One foot at a time | One sole at a time | One hell of a good time


Monday, February 06, 2012

Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run Experiment

Feet after 50 miles in Lunas.
It has been over 3 weeks since I ran the Avalon Benefit 50 Mile Run...and I am now finally getting a moment to take some time to record my thoughts on this event and share some photos...while sitting at my friends house on the other side of the world in Navi Mumbai, India.

Firstly, and most importantly, I want to point out that this run was a total experiment.  I continue to test my idea about the least amount of training that works.  Folks, I really don't train in a traditional sense anymore.  I mean that I don't have a traditional training schedule. All I do is try and move well every day. I trot to the coffee house or market.  I run the dogs.  I trot over to the Luna Factory.  I use my own two feet to power my life as much as possible and I error on the side of quality instead of quantity. My biggest inspiration to move is to see and feel natural beauty.  My running is more like surfing and play.  It's about exhilaration and joy and unexpected awesomeness and crazy gorgeous vistas (examples here). It's about freedom.

View from our rental
My working theory is to avoid turning running into a duty and instead turn it into a passion, an art of living. By listening to my body's own desire and need to move, I dance my running.  Running barefoot or in sandals automatically encourages me to stay focused on form and keeps me tuned in.  I believe that this style of running alone makes me a stronger runner and person. No junk miles along with no junk food. Running, walking and trotting between 2-5 miles a day maximum is enough to keep me fit and ready to run 50 mile plus events.  This has been my experiment.  Ultimate goal?  Health and happiness and quick recovery leading to a stronger, healthier, happier me, and so far it's working!

Ready to start
So as I got on a plane to fly to LA, I really had to wonder if this style of "training"was going to be enough to allow me to complete a tough 50 mile course on Catalina Island. I was looking forward to finding out.  Furthermore, I was going to be running in a pair of Leadville Lunas. It would be the first time running an ultra with the new ATS lacing system.  In LA I met up with fellow Lunar Monkeys Patrick Sweeney and Reese Ruhland and we all got on a ferry along with Tracy Thomas (first Luna customer ever in 2007) and her partner Laura Vossman heading for Catalina.  I had arranged for us all to share a rental house overlooking Avalon Bay. Good choice of monkeys and venue.

Race started at 5am on Saturday morning in darkness and immediately started with a long climb.  One of the first things I noticed was the sound...of runners running in normal running shoes. It is loud...real loud.  If we were a hunting party we would have been out of luck. In my Lunas, I was silent.  I love the sound of silent addicted to it.  Up we climbed until we reached the ridge line.  And then the most beautiful thing happened, we were all greeted with the most spectacular sunrise I have ever seen. Photos don't do it justice.

Stunning sunrise
It was a super clear day. It seemed as if you could see San Diego to the South and Santa Barbara to the North...a huge, dark coastline with the orange of the sunlight highlighting the silhouettes of dark mountains all along the mainland. Only the lights of Los Angeles could be seen.  All else was black with the sunlight streaking across the 25 miles of ocean between us as if it were a smooth puddle. It was so inspiring, reminding me that regardless of all the baubles and gadgets humans create, nothing compares to the inspirational power of raw natural beauty of this caliber. Breathtaking.  I had to stop and take photos.  Something I continued to do for the entire 50 miles!

Mile 37's beauty
So, how does one run 50 miles on less than 25 miles a week of "training"?  One thing I don't do - I don't waste any time worrying about time.  No watch.  No planned times to here or there.  I just stay in my zone, my sweet spot. Running to me is a practice, an art of staying in the place that allows me to run effortlessly, smoothly and gently.  My breathing remains lite and is primarily nose yoga. Because of the beauty of the course I was continuously being awed by the views all around me.  A deep sense of gratitude for being alive filled my mind. Music by Seattle composer Michael Maricle made up the background music along with wind and waves and birds and runners.  I use headphones that leave my ears open, so I can hear music and the world at the same time. Highly recommended.
Breathtaking views everywhere

Light and smooth and gentle I made my way through the course...and what a course.  Perfect for running in Luna Sandals, perfect for those who have learned how to run lightly even on the hardest surfaces.  Much of the course is on fire trails.  For many this was a bane.  For me it was pure joy. It was sandal running territory par excellence.  One long section after mile 25 had an out and back section that allowed one to see all the runners go by...over 300 of us.  It was great getting a chance to see many old friends from the Southern California running community!  Lots of smiling faces.  I was beaming the whole way.

Loved my Lunas
The mile 40 aid station was one of the finest I have ever encountered in all my running days. Indeed all the aid stations were awesome.  At mile 40, how about fresh Buffalo burgers and lobster?  How about cold mixed fruit salads and a icy beer if you want it?  How about a cool shower?  They had it and more!

The last 10 miles are perhaps the most difficult.  From 40 to 46 you are no longer on the coastline. The heat increased. But lucky me, I started picking Toyon Berries...and they happened to be the best tasting ones I had ever eaten.  I was also admiring the profuse abundance of California native plant species on this section of the course.  Most of them slightly different from the mainland varieties.  All very interesting.

Cold ocean swim = priceless
Finally the last section came.  4 miles straight down a switchback road.  After 46 miles of running, the legs are not as well prepared for so much downhill, but I was feeling good and let myself fly as smoothly as I could.  It feels so good to be nearing the end of such a long race.

Now for the best part of all.  When you are finished you are a stone's throw away from the ocean.  Nothing is finer than a nice, cold ocean swim after 50 miles of running.  Heaven on earth.

All in all a truly awesome experience.  And to make things even more interesting, my best time for a 50 miler, a PR - 9 hours and 32 minutes and 69th out of 308 finishers. 22nd out of 59 in my class. All this without "training", taking pictures and having fun the whole way. I am onto something!

Adios for now, BFT

PS.  One very cool fact is that another runner ran the race in Lunas!!! And it was his first 50 miler too.  Congratulations Rusty (see photo below).

PSS.  Lunar Monkey Patrick Sweeney wrote his own report...which will put a smile on your face to read

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