Fall Marathon Envy!

So I haven’t ran a marathon since that tragic day in Boston, back in April.  All my friends are doing them…  It’s what all the kids are talking about…  I need me some of this action – now!  Normally I do at least 3 marathons a year – with a couple in the Fall typically.  So now that I have about a 2 month void to fill between now and The North Face 50M in San Fran in December, I may as well squeeze one in – right?  I’m feeling good about my fitness, and I figure a marathon goal would give me the drive to really work on my speed – and hopefully that’ll bring big benefits come December 7th too.  

It’s been a tough spring/summer of competitive ultras – with TNF Bear in May, followed by a necessary break (discovering San Diego and it’s beer scene!), then the San Fran 50 in August, and TNF Wisconsin and Mountain Madness in September.  I could get by just dandy til race day in December – doing just the regular old haphazard training I’ve been doing so far.  Coupled with my healthy veggie ways, my training has led to some pretty noticeable improvements this year – which I’m totally pleased about.  But this is such a massive event in San Fran – where you get to brush shoulders with some of the world’s most amazing, awe-inspiring ultrarunners – and I want to be more than just ready.  I want to be right in about it with the fast guys.  And that means I kinda need to be fast!  So again – a perfect justification to train for a marathon!

[soundcloud url=”https://api.soundcloud.com/tracks/8672469″ width=”100%” height=”166″ iframe=”true” /]
Song for the moment: Marathon (see what I did there?  I’m so clever), by Tennis

So… Which One?

In picking my “training” marathon, I had only three real criteria:

  1. A race that’s open!  Hard to find at such short notice.  Marathons are crazy popular these days!  What’s that all about?!
  2. A race that’s within driving distance.  I’ve flown as many miles as I’d like to fly this year thank you very much!  Has to be in Southern California.
  3. A race that’s hilly.  There’s no point in destroying the legs on flat roads before a big hilly ultra.  Like Scott Jurek told me (not personally!): specificity is key!

Thankfully, it just took a quick look at the awesome Running In the USA website, and my perfect race jumped right out at me: The Catalina Eco Marathon – on November 2nd on Santa Catalina Island.  Click.  Register.  Done!

Catalina Island

For those who don’t know, Catalina Island is a stunning little gem of an island tucked away just off the coast of LA.  I’ve wanted to go there for quite a while – mainly after seeing the Avalon 50M race (some day!) mentioned in a blog I read.  The place just looks crazy gorgeous (to put it mildly – see pic below!) – with plenty of singletrack and ridgelines and vistas to excite me.  And it’s super easy to get to by boat from Long Beach – which is a mere 2 hour drive for me!

Catalina Island.  Wow.  Photo courtesy of Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce
Catalina Island. Wow. Photo courtesy of Catalina Island Chamber of Commerce

Sidenote: Ultramarathon Man Dean Karnazes ran this race back in 2007.  However, Dean being Dean, he also tacked on a pre-race run – from San Diego to Long Beach (just a mere 100 miles or so) – then paddled across to Catalina in a kayak!  And then he ran this hilly-as-hell marathon!  So… I guess I’ll have it quite easy!

Catalina Crush!

There’s really nothing about the Eco Marathon that doesn’t sound awesome.  It’s on an island in the Pacific Ocean!  You can camp at the start!  It has 22 miles of trail!  And the elevation is, well, pretty fecking bad-ass – as far as marathons go.  Check it out:

Elevation chart for the Catalina Eco Marathon
Elevation chart for the Catalina Eco Marathon

Look at that little vertical spike at around mile 19.  They call that Catalina Crush – and I’ve heard it described as “a straight climb/walk/crawl to heaven”.  Compare with little old Boston (which admittedly was rather beastly in itself!):

Boston Marathon course elevation
Boston Marathon course elevation

So for the first 4 miles you are climbing solidly – from sea level to 1500 ft.  Boston’s little Heartbreak Hill (just after mile 20) pales in comparison!

Bring it on!!!