So two long distance races in two weeks might not be the smartest training strategy, but when I heard that NW Trail Runs was putting on a race just miles from my house I knew I had to run it! The question was which distance? They advertized 10k, 1/2 marathon, 20 miles, and full marathon. Well, 10k is just too short, and when my good friends (and seriously fast runners) Andy Wyman and James Steller signed up for the 20 and the 1/2, I knew it had to be the 'full' so we could all have a chance at top spots!
The training: Well, an easy week after Orcas, a couple of really good runs the weekend after Orcas, and a normal mid week schedule (except a bit light on the intensity). Saturday off was my 'taper'. My coach, Karl Meltzer advised me to just cruise the distance in order to recover quickly. The goal is a solid race at the Gorge Waterfalls 50k in March. So I was thinking 10 minute miles (these trails are pretty slow). What started the unravelling of this good plan was when I looked at the results of those signed up. No one seemed to have anything that indicated they could outrun me even at a slow pace. This got me thinking that I could win. Then at the last minute I notice James Varner signed up. I figured we're probably pretty close...
Race day! Cool and cloudy, but no rain. Perfect! I arrived early enough to do some mingling.. and early enough to talk with James V. He said his plan was to run a 3:30 (8min/mile). So there went my plan to cruise easy. Right out the window! That would be one heck of a run on this course. Sorry Karl! I lined up at the front with my friends and blasted up the first hill. Only a couple of people infront. Steady pace reeled in one (I can't believe how hard some people go out without the fitness to back it up), the other was off the front, but only running the 10k, so not a factor. This race was two 1/2 marathon loops (that included part of the 10k loop). I train on these very same trails a lot; they are very difficult to run fast, and although the climbs are limited to about a max of 200 feet, they come one after another. The descents are twisty, and never seem to give the time back.
I ran the first few miles with James Steller and Andy Wyman,and I knew James V must be close behind. After about six miles I let James and Andy go and concentrated on running my pace. Easy enough to leave gas in the tank, but hard enough to make it tough to catch me! As I said in my Orcas blog, nutrition is a project of mine. The goal was a gel every 20 minutes, and I hit that religiously all day today. That's a first! The first loop finished in just under 1:50. The second loop dragged a bit. I was definitely feeling not-so-fresh from the 50k just two weeks earlier. I concentrated on running every climb, smooth cruising on the techy stuff, and fast when it smoothed out. Running alone in these dense woods can play tricks on your mind. My past experience is that just when you relax someone comes by you like you're taped to a tree! I just knew James was behind me feeling really strong in the middle of a great negative split or something. I tried to concentrate on reality, and have enough in the tank incase I needed to hit the nitrous button in the last mile or so. That never happened, and with about two miles to go I relaxed a bit knowing I had it wrapped up. Second loop complete in 2ish hours for a 3:47 marathon, and first place by 15 minutes!
As always, it was great to see my lovely wife and three boys at the finish. I told them four hours, and they showed up right then (getting a 4yo, a 3yo, and a newborn in the car is about as tough as a trail marathon!). Just a few minutes too late for my little ones to run across the finish with me, but still so very appreciated!
James Steller won the 1/2 marathon with my friend Tom finishing second. Andy won the 20 miler by a large margin, and I won the marathon. Not a bad day for us local Oak Harbor runners!
Overall this was a great race put on by a very professional group. The trails were perfectly marked (and there are so many intersections out there that's a real job). There was great turnout, and I couldn't ask for a better training race. They advertised about 5500' of climbing for the marathon, and I believe it... it's just broken up into about 55 100 foot intervals. I'll definitely run this one again!