2011 — Marathon-A-Month ‘N Checkin It Twice

You know Whidby Island and Vancouver
And Port Angeles and the Knee Knacker,
Moose Mountain and Bellingham
And Columbia Gorge and Seattle.
But do you recall
The most glitzy marathon of ALL?

Las Vegas the last of nine marathons
Had a very racy strip
And if you ever saw it, you would even say it glowed…

‘Tis The Season For Looking Back

Why would you want to run nine marathons in nine months marathons they ask?

Why not? I reply.

[quote type=”center”] We are all living in cages with the door wide open. ~George Lucas[/quote]

It’s amazing how we become lost in routines. In fact, how the veil of the words it’s tradition provides an excuse for us to not try out new things and grow as individuals.

George Lucas’ wall-rattling realizations rattled me after I ran my first marathon in many years last October 31, 2010 — the Dean Karnazes San Jose Marathon. [Read More …]

2011 is the year age 45 made it’s appearance. This is the year I knew needed a little shake up.

Aside from the physical pursuit of running nine marathons in nine months, I wanted to fulfill a dream I have had for many years to help kids in need and to help make their wishes come true.

So… on November 15, 2010 I began to train seriously; 6 days a week, every week for my first marathon. According to Mr. Dean Karnazes it would take 4 months for endurance training, which would mean my first of nine marathons would fall in April 2011. Hill training? Speedwork? I convinced myself to worry about that later.

On January 1, 2011 my fundraising initiative was born, Make10WishesComeTrue. The goal for 2011 — to raise money for 10 Make-A-Wish kids struggling with life-threatening diseases. [Read More…]

2011 Unfolded Quicker Than A Wink

Lengths Please

A marathon is 26.2 miles or 42.195 kilometers.
An ultra is any race over 26.2 miles.

My Inspiration

The 3,000-Mile Man: Exclusive Interview with Dean Karnazes [Read More…]

Most Scenic Scenery

The Columbia Gorge Marathon hands down.

Oh My Gawd — Craziest Moment

Crossing the Knee Knacker finish line — my first Ultra, my first trail race (30 miles/48.2kilometeres and over 8,000 feet/743 meter elevation gain) completed in 9 hours and 40 minutes and ending up in the Emergency ward with Hyponatremia.

Ah Yeah Discovery

This one left me with a mouth WIDE OPEN — there exists a Vancouver 100. This is a YO-YO version of the Knee Knacker!

Greatest Disappointment

Waking up at 4:30am for the Bellingham Marathon, hearing the pouring rain outside my hotel window, getting dressed, waiting in the empty, dark lobby for a taxi ride to the cold, wet start and deciding I couldn’t go through with it.

Worst Question My Very Supportive Family Asked Me In My Races

How do you feel?

Most Important Discovery

Salt — you can’t live without it! Ended up in the Emergency ward in July with doctor’s echoing down my throat the danger of kidney failure. I apparently had not consumed enough of this white stuff.

Best Marathon Medal

Moose Mountain’s 13cm (five inch) across stainless steel medal; laser engraved right through. It is the heaviest medal, the most unique medal, the medal that makes me feel most Canadian to boot!

Proudest Moment

Crossing the Las Vegas finish line. Was hoping this to be my fastest marathon of the year, ended up having to walk a good portion of the last half because it was my second marathon in a week. BUT crossing that finish line a wave of YOU DID IT rushed through me and the biggest smile of the year took hold.

‘Tis The Marathons For 2012 Anyone?

Whidbey Island Marathon

Washington, USA | April

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of the marathon and feeling pretty emotional. This was the first marathon in my marathon-a-month escapade.

Mr. Dean Karnazes led my marathon training. There was so much more to learn, but here I was on the fourth longest island in the contiguous U.S. and the gun shot off!

One word to sum up this course: IDYLLIC. Second word to sum up this course: HILLY — (third word) MAJOR.

An immediate trepid embrace with hills took hold. This was the first of many, as we shot out of our quiet near-Deception Pass bridge waterfront send off.

‘Twas an incredibly WINDY day and an incredibly scenic course on back country roads, interleaved with picturesque ocean views.

STRONG head-on wind gusts, inclines and HILLS — THROUGHOUT.

Tall trees, leaves rustling, branches banging, firewood burning smell-athons and cows and roosters at mile 23, mooing and cock-a-doodling you on!

354 participants start the race and 282 finish it.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where it all started — my new relationship with my new friend.

At mile 18, smile gone and energy waning — words of encouragement slapped by gusts of wind, my husband’s hand reaches out with an aluminum foiled packet oozing over the top with thick, gooey guck.

Try it he says. My frozen hand squeezes a dollop into my mouth, my face strains to swallow this pasty concoction.

I swear, it was like a pinch in the butt. I shot forward with a renewed sense of purpose and the start of a love affair with this unappealing gel known as GU.

BONUS

Some exploration and accomodation in my favorite Washington state historic, sleepy, seaside village of La Connor. Voted most romantic getaway, most exciting small town, best town to capture the Northwest spirit, most undiscovered town. It’s a GOTTA GET AWAY, GOTTA SEE IT little escape.

‘Twas a GREAT start to my nine month escapade and a delight all around.

Vancouver Marathon

British Columbia, Canada | May

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this marathon with a gleam of pride in my eyes.

The shotgun has just released 6,531 half-marathoners onto the course — amongst them my brother-in-law and husband. Two brave, step-up-to-the-plate kind of souls who surrendered to my Christmas gift challenge — two tickets to their first half-marathon.

It’s a beauty of a course, you will LOVE IT, I cajole with a devilish, it will be good for you kind of grin.

The second shotgun shoots off, and the marathoners are released into the 40th running of this stunning ocean and snow-capped mountain-views race. A wonderful route for out-of-town participants to get a taste of the city — weaving you through Vancouver’s famous Stanley Park, False Creek, over the Burrard Street Bridge, and into the Kitsilano and Point Grey neighbourhoods.

This is my hometown, but here’s what others had to say:

  • Beautiful course in a beautiful city. ~ Sean B. (Tacoma, WA)
  • Vancouver itself if beautiful… completely gorgeous…. and what better way to get to know a city than to run it? ~Traci J. (Berkeley, CA)

Wikipedia suggests this race to be the 2nd largest international marathon event in Canada.

3,225 participants finish the race.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where the basic tenet of survival was tested — ensure you carry the basic necessities as backup.

The half-marathoners started before the marathoners. This meant the half-marathoners had first dibs to everything along the first half of the marathon course. What this meant was — our water lifeline and my new love, my re-energizing elixer known as GU was at stake.

I awoke that morning assured by the course description that several GU stations throughout the course would boost and re-energize. Deciding to test the suggestions of some elite marathoners to not eat much for breakfast, I indulged in simply a couple of slices of toast for breakfast. Relying on previous Vancouver Marathon experiences (20 years earlier), and relying on the fact that Vancouver is a large city (by local standards) and very organized, I decide to travel light — no GU, no energy bars on this body today.

So it was totally unexpected when surprise was followed by shock, which turned into anger, which turned into disappointment, which was then fraught with an attempt at counterbalancing negativity with POSITIVE thoughts. Half way through the marathon the aid stations became helpless — no more GU, no more paper cups, only here let me pour water down your throat suggestions.

Ultimately, the responsibility was mine — YES I paid money to run a race promising the fuel needed to carry you through, YES the half marathoners were not at fault for consuming a huge portion of the precious GU stockpiles, YES the half marathoners were not at fault for the fact that there were stations with no paper cups left to drink water from, YES next time I will ensure I carry what I need, just in case.

BONUS

The weather was amazing — with blue skies seemingly merging with white-peaked mountains. But best of all I smiled from ear to ear as I listened to my brother-in-law Mario, THANK ME for this Christmas gift — his first half marathon. All the while, I listened to my husband gloat he may be 17 years senior than Mario, but he finished 15 minutes faster.

‘Twas a SUCCESS overall.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Oregon, USA| June

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this marathon with hopes of breaking barriers — more to the point, my 5 hour barrier.

The gun shot off with beautiful blue skies above. We were off and blazing. For the first-time ever, I managed to hold a 9:30 mile pace past the half way point — a 4:30 finish was VERY close to being palpable.

This race was brilliant, in every sense:

WOW — the North Discovery marathon has been called the best boutique marathon in North America. An incredibly beautiful point-to-point course from Sequim to Port Angeles, that incorporates the Olympic Discovery Trail — with stunning views of the Olympic Mountains and a five mile finishing stretch along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

WOW — the aid stations were simply AMAZING and buzzing with competitive camaraderie. A contest for the most creative aid stations sent the volunteers singing and dancing in costumes that helped you forget any pain you may be in. The finish line was also INCREDIBLE. One volunteer per runner escorting you through and ensuring your safety and comfort.

WOW — I hit my personal best by over a half hour. My fastest finish yet, and looking back, across all nine marathons this year — 4 hours and 39 minutes.

340 participants finish the race.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I learned there exists a rule in the racing world, don’t try anything new the week prior to, or during the marathon.

At mid-race, 13.1 miles everything was ticking like a clock. I was beaming when my husband filled up my water hydration pack and handed me a new energy source to try — a tiny bottle containing 1.9 fluid ounces of what was supposed to shoot me through the remaining course; something called (and something I didn’t really need) the 5-hour ENERGY drink.

With GU having been such a success, the thought that energy-boosting products could actually diminish speed was not a consideration.

What happened after consuming this innocuous looking drink? My 9:30 mile pace slowed right down to a 10:30 mile pace. No sparks, only fizzle. It zapped whatever energy I had right out of me.

BONUS

Aside from the marathon, the surrounding area abounds with adventurous pursuits; from exploring Olympic National Park, to making your way to the most Northwest point of the continental U.S. known as Cape Flattery, to taking a scenic 90 minute ferry crossing from Port Angeles to the capital inner-harbour city of Victoria, British Columbia.

‘Twas an awesome experience — THANK YOU Port Angeles!

Knee Knacker North Shore Trail Run (An Ultra)

British Columbia, Canada | July

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this ULTRA, not marathon, there were quite a few concerns looming above me: [Read More…]

  • I have never run 30 miles(48.2kilometeres) before, let alone climbed over 8,000 feet(743 meters) in a race.
  • I have never run a trail race before.
  • If official predictions were correct, this race should take me 9 hours and 20 minutes to run. Just saying that overwhelms me with OH MY GAWD.
  • I have been training with the Knee Knacker training group for the two months prior and heard all kinds of horror stories about the race. One can’t help wonder what lies ahead.
  • There are pull-out points. If you reach these points after the stated time, you are pulled from the race.

The 6:30 morning gun shoots off and we are off — all 198 participants.

This race demands 100% focus for a long, long time. A few inspirational thoughts seem to waft in and out, one of which is Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in. ~ Willis Harman.

I have spent the last couple of months training for this race with a group of very experienced and amazing athletes. I am overwhelmed that I am participating in this event, but what blows me away is crossing that finish line at 9 hours and 40 minutes — my AH YEAH moment of this year!

My fears of being pulled from the race vanish and protocol takes over — a refreshing, inaugural plunge into Deep Cove’s waters. I am awash with amazement and pride — I just completed the Knee Knacker.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I discover the critical role salt plays in our bodies.

This discovery comes at a cost with an emergency trip to our local hospital and a diagnosis of Hyponatremia.

What exactly is Hyponatremia? It is a condition where you have ‘low concentration of sodium in the blood’ and is sometimes called water intoxication due to the neurological symptoms.

A patient can find themself spiraling down a slippery slope if they’re not aware and neglect to alter their course. Symptoms include: decreasing performance, fatigue, nausea, hyperventilation, mild hyponatremia, cerebral edema, seizures, coma, kidney failure. [Read More…]

BONUS

Aside from experiencing my first ULTRA, I realize I am experiencing many firsts — my first ambulance ride, my first emergency room visit and my first sojourn in the hospital. At different times in my life, I have wondered if I would ever get this dreaded encounter.

I have to admit, it does enter my mind, it’s kinda cool — my ambulance encounter is tied to the Knee Knacker! Well, kinda cool…

Actually, it’s also kind of interesting that my ambulance care attendant was also a Knee Knacker racer — and he fully understood what had just been accomplished.

‘Twas my craziest ten hours of the year.

Moose Mountain Marathon

Alberta, Canada | August

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this trail marathon with one thing in mind — completing this race and proving my much sought after sports doctor at our esteemed University of British Columbia sports medicine facility wrong. [Read More…]

His advice to me don’t run for two months, then work your way up to a marathon again, but slowly. What he didn’t GET was my training runs were feeling fine, albeit a bit more tiring.

The gun shot off. This was definitely a unique race; the race director began by preparing us for what we were about to encounter — the dangers. A deer apparently had been killed, by a bear nonetheless, only hours earlier and was lying somewhere along our route. We were to watch our footing for the deer and our eyes for any bears. This was definitely not a city run, and in fact I was beginning to feel inklings of being a Canadian cowgirl.

Did I have bear spray on me? No, and I was beginning to wonder if this fact would become my lesson learned for this race.

The course is a rugged, challenging mountain trail. It has an elevation gain of 3,000 feet and takes you just under 8,000 feet above sea level. The view from the top — the Moose Mountain fire watch station is STUNNING. My only wish, was that I had a camera to capture it all. [Views From Atop…]

This is an out and back course with logging roads, switchbacks and mountain valleys. We were warned that this would be challenging and to prepare ourselves with specific training on trails! We were also warned summer lightening storms were known to happen up top.

27 participants finish the race.

My AH YEAH moments: I completed the race, I wasn’t the last one in and I felt fine enough to continue with my plans to complete the rest of my scheduled races! :)

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I learned to trust your instincts. To not let the naysayers / critics in your life dissuade you from accomplishing what you know feels right.

BONUS

Aside from earning the most creative marathon medal of the year, exploring the beautiful Kananaskis area of Alberta and hiking the famous Rockwall hike in the Canadian Rockies not so far away was the BONUS for this race. [Read More…]

‘Twas just fine eh.

Bellingham Marathon

Washington, USA | September

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this marathon did not happen. This race was my biggest disappointment of the year.

This was supposed to be a stunning end to my 45th birthday weekend. Instead I allowed personal issues drain me and get in the way of completing a perfect nine-out-nine scheduled marathons.

Waking up at 4:30am for the Bellingham Marathon, hearing the pouring rain outside my hotel window, getting dressed, waiting in the empty, dark lobby for a taxi ride to the cold, wet start — I decided I couldn’t go through with it.

443 participants finish the race.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I learned that it is much more disappointing to not complete what you set out to do, than it is to weather the storm and plug through, no matter how difficult things may seem.

BONUS

‘Twas a moment of personal discovery.

Columbia Gorge Marathon

Oregon, USA| October

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this marathon, I replayed my dinner waitress’ comments the evening before — this is an incredibly challenging race in terms of hills. Hills was a fact that did not occur to me until this conversation.

The gun shot off after a lovely bagpiper serenade and we were off — a gradual hill immediately stares us in the face.

What caught my eyes when registering for this race were the many exclamations of this route’s magnificent beauty. In fact the reviews suggested that THIS WAS one of the country’s most spectacular and breathtaking marathons.

The fact that the route took us along the Columbia river suggested to me that this would be a relatively flat course. How could challenging hills be involved?!

The AMAZING fact is — the marathon site’s description of the race was was in no way glorified. This was hands down, the most beautiful race I have ever run! As the website puts it begin your run on the historic Columbia River Highway with its colorful fall foliage, pass by waterfalls and enjoy amazing vistas. Pass through the small town of Mosier then wind your way up to the turn around at Rowena Viewpoint which offers incredible views both to the east and west of the Columbia River Gorge. Finish your marathon on the banks of the Columbia River!

Second AMAZING fact? I managed to run without stopping 6 miles straight up a mountain.

Third AMAZING fact? What goes up, must come down; the turn around point was definitely a turn around point. From then on, it was pretty much downhill all the way back home.

241 participants finish the race.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I learned just how much I don’t like running hills. This is the race I learned just how much hills need me to become a stronger and faster runner.

BONUS

Exploring the surrounding area is wrought with trigger-happy fingers — camera trigger-happy that is.

The Columbia River is lined with black volcanic rock, incredible waterfalls, green and silver moss, and at this time of year — vibrant fall foliage.

Warm up the day before the run with one of many hikes in the surrounding area. My husband and I were enticed to hike up to and around Multnomah Falls. The falls drops in two major steps, split into an upper falls of 542 feet (165 m) and a lower falls of 69 feet (21 m), with a gradual 9 foot (3 m) drop in elevation between the two, so the total height of the waterfall is conventionally given as 620 feet (189 m). Multnomah Falls is the tallest waterfall in the State of Oregon. It is claimed to be the second tallest year-round waterfall in the United States. [View Pictures…]

Extra BONUS, eating at the Multnomah Falls Lodge restaurant — the ambiance is rustic and charming, the food INCREDIBLE! [Read More…]

‘Twas simply THE BEST.

Seattle Marathon

Washington, USA | November

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this marathon, with Space needle overhead, I found myself already longing for the finish line. This was marathon number 7. It was wet, cold and windy. The previous two training long runs had left my bones chilled to the bone and hurting.

Despite not wanting to play this game anymore — at least not today, the gun shot off and my legs seemed to find their stride on their own.

The first half of this course was fairly flat and led us over some incredible views. The bridge across Lake Washington to Mercer Island and back, then the jaunt along Lake Washington to Seward Island embraced by fall’s full, vibrant splendour and smells and the incredibly beautiful Seattle neighbourhoods. This was a sight to be seen and with all my shopping visits to Seattle, a scene never before experienced.

After 20 miles, you are running either up or down. The first serious hill (Galer St). is only a block, but a shocker; it’s steep! The hardest part however was rounding Capitol Hill and facing a strong headwind and driving rain on the last three miles to the finish; that was more will-breaking than the hills.

2075 participants finish the race.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I learned just how much I was ready for my marathon-a-month escapade to end — at least for a short while.

What kept thoughts positive, even after shedding more than a few tears at how cold and sore I was, was the thought that the end was only one week away — with the Las Vegas marathon. That was one race I was looking forward to — down south, running with the warmth of the Nevada desert, right?!

BONUS

‘Twas discovering Lake Washington’s beauty and thoughts for spring trips with the bike to explore the full 15.6 miles of lakeshore bike paths.

December — Las Vegas Marathon

Nevada, USA| December

AH YEAH MOMENTS

Standing at the start of this marathon, I watched my husband nervously anticipate running the full length of his first marathon. This was going to be a special race. A ticket which I awarded him for his birthday this past July. He always swore he would never do a marathon. But I wanted him to taste just one. To bite into it and feel the intense pain, then sense of incredible satisfaction and accomplishment. If it was a ticket to Sin City, he just might be game and I was right…

My first marathon had been over 20 years earlier and it was an incredibly emotional one for me. Now, I watched him run back and forth to the outdoor toilets. Five times in the span of an hour?! The funny thing is, in all of ten years I have never seen him so nervous — I was enjoying every minute of this.

For me, this race would be tough — it would be my final race, my eighth race of the year, AND my second marathon in the short span of a week. The pain of Seattle’s race 6 days ago had settled, but I knew my body had not fully recovered. In addition, any hopes of running in warmth vanished — it was cold and I was in for another bone-chilling, bone-hurting run.

Fifteen minutes before the start of our race we discovered an interesting and important fact about this marathon; a 4:30 time limit would be strictly enforced with a swag wagon at two different points on the course, ready to pick up stragglers. My husband’s nervous energy, now vibrated with anger. This was his first marathon, and the thought of being embarrassed back home with the fact of being kicked out of the race, sent his adrenaline racing. Hmmm, perhaps it was a good thing! His longest training runs to this point carried him to 15 miles(24 kilometers) — this was going to be a 26.2 miles(42.2 kilometers) race — quite the challenge lay ahead.

The organizers corraled us into our pacing stations — we funnelled our way into the last corral — the 4:30 marathon.

Did you ever think you’d be running beside Kate Gosselin? NO, but we did.

Who is Kate Gosselin? A determined reality star who wore a black shirt that read Finishing Is Winning. By finishing 26.2 miles, Gosselin hopes to set an example for her children. “I’m running this because I want to show that with dedication and determination anything is possible,” she said. “I want them to remember this moment when their mom completed a marathon, knowing that nothing in life should stop them from attaining their goals.”

The mother of eight, may be used to chasing after her children, but this was her first marathon and she ran it in 4 hours, 59 minutes and 21 seconds.

The gun shot off, as did my husband and I. I must admit he was AWESOME. He followed the 4:15 pacing bunny for half the marathon — 13.1 miles(21.08 kilometers). Then the unevitable happened, his leg seized up. He was approaching what I knew would be his wall — 16 miles(25.8 kilometers); a distance he had not yet experienced in his training runs. He was running far too fast however, and his wall hit him earlier than expected.

The fight to finish was now his. A fight I wanted him so desperately to feel — did someone say, PAYBACK TIME?! ;) He was fortunate in a way, this second leg of the race was up and down Las Vegas boulevard at night — the neon lights, Bellagio’s Andrea Bocelli-themed fountains and the Venetian's Winter in Venice entertainment should distract him from the pain.

He finished, way ahead of me, and with a respectable 4:49 finishing time. I was and am VERY PROUD. He not only finished his first marathon, but he raised over $1,200 for my charity fundraising initiative Make10WishesComeTrue.

3,782 participants finish the race.

LESSONS LEARNED

This is the race where I learned just how true Willis Harman’s inspirational quote is Perhaps the only limits to the human mind are those we believe in.

BONUS

‘Twas two weeks before Christmas
When all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even two very tired, but incredibly proud Vancouver-based marathon runners…

THE BIGGEST BONUS — I met 3 marathon/ultra runners from Vancouver waiting for the Wiki Wiki shuttle to deliver us to the Bellingham airport to get to Vegas. The ultra runner gave me my biggest SHOCK of the year — there exists a Vancouver 100 and it’s basically the Knee Knacker Yo-Yo (back ‘n forth)!!!!!!!!!!!!! [Read More…]

BTW – If you are flying out of Bellingham, need a SECURE place to store your car – don’t be surprised at the attention and care you receive from Velma and Ernie with their new Wiki Wiki airport shuttle service. Did someone say coffee, hot chocolate, Mai Tai’s anyone? [Read More…]

Hmmmmmm…

I would love to hear about your prettiest or craziest marathon or ultra races! Please share with a comment below..

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5 Comments

  1. 13 Stunning, Scenic Canada Marathons ~ It's Time To Kick BuTs with Doris Blanchet - July 20, 2012

    […] Moose Mountain Marathon official site │ my review (no reviews found – see August) […]

  2. John Sotomayor - December 20, 2011

    Looks like I ran with your husband in Las Vegas, I was with the 4:15 pace team for the first half of the marathon. Then after mile 13 it got crazy.

    • Doris Blanchet - December 20, 2011

      Interesting!? He was running way to fast – I personally think it was the cute pacing bunny – she did him in, ultimately! ;)

      We headed over to the Grand Canyon the day after and hiked down – but the top of the canyon was packed with ice and snow! Not what us Vancouverites expected of Arizona AND Nevada for that matter.

  3. Blaine @ 101marathoners - December 13, 2011

    A fantastic year Doris! My hat goes off and I bow deeply to you.

    • Doris Blanchet - December 13, 2011

      Ahhh … Blaine I don’t know if you saw my Tweet to you .. but
      THANK YOU SO MUCH for your donation .. you are very generous and have such a warm soul .. you made me shed a tear .. sincerely … THANK YOU .. and a BIG HUG TO YOU!

      ~ Doris.

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