Monday, June 04, 2007

06/03/07 San Juan Island Marathon (new PR!)

The San Juan Islands (of which, San Juan Island is the biggest) are in the Puget Sound about 60 miles from Seattle. The islands have a very interesting history, including The Pig War of 1859, between the British and the Americans. Getting to the San Juans is an adventure in itself - the main method is by ferry. This is very popular, which means that you have to get to the ferry early and wait... and the ferry dock is in Anacortes, which is about 90 minutes north of Seattle. Alternately, you can take a seaplane from downtown Seattle. This is the fun way... so it's the way I chose to go.

And why? They have a marathon, silly. It isn't a very big marathon. Last year's version had about 60 finishers. This year, it was about 80... plus a half marathon with another 130.

I've been running a lot of hilly marathons lately, and this was no exception. In fact, it was possibly the hilliest... only one of the hills was the long, multi-mile type... but it had endless, steep ups and downs throughout. And that one long hill came between M21-M24. The course also featured an uphill finish from M25.8 all the way to 26.2. The course basically forms a figure-8: A big loop through M20 that takes runners across the island, and a smaller loop from M20 through M26. In the middle of the big loop, there's an out-and-back from M8-M14.

The race started pretty late, at 8:30a, to give people taking the early ferry enough time to get to the start. This was excellent for me. I had come over the day before, so this meant I got to sleep in and eat more of a real breakfast than I normally would. Race morning was bright blue skies... but a little bit nippy. Or so I thought. I walked out to the start dressed in three shirts. However, about halfway through the Star Spangled Banner, I realized that I was already cooking. Uh oh. I quickly shed all my layers except for the pink singlet just in time for the airhorn. GO.

And we were off. I had heard that the course was hilly, though at this point I did not know HOW hilly. I decided to work on my downhill running... which meant that I wasn't going for even splits.

I hit M1 at 7:30. Well, huh. If you've been reading my reports, this should strike you as kind of fast. We headed up hills. After a few miles, I noticed that I was running the ups at about 8:15 and the downs at sub-8. Somewhere in here, Annie caught me. Let me tell you about Annie.

Annie is a female maniac - a superstar female maniac. Definitely one of the fastest in the club. On a good Annie day, she's a sub-3 marathoner. She has also won two events in the same weekend. She's super duper nice... but I've never had the chance to run with her because I'm simply too slow to keep up.

However, the planets aligned. She was running slightly slower today than some races, and I was running quite a bit faster. So we ran together some and talked, we played leapfrog for awhile... and I learned a lot. She gave me tips on running down hills. I watched how she handled aid stations and I listened to her thank all volunteers and encourage ALL runners as we passed them. She was great. Annie is a real ambassador for our club, and for faster runners in general.

I was able to hang with her through M11. We had been running about 200 yards behind another female... and as we approached the turnaround in the out-and-back section, it became apparent that this other gal was in first place. Without saying a word... she didn't need to, the goal was obvious... Annie sped up just barely. Off she went. I held my speed. By M13, Annie and other gal (Jodi - last year's winner) were running together. It was pretty clear that they were chatting :-). Cool. This was fun to watch.

Oh. I hit M13 at 1:42. This would have been a half marathon PR at 13.1 (probably 1:43ish). It's almost always a bad sign to hit the halfway point of a full at half PR speed. But I was having fun with the hills, and I had no time goal for the finish. So I decided to push and see how long I could hold it.

The hills. The hills. On and on they went. On and on I went. My pace was not steady, but I stayed between 7:45s and 8:20s. Though they were slowly pulling away, I kept Annie and Jodi in sight until M20... the end of the first loop. It helped that the course was extremely scenic. Lots of nice countryside and oceanside to view, especially in the out-and-back.

The traffic throughout the course was occasionally annoying, especially as we weaved through the slower half marathoners. The half had started at the same time as the full, and the first loop was essentially the half course... but the half skipped the out-and-back section, which ensured that when we merged back into the loop, we merged in with half marathoners going at a much slower pace.

But I tried not to worry too much about the traffic. I tried to ignore the number that the sportsdrink (Gleukos, not as nasty as ultima, but not tasty) was doing on my stomach.

The second loop was prettier... and hillier. By this point, all the runners were so spread out that I saw absolutely nobody. Not one soul. When I lost Annie and Jodi, I really lost them. Most of the roads in this loop had no course control and all the roads were open to traffic. Luckily, there wasn't much traffic... but "follow the spray painted arrows" got worrisome when the spray painted arrows didn't make a frequent appearance. No problem. I hit two waterstops, so I knew I was on the right path.

At M24, the 3rd place female (Anntionette... she of the 'cool tattoos!') caught me. The hills continued. We didn't talk to each other much, but she was definitely helping me get to the end. She was running about 10 feet in front of me.

At M25.8 we came to a turn that we had visited before. This was the start of the second loop... which we had already done. Turn left to do the loop, turn right to finish. Anntionette tried to turn left.

"NOOO!" I screamed, "Turn right, go right, go right!"

Whoops, she corrected. We headed up the hill together towards the end.

"You're third, you know."
"I know."

She went into sprint mode about 100 yards before the finish... usually I do this too, but not today. She was screaming. Just before the finish, I saw Annie sitting on the side of the road. She gave great encouragement to Anntionette... and then she gave some to me. Thanks, Annie.

3:34. A new PR. My fifth marathon in three weeks, and I PRed twice.

After the race, Anntionette thanked me for pulling her towards the end. This was funny, because she also pulled ME to the end :-). However, I think she was pretty close to me for most of the second loop, and I helped her not get lost. Anyway, she repaid that in the last two miles when I was feeling pretty done.

Overall, I didn't run a particularly "smart" race... my splits were 1:43/1:51. I attacked those hills, though. Only two people passed me during the race - Annie (#1 female) and Anntionette (#3 female). Nobody else. And it would seem that pretty much everyone else had a slower second half. Many of the guys that were running near me at the halfway point finished 10-15 minutes behind me.

I guess I had a good day. It was fun. It would turn out that I came in 3rd in my age group and 14th overall.

And on the way home on the seaplane, I saw whales!

Next up: A big weekend. 5k on Friday, local baby ultra (28.8 miles) on Saturday, North Olympic Discovery Marathon (in Port Angeles WA) on Sunday.

I'll see you there.

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