Second day of The Triple. February 20, 2011.
Another Race?Alarm was more evil this morning. 4:15 am. I barely got 6 hours sleep, my left calf was bugging me, and it was 23F out. I knew this was going to be a challenging day: Running the Birch Bay Half Marathon.
Birch Bay What?Sunday's race took place in Birch Bay, WA, a majestic Pacific Northwest bay sandwiched between farmland, seaside towns, and winter white mountains.
On our first race of The Triple, Tornado Girl and I were asking ourselves why on earth do we live in the Pacific NW?! We were frozen to the bone and had just seen a very wet week. As we arrived in Birch Bay, the sun was rising, the sky was clear and azure blue, we then remembered why we lived here: Where in this country can you be on the beach and be surrounded by mountains and a rain forest?
|The starting and ending of the Birch Bay Marathon. Yeah, it's this scenic & I run that fast!|
When the race started, it was 26F with very strong wind gusts. This makes for unsightly, uncontrollable snot drip and tears.
|Clock-wise from top left: Nordic Moxie in Popsicle pose; Tornado Girl; Nordic Moxie fresh faced (I NEVER leave home without lipstick); pre-race view in my perspective.|
Birch Bay Race Review - Part 1Every race is different and unique in how it's organized and the experience it gives the racer. We have all ran poorly organized races or uninspiring courses. We have all experienced the high energy and party-vibe races such as Rock 'n' Roll and the very quiet, low-key races such as local ultras. Sometimes a race is poorly organized but the course is exceptional in scenery and geography (flat & fast anyone?). Sometimes the other way around.
Birch Bay Marathon is the former: Poorly organized, yet very scenic and fast course.
- When I registered (early), my half marathon entry was $50. For this price, in return I receive a Bib, race memorabilia shirt, course support*, Finisher's medal, and post-race nourishment.
- Bib included my full name printed. This was a nice a surprise.
- Race shirt was a boring, uninspiring white cotton T-shirt . Would rather take porta potties and adequate aid stations over the shirt. (photo coming soon)
- We walked to two different public restrooms in the park, all closed during the winter season. Upon asking the volunteers at Packet Pickup where the open restrooms were, they directed us to the closed ones. They had no idea what was going on.
- No port-a-potties at the Start/Finish line or on the race course. Not expected at an ultra trail race (but usually there are park restrooms/bushes/trees); porta potties definitely expected on a marathon road course.
- Race director was trying to give course instructions without microphone/bullhorn help. Being that we were running this at a very easy pace, we were at the back-mid-pack and probably only the first 4 rows of runners could hear him. I had no idea what he said and apparently so did many as we experienced later in the race... (see Race Review Pt. 2)
- No real race course map that showed mile markers, aid stations, potties, or elevation gain/loss.
*Course Support: Port-a-potties, water/electrolyte drinks at start/finish & course aid stations; gels at aid stations; course marshalls & volunteers to direct racers, help w/ aid, water, first aid/med tent; food at start/finish.
POLL: What is your pre-race pet peeve?
a) Lack of port-a-potties
b) Chaos at packet pickup
c) Parking & finding Start line
d) Obnoxious/hyped up runners
Ready. Set. Go!Started race a little anxious over a very tight left calf. The upper muscle below the knee felt like a permanent charlie horse that wouldn't relax. Tornado Girl thought perhaps the sub-freezing temps would be like applying ice to the problem and eventually loosen up. Humorous, I agree, but I was thinking the same thought minutes before she said that thought.
First 2.5 miles flat along the Birch Bay. Gorgeous. Running towards the Cascade mountains with strong, bitter freezing wind in our face.
A few couple climbs and then drops, yet short-distanced hills to not even notice. Flat again. Sheriff kept driving back and forth and telling us to single-file it (not a closed course). This can be annoying, esp. when your pace is faster than the line you are locked in to. Several of us regularly broke the rules (TG & NM!) and ran in the road to avoid the cumbered sides and slower-paced runners.
One section of the race is an out-&-back. It was also the section that had extreme elevation gain/loss at a long stretch. Elevation gain was approximately 225 feet in one mile stretch. The road was a C curve so you couldn't see when the hill would flatten out.
After climbing the mile long hill, we noticed a gorgeous view at the top and stopped to take some photos (a first!):
|There goes Nordic Moxie! (Notice the cup in left hand?)|
Our last descent was a short, steep hill down to Birch Bay Dr. By now, we felt like we were in the back of the pack because we wasted several minutes between miles 6-9 (I walked most of the hill due to left calf cramping).
The last 4 miles were an easy flat finish hugging the bay line. Gorgeous day. Even though in the high 30's with freezing wind, the day and views were gorgeous. We took our last water break at mile 10.
|Mile 10 aid station on Birch Bay Dr. Pouring water from a coffee pitcher.|
Race Review - Part 2The half marathon course had four aid stations (miles 2.5, 5, 8, 10).
Water, Cups, Joke?
At the first aid station, they had a little pile of styrofoam cups in which volunteers were pouring water as runners came up.
By the second aid station, there were no more cups, though I had apparently grabbed the last one and decided to hang on to it, just in case. (See "There Goes Nordic Moxie" photo, still hanging on to it at mile 7.)
We are out of cups! Sorry! Grab a bottle, whatever you need!!I am imagining a runner carrying a huge water jug and tossing it aside or worse, the volunteers pouring water down throats. *gag* How can they be out of cups?! Where are the normal small, paper dixie cups? This was a mid-price marathon entry. WTF? How could they not have enough cups for a 400 runners?
Which way do I go?!As we were hanging around HM aid station #4 sipping the tap water that had been freshly poured for us from a pitcher, along came some marathoners. They knew they were at a point where the HMs go one way (to finish) and the FMs go another way to complete another 16 miles.
This is where being unorganized took center stage: No direction signs on posts, road, or even volunteers.
Which way do I go?! screamed the fast paced marathoner.
The marathon or the half marathon? questioned the volunteer.A volunteer director would have given instructions to the volunteers that one person at the junction use arms as signs and voice to give verbal directions to the runners. Because when you are racing long distance, there is a lot of energy output, exhaustion, and mind-numbing going on. We can't answer questions, so it's a volunteers job to give answers.
It felt like we had hung around the table for a long time (hello drama at the course junction!) until I decided I wanted a photo under the Birch Bay Dr. sign... ForgiveTornado Girl for the long distance shot....
|My sad attempt at borrowing a cyclist's bike... but he ran off so I couldn't ask him.|
The last 5k seemed l...o...n...g.... Powered through and then I looked at Tornado Girl and said:
What do you have left in your tank?And let her go. She is a Tornado... powerful and breaks through fast.
|Finisher Medal; Nordic Moxie & Tornado Girl #2 in the bag!|