Yakima River Canyon Marathon

Lots of things this year haven’t gone quite as planned and that’s just the way life goes. I signed up for Yakima River Canyon as a response to falling ill and doing poorly at Birch Bay. That was supposed to be my one chance to qualify for Boston this year, and based on my training runs, I was ready for it. The result was a let down and that got the best of me. The idea was to focus on triathlon after that, and put all of my training energy into preparing for Honu.

Instead, my right foot was quite aggravated from running with poor form, a result from guarding the stomach pain that the flu caused. And somehow, with my foot smarting, I thought it was a good idea to sign up for Yakima River Canyon.

At least I came to my senses. Sort of.

By the week before the race, I more or less resolved to run it as a moderate paced training exercise, enjoy the views of the canyon, and primarily to finish the day smiling and ready to move on to the more important goals for Honu. It turned out that starting the day with these very conservative goals set me on a path to nearly perfect race execution.

With my watch set to record splits every 5k, I started out running the first couple of miles at a very easy warm up pace. It wasn’t until mile 5 or so that I finally settled into running 7:05-7:10 miles. Cruising through the canyon, I just focused on enjoying the views, and keeping good form. I chatted with other runners and cheered on the walkers who had started two hours before. 5k after 5k flew by at about 22 minutes apiece.

Around mile 19 I let the pace drop back to 7:40+ and over the course of a couple of miles I got down the last two energy gels I was carrying. I figured I’d need to conserve my legs for the long climb beginning at mile 21.5 and then the finish. I chugged up the climb at a 9:00 pace, passing many runners who seemed to be suffering mightily.

At the top of the climb, I glanced at my watch. With just a little over 5k to go, I was at 2:54. The 3:15 standard for Boston suddenly seemed to be possible. The remainder of the course was mostly downhill, some of it steep, with just a couple of short uphill sections and a final nearly flat mile to the line. Doing my best to quicken the turnover and hold form, I took off down the canyon.

With 100m or less to go, the finish line finally came into view with 3:14:56 on the official clock. Watching the clock tick over 3:15 was crushing but I held on to run strong through the finish line in 3:15:15.

Walking to the food tent I remembered that that extra 15 seconds didn’t matter. For one more year, the qualifying window for 2012, the BAA is keeping the rule that ignores the seconds part of the time. Essentially, as long as it’s 3:15 or under, it’s good. BQ at last!

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