I need to start by praising the organizers for the fantastic pre-race communication. Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon info emails started rolling in ten days before the race and I’d received five, including this exceeds-expectations weather update, by the Friday before!
On Friday I drove to Terrace to fly to Vancouver, then on Saturday morning I picked up my rental car and hit the road to North Bend!! Including picking up the car and the wait at the border, it took four hours. Easy.
Package pick up was at the Nike factory store. It was easy to get to and a quick process! The actual bag we got is sweet and was perfect for a gear check bag. It zippers closed with another smaller zipper pocket and a Jack & Jill logo. Runners also received a race buff, which I think is the greatest thing ever! The race shirt is a unisex-style tank (see later in a finish photo) and it’s NICE! There were pace tattoos (which proved to be extremely valuable) and I grabbed one from the 3:35 pile. I was given a small ziplock bag for my tunnel flashlight and my bib number was written on it for me. Other than that, there wasn’t a bunch of random stuff to recycle like at big expos, just a little race pamphlet with info and maps. One thing I forgot was to get a B12 shot, which were apparently available for free! Dang. There was race clothing for sale outside of the store too, but a buff and tank is more than enough for me.
I was in and out and then headed to my AirBnB! It was just a few minutes away from the factory stores, and also just a three minute drive from Tollgate Park parking lot, which is where runners park before getting on the shuttles to the start line. Joan’s place, was perfect for race weekend accommodation and you should stay here! She was great!
I was avoiding “stuff” – I seem to become more of a minimalist with each marathon. I decided against headphones, which also meant I didn’t need to carry my phone. I opted for no sunglasses (good choice, not needed 👌) and I committed to walking through aid stations to take full advantage, therefore eliminating my worry about whether or not I should bring a handheld water bottle. My Nakd bars and Endurance Tap gels fit in the SpiBelt and I was good to go.
I wore my Altra Escalantes for this race, which are a pretty minimal shoe. I’m telling you this because the organizers advise to wear something more substantial, but I didn’t have a second thought about my favourite shoes while running the marathon! No issues at all.
Since I had a pretty late lunch, for “dinner” I had bananas, Nuun, a sea salt bagel and a chocolate protein shake. Then it was bedtime! Time for some fake sleeping!
My alarm woke me up at 3:30, I ate my oatmeal and raisins, drank a bunch of Nuun and geared up. A long-sleeved throwaway shirt was totally sufficient but I’m glad I brought it – it wasn’t that warm yet pre-race! My shuttle time was 5:05 (assigned on the bib) and I left the house around 4:40 for the very short drive to Tollgate Park. The parking situation seemed totally under control. It was dark but there were tons of volunteers with flashlights directing us and I was parked and getting on my bus within five minutes.
Our driver wasn’t sure where to go once it was almost time to exit the freeway towards the starting area… I still don’t actually know if he was joking or not but we all knew which exit and how to proceed thanks to pre-race emails!!
Twenty porto-potties (Honey Buckets 😂😂/😷😷) plus the actual park restroom facility made for lots of toilets, but more would have been better. Close to start time, the lineups were pretty long. That being said, there was lots of bush everywhere to squat in if it came down to it as we were in a park in the forest, after all.
I planned to use the Race Screen app (data screen) in miles so I could manually lap at some of the mile markers. The tunnel is known to screw with GPS so it was the perfect solution for that, plus not running the tangents ideally has messed me up in the past with overall pace, and this would help with that too! Except that my Garmin went haywire and changed back to kilometers without telling me! I tested it the night before and it was doing everything I wanted!
So, I was running with a screen that showed distance in kilometers, but pace (over the last 30 seconds) in minutes/mile, giving me split times in minutes/kilometer, but on all other data screens showing the distance in miles!!! Ya I’m confused even trying to explain that. The old me would have lost it, but I really couldn’t have cared less!
The race started after the American national anthem. We ran for less than a kilometer on an uneven and loose gravel stretch, and then right into the tunnel! It was dark, cool and echoey.
The ground inside was much better – solid with just a few puddles here and there, but runners called out to those behind them to watch out. Because the floor of the tunnel is kind of domed, it was only really suitable to run about three across. This was perfect because it wasn’t too squishy and there was room to pass if needed. The tunnel felt really short to me but in reality it was over 4km long! So cool! Near the end, it got light enough that I was able to put my flashlight into the ziplock I was carrying long before it was time to toss it into the light collection bucket. Perfect.
It was in the tunnel that I discovered my watch was being a freak. I decided to run by feel with those around me (we started around where the 3:35 pacer would have been..if there was one..) and then just see what happened once we were out of the tunnel. I had my pace tattoo if my watch fully betrayed me anyway!
Once out of the tunnel, the pacing on my Garmin seemed a bit erratic, but the kilometer split times made sense. I trusted it, but I also consulted the tattoo at every mile marker, comparing it to the “time elapsed” screen on my watch. This is the first time I’ve ever used a pace band and it was awesome! I am sold.
The rest of the course is a very mild downhill on an old gravel road which is the John Wayne Trail and the last part, the Snoqualmie Trail. The surface wasn’t bad at all but it’s worth noting that there were some parts that were fairly loose and rocky. I spent a lot of time with my eyes down, watching where my feet would be landing. But, when I wasn’t looking at the ground, the course was GORGEOUS!!!
I had forgotten to switch my wedding rings to my silicone Qalo ring, but instead of letting that bother or worry me, I used it as a way to monitor hydration even closer than I would have and it really worked out for me! When I’m dehydrated my fingers majorly swell. It’s so uncomfortable, especially when wearing a metal ring, so I stayed perpetually aware of my hands and stopped at every single aid station to drink at least one full cup of water, sometimes two. This race is definitely the smartest I’ve ever been with respect to fueling and hydration.
There was an aid station with at least two volunteers every two miles after we came out of the tunnel, just before or after the odd mile markers. I found this to be perfect. More are always better, but there was no time where I found myself thinking they were too far apart. This race was very well aided!
At half way, I was almost two minutes ahead of the pace band. I had been monitoring my stomach and it was a good time to stop at a washroom. There aren’t many toilets along the course because there is no way to get them on to the trail. Like I said before though, in an emergent situation you could probably hide and squat anywhere along the entire course. I was quick and kept going, happy and thankful my gut wasn’t cramping up like it often does post-pit-stop.
After 16 miles, I now had to work harder to focus and stay in it. I’d already been stopping at every aid station to hydrate, but in the last third of the race I definitely had to divide and conquer my way to each station and stopping for water was also a rest. I had packed a tiny vial of peppermint oil inside my top and when I remembered it was there I was pumped. I rubbed it all over my arms and collar bones and the cool tingling seemed to keep my mind and body connected.
My main mantra for this race was “Fluid, Focused, Fearless” but I also tapped into many of the other things that I pre-planned to focus on when it got more difficult. I thought of:
- my friends at Ironman Canada in Whistler that same day
- my friend Anthony who I met at the CIM expo, my friends Laura, Jeph, Steph, Karmen & Adam, and my Rupert Runners crew
- Coach Andrew reminding me that racing is like boxing – we don’t give up from a couple “hits”. During multiple hard parts I thought, “that was just a little slap” or “one shot to the head can’t take me down“, etc.
- the strong 10k I ran at the Tyhee Triathlon, when I was very tired, hot and my legs felt like wood
- my favourite pro, Jordan Hasay
- the author of Beyond Grit, Cindra Kamphoff
- the Haida shield that I won the previous weekend, which was in my pocket!
- my friend Owen and our favourite scene from Schitt’s Creek , which I added on to my mantra, now making it “Fluid, Focused, Fearless. Fold it in!!” HAHAHAHAH.
Why am I telling you all these things? Because it matters. A marathon is a long fuckin race and we need to be armed with perspective shifters, motivators and contingency plans!
The last ~8k of the race were very hard for me, but marathons are hard. Duh. At this point I knew I was too off pace to finish under 3:35, but I was well within breaking 3:40! Ladies and gentleman, the purpose of subsequent goals! I walked for a few seconds multiple times and pep talked myself to keep moving forward! A women who I saw many times (we kept passing each other whenever the other was regrouping) encouraged me and I’m so grateful for that! There was also a spectator who shouted at me in the final stretch “ALRIGHT OISELLE, SWING THOSE ARMS AND FINISH IT!” and I listened!!! Hell yeah, the power of the Volée team gear! Thank you, random man!
My last mile was strong! Got back to goal pace and finished it off. Crossing the finish line, like in any marathon, was pure joy!
Cold wet towels were handed out right after medals were hung around our necks and those were heavenly! It was so sunny and beautiful out (and VERY hot by now) and it was such a fun vibe at the finish area!
There were mini computers to sign up for next year’s race, screens to check chip times, race apparel for sale, snacks, hydration, photo opp spots, plus the super easy gear check retrieval. The volunteers who got my flashlight and gear bag for me were kids and they were so sweet!
The finish line is a bit further than where we parked at Tollgate Park. There was a shuttle back to the parking lot and it was easy, short and fun.
I loved this event and I honestly couldn’t even think of any feedback to send when they requested it by email. Bus driver school? The organizers are obviously doing a great job, this race runs on both Saturday AND Sunday because of the popularity!
Although I missed the BQ by two and a half minutes, I am not disappointed in any way. I couldn’t have asked for more on this day! The weather was great and the temperature manageable, I ran what I’d consider my second strongest marathon (after CIM), I had fun and didn’t hit the wall or go to the dark place! Also, I discovered some new things about myself as a marathoner! I can:
- efficiently utilize aid stations instead of carrying an annoying handheld
- handle unexpected things like a cray Garmin
- effectively use a pace band
- coach myself into pushing for the B goal when the A goal has slipped away
PUMP up the JAMmie is not over. This training cycle was fantastic! Coach Andrew has helped me take over AN HOUR off of my first marathon time from May 2016, which was 4:40:50! I’ve been asked if I’ll try again to BQ before the 2019 Boston registration opens in September, but the answer is no. It’s time for a break, and then to continue my journey with Lifelong Endurance! Boston 2020 will be mine!
Conveniently, my qualifying time for Boston 2020 changes to sub 3:40. I will be thirty-five come Patriot’s Day 2020! I’m still going to chase a sub-3:35 though. Keep ya posted!