Thursday, February 6, 2020

Elwha Bridge 5K race report

Last year I heard about Run the Peninsula -- 5 races of varying distance over the course of the year, all on the Olympic Peninsula. A couple of the races are only 5K/10K, which seems like a long way to go to run a short distance. But, umm, then I saw this medal set:

Yep, there are five unique medals that connect magnetically to show the mountain range. WAAAAANT.

So I signed us up for all five races (hey, it meant we got a discount!) and decided to use it as the backbone of our getting back to running. And I do need a little backbone... Also, I figured this would give us 5 little weekend trips away, which is always fun.

Sunday was the first race of the series, the Elwha Bridge 5K/10K, and it was more challenging than it should have been.

Our first challenge was getting there. It was a very dark and stormy night. We got on the 6:15 ferry (yay!) but then discovered that the Hood Canal Bridge was closed (technically open, so traffic couldn't cross it...) "until weather conditions improve". It had already been shut for a few hours, and with the wind howling, it didn't seem likely it would open very soon. Should we pull over and wait and hope? Or add 2 hours to our scheduled drive by driving the long way around?

standard route, across the Hood Canal Bridge

going around, when the bridge is shut
We decided to just drive around. After all, the bridge could stay ut for several more hours, and then we would still need to start driving. So off we went.

We pulled into Port Angeles a little after 10pm, all jangly and tired. It was pouring out, still, so we made sandwiches from some groceries we'd picked up on the way, and watched the weather from the balcony.

In the morning we were thrilled to see that the weather had improved to drizzle from downpour. We headed for breakfast -- a delicious veggie scramble in the coffee shop that I would slightly regret later as it was HUGE and big breakfast + running an hour later = not good.

We somehow mistimed our departure, arriving at the parking area for the shuttle a little later than expected, and having to go to the first overflow parking area. Let me say this: this race was incredibly well organized. They had flaggers at the parking areas so it was easy to get in and get parked. We joined a line for the shuttle, but sadly it filled up before we could get on. (We were not the only people to be tardy!)

But we got on the next one, and arrived at the starting area about 10 minutes late. We got our bibs -- they also used the AWESOME instant-print race bib technology I'd only seen once before. Of course, there were only a handful of us hustling to the start, so lines weren't really an issue...

Then we picked up our race swag -- a very handsome reversible beanie, designed by a local artist. That's another great thing about this race series: rather than multiple race shirts, you get something different at each race. (Spoiler alert: at the next race we get GLOVES...)

We pinned on our bibs (must remember to bring my race belt next time!) and took a picture of the start because the area looked so nice: the start was on the pedestrian crossing of the Elwha River, which is suspended beneath a road bridge. It's pretty cool -- and clever, because people were somewhat sheltered from the rain!

Then we set off, 16 minutes or so after the gun.

The run was an out and back along a paved stretch of the Olympic Discovery Trail, and truly lovely. Nice and even, with uphills and downhills so gentle that I couldn't tell you whether we were ascending or descending. We saw a handful of Very Fast Folk come running the other direction, gradually becoming a lot of MidPackers the closer we got to the turnaround.

By the time we were halfway back to the start, we were being passed by the faster 10K runners. But that's fine -- we weren't exactly trying to BQ or anything. And it was a nice, gentle run/walk. More walking than running, but we had decided to wear our big gore-tex jackets as we didn't want to get soaked.

We passed a few people, and hustled up the little ramp to the finish. Done.

Here's the one sad thing -- so minor, but it's the only tiny blemish on an otherwise excellent race.

We didn't get a chip time for the start. So our times were recorded as 57:19, placing us at 372nd and 373rd out of 387. That smarts a bit! I subtracted a conservative 16 minutes off our time, however, which moved us well up the rankings. With apologies for my vanity (and, yes, I know that other runners were also late, but few were as late as we were!), with a time of 41:19 I would be:

235/387 overall, 149/272 women; and 17/48 women 50/59. Ahhh.

Not needing refreshments (and clearly not being in the running for an award!), we headed up the hill and joined the line for the shuttles back to the parking areas.

Back in town we did some shopping, some bar hopping, and some relaxing in the room... before going to Bella Italia for a very rich, very nice dinner. We don't often go out for dinner as our entertainment anymore, so that was a treat.

Sunday morning another big breakfast (thank you, Red Lion!) and then we went for a walk on Ediz Hook, or, as the locals call it, The Spit. Favorite thing: this plaque honoring Bert Thomas, the first person to swim the Strait of Juan de Fuca.

 Apparently as of 2016 only 8 people have done this!

Then an uneventful drive home and a relaxing afternoon.

But back to the race itself.

The organization was top notch -- good communication, good website, great volunteers. Parking was easy, shuttles were comfortable, course was both pretty and well marked, and water station was well stocked. Bib pickup was efficient. Swag was nice and useful.

Again, the only ding against them was that we didn't get chip times, but that's okay. I would wholeheartedly recommend this race to anyone, and look forward to the next installment: the Railroad Bridge 10K in Sequim.

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