Gary’s Buffalo Run Race Report 2008
Certainly I have never been at a loss for words but after this race I was. It’s taken me a week to get some perspective on this.
Let’s go back a year.
I had just got back from four weeks of heavy partying in Thailand/Cambodia. On two nights rest, and while still jet lagged I went out and ran this race last year.
First five miles were tough trying to keep up with Steve but I did, and was able to take advantage of four miles of downhill to finish with a decent time of 1:57.
A year later I chose to not travel anywhere this January, to focus on my copywriting (I am trying to switch careers).
But more importantly, I wanted to stick around here to train myself and others for the American Trail Championship…the Buffalo Run and the Catalina Marathon.
Beach Runners began training in November. We have done hills, hills, and more hills every Saturday up in Palos Verdes.
And to be honest with you, it hasn’t been for everyone because running so many hills is not for everybody.
It’s tough on the body. The heart beats at high rates. You can’t keep any kind of pace. And the knees get sore from many downhills.
We had days of mismarked trails, mudbaths, freezing cold mornings, and small turnouts throughout the holidays.
But despite all the challenges a core group of runners kept on showing up on Saturdays.
A different type of runner. Runners that liked the challenge of a Monkey Hill. Or the uselessness of pacing a mile. A runner that liked scraping mud off their shoes. And believed that a panaramic view of the Pacific Ocean is so much better appreciated after climbing for three hard miles.
Meanwhile somethings were stirring in me athletically. I was quite competitive when younger having two very athletic younger brothers. But I was the non-athlete of the family. The book worm…the writer…and during college…the championship speaker and debater. Meanwhile my younger brothers were winning many soccer tournaments.
I ran here and there and loved to play racquetball but that was about it athletically.
But the fire was always in me. Steve Mackel began stirring it up with all his exploits up Mt. Baldy. And last summer I tried beating him up that mountain to no avail but I did train. And my Catalina Marathon last year was fast…sub four hours…which got me thinking by the end of the year…
Could I be a competitive trail runner? I mean I have the downhill speed for it. I have trails in my back yard. So the ingredients were there…but I needed to get much faster on my uphills and get better race endurance. Could a non athlete like me get competitive at the age of 39? What would it take?
And like all great questions…the answer became the journey. I made the DECISION TO COMPETE at the Buffalo Run and Catalina Marathon.
Now a decision like this has some ramifications. And I think many Beach Runners need to take heed of this…competing means some ass kicking hard work in training. No longer would a long run on a Saturday suffice for the heart of the training. No, I needed INTERVALS AND TEMPO RUNS. And hard ones during the week.
So back in December I began doing hard runs in the week. I trained with three partners…Anna, Matt (jackass), and later on, Jake. And lots of solo hard runs. But bottom line…I did ONE HARD RUN a week. And according to Tim VanOrden, a very competitive runner I interviewed last year, that is sufficient for most runners in training. Of course I still did a long run, and one other run. And hard hard power yoga. Also I ate a lot of carbs, drank green juices, drank 0 alcohol, and paid way too much money for body work to get my muscles relaxed.
So I came into this race trained. I was. I expected a good result. How well I would do, who knows? I mean it’s funny all the talk runners do about their expectations for race day…when there are a million factors at play that can influence your performance…weather, mindset, level of competition, injuries, etc.
So I’m learning to keep my expectations more to myself. I get a little quiet race day. Way more serious. I get a “game face”.
I did have a strategy. I would be the first Beach Runner to the top of the first five mile hill. That meant staying ahead of Matt and Steve. Matt is getting faster and faster but ran a marathon the week before at Surf City so I figuered I’d be fresher. Steve I just hadn’t seen much on Saturdays so I figuered I just might have him on the uphill.
Bizarre thing was because I was attacking this first hill, not that many runners were ahead of me. In fact, not many runners at all were ahead of me. If I could just hang in there…
At the end of a vicious first five miles that were all uphill, I had them both. Yet they were both within fifty yards of me. This was my strategy. Crank the uphills all out and then use my skills downhill to recover then lengthen the lead. It worked like a charm.
I did the last four miles smoking fast…and finished with a 1:53 which was only four minutes faster than last year…but all the garmin geeks told me the course was .5 miles too long…so maybe my time was more like a 1:48 in relative terms. All the interval and tempo training runs paid off as I did not bonk out at all and could recover midrace on the downhills.
Then I waited around and watched runner after runner come in…Steve who told me Matt had collapsed due to dehydration trying to keep up with me after doing a marathon the week before…Duncan…Jake…Laurie…Beach runner after Beach runner. The finish line is very intimate in Catalina. Its fun. And the runners were so exasperated from the tough course and the searing heat for a February.
It turns out Matt was okay. Then my hero, Barb, with her friend Sissy, came in like six hours later. The biggest warriors of the day in my opinion. Because Barb didn’t let the toughness of this race intimidate her, just like Baldy last year, she gave it a shot. I mean what’s the worse that could happen? You might finish last? Who cares. Just finish!
The awards ceremony was like something from my championship debate squads. Beach Runners took home EIGHT MEDALS (top three finishes in their age groups). It was soooo fun cheering on team member after team who went up there. Many of our runners like Jake, Uncle Sam, and Janet finished fourth in their age group. Which means we were real close to finishing with 50% podium finishes.
Other runners like Sandy and John had their own personal victories on the course.
I began to see something emerge that ceremony…a competitive trail running team. And it excites me to push this team even harder in the upcoming years.
How did I do?
I finished 12th overall. 1st in my age group 35-39. This was my first FIRST PLACE finish in anything athletically, EVER! The hard work paid off. If there is one thing I learned from this experience, it is you must PUSH YOURSELF IN THE WEEK if you want to get faster. Ask Steve and I how you should do this and we’ll guide you as coaches.
And coming back sitting on the back of the boat, getting to know Nikki who just ran her first trail race, sharing our experiences, looking at the ocean, at the rest of my team, fingering my medal, everything seemed so very…well…perfect.
See you at the Catalina Marathon.