George White’s Buffalo Run Report

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Why is the Catalina Half marathon called the ultimate trail run?

I don’t know why other people call it that – but I do know that it was the hardest 13 miles I’ve ever run. I’m tired, I’m sore, and I’m happy. It was a great run. I honestly don’t know why I signed on for this. I really wasn’t looking to do another marathon any time soon, but I wanted to keep training with the Beach Runners. And I’ve already run the Pacific Shoreline Half twice – PR’d there in 2004 at 1:49. So I guess I was looking for a new challenge – and I sure found it.

I had to get up way early – 5 am. We had to get on the boat before 6:00 am to catch the 6:15 am boat. We arrived at Avalon about 7:30 – me, Steve, Gary, Jim, and one of Steve’s private coaching clients, Mark Kirsh. Mark is just too much. He’s been running a marathon a month. He just ran I think it was #11 last Sunday – the ING Miami marathon. He qualified for Boston – and he’s running that in March or so.

Anyway – I had all of the usual pre-race energy – I got my packet, my number, pinned it on my Beach Runner’s technical shirt. We got in line – it was such a small field – I’m like Gary – I really like these smaller races.

Immediately – Steve and Gary take off like jack rabbits on crystal meth. Mark was pretty much keeping up with them. Jim was somewhere behind me. I started out doing 8:00 minute miles – and they were all out of sight after the first half mile. We saw a guy smoking a cigarette with his girlfriend before the race – I passed him at about the first ½ mile. We kept climbing and climbing. We rounded several more curves – again – more climbing. Then after the first mile marker – we had a slight downhill. I was doing 6:30’s at that point for a few hundred yards. Garmins are great, aren’t they?

Then we went uphill again – and I thought to myself – I can handle this. Then we got to the water stand and the trail started. It was steeper than the road. I thought – this should level out some time – then it got steeper. Right after the Mile 2 marker – I passed Mark – he had stopped and was taking a drink of water. Then – more climbing. And it got steeper – and I walked a little – maybe 20-30 yards. At this point – I was doing 12-13 minute miles. I love my Garmin. This was my first race with it.

Then I rounded another curve – and it seemed like around every curve – it got even steeper. So I made sure I had my lean, and that I was taking short steps, and I remembered the uppercuts. For about the next 3-4 miles – I was pretty much run-walking. When it got less steep – I ran. When I got to another steep portion – I walked. When I got to mile 5 – my total time was 1 hour, 5 minutes. Usually on a half marathon – I’m at or past mile 7 at the 1-hour mark. Then I got discouraged. I was thinking this is the slowest half marathon I’ve ever run – but the scenery was unbelieveably beautiful. Steep cliffs, deep blue or aquamarine, turquoise – so many versions of blue in the ocean.

On parts of these hills – 5 or 10 people in front of me and 5 or 10 people behind me were walking – so I knew it wasn’t just me. These were tough hills. Just like mile 19 in the San Diego marathon – everyone I was with walked.

I always thought of myself as a trail runner – I’ve done PV with Gary, I’ve done El Moro in Orange County several times – there’s a great 10-mile loop there – but nothing prepared me for this. I’ve never run 6 miles continuously up hill – and it kicked my butt. Then I also mixed in some of Danny’s sideways/sidestepping – and that seemed to help. Then I got to the top around mile 6 – and my legs felt like jello. I was so whooped – and I wasn’t even half way done. I was going to finish – you pretty much have to on this one – but it wasn’t going to be pretty. Then I had a little downhill – and I let myself go and that felt great. A woman passed these two guys – and they said something discouraging about taking downhills too fast. Those guys obviously don’t know much about Chi running. Then it started going uphill again – really steep – and I heard Mark behind me. He said “Hey Chief” and we walked that hill and ran some more. We probably ran together for a mile or two. Then I was on my own again. And I was tired, and sore and I wondered what I was doing here. And my shoulders were sore from all of the upper cuts.
I was hating this stupid race. Why do they even call it the Buffalo run when you don’t see any buffalo? And what’s up with a 16 or 18 minute mile? My 84-year old mother can walk faster than that. I was hating life at this point.

What was I thinking? Why in the !@#$%(*&^% did I decide to run this race anyway? Obviously – I wasn’t thinking or I wouldn’t be getting up at 5 am to get my legs beat with baseball bats and get my ass kicked and handed to me on a platter. I could be in bed, curled up with Michele instead of this torture.

Then it was getting hot – and I stopped for water and Gatorade at every aid station. I also had some of those Cliff blocks. Then it was not as steep and I pretty much ran every mile. I saw Steve and Gary – it was about mile 7.5 for me and 9.5 for them. They looked tired and didn’t say anything to me. Then I hit another aid station – and some more water, Gatorade, and cliff blocks – and I saw Mark on his way down. Then I had one steep part – then it leveled out – then I hit mile 9 and turned around – and it was all downhill after that. I hit the aid station again – got a handful of Cliff blocks – and kept running. At mile 10 – it was still pretty steep. I was running 9 to 9:30’s at this point – but it was really steep and it was rocky – and I was afraid of slipping on the rocks.

Then I hit the aid station right past Mile 10 – filled up on more water, Gatorade, and Cliff blocks. By this time I was getting some kind of sugar buzz and getting all liquored up from the Gatorade and Cliff blocks – and I was running behind 2 guys – we were doing 9 minute miles – which is pretty good. By this point the path was wide, flat, and no rocks. It was still steep – but I decided that I didn’t have to run behind these guys – I was a Chi Runner – and I leaned forward a little – and took off. Within a 20-30 yards – I was doing 7 minute miles – and passing everybody I could see. I flew by the guys I was running behind – and not only passed everyone I could see – I flew by them. I’ve kept up with Gary stride for stride on a PV run – not under race conditions – but I’ve kept up with him under training run conditions – and I’ve got some of his magic/mojo for running downhill.

I continued to pass people. I checked my Garmin – I was doing 6:13 to 6:30 minute miles – and loving it! I passed at least 10-15 people. I was going so fast – I almost missed one of the curves. I was within about 1 foot of going over the edge before I corrected myself. It was pure gravity pulling me down. I just let go – leaned forward – and let my stride kick out the back and let myself go ridiculously fast downhill. It was one of the best kicks I’ve ever had in a race or a training run. When I passed people – it wasn’t just passing them – I flew by them. It was so fun. Then after 2-3 miles of this exhilaration – we got to the road – and it was still slightly downhill but not as steep – and I kept passing people. I was doing 7:00 to 7:30 minute miles by this point – but I continued to pass people – and it was so fun. No one passed me while I from mile 9 on down. And I said to myself – I said self – no one passes the Great White going downhill. (The Great White was a nickname given to me a long time ago by some people I worked with).

Once we were back on the road – I only passed 3 or 4 people – and I couldn’t see anyone else to pass up – so I ran with this guy from South Africa for a while. Once I got to the last half mile – I saw a chunky guy to my right – and I said to myself – this guy is toast – I’m totally passing this guy up – and I did – I blew right by him. And I had about ¼ of a mile to go – and I saw this woman – and I said to myself that she was not finishing ahead of me – so I leaned forward a little more and blew right past her as well. Then I had about 200 yards to go – and I wanted to finish strong – so I kept up a strong pace –then I saw I Steve and Gary with their cameras filming me – so I totally had to make sure I had the proper form – the lean , the arms, etc. for a Beach Runner – and then I was done. And I was so glad to be done with this race.

Even though none of us made it to the podium (we did meet several people who did – such a small field) but I’ve got my own awards.

First of all – the Sandbagger Award – is a tie – going to both Gary and Steve. Before the race – both of those two were whining about how little they had trained, how out of shape they were, yada, yada, yada. Gary was in Thailand and Cambodia for a month – Steve had the herniated disc – by the way these guys were carrying on on the boat ride over – you thought these guys couldn’t even make it to the finish. Steve even said he was just really going to take it easy. We started out – Gary was filming the start and it took him a while to catch up with us – but we started doing 8:00 minute and 7:30 minute miles. They took off pretty fast. After the first ½ mile – I totally lost them. Gary ended up finishing at something like 1:56 – 6th in his age group – Steve was around 2:03 and he made it 12th in our age group. Both of those guys smoked me by 20-30 minutes. So much for taking it easy and being so out of shape.

Mark Kirsh gets the “I can’t believe he’s here” award. After my last marathon – I spent 2 weeks sleeping in and stuffing myself in Italy. He ran the Miami marathon the week before the Buffalo run. And it wasn’t a flat race – it was pretty darned steep. I can’t imagine running this race a week after a marathon.

Jim gets the Most Improved Award. Jim is doing remarkably better on hills since the last time I ran hills with him in Palos Verdes. Steve, Gary and I were discussing how much progress he’s made since last summer. Way to go, Jim.

Jim also gets another award – the Babe Magnet award. Just looking at Jim – Babe magnet isn’t exactly the first thing that pops to your mind. Jim’s a decent enough looking guy – but not really what I would consider a Babe Magnet. Then he puts on the Uncle Sam hat. I always wondered why he wore that hat. It’s not really aerodynamic. And it doesn’t really shade his face much – but it sure does get a lot of attention from the ladies! He had several pictures taken with babes – young, older, and everything in between – and sometimes several women. Congratulations – Babe Magnet.

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And that concludes my race report. Will I run this next year?? I don’t know. If I could only do some more hill work………….

Beach Runner and SoCalRunning Member and “Good ol Boy Yoga Teacher”,
George White

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