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October 08, 2007

Bellingham Bay Marathon

They say that those who forget history are doomed to repeat it. I was thinking something of this sort yesterday morning as I lined up at the start of the Bellingham Bay Marathon. Then my thoughts were distracted when a signboard blew over next to me...but we'll get to that later.

I wasn't particularly planning to run this race, but early this summer I was talking to a friend who was planning to run it...and three months later here I was. Long-time readers of this blog may recall my running the Seattle Marathon two years ago. During that race I was able to run only 20 miles ("only" applied here in the context of a marathon, not normal life) before I hit the wall and had to walk for a while, eventually finishing in 4 hours and 44 minutes. My training for Bellingham had gone a little better, including a final run in which I knocked off 21 miles in 3 1/2 hours, or precisely a 10 minute per mile pace. I also used to depend only on the water and energy drinks/food supplied on the course (not wishing to burden myself with any supplies while running), but now I have gone completely over to the side of carrying a belt with water bottles and electrolyte supplements--in my case I have an Amphipod running belt that can hold four 10-ounce bottles, plus has a little fanny pack on the front. I put a Gatorade/water mix in the bottles and eat Clif Shot Bloks along the way (I find them easier to eat than the "goo" food).

My one main goal for this race was to run the whole race without stopping. I figured if I did that I would definitely beat my old time, and had some hope of either doing 4:22 (ten minute miles) or at least 4:30. Unfortunately there was a slight twist thrown in, which was the weather. Gaze, if you dare, at this weather chart for Bellingham yesterday morning. Observe how the wind peaks between 8 am and noon (the race started at 8 am)--with such fascinating readings as 25.3 mph with 40.3 mph gusts at 8:53 am, and 29.9 mph with 43.7 mph gusts at 10:53 am. Then see how around noon, when the wind dies down somewhat, to under 20 mph, it starts to rain? So that was the weather we were faced with. And if you take a gander at this course map (PDF), you will see how parts of the course are quite near the water, and especially how the last 2 miles are run around a marina--no doubt very scenic on nice days, but feeling particularly exposed to the sideways rain when you arrive 4 hours into a race.

Bellingham is about 100 miles north of Seattle, so I drove up the day before and stayed in a hotel. I had a bad night of sleep--one of nights where you could swear you weren't sleeping at all, except sometimes you remember a brief dream you had. I definitely recall seeing the alarm clock next to the bad at least at half hour intervals. However I was buoyed by an article I had read somewhere which said the sleep you get the night before a race doesn't really affect you, it's more the two or three nights before that. In fact I felt fine in the morning, although I had some bags under my eyes. I tried finding a weather report on TV, but then just opened my window and watched the trees whipping around outside for a moment to get all the weather information I needed. It actually wasn't all that cold (high 50s), just windy.

How did it go? Well, the bad news is that with the weather being what it was, and me also running a bit slow, I wound up finishing the race in 4:47. So I was a couple minutes slower than the first time (I wore a t-shirt under a long-sleeve shirt, which was probably overdressing and made me sweat more than I should have, but it did feel good during the windy parts. I also had an old-school Mambosok hat on my head, which got many comments but was probably too warm). BUT there were some definite good things:

  • I DID run the whole freaking thing without stopping...yes 4 hours and 47 minutes keeping my legs moving, even running up (and later down) a ridiculously steep hill (California where it hits Chuckanut Drive, if you know Bellingham), and other ups and downs of a course that was much hillier than I expected.
  • I never felt any really strong desire to stop and walk, and I never really doubted that I would finish the race; even in the last few miles when it was quite unpleasant, the feeling was more of being annoyed at having to endure the environment (possible subconscious motivating factor: if I had started walking, I would have been out there even longer).
  • Although I finished slightly slower, my splits were much more even: from 2:03 and 2:41 last time to (roughly, I didn't note the exact midpoint) 2:18 and 2:29 this time.
  • I felt much better afterwards; I was much less crippled immediately after the race, and today I feel only slightly sore. My only real "injury" was to the second toe (which evidently is called the pointer toe, by analogy with the pointer finger) on both feet, where my nails were a bit long and my shoe a bit short, the result that the nail spent 26.2 miles getting jammed into the toe itself, leading to a somewhat gruesome sight which will hopefully cure itself without further medical intervention or loss of said nails.
  • The course itself was very scenic, with much of it on unpaved trails through a forest, where the wind wasn't too bad and the running was pleasant (except when a branch blew out of a tree and landed on me). The whitecaps on the water were lovely to behold.
So overall I am going to call it a success, since I met my goal of running the whole way. Now I can junk that idea next time and walk up and down steep hills when I need to, which should help my stay stronger at the end. Lots of people run only one marathon in their lives, but I think once you run two you're committed.

Posted by AdamBa at October 8, 2007 09:14 PM

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