Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tunnel Lite Marathon


I really like to run marathons on the weekends, but as Jash would soon be starting his last year of the MBA program and we would become very short on time together, I did not book a race for the weekend of the 15th and the 16th thinking that we could so something fun together.  Then he tells me he is going to be in TX for work and then going to stay over to visit with family.  AWESOME but I only realized this 2 weeks early had was scrambling to find a race.  Tunnel Light was being held in North Bend and even though I was just there in July I gladly signed up to run it again.  At a great price with little frills and a cute local motel there I knew I could book I was totally excited. 

When Jash and I ran this marathon in July we had a blast even though we were rained on for most of it. Driving up on Saturday in the bright sunshine I hoped that tomorrow would bring the same conditions for race day.  It was very nice to get to the North Bend Motel the day before, enjoy some reading and lounging in the sun before having a delish dinner of grilled pizza before getting to sleep early.  I started the morning by boarding the school bus that drives us up to the starting line and enjoyed the scenic views of the mountains that we would soon be running in.  My pre-race standard breakfast of a slice of toast with peanut butter can of Starbucks coffee, and a banana tasted great and were sitting well with me, always an appreciated start to a day when you are about to run 26.2 miles.  I decided on this drive up that the day was looking so good that I would bring my camera with me.  So I got off the bus and took a few shots of the starting line views. 

After some quick race instructions we were counted down to start of the race promptly at 8am.  The run through the tunnel seemed shorter this race, but it must have been because I knew what was coming.  I also realized that my head lamp was badly in need of some new batteries so I ran behind a gal, Leslie Miller, who I ended up thanking after the race, who lite the path perfectly.  Running for over 2 miles through a narrow former train tunnel in the mountains is just such a totally cool experience.  It is a bit warmer than outside air temp and there are random spots along the route where the tunnel happens to leak and let some water drip down.  I had to make sure that I didn’t really think too much about where exactly we were running because the thought of the tunnel collapsing or the confined space did freak me out just a bit.  But then I looked up and noticed that the light at the end of the tunnel started to get closer and closer.  And then of course I had to stop for some quick photos once we cleared the tunnel as it was just such a cool view. 

We dropped off our headlamps and gloves after clearing the tunnel and the morning was just coming to life with all of the wonderful views.  I loved capturing the early smattering of fall colors that we were so privileged to view along the route.  There were also the cool bridges that I was able to run over and capture as well as the general running trails that usually remain just locked as memories in my head vs. actual pictures that I get to share here.  Although I did notice that I was much more apt to pull out the camera and capture shots mid stride early on in the race, but post about the 15 mile mark there really wasn’t anything, no matter how cool, that warranted enough energy to pull out the camera and snap any pictures. 

Everything went great with the run, body and mind were working perfect and feeling strong.  The unmanned aid stations about every 5 miles worked great and with just some water and gu’s it was all that was needed by me to make the race go very well.  Although you lose a few minutes to uncapping and filling your hand bottle yourself, it really was not that much trouble.  At about mile 16 after not seeing very many people besides the ones that I would catch every few miles a kiddo fails past me.  Had to be about 18 and he was running wild.  So being that late in the race I knew this was some very strange passing technique and instantly though, fresh meat, this kiddo has never run a marathon before.  I don’t know why, but I have these flashes on the course sometimes, and they have always been right.  I guess I have rookie-dar and it is finely tuned.  So being that it was late in the race and I was looking for some cheap entertainment I matched rookie’s pace and stayed on him about 6 feet behind.  This is when I noticed his pace varying.  I didn’t have to look at my watch, I could just feel that we were jumping between about 8:30’s and 10 depending on when he happened to glance over his shoulder and realize I was still there.  This I found extremely amusing and ran with a stupid smile on my face for him to see for the 5 miles that we played this game.  Getting close to mile 21 I decided to stop totally messing with the kid and started running next to him matching his pace.  As I pulled up beside him he said “you’re a strong runner” to which I replied “I know.”  Then just smiling back at him I asked “you haven’t done this before have you?”  “Nope first one” was his reply to which I couldn’t help myself and threw out there another “I know.”  We continued to talk for a while and I told him to stop varying his pace so much and he was wasting energy looking behind him.  I stopped to fill up my water bottle at mile 21 and he used the opportunity to zoom off and I just laughed and hoped he would not have to walk it in. 

Post mile 21 we start to actually hit trails with other, non marathon running, people which was also great entertainment to just people watch as you go by and say hello.  I was still feeling good and running a strong pace while I thought about how happy I was to be back out there.  I have never had the opportunity to run the same race course only a couple months apart so I was not sure how it would be.  On this course I realized that I missed a lot of it the first round as I was running with Jash the whole time and while we did check out the course we also spent time taking and joking while running which also is a great way to do a race.  Once you are alone out there though you really have no choice but to really take it all in and this is a great course to have the opportunity to do that one.  I was actually getting somewhat disappointed that I was back to the populated trails as I knew in just less than 5 miles we would be done. 

Then I got to mile 23 and there was random not very happy dog.  He or she was not with any human, not on a leash and not wagging its tail.  After just reading the Runners World article about the kids that were attacked by a pack of dogs I was not thrilled to see random dog.  It appeared to be guarding the last aid station at mile 23 standing almost under the table unmoving looking out at me.  So I was happy I still had water in my bottle and did not have to urgently stop.  So I gave wide berth to the creature, stared straight ahead, and picked up my step a bit.  The dog did not move.  Now I was running faster and pretty ready for the race to be over.  Then I saw rookie up ahead in the blue shirt- still looking over his shoulder!  But at least he was not walking.  Since he was a pretty friendly kid I didn’t really have it in my heart to beat him, and really just wanted him to keep a strong pace and have a great time on his first marathon.  He did and I ended up finishing about a minute behind him and we high fived at the end and I said congrats rookie you did it!!  It was a really cool finish line and I was thinking was a great first race to pick out. 

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