Today my husband and I ran what has become one of my favorite half marathons to do, the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon. The race starts and finishes in downtown Bellingham, quite a distance north of us, so we opted to make a weekend of it and go up on Friday night to Birch Bay, about 12 miles north of Bellingham, and enjoy the area.
The weather this weekend was gorgeous. We went to the expo Saturday only to discover that they had somehow assigned us each TWO sets of numbers--not sure why, we didn't pay twice! Maybe it's a sign we need to do the full marathon next year? Hmmm, something to think about. After that we went for a drive to see the sights and enjoy the fall colors before returning for a delicious pasta dinner we'd prepaid for. We got back to where we were staying in Birch Bay just as the sun was setting and were treated to this:
After relaxing in the pool and hot tub, we went back to our room and laid out our clothes for race day before going to bed reasonably early. Of course, I was more than a little paranoid about the race, so I had to get up and check on my phone to make sure that I'd read the start time correctly: yup, 9:30 a.m. start for the half marathon. No need to be up at 4 a.m. like some races. I tried to sleep and eventually drifted off.
We got up and checked the weather and temperature outside: cool and clear, just as predicted. Once we were dressed and had things packed, we checked out and headed to the race, stopping at Starbucks for our traditional pre-race breakfast of a bacon and egg sandwich and latte. Our timing was perfect, arriving just about an hour before the race start--enough time to park, walk to the race area, and find our favorite pre-race spot to visit:
Virtually no lines--gotta love a race that makes sure there are plenty of porta potties available!
Here I am waiting for the start:
I'd been a little concerned about this half since we haven't done as many or as long runs as I'd prefer, but no worries. We started out strong but tried our best to keep the pace to a reasonable level. My husband and I always start out together, only parting if he needs to take a bio break during the race or I'm feeling a need to walk more than him. We talked as we started out about trying something a little different than our usual 2 minutes running, 1 minute walking: why not run a mile, then walk a minute or two? We could always switch back if it didn't work out well.
We both were feeling remarkably good and strong. The weather was absolutely gorgeous, the crowd support was great, and the course was beautiful. We ran together the first half of the race before my husband decided he really needed to stop for a bio break, so we said goodbye and I continued on by myself.
One of the reasons we love this race is the views. The race starts in downtown Bellingham, goes through some pretty neighborhoods, and then goes along the water. Here's a view of the marina we passed by:
I kept on running a mile, then walking a minute or so up until around mile 9.5. I'd run up quite a few hills by that time, and I found I needed to walk to recover sooner than the next mile mark. It wasn't a problem to start running again soon, though, and I was able to go back to running a mile, then walking a minute for most of the rest of the race.
The last couple of miles, I was definitely slower. I'd been on pace to beat my best time for a half for most of the race, but it was getting warmer and the hills had taken a toll on me. I kept thinking of all the people I know who are facing much greater challenges than a little tiredness in a race and kept going. The last half mile was blessedly almost all downhill, and before long I was passing the 13 mile banner and turned the last corner to see the finish line.
As I crossed the finish line and got my medal, I stopped my Garmin and looked to see my time: 2:47:21, just about a half minute slower than my BEST time. Not too shabby considering how little we have been running lately! I grabbed some food and water, then found a spot near the finish line to watch for my husband while I ate and stretched. About 10 minutes later, he crossed the finish line himself, looking tired but smiling as he received his medal.
One of the other reasons this has become a favorite race is because of the medals; they are beautiful works of art, designed by a local Native American artist. Here's my bib and medal from this year:
The medal is a totem, with a frog at the base, then a whale holding an eagle's tail in his mouth; the shirts have the same image but with the addition of two people, one white, one Native American, holding up the totem.
Will we do this one again? Almost certainly--and who knows, we might even go for the full marathon next year!