Xterra Snow Valley Trail Race and Triathlon July 26 – 27, 2014 – Special SCR Discount

Looking for a fun, beautiful and challenging trail race? The Xterra Snow Valley Trail Races and Triathlon are worth putting on your calendar. The Trail Races are on Sunday, July 27, 2014. Below is my video from the 2013 21k (half marathon).

You can read the full race report at:


They are also offering a special for SoCalRunning.com readers. Use the code “SoCalRunning”  for 15% off your your registration.

To Visit the Xterra Site and Sign-Up Click Here

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

Race Focused, Steve Mackel – Master ChiRunning® Instructor

Running Shoes – What I Am Wearing These Days – ACSM Running Shoes Guidelines

I am often asked about running shoes so let me start out by saying there is no right shoes for everyone, maybe even most people. What works for you, works for you, and that might take a lot of trial and error. But, looking at what your friends are wearing, considering if you are using your shoes for training, racing or trail running, will help narrow down your choices. And, you have more choices than ever.

Below are the new ACSM American College of Sports Medicine running shoe selection guidelines. When I first read them, I thought wow, pretty much the way I think about selecting running shoes. So, I am not going to rewrite the work they already did. I did post the video above to show you what I have been running in the last 9 months.

I average around 40 miles a week. I run in lots of different shoes so I can have real experience with lots of different brands. Sometimes I do receive some free shoes to try and give feedback on, but if I don’t like them I don’t use them.

Check out the pdf below and remember, running shoes are a very personal choice. Take your time when trying on new shoes. Don’t be afraid to return them if you don’t like them after a couple of runs. If you love them buy a second pair. Don’t be afraid to try different brands and keep working on your running form.

Leave a comment or email if you have any shoe questions. Steve@SoCalRunning.com

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Download this pdf  http://www.acsm.org/docs/brochures/running-shoes.pdf

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Master ChiRunning® Instructor

Catalina Marathon – A Must Do Trail Marathon – Video and Recap from 2008

The Catalina Marathon is a Must Do Trail Marathon. It is always rated as one of the best trail marathons in the US by Runners World magazine.  This marathon boasts has almost 4,000 feet of elevation gain and loss. The view are spectacular. But, my favorite part is the participants. There are old-timers, first-timers, trail veterans and trail newbies. Most of us are there for the same reasons. The first is, “Because it’s there.” The second, to see a Buffalo . Third, you know it’s hard but so worth it. Almost everyone I have met, no matter where they are from, trained on hills because this is a hilly marathon. People from Florida do hill repeats on highway overpasses to train for this race. And, I forget to mention the after-party.

This video is Part 2 of my 2008 Video from the race. I can’t find Part 1, but Part 2 is better. It starts out at the top of Pump House Hill and goes from there to the post race party, hosted by the Race Director. I interviewed some of the runners. I even met a couple from London, England that saw my 2007 video and decided to come out because it looked so cool, for their first marathon.

There is still plenty of time to sign up. Email me: Steve@MarathonTraining.TV for a discount code. I hope to see you on the island. If you see me, please come over and say hello.

Training for Catalina, Steve Mackel – 5 Time Past Catalina Marathon Participant

Catalina Marathon 2007 – One of My First Race Videos, One of My Favorite Races

SoCalRunning.com started January 1, 2006. Gary Smith and I wanted to produce as much video content as possible. Way back then video was just starting to happen. The picture was usually very pixelated. None of this HD or full screen stuff. The tiny little video window was almost depressing but we knew it would improve quickly. Even in it’s old format it looks better today than when I first posted it.

It was originally posted on Blip.TV but I recently found out they deleted the file. I had to go back to my oldest hard drive, a whopping 160 GB. I felt lucky to find it. The format is original 2007, iMovie 6.

In 2007, the Catalina Marathon ran out of space on the morning boat from Avalon to Two Harbors so we had to charter a slow, cold fishing boat. We met some great people as we spent almost 2 hours on that boat getting to the starting line. It was foggy until we got to mile 16. I can’t even explain the beatuy of the island or the feeling running into Avalon for the first time you do this race. No buffaloes that year, just the race of my life, across the island, a super challenging course, struggling up the hills and flying down hill. I knew I had accomplished something, I ran a 4:33:08. The Catalina Marathon isn’t always about your finishing time but the fact you finished. A must do race.

Back then the Sole Runners were the Beach Runners. That explains all the Beach Runners shirts. You can see some of our long time Sole Runners and mentors like Bill, Keith and John. Kristen came 3rd in her AG in the 10k.

This is just another part in my Catalina Marathon series as I get psyched for the race this March.

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – 5 Time Catalina Marathon Finisher

The Famous Catalina Marathon – Saturday, March 15, 2014 – A Weekly Retrospective

Ok SoCalRunning.com friends, I am going to post weekly about my favorite race in So Cal – the Catalina Marathon. I ran it consecutively for 5 years. I took the last two years off but I will be back this year.

This is one of the most beautiful races I have ever run. You start at Two Harbors and work your way across the ranges to Avalon. It is tough. It is mostly on trails and forget about a PR. Just finishing is an accomplishment. The next step is an ultra.

Here’s a Catalina Marathon video from 2011. This is just some of what you can expect, except my corny-ness:

For a special discount code, please email me at Steve@SoCalRunning.com

Train Focused, Steve Mackel – RRCA Marathon Coach

Xterra Boney Mountain Half Marathon This Sunday, Jan. 12, 2014 – Big Changes in Scenery This Year

Big Changes took place on the Boney Mountain trail over 2013. The big change is the scenery. The Camarillo fire in early May of 2013, burnt most of the brush to the ground. It makes the course look like a moonscape. Watch out for stubs of small brush trunks. But this is the way nature works and there is already re-growth and new-growth. This Sunday is going to be epic for all runners, but especially those who have run it in the past.

This will be my 3rd year running this race and I have run the entire course 5 times. Let’s just say it’s tough. In fact, here’s my Garmin data from 2012. Use it to help plan your race:

Here’s a video I took during the race in 2012. It’s what the scenery used to look like:

Here are my tips:

    • There are not a lot of places to pass once you get on the trail up to the the Water Tank aid station. Don’t worry about passing, it goes up and up. Just keep pace with the person in front of you. If you can’t then pull over and let others pass you. There will probably be places you will walk in this section.
    • Use the downhills for speed and, if possible, to catch your breath. After the Water Tank aid station there is a 1 mile downhill and it is very runnable to the aid station at the bottom. You leave the valley floor quickly and start a steep 4 mile climb.
    • Let faster downhill runners pass you. I am good on the downhills but there are some really steep sections that are single tracks  that I slow down for. I know some really fast downhillers and I have needed to mover over for them. Be courteous.
    • The final downhill has a lot of rocks and gets a little technical, beware.
    • In the last mile there is a sneaky short hill that sucks.
    • After that hill it is a free-for-all downhill to the finish line – Go For It!
    • It’s a beautiful trail, cool people and the reason Xterra Races are so much fun. Enjoy the experience.
    • A hydration belt, Camelbak or hand held water is a good idea.
    • Do not litter. If not at an aid station put your trash in a pocket.

    See you there.

    Race Focused, Steve Mackel – Head Coach Sole Runners Marathon Training Programs

    Xterra’s Boney Mtn Half Marathon Preview – Saturday, Dec. 21, 8 AM Rancho Sierra Vista/Satwiwa National Park

    Boney Mountain Xterra Half Marathon is one tough trail race but the views, the trail, the people and crossing that finish line make the work worth it. Anyone is welcome and the rules are below. You run at your own risk.

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    One of the best races to start the year off is the Boney Mtn Xterra Half Marathon. It is mostly off road. The trails are beautiful and it is a great way to test you fitness. The actual race is Sunday, Jan. 12.

    This year will be different than any other year since the Camarillo Fire last summer. Now the landscape looks more like a moon scape. It will look and feel different than any other year.

    The Sole Runners’ Newbury Park training group, Coach Steve and Coach Dianne will meet in the Rancho Sierra Vista/ Satwiwa National Park, at the trail head at 7:45 AM.

    The Newbury Park Sole Runners Full and Half Marathon Training Programs will running the Boney Mountain Xterra Half Marathon for a preview and practice, on Saturday, December 21, at 8 AM. We will meet at the trailhead in the Satwiwa parking lot at 7;45 AM. The course will be generally marked but you are on your own if you get lost. If in doubt run with another person.

    Rules: Participants run this preview training run at their own risk. This is not an official event. Runners are responsible to carry their own water and food, no manned aid stations but water is available at the ranch, at 5.75 miles in. Please be respectful of the trail and others on it. Please, do not litter. 3.5 hour course limit.

    Finishers party at The Lab Brewing Company in Agoura Hills  starting around noon.

    Below is a video of what the course used to look like.

    Train Focused, Steve Mackel – Sole Runners Head Coach and Program Director

    Mt. San Gorgonio Trail Run / Hike via Vivian Creek 8-11-13

    I’ve done my share of tough trail runs that turn into hikes at some point and I have done some cool backpacking trips that I wonder just how fast I could have moved if I wasn’t under such a heavy load. With all that said, the Vivian Creek Trail to the summit of Mt. San Gorgonio is TOUGH.

    I went into this thinking I can run 7 miles up Mt Baldy in under 2 hours without it being my top effort. I should be able to run / hike San Gorgonio at least at 3 miles per hour pace Making this a 6 hour trip. Once again mother nature bitch slapped me. The first mile took 21 minutes, without stopping, and that includes starting from the trailhead, so it all wasn’t straight up.

    Once you cross the riverbed, it goes straight up. One of the toughest miles I have gone up. It took us 21 minutes and my calves were on fire. I knew then the day might be a little longer than I originally planned. With one or two minute stops to shoot some video the miles were averaging 22 minutes. When we reached the two hour mark we were at mile 5.2 and the day would get slower from there.

    The altitude hit me around 9,500 feet of elevation. My heart rate would not lower and could hear my pulse. I figured it was better to slow down and play it safe. I live close to sea level. I was up there without any acclimation. By 10,000 feet the trail was getting steeper again and the next mile was difficult. In fact, Norma, a lady I met on the mountain, said it was the steepest part of the trail. I think the first mile is steeper but you are moving at 11,000 feet of elevation and the air is thinner. I just kept putting one foot in front of the other and it was good enough to pass people.

    The last 500 feet of elevation gain felt easier. Maybe I was getting used to the altitude but the trail did flatten a little. I tried to jog but my heart rate raced up again so I walked quickly to the summit.

    It was a perfect day. The summit is know to be cold and windy. From what I read, people stay 10 – 15 minutes then head back down. When we got there and over the next 45 minutes 33 people ending up partying on the summit at 11,503 feet. One local said it was the most people she had ever seen up there at one time. We ate, took pictures with the San Gorgonio sign, walked around and enjoyed the view for almost an hour. Feeling refreshed we started to head back down.
    Four hours up so we figured 3 hours down. We ran the runable sections. It quickly became a quad pounding experience. We felt bad because we would pass people take a break, they would catch us then we would pass them again, requiring them to move over and let us pass them again. After 2 miles down we limited out breaks and ran the next 5 miles.

    We passed these two quick hikers then a mile later they were in front of us again. They had done this hike a few times and knew “legal shortcuts”. That one probably saved them a half mile. We followed them down the next one. It was probably the old trail and it did save us a little time but it was steep, no running.

    With 2 miles to go our 3 hour guess was going to be fairly accurate. We were moving right around a 17 minute mile pace until we hit 1.5 to go. About here is where the trail gets extremely steep with loose rocks and a cliff on one side of the trail. This was the toughest mile for me because my toes were jamming into the front of my shoes, my legs felt like mile 26 of a marathon and the riverbed looked way down there. We moved as fast as we safely could. We could almost taste the beer that would be waiting for us at a Mexican restaurant down the road in Forest Falls.

    We made it down in 3 hours and 6 minutes. Overall a fantastic day. It was great to do it some good friends, Paul and Henry. I was doing it as a training hike for my trip to Mt Whitney later the year. We had a beer and got home hours later than I expected but it was totally worth it,

    Here are some take-aways: Always be prepared. The hike is a full 18 miles round trip with over 5,000 feet of climbing. Add at least 2 hours to what you think your fastest time would be. Climbing mountains is always harder than I think. I took 132 ounces of liquid and drank close to 100. I bought three layers of shirts and used two of them. Remember, it was perfect day. I used lots of sunscreen. I wish I had more “real” food like sandwiches and fruit. I came back with some trail trash but overall the trail was clean, thank you hikers. Mt Whitney here I come.

    My Garmin data is below. I must have bumped the stop button on the way down so basically I only have the climb but that’s what matters. It has the elevation 400 feet lower than what it says on its own map. Go figure. Moving time just over 3 hours up, check “View Details” in the lower right corner of the Garmin data box below. I feel pretty good about that.

    Train Focused, Steve Mackel – In Training for Mt Whitney

    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

    Planning the Rest of the Year and Next Year’s Big Goal – 100k Trail Race

    Bryce Canyon With races becoming so popular, some selling out in hours, you have to plan in advance.

    First on the the list is climbing Mt Whitney in September. The next couple of months are focused on training for this hike. I’ve never been to Whitney before. I don’t know what 14,000+ is going to feel like so the training includes: Snow Valley Half Marathon, 16 mile hike to the top of San Gorgoino and Run to the Top of Mt Baldy race.

    Second and Third are Marine Corps Marathon and ING New York City Marathon. My goal for these two races are back to back weekend sub 4-hour races. I have never done that before. It should be a good test because I think, depending on the conditions, NYC is a more difficult course. That means I have to go in strong enough that I can cruise to a 3:55 at MCM. And, 3:55 has never been a cruise for me for but very doable. Then have a good race in NYC

    Topanga Turkey Trot – Thanksgiving Day, its a tradition and a beautiful trail race that sells out.

    Santa Barbara Red Rock Trail Marathon – No goals, just happy to be doing another trail race.

    Maybe throw an Olympic or sprint distance triathlon in there somewhere.

    2014 The Big Goal – My first 100k?

    I am looking at 100k races. I want to run in a beautiful place that I have never been before. That is why I am looking at the Bryce Canyon 100k. The 2014 date hasn’t been announced but last year it was in late May. Utah is stunning country and I have never been to Bryce Canyon. 100k is a long time on your feet. We’ll see.

    There will be lots of races and training building up to that in early 2014 like the Boney Mt Trail Half, a must do race, Surf City and LA Marathon, but the focus will be getting ready for 100k, with a lot less support than I had at the American River 50 Miler.

    How’s the rest of your year looking? Do you have any big goals that you need to start planning for now? The bottom line is that there are so many great races and goals to need to start planning now.

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

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