The calendar for this past weekend started out innocently enough. I planned to run the North Olympic Discovery Marathon in Port Angeles WA. I had heard that it was a fun race, and I wanted to see the Olympic peninsula. Then, I learned it was also the weekend of the Lake Youngs Ultra. That's a course I've got a little history with: last time I ran a race there, I came in last (here... scroll down to the middle of the page). The ultra was scheduled for Saturday and NODM for Sunday. Aha, a good opportunity for an "easy logistics" double.
Well then I noticed that the Fremont 5k was scheduled for Friday evening. This was intriguing for several reasons. In all the years of this local race, I've never done it because I'm usually traveling on Fridays. Also, I wondered how my body would stand up to three consecutive, though very very different, races. But most importantly, I wanted to run a 5k to better gauge my current fitness. I haven't run a 5k since April of 2006.
Ok, let's do three races. But, let's make it harder on ourselves. First, we'll do a 4 mile recovery run in the morning. Then we'll run a 4 mile "warm up" to get to Fremont. This way, we'll be ok for the 5k... but completely beaten-by-hammers tired for the rest of the weekend :-). And so that's what I did.
The Fremont 5k isn't a particularly large race, but after 1.2 miles on the street, the course merges onto a narrow bike trail... including a brief out-and-back section. This makes the race feel a bit larger. This year, the race was a championship race for some series, so it attracted quite a few fast people. I did not get in their way. My goal was to run 6:45 miles, but this wasn't a completely firm goal. The whole reason to do this race was to see what I could actually do. 6:45 was a best guess. It would turn out to be a close-but-no-cigar guess.
The course itself is somewhat flat, but not pancake flat, and it has a gentle uphill in the first mile. Off we went, down for a few blocks and then up. I passed M1 at 6:49. Hmmm, a little slow, but then again at least I wasn't wheezing and I was sure I could hold this pace. Here came the leaders in the other direction, including local phenom Rose, who was dressed as Wonder Woman. WW would run a sub-18. About M1.2, we jumped up onto the bike path and headed towards the turnaround. It was here that I was passed by the dude with the stroller. He was running somewhere around a 6:30-6:40 mile, and watching him navigate the U-turn without dumping the contents (aka kid) was a thing of beauty. Then I was through the turnaround and back down the path.
M2 at 6:50 pace. Running, running, running. Guy next to me spit on my leg. Ugh. M3 at 6:51 pace. Uphill finish. 21:12. A Rush time. If I was focused on 5ks right now, I wouldn't be thrilled with that time. But it was ok, and I wasn't horribly far off from my guess. I also realized how differently my body responds to evening races. There's another evening race in Seattle... a 5k held at midnight on the 4th of July. It is a challenging course, but I have never EVER been able to run it well. I think the time has something to do with it.
I had planned on jogging the 4 miles home, but I caught the bus. And went to bed.
Saturday morning, 4a alarm, time to head to Lake Youngs. I don't have a lot to say about this race... 3x 9.6 mile loops on a wide trail (except for about a mile of single track) around a lake. Interestingly, the lake is not visible ANYWHERE except for about ten seconds if you are looking in the right place at the right time. This trail is awesomely hilly. The hills are completely runable during the first loop, but by the last loop, there's a lot of power walking. Last time, I ran a 5:11 in 96 degree heat and came in last.
My goal for Saturday was simply to put in good miles and hopefully beat 5:11. Since it was 52 instead of 96, that seemed like a reasonable goal. Of course, I didn't figure in the previous night's 5k and all the other Friday miles. I felt absolutely beaten. I started off with my Bestest Running Buddy (BRB - see my Tacoma report), and it was obvious very early that I was gonna need her to pull me to the end.
Around and around we went.
"Hill," she said.
"Hill," I agreed.
The first loop went well, except that my stomach issues decided to assert themselves. And I had even eaten properly the night before! No pizza, Taco Bell, or ice cream. Blah. The second loop was slower. The third loop? That's when the rain came. And not the typical Pacific Northwest drizzle. I mean RAIN. Blah. BRB and another friend (let's call them "otters") stayed with me as I started to melt, like the Wicked Witch of the West.
And we were done. Saw lots of deer. Had great conversations. Not a good day running. 5:17. Given how I felt, it was ok even if it wasn't 5:11. Six minutes in a long race was no big thing... and mostly due to my stomach anyway. Just happy to be done.
Time to drive over to Port Angeles to sit in a bathtub and wait for what the next day might bring. I made sure I ate some ice cream... or at least an ice cream-like thing. A blizzard. With oreos. That helped.
What did the next day bring? Sunshine! At 7a, at least. That would change. NODM is a point-to-point course, which means a shuttle, and the race does not start until 9a. Very late for a marathon. Rode the shuttle, met a bunch of Maniacs I did not previously know, and also met a couple people from the coolrunning website. That was fun.
Before the race, everyone gathered inside a clubhouse-like building. I met a couple people from Hawai'i in here. Also fun. I chatted with a nice young woman from Colorado. As we were getting up to walk to the starting line, I randomly asked her what time she was shooting for. Maybe I'd run with her. "I hope I'll beat 3". Uh, ok. I wouldn't be running with her :-). She would ultimately not beat 3, but she did come in third overall female.
At the starting line, someone mentioned we'd have a tailwind for most of the race. Cool! And, it would turn out, a lie! Also, quite ominously, the black clouds were dumping over the Olympic Mountains. My goal for the race was simply "finish upright". I felt completely beaten up, so "upright" meant something around 4:15. Maybe a little bit faster because NODM has a flat course. Or so I thought. This to, it would turn out, was a lie!
Off we went. The first 5 miles made a loop through the town of Sequim (pronounce it "Squim"), then we dumped onto a bike path and headed off back to Port Angeles. That tailwind? Was a headwind. A cold headwind. Some people described it as really terrible; I didn't think it was too serious. It was a bit annoying. Starting around M10, the mile markers got fairly squirrelly. I've learned that I can judge my underlying mood based on my reaction to mismarked miles. I found them to be annoying, like the headwind. Uh oh.
The bike path went through the woods, by neighborhoods, near stinky farms, and over some streams using old railroad bridges. All in all, it was quite pretty.
And then. Then we hit the hills. These were not the long, gradual rail-to-trails hills. These were little, steep ups and downs. None long. All steep. A couple switchbacks. Flat? Ha. Nope. It certainly made the course more intriguing, and on a better weekend, I would have enjoyed it more. But between the beaten-by-hammers legs and the headwind, it wasn't quite as fun.
At least those black clouds hadn't started dumping rain.
Until M16. At that point, the skies opened up. Like the day before at Lake Youngs, this was a cold, soaking, steady rain. 10 more miles of it. And more hills. Ugh.
At M22, the course suddenly veered to the water's edge, and the hills were behind us. The rest of the run was next to the Strait of Juan De Fuca. Very pretty, even on a dismal day. Alright, I was done with this. I sped up as much as I could just to be done. Because of the strangely marked miles, I can't say for sure exactly how much I sped up. However, I do recall thinking at M20 that I'd finish between 4:05 and 4:10.
Actual finish? 3:57. Nifty.
That's no great shakes, of course, compared to some of my other recent times. Beating 4 on the backend of a double (for the second consecutive time) felt great, though. Especially when considering the 5k and the fact that the frontend was a 28.8 5+ hour ultra. And double especially when considering the sneaky NODM hills, the headwind, and the rain. No stomach issues either. Blizzards are great. The soft-serve kind.
I would have been just as happy to run the expected 4:15. I was just happy to be done.
But not done with the adventure. I'll spare you from reading the story about waiting for the ferry. Holy smokes that line was long.
Next up: my 4th double in 5 weeks. Saturday is an obscure marathon in Iowa, called Marathon to Marathon. I ran a 3:45 there last year. Sunday is way-up-high in Estes Park, Colorado.
I'll see you there. If you don't mind, please bring me an oxygen bottle.