"If I don't BQ here, I am done running marathons." - me, right before this race.
I went into this marathon knowing that if I couldn't qualify here, I probably couldn't do it anywhere. The course is mostly downhill, and is on a rails-to-trails crushed limestone trail. Basically, the easy footing of running on a road without the suckiest parts of running on a road. The scenery is gorgeous: old railroad bridges, mossy forests, and a 3-mile-long tunnel. The weather was ideal: 50s with a light rain, perfect for running fast and staying cool.
That said, the course was also... kind of boring. I'm SUPER biased and spoiled and sound like a brat (I KNOW, OK?!); but I have had the great privilege of running on some of the most beautiful trails in the PNW, with sweeping vistas, soul-defining hills, waterfalls, and fucking volcanoes. So yes, I know I sound like a snob when i say that this (very beautiful) course was boring. But I'm very glad I decided to bring along my headphones and iPod shuffle to keep me entertained.
The day started off chilly and cloudy, and after a quick briefing from the RD, we took off. I started off with the 3:30 pace group thinking that I would see how that felt and try to decide if I could hang on at that pace. The first section of the race was a 2 mile out-and-back on a very flat portion of the course, where we were able to lock into our pace. I felt really comfortable hanging with the pace group, and our pacer had a funny little song he would sing at every mile marker that ended with:
"WHERE'S THE LAST MILE?"
(we would yell) "BACK THERE!"
"WHERE'S THE NEXT MILE?"
"WHERE'S THE BEST PACE GROUP?"
It was super fun. I shouted the refrain as loud as I could and was generally having tons of fun, which was my number one goal for the day. At one of my last road marathons (Victoria, 2015), I had gone out too hard, ended up totally bonking, and got really pissed off about the whole thing. Mark was shocked to see me along the course; I was absolutely seething. He told me later how awful it was to see me like that, and I told him how awful it was to feel like that, so I determined that I never again wanted to get to that point. If I'm not having fun, what's the point?
We got to the tunnel just after mile 5 and the pace group had pulled up ahead of me slightly. I grabbed one of the mini flashlights from the volunteers and headed into the pitch-black tunnel and realized: holy shit, it is dark in here. The last time I ran through this tunnel, I had a headlamp, which did an awesome job of lighting it up - this dinky flashlight was barely enough to see where my foot was about to fall. I saw the pace group up ahead and realized my best chance would be to sprint up to them in order to take advantage of the group light. So I started flinging my flashlight around wildly in order to give my brain a better sense of what the inside of the tunnel looked like. I sprinted, praying I didn't eat it, and caught up. Our combined light was enough to run comfortably, and it also meant I got to keep yelling that we were the best pace group (BONUS!).
After the tunnel, the course starts to pitch downhill ever so slightly. If you're on the course, you can't even see the slope of the trail, but the elevation profile on Strava afterwards says that it was CLEARLY downhill. And while I couldn't see it, I sure as hell could feel it. My legs were like, "you got to GO, girl."
I took off at a slightly faster pace than the group and started to gain on a woman in a Oiselle jersey up ahead of me. I think she noticed. She took OFF and I... let her go; I wasn't sure how long I could keep this pace going, and honestly, I was running my own race. I wanted to BQ, and was on track to do that, and didn't want to risk it by trying to race someone else and then bonking.
Miles 12 through 20 took forever, as usual. I was alone the entire time, so I was jamming. out. to my iPod shuffle music mix. I'm talkin' full-on lip syncing with hand gestures. I had forgotten how many fun songs I had on there... I should pull that thing out more often.
My hydration was good, I had a Gu at one point that went down easily, and I passed a few people here and there. Oiselle was way up ahead, but still within sight.
Somewhere around mile 23, I realized I was massively gaining on Oiselle all of a sudden. I checked my watch - I was still maintaining my same pace, so she must have been slowing down significantly. Earlier in the race, I had mentally channeled to her, "get it girl, don't worry, I'm not gonna try to catch you;" but now, all bets were off. I kept up my pace, caught up with her, and we gave each other shout-outs as I passed. Not 5 minutes later, another woman came flying past me. I thought for a moment that I should catch her, but she seemed so intent on beating me that if I had pushed it, she would have pushed harder, and probably would have beat me anyway. So, power to her for passing me in that final stretch.
The very last .2 miles of the race, the course leaves the main trail and takes a few short switchbacks down an actual hill and into the finish chute. At this point, I heard some heavy breathing behind me. I didn't know who it was, but thought it might Oiselle trying to regain her lead on me. Downhills are my jam, so with this actual downhill to my advantage, I pulled out all the stops. My last .1 mile was an all-out sprint to beat whoever was trying to pass me at the last second (one of my pet peeves, BTW. Like, really??). Turns out it was some dude, and he cracked up when I beat him to the finish line, clapped me on the back, and thanked me for the fun final sprint. He was such a sport about it that I couldn't help but laugh along and enjoy the moment.
I stuck around for a while to see all the people finish that I had run with earlier. They had grilled cheese at the finish line, which was *heaven*, and they were taking some pictures with "PR" and "BQ" signs. I grabbed both, because I crushed both. Boom. I think my general giddiness in this picture about sums it up.
Needed 3:50:24 to PR; 3:35:00 to qualify for Boston
Finish time: 3:25:47
6/65 female (must be my lucky number this year!)
2/13 age group (F 30-34)
Shoes: Brooks PureConnect 4
I learned that I can run fast, but I have to pay for it for days after. I had wanted to do another running event (for funsies) on Sunday, but was pretty wrecked. I pushed it harder than I should have, and possibly made things much worse, and now need to take some time off to recover. This race also confirmed my love for trail running, and now I feel like I can leave this road-related goal of mine behind and focus on my trail skillz.
Thanks to Mark for meeting me at the finish line with some Snickers, and for always believing I can do better than I think I can. Thanks to all the friends and training buddies for a solid season so far. I'm super excited (and also partly terrified) to see how the rest of the season will go!