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 Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR
Rustyboy

LA, CA
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Mon Jan 15, 2007 1:09 pm 

Friday afternoon, I aimed the old Mini Cooper towards Long Beach, about 30 miles south of Los Angeles and boarded a ferry to the tiny town of Avalon, on Catalina Island. The one hour trek by boat provided amazing views of crystal blue skies and a bouncing ride on huge chop. Which I love. Honestly. It nearly rocked me to sleep a few times as I heard fellow runners chatting and catching up, sipping their $5 beers and snacking on their $3 Snicker bars, wavering on the unsteady seas.

I checked in to my hotel, scrambled out to pick up my bib number, and jammed about 4 pounds of pasta into my mouth, followed by one, incredibly tasty, incredibly tall Lager.

I was ready to race.

I crashed out around 10:30 (thanks to the help of Benadryl allergy) and before I knew it, my eyes snapped open a the sound of the 4:00 alarm. Checking and triple-checking my supplies, I strode down the 3 flights of stairs in my hotel knowing that upon my return, those suckers would drain the last bits of energy I had.

It was windy and cool at the oceanfront, but before I and 162 other runners even had time to complain about it, headlamps and flashlights in hand, we were off and running!

Catalina Island is well-known for herds of wild bison that roam the mountains and terrain, so looking forward to an encounter, I began keeping my eyes peeled for buffalo...and buffalo chips.

I caught up with another runner who I recognized as a fellow pacer from October's San Diego 100. We'd spent a few hours at an aid station at mile 75 waiting for our runners, but when his rolled in, it was readily apparent that neither of them were about to jump back onto the trail. Luckily, as we were catching up, she pulled up alongside of us and we chatted at a slow pace uphill until about mile 7, when that all-too-familiar itch hit me and I strode ahead.

Around mile 10, after climbing about 1,000 feet, wet drops began hitting me in the face, and I thought, SH*T, RAIN...until I realized, NO, WAIT...SNOW! In the 10 years I've lived in Southern California, I had yet, up until then, to see flakes dropping from the skies, and for about 10 minutes, as the dime-sized flakes drifted around us all, it seemed like a dream.

I steadied my pace and relaxed into the rolling climbs and descents and, after an aid stop at mile 19 at Little Harbor, saw the race leaders coming back towards us, about 10 seconds apart! After descending into the (incredibly beautiful but depressing small) town of Twin Harbors, I saw the turnaround point about 2 miles up a series of switchbacks, and, counting the runners coming back at me, calculated that I was somewhere around #50 in the pack, which fueled the fires inside me a little, since I had plenty of gas left in the tank. Never mind that I wound up talking to a 17 year old kid running the race for his 2nd year in a row and is preparing for his 2nd 100 miler this spring.

Hitting the aid station at mile 27.7 at the Ithsmus aid station, I knew I'd need to stock up on more fuel for the 6 mile uphill back towards Little Harbor, but the supplies were surprisingly limited to bananas, pretzels, water, Coke, and Skittles. Finding myself incredibly clever, I filled my gel flask with Skittles and grabbed 2 huge handfuls of pretzels and flipped around.

Climb, climb, climb, and up, up, up before a nice, "easy", slow decent back down to Little Harbor, and by now, I was passing folk, and every single one of them wearing the biggest smiles. (Unbeknownst to me, my girlfriend Ann, who was now waiting at the finish after her ferry ride over and snapping photos, was tracking my progress: At the first radioing in of our position, I had checked in around 73rd, but now, as I overtook here and there, I had wormed my way up into the top 60 of the pack).

This year, the race directors wisely eliminated a 2-3 mile out an back towards the race's finish and instead, tacked on a small, outer, 4-5 mile loop around mile 40...which was entirely uphill. By now, I was starting to get a little sore, so I downed a Tylenol and strapped in my iPod for inspiration, which ironically came in the form of Asia's "Heat of the Moment" as cool ocean winds hit my sweat-soaked body. And as I turned a downhill switchback that carried us straight towards the rippling, indigo ocean, an overwhelming sense of peace hit me that could have been:

A. A runner's high

B. Delirium

C. An overwhelming sense of peace

I'm gonna go with a combo of the three.

But feeling myself out there, alone, staring across the crashing waves of the Pacific as I climbed step after step, something in me was stirred, and a oneness with everything living on the planet, just for a second, struck me deep inside. This inner peace was interrupted, of course, but my attempt to down some of the Skittles in my gel flask as the wet, sticky morsels refused to get unstuck one at a time and instead came out in one giant, gray clump.

I overtook another few runners as the uphill grade lessened (not leveled, mind you), and at Pumphouse Hill aid station at mile 44, feeling pretty good, I decided to turn it up a notch, which, to the casual observers passing me in tour buses winding down the trails past me, probably appeared as a meandering, slow jog (I can just imagine the tour guide's banter: "Up the hill, on the left, is the site of the Chicago Cub's spring training facilities built in 1921...on the right, another weaving, drooling idiot...").

At the crest of the hill, now with 4-ish, downhill miles left, I stared in the face a site that makes any trail runner's stomach drop: Asphalt. Straight down. And lots of it. My right I.T. Band had been tightening slowly over the course of the past 8 1/2 hours, so I knew I have to take it gingerly on the hard, downhill surface, but Night Ranger's "Sister Christian" was there to help guide the way.

I hit a switchback that exposed the barn door: Downtown Avalon was a mere mile downhill, and from behind me, I sense someone catching up, so I turned to find Ravi: A runner I'd passed about 6 miles back!

"Come on!" I yelled, slowing down and waving him towards me. "Let's do this!"

He jogged up alongside me, and boy, I saw it in his face: Stick a fork in me, his eyes read.

I pushed the pace for us as we wove through the residential areas around the main drag, and as we hit the final 200 meters, I asked him if he had anything left for a final kick. "Go for it," he wheezed, waving me on, and so, I did, putting everything I had left in me into the final 1/4 mile, crossing the tape in 9 hours, 14 minutes., finishing 41st overall.

Other than soreness and my achy I.T., I felt great! Ann snapped pics all the while, kissing my heavily salted lips, ignoring das goat smell wafting offa my stinking carcass as they draped the finisher's medal on me and I grabbed a cup of veggie soup.

The course was beautiful, the workers, as always, wonderful, but sadly, the only wild buffalo I saw came in the form of buffalo burgers offered at one of the aid stations. I'd pictured them much bigger in real life.

And those 3 flights of stairs back at the hotel? The race may have taken me over 9 hours, but the steps added another 5.


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Wed Jan 17, 2007 7:50 pm 

Rustyboy, I am sincerely impressed. An outstanding race! And 50 miles... I don't even like to drive that far! :-)

That is truly an impressive achievement. After having done several marathons, I find it hard to fathom how you could muster the determination to continue on for nearly twice that distance. You have my respect.

I love the image of your zen moment of universal connectedness being interrupted by choking on a clump of Skittles.

Catalina Island sounds beautiful. Who would have imagined you'd run into snow? So did you ever cross paths with those elusive buffalo during the race?

Congratulations, and best wishes for a quick recovery! Got any more race plans?


Rustyboy

LA, CA
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 8:29 pm 

Rickshaw wrote:
Rustyboy, I am sincerely impressed. An outstanding race! And 50 miles... I don't even like to drive that far! :-)

That is truly an impressive achievement. After having done several marathons, I find it hard to fathom how you could muster the determination to continue on for nearly twice that distance. You have my respect.

I love the image of your zen moment of universal connectedness being interrupted by choking on a clump of Skittles.

Catalina Island sounds beautiful. Who would have imagined you'd run into snow? So did you ever cross paths with those elusive buffalo during the race?

Congratulations, and best wishes for a quick recovery! Got any more race plans?


Thanks, Rickshaw! I had a blast, and I'm now totally addicted to distances over 50k. It's an entirely different ballgame. That said, I do have the LA Marathon in March, Leona Divide 50 in April, and a 100k in May. Then, in October, my first 100 in San Diego.

Here's me about 100 meters from the finish of the 50 last weekend. I love the confused people on their weekend getaways trying to figure out what's going on:

http://i13.tinypic.com/2gula38.jpg


Rickshaw
Runworks 2005 5M Racer
San Francisco, CA
Joined: 26 Nov 2004
Posts: 1157

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Thu Jan 18, 2007 10:00 pm 

You look great! I would have thought that was a photo from early in the race. Nice finish!

mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Mon Jan 29, 2007 9:19 pm 

Job well done Rustyboy! That's a nice finishing time on very challenging terrain. I envy you. I can't wait to do my next ultra. After my first 50 (JFK) I was pretty stoked and ready to do another one right away. I spent a lot of time in the weeks following trying to plan when and where I'd do my next ultra. But my ambition has been tempered by time and the realization that my priority needs to be on Ironman Wisconsin in September. I think I'll try to squeeze one or two in but probably nothing over 50.

Sounds like your working on a nice race progression on your way to the 100 in San Diego. What will your peak training weeks look like? Do you do any special conditioning for the down hills other than down hill running?

Have you seen the documentary about the Western States 100 ("A Race for the Soul?" - http://www.kvie.org/programs/kvie/araceforthesoul/default.htm)? It's a must see before any ultra.

Good job man! Keep running long.


Rustyboy

LA, CA
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 10:50 am 

Ironman Wisconsin? SWEET! I've heard that it's a tough and beautiful course. Best of luck! What time of year is it?

I haven't seen the Western States doc, but I need to pick it up. Thanks for the link! Have you seen "Running on the Sun"? It's a doc about Badwater, shot about 6 years ago, and it's mind-blowing what thoser runners endure.

As far as my peak training weeks for my first 100, I'm thinking about running a couple of 50 mile races and a couple of 50ks in preparation. I've found from friends who run 100s regularly that 50 miles is the MAX that they train as a long run, usually parts of it at night.


mfox

South Orange, New Jersey
Joined: 19 Dec 2004
Posts: 367

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Fri Feb 02, 2007 12:02 pm 

I've got "Running on the Sun" and I agree it's a facinating look at what the Badwater race is all about. If you liked that then you'll definitely enjoy "A Race for the Sole."

Yes, running at night. That has to be one of (many) challenges to surviving a 100 mile ultra. Not only do you have to watch your step without getting nausiated from the light of your head lamp dancing in front of you but you also have to pay attention to watch for course markings if the course branches off. This can be the best time to have a pacer who's a bit fresher to help navigate.

Are you blogging your training or have plans to share your experience? I'd be interested in checking your progress as you prepare. Good luck.


Rustyboy

LA, CA
Joined: 14 Dec 2004
Posts: 225

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Wed Feb 07, 2007 10:08 am 

mfox wrote:


Are you blogging your training or have plans to share your experience? I'd be interested in checking your progress as you prepare. Good luck.


That's actually a great idea. I have a personal blog where I include race reports, but maybe this summer, once I begin ramping up for the 100, I'll start a training blog and let ya know the address.

Something like "www.holycrapImrunninga100.com" would suffice.


rrajan


Joined: 12 Aug 2009
Posts: 1

Re: Rustyboy's Avalon 50 RR Posted: Wed Aug 12, 2009 9:12 am 

Hey Rustyboy it's Ravi!

I am just coming across this post now. I do remember catching up with you towards the end, but you put it another gear the last 200 meters! Have you run Avalon since?
I ran it this past year and did it in 10 hours and 30 minutes. Undertrained and a warm day.

It was great to see this post.

Take Care,

Ravi


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