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Archive for March 17th, 2008

Let’s see. What hidden enemies show up during endurance events? How can that be, when you’ve done all your training and you got your water, carb replacement, and gear ready at the start?

The first enemy is lack of planning. It is possible to wear the wrong gear come race day. It is possible to forget the sunblock lotion. It is possible to forget the many little things that are a must for your comfort on long runs.

The second enemy is inattention. I call this zoning out. Whether you are listening too intently to your music or ignoring everything around you, you invite spills and accidents. You might cause injury to others as well.

The third enemy is lack of training. If you don’t respect the distance, it will come back and may ruin your day during the race or your health in the weeks after the marathon. Here are some signs that you lack training: a) you can’t keep a consistent pace; b) your heart rate gets so high after moderate exertion; c) you run out of energy early.

The fourth enemy is over-reaching. Do you know that you can run 26.2 after only a maximum of 6 miles as a training run? Or just because you are young, that you can run the whole distance based on a whim? Here are some signs of over-reaching: a) you don’t remember running many miles in a particular race; b) you can’t finish; c) you look like you are on a march from hell.

The fifth enemy is technology. It is funny sometimes to look at runners with wires and gadgets everywhere. Most of the time, it is an inconvenience. Running is one sport where little equipment is necessary. Only one in fact–a good pair of running shoes.

Please consider these when you go out on any distance run. Run safe and be well!

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This is a tough marathon, run on fire and access roads that follow the north-to-south shape of the Catalina Island. The island is situated about 27 miles west from the port of Long Beach. For the race, the total gain is 5880 feet or 1792 meters over 26.2 miles/42 kilometers. The highest point reached is 1554 feet or 473 meters at 21.6 miles or 35K.

It starts at Two Harbors at the north end of the island. You get there via ferry from Avalon on race morning. Basically, you get dropped off, and it’s your job to run back into Avalon. Don’t look up!

It is easy to get beaten by this marathon. Certainly not the place to do hill training; the first 4 miles brings you from 0 to a 1000 feet! The downhills that you can feel is only about 7+ miles, from miles 4-8 and 22-26. The rest of the time, you climb. Conventional wisdom on these downhills is that you can’t run them fast because it will burn your quads; and then you’ll suffer on the way back up!

This is one marathon where everyone on the road become comrades on the spot, not for any sort of implied kinship, but due to the shared hardship provided by the course. Somehow, you help each other on. A comforting word, asking about how you’re doing, or just senseless humor. The “what have I gotten myself into” question usually surfaces at mile 13. I heard it several times yesterday. I answered it with some helpful advice that I learned from running it the year before. You do what you can.  I did see a number of runners sporting skinned knees and scrapes.  The unforgiving dirt roads claimed a few victims after all.

While you trudge along, half-cursing under breath, it helps to look around and gaze at the great view offered by an island atop the Pacific ocean. The waters around Catalina go down 2000 feet, so it seems like you are in Hawaii. Truly wonderful to take in.

When you’ve reached the highest point, that is a victory of sorts. You can see Avalon from this high vantage point. Most runners temper their celebration because the screaming downhill section comes up immediately. This is the section where you’ll even have trouble walking it down much less run it. Catalina veterans hate it. I don’t mind it at all, because I used to run crazy on these grades when I was a kid.

After mile 23, you enter into town just west of the golf course. The finish line just pulls you, and every runner at this point starts to get faster even if there is little energy left. It’s kind of fun in a way because there is always a mini-race to the finish, between runners in a grouping in these final miles. I think I passed 4 runners this year versus about 8 last year.

When the finish line appears and the crowd roars in appreciation, you pat yourself on the back and say “job well done”. And then you relax and become a tourist again in this quaint little town of Avalon.

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