Sunday, September 21, 2014

Beat the Blerch Half Marathon race report

People sure do love The Oatmeal. And what's not to love? The comic is funny, smart, and engaging. And the man behind it, Matthew Inman, is lovely.

Signing up the the inaugural Beat the Blerch race was crazy tough -- like, SeaWheeze tough. I don't think anyone thought it would be quite so popular, somehow. Wil ended up spending nearly half an hour on a site that hung and crashed and crawled, but eventually got us signed up.

Then came the news that they were opening up a "second day"… which would actually be the first day… and things went a little wobbly. But given our preference for Saturday races, and other timey-wimey things, we made the switch to the Saturday race.

Something funny -- I had selected a "backup race" in case we didn't get into the Blerch… the Boring Half Marathon. (Which, of course, we ran last weekend…)

Fast forward a few months, and it was time to pick up our packets. We headed over after work on Friday along with our pal Adam, and saw a HUGE line stretching out the door. Yikes. Until we noticed that those people were clearly already in possession of their race packets, and were waiting to meet The Oatmeal himself. Phew!

We went in, quickly picked up our bibs, chips, and shirts… and then made a quick stop at the "Blerchandise" stall to get socks and Blerch squeezies.  

our Blerchandise
The socks and squeezie we paid for separately, but the very handsome shirt (seriously, one of the nicest race shirts ever), the "I Believe in the Blerch" magnet and "Beat the Blerch 2014" sticker were in our packets.

Having had the pleasure of meeting Matt Inman before, we decided to skip out and walk home.

The next morning we headed out early -- we were a little nervous about parking, because a few days before the race we got an email saying they had oversold the parking passes so we didn't get one. Oh. We were pleased to see that they had parking areas well signed, so we found a spot at the middle school and relaxed for a while.

We did, however, have to ask where the race start was… guess we should have just followed the signs.

Blerch thattaway -->
We got to the race staging area -- lots of porta-potties! -- and other entertainments. Unsurprisingly, the branding was fantastic. (And you know how I love good race branding…)

more caaaaaaake!
At 9am we cheered the marathoners on their way -- and then ran into Adam and his Belltown crew. Adam's friends all had sparkly silver shorts/skirts on, and lovely matching t-shirts. One of them was getting ready to run her first half. (BTW, we spotted her just before the 6-mile mark, looking fresh as a daisy!)

We posed for pictures in front of a Blerchy backdrop along with two giant (and real!) jars of Nutella. I don't think they've been posted yet, but I'll add it here when they are.

Then it was time to head to the starting area. We knew it would be a bit chaotic -- lots of folks running their first event, a very narrow start and initial path, etc. I kept reminding myself about my goals for the race:

1. Take a photo with a Blerch.
2. Eat Nutella on the course.
3. Eat cake on the course.
4. Sit on a couch during the race. 

I mean, now often will I get the chance to have those sorts of race goals???

Obligatory Team Wil-Sun pre-race photo!

Team Wil-Sun-Adam pre-race photo!!!
The start… well… it was as expected, though it did serve the purpose of distracting me from my usual "Oooh, I feel stiff and unable to run today" first mile thoughts. I just focused on keeping moving, finding open path, and not spraining an ankle by falling off the edge of the paved path.

We made a few twists and turns before running under a road, and then along a river to a bridge. This stretch of path had larger rocks, and I found it difficult to run -- so I just slotted in directly behind Wil in one of the "tire tracks" (slightly less rocky path) until we ran up and over the bridge. I believe the marathoners had an extra loop to the left, while we turned right. The half-hour delay between the race starts meant we had missed the faster marathoners, and the slower ones were behind us…. which worked out nicely.

Once across the bridge we soon joined the Snoqualmie Valley Trail -- which, as a former railroad line, was broad, smooth, and had a very gradual incline essentially all the way to the halfway point. It was my absolute favorite sort of course. The "trail" (which I heard people whining about, which made me laugh), was essentially a dirt road, which was very gentle on the feet.

We ran on and on… reaching the first (for the half marathon at least) water stop just before the three-mile point. I'll be honest -- this felt like too far along the course for a first stop for the half marathoners. But I got a cup of water, hugged a Blerch, and then we were on our way again.

Somehow I managed not to actually ingest much of the water, as I left the stop already feeling thirsty. Not a good sign.

But on we ran, up the gentle slope. By the way, I didn't actually notice the incline until I heard someone else mention it… and then realized that, yes, we had been going uphill the whole time.

Right around the 5 mile point Matt Inman sped past us in the other direction, whooping and hollering and having a great time. High fives were (slightly painfully) exchanged.

Then just before mile 6, we arrived at the second water stop. I decided to enjoy this one more -- so I had a Nutella sandwich (oddly, made with wheat bread -- ha!) and sat down on the couch to cuddle with a Blerch, who told me I had done Very Well and wouldn't I just rather sit on the couch with her for a while?

"You've done very well. Just sit here on the couch and eat your Nutella sandwich." - the Blerch

"nom nom nom Nutella sammich" -- Sunny
But Wil snapped me out of my sugary reverie and on we went, the last half mile or so to the turnaround.

On the way back we spotted some of our pals, I confirmed that, yes, it WAS all downhill, and we settled in for a gentle trot back to the start.

The placement of the second water stop so close to the turnaround meant that we were soon there again… so this time I helped myself to cake. Cake cake cake. And kept moving. (Note to self: cake makes me Very Thirsty.)

Three more miles, then, to the final water stop -- though we did meet with a Blerch in the woods.


serious Blerching
We picked up some more water at the last station, though I wish I had brought a bottle with me because I finished feeling desperately thirsty. Frankly, the last three miles were me wishing I had water and just wanting to be done. 

aaaaand done.
We finished in the midst of several 10K runners… but still held hands and sprinted through. Yeah, there were the usual "awww, look" comments. :)  We got our medals (nice that they are custom by event!), had our chips removed, and then grabbed some water and snacks. We found Adam, did a little stretching, Wil ripped his shorts (ha!), we headed to the car, met up with Rosie, and headed home in the hot sun.

Things we loved:
- Matt Inman. Of course. Loved that he could just stand there in a large crowd, all there to participate in a race from his crazy imagination… and few people knew who he was.
- Blerches
- a great race shirt
- a handsome medal, especially since it was different for each of the three distances
- some great costumes on our fellow runners. Huge props to the group of ladies who came as candy, cookies, cupcakes, and McDonalds food!

Room for improvement:
- A race like this -- especially one that attracted so many first-timers -- needs more water stops. Setting up one more interim stop (say, at 2.5 miles, 4.5 miles, and then one just before the half marathon turnaround) would have made things much more pleasant.
- Water stop organization -- the 3-mile stop was only set up on one side of the course, meaning we needed to cross over oncoming runners to pick up water.
- This sounds odd… but I thought this race would be super Blerchy. I hoped for more cake, Nutella on tongue depressors (like the way volunteers had out Vaseline at other events!), and I don't know what else.

All in all, we really enjoyed this race, and it went off much better than we thought it would. Not sure we'd fight super hard to get in next year, but we were super happy to have had the chance to run this year!

2014 Beat the Blerch Half Marathon finish photo!

the back of the gorgeous race shirt

2014 Half Marathon medal (note the ribbon, different for each event)

2014 Beat the Blerch Half Marathon medal


  1. Best. Medal. Ever. Great recap! Love the Oatmeal. :-)

  2. Sounds like a lot of fun! I don't know if I'd have been able to lift myself back off the couch though.
    Kirsten (The Blog Runner
    Virtual Running UK

  3. Honestly one of the coolest medals ever I am jealous well done