Sub 3 Hour DIY Marathon Race Report
Due to Covid-19, the races I had planned on doing this year have been heavily altered, if not cancelled altogether. One of those was a marathon in June, where I had hoped to break the 3-hour barrier. However, I had also put in all of the necessary training for this race and our first child was due to be born at the end of the month. I wanted to try to get this race in while I still had the chance. This left me with one option: a DIY marathon.
I chose to do my race on the Iron Horse Trail from Snoqualmie Pass to North Bend. This is a very popular trail and is used as the course for several official marathons. The trail drops approximately 2000ft from start to finish, providing a nice boost from the downhill without being so steep as to thoroughly destroy your quads. Since I would have no aid stations, I got my dad to ride his mountain bike alongside me and carry all of my water and nutrition.
It was cool and drizzling at the start. I was a little worried about it being too cool, but decided against adding a layer at this point and it would continue to warm as I progressed to the finish. We started at about 8AM. After 1/2 mile, the trail enters an old train tunnel - which is completely dark - so I had a headlamp, as well as the headlight on my dad's bike to light the way. The tunnel is about 2 miles long and fortunately I had a Stryd foot pod for my pace as the GPS signal disappears while in the tunnel.
My rough plan was to keep my average pace at 6:50/mile until the last few miles, then speed up if I had anything left. At around 5 miles, I noticed that I was pushing the pace a little too hard. I was averaging 6:47/mile. I had to make a conscious effort to slow down as the pace felt quite easy.
The 'rolling aid station' setup was working very well. I would let my dad know when I needed calories and he would hand me the bottle, I would take a few sips and hand it back. I had my water stored in a camelbak reservoir in his backpack with the hose sticking out the side, and I was able to reach this and drink whenever he was alongside me.
Running still felt very easy until close to the 2 hour mark, when I started feeling soreness in my quads. This is typically inevitable with downhill running and was expected, but I was still optimistic as I didn't start feeling this until later in the race, and the rest of my legs muscles felt good still. The temperature was also very good, it was still cool and drizzling, but felt perfect for how hard I was working.
Around mile 21 is when I started picking up the pace. At this point I knew I had enough in reserve to make it under 3 hours and could afford to expend a little more energy. Running didn't become difficult until around 2hrs and 35min into the race. I knew I only had about 20 minutes left to go, so I wasn't worried. As I kept pushing the pace faster and faster, my average pace began dropping quickly, I was now below 6:47/mile and it was still dropping. At the 25 mile mark I started watching the total distance field on my watch closely. Once I hit 26 miles, I did a sprint for the last 0.2 miles to the finish. I checked my watch and saw my final time 2:56:13. I had done it! I absolutely crushed the 3 hour barrier!
For some reason, the point on the course that I had finished at was a good 1/2 mile from the finish line of the official marathon course, so I had to walk a half mile afterwards to get to the car.
I am exstatic about how well everything went with this race. My time, the weather, the aid station, everything went super well. And on top of that, in terms of how I felt, this was one of the easiest marathons I've done. I know I can push harder and faster next time. My only disappointment is that this race won't count as a Boston Qualifier, and there was no medal or other swag.