WOW! What a race. This has got to be one of the most difficult Half Marathons in the US if not the world without going somewhere or doing something ridiculous.
The first 5 miles are up, tough up hill, followed by a screaming couple miles down hill, then back up and then back down. This race starts at sea level, climbs to the top of the mountain behind Avalon then turns around and brings you back to town. It is primarily on fire roads. You have nothing out of the ordinary to deal with except Mother Nature yet Mother Nature can always have the final say. Fantastic views are around every corner and we ran through some burn areas so we could see the hillsides starting to regenerate.
Here’s what I have to say about the race. The first hour is tough. You just figure how to get through without walking. Then the race gets steeper in both directions, up and down. I read somewhere that there is 4 times the amount of force exerted on the body going down hill. Whatever the number is we know it is more than running on flats and up hill. There are some steep down hills sections after miles 5.5 and the race finishes with 3 miles of steep down hills. You just get to the point where you can’t stop. These parts eat up your legs and my legs a feeling it today.
Beach Runners use ChiRunning® techniques. We train our athletes to run smart up hill and fly down hill. We use gravity. This is an area I have to continue to work on. I was passed by 7 people on the down hills. I was still running fast, sub 7 minute miles yet I was governed by some fear, fear of injury, protecting my back, fear of truly letting go. I watched these people motor past me on some very steep terrain. Maybe next year.
In the end it was Gary’s day. Catalina is like home court advantage for Gary. He has been training hard for this it paid off. I couldn’t keep up with him on the up hills and forget about it on the down hills. He finished 12th overall 1st in his age group. I still had a good day 30th overall and 2nd in my age group. I value this medal as much as any.
I want to congratulate everyone who made the trip over and participated in this great race. The Beach Runners had a fantastic showing bringing over 20+ athletes and finishing with 7 podium spots. We don’t train people to run fast, we train people to be successful and every Beach Runner finished, some quickly.
Now we are looking forward to the Catalina Marathon and Los Angeles Marathon. We have a couple more weeks before the big days. The Beach Runners are ready and we showed it yesterday. Our training programs work – “For your best marathon ever” join us.
A special congratulations goes out to Beach Runners Mentor Barb and Beach Runners Sissy, who never gave up.
Thank you to all the volunteers, race officials and the Catalina Conservancy for staging this wonderful race.
Steve Mackel, Head Coach – MarathonTraining.TV and Beach Runners
Many of the Beach Runners Pose for a Photo After the Race.
This will be posted before I can write my Race Report. This is a major race, the Buffalo Half Marathon on Catalina Island. This race is difficult. This race is beautiful. This race rocks!
I’ve got to admit I’m a little nervous. It is good to read last year’s Buffalo Half race reports. It reminds me of problems I had last year. Today I go in prepared and we’ll see. I have a lot of potential for another high age group finish. If you are interested read Steve’s, Gary’s and Roni’s Reports below:
Last Year’s Crew – Beach Runners Gary (with bloodied knee), Mark, Uncle Sam (Jim), Steve, and George
Why is the Catalina Half marathon called the ultimate trail run?
I don’t know why other people call it that – but I do know that it was the hardest 13 miles I’ve ever run. I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m happy. It was a great run. I honestly don’t know why I signed on for this. I really wasn’t looking to do another marathon any time soon, but I wanted to keep training with the Beach Runners. And I’ve already run the Pacific Shoreline Half twice – PR’d there in 2004 at 1:49. So I guess I was looking for a new challenge – and I sure found it.
I had to get up way early – 5 am. We had to get on the boat before 6:00 am to catch the 6:15 am boat. We arrived at Avalon about 7:30 – me, Steve, Gary, Jim, and one of Steve’s private coaching clients, Mark Kirsh. Mark is just too much. He’s been running a marathon a month. He just ran I think it was #11 last Sunday – the ING Miami marathon. He qualified for Boston – and he’s running that in March or so.
Anyway – I had all of the usual pre-race energy – I got my packet, my number, pinned it on my Beach Runner’s technical shirt. We got in line – it was such a small field – I’m like Gary – I really like these smaller races.
Immediately – Steve and Gary take off like jack rabbits on crystal meth. Mark was pretty much keeping up with them. Jim was somewhere behind me. I started out doing 8:00 minute miles – and they were all out of sight after the first half mile. We saw a guy smoking a cigarette with his girlfriend before the race – I passed him at about the first ½ mile. We kept climbing and climbing. We rounded several more curves – again – more climbing. Then after the first mile marker – we had a slight downhill. I was doing 6:30’s at that point for a few hundred yards. Garmins are great, aren’t they?
Then we went uphill again – and I thought to myself – I can handle this. Then we got to the water stand and the trail started. It was steeper than the road. I thought – this should level out some time – then it got steeper. Right after the Mile 2 marker – I passed Mark – he had stopped and was taking a drink of water. Then – more climbing. And it got steeper – and I walked a little – maybe 20-30 yards. At this point – I was doing 12-13 minute miles. I love my Garmin. This was my first race with it.
Then I rounded another curve – and it seemed like around every curve – it got even steeper. So I made sure I had my lean, and that I was taking short steps, and I remembered the uppercuts. For about the next 3-4 miles – I was pretty much run-walking. When it got less steep – I ran. When I got to another steep portion – I walked. When I got to mile 5 – my total time was 1 hour, 5 minutes. Usually on a half marathon – I’m at or past mile 7 at the 1-hour mark. Then I got discouraged. I was thinking this is the slowest half marathon I’ve ever run – but the scenery was unbelieveably beautiful. Steep cliffs, deep blue or aquamarine, turquoise – so many versions of blue in the ocean.
On parts of these hills – 5 or 10 people in front of me and 5 or 10 people behind me were walking – so I knew it wasn’t just me. These were tough hills. Just like mile 19 in the San Diego marathon – everyone I was with walked.
I always thought of myself as a trail runner – I’ve done PV with Gary, I’ve done El Moro in Orange County several times – there’s a great 10-mile loop there – but nothing prepared me for this. I’ve never run 6 miles continuously up hill – and it kicked my butt. Then I also mixed in some of Danny’s sideways/sidestepping – and that seemed to help. Then I got to the top around mile 6 – and my legs felt like jello. I was so whooped – and I wasn’t even half way done. I was going to finish – you pretty much have to on this one – but it wasn’t going to be pretty. Then I had a little downhill – and I let myself go and that felt great. A woman passed these two guys – and they said something discouraging about taking downhills too fast. Those guys obviously don’t know much about Chi running. Then it started going uphill again – really steep – and I heard Mark behind me. He said “Hey Chief” and we walked that hill and ran some more. We probably ran together for a mile or two. Then I was on my own again. And I was tired, and sore and I wondered what I was doing here. And my shoulders were sore from all of the upper cuts.
I was hating this stupid race. Why do they even call it the Buffalo run when you don’t see any buffalo? And what’s up with a 16 or 18 minute mile? My 84-year old mother can walk faster than that. I was hating life at this point.
What was I thinking? Why in the !@#$%(*&^% did I decide to run this race anyway? Obviously – I wasn’t thinking or I wouldn’t be getting up at 5 am to get my legs beat with baseball bats and get my ass kicked and handed to me on a platter. I could be in bed, curled up with Michele instead of this torture.
Then it was getting hot – and I stopped for water and Gatorade at every aid station. I also had some of those Cliff blocks. Then it was not as steep and I pretty much ran every mile. I saw Steve and Gary – it was about mile 7.5 for me and 9.5 for them. They looked tired and didn’t say anything to me. Then I hit another aid station – and some more water, Gatorade, and cliff blocks – and I saw Mark on his way down. Then I had one steep part – then it leveled out – then I hit mile 9 and turned around – and it was all downhill after that. I hit the aid station again – got a handful of Cliff blocks – and kept running. At mile 10 – it was still pretty steep. I was running 9 to 9:30’s at this point – but it was really steep and it was rocky – and I was afraid of slipping on the rocks.
Then I hit the aid station right past Mile 10 – filled up on more water, Gatorade, and Cliff blocks. By this time I was getting some kind of sugar buzz and getting all liquored up from the Gatorade and Cliff blocks – and I was running behind 2 guys – we were doing 9 minute miles – which is pretty good. By this point the path was wide, flat, and no rocks. It was still steep – but I decided that I didn’t have to run behind these guys – I was a Chi Runner – and I leaned forward a little – and took off. Within a 20-30 yards – I was doing 7 minute miles – and passing everybody I could see. I flew by the guys I was running behind – and not only passed everyone I could see – I flew by them. I’ve kept up with Gary stride for stride on a PV run – not under race conditions – but I’ve kept up with him under training run conditions – and I’ve got some of his magic/mojo for running downhill.
I continued to pass people. I checked my Garmin – I was doing 6:13 to 6:30 minute miles – and loving it! I passed at least 10-15 people. I was going so fast – I almost missed one of the curves. I was within about 1 foot of going over the edge before I corrected myself. It was pure gravity pulling me down. I just let go – leaned forward – and let my stride kick out the back and let myself go ridiculously fast downhill. It was one of the best kicks I’ve ever had in a race or a training run. When I passed people – it wasn’t just passing them – I flew by them. It was so fun. Then after 2-3 miles of this exhilaration – we got to the road – and it was still slightly downhill but not as steep – and I kept passing people. I was doing 7:00 to 7:30 minute miles by this point – but I continued to pass people – and it was so fun. No one passed me while I from mile 9 on down. And I said to myself – I said self – no one passes the Great White going downhill. (The Great White was a nickname given to me a long time ago by some people I worked with).
Once we were back on the road – I only passed 3 or 4 people – and I couldn’t see anyone else to pass up – so I ran with this guy from South Africa for a while. Once I got to the last half mile – I saw a chunky guy to my right – and I said to myself – this guy is toast – I’m totally passing this guy up – and I did – I blew right by him. And I had about ¼ of a mile to go – and I saw this woman – and I said to myself that she was not finishing ahead of me – so I leaned forward a little more and blew right past her as well. Then I had about 200 yards to go – and I wanted to finish strong – so I kept up a strong pace –then I saw I Steve and Gary with their cameras filming me – so I totally had to make sure I had the proper form – the lean , the arms, etc. for a Beach Runner – and then I was done. And I was so glad to be done with this race.
Even though none of us made it to the podium (we did meet several people who did – such a small field) but I’ve got my own awards.
First of all – the Sandbagger Award – is a tie – going to both Gary and Steve. Before the race – both of those two were whining about how little they had trained, how out of shape they were, yada, yada, yada. Gary was in Thailand and Cambodia for a month – Steve had the herniated disc – by the way these guys were carrying on on the boat ride over – you thought these guys couldn’t even make it to the finish. Steve even said he was just really going to take it easy. We started out – Gary was filming the start and it took him a while to catch up with us – but we started doing 8:00 minute and 7:30 minute miles. They took off pretty fast. After the first ½ mile – I totally lost them. Gary ended up finishing at something like 1:56 – 6th in his age group – Steve was around 2:03 and he made it 12th in our age group. Both of those guys smoked me by 20-30 minutes. So much for taking it easy and being so out of shape.
Mark Kirsh gets the “I can’t believe he’s here” award. After my last marathon – I spent 2 weeks sleeping in and stuffing myself in Italy. He ran the Miami marathon the week before the Buffalo run. And it wasn’t a flat race – it was pretty darned steep. I can’t imagine running this race a week after a marathon.
Jim gets the Most Improved Award. Jim is doing remarkably better on hills since the last time I ran hills with him in Palos Verdes. Steve, Gary and I were discussing how much progress he’s made since last summer. Way to go, Jim.
Jim also gets another award – the Babe Magnet award. Just looking at Jim – Babe magnet isn’t exactly the first thing that pops to your mind. Jim’s a decent enough looking guy – but not really what I would consider a Babe Magnet. Then he puts on the Uncle Sam hat. I always wondered why he wore that hat. It’s not really aerodynamic. And it doesn’t really shade his face much – but it sure does get a lot of attention from the ladies! He had several pictures taken with babes – young, older, and everything in between – and sometimes several women. Congratulations – Babe Magnet.
And that concludes my race report. Will I run this next year?? I don’t know. If I could only do some more hill work………….
Beach Runner and SoCalRunning Member and “Good ol Boy Yoga Teacher”,
Ran and Cycled to Vote
It is the newest trend that I am trying to start, right here through SoCalRunning.com. Because of this you could be the first on your block to do it. You can be part of our revolution in November, Run to Vote. So, don’t feel bad if you missed your first opportunity to last Tuesday. Start your training now for November. And, no matter what happens plan on Voting for your president and being involved with your country in November.
Vote Focused, Steve Mackel – USA Cycling Coach
Here’s a fantastic idea that kills two birds with one stone, and it helps you perform your civic duty. That’s right, your civic duty. We can’t look at voting as a privilege even though it is that as well. It is our duty.
We can’t shrug our shoulders and say, “What does one vote mean,” your vote means a lot. It means that we have a chance to really voice our opinions, not the opinions of the percentage of people that vote. Don’t think that, “The system is broke and no one cares what I think.” Only we can help fix the system. Or think, “Voting is a hassle.”
So here’s what I propose, run to you polling place, VOTE, run some more then run home. You just took care of two things you needed to do next Tuesday. You also made a difference by running. And maybe we can inspire this to become a movement in November. Just think we could help influence at least a few people to vote just because they like to run.
Remember, VOTING is your duty. “Just do it” and watch Nike rip this idea off me.
VOTE Focused, Steve Mackel – Registered Voter
The Surf City Marathon and Half Marathon in Huntington Beach is a Super Bowl Sunday tradition for the Beach Runners and others across So Cal.
If you want to meet us here are the directions and look for the people wearing Beach Runners shirts, introduce yourself and make some new friends:
1) Take 405 South to Beach Blvd Exit.
2) Take Beach Blvd (south) approximately 8 miles.
3) As you cross Atlanta Ave and Beach Blvd there will be a shopping center on the left hand side. You have two options. 1) Park in the shopping center lot or 2) proceed down to Pacific Coast Hwy and follow the signs for parking in the beach lots. Note beach lot parking is plentiful but expect significant delays getting into the lots because the the access points are very few and only allow one car is allowed to pass through the access point at a time. The shopping center lot is not an official parking place for the marathon. In fact, you will see signs warning you not to park there. I’ve never had a problem but then I’ve always been out of there before the occupants open for business. If you’re not sure of being back to your car before 11:00 AM, I would arrive early enough to get a decent beach lot parking spot.
4) We’ll meet at the intersection of Twin Dolphins and Pacific Coast Hwy. If you park in the beach lots, Twin Dolphins is to the west (just follow the crowd or walk back up Pacific Coast Hwy making sure the water is to your left). Walking distance from the beach lots depends on where you finally find a spot to park. If you park in the shopping center lot, walk about 1/2 mile to Pacific Coast Hwy, turn right and walk about another 1/4 mile to arrive at Twin Dolphins.
Thank you Beach Runners mentor Bob Hertz for supplying these tips.
Race Focused, Steve Mackel – Beach Runners Head Coach