Best kept race secret. After having an awesome day here last year, for the inaugural event, I just had to come back. The half did sell out, but surprisingly the marathon did not. Last year had 35 finishers in the full. This year we have 46 starting, I do not know what the cap is, but it is a wonderful small race.
I stayed in a rustic cabin at the finish line this year. Took my time driving out yesterday, I visited the Dungeness National Wildlife refuge, a place that I have wanted to see for many years. Managed to not yield to the strong temptation to walk all the way out the the lighthouse (10 mile trip) saving my legs for today.
Feeling good, my goal is to beat last years time and get under 5 hours. Last year I ran conservatively and was recovering from a tough marathon the previous week. This year I am more rested and know what to expect, but I do want to save something for Bellingham next weekend.
Cloudy, then a rain shower as I park at the shuttle lot, a few miles from the finish. I decide to keep my light jacket with me, tied around my waist, just in case it rains again. Last year it was warm and sunny and got real warm at the end. It will be much cooler and great for running today, as long as it does not get too wet.
Sit next to Monte on the shuttle ride. Then about 15 minutes to wait at the start.
Start - Up the two rutted road for a bit, then steeply down. I start fairly near the front and can run my pace from the get go. With two lanes for a half mile I get sorted into a good pace. On to the single track now, where it will be harder to pass. I remember last year starting much farther back and having to work around quite a few people, to get to my comfortable pace.
Mile 2 - Been following a group of 4 and we are going just a little faster than I would like. While not hot, it does seem extra humid. I am sweating and wonder if I should not slow down a little. There are two guys behind me, not super close, but I decide to step aside and let them go past, walk just a bit and then set out at my own pace rather than try to keep up with this group. Second guy is Jason Ryan, nice to see him get ahead of me, where he belongs.
Mile 3.5 - I know that there are a bunch of people behind me, but no one is close. Hard to tell in these woods though. Out into a view of the cloudy Elwha valley. Aid station. I am doing so much better this year with my hand held bottle compared to that belt thing that I will never go back to.
Mile 6 - Feeling less humid, in a good running groove. Weird to run this trail that I was at only once before, a year ago. It is all surprisingly familiar and it comes on faster than I remember. Dark forest, dip down across a little water, then up the other side, switchbacking up the hill, now the abandoned logging road and a steep but short uphill. Walk most of it but it seems easier than I remember. Slowly gaining on one woman. Top of the hill, look back and no one behind me. Flat then another similar hill. Aid station where I pass the woman. Just after the aid station a guy passes me and he is flying, really caught up quickly.
Mile 8-10 - Packed dirt, smooth, wide, gentle downhill trail. Amazing section that goes on for so long. Then some uphill and a few rocks but still runnable. Drizzle turns to light rain. I have learned that if I want to have a drink or food or as in this case slow to put my jacket on, I can wait until a tricky or uphill part of the trail where I want to go slowly anyway. Jacket goes on, but just for a couple of miles. Rain stops eventually and the trail only gets very little puddles and just a few muddy spots.
Mile 13.1 - or so. Really not sure about these mile markers and my GPS. Aid station volunteers say that we are halfway. About 2 hours 20 minutes, so on a good pace for sub 5 hours, especially with most of the uphills done. At the aid station Mike Mahany and another runner catch up to me. We continue on more or less together.
Mile 15 - Out into the clear cut on the side of the mountain. Last year it was a had to stop and look at the view of the Straight of Juan de Fuca and Canada. This year I can see the water, but most of the view is clouded in. So we keep running.
Mile 17 - Ouch! Bee sting above my right ankle. Only one and it is not too bad, but I will feel it with each step all the way to the end.
Mile 18 - Down some serious switchbacks to a bridge, where I decide to slow and make Mike and the other runner go past me. Check for swelling and the sting is growing a little bit. Free to run whatever pace I want, I watch Mike get ahead, but see him every once in a while.
Mile 21 - Onto the real rocky "road" part. Looks for good spots to run this downhill, then glad to hit the real dirt road. Now the long slog to the finish. Mike stays about 1-2 tenths of a mile ahead of me. It would be nice to catch him and run with him to the end. I give it a little effort but just don't have the great desire. Instead I try to not take walk breaks. Just keep plodding along. I will easily beat 5 hours and so I should keep moving, but save something for next week too.
Mile 23 - I am tired but nothing hurts (except the be sting). Feet feel fine and my legs are not stiff at all. I think that I have managed to drink a lot more water than usual, without an upset stomach, and that has helped me not fall apart. My legs feel way better than they did at mile 12 of last weeks half, of course I have not been going nearly as fast. Still think I might catch Mike, but now we are on the pavement and up the two little hills. Turn the corner, down the hill and to the finish line.
Finish - Finish line recovery is easy, since I did not go all out at the end. Somehow I finished 17 minutes faster than last year and still had a fun time doing it.
22nd place of 46
Race#363, Marathon or Ultra#128, GOAT Trail Marathon#2