SoCal… PART 1
my favorite 4 hr plane ride away!
First of all everyone has an idea or a thought about what Los Angeles is, what it offers and why they go. I have been brought up watching movies and TV that paint LA as an ultra hip posh town. With swanky restaurants and celebs every which way. Everything outdoors usually involves a beach and palm trees. While this is part of LA it is not all of LA and SoCal. It’s also not even close to why I come to SoCal. LA is surround by mountains on 3 sides and the ocean on the other side. If you can’t tell I have quite the affinity for the mountains. I also love the laid back lifestyle of California. With my shaggy hair and the “shakas” I throw in every photo, I really fit in to the lifestyle. I also love how many people are out running, biking, hiking, climbing, kayaks etc. The west coast is just so much more active than the east coast.
Any time I find the time is right and the flights are below $300 I try and jump on a trip to LA. Car rental is cheap try $16-$18 a DAY! Gas isn’t though at over $4 a gallon.
This time I had 6 nights. I booked a companion ticket with my friend Kalen and it cut the cost of the plane ticker in half. WHAT A DEAL!
I randomly found a couple of days that would fit into my schedule. It was early May. It could be really hot or really cold.
Upon arriving in LAX I found it colder than Atlanta. That didn’t last long. The next 3 days were into the high 90s! This meant I needed to wake up early and get to the mountains early.
I arrived Thursday afternoon. I rented a car and drove up the Pacific Coast Highway through Malibu to one of my favorite spots, Point Mugu State Park. I have run 3 separate trail races here. One of which, The Ray Miller 50m, is the MOST BEAUTIFUL ULTRA I have run in America! However upon reaching the park I noticed caution tape and big signs. Everything was closed. The state park sign was charred black from a huge fire. All of the trees, shrubs and underbrush were burnt to the ground. Devoid of life it was now.
Sad! So we decided to climb up a sand bank 150 ft or so and take photos.
Friday I decided to head up to Mt Baldy, my favorite spot in SoCal. It’s a 10,000 ft Mountain and the highest point in the San Gabriel Mountains. About an hour and 15 minutes from downtown LA. It was time to test the La Sportiva Anakonda trail running shoes against the Socal Trails.
I showed up to the all familiar town of Mt. Baldy. I stopped in the National Forest Center there. I paid my $5 for my day pass, also called the Adventure pass. I headed up the road. The road winds up a canyon. eventually it dead ends into the Mt. Baldy Ski Lift lot. I parked there and did my favorite route. Its the most scenes and hardest. I jump up a service road that starts at 6,400 ft and jumps right up to 7,000 in a 1/4 mile! Then you hit a nice gradual service road which winds up the canyon to the”TOP OF THE NOTCH” this takes you to the top of the ski lift at 7.800 ft. It is the saddle in-between Mt baldy Telegraph peak, I believe. From here you head up and to the left. I go up the ski run as it is STRAIGHT UP! You quickly hit 9,000 ft. At the end of the skit run the road/ski area bed turns to a single track trail aka Devil’s Backbone. I started felling BLAH at around 8,500 ft so I took it easy and then decided to turn back as I had the TOUGH TOPANGA 10k the next AM. GOD I LOVE THIS TRAIL!
I took it easy the rest of the day and called it a night.
TOUGH TOPANGA 10k
Saturday morning I woke up STOKED! I was gonna run a 10k mountain race. It’s a 10k with some 2,500 ft of elevation change. I had no idea what to expect. I had looked at times from the previous years. Winning times were right around 39 to 42 minutes. I like checking this out because it gives me a reference for how long I should expect to got hard. about 42 minutes for this. So pace accordingly. A friend, Jack, had told me go hard the first 5k because it is all up and then the rest is down.
My friend Laci and I got to the start to find it very hot. It has been cold as heck in Ga this winter with FEW hot days. This would be taxing. I decided to lose the La Sportiva Mountain Running Team jersey and run sans shirt.
There were tons of folks buzzing about the start and everyone seemed a bit scared. This aint your mama’s 10k!
As we lined up I asked folks who the fast guys were. They pointed to a guy and said he’s really fast. I thought “awesome someone who will want to race.” I wanted to race. I wanted to push myself today.
The gun went off and several 8 and 10 yr old kids took off sprinting and died some seconds later haha. So cute! Then it was me and this guy. I hung behind. I wanted to see how fast he would go. I felt really great. There were 3 off us. I passed the first guy 2 minutes in. I saw right off that on the sections where it went from steeper to flatter they lagged in recovery. I mean that they were keeping the same pace. I would run faster on the easier sections and slower on the steep. 1/2 up the climb it was me and this guy. He was super nice and fun. I picked mey head up and looked around. Mountains all around! We were in the heart of the Santa Monica Mountains. “Damn this is beautiful!” I said. He goes “yea it is!” Friendly competition from a high class athlete! About 7 or so minutes in the climb I saw him lag one step. I jumped in front thinking he was done at this point. Like a shark smelling blood I pounced on it. He stayed on my heels 3/4 of the way up. I could hear him breathing hard. I was too. I finally got a small gap between him. I ended up power hiking 2 small 10 ft sections to get my HR back down. Then we hit some rollers. I know that this race for me would be won on the climb as I didn’t think anyone could give chase to me on the downhill. At least I hoped. I bombed downhill like a mad man on some of the rollers. I tried to focus on just giving her full length strides to keep my fast pace. I passed several of the walkers who started early. It was fun to cheer them on. My heroes!
I looked back at one point and saw that I was a solid minute out front. I didn’t want to give anyone a chance to catch up for the kick down so I continued to push a bit.
We hit an out n back section of maybe a 1/4 mile and I was over heating! This was nice because I got to see how close I was to the others. I counted it out. It was a minute or so. Now for the downhill. I knew I had gotten it at this point. So I kind of shut it down. I cruised down hill to read my watch split for the mile at 5:25 min mile. At the bottom of the hill was a small up hill. I looked back across the canyon to see people so far back. A sigh of relief came to my face. I could take it easier now. I pushed up this little bit with easy steps to catch my breath. I then hit the final mile which was all downhill. I leaned forward and cruised down the hill. It was fun to see people coming up the trail and applauding. I saw the finish and just eased her in. 41:42 or so i think it was. It felt good to actually win something for a change. I had come up 2nd in all of my hard effort races the last couple of months. Really it was nothing impressive! I am not very happy with it. I mean if hard pressed I know I could have gone 40:20 or faster. On a cool day I think sub 40 would be possible.
There were only 150 people running so it was a small race. This is why I am not jumping for joy with my finish.
Everyone after the race was super nice. The guy I had raced up the climb, finished a solid 2nd! We talked for a while. He is 18 yrs old and his name is HAPPY! HOW AWESOME! He also told me he is coming back off a bad injury so he wasn’t even 75% ha! I feel slow.
They told me about a REALLY hard race I want to do next year! The Verdugo 10k. we shall see.
I always feel weird when people are like hey you won! What was your time? etc…
I always say I don’t know and I wanna know how they did. For me this is just another day of running in the mountains. I don’t mean that in an egotistical way but I mean that as this is what I love and train to do. I am not fast. Its all relative. the CR is 37 minutes!
The Tough Topanga 10k outta Topanga State Park is one of the hardest and yet THE MOST BEAUTIFUL 10ks I have ever done ever. I hope to make it back next year.
Oh yea I almost forgot! Post race there was THE LARGEST AND BEST POST RACE BUFFET! I ate cheese cake, bacon, salmon, bagels n lox, and a bunch of other stuff that made me feel like I was at a wedding. RUN FOR THE CHEESECAKE!
Thanks to ALL THE VOLUNTEERS, RUNNERS and the RDs.
Until part 2 and UNTIL THE NEXT RUN!
DO EPIC SH*T!