Run fast ... fall down

Run fast ... fall down

Monday, March 11, 2013

2013 Catalina Island Marathon Race Report

An island in the Pacific sounds more appealing than weathering another snowstorm in Colorado, so this year I made sure to sign up with Jimmy Salasovich, who has run Catalina 5 or 6 times now. Really, the island is only 25 miles away from LA, but it's practically impossible to get a car onto the island, therefore it's not that much like LA.

Logistics: Getting on and off Santa Catalina Island involves giving in to the Catalina Express Ferry or taking a helicopter. Based on Jimmy's past experience, we chose to fly into LAX on Friday morning to be able to take the 4:30 Ferry over to Two Harbors from San Pedro (the only port offering service to Two Harbors). From the airport we grabbed a shuttle to San Pedro that was rather convenient and timed perfectly. The race offers bib/packet pickup at either the start or the finish. Some racers choose to stay in Avalon (which offers far more in the way of city life than Two Harbors), however, they must also take a 4:30AM ferry around to the north end of the island, which is infamous for toying with breakfast. We partook in the pre-race pasta dinner and then camped a few minute walk from the starting line. We also chose to hang out in Avalon on Saturday and take the Sunday morning Ferry back to Long Beach. This requires a late afternoon flight out of LAX for the timing to work out, which one should probably plan this section before planning the flight times.

Chilly ferry ride over to Catalina Island

Saw some whales in the water and buffalo on the island from the boat
Someone's bonfire on the beach in Two Harbors
Camping at Two Harbors was a little windy and I didn't get much sleep but was still likely far better than staying in Avalon. I went to sleep at 9 and felt like I slept well, woke up and looked at my phone and it was 10:30PM. This was going to be a long night. I dozed off and woke up a bunch and then starting at 3, I just laid there til about 5:30AM listening to the wind whip my tent fly around. We packed up tents and got ready to run in a campground bathroom facility that was warmer than the tent. The night was decently cold, dipping into the low 40s with ocean breeze and high humidity. At 6:45 we headed over to the start and dropped off our packs on a truck to be shuttled to the finish. We then stood around shivering until 7:05. Lots of runners were warming up, greeting old friends, or eying Buffalo up on the hillside. The weather called for 60-65 degrees and I opted for shorts/short sleeve with arm warmers. I think it was a good choice. Others were wearing down vests and tights but as well as some runners with no shirt.

Standing around pre-race. Pretty cold here.
Interestingly, the race allows anyone to start earlier and they just tell race officials their number and can begin their journey. A portion of the crew started earlier and some runners were taking off 10 mins before the crowd. At 7:05, the race actually began and my solid past couple months of training were about to be tested. I worked up to over 50 mi/wk which is pretty good volume for me. I got in a couple of 20 mile long runs with course-like elevation profiles, and even did a couple track workouts (full set of Yasso 800s at 3m25s, and worked up to 5x1M at 7 min pace). I tapered appropriately, lowered my coffee intake over race week and by race day was ready to go. My main goal was to PR (weak marathon PR of 4h40m way back in 2004 at my first marathon), kinda hoped I could beat Jimmy, and unrealistically also dreamed of breaking 4 hrs on this dirt road course with ~4500 ft of elevation gain.

I had some Garmin watch issues where the battery wouldn't hold a charge very long, so I had my watch charging right before the start. I also wore my heart rate monitor strap, carried my phone in my shorts pocket and carried a water bottle with 2 gels. At the start, my watch said low battery, so about a half mile in, I grabbed my phone and fired up strava to simultaneously record the data. My HR was pretty high 90-100 before the start possibly due to the instant coffee I just drank or due to other race day jitters.

Once underway my HR spiked up to about 180 and then settled back to 150. After about a half mile the first hill came and Jimmy and I found a very comfortable pace and I mostly quit looking at my heart rate, just tried to keep it comfortable. There are a ton of aid stations on this course, so I made it a point to try to not pay much attention to most of them, however I did notice that none seemed to have any gels so I planned out how to best utilize the 2 gels that I brought with me. I took the first one at 45 mins in to get the caffeine boost and planned to save the other for mile 17 to get me to the end. Given this, I decided to switch from water to Gatorade at the aid stations to get some extra calories.

Working on the first climb
Jimmy and I ran together for the first 5 miles or so and separated by a little on an early downhill, however we could see each other all day on switchbacks and were only a minute apart most of the day. I hit the first 10K mark at 55 mins and things were going well. The halfway point came at 2 hrs on the nose and still everything went as planned. I ate a banana and grabbed a swig of coke and redbull at 2 different stations. My quads felt some of the early downhills but I hoped to have enough in them to finish strong. The views along the route were great and the temps cranked up quite a bit. I dropped my arm warmers to my wrists and used them to wipe sweat from my forehead the rest of the race.

Flat section at mile 13-14
Somewhere around mile 14, Jimmy caught back up and we ran together for a while longer and then he took off as the hills steepened. I was giving it my all, while trying to keep the right amount held back to finish strong with nothing left. At mile 16.5 I took my last gel and prepared for the hilly section between 17 and 23. Throughout this section, I gave in to walking some of the uphills that were easily runnable just to use some different muscles in my legs. My hamstrings were now feeling fatigued, but I knew at 23 it would be all downhill to the finish and I wouldn't need them anymore.

I got passed here by a good number of people and I think we were all ready to jump in the ocean as it was really warm out.  The big downhill came at 23 and I did my best to muster up a 9m30s pace. I could have benefited from a little extra left in my quads but it wasn't there. The dirt turned into pavement and I knew I was close but not sure how much to trust the distance signs as they were correct up to mile 8 and about a half mile off from 9-24 miles. There was a 1.5 mile space between the 24 and 25 mile signs and once I saw the 26, I could also see the finish, but my watch turned off at mile 17.

Relaxing on the beach
I finished with everything I had left in 47th place (of 411) at 4h10m (about 8 mins behind Jimmy) and seriously needed to sit down. 5 mins later, all was good and we hung out the rest of afternoon watching the remaining 85% come in to town. The post race weather was breezy and chilly and I couldn't convince myself to get in the cold ocean. Jimmy knew of some pay showers that were well worth the $5 and then we turned to eating a couple lunches and dinner.

Post race party and awards ceremony
Overall it was a great course, great scene, and a pretty fun time. I am certainly happy with my day and experienced nothing more painful than some sore leg muscles. I pushed an avg HR of 175 over the first 17 miles until my watch died and felt adequately prepared for about the first 20 miles. The last 6 went fine, but I probably lost 15 spots, but I can't complain about a 30 min personal best at 26.2.

Link to Strava Data

1 comment:

  1. 30 minute PB! Right on Joey. Sounds like an interesting race. Is there a 50k/50M as well or am I thinking of another island off the coast of CA?