The Avalon 50 mile race, in Catalina Island, is hands down, one of my favorite races. I have crossed the finish line seven times so far, but due to my recent knee surgery, this year I was part of the newly self-created "Avalon 50 Mile Race Dropouts-We Only Go Half Way"
Let me start out by saying this: I have a whole new respect for back of the packers. I have typically been either a mid to upper/back of the packer, but this year we were DFL (dead freaking last!)
This race runs over 50 miles boasting some of the most breathtaking ocean views California has to offer. This year, Andrea, Kerry and I, started out, flashlights in hand at 3AM. The official race start time is 5AM, but they allow those who would like, to start earlier. Hal Winton, age 78!, has run the race every single time. That's 29 times, folks. He started at 11PM, Friday night. Did I mention that he also has a pacemaker? I bow to the King!
Our plan was to hike to Two Harbors, then take the helicopter back to Avalon, since this is an out and back course. Our great running friend, Michele, planned to start at 5AM, run to Two Harbors and fly back with us.
We had a lovely time in the dark for the first four hours. The cloud cover didn't allow for any moonlight so it was "pick up your feet, pick up your feet" the whole trail, which of course, is uphill!
One of the things that I adore about Ultra Running is the wonderful sense of community and humility you find among the runners. Let me tell you, dear reader, that running 100 miles will bring even the strongest men to their knees crying for their Mommies. When we were around mile 21, I had a sensation inside my knee brace like someone had put hot pepper in there. I finally stopped to remove the knee brace only to discover severe chafing and blistering. The runners that were approaching us from the turnaround were at about mile 33 at that point. Every single one of them stopped to ask me if I needed help. I love these people!
We finally made it to Two Harbors, elated to be minutes (six minute helicopter ride to be exact) away from hot showers and real food back in Avalon, only to discover that we needed to hike another half a mile, then climb a hill, to the windsock where the helicopter lands. There's not much on this island and Two Harbors is even smaller than Avalon. One half a mile may not seem like far, but when you are ready to be done...............
There were 174 finishers. The winner finished in six hours, 30 minutes and the last runner completed the race in sixteen hours and 3 minutes. Another wonderful part of the race is the volunteers. They stand out there in the dark, at night, and hold up the finish line tape for every single finisher. Amazing!
One of the best parts of the entire weekend is this: My BFF, Tom Crull, race director of the Rockledge Rumble 50k, was this years recipient of the "Susie La Soya Feinstein Spirit Award" In November, 1992, Susie was diagnosed with terminal cancer. The doctors gave her 30 days to live. Her response? "Not until I finish my first marathon" Susie went on to complete 22 marathons and 4 ultra marathons, two of them being the Avalon 50 mile race prior to her passing. Susie said "When you're faced with an overwhelming situation, do a bit of grieving, and then figure out how to overcome the challenge"
Life, my dear friends, is a precious gift. It's also a lot of fun! The fun part of the weekend for me? It's that I can still do the cheer move that Angela taught me after hiking 25 1/2 miles! Happy Trails!