LA Rock n Roll 2014 – Being a Pace Leader

What an amazing day / weekend. It started on Friday night playing with The Red 11s at a private studio, for a bunch of old and new friends. The vibe was fantastic and gets me pumped up for our next show, and the Born to Run Ultras in May of 2015.
steve bassSaturday was the first day of the Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon training programs in San Pedro and Newbury Park. I gave a ChiRunning lesson to the San Pedro group and taught yoga. Hanging out on the San Pedro / Palos Verdes coastline is always beautiful and worth the drive. It was another great start of a day. On the way home I stopped at the LA Rock n Roll Half Marathon expo to pick up my gear from Coach David Levine from USA Marathon Training. I also ran into Julie Weiss, the marathon goddess. I drove home and went to a pumpkin craving party.
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I usually lay all my gear out the night before but I was too tired. I set my alarm clock for 5 AM and fell right to sleep.

I woke up a little nervous. I had to get my gear together and I have never been an “Official Pace Leader” for a race before but I do pace runners practically everyday, so this was right up my alley. The pace leaders were in teams of two. My co-leader was Aletta. She has done this a few times so I knew it was going to be smooth. We got into out corral and held up the 2:00 signs. We started talking to some of the people around us. I told them I wanted to get in a 1:59:30, because there is a big difference between Sub 2 hours and over 2 hours when you talk to other half marathoners.
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The LA Rock n Roll Half Marathon course starts out slightly downhill and the first half is easier than the second half. I didn’t want to start out slower than race pace on a downhill section. An easy 8:57 mile felt right. The second mile was a touch faster then we slowed it down to a 9:10. Miles 3 – 6 are just reversing the course and slightly up hill and we kept it at a 9:00 min/mile pace. A touch above race pace but saving a little time for the bridge.
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At the mile 7 sign, which was past my Garmin’s 7 mile mark, we hit 1:03:14 or a 9:02 min/mile average. We were 42 seconds faster than 2 hour pace. You reach the top of the hill there and head into the tunnel. At that point we lost our Garmins and it was downhill so I told the group to relax but use the downhill for a little extra speed. It felt easy but without seeing our pace we were probably going a bit too fast. The next highlight / challenge was the bridge. This bridge is pretty steep but we had banked a little time. We slowed our pace, took short steps and focused on the ground 10 feet in front of us, instead of worrying about reaching the top. Soon enough we crested the bridge and ran easy across the bridge to the turn around point to run back down it. Now mile 10 was out of the way and we had one uphill section to a downhill finish left. We took it slow from 11- 12. At the top of the hill we set our runners free. They were all going to finish under 2 hours. Aletta, Gabriel and I kept it steady all the way to the finish.

Our official finishing time was 1:58:05. It was a minute 25 seconds faster than I planned but close enough. It got some people great new Personal Records (PRs). Since it was my first time officially pacing I learned a lot and had an awesome time. Next time, and I hope there is a next time, I’ll slow it down on mile 6 up to 7 but the rest of the splits are what we need to run to get that Sub 2 hour time.

It was such a blast and I love all the interaction between the runners. Check out all my Garmin data and let me know if I can help you in your race training. See you next year.
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Train Focused, Coach Steve Mackel

Catalina Marathon – A Weekly Retrospective – 2010 by Coach Steve Mackel

This video is pretty comprehensive. It starts on the boat over to the island and goes from there. Let’s hope the weather is that good again. I can’t wait. See you over there.

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs

The XTerra Snow Valley 21k 7-28-13 Race Review

I love all the Xterra races. I love to be out on a trail, in the mountains, by a lake, near a beach, in a desert, wherever they go. Just get me off road. I get recharged by nature. Plus, I love the athletes that participate in these races. They seem a little more hardcore but super friendly. The fields are smaller because I think many people are afraid tripping, spraining a ankle, running up and down big hills or just the unknown that road races don’t give you. In fact, I have been reading recent reviews of road races and Many people complain that some are too hilly and could the race director please do something about it. Not every race needs to be on a flat, fast course so you can get a personal record, (PR). Trail race are a great challenge.

The Snow Valley XTerra trail races take place in the San Bernadino Mountains. You start at an elevation of around 6,500 feet and it peaks out over 7,000 feet. There is a little altitude adjustment you have to deal with or maybe it’s just the 2.5 mile climb right out of the gate. Either way my heart rate was extremely high the entire race. I didn’t wear a heart rate monitor for this race because I knew it would be sliding out of place and I didn’t want the hassle.

The course is two 6 mile loops, with a 1k loop to start. It goes up for 2 miles. Most of this section is on a switchback, single track trail to get you to the first aid station and onto the fire road. The next 2 miles are rolling but not too steep. Then comes the downhill but they throw in a quarter mile uphill section just to torture you.

The race is very well organized. It started on time. I think you must carry water or sports drink on you in this race. The first aid station is over 2 tough miles from the start and on a warm, sunny day, I would have been bummed if I wasn’t wearing a Fuel Belt. The rest of the aid stations seemed well placed.

The medal is great. It is large, colorful and looks classy.

After the race the start the awards ceremony and you get a free lunch consisting of a burger, chips and drink (beer is extra) if you are a participant. Spectators can buy food.

You can drive up there on the morning of the race with on-site registration. The drive is about 1.75 hours from LA and OC. We choose to spend the night camping at the Snow Valley ski resort. it was fun to camp with many other racers but Snow Valley keeps a bunch of flood lights on which infringed on my stargazing.

The bottom line is that this is a well run, difficult race at altitude. They vibe is your typical low maintenance trail runner vibe. Everyone seemed friendly and cool. There are some hardcore athletes but very welcoming of all levels of racers. I would definitely participate in this race again.

My Garmin race data is below. Click “View Data” on the bottom right of the Garmin frame

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Trail Runner

Born to Run Ultra Marathon Race – May 2013 10 miles, 50k, 100k, 100 miles – The Weekend Report

This is a completely different race than I have ever done before and that mainly because of Luis Escobar. Here are my thoughts.

Have you read the book Born to Run? It is a fantastic book, one of my favorites. It talks about the Copper Canyons of Mexico, the Tarahumaras (the native people of the Copper Canyons), the anthropology of running vs walking, running shoes, barefoot running, insight into the ultra marathon scene, a 50 mile race and the wild ride that accompanied everything listed.

Luis Escobar is a photographer. One of his photos became the cover for the Born to Run book. Now, when he’s not on a shoot, he getting runners together to share that wild ride in the Born to Run spirit.

Even before arriving at the starting line I knew this was going to fun. There are many ways to do this race, all of them fun but I recommend going out all and camp out at least Friday and Saturday nights.

First of all, you have to find “The Ranch.” We really weren’t given the directions, just an address that isn’t painted on the curb. Of course there are no curbs where we were going. It was almost like a secret club and someone had to give you the password to find the right driveway.

Once in and driving on the dirt road you saw a sign that said “Welcome Balloonists and Visitors” and I knew I was in the right place.

You drive up a hill then drop into what I like to call the “Copper Canyons North” because you have left reality and entered into a runners paradise or hell, depending on how you look at it, with only one rule, “DON’T BE A DICK.”

The events start as early as Thursday, setting up campsites. We rolled in Friday afternoon, picked a spot, cleaned up the area (bring a shovel and or rake) then set up our tents.

At 4 PM we rushed down to the starting line for the first official event of the weekend, The Beer Mile. Thank you Patrick Sweeney.

The Beer Mile goes something like this, bring 4 unopened beers and a $10 donation. Put your 4 beers down on the starting line, turn your back away from the course, listen for the shotgun blast, turn-around open your first beer, chug it, run 1/8 of a mile to a turn around point, return to the starting line, open your second beer, chug it and repeat until you have finished 4 beers and 1 mile. That was 4 beers in about 13 minutes for me. And, here’s the kicker. You don’t feel the buzz right way ,but 30 minutes later it hits you and you realize have an ultra marathon to do the next morning.

The spirit of Micah True was among us. Maria gave a little talk about how our donations were helping the people down in the Copper Canyons. Our Beer Mile donation was just a little bit of it. People brought clothes to donate, gave money and you could really feel the sense of caring.

After some music, campfire and more partying, it was lights out at 9 PM. People were still rolling in but being very considerate. Getting to Los Olivos on a Friday afternoon can be bitch dealing with the traffic.

It gets serious at 4 AM when Luis wakes up you up. You have to be there to experience it. I was up but stayed in my sleeping bag because it was pretty cold and still way dark. 30 minutes later I’m up and getting ready. All I’ll say is a few more porta-potties would be nice but it wasn’t a deterrent. Besides this race is about being real, not paying extra for access to private honey wagons.

Speaking about being real, they only have a couple of aid stations on course, so you better carry what you need. At one point, there was a 7 mile stretch in-between aid stations and it gets hot in the afternoon. That is why the oath you take and the release you sign says, IF I GET HURT, LOST, OR DIE, IT IS MY OWN DAMN FAULT.” “AMEN”

The race starts promptly at 6 AM. Watch the video to see my actual experience on the course but a quick recap goes something like this: Run in a cool area, run with cool people, follow Luis directions, don’t get lost, if you are not a fast runner it is totally ok, stay cool, look for shade, walk the hills, support your fellow runner, get a super cool finishers medal, and smile because you are having fun.

After the race is another great experience. The party kicks into high gear. At the same time we are cheering on the runners passing through camp. Some are still working on the 50k while others are running the 100k or 100 mile race.

Because it can take up 30 hours to finish a 100 mile race the party goes all night long. Some people are taking turns pacing the runners through the darkness. While others are drinking all sorts of beverages at the bonfire. And the bonfire rocks, and it is warm when it is cold at your camping spot.

The next morning can be a little hazy as the morning fog lifts from the canyon. While people are packing up, some of the 100 milers are still out on the course and running through camp. It becomes very inspiring.

Then you are ready to roll out. But before I end this I need to emphasize a couple of things. If you are going to do this event, spend the entire weekend on the ranch. Yes, it’s a fun race and the medals are awesome. I know you are in wine country and that entire area is a blast to check out. I know real beds are great before a race. I know going back to an air-conditioned hotel with a hot shower is comforting. But, the Born to Run Ultra races are really about the total experience. Just like if you were in the Copper Canyons. Enjoy the camping, limited running water, a race where you have to take care of yourself, no showers when you finish but maybe a rinse off from the cold water coming out of a hose, cows all around you, cool runners and a weekend journey that you get to escape reality and live a little of the Born to Run experience. Thank you Luis.

The New Year’s Race Los Angeles Half Marathon at Night – Race Reveiw

The New Year’s Race Los Angeles Half Marathon at Night was a very novel idea. The promoters did and excellent job getting the word out for this first time event.

It took me a while to register. As much as I wanted to pull the trigger on this event I was thinking about the possibility of rain and cold the first Saturday night in January. The money I could have saved by registering early might go up in smoke since I had little desire to run on a cold rainy night. I was also already registered for the Xterra Boney Mt Trail Half Marathon the next morning and that is a must do race,

Well we lucked out since it didn’t rain, even though rain was in the forecast and it rained hours later. But, it was cold. Cold is good running weather but I still sweat and getting into warm, dry clothes immediately after the race was important to me.

Here’s where the New Year’s Race Los Angeles nailed it. They had a great gear bag check-in system and moved our gear right outside the finish line secure area. The after party with food trucks, Sierra Nevada beer tent and music was great, but it was cold at midnight when I was in thee eating and sipping a cold frosty.

The Course: When you live in LA and have run all the downtown LA races possible, what was going to make this race different from all the rest? Running inside Dodger Stadium. I think running on the warning track and just outside the base-path was the coolest part of the race. The course felt like the LA Marathon in reverse, running the downtown streets, past City Hall, Olvera Street, Chinatown then up to Dodger Stadium, the only real difference being, in the dark. The streets were safe and I din’t hit a pothole. The only downside was the maze of running in the Dodger Stadium parking lot. More about that later.

Another win was running at 9 PM. It was dark, instead of the many unusual costume and yes there were some, was the way people lighted themselves up.

Potential Improvements: The race started late. Not the biggest deal for a first time race. It was a inaugural event and traffic downtown, with a Clippers game in progress and streets closed for the race, made driving those one way streets difficult and time consuming. I found less traffic coming in from below. I came in off the 10, even though I live in Pasadena I parked south of the Staples Center. We also ran too much in Dodger Stadium parking lot. I think we made up about 3 miles inside the gates. it got to be a little boring.

IMHO The Real Fix: This is an awesome idea, a night race in LA but let’s do it in summer, when it is warmer. It was late for some but the runners I knew wanted to party. I think the local businesses would also benefit.

I will be back. I like the night race thing. I think I’ll run it purely for fun next year. I have some fun ideas but I’ll share those later. Pretty good job for a first time event.

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs

Always Happy Jason Race Report from the L.A. Marathon 2009

Always Happy Jason – Showing His Stuff Early in the LA Marathon

The night before the marathon is the time when I set up all my stuff for the morning. This is when I really know that I’m getting ready to run another marathon.

This is my 4th marathon and my first time writing about my experience at a marathon. I do wonder why it took me sometime to decide on doing a running blog. I guess I was not ready yet. I’m ready now. Here we go.

I woke up around 4:00 a.m. took a shower, and drank my Mega juice. I got all my gear and I was out the door. I was feeling pretty relaxed that morning. I was telling myself that this is going to be a great day for me to run another marathon. Boy…there were so many people up early, and at the starting line. I made sure to take a lot of pictures. I love taking pictures. It shows that you were there to experience this event and it feels good to smile. It was so cramped (that word is going to be important later) at the starting line. The horn went off and we where off on Figueroa. It was amazing the parade of people on the course, it was so awesome. While on the course I saw a gentlemen named Ed that I had seen running in my neighborhood. Before that I had seen him in San Pedro running so I introduced myself. It's a small world to see him in the L.A. Marathon with over 14,000 people. I was feeling pretty good. I was taking it slow not to go out to fast.

It was about after mile four that Coach Steve and another member of the Sole Runners saw me. It was so cool to see them. Steve ran with me for about mile and a half. We talked about how things were going and then he wanted to know my heart rate. It was around 162 bpm at the time. He told me to slow down. He suggested for me to keep my heart rate down around the 140-150 bpm range until 10:00 a.m., then see I how I felt. I took his advice and I’m grateful to have a great coach and a great friend to help me out. Thanks Coach Steve.

I continued to drink and check my Garmin to make sure I was in the target zone. So far so good. While I was on Venice Blvd. I saw some more Sole Runners that had come to cheer on the Marathoners. It was great to see them and kept my spirits up. Sole Runners…You guys are awesome!

I check my time and it was 10:30 a.m. My feeling at that time was so-so. The first half of the marathon was not too bad, but… (always a but) the second half was challenging. I believe at mile 15 or 16 I started feeling tight in my calf area. It was not feeling good at all. I was cramping up. This feeling has come up before but not this bad. I continued going on. One step at a time. Looking back now I should had stretched it out. I also believe that I should have drank more electrolytes. This was a learning experience for me. I worked on using my ChiWalking® for the rest of the Marathon. This helped a lot. The support at the water stations and on the course was amazing and greatly appreciated. That continued to help me to go on.

I was between mile 25 and 26 and I heard a runner tell me, ”Boy…you have a good walking pace.” Then we met in the final stretch of the race and his hands were on his knees. I came by him at told him, “You are almost there.” That helped him to continue. He told me that he signed up for this marathon on Saturday. He has done marathons before but this one he did not train at all for. I was amazed. His name was Carlos. I attempted to run the last .2 miles but my calves were still in pain.

I finished this L.A. Marathon (Yah) one minute faster than last year. The course was pretty good and the weather was great. I’m humble and thankful to have this time to share my experience on the marathon.

This marathon was dedicated to two people that I care about a lot. Pastor E.C. Carson and Ricardo Gordillo’s mom. Fight On. (LIVESTRONG).

AlwayshappyJason – Sole Runners and member

Coach Gary’s Catalina Marathon 2009 Part I
Coach Gary of does the Catalina Marathon with the rest of the gang from Solerunners.

It was my fourth Catalina Marathon and my most enjoyable one.

Thanks to everyone involved for such a wonderful experience.

God Bless, Gary

Catalina Marathon Saturday, March 14, 2009

Here it is, up only 48 hours after the race. I never know how it is going to turn out while I am filming and I wanted to show the whole day, because the Catalina Marathon is so much more than just a race. I hope this video does it some justice.

As usual, I had a great time and wished I could have interviewed more people. I was going for a PR which makes it difficult to pull the camera out in some sections, when I was pushing through some pain or flying down hills. Sorry if I missed you.

Remember, if you see me come up and say hello. I will pull out my camera and film you.

Steve Mackel – Sole Runners, Head Coach

Tour de Palm Springs 2-14-09

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Get on a Bike and Ride!

This Saturday was spent on the bike at the Tour de Palm Springs. This video provides only a glimpse of a great day. I am still learning the skills filming and riding.

Run and Ride, it can change your running for the better and the beauty can’t be beat.

Ride Focused, Coach Steve

Oxtails, Kale Juice and Great Support Help Bring Coach Steve First in His Age Group

Below is My Race Report

Sunday, February 8, 2009, South Pasadena – I sit here at home reflecting on the Catalina Buffalo Half Marathon. This was my third time running this race, so I know the course. I consider it toughest half marathon, and probably the overall toughest race, mile for mile, I have run. I think the fact that it is in Catalina, meaning a boat trip is required to get to the starting line, that it is such a difficult half marathon and that it is in February keep the crowds small yet at the same time the warriors come out for this race. On top of all that it was raining that morning and had rained for the past two days, meaning sloppy conditions.

The meal the night before and the morning of a race, can make or break your experience. Coach Gary and I kicked back Friday night taking in some performance art and a Tapas dinner. I ordered a Oxtail and gnocchi plate. I liked it and told Gary that it may become my new pre-race meal if I did well. I didn’t really think Oxtail was the tail of an Ox until I got home and looked it up. We followed it up with fresh Kale juice at 4:45 in the morning.

We were waiting at the dock for our boat to take us to Catalina at 5:20 AM. The seas were manageable for a stormy day. We motored through a storm into a beautiful, cloudy sunrise. Soon we pulled into Avalon harbor and proceeded to the starting line.

After registering, we had about 50 minutes to get ready. I had to decide on what I was going to wear and carry. It wasn’t raining yet but looked ominous. In a race like this, lighter is better. I picked my gear, put it on and started the Body Loosners with our group of runners. I packed the rest of my stuff in a plastic bag (to keep it dry) and ran to the starting line.

I love the excitement minutes before the start of a race. I am pumped up. I wish racers well, jump around enjoy the moment. The starting horn failed so the starter shouted “Go!” and we were off.

When I run I like talking to the people around me. It takes my mind off the race. I started talking to a guy I recognized. His name was Bobby. I realized this guy passed me in the last mile of last years race. I was starting to see who I would have to keep my eye one. I felt good and started thinking about taking this race seriously.

For the last three months I have said I would just run this race for fun and make a movie. I have been working on my base and I knew I could last, but at what speed? I have been running slow, having fun, coaching our group, but out there, in the first mile, I felt I had a chance to have a good race. I decided it was, “Game On!”

I am a strong uphill runner. The first 5 miles are uphill. I started taking advantage of my skills. I was passing people while keeping it in perspective; there was still a lot of race in front of us. Around mile 7, I took my first short walk. It was up a steep hill and I though I wouldn’t lose too much speed and lower my heart rate. I was losing ground to the guys in front of me so I started running again. When I approached the turnaround I saw the guys in front of me but I was truly concerned with some of the guys behind me. The last two years, I have seen lots of guys pass me on the downhill in this race. I didn’t think I could hold them off.

I coach people how to run downhill. I know how I am supposed to do it but I haven’t had those miles of flowing down steeper terrain, only flashes. Suddenly, everything I teach came together inside me and I was moving faster than ever. I started closing in on the people in front of me and passing them. I almost didn’t know what to think. I wasn’t holding back. I had only been passed by one runner and a mile later I was on his heels, and then passed him again.

The trail ended and we were back on the streets. It was still downhill but not as steep. There was one mile left and I was slowing down. I just couldn’t get my body to move much faster. I thought if I keep my feet moving at the same pace, maybe I could hold off most of the guys behind me.

I heard footsteps and was passed by the guy I had passed shortly before. Now I was getting worried. I knew I was on pace for my best finish ever in this race. I am a competitor. I was trying to justify people passing me, (a bad thought). I had to move into a “One-step-at-a-time” mindset. I had to find the competitive juice. I just kept going. I saw the finish line down at the end of the street. I knew a couple of guys were closing quickly. With 200 yards to go, the race was on but they both had a stronger kick than I could muster. Thank God they were not in my age group.

I slowed down, crossed the finish line with my hands in the air. I had little to nothing left. I had my best downhill running ever and my best time. I finished 17th overall and 1st in my age group. I was happy and know what I have to work on.

Coach Gary finished close behind me and MarathonTraining.TV had three runners in the top 20, with Mentor Matt Brown finishing 10th overall.

There is still more to write about, all our runners, all our medals, our first timers, the new PR’s, all our finishers. All a can say is that I am so proud of every person who got out of bed on a cold, wet day, to battle the conditions.

Every runner in this race has special qualities; they like the trails, they like the beauty, they like the company and they like to test their limits.

Thank you to all the runners, volunteers, race officials and the residents of Catalina. See you next year. Look for more on this great race.

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach MarathonTraining.TV

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