Gary’s Buffalo Run Race Report

Beach Runners Gary (with bloodied knee), Mark, Uncle Sam (Jim), Steve, and George

“i have come to treasure that part of myself a lot, that part of me never, ever gave up. regardless of how intense the pain. that is the part of me that will get me through the Bardo. i trust in this and continue to cultivate this part of me. racing helps me stay in tune with this priceless part of me” Steve Ilg

My Buffalo Run Race Report, February 12th, 2007. Catalina Island, California.

My initial goal was to just finish the race. Considering my running shape was not good. Mainly because I had spent a long vacation in Thailand/Cambodia and did limited running while I was over there.

How limited?

My longest run was about five miles. I saw more bars than long runs.

However my yoga routine was consistent…3 times a week and sometimes more. During my yoga routine I was working my core/abs hard and working on both body and inner strength. So I was getting stronger. Always pushing some kind of limit.
So I had no idea how I would do on the Buffalo run, which I figuered would be quite hilly and difficult. The Buffalo run is a half marathon, with over 1500 feet of elevation gain. And on trails. Hard. Difficult. Scenic. Not too many runners. My kind of race.

To my advantage I had somewhat of a base after doing a lot of trail running in November/December culminating in doing my first ultramarathon on December 23rd.

After an early boat ride over there, Steve, and Beach Runners Mark, George, and Uncle Sam (Jim) arrived in Avalon. While we were all expecting rain, the weather could not have been any better…warm, slightly cloudy, and crystal clear.

In other words, ideal running conditions.

After a quick breakfast, the race preparation was on. Long sleeves and jackets got quickly stashed away in backpacks as there was no rain in sight and the weather was warm.

The total number of participants was limited…maybe 300-400 tops if even that. I’ve done the alternative…Los Angeles Marathon with 23,000 runners. And I much more prefer the smaller races. Its easier to meet people, the course is not crowded, you have space to pass people. There’s many benefits.

The gun fired and we were off. Typical of my race I dropped a water bottle from my fuel belt within 100 yards of the start. Fell behind Steve but then caught up to him.

My goal for the first eight miles was simple…keep up with Steve Mackel. After running with him twice on the Mt. Baldy race, I know he kicks serious ass uphill. The fact is I am not that fast uphill. I am steady, I am efficient, but not fast.

Steve is fast uphill. I’d let him do the pacing. Even though he is recovering from a serious injury, he has been running well the last month so I figuered he’d have some juice.

Within the first few hundred yards of the we lost the rest of our boys. It was a hill right off the bat, steady climbing, like we do in Palos Verdes. And I love hills. Then we got on the trails.

And we kept going up and up and up.

We’d turn one corner and see another set of switchbacks up a hill. In all, the first six miles were uphill. Both Steve and I, as accomplished hill runners, found a pace we were comfortable with, and just settled in.

Within miles we were passing runners who started out too fast. Our form was great, moving to the metronome, arms swinging, taking short strides. The key on the uphills as a chirunner is to run efficiently. Basically the goal is to not run with your leg muscles but rather with your core and upper body, relaxing your whole lower body. That way once you get to the top, you’re fresh and then can start passing exhausted runners.

Steve got ahead of me between miles 5 and 6 but not far, maybe 30 yards, as I was working my ass off to keep him within striking distance. At this point, I could feel my lack of training the last month but I just began breathing heavier and heavier flooding my muscles with oxygen. If nothing else using yogic breaths, I can breathe heavier than my fellow runner, a major advantage early in the race.

At the top of the hill (6 miles in!!!), a downhill section finally began. My initial thinking was to stay with Steve the whole race. Cross the finish line together camaraderie kind of thing. First race of the season, no rush, no aspirations.

But right off the bat downhill, I began flying. I surprise myself everytime during trail races how fast I am downhill. I just love running downhill. Its easy and fast for me. Steve watching my speed tells me “go for it. don’ wait for me”.

Being polite I say “No. I’m running with you”. But then he tells me, “Go for it, you’ll get a great time.”

So I take off. Flying by people on the downhill sections. I’m like Jonathan Livingston Seagull. Like Michael Jordan draining 3’s on Portland. Like Sarah Hughes on ice. Pure joy in movement.

The uphills start again and just as I was thinking how fast I was going, God reminds me to concentrate and I slip and land on my hands and knees.

Cutting up my knees on sharp small rocks.

I look at my knees after running for another 30 yards and blood is pouring out of my left knee all the way down to my socks. Not good. I need to stop and take care of this.

Luckily enough a rest station was close, I ask for a first aid kit, and quickly put gauze pads on the wound and tape it up. Steve passes me.

The hills begin again. I see my pacer, Steve in sight, maybe 50 yards ahead of me. So I buckle down, breathe hard, and dig deep to catch up to him. Which I do at about mile eight.

We hit the turnaround point, run together for a bit commenting how hard and beautiful the running has been up to this point. Then the big downhill begins. My dream come true…5 miles of downhill running to finish the race.

Using the methods of ChiRunning, I can run dangerously fast down hills, letting gravity pull me down. I run sub 6 minute miles downhill. Nobody passes me. I passed over 12 runners on Saturday.

The last mile was downhill on asphalt, and I have to admit, I was tired from undertraining this season. I could not catch the last two runners in my sight. And I ran with everything I had in me for the last mile. Fast.

I crossed the finish line, feeling proud that I did not wuss out on the run. I ran like a warrior. With pride, with honor, with everything I had in me, with the desire to pass others, and unwielding in letting others pass me.

Yet complimenting everyone I could on their racing, especially those I was passing.

My time: 1 hour 57 minutes. Age place finish: 6th. Anytime you finish in the top ten of your age group is a fantastic finish. Certainly would have had higher if I hadn’t taken the spill, dropped water bottles, took pictures, and dropped my camera.

I am so stoked with this finish for the first race of the season. So stoked. It motivates me to train hard the next month for Catalina, so I can run hard there also. I’m shooting for a top three finish for my age group in the American Trial Championship now.
So all the boys had fantastic finishes also. Steve, struggling with the downhills, finished just a few minutes behind me (2:03).

A heroic performance considering his comeback from injury.

Be sure to compliment Steve on his comeback race. Mark came in strong. George came in smiling and said something we all agreed with, “This was the best course I’ve ever run!” Views of the Pacific, wilderness, and harbors. Five miles of downhill to finish the race. As a ChiRunner he was passing many runners on the downhill section.
And Uncle Sam came in with his typical smiling good spirits. Everyone ran hard. Noone gave up despite the the difficulty of the course.

I’m so proud and honored to be running with ANYONE that chooses to do a hard race…the difficulty is what makes you grow.

But Steve and I are most proud of a Beach Runner named Ronnie. We saw her in line to catch the boat. She has only run a few times with the group on Saturdays. Loving to do the trails in Palos Verdes so much she parks at the Golf Course to ensure she spends more time on the trails. So Ronnie finishes last on the Half Marathon. Last. And she was proud of that finish!!! Steve and I were too. Why?

Because she found the courage to CHOOSE to do a difficult race and found the determination and grit to finish it.

So runners, as this year starts, and you’re making your running goals and planning your races, choose to do a HARD RACE. Quit taking the easy route. Face your fears and do something you’re scared of. Because when you face these fears, and am struggling, breathing hard, and find some strength in your breathing, your faith, your training, your yoga, your teammates, your chirunning, your determination, your faith, your faith, your faith… you will find

The real you. A king. A queen. A warrior.

The Catalina full marathon is in four weeks. I can’t wait. Come join us.



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