Inaugural event. 7AM start with the larger half marathon starting at 8:30. I wait for a while, sitting in a plush chair in the lobby of the Hilton Hotel, reading the complimentary Sunday newspaper. Eventually make my way outside to find the gear check, start line and see if any friends are around. Just before the start I am chatting with Steve Walters and Larry Macon. I realize that my recent accomplishments ( this being my tenth marathon or ultra of 2011) are nothing compared to these guys. Steve ran 52 marathons in the past 52 weeks. Larry Macon is in the Guinness Book of World Records for his 107 marathons last year. Yesterday Larry ran Grandma's Marathon in Minnesota.
I have had some discomfort in my right foot since running two shorter/faster paced races last weekend. I took and extra day off this week and it feels OK now but I am a little apprehensive about it. My last marathon was two weeks ago where I went out too fast and paid for it in the second half. I will not try to PR (3:48) today. Instead I will really focus on holding back and hope to have a faster second half than first (negative split). If I can beat 4 hours and be fresh enough to run the Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon in six days I will call it a success.
It is cloudy with a little mist that lets up just before the start. Big event for this small city. I have not previewed the course but it has been billed as flat and scenic, along the Columbia River. Announcer asks how many are from out of state and I almost put my hand up. I think that this will be my tenth Washington State county to have run a marathon in.
Start - Smooth start on the wide street. Quick left turn, then a right and just as we are getting some running room there is another left turn and we are herded onto the sidewalk. I am not quite up to speed and will have to pass some people, but I am in no hurry. At least everyone is running and there is room to pass on the sidewalk. Up and over a bridge.
Mile 2 - Running for a bit with Maniac Georgina from Olympia. Some people on the sidewalk, some on the side of the road. Eventually we are all on the road, that is open to traffic, but there are not many cars. A long straight flat road. Himalayan Blackberry, Teasel and Poison Hemlock along the road's edge at the Port of Vancouver. Not quite the scenery I was hoping for. My foot aches just a little bit but will not get worse. It is a pleasant enough run but not all that special.
Mile 6 - I Can see the lead runners coming back on the other side of the road. Then we turn into a park for a lollipop section so I do not get to see all of the runners. This park is called Frenchman's Bar, and we do get to run along the mighty Columbia River for a little bit. The paved path in the park is all curvy and at one point I can see lines of runners going in five different directions. Soon I am snaking through the park and then heading back to town.
Mile 10 - Running comfortably at a pace almost 30 seconds per mile slower that I did two weeks ago in Port Angeles. Definitely feel like I am holding back. Listening to people talk but not actively socializing. A little wind in the face on this long straight section but not too bad. Still cloudy and I am not warm or cold.
Mile 13.1 - Just under 1:57. One thing I know is that I feel way better than I did at this point two weeks ago. Hopefully I can just keep going at this pace for many more miles.
Mile 14 - Small hill and bridge back into town. I chug up the hill and ease back on the downhill. Passing a few runners and feeling good.
Mile 15 - More spectators here in town. One man is walking down the road in front of me. As I pass him I see a group of three also walking and more up ahead. Oh, this is the tail end of the half marathon participants. They are at mile 2 of their race. Our races have merged and I will have to pass many walkers and slow runners of the half marathon.
Mile 17 - More sidewalks and then open roads with orange cones. At times the walkers are four abreast and I really have to go out of my way to get around them. Generally it is not so bad though. I am holding pace and feeling good and I am sure that is helping my mood.
Mile 19 - The elevation chart of the course showed the biggest uphill occurring here just before mile 20. So I know that it is coming and that it is only about 150 feet up. After that it will be downhill and flat until a small hill very close to the finish. Here is the hill. I remember to pump my arms and it really helps. I am passing tons of people both halfers and full runners. "Use your arms, use your arms" I say. One woman responds with "And use your glutes, use your glutes". The hill has two sections to it and for me on this day it was no challenge. Steep section of downhill where I have to use my brakes...too bad, I hate wasting energy like that.
Mile 21 - Just before mile 21, we have gone downhill and into a parking lot. As we reach the end of the parking lot/road there are two signs, one for the half and one for the full. A volunteer is directing halfers to follow the sign on the sidewalk and to curve back around. He tells me to take the full route which stays on the road but also curves around a tighter corner than the halfers are taking. That will be nice to split off from the halfers for a while. But after two seconds I see that my route would loop back to the hill that everyone is coming down and I know that is not the way back. Most everybody is on the sidewalk and I have no idea where to go. I stop and ask the halfers where I am supposed to go. No one knows. It does not seem right but I go up on to the walkway and down a small incline with all the halfers. Whew, what a relief to see the mile 21 marker for the full marathon. I know that I am on course. We do not split races here and I have no idea why the signs and the volunteer was directing us to do so. Now along the river but due to flooding on the paved trail the course has been altered and it is more sidewalk and roads.
Mile 23 - Still feeling good. Very pleased. I have been able to down my fig newtons and a gel. I don't want to, but I take another gel here. It is rough on the stomach but I get most of it down. I have passed enough halfers now that I have caught up with those who are running the event. Can't tell who is in the full and struggling and who is in the half as I pass. Very few runners are passing me and this is a much more enjoyable way to finish a race.
Mile 24 - Angie Vlatch cheering for me. That was a nice surprise. Still on pace for a negative split. I know that I will beat 4 hours.
Mile 25.2 - Last uphill and it happens. I hit the wall in dramatic fashion. It's funny and I even comment to a runner who passes me. "Wow, I just hit the wall" My legs have felt a little beat up for a long way now, but I had plenty of energy to keep moving at pace. Now I am suddenly drained. If that is going to happen, I am glad that it is mile 25 and not 18. With the uphill and my lack of energy I see the negative split slip away. I keep running, just slower and long for the end of this hill and the finish line.
Mile 26 - Almost there. Try to pick up the pace. Mile 13 of the half. Tenth of a mile to go. Two more turns before the finish and that last tenth seems so long. Finally done and pleased with how it went.
I perform some calculations from the results page. I estimate that I passed 618 half marathon participants during the last 11 miles of my race. That is about one person every ten seconds. I also passed quite a few full marathoners so the numbers are higher than that. I was not out to break any records today so the passing and dodging did not bother me, but I think that it should be considered as they plan for next year. I hope to run this one again.
207th place of 798
Race #240, Marathon or Ultra#67
Race #240, Marathon or Ultra#67