I traveled for business this week to Los Angeles and made the very wise choice to stay in Santa Monica versus the city my client is located, which is in an industrial area just east of "East LA". Not my fav part of town, so I like to stick with just driving there and promptly leaving afterward.
I had hoped to rendevous with my good friend and collegue Laura Locke from my San Francisco office but we couldn't coordinate our schedules this time. Of course I miss her immensely - aside of being my friend, she is an extremely important mentor to me in my business. She has topped the sales for our employee benefits division for the past 2 years - virtually unheard of from a woman, at least in my company.
So without Laura, I couldn't stay in the beloved Loews Hotel (a client of Laura's). The price point is significantly higher than my companies threshold and I couldn't use her discount without her. So I did the next best thing I could think of - I searched for hotels all around it so I could be in the same area. Wow, was I in for a shock! There is a reason SoCal rents hotels for $600 a night - besides the weather Santa Monica (known as Muscle Beach) has more exercise minded individuals per square mile than any other city along the shores of the west coast.
Remembering a funny conversation Laura and I had on our last visit, I booked a room at the Hotel California. It was a quaint little hotel nestled right next door to Loews Hotel, so I thought I was in the clear safety wise. I'm pretty sure had Davis been with me, it would have been immediately nixed. Besides the fact I had to park my rental car down at the beach at a $6 lot that closed at dusk due to the construction on the parking lot at the hotel, it turns out that it really was a MOTEL, with outside doors and all. The heater in my room turned out to be a stand alone radiator type heater on 4 rolling wheels, except one of my wheels was missing so it tottered back and forth when I turned it on. Pretty sure I was in for burning the joint down. To bad I didn't bring any candles, just would have made it that much more fun.
As I unpacked my bag, I immediately started dreaming of my run on the beach. The weather was fantastic - 55 in the morning and 77 in the afternoon. I opted for fish tacos and an ice cold beer on the pier instead of an afternoon run, selecting the morning for my assault. I did some shopping on Third Street Promenade, seeing some of the most interesting people I have ever seen. A man playing steel drum who I swear sounded just like Bob Marley, with a woman down just a bit from him singing as beautifully as Aretha Franklin. As I thanked the Haire Krishna for his pamphlet, I took note of how thankful I am to live in such a diverse and free country. Where else can you see such a melding pot of cultures, virtually accepted - okay, well, a bit. I grabbed an evening movie (Brothers - yikes) and then headed back to the hotel/motel. By the way, if you were wondering.. yes, the Eagles actually DID write the Hotel California song IN the actual Hotel California in Santa Monica. Just a little bit of trivia.
Crashed by 9 (11 our time), I awoke at 4:00 am promptly, as usual when traveling on the west coast. I laid in my bed trying to convince myself to get back to sleep, but my running shoes were taunting me. I was like a little kid on Christmas - couldn't WAIT to lace up. Finally falling asleep, my alarm woke me at 6 and I jumped from the bed. I'm not sure, but I think it only took around 5 minutes to dress and get out of the room and down to the beach.
I opted for a sidewalk run rather than the sand to start. The interior sidewalk (there are 2, actually) closest to the beach was perfect. The sky was dark blue, stars were out and the pier was lit with Christmas lights. I pushed my i-pod buds in my ears and started to run, easy. The air smelled different than home. It was certainly much warmer than this time of year at home. Even the way my shoes hit the ground felt different. As I picked up speed I realized that what I love most about running is my ability to THINK. Uninterrupted. Unintentionally, really. It's total me time. No wonder it suits me, being the baby of my family and all. The warm air was nothing compared to the feeling of the sun once it started to hit my face. The sun rose quickly over the water in beautiful hues of pink and purple and I thought to myself I must be crazy for living in the midwest. Sure we have beauty, but not like this scene. I wish Davis could be here with me to see this at this very moment. I love time alone, but when something strikes me I always want to share it. I took pics instead and stuck them on facebook. Thank god for technology - but it doesn't do any justice for the real thing.
My run lasted about an hour, of which I ran the last 1/2 in the sand. I didn't actually enjoy that part as much as I had hoped and imagined in my mind - it was tricky to make sure my feet were steady with each stride. I was afraid of turning an ankle 3 weeks before my next race.
I have learned to love to run for so much more than just the run itself. It's turned into a little gift to myself - a piece of quiet that helps me sort my crazy, wonderful life. I can't wait for the next run through the neighborhood in 20 degree weather. I'm sure it will be exactly the same as this experience.