2014 Avenue of the Giants Marathon Race Report
After such a great 2013 I decided to set my goals high for 2014. Looking at marathons to sign up for I wanted to do something unique to the west coast since I will be moving to North Carolina in a few months. I narrowed it down to a few and ultimately decided on The Avenue of the Giants in Humboldt County California. This race was close enough to drive to and unique enough to offer something no other marathon could. I had the opportunity to run amongst some o the oldest and tallest trees in the world, we are talking over 25 stories tall!
On Saturday morning I began my long drive up to the northwest and arrived close to 3 pm. Went to the start line to pick up packet, I must say the packet pickup was very lackluster compared to others I have been too. Only 1 running company was present and they didn’t even have body glide. I checked into my hotel afterwards and scoped out a place to eat with the help of my lovely fiance. Made a reservation for one, kind of depressing sitting in a restaurant by yourself eating some pasta. Thankfully the waitress was nice and the food was excellent. Cicelos New Orleans Bistro if memory serves me right. Ended up getting something off the kids menu… butter noodles with cheese, but perfect for carb overloading. I was constantly having water throughout the day and continued to drink at night.
Went back to the hotel after dinner and did some pre-race preparation including laying out all my clothes, going over my nutrition plan that Lauren set up for me. I should mention I signed up for EFAST a few months prior to give me a little bit of an extra boost for the marathon prep. So far it has been very valuable to get a different perspective on my training and conditioning.
Watched “Waterboy” that was on TV and hit the sack around 10:30. After using the bathroom several times…
Woke up bright and early at 5 AM and got ready for the day, hit up the shower to wake myself up and put on my race clothes. Double checked that I had everything and hit the road in my Prius (it was about a 30 minute drive to the start area). I arrived and parked over by the trail I took pictures at the day prior and parked in about the same place. Listened to some music to get myself psyched. This would be the last song I would listen to for a good 4 hours. So of course I picked “Danger Zone” from Top Gun. =)
One of the many challenges for me to face during this race were the rules on the site that listed NO HEADPHONES ALLOWED. I guess there was some fine print that said you could wear them, if you really wanted too, but you would be disqualified from receiving any prizes or age group awards. I did several long runs without headphones, but I knew this was going to be a big challenge for me.
Took one last swig of Gatorade and took off my pre-race sweater. It wasn’t even cold out. Crap I thought…. Another negative to the list. I run MUCH better in cooler weather than I do hot, this was going to be interesting. On top of that it rained most of the morning so it was VERY humid out.
I lined up near the start line, about 20-30 people or so back. I remember reading that if you didn’t want to weave it was best to start near the front. I started a conversation with a runner to me who was going for 3:20 or so. He said he ran CIM in December, as did I so we begin talking and I said best of luck to you and enjoy the beautiful run. As we wrapped up our conversation they began to sing the national anthem and it was done beautifully. Shortly afterwards I just stared at my watch, with no music to setup I didn’t know what to do.
My GPS actually registered as having a signal, something I was very worried about but because we were in a clearing I don’t think there was anything to interfere. But this would be one of the hardest challenges for me as during the race I never quite knew how fast i was going at any given moment and my mile splits were completely off from what I had manually in my head.
DISCLAIMER: All these times are based on what MY watch said, not official in the slightest.
They started the countdown… And we are off!
Mile 1: 7:49
As usual tons of people pass me in this mile running ahead so excited to be racing! I thought nothing of it and maintained my pace, though I was concerned because my watch told me I was going a lot slower than I thought I was. Then it said I was going super fast like sub 7. I was getting worried. When I crossed over the mile 1 marker I looked at my watch and it read 7:30 exactly. Soooo great my GPS wasn’t registering. Great. This was going to be a very challenging race. I had to play everything based off feel and manual math at this point.
Mile 2: 8:03
Another GPS malfunction I ran about a 7:32 when I crossed over marker 2. I asked some runners around me if their watches were working, all of them said no.
Mile 3: 7:49
I knew I had to run a slower pace at the start of the race so I told myself I would slow down a bit and make sure I had everything in order. I see a biker pass me and tell me that there’s a car coming up behind us. Apparently someone was late to the aid station, so they thought it would be good to drive through the course and run over the marathoner’s. Had to slide over for that one…
Mile 4: 7:46
Took half a blok here, and wondered where the heck the water station was. Finally saw it. I was VERY thirsty at this point and boy did that Gatorade feel great.
Mile 5: 7:50
I could keep worrying about my time and constantly watch every mile marker and do math in my head or just run with someone and pick people off one by one. And I knew after the turn-around I would do just that.
Mile 6: 7:25
Okay, as I rehearsed in my pre-race prep. The race has begun. I knew on the way back it would be some downhill so I decided to take advantage of it and let it carry me a little faster than usual… but not too fast. Most of the people faded that ran out fast at the start and I was now sitting pretty. On top of that, I saw the race leaders around 5.5 miles so I was actually fairly close to the front of the pack, something I have never had the opportunity to see in a race like this.
Mile 7: 7:10
Again, not sure if these times are off, but I would say this one might be fairly accurate. I think I passed a girl here who I chatted briefly with to get an idea of how fast I was going. She was going for sub 3:20. Good I thought, right about where I want to be.
Mile 8: 6:58
Here is where begins to be questionable. I highly doubt I would be running a sub 7 mile at this point so I think my GPS miscalculated. And I remember going by an aid station screaming “Gatorade”! To hear a person say Gatorade back to me. When I went to pick it up I was greeted by poorly filled cup of water. Sad face.
Mile 9: 6:46
What? So apparently I am running my 10k pace right now, at least to my watch I am. This is why I stopped looking at my watch and just decided to run. The people were getting harder to pass, as they were going similar paces to me, anytime a downhill section came along is when I usually gained ground.
Mile 10: 7:04
Passed a guy here with headphones on, who was a battle back and forth for a while. I also jotted some times down before the race of mile marker splits and where I should be time wise. I was about 2.5 minutes behind here. Whereas mile 6 I was about 4 minutes behind.
Mile 11: 7:25
Doing some back and forth with Mr. headphones. Very jealous that he is wearing them. Oh and what is this a police car decides to drive the course and almost runs me over. Thanks! lost some time there.
Mile 12: 7:25
Okay, getting closer to the halfway point. and still feeling good. Though a little tired.
Mile 13: 7:25
Crowds, cheering, noise! OMG I love this. I realized right here how much I love big city marathons and really appreciate the noise spectators make for you. And as soon as I passed mile 13 it was gone… until the end of the race. I looked at my split time around here and realized I was just about where I wanted to be. Sweet! Just maintain until the end and you got this!
Mile 14: 7:28
Headphone guy is RIGHT behind me, I figure I might want to talk to him at this point since he seems to be running the same pace.
After chatting with him for a bit we realize we are in some trouble. We see a bunch of walkers up ahead. Crap the 10k and half marathon started and now we have to weave through them. So much for racing the course strategically. Now it was just about not running someone over.
Mile 15: 7:37
As we continue to weave in and out of the 10kr’s we run into another runner who is going a similar pace. After chatting with him we find out he too is going for 3:15 as well. Perfect, I think to myself, the 3 of us will finish this together!
Mile 16: 7:19
The three of us pull through the 10krs together, now all that’s left is the half marathon walkers and slower runners. Oh, and 10 more miles.
Mile 17: 7:43
I think I stopped at an aid station to get fluids here. I was thirsty. Way more than usual. Earlier in the race I was mixing Gatorade with water and dumping the leftover water down my head and neck. Did the same here. Just drank them faster. We lost one of the 3:15s. And it was just me and headphone guy, except he didn’t stop for water.
Mile 18: 8:01
I now have lost track of headphone guy, it’s just me and an army of slow moving joggers. I have no sense of pace and mentally all I see is tired people who start to walk. My mind is telling me to do the same.
Mile 19: 8:34
This is terrible. I am now getting passed by all the people who I passed in the early miles 4-9. I remember each and every one of them as they were the harder ones to pass. The one’s with a steady pace. One by one they are now picking me off. I knew I was fading but there was nothing I could do about it. I felt like crap, I was tired as hell and I wanted the race to be over. The worst part was we still hadn’t reached the turnaround point yet.
Mile 20: 8:34
Finally, I reach the turn-around. But not before seeing headphone guy running the opposite direction urging me to go faster. I’d love too but I know if I did I would just collapse into a death march.
Mile 21: 8:34
Okay, I tell myself only a 10k left. This is where I was suppose to turn on the gears and run fast according to my plan. But now it was just me holding on for dear life. Surrounded by half marathoner’s blocking the water stations, I am forced to stop at each one to make sure I get the fluids I need.
Mile 22: 8:25
I don’t bother looking at my watch here. I know I was doing terrible. I felt like a dead carcus on the freeway getting pecked by birds, as 1 by 1 marathon runners would slowly eat me for breakfast.
Mile 23: 8:04
I feel a light mist coming down. It feels so nice and refreshing. I stick out my tongue to try and collect some of the water. A couple minutes later it turns into a torrential downpour. It was raining as bad as CIM, just not as windy. I am now drenched, sort of cooled me off a bit. Actually quite nice at the time.
Mile 24: 8:32
Rain stopped, so now I am hot again, carrying extra weight from my clothes absorbing all the water, and it starts to feel humid again. Ah hell this marathon sucks I tell myself.
Mile 25: 9:19
Huge uphill section in this mile, but i didn’t stop climbing this sucker. I knew it was coming because of the out and back and I was trying to save something for it. And I did. Climbed to the top and then realized I had just a bit further to go. I looked at my watch, surprised that I might have a chance at finishing close to a PR I try to push myself harder.
Mile 26: 7:52
I realized I hadn’t been passed in about 3 miles. This was a confidence booster and I used it to my advantage. I told myself no one would pass me until I finish. I saw a few runners had finished were now walking up the course encouraging us and telling us only a bit more to go. I knew one of those bits was the bridge, which consisted of another sharp uphill. Not something I wanted to hear. I look at my watch. I have 3 minutes before it says 3:23. I need to run faster. My legs are churning as fast I can muster, but there is nothing left in the tank. They feel like dead weights at this point just slowing me down. 2 minutes, still not there but oh I know I am close. 1 minute. I tell myself I will count the seconds a loud. I round the final turn at 30 some seconds and a full sprint. I count to 40 seconds and then cross over the finish line. I look at the time I see 3:23:19. As I come in I given a medal and told where the medical tent is because I could barely stand up at that point.
Final Chip time: 3:23:15 (a new PR….. by 12 seconds.)
46th overall — Turn Around 1: 50:17 — Half Mar: 1:37:18 — Turn Around 2: 2:28:04
No tears of joy this time, no tears at all. I look around pissed. Pissed at myself, pissed at the course, pissed in general. I was angry. This marathon kicked my ass and there was nothing I could do about it now. I gather myself and get some much needed water. No shivers, no need to get a space blanket. I am still hot from the run and still not cooling down. Post race food was terrible, minus the bags of chips near the back.
I sat on a rock and tried to stretch. I could barely even do that. After CIM I felt great, I was able to stretch and walk around, I was sore but still functional. After this race I felt like someone had run over my legs with a cement roller. I didn’t want to leave that rock. I wanted to sit there for a long time. I wanted to sit there until my legs felt better. They didn’t.
Soon enough an older man came by with his family who was giving him water and energy bars. He sat on the rock next to me and said this never gets any easier. Truer words could not be spoken. He also told me he ran a 3:05. a little tough to hear that coming from a guy twice your age. But hey, good for him and that’s amazing.
He left shortly after, and I said it was time for me to make the walk back to the car.
I called my fiance and parents letting them know how I did. Telling them it was a very tough race and I didn’t achieve my goal. But both of them congratulated me on finishing the race and for PRing. My mom said something that stuck with me the most. She said, “I am just amazed that you ran another marathon and completed it.”
She is right, most people don’t run marathons, and some people who do don’t finish them. I put the time in, I put the effort and training in, and I completed the marathon in a respectable time. She also mentioned all the extra challenges I had.
For this race… I had ….No headphones, no music, no accurate pace, no water belt, walkers blocking the course, no crowd, no friends or family. It was just me and the giant redwoods. It was an experience a great challenging race, but not something I will do again. I realized I am big marathon type of runner. I am someone who likes running races with people cheering you on, with the ability to listen to my music, with no problems finding a satellite for your watch to lock onto. I am someone who likes to drink water/Gatorade when they want too, not when aid stations think you should. If this means I carry an extra 4 pounds so be it.
Thank you Avenue of the Giants for telling me what I needed to know. And for having an absolute beautiful course to run, even with it being an out and back. Thank you for my family and friends for their support during my training. Thank you to Lauren and Ryan from EFAST for their valuable insights and training plans and workouts. And of course thank you to my fantastic fiance for putting up with my running, day after day.
Valuable lessons were taken from this race that I plan to use to my advantage in Chicago on October 12th. I will give it my all for Boston, in front of my home city, my family, my friends and myself.