Four AREC members travelled to Catalina Island last weekend to participate in the Catalina Marathon. Here is their tale:
Claudia Lies did the 10K last year and fell in love with the island, so decided to do the Marathon this year. She reserved a room, then found out that the OCH3 (ed. Orange Cty. Hash) Betty Ford Weekend in Palm Springs fell on the same date. She had trouble finding roommates and was ready to cancel the trip when 3 other idiots agreed to go.
Ian Varley has done Catalina 5-6 times before, and actually trained this year to do it again. After crunching up and down Signal Hill, he felt manly and prepared and was shooting for ~4:30.
Todd Byers was fresh off his Las Vegas and L.A. Marathons, and decided to run his 111th marathon at the last minute.
I was tapering after catching the flu and failing to qualify for Boston at Las Vegas. I had done Catalina twice before with no training and decided to do it again. My plan was the same as in ‘95 & ‘96: Walk the uphills and jog the downhills.
The valiant crew arrived Friday, loafed about Avalon, picked up their race numbers, had a great dinner at a cozy Italian restaurant, chugged a few beers and went early to bed. At 4:00am Saturday, the alarm went off and we jumped into our running clothes, long johns, sweatshirts and gloves to board the boat in Avalon Harbor that would take us to the start at Two Harbors. Todd’s advice was to get to the boat early, and we managed to snag a seat (instead of sitting on the floor) where we had a nice nap during the 45 minute ride to the start.
It was unusually warm at the start. No problem stripping down to running gear and staying warm. The gun went off at 7:00 and the pack of 745 runners immediately began a long uphill climb. Todd and I ran together, and I told him about my walk uphill/jog downhill plan. I don’t think he believed me until I stopped to walk about 1/2 mile into the race. Wisely, he stopped to walk also. We lost Ian and Claudia in the pack very quickly. We were running straight into the sun, so visibility was tough.
About 1.5 miles into the race, as we crested a hill, I looked out on a side road and saw about 10 buffalo about 30 feet from the jeep trail we were running on, just watching us go by. They were very impressive - big, burly, and a little scary. We hit mile 2 at about 24 minutes; we came around a curve and you could see the pack spread out in both directions. The lead runners were already at least a mile ahead of us. It was a long steady uphill for about 4 miles.
Miles 5-8 took us downhill to Little Harbor, with great views of the valleys and ocean. Miles 9-13 was another long gradual uphill, with a little dip going into Old Eagles Nest Lodge, and other 1-mile uphill. Then we came to the “flat” part of the course - Middle Ranch. Now it was hot, with the heat rising off the road. My strategy seemed to be working, and Todd and I steadily ran with Team Green (a tall guy and gal with neon running outfits) and the Energizer Bunny (a gal that ran the same speed..just kept going and going...).
At Middle Ranch Junction, we started a SERIOUS uphill to Pump House Hill and onto the asphalt road to the airport. By now it was low 80s, and people were drinking and pouring water on themselves. We were looking forward to the 6 miles of promised downhill!
At mile 20, Todd drifted back and out of sight. The next 2 miles were not downhill, but rolling, and I was tired and my legs complaining. Finally, at mile 22, I hit the high spot, and could actually see Avalon in the distance. There was a little fog which made for welcome cool breezes blowing up towards us.
The downhill was steeper than I remembered, and my legs were screaming by now. Todd had been doing well on downhills and I expected to see him at any minute. I walked a little on the downhils, because my quads were screaming. Mile 25 came up sooner than I expected, and I thought, “only 1.2 more miles,” and I got encouraged. One mile later, was another Mile 25 marker, and I thought I was hallucinating. I struggled down and crossed the line at 4:40:40, and immediately lay down on some shady ground.
Ian showed up at 5:29:42, complaining about the heat and lack of water at Mile 23. He screamed in ecstasy as the masseur ground her elbows into his thighs.
Todd had heat-related problems and sat down at Mile 22 and rested for awhile. He recovered and waved to the crowd as he finished in 6:26:41.
Claudia finished in 7:34:25. She enjoyed the scenery and the walk around the island.
Everyone who finished will remember this weekend for a long time and should be proud of their accomplishment. Catalina is a great place to visit and a great place to host a marathon. I’m sure that as soon as our pain fades, we will all vote to go back again next year.