Skagit Flats Half Marathon Disaster

After last week’s promising half marathon, I thought I might have a chance at a PR race. Well, apparently running 20 miles, 48 hours later running a half marathon at goal marathon pace, and then six days later running another half marathon = dead legs.

On top of that, my heart wasn’t in the race, and I stayed out too late Saturday night for my friend’s bachelorette party.

The theme for the party was neon!

I was in bed at 11:30 and 5:3o came very early Sunday morning. When I first woke up, I was tempted to text Christina and cancel so I could snooze several more hours.

I fought the temptation, got ready, picked up Christina, and drove 60 miles to the scene of the crime.

In case you forgot, I was originally supposed to run the Skagit Full Marathon, but I decided to switch to the half and run Portland instead. Man oh man am I happy I made that decision.

Dad ran the Skagit Flats Marathon about ten years ago, and it was his worst marathon ever. He said it was tough because you’re out in the middle of nowhere, so you don’t benefit from spectators with funny signs and the overall race atmosphere.

Since I don’t mind small races, I didn’t think it would be a big deal. I figured Skagit Flats would be like the Honeywagon Half and many ways it is (it’s out in the middle of farm land, few spectators, and very flat terrain). However, unlike Honeywagon, Skagit Flats has you run straight on roads for miles and miles. The straightaways are depressing and make for a pretty boring race. Also, they don’t close off the streets so you have to deal with cars passing you. More annoying than cars, however, was a jerk on a dirt bike who drove through the fields and kicked up a bunch of dirt on me and the other runners midway through the race. I was not pleased.

I didn’t have any solid goals for the race, but I hoped to keep it around 8:30 pace. We ran the first couple miles relatively fast, and I knew I was in trouble around mile 3. My legs were tired, my breathing was off, and I mentally wasn’t in it. I told Christina at mile 3 that she could run ahead because I was really tired and not feeling it. Tired with 10 miles to go — not a fun feeling.

I spent the next few miles trying to get my breathing under control, but it was hard to recover from going out too fast.

From miles 6-11, I checked out of the race. I walked when I wanted, I was passed a lot, and I couldn’t wait until the finish line.

A few highlights from these miles include: a cat running across the road and trying to pounce on runners, watching pretty horses run around in a field, and for some potty humor, around mile 8 I ran by a herd of cows and saw one cow briefly hump another cow. I know it’s middle school humor, but I was tired and cranky and it was funny at the time. Also, you don’t see stuff like that in Seattle races. 🙂

At mile 11, I told myself, “Dude, you’re running a half marathon and only have two miles left — let’s take it up a notch!” Since I’d spent the last five miles not trying very hard, I was able to increase my pace and motivate myself to run faster by picking people ahead of me whom I wanted to pass.

With a mile left to go, I realized that I could still finish under 2 hours if I pushed myself. Aside from my trail half marathon, I haven’t finished a half marathon this year over 2 hours, and I didn’t want to finish my last one of the year over 2. I continued picking out runners I wanted to pass and ended up finishing 1:59:40, barely under the 2 hour barrier.

I’m happy that I was able to check back in with two miles to go, but I’m not proud of this race. I’ve raced the last four weekends in a row, and it’s clear that I’m “raced out.” I’m excited for Portland next month, but I’m also excited that I have no other races on my calendar.

I am also so so SO happy that I made the decision to run the Portland full instead of Skagit. Dad, I don’t admit this often, but you were right, and I now understand why you said registering for that race would feel like having a guillotine hanging over your head. No offense to Skagit Flats (they did a great job organizing the race and the money raised goes to a worthwhile cause: the high school cross-country team), but that mentally would be a tough marathon to run, and I’m thankful I only endured 13.1 miles rather than 26.2.


One thought on “Skagit Flats Half Marathon Disaster

  1. Megan:

    More than once, when someone has innocently asked me how my marathon went, I have answered: “It was a profound disaster.” I have tried to explain this, but usually I have the sense that I am talking in some unintelligible tongue. Now I think you will be able to understand this–you have had the experience. We no longer have to be afraid of disaster; we have survived. And there is a tremendous freedom in that.
    Right before my first marathon, I was so afraid I came close to quitting before I even started. I shared this fear with a close friend. He asked me: “What is the worst thing that could happen?” The miracle is not that we finish the race; the miracle is that we set aside our fears of disaster and failure and just started the damn race. And so now I’ve run 20 marathons and one ultra.
    The week before my date with Mt. Rainier, I almost backed out of the climb. There was a girl in the group. I had a crush on her. And I knew that she had “dated” the leader of our group. Compared to the mountain guide, I was sure to look puny and incompetent. So I wouldn’t go. Again, I shared this with another close friend. He told me something I have repeated many times since: “Just go meet the mountain.” So I got to find out what it feels like to stand on top of the world. It feels good!
    Yes, there have been failures, disappointments, disasters. You mention my Skagit Flats Marathon. It was an epic disaster. I went in to the race thinking I had a good chance of qualifying for Boston. I’d done the work. I’d trained hard for four months. I was ready to throw myself into it. But within a few miles I knew I was in serious trouble. I was throwing up on the side of the road. I had nothing, absolutely nothing. But maybe because of that, because I had nothing, because I was immersed in a terrible failure, because it felt as if all the running gods had turned their backs on me (etymologically, the word disaster means: malevolant astral influence), I had a moment of real clarity out there in the middle of nowhere. You described it just as well as I can describe it. You are dying an ugly death: suddenly the cat runs playfully into the road; suddenly you see the pretty horses in the field; two cows are doing what all animals do … and it is all so FUNNY! I had a moment in the marathon, I had just thrown up, I had given up any dreams of glory, I was WALKING, and then suddenly I saw as if it had materialized out of nothingness, a lonely old farm house, a cat in the front yard, horses in a field, and one great big beautiful tree with each and every one of its leaves fluttering in a breeze I did not know even existed. I paused, stunned by this tree, the music of its quivering leaves in the invisible wind, its roots deep in the tenebrous earth; and I felt a real peace, an acceptance of the reality of the moment, me and the tree and the earth and the horses and the cat. Without benefit of this “disaster,” I wouldn’t have seen or felt any of that.
    The disaster had been a gift. I still strive to “climb the mountain.” I still dream of running the perfect race. But if it should all fall apart, if my dreams should all unravel, that’s ok too. I’ve been there. And I’m no longer so paralyzed by fear. After all, “What’s the worst thing that could happen?”
    Happy running, Megan!

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