The Ghost of Birch Bay marathon is held in December every year close to the Canadian border in Birch Bay State Park, Blaine, WA. The weather is cold and last year it was pretty nasty, that coupled with the speeding ticket I got on the way up made me want to make sure I ran it this year with a buddy. I only decided to run this race the weekend before the marathon thinking that I felt pretty good from the Quad. I got my great friend Karen on board the Monday before the race which was pretty exciting considering there are not too many out there that can and will just jump into a marathon with you for fun.
So Friday after work, with me being delayed by tons of meetings, we finally made our way up north. We had fun on the drive up making friends along the way at various stops. And got to our hotel to continue the sillys!
Race start was not until 9am so we slept in until 7am, felt great! Sometime over the course of the night before I had suggested to Karen that she let me pace her to a sub 4 hour finish as her PR just did not line up with what I knew she could run. I figured she would not be too hot on this idea because really that’s a pretty big leap of faith. To my delight Karen was game. I knew she could do sub 4, but this was not an easy course- big hills, and self serve aid stations. Still I wanted to make a go for it and took us out at flat 9 min miles letting us drop to 8:50’s at times. I knew we would need a bit of time for the up hills and aid and was not sure how much we could make up on the downs so I was running it by gut feel with only a few checks of the watch.
We ran the first loop pretty well and were looking right on track. This worried me because I knew we needed to at least run flat splits and at best negative split the race. So when Karen plowed up the hills and rode the downhill on the second loop I let her go thinking any time she could make up here was good, and I didn’t let her pull us out too fast. We were doing well but I started to see cracks around mile 21. My happy friend was hitting the rough spot and I knew this could be a very difficult last 5 miles. My goals were to keep her positive, keep her moving, and get her mind off any pain. So I started talking. A lot.
Up until this point in the race we had been on and off talking flowing seamlessly between joking and jamming out to our own ipods. It was a great comfortable mix and I think we were both flowing. Once I saw the pain starting to set in I really tried to distract while keeping the pace steady and not losing her. She was running low on water so I made sure she had the rest of mine and was still good on calories. I just kept telling her she was doing awesome. She was a rock star. She was doing great and was right on track. She was strong. She could do it. And that I was so so proud of her. All of these were true. I also gave her the option to tell me to shut up at any time as I felt myself willing her along with my words as best and as much as I possibly could. I knew this dark place she was currently in and I wanted to do everything in my power to pull her out. Self doubt is a horrible monster that can sneak out of nowhere and suck you in. This monster was not going to get my girl, not this time, not on my watch for our race. She would be PRing today whether she believed it or not.
We were within 3 miles and had to hit roughly 9:20’s to come in under the 4 hour mark and I thought this is going to be close but if I can just get her to hang on we can do this. Well I was not successful in getting her to hold pace, a lot happens in the last 3 miles of a marathon. She pushed herself to the breaking point and that is all I could ask for. What happens on the road stays on the road and I am just extremely proud of my girl for coming across that line in 4:05 and smashing her old PR.
This was my 53 marathon/ultra and one of the most rewarding races I have run. This is only the second that I have run fully with someone and I really liked it. Helping Karen gave me more strength. You stop your internal dialogue and just focus on that other person. It’s not about you or your race anymore it’s about ensuring that you are there for that other person and helping them in every way that you can think of. I have been blessed to have some amazing pacers be there for me and feel privileged to be able to have been there for Karen. Love ya girl! Here’s to our latest running adventure and many more to come! xo