Foothill Flyers Race Reviews
Last update May 7, 2018

Catalina Eco Trail Marathon / Half Marathon / 10K
"It is the hardest race you will ever love." - Michelle Speers 2010 Legacy Runner

3rd Saturday in November, Catalina Island, CA, Half Marathon start 8:00 AM and 10K at 8:30 AM..
The Marathon is taking a break in 2018 and it is unknown when it might return. The Half Marathon was moved from September to coincide with the Marathon and 10K in 2014. There is also a Kids Race. The 8AM starts allows coming to Catalina on the first boat just for a day to run the race, but is much more fun to come Friday morning on the 9:50am boat out of Long Beach and leave Sunday on the 2:15pm.

Avalon Weather, Web Cams: Casino, Mount Ada , Two Harbors,

For app and info: Click on Catalina Eco above for info and to register on line. Club 15% discount code FHFRUN.
See Robert and Maria Vangilder's 2012 race photos.
Read Competitor Magazines Bob Babbitt's article on running on Catalina.

To quote Race Director Mike Bone: "Start preparing now for one of the most challenging, difficult, memorable and fun events that you will participate in this year - the Catalina Island Eco Marathon. Come over to Catalina and experience the trails, oak trees, ocean views, bald eagles and of course the buffalo as we run from ridgetop to valleys and back to ridgetops. This experience you will never forget."
The Catalina Eco Marathon is defineately not a race to attempt a PR on, but to cruise along and enjoy the course. It is rated at the 2nd toughest in Southern California (Saddleback being first, however some rate it the hardest), but named the Best Island Run by Runners World. The half marathon and 10K are also rated as tough due to the hills. This race is in sequence along with the High Desert 50K in training for the Avalon 50 Mile / 50K.

The first marathon in 2007 has been improved with less pavement and more off road trails never before used on the March Catalina Marathon or Avalon Benefit 50 Mile courses. The course is out and back from Avalon and starts at 8:00 AM so no getting on the cattle boat at 5AM for the Isthmus and you can even take the first boat from the mainland if you just want to make it a day trip. This course is fast walk/jogable within the 8 hr time limit but if you think you will be slower than 15 minutes per mile, consider checking in at the start line and leaving an hour early so to be back in time to shower before for the awards party at 4 PM. Aid stations average 3 miles apart so carrying one water bottle or partially filled hydration pack is suggested. Make no mistake, this is a tough trail marathon that requires good ground gripping shoes and concentration. The altitude profile does not do justice to the short and steep whoops on the ridge tops. The Catalina Crush around mile 19 is a single track climb that makes Pumphouse Hill seem flat. See this YouTube video

Tradition is to wade into Avalon Bay up to your waist within 10 minutes of finishing - bring flip flops, towel and a shirt in a finish line drop bag because you don't want to walk on the pebblie beach bare foot or in your running shoes. Actually this really helps recovery. The group has been meeting at Antonios about 5:30pm. That evening, take in the movie at the Casino Theater at 7:30pm (go early to hear the theater organ). it's El Gallion for karaoke at 9PM - fun to watch marathon finishers stagger up to the mike thinking they still have energy to sing. Sunday morning, 8:30AM at the Green Pier, the Avalon Hash House Harriers set a 3 mile recovery - hare and hounds style - trail run/walk. You may moan and groan on Sunday, but be thankful you followed these traditions come Monday or Tuesday. You will still be able after to make the 11:45am or hang out for the 2:15pm boat.

With the 8AM run start, you can come over just for the day by taking the first boat at 6:15AM, but it is much more fun to spend a long weekend in Avalon with a town full of runners. If you do stay over, the La Paloma is popular with the club and there are many other hotels to choose from as well as condo's from Catalina Vacation Rentals where you can get a group together.

Fastest boat ride - 1 hr - is from the Catalina Express terminal in Long Beach - 800-805-9201. Best to take Friday off if you can and get one of the morning boats so you have some time to relax and enjoy the islands ambiance. Return on a mid Sunday boat - more fun to coordinate your boat rez with other club members and ride together. We suggest the 10 AM Friday and 2:05PM Sunday boats from Long Beach and carpooling if possible. After checking into our hotels we generally meet at Coney Island West on the corner of Crescent and Metropole for lunch at noon. Packet pickup is crowded at first, but around 4:30pm it thins out. Most meet at Antonio's for dinner at 5:30pm.

2010 early start

If you think you might just want to sight see this one and bust the 8 hour cut off or hang out at the aid stations too long, you can start 1 or 2 hours early like these people.

    Course drops down into the Valley of the Moon around mile 9. This view is looking up from the bottom and the next is from the top looking down.

Ski the Valley of the Moon ought to be a bumper sticker for this marathon. Yes a bit steep but the views are fantastic on the little seen Pacific side of the island. On a clear day you can see both San Clemente and Santa Barbara Islands.

    The Bullrush section is the prettiest and is a meandering single track down a valley with ponds and forests.

The Bullrush aid station at mile 11.5 is always fun. They try to get you to eat a piece of BBQ'd buffalo burger, drink a beer or rope a buffalo - guess which Tom O'Hara took.

    Around mile 14 there is a steep down hill to the west end of Middle Ranch Lake. The March Catalina marathoners and 50 milers pass by it only 100 yards away but hidden by a berm so they dont even know it is there.

We saw buffalo and a bald eagle around mile 20 during the 2008 event and 3 groups of buffalo and one fox in 2009. In 2010, one was 30 ft from us at the Haypress pond.

    The Marathon and Half both have the Hermit Gulch trail going 1.3 miles down from the Divide road and on into the Finish in Avalon. Care must be taken on this steep single track not to slip or tweek an ankle with tired legs.

My experience with the Catalina Eco-Marathon - 2007
By Scott Cline, "Tough Buffalo" Year One

So, I got a good night's sleep at my quaint motel/cottage in the little island town, woke up about an hour before the gun, took a shower, got dressed, walked a few blocks, greeted my fellow runners, and crossed the line! Perfect. None of fifty other marathon starts I've done has been close to this nice.

Is the course tough? Let there be no doubt. But there is great reward in these hills! Even the burn area, sprouting with regrowth, was good to see. Beautiful hills, and valleys, and hills, and valleys - remember that tough part? I didn't happen to see a buffalo, but you could tell they had been around. Reservoir lakes, ducks, horses, fish, boats on the ocean - lots to see - a camera is a worthy load to carry.

Even in their first year, the aid was well done. They were close enough to refill your bottles and provide nutrition. There were signs every mile and clear trail markings between them. A beautiful view awaits during the last mile dropping down into Avalon - of course ALL finish lines look great - but this one also has a wonderful prelude.

The night before and the night after can be fun too. Several restaurants, bars, tourist-style shopping, and other entertainment, even my nighttime favorite, Karaoke! And my personal daytime prejudice goes to the best old-tradition hand-built miniature golf course still in existence. But, the Grand Ballroom and the fantastic theater, complete with one of THE best pipe organs in the world, is nothing to ignore. Snorkeling, scuba, fishing, parasailing, horseback riding, golf, etc., and etc. You could easily spend a week here.

Catalina Eco Marathon Race Report
by Brett Terrell

I was looking forward to doing a marathon before the end of the year when I heard about the inaugural Catalina Eco Marathon in November. I enjoyed the marathon I did before on Catalina, so I registered and started training.

There is never enough time to train enough, so as usual I started to get nervous before the race. Looking at the elevation chart I was relieved because it looked like there was a steep uphill in the first few miles, followed by some rolling ups and downs then a steep downhill. This looked like it might be easier than the spring marathon course.

Friday afternoon I rode the boat to Avalon, checked into the hotel, and joined the other Flyers at the checkin. We enjoyed a buffet supper and heard a pep talk from Bob Babbit of Competitor Magazine, who also interviewed ultra runner Dean Kanazes who ran 100 miles the day before, then kayaked to Catalina and was going to race with us the next day.

The next morning I rolled out of bed when Scott Cline knocked on my door as he headed to the start. What a luxury to roll out of bed and leisurely stroll one block to the 8:15 am start. I didn't miss the 4:00 am boat ride in rolling seas watching everyone around you turn green before running a marathon.

The weather was great, a little cool and overcast. The start is a steep uphill out of town for about 3-1/2 miles. This was a tough part and it was discouraging to watch everyone pass as I struggled uphill. I thought, "Okay, I knew this would be tough; I will catch some of these people later." As we passed mile 3 I thought, "Great, it should start getting easier now." Wrong! What I was not able to see in the course profile is that instead of getting easy, there was a series of steep up hills and down hills until 10 miles or so. I kept waiting for it to get easy, but it never did. I finally had to accept that this was going to take a lot longer than I expected and settled in best I could to a pace I could hold. I took advantage of the slower pace to talk with friends and enjoy the scenery.

About mile 10 I actually started to feel good though I could feel the hills taking their toll. I even started passing a couple of the people who passed me earlier.

The course leveled out a bit (relatively anyway) through trails around lakes and reservoirs in the interior of the island. The sun started to come out and it warmed up, but I was able to keep a steady pace. The first few miles were so slow that when I got to this part of the course the mile markers seemed much closer together... at first I thought they were mis-marked. This gave the illusion that I was moving faster than I was, giving me a mental boost.

Around mile 18 I caught up to Scott Cline and Tom O'Hara, who took advantage of the early start. At the next aid station just past mile 19, I looked at my watch and thought that I had a shot at finishing right around 5:30 if I could keep this pace up. Wrong again!

Everything was fine for the next mile or so until I reached a steep hill that looked like it went straight up forever. Over the next mile it felt like all I could do was stagger 20 steps then stop, over and over to the top. At that point I thought all that matters is finishing and I forgot about time.

Finally around mile 22 I passed the last uphill and started the steep descent into Avalon. I looked at my watch and realized I had a shot at breaking 6 hours so I started to push my sore and tired legs downhill as fast as I could. Parts of the road were so steep that I was afraid I would fall over and somersault to town! As I neared the finish I knew I would break 6 hours, and seeing friends at the finish gave me a shot of adrenaline and sprinted as best I could to finish in 5:56:31. All in all, a very tough course, but a very satisfying marathon experience. The course is beautiful and well run. I guess this makes me a legacy runner--do I have to do this again next year?

Nothing like relaxing with a buffalo burger and a brew with friends at Eric's On The Pier after the marathon.

Ridge running around mile 7 after the fire in 2007

Cape Canyon aid station at mile 17 between Middle Ranch and "The Hill".

The climb up out of Cape Canyon at mile 19..

The aid station is just on the other side of the hill on the Airport Road where you can catch your breath and get some TLC.

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