Running with buffalos! That is the first thing you hear about when people talk about the Avalon 50 miler. Honestly, I thought they were joking, there is no way you can run a race through herds of buffalo. Well I was wrong, apparently this race you do.
The Avalon 50 miler has a long history of being one of the country’s most challenging and scenic ultramarathons. This year being it’s 40th year, we saw many old veterans back for another race and a big reunion on the island. Old timers who are Badwater 135, Western and UTMB veterans, who just come here each year to get some winter sun and some hard running on a backdrop of the beautiful Catalina Island.
This was my first year running this race, and I wasn’t really sure what to expect. It was chilly at the early start and you head up a massive hill in the dark. Being a runner who is not at the front of the pack, (that is nice speak for I am basically slow and steady), you can see the headlamps winding up the hill in the dark and it kinda sucks knowing what is coming up next.
But as you make it to the top, the sun breaks and you get these breathtaking views of island and sea. It warms up steadily throughout the race, and the aid stations are a ton of fun to refuel and meet people, who have come here from all around the country!
There are definitely buffalo and views ALL DAY LONG. It felt like I was running somewhere in the Mediterranean with the desert island roads and steep cliffs into blue water, it definitely was breathtaking.
The last climb to the top at mile 40 was rough. I am not going to lie. It was at this point I questioned by decision making into ultrarunning at all, and really did not want to keep going. My water had completely run out, I was hot and it was so dusty. I was HATING life.
I remember feeling this miserable, and then came around the corner to the next aid station and found not the manned aid station I was expecting, but rather a few buffalo munching down off the table and giving me the side eye. So yeah, I cheered up at that point and started to giggle. It’s not every day you’re fighting a buffalo for pretzels at mile 45 of a race.
The downhill at the end was freaking awesome. I know some people battle at this point, where you basically drop 1,000 ft in 2 miles, but I loved it. I had to make sure I had good foot placement but I just let it roll and I finished strong.
If you need a midwinter break and looking for something fun to do early January, get this under your belt and kick back on the beach with cocktails the next day! This was my first 50 miler and probably my favorite race to date.