Monday, February 26, 2018

State #35: Washington State DNF

It is getting harder to locate half marathons in states that I did not yet run in. This is especially true in the winter months because I have completed a half in most every southern state.

So when I saw there was a race in Washington State, My Better Half Half Marathon, I was excited. I took a look at the course elevation, and it was sea level - good for me, a sea level gal. There was one major hill in the beginning - OK, I started Mississippi on a bridge - I know to go out slow, so that I don't build up lactic acid and have that heavy leg feeling the whole race. Other than that first hill, it was mostly flat - good for me because I'm already up to running 16+ miles on my long runs, and I know my legs have been tired lately. I convinced myself that this was a prefect half for me to do while training for the London Marathon. Plus there was a 5K for Ron to run.
Ron's Beverage on Flight Out (Bloody Mary)

My Beverage on the Flight Out
Eye on the Goal!
We arrived in Seattle on Friday, and all of Saturday to explore Puget Sound. 

Downtown Seattle Waterfront
I have been to Seattle before, and spent quite a few summers as a teenager visiting my family here. I've been on that Ferris Wheel!

It was hard going back - there were many memories - some not so pleasant, and I was missing my grandmother, whom I used to visit in Kent, Washington. One memory I have of visiting my grandmother was during that awkward teen developmental period. A year passed before we saw each other, and so when she saw me, and how much I had grown, she told me that I was a beautiful young woman. She went on and on - you know how grandmothers can be. I was very uncomfortable accepting her compliments, especially since I knew I was still very underdeveloped from being so sick with what they thought then was ulcerative colitis.

Landing in Washington State, and driving to the waterfront brought on an onset of memories, and I was just one big crying mess. Poor Ron.

On Saturday, we planned to drive north to take the ferry to Friday Harbor, San Juan Island. Still melancholy, this seemed like a good plan. First Stop: Road Runners Store to pick up our packet.
Ron's 5K Bibb
My 13.1 Bibb
Wow! Great numbers! My late husband's birthday is 2/231959 - what are the odds of us both getting numbers that would make up his birthday - especially since this race was all about My Better Half, Valentine's Day, and Love! I thought. 'Im going to do great in this race! John is here with me!'

The ride on the ferry was beautiful, and Ron and I took in all the beauty of Puget Sound.

Traveling to San Juan Island
We stopped at the San Juan Brewing company for Ron. I drank water (Eye on the Goal). Then we had a lovely dinner at the Cask and Schooner Public House.
Cute Mini-Schooner Replica in the Restaurant
We got back later than I wanted to but it's always hard to have a good night's sleep pre-race anyway. Everything is checked pre-race morning:
Road ID in case something happens on the course
Decaf and Regular Coffee
Race bra, shirt, and pants
Gloves and Hat
Hot Hands

Ron Waiting Through My Thousandth
Wardrobe Change
I didn't expect to run in 36-38 degree F weather - I thought it was going to be about 42-45 degrees. Good thing I brought multiple outfits, in case the weather changed. It was cold!
Pre-Race Smiles
Shivering, Waiting for Race to Start
Before we started, the announcer said, "I hope nobody gets lost, we think the course is pretty well marked"I turned toward someone next to me, and said, "God, I hope I don't get lost, the directions were confusing."
Here were the directions:
"5k and 10k runners will do one or two loops, respectively, of this course
Half and relay runners will do one loop of 3.1 miles (the 5k and 10k loop, above) and two loops of this course"
One 5 K loop and two of this Loop
We started (no National Anthem - you all now how much I love the National Anthem). I ran up the first hill, and did the 5k. Legs were tired from running 20 miles last weekend. Pretty views in Seward Park. I kept thanking God for my ability to run, to be able to travel, and for helping me complete this goal to run a half in every state. 

We went around the 5K, and I saw a bunch of people running on my left, so I ran up to a volunterr and said, "I am running the half marathon, am I going the right way?" He responded, "Yes, everyone runs this way."

Okay - so I kept running. I've never run this course before, so I just figured those people on my left were the 5K-ers and the 10K-ers. I kept running.

Although I am sure the race designers thought it was cute to have a "Tunnel of Love" with chocolates and candies, I was frustrated because people were stopping in front of me, trying to pick out candy, and I was trying to maintain pace. Some people were yelling, "Coming Through, Watch Out!" 
It wasn't cool!

When I came around again, I saw someone yelling, half marathoners go this way. There was a sign that I did not see the first time either telling people to stay right for the half marathon. This, I think was about 6+ miles - I have no idea because THERE WERE NO MILE MARKERS ON THE ENTIRE COURSE! 
That's right - Not One Mile Marker!

If you look at my heart rate from mile 6+ to mile 10+, it goes from 145 bpm to 178 bpm. I started to panick, and thought, "Oh my God, I was supposed to run this way for the half marathon. I wonder how far this loop is?' I ran to the end and stopped to ask a volunteer, "Please, can you tell me how long this loop is?" He told me that he didn't know. I was sick to my stomach, and asked, "What should I do, I think I ran the 5K twice already, but never ran this loop - what should I do?" He told me that I should just run this small loop again.

I started running again, and I was talking to myself:
Okay, so if I run this small loop twice, will I be at 13.1 when I finish?
It won't really be fair because I didn't actually run the right course. 
And what if I run less than 13.1? 
What if I run more than 13.1?
Okay, girl calm down, ask those volunteers over there how long this loop is, and then try to figure out how many miles you need to finish this half.
To (Young) Volunteers: "Do you know how long this loop is?"
Volunteers: "NO" ....Giggles and laughing.

At this point, I was in tears. I ran to the end of this little loop, ran around a parking circle a few time - and then ran up to some guy who was volunteering by the sign  - he was telling halfers to stay right (You know, the sign and the guy that I missed the first time coming around the 5K loop, but would have backtracked to if the other volunteer didn't tell me that 'everyone runs this way!') Anyway, I grab this guy who was volunteering, and I start yelling:
"This is supposed to be State #35. 
I don't know where I am going. 
I am trying my best - 
I try really hard Dude to place in my age group for all these halves 
I have run about 10.5 miles, where do I go now?
What should I do?"

Volunteer: "Just run that way toward the finish."
Me: "WHERE?"
Volunteer: "Just follow that man."

So I run up to the guy that I think he pointed to, and ask him, how many more miles do you need to run. he tells me 2.5 more miles. Okay - so I run straight. I can't hang with him - he's doing like a 15-min mile pace. I don't know where I was supposed to run so I screaming, "Where's the finish? Where's the finish?" Right? The volunteer told me to run toward the finish. I guess I was thinking there was a straight away toward the finish that was about 2.5 miles. ...
The finish was straight ahead! 
(Even typing this I am crying)

I was so upset - I ran through the shoot. 
I kept running and ran into a Port-O-John and started crying. "OMG, OMG, OMG. What the hell just happened?" I came out and Ron is waiting.

Ron: "What happened? How did I miss you?"
Me: OMG, Ron it was awful. I got lost, I was asking all the volunteers which way I should go, there were no mile markers, no one knew the course. Everyone gave me different answers. I was literally running around in circles. Some guy told me to run toward the finish - and I did - but I didn't finish."

Ron tried to calm me down, 
"C'mon, get some oatmeal."

Me: "I can't eat oatmeal - I got Crohn's" 
It's rare if I eat oatmeal - all the stars have to align, and my tummy was so very sick at this point. 
Ron: "Then get a cup of coffee, just calm down."
Me: "No, I gotta retrace my steps. I gotta find out where I went wrong."
Ron: I did well in my 5K ...

Great, now I'm ruining everything for Ron. 
He traveled out here too. 
He took off from work on Friday to fly too. 
Oh God, What's wrong with me?

Me: "That's great. I'm sorry. I know it's just a race - I shouldn't be that upset. We are healthy. We are safe."
Ron: "Let's get our picture taken."
Me (Still sick to my stomach) Okay. I put on a fake smile and do the photo booth thing.

As soon as we finish I beg Ron to help me re-trace my steps. We walked for about a half-mile out, and I explained to Ron what happened. He said, "Beth, I can't walk anymore, I'm freezing. I'm sorry, but I just want to go back to the car and get warm."
So, we left.
Sick to my stomach, we left.
When I got to the rental car, I saw a text from my Coach, "What happened? Why do they have you running the 10K?" I called Coach Joel and explained. 

Driving back to the hotel, I was crying. Ron told me that I should be mad, not sad. I started thinking,  I should at the least get my money back! This was awful. I wrote an email when I got back to the hotel, Orca Running responded - this was in their first response:

"Unfortunately we do not feel as though the course was poorly marked as the other 300+ half marathon runners didn't have issues following the correct course.  There were large signs at the two split points on the course as well as volunteers."
Well, just call me STUPID!
Ron told me to drop it for now. He was trying to get me to enjoy this mini-vacation. Well, Orca Running and the My Better Half Marathon basically ruined this trip for me. 

I responded to Orca Running email when I got back to Jersey: 
"I am still sick over this race. Every time I think about it - I just want to cry. 
I haven't slept for the past three nights - I just wake up in the middle of the night wondering where I went wrong. I didn't just want to add miles towards the end - I didn't feel that was right. Plus there were no mile markers - I stopped and asked what that small loop would be since I ran the 5K twice ( I think) - but no one could tell me. 
I know it was confusing for others because my partner and I saw a volunteer run after a woman and tell her to go straight - instead of turning left.
I disagree about the signs - there were red arrows, and black arrows - I didn't know if the red was for the 10k and the black was for the half. I was confused. 
In the future, if there's a split - you need more than one person standing there - and maybe not in front of the sign. Have more than one sign - and have them with mile markers - and post signs leading up to the split. Most importantly, gather your volunteers the day/night/morning of the race - and educate them as to how the course is laid out - and how many miles each section of each loop is.
I know you put your heart into the race - and try to foresee all the potential issues - I thought the Tunnel of Love was cute - but for people who are trying their best to finish as fast as they can - it was frustrating getting stuck behind other runners who didn't take it as serious and who wanted to stop to get some chocolates.
I would like a DNF and I would like to take your offer to run another race
I have my 5th World Major Marathon in London in April - will need some time to recover - and was wondering if I could possibly get signed up for the Iron Horse Half Marathon 8/26/2018? 
Thank you for this offer, and I look forward to hearing back from you."

Well, I am signed up for the Iron Horse Half Marathon in August. I was trying for all USATF courses from here on out - thinking they have to hold to a higher authority - but just like the fact that I am running out of states, I am also at a disadvantage of not being allowed to be too picky - and realize that I won't be able to have every course a USATF course.

Orca Running was nice enough to allow me entry without a fee to the Iron Horse Half Marathon. And they were much nicer in subsequent emails:
"Hi Beth,
Again, I'm really sorry about the confusing course.... "
They accepted my registration for the Iron Horse Half Marathon and tried to reassure me that all would go well ...
"People come from all over the US to participate.  The course is compact dirt and is quite pretty running through the mountains where an old railway used to be.  
It can be hot in August but the majority of the course has tree cover, and if you start in an earlier wave and run fairly fast (which it sounds like you do!) you will be great."

Some time has past - which is how I can now sit down to even write about what happened, but State #35 is a DNF. I will run another half marathon in late March before the London Marathon in April. This will, God willing, be State #35.

Ron has me convinced that running 38 half marathons, there was bound to be some race that was a total screw up. I agree - just wish it were like Pennsylvania, Virginia, or Maryland - something closer. 

Still wondering why the Bibb numbers were so symbolic - I can only think that no matter good or bad, John is still with me. I learned to apply the same for others who have passed - no matter good or bad - they are still with me - right Gramz?
Run To Inspire
Run For Peace
Run Fearless
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