North Olympic Discovery Marathon – Race Report

Posted: June 7, 2017 in Race Reports, Travel
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North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Disclaimer: I received a free entry to the North Olympic Discovery Marathon as part of being a BibRave Pro. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro (ambassador), and check out BibRave.com to review find and write race reviews!

What do you get when you combine a great road trip companion, spectacular Pacific Northwest scenery, a bunch of BibRave Pros, and one of the most beautiful half marathons in the country? Well, you get the North Olympic Discovery Marathon – that’s, what! Join me on this fabulous journey to the lush green and ocean vistas of the Olympic Peninsula!

Road Trip

As I mentioned in my last blog post, everything was under control for my travels. To my delight, at the last minute, I was joined by fellow Forerunners crew member, Walter. Not only did that mean I didn’t have to drive, I also had some engaging company for the road trip – which is never a bad thing!

We departed shortly after 8am, once we had secured our Starbucks for the ride. Light traffic had us to and across the border in record time. We cruised down the I-5 and turned west toward Whidby Island, which can be accessed via a bridge. The idyll of island life was soon apparent. Before reaching our destination, I had already made a mental note to return.

En route, we crossed Deception Pass Bridge – and then stopped for a photo op. Well worth it!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

The ferry was booked for 12:30pm, but because we had travelled at a good clip, there was lots of time for a relaxing brunch. Stopping in the picturesque town of Coupeville – which a local informed us was the ‘second oldest town in Washington State’ – we settled in for a delicious meal at Knead and Feed, a 40-year-old establishment overlooking Penn Cove. I could have stayed forever.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

However, we had to head to the ferry, enjoyed the brief crossing to Fort Townsend, and we were on the road again. In just over an hour, we had reached our destination – Port Angeles, home of the North Olympic Discovery Marathon!

Port Angeles

If you’re a fan of the Twilight series, you should be familiar with this part of the USA. Bella’s hometown is Forks, a small settlement about an hour east of Port Angeles. The characters visit Port Angeles at least twice during the course of Edward & Bella’s romance. But I digress…

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

It’s possible to take a ferry directly from Victoria, BC to Port Angeles – but, although it’s close by, it’s not a well-known destination. A shame, but kind of a secret I’d like to keep! The downtown is very historic, and the views across to Vancouver Island are breathtaking.

Package Pickup / Dinner

After checking in at our accommodations, Walter and I headed to the Red Lion Hotel for bib pickup and Expo. With four races on the go (full, half, 10k and 5k), there were lots of folks milling about. But we had our bibs in minutes, and then headed upstairs to grab our race shirts. The expo was small – mostly local sponsors and vendors – but I loved the community vibe. The volunteers handing out the shirts were delightful.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

And I grabbed a selfie with North Olympic Discovery Marathon Race Director, Victoria!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Heading back to the motel, ostensibly for a nap, I decided instead to do a quick shakeout run. Then I learned that fellow BibRave Pro, Jeremy, was arriving…so I headed back down to the expo to meet him in person!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

My energy levels were low, so I just did a brief out-and-back along the water, snapped a few photos, and then took a nap!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Pasta dinner was being held next door at the Elwha Klallam Heritage Center, so how could we pass that up! Enjoyed a generous helping of vegetarian sauce & noodles, plus salad, and we were in business. I loved that the dinner was also open to the public, adding to that ‘community’ feel of the event.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

A bit of TV, and I packed it in for the night. Flat Bradley was ready to run.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Race Day

Walter knocked on my door precisely at 6:30am, and we walked a few blocks to pick up our Starbucks to get things rolling. Then back down to the shuttle stop. We boarded local buses that had been chartered for the occasion, and headed east to our start line in the little town of Sequim, the ‘Lavender Capital of North America’.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

The wind was brisk, but the sky was clear and I knew we were in for an amazing day. Even better, connected with both Jeremy and another BibRave Pro, Amanda! Bring on the orange!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Promptly at 8:30am, we headed out along the country roads of Sequim. Jeremy caught me in action!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

The first 5 kilometres were smooth and easy, and I was feeling pretty happy with my pace. And then things started to change.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon North Olympic Discovery Marathon

The next 6 kilometres followed the beautifully paved Olympic Discovery Trail. Scenic as all get-out, shady among the trees, but deceptively hilly. No major hills, mind you, but enough to know (and comment on) when you were going up!

Back on the road, 2 kilometres of out and back, and then a return to the trail. Thankfully, it was downhill from now on. We crossed a gorgeous boardwalk/bridge over a rapidly flowing creek. As we approached of the water stops, a series of small signs on the side of the trail:

  • Dare to love
  • Dare to be loved
  • Like a dare in the headlights
  • Truth or dare
  • There were more dares, and I loved them all, but I can’t remember them now!

And then, at kilometre 16, we reached the ocean. And followed it to the finish. But it wasn’t an easy feat. Despite being flat, we were running into the wind. No longer a brisk wind…it was a strong, unforgiving headwind. At some points, I felt like I was barely moving.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

And then we encountered the walkers – the folks who were completing the 10k. Not a huge issue, but the trail was narrow and some folks had a tendency to walk three or four across. I had to yell ‘runner on your left’ a few times, which made me feel a bit guilty, but I knew if I stopped I’d never start again!

Aggravatingly, much like some points in Stanley Park, it was possible to see the finish line way before reaching it. It’s like a tease – the end that never comes. But finally, having given up on any hope of reaching my sub-1:50 goal…and, with the support of the girl in the purple shirt who’d been running near me for much of the race, it was over! Done and done.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Post-Race

The North Olympic Discovery Marathon after-party was great! Outdoors, on the Port Angeles Pier, everyone gathered for food, massage, music and – one free with your bib – the beer garden! I enjoyed the selection of runner grub:

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

And reconnected with Jeremy for a few more photos. Then the guys headed off for their trip to Seattle, and home to Arizona.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

After a shower and change, I joined Walter to celebrate his big win – first in his age group, and fourth overall! Congratulations, Walter!!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

We also connected with a few more friends from Forerunners, enjoyed a beer, and basked in the satisfaction of another race complete!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

On the road again, Walter and I made a final stop at Starbucks, and retraced our steps. Almost exactly, in fact, because we lunched yet again at Knead and Feed. Recommend this stop on your next visit to Coupeville!

The rest of the trip home, including the border crossing, was uneventful. Back to Vancouver, and a relaxing night (and glass of wine) to cap things off.

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

Final Results

Chip Time: 1:52:43
Average Pace: 8:37 min/mile (that’s 5:21 min/km)
Overall Place:  142/946
Place in Age Category: 7/26


North Olympic Discovery Marathon (Half) – Quick Recap

Social Media: The North Olympic Discovery Marathon website is a wealth of information – pretty much all you need can be found here. But they also keep things fresh and update on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram. Good content, solid social media. One area for improvement: updated social media links on the website!

Package Pickup: Quick and efficient, with friendly volunteers and a great community spirit. Raffle to win local goods. Handy location.

T-Shirt/Swag: One of the best race shirts ever! A stylish long-sleeved quarter zip – and in a lightweight material, perfect for post-race or shoulder season runs. Huge props! The medal was a simple, elegant design. Definitely one of my favourites.

Course: I can’t say enough about the course. There’s a reason the North Olympic Discovery Marathon was voted the most scenic course. Country road, shaded trails, and 5k on the seaside with views of Canada. What more could you ask for? Yes, I admit, the course was a bit tougher than I expected – the rolling hills of the trail are deceptively challenging, and Mother Nature really threw a curveball with the coastal headwind. Still, there aren’t enough adjectives to describe the beauty of the course.

Post-Race: Really well-organized and fun post-race celebration. Great food, free beer, and lots of positive energy. There was live music, too – if not for the fact we were driving back to Canada, I would have been happy to hang around for another hour.

Would I Run It Again? Honestly, I think the North Olympic Discovery Marathon is one of the area’s best kept secrets. Unequivocally, yes! Such a friendly, well organized, and scenic race…it’s everything I look for in a half marathon. I’m extremely glad I had the chance to run, and I will be back, without a doubt! You should run, too!

North Olympic Discovery Marathon

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