Getting to the Race

Bridge to Balboa Park, San Diego
Bridge to Balboa Park, San Diego

The GPS in my car read 133 miles from my house to Balboa Park, San Diego.  It also estimated it’d take 2 hours and 15 minutes.  By the time I got to my car it was 2:30 in the morning.  That gave me four hours to make the last bus taking runners to the starting line from the park’s parking lot at 6:30a.  As I pulled onto the 5 freeway south and realized I could’ve stayed at the house for another half hour but decided it wouldn’t be a bad thing to arrive early for the race.

I’m used to driving long distances and settled in for a nice evening/early morning drive.  But as I approached downtown LA though there was a traffic jam – 2:45am!  “Only in LA,” I thought.  It was construction.  The cones and warning arrows filed all the traffic into one lane.  I’ve filmed a lot in downtown at night and the hours of midnight to 6am are the most active for the supply warehouses that fill the city’s grocery, department and any other imaginable kind of stores. The 5 freeway feeds LA from the north and south and it is here that about 257 loaded big rig trucks who’s drivers were all hoping for a quick exit off the freeway were struggling to get their 18 wheels one length closer to their destination.  Me in my little sedan squeezed through, dodging where I could and allowing where I probably shouldn’t.  The diversion looked like it’d last hours but only took about 15 minutes to get past.

After I passed downtown it was smooth sailing until I reached Oceanside, about 40 miles outside San Diego.  A cube truck had rolled entering the freeway and was blocking several lanes.  The police had arrived and once again all traffic was diverting to one lane.  It was about 5am and I was concerned about parking but relaxed as the traffic jam moved slowly past the wreck, however, it was another 10-15 minute delay.

Once I’d cleared the wreck I hit the gas and took the car up to 80 miles an hour.  The pamphlet the race sponsors had sent said to allow :30 minutes for parking and I was concerned I was really pushing it to make the last bus to the starting line.  With about 4 miles to go a Highway Patrolman pulled up alongside the passenger side of my car.  He turned to me and shook his head.  I smiled and slowed to 70 and he nodded then accelerated and exited the freeway!!  I couldn’t believe it. Then realized the exit went to the local Highway Patrol offices – he was probably on his way home from the wreck I’d passed a few miles back.  Whew!

America's Finest City 1/2 Marathon Map
America's Finest City 1/2 Marathon Map

I pulled into the parking lot at 5:15.  I put on my Vibram 5 Finger “bare foots” and made my way to the busses.  I’d heard just a little bit about this race and wished I’d had time to drive the route so I’d know what to mentally prepare for but of course did not have that luxury for this race.  It was still dark, and as I joined hundreds of other runners loading onto the several dozen tour busses I couldn’t help but wonder how many of them were jet lagged from Hong Kong or were running bare foot?

It was good to see that so many of the runners were carrying their own water/energy drinks.  I’d learned from The Bix to bring my own and was glad to see I wasn’t alone in that thinking.  In the early morning the bus was quiet except for the two women sitting across the aisle from me.  One of them had run this half-marathon 6 times and was telling the other what to expect.  “Perfect!” I thought, “Just what I want to hear.”  The one explaining talked about how the beginning the race is mostly downhill and if you want to let it go that was the place.  She went on to say that the course levels out and passes the marina then turns and goes UP 6th street to the finish line.  She threw in some other details that I didn’t quite catch but it was great information.

Cabrillo National Monument
Cabrillo National Monument

The busses dropped us at the Cabrillo National Monument that sits on a peninsula about 300 feet above San Diego Bay.  It was still pretty dark but twilight was lighting the parking lot and as we exited the bus David Bowie was singing, “Young Americans.”  There was a little bit of a sunrise party atmosphere.  The race sponsors had put up a dozen speakers and 100 toilets to line the parking lot.  I walked away from the lot and found a spot to sit that overlooked the bay and watched the sun poke its first rays of light over the hill to the east.  As several small boats made their way through the harbor and Southwest Airline flights began to take off at Lindbergh Field the race announcer blared over the speaker that there were :30 minutes remaining to the start.  The temperature was perfect for a 13.1 mile jog and I felt pretty good, so made my way to a mid-way position in the crowd.  A few people walked by and noticed my Vibram slippers.  One guy said to his partner, “Look at that…” with a tone of ‘what the hell is he thinking?’

A few months back after reading Born to Run by Christopher McDougall I started drinking a glass of Pinole before every run.  Pinole is basically powdered corn in water.  I add some Heed energy drink to the mix to sweeten it slightly.  The brew provides great energy through the first 8-10 miles of a run – at least that’s how my body works.  I’d mixed it in a bottle at home before leaving and having selected my start position I drank/chewed it down.  I also had an energy gel for the last 3-4 miles and four 10oz bottles of pure Heed energy drink.

As the Star Spangled Banner was belted out by a woman with less than a gifted voice, I pondered that I’d been running on treadmills for the last three weeks and was fresh off of three 16-18 hour days of shooting in China.  Not to mention the long lunch some 18 hours before.  This was going to be interesting…


tom lowe photo, llc

tacoma, wa 98406


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