Monday, January 31, 2011

Avalon 50 Miler

Wanting to start the New Year off right, I entered the Avalon 50 Miler on Santa Catalina Island. Although I can see the Island from in front of my house, and have dove and fished off its coast, I have never stepped foot on the Island. This is also a benefit run, which is more about the donations and fun, than the actual race. I almost did not go, but at last minute, put together the accomidations.
On Friday January 14th, I took the Catalina Exspress from Long Beach over to the Island. The weather was awesome, and the seas were a little to big for a comfortable ride. I had some motion sickness pills in my truck, but forgot them, and nearly got sick. It took a few hours to feel normal.
I stayed at the Pavilion Hotel, which was awesome, for a runners discount, which was half price. I had a great dinner, and went to the pre-briefing, and just rested for the for the evening. I did see some fellow runners and race directors I knew, as well as met some new friends. At the briefing, I was surprised how many people were actually at the race. come to find out there were 294 runners already checked in, and I never did find out the total, that actually ran which I believe is more.
The race was to begin at 5am, so after a great nights sleep, I woke up at 3:30am and put my things together, and walked out to the start line some 50 ft away.
At 5am sharp the bells rang and we were off. I took off in a slow jog, up a mellow assent along a golf coarse. I had a light, but really did not use it, due to all the others lights that made the whole valley light up. Soon you could see the fore runners far up the canyon, with their lights shimmering along. As I switched directions on the swithbacks, there were even more lights down below. Upon reaching the top of the Islands crest, the sunrise was beginning with a orange glow. It was not long, I reached the 1st aid station and deposited my light into a box for later pick up.
Now the path was on a rough pavement. It was horriable and seemed to go on forever. After 6 miles of that my feet were already sore. Soon I was in with a small group of runners, which made time go by nice. We saw our 1st American Bison, that were left on the island in the 20's during a making of a movie. He was just grazing up above us on a hill top. We also skirted around the small airport and then the old ranch house. The ranch use to raise cattle, but are now growing grapes for a wine, that will someday become available to he public. We then made our way down to the ocean again to a small cove [little harbor] on the west side of the island, were I saw 3 surfers, and some wally waves. There was also another Bison, down in a valley.
Upon reaching Little Harbor, we were now 1/3 of the way. The sun was beginning to get pretty hot, and I wished I would of had another bottle of water on me, considering the climb out of the canyon. We soon reached the top of the climb, where I saw another Bison, and began another long descent to a small town at the northeast side of the island. They had a nice harbor, and a real small little community. We then began running out to a point where we turned around and started heading back.
We now had the long climb back up to the crest, where it was now nearing 90 degrees. It was in this area that I began scooping mud water to soak my head, and try to keep cool. Now running alone, it seemed to take forever, but finally reached Little Harbor again. This time though, we would take another road to the interior of the island, called Middle Ranch. The grade was a long slight uphill for many miles. It really began to suck the life from you as the sun just baked you in the windless canyon.
In one area, we came upon a grove of tall sycamore trees. I heard some hillbilly music, and came up on a old shack and a much needed aid station. They were searving Buffalo Burgers, and I ate a couple of nice chunks. There were a lot of runners, held up here, but I just soaked my head and moved on. Soon I heard some screaming, and saw a girl come running back towards me. I thought maybe we were going the wrong way, but then heard her yell, BUFFALO! Soon 5 runners and I were up against a mad east, that did not want us in his area. He was huffing and puffing, stomping his feet and doing short charges. We all yelled at it and evetually he took off. He was running so fast, everyone realised there is no outrunning a Buffalo.
There was still some more climbing to two more aid stations, but evetually I made it, and began the long 2 1/2 mile steep downhill pavement run back into town. The crowds cheered as we all came running in, and it was nice o see the small village observing our crazy sport. I finished in 10hrs and 37min. That is my personal best for a 50miler, which really was 52 miles.
It was a great day on Santa Catalina, a nice boat ride back and a very memorable weekend.