2008 Catalina Marathon Runumentry Part 1


I still have no clue if it will be a two or three part Runumentry. I just wanted to get something up ASAP. The sub-plot is about a first time marathoner and Beach Runners, Christy, running this fantastic marathon. She is also running to win the American Trail Championship, in her Age Group, which is the lowest combined time of the Catalina Buffalo Run half marathon and the Catalina marathon.

I met some great people and some footage I had hoped would make the movie wound up MIA. If that was you, I am very sorry. This movie provides a great look at the course, the wonderfully kind participants, volunteers and staff.

Watch Focused, Steve Mackel – Catalina Marathon Videographer

LA Marathon Daily Tip #3 of 5

I firmly believe in bodywork. I am seeing my bodywork mentor Lenny Parracino every week now before the LA Marathon and Catalina Marathons. As Lenny says, “Soft tissue work is like dental flossing for your muscles and all other connective tissue. You wouldn’t skip dental flossing, so as an endurance athlete, and the amount of time you put in training, your soft tissues to get worked. Why wouldn’t you get bodywork.”

Well, I know some of your answers; it is expensive or I don’t have the time. Well, Lance Armstrong got bodywork after almost every workout when he was in serious training mode or racing. I just wrote a check for $500 and said, “Let’s keep booking weekly appointments and let me know when it is running out.” I know I have to invest in my body because hey, I’m getting older and I train quite a bit.

Pre-Race – A nice relaxing Swedish, without too much deep tissue work is great. Thursday, Friday or Saturday are prime days for this. If you have one scheduled Saturday make it very relaxing, a painful massage may do more harm than good. I also get a pedicure early in my race week. I gotta show my tootsies some love.

Race-Day – A quick stimulating massage is perfect. These are only a few minutes long to stimulate the blood flow to the muscles and other soft tissues you’ll be using during the race. It also loosens you up. I’ll be out there and if you ask me, depending on how much time is available, I’ll work on you for free! Call it Karma.

Post-Race – I have read different opinions on when after your race you should get a massage. Well I won’t have my table with me, so if you can manage the lines they offer massages at the finish line. An easy 20-minute session is great. If they’ll work on your feet too (they can get kinda gross after 26.2 miles), better for you.

Sometime over the next week, while you are recovering, a thorough full body massage is a great idea. I’ve been training in very specialized sports massage techniques over the last year and I’ll offer a special post race 1-hour “Runner’s Massage” for the one-time price of $60, normally $75 Email Steve for an appointment if you come to me, in South Pasadena. This special “Runner’s Massage” that I have developed, spends most of the hour on your lower body, and at least 15 minutes just on your feet. Your feet probably need it the most because they will have just run close to 40,000 steps.

Race Focused, Steve Mackel, Certified Massage Therapist

LA Marathon Daily Tip #2 of 5

ONE Cocnut water
Steve, Pre-Race Drinking O.N.E. Coconut Water, His Secret Weapon

I get more questions on how much to eat before, during and after a marathon or race than any other question. Hopefully you have been practicing eating on your long runs during your training. After extensive training, reading and practicing, the following suggestions are based on my personal experience. I am not a nutritionist or a doctor, for an expert opinion seek a qualified professional.

Pre-race day– I eat a balanced diet until Wednesday. Remember that most nutritionists recommend at least 50% of your daily calories come from carbs as part of a balanced diet. I also eat proteins and fats. Of course, you should always try to make most of your carbs complex carbs with fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains.

Wednesday and Thursday, I substantially up my caloric intake and increase the percentage carbs. I am looking for complex carbs, focusing on fruits, vegetables, legumes and grains. I snack all day long. Friday, I go back to regular eating. Saturday I eat light all day then I have a pre-race meal about 6:00 P.M. I am not a huge fan of “Carbo Loading” the night before the race because I already did it Wednesday and Thursday. In fact, I like some meat the night before to firm everything up inside me. That’s my routine.

Race-day– I wake up early to eat my race-day meal of oatmeal, banana and a cup of coffee. I eat this about 2.5 hours before the starting time of the race. I usually bring a Cliff Bar, O.N.E. coconut water, water and to eat and drink before the race. I sip the drinks and eat a little while I wait for the start. I have been staying away from sports drinks the hour before the race to keep blood sugar levels in check. I’ll eat between 200 – 275 calories every hour. This will be different for each one of you depending on your height, weight and gender. Most of you should try to get down at least 100 calories each hour on the course. I usually eat solid food early in the race before going to the gels in the last two hours.

RACE DAY, DO NOT CHANGE ANYTHING NOW (it is too late or you are taking chances), eat what you have been practicing eating during your training.

Post-race – Try to get some food in you right away. I look for some protein mixed in with some carbs. I drink some sports drinks and walk around. I’ll wait an hour or two before I eat a larger meal.

Take notes on what you eat to see what worked for you or what didn’t. Learn a pre-race food routine. If you can do this with your fuel you can learn to take the guesswork out of your race, relax and avoid the Bonk (running out of gas).

To see what I ate this morning Click Here

Eat Focused,

Steve Mackel, USA Triathlon Coach

LA Marathon Daily Tip #1 of 5

penny the cat
Take a Cat Nap This Week

Sleep, how much do we need before race day? Ah, a million dollar question. The answer is: It depends. You can go by the medical community’s standards defined by the general population’s averages or you can listen to your own body. I know some people need more and some people need less. Some people need to be in bed early the night before a race, where I usually can’t go to sleep early. Everything is individual, figure out what you need.

Ten, eight, seven, six, five hours or less? I like around seven. Do you know many hours of sleep you need to feel great the next day? In your training, have you been paying attention to what you did the night, day and week before a great long run. Have you been burning the candle at both ends? What about napping? Nothing beats a cat nap.

Here’s some sound advice before your big day, “Lighten your schedule this week and plan your sleep.” Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday are key sleep nights. As we get closer to the race, nervousness can kick in. Don’t worry about it at this point and sleep the best you can. The night before your marathon is no big deal. Restless nights are typical. I have never had more than 6 hours before a race, closer to 4 – 5 hours. I take my time getting all my stuff laid out the night before so all I have to do is wake up eat and walk out the door.

So sleep well these next few nights. Pay attention to how you really feel each morning. This is the week to rest and take it easy. Keep you runs short, quick and think about recharging. Look for Gary and I at the Expo at the Long Beach Marathon booth and/or Sunday morning.

Sleep Focused,

Steve Mackel, MarathonTraining.TV and the Beach Runner’s Head Coach

Larry’s San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon Experience!

A picture that we can all relate too from the SF 2nd Half by Larry

Thinking it might be an opportunity for me to meet-up with my nephew and his girlfriend (she’s currently working on her master’s in the Bay Area while he’s preparing to join her from Chicago), I, in mid-June, registered for the San Francisco 2nd Half Marathon.

To clarify, this wasn’t my second half marathon overall; nor was it the second time I ran the San Francisco Half Marathon. What the San Francisco Marathon folk have created are two half marathons within the full marathon so when it comes time to register, runners choose to run either the first half or second half of the full marathon course (well, more like weave in and out of it; at least that’s what we 2nd halfers did).

Continue reading…

Steve and Gary’s Marathon Training RunCall 2


Another jam packed RunCall from Steve Mackel and Gary Smith including information on:
– our ultramarathon experiences from last weekend
– recovery strategies after a marathon
– plantar fascitis
– learning ChiRunning
– how many miles to run a week
– all natural electrolytes

Click Here to Listen to the Show from 6/13/07

Steve and Gary’s Marathon Training WebCast 1


Steve and I completed our first WebCast on Monday Evening. We only sent the invitation out to a few people as we are still trying out the technology.

We had over 25 people on the line and we answered many questions sent in including

  • How do you deal with knee pain?
  • How do you prepare for trail running?
  • What pace should you run during the week?

We are scheduling our next WebCast soon and look forward to meeting you on the air.

Click Here to Listen to Our WebCast

Gary Smith
ChiRunning Instructor

Catalina Marathon Race Report – Special Wedding Proposal Edition


Doug proposing to Mina at mile 23 of the Catalina Marathon

March 17th 2007, St Patrick’s Day, the Catalina Marathon. Sounds like enough for one day, doesn’t it? When I woke up at 4AM to catch the ferry that would take me to the start line of the Catalina Marathon, I had no idea how much more meaningful this day would become.

When my boyfriend and fellow Beach Runner proposed that we run the Catalina Marathon, I thought he was crazy. 26 miles of grueling trail with 4,300 feet total elevation gain?!? But after doing several runs through the mountains of Palos Verdes with the Beach Runners, I actually got kind of excited for the beautiful scenery and the chance of running into a buffalo during my race.

4 AM is very, very early in the morning. But seeing friends and sharing the excitement and anticipation of the race motivated me to shake off the morning grogginess. The ferry left Avalon at 5AM and took us to the start line at Two Harbors. It was still so dark as we waited in the long lines for the bathroom. We were actually lucky enough to have a little surprise at the start line. A big, brown buffalo was grazing near the start line to wish us all good luck. Then a few minutes later, I heard a little ruckus behind me and saw the buffalo charging across the path toward some runners. Wouldn’t you know it was Steve that was right in the middle of the trouble! (I still wonder what he did to provoke the peaceful creature!)

The race was just as beautiful as I envisioned it would be. It was overcast for a good part of the morning which actually made some of the steep uphills a little easier since you could never really see how much further you still had to ascend. It was amazing to feel like you were running deep into the clouds above you. I saw runner after runner ahead of me disappear into the thick white haze.

After reaching the top of the first peak and back down to sea level, the slow ascent to the final peak was a challenge. A long 15 mile, 1600 foot uphill challenge. But luckily, I still had my Doug (and another good friend Tucker) by my side to keep my spirits up and make me giggle as we pushed onward and upward. As we started approaching the highest peak, the clouds began to clear and show us a view that made you forget the fatigue, tired muscles, and leg cramps. At Mile 23, we had reached the highest point of the marathon. What a feeling of accomplishment to look out from the top of the mountain and see the boats of Avalon Bay and the ever expansive Pacific Ocean. And in the far distance, I could see the Casino, a beautiful historic ballroom from the 1920’s, which meant the end was in sight. The finish line was still teeny from my vantage point, but so much closer than where we were hours ago.

As Doug and I enjoyed the view from the top of our conquered mountain, we decided to take a picture. My friend Tucker was ready for the heroic shot. Off comes Doug’s hat, his Halo headband, and even the Fuel Belt! Wondering why he cared to look nice for a picture in the middle of a marathon, I also shed the Fuel Belt and smiled for the camera. Then the next thing I see is Doug down on one knee, saying something to me, and holding something in his hand. I couldn’t understand his words, all I could do was cry. And cry, and cry. And apparently, I ran away a little too. (I blame it on dehydration and delirium from the preceding 23 miles!) Eventually, Doug caught up to me, got back down on his knee again, and proposed a second time. I still didn’t understand the words that were coming out of his mouth, but I didn’t run away this time. As he put the ring on my finger, it all suddenly became clear. I was at Mile 23, in the middle of the Catalina Marathon, with a view of the vast blue ocean behind me, and the love of my life is asking me to marry him. It was surreal. And I even had an audience of runners that stopped and cheered and shared their joy for us.

Little did I know I had another surprise waiting for me a little further down the mountain. A Beach Runners cheering squad at Mile 24! Kristin, Alexis, Lani, and John (who all had run the 10K race) hiked up the mountain to share their hugs and congratulations. (Apparently, I was the last to know about Doug’s special plans…)

The last three miles were all downhill—very fast, even faster for me since I had a renewed burst of energy from the shiny bling on my finger! Finally, I could see the glorious vision that I waited 26 miles to see. The big banner that bears the words ‘Finish Line’. As I inched nearer and nearer, I heard Steve yelling from the crowd, “Are you engaged?” So excited to be able to share my happy news again, I ran toward Steve and Gary, yelling “Yes! Yes!” while pointing at the ring. Onlookers and fans waiting at the finish line must have caught onto the engagement news because I felt like the crowd erupted into joyful Congratulations! What an unbelievable feeling! Hand in hand with my new fiancée, I triumphantly crossed the Finish Line. No more tears—just a big smile.

The rest of the day was one big party. All day, I had random people hug me and tell me that they ran by me during the proposal and were so excited for us. It was like a whole island of people that were happy to be part of my special moment. The after-race partying began with burritos with Lani, Kristin, and John. Then another burrito (and tequila shots!) with my friends Tucker and Elizabeth. Then over to Steve and Gary’s house for champagne (and gossip!) with Beach Runners Sandy, AJ, Sindy, and Sindy’s fabulous daughter. I never would have thought that after a marathon, I would be out until 1:30 AM, but our Beach Runners group had such a close family feeling to it, that it felt so natural to be sharing my engagement evening with these happy faces. We did a mini bar crawl (Sandy’s first!) complete with kamakazi shots, green beer (St Patrick’s Day, remember?), and dancing until the wee hours of the morning.

I will admit that for months, I was secretly frightened that the mountains of Catalina would kick my butt and that I would suffer through every uphill step of the 26 mile course. But truthfully, we were all so well trained (especially for the downhills!) that the marathon was not nearly as painful as I had originally feared. When I look back on March 17th 2007, I don’t think about the calf cramps, sweat, and sore toes. I remember my friends at Mile 24, Steve and Gary at the finish line, giggling about territorial garibaldi fish, laughing at Steve leaping into every picture, and dancing at the Chi Chi Club until my quads burned. And of course, I remember an extraordinary man kneeling on bended knee with a ring in his hand, wanting to spend the rest of his life with me.

Mina Oh, Beach Runner


Dealing with Post Marathon Blues


Funny enough Steve and I were getting depressed as soon as we were returning to Los Angeles after one of the funnest weekends in our lives taking 10 Beach Runners over to the Catalina Marathon. We’d given months of our life to make this goal happen, so now what?

In fact all week I’ve been anxious. And a little beat up after my race due to sore feet from the downhills. Nothing serious, just my feet got a little bruised. The anxiety comes more from this transition between training programs.

My body is a little confused as to what I should be doing. For the last 7 seven weeks, I have been training very hard for the Catalina Marathon. And now, my body is asking me, “What next?”

I spoke to many runners last night who seemed to be suffering from the post race blues.

Here’s what I like to do after finishing a marathon.

1. Take a break from running. The time period might vary, but I will not run for about two weeks after finishing a marathon. Especially a marathon I went all out on. Instead I am lifting weights, riding my bike, and doing yoga. My body needs a break . I coached someone last night to take a month off of any serious running.

It’s not only important to let the body rest from running but also to let the mind rest from running. It is very easy to get burned out from running. In ways, I believe that my strong performance in Catalina came from taking a break from running in January. So when I returned from vacation, I was excited to be running again.

The next Beach Runners session begins on May 19th, so that gives you a month break from running, and then maybe spend a few weeks doing FUN runs. Just don’t get all obsessive about running again unless you have some specific goals like an important race coming up.

2. Write down your upcoming race schedule. The Monday after the race I was on the Internet finding more races to run. More importantly, races TO TRAIN FOR. Marathon runners by their nature are problem solving type of people. We like complex difficult problems to figure out and solve like running 26.2 miles. So even if your next race will be completing the Long Beach Marathon with the Beach Runners 7 months from now, right it down, and begin thinking about what you can do to prepare. Do you need to visit a doctor? Work on your flexibility? Improve your diet? Get new running shoes?

I will list my race schedule the next few days.

3. Write down some running goals. That means a reasonable goal. Many runners try to set unrealistic goals for themselves, don’t accomplish them, then get discouraged about running/fitness. Danny Dreyer in his book, ChiRunning, makes the clear delineation between process oriented goals and product oriented goals. Take for example, you want to run a marathon under four hours? Why do you want to do this? Is it ego driven so you can say you ran under four hours? Have a clear reason in your mind for your goals.

Say your last marathon was 4:10. Now running under 4 hours would be a reasonable goal. But even then, better goals would be to improve your speed, through your form, or keeping a more consistent pace. These are more process oriented goals, something that you can work on every time you go out running.

In my opinion, making a time goal like sub four hours can drive your mind crazy as it is not something that you can practice in your runs.

My goal for Catalina was to be faster on the uphills and have better overall fitness. Well my power yoga gave me better overall fitness. And everytime I went out on the trails, I focused on my uphill form, swinging my arms, and breathing more. Consequently I got faster on my uphills. The results: I went from a 4:19 Catalina marathon last year to a 3:56 marathon this year. At no point, in my training was I thinking a sub four hour marathon. Isn’t that funny? I just stayed focus on the process.

4. Work on your hobbies or other things in your life. I have returned to my garden. Picked up my guitar. Tried finishing some books. I have even started Spring Cleaning. I’m doing anything to take my mind off of running right now. Writing this article even helps as by through the process of writing, I closing the training cycle in my mind.

Hope all that helps.

If nothing else, go for a walk or a rollar blade and watch the sun go down like I will with old friend this evening.

That will boost your spirits more than anything.


Running your First Los Angeles Marathon

(Finish LA Marathon 2001)
By the summers end of 2000, I was not in good shape. In one summer I had been fired from my job, lost the love of my life, got seriously overweight, and hit emotional lows. In other words, I was a depressed mess.

One thing I remember is standing in the shower and not being able to see my feet because of my belly. For some reason, I just remember that image. And this spurred me to take some action.

I had always wanted to run a marathon. In fact, twice, once in high school, and once in 1999, I had tried preparing for a marathon only to injure myself on long runs. I had no idea what I was doing both times…running in old shoes, no hydration, no eating, no stretching, and certainly horrible power running form.

But in 2000, I was ready to change my life around by training for and running a marathon. I called up my buddy James, and used my considerable persuasive skills to convince him to train with me for the Los Angeles marathon. James was my mountain climbing partner so we both had the mentality to train for and accomplish a difficult athletic task.

Training for the Marathon

I’m not sure where I got my training program from but it was fairly standard…2 runs in the week followed by an increasing long run on the weekends.

In all the training went well with James. We trained on the strand linking Torrance beach to El Segundo. But the longest run we did was about 18 miles leading up to the marathon. Which I’ve learned is not enough.

The running helped my emotional situation. By getting out and running it took my mind off my troubles, my heartache, myself. Yet I still had a belly that was not shrinking despite the long runs. But I was getting a lot more endurance, feeling better about myself, and was deepening my friendship with James.

The crazy thing was….I was smoking at the time. Not a lot. But still a half pack a day. Insanely enough, I would finish a long run then smoke some cigarettes.

The night before the Los Angeles marathon, I was so nervous I smoked close to half a pack.

And I do remember one day about two weeks before the marathon simply freaking out from fear that I was not prepared enough. I was mortified that my body would break down on the course and I would have to explain to all my friends and family why I couldn’t finish the marathon despite all my best laid plans. I remember having to sit in my room in front of my closet, meditate, and pray to God for answers about what to do.

I was paralyzed with fear of not finishing. And the answer I received in that session has guided me through many marathons now…don’t worry about the results…just focus on what you can do today to prepare…today…not yesterday…not tomorrow…but today.

And I walked away from that closet that day. And went for a run on the cliffs of San Pedro…the same cliffs Beach Runners are now running…and saw pelicans riding the wind…and the ocean crashing on rocks…and the sun go down…and…
I let go. I let go.

I could only prepare for the marathon by going for a run that day. That’s all I knew. And that was enough. I would have to believe…have faith…that I would finish. Because that is what faith is…a hope in the unseen. I was scared. I felt underprepared. I felt my smoking would not allow me enough oxygen to finish. My higher power would have to give me the strength to finish because I didn’t feel strong enough.

And that’s all we can ever really do to prepare for a marathon. Do something today…right now…to prepare. Take 10 deep breaths. Go for a run. Stretch. Do yoga. Close your eyes and visualize crossing that finish line. Rest. Eat a salad. Plan a run.

Just do something. Because that was the answer to fear for me. Go running and pray or meditate. That’s all I could do. And through this develop some faith.

Running for Yourself

So the morning of the marathon I’m standing in line for the porto potties with about 1000 others (I’m not kidding) and guess who I see?
My ex girlfriend with her new guy. This was no coincidence. I loved that girl all through graduate school. But I was a mess at the time, didn’t have my act together, far too much partying, too immature, unable to make a commitment to anything, preferred the company of my buddies…and so… she moved on… while I was under the delusion that she’d sweep all my shortcomings under the rug…wait around for another few years…marry me…and we’d live happily ever after.

I spent many training runs obsessed with thoughts of her. Running up hills pissed off determined to finish this marathon to prove to her that…yes…I could actually finish something I started…that yes…I could make a commitment…that yes…I could live a healthy lifestyle.
And there she was.

We exchanged pleasantries like you would with an ex. Her new boyfriend was running the marathon also. She said she had to go…obviously trying to not be seen with me and she walked away with her new guy.

And I stood there. And it dawned on me how much time I had spent training…preparing for this marathon…for someone else other than me. I had really started training to get my thoughts off of this girl I had loved soooooo much. To heal my broken heart.

So in this crowd of 24,000 runners, thousands of spectators, I saw the one person I needed to see in order to close that chapter of my life. Right before I ran 🙂

James and I stood in the back of the largest line I’ve ever been in. The start of the marathon. First time LA marathon people will be amazed at the experience. James and I prayed. We joked with others. I prayed some more. Randy Newman’s “I love LA” blasted on the loudspeakers and we were off. God was going to have to guide me through this race because I had no idea how to.

Finishing The Marathon

The run went well. Up to about mile 16 or 17 when James began complaining about leg pain. His complaints and pain got worse mile my mile. I was hurting also. We only knew power running so of course we had started much too fast, had poor form, and ran pushing and pulling with our leg muscles, tiring them out much too early. The wall hit about mile 19, and James began walking. I was popping Advil like an addict trying to deal with the pain. And James started saying he would be unable to finish. I got pissed.

“There’s no way we did all that training to quit now,” I said. I suggested we stop and pray. Which we did. Not sure whether that helped him but it sure helped me. I had to ask for more strength to finish.

And in that prayer I heard an answer that still guides me today. “You will get the strength to finish by helping others”.
“You will get the strength you need by helping others.”

With that answer I started what has been a six year practice for me now. “James, you can do it.” He was cursing in words I can’t repeat here, but after words he told me my words were pissing him off so much, he found some energy to keep going.

I began saying motivational words to the other struggling runners around me, “Hey, great job.”. “You’re almost there.” “You’re my hero.” “You’re looking strong.” Anything to keep them going. Some looked surprised at me, but most were like, “Thanks”, “You’re looking great also.”
And the more I began to turn my attention to others, to helping them anyway I could, to using every cliched saying I’ve ever heard in the movies, the more…I forgot about how my legs were feeling…and trust me…they were killing me…the more I helped others…the more strength I was finding to finish.

James and I found our legs again at about mile 24. For first time marathoners this is very important, you will hit a wall, feel completely exhausted, like you cannot take another step, but you must, you find the strength somewhere, somehow, and then magically, between miles 21-26 your legs will gain a new energy out of nowhere, enough to power you to the finish.

So James and I crossed the finish line four hours and forty two long minutes after we started (4:42). We jumped up and down hugging one another and I cried. I cried for the lost girlfriend, I cried for my grandfather who had recently passed away, I cried for the family dog (my old running buddy) who also recently passed, I cried for all the times I had tried to accomplish something and failed, I cried for myself, that I had done something good for me. I had done the impossible. I had done the training. I had done the spiritual work. I had found some belief that “Yes, I can succeed.”

The Spiritual Journey

James and I could barely walk for days afterwards. James told me repeatedly out on the course that day, “I will never do this again.” And he hasn’t.

But I found something out there. Something about myself, about God, about helping others, about faith, in the training and the pain of mile 19. A seed was planted that day. A seed that has grown into doing the LA Marathon a total of four times, the Long Beach marathon twice, the Big Sur marathon, the Catalina marathon, and an ultramarathon. A seed that grew into ChiRunning and me becoming a marathon coach. A seed that grew into Yoga and teaching yoga on the grass to 100 runners at a time. A seed that grew into my current body…30 pounds lighter…stronger…more flexible…and smoke free.

A seed that grew into the tree of current running and coaching practice. It brings tears to my eyes to even think back to the origins of this journey that has led me to Beach Runners, Yoga, SoCalRunning.com, and writing this massively long blog entry.

Thank you for taking this journey into my past with me. And the journeys we take every Saturday. And I have faith that you will find something out there on the Los Angeles marathon on Sunday, something that will sprout into a beautiful tree in your life. Keep your heart, ears and eyes open that day.

Because that something special is waiting for you.

Good luck everyone,


« Previous PageNext Page »