Masters Running


Birch Bay Marathon Report (Read 684 times)

    And, finally, the twelfth marathon brought enlightenment… This is long. I’m thankful for whoever reads this --truly -- but really, I’m writing this for me. Twelfth marathon. Over six years after I ran my first, yet the first I really ran well. No, it wasn’t a PR (a master’s PR, though) but running well doesn’t always mean a PR… I ran this one without telling many people. Quick background: I’d started training for a fall marathon last summer. Had a stress fracture in my foot that put me out several weeks. Started back into running late summer/early fall. And so it went. Too late to run a fall marathon, so I chose San Diego/Carlsbad in January. When my travel companion became injured, it was a fairly easy decision to bail on San Diego. I’m in the middle of a splitting with my husband and life at home isn’t exactly easy these days… But, see, I had this training kind of in the bank. And Eugene seems so far off. And I was pain free and had some speed for the first time in a long time. So, I made the quiet decision to go up to Birch Bay and put the training to use. Use the marathon to clear the clutter and clatter in my head. To get rid of bad juju from Portland 06’s really tough finish (just barely hanging on for a 3:50 BQ) and Boston 07’s fiasco (3:58 with anemia. Ugh). Most importantly, though, I wanted to see if I could run a smart race. I just wanted to really figure out this distance. Time goals in doing so: anything better than a 3:45 would be good. Low 3:40s/high 3:30s really good. Saturday afternoon I drove to Bellingham with my good friend Vicky. Vicky traveled with my family to Portland for my first marathon in 2001 and even to Boston when I ran it for the first time in 2002. She's not a runner, but to say that she’s a wonderful supporter of my running is an understatement. I had planned to go alone, but at the last minute felt nervous about being alone and she said of course she’d go. (How many friends volunteer to go to watch a friend run a marathon in the middle of nowhere where the weather is virtually guaranteed to be windy, cold and wet? I adore her.) But we were lucky. It was a beautiful, crystal clear, windless weekend in northern Washington. We had dinner with Lyndenrunner (who treated us!), his wonderful wife and adorable daughters, and some Canadian friends visiting on Saturday evening. Gordon had e-mailed me several weeks ago, offering to do whatever he could to help me run a good marathon, so I asked him to run the last few miles with me. Vicky would be my cheering section at the halfway point. I wasn’t expecting any spectators on the course and, sure enough, there weren’t any. Here’s a map of the course. I can’t say enough about how beautiful an area this is. About as far north and west you can go in the lower 48 to run, at least run a marathon. A run out on a wild peninsula, with towering evergreens, desolate road, flanked by two bays and encircled by snowy mountains. How much better could a long run can it get? My concern was, though, how would I fare running a marathon in such a setting? Cold, cold morning. 32 degrees. A 7:30 start meant a 5:30 wake-up and a 6:15 departure from Bellingham to drive to Birch Bay State Park. Remembered the Immodium. A few bites of bagel, a sip of coffee, half a banana. Very nervous stomach. Many trips to the bathroom. Maybe it was the fettucine alfredo and brown ale combo the night before… We arrived at the park with plenty of time to spare. The sun was just coming up, revealing clear skies, a calm bay and purple-orange mountains. Perfect weather. With only 60 running the full marathon (25k runners started at 8:00) there wasn’t exactly a lot of pomp and circumstance. Yet, this was the 40th anniversary. A very solid history. A local and Maniac favorite, it was quite evident. I sat in the car for as long as possible. Vicky drove me to the bathrooms up the road, I was so cold (see what I mean about how great she is?). I left the car at one point, wearing my shorts to go to the start. Went back because I was shivering and put my pants on. At 7:20 I left the car again. (Vicky is outside chatting it up with everyone. I’m just dreading leaving the warm car…). Ended up at the start line wrapped up in a heavy blanket Vicky keeps in the car. Just seconds before the start (a “ready, go”) I peeled down to the shorts and handed off the blanket to Vicky. And we were off. I’ve never worn a jacket running a marathon, but I kept it on the first 13 miles. My right hand carrying my bottle stayed numb for the first two miles then finally warmed up. My focus the early miles, the first half, was to hold back, hold back, run easy, run easy. And really try to listen to my body. Take assessment and adjust accordingly. I had my ipod in a little pack around my waist, along with my ClifBloks and intended to take it out when the novelty of the early miles wore off. But, to my surprise, the novelty never did. I never once thought of taking the ipod out. I had a Bruce Springsteen song in my head off and on, and I had to pee the entire time, too. That helped distract me sporadically. There were no spectators other than a few women riding the course on their bikes (later found out they were looking for one’s daughter to cheer on). And I had no one to keep me company after the first three miles. There was one runner up ahead in the distance I saw during the first loop and I eventually passed in the second. Then in the last seven miles, I passed several more runners I was completely alone for 23 miles. And every mile just flew by. At the halfway point, just before starting the second loop, I saw Vicky. I stopped, dropped off my jacket, switched out bottles, exchanged a half used package of ClifBloks for another, gave her a hug, told her I felt great, and started to head back into the peninsula’s forest again. I waited for the legs to tire. For my head to start feeling a bit off. For my hands to feel tight. For my stomach to start complaining loudly. Nothing. All was quiet. I felt like I was on cruise control. And so I began to pick up the pace. I saw a 8:11 and heard myself say out loud, “Holy crap.” I saw an eagle perched overhead at Mile 17 and said, “Hello, beautiful.” And then more miles just clicked by. Faster and faster. I couldn’t slow down. I didn’t need to. I picked up Lynden at Mile 23 and the first thing I said was, “I’m doing sub 8:00s.” Not even a "Hi, Gordon” first, I realized later. (sorry!). A few moments later, we dumped off my pack at the aid station, which had been swirling around my waist and starting to drive me a bit batty, and my hand-held bottle. It was time to bring it home. I told Gordon, “Don’t let me slow down.” And he didn’t. He ran just off to my side, just ahead of me, and softly encouraged me. Finally down the home stretch. [Here’s where I must sob a little. The results have me at 3:40:21. My Garmin is faster and my friend Vicky tells me on the race clock it was just over 3:39. I’ve already e-mailed the race director. Vicky said the volunteers thought I was initially a 25k runner coming in and were confused, so she thinks that’s where the mix up began and my bib was placed out of order. We’ll see what happens. I know I ran what I ran and how I ran.] To say I am thrilled with how this marathon is inadequate. Never have I felt so good finishing a marathon, and looking at my splits, I am a bit incredulous. It’s not a PR (PR is 3:36 from 2002), but by far, I finished this marathon the strongest. My splits really tell the story. I think everything just finally clicked. The training, the fueling. The mindset. So much in the weeks leading up to this was just plain wrong, too. Chronic insomnia. Emotional pain. Skyrocketing stress. It didn’t matter. I think I fed off of it, to a degree. I guess I’ve learned it can still happen. You can be injured, have many crummy marathons, have training setbacks, be older and still, one day, run better, stronger than you have before. On the practical side, I learned these things, too. 1. Starting slowly really, really pays off. (Thanks go to my friend A. for this one. I call him the Master of Negative Splits. And I will never forget Portland.) 2. Immodium. It works. Good idea, too, when you run a marathon with no porta potties. Or maybe I just missed them. 3. Sipping on something works better for me than big drinks. But I must remember to sip. I did. I did take water 4 times, though. My bottles had Nuun in it. I drank less than one total bottle, enough for me in that kind of weather. 4. ClifBloks work for me. Just 8 Bloks total was enough. Two every 5 miles or so, letting them dissolve in my mouth as I ran. 5. I do great on a marathon course with no one else around. I was surprised by this. I don’t need no stinking spectators. Wink Heck, I think I prefer no spectators (and certainly no other runners breathing down my neck or jostling around runners at water stops). 6. I am no longer cursed with marathon nausea. If I can avoid it once, I can do so again. And... 7... it really helps to have wonderful people at the right places… Vicky, I’ve mentioned. But this report wouldn’t be complete without a big thank you to Gordon. Just knowing he'd be there at the end, and his calm, positive presence and voice of encouragement as we ran, made the finish all the sweeter. Now, I just need to figure out what to do for Eugene. See, I want to start a bit faster…Smile My sweet negative splits, with a bit of explanation. Mile 1. 8:22 2. 8:27 3. 8:37 4. 8:22 5. 8:18 small hill (2 Clif Bloks) 6. 9:07 long climb 7. 8:27 8. 8:34 9. 8:23 10. 8:32 11. 8:19 (2 Clif Bloks) 12. 8:23 13. 8:30 second loop starts (at half, dumped jacket/switched out bottles and more ClifBloks) 14. 8:20 15. 8:11 (2 Clif Bloks) 16. 8:36 (small hill second time) 17. 8:38 (long climb second time) 18. 8:19 19. 7:54 20. 8:03 (2 Clif Bloks) 21. 7:59 22. 7:44 23. 7:56 24. 7:56 25. 7:47 26. 7:45

      Wow! Congrats Soundie. I see I am not the only who carries a bottle with me during a race. Fantastic job on the negative splits! Cash

      MM#209 / JapanJoyful#803

        dr. soundi - it's not often to feel anything but total exhaustion and relief after 26.2 miles of running but I have a feeling this is just the first of many strong and powerful ones for you. I think you just got your Ph.D. in marathons. Smile

        Henry the Great: "I'm going to keep running as long as I can."

        T. Igarashi (summiting Mt. Fuji at age 100): "Enjoy yourself. Your younger days never come again."


          Spectacular Soundrunner, spectacular. While you may write for yourself, your report was more than a pleasure to experience. Congratulations on running with such graceful strength. Your splits tell a story of exhilaration and power----!. As you were going faster and faster I imagine any anxiety was replaced with confidence. Thank you for taking the time to remember and write----marathons are so personal and this clearly represented more than just a race for you. I hope the enlightened feeling sticks around and carries you through all the next chapters. Karin


            Soundrunner: Nice results and a terrific report and finish! I so enjoyed reading your report andlearning about the person behind the name! Youdeserve to be happy and proud of your accomplishment, you earned it! Chris
              Sound, thanks for a wonderful report, including the background and details. You ran a great race, meeting your time goals and enjoying yourself. It's obvious you are still on a well deserved high. Congratulations. TomS
                Sensational! What a marvelous treat to race a distance like the marathon and have it actually all work out. Perfect splits. Perfect weather. Perfect hydration. No GI issues... Wow. I lurved reading this report. Racing well is the dream we all have-regardless of time. And that race was very well done. Nice.
                  A truly inspiring RR. It was a pleasure to read. Thanks for sharing your event.



                    Hi SR, Thanks for the greta race report, and congratulations on such a well-run race. The joy you were feeling come bursting through your report, and it is truly wonderful of you to share the experience. Thanks also for sharing what you learned in this race - it is always fascinating to know what new knowledge comes from running races, both the not-so-good ones, and the great ones like your race in Birch Bay. Jay

                    Without ice cream there would be darkness and chaos.

                      I still can't get over how strong you looked as you were running towards me...Congrats!!!
                      Looking for a place to Happen, making stops along the way - The Hip
                        Thank you for the inner perspective in this RR....beautiful! and the splits....look at those splits!! Congratulations!
                        Quit being so damn serious! When we change the way we look at things, the things we look at change. "Ya just gotta let it go." OM
                          Wow, I wanna run like Soundie ran this one when we both get to Eugene! What a delightful race report to read. You ran this one like a dream ... Bill

                          "Some are the strong, silent type. You can't put your finger on exactly what it is they bring to the table until you run without them and then you realize that their steadiness fills a hole that leaks energy in their absence." - Kristin Armstrong

                          Back on Stride

                            What a great race and report, Soundrunner! I don't think I've ever read one that was more uplifting or joyous to read. I almost felt like I was out there on the course with you, except that I'd never be able to keep up. Wink

                            Doug, Runnin' in Rochester, MI

                              It's good to see you're getting all the bugs worked out finally, and are starting to perform up to your potential! I suspect there are even better things to come. Rest up a bit and give 'em heck in Eugene!

                              King of PhotoShop

                                That was a delight to read. I seldom get to read a report with such a beautiful progression of mile times. Those final miles were simply awesome and a race you will never forget. Now you listen to this old man, and make sure you get lots of rest and recovery before you try anything else. This is a very dangerous time if you're not careful. I'm glad you had Gordon there to pace you in at the end, even though he has cut me out of the picture. Still sobbing in Dallas, I remain your faithful Spareribs