Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beat the Blerch Marathon part 1

At the Start
What is a Blerch you ask? Read this online comic about the Terrible and Wonderful Reasons Why I Run Long Distances and you'll know that the blerch is that little voice in your head which lets you sit on the couch eating junk food. you know you'll feel better if you get up and are active and eat better but sitting on that couch is so much easier.

The Oatmeal (Matt Inman) released this comic in late 2013 and it took the running world by storm. Every runner I knew was telling  me about this comic and could relate to something in it. As a friend of a friend, I knew that Mr. Oatmeal wanted to put on his own trail race and when this comic was so popular, I knew he was looking for the Blerch themed race.

And he did it and announced the innaugural Beat the Blerch race here in the Seattle area featuring 3 distances of 10k, half marathon and full marathon. This was a very popular event. The race sign up closed in 30 minutes and crashed the sign up servers. I was one of the lucky few (capped at 2000) who got in. with such popularity, they announced that there would be second day of events on the same weekend. So I had signed up for the sunday race but there would also be races on saturday. I really wanted to sign up for the inaugural marathon and was able to switch my registration.

I had quite a few friends who were signed up for various distances and the group that I run with was also hosting a volunteer aid station so I knew it would be a fun event not only because the Oatmeal was promising cake, nutella, magical grape drink, running blerches and other fun stuff (read the comic!).
Motivational (?) signs.

However, I signed up for this race in late March and at that point had no idea what my running goals were. I'd hoped to aim for racing (as opposed to finishing) a marathon but this particular race would not be conducive to that goal. So I always had it in my head that this would just be a race to run for fun as a training run.  

Fast forward to this summer and this race perfectly fit into my race goals for the end of the year. For me, it was not ever going to be anything but a fun run.

Late September can be warm or cool here. This race had a rather late 9 am race start which was very nice for getting out to the area from Seattle. Given that late start and how long it takes to run a marathon, the chances of it being very warm were high. This race course was all on the Snoqualmie Valley Trail which is a 31 mile long gravel trail. It's a fantastic training trail for both cycling and running but that gravel starts to bother me after a while.

This race also promised a lot of other fun distractions. There were supposed to be couches out on course with people dressed up as blerches. Aid stations featured cake and nutella. There were a lot of on course photographers and photos were supposed to be free so i did make sure to take advantage of that. And it was a great atmosphere with lots of people dressed up and everyone in a great mood.

For an inaugular race, this was very well done. I know people were concerned about parking in the area but overall I think it was not a problem. There was plenty of parking in various lots all fairly close to the main park which had limited parking to volunteers and those who bought a parking pass.

I would guess that for the 10k and the half that it might have been a bit crowded on the race course the first mile as it is a fairly narrow paved trail for the first half mile and then onto a rocky trail. The marathon had 190 finishers but the 10k and half both had about 700 finishers each. Each race had their own start which was good. I was running and coming up on the last run/walkers of the half and there was enough traffic to have to pay attention but nothing too crowded.

I did hear some complaints about limited portopotties on the course. Note that there seemed to be plenty at the race start but this trail has limited access points plus it is narrow so there are not a lot of options for many portopotties at the aid stations. I'd even heard that the aid station at mile 6/7 for half and 10/20 for full marathoners was supposed to have a portopotty but some local challenged the delivery of the portopotty the day before and it was thus not delivered.

My only complaint, between nutella sandwhiches, cake and grape electrolyte drink to the usual bananas and gels at the aid stations and back at the finish there was nothing that was salty to have. I did bring my own electrolyte tablets but would've been super happy with some potato chips at the finish. I guess there had been some but they ran out by the time I finished.

Congrats Mr. Oatmeal! You did good!

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