Monday, June 6, 2011

North Olympic Discovery Marathon - June 5, 2011

My first real race of the year had arrived.  I ran a 50k in January and the Tacoma City Marathon in May but neither were time goal races but rather finish and feel good races.  The North Olympic Discovery Marathon first ran in 2003.  I joined in 2006 after running Boston and Tacoma, meaning that this marathon secured my place in the Marathon Maniacs.  Perhaps that is the reason why this race is so special to me.  The course boasts amazing views of the Olympic Mountains, a beautiful trail with foot bridges, and finishes along the Strait of Juan De Fuca.

There are some hills throughout the course, most notably after the 16 mile mark where you are faced with a steep grade coming out of creekbeds.  If you know the course beforehand, you will not let it freak you out because the hills are not long even though they may seem intimidating.  Even walking up these hills you will not lose too much time over the course of the marathon. 

I decided to drive over race morning instead of staying overnight before the race.  I'm fortunate enough to live within 90 minutes of the start and with a 9:00 a.m. start, it was very doable to get there and still get a decent amount of sleep.  I love the later start even though many of my running friends would prefer to be on the road at least 2 hours earlier. 

I had arranged for another Maniac, Tim Bruce, to pick up my packet the day before just in case I was running late.  It turns out that the packets were still available when we arrived so I will remember that next year if we drive over on race morning.  Race morning started with a 5:30 a.m. alarm and believe it or not, I did not jump out of bed singing about bluebirds and rainbows.  Who are those people?  The coffee could not have been perking any slower as I stumbled through the house, trying to gather my race items.  I was so out of it when the alarm sounded, I had to ask Jeff, "What day is it?  What are we doing today?"  My daughter had taken the SAT the day before and I must have been dreaming about it because I thought I needed to get her to the test site. 

After checking my supplies a few times and giving my cat her insulin shot - that's another story - we escaped the house by 6:30 a.m, fifteen minutes later than I intended.  The drive to Sequim was thankfully uneventful and it was already 60 degrees, a temperature we have rarely gone above in months.  It had hit 80 degrees on Saturday in many places and I read with trepidation the marathon reports from other maniacs.  "Hot...brutal...survived...cramp city" were just a few descriptions from their races.  Imagine being holed up in a cold, dark cave for 7 months and suddenly you are thrust out into 80 degrees.  It's not really the 80 degrees that is so horrible but the lack of time to acclimate.  Washington has been the cave. 

Jeff parked maybe half to three-quarters a mile from the start, Carrie Blake Park.  We walked along the back of the park and hoped there would be an entrace.  I was getting a little edgy as we continued to walk and not see an entrance.  We passed a field overrun with campers and dogs, staying at the park for a dog show.  We found a chain link fence and didn't see a gate so Jeff cupped his hands together and umph, over the fence I climbed, in my running skirt.  We crossed the overgrown grassy field and reach the next fence which is locked so again, trying to be discreet as I flung my legs over the fence.  I felt my leg hurt a little, which added to my edginess.  Later I would discover a nice size bruise and a second one appeared the next day.  We also discovered that a trail entrance was just ahead about 10 feet from where we jumped the fence. 

Chain Link fence bruise
I got my packet, snuck into a Marathon Maniac photo shoot and made my way to the start.  I managed to use the porta potties a few times as my stomach was rumbling and rolling.  The ankle timing chip was secured through my laces with a safety pin since I have had bloody ankles when wearing these.  The volunteers don't mind the extra time it takes to unravel them and it saves me from another scar. 

As I walked past the starting line, I note a couple of speedy looking women and resolve not to be disappointed today.  This was something I would have to do repeatedly over the race.  I ran into some Marathon Maniacs and just before the start, Terry Sentinella found me and we decided to run together.  He has a 100 mile race next weekend and he was supposed to pace a 3:40 group.  There weren't any other pacers so he was happy to get a free entry and a long run with no time goals.  That suited me just fine but I was still worried that I might slow him down.  This man will be running the Badwater Ultramarathon in July. If you don't know what it is, here's a Badwater video preview

There wasn't much fanfare before the start and before I knew it, we were running.   The course starts out with a little incline and moderately rolling hills.  Our mile splits are in the mid 7s to 8s until mile 17.  I knew by mile 6 that this may not be my day but I had no idea how burnt out my legs would be and how soon.  In the past times I've run this, I may have walked portions of the steep uphills but not through aid stations or anywhere else. 

Terry kept the race fun and we had lots of time to talk about our families, racing and the evils of consuming dairy the night before a race.  I told him to go ahead anytime if I was slowing him but he kep his word and stayed with me through the whole race.  As I watched other women pass me during the race, I had to keep my thoughts in check and not let them control my run.  Terry called me out on my negative thinking a few times and that helped to keep things in perspective.  At some point in the race, the cold, hard reality of not finishing in the top of the field hit me pretty hard.  I wasn't trained for a fast marathon but the hope that my body could still pop one out was in the back of my mind. 

I walked countless times in the second half, nothing too long, but any walking feels like too much when it's something you don't normally do.  I watched people pass me who didn't look like they should be faster than me.  Steve Walters passed me and he ran a marathon on Saturday.  C'mon, Steve, have pity on me!

We had reached the homestretch and even with less than a mile to go, I had to take a short walk break!  My quads had been screaming at me for miles and kept me from running a decent pace in the second half.  I will admit that negative thinking and not having that tough mentality kept me from pushing harder, too. 

A small price to pay for 26.2 miles
I attempted a pathetic sprint at the end and finished in 3:46:45.  My Garmin had me at 26.44 miles and an 8:34 average.  I didn't cry this time and managed to not whine too much out loud.  The recovery area was filled with music, people milling about, some hobbling, others glowing from finishing their first marathon or perhaps a much larger number while others relished in a personal best.  I found my way over to to the results and discovered I was 53rd overall, 5th in my age and the 16th woman, not fast enough to win any awards this year.  A blister on my foot thankfully didn't cause any problems during the race.

We gathered our things, chatted with some friends and made our way to the SUV.  I think I shook my head the whole way home, wishing I could have done something differently.  I had thought a Jack in the Box meal and Snickers bar would make me feel better but it just gave me indigestion.

My next race is the Sound to Narrows 12K next weekend and two weeks later, Seattle Rock and Roll aka the Concrete Jungle. 

Mile Splits:
  1. 7:36
  2. 8:00
  3. 7:39
  4. 7:44
  5. 7:52
  6. 8:06
  7. 7:57
  8. 8:18
  9. 8:09
  10. 8:09
  11. 8:01
  12. 8:05
  13. 8:27
  14. 8:45
  15. 8:23
  16. 8:41
  17. 9:22
  18. 9:21
  19. 9:21
  20. 9:34
  21. 10:26
  22. 8:46
  23. 9:27
  24. 9:14
  25. 9:19
  26. 8:38
   .2-  7:45 (mile avg.)