Bellingham Bay Half Marathon

Sunday was the 10th annual Bellingham Bay Marathon, which included full, half, 10k, and 5k distance options. Not only is it a popular and beautiful race, but it is also a Boston qualifier marathon which brings people from many different states. The race starts and ends at the same point downtown, followed by live music, an awards ceremony, and a Boundary Bay beer garden. I started following a training plan 8 weeks before this race. (I use the term “following” very loosely: I’m a stay at home mom, toddlers get sick, wake up all night with mental leaps, we cosleep on her floor bed, I’m exhausted, etc.)
Moments before the race started!

Mile 1: 8:12
Mile 2: 7:54

Miles 1 and 2 were relatively flat, heading through downtown from Railroad Ave in front of Depot Square. Besides walking the ½ mile trek with a friend from my house to the race, we didn’t do any warming up. I started slower, letting the first mile be my warmup and allowing me to find my groove. This was the biggest race I’ve ever done so the initial takeoff took some navigating between all of the other runners. Mile 2 was a little faster, feeling fresh and excited to be racing.
Mile 3: 8:02
Mile 4: 8:02

Miles 3 and 4 went along Bellingham Bay with views of the San Juan Islands to our left and neighborhoods to our right. My pace was steady for both miles, knowing that a nice downhill would soon follow. Did I mention how bad I needed to pee? There’s nothing quite worse than holding back pee…during a race (only 8 miles to go) after giving birth to a child. You know exactly what I mean mamas, all the kegel exercises in the world don’t seem to be helping me out. I made sure to pee before leaving my house, only 30 minutes before the race. After checking the race area out, we meandered our way towards the porta potties and saw ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE lined up through the alley. Okay, maybe not that many, but at least one hundred. There was no logistical way that we could get through that line with 20 minutes before the race start. I knew that there were potties located every 2 miles along the course, but I was racing for a PR (not racing to go pee)!


Mile 5: 7:30
Mile 6: 7:21
Mile 7: 8:13

Miles 5-7 were magical. I knew ahead of time that they were on a downhill and that they would be the opportunity to knock down my average pace. The 1:45 pacer came into view with a little pack of racers surrounding her. My goal was to finish 1:44 or faster, so this was perfect for me to speed up and join her gang. We ran through a neighborhood park which had two giant porta potties screaming at me. I stopped for a second, thought, “screw it” then continued running (bad idea). Mile 5 was at a 7:30 pace and Mile 6 was a faster 7:21 pace. The halfway point at mile 6.5 was a checkpoint with a timing pad, marching band, lots of spectators holding funny signs, and a porta potty. I tried to ninja speed my way through the peeing process and sadly (quickly) saw my 7:51 average pace go down to 7:56. WHY?! I sprinted out to hopefully make up some time. My watch showed a pace of 6:30-6:45 which I only carried for a short while. (Looking back, this was a bad idea and my energy levels declined the second half of the race.) Mile 7 still managed to have an 8:13 pace while we ran along the marina. 

Mile 8: 7:57
Mile 9: 8:25

During Mile 8 we reentered downtown Bellingham. Trying to catch back up with the 1:45 pacer, I surged a little doing 7:57 for Mile 8. Mile 9 welcomed us with turns and rolling hills, running along local businesses and cheering spectators. My energy really started to go down which is obvious with the much slower 8:25 pace. Luckily, we now were on South Bay Trail, which is gravel, and also happens to be one of my regular running spots.

Mile 10 at Boulevard Park
Mile 10: 8:28
Mile 11: 8:22

Mile 10 was an even slower 8:28 pace. Arguably, this could’ve been totally mental instead of physical. I knew the last 3 miles of the race were all hills. My mind games bounced from going slower so I could haul through the hills, or going faster because the hills could really slow me down. What was the better strategy? We were in Boulevard Park and these were MY stomping grounds! I wasn’t going to allow the negative self-talk bring me down. Mile 11 was a little faster 8:22 pace, including the steep Taylor Dock ramp that previous racers hyped about. The dock wasn’t a problem. I run there weekly, many times while pushing a stroller up too!  

Mile 12: 8:57
Mile 13: 8:50

The last two miles of the race were my hardest. Mile 12 was my slowest of the entire race, an 8:57 pace. I was seriously struggling and a little disheartened that there was no possible way for me to finish within my goal time. Knowing this, I smiled for my self-motivation and simply wanted to enjoy the remainder of the race. Mile 13 was an 8:50 pace, climbing up the hills and hopping between the 5k and 10k walkers.

The finish line was loud! I went as fast as possible without my legs giving out on me. My watch read a longer 13.19 miles instead of 13.1 (I had also read race recaps of previous years, on the same course, reading 13.20 miles). This race is USATF-certified, so the distance difference is a little strange. My final .19 miles read a 7:32. My official finish chip time was 1:48:08, 4 minutes slower than my goal of 1:44 or faster. I was starving and felt a little sick to my stomach, but was happy to be welcomed by all of the enthusiastic youth volunteers. After leaning on a railing to catch my breath, I dove into the post-race food spread. I walked around eating gummy bears and looked up to see my husband with our daughter in the stroller. Yippee! They made my heart skip and I immediately felt better. Overall, the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon was a fantastic race. The course was beautiful, everything was very organized with a TON of volunteers, and I completed my second half marathon with an 8:16min/mi pace. I’m happy with that. Maybe I’ll do something crazy like sign up for another half marathon while pushing Eisley in the stroller…

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