Monday, November 23, 2015

Well That Was Awful: Race Recap of the Grand Ridge Marathon

I should have known that the day would be a bit rough. The forecast was 100% chance of rain and temps in the high 40's. However, being a true PNWer, I didn't let the weather deter me, I had a new rain jacket and an adventurous spirit!

Turns out that wasn't quite enough.

Last year I ran this race as a goal several years in the making. That day was cold but dry, and an absolute blast. This year it was simply a training run, mentally and physically challenging, and cold and wet. 

The "gun" went off at 8:00 am. and from the start I attempted to remind myself to hold a very comfortable pace. The rain was pouring down, but I was cozy in my jacket. Life was good until the first stream crossing just over two miles in. I knew my feet would eventually get wet, that was a given, but a tricky stream crossing in water over ankle deep that early on was frustrating. I ran up to the stream and muttered "holy shit". The woman behind me ran up and said the same thing, which made me laugh.

Shortly after the stream crossing I got hot and slid off my hood. Huge mistake. 

The run was quite lonely from the get-go, so I was especially excited to see a friend hanging out at the first aid station. Then at the first turn-around, about two hours in, I met up with a couple of ladies that were a lot of fun to chat with. One runner who does ironmans and the other who has run 100 mile races. Despite wanting to continue to run with them, I decided I needed to speed up to get to the finish line/half-way point where I would meet my friend Belia. She came out to run the second half of the race with me and I told her I would be there to meet her three hours in to the run. 

Belia navigating a stream crossing.

Unfortunately, once I got to her I was already feeling done. I think I set far too aggressive of a goal when I said I would be at the half way point in three hours. That is faster pace than last year's marathon, and this was just a training run. What was I thinking?!

The wheels came off on the second out-and-back. My shoes were starting to fill with tiny rocks-- not exactly sure how, but guessing they came from the stream crossings as I don't typically have issues with rocks in my shoes. To add insult to injury, whenever I bent over to take my shoe off a bunch of water poured over my shoulder. My jacket hood, which I took off earlier when I was hot, was collecting rain. Lovely.

A section of trail that was now a raging river.

Eventually I got cold again, probably because I was moving so much slower, but I couldn't put my hood back since it was full of water. And the third time I bent over the water in my hood went down the inside of my jacket. My hands were freezing. The "flip mitts" on my jacket were a great idea in theory but eventually my hands and my mitts were soaking wet. I either had to tuck wet mitts in to my sleeves or let them flop on my hands, neither being a great option. 

My nose was running faster than the streams. My glasses kept sliding down my nose. Despite my attempts to empty my shoes of rocks I couldn't ever quite get all of them. My body hurt. Hamstrings, hips, feet, everything. My Garmin died less than two miles from the finish line. Wah wah wah.

To say my spirits were low is an understatement. Mostly my thoughts centered around "this is ridiculous. Why am I doing this? No way am I going to run Deception Pass if the weather is like this."

And to make matters feel even worse, my time was abysmal. Last year I ran the race in 6:15. My (stupid, far too aggressive) hope was to meet or beat that time. This year? 6:51. 

The only thing saving me was Belia's company. If not for her I would likely still be curled up on the side of the trail somewhere crying. She was encouraging, upbeat, and kept a nice steady pace for me to work off of. 

At the finish line Belia and I were completely drenched, freezing and muddy. We high tailed it straight to her car where we huddled in and somehow managed to wrangle out of our running clothes. Then it was off to a restaurant for beers and burgers. It took most of the meal for both of us to stop shivering.

I don't think this picture conveys how disgusting these shoes really are.
Photo taken the next day, which was lovely, dry, and sunny!

It took a few days of going over and over the myriad frustrations and mistakes from the marathon to figure out what I would do differently next time. Will touch on that in another post.

* * * * *

It was somewhere around mile 22-ish that I swore I would never run the Grand Ridge marathon again. I know that runners, particularly trial and ultra runners, are a hardy bunch, but I need a little more  . . . comfort, I guess.

In a race I need the company of more runners around me. This is the third small, local marathon I have done, and each one had very few runners in the marathon distance. It makes for a long, lonely day on the trails.

The aid stations (well, mostly just the one I used in the middle of each out-and-back) was basically stocked. I heard rumors of it having bacon, but I never saw it. I needed more real food (not sugary carbs), and I should have just carried that with me. I have no idea what was offered at the finish line, because I didn't touch any of it. I was simply too cold and wet to do anything other than make a beeline for Belia's warm, dry car.

Some of us had been out there running for 7+ hours, and there was not so much as an offer of a space blanket to warm us up at the finish.There wasn't a spot to dry off and warm up at the finish line (other than porta potties?).  Of course, runners could leave a drop bag at the half-way point/finish line, but it was laughable. Fortunately I double bagged my gear, as it was sitting in a pool of water when I finished. There wasn't even shelter for the gear or a dry place to swap things out. And times when I needed to sit down and deal with my shoes, there was nowhere to sit at the aid station.

I just don't want to pay to run another lonely marathon (actually, to be clear, not lonely, because I dragged Belia out-- but I didn't need a race for that!). For my race fee I got a bib number, a handful of Chips Ahoy and a few small cups of nuun. The course was lovely, but I have run it several times. Honestly, I think I would have rather run some shorter loops around Cougar with friends, swinging back to a car to change clothes or shoes and refuel in shelter.

Despite all of this complaining-- I do appreciate the efforts of those who worked hard to put the race on. The volunteers were out there for a very long time, and it was no less cold and wet for them!

Glad this marathon is behind me, and I can learn from it and hopefully have a great race at Deception Pass. 

1 comment:

  1. This sounds like a really tough day Sybil. I am SO impressed that you stuck it out and finished - especially knowing that you had to turn around and do another loop. That's SO hard! Also, that particular weather can slow things down quite a bit, so I don't think it was just you. Awesome job persevering and accomplishing another finish!

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