There is this course here called "The Drives". It involves running around the local peninsula of Palos Verdes. You start on Palos Verdes Drive North, then proceed through PV Drive East, PV Drive South and PV Drive West in a big circle. It's nearly 21 miles and filled with spectacular scenery. It's all rolling hills, with one HUGE hill in the middle and very popular with cyclists. Every weekend there are multiple large groups of cyclists cruising these drives. So basically around this.
I ran it clockwise.
Running The Drives is quite the challenge. I first tried it in 2013 on a hot May day. It beat me. I finished, but there was a lot of walking and I averaged about 10 minutes a mile. I tried it again in 2014 with a group, but by the time I got up and down the big hill my legs were cement and when I got to 15 miles I was ready to quit. Luckily there was an option to catch a ride back, so I took it. Fail.
So I've been kind of intimidated by it and hadn't tried it since. But this year, with a bigger base than ever, I figured I could give it another try. The last long run of my marathon cycle would be The Drives. I had it on my calendar for a few months, but I was never sure about it. I didn't want to trash my legs 3 weeks before the marathon. But the last couple weeks convinced me I was ready. Luckily the weather has turned chilly here so the weather was perfect - 40's at the start, 50's by the finish, little wind, but sunny and beautiful with great visibility.
I drove to the start point and got going at 8:00. My goal was to relax and just take it easy, not worry about time. But of course, that's not like me. One of my club rivals did The Drives last week in 8:46 pace, so I figured I might as well make that a goal. I could track how I was doing vs. 9:00 pace. Figured to lose some on the hills, but make it up coming down. I was hoping to get to the back half still feeling strong - practice those late marathon miles with tired legs.
Here's the elevation chart:
So it starts out with a pretty nasty hill for two miles, so I just trudged along and tried not to breathe too hard while warming up. Miles 1-2 were 9:30 and 8:54. It wasn't easy but I was patient and knew I would feel better once I got to miles 3-5. And I did. Those flat to downhill miles let me ease into cruising pace and I felt pretty good. 8:12, 8:17, 8:00. Preparing for the big climb.
Hill #1 was 2.25 miles and almost 500 feet. Just steady, consistent climbing, although not so steep that I couldn't handle it. I maintained steady effort and got over feeling great. 9:22, 9:16.
Then there is about a mile of fun downhill (8:00) before the next 1.3 mile hill of 240 feet. (9:06) Finished feeling strong and stopped for a GU and some water at the drinking fountain at the top. I applauded some cyclists who were coming up the backside. Even saw a neighbor cycling up and shared a high five. OK! Major hills done! Felt pretty confident and ready for the next phase - the long steep quad-killing downhill. This is what broke me last time. I drop 700 feet in 3 miles. Starting with the switchbacks.
This is the steepest part - but fun! I tried to keep my stride short and minimize the pounding. Had to step off the road a couple time for cyclists. Enjoyed the spectacular views and felt the joy of being alive, healthy and full of vigor. 7:51, 7:47, 7:55.
Once I got near the coast there was hard packed dirt path to run on. I took in the view of Catalina Island and cruised. Also went by Trump National golf course and took the time for a spit and two farmer blows.
By mile 13 it leveled a bit and became "rolling" the rest of the way. Still plenty of hills though. I assessed my quads and they didn't seem too bad. I still had the oomph to get over hills and maintain effort. I was tired, but fine really. Stopped at 15 for another GU and water at Terranea resort, where I run to often. The rest of the way would be well-known turf. I knew I had this in the bag. 8:14, 8:24, 8:26 got me to 15 and I was averaging 8:30 pace for the whole run! Figured I could maintain that the rest of the way and kill my goal.
The last five were endurance training, but I never sunk into suffering. The legs held up, the wall stayed away, not even a water stop for the last 6 miles. 8:25, 8:26, 8:05, 8:28, 8:13 and 8:02 for the last .8 miles to get to 20.8 miles. I could have done another 6 for sure. Finished with an 8:26 average and full of joy. Drank some water and just sat in the sun for a while and bathed in the satisfaction of a job well done. A beastly run conquered. I kind of felt like I deserved a medal. A lot of cyclists and runners were in the area and I REALLY wanted to brag to someone. "Hey, I just ran around the whole mountain!" But I stuck with the internal pride and ballooning confidence. I feel SO ready for this marathon. Bring it on!