State #17: Washington
The Vancouver USA Marathon
I really wasn’t sure how this was going to go down. Kate and I had quite the ordeal in getting to Vancouver, and we were seriously delayed. I was fearful that my lack of sleep and dehydration from traveling would be detrimental to my performance on race day. We rolled up to Vancouver, Washington with a mere 20 hours before the start of the race. 20 hours to rehydrate, recover from long flights and sleeping on the floor of the San Francisco airport, rest, and eat some carbs before the 26.2 mile attempt. Was a PR even a possibility at this point?
Apparently, the odds were in my favor and I ran a great race, accomplishing a new PR. My official time was 3:31:52, almost two minutes faster than my PR at VIA and meeting the Boston qualifying standard by three minutes and eight seconds. It’s not the 3:30 that I’m still chasing, but it’s a step closer! I’m not even a little disappointed and couldn’t be happier. There were so many reasons that I should have just run an average (for me) time and not touch a PR. The fact that I took three weeks completely off during the peak of my training and thought I had a broken femur, for one. Our crazy traveling ordeal just 20 hours earlier, or the time difference. We flew from the east coast to the west coast with no time to adjust before the race. None of it mattered. I felt strong and followed my plan to run negative splits until mile 20, when fatigue hit. My lack of speed and hill training reared its ugly head and reminded me that if I wanted that PR, I was going to have to work for it. I needed to dig deep and run the last six miles with my heart and the confidence that I was strong enough. I held on to whatever I could at that point and kept the pace sub-8:30. I was on pace for a 3:28 until that point, and that’s where the additional speed and hill training would have pushed me harder. I’m still not upset about it.
We went right from the Portland airport to the expo, located at Esther Short Park in beautiful Vancouver, Washington. The sun was shining, people were smiling and there was excitement in the air. A farmers market was set up on the street, a variety vendors set up shop in the park for the race, and the 5K was finishing at the park’s entrance. Bart Yasso was also in town from the Lehigh Valley and was announcing the 5K finishers, and the summer Brewfest was being set up for later that day and Sunday. I was tired, but the energetic atmosphere was contagious and I began to feel hopeful that I could still run a strong race.
It’s a relatively small event, so I was pleasantly surprised at the number of vendors and sponsors present at the race. Packet pickup was easy and the volunteers were kind and helpful. I didn’t have a chance to look up my bib number beforehand because of the travel debacle but it was a non issue: they were happy to help. The shirts are quality tech shirts by Asics, and the bib had your first name printed on it above your number. I love when races take the time to do that. There was a vendor set up with custom made Asics gear for the race, so I bought a jacket. I love when races offer additional commemorative items for purchase, especially at marathons that require extensive travel and are part of a vacation.
The marathon start was at 7am, and the half began at 9am. The start and finish were in the same place, located outside of the park, where the vendors were busy setting up their tables. There was a row of port-a-potties, and it seemed as though there would not be enough to appropriately accommodate all of the runners. However, I barely had to wait in line and they were the cleanest race bathrooms I’ve ever used. Jenny ran the half marathon, which had more entrants and she thought differently of the bathroom situation. Even at the end of the race, the bathrooms were completely clean and stocked with toilet paper. Kate volunteered at the finish area and noticed that the company came out and cleaned them after the half marathon began.
After a moment of silence for the Boston victims and the national anthem, we were off. The race began on a slight uphill grade but after heading out of town it was relatively flat. Relatively flat, but there were lots of slight up and downhill grades, so it was really more like a false flat. For the marathon, the course led the runners out of town to the more rural parts of the area. There were minimal spectators but it was such a peaceful atmosphere. It was basically an out and back with a few loops incorporated, but it was enjoyable. It got a little more populated by the half-marathon point, where we re-entered town and picked up the half-marathoners. They began quite a while before we got there, so we caught some of the people at the tail end of the field. Towards the end of the race, the pace I was running caught up with some of the first finishers of the half-marathon.
There were rural parts of the course, and parts that wove through town and residential neighborhoods. There were segments that ran along waterfront and through parks, and showed off the local landscape and beauty. At mile 20, there was a long, nasty climb followed by a steep descent, which is where my pace began to falter. The weather was perfect: cloudy and about 60 degrees. As you hit mile 26, the crowds gathered around the cattle chutes and spectators enthusiastically cheered on the runners. As you turned the corner and saw the finish line, Bart Yasso was announcing the runners and I got a special shout out since I’m from his hometown. Since Kate wasn’t running this one, she participated as a volunteer and was at the finish line handing out medals. As I crossed, she gave me my medal. It made the whole day even more special.
Post Race Party
There were so many amenities at the finish line. As you came through the finish and collected your medal, there was path the runners followed to get to the post race treats and recovery aids. Jamba Juice was whipping up complimentary smoothies, and there was coconut water, Gatorade, Muscle Milk, and tons of food options. The Muscle Milk vendor had fitness mats and foam rollers on the grass that runners could use to aid recovery. At the medical tent, runners could ice down their legs in baby pools full of ice. A local company was providing post race massages for a reasonable fee. I actually took advantage of that opportunity since we had along drive ahead of us and another marathon next weekend.
On your bib, there was a drink ticket. The Vancouver Summer Brewfest was going on around the same time as the marathon and they teamed up with the race to throw a sweet post-race party. Your bib got you a mug, entrance to the BrewFest, a full beer and four tasting tickets, each good for a healthy taste of beer from different local breweries. I can’t even tell you how many different breweries and types of beer were on tap at the event. I tried a few of the summery ales and sat in the grass with my friends. The sun came out, local restaurants were grilling up goodies, and there was a DJ on the outdoor stage.
Awards were given, and I missed placing in my age group by about 30 seconds. I ended up as fourth in my age group and the tenth overall female to finish. Of the 700-ish participants, I was the 83rd runner to cross the finish line. 23 marathons and 17 states later and each race still presents new challenges, struggles and lessons. If there’s one thing I’ve learned in running these races and challenging myself to complete multiple marathons, it’s to prepare and train for the unexpected and stay calm when things go awry. Flights are delayed, connections are missed and you may not get the best nights sleep. All you can do is prepare for the possibility that you may have to adapt to unexpected circumstances on race day. There are countless variables and things that can go wrong that you simply can’t control. If you focus on what you can control, accomplishing your goal is still a reasonable possibility. It’s great metaphor for life. There are situations and circumstances that you can control, but there’s always the unexpected challenges that change everything. All you can do is prepare, relax, and go with it.
In a few days, I’ll run Alaska. My legs feel great. Minimal soreness, but my left calf is significantly more sore than my right one. I’ll be icing, compressing, and stretching gently all week to prepare my body. I’m excited to run, and excited to end the marathon season in a seriously cool location. After the race I ran last week, I’ll be going easy. It’s just going to be another Saturday long run, only this time I get to do it in Anchorage.