I didn't think I was going to race in 2013 since we had a baby in January. But, I had this free entry and I hate to waste. So I decided to do the Bellingham Trail Marathon in November. I thought it was far enough out that I could get in decent enough shape for without getting in ultra shape.
There's times when you are looking to run a certain race but aren't sure about it or heard enough about it to be confident that it will deliver what you are looking for. That's what this pick was for me. A little uncertain and only doing it because I had a free entry. Happy to say expectations were exceeded immensely. I had a great time on these trails and I can't wait to do it again. There needs to be more talk about this one, because it rocks! They advertised this race to have 5'000ft of elevation gain/loss and said it was the toughest marathon in western Washington. Yep, it was pretty tough.
The first 5 miles around Lake Padden are some fun twisty, up and down, muddy, rooted, fast quick downs with some short climbs. I even let out a "woohoo" somewhere in there. I was running this section in a group of about 5, and we jostled back and forth a bit over this part. Everyone was very quiet until I broke it up with that "woohoo". I think they all felt the same way judging by the giggles I heard. A little chatter started up to make the miles go by a bit faster.
We left Lake Padden and headed on the road over to the Chuckanut trails going right by the first aid station. No need to stop yet. Temperatures were in the mid 40's and I hadn't drank much water. But I was starting to feel my feet. They were a little tender with every step. ALREADY! Is what I was thinking. I was running in new shoes, I had about 50 miles on them. I had taped my feet's hot spots but was noticing them with every step. Not a good sign.
We reached aid station #2 at mile 8 and I scarfed some potato chips, grabbed a banana and took off. "Shit! I can't believe I forgot to fill my water bottle!" It was half full and seven miles to the next aid. No biggie, I'll have a sip every 15-20 minutes or so. The RD, Candice, even reminded everyone right before the start of the race to "make sure you get water at the second aid station."
We then got on the smooth crushed gravel of the interurban trail and were starting our climb up to the top of the Chuckanuts. I was getting new hot spots on my feet so I stopped to check one foot out and all my tape was coming off. This part kinda sucked. I ripped the tape off and put a band aid on it. I got back to running and power hiking my way up the trail and eventually caught back up with some of the crew I had been running with before. Then I stopped again and did the same with the other foot.
All this attention to my feet was taking my focus away from these amazing trails. So I re-focused and decided I was going to deal with my feet, and assumed blisters, tonight when I got home. I was really able to enjoy this part of the race from about mile 10. I passed a few runners between here and along the Lost Lake Trail to aid station 3, mile 15. There was a great view over looking he Puget Sound here. You could see the islands and and all the surrounding water. I made sure to chug a full water bottle and fill it up before I left. Grabbed more chips, 2 banana pieces and was off and on my way up Chinsraper. 800' up in about 3/4 of a mile. Steep, seemed like straight up for part of it.
This was my favorite part of the course. Having a new born hasn't allowed me to get out of the city and put in proper trail miles. But, what it has done is get my power hiking tuned in and sharp. I've been hiking Tiger Mountain with my son on my back just about every week, sometimes twice a week, since September. 2,000' in 3 miles is runnable but it makes for a great power hike workout. Just go as fast as you can the whole way. Always trying to beat my previous time. Hiking only, because I didn't want to shake him up to much. If he didn't like it and let loose by wailing away, I wasn't going to be able to do this. So I tried to make it as smooth as possible for him.
Baby backpack training paid off HUGE on Chinscraper. I didn't even have to think about it, my body knew to just lean into the hill, hands on knees and power up it as fast as I could. I passed so many people here. I did realize some of them were from the 1/2 marathon, though. But some were marathoners that I hadn't seen anytime during the race. I was a little surprised at how strong I felt up to this point.
At the summit of Chinscraper we emptied on to a forest service road that gave us great views of the city of Bellingham. Nice reward for that hike! Now off to the famed Ridge Trail. The technical section of the race. Lots more roots, rocks, trees, boulders, drops and all kinds of more uneven footing. Which reminded me that my feet still hurt. I felt every uneven step. My feet were so unhappy!
During this section I noticed someone coming up behind me. It was a guy with one arm in a sling. He passed me when I checked my foot the first time. I passed him back only to have him pass me back when I stopped to work on my other foot. I was able to pass him back shortly after that stop. He wasn't moving too fast and I thought he was doing great for having one arm in a sling. He was catching me on the ridge trail! Just then there was this spot in the trail that had a huge boulder and drop off that you had to maneuver around to one side or the other with trees crowding you. So You had to watch where you were stepping. Right before this I had just passed a couple of ladies doing the 1/2 marathon and thought that there was no way he was getting around them and down that sketchy section to catch me! I picked it up a little and made my way to the buffed out downhill trail where I knew he (or anybody else behind me) would catch me.
I cruised down these 2 miles pretty quick but noticed my hip flexors tightening up. I had not done any downhill training. While my mind and my quads knew how to bomb this section, my muscles were having other ideas. Like "stop pounding on me, damn!" Well, we didn't listen so then my left hamstring cramped up. Perfect! Oh, and my feet still hurt. I think favoring the feet on the downhill made me tighten up and the hip flexors were the first to go. I did find that a little coconut macaroon relieved the hamstring cramp.
Eventually made it down the hill to the 4th aid station at mile 21. I was hoping to be in a little better shape at this point of the race but was still having a good time and mostly happy how I had run up to now. However, the last 5 miles were pretty much a suffer fest. Or maybe I just didn't want to run on the pavement yet. I thought it would feel better on my feet, not having to be aware of every foot placement. But, instead, I felt every step, flexors were not relaxing and the hamstring cramp would come and go. At least I could stave those off for a little while using the macaroons. At mile 23 the guy with his arm in a sling passed me as I was stretching out my hammy. There was nothing I could do. I had no fight in me, just finish. Which is always my #1 goal.
Jogged right past the last aid at mile 24 knowing there was nothing that could help me run the last 2 miles any faster. We were off the pavement and on the smooth interurban trail on the north end of Lake Padden. I could see across the lake and knew we had to run all the way around to the south side to the finish . That was tough to take. My step somehow perked up a bit so I could at least enjoy the path next to the lake and think I even sped up the last mile!
I came across in 4hrs and 22 min. 17th overall. Not too bad! My second goal was to run 4:51. Crushed that. Also, I now have a marathon PR! Yep, my first marathon. Got a medal and a pint glass, ate some pizza, chili, tasty dessert and got to hear some good stories from other runners. What a great day for a race! I will definitely run this one again. Hopefully, a little better conditioned. Long uphill and downhill repeats. Don't forget the power hiking. Basically, train for an ultra.
Thanks to Candice Burt for race directing and to James Varner and all the great volunteers out there. It was fun to chat with you even if it was brief. Volunteers, if you're wondering what race to use your free entry for, do this one!
Time to put my new pint glass to use.