Race Report: Catalina Marathon


I’d be lying if I said that I thought this race would be easy. I mean, look at the elevation profile FFS:

CatalinaMary-RaceElevationThe course basically goes from one side of the island to the other:


This means you have to get on a boat that leaves at five am. (It also means that your poor husband has to get up at zero:dark:thirty and figure out how to drive a golf cart, so that he can drive his wife to the boat dock. He’s a saint.) As you might expect, a pre-race boat full of runners is very quiet:

CatalinaMary-EarlyMorningBoatLike any runner worth her salt, I’d been watching the weather forecast for the last month of so. It had been pretty consistently 71 degrees, but about a week ago it shot up to 81. Then yesterday we heard that they were expecting temps in the 90’s. The day moved from crazy to ridiculous. Temps on the boat were still cool, but when we docked at 6:30 it was already in the 60’s – as warm as the mild days we’d been enjoying in Seattle.

The race organizers were kind enough to let folks leave early if we were so inclined, so I took them up on it and hit the road. First, I hit the restroom (like with lights and flushing toilets! Height of luxury!!!) and took a picture of the sunrise over the harbor. After I ran it through Instagram it looked more like something you’d paint on a van, but still pretty:


We kicked off the race with a nice long hill. This would become the theme of my day. Looking through my photos, it was pretty funny to see pictures of hills:


Followed by pictures of pretty views:


This dichotomy really defines this race. It is brutally difficult, but also breathtakingly beautiful. I tried really hard to let go of my expectations for the day and just let it unfold.


The worst part is that while you’d be climbing this hill…


you’d look to your left and see this:

CatalinaMary09In case you can’t tell, those tiny specks are runners going up a giant hilly switchback.

CatalinaMary10-labelsBut for every one of these…

CatalinaMary12You’d get this…


As I ran/walked along, the analogy popped in my head that the Catalina Marathon was basically a very pretty, but very mean girl. Which kicked off a volley of “Mean Girls” quotes. The mind is quite a fascinating machine…

But as the temperatures rose, it got harder and harder to keep spirits up. As I reached the halfway point, it became readily apparent that it was going to be a very long day. I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t think about quitting. But the combo of having pulled the plug on the last standalone marathon and the only potential ride that I had was the paramedics, made it really hard to quit. So, I trudged along, running where I could and trying to stay on top of my eating and drinking.

Early on in the race, I’d seen this sign. Regrettably, I didn’t see any foxes. But I was hoping to see bison.


Then, almost exactly at the 20 mile marker, I saw this guy. I thought I might be hallucinating, but a couple of other runners ahead of me were taking his picture as well.


To add insult to injury, I couldn’t get a cell signal to text T and let him know that I was going to be at least an hour and a half later than projected. (Or two hours, as it turned out… ) It wasn’t until I reached this point:

CatalinaMary18-labelsThe combination of being able to see our condo complex and the fact that around this hill was the cell tower for the island made me check my phone.

CatalinaMary17And sure enough, I was able to get a text through. There was a beautiful view of Avalon from up there. The phrase “so close, but yet so far” has never been more true…


I’m a far better descender than I am a climber, so I’d been sort of counting on being able to bomb down some hills at the end of this race. But in the cruel way of 22 miles of punishment, my body had other plans – every time I’d descend, my abs would cramp like someone was stabbing me. So the descents were a little more run/walk/whimper than I wanted. Not to mention that walking down steepish downhills really hurts your quads and swollen feet. This was definitely the lowest point.

As we got closer to town, I just decided to run as much as I could and get this stupid, godforsaken race over with. Surprisingly, I was able to pass some people with my crampy, old-lady shuffle. The course goes right through the botanic garden (a fact I would only discover the next day when we visited it, as I was in a total pain haze.) Bros on golf carts rode by and I cursed them in my head.

Thankfully, I wasn’t killed by any of the rental golf carts and I navigated my way into town. Then, with one mile left, I saw T, Erik and Nerissa. They cheered mightily and ran with me down the homestretch. The race photographer got this shot that captured the moment nicely.


(I pretty much have to purchase and make some sort of t-shirt, coffee mug or poster out of it, don’t you think?)

Nerissa got a much better shot of my finish. (I’m giving the race announcer the thumbs up because he pronounced my last name correctly. Score!)

CatalinaMary-FinishLineT also got the best post-race picture of me:


I can’t believe how difficult this race was. I would say it’s the hardest race I’ve ever done. I am extremely proud of myself for finishing and have already caught myself thinking about what I’d do differently to train for future attempts. (What can I say, it’s a sickness!)

Afterward, there was: dunking my poor feet in the ocean, a long and heavenly bath, eating and drinking all of the things and a really wonderful dinner out. I am so grateful to T, Erik and Nerissa for cheering me on. I also have to give Nerissa a shout-out for doing her first 10k today on an impressively hilly double-loop course. Apparently, the madness is contagious! 😉

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