Hello from Big Bear Lake, California.
I did indeed take that trip up here today. Last minute lodging in nearby Barstow was rather cheap (and the selection wasn’t terribly sketchy, a risk with strangely cheap lodging), and I wasn’t too excited about trying to run long for 11 miles on the treadmill, nor about this weekend’s 106 degree F heat in Las Vegas, so I booked two nights in Barstow Thursday and headed over after work last night. I slept pretty well too, for the first time in a little while.
I couldn’t have imagined that the hardest part about today’s workout would be carefully navigating the uphill hairpin turns on Highway 18 to get here (plus, as my mother had warned beforehand, much of the cliffside roadway has no shoulder and no railing).
I got here about a quarter to 7am with my water bottle and my partially filled gel bottle, and promptly headed west. However, I had to pee, and I thankfully encountered a coffeehouse within the first 2000 meters, right as it opened for the day. I considered the first 1.5 miles a warmup and stopped for espresso and a rare pastry, then used the (understandably popular) restroom before heading back out.
There are few sidewalks in Big Bear and the roads are hilly with frequent crests, so you have to carefully navigate the roadway and dirt shoulders and watch for traffic. I went through the neighborhoods surrounding Metcalf Bay and Boulder Bay, quiet but beautiful routes with only occasional vehicle traffic.
The 2 hour run itself was super comfortable, if only because I made sure to stop every few miles and cool off. I usually wouldn’t do this, but recognizing the altitude’s effect I elected to play the long run rather safe and stop every so often to “cool off” (yes, it’s only 50-60 degrees F here and it feels great, but the sun is out and you still get warm running!).
The only time I felt effects from altitude were if I hadn’t stopped in a few miles and if I had been running up hills for a bit. My calves were the only part of me that I felt any oxygen deprivation effect, as they weren’t burning but clearly were to put it more starving for energy than they usually are. I did sip water occasionally and only at the very end of the run did I feel any substantial thirst for water (plus the caveat there is I finished my water bottle at mile 9 and stopped to leave it in my car before finishing the run, so I ran the last 2 miles without water, plus I ran up a lot of hills).
I took a more direct route from Boulder Bay back to my car, but next time I’d probably turn around and go back through the neighborhoods the way I came, which would go at least 12 miles, and if I ran through more of the main lakeside neighborhood I could easily stretch it to 14-16. Plus, though I dabbled in the brutal hills of the mountainside neighborhood, I could also run through some of that as well. There’s all sorts of possibilities.
I enjoyed my prior trip to Flagstaff and would want to go back. But I absolutely enjoyed this Big Bear Lake trip and would totally come back here again. If the price remains right on lodging, I’d like to make several more trips up here to run long before the fall. The neighborhoods are peaceful, the temperature is mild with some humidity (30-50%) but not too much, and the roads and shoulders are easy to run on, plus the hills provide enough challenge without being too much of a killer. This is what I need out of long runs right now.
I’ll enjoy the rest of the afternoon up here, head back to Barstow later, and lodge for the night before playing Sunday by ear. I’ll probably get back to Vegas by Sunday night, in time for another week of solid training.