Monday, January 23, 2012

Avalon 50 mile run/ Wacko Cafe Aid station.

Avalon on Catalina Island is a romantic place steeped in history from the Wrigley empire! It is also the starting line for the Avalon 50 mile benefit run which is now into its 31st year! If you are looking for a well established and well looked after trail run look no further add to that no smog or traffic and a few buffaloes, amazing views then you have your self the Avalon 50 mile benefit run, which is managed by Mike Bone of Spectrum Sports Management and looked after by the Lions Club of Avalon.

 I has signed up beginning of January as a lot of my friends were doing this event and I love Catalina Island, unfortunately two days before the event in what was supposed to be an easy 5 mile jog with my dog Hammer I tore a small muscle in my lower calf. A frantic reach out for help to Dr Bolton an Active Release therapist then a trainer friend Antonio Pena, it was apparent that 50 miles would be a long way to run on a damaged muscle. With that prognosis my fate was sealed, call the RD which I did had my entry rolled to 2013 and as I still could not run go to Catalina any way and support my friends!
Sharon and her family

I traveled to Avalon in style as a guest of my friend Sharon and her family, it was a very pleasant trip across the channel, one with laughter and some amazing sea creatures, dolphins Whales and sea lions!!
 With Catalina in the distance we were treated to a beautiful view of a magnificent island surrounded by a beautiful Ocean and magical sea creatures too.

Lt to rt, Rene, Paul, ME, Ray and Diana

On the evening my friends signed in I felt a little blue I would not be able to run but knew I was making the correct decision. I waited at sign in for over 90 mins as the race director was unsure if he could use an extra volunteer at an aid station. I was finally told to come out to the start at 5am to see it they could get me out to help.

These men are part of a special group of runners who do Avalon year in and year out!

As we were leaving registration which had a record of over 350 runners signed up I was proud to meet 3 gentlemen who had all ran this event 20 times or more!! I was beginning to realize that this was a special event not just a 50 mile footrace.
Here is Sharon and Hope both doing there first 50 miler.

My friends all sign in and Don takes the names and numbers at 4.45am

AT 5am the runners all leave the streets of Avalon
 Guided by their flash lights the runners head out onto the trails, it was quiet and I was left by myself I thought oh no this cannot be happening visions of me not being able to crew suddenly flashed in my vision! I talked with Don who had been signing in people earlier and  then to my saving grace  a 1967 VW pulled up! They were from Catalina Saddle Club and running WACKO Cafe aid station! (The reason it is difficult to get to the aid stations is the remoteness and no transportation makes it a logistical night mare to get water food tables chairs etc out to aid the runners! But Spectrum Sports has  lots of great help from the locals on Avalon)

Yah!! Let my adventure begin, just when I was about to give up hope of being able to crew I get the chance of a life time to ride 18 miles in a 1967 VW!!! They picked up a lot of volunteers and we were packed in solid but they made it work and I was so grateful as Wacko Cafe is were the drop off bags are located and we get to see the runners twice on the out n back 18 miles and mile 33!!

organizing drop bags by color, 350 bags now that's a lot of bags!

The Wacko Cafe aid station was situated at Little Harbour and on our way there we past many runners and walkers, some had actually started at midnight, 2am and 4am! As I said before this was a special event and everyone who covered the 50 miles was sure of a finishers medal!

Here I am with  Mary who never stopped smiling ! we decorated the Wacko Cafe signs
Wacko Cafe this year was organized by Randy and Mary Brannock of the Catalina Island Saddle club and Becky there were many other locals and I apologise I did not get their names.
But I helped one really nice lady who worked at the schools in Avalon make 9 loaves of bread into peanut butter and jelly delights! and during idle chatter she mentioned that she missed Trader Joes !!
Although I was sad I could not run in this event being a volunteer at the Wacko Cafe aid station was a priceless moment in my 19 years of competing, this aid station had it all, Charisma, great volunteers (ahem) and also it boasted a lasso and horseshoe game which the runners could test their skills at mile 18 and then check again their coordination at mile 33!
Usual things to see at an Ultra running aid station!!

And the Gal really can lasso!

 It was originally started by Ralph and Pat Morrow but due to health reasons had to hand it over. There idea was to make the aid staion a fun and happy place to pass through.

Polly was the reason why Fabrice hardly stopped at Wacko Cafe she was third over all and on fire to catch Fabrice who she could actually see as she arrived at the aid station wow woman power!! Her finish time was 6:55:55!!

Before we had a chance to finish setting up the aid station Fabrice the winner of last year and in the lead again came flying through he hardly stopped and took off almost immediately! His winning time this year would be 6:44:19

Soon Wacko Cafe really was crazy we had runners coming in at mile 18 runners leaving at mile 33 they wanted drop bags we found them, they wanted to top off their camel pacs we obliged, they needed to rest we gave them a chair it was actually quite cool, I made that day over 9 loaves of peanut butter and jelly sandwiches! we were all kept on our toes the only thing better would have been to participate but without volunteers you can not have such a great event!
Gary takes time at the aid station mile 18

Gary Wang is part of the Ohana of Ultraman and was great to see him in this event which was for the records his first ever 50 miler years and years ago!
My friends Ray and Sharon stop to eat cooked salted potatoes

Sharon was amazing attempting her first 50 miler and knocked it out of the Ball Park !

Champagne Rene?
In between the runners coming through the Ocean at Little Harbour with San Clemente Island in the back ground was calling out to me! So I went to explore with a new running friend Reece Ruland.

Brooks Cascadias enjoy a little beach time

Here Simon shows me his love for Hammer Solids! A lot of runners were using Hammer Nutrition, was great to see that!!

Here is Amy all smiles as she puts in an excellent 50 mile run!

 Here Johan Cronje is a happy camper as he passes through Wacko Cafe!

Fabrice explains at mile 33 there is a woman running and she is very fast!!! He must run like the wind! And he did exactly that! 
 Here I am with Slater Fletcher who is also part of the Ohana of Ultraman, Was great to see him and Monique out on the course

Was great to see Monique Fletcher running with a broken arm and huge smile! good enough to place in her age group AMAZING!
 With 350 plus runners there has to be a highlight to everyone you meet and finally I was privileged to meet Hal Winton who is 80 years young started at midnight and would complete his 30th Avalon 50 benefit run ! just an amazing guy to talk to and had me laughing as he had stories to share.

I asked to walk with him a few 100 feet and then I had to get back to Wacko Cafe as I turned around I took one more photo of this unique human being who has inspired so many ultra runners today.

Here Hal Winton number (2) and Kent Holder (1) Share a few stories at mile 33.2 Wacko Cafe. Hal finished his event in 23 hours 59 minutes while the youngster  Kent Holder at 72 years old polished off his 30th Avalon in 11 hours, 41 minutes! WOW he accredits his speed to eating Avocados!

Here some of the Foothill fliers decide to try their hands  at horseshoe competition

Here I give encouragement to my friends Ray Mena and Thomas Zaide

 I love this pic of Andres Urdaneta hmmm which running shoe should I try! I guess I should mention at this point his brother Alex was sharing the same drop bag so not all the shoes were his to try!

There was a tip glass at Wacko Cafe were runners could deposit small amounts of cash to aid towards the various charities the benefit run raised dollars for. The Lions Club of Avalon I think distribute all the funds from this event to charities on the Island which include Avalon hospital, Avalon High School scholarships, Conservancy, and Bill Putnam Health care fund. As you can see people were quite generous!

Not sure how Paul managed to get a few sips of Coors Light at the aid station but had he kept on track with the Hammer Nutrition he was successfully taking up to this point he might have finished in day light thus rendering his new nickname flash light Paul to the dumpster!( I should also add he was a knight in running shoes to a fellow female runner who nearly quit had she not started talking to Paul) So it is all good!

The VW with a lot less baggage after the 350 plus runners had passed through twice, not a pretzel, a sandwich not am mm was left the aid station had managed to give every last runner hydration and fuel ! How is that for planning!!
 Soon it was down to waiting for the final 3 runners still out on the course, then came the daunting task of tearing down Wacko Cafe and putting all the drop bags back into a truck. small note here, after volunteering at a drop bag aid station I have to say some bags were the size of suitcases while others took up a ziplock bag space. Some were so heavy took two people to lift!! I guess some runners need everything but a kitchen sink!! While others are minimalists!

A final glance back at Little Harbour, see you next year!!

I cannot think of a better way to spend 10 hours than to volunteer at Wacko Cafe Aid station it was an honor and a privilege to have been part of history and I really enjoyed seeing my friends come through looking happy and tired. After everything was packed we enjoyed a lift back to Avalon along the final 17 miles, we past many runners and walkers the views were spectacular, the other aid stations were priceless too.

I said adios to my new friends from the Saddle club!

Another ageless icon of Avalon Bill Dickey runs to an impressive finish

Amazing runners age is just a number for these men!

Tom also has finished Avalon numerous times

Reece paced barefoot Ted for 20 miles and then helped out at Wacko Cafe.

 Here I am with Fred Pollard he finished with the same smile and he is also 72 way to go Fred!

I am sorry I never caught this remarkable woman s name but this lady had a buckle from Avalon and I think is the only female to do so!

Was so happy to see Diana finish and having her son there just made it a truly emotional first 50 miler!

Flash light Paul!

John Radich, ME, Monique, Gary and Slater
 Was great to catch up with running friends I may see only once or twice a year!
Here I am with Sharon as we leave Catalina bound for the mainland.....

So all in all Avalon 50 mile benefit Volunteer spot was a cool experience, Next year I will enjoy the camaraderie of the runners and all the aid stations and I truly hope to soak up some Californian Sun and get a finishers t shirt and medal! To the Lions Club of Avalon and Mike Bone of Spectrum Sports Management thanks for the time and effort you all put into making sure this benefit event keeps going!

A Volunteer t shirt I can proudly wear!

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