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