I ran my first ever marathon in October of 2017. I got my ass kicked, as you would expect for a first marathon, but within 24 hours, I was already thinking of my next marathon. I decided that another road marathon didn’t sound as cool as a trail marathon with 4300 ft of hills. My girlfriend thinks I’m sick in the head.
I had never been to Catalina before, and what better way to see the island than to run from Two Harbors to Avalon!
I had no clue how I was going to be able to handle the hills. I had done some training on hills, but not much. My goal time was 4 hours 30 minutes.
Here is the elevation profile:
I watched a few Youtube videos the night before the race that gave me a good strategy: Don’t go out strong and burnout on the first few climbs, and instead wait till about mile 13 to start pushing it, where you get a nice gradual upgrade over the next 5 miles. As a fan of the “go all out and fade” approach, I was glad to receive that advice and I feel like I actually paced myself super well in the first half of the run, walking pretty much every hill.
Even though I felt like I was holding back a lot, at mile 13 my watch said that that I was at 1 hour 45. That meant that if I kept on that pace, I could actually go sub-4 hours. I started to get really excited at the thought.
I felt like I smashed the uphill from Eagle’s Nest Lodge all the way to Pumphouse Hill. Pumphouse Hill hurt pretty bad, as did every subsequent little hill after that. Mentally I was super pumped to make it to the downhill at mile 23, but it was pretty rough on the legs and feet to do all that descending. I gutted it out because I was still on pace for sub-4, and hey, I’ll take downhill over uphill any day.
This pic pretty much sums up the feeling late in the race:
With the finish line in sight, I had a nice pace going and was going to easily cruise in sub-4. But then all of a sudden, I heard a guy screaming behind me, “PICK UP THE PACE!” He only had to tell me once, I quickly turned into an all out sprint to the finish!
Action pics below:
The guy came up to me after and said “I yelled at you because I didn’t want to pass you in the last 100 yards, I would have felt bad because you were in front of me literally the whole race, so I just told you to pick up the pace!” And this, my friends, is the perfect way to sum up Catalina, and the trail community in general, it’s not about the competition as much as it’s about being out there and pushing yourself as hard as you can with a bunch of other likeminded people doing the same thing. This taught me an important lesson about competition and camaraderie and sportsmanship, and I will definitely pass this lesson on in future trail races.
I finished at 3:55:59, which put me at 27th overall, out of 365 runners. For only my 2nd marathon ever, and my first trail run with some real climbing, I was ecstatic with the time and the result!
After the race, we hit up an awesome breakfast spot and I devoured two meals. After a quick nap, we hit up Avalon for a few beers. It was an all-time day!
And I think this was the moment when I realized how much better running trails is than road. The trails were so beautiful, and the race just had such a different feel than a road race. There were only 365 runners, and the vibe was different. I loved Catalina so much.
When I got back to the mainland, I signed up for my first 50k :)
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