A Simple Running Log

February 11, 2013

Training for 2/11/13

Filed under: Uncategorized — aschmid3 @ 10:23 pm

This whole vacation post starts out really well, but quickly goes downhill. Clark finished his first half marathon and I ran an unexpected PR in the Surf City Half Marathon on Feb. 3, our third day in California, the same day the Baltimore Ravens won their second Super Bowl. Things were looking pretty good for the rest of our week out there. But then the very next day, I came down with the absolute worst cold I can remember. I gave it to Clark, and we spent a good chunk of the rest of our vacation holed up in hotel rooms, sleeping and trying not to get snot all over each other.

I’ll start with the fun part.

Clark and I stayed up very late the night before we flew to California, partly to force ourselves onto West Coast time in advance and partly because we waited until the last possible minute to start packing. I think it was 2 a.m. when we went to bed. We had to get up two hours later, to park the car at my grandmother’s house outside Salisbury and get a ride to the airport for our 6:52 a.m. flight.

The first flight out of Salisbury was on one of those little “puddle-jumper” prop planes. I’m not a big fan of flying in the first place, and that tiny plane with the propeller right outside my window was making me nervous. Making me even more nervous was Clark, who was having a great time describing how rough flying is in one of those things. Almost on cue, as soon as they fired up the propeller, all the lights in the cabin flickered.

The flight really wasn’t any worse than any other I’ve taken though, and soon we had landed safely in Charlotte, where we got on a “real” plane for the flight to L.A. The second flight also went smoothly, and we landed in L.A. a little after noon local time.

We got our bags and took a shuttle to the rental car place, where we got a 2012 Chevy Malibu. After spending a week in that car, I have one word for it: Turd. It had zero power, which is a big problem when you’re trying to get up to speed on a packed highway filled with BMWs and Porsches. I’m pretty confident my little 2007 Civic hits 60 mph faster than that thing.

We were spending the weekend at my friend Brad’s house in Redondo Beach, outside L.A., along with a bunch of other runners who were also doing Surf City. But before we went there, we had some other business to take care of. Our first stop was Umami Burger in Hermosa Beach. Clark had read the burgers were really good, and they were.

We wanted to get haircuts too. Around here, we usually just go to SuperCuts, but Clark wanted something a little more upscale. Brad had suggested we try Manhattan Beach, just north of Hermosa Beach. After parking the car, we walked into the first salon we saw. I didn’t notice the price list on the counter until after I’d asked the receptionist if they took walk-ins. While she was off finding a stylist who could take us, Clark pointed it out — women’s haircuts were $90 AND UP, and a freaking blow dry was another $55!

A stylist came back and said she could take us, which is when I stammered out something about how late it was and how we had somewhere to be… like anywhere else that doesn’t charge more for a cut and dry than we spend on an entire week’s worth of groceries. Holy crap.

The next salon we tried managed to be even a little more expensive! After walking out to the end of the pier to look at the Pacific, we walked back to the car, where we found a $48 parking ticket waiting for us. Another tradition continues.

We gave up on the pricey salons and found the nearest SuperCuts. No, really. We wound up at SuperCuts after all that. We both got haircuts for a total of $37. By then, it was time to head to Brad’s house.

When we got there, we were greeted by Brad, as well as Maranda, who I met in Philly, and her friend Lindsey, who was also running her first half marathon. I also met for the first time Roger. I didn’t know Roger had a Swiss accent until I met him in person!

After Clark and I got settled into the basement guest room, we all drove over to the home of Anna, another runner friend, who was hosting dinner. She and her family put out an enormous spread for all of us! We were also joined by more local runner friends, Mark and JB, our Loop photographer.

Brad left to pick up Peg, yet another runner, from the airport. While he was gone, the rest of us were getting close to the point of falling asleep right there at the table, so we loaded up in our rental car and went back to Brad’s. Clark and I were fast asleep by the time Brad returned with Peg, and then when Megan, the final runner staying at the house for the weekend, arrived.

We were up Saturday morning in plenty of time for the shakeout run scheduled for 8 a.m. I finally got to meet Peg, who’s ex-Amish and lives in Pennsylvania, and Megan, who is a very talented writer (and runner) and lives in Portland. Peg brought with her a ton of homemade goodies, including fresh bread, cookies and strawberry jam.

Once JB arrived, we were ready for the shakeout run. Here’s the group before we left the house, photo courtesy of Brad’s wife, Nancy:

group before shakeout run

Left to right, Clark, me, Maranda, Brad, Peg, Roger, Megan, Lindsey and JB.

It was a gray morning, but warm compared to the East Coast. Clark wanted to walk to a gym for a strength workout, and the rest of us headed out for a few miles along a wood chip path and the beach.

wood chips shakeout run

Roger volunteered to hold the leash for Brad’s dog, Mickey, who joined us. Here we’re running on a wood chip trail near the house.

Approaching the end of the Redondo Beach pier.

Approaching the end of the Redondo Beach pier.

Running along the beach. (Peg and I managed to completely soak our shoes for the race the next day, haha.)

Running along the beach. (Peg and I managed to completely soak our shoes for the race the next day, haha.)

We got back to the house to find Mark and his wife, Linda, had arrived, and were already hard at work on a pumpkin pancake breakfast, complete with homemade crystallized ginger butter.

Mark and a griddle full of pumpkin pancakes.

Mark and a griddle full of pumpkin pancakes.

Shockingly, I managed to restrain myself instead of devouring the entire lot of them. They were amazing pancakes! I love pumpkin anything, and the pumpkin flavor on those was really spot on — not too heavy, but not so light you had to look for it. The ginger butter was the cherry on top. Along with some of Peg’s homemade toast and jam, it was a perfect post-run breakfast.

We were also joined for breakfast by Alice, another local runner I’d met before, and Lisa, from West Virginia, who I also met at Philly. I also got to meet for the first time Joe and Annie, and Mark’s running buddy, also named Mark. It was a full house!

After breakfast and showers, we all loaded up to go to the expo to get our race packets. Huntington Beach was about an hour drive from Brad’s house. Mark, Clark and I rode with Roger. Riding in a car while Roger is driving is hilarious. He suffers from road rage like so many others, but everything sounds classy in a European accent, even “Asshole!” Clark and I were cracking up by the time we got home.

After picking up our race bibs, timing chips and event shirts, we all cruised the expo. I have never in my life seen so many free samples of gels, chews and energy bars. I ate so many I didn’t need lunch.

While I was waiting outside the expo for the rest of the group, I spotted a weimaraner. Her owner let me pet her. Roxy was 12 and seemed to be suffering from arthritis, but she was very sweet, and she made me miss Pepper.

When the group was reassembled, we took some photos.

Clark and I showed off our beach bods.

Clark and I showed off our beach bods.

group lifeguard truck

Roger flagged down this lifeguard truck for a photo. He even convinced the lifeguard to pose with us (far right.)

group on wall

On a wall along the beach.

When we got back to the house, more food had magically appeared. We had a dinner of pasta salad, tortilla chips with guacamole and Peg’s homemade salsa and a ton of other stuff that has escaped my memory since.

There were beers too. Most of us had one or two at the most, but Clark shirked traditional wisdom to not get loaded the night before your first half marathon, haha. There were just too many different beers to resist, I guess!

Group shot on the staircase at Brad's house after dinner.

Group shot on the staircase at Brad’s house after dinner.

We stayed up pretty late. Megan convinced us to play Body Boggle, this terrible game she’d found online that attempted to combine Boggle with Twister (but Clark and I won!), and then a bunch of us played the original Boggle, during which Megan pretty much whipped us all.

Sunday morning, I felt pretty good when I woke up. Ready to run! Clark was a little hungover, haha. Hey, it’s vacation.

I dressed in black shorts and a Ravens running shirt. I pulled on my Ravens sweatshirt for the drive there, but it definitely was going to be too warm to wear for the race.

Clark, Maranda, Lindsey and I hit the road around 5:45 a.m. for the 7:45 a.m. start. We got to Huntington Beach in plenty of time, so much so I was wondering what we were going to do to kill all that time before the start. Then we got in the line for parking, which was crawling… so much so I was beginning to worry we’d even be there on time for the start. We dropped off Maranda to hold a spot in the line for the shuttle bus to the start. She found a $5 bill as soon as she got out of the car.

We finally got the car parked, and on our way to the shuttle line, we ran into Brad, Megan and Peg. Brad said it wasn’t a long walk to the start, and they were just going to skip the shuttle, so we walked with them.

It was much farther than he thought, I think. We had minutes to spare before the start when we finally arrived! I stuffed Clark’s and my sweatshirts in my backpack and dropped it off at gear check, and then we headed for the corrals.

Clark’s and my bib numbers seeded us in the first corral, but he was no longer gunning for the sub-1:30 he’d put on his registration, so he decided to start farther back. I kissed him good luck and took off for the first corral. I got there about four minutes before the start and squeezed in. Just before the gun, I realized I was quite a bit behind the 1:40 pace group, which meant I was too far back. Oh well, too late to move up now!

The elites went first, and then the first corral was released. It took me less than a minute to cross the start line.

The highway was packed with people. I don’t know how, but even in a wave start like that one, where they place you based on your own finish time prediction, there are still people running very slow or even walking at the beginning of one of those races. It’s always a total cluster trying to get around everyone slower than you while letting everyone faster get by you, and one of the things I hate most about large races.

The first few miles headed straight up the Pacific Coast Highway. The ocean was to the left, but I couldn’t see anything but the pavement directly in front of me, due to all the people.

I think I hit the first mile marker in 7:31, a little slower than I was aiming for, but not bad considering how crowded it was. Somewhere around mile 3, we made a right turn toward a residential area. It was here I caught up to the 1:40 pace group. It took me forever to get around them all, and then as soon as I did, we made another right and headed up the only real hill on the course. I maintained an even effort on the hill, and felt fine when I reached the top. Just past that was mile 4, which I remember I passed in 29:56, a 7:29/mile pace.

Then we started hitting some nice downhills, and I sped up. I was flying by people. It felt great! There’s something to be said for starting too far back in a large race. You really feel like a superstar streaming past all those people.

Mile 5ish.

Mile 5ish. Outta my way!

Some of the other runners were the marathon runners, who had started an hour and 15 minutes earlier. I caught and passed several 5:30 to 4:30 pace groups between mile 5 and where the full marathon course turned off, around mile 12 of the half marathon course.

Before mile 6, we left the residential area and got back on the PCH. It was still crowded as hell, and I wasn’t paying much attention to my watch at the mile markers. I was taking a sip of water at just about every aid station, but that was it — no sports drinks or energy chews, which they were also handing out to runners.

At mile 8, we hit the U-turn on the PCH, and that was when I figured out why just about everyone else in the race was wearing a hat and/or sunglasses. The SUN. It had been at our backs on the way to the U-turn, but now the last five miles were a straight shot back down the PCH, directly into the sun the entire way. What I wouldn’t have given for a stupid hat at that moment!

There’s not much to say about the rest of the race. Other than the sun in my face, I felt great. A lot of the volunteers at the aid stations were yelling “Go Ravens!” as I passed. The pace felt challenging but not too much so. I had no clue where I was in terms of a PR, but I figured since the first few miles had been slower than intended, it wasn’t in the cards for that day.

It wasn’t until I passed the 26-mile marker, and was therefore 0.2 miles from the finish line, that I glanced at my watch and thought damn, I can pull off a PR here today! Then we passed the 13-mile marker, 0.1 miles from the end, and I broke out into a grin. I was going to PR!

They announced my name and my hometown as I crossed, with a Bangle pump of course, and when I stopped my watch I saw it — 1:37:02! A 7:25/mile average pace, exactly what I was aiming for. Not a big PR — only 30 seconds — but for not even knowing I was on pace for one, I was really happy with it, and I considered all those skipped tempo runs in January more than avenged.

Check out my stats:

stats

I finished in the top 1 percent of my age group and of all women, and in the top 3 percent of all finishers! I’m especially proud of my pace though — it got progressively faster over the second half of the race. I don’t think I’ve pulled that off before in a half marathon. Negative splits!

It turns out Clark and I were the only runners in either race from Delaware, so I can say I was the fastest Delaware runner, and Clark can say he was the fastest male Delaware runner. Not bad for your first half!

I walked through the finisher’s chute and saw JB at the end. He had gotten this picture of me posing for the race photographers with my finisher’s medal:

finishers sho

Professional shot.

Professional shot.

The finisher’s area wasn’t too packed at that time, so I easily got back my checked bag (well, not that easily — remind me never to check a black bag again, because everyone else does too!) and petted another weimaraner, and then I went to the beer garden to wait for everyone else.

Much to my relief, there was more beer to choose from than just Michelob Ultra. Kona Brewing Co. had a few there, including a porter and a lager. We were all allowed two free beers with our wristbands, so I took a lager and camped out, looking for anyone else I knew. I finished off the lager and went back for a porter.

As I was standing there, I struck up a conversation with another runner who was also waiting for his friends to come by. His friends showed up before mine did. One of them was allergic to gluten and therefore couldn’t drink her beer, and she had also gone to the University of Delaware (just like Ravens quarterback Joe Flacco) so we hit it off and she gave me one of her free beers.

Finally I saw Mark go by, and he led me to where everyone else was hanging out in a corner of the beer garden. There was a lot of excitement around  there — Brad, Megan and Mark had paced Peg to her first sub-2:00 half marathon with only seconds to spare, Lindsey finished her first half in 2:05 and Roger had a rough time in the marathon, but was enjoying telling us all the story of how he kept running even while puking, haha. And everyone was happy to hear I’d pulled off a bit of a PR.

sub 2

Peg holds up two fingers for sub-2, with Megan, one of the pacers who helped get her there.

post race

JB says this is my good side, haha.

group post race

Roger, me, Mark, Maranda, Lindsey, Brad, Lisa, Peg, Megan and Joe in the beer garden.

PR queens

The PR queens — Lindsey, me and Peg.

So where was Clark in all this?

I left the beer tent to use the bathroom, and spotted Clark in line to get in the tent. He said he’d been down on the beach since finishing the race in 2:18. He’d soaked his feet in the water, and then he sat down a while. It was when he stood up to leave he realized his mistake, haha. His legs no longer wanted to move!

I stood in line with him and for some reason was given a second wristband, which entitled me to yet another couple of free beers. Twist my arm!

Clark and I hung out in the tent a little with Maranda and Lindsey, and then we all started to make our way back to the car. That walk felt even longer after the race! But it was probably a good thing it was so far; I was fine to drive by the time we got back there, haha.

Traffic was a mess on the way out, and by the time we got back to Brad’s house, everyone else was ready to go to Alice’s for the Super Bowl party. They all left, and the four of us showered and headed over.

Once again, there was another huge spread of really good food for us. Megan and Roger were both rooting for the Ravens, but naturally, just about everyone else there was pulling for the 49ers. I was happy to see the Ravens hang on and win the game, but just hanging on like that wasn’t quite as satisfying as all the playoff wins leading up to the Super Bowl had been. Still, Baltimore was the champ!

A karaoke party had broken out while the game was on, but I didn’t drink any more after the post-race beer garden, so I wasn’t in the mood to sing in public. At some point, we all said our good-byes and went back to Brad’s house for one last night.

Monday morning, I felt pretty good when I woke up. I wasn’t at all sore. I did have a bit of a scratchy throat though. Cue the music of doom…

After breakfast, Clark and I said goodbye to everyone and we headed into L.A. for our spa day. Once we got checked in at the spa, Clark and I were taken to the locker rooms, to change into swimsuits and robes. Then we were led into a sauna for our first treatment, a platza.

I’d never heard of a platza, but it was part of the spa sampler package, so we tried it out. The particular sauna they put us in for it was 210 degrees. That’s twice as hot as the rooms where they do hot yoga. The air was so hot, it hurt to breathe it in. I thought I knew what a piece of slow-cooked meat felt like after about 30 seconds.

We laid face-down on towels, and then they sprinkled cold water over us while beating us with what looked like giant feather dusters. Every now and then, they would pause to either wet down the feather duster or sprinkle more water on us.

After maybe five minutes, tops, in this room, we were led out and then dunked in 40-degree water for 10 seconds. Talk about a shock to the system! Then we got in a pool. And that was a platza.

Soon, the masseuse came for Clark, and he left for his 25-minute back massage. I was left to float around the pool or hang out in the saunas for that time. (I didn’t go back in the 210-degree one!)

I got my massage after Clark. The masseuse was a tiny woman with elbows of steel. Boy could she dig into a shoulder blade! Whenever she told me to take a deep breath, it was for my own good, haha. It was almost a relief when that was over.

The last treatment in our sample package was a 25-minute facial. I got mine first. When the woman shined a very bright light directly on my face, I was bracing myself for a lecture on sun damage. To my surprise, she said how beautiful my skin was… and then launched into a sales pitch for about $200 worth of anti-aging treatments I should begin using immediately to keep it that way, of course! I just smiled and nodded while she massaged all that stuff into my skin.

By the time my facial was done, we were starting to cut it close on being able to make it to check-in for the Conan O’Brien show on time. I took a quick shower while Clark got his facial, and then I paid for the services and deflected the second sales pitch for the anti-aging creams while Clark got dressed.

By the time we left the spa, I didn’t feel all that great. In fact, I felt a little pukey. At first I just thought I was really hungry. Even though we were really pressed for time, we stopped at In-N-Out to get burgers to go. We left In-N-Out with about 15 minutes to get to the appropriate parking garage for check-in. I felt like a real L.A. driver, with a bag of take-out burgers and fries in my lap, shoving them in my face, as I cut off four lanes of traffic on a highway to make it to my exit. We got to the parking garage and checked in though, so it worked out.

We wound up sitting in the garage with the rest of the audience members for about an hour, so Clark got to eat too. They finally walked us over to the Warner Bros. lot, where we stood in line for about another 45 minutes. I was feeling worse and worse as time wore on. The pukey feeling had passed after I ate, but I had chills and aches all over, my head was pounding and my throat felt like it was full of razor blades every time I swallowed.

Clark kept asking if I wanted to go, but when were we going to get this chance again? I stuck it out. I really wanted to see Conan.

Eventually we were led to the stage where they tape Conan. Clark and I were among the last ones in, and we sat at the very top of the audience. They had a comedian come out and warm up the crowd first, and then they brought out the Basic Cable Band, who performed a couple songs for us before the taping. Andy Richter came out and took his spot, and then finally, they launched into the show taping, and out came Conan!

He had on so much makeup he looked like a cadaver in real life, but he looked normal on the monitors. Funny how that works.

The whole taping took less than an hour, which surprised me. Conan ran through his monologue in a single take. I even got to “woo!” when he mentioned the Ravens winning the Super Bowl the day before. Breaks were about the length they actually are on TV, and the crew was more than adept at switching up the set as needed in between. The guests were William H. Macy and Harland Williams, and they both went through their segments in single takes, as did the musical guests, Vintage Trouble. I think that was the most surprising thing — that everything was done straight through. There were no multiple takes of anything, and they didn’t tape a lot of extra material that would get cut out later either.

As soon as the final wrap was called, Conan came up into the audience and sang his “End of the Show” song, which you don’t see on TV. That guy can really belt one out! I had no idea he could sing like that. Then he asked us to watch the long version of a bit he was going to show on the next day’s episode, of himself reviewing the next Halo video game. I hate video games, Halo in particular for special reasons, but Conan made it funny. I still felt like crud, but I was really glad I’d stayed.

We made the long trek back to the parking garage, and then headed for our hotel. After we’d checked in, it was about time for dinner, but I had crashed for the night on the bed. Clark went to a CVS and got me a bottle of Nyquil and a pint of Ben & Jerry’s, and that’s what I had for dinner. Clark went to a pub, where some guy paid for his dinner after he found out Clark was from Delaware, because the guy claimed to have won $20 million in a Super Bowl bet the day before. (That’s not a typo, but we’re pretty sure that’s an exaggeration!)

By the time Clark got back, I was out like a light. He turned on TBS, but fell asleep before Conan came on. I woke up again right as it started, and got to hear my weak little “woo!” when he mentioned the Ravens, haha.

Tuesday morning, I woke up feeling like crap. Still. It’s been a long time since I’ve had even so much as a runny nose, and I’d forgotten what it felt like to be sick. It sucks!

Since we had standby tickets to The Big Bang Theory, we planned to sign in as soon as possible at check-in, which was in the same parking garage as check-in for Conan. After stopping by the spa, where I’d left my toiletries bag the day before, we got to the garage around 1 p.m. The parking attendant told us we were too early (the taping started at 6:30 p.m.) so we got lunch at a sushi place, and then headed back. We parked near the check-in.

There was a metal detector and security guards present for the Conan check-in, but we didn’t see any of that yet for The Big Bang Theory, so we thought we were still too early. We sat in the car for a long time, checking every now and then to see if the security guards were there yet and if it was time to check in. (By this time, Clark was starting to feel poopy too, and had started a regimen of Zicam and Emergen-C to try to head it off.)

About an hour before show time, we finally walked through the gate to see what was going on. Turned out we could have checked in hours ago. They just didn’t have security guards or a metal detector this time for some reason.

We got a number in line and sat and waited with the rest of the standby hopefuls. It was a short wait; we didn’t get in. Boo!

We drove back to the hotel, where, for the second night in a row, I stayed in and had Ben & Jerry’s and Nyquil for dinner. Clark brought me back some salmon hash browns from the restaurant he went to for dinner. I felt bad that he kept having to go out to dinner on his own on vacation, but man did I feel like shit.

Wednesday morning was probably the lowest point of the illness for me. I got really dizzy after I took some Mucinex. Check-out was at noon and I wasn’t sure I’d even be able to walk out under my own power. We did get out on time though, and Clark drove us down to Escondido, where we were spending one night.

As soon as we checked into that hotel, we both went to bed and took a three-hour nap. Around 5 p.m., still feeling like I hadn’t slept in days, I said we better get showered and get moving if we were going to make it to our reservation that night.

Wednesday night was supposed to be a big night. Clark is a big fan of Stone Brewery, in Escondido, just north of San Diego. My gift to him for his 30th birthday was a tour of the brewery, after which we got beer samples in take-home souvenir mini pint glasses, and then dinner in the bistro, the reservations for which I’d made weeks ago. I even called a cab so we could both get hammered.

We got to the brewery in time for the 6 p.m. tour. I tried to concentrate on what the tour guide was saying, but it was tough since all I really wanted to do was lie down in a corner and sleep some more. We stuck it out and got our samples, and then we were seated for our dinner.

We ordered beer and all kinds of food. This was going to be a special dinner, dammit! The first round of beers came out — both only half-pint pours — and neither one of us could really drink ours. Then the food started coming out. By the time the entrees got there, we had both surpassed what little was left of our appetites. Clark went to use the bathroom. When the waitress came by, I was sitting at the table alone, staring at my barely-touched dinner and looking pitiful. The waitress asked if everything was OK. I really wanted to cry as I explained it was all delicious but we’d both been sick the last couple of days and weren’t really up for dinner. I left out the part about it being his 30th birthday and the fact we’d come all the way from Delaware.

She brought out boxes for the food and the check. I called the cab again for another $10 ride back to the hotel, even though neither of us had so much as a buzz. I know it’s not my fault how that night turned out, but I still feel awful about it. The next time we go to California, we have to try Stone Brewery again. That was just sad.

Thursday, I finally started to feel a little better. After breakfast, I was going to try a short run on the hotel treadmill (remember running?) but the damn thing was broken. We checked out and drove into San Diego.

Our room wasn’t ready yet when we got there, so we got lunch — more Ben & Jerry’s, haha. Ice cream was the only thing that didn’t light my throat on fire to swallow.

We checked into the hotel and, once again, went straight to bed for a nap. The hotel had a free happy hour from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., so we got up and showered in time for that.

After happy hour, we went out to dinner together, for real this time. We went to a dark little place called The Lion’s Share and had a plate of exotic sausages and shared some grilled kangaroo, which tastes just like regular beef steak. It felt good to finally finish a meal for the first time since Monday!

Friday, after breakfast, I tried out the treadmill, planning to get in a few miles. I made it less than a mile and a half before the burning in my lungs was too much to take. I did some strength training instead, and then tried to run a little more. I made it less than a half-mile that time. I ran a grand total of 1.8 miles the entire vacation after the race.

We spent the rest of Friday making up for lost drinking time. There were a lot of local craft brews to try in San Diego.

Saturday, we checked out of the hotel for the last time, but our flight wasn’t until 10:45 p.m. out of L.A., so we had a lot of time to kill. We went to La Jolla, to watch gliders out over the ocean. We walked down a steep path to Black’s Beach, which is clothing optional. It was a chilly day though, so we didn’t expect to see any nudes.

And we didn’t, until we were on our way back to the path to climb back up the cliff. There was a guy standing out in the ocean, right at the edge of the water. Clark noticed it first, but he wasn’t sure if he was seeing what he thought he saw, because the sun was at the guy’s back and he was facing us. But when we walked past him and turned to look again, the sun was shining right on his bare ass — yes, this dude was wearing a sweatshirt but no pants, haha.

I have no problem with nudity. You want to feel the ocean breeze everywhere? Go right ahead. But if it’s cold enough to need a sweatshirt, it’s cold enough to need pants too, buddy. At this point, you’re not a nudist, you’re an exhibitionist, and you’ve got your junk hanging out just for the sake of knowing other people are looking at it.

We later found out there’s a group of dedicated nudists who call themselves the Black’s Beach Bares, and it’s common for a guy or two to hang out naked right there at the bottom of that path. They’re called “greeters,” haha.

We had lunch at the cafe at the gliderport, and then we drove to Oceanside, where we saw the house where a scene from “Top Gun” was filmed. The house is dilapidated, and all the other houses on the block have been razed for a new development, but when Clark sent a picture of the house to our friend Mike, who’s a huge fan of “Top Gun,” with no explanation, Mike knew exactly what it was!

We continued north toward L.A. after that. Our last stop was in Santa Monica. We got some Pinkberry frozen yogurt at the promenade, bought a souvenir surfboard-shaped clock for Clark’s parents’ beach house on the pier and finally saw a sunset over the Pacific.

We dropped off the rental car before the 8 p.m. deadline and took the shuttle to the airport. We got some dinner there and waited for our flight.

Clark and I were placed in the emergency exit row and were among the first passengers to board the plane, which was sold out. As we were sitting there watching the rest of the passengers file past, we saw a woman board the plane. We couldn’t see her kid, but we sure could hear it.

It wasn’t so much a temper tantrum as it was something out of “The Exorcism.” I have never seen a kid scream and writhe like that. He looked like he was about 6. His mom had to push him down the aisle the whole way back to their seats, since he was flat-out refusing to walk. When they got to the emergency exit row, the kid scooted over out of the aisle and tried to curl up behind the last row of seats. His mom grabbed him by the arm and kind of heaved him toward the next section of the aisle. His head cracked an armrest as he went by, but it didn’t even faze him.

We heard him scream all the way back to his seat. He went on like that for at least the next 30 minutes, until he finally wore himself out. I have never been so happy with my decision to not have kids!

I tried to sleep on the flight, with limited success. We landed in Charlotte around 5:45 a.m., which gave us four hours to kill before our final flight back to Salisbury. We tried to sleep a little more in the terminal, again with limited success. Finally, 9:45 a.m. rolled around and our little puddle-jumper took off for home.

That flight also went fine, and our luggage made it home too. Grandmom met us at the airport and took us back to her house to get my car. We went to Clark’s parents’ house to get Pepper. Boy did I miss that dog! Of course, when I just wanted to hug him, he had a bone in his mouth and wanted to play, so he kept running away from me, hoping I would chase him, haha.

We got home, finally, around 1 p.m. I unpacked and took a shower. It felt so good to be home!

I made myself go to bed around 10:30 p.m. It took a while to get to sleep, but I felt pretty normal by the time Pepper woke me up at 6:30 a.m. for his breakfast.

I was really hoping today was the day to finally run again, but damn if it wasn’t pouring its ass off and blowing wind this morning. I convinced myself I still had a slight tickle in my throat and I probably shouldn’t go out there today. Lame. It has now been more than a week since I ran!

Tomorrow is it though! I have to get this train back on track. I’m going to write off last week as an extreme cutback week, haha. I’ll do both remaining 20-milers this coming weekend and next, and then it’s already taper time.

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