Friday, October 22, 2010

Humboldt Redwoods Marathon

The Mario Recap, Marathon #24:
Gorgeous course. Third marathon in four weeks (ran each one slightly faster without intentionally sandbagging). Last marathon of 2010.

The Full Recap, Marathon #24:

This race was an extra special one out of the year. Boyfriend is training to run the Texas Marathon with me in January so he signed up to do the half marathon. We drove up from San Francisco the day before the race (love how there is race morning bib pick-up at these smaller races). The drive up deserves its own special report later.

I will spoil one thing and just post this photo of our pre-race dinner:

Two cheeseburgers each and fries. I've PR'd at the half twice and ran my second fastest marathon at the time after this meal. Tried and true and readily available. They also had pumpkin pie (which wasn't as good as good 'ole apple).

I had a bunch of little goals for this race.
A- goal: Sub 5 finish. I never paid attention to it, but the race opens up the course to traffic after this point in time and the finish mat may or may not be there afterward. A bad day for me puts me safely into the 5 hour finish time so my ultimate goal was to get to the mat before it got lifted.
D-goal: Sub 4:45 finish. Beat Akron.
C-goal: Sub 4:41 finish. Beat Portland.
B-goal: Sub 4:40 finish. Let's get a "3" in that second number position.

I went on one pretty sad 2 mile run the Friday before the race. That run pretty much solidified the idea that my legs were totally over this multiple marathon streak.

The race started at 9:00 am. This is a pretty late start for a race. It was really nice setting my alarm the night before, but I'd much prefer a 7:00 or even 8:00 am start. My body is thrown all out of whack running so far later in the morning. If I get up and go early I can surprise it, but 9:00 am -- it's expecting all sorts of creature comforts like a real breakfast, bathrooms that flush, and lunch before my finish time. Boo.

The course is made up of of two out-and-backs. Normally this would totally suck but I didn't really mind. It broke the race down into mini chunks for me. The scenery doesn't change a whole lot (pretty redwoods lining the road) so it didn't really matter much if we were doing an out-and-back, loop, or point-to-point. We ran the first leg with the half marathoners (of which there were tons) and the second leg was just for the full marathoners.

Boyfriend and I started off together, probably a little too far back in the crowd. If you're racing this one, get up to the front because the course was pretty crowded for the first few miles. He stayed with me for about a quarter of a mile before taking off to do a marathon-paced run with some negative split action at the end. I was looking forward to seeing him at the turnaround.

I pulled over to the side to catch this photo on Avenue of the Giants (probably 0.3 mi into the race); To give you an idea of how many half runners there were, during the full marathon there was often no one in front or in back of me that I could see. I just checked and there were 206 full finishers and 607 half finishers.

Here's the elevation chart:

The first half is fairly flat (one nice overpass to get over). The second half has a nasty uphill trend before the second turnaround where you get to run back down the incline.

As I was running out towards the first turnaround I started getting sort of angry. It looked like we were constantly running downhill. If the whole first leg was downhill, that meant when we turned around it would be all uphill. I actually almost asked people running around me if they thought we were running downhill, too. "Does this seem like we're running downhill? Shouldn't it be flat?" But I didn't.

Pretty soon the leaders started coming back from the turnaround. I cheered on the very first ones and then the first women later on, but decided to save some energy after that. Shortly before I saw Boyfriend a man coming back towards me was cheering very loudly for all of us still heading out to the turnaround. I thought this was so nice of him. I guess as a slower runner I'm used to being the one cheering for all the faster people. It was cool of him to take some time out for us. I decided to cheer for everyone still heading out to turnarounds the rest of the day.

I saw Boyfriend coming back and stopped to snap a picture of him. We high-fived each other as we crossed paths. He was probably a mile ahead of me at this point so shortly after seeing him I reached the turnaround. One "out" portion done, one more to go!

The road was really windy like a snake so it made running the tangents a real brain exercise. Boyfriend noted that on the way back in to the half finish everyone kept to the right side of the road. If I run this again I will definitely cross over to the other side when doing the return run. I did note that once the leaders started coming back it was impossible to run all the tangents since they were taking up the entire left side of the road. I could have done better that return leg of the first out and back if I had crossed over the middle line. On the second leg, people heading out and in were on all sides of the road. There was no "keep to the right" rule.

I did notice that after the first turnaround, I still felt like we were running downhill. I didn't believe it when I read it but supposedly the tall redwoods give you the illusion of running downhill in both directions. PLUS in my book! (In reality I'm sure the terrain is pretty flat)

I kept plugging along. I decided to fuel with both shot bloks and gels. I took a bunch of bloks first and decided to save the gels for the middle miles. I took one gel (and my first walk break) at mile 11. I calculated that my next gel would be at mile 17. I told myself I wouldn't walk again until mile 17. By mile 17 I'd be halfway up the uphill climb of the second leg and that would be a nice time to take a little break and regroup.

All of my on-the-the-run photos were blurry like this. Sorry.

I approached the halfway point and saw Boyfriend. I handed him my camera since I hadn't been taking many pictures up to this point. He used it to get some shots of me before I disappeared off into the second out and back.

The first thing I noticed about the second leg was how few runners there were. This is definitely a predominately half marathon event. The second thing I noticed was how peaceful it was. I definitely prefer to not have other runners around me during marathons. Especially ones like this with serene nature settings. I had read online that the second leg was not quite as pretty as the first, there were some areas of torn up road (I did notice there were many sections of freshly paved road. So while there were some gnarly bits of pavement I think the worse of it has been repaved since the old reviews online were written), and also a stretch where the trees weren't shading you. Add to this the uphill fight to the turnaround and you have a bit of a mental and physical challenge. My attitude heading out towards the second leg was, "Bring it!"

I was slowly catching up to a runner up ahead. She turned around and saw me at one point and motioned for me to catch up to her. It took a while but I finally did. We exchanged a few words of encouragement but she had headphones in and I was content to just run with her for a bit. We were doing the same pace. I vacillated between being happy with her company, wanting to be by myself, being upset running beside her meant I couldn't run the tangents as well, and wishing she didn't have headphones on so we could chat and pass the time. Bipolar, I know!

A little out of sequence, this was shot on the return trip of the first leg.

When Boyfriend and I looked at the elevation profile, he commented that the elevation gain the second half over so many miles was nothing. Well, I'm here to tell you that it was definitely something! I noticed that my effort hadn't lowered but my pace was slowing. The hills weren't very steep looking but they were definitely affecting me. But I was amazed when mile 17 came around and it was time to take a gel and walk a little. This race was going by SO fast! I didn't want to lose my running buddy, but I knew there were still 2.5 more uphill miles to go. I told my pace buddy I was going to walk and take a gel and that I'd see her at the turnaround.

Once I downed the gel I picked back up my running pace. Now my goal was to make it to mile 19.5 so that I could turn around and run DOWN this incline. By the time I hit the half the sun had come up. The second leg of the course has areas of less tree cover so things were warming up a little bit. I wished I had brought along my sunglasses (it had been overcast at the start and that combined with the tree cover made me leave them in the car). I was afraid that there would be a very long stretch of unshaded road where I would melt into a we-started-so-late-and-now-it-is-high-noon puddle but luckily the unshaded sections were broken up by shade just enough to keep that from happening.

The incline slowly got to me, though, and I took another walk break around mile 18.5 or so. Just a short one. My pace buddy up ahead kept my place and I didn't lose much time doing that. She seemed to be pretty rock-steady and I wasn't sure I'd catch her in the future.

As I approached the turnaround my pace buddy ran off into the woods (she later told me she had to pee). I never saw her again during the race. Then, my favorite part of the race: I saw the last turnaround at mile 19.5. I put my hands in the air and did a little, "Whoo!!" as I turned around the cone. Instantly things got easier. I felt like I was flying. I made it a point to tell every runner who was still heading out to the turnaround "The turnaround is just ahead!" and, "Things are a lot easier going this direction!" They seemed to appreciate the encouragement. Eventually I got far enough from the turnaround I couldn't say this kind of stuff so I went back to the old, "Great job! Keep it up!"

I let my pace quicken with the downhill and started passing people. I kept thinking how the uphill didn't feel so bad, but if I was feeling this good going in the opposite direction it must have been a doozy! My pace quickened about a minute a mile without any extra effort. I loved this part of the race because the early 20+ miles just kept clicking away as I felt so great on the downhill return.

All good things must come to an end and the keep-you-honest flat to rolling segments started up again. In this part of the race the uphills were fairly short and I let myself walk up a couple of them. When I got to mile 24 I looked at my overall time and realized I had a good shot of breaking 4:40 if I just kept running. I took a last walk break up a short little incline and told myself to suck it up the rest of the race.

I was running and pushing a little. Around mile 25+ another short little uphill came. I kept telling myself I could slow down but I couldn't walk. If I walked I'd lose my sub 4:40 finish. I passed the mile 26 sign and looked at my time. I don't remember exactly what I saw (4:38 something) but I know what I thought because I said out loud, "I'm not going to make it."

And you know, I can't tell you what I thought or what made me decide to go for it and try harder, but I dug deep and started pushing really hard. I wasn't going to come all this way and come so close to my main time goal. I had pretty crappy finish times at Akron and Portland and I really wanted this for my last marathon.

That's me heading towards the finish line. LOVE those awesome finish line crowds. Ha ha. Actually, even with the dearth of cheerers I felt like lots of people were cheering. Or maybe Boyfriend was just making all the racket himself? They had an announcer saying all our names/cities but honestly I never hear those things as I'm pushing to the finish.

I headed down the finish chute. And hit the mat in 4:39:47. I was SO freakin' happy.

The interesting thing about myself is that for these non-PR races I have a rough idea of what sort of time I can do depending on how I'm feeling. Then I set these time goals with NO clue about what pace that entails. Somewhere around mile 24 I'll look at my time and have to dig deep to make the cut. It would be far simpler for me to know what pace I need and try to stick with it the whole race. Instead I run comfortably the first 24 miles and see where that leaves me for that particular day.

The medal for the race was sad. Lightweight with basically a sticker stuck on it with the logo:

What made it even sadder was that the half marathoners didn't get a medal! I mean really, how much could a sticker medal possibly cost?

But Humboldt redeemed itself with its race shirts. I wasn't expecting a technical shirt. I wasn't expecting gender specific technical shirts. And I certainly wasn't expecting women's XS tech shirts.

Hallelujah! A race shirt I can wear!
And you'll notice it is a long-sleeve V-neck Ha!

There is another race which runs on the same course called Avenue of the Giants. I imagine this race is the more famous of the two. The Avenue race runs the two legs in the opposite order as Humboldt. Therefore for the marathon the hills would come earlier. I am not sure what I would prefer for the marathon, but I would definitely prefer to run the half at the Humboldt event. The first leg for my race is definitely faster and more beautiful which is a win-win situation in my book. I would run the marathon again and I certainly would run the half at race effort.

We drove back out onto the first leg of the course to get some photos. The majority of the course looks just like this. So beautiful and the shade keeps things wonderfully cool.

Look at the size of the road in relation to the trees. Simply breathtaking.


PunkRockRunner said...

Congratulations on a year full of some pretty impressive marathon finish times. I’m looking forward to running with you guys in Texas on 1-1-11.

Well done!!


Marlene said...

Congrats on making your time goal thanks to a big push at the end! This looks like a pretty amazing route - I love the massive trees!

bunnygirl said...

That's a beautiful course, and a great shirt. I like the look of the medal, too. What a shame it's so cheap.

Rabbits' Guy said...

Thanks for the great pix - good run and report. Now scorh them in January!

I belong to, and volunteer with, our local running club and we put on the yearly Skagit Flats Marathon and 1/2 in early September. We have a similar number of participants. It is always just a very few deeply involved members and a whole lot of day-of volunteers that make it happen so if about 1/2 of the ambiance is pretty good well - that is pretty good! Sometimes our shirts are crap, sometimes the medals are, sometimes it's the food or the porti-pottis! All of our proceeds go to scholarships for high-school runners to use at college. Not at all like a Portland effort!

Average A said...

Whoa -- gorgeous race!! :) And apparently a great race for you, too! Congrats!

cliff said...

great job! mcdonald's is the way to go! the only catch is, you have to run a marathon to burn it off.

FrecklesandDeb said...

Congratulations! (and the medal looks great on Mario:-)

Mica said...

It does look like a very pretty marathon; I've never seen redwoods before, so they are very exciting. I guess a scenic race is a good one to end your year of awesome training, yeah?

Congratulations on digging deep and getting that sub-4:40 finish! You are awesome! And I love that you cheered and encouraged people on the out-and-backs. I bet they really appreciated it.

Marathon Maritza said...

Congratulations on beating your top goal!!!!!! You are just a marathonin' machine!

What a gorgeous race, I am so glad you enjoyed it. What a way to top off your year of marathoning. Amazing feat, girl!

cheerfulrunner said...

Hi there and great recap! I've been lurking for a while and just had to comment on your post. I've done one race so far and got a lot of flack for eating burgers and fries instead of the traditional pasta meal. (I did just fine the next day.) It's nice to know I'm not the only one who craves junk food before a big run. :-)

EndorphinBuzz said...

Looks like a beautiful course. Congrats on another great time. Maybe you should keep running more marathons this year since you keep getting faster :)

Michelle said...

Great report. Thinking of doing this as my first full marathon this year. Thanks for all the details.

Michelle said...

mentioned you in my blog today!

Karen said...

Hey! I just happened upon this race report while google searching something else. I'm a local who has run this many times. People think I'm nuts when I say it feels downhill both ways on the Avenue section. I couldn't believe you mentioned that too, glad I'm not alone! :)

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