Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon Marathon – Oct 15, 2017 (James G)
When the Rock ‘n’ Roll Vancouver Half was cancelled, I was offered to switch to any affiliated race and I chose the Rock ‘n’ Roll Lisbon full marathon! The race begins in Cascais and follows the scenic coastline along the Tagus River to Lisbon, and finishes at the Praca do Comercio.Â It is a very nice course and well organized but be prepared for the warm weather if you are not used to running in the heat!
My advice? Follow Laura’s do’s and don’ts before any Marathon race. If you don’t, you’ll pay for not heeding her advice!
Bellingham Bay Marathon – Sept 24, 2017 (Ron D)
You know that this will be a positive review. This is the second time I have run Bellingham Bay, so I liked it enough to come back. And yeah, they may see me again soon.
- It’s local. This race is a little earlier in the season than Victoria or Okanagan, which are the standard, targeted, Lower Mainland choices. There is no ferry or day-long drive so this is why I chose it.
- I like a larger downtime gap before I start winter training, so the slightly earlier timing suits me over other fall choices.
- Reasonably flat, fast course.
- Point to point. I like to actually go somewhere when I run.
- The Lummi Nation. The run starts out of the longhouse miles north of the city, which means you are warm and happy until you make the short trip to the start line. A warm welcome and opening drum and dance ceremony really moves your heart. The marathon is an important event to the band, and they have many runners who race.
- Further to the above point. I have frozen my butt off for hours on airport tarmac, with no shelter, waiting for a race start in Tacoma (still recommend that race though). I. Love. The. Longhouse.
- Further to the above point, the Longhouse has flushies.
- The shirt. They are fitted and nice and I actually wear them. Some of my favorites.
- Well organized with plenty of aid stations and enthusiastic volunteers.
- Race expo is small but efficient and well organized.
- Half marathon is an out and back and starts later. If friends run the two distances, it means they may end their races around the same time.
- It has all I want. An Oceanside run with seabirds, and a view and local fishers. Long rural stretches amongst Farmer’s Fields. A run through urban Bellingham with cheering crowds. My favorite part is the run on the waterfront on the pier in Bellingham itself; it is a unique experience.
- I like the big city marathons, but my favorites will always be these smaller town races. With the smaller towns I find myself connecting more with runners and people involved with the race itself.
- You cannot go there from Vancouver and pick up your race package at the start line the same day. You have to go unreasonably early to pick it up at the finish line, which will mean you have to get up an hour earlier than necessary (to get back to the start by bus). We left Vancouver at 4:30 AM, which is the earliest I would want to go (3:30 AM is a nope). The race director was very sympathetic to my objections to this but ultimately unhelpful. I did a separate day trip in to get my package the day before. Too bad because allowing package pickup at the start where it belongs might put this race on more Vancouverites radar. Alternative: stay overnight in historic Bellingham, which I did the first time I ran it. There was not much left in the way of hotels this time because I signed up quite late.
- It seems the only serious hill on the course is in the last mile. Its direction is due up. It doesn’t bother me, but it is not where many racers would put a hill if they had a choice. No big deal. A proper race needs a tough part or two no?
That’s enough important stuff. Now let’s put this run into perspective:
I have been on a several years journey of trying to understand this most enigmatic race: The marathon. It is the distance to which all other races are compared. Half marathons, ultra-marathons, even iron distances use the marathon. And who hasn’t been asked how their 10k marathon went? If baseball is the beautiful game then the marathon has to be the ugly race. You don’t have to believe me that it is special. But don’t try to tell me it’s not because I will argue with you to the death.
Bellingham Bay was marathon number 12. This is what I have learned:
- Vancouver marathon: Marathons are hard.
- Vancouver marathon: Less is not more.
- Vancouver marathon: Over hydrating is not good.
- Portland marathon: Those who talk about the wall do not know what they are talking about.
- Boundary Bay marathon: A makeup marathon is a bad idea.
- Eugene marathon: Turning training on its head can be a great idea.
- Bellingham Bay Marathon: Marathons can be magical.
- Boundary Bay marathon: A recovery marathon is a really, really dumb idea.
- Tacoma marathon: Never, ever forget your throwaway.
- Marine Corp Marathon: The body can adapt to anything just not everything.
- Woodland Marathon: Abandoning sensible pacing can be bloody liberating if kinda dumb.
- Bellingham Bay Marathon: Marathons are hard.
So after twelve races, I have figured out that the total wisdom I have gained from the experience is essentially zero. Other than those little tidbits above, really I have nothing worthwhile to pass on. Sorry. Much of this could have been learned by listening to sensible coaching; although, some not. Unfortunately it is generally agreed that I am un-coachable.
I think thirteen is the answer. It’ll crack this nut and I’ll finally have this damned race figured out
OK, so I’m no smarter. Here is how they day went down:
- Friends make the race more enjoyable. Tony came with me to run the half. Irene and Ali came for support and to enjoy the day. Their presence at the start helped me to be more excited than anxious for this race. They watched the opening ceremony with me and then drove to Bellingham to get Tony set up for his start. Perfect day for running; it was partly sunny with perfect temperatures.
- I went out with the 3:45 bunny. I didn’t really have a solid plan this time. I felt like I was in great running shape, but I had only had one long run. This is not my normal plan, but I accelerated the training because I needed a break. Not a physical break but it feels like I never stop training and I needed a mental break. So rather than be determined for a specific time, I was more curious to see what I would have in the tank in the last quarter of the race.
- I didn’t stick with the bunny, as usual, but rather ran slightly ahead. I spent a lot of time chatting with other runners and enjoying the pace. I ran much of it with a very experienced Surrey runner who had paced a lot of races. He too was less than ideally trained for this particular one, and we would pass each other a few times in the later stages offering encouragement.
- It was an awesome run. And of course (say it with me) it was awesome until it sucked. The suck came at mile sixteen. I found myself with sharp, abdominal muscle cramps, which stopped me dead. The aid station was close, so I parked myself there and drank and took electrolytes as fast as I could. This got me back, and I had no further problems, but the bunny would have had a quarter mile on me by then, so I was on my own.
- The next suck came at mile twenty heading into town. This is when I realized the marathon was not going to give me any gifts today. My hips tightened up. I felt good otherwise, but my legs slowed down. I talked to them saying “go legs go” as Irene would say, but they wouldn’t listen. It was a tough, frustrating last six miles. I was passed by the four hour bunny on the final death hill. I let him go.
- I could see that my time was going to be seconds over four hours, and could probably have made it, but I denied myself that satisfaction. Stupid maybe but I thought maybe that would help motivate me better for the next one. It won’t. I’m always motivated.
- With the finishers medal around my neck I found myself overwhelmed with dizziness that was not letting up. Irene betrayed me and brought over the medic. She knows I’ve been known to run away from them. But sitting in the tent and drinking electrolyte for ten minutes did me a world of good.
- The expo food and beer looked tasty, but what did me more good was local beer and organic food at a local tap house with my friends. I love the area around Bellingham and Burlington and it was nice to relax after the race.
So it was hard but fun. It didn’t reveal the great secret: the one essential thing, which will allow you every time to run that consistent, fast race. It did reveal something: You can’t cut training. Gosh that’s surprising.
If you are choosing a fall race, this one may not be Victoria or Okanagan, but it is Bellingham. It is definitely one to try.