Since Lisa and I like to combine some running with our travel, we decided to do more than just run some trails, but actually sign up for a race out here. She found the North Olympic Discovery Marathon as signed herself up for the full, whereas I decided to do the half, since I already had my big race of the year, and I don’t enjoy full road marathons that much.
We awoke very early so that Lisa could catch the bus to the early start of the marathon. They had an option for slower runners to start an hour early, at 6am, so Lisa took advantage of that. I putz’d around for a while back in the hotel room and then set out to catch the bus to my half start line at 8:30. Even that early in the day I could tell it was going to be a hot race, and so I slathered on sunscreen and wore my new hat.
The course runs along the Olympic Discovery Trail, which is a paved walking/running trail that runs along the northern part of the peninsula, although not all of it is completed yet. There are portions that go alongside roads, but the section that I was running on was all bike path. We launched on time and I fell into a nice steady ten and a half minute pace. I really had nothing to prove in this race, and I knew after a week of travel and eating poorly, I wouldn’t even come close to a PR. However, I wanted to at least beat 2:30 overall, so I set out with that goal in mind.
The trail was about 40-50% shaded, which was a great respite from the sun. I still made sure to drink at each aid station, and I alternated dumping water on my head or on my hat. However, I discovered that my hat seems to resist moisture, so in the future I won’t bother putting water on it. I will either dunk it in water completely, or toss some ice cubes in it to keep my head cool. Thankfully, the shade was enough to help cool me down, and I never felt overheated.
I decided to take my time on a couple of miles and enjoy the beautiful trail. At one point we descended into a beautiful river valley with a covered bridge. Around that point I got to cheer on the marathon leader as he climbed the massive hill out of the valley and faded into the distance. Looking at my watch I realized that I probably had dawdled a little too much and had to pick up the pace.
The rest of the race is a downhill to the finish, so I was able to make up some solid time. My stomach gave me some issues around mile 8, which meant I wasn’t barreling down the biggest downhill, but I managed to keep up a consistent pace. Once we settled into the steady flat area along the bay I spotted the 2:30 pacer and slowly reeled her in. I managed to get a good 3 minute lead on her over the last few miles. I came in around 2:27, beating my goal, but feeling really tired of the pavement pounding.
In terms of races, the NODM is a small race. There are only around 1000 people in the half and full marathon, so it certainly has a small town feel. The aid stations are pretty well done, and one of them had a delightful Star Wars theme to it, complete with full cardboard character paintings along the path. My biggest complaint with this race was actually Port Angeles itself.
When I hit the flat portion of the trail for the final 3-4 miles, I was running along the harbor. It was then that my nose was filled with horrible smells of rotting seaweed, sulfur and other smells I’m assuming were sewage. I was trying to run as much as possible at the end, but the smell was one of the more unpleasant things I’ve had to push through in races. I realize there’s little that the race could have done about this, but it makes me wonder what in the world is going on in the harbor around here to turn it into such a fetid mess.
Once I crossed the finish line, I assumed I would be waiting a bit for my wife to come through, however she had a really rough day and ended up dropping at mile 18. She actually attempted to drop at mile 13, but the volunteers there had no idea how to deal with a dropping runner, and so she had to soldier on. She was a bit sad that it didn’t go as planned for her, but as I’ve already experienced this year, sometimes finishing a race just isn’t in the cards.
It was fun to have running be a part of our trip, however, I’m feeling like I’m done with pavement races. My feet hurt almost as bad as when I run a 50K, and I know my knees prefer the softer feel of dirt. I think in the future, when planning running and travel we’ll look at more trail type races, or just find some places to run for fun.
The rest of the day was spent recovering with yummy food and a whole bunch of beer. We hit a couple restaurants in town for lunch and dinner. The place we hit for dinner was this really nice gastropub with a live jazz duo and a great selection of craft beer. Now it’s all about packing up and getting read for a 3 hour drive early in the morning to the airport.
This has been an amazing trip, and it’s been wonderful to spend time traveling together for our belated honeymoon. We’ve seen such amazing sights, and had such a great time that going back to reality is going to be tough. Alas, it does have to come to an end, and I’m sure we’ll be talking about this trip for a long time to come.