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Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run

by Tom Crull Catalina Island, CA April 2, 2005 “The Bataan Death March” Arrived Friday to Catalina Island for the re-run of the January race that was cancelled due to weather. The race started at 5 am with a two mile out and back along the ocean then up through the Wrigley Memorial to the top of the Island. From there its about 6 miles of pavement to the airport in the sky at mile 15 then dirt roads for the rest of the run until the final 3.1 miles of steep paved road back to Avalon and the finish line. The Island was beautiful, lush green mountains and wild flowers every where. From the ridge road we could see the Snow on Big Bear Mountain on the mainland. My climbing was strong and I was hoping for a 11-11:30 finish! Not!!!!!!!! Hitting the long downhill through Escondido Ranch I hooked up with a 51 year old Army veteran who had just returned from being recalled to Afghanistan. He had some great stories, stuff you won’t see reported in the press, unfortunately. Arriving at Little Harbor at the Wacko café I was greeted by the Mayor of Avalon and his wife Pat, they are a trip. They had a bottle of Merlot on the table if you wanted some. I refueled then headed out for the long climb six mile hike to Twin Harbor and the turn around. You get to see the faster runners on their way back at this stage. There is very little shade on this run and sun was getting hot. Temps were in the 70’s and very little breeze in the interior. At mile 25 you get about a two mile downhill to the turn around. This is the first time I’ve ever seen the LA County Fire rescue Squad out there. Not a good sign. Refueled and started the long climb back to the top. It was now really warm and the sweat was heavy. Getting to the top it was a long easy down hill back to Wacko café about mile 33-34. I refueled, drank a lot of liquid and headed out for a long hot climb to mile 38 aid station. Here they cook buffalo burgers, booze, Red Bull, great country Music and are usually ripped! About mile 36 I started coming unglued, no wind and hot. I found a small shady spot by a bush and sat down. I was using about 40 oz of liquid every 1-1 1/2 hours but still dehydrating. My legs were totally gone and it was a tough walk into the mile 38 aid station. I sat down and told the personnel I was calling it a day. I sat for about 35-40 minutes until the last place runner Ken STAGGERED in. He was toast! He wasn’t using S-caps and couldn’t keep anything down. He said he was going to walk the last 12 miles as he had $500 in pledges for the run. I got up and said I would keep him company through the long, gradual and hot trek through the infamous Middle Ranch to the Eagles Nest Aid station at mile 44. I downed a Red Bull and started feeling better. A mile down the road Ken started blowing lunch again. I got some Papaya pills in him and electrolytes. He promptly threw them up. I finally got him to start drinking some liquid. About a mile later he went down in the middle of the road in the middle of no where. I helped him over to the side of the road, poured what little water I had left on his head. He finally started walking again. We arrived at Eagles Nest to some shade. I told the aid station Captain to make him sit for 20 minutes, drink liquids and NOT to let him leave without a bottle in each hand, water and Gatorade. I did a strong climb up Pump House hill and hit the pavement on the top with only about 5 miles to go. The breeze was cool off the ocean and the sun was low in West. I really had a strong run to the finish. Thought I could bust 13 hours. I hit the turn off to the 3.1 mile downhill and ran like hell. With about a 1/4 mile to go I hit the bell Tower by the Zane Grey Hotel just when the 13 hour Bells started tolling. So much for salvaging an under 13 hour run. The Island was packed with tourist so the last 100 yards or so through town on the ocean was neat. You run right through the tourists and every one was yelling for the runners this year. Finished in 13:05. I waited for Ken as they packed up the finish line. He went down 30 yards from the finish and started throwing up again. I ran to get him. One tourist said call a EMT! I told him he was an Ultra runner he’d be ok, just a bit dehydrated. I picked Ken up and walked him to the finish. I don’t think he’ll ever forget this finish. Neither will I!
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