Running Down the Potrero Grade Means You Have to Run Back Up

Without any particular marathon goals in mind, I've been running at a casual pace, mostly with camera in hand, for the past year. This past Saturday, on a whim I decided to run from Newbury Park down the Potrero Grade to CSU Channel Islands (CI)...and back.


It wasn't a particularly great day for running long, as the Santa Anas were drying things up after recent storms and, starting my run around 9 a.m., the heat played a bit of a factor. With water bottle, a single GU pack and my camera in hand, off I went.

For those of you not familiar with Potrero Road, it is a moderately treacherous, yet nicely paved, two lane road that links Newbury Park with Camarillo and the Oxnard Plain. It drops about 1,000 feet from Dos Vientos to CI. The top portion has a few tight twists and turns, with minimal shoulder space in these sections. Bottom line is, most runners I know have never, and will never, attempt running Potrero Road (I do know one crazy guy who has run it...John, I'm talking about you).

It was a bright, clear day and I felt confident that passing automobiles and motorcycles (and cyclists) would clearly see me running and not bash into me, ruining what otherwise was a pretty nice day. I survived to type this.

My water bottle was empty before I hit the bottom of the grade. But the good news is that I found a drinking fountain at a park on the east end of CI, near the student housing. Funny how good lukewarm water tastes on a warm day after running 9 miles. I downed my single GU pack and moved along, back towards Potrero.

Back up the grade from just above CSU Channel Islands

Back up the grade from just above CSU Channel Islands

The trek back up the grade was slow and steady. Having no long runs under my belt of late, combined with the steady climb, made this a bit more challenging than my body could endure. I used to pride myself on being a badass...someone who only stops running if a bodily function, injury, or emergency situation arises...not so this Saturday. I stopped for walk breaks off and on starting with the really steep part of the climb. It was a survival game for me.

Luckily there's a dirt shoulder next to most of the Potrero Grade

Luckily there's a dirt shoulder next to most of the Potrero Grade


Alternating running with walking up the hill allowed me to see things the speeding cars can't see so much, like this truck at the bottom of the canyon adjacent to the road. Not a particularly good place to park, one would think. Would be interesting to learn the history behind this truck.

All told, I made it back to the start in 2 1/2 hours. The run/walk was about 17 miles, so while much slower than my typical training run pace, it felt good to have completed this trek for the first time.

Needless to say, I was pretty sore the next day, heightened by the fact that I took the kids bowling in the afternoon.