Wednesday, June 18, 2008

6/8/08 North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Why do I look like this at the end of the race? Read on.

The North Olympic Discovery Marathon (NODM) is a nice little race held on the Olympic Peninsula of my (current) home state, Washington. A point-to-point course from Sequim... pronounce it "Squim"... to Port Angeles, the course utilizes a good mix of road and rail-to-trails asphalt bicycle trail. For the most part, the course is gently roly poly, the way that rail-to-trails tend to be. HOWEVER. However, between M16 and M20ish, the runner is faced with a challenging set of sharp inclines and declines as the course blasts through various creekbeds.

The course winds along the Strait of Juan De Fuca, which connects the Pacific Ocean to Puget Sound. Port Angeles itself is the gateway to the Olympic National Park and the Olympic Mountains. While Port Angeles can be sunny thanks to the "rain shadow" effect of the mountains, the surrounding geography means that it can also be quite windy, grey, and grim here.

I was fairly happy last year by pulling a sub-4 (3:57) at NODM on the same weekend as a 20 minute 5k and a 28.8 mile ultra. It was definitely one of the grim days too. Somewhere after the 2 hour mark, the rain and wind showed up, stuck around for a long time, and put the G in 'grim'. But I finished, I beat four, and I left with a smile.

This year was different - I wasn't running multiple races on NODM weekend. I could have targeted this as a 'go fast' attempt, I suppose, but I didn't. I hadn't run a regular race in a few weeks. There was the 12 hour race in 95 degree heat, Andy Payne in 90 degree heat and 30 mph wind, and the downhill 50k. NODM is a regular race, and I just wanted to go out and have a "regular" day. I decided on three not-very-different goals for the race:
  1. Beat 3:45
  2. 3:42 (because that would be 15 minutes faster than last year's time)
  3. Beat 3:40
Based on how I felt before the race, I knew 3:40 was probably out of reach. The weather was fully cooperative - overcast and 50 with only a light breeze. I just didn't feel particularly fast, nor terribly motivated to work through that feeling.

3:45 was going to be my best bet.

Because the race is a point-to-point course, this meant the s-word for race morning: shuttle. I caught the shuttle from the finish to the start area juuust before the race started. About two hours before the race started. Heh. This was ok. I sat and talked to lots of maniacs. Ate something. Pottied a few times. Talked some more. Then it was finally time to race.

Off we went. And yes, that feeling stayed with me. I wasn't sick, and I wasn't that sore; I just didn't feel particularly fast. I also realized about two miles into the race that I wasn't feeling particularly sociable. I did talk to Maniac Ashley for a couple minutes. She had graduated from college the day before. What a way to celebrate :-/.

Most of this course is very pretty. I didn't really notice last year partly because the weather had been uncooperative, but mostly because it was the second race of a double (plus a 5k bonus). I paid attention this year.

Unfortunately, the course also has some screwy mile markers. Not the totally hosed kind where you know immediately that the markers are off and so you just stop paying attention. No, in NODM's case, they are subtly long/short... and more of the long miles are in the teens. This just added to my general feeling of not-fastness. And it was way hard to run evenly. Or it seemed that way.

Maniac Coconutboy passed me at M20. He had run a marathon on the previous day.

Maniac Ashley caught me at M21, which we hit right around 3:00. I mentioned to her that 3:45 seemed pretty likely. And it was. But she was having none of that. She told me she wanted 3:40, and off she went.

Maniac Coconutgirl passed me at M23. She thanked me for being her rabbit and off she went too. She had run a marathon on the previous day. Yes, with Coconutboy. The Coconut Family sticks together.

The miles were going by faster now. Of course they were. They were shorter :-D.

Lots and lots of half marathon walkers were on these same miles. I got tons of friendly encouragement thanks to the pink.

And... 3:42. How about that? I was able to run 8:00 miles for the last five. Love those short miles. Hee.

Coconutboy managed a 3:38, matching his 3:38 on the previous day. Ashley scored her 3:40 and her first BQ. WOOHOO! And Coconutgirl landed at 3:41. Ultimately, she was MY rabbit.

Given how I felt, that was a good day. Part of me felt like I had wasted a prime opportunity for a go-fast attempt, but there will be other days.

So why do I look the way I look in that picture up above?

At the end of the race, I turned on my phone. Wading through multiple voice mail messages, I learned that J-Lo had broken her elbow while I was running. She slipped in the yard and stiff-armed the landing. Radial neck fracture, 6 weeks, one right arm out of commission.


It's just running.

Next up: Well, I was actually afraid I was going to have to cancel a few runs to play Right Hand Man. I may still have to cancel a few. But I did make the next one... the Lake Youngs Ultra, the 28.8 mile race which was on the same weekend as NODM last year. I had listed in this year's goals that I wanted to beat 5 at Lake Youngs. How did I do?

Check back Real Soon Now.

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