Foothill Flyers Race Reviews
Last update Nov. 16, 2023

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

2nd or 3rd Saturday in November, Catalina Island, CA, Half Marathon start 8:00 AM and 10K at 8:30 AM..
For app and info: Click on Catalina above for info and to register on line.
Club 15% discount code FHFRUN. Half Marathon course map and profile.
2024 event is Saturday November 9th.

Avalon Weather, Web Cams: Descanso Beach, Mount Ada , Two Harbors.

This has always been a fun get away weekend for the club to run on a magical Pacific Island. The run is only part of the club traditions. Avalon is a city of only one square mile that could almost pass for a Mediterranean Island of the early 20th century. This weekend Avalon is full of runners. Many have been coming back for decades and its great to see others you may only bump into at races there.

The Eco Marathon took 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. The 8:00AM starts allows coming to Catalina on the first boat just for a day to run the race, but it is much more fun to come Friday morning on the 9:50am boat out of Long Beach and leave Sunday. Listen to Competitor Magazines Bob Babbitt's podcast interview with race director Mike Bone on running on Catalina.

The Half Marathon is part of the Catalina Island Triple Crown Challenge. If you complete the Half, Marathon and 50K or 50 Mile within 12 months, you’ll be awarded an exclusive FINISHER jacket, Hi-Tec shoes, and a unique belt buckle.

Both the Half Marathon and 10K are challenging with it's hill climbs. The half goes up 1600 ft in 5.5 miles on mostly dirt roads and has great views of the mainland and San Clemente Island. Just when you think you have done all the uphills, about mile 7.4, you see all the fast runners coming back from the out and back to go down the Monument road to the finish, but noooo. You have to climb back up over 400 ft in a mile as part of the 3 mile out and back. See the Half Marathon profile.

The 10K has it's own challenging hills. After running out around the Casino, you come back to go up some steep streets that circle around one side of the canyon then down to the golf course. After the golf course and the old Chicago Cubs training baseball field, the fun begins turning up on a dirt road that winds and climbs around the other side of the canyon. Finally a long downhill into town and the finish line. Don't look for a PR, the course records are 36 and 39 minutes.

The Eco Marathon was used by some as a training race for the High Desert 50K in December, Avalon 50 Mile in January, but now run the Transcatalina Trail on their own instead to get the long distance workout yet enjoy the Catalina weekend with the rest of us.

General Itinerary

Friday, for those going over on the 9:50am boat out of Long Beach, we usually check in to our hotel and then re-group at 12:30pm in the patio to go to lunch.

2pm it is miniature golf at the best 18 hole course anywhere.
4-4:30pm packet pickup at The Trailhead by Toyon Grill - 708 Crescent, 2nd floor.
5-5:30pm the group meets in the La Paloma/Las Flores hotel patio for wine, appetizers and discover we are too full to go out for dinner. Rather than go to a restaurant, we can get everything at the Von's Market a half block away and hang out in the patio.

8pm Friday evening is the best night for Karaoke at El Gallion as it is not as crowded as Saturdays. The Avalon Casino Theater is open again, check what movie is playing and show times.

Saturday, after you finish your race, hang out and cheer your fellow Flyers in. Then, after the race, some go to Descanso Beach for lunch and celebratory drink - best view. Dont want to walk that far, take the Garibaldi bus for $2 each way. Alternatives are Luau Larry's for a toast in the cave or hang out at the Sand Trap. Sand Trap happy hour starts at 2pm. Dinner varies to tastes and what is open from year to year - Catalina Restaurants. Again you can hit Vons and use the BBQ in the hotel patio as an alternative.

Sunday morning there is the Avalon Hash House Harriers run/walk starting at 8:30am at the Wrigley Fountain. There is no run fee, but bring some money for drinks and snacks at the end - Sand Trap. We leave the Sand Trap before 10:30am which gives enough time to check out and off to the boat dock at 11am for the 11:50am boat. You may moan and groan at getting up to do Sundays Hash recovery run, but be thankful you followed these traditions come Monday or Tuesday.

Lodging - With the 8AM run start, you can come over just for the day by taking the first boat at 6:00AM, 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/Las Flores is popular with the club and fills up fast. If full, try the Hotel Atwater next to the finish line. There are many other hotels to choose from as well as condo's from Catalina Vacation Rentals where you can get a group together.

Boat - Fastest boat ride - 1 hr - is from the Catalina Express terminal in Long Beach - Call 800-613-1212 after Labor Day to make a reservation. 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 9:50 AM Friday out of Long Beach and returning 11:50am Sunday boat. Carpool if possible, parking is over $20/day. Make sure all your car poolers are on the same boats. It is $5 to change a boat rez and they might be full.

The 2020 Catalina Weekend group

Past Catalina Eco Marathon Photos and Experiences

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

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.

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.

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.

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
"Tough Buffalo" Year One By Scott Cline

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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