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The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon - Run

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North Bend, Washington
United States
The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
50F / 10C
Total Time = 3h 08m 57s
Overall Rank = 36/600
Age Group = F30-39
Age Group Rank = 3/300
Pre-race routine:

Wasn't feeling all that well on Saturday but I got out and about and played some disk golf and had a beer (Bodhizafa IPA from Georgetown Brewing)
Event warmup:

Took the shuttle bus from the start. The bus driver nearly went the wrong way on the freeway but that got sorted, luckily :)

The shuttle bus arrived at the Hyak sno-park up in the mountains. Used the porta then picked up my packet. Then I went and ran some easy miles followed by some strides.
  • 3h 08m 57s
  • 26.2 miles
  • 07m 13s  min/mile

Originally I was targeting this race as one in a sequence of running goals. Then I shifted my goals a bit. I've realized that running is, and will remain, one of my number one passions, however, it is just one of many and I need to find a little bit more balance both as an athlete and as a person with different interests and goals. I think running is the most amazing foundation for all of the other things I like to do. BUT if I want to get maybe that last 10% out of myself in terms of running and really achieve my" potential", the other things would have to go. And right now, that's not what I want. I want to explore my potential as a well rounded athlete who can run long, run short, who continually develops my skills as a mountaineer and an alpinist and one who can jump into a game of soccer or touch football without fretting the consequences to my training. Most important, I'd like to be able to open a jar of pickles without an assist :)

Related article:

Anyway, I wanted to have a little bit of context before I talk about the actual goal in the race and the plan.

I had an idea that I could run under 3:10 if things went well in training. Well, training began and was going pretty well. I wasn't going to run a tune-up half but I ran a 15K that told me I was pretty much on track and could maybe get closer to 3:05 if I had another solid chunk of training before the race. Welllll, that didn't happen. It wasn't that I wasn't running, because I was, but I had a few trips (both work and vacay) and the running just had to be more in the general aerobic category than the very specific marathon training needed to continue to make the necessary gains. By the time I needed to taper I was even a little concerned that the 3:10 may not be possible. I did one more training run with 10 miles at M pace which I executed on. I had to make the judgement call that I had enough information that a 3:10 was a reasonable goal.

Just a side note: The reason people blow up in marathons isn't because they didn't eat enough gels in the race. It's because their training was not enough for the pace they set out to run. Here's the thing, I could have set out at a sub 3 pace and in fact ran that pace for a good 18 miles. The problem is, you can only outrun your fitness for so long and when you reach the extent of that it hits HARD. You are not only unable to run that same pace but your times drop drastically and in some cases slow to a walk or a DNF. Now we would be talking about another 8.2 miles of absolute hell at a much slower pace, best case scenario. Conversely, if you start the race too conservatively you can only make up so much time at the end of the race. So, figuring out what that M pace should be is not easy and is why the distance alludes so many. Regardless, erring conservatively for a marathon really is a good idea, in most any case. You may not hit your absolute potential but you will get a heck of a lot closer than if you go out too fast.

Now for my race plan. I wanted to run this race as fast as possible knowing that I wouldn't be taking time off after like I usually do and knowing that I would be climbing a mountain two weeks after. So, basically run it smart and as close to the edge as possible but with none of that mental or physical risk of going over.

I decided to go right at that 3:10 pace (also seeing how I felt and going slower if needed) and make any adjustment at the half (if I felt I could speed up a bit.)

We lined up very casually and just like that we were off. It was a very low-key vibe which I really appreciated. There is a short loop before jumping onto the trail and heading for the tunnel. As we approached the entrance to the tunnel I flicked on my headlamp and settled into a nice, comfortable pace.

The tunnel is about 2.5 miles long and completely dark. It's a really wonderful way to start the race. It was a little spooky, damp and chilly. Because this race was pretty remote I wore my watch. I wasn't using pace or anything, just the gun time so that I could approximate off of the mile markers. I just did the math in my head from one mile to the next IE 7:15, 14:30 etc. I didn't add or subtract actual time, just adding 7:15s.

About halfway through the tunnel you can see a tiny dot of light at the end of the tunnel. Slooooowwwwly the dot gets bigger and bigger and then, before you know it, you are approaching the exit. About 200 meters before the exit I switched my headlamp off and took it off my head. I had been running with a bag in my hand with my bib number on it. I placed the headlamp in the bag and tied a knot whilst running then handed it to a volunteer at the exit. The first aid station was here where I took a full stop to actually drink a cup of water since where were only stations every 2.5-3 miles and I was living off the course.

I finished the cup, thanked the volunteers and made my way down the road. A guy I had been pretty even with through the tunnel pulled up next to me and struck up conversation. We talked about our goals to be conservative for the first half and about other races we were planning and had done. We needed to make our way through a crowd of people who seemed to have started to quickly so he and I were separated.

The next few miles ticked off quickly. I seemed to be pretty even with my pacing and felt good. I got water again at the station around 6 miles and then again near 11 where I also had a gel. I rolled into the half right at 1:35 pretty much on the money. I was feeling pretty good but not great. The slight downhill of the course really takes a tole on the legs. I had run this marathon a few years ago and knew this was the case but I was re-reminded with dull achiness in my quads already.

I just tried to keep focused on one mile at a time, deciding to slightly increase my pace through mile 23 if possible. I hit 14, 15 then 16. My foot hurt for a moment then went away. My hamstring twinged for a moment then went away. My mind wandered a bit, I had to bring it back. I was having to work pretty hard to keep everything together and maintain the mental focus needed to keep on pace. Just then, my buddy from early on rolled up next to me, cheerfully striking up conversation again. I kind of wanted him to go away so I could indulge in my self pitty but I talked back. Pretty soon I had forgotten my worries and he and I had ticked off a few more miles. I thought to myself, "If I could just stick with him to 20 I could really use these positive vibes" so I did. He was such a joy to run with. We hit 20 and I felt like I got a second wind. I got another gel and made my next goal to try and hang on with him through 23.

My legs were really breaking down but I went in and out of feeling it and brushing the pain to the side. We were making great time and getting in around 3:10 was looking pretty possible. But I know what a B those last few miles can be. I got an amazing third wind between miles 23 and 24 and then felt awful at 24.5. I finally had to let my guy go on ahead but I wished him luck as he sped off (I was so impressed by his execution of the race. THAT is how you should be at mile 24.5!)

I had accepted I couldn't run with him but I had not given up on my goal. I knew I just needed to keep up my cadence. Don't run hard, don't run fast just keep spinning those legs as fast as you can. I hit mile 25 and looked at my watch. It was going to be close. I just needed to keep moving forward.

Between 20 and 25 miles I passed a TON of people. While I had slowed down marginally in the last mile or so it felt really good to be passing so many people who had made the mistake so many do. I feel like I have figured out what it takes to execute the marathon distance properly!

Before I knew it I passed the 26 mile marker and could hear the crowd at the finish line. Despite this being a smaller, more remote race there was a loud group cheering on the runners. I tried to channel their energy and gritted out the last bit to the finish. The clock ticked to 3:09:xx as I went through and I knew I had started a bit after the gun. I knew I had hit the goal.

I crossed the line and wobbled my way to the volunteer passing out water. I pounded a whole cup and was pleased to find the volunteer ready with another cup. I pounded that then was able to wobble my way to a nice seat in the shade.

What would you do differently?:

General: Not too much, I'm happy to have a more broad focus that includes my other hobbies. For the most optimal race I would have exclusively dedicated my time to running.
Training: A more focused last 6 weeks or so
Race: Maybe a touch more conservative in the first half to allows for a speedy finish like my newfound BFF

Post race
Warm down:

I got some watermelon and chocolate milk then laid face down in the grass for a bit. My legs effing hurt. I tried to jog to the shuttle bus but couldn't really. So I walked.

What limited your ability to perform faster:

Not the kind of marathon specificity I would prefer in that last training bloc kand then the specifics listed above

Profile Album

Last updated: 2016-04-25 12:00 AM
03:08:57 | 26.2 miles | 07m 13s  min/mile
Age Group: 3/300
Overall: 6/600
Performance: Good
Course: On the iron horse trail from Hyak to North Bend on the old Milwaukee Railroad bed. The first three miles are flat, cold, foggy and damp inside an unlit tunnel. Flashlights are strongly recommended. Once out of the Tunnel the gravel trail starts down the hill and keeps on going down to North Bend.
Keeping cool Average Drinking Just right
Post race
Weight change: %
Overall: Good
Mental exertion [1-5] 4
Physical exertion [1-5] 5
Good race? Yes
Course challenge
Events on-time?
Lots of volunteers?
Plenty of drinks?
Post race activities:
Race evaluation [1-5]

2016-06-17 1:08 PM

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Subject: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

2016-06-17 2:04 PM
in reply to: #5187459

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Falls Church, Virginia
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
Congratulations, what a well executed race! Looks like it was gorgeous scenery. Your mental outlook on life in general is quite inspiring.
2016-06-17 2:08 PM
in reply to: #5187459

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New user
Austin, Texas
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Thanks for the great writeup. The long tunnel looks like a neat way to spice things up. Best of luck with your mountaineering trip.

2016-06-17 2:14 PM
in reply to: #5187459

Northern IL
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Those are some long tunnels! Sounds like a great place to run.

2016-06-17 3:33 PM
in reply to: brigby1

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Middle River, Maryland
Bronze member
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Great race and a great race report.  As usual.

2016-06-17 8:57 PM
in reply to: jmhpsu93

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Southampton, Ontario
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
Nice, I especially appreciate and can sympathize with trying to keep a balance between different sports.

2016-06-17 9:58 PM
in reply to: DaveL

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Eugene, Oregon
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
Awesome race in a cool location! Definitely true that there is a real learning curve to pacing a marathon. It takes discipline both to hold oneself back early on and keep pushing through the suck in the final 6 miles (and especially the final 2-3). Not sure I could pull one off anymore. As for time, just sayin'--if this was your marathon PB and the pics are representative of the course, you are probably ready to run close to 3 flat (if not under) on PAVED ROAD! It does make a difference!

And good luck with the pickle jar! It's one reason I took up tri--more balanced upper and lower body strength. I am not big but don't like looking/feeling weak. Of course running plus weights, or crossfit, or chopping wood, or whatever, should do the same.
2016-06-18 6:35 PM
in reply to: 0

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South Windsor, CT
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
Super job A and congrats on the terrific ability to find and maintain balance in life.
You are a h*ll of a runner and I agree that you've got the tools and the mind for sub 3. When you are ready for the focus, it'll be yours-just like so many other glorious running feats you've conquered.


Edited by dtoce 2016-06-18 6:38 PM
2016-06-19 6:50 PM
in reply to: dtoce

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West Chester, Ohio
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Excellent race!  Your new running buddy seems like a great race day find --awesome karma for both of you.

2016-06-20 8:43 AM
in reply to: QueenZipp

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Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Congratulations on another great race! The course sounds like a really good one.  One of my running buddies is running the one in July, so I will have to tell him to be prepared for sore quads!! 

2016-06-20 9:26 AM
in reply to: dtoce

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Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Dang, girl, are you fast!  You never cease to amaze me.

Great pics, great results, great attitude. I love how you strive to keep a balance in so many aspects of your life but especially your athletic endeavors.  It's important to do what keeps us happy, keeps our soul fulfilled and you seem to have nailed that as well as how to pace a marathon!  Congratulations!

2016-06-20 12:21 PM
in reply to: #5187459

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Pacific Northwest
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Great job on the race!  You are such a strong athlete, it is fun to watch your progress!  Look like a good day on Rainier yesterday too!  Hope we cross paths soon....I'll be on the trails more after STP.


2016-06-20 2:48 PM
in reply to: #5187459

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Overland Park, KS
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
Holy purple Speedy "Salty" McSpeederson batman! Dayum girl, awesome performance and great RR. Three friggin Oh Ate!

So happy for you
2016-06-22 9:14 AM
in reply to: #5187459

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Englewood, Florida
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon

Nicely done! Thank you for the insightful writeup. Good luck on the balance search, it is a challenge at times. 

Oh, did you get the number of that dude, it sounds like he'd be a great training partner for you!

2016-06-22 3:16 PM
in reply to: cdban66

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Simsbury, Connecticut
Subject: RE: The Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon
WOO HOO!!! Great job!

That tunnel would freak me out!
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