Tuesday, June 18, 2013

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Part 2 - The Marathon (finally)

I delayed on finishing this because I wanted to wait and see if there were any race photos available other than the finish line (there weren't), and for Rod to forward me the photo he took near the finish (which is much better than the crappy finish line picture).

One of the problems with waiting so long to write about a race, is that the memories which seemed so clear and sharp become fuzzy and distant. I suppose the emotions which were clear and sharp also become more fuzzy and distant, as time passes.

NODM (the full marathon) started in Sequim and finished in Port Angeles. The two towns are about 17 miles apart, but the race organizers managed to make them 26.2 miles apart by adding some zigs and zags. The race started at Carrie Blake Park in Sequim at 9 a.m. The shuttles from Port Angeles started leaving at 6:30 a.m. That meant a long wait at the starting area!

I got on a shuttle at about 6:45. It was a nice, comfortable bus and there were only a few other people on it with me. I guess most people didn't want to leave quite so early. I ate my English muffin (with almond butter and jam) on the bus. We got to Sequim around 7:15.

Luckily the park had a nice conference center with tables and chairs where we could hang out. I staked a claim on a spot (not that it was crowded yet), and headed to the (indoor!) bathroom for my first of many bathroom visits. I swear that every time I went, I immediately felt like I had to pee again. Partly it was nerves, I'm sure, and partly the grande Americano that I had been drinking.

To help pass the time, I listened to two podcasts of Another Mother Runner on my phone. One was new, and then I scrolled back to the archives to find another. This kept me entertained and distracted, and every 15 minutes I would go to the bathroom again.

By 8:30 the place was much more hopping and there was even a small line at the bathroom. I decided to go outside to the porta potties and see what was up. Surprise, the clouds from early had cleared and now it was sunny and a little bit warm! After the porta potty, I decided to take a few loops around the parking lot to warm up my legs. Most of the time I can't bust out more than an 11-minute mile until I've had at least a mile of warm-up. Of course I didn't want to expend too much energy on a pre-marathon warm-up, but a little (maybe a quarter to half a mile) couldn't hurt.

This also did the trick on my insides (not in a bad way) and I headed back to the potties for a final, thorough, visit. When I came out everyone else had already started walking toward the start! (It was down the road a bit.) I hustled to catch up and as I passed the conference center, dropped my throwaway jacket on a table inside. I wouldn't be needing it even for the start.

There was no 4:15 pacer so I decided to keep an eye on the 4:10 pacer as a guide. I've never officically run with a pace group, but I've occasionally followed one just to try to keep on track. The 4:10 pacer would be running 9:32 miles. Maybe a little fast for me. But I could always drop back.

The first mile was a little uphill (I see from my Garmin elevation chart) and it was a little bit of a struggle to keep up with the pacer. I think that's because I wasn't warmed up as much as I would like. But after that I started cruising and, I'll admit, probably went a little too fast at times. (However, I will say that although you shouldn't bank time, I still feel like those fast miles kept my average pace decent even with some really bad miles late in the race!)

After mile one we went downhill again for several miles, and in fact the first half of the race was pretty much all gently rolling hills. My favorite. My splits reflected the rolling nature of the course...
Mile 1 - 9:40
Mile 2 - 9:24
Mile 3 - 8:55 (can you say "oops"?)
Mile 4 - 9:03 (still downhill)
Mile 5 - 9:27
Mile 6 - 9:40
Mile 7 - 9:29
Mile 8 - 9:49
Mile 9 - 9:39
Mile 10 - 10:03
Mile 11 - 9:36
Mile 12 - 9:47
Mile 13 - 10:03

At the half marathon point my time was just a few seconds over 2:05. I was not foolish enough to think I could hold that for a 4:10 finish. I did think that I had a good shot at 4:15 (which was my goal time). Early in the race I had pulled ahead of the 4:10 pacer (not intentionally) and stayed ahead until about mile ten, when she passed me. I tried to keep her in my sight but lost her before the halfway point. She must have been going a little fast because we should have been at the half at around the same time. Just as well she was gaining a little time, because I don't know how anyone could not slow at least a little in the second half.

Despite some slowing, I stayed on a pretty good track through mile 16. This makes sense as the course description calls miles 4-16 "amazing." Somewhere in there we hopped on the North Olympic Discovery Trail. This was very nice, of course, but running on gravel (this was very hard packed dirt with gravel) is not my favorite for speed. I just prefer pavement.

Mile 14 - 10:16
Mile 15 - 10:04
Mile 16 - 10:08

Somewhere in mile 16-17 we experienced the first of two very steep descents to a creek, ran across a bridge, then back up the very steep hill on the other side. The course description advises walking up these hills, and I sure did! Most of the time I prefer running up hills (even a very slow 12-13 mile pace is faster than walking), but these were so steep that the effort to shuffle up was not worth it.

Mile 17 - 10:41
Mile 18 - 10:35
Mile 19 - 10:38
Mile 20 - 11:18 (hill?)

During the first half of the race I was pretty responsible about fueling. In addition to my breakfast on the bus, I ate a banana about an hour before the start. I took a Gu at about mile 7, and another about mile 13.

Then I failed myself. I should have had the next Gu around mile 18 or 19, but I didn't want it. I was just a little nauseous, and instead of Gu-ing I drank a few sips of Gatorade at the aid stations. In retrospect (and I know this!) there aren't enough calories in my small sips of Gatorade to make up for lack of fuel. By the second half of the race I'd probably used up most of my stored glycogen, and for best results I probably should have forced myself to eat some. I don't know for sure that it would have mattered, and I certainly wouldn't want to make myself sick, but it is unquestionable that my pace (and energy) dragged in the second half, and particularly in the last six miles.

In mile 21 I was cruising along and thinking "I feel pretty good" and started to pick up my pace, when I stumbled and fell hard. I got up with a scraped (and later bruised) left shoulder, a scraped but not bloody left knee, and a badly scraped right hand. A woman behind me stopped but I told her I was pretty much fine (as I was).

I ran onward but blood was running from my hand. I had to do something about it. At the aid station which I soon came to, I asked if they had any napkins. They offered a first aid kit but I just wanted something to absorb the bleeding. I rinsed my hand with a cup of water then carried a wad of napkins until just about the end of the race, when I was able to drop them in a garbage. (Two weeks later, my knee is completely healed, the bruise on my shoulder is faded, and I have a couple residual scabs on my hand.)

This wasn't a great incident for morale, especially as I was now starting the most difficult (psychologically) miles of the race. This should have been a better section for me, as the course was going downhill for a few miles. I guess that's what kept my splits okay, if not great.

Mile 21 - 11:57 (the fall)
Mile 22 - 10:41
Mile 23 - 10:42
Mile 24 - 10:41

I had also been walking a little in the aid stations, to make sure I could gulp a little Gatorade. I only walked a few steps from the time I got the Gatorade to when I tossed the cup. This is way different from the Honolulu Marathon, where I started walking at the beginning of each aid station and had a hard time forcing myself to start up again. This was totally under control. It added a few seconds to my splits but nothing crazy.

I would like to say that I got a second wind in the last two miles, but I clearly remember thinking, after mile 24, that two miles to go seemed like a long way. I think that is also when I said I didn't want to do another marathon for a long time. This section of the course was also not very pleasant. It was still on the trail but there was work or something being done and it was edged with cyclone fencing. I just remember it being hot and dusty. Even when we got back along the water (which was truly nice and beautiful), I didn't manage to kickstart my energy. Yeah, a Gu might have been a good idea. If I hit the wall anywhere, it was here.

Mile 25 - 11:17
Mile 26 - 10:55

My finishing kick (.37 miles) was hardly heroic, but at least I did it at a sub-10 pace (9:55). I tried to look like I was having a good time as I passed Rod.
Those people behind me with the stroller were half marathon walkers, okay? Actually I don't know if the stroller was even in the race or just out for an afternoon stroll in the sun. The two other women have half marathon bibs, though.

I crossed the finish line with a time of 4:28:20. So, not my goal time, but still within my secondary (or tertiary, or quadrary) goal of sub-4:30. I had another reason to finish under 4:30, which was our late check-out time of 2:00...I figured if I finished by 1:30 I would have time to take a shower before we left. And I did.

The race assigned everyone a companion to walk with them from the finish line through the chutes. The lady with me kept asking me if I felt okay. I did. I've only felt sick a couple times after a marathon. One was CIM (my PR) and once was Boston. Otherwise I usually feel okay after I stop running. Probably shows I am not trying hard enough....

Anyway, I soon met up with Rod and we walked back to the hotel (easy since the finish was right adjacent to the hote!). I got dressed and we headed for the road and ferry home.

I have pretty good feelings about this race. I thought my time was very decent. Although slower than I had hoped, I had a 10:15 official pace (and 10:11 based on the distance). I only have occasional regrets when I realize I probably will not have the opportunity to improve this time in 2013. The two other marathons I'm planning on are harder courses and of course Kauai will be very warm.

Oh yeah, one more thing--I did not stop for the bathroom once! This is a marathon first for me. Unfortunately, the time lost in my fall and related to that pretty much ate up the bathroom time savings.

After the marathon I took four days off running (Monday through Thursday) and then ran again on Friday. I was in Leavenworth for a training, so I ran five miles on the trails Friday morning and 4.5 miles on Saturday. Back in town I did a 10-mile run on Sunday and felt good.

This last Saturday I tested my speed a little by running a 5K in town (the Berry Run). I had hoped to break 25 minutes but it was not to be. They changed the course from last year and threw in a hill! My time was just over 26 minutes. I still squeaked in with a third place in Age Group F40-49. (And yes, there were more than three participants. At least four!)
Gravel again! My nemesis....

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Olympic Peninsula Weekend and North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Part One: The Peninsula and Olympic National Park

This last weekend (May 31-June 2) Rod and I travelled all over the Olympic Peninsula and ended with me running the North Olympic Discovery Marathon. The first half of the weekend (Friday through Saturday afternoon) was Rod's birthday weekend, then from Saturday night on it was all about me and the marathon.

The Olympic Peninsula is in the northwest corner of Washington and it is bordered by the Pacific Ocean on the west, the Strait of Juan de Fuca to the North, and the Olympic Mountains and Olympic National Forest in the center. Much of the area is within the Olympic National Park. The park and surrounding areas include lakes, waterfalls, rivers, mountains, beaches and rain forest...a lot of scenery. The park also has several lodges, one of which we stayed at and three others we visited in our travels.

We left pretty early on Friday morning to make the rather long drive to our first destination, Lake Quinault Lodge. We had to drive south to Olympia and then head west to get on Highway 101. The whole drive took four hours, including a stop for lunch. Luckily there were no major traffic tie-ups on I-5, otherwise it could have taken much longer. We stopped in Aberdeen and had lunch at the Lighthouse Drive-In, which serves home-cooked fast food. I had a turkey club which included fresh roasted turkey on house-made whole wheat bread. If I went back I would just have a turkey sandwich--I didn't need the ham and bacon. I also had fries instead of salad as I was in the midst of my pre-marathon carb-eating regime.

Lake Quinault Lodge is a grand but rustic lodge built in 1926 along the shores of Lake Quinault. We stayed in a lake view room in the main lodge. There are also cabins and other rooms in the outbuildings. Of course I wanted the most traditional lodge experience! We arrived at 1:30 p.m. and our room was ready, so we were able to check in immediately, which was great.
This picture from the website looks very similar to our room. You can see the lawn and lake through the window.

That afternoon we decided to hike/walk the Lakeshore Trail, which starts in front of the lodge and loops about four miles through the forest, along creeks, waterfalls, and through a cedar bog. In addition to many, many trees and mosses, we saw numerous woodsy plants and flowers, including the beautiful (but less delcious than blackberries) salmonberry, which has bright fuschia blossom and golden or red berries. (Pictures from the internet as I didn't think to take any.)

As a (former) trail runner, I would describe the trail as wide single track, mostly runnable (and obviously walkable) with technical portions and some hills. It ends on the road in front of the Lodge.

(These pictures seem a little odd, like they are stretched out for some reason...I had to remove a funhouse-style one of me!)

We made a post-hike stop at the Quinault Mercantile for ice cream bars, then walked around the grounds and down to the beach. During the summer season they have lake tours (by boat) and also rent rowboats, but none of that seemed to be going yet.

 Rainbow chairs on the beach.
The lake side of the Lodge.
For dinner we went to the hotel dining room, the Roosevelt Room, named after Franklin D. Roosevelt's visit in 1937. We had a lovely window seat with a view of the lake. We had already studied the menu a couple times in advance--the actual menu was a little different from the online version so we had to modify our plans a little. We shared a razor clam appetizer (razor clams lightly breaded and fried, I'll admit you have to be a Washingtonian to truly appreciate fried rubber bands!). Rod ordered bison meatloaf, which he enjoyed, and I ordered the only pasta dish on the menu, penne pasta with chicken breast, Andouille sausage, Olympia mushrooms, red onions, garlic, shallots, and a smoked jack cream sauce. I probably should have had the vegetarian version without the chicken and sausage, as to me the mushrooms were the highlight! I haven't had a creamy pasta sauce in a long time, and I'll admit, it was good. We also had salads and then marionberry cobbler for dessert.

Afterwards we went back outside to watch the sunset from the rainbow chairs. Once the sun dropped it became suddenly chilly, and we headed back inside.

Saturday morning we were up early for another light hike before breakfast. This time we did a loop including a portion called Trail of the Giants (the Giants are Douglas firs). The trail was about 3.5 miles total, but we inadvertantly added a half mile by missing the trail start and walking an extra quarter mile down a fire road before we figured out we'd made a mistake. This trail had some significantly muddier and even wet sections, and in one part we had to walk up a creek bed with water running through it. Unlike the other trail, where the hills were rolling throughout, here we did most of our climbing in the first half and then descended on the return.

We got back to the lodge a bit past 9:00 to have the breakfast I'd been looking forward to all week. Rod had an omelet, which was delicious, I'm sure, and I had...drumroll...sweet potato pancakes with hazelnut butter (that is butter with hazelnuts mixed in) and maple syrup, and bacon on the side. Best carb loading breakfast ever! The pancakes were like pumpkin pancakes, not like latke-style potato pancakes. So. Good.

After breakfast we headed out to resume our journey toward Port Angeles for the marathon. The road took us out to the coast where we stopped first at Kalaloch. We walked down to the beach and the ocean's edge. Then on our return we peeked into the resort cabins and visited the Kalaloch Lodge. This is another place we'd like to stay, either in a cabin or the lodge itself. This would be a place to visit in the off-season (when rates are lower), even in winter (if you're a weird Washingtonian that likes to go to the ocean in the winter weather).

Before turning inward from the coast, we stopped also at Ruby Beach for a view and some photos.

Back on the highway, we soon passed through Forks. Yes, that is the location for the Twilight books. Actually many of our sites on this trip included Twilight sights! I really enjoyed reading the books but I'm not a big fangirl, and I certainly didn't want to make this a Twilight trip. I did pick up a brochure in Port Angeles listing all the Twilight locations in the area, however. A lot of the Forks locations were right on the main road as we drove through. Generally speaking, though, Forks seemed like a rather depressed, run down town.

We did not make the detour out to LaPush (where Jacob lived).

Although we had a big breakfast earlier, I did not want to forgo lunch, since that would make me too hungry and prone to overeat at dinner. We had two options for lunch around 2:00--Sol Duc Hot Springs and the Crescent Lake Lodge.

Geographically speaking, Sol Duc was first so we made the 12-mile drive off the main road. This was the only National Parks location that we went to where they required a pass. So we paid $15 to enter the park (which did make our lunch a little more expensive). Sol Duc (which also calls itself Soleduck) is a popular (it seems) hot springs with a lodge and other types of accommodation (cabins, camping, etc.). The dining room was not open for lunch, but the deli had a good menu and you could take your food into the dining room to eat if you want. We chose to do so, as the outside seating was a little breezy and really, it was a little weird being around all the hot spring soakers. We had salmon burgers with aoli and homemade potato chips and it was quite good.

It was amazing how crowded the pools were and how people just kept arriving. Even as we were leaving there were lines of people waiting to pay their entrance fee to the pools.

Our last stop before Port Angeles was Crescent Lake Lodge. Crescent Lake is a huge, beautiful lake (shaped like a crescent). I was quite enchanted by Crescent Lake Lodge and now I really want to go stay there! The Lodge itself is a beautiful New England-like building (although it is a woodsy light grey-green in color, not New England white), and there are also cabins and lodging in other buildings. I would like to stay in a Lodge room, but in my searches for theoretical stays, I have yet to find a date where a Lodge room was available! The dining room menu also looks wonderful. I am mentally planning my visit now...although probably not until next year, as summer is the priciest season (and quite booked up already), and I'm not sure that I would want to stay in the winter. Although...the holidays? Lake Crescent Lodge is also much closer to Port Angeles (about 20 miles away), in case I wanted to do the marathon (or half marathon) again next year....

Somewhat regretfully, we left Lake Crescent for the final journey to Port Angeles. About half an hour later we arrived at the Red Lion Hotel, race headquarters and adjacent to the race finish area (which would be quite convenient for Sunday). Our room had a nice view of the water, and a fridge...which was useful for stashing a pre-purchased coffee for race morning (I like Starbucks Americanos with half and half, hotel room coffee doesn't do it for me). Lucky for me, Safeway with a Starbucks was only a few blocks away, so before dinner I walked up and got my Americano.

I flew through the race expo and got my bib and shirt. The race shirts are long-sleeved half-zip shirts, which is a nice change from the usual. They're ocean blue and have the race logo on the back, and also say "Boston Strong."

We ate dinner at the local Italian restaurant, Bella Italia (also known as the restaurant where Bella and Edward had dinner). I had a great salad with grilled pears and gorgonzola, and a rather spicy puttanesca-like spaghetti. (I took some away and actually I'm going to have it for dinner tonight, Monday, with spaghetti squash.) We also had dessert, a very intense chocolate torte.

All that was left for the day was to put out all my race gear and clothing, and try to get some sleep. The marathon didn't actually start until 9 a.m., but I planned to leave the hotel around 6:30 to catch the shuttle to the start.

Next...the Marathon.