This week, I’ve thoroughly freaked myself out by reading reviews of the Catalina Eco Marathon. Tales of Mile 16 emotional breakdowns, 1/5 of runners not finishing, and other such horrors litter the Web. According to one runner, there are no flats on this run, just uphills and downhills. According to another, the climbs are pretty bad until about Mile 10 or so, when they even out into rolling hills. Mile 19 has a long, brutal uphill, followed by a long, brutal downhill. I had no idea exactly what I was getting into when I signed up for this thing.
I told myself that, if I was going to get really serious here, I needed to jump on a trail running regimen, with lengthy climbs, like, A.S.A.P. With only six weeks to go before race day, I am facing some serious hill training. Today, I decided to jump on the trail to supplement my distance training and, at least, get me somewhat ready for such a rigorous climb.
The trail was a nice up-and-back, about eight miles total, of which I thought I would run about six, straight through, no walk breaks. Ha. One mile into the climb, I was suffing for breath. I let myself take a walk break and set my interval timer up for 6/1. I tried to run six minutes up the following hills. The bod wasn’t having it. Those weebly hamstrings of mine still were fighting me. Plus, the first three miles of any run are always the worst, whether you’re Dean Karnazes or, well, me. I ended up walking about a minute early and readjusting my intervals to 4/1.
Even at four minutes, that climb was tough. I found myself glancing at my interval timer about a minute early through each one. “This is going to be what it’s like in Catalina,” I thought. “I’m going to die. How am I going to get through 26.2 miles of this, when I’m struggling at three?”
It’s not like we haven’t done long hills in our training. Some of our hills were 4+ miles long, and steep, and I tackled those and continued on eight miles further. Maybe it was the group setting, maybe the footing, maybe the sun wasn’t beating down quite as brutally as it was then, as during today’s training. I’m not quite sure why my body was fine before, but was rebelling against this challenge. Either way, I felt yet again defeated, wondering why things just weren’t working the way they were supposed to be at this point.
All of these setbacks are making me extremely anxious. Can I do this, or am I just setting myself up to be scraped off of the trail like so much buffalo pucky?
I finished my intervals to Mile 3, and then made the fun descent back, which was actually great practice for keeping steady and fast on the downhills without burning out my legs and joints. Next week, I’m going to try to go the whole way, perhaps lowering down to a 3/1 interval, just to make it up to the top, then running the full way back down. If I can make that four mile climb, I’ll already be in much better shape than I was today.
Advice from trail runners would be uber amazing.