Columbia River Power Marathon and Tri-Cities Marathon race report

When I heard the Autumn Leaves 50 mile was going to be rescheduled to a weekend my mother in-law was going to visit I was a little bit disappointed. But hey, these things happen and I immediately looked into what else I could do the weekend of October 25th. Lo and behold… The Columbia River Power Marathon and the Tri-Cities Marathon. Both about a 30 minute drive apart. So I planned on doing my first double. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve done a 50k in May and a 30 mile trail run the week before so I had some experience with ultramarathon distance. But 50+ miles over two days?

The Columbia River Power Marathon was on Saturday. Roger picked me up at 4 am in the morning so we could make the 3 hour drive to Umatilla by 7 am for a 8 am start. We made it right on schedule at 7 am and decided to check in and keep warm at the McNary Elementary School where the starting line was. The volunteers were great and they told us about the baked potato bar that was planned for the post-race food. Mmm… baked potatoes. I told one of the ladies that I run because of the food. And that’s not an exaggeration. The thought of baked potatoes kept me going all 26 miles.

Speaking of food… I drank a small can of tomato juice 30 minutes before the start. I thought it was a good idea at the time. But I would soon regret it as I was feeling the effects of the acid in my esophagus an hour into the race.

We planned on a 4-hour race, i.e. a 9:00/mile pace. Roger and I stayed pretty much on target the whole time, running together. The scenery was good and it was pretty neat to run over the McNary Dam. And the volunteers were great. There was a gravel and sand portion of the course between miles 13-18. It didn’t slow us down any but it did zap me of some energy. It didn’t help that the gravel+sand trail didn’t seem to end. Plus the tomato juice kept wanting the come back up. When the trail did end, the course put us on the highway. The drivers were good about giving the runners extra room. But it’s always a bit uneasy running on a highway.

At the mile 24 aid station the tomato juice was really affecting me. So I told Roger to go ahead since I didn’t want to hold him back. I was still on a 4-hour pace so I figured I could afford a minute or two to let my GI tract settle down. When it finally did I was back on a 9:00/mile pace and crossed the finish line at just under 3:58. I ran a very conservative pace thinking about the next day. I didn’t break much of a sweat and hardly used any of the gel I packed, probably the equivalent of 2 packets (I’ve been carrying a gel flask for these fall marathons).

But let me tell you about the best part of the marathon… the baked potatoes. Oh man. They were so good, so fluffy, I got seconds. Piled with chili, butter, sour cream, cheese… Oh man. So good. Best post-race food ever.

We hung out with a bunch of other Marathon Maniacs at the school cafeteria eating our potatoes and talking marathon talk, such as doubles, triples, fat ass, dumb ass, 100 marathons, 50 states, triathlons, etc. Fun stuff. After the potatoes, Roger and I made the short drive over to the Tri-Cities area.

The Tri-Cities Marathon was day two. Roger and I checked into the Shilo Inn where the marathon start was. Real convenient. We were both feeling remarkably good but still apprehensive about running #2 the next day. The baked potatoes were great but we were feeling hungry for dinner early and went out for Mexican food at the mall. Mexican food the night before a marathon? Not sure if that would be a good idea but what the hey, I love Mexican food. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched a lot of TV before going to bed early.

The next morning started out a bit chilly but I had a feeling it was going to warm up. Since the starting line was the hotel parking lot we stayed in the room to keep warm right up until the start. It was a bigger field than yesterday so I lost Roger right at the start. Shortly after mile 1 someone asked how fast we were going. I replied “8:14”. He didn’t see a mile marker and I said there wasn’t one, I was going off my Garmin. Then Van said there was a mile marker and it was the dead cat. She’s kidding, right? I ended up going out much too fast for my 4-hour goal time, running about 8:30/mile for the first 13 miles. I caught up to the guy running in a Starfleet uniform and asked if he was the real Will Riker or his evil twin from the transporter accident, then he made it so and left me in his tachyon field. The course was nice, following the Columbia River most of the way. Running over the Cable Bridge was pretty cool. I kept looking up at the suspension cables and the clear blue sky thinking I should have lugged my camera. I also got in some birding (American Widgeon, Bufflehead, either a Clark’s or Western Grebe, Mallards, Coots, and some other stuff I’m forgetting). By mile 18 I figured I had my goal time of 4 hours in the bag barring a disaster, which is not out of the realm of possibility but I didn’t want to pressure myself into injury so I eased back into 9- and 10-minute/mile paces. The headwind helped me slow down and I took my time at the aid stations. Then it was back over the I-182 bridge and into the home stretch. I hit mile marker 25 and there it was, the dead cat Van was talking about. She wasn’t kidding! Poor kitty. With a quarter mile to go Andy caught me walking and pushed me to get up and go (I’m not sure if that’s what he was yelling about but I got the picture). So I did and crossed the finish line at just under 3:55.

Not bad for my first double. 52.4 miles over 2 days in a grand total of under 8 hours. I hit my goal and the only effect is a sore left Achilles due to lack of stretching.

Things I learned:

  • It’s probably a good idea to stretch
  • Don’t drink tomato juice right before a long run
  • Doubles aren’t so scary


Filed under Running

4 responses to “Columbia River Power Marathon and Tri-Cities Marathon race report

  1. Andy

    I saw your bright red arm warmers way in the distance back at mile 23 and slowly caught up. When you were walking at mile 25 I thought I had a chance to catch you. I yelled just so you would know I was chasing you, but I did not want you to stop. I was just having fun and I’m glad you kept going and finished before me. I don’t think of myself as that slow and you are just amazing to be able to do that two days in a row.

  2. Diamond Nester

    Thats so cool that you did that!!! I was born in the Tricities and now live in CA. I just finishe my first marathion (Rock’n’Roll San Diego) and I’m thinking of making the trip home this year for the Tricities Marathon!!! Thanks for your experience. Maybe I’ll see you this year!!!

  3. Laura

    Hey there, I’m thinking about running the Columbia River Power Marathon this year. Would you recommend it? I’ve done two marathons and this would be my last training run for an ultra in November. Thoughts? Thanks! Laura

  4. Kristi G.

    Hey!!! You rock! I ran on a relay team at the Tri-Cities Marathon….great day for a run 🙂 It never fails to amaze me when I read stories as your own- very inspirational! Maybe one day I’ll muster up the courage to run two 26ers back to back…. good running marathoner!

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