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North Olympic Discovery Marathon: 2013 Recap - Marathon 2 of 2 for the weekend
The North Olympic Discovery Marathon is the second marathon of our back-to-back marathon weekend. You can read about the first one here: Marathon 1 of 2 Recap: Newport, OR
After a quick shower in Newport, OR, we began the 7 hour drive to Port Angeles, WA. We headed up Highway 101 along the coast for a while, before heading north east to I-5, and drove through Portland. We found Portland to have a really nice skyline, but just couldn't capture it with the camera.
We continued along I-5 to Olympia, WA, stopping at the capitol to stretch our legs and look around. We stumbled across groups that were attending prom, getting pictures on the capitol steps, and a bike race. We watched the bike race for a bit, chatted with locals, and then finished our drive to Port Angeles. We got there too late to join the Heinrichs for dinner.
The marathon starts in Sequim, WA (pronounced 'squim'), as shown at left, viewed from Hurricane Ridge. The course winds around Sequim a bit, and then heads west to Port Angeles, and uses the Olympic Discovery Trail.
Not sure how we are going to feel on day 2 of back-to-back marathons, JoeWee and I start together at about an 8:30 pace. Meanwhile, in Port Angeles, Abby, JC, and Julie are all running the 5K.
JoeWee and I settle into our pace. My ribs are much better than yesterday, and JoeWee's hip seems to be behaving also. Within a few miles, we decided our bare minimum goal was to break 4 hours. If things were going well, we'd set a more ambitionus goal of breaking 3:45, and then, our most ambitious goal would be to be faster than yesterday's marathon.
We held a steady pace, and enjoyed the incredibly scenic course.
Around mile 13, we encounter the first of 3 or 4 ravine passes. They are short and steep downhills, followed by a short and steep uphill. They were tough enough that we walked a bit of the uphills on the later ones.
Both of us had issues with our garmin watches today, and after 16 miles, all we had on our wrists was 'time of day'. We knew the marathon had started on time, so we can know our elapsed time, but only accurate to a minute, with no seconds.
Around mile 18, there was a spectator with a novelty hat that had a plush salmon on it, sticking out sideways. She called out "Its all downstream from here." which made both of us chuckle.
We kept track of our pace as best we could, and monitored which goal(s) would remain in reach. We also keep our eyes out for the 3:40 pacer ahead of us, and the 3:45 pacer behind us.
About mile 20, the 3:40 pacer guys blasts past us. That's odd, we thought. He told us over his shoulder that the original 3:40 pacer had to drop out with stomach issues. Ahhh. That explains it. We wondered about the logistics of getting a replacement pacer, and I figured it must have resembled the operations of managing agents in the Jason Bourne movies. "Asset is down. Deploy a new asset."
Around mile 23, JoeWee calculated that it would be close, but we still had a shot at beating yesterday's marathon time. We kicked it up a notch, and though I can't prove it, I am convinced our pace was in the low 8s.
We got to the mile 26 marker in 3:38. We could see the finish, and it sure looked a lot farther than 0.2 miles. JoeWee had enough kick left to speed up a bit. I held steady. At our pace, 0.2 miles should take about 1 min and 40 seconds. It took 3 to 4 minutes. Um, yeah, that mile marker was not in the right place. There is no way we were moving at a 15 to 20 minute pace.
We ended up finishing in 3:42:22. Ten seconds faster than yesterday's marathon. Woo Hoo!
We finished, and enjoyed some post race snacks. Got our medals, and finisher shirts, chatted with Bill, Abby, JC and Julie.
We walked back to the hotel to grab a shower. A short walk, but we had to go up about 1000 steps. Up isn't a big deal, but after 2 marathons, down can be problematic.
We returned to the finish area for the awards. The 6 of us went for lunch at Smuggler's Landing
. The Heinrichs family then set off on a ferry boat to Canada, and Bill and I set out for some sight seeing.
Our first excursion was to Hurricane Ridge, just about 30 minutes away from Port Angeles. It offers a great view of the Olympic Mountains.
Our second excursion was to Sol Duc falls. (or Soleduck Falls - both appear to be accepted.) Racing daylight, we enjoyed the scenic 1 hour drive to the trail head.
We followed the 0.8 mile trail, and saw the spectacular falls.
We finished the day driving back to Port Angeles, getting there just after 9pm. Too tired for a regular dinner, we opted for sundaes at Dairy Queen. Every now and again, ya just gotta have ice cream for dinner.
Monday morning, we drove to the SeaTac airport for our flight home. It was a busy, successful, enjoyable long weekend.
More pictures can be found:
And sub 4 marathon state number 33.
Newport Marathon: 2013 Recap - Marathon 1 of 2 for the weekend
Our 4 day trip to Oregon and Washington, for back to back marathons, brought us to Portland in plenty of time to have a day of sight-seeing.
Fellow 50 Sub 4
running friend JoeWee Heinrichs and his family are making this trip also. JoeWee and I will be doing the Newport Marathon on Saturday, and the North Olympic Discovery Marathon, in Washington, on Sunday.
JoeWee and family have plans to see the Oregon Trail, which his son JC has been learning about in school. Bill and I head east from Portland, along I-84 for a casual drive and stops at whatever might look interesting along the Columbia River.
Our first stop was Multnomah Falls
. Super easy to get to, its like stopping at a freeway oasis... short walk and tah dah - views of some spectacular falls.
We got back on the road and continued east. We saw a sign for the Bonneville Lock and Dam
and thought that might be interesting, so we stopped. We arrived there just before a short guided tour, and decided to join in. We learned all about the dam, and locks, and fish ladders, and fish counting. I won't go into all the details, but if you are in the area, this is definitely worth the money (it was free), and the 1 hour that we spent.
We got back on the road, and continued east to Hood River. Panorama Point offered us a view of Mt Hood from 40 miles away. I also snuck a picture of Bill in his natural habitat - behind a camera.
We decided it was time to turn around and head towards Newport. Along the way, we stopped in Salem to see the capitol. The mall around the capitol is absolutely beautiful, tons of rhododendrons and other flowers.
We arrived in Newport in time for packet pickup, and a late dinner with the Heinrichs family. They picked a place called Rogue Ales
. We enjoyed good food, and shared the stories of our days.
After a long, but enjoyable and relaxing day, it was time to head to our hotel and get ready for tomorrow's marathon.
The marathon starts in Yaquina Bay State Park, which is walking distance from our hotel. It winds through town a bit, before heading out for a long out-and-back section along Yaquina Bay road, which oddly, runs adjacent to
Yaquina Bay of all things.
Marathon 1 of a 2 marathon weekend needs to be approached carefully. On top of that, JoeWee and I each have a physical issue to deal with. JoeWee has a hip issue that is aggravated by running downhill, and running hard. I had a fall on a trail run a week ago that knocked the wind out of me, and left me with some very crabby ribs.
We start out conservatively at about an 8:30 pace, getting a feel for what our bodies will tolerate today, keeping in mind we need to do it again tomorrow morning. JoeWee's hip seems to be ok, but he knows that pushing it could seriously hurt his training plan for his upcoming IronMan. And for some reason, my ribs decide they will be crankier today than they have been all week, hindering my ability to breathe, and completely interfering with my ability to launch a respectable snot rocket. The breathing thing caused me to feel like crap for the entire run, but the snot rocket thing was embarrassing. All I could do was some wimpy little snot sputter dangler thing.
At mile 11 and 19, Oregon Oyster Farms
'treats' the runners to oyster shooters. I have never had an oyster in my life, and they go in the category of foods I have little desire to try. JoeWee loves oysters. But, I figure what kind of story would I have if I didn't at least try it. So, at mile 11, we stopped, picked up an oyster shooter, quick toast, and gulp. Down it went. And, it actually stayed there. And now I can cross that off my list, and never have to do it again. JoeWee, on the other hand, did enjoy another oyster on our return trip.
The last few miles became increasingly more uncomfortable, but fortunately, JoeWee stayed with me, and carried the conversation. We talked about roller coasters, and the Milwaukee Bucks. JoeWee and I finished in 3:42:32, being cheered for by Bill, Abby, JC, and Julie. It is so nice to finish an out of state marathon and have a group there greeting us. It is also really really nice to have company during a marathon, especially when you feel like crap the whole way.
Post race accommodations included sandwiches, fruit, clam chowder, and beer. We enjoyed these quickly and dashed back to the hotel for a quick shower before checkout.
The marathon shirt is a true 'finisher shirt' and was given out at the finish. The medal is a unique design and made of glass. Nice to get something different.
Time to head to Port Angeles, WA for marathon number 2. Read that recap here
More pictures can be found:
Sub 4 Marathon State number 32.
Scenic City Trail Marathon: 2013 Recap - The Sub 4 Challenge
As mentioned in previous blogs, I am on a quest to run a sub 4 marathon in all 50 states, and have joined the 50 Sub 4
group. They maintain a list of who else is on this quest, and how many states each person has completed. We just had our 38th finisher.
Let's talk a minute about this sub 4 hour marathon thing. Non runners, and perhaps some runners that don't (yet) do marathons, might be wondering, what is the deal with a sub 4 hour marathon?
Well, 4 hours is sort of a bench mark in marathoning. According to MarathonGuide.com
, in 2010, about a half million marathon finish times were recorded in the USA. The average finish time for men was 4:27, and the average finish time for women, was 4:54. So, running a sub 4 hour marathon solidly categorizes your athletic feat as 'above average'. Its also a nice number, and saying 'sub 4' like a verb rolls nicely off your tongue.
Of course, not all marathons are created equally. Some courses boast that they are 'flat and fast'. Others brag about being 'abusively challenging.'
When I chose the Scenic City Trail Marathon for my Tennessee, I knew that a sub 4 would be harder to obtain, and could even be out of reach. Trail marathons are always harder and slower than road marathons. They are generally hillier. They are often narrow single track which means passing is difficult, which means you can easily get stuck running slower than you want. Natural obstacles like downed trees, small streams can slow you a bit, having to go over, under, through or around them. Rugged footing with rocks and roots slows you down. Soft footing of a dirt trail, will also be slower than firm pavement. Trail marathons often require you to carry your own hydration, which slows you a bit more. Refilling your water bottle at aid stations also costs a bit more time than grabbing a cup of water on a road marathon.
I did a little research about the course, checked finish times from previous years, and concluded that I had about an 80% chance of being able to sub 4 in this marathon. Based on schedules, travel logistics, etc, I decided to give it a shot.
And for the record, sub 4 means UNDER 4 hours. It does NOT mean close to but a tiny bit over 4 hours. It strictly means 3:59:59 or less.
We arrived in Chattanooga about 20 minutes after packet pickup ended, which was okay, because this one does have packet pickup in the morning before the race. We checked into our hotel, grabbed a quick dinner, and checked the forecast for marathon day: Temps in the 60s and 70s, and 80% chance of thunderstorms all day. ALL day. I think my odds just went down to 70%.
We arrived at the marathon start, and to our pleasant surprise, it was not raining, and the weather radar looked decent. Of course this can change, but at the moment, things look good, though the humidity was about 100%.
The course is run around the water reservoir on Raccoon Mountain. The full marathon does 2 loops around. The start and finish are at a park area that has access to the ATV and hiking trails.
The first mile is on a paved road, which allows the field to thin out, and for all of us to jockey into position according to pace, before we reach the single track trail. In order to run a sub 4, I need to average no more than a 9 minute mile. A constant 9 minute per mile pace yields a finish time of 3:55:48, which is not a lot of wiggle room. One wrong turn, a wicked fall, or rugged potty stop can easily suck away those precious minutes.
There is one more challenge to running a sub 4 hour marathon on a trail. There are no mile markers. Most road marathons have every mile marked, and a numbers nut like me can keep close tabs on progress. In a trail marathon, the aid stations will typically be marked what mile they are, but unfortunately, this information is notoriously unreliable.
The first mile goes by in 8:20. Perfect. I have a 40 second cushion furnished by the one and only paved mile of the course. The field then bottlenecks onto the single track trail. I decide to simply hold my position for the next mile, monitor how I feel, and then re-evaluate when my Garmin watch tells me I have completed mile 2.
Mile 2 was just over 10 minutes. OK, not time to worry yet. Its slower than what I need to average, but we are just settling in. Passing is difficult on the narrow trail. We are like a string of brightly colored ants bouncing through the forest. Passing requires a polite declaration, and then the person in front of you sort of needs to yield a bit. Everyone seemed very accustomed to this procedure.
I also think to myself... if I don't go out too fast, I can make up time on the second loop, when the half marathoners are gone, and it will be considerably less crowded. Seems reasonable right? Yeah, maybe to those who haven't run marathons. Planning to run the second half faster than the first... is a LOT harder to actually do. Its like saying, let's leave for the airport late and figure getting through the TSA lines will be a snap.
I continue to monitor how things feel, and what pace I am going. I continue to complete miles in the 10 minute range. I feel like I am going faster than that, but on a trail you've never been on, in a place you've never been to, pace is extremely hard to judge.
We arrive at the second aid station in 59 minutes. My Garmin shows I've traveled 6 miles. Side note: Garmins watches, in perfect conditions, are only accurate to about 3%. In heavily wooded areas, my Garmin is always short compared to a known measured distance, and can be off as much as 6%.
If we are at mile 6, I am averaging barely under a 10 minute mile, we will be visiting Tennessee again. I asked a volunteer what mile we were at. They told me 8.5! Wow! I am doing great! Wait a minute. That means I am on pace to WIN the entire thing. I can assure you, I am not doing a 7 minute mile out here. OK, so I really only have a vague idea that the actual mileage so far is between 6 and 8.5 miles.
I decide to just keep running mildly hard, and enjoy the course. It is a very nice course. The scenery is nice. There are many fast sections where the footing is friendly and smooth, and the inclines and declines are gentle. There are rugged sections with steeper grades, and sections with technical footing. (For non-trail runners, that means bumpy with rocks and roots. We like to make it sound fancy.)
I arrive at the next aid station. My Garmin says 9.8 miles, and the volunteer tells me 12.2 miles. Looking at my elapsed time, if that 12.2 is correct, I have a comfortable cushion. Unbeknownst at the time, that 12.2 was probably incorrect.
We start our second loop, and the field is thinned out quite a bit, I can run my own pace uninhibited by other runners. I get to that aid station where last time around they told me 8.5 miles. I asked again. I got a very casual "oh its about 19 or 20 or so". Sigh.
My Garmin says 16.53. I decide that I should take my Gu when it says 17. I wait about 5 min, and look at my Garmin. It says 16.53. OK, I should Gu when it says 17. I wait about 5 minutes, and look at my Garmin. It says 16.53. Wait a minute. This isn't deja vu. The satellite gods have completely abandoned me. I still know elapsed time, but without knowing how many miles I have completed, that information isn't terribly helpful.
I continue to run what feels like a steady pace, which means I am probably slowing down. I arrive at the last aid station, and they tell me I have about 2.4 miles to go. I look down at my watch, which says 3:34. Crap! If I am running a 10 minute mile, which is a very reasonable assumption for the last bit of a trail marathon, that will give me a 3:58, assuming that the 2.4 miles is correct, which I do not have a lot of confidence in. This is WAY too close for my comfort.
So I kick it up a notch. A bit of adrenaline gave me enough of a boost to increase my exertion level. I hope it means I was running faster. This last section of the course was a tad cruel. We were within earshot of the finish the entire time, zig-zagging and weaving and winding all over the place. The footing was quiet challenging, and I had to balance wanting to run faster, and not wanting to take a fall that could hurt enough to cause a minute or two of recovery time.
Turning and winding and winding and turning, I just kept going, thinking "Isn't that final road to the finish around here somewhere?" It seemed to take forever. I could hear it! But I couldn't see it.
I kept looking at my watch. Was I going to make it? Finally, I saw a human on the course, and he said I had about 1.5K left. What? What the hell does that mean? My little brain estimated - just under a mile? Crap Again! My watch says 3:53 or something, and I cannot do a mile in under 7 minutes.
Either I heard wrong, or he was mistaken. In less than a minute, I finally made the turn from the dirt trail to a short paved trail, which led to the final short paved road stretch. (That's me in the background.)
Bill was at the junction where we got onto the paved road. I could see the finish line just ahead of me.
However, cones, and Bill both directed me that we had to take the long way around to get to the finish. Darn! Paraphrasing. My actual exclamation was a few notches down on the naughty word scale.
I kicked it up as high as I could. I removed my water belt and tossed it to the ground. My watch said 3:55:something. My perception at this point is pretty unreliable. Do I have 0.1 miles or 0.5 miles?
Fortunately, it was in the neighborhood of 0.2 miles, and I made it! With nearly 3 minutes to spare. Yikes. I do NOT like cutting it this close. But hey, it counts. I got my Tennessee.
We stayed a short bit at the finish, then headed off to some sight seeing at Lookout Mountain, Ruby Falls, and Rock City.
We got a restaurant recommendation from Tracy White of Atlanta, friend of Anne Coffman from Wisconsin, both were running the marathon here. Tracy recommended the Marietta Diner in Marietta, GA, for dinner on our way back to the Atlanta airport. It was featured on the Food Network's Diners Drive Ins and Dives. We cut it kinda close there too. There was a 30 minute wait, and we didn't have 30 minutes to spare, so we ate at the counter. Yeah, not quite the same excitement as the marathon finish. And we shared I gianormous piece of coconut cake for dessert. That sat like lead on our flight back.
This was sub 4 marathon state number 31, and my closest margin to that 3:59:59 cut off. I am really hoping it keeps that designation.
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