Carmel by the Sea: A New Year’s resolution reached, trails discovered, great beer tasted and Kurt Russell’s best role rediscovered

One nice thing about having children under the age of 5 in your home is that the idea of staying up late for New Year’s borders on the ridiculous. Why stay up until midnight when you can watch the ball drop in Time’s Square at 9pm (one benefit of being on the West Coast), and be asleep by 9:30pm? Besides you never know when the infant will wake up between the hours of 12-3am anyway. Needless to say, on New Year’s Day I went out again to run the Rio Resolution 10km Run in Carmel. Unlike 2018, I was the only one I knew running it. Hopefully this meant no one would come away with delusions of running ultras either. What it meant for me was that I could gauge my fitness. My first New Year’s goal: 10km in less than 50min. And so on the 1st morning of the New Year, I chased my goal through the streets and trails of Carmel by the Sea.

Using my new Christmas present, Coros Pace multisport watch, I set up notifications to keep me on pace to meet my 50min goal. The conditions started off downright cold for the Central Coast even in January: temps in the low 30s, but sunny. I wore a hat & gloves along with shorts and a vest to stay warm. The route started at Carmel Crossroads and wound its way across Route 1 into the heart of Carmel, breaking into Mission Trail park, and ascending up the trails. It was hear that I first discovered something I’d ignored the previous year: Carmel has some pretty intense trails, except in this race, you found yourself mostly running up them. I made note and continued. So far, so good on pace—my watch kept me and my time in check. From the Mission Trail Park the route continued to wind up and back the pretty streets of the town, eventually dropping us along the ocean, and around the southern tip of Carmel near Carmel River State Beach. Even focused on my pace it was hard not to enjoy the exquisite scenery and views of coast and homes along the way. Back into town for one more out and back, the race closed at the Carmel Mission. A quarter mile before the finished I realized I would meet my goal; I kicked it in with all I had and crossed the line. My time: 49:18. Game on!

My race at Rio Resolution was a great first step, but success lay in challenges from my past. In 2015 when I left the active Army to become a stay at home dad, I tried and miserably failed in this area. It was brutal. I had delusions grandeur: of authoring papers, getting a Ph.d., and training 5 hours a day on my road to triathlon glory. Yeah right. By day 2 I was shell shocked. Parenting is tough. Babies have their own schedule. There’s no room for procrastination. Multitasking was a must: bottle feeding while on a teleconference, or swaddling while answering emails. More importantly I learned to plan, plan, plan. Don’t second guess workouts, just get out there and do it with the time you have! The less thinking, the better. I’d applied this model in the six weeks since the birth of #2, and it paid off.

In the weeks that followed, my mind turned back to Carmel as I traveled around the country for work. Mission Trail Park looked to have more trails, just how far could I go? And what if I threw in the coastal run? Could I build a sufficient route through Carmel? At the same time Alvarado Brewing Company spinoff effort, Yeast of Eden, a brew pub focused almost entirely on wild yeast & lactic acid focused beer opened in February. Turning again to Jeff Middlebrook’s Monterey: Trail Runner’s Guide, I began mapping my route for what I hoped to be a pretty epic run through town. Finally in early March, with weather conditions bordering on perfect, I headed out on a Friday afternoon for my Carmel by the Sea trail run.

Parking at Carmel River State Beach, I hit the asphalt of the Scenic road around the southern tip of Carmel by the Sea, turning north, and running alongside Carmel Beach. The views didn’t disappoint. At Ocean Avenue, I turned right and ploughed up the hill, before turning a slight right on Mountain View Avenue to find my way to Mission Trail Park. Then the fun kicked in. Taking a page out of Middlebrook’s Eastside Switchback Route (p.89), I hopped over a running creek and followed the trails as they rolled through the park.

For nearly two miles I discovered a wilder side of Carmel by the Sea normally unseen complete with running streams, fields of wild flowers, and epic views of Palo Corona to the east. It was over too quick and I jumped back on roads to complete my loop to Carmel River State Park. What a great route! I walked out onto the beach and glimpsed across the Carmel River’s mouth to Carmel Meadows Trails just opposite. How great would it be to cross the river and continue on? Maybe one day, but not today. Besides beers with a buddy called me at Yeast of Eden.

When thinking of Carmel by the Sea, many might envision a playground for the rich and famous. And while that perception holds a lot of water, Carmel still holds a cozy and warm charm—even if Dirty Harry was once mayor. If I had any suspicions about Yeast of Eden’s vibe, they dissolved walking in. On two large flat screens behind the bar, Kurt Russell’s greatest cinematic role, that of Jack Burton in Big Trouble in Little China, played. The bartender, who looked like a thinner version of T.J. Miller (think Deadpool or Silicon Valley), welcomed my buddy and I and gave us the beer menu.

Before long we had beers in hand and began a lengthy dialogue with other patrons at the bar on the merits of Big Trouble and if Kurt Russell really pulled off the mullet in 1986.

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It doesn’t get much better than Big Trouble in Little China

Never heard of it? You should really check it out—total 80s classic. Meanwhile I sampled more beers, all worthy of note:

Sanity & Wits: their witbier serving up flavors of citrus and hints of spice. It went down way too easy and was light on the pallet.

20190308_143528Saison Apotheca: their so-called wild ale, serving up a blend of saison yeasts, but by no means does wild mean, out of control.

Family Miner: this is their Farmhouse-style ale, a complex yet tasty beer full of flavor and robustness.

Overall the beers were all winners in my book, and I’ll gladly go back soon. Somewhere between the warm atmosphere, great 80s movies, fantastic beers, and a day of trails, Carmel by the Sea did not disappoint. My mind is made up though, once summer comes and the Carmel River drops a little, I’ll extend my run to Carmel Meadows trail for grins. I look forward to seeing what Yeast of Eden holds then. Until that day, see you on the trails! Cheers!

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