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Avalon Benefit 50-Mile

by Tom Crull Catalina Island, CA January 14, 2006 I caught the Helicopter Shuttle to Catalina Island from Long Beach. Monica Burt, her husband and son were with me. This would be Monica’s first Avalon 50 and first ultra with any substantial climbs and down hills. Weather was foggy and overcast, temps in the low 60’s. Avalon gives you the option of starting early if you choose for the injured or slower runners which I opted for this year. I’ve had a pulled Hamstring for over six weeks so my training was almost non existent, not good for this run. Normally I wouldn’t start in this condition but this is number six and I’d like to go for my 10 year plaque then hang it up on 50’s and above for good. I started at 3AM with a beautiful full moon. You start right on the water, out past the helo pad, turn around back to town then up the switch backs for about three miles on fire roads. Topping the ridgeline we could see the lights of the mainland 25 miles a way. The breeze made it chilly but good running temps. I walked this entire section with four other runners also having some sort of injury. We hit the reservoir and onto pavement for about eight miles of hills to the airport in the sky. My hamstring was tight but not hurting so I jogged the down hills and flats. Reaching the airport we turned left back on dirt road to Escondido Arabian Horse ranch. I picked it up some more and still no problem. Past the Ranch then to steeper down hills to Little Harbor which is rugged and beautiful. Just before Little Harbor I was passed by Jorge Pacheco who won in 6:33. Says he’s coming to RLR next year. Just past Little Harbor is the Whacko Café aid station. Your choice of wine, beer, the usual foods/drinks and the Mayor’s wife Pat. She could embarrass Mark Dick! From here at mile 18 it’s a lonnnnnnnng climb in the interior of the Island to the turn around at Twin Cove at mile 26. Luckily it was cool and overcast. This is where you start seeing all the runners on their way back. Finally at mile 24 you see the Pacific again and start a long, fairly steep downhill to the turn around. Bad news is, you have to come back up it. Reaching the turn around I joked with the aid station personnel then started back up. Looking back at the Isthmus I remembered running the 100k a few years back which is an additional 13 miles around, up and over. Very glad I didn’t have to face the infamous Bouchay road straight up 1,700′, no switch back climb. This is where I think Suzi Cope ran her 100th Ultra that year. I finally got back to the Whacko Café at mile 34 where Monica caught me even with my two hour head start! She was blazing (9:37 finish). She also thanked me for lying to her about the climbs. Well that’s two I’ve snookered so far! Popped A Red Bull, 800mg Ibuprofen and was out of there. From Whacko to Middle Ranch is one climb after another but my hamstring was hanging in there and we were now in a cooling light rain into middle ranch road which cuts you back across the interior to the Pacific on the East side. This six mile section is long, slightly up hill, and really warm if the sun is out. At mile 39 you hit the buffalo burger aid station. This year half the volunteers were smashed again, fun people! They had beer, Red Bull, buffalo burgers, food, games and kick ass blue grass music going. I hated to leave. I poured a Red Bull in one of my bottles and finally started to feel good. My lower stomach pain was going away (diverticulosis). I ran strong to the Pump House hill aid station at 44.5, topped off with water and did a brother Jay Freeman Red Bull power walk up Pump house hill to the pavement. The cool breezes from the Pacific were great and chilly. Here it’s a quick (depending on how you feel) undulating run back to the reservoir at mile 46.5 then the hell section to the end. You go left down a steep, switch back asphalt road to town. It’s to steep to run slow so your quads take a nasty beating! I would guess I was doing 7:30’s, feet slapping the pavement and was waiting for my hamstring to pop. It did, a mile from the finish. I had to fast hobble down the last two really steep streets to the water front, the shops and tourists. This part is really neat. All the people clap, yell encouragement for a 100 yards to the finish. Monica’s husband Jeff had a nice cold milk shake waiting for me. It’s funny how one goes to a run, not feeling good mentally or physically, telling everyone you don’t think you’ll finish and you do. Although my time was slow (12:09) due to starting out walking and slow jogging, it was actually one of my better runs! Mentally I kept getting better, no dehydration, no blisters even with wet feet all day and no sour stomach problems. My lack of training really showed on the flight back. I could hardly walk off the aircraft. The flight attendant asked if I was ok, told her just some old arthritic back problems. Thank God for 800mg Ibuprofen and Roadies Little Red Rectum Rockets! Life is still good! Tom Crull
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