Before I get to the review - My mid-run/mid-race pit stops date back a few years and I have a favorite story that I love to share about a particular incident. It is rare, but on occasion I have had to stop mid-race to use a porta-potty or cluster of bushes. One such occasion occurred in 2010 when I was competing in a grueling, dusty, hot half marathon held on Camp Pendleton in North San Diego County. The race was aptly named Heart Break Ridge. The course is in a rural area of Camp Pendleton (not surprising because 98% of Camp Pendleton is rural) and the jovial race director announced very specific instructions at the start. Most notably, he warned to stay on the road and avoid the bushes at all costs. There in lies rattlesnakes, scorpions, and an occasional buffalo, not to mention perhaps a training exercise that involves bullets. It's not good to visit the bushes in Camp Pendleton. The race director was happy to announce that there is a porta-potty located on the course which we pass twice (it was an out and back course). Fine, I thought. Works for me, no worries. I had no plans of GI issues. So off we went and I had a lovely, enjoyable jaunt down the course on the dusty, dry road all the way to the bottom of the canyon to the turn-around point. Then there was the climb back up and out of the canyon. By the time I dragged my body up that road, I had amassed at least a mile lead on the next female in the race so when my body decided to begin to have issues around the 11th mile, I contemplated my options. I had just passed the single, solitary, humane and dignity saving porta-potty and I wasn't about to back-track. Since there was no one directly close to me on the road, my eyes started scanning the forbidden bushes for a good spot as I went through the race directors instructions one last time in my mind. Do NOT go into the bushes. In doing so, many are never seen again. But, as they say, when you gotta go, you gotta go, so I ran off the road at a 90 degree angle into the cloaking sage pulling my shorts down while I ran. There is an art to getting this done quickly and I knew the clock was ticking. There wasn't anyone around to see me at that point, but even if there was, my focus wasn't on modesty. It was a quick pit stop. I got all my tires changed in less than a minute and began running back to the road. Again, modesty wasn't my first priority and this time I wasn't so lucky. Coming out of the bushes I had an audience and there I was bounding along while still pulling up my pants. One of the guys was rounding the bend and witnessed the tail-end of my ... um, that was a poor choice of words. But it's a race so somehow none of this matters and I join my new "friend" on the road to finish the last few miles of this bad boy. He chuckles a bit in jest and pain (because this was a brutal race) saying something like, "aren't we supposed to stay out of the bushes?" I tried to apologize between labored gasps for the little display and explained, "I had to go." All runners understand what that means. After the race, my "potty friend" had to approach me one more time with friendly comments and we laughed a bit about the situation and again I apologized. What the heck, in San Diego, a location full of people, the odds of me ever seeing this guy again were very slim so I never gave it another thought. But here's the rest of the story. The very next Saturday when I arrived to meet with the runners that I often train with, there he was. Jeff. Jeff, my "potty-buddy" somehow heard of our little meetup group and decided to join us. I mean, what are the odds? Hi Jeff, it's me Cindy. Remember ... from last weekend ... the bushes ... caught with my pants down? Ha ha ha! Yah, of course. Hi Cindy. Oh hey, I have to tell you. When I first saw this person (you) randomly running out of the bushes I thought it (you) was a guy. Ha ha ha! Hmmm. Gee, thanks Jeff. That makes me feel a whole lot better. Well, the conclusion of the story is that Jeff has become one of my very best and beloved running buddies and I have enjoyed many, many great training runs with him. Every time we visit San Diego, we run with Jeff. I have absolutely no problem asking Jeff if he minds if I stop at the bathroom along the way.
Now back to the best places to Go on the Run here in Santa Barbara. Since, as I mentioned, I am an unfortunate authority on the topic, I've decided to name the best and worst according the various IMPORTANT categories. Disclaimer: These categories may be more important to females than males.
- Least Private - The bathroom at the top of Shoreline Park wins this category. Both toilets boast an "open space" concept and are therefore door-less. When I stop here I make it fast and make a lot of noise. This bathroom is ideal for quick in-and-out.
- Best Smelling - The bathrooms at the Cemetery easily win this category. While technically joggers aren't allowed at the cemetery, I am a runner so it's ok for me to stop here. I somehow feel guilty entering this floral smelling rest area while dripping with sweat but the melodious odor beckons me. This bathroom is not so good for the quick in-and-out because one wants to stay a while.
- Most Energy and Resource Efficient - The bathrooms at the Westmont track. This bathroom features automatic lights, automatic flush, and automatic water so nothing is wasted here and you don't have to get your hands dirty. Just make sure you don't lean forward while still seated, or else you'll get a localized shower. This bathroom is great for frequent visits during the same training workout.
- Wettest Toilet Seats - The bathroom at East Beach. For some reason, those who visit this bathroom have poor aim as evidenced not only by wet seats but also sticky floors.
- The Most Conveniently Located but Not Really Allowed to Use - The bathrooms at the private tennis courts on Las Positas. When visiting this bathroom, make sure you look like a tennis player as you approach it. If questioned, apologize profusely for assuming these were available to you and then let them know you'll go ahead and use the bushes behind their building instead. But, oh, can I borrow some of the toilet paper?
- Use at your Own Risk - The harbor bathroom near the boat launch. This seems to be the home of a "not mentally stable" woman who sings loudly and talks to imaginary friends. She gets mad at her friends a lot too. This is another good one for quick in-and-out. Don't make eye contact and don't bother washing your hands.
- The Best Toilet Paper - The bathroom at Los Banos Pool has quilted, super-soft toilet paper and cool toilets that give you the option to flush up for liquid waste and flush down for solid waste. I always flush down.
- The Good Luck Trying to Find a Usable Commode - The Chase Palm Park bathroom seems to get a lot of use. Among the three toilets, it can be a challenge to find a workable combination of a) Toilet paper available, b) no floaties, c) a door that actually latches shut.