Los Angeles to San Diego Training Run December 19-20, 2019
With the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra around six weeks away, I wanted to get one long training run in. I’ve been doing lots of high quality and high intensity workouts and all my usual stuff ever since Moab 240 back in October. I didn’t really take any time off after that race, rolling straight into Yukon training.
EVERY DAY since Moab, I made it a point to do something worthwhile to prepare me for Yukon. If I didn’t do an actual running workout, I would make sure to either do strength training, hot yoga, jujitsu, sauna training, ice bath immersion, altitude/hypoxia sessions, core strength training or most importantly mental skills training/meditation. I’ve been dragging my sled through the sand at the beach which is the only way I can even come close to simulating the conditions I’ll face in six weeks.
My lung busting runs wearing my 40-pound vest has toughened me greatly. Now when I run without it, I feel like I’m floating above the ground.
I knew I needed to put in at least one and preferably two super long runs “in the bank” to round out my training. I love running from Los Angeles to San Diego because it’s the perfect distance of around 120 miles and because it’s so scenic. I love the survivalist and primitive nature of being able to cover such a great distance with myself as the machine. It also makes the world seem a lot smaller when I do it one step at a time.
Thursday morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 5 AM and hopped on the train at 6:02. I snuck in about an hour of sleep on the way up to Union Station in downtown LA. I enjoyed looking out the window and seeing the course I would take in reverse order on my way back home.
Another 45-minute train ride took me over to Santa Monica Pier. I took off my sweatshirt that kept me warm for my train nap and folded it up neatly. I then offered it to a pretty rough looking homeless lady sitting on the curb. She snapped it open as if she was shopping at a store, holding it up in her outstretched arms. She didn’t say anything, but her body language made it look like she was pretty excited.
At 10:45 AM, I headed south. The weather couldn’t be better--about 60° without a cloud in the sky. As usual, the early miles seemed effortless. I passed through Venice Beach, Marina del Rey, then El Segundo passing under the flightpath of LAX. After Hermosa Beach, I inland a bit and picked up Pacific Coast Highway where I hit up my favorite Subway. After putting in about 1000 calories, I continued to Torrance. Next up was the Wilmington district, passing the big oil refineries. I like this rough and tumble, hard-core area. I get energized by the innumerable semi-tractor trailers transporting shipping containers from the Long Beach terminal. The stuff in these containers comes from all over the world and now it would ultimately end up dispersed throughout our entire country.
For some reason I was absolutely bursting with energy going through here. Spontaneously I struck up a conversation with some dude walking on the sidewalk. His name was Rami and I think I startled him with my being so outgoing. Nobody does that Los Angeles acclamation point he was on his way to work at a sushi restaurant where he works back in the kitchen. I told him what I was doing and that I love sushi. In his broken English, he told me to stop by and he give me some for free. I told him I couldn’t get I had some work to do!
I made great time heading straight east on the busy Anaheim Boulevard. As darkness set in, I would make the big right turn by a public golf course taking me now due south. I changed out of my daytime get up into my nighttime clothes including a Montane wool base layer shirt, running tights and most importantly my headlamp.
On my way to Seal Beach, there’s no good bike lane or sidewalk on the busy Pacific Coast Highway. I’m left with no choice but to run with cars and trucks going upwards of 80 miles an hour within about eight feet of me. Pretty sketchy and I always must be on high alert.
I passed under the Huntington Beach Pier an hour ahead of my usual time. I was feeling as strong as ever. I don’t like five-mile section before Newport Beach because it’s along the beach boardwalk and it’s pitch black and there’s nobody there. Entering Newport was like a breath of fresh air. I had plenty of bars and trail mix in my pack and because it was chilly, I didn’t need to drink much. Therefore, I was able to skip stopping at one of my usual gas stations where I would typically fuel up.
On my way toward Dana Point around 4 AM, I came upon a young dude walking briskly in the dark. Still feeling very outgoing, I struck up a conversation and walked with him for about a mile. He was on his way home from visiting his girlfriend, but his car broke down and his phone wasn’t working either. He had no choice but to walk home. He said he couldn’t afford to fix either until his next paycheck. I thought about how it seemed like not too long ago that I was in a similar situation. I gave him some (probably unwanted) fatherly advice about money and the value of hard work and sacrifice, then started running again.
Now 5 AM, I enjoyed running down the middle of what is usually a super busy Pacific Coast Highway as I entered Dana Point. Doing so during the day would be a suicide mission.
Going through the dreaded section of Camp Pendleton, I had now become extremely sleepy. I decided to get some Z’s on the side of the trail in the bushes. I made a bed out of leaves and pulled out my Mylar blanket which kept me cozy warm. Fifteen minutes later, I awoke with renewed vigor. I brushed off all the leaves and dirt then changed out of my nighttime outfit and exchanged my headlamp for my hat and sunglasses.
I met up with my good friend Heather at the Las Pulgas Road/I-5 exit and she drove me in her car past the ten-mile section that is not open to civilian pedestrians through the military base. She dropped me off at the first gas station in Oceanside.
She brought me some sausage Egg McMuffin’s and a coffee which hit the spot perfectly.
The cool temperatures and the nice sunny skies allowed me to make good progress through the beachside communities of Oceanside, Carlsbad, Leucadia, Encinitas, Cardiff by the Sea and Solana Beach. In Delmar, I heard the toot of a horn and a “Hey Russ!” I looked over and saw one of my ER doctor colleagues on his way to work. What a pleasant surprise.
Still feeling strong but with not as much energy as before, I plugged up Torrey Pines Hill passing Torrey Pines golf course and Scripps Hospital. One more tough climb up Mt. Soledad remained before my “victory lap” a mile away to my house. As I turned into my driveway which was effectively my finish line, I patted myself on the back for my hard work and discipline. My training so far has been on point. I like the way things are shaping up for my second attempt at the Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra.
After my essential Ultragen recovery drink and a warm meal and a hot shower, I climbed into my TempurPedic bed under my down comforter in a state of bliss. It was quite a bit more comfortable than sleeping on a bed of leaves in the bushes!