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Posts Tagged ‘homeless’

Here’s what I want to know: is it considered good luck or bad luck to have bird poop land on your arm during your 20-mile run? I tried really hard to convince myself I should take it as a sign of good luck and not a bad omen. Either way, I ran a steady 20 miles at a 10:32 pace. The training plan called for a 9:05 pace. Harrumph. Burnout? Too ambitious a plan? Injury slowing me down? A little of all three I think although I’m not inclined to dwell on it too much. Twenty miles is twenty miles and 10:32 is a respectable pace in my book. This run marked my third 20-miler in this marathon training cycle and the end of week 9 out of 16. Come to think of it, though, the first two twenty-milers were run at 9:34 pace and 9:20 pace (and my first full marathon was run at a 9:15 pace) so it does rather seem that things have taken a turn for the worse rather than better as my training continues. I will take it easy for my next two runs and see if that’s the break my body needs.

I ran the Coyote Creek Trail which starts at Foster Street in La Mirada, however I hooked up with the trail at Cerritos County Regional Park near the Skatepark (where the parking is free and there are plenty of people — and police cars for that matter). Coyote Creek is not nearly as busy as the Santa Ana River Trail and parts of it run through some sketchy industrial areas that do not feel quite as safe to me in the early morning. For bikers out there, note that the north fork of Coyote Creek Bike Path is nicely paved and fun to ride. By the time you cross the bridge over to the other side though, the pavement deteriorates and you need to be prepared for a flat tire just in case. Mike got a flat there once and I saw another rider walking his bike back to his car. If you can survive the trail conditions though it’s quite fun to ride Coyote Creek until it hooks up with the San Gabriel River Trail which goes all the way down to Seal Beach (and if you’re me and Mike, to Thai food at Thai on Main).

At any rate the trail seemed quite safe to me in the middle of a Saturday morning. That might be due to the recent cleanup effort along the trail. You might have heard about the legal battles of the city of Los Angeles against civil rights lawyers defending the rights of the homeless. There have been five lawsuits filed against the city of Los Angeles over the last 20 years regarding the seizure of personal property “abandoned” by the homeless on city streets and sidewalks (presumably “abandoned” while the homeless went to a local shelter for a shower or a meal). In the latest round of legal battles, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals issued an injunction against the seizure of personal property, ruling that “The Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments protect homeless persons from government seizure and summary destruction of their unabandoned, but momentarily unattended, personal property.” The city has filed a petition to ask the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction. (For more on the cases, see “LA Really Wants to Take Stuff from Homeless People” and “Lawsuit Fights Seizures of LA Homeless’ Property.”)

So I felt a little bit of mixed feelings when I came upon this sign along the Coyote Creek Trail (I’m not sure in what city, but definitely in Los Angeles County):

Homeless property seizure sign

On the one hand I appreciate the efforts to keep the trail clean and safe. On the other hand, I sympathize with the homeless whose needs are not being met and who choose to leave their belongings under bridges along the trail. Yes the sign says that they can recover their property at the LA County Department of Public Works building, but it begs the question, how will the homeless afford bus fare or arrange other transportation to South Gate? And once there, how will they transport their belongings? And for that matter, where will they go from there?

I don’t know. It was a lot to think about on a long run. And then toward the end of that run, as it always seems to happen for me when I’m struggling and pushing myself to the limit with just a few miles to go, a kind soul smiled at me and encouraged me on my way. Today’s kind soul? A homeless man seated on the concrete riverbank next to the trail. He wished me a cheery good morning and gave me the warmest smile.

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Last we spoke I was planning to head to Zuma Beach in Malibu in the morning to preview the swim course for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon. That remained the plan this morning, right up to the moment my seven-year-old said, “I don’t feel so good.” Sure enough, the thermometer revealed a temperature of 100.7 degrees Fahrenheit. No beach day for us. I could have gone by myself, but I was following what I consider the first rule of open water swimming: Don’t swim in open water alone. If it were a protected, waveless cove with a lifeguard or a calm, shallow lake where my feet could touch the ground at all times, I might be willing to break that rule. Not in the open Pacific Ocean, without buoys, and with unknown lifeguard coverage. The whole point of going out there was to test the waters with waves and wind, and I wasn’t willing to risk swimming in those conditions alone, in spite of the fact that I am a strong swimmer who has never had a problem. That preview can wait a few more weeks, although the triathlon website helpfully reminds me that there are only 33 days until the event!

So, a monkey wrench got thrown into my workout plans. That brings me to what I consider an athlete’s most important quality. It’s not talent, speed, strength, or agility — it’s dedication. How dedicated was I to getting in a workout today? Could I bounce back and switch mental gears for a new plan? I had a choice to make. I could (1) scratch today’s workout altogether, (2) swim at the Y (an option until a friend helpfully texted the warning that the pool was closed “til further notice”), (3) pay a few dollars to swim at another outdoor pool facility, or (4) brave the heat wave and go for my regular Sunday long bike ride. It seems Southern California has a fever too:

Car external thermometer readout

My car’s external thermometer readout at the bike trailhead parking lot.

I hit the bike trail for an easy 10.3 miles with a few speed intervals thrown in. The 100-degree heat posed no problem as long as I stopped at the drinking fountains for a water bottle refill. The only issue was that the first water station was surrounded by about 30 homeless people. I was less worried about my safety or my water needs and more worried about the people who had to bear the dry, relentless heat we have been experiencing here. Thank goodness on the return route I saw that the reason so many people were gathered in that area was that the food truck arrived to serve an afternoon meal. I looked to see if I could spot a name on the truck so I could donate to that organization. Sadly I couldn’t see it and I wasn’t willing to stop because I already had a homeless guy joking with me that he wanted to hitch a ride on my aero bars! I smiled and rode on.

I love the Santa Ana River Trail and I have never felt unsafe there. Many homeless people live under the bridge underpasses but I have never had an issue with them. I won’t run west toward the beach by myself in the early morning, but I’d ride my bike no problem, and I’d run later in the day without worrying. The route east toward the wealthier suburbs are fine at any time. The trail is well enough used that it’s not a cause for concern. I’m cautious and smart and I listen to my female, internal warning system. (Don’t worry Mom and Dad! I know you’re reading this!) Bad things can happen anywhere no matter how smart and cautious you are, and I think of Sherri Arnold often, but more often than not I think of my getting out there as a small honor to her.

At any rate, today’s bike ride proved fun and uneventful. I approached Angel Stadium and the Honda Center in Anaheim:

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and Honda Center

Santa Ana River Trail view of Anaheim Stadium and the Honda Center

and eventually stood right under this:

The A at Angel Stadium

The A at Angel Stadium as viewed from the Santa Ana River Trail

Heavenly.

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