Saturday, November 16, 2013

Bellingham Trail Half Marathon 2013!

Half Marathon # 12 finished!

I was having a really hard time finding a half for the month of November, for some reason the only ones I could find were trail runs and most of them looked very unprofessional and didn't include timing of the race or really any support on the course.

Finally I came across this race and the reason I couldn't find it earlier is that they had added a half marathon last minute (there was a marathon also). When I went to sign up for this race, they were all sold out :( however it still let me register incase any spots opened up. Sure enough, about a week before the race I got an e-mail saying that I got a spot to run. I was super excited but nervous at the same time. This was going to be my very first trail run, EVER! So I decided to go and do some more research on this race and see what it was all about.

The first thing I did was go on their web site, you can check it out at, they do a ton of trail runs if you are interested. I clicked on "About the Marathon/Half" and this is what I read "The marathon is a stunning mix of trail running in Bellingham with lots of tough climbs on single track trails, as well as fast interurban trails and a short road section. With 5,000 feet of climbing, this may be the toughest marathon in Washington!" What?!?! Toughest marathon in Washington? What did I just get myself into... Now granted, this was about the marathon course, so I told myself, this is not what I'm running, right? I'm doing the half, that can't be that bad, let me find out more about the half. This is what I find under "Distance/Elevation Gain: 13.1 miles with 2,500 feet of climbing". I guess that was better than 5,000 feet of climbing? It was too late to turn back now, I needed this race and there was nothing I could do about it now, except to Google how many stories is 2,500 feet, do you know what it said? 230.9 stories!!! Yikes!

Besides the elevation, which I couldn't do anything about I kept worrying about getting lost on the trail. First of all, I'm not a hiker, I think I've only been on one hike in my entire life and that was only three miles, second of all, I had no idea that this was even a problem on trail runs. Apparently that's a huge problem and I was telling all my friends that if I don't show up for work the next day they know where to come looking for me. It was kind of a joke, but I really was worried about it. Apparently somebody had taken down all of their signage the night before the race and they had to go and put up all new signs the morning of the race.

Finally it was time to face my fears and get in my car and make the hour and a half drive to Bellingham. It was raining in Kirkland when I left, but by the time I got there the weather was perfect. We were instructed to bring warm clothes, wear gloves and a hat as in the past they have seen snow on the top of the mountain trail. I was wearing three layers of clothing a pair of gloves and a head band. Since it was a trail run the aid stations were a few and far between (2 miles, 8 miles and 11 miles) so it was recommended to bring your own water. Thankfully I had a three bottle hydration belt at home, I wore that and my favorite iFitness belt for all my other goodies I carried with me.

I got to Lake Padden Park with about a half hour to spare, I was able to pick up my packet with no problem, I was bib #100. I felt great and we all got on the bus to the starting line. This was also my first race that was not starting and finishing in the same spot, it went very smoothly, the organizers were waiting for us at the starting line already and we just waited for the course debrief. It was simple, just checking in, to make sure who is staring, so they can make sure everybody finishes. They did tell us about mile three, to be careful, that's the top of the mountain, lots of slippery rock and sharp mountain cliffs. And off we went.

I was in for a shock, this trail was as hard as they said it would be. I fell back pretty much as soon as we started. These people were hardcore trail runners and with as few runners there were (116 runners) I was worried, I might be last and lost somewhere in the woods all by myself. I tried to stay with the crowd in the back to make sure I knew where I was going. The trail was well marked with pink ribbons and "Wrong Way" signs. There were parts to the trail going up the mountain that were straight up, I had to use roots to pull myself up at points. This was the hardest thing I've ever done in my entire life (well, maybe not the hardest, but it was up there, trust me!). My legs were just killing me, I was trying to use the trees around me to pull myself up and to push myself off. I tried to run as much as possible, but lets be honest, when you are looking at going straight up, its impossible to run, it was more of a climb. I did walk the first three miles and I'm proud to say that, I was so close to quitting. I kept talking myself out of it the whole time. I just had to keep going!

The trail was so beautiful though, once I got to the top, there were beautiful views of the forest and the bay below us, it seemed like we were miles away from the civilization. It was great having this run in the fall, as all the leaves had changed color and tons of mushrooms everywhere. Unfortunately my phone died before I was able to get any good pictures, but it was beautiful nevertheless. I met a girl who ran with me for a while, she was so sweet and encouraging, she had done many trail runs before and gave me great tips. When we got the first aid station, I was so surprised what they had to offer there. They had a ton of food, PB&J sandwiches, grapes, bananas, oranges, GU and energy bars. They had Coke to drink and lots of other soda and energy drinks and water of course. We spent some time there just to recover from the climb and to get ready for the next hike up. We ended up getting separated and I just kept going, I found myself all by myself. I just kept looking for the pink ribbons tied to the trees to show me the way. Finally after about an hour of running by myself I finally saw some racers in front of me and I could not have felt any happier. At this point the trail started going downhill and I was cruising. I felt great running downhill, like I was flying, it made me feel like I was actually getting closer to the staring line ( I mean I was, but you know what I mean when you mind is playing games with you during a long, hard run). At this point I did not want to lose the group I was running with, so I ran with them for a while, but I felt great and I passed everybody and just kept going and going and going.

I was getting bad cramps in my calves, so I had to really watch my stride and how I landed my feet. I was passing a few people as I kept running down the mountain, everybody was so nice. At mile 5 my Garmin gave me a low battery warning, I had already lost my phone, I was really hoping that my watch would last until the finish line. Interestingly enough, at the aid station at mile 8 my watch showed mile 10, that was super disappointing, others were saying the same thing. It was though thinking that I had three more miles to go, but now I had another 5 miles to go. I had already come so far, I could not let my mind get the better of me. It was kind of airy that at each of the aid stations they kept crossing off all the bib numbers to make sure everybody was making it there, thankfully I didn't hear of anybody who got lost.

The last of the race was beautiful as I came to Lake Padden, I could see the finish line directly across. All I had to do is make it there, it was sweet as the people walking their dogs and running around with their children would encourage me as I made my way to the finish. And then my Garmin died at mile 12, I'm so glad that it lasted as long as it did.

I was so proud of myself, I would never, ever do anything like that in my entire life, but I'm glad that I did it and finished it. I came in at 103 of 116, with a time of 4:14:25, I was not last!!! I couldn't believe my time, it was crazy, but the trail was crazy and I was crazy for doing it!

The finish line festival was great, they had amazing wood fire pizza, they were cooking right there, chili and tomato soup with bread. Tons of cookies, chips, hummus and dips, soda and tea and apparently there was pie, but it was gone by the time I got there ;)

I want to thank the organizers for putting together such a great race, yes it was hard, but it took a lot to put this together and thank you to all the volunteers who came out and supported us and all the other racers who were so supportive and wonderful.

See you at my next race at the Seattle Half Marathon, my last one for the year!!!

P.S. It took me four days to recover and not feel any pain in my legs.


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