Monday, January 24, 2011

Buffalo Run 1/2 Marathon,_California

I spent the weekend on Catalina Island, only a 45-minute ferry ride west of Dana Point. Bustling during the tourist season in the summer, Avalon, the tiny town of Catalina (pop ~4,000) is a relaxing, quick get-away in the dead of winter. Sailing, scuba diving, and hiking are popular activities on the Catalina. I enjoyed clear, sunny skies, mid 70-temps, friendly locals, and a fantastic tour of more remote areas of the island while treating ourselves to the Buffalo Run 1/2 Marathon.
Catalina is a small, mountainous, and rocky island, 8 by 22 miles (highest point, 2,000 feet). The island is fiercely protected by the Catalina Nature Preservancy. No cars are allowed on the island and most of the island is an undeveloped nature preserve. The water surrounding the island is crystal clear and teeming with fat and happy fish. Catalina has a rich and interesting history. Some odd tidbits? Mr. William Wrigley Jr. (yes, the rich CEO of the Wrigley corporation, as in Wrigley gum and lifesavers) owned the island. He built a lavish mansion, country club, and baseball diamond and fieldhouse. This is the same Mr. Wrigley who owned the Chicago Cubs (at the time, 1914). The Cubs then came to the island for ~7 weeks during spring training during the 1920s-1950s.

These were the views I was greeted with as we ferried in from Dana Point (a quick 45 minute ride; 20 miles):
Avalon's harbor of boats lined the dock us as we pull into the pier. The shadows of the late afternoon sun grew long on the dark green hillside.

The narrow, hilly streets were lined with Old English-style cottages brightly colored in pinks, yellows, and greens, reminiscent of San Francisco. This one was our favorite, clinging precariously to the edge of a seaside cliff.

Race Day:
About 300 of us lined up on race day. The sun was out, and all of us shared the same uniform: a simple t-shirt, shorts, and running shoes.
Me, not knowing how to pose for the camera.

The first 2-miles, although on road, were very slow. We quickly exited Catalina and wrapped up and around the southeast side of the island. I tried my best to settle into a slow jog or shuffle but the ascent steepened almost immediately. I was forced to slow into an awkward "jog-walk", unable to find any rhythm. Luckily, I had brought my camera. I had glanced at the elevation map before we started. 1600' of climbing (all in the first four miles) translated to "4 miles of walking" for me. I started to snap pictures pass the time.

Somewhere between a shuffle and a jog (aka "slogging") up the first two miles.
I was so thankful I had brought my camera. The views were spectacular. Here, we can see the town of Avalon from the road above.
It was a gorgeous day, and the ocean was no-less brilliant. Avalon's boats docked at the harbor. In the distance is the historical Wrigley Casino, the cylindrical, white building.
The smell of the recent rains hovered richly in the damp soil. Emerald green leafy boughs surrounded me in a cool, comforting shade. The sun danced and glittered over the ocean, like blazing coals of fire.
We reached the trail and continued our ascent. All of us were walking now, some more vigorously than others. I shook my head in disbelief. How could some people run this? Besides, I was having too much fun!
Above us, the trail zig-zagged up to the summit.

Up, and up, and up.

A "topographical" view of the first 4 miles of the course from sea level.
Either up or down, the only thing this course lacks is flat!
(Wo)man versus hill.

Are we ever going to get to run? At mile 4, I'm pretty cranky.
The Summit: Our Reward.

Lush grass, velvety vallies, it was straight out of an episode of Lost.

Relieved, we take a minute to pose for the camera before enjoying our descent.

Tantalizing expectations of a relaxing descent were smashed by a sudden out-and-back, 4 miles total, the first two, of which were entirely uphill. More uphill? There was a striking juxtaposition in runner morale depending on whether they were an "out" or a "back" runner. Using some mental strength, I quieted the disgruntled voice inside who continuously repeated, "Are we there yet?"
Finally, we reached the turn-around. A wide smile beamed across my face, as I upgraded to a "Back" runner. I began to run.

Downhill is better than uphill!
Finally, all this run training I've been toiling through can be put to use! I was warmed up (after 7 miles), and well-rested. My feet danced quickly over the well-groomed trail. The final 3-miles were a blazing whirlwind. My legs felt good, and I felt like I could go much farther.

Oh, and if you've made it this far, here's a fun tidbit:
Why is it called "The Buffalo Run"? Although we didn't see any buffalo, there are buffalo that live on the island. Buffalo were released on the island in 1924 for the filming of a movie, "The Vanishing American". Now, they are maintained by the Catalina Nature Conservancy to prevent overpopulation.


Sharon said...

Great run, Rachel and Greg! The views are beautiful...
Way to go!

Anonymous said...

wow, gorgeous!! Thanks so much for posting pics... I will have to get to Catalina soon. Looks like you had a blast.

Christi said...

What a great looking venue for a race! I must check that out someday!

Diana said...

Absolutely breath-taking! That goes for both the view and the uphill climbs!!!
Nice job!

Colleen said...

Wow... looks amazing!

hstryk said...

Great post Rachel! I'm happy to see that you are focused less on PRs and pace and just having a great time and enjoying the race! It's actually inspiring to me. If I ever get back to racing I'm hoping to be less focused on the competition and more focused on the other more enriching parts of the race experience. The race course and the area look really beautiful!

SDandi said...

Congrats Rachel! I did this one in 2006 and it is easily the hardest half ive ever done!

Kate said...

Oh my goodness- that's BEAUTIFUL!

MissFancyPants said...

Looks really beautiful...

Andy said...

Wow, that is a pretty intense half marathon! Yeah I probably would have to do some walking on this course as well. Catalina Island is really cool! Thanks for all the pictures and the story/race report. You always do an awesome job on them.