LA to San Diego Training 120 Miler: A test run for the upcoming big winter races December 7-8, 2021
I have a lot on my plate for this coming winter. In three weeks, I am running a 260-mile event around the Big Island of Hawaii, called Go Big 260. It’s basically a fundraiser for the Hawaii Wildlife Fund. In early February I got the Big Daddy… Montane Yukon Arctic Ultra 300 miles. That extremely frigid race has my number, having crushed me the last two attempts. Then in early March I am planning to do a new sister race of Yukon called Lapland Arctic Ultra--another 300 miler in Swedish Lapland. I can’t wait.
But first, I need to get this “little” jaunt taken care of. Today’s 120 miler, which I’ve done almost 20 times now, starts in the heart of LA and finishes in my driveway in San Diego.
The alarm went off at 4:50, awakening me from a deep slumber. My first thought was,” oh F$#K!” I’ve got a day and a half of nonstop running. I wish I could stay under this cozy down comforter for a few more hours.” The Uber driver arrived right on time and took me to the Old Town trolley station for the 6:10 train up to Santa Monica.
At 10: 30, I started running. But just prior to this, I had a sudden emergency walking to my starting point at Santa Monica Pier, requiring me nourish some small bushes outside an office building. I know. TMI, especially coming from a doctor!
In the early miles I could tell my pace was faster than usual. Last month I started taking a new supplement from First Endurance.com called Optygen. It contains Rhodiola and Cordyceps, two natural herbs which have proven to improve aerobic performance. I was skeptical at first but this shi% works.
I didn’t take any calories the first few hours, trying to burn off the big bowl of Honey Bunches of Oats I had before bed last night. My first stop was at my favorite Subway in Torrance. I inhaled a six-inch veggie sub with extra guacamole, BBQ potato chips, a cookie and Gatorade. I ate half inside the restaurant and the other half while walking/slow jogging Southward.
I continued to make great time entering the industrial San Pedro area of Long Beach. This 13-mile stretch goes due east On Anaheim St., skirting the Long Beach Harbor. There are tons of trucking traffic from having unloaded the cargo shipping containers from all over the world. I always feel energized around this area despite it being loud, smelly, and very dirty.
Eventually joining up with Pacific Coast Highway again, I checked my watch and noted that I was about two hours ahead of schedule at this point.
At a super busy intersection of PCH, I did something very stupid and dangerous: I entered an intersection halfway on a left turn signa for the cars coming up behind mel. I planned on crossing the other half when the green arrow ended. But the traffic backed up, trapping me in a two foot square in the middle of cars going 40 mph in all directions. I was stuck for two minutes until I could go through.
I put my head on a swivel hoping everyone would see my moving headlamp. This is the first time I’ve ever been stuck like that. I felt so vulnerable.
After saying a thankful prayer, I charged on now due southward, clipping off the northern Orange County cities of Seal Beach and Sunset Beach. I skirted across the busy highway to pick up the beach boardwalk that would carry me through Huntington Beach into Newport Beach. I had connected with one of my good friends, Michelle West, a four-time Badwater finisher who lives in the Newport area. I previously asked if she would want to run a little bit with me which basically was my way of asking her to bring me some food! It worked. She brought delicious high-fat fried zucchini, French fries, and a nut bar.
By this point for some reason, I got really chilled if I slowed down or stopped. So, I asked her if I could warm up in her car. It took about 20 minutes. At one point I was really shivering and had goose bumps everywhere. I think it’s because I was so tired and had allowed myself to get so hungry. She lent me her puffy jacket and I was on my way. Within a mile I was warmed up and back to running a solid pace. I took the jacket, a hat, and gloves off and stuffed them in my running pack.
I charged through to Corona del Mar and Laguna Beach without seeing virtually anything moving except an occasional car.
Despite being on PCH, which is ridiculously heavily travelled during the day, I saw no one around. It was the wee hours of the night. I absolutely loved being by myself. I kept thinking of all the times I’ve been asked” Why do you do this stuff!?” I kept saying to myself out loud “This is what I do Motherf*&%er!” If ever I was in my element, it was at this time. I felt like the entire world and I was so ALIVE.
Entering Dana Point at four AM after a long, boring, dark stretch, I crossed sides of PCH again in front of a police officer driving his morning patrols on empty streets. Thinking he would give me a thumbs up, he yelled out the window “USE THE CROSSWALK!” I love all cops but this kind of pissed me off. He and I were the only ones around. I hadn’t seen a car in 20 minutes, and this is what he had to say?!
Around five AM, during the three miles through San Clemente, I noticed an increase in activity of people getting up and about, starting their day. I psyched myself up for the suckiest section of the entire run, an 11-mile boring, ugly, lonely area of North Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base. A little chilly, very hungry, a little achy and with developing foot blisters, I ran as fast as I could towards Las Pulgas Road where my friend Heather would meet me to drive me through the section of Camp Pendleton, which is not open to pedestrians. I absolutely hate this section. Like in real life, if one has to do something but doesn’t like it, JUST ATTACK IT AND GET IT OVER WITH. For example, I abhor telling an ER patient for the first time that they have cancer. But it must be done, so I have no choice but to go in and just tell them.
The section actually passed quickly because of my mental approach of attacking it.
The growing daylight perked up my spirits. But the bag of McDonald’s hashbrowns and an Egg McMuffin with a coffee that Heather had picked up made my day!
While she made the 10-minute drive to North Oceanside, I addressed some blisters, hoping Heather wouldn’t see what I was doing. I was pretty stinky and grungy, so it was a good idea on her part that she had laid down a towel first on the back seat of her brand-new car. She must have learned her lesson from the last time!
Having not seen each other for a while, we ended up talking for a very long time. I knew I had to get on my way but leaving the relative “lap of luxury” of her car was hard.
All “caffeine’d” up with a full belly, I headed out for the last 31-mile homestretch to La Jolla.
With ninety miles behind me, I still felt surprisingly strong. I made very good time through Oceanside, Carlsbad and Leucadia. I took in more food and calories at Swami’s Beach Park, while stretching my legs.
The next fifteen miles home were rather ho-hum. I like it that way. The beautiful Southern California coast made the miles pass easily.
As I pushed up the climb to Mt Soledad, a mile from my home, I took a moment to congratulate myself on my drive, discipline, patience, and persistence. I reminded myself of how much these traits can help one in all facets of one’s life. Why some people have them and some people don’t, is a great life mystery to me. Is it nature or nurture? Either way, I am so grateful.