Saturday, July 19, 2008

Burma / Portuguese Bend 17 Mile Orbit

Over the past few weeks, I have upped my mileage by extending runs further north along the coast. Sticking to flat terrain has certainly been one less challenge for me to mentally and physically overcome while training for my first marathon, but doing so overlooks the huge benefit of pushing oneself on the hills.

With that in mind, I wake up early hoping to get started before the temperature rises, but I still manage to not leave the house before 8am. On past weekends, temps would already convince me I should head to the beach, but this morning's marine layer seems particularly thick and is keeping things cool and quite moist. I stick with my plan to start today's run by heading up the hill.

Burma Road is the dirt trail I have visited with my wife and friends for a few runs, but this is the first time I have tried running from home to the trail head. Fortunately, the connecting streets have shoulders and/or sidewalks...and, even more surprisingly, Crenshaw Blvd has asphalt sidewalks above Crest Road. I try not to run on concrete, so this is a nice discovery.

While I am happy about my running surface, I cannot say the same about the weather. I have run into the marine layer. I have less than a quarter mile visibility. Much less if you factor in that my glasses are covered with condensation and my eyes are watering. Still, the moisture is keeping me cool.

When I reach the trail head, I know that my next few miles will be downhill. My average pace over the first three miles exceeded 10 minutes per mile, so I really have to avoid the temptation to compensate by running too fast over the descent. Today's goal is not speed, but endurance over hilly terrain. Still, as I head down to the bottom of Burma Road, I naturally hit my stride...and click off two sub-8 miles without even trying.

I usually stick with Burma until it ends in Rolling Hills, but today I am looking for trails that branch away from the main trail hoping to hook up with Palos Verdes Drive South. From looking at Google Maps and a brochure about the Portuguese Bend Nature Preserve, I do have some familiarity with how the trails branch from here, but, until I am actually on the trails, it is hard to know for certain which way to turn. I take the branching trail at the lowest point of Burma Road and cross my fingers I will be able to reach Palos Verdes Drive. Visibility is still too low for me to see the street from here.

I run across a couple of bicyclists on the narrow trail, one rider confirming that I am heading the right direction. The high brush made it impossible to see them until they were upon me, so I am extra cautious as I make my way around every blind corner. My ear catches a spider web. As I pull the sticky stuff from my ear, I cross fingers that it did not also catch a spider. I must also be mindful of ticks and rattlesnakes while I am on the trails. My ankles and chins are getting dirty. Gnats buzz around my legs when I stop to take pictures around what appears to be the end of the trail. I have not yet reached the street, but can see it just over a small hill...and it looks as though I can reach the street by two or three of the trails branching from here. I just pick one and go for it.

The next thing I know, I am standing on Palos Verdes Drive South at Portuguese Bend...a familiar stretch of road that I ran upon during the Palos Verdes Half Marathon. I feel infinitely better here than I did during that race thanks to the presence of the marine layer. And I am well enough below the clouds now that I have good visibility. Since I am wearing trail shoes, I stick to the dirt to the side the road whenever possible and head northwest.

I decide to take a brief photo detour as I reach Abalone Cove Shoreline Park. The view here of the Palos Verdes Peninsula is nice. There's a path down to the beach below, but I will save that for another run in the near future. I have plenty of miles and hills to not need any significant last minute additions.

I pass the turn around point for the PV Half Marathon and continue nortwest along Palos Verdes Drive South. If I had run the full marathon, the next few miles would be familiar, but I have never run along this stretch before. Thankfully, dirt continues along the side of the road...and, as I reach the construction site of Terranea Resort, the sidewalk becomes a nicely maintained running path.

I take another photo detour as I approach Point Vicente Light House, but the electric gate is closed and signs warn that this is Federal Property. I did not realize this site is closed to the public. Oh well.

I pass Hawthorne Blvd and Golden Cove...and am now back on a stretch of Palos Verdes Drive West that I have run on before, albeit on the opposite side of the street. I can still run on dirt here, so I stick with it until sidewalk begins. Fortunately, the dirt running path on the median begins at this point, so I cross over as soon as it is safe to do so. I stick to this path until it ends.

I hit my 13.2 mile split on Via Arriba at just under two hours and four minutes...way better than my PV Half Marathon time, but slower than my previous distance runs on flatter terrain. The reason I am on Via Arriba is that I am hoping to find a I usually approach from the opposite direction (and been on only once since high school). I really have to look for it because it is tucked between houses. When I do find it, I am not prepared for how steep the initial descent is. It takes a lot of effort to keep myself from tripping and falling. The extra effort has killed my energy and I find I have to push to keep my pace around 10 minutes per mile even as I continue downhill.

The remaining miles are uphill. My legs feel useless. I must walk, but now I cannot even maintain an 20 minute mile. I try to jog when the incline is not as steep, but I cannot do so for long. I decide to take a short break when I reach the Palos Verdes Country Club. This gives me a chance to stretch and recover some strength to pick up the pace for the next mile or two, but not enough to conqure the final steep incline.

With this run, I have completed 48 miles this week. I have a feeling that running every other day is helping me avoid injury as I build up the miles because I definitely have some persistent pains that do not seem to go away, but also do not affect me while I am actually running.

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