It’s no secret, at least among several of my friends, that I was disappointed with my performance in London. I’m still incredibly glad that I ran my first marathon there - the experience is absolutely amazing - but, I was annoyed that I didn’t have the race that I thought I was capable of running. I thought 4:45 was a reasonable goal, so to be more than a quarter of an hour over five hours was kind of horrible. Even worse was hitting the wall so hard at mile 16 - I just KNEW I was better trained than that! I wanted my race to reflect the work that I’d put into my training and was sad when it didn’t.
Now, I still think that my training was the reason why I recovered so incredibly quickly from the race. Two days later, it was like I hadn’t run a marathon at all. The Saturday following London, I took a minute off my 5K PB at the Top Pot 5K and, later that day, I decided that I was in good enough shape to throw caution to the wind and sign up for another marathon. I was actually really glad that this worked out - I was looking for races in the Seattle-ish area about a month to two months out and realized that the North Olympic Discovery Marathon was perfect. I had actually thought about doing the half, but dismissed it because it was so soon after London (but now, I think I’ll do the half next year!). It is EXACTLY the kind of race that I’m finding I love - small, locally run & beautiful scenery.
So, after taking an easy week post-London, I googled "six weeks between marathons" and found another Hal Higdon plan that I could use. I liked that the long runs never got incredibly long (12/14/16 miles), but they were on Sunday after a fairly long run on Saturday (6 miles on the schedule, but I did a 5 mile trail race one week and a 15K race another week). I was very good about getting in four runs each week. I think it was a good plan. :-)
I’ll talk about some of the other aspects of my trip to the Olympic Peninsula in a different post and stick to the race itself here.
The race expo & packet pick-up was held at the Red Lion Hotel, just on the edge of downtown Port Angeles (note to self for next year: book early, so you can get a room there!). It was all very easy & well organized. You stopped downstairs to get your bib (#1 again!) and then went upstairs for the shirt. The shirt is awesome: long sleeved, half zip, red & clearly marked "26.2." They also gave us a water bottle with the NODM logo on it, which I like a lot and have now been using for two days straight. The expo was small (I mean, honestly, there were only 350 people in the full marathon and 1000 in the half, so I wasn’t expecting anything massive), but nice - a few booths selling things that you might need for the race & clothes. I also happened to be there when one of the veteran runners gave a course preview talk, which was interesting and useful the next day. I did ponder whether it was appropriate to wear my London jacket, but I felt less awkward about it after I saw so many people wearing their Boston jackets!
After the expo, I decided that I would go for to the pasta party, too, since I definitely needed pasta and could save myself the trouble of having to figure out where to get it. And, although I am very, very fond of carb loading that involves pho and pad thai, spaghetti sauce and meatballs have tended to be my go-to "night before a long run" food of choice (so much so that after London the thought of one more plate of it made me suddenly lose my appetite). Walking toward the Catholic church hall, where the Sons of Italy were providing the food, I could seriously smell garlic from half a block away. It was nice and I had a fun time chatting with some of the other runners - in fact, I sat by myself originally, but then inflicted my company on another lonely runner. Then, it was back to the hotel to pack up, lay everything out, and try to fall asleep early (with some rather mixed success).
I set my alarm for 5:30 and actually woke up about 5:25. The last bus for the marathon start (point to point course, you see) wasn’t leaving until 7:45, but I wanted to give myself plenty of time, rather than rushing - I find that having plenty of time to do everything really helps me calm down before a race. I was out the door just before 7:00 (I was live streaming WAMU and the warning that Click & Clack would be on at 10am EDT was just the push I needed to get out on time). I parked downtown, walked a few blocks to the buses, grabbed a tea and a banana (the bagel was already packed) and got on. They were nice buses, too! Like, city buses, rather than school buses and well labeled to make sure that you didn’t go to the start of the half marathon, rather than the full marathon. I sat next to a lovely woman from Seattle who is actually a running coach (oddly enough - second running coach I’d had an opportunity to chat with this week and BOTH of them told me how many of their clients are lawyers and how much they LOVE working with lawyers). She planted the fantastic idea in my head that a quick ice bath in Puget Sound would be a good idea, post race.
We continued chatting when we got to the marathon start, where there was a lovely building with tons of tables, chairs, water, and real bathrooms for us while we waited. Absolute luxury, especially compared to the half marathon runners who apparently start in a big field. I also met the woman who had volunteered to be the 4:55 pacer. I had actually chatted with her a bit before, as well: it turns out that we both listen to the fabulous Marathon Talk podcast, so we’d exchanged a few words on the forums there in advance. She’s a pretty awesome ultra runner (as is her husband, who had to pass on pacing the 5:10 group after running 150 mile race last weekend) and did a great job with the pacing.
The start was so, so low key, because there were only 350 or so of us (320 finishers). Someone blew an airhorn and we were off! The first section of the course involved a five-mile loop around the start line and then we were off on a short tour of the streets of Sequim, before we finally got on the North Olympic Discovery Trail, for which the race is named. I actually quite liked this section, for all that it involved running on city streets. I love it when businesses change their signs out front to wish the runners luck and there were several groups of supporters that we saw over and over again (they must have been cheering someone near me, because I saw one family 5 or 6 times and I want to THANK them for being there and going nuts for EVERY runner...the tutus and the red wig and the pompoms were fabulous).
The course itself is largely flat and quite beautiful, although there were some pretty steep hills where the trail dips down to cross streams (and some impressive bridges where they do so) or go under the highway. There were three of these and a number of small rollers through the middle section of the course. I stuck with the pacer until the second of these two big hills, when her power walking was too much for me to catch up to after also walking to take a gel. I kind of wish I’d held on, but I’m also so proud of how I ran this race that I don’t mind. However, I absolutely do think that having a pacer was a fantastic way to get through those early-mid race miles where you still have SO FAR to go and can’t imagine why on earth you’re putting yourself through this kind of ordeal (again). For a good portion of the race, it was the pacer, me, and another woman from Canada, who had done several (8?) Ironmans and was pretty awesome. She attests that stand-alone marathons are harder than Ironman marathons, although I can’t see how (something about how, by the time you get to the marathon, you know you’re almost done, so there’s a huge mental advantage).
So, from somewhere between mile 16 and 17 until the end, I was pretty much on my own (but with the iPod). Although I’d pass other runners and walkers, there wasn’t really anyone to chat with. Even, still, I cannot emphasize enough how much better this race felt than London. In London, I hit the wall HARD at mile 16 and I was constantly stopping to try and work up the momentum to keep going. I kept needing to stick my head between my legs. Here (and I am SO PROUD of this), I NEVER STOPPED. I walked, but I never stopped completely. That was my goal for the day: forward motion at all times. Sure, I was tired and my walk breaks came more frequently as the miles wore on, but I KEPT going. I think if I’d managed that in London, I would have been happy with my performance, no matter what the clock said at the end of the race. I don’t even mind that I missed my sub-five hour goal by 14 seconds and probably could have nailed it with one less walk - I am proud of what I did on that course.
Nutrition-wise, I tried to change things up from London a bit. The diagnosis has been that I might have had some dehydration issues, so I decided I would carry my camelbak, just to make sure I was drinking enough. I actually filled it with Heed drink, after finding that I really liked it in the Seattle’s Best 15K: two packets are enough to fill my camelbak’s reservoir. I also switched to Hammer Gels, because that’s what they were using on the course. I took one about 5.5 miles, another one around 10.something, and a final one at 16.something. Ask me why I didn’t take a final one and I haven’t got an answer for you - clearly, I STILL need to work on making myself eat when I’m exhausted in a race. I did also pick up some orange slices and watermelon at aid stations.
With five miles to go, I was absolutely sure that I had already nailed my sub-5 time target. Maybe being so sure meant that I let myself take it easy those last miles? Would I have actually achieved it if I hadn’t been so sure? Or was I just being unrealistic about the pace a fairly new runner and novice marathoner can sustain through the final miles of the marathon? No idea.
|That red fencing - the finish chute|
With a mile to go, I knew exactly how close it was going to be - I needed to hit paces that are usually easy run pace for me (10 minute miles), but not so much at the end of a marathon. I had a couple of guys in my sights and worked on speeding up to pass them. And, with the finish line in sight at the 26 mile marker, I sprinted as fast as my little wobbly legs would carry me. It wasn’t quite enough - if only I’d started a little bit sooner! But, oh my goodness, I put everything I had into getting myself across that line. The photos are going to be hilarious: Joyce’s best "gasping desperately for air/fish/race face," I’m sure. I am proud of that, too. I didn’t let up when I knew that my goal had just slipped out of my grasp: I kept running my hardest to make sure that I still got as close to it as I could. Because, you know what: I’m still a 5-hour marathoner now. 5 hours and thirteen seconds! (and, ahem, that’s more than 16 minutes off my London time).
Another amazing feature of the race is that you get your own personal escort at the finish line, who hands you a cold bottle of sports drink immediately (cap already off) and walks you through the finish chute. Given that I’d just had the sprint of my life, he was a little worried thzat I was so wobbly, so we walked really slowly. That was very, very nice. I did kind of miss bag pick-up, since there were so few left by the time I got there, but I eventually found it and the food (chocolate milk! and chicken noodle soup!). And, yes, I did take an ice bath in Puget Sound or at least waded in up to my waist. OMG, it was so cold that I thought my feet were going to fall off - but at least everything stopped cramping! (As a side note, the finish line festival is supposed to be awesome, but it was cold and overcast and people weren’t really lingering, especially given that 95% of people had finished long before I got there.)
|View from the finish area|
I have to say that I felt a lot worse, physically, after this race, than I did in London. Everything in my body wanted to cramp and be cranky (maybe I do still need one salt tablet along the way?) and my feet were particularly unhappy (one of them still is). I was definitely doing the marathon shuffle (and I still kind of am - this marathon is going to involve some PROPER recovery time, I can tell). I had to call my poor friend j00j to have her talk to me and distract me as I shuffled back to the car (and she was helpful enough to tell me what I should do next, i.e. shower). I know the YMCA was open for showers, but I’d noticed that there was a branch of my gym across from the motel, so I went there. My brain didn’t want to figure out where the Y was. Lovely hot shower was lovely, as was the quality time that I spent with the foam roller before I got back in the car to drive to the ferry. After a stop in Bremerton to have dinner with my favorite running friend, I got on the ferry for a sunset cruise back to Seattle and FINALLY saw the mountains!
I loved this race: it was so different from London and no less enjoyable. It was well-run and I loved the support that we got from the community. I am almost certain that I will be back next year to run the half marathon!