The Green River Marathon: My Dream Race

By Tanya

This spring I ran the Boston Marathon - a dream come true.  But the unexpected heat forced me to go with my Plan B, a finish time that did not qualify me to run the Boston Marathon again in 2018.  This meant, I would need to run another marathon before September 2017 and get a Boston Qualifying time of 3:45:00 or better. The marathon I chose for this purpose was the Green River Marathon (GRM). I heard about the GRM from some running friends who raced it for the past couple of years and really liked it.
Some of the major draws of the GRM are: 

  • The majority of the race takes place on a mostly flat biking trail. 
  • A big portion of the race is along the scenic Green River and ends at the beautiful Alki Beach. 
  • The Kent, Washington, location is a mere three hour drive from Portland.
  • It is a small race with only about 150 runners. 
  • The course is a Boston certified course. 
  • The best part? This is a FREE race! Donations are accepted to help pay for event costs, i.e. supplies, improvements and certifications, however a substantial amount of the donations are given to a local charity.
Some of the drawbacks of the GRM are: 

  • Because it is a free race it is put on entirely by an all-volunteer crew. That being said, we were warned there are only a few rotating aid stations along the course and runners are encouraged to “bring your own bottle to be filled.  
  • The course is entirely open, meaning cars are not stopped, and when you get to a traffic light you must wait for traffic. 
  • It also ends on a busy beach boardwalk and some weaving around public may be necessary. 
  • Additionally, the race is not chip timed so when it starts at 8:30am you better be close to the starting line and hope your Garmin, and their watch at the end function correctly! 
  • The race takes place in early June and hot weather can be a factor. Last year it was 80 degrees during the race! 
  • There is also no fanfare whatsoever. No swag, no big cheering crowds, and no medal.

The drawbacks of GRM were not deal breakers for me.  However, because I am directionally challenged, especially when focusing on maintaining my BQ pace as well as my fueling, I was scared I would accidently get off course somewhere. This fear was put to rest when two of my best running buddies, Michael and Paul, told me they would pace me during the first and second half of the race.

Because my race in Boston was so difficult, my confidence was a little shaken. I was so certain that I was stronger this year than the previous year when I ran and qualified for Boston at the Vernonia Marathon. When I was not able to push through the heat and tough course at Boston I wondered if maybe I just had a lucky day in Vernonia. Regardless, two of my best running friends had just qualified for their first Boston marathon and I knew I had to join them.

The GRM was six weeks after I ran Boston so I was on a new training routine I’d never practiced before. I decided to just repeat the last 6 weeks of my previous training program and pray that I was actually as strong as I thought. Because the GRM had been 80 degrees last year, I was concerned the heat may once again get the better of me.  I combatted this fear by going to a “Training for Hot Races” seminar by Coach Chris Bragg. I decided to apply the lessons I had learned for the GRM, just in case.

Some of the new heat tactics I practiced included finding out my sweat rate and corresponding amount of fluids I would need to replace during my marathon.  I was shocked to discover this was forty ounces per hour! Once I knew how many fluids, I practiced replacing them plus more, while simulating a hot environment. To do this I did what my friends and I coined “Toilet Training.” I spent one hour, three nights a week in my bathroom on my bike trainer with my shower running and a space heater blasting on my face while forcing myself to ingest sixty ounces of fluid with electrolytes. Yes I am that crazy!

I was a nervous about having to replace forty ounces of fluid and electrolyte every hour during the race. In order to do so I would have to carry two twenty ounce water bottles while running and refill them two or three more times! Michael and Paul volunteered to be my “fuel mules” and carry my water bottles for me, and three more amazing friends of mine volunteered to drive along the course and replace the fuel as needed! How lucky was I to have five friends traveling to the race to support me on the course? It was already shaping up to be a dream race!
Me and My Awesome Pacers: Michael, Paul, and Lynnette
As the race day grew closer the weather forecast fell in line with the “dream race” theme and it looked like cloud cover, no rain and an ideal 60-65 degrees the whole time!

The night before the race I dreamed that I missed the start of the race. I woke up in a funk with my stomach in knots. It is very unusual for me to have stomach issues before or during a race so when I was unable to eat all of my pre-race breakfast fuel I was a little concerned.
I lined up at the start of the race on time, but still felt like I was in a foggy, dream-like state. The first two miles I felt a bit “off” but continued with my plan to stay at my pace of 8:23 per mile and force in my forty ounces of electrolyte fluid. Around mile four I started to feel like I was going to throw up. Sensing my discomfort, my friend Michael kept reassuring me I was doing well and keeping right on my pace.
                                               The GRM very simple starting line and small racing crowd.
My mind started to doubt. I thought maybe the pace was too fast, but I needed to keep the consistent pace to meet my BQ goal, so I kept going. I kept drinking and gagging. I figured that if I threw up, oh well. Perhaps I’d feel better and then just keep going. Miles 6-13 continued in the same way, feeling like crap but holding my pace.

At mile 13, I saw my crew again.  Michael switched out with Paul and he became my new pacer. I did my best to put on a smile for my crew. Paul brought with him a new bottle of my carb mix and two new bottles of electrolyte water. I knew I would need the carb to sustain me through the last six miles, so I forced it in as quickly as I could and did my best to keep it down. Paul kept offering me my electrolyte drink and telling me I was on pace but at that point I started to feel dizzy and zone out. I felt like my dream race had turned into a nightmare. I made a decision at that point that I was going to keep pushing along and keep my pace until I either felt better or passed out. I prayed that God would keep me going strong and if possible make me feel better so I could enjoy the experience.
The next four miles were a blur. I told Paul I was going to either throw up or pass out.  He reminded me that I may feel like crap but I was keeping my pace. He told me to splash the water on my face at the next aid station and that made me feel better. Around mile 17 my angel crew showed up again. I couldn't drink any more electrolyte so Paul switched it out for straight water.

By mile 18 we were finally going through a city and off the long straight bike path. The change in scenery and variance in terrain, along with the straight water started working wonders. Also, at each of the tricky turns or traffic stops before we’d get there Michael Allen would already be there waving for us and/or pushing the cross walk button to get us a walk signal right when we got there! So amazing, right?! By mile 19 when we hit the first of the two hills, I felt so much better. At mile 20, my friend Lynnette came onboard to pace me the last six miles. She and I have a very similar cadence and I knew I’d make it to my goal if I just kept in step with her.
Lynnette and Me stride for stride
By mile 21 when other runners were starting to struggle, I was starting to feel pretty good! We started passing runners left and right and I just kept making sure my watch was staying at an overall 8:23 pace.

At mile 25 when we turned onto the boardwalk at Alki Beach and I knew I was going to meet my goal I stopped looking at my watch and just ran! I enjoyed the beautiful view and said a prayer of thanks to God for my amazing friends! Halfway into mile 25, Michael joined us again and all four of us ran strong into the finish where the other half of my crew, Sacha and Michael Nguyen, were waiting for us with cheers, cowbells and cameras!
 Crossing the no frills finish line with my three amazing pacers
My official finishing time was 3:39:20! That’s 5 minutes 40 seconds faster than my Boston Qualifying time and 2 minutes and 55 seconds faster than my fastest marathon!
Thanks to my wonderful friends and racing crew, the Green River Marathon truly was my dream race!
My Crew: Me, Michael Nguyen, Michal Allen
Lynnette, Paul and Sacha

      Mile        Pace

1 comment:

  1. Way to go T. I am so proud of you and those splits! So consistent. That is very impressive.