldn’t imagine the physical pain and emotional anguish he was experiencing. We ultra runners are proud and confident people. Anyway, he wished me good luck as he hailed a ride back home while I pushed southward.
For a few miles, I felt awkward running without my wingman. I had become very fatigued, beginning my second night without sleep. I wanted to finish soon, to get as much sleep as possible before having to get up in the morning to give a science talk to my daughter’s fourth grade class at 9 AM. So I pressed on through the North County coastal communities of Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff by the Sea, Solana Beach then Delmar. Now around midnight, I needed one more jolt of caffeine to carry me home. Nothing was open except one bar on 15th St. Feeling like a complete fish out of water, I walked in and saw two guys having their last drink for the night as the bartender was getting ready to close. I told him my plight and asked him for some Coke. He quickly filled a glass and insisted that I not pay. I must say that sitting down at the bar while in my running garb and while in the middle of a long workout felt super weird.
It was here that I made my decision to end the workout at Torrey Pines State Park. I would have loved to have tackled the arduous climb up through the park then finished with the even more difficult climb up Via Capri towards Mount Soledad, then the mile descent down Nautilus Street to my home.
It was now 1 AM. I had felt that after about 28 hours of running and 120 miles, I had done enough for one day. I had to get home to get some sleep so I could stay upright for my daughter and her classmates. At least those excuses seemed legit to me.
So I hailed an Uber ride from the base of Torrey Pines. During the “drive of shame” to my house, I felt relieved to have run approx 120 miles without any major problems. But, this was tempered by my guilt of having not gone all the way home, which would have been about ten more miles.
I’ll be doing this workout all over again in a few weeks. Between now and then, I plan on running 50+ miles once, 30 once and my annual birthday run again-my age in miles.
In between, I’ll add runs with my 40 pound weighted vest (one of my secret weapons), do my high intensity workouts, train Jiu Jitsu and do periodic heat training.
So far, I am pleased with my fitness and I’m injury-free. I’m right on schedule training-wise.