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Yakima River Canyon Marathon - Run

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Ellensburg, Washington
United States
On the Run Events
50F / 10C
Total Time = 4h 05m 15s
Overall Rank = 67/287
Age Group = 50-54
Age Group Rank = 19/31
Pre-race routine:

I was so fortunate that my wife and son decided to play sherpa for me and come along. It is a three hour drive to the venue and it was great to not have to worry about the long shuttle ride as this is a point to point course. I told myself last year I would not do this race again (this is my fifth attempt here) unless someone came with me because it took me two and a half hours to get back to my car last year.
Event warmup:

The packet pickup and race meeting were at the same hotel we stayed at so after a good night's sleep check in and pre-race prep were super easy. Skipped my morning coffee and just ate a granola bar and some gatorade.

I was very worried about the wind as forecast was for 23mph with gusts to 35mph. When we arrived late Friday evening it was howling but it was blowing from the NW which would have provided a nice tail wind. Woke up to sunshine and dead calm. Walked to start line as a warmup.
  • 4h 05m 15s
  • 26.4 miles
  • 09m 17s  min/mile

The weather at the start was perfect. 50 degrees, sunny, calm. First 4.5 miles on flat farmland before climbing a small hill and then dropping into the canyon. These miles always click off quickly. I wanted to break four hours so settled into a very comfortable 8:50 pace. I was concerned about the big two mile long hill at mile 21 and I found myself at times even running a little slower as I kept thinking about conserving as much as possible for the climb and not bonking.

I took about a 15 second walk break at the aid stations which were about three miles apart. Just enough to make sure I drank and ate enough. I carried a few gel flasks for my nutrition. I think I hit hydration/nutrition right on as I felt pretty good throughout the latter miles.

The course has many long sweeping turns which I kept myself mentaly occupied by trying to cut them as close as I could. I think about half the people I saw were just running along right fog line which I think added quite a bit of distance overall.

The course has a lot of long mild descents which I practiced for but when we got to flat stretches I noticed I was much more comfortable and faster. Some of the steeper descents on the flip side of the climbs were actually quite painful and I'd gladly trade a flat course over the descents and long climbs.

The first half of the race was uneventful. The miles seem to click off rapidly as I took in the scenery. I hit the hallway mark at 1:56:30 which was a little slower than I had planned but I was really trying to stay comfortable maybe too much so. The first climb at 14 miles went really well. It was longer and steeper than I recalled. Slowed to about 9:40 pace going up it so felt like I didn't lose much time there. It is about here that the winds started getting really crazy. I wanted to run from this point to the next hill at 21 miles cautiously but ran into a very strong headwind. One of those winds where you feel like you are running in place. The wind would last about a mile and then die down to nothing and then you'd round a corner and get smacked by it again. I kept my effort level constant but it cost me some time.

And then THE HILL. It is such a cruel place in a marathon to have to deal with. It is almost two miles long as it rises up the side of cliffs. What is cruel is that there are only a few turns and you see a mile ahead of all up and up. The full magnitude of the climb just hits you and it can be demoralizing. All the trail running I've been doing paid off though as I ran steadily up it. Most people were walking so even though I'd slowed to about a 12:00 pace I was still turning my legs over and pumping my arms.

I lost enough time on the climb that my time goal was pretty much out the window. Given that, I decided to enjoy the last three miles and not wreck myself. Had I put in more miles training for this I probably would have run harder leading up to the climb but it was pretty clear to me that while I was having a good run my training had not adequately prepared me for a late surge. I bent a little but didn't break and that was the win for me. It's 48 hours post-race now and I'm ready and able to resume normal training so that is also a big win for me.

What would you do differently?:

Nothing. Maybe push just a tad harder earlier in the race. I think I held back too much knowing I'd have to summon up a big effort to tackle the hill at mile 21 and have enough after that to finish strong.
Post race
Warm down:

Walked around for about five minutes before getting in the car and heading home. Stopped at my brother's about halfway home and enjoyed bbq and beers.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

To really run this race or any marathon well I need to focus not only on more miles but increase the duration of my long runs. I'm currently following an HIM plan which with the swim/bike commitments doesn't leave me enough time for the extra miles.

Event comments:

The course is one of the most beautiful anywhere. With the road being closed one can fully appreciate the peaceful of the surroundings. The event is very well organized and is an annual event for many MarathonManiacs from around the country. Lots of interesting people to chat with.

Profile Album

Last updated: 2015-03-20 12:00 AM
04:05:15 | 26.4 miles | 09m 17s  min/mile
Age Group: 19/31
Overall: 67/287
Performance: Good
Course: Beautiful point to point through the Yakima River Canyon. Long mild elevation drops puctuated with several major climbs. Road closed to traffic so very quiet and peaceful in the canyon. First 4.5 miles are flat until you drop into the winding canyon road.
Keeping cool Good Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 4
Good race? Yes
Course challenge Just right
Organized? Yes
Events on-time? Yes
Lots of volunteers? Yes
Plenty of drinks? Yes
Post race activities: Good
Race evaluation [1-5] 4

2015-03-30 2:12 PM

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Bellingham, WA
Subject: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

2015-03-30 3:13 PM
in reply to: #5104774

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Rio Rancho, NM
Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Great report! And congrats on a well executed race, in spite of the wind.

Much of your report made me think of my upcoming race. I'm looking forward to my own peaceful canyon road. Thank you for the imagery and a reminder of why I am putting in the miles.


2015-03-30 3:20 PM
in reply to: rrrunner

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Katy, Texas
Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon
What a beautiful place to run! It sounds to me like you had an awesome race given your priorities at the moment. Not walking that hill is definitely a huge win. And the fact that you're back to normal already is HUGE! Way to go!
2015-03-30 3:23 PM
in reply to: Jet Black

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Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Wow - what a race.  Sadistic hill mixed with crazy scenery - do you enjoy it or curse it?!?

Congrats on a great race, not walking The HILL and what sounds like a great day overall (family and such)!




2015-03-30 3:23 PM
in reply to: rrrunner

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Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

That looks like one very beautiful race, except for that nasty hill, THE hill.  Great race, and good move racing smart.  Big congrats!  And yes, strong wind gusts can suck, way to persevere!

2015-03-30 4:15 PM
in reply to: #5104774

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Steve, well done!! Congratulations on pushing up the HILL and working through the entire race. It looks like you worked your plan pretty well and adjusted as needed. And more than anything else, it really looks like you had an enjoyable experience!

Congratulations again!

2015-03-30 4:35 PM
in reply to: cdban66

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Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Wow, what a gorgeous venue!!  Congratulations on running a great race and conquering that mean hill!!

2015-04-02 11:26 AM
in reply to: amd723

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Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Great job Steve! This is a marathon I want to do at some point.

Good job pacing and handling the uncontroll-ables well

2015-04-02 3:02 PM
in reply to: Asalzwed

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Raleigh, NC area
Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Great job on a beautiful run course!  Way to go!

2015-04-07 9:33 AM
in reply to: jmkizer

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Denver, CO
Subject: RE: Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Way to go, Steve!!  Glad you were able to take in the beautiful and peaceful scenery while putting in such a good effort.  Even though you didn't hit your goal, you came pretty darn close, especially with that nasty headwind.  Super job on that hill from hell!  Keep up the good work!!

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