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Catalina Island Ultra report - Running & relaxation

Catalina Island Ultra report - Running & relaxation

Jan 19th, 2009, 07:38 AM
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Join Date: Jan 2003
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Catalina Island Ultra report - Running & relaxation

To escape the brutal Midwestern winter, I planned a long weekend in CA. I would visit my buddy in Newport Beach, then take the ferry to Catalina Island and run the 50 mile Ultra marathon, then fly back to the frozen tundra.

Flying from Chicago to Orange County on Thursday, temps went from -11F to 75F in a matter of hours. My first impressions of CA were that everything was green, plants were blooming, and all the cars were shiny clean and not encrusted in road salt residue. I could freely see my bare arms and feet again. Heaven.

My friend Jon picked me up at the airport and we drove to his home in Newport beach. We walked a block to a small dock in the 'Fun Zone'. This is a real name for a real area – I am not making this up. We took a small electric boat out and circled the bay.

Jon pointed out various homes (we call them 'mansions' in the Midwest) and various boats (we call them 'yachts' in the Midwest) and generally basked in the sunshine.

I would have stayed on that boat all night, but Jon was getting cold as I guess it was 68 degrees by now, so we headed to a dinner spot on Balboa Ave called Abbondanza Italian Bistro. It’s a local spot and was very tasty.

I slept like a log. The next morning for breakfast we had bran flakes and fresh blueberries, as opposed to my usual cinnamon pop tart so I knew I was really in CA.

Jon suggested we take the bikes out, so we rode around the town and followed the bike path along the beach. We could see the folks surfing, and in the bay the popular sport is paddle boarding? Where you stand on a board and paddle along – it looks strange, like a CNN clip from the Hurricane Katrina disaster, but its apparently a good workout.

It was getting close to noon, and we were to pick up my running partner Dan at the airport. The temps in Chicago had gotten even colder, and when Dan landed he said the temperature difference was 100 degrees.

Newport Jon drove Dan and I to the Catalina Express ferry in Long Beach. We said our goodbyes as Jon had no desire to run Saturdays 50 mile race. But he would be busy all day on Saturday thinking of us, he said.

Dan & I hopped on the ferry and were busy taking photos of each other with the cell phone to send to the poor chilled friends back in Chicago. Because that’s what friends do. We took shots of the Queen Mary, of the dolphins playing in the area, and of the whales we saw near the island. We were both in SHORT SLEEVES! And I didn't have socks on! And I hadn't even packed a hat! Life is good!

Queenie is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 08:00 AM
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Catalina Island looks kinda small from the mainland. Approaching it on the ferry it seems pretty long, especially if you are expected to run down one side and back the other in the race.

We arrived in the town of Avalon without incident, checked into our rooms at Villa Portofino Hotel, and immediately headed to a restaurant on the pier to get a beer and sit in the sunshine.

That first beer went down fast and easy and boy I wanted a second one, but I knew it would be uncomfortable to try and run 50 miles the next day with a hangover. Been there, done that.

So we headed off for a carbo load pasta dinner, and we found a tasty spot called Antonios. I had the penne with sausage, and Dan had the baked Penne runners special with bacon and peas.

Then it was off to packet pickup where we got our race number, and final instruction for Saturdays event. Bed was at 8. I had set out my running clothes and food, so I was all set for my morning pre run preparation.

I didn't sleep well that night. I will admit to being nervous. You see, living in Chicago in the winter it is difficult to train for an ultra. We had already had 40 inches of snow this season, and the temperatures had been near zero for what seemed like weeks. We do run in those extremes anyway, but you cannot get a good mileage base going. So I was resigned to just try my best, and hopefully not get injured.

I was wide awake by 3:30 am. I had a cup of coffee, then made some oatmeal using the in room coffeemaker. I watched the CNN coverage of the plane crash on the Hudson in disbelief as I pulled on my compression shorts and singlet shirt. I then put Vaseline on the pits of my arms and along the bra strap to try and prevent chafing. I packed my butt bag with mini Payday candy bars, toilet paper, and Hot Tamales. Then I pinned my race number on my shorts and met Dan at 4:30 am.
Queenie is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 09:31 AM
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Enjoying your post!
Keep going.
309pbg is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 09:53 AM
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Hi Queenie, I can imagine how you enjoyed the warm weather! And I am glad to read that Antonio's is still a good restaurant. I have a set of wine glasses they gave us with their name and the Italian colors on them. Good memories!
LoveItaly is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 09:54 AM
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We headed to the start. There were 199 runners. Most everyone was from CA, and we laughed as many were wearing long pants, and long sleeves! Some had gloves and hats on! My god it was 60 degrees and I was already sweating.

At 5 am, in the dark and guided by moon light, we started running. Most folks did have a headlamp or flashlight. In this race, you immediately start up the mountainside: 1600 foot climb in about 4 miles. We went from pavement to dirt service road pretty quickly. I could look up and see the runners headlamps ahead of us dotting the mountainside, and the same as I looked below. We were in the middle of the pack.

I took this opportunity in the dark to take my first restroom break as I had had so many fluids. I ducked into what I thought was a bushy area and was done in a jiffy. Just to stand upright and discover those bushes were actually prickly pear cactus. And one had assaulted me. Its pretty comical now, but I had a time trying to simultaneously run and remove the barbs from my seat.

Onward we climbed for what seemed like 90 minutes, and hit the first aid station which featured oranges and salted boiled potatoes. Yummy. I grabbed some Gatorade, and a couple potatoes and continued on in Dans flashlight beam.

About 30 minutes later dawn started to break. There was a pink turquoise glow on the water as we looked toward the mainland. Then everything popped a fluorescent orange, then the we could see the sun rising above the mountains on the mainland. Boy, was it warm.

We were running along pavement now. But this pavement was really in poor shape and reminded me of the topping on an apple cobbler. We continued to climb into the hills. Dan was drinking some type of electrolyte drink and eating Gu, and I stuck with water, Gatorade and Payday candybars.

We passed the Avalon airport, then descended to Little Harbor aid station. We had run 18 miles. We had our drop bag there and I was able to get a fresh supply of Paydays.

The food at this station was pretty darn magnificent including animal crackers, M&M's, peanut butter & jelly sandwiches, oranges, bananas, gummi bears, and my favorite: Mountain Dew! Needless to say, Dan & I dug into the feast, then headed back out.

Queenie is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 04:29 PM
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Wow - this one dropped like a stone ;-(

Love Italy, Antonios made me a bit nervous at first when I saw all the peanuts and shells all over the floor. Then I ended up eating a ton of them. It was a fun place!
Queenie is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 05:26 PM
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Queenie, I'm waiting for the installment that describes your phone call home to quit your job and have all your stuff shipped to California.
Jean is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 05:29 PM
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Love Avalon and you went to one of my fav's..Eric's on the pier.
Antonio's is always good..been going to the original for 30 years.
Glad the weather was lovely..if it was a true Santa Ana, the waves would come over the boardwalk in town..the only time Avalon is dangerous.
Come to Catalina in the summer..it is one heck of a good time with lots of snorkeling, eating and hiking!
ksucat is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 05:41 PM
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Never even thought about Catalina Island but your trip report is such a great read. Thank you!!

AustinTraveler is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 05:50 PM
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Jean! Ain't it the truth - seriously!

OK,continuing -

We were now following a dirt service road, but we were in a canyon without a breath of wind. I was sweating like crazy and it felt like it was 90 degrees. Finally we rounded a bend and could see the ocean again, and a breeze was blowing. The course then came into the town of Two Harbors. Don't know if you would really call this a town, as its pretty darn small. It was a smattering of small homes and some tents. I kept wondering what people who live there do for entertainment? Do they run?

About 1 mile past Two Harbors was the turn around. There was a black Sharpie in a box and you had to mark your number to prove you had made it that far, so I put a big black X on my bib and started back. We had been running for over 5 hours at this point. We had covered 26 miles. On to Avalon!

Queenie is offline  
Jan 19th, 2009, 06:01 PM
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The run back was slow for me as it was so very hot. Local folks didn't seem to be fazed, but I was hurting. I drank about 20 ounces of fluid an hour and only once had to use the rest room (the prickly pear incident).

The last spectacular memory was at the second to last aid station. In addition to all the oranges, bananas, and candy they had buffalo burgers. I didn't have the stomach to try that. But just as I was leaving the food table, the race director called me over to meet Charlie, the real live buffalo who seems to hang out in this area. There he was munching on grass, completely ignoring the runners. I felt as if I could have gone up and patted him on the head.

More hours passed, and we were near the end. Dan and I got a burst of energy – barn door we call it – and ran the last 3 miles at an 8:30 pace. I should also mention that there was a 1600 foot drop down into the town of Avalon here, which helped with that pace.

It was such a high as we rounded the last corner, and town folk and spectators were cheering. We finished the 50 miles in under 11 hours, got our medal, and immediately ran to the beach and stuck our sore feet in the cold Pacific.

I slept like a baby that night, and first thing Sunday morning we hopped back on the ferry and flew back to Chicago where I am writing this right now. Well, its has warmed up here at least. It should be in the 20's this week!
Queenie is offline  
Jan 20th, 2009, 06:02 PM
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Today I got the run-down (pun intended)on the Avalon 50 mile run from my colleague who has run it for years. He's now over 60 and said this was the worst year for him because of the heat. It took him 8 hours to run it, his worst record ever. He did say the best part is the last 3 miles, which are all down hill. If you saw a really, really tall skinny guy with a full beard and mustache, that was him!
Surfergirl is offline  

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