Tag Archives: road trips

Checking In 9/19/2021 from Big Bear Lake

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Hello from Big Bear Lake. I’ll be driving back to Vegas in a bit and I have some errands to get done, though I feel good enough to cross train in the afternoon once I return.

Incidentally, this is the first trip I’ve taken to Big Bear where I was actually able to stay overnight in Big Bear. Previously I stayed in Barstow and drove up/down each day (and recall that on my last trip I had booked lodging in Big Bear only for the place to screw up the reservation leading me to go back to Barstow anyway). With the summer season ended, lodging was easier to come by this time and I had a nice couple nights at a rustic hotel that’s usually packed and charging $150+ a night.

This also means I got to sleep at altitude (Barstow’s closer to sea level than Vegas at about 2100′) during this Big Bear trip, and my Garmin oximeter showed a difference. Like with Flagstaff, I averaged 88% oxygen overnight each night I’ve been here, even though I slept well and (while slow to get up) felt fairly good in the morning each time.

My legs are decidedly sore this morning. While they can handle an elliptical session this afternoon (I certainly need the low-impact circulation), they can certainly use Monday’s rest day.

Even having spent all summer in the desert, the 40’F outdoor temperature each morning also felt rather good, and I wasn’t wearing long sleeves at all (plus obviously I had on shorts for Saturday’s long run). I actually miss the visceral cold of Chicago and Seattle winters. But that could just be an entire summer of 110 degree days talking.

After Monday, I’ll see what I can do about getting back to morning runs. Logistics make these more complicated than they were in the past, but I usually have enough time that they can be do-able now that Vegas morning temperatures have dropped back to the 70’s and below. We’re still a way from post-work runs being do-able again, but easy intervals in the morning would be a big step forward.

In either case, knowing the hamstring issue emerged two days after a long run, I’m going to take it easy for at least the couple days after this one, and see from there.

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Checking In 9/18/2021 from Big Bear Lake

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Boulder Bay Park in Big Bear Lake

Hello from Big Bear Lake.

This morning I headed out and after over nearly four hours of start-stop running, broken up with a mile 2 pit stop for pastries and espresso, a break in Boulder Bay at 7.5 miles, and a partially bonk-induced steak and egg brunch at Country Kitchen at 10 miles, I staggered back into base at 13.3 miles.

No left anything hurt the entire time! I did have a fatigue-like pain in the right hamstring in the tail end of the run, but I took it slow and stopped for a lot of breaks… so it never got dangerous or hung around long. As I write this, I feel generally sore/tired by mostly good overall. Nothing is bothering me. My left hamstring and groin were never at any point an issue the entire time.

I stayed under shade for most of the workout, and that’s one advantage Big Bear has over Flagstaff: The trees here are taller and take up more of the real estate, so the roads are generally more shaded across the board. Flagstaff is prone to longer stretches of open sun. It also was rather cool in the morning, actually near 40’F, only getting up towards the 70’s once I finished up.

I’ll see how I feel about some extra running tomorrow before I head out of Big Bear, and/or some more cross training after I get back into Vegas. I also have errands I need to run at some point once I’m back in Vegas, so time may be limited. But Monday is a scheduled rest day, and I’ll see how I feel Tuesday in deciding what to do that day and the rest of the week. I know I’ll be running some and cross training some, but what combination and volume remains to be seen. I have a lot penciled in, knowing some of it may likely come off.

This is a good time of year to come into Big Bear, because the summer season ends with the Labor Day holiday, yet it hasn’t gotten cold enough yet for icy temperatures or snow to make coming here unworkable. I may be able to squeeze in another trip here before Indy, but we’ll see. It’s not yet cooled off enough in Vegas that these weekend trips for long runs aren’t necessary anymore.

I don’t plan to run long next weekend, but might do a moderately long workout Sunday. These long workouts will be spaced out a bit, to give the adaptions a chance to show up workout over workout without overdoing it and risking further trouble.

That’s it for the moment. Going to relax before a busy Sunday.

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Checking In 8/29/2021 from Flagstaff

One more post from Flagstaff before I once again head back to the Vegas oven.

I’d like to say I had a relaxing afternoon after yesterday’s lengthy forest run, but in reality I went on a fruitless drive in some unusually heavy Flagstaff traffic for lunch, then went to their Planet Fitness for the first time to do some strength training and a bit of spin bike (which both felt good), then rested just a bit before taking a long walk Downtown to eat at a pizza place and then walk some of it off with the sunset before heading back and turning in early.

Garmin informs me that yesterday was my first 30,000+ step day since getting my first Garmin two years ago. It’s a testament to how much less active I’ve been since leaving Chicago, as I had plenty of 30,000 step days with my Fitbit in Chicago.

I also quickly dropped 2 pounds this weekend, in large part due to the Saturday workout(s) but I also didn’t eat particularly much yesterday for the volume of what I did. I felt fine and aside from a breakfast burrito and that pizza I didn’t feel like eating, so I didn’t. I’ve drank a lot of water in the interim.

While I’m wary of DOMS kicking in Monday, I don’t feel too bad this morning except for the typical soreness in my hamstring that’s been hanging around for several days. I still woke up far too early this morning, as I’ve done several times this week, and likely due to hunger after last night’s dinner digested and absorbed too quickly. But if it’s any consolation, this may prepare me for waking up early next weekend two hours ahead in Central Daylight Time for the half marathon.

I’m planning not to run at all today and tomorrow, and don’t plan to train too hard either of these days. Today in particular I obviously have some driving to do so I won’t be walking much at all. I may head to the gym today once I’m back in town for a bit of elliptical work. I might strength train again if I’m up to it.

Tomorrow was always intended as a full day off from training. If Tuesday’s got to be another shutdown day, that’s fine. Saturday was meant to be the final stop for training until the half next weekend. Now it’s about healing up and loading up for that event. Any training from now to then is about staying sharp, generating hormone production, and keeping fat oxidation consistently activated.


Flagstaff as a weekend long training stop works well for me for training sessions in the 90 minute to 2 hour range. The surrounding trails, paths, and roadways appear to best accommodate 6-12 mile workouts. I can see why the elites go out of town for their long(er) workouts, though I’m not ready to go out to rural roads for 20 milers, nor is this area the best place for my longest workouts. The roads and trails can give you enough real estate for medium/long runs, and the outskirts are just a bit too rocky and mountainous unless the extra challenge of the terrain is needed for some sort of secondary development. In my case this time it ended up being helpful since I was not in a position to go much farther than I ended up running.

Though it’s a tougher place for lodging, Big Bear Lake works much better for my longer workouts. The 11 miler I last ran there fit real well in its hilly lakeside neighborhoods, and there was still a lot of other useful real estate I could have ran through if the run were longer. I can easily fit a 16 miler through Boulder Bay and the heart of Big Bear before I even venture into the Moonridge area, and if I did it could easily give me 20 miles if I wanted. It’s also a shorter trip and easier to get to, even if lodging’s a problem and I have to stay in nearby Barstow.

Until it cools off in Vegas, these situations will be my best options for long runs on this training cycle. I have suitable routes in Vegas but until mornings get back to 70 degrees and below that’s not going to work for now. Either way, any additional training on the roads in Vegas and beyond will have to wait until after Labor Day weekend, and depending on how the half goes I may need to take more time after that before I’m recovered and ready to stretch out further.

Back home, injury problems aside, the heat aside, my biggest hurdle to running in Vegas has been two things:

One: Both my injury issues in the last couple years have one correlative factor: I was running on the treadmill with some frequency. Even though this last issue emerged while outdoors, I had recently done my longest treadmill run to date the weekend before. I’m starting to think that I need to minimize or avoid treadmill workouts.

I have used it in the past without issues, but I had used it for shorter durations, in cycles here and there rather than throughout training, and for specific non-long-run reasons, like ingraining longer race tempo. I can consider this whole hamstring saga a lesson (re)learned, and stop using the treadmill.

My growth on the elliptical has shown me that I can get quality medium/long easy aerobic sessions through that without having to run, and that I should save outdoor running for quick recovery sessions, focused tempo/speedwork sessions, and of course long runs. Basically, if I operated on a modified FIRST sort of plan, doing all other aerobic training on the elliptical between quality and long run sessions, that would suit me best at this point.

As for my work break runs, provided they run and feel like quick-burst recovery sessions, they’re fine. Lately, they have been more of a challenge, and I’m better off walking when they feel like that. Instead of doing them compulsively, I’ve been doing more instances of one break run in the morning, maybe an afternoon run or a lunch break session if I’m feeling good, but otherwise just walking on breaks instead. The circulation flows, the calories get burned, and I don’t overstress myself.

In fact, because my stress and heart rate variability has stayed low when I walk in the mornings instead of run, when I eat light or not at all in the morning… perhaps I should just walk off all these work breaks for now, at least until it finally cools down for autumn/fall. I’m getting home with my body battery long since completely tapped everyday, and perhaps that’s a factor in my issues lately. Now that I’m using the elliptical effectively, mileage is no longer as big a deal as it was beforehand. I’m not one to label running as junk mileage, but if the work break runs are not serving me the way they need to, then they’re junk mileage and I need to walk instead.

Two: Aside from the Vegas heat, smoke from California wildfires combined with typical smog has made the Vegas air quality very bad. I should not be running in that for more than a few minutes, and it’s deterred me from any forays back into morning running (the heat is still too high to even consider post-work runs). Maybe given my hamstring issues that’s been a blessing in disguise, but the bad air has stuck around a while and could be some time before the air’s consistently suitable for any outdoor running.

Flagstaff and Big Bear have been nice, among other reasons, in that the air quality’s been much better overall (I’ve consistently dodged their wildfire smoke issues; Big Bear in particular had downwind fire smoke this weekend). Yes, the air’s thinner in high altitude, but for the most part that hasn’t been a problem for me (do I have handed down Denisovan genes? I don’t know, but altitude mostly hasn’t been a problem for me on runs unless I’m climbing a steep grade). It’s allowed me to run without the air quality problems in Vegas.

I’m no fool and realize this is going to remain a problem in future years. I should be able to do some long training in Vegas in the final few weeks before Indy, but going forward training for summer marathons in Vegas will remain a potentially unworkable problem.

That said, I have plans for 2022 that may render that moot. I don’t plan to leave Vegas, but I have other training goals and I may not run a marathon in 2022. The current Coronavirus situation certainly will continue making that hard in at least early 2022, but it won’t matter either way. I’ll have more on this as I finish up with Indy, recover, and move ahead from there.

In any case, I have errands to run and a lot of driving to do, so that’s enough for now. More on all of this to come.

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Checking In From Big Bear Lake, CA 7/17/2021

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.

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