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.

Not All Long Runs are Created Equal

Today I got back to my long run training with a 21 miler. Two weeks ago I ran the same out and back 20 mile course that I ran this morning, adding an extra mile at the halfway point. Ran down to Thornhill Broome Beach and back again, 1:18 down and 1:25 on the uphill coming back up Sycamore Canyon.

Today my stomach gave me a bit of grief. Every marathoner should be aware of their biggest single point of failure (SPOF) and figure out what to do about it. The biggest SPOF can be a number of things...a bad knee, getting dehydrated quickly, going out too hard, shin splints, etc. For me, if I don't watch what I eat the day before a run, I pay the price.

Honestly I don't know what caused my stomach ailment but I'm thinking I ate too much junk late last night. I wasn't in pain or anything. Mainly an annoyance that took my concentration off of my run. That said though, it wasn't a terrible day for me. I got another long run on the books.

I have been taking one refillable bottle and 4 gel packs on my runs. Today I used only 2 of my 4 gel packs over 21 miles. It wouldn't have hurt to suck the other 2 packs down, but I wasn't in the mood.

With little rest, I ran off to the AYSO soccer fields with the kids today and spend half the day out and about between games, came home and jumped in the pool. I survived the day and feel a bit like Superman. A tired Superman.

Training for a Marathon Only 6 1/2 Weeks Away

Nutella on a toasted bagel is not a bad pre-run snack, though I encountered this empty jar recently.On April 20th, I committed to running the Ojai 2 Ocean Marathon on Sunday, June 5th. Generally speaking, this is not something I normally do. Usually I give myself 4 to 6 months to train for a marathon. In fact, the only times I've given myself such a short amount of training time is when I've already run a marathon, feel recuperated, and decide to use the mileage base to run another one soon thereafter -  like running the Tucson Marathon just 4 weeks after the Malibu Marathon late last year. That didn't work out so well for me!

But this race sounded fun and it is a first time event. Plus it has a nice downhill. So without any particular time goals in mind, I'm signed up for it.

One thing I do have going for me is that my base mileage year to date is a consistent 40 miles per week, which to me is enough base to be able to ramp up my long runs to get a few 20 milers in before race date. I did 15 on April 21, 18.7 days later on the 24th, then another 18 miler last Saturday, April 30th, on a windy day. 

Tomorrow it sounds like I'll be blessed again with overcast skies and cool temps in the morning as I seek to get a 20 or possibly 22 miler out of the way.

With 6 1/2 weeks before a marathon, I really only have 4 1/2 weeks to train, factoring in a bare bones minimum 2 week pre-race taper (usually I taper down the mileage over 3 weeks).

So with only 4 1/2 real weeks to train, a decent 40 mile/week base, but no long (16+ mile) runs on my body since last year's Tucson Marathon, my strategy is to focus on getting 3 or 4 long runs in. There's not much time to consider speedwork or a 10K tuneup race. I'd love to fit a 5K or 10K into my training, it probably will hurt me more than help me with the marathon just 1 month away.