2011 North Olympic Discovery Marathon Race Report

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Well, the story starts on Saturday of last week (May 28th) when I had my last weekend training run before the big event on June 5th. I did an easy 10.5 mile run on a well-known route near my house. It felt amazing and I was ready to go for the marathon…and then the three-day weekend happened. The rest of the weekend included a trip to the Point Defiance Zoo with the twins, a bunch of landscaping work in the yard, and a great open water swim. Sounds great, right…what’s the problem? Well, it was great but somewhere along the way I picked up a head cold. So, there I was at work on Tuesday with sinus pressure, sneezing, and a little coughing. Just what I need.

So, I laid off the workouts for the next couple days trying to see if I could get the sinus pressure to go away, but over the week is slowly worked it’s way down into my chest. Of course, this resulted in more coughing as well as the sinus pressure and other nasal issues. I even went so far as to leave work early on Thursday and stay home sick on Friday to try to get rid of it before the weekend, but it would not clear up. What to do…what to do. My decision: See how the marathon goes and if the cold gets in the way, then just slow down. No problem, right? Well, maybe it is not that easy. I did get in a couple of short runs at a very slow pace to feel out the legs on Friday and Saturday…and those felt pretty good.

Skip forward to race morning: Paula and I got up at around 5:30am and had our normal breakfast of Shakeology made with Peanut Butter and milk and ice (amazing). My nose was pretty much completely clogged on one side and I spent a good 5 minutes blowing and hocking up some pretty nasty crap. We gathered our things and left the house as soon as Grandma and Grandpa came over to watch the girls at 6:30am. The drive to Sequim is just over an hour so we arrived there just past 7:30am (the race starts at 9am). We sat in the car and had our second breakfast of a banana and a whole wheat bagel around 7:45am and then we walked over to the race start to get ready to run our first marathon. My Dad was also doing the marathon but had started with the walking group at 7am. However, they had picked up our race packets for us the day before so we met my Mom near the race start to get our race packets. At this point the nose is feeling pretty clear and no coughing…might just be okay.

For those that don’t know, the North Olympic Discovery Marathon (NODM) is a fairly small, point-to-point race from Sequim, WA to Port Angeles, WA. It is a fairly flat course with great views of the Olympic mountains and some water views at the end. Here is one of the views of the Olympic mountains that can be seen in the early miles of the marathon:

The start was pretty small and un-crowded…which was awesome. I can’t imagine starting a race in Boston or New York where you can hardly move. The race started promptly at 9am with a simple “Go” from the bullhorn…and we were off.

My race plan:
Miles 1 and 2: 8:05pace
Miles 3-8: 7:55 pace
Miles 9-18: 7:49 pace
Miles 19-finish: 8:15 or better hoping for 3:30ish.

My nutrition plan:
3 shot bloks every 30 minutes (about 90 calories….so 180 per hour)
4 salt stick caps per hour (for electrolytes)
Water from my fuel belt with shot bloks and salt stick caps
1 cup of water from each aid station

Now what actually happened:

Mile 1: 7:50…oops. The first half of the first mile was downill and the second half was uphill but very slight. I felt amazing and didn’t feel like I was working very hard at all but I knew I need to pull back if I was going to make it through this thing without a breakdown at the end. The race plan was already fairly aggressive for my first one.

Mile 2: 8:00…not enough. Well, at least I pulled back. At this point, I had met a guy from Portland that was running the same speed and we began to chat about races as we ran. It really made the first few miles go by quite quickly. In fact, we were pretty much together all the way until mile 17.

Mile 3: 7:56 Ok, so I am little ahead of pace but that was the right pace for that mile per my race plan so let’s go with it and hope that the speedy start doesn’t bite me in the end. The highest point on the course was right around mile 2, so now we were starting a bit of descent back toward the start line (the first five miles make a loop that takes you right back through the start line before you head for Port Angeles).

Mile 4: 7:34…what? How is that possible?…the downhill? Crap! What am I doing. Meanwhile, my Portland friend is quizzing me on how I got into triathlons and marathons. I proceeded to tell him a good portion of my weight loss story. Another mile flew by quite quickly as we chatted away.

Mile 5: 8:08…OK, now I am starting to wonder if these mile markers are correct. We don’t seem to be changing our effort and the terrain is pretty flat at this point. My Portland friend’s GPS watch was not agreeing with some of the mile markers either. At this point we started a slight incline ton the main road through the town of Sequim (we had finished the loop back past the start line and began our journey toward PA).

Mile 6: 8:55…yep…this is messed up. I expected a slightly slower mile on this one because of the slight incline but not that much of a change. Anyway, I tried not to let it bother me because we were still under an 8-minute pace overall and we had a LOT to go. It would all work out to 26.2 in the end right?

Mile 7: 7:29…frustrating. Was I really running that erratically? I was pacing with another runner using a GPS watch and he was not complaining that the pace was varying too much. Oh, and at this point, I still felt amazing. The nose was clear, the throat was fine (despite too much talking) and the legs felt great. What is there to complain about really?

Mile 8: 7:45…fast again. I guess I should pull back a little? I decided not to because it was time to crank it up to 7:49 per the race plan.

Mile 9: 8:11…wait…didn’t I decide NOT to pull back? Arrrggghhh! Frustrating. Oh well, still ahead of the overall planned time at this point. Just keep plugging, right?

Miles 10, 11, 12: 8:13, 7:59, 8:18. ItI was starting to think that this wasn’t the mile markers now…I was losing some speed. I had actually broken out in front of the guy from Portland for these miles and was feeling like I was moving pretty well but the splits did not agree. I think I was starting to let bad thoughts get in and I was losing some confidence in being able to make my race plan.

Mile 13: 8:26…still losing time and now about at the half way point. This is the point in the marathon where I realize that I have to do that all over again at the same speed. Seems a little daunting…trying not to let the bad thoughts in and dig deep for relaxed speed.

Mile 14: 7:19…what? My best mile yet at mile 14…that seems a little ridiculous. This only confirms to me that the mile markers were a little poorly placed. There is a half marathon involved in this race that starts at the full marathon half way point and I think it may have messed with the mile markers. Anyway, it appears I have gained some time back and I have wind in my sails again…let’s do this. My Portland friend has now made his way back up to my pace and he asks me how I am feeling. I told him that everything was good but I felt like I was losing speed.

Mile 15: 8:21… I strolled by mile 15 just as the official race time ticked off at 2:00:00. That puts me exactly at an 8-minute pace. I still have a chance to make pretty close to 3:30:00 with 11.2 miles to go. It can be done but it will be difficult. I surged a little on the first part of the next mile and left my Portland friend again…things were feeling good all around.

Mile 16: 8:44…I know I said I surged but that must have just been the first part of the mile. I knew from the course description that there was supposed to be a creek bed at mile 16 that was pretty steep (recommendation is that you walk up the opposite side). I must have slowed in anticipation but it didn’t come until about 16.4 or so.

Mile 17: 10:03…walking out of the creek bed took longer than I thought and it was quite steep…running would have only saved me about 20 seconds and would have taken a LOT out of me. This was better….better chance of finishing the race running strong even if it was a couple of minutes late.

Miles 18, 19, 20: 8:59, 12:20, 12:42….what the heck happened? The part I wasn’t prepared for. I knew there was a creek bed at mile 20 about like the one at 16 (16.4) but I had no idea that the terrain between the two creek beds was filled with little rolling hills…some of which were walking material themselves…especially at this point in the race. My friend from Portland walked the creek bed with me but had better luck with the rolling hills and started to pull away from me. I never saw him again. I hope he made his goal.
These hills just killed me…my legs were feeling it at this point but what really got me is my stomach…my stomach started feeling weird. I couldn’t even really take much water without feeling sick. Great! I had been feeling so good so far! So, anyway, I started running steady as I could when I finally got out of the second creek bed at mile 20. I was giving up on 3:30:00 based on how I felt but I knew I could still break 4 hours pretty easy with a 10-minute pace if the stomach thing didn’t get worse.

Miles 21, 22, 23: 11:01, 9:47, 12:42…I was really pushing through the first two (the first one had some walking at the end of creek bed past mile 20) and the stomach was getting worse. I started to feel like I really needed to puke so I slowed and walked a bit on mile 23. This was getting annoying.

Mile 24: 12:21…lots more walking. Every time I would start to run I would feel like I had to puke…but walking was ok…so I was running until I felt really bad and then slowing to a walk.

Mile 25: 18:50… With 1.75 miles to go, this lady comes running the opposite direction at about a 6-minute mile pace and stops to tell me that I can still break 4 hours if I run the rest of the way. I am not one to let people down so I started back into a jog…it wasn’t 200 yards before I felt like I was going to puke again. The last thing I wanted was to end up in an ambulance with a DNF so I slowed back to a walk. Sure enough, she comes running back the other way trying to encourage me to run again. This time I let her know that I was going to puke and I kept walking. Finishing was the goal now. Unfortunately, the puking was inevitable despite the walking…I puked about 100 yards after Ms. Encouragement ran by for the second time. Of course, I felt much better now but continued to walk….finish the race.

Mile 26 and .2: 25:28… More walking and more puking. I puked again about ¾ of a mile from the finish and then walked until the 26 mile sign and ran the last .2 through the finish line. I finished somewhere around 4:19. What a disappointment to be pretty much on track through 15 miles and then have stomach issues.

After the finish chute, I went to the medical tent just to make sure all was good. I began shaking and shivering uncontrollably. I was given Gatorade and a towel to wrap myself in. Eventually, I laid down and covered myself in towels to keep warm. My temp was about 96 when I came in to the medical tent.

Now, the best part: Ms. Encouragement came by the medical tent to say hi. She said she was glad I made it. I informed her that I did, in fact, puke twice…her response: “Yea, I knew you would…I could see it in your eyes”. Ha! Awesome!

How the nutrition went:

My nutrition plan was executed exactly as planned until about mile 18 or so when the stomach started feeling weird. I did not have any more shot bloks because they did not sound good at all. I started taking a little Gatorade at aid stations to make sure I had some calories.

Now comes the question: Was it mistakes that I made (going out too fast, nutrition, etc) or was it the fact that I was sick going into the race that gave me stomach issues or was it a combination of both?

My Final Comments:

I think I went out too fast.  My pacing plan was just a little too agressive for a couple of reasons:  a)  It was right on the edge of what I thought I could accomplish if everything went perfect and b)  The sickness the entire week before inevitably took some strength out of me.  If I had it to do over under the same conditions, I would have started out at an 8:15 pace for the first half or so and then turned it up from there if things went well.  I don’t know how much the sickness played into the puking at the end so any comments about that would be appreciated.  I don’t think my nutrition plan was a bad one but I am used to planning for triathlons and usually drink quite a bit of water on the bike.  It is possible that I didn’t drink enough water but I am just not sure.


  • Heather

    June 7, 2011

    Ryan – you finished and that’s what counts! I agree with you in that if you had gone out less agressively and adjusted your time goal given your current condition it might have turned out to be a more positive experience. I’m wondering if your upset was a combo of nasal drip (which will nauseate most anyone) and that your tummy couldn’t handle that much chews. I snacked on a Clif bar halfway through my last marathon because too many gels make me sick to my stomache. I gelled at 6, ate half a bar after the half, gelled again at 18, snacked a little on the rest of the bar around 22, cursed fate at 23, and throughout it all sipped from NUUN from my belt and water from the aid stations. It was a strategy which worked out really well, because usually halfway through I’m starving :-). Anyway, congratulations!

    • BASEtraining

      June 7, 2011

      Thanks for the comment, Heather. I was thinking the nasal drip may have had something to do with it. I thought about the Shot Bloks being too much as well but I trained that way and 180 calories per hour is really not that much. In my training runs I always took anywhere from 4-6 bloks per hour. I used the upper end of that in the actual race because I was going to be going a little faster but I didn’t think that would matter because I had trained pretty close to that. Anyway, thanks for the kind words and I am sure I will give it another try. Now on to half ironman in August.

  • Steve Woodward

    June 7, 2011

    Way to tough it out Ryan! Running a slower marathon on an off day can be tougher than setting a PR on a good day. I think it had everything to do with being sick the week before and your body still fighting what you were getting over. Based on some of your quick miles mid race I do not think you went out to fast. On an “on” day I think you would have ran a 3:30. Great job!

    • BASEtraining

      June 8, 2011

      Hey, thanks, Steve! I appreciate the comment. Hopefully, you are correct. I would like to think that I can make a 3:30.