Sean & I headed up to the Pacific Northwest to run the Vancouver USA Marathon for my 10th marathon. This was my first visit to this area, I’ve been to Seattle for Rock n’Roll in 2013 but I’ve never been to Portland & southern Washington.
We headed up on Friday night, and after a long flight delay, we finally made it to our hotel around 1am. We hit up the expo early on Saturday morning right as the skies opened up. We hung out in the car for a few minutes before braving the weather to pick up our bibs.
The expo was interesting, it is in conjunction with a Brewfest, which didn’t mean much to us, since we don’t drink, but that took up half the expo area. The actual expo was mostly local companies, I don’t recall seeing any recognizable companies.
This was a pretty small race, there were only 459 marathon finishers and a little over 1100 half marathon finishers. Bib numbers were listed on the website. Sean & I were 227 – 228. We grabbed our bibs and then walked through the expo to get our shirts & a goodie bag which was at the exit.
We got blue marathon shirts, a bag full of snacks, laundry detergent and some pamphlets. We took a few photos by the VUM sign and the 5k finish line before heading out.
We got in a quick shake-out run by the river later that afternoon. This run did not go well for me, I was having some pain in my lower abs and my calves were sooo tight. I jogged or rather walked most of these 2 miles.
We had a traditional Italian dinner at Mamma Mia, lasagna for me & linguine carbonara for Sean before heading back to the hotel. I was so exhausted, I took my flat Jenny photo(s) but totally fell asleep before I posted it, oops.
The race didn’t start until 7am and it was only 15 minutes from our hotel so we got up at around 5:30ish I think and then left the hotel about 6:10a. We got there around 6:30a, found a parking spot on the street just down from the start. There were a bunch of lots for parking but since were there so early (and the half marathoners didn’t start until 9a) there was plenty of street parking.
First thing we did was head over to the port-a-potties. Coincidentally, and this was really not cool on their part, there was a guy there cleaning the port-a-potties as we were all trying to use them. With 450 marathoners and less than 20 minutes until the start, that really wasn’t a great time to be setting things up. I feel like that was a major fail on the part of the race.
But regardless, we did our business and then dropped our gear off before heading to the start area. Based on my run the day before, I wasn’t sure how my race was going to go. However we had a nice little bonus with temps that were much cooler than we are used to at the start so I figured I’d give it a go and see what happened.
So I turned on my Aftershokz so I could listen to my audio book and I took off with the 4:30 pace group. I quickly moved up and ended up running near the 4:15 group for the next 8 miles. In looking at my splits I ran the first 9 miles at sub 10 min paces, which considering my lack of speedwork, I’m pretty happy about. It might not be fast for some, but for me it was a nice consistent pace. One day, I’ll will run the whole race at this speed :).
The first half of the race was an out and back west of the city. It was flat and really pretty for most of this section. The only thing that was a bit odd was that we were on the side of the road for the majority of this part of the race with cars able to come down both sides of the road in some sections. But I guess with it being a pretty small race it wasn’t a huge deal. We had a short area where we went through a small patch of gravel trail and then on to little bit of a nicely paved path.
I spent this time listening to my audio book and trying to keep up with the group. At mile 7 I think they must have sped up because I was still around the same pace. I hung on until mile 10 when I had to refill my water bottle. I was so thirsty. I added in my mix to the bottle and continued on. I think this is probably when I started taking walk breaks as this mile was quite a bit slower than the previous ones. Although, part of that is the aid station stop to refill.
So I continued on at a slightly slower speed but I hit the halfway point at about 2:06. By this point my Garmin was off by about .2 miles so I’m not sure what I did, because Sean was only off .01. I’ve been to races before when this has happened and it’s made up by the end so I wasn’t sure where exactly I was.
Once we hit mile 14 there were a few hills, in the scheme of things they were very minor, but after 13 flat miles, they felt like mountains, lol. It was also around this point that we met up with the half marathoners. By the time I got there, I was met with a lot of walkers, I trudged on, walking if needed up the hills, passing the 3:00hr pace group.
One nice thing about this race was that the half marathoners started 2 hours behind us at 9am so when we got to the half way point, unlike in other races where the marathoners are all by themselves, we had the half marathoners to keep us company. That was a pretty cool idea especially since the first 13 miles were separate from the half course.
I was still so thirsty, so I refilled my bottle with just water around mile 14 or so, the girl was a little stingy with the water but I was able to get a pretty full bottle. I only had one more bag of my calorie mix so I waited until I got further along to use it. I really think if I’d had an extra bag, it would have made all the difference.
I think it was around mile 17/18 as we were heading downhill, the 4:30 pace group passed me. I was kind of disappointed but I just kept chugging along. At this point I was mostly run walking until I got to mile 19 – 20 when I started to feel a bit sick from the lack of calories and I know from my times that I was walking a lot more during this part. There also was more climbing in these miles.
I refilled my bottle once more and then just kept run/walking, passing a lot of half marathoners. I heard one guy saying that they were looking at about a 2:30 half and I kept looking at my watch trying to figure out how much time I had in order to still PR, even by a small amount.
Time was going faster and faster and I was going slower, having another hiccup around mile 22 with the sick feeling. I started running only to feel like I threw up a little in mouth, YUCK! so I had to back it down again. At the next aid station, I got some Gatorade and that helped.
This section was really pretty, we were on a nice path by the water before we headed inland again. I noticed as we got to miles 24 – 26 that the half marathon mile markers started getting further away from the marathon mile markers. I wasn’t sure what was going on and being so close to my PR time, I was confused as to if I was even going to be anywhere near it because of the mixed up mile markers.
I finally made it to the last aid station, probably less than a half mile from the finish, but I didn’t realize that because the 12 mile marker was right before it, there was another hill of course, lol. I looked down and saw 4:34 on my watch and was like where did the time go – I guess I hadn’t been watching as closely as I should have. I grabbed some more water and kept moving, heading down a slight descent and then making a turn trying to pick it up because I was almost there. Unfortunately I couldn’t go as fast as I wanted to because the sick feeling came back so I just kept moving, finally turning the corner and seeing the finish line, I ran across, arms high to Bart Yasso congratulating me by saying my name and where I was from.
The time on the clock was just over 4:36 minutes and once I had the official results, I knew I missed a PR by 25 seconds. Of course initially, I was disappointed, for about a minute and then I was super happy to even have gotten that close.
I don’t talk about my times very often, just in the context of the race, but not on a daily basis, mostly because I run a lot of slow miles in training, which is good for my endurance and staying injury free. But I haven’t had a sub 5 hour marathon since LA Marathon 2015, 15 months ago. Which is why even though I was 25 seconds away, I’m not upset or really that disappointed, because this race gave me back my marathon confidence.
With no formal training plan and no nutrition plan I ran 25 seconds slower than my PR, which I ran after following a very specific training plan, with a coach, and an incredibly clean diet for 6 months. The fact that I was able to get close without doing those things was a huge boost to me.
I trained for this race by running longer races, back to back semi long run and a lot of miles, including my biggest (ever) mileage month of 175 miles last month. Since March, I’ve run 11 races, including 2 50k’s and my first 50 mile race along with logging a lot of trail miles. It wasn’t a traditional training plan by any ones standards, but I think it worked for me.
Now back to the race. They gave my medal to Sean, who gave me a kiss and put the medal around my neck. My legs were so sore, but from the inside, it was almost like they were seizing up because I had stopped.
We took a few photos but I needed food. They had mini Jamba Juice smoothies, corn thins, fritos or other chips, bottles of Coconut water & gatorade, bananas and Kashi granola bars. We grabbed a few snacks and then headed over to the park so I could sit down for a few minutes.
After a few minutes of walking around and sitting, my legs felt a lot better and I was walking normally again. We took a few more quick photos and then headed back to the hotel to clean up & eat!!
Overall, I would say that this is a very well run race. They were organized and outside the port-a-pottie & half marathon mile marker issues I think everything went really smoothly.
I’ve written about it before that I’m not a huge fan of small races preferring to have more spectator support & people around, but I didn’t feel like this at this race. I know it’s not feasible in most races to have the half marathoners start 2 hours later, but I really thought this was an awesome idea.
Overall, I enjoyed this race and I would recommend it for those who want a beautiful, smaller race.