Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Catalina Island Buffalo Run Hurts Like Hell

Catalina Buffalo RunBut it’s worth it! This past Saturday morning, about 300 athletes rolled out of their beds and moseyed on over to the start of Catalina Island’s 8th Buffalo Run half marathon. With a 9am start time, and every hotel within walking distance of the race start, the Buffalo Run seemed like an athletic vacation. The sun was shining, bringing temperatures into the mid-70s, and making some people mourn their decision to leave their Fuel Belts at home.

Just after the horn sounds, however, it becomes very clear that this is not a vacation. 5 miles straight up paved and dirt roads quickly separate athletes who are there to win from those who just want to finish.

The Buffalo Run course map only highlights the peak elevation within each mile, proving a bit misleading. From the map, it looks as if the first 5 miles are up, then there’s a 1-mile downhill, a 3-mile gradual climb, and a 4-mile plummet back down into Avalon. The truth is the first 5 are up, there is slight relief from about a mile downhill, then treacherous rollers set in, comprising the next 4 miles before a quad-deadening descent brings you in for a quick and painful finish.

This year’s race, according to analysis of several competitors’ Garmins, was about 13.45 miles long, making this year’s times visibly slower than last year’s, when the course was said to be a bit short, coming in at 12.95 miles.

Ben Brown took the men’s race again this year, finishing in 1:24:19, just under 17 minutes before the next competitor crossed the finish line. He’ll be back to defend his American Trail Championship title by competing in the Catalina Marathon on March 15th—he’s been sponsored to run again this year, he said on the podium.

The first female finisher, 36-year old Buffy Jones, finished 9 minutes ahead of the next woman, in 1:48:07.

The race is undeniably beautiful. Views of snow-capped mountains past the layer of filth of Los Angeles were awesome—it was hard not to gawk at the view while running the rollers on top of Catalina’s gorgeous mountains. The course was stocked with Gatorade, water, and pretzels, among other things, with friendly volunteers, and even friendlier competitors who cheered each other on when passing, and on the out-and-back portion of the run. Everyone strikes up conversations at the end with whomever they ran near. I got to speak to the third-place woman, who ran the first 5 miles with me, then kicked my ass.

If you’ve been looking for a trail run, look no further. With a laid-back attitude, a great field of competitors, an unbeatable course, and a sunny day at the beach to look forward to when you finish, there is no reason to go anywhere else. (Not to mention the sense of accomplishment that you get when you finish one of the toughest half marathons around. The pain that lasts for at least 48 hours afterward will remind you of just how awesome you are!)

And no, sadly, no buffalo were reportedly seen on the run. Gonna have to do the marathon and run by the airport for that!

See you out there,


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