Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Race Report: 2018 Bank of America Chicago Marathon

In 2014, I ran my very first marathon - the Chicago Marathon.  It was quite the emotional race for me - and the start of what would become an addiction to distance races (though you can call my half fanaticism really the beginning of it all).  I wouldn't run another marathon until about 13 months later when I ran the 2015 New York City Marathon. I'd do two more before the year ended, 20 in 2016, a whopping 35 in 2017, and had already completed 23 in 2018 by the time October came along.

In November 2017, I began to talk to my friend David, who I had met at the 2014 race, was involved with Frontrunners Chicago and also was close to the Chicago marathon race director, Carey Pinkowski.  Over the course of the next several months, he was a conduit in helping to communicate my interest in singing the national anthem at the start of the Chicago Marathon, sending Carey my YouTube videos and providing all my references to prove my talents as a reputable performer of the Star Spangled Banner for the race. Ultimately, I was not selected in the lottery for an entry into the race in December, but David assured me he would be able to secure me a legal bib for the race, nonetheless.  The gig for the anthem, though, was still up in the air.  While he presented me to Carey, and he was very interested to suggest me as the singer to Bank of America, who would make the final decision, no decision was made for several months.  It became 2018, spring turned to summer, and while I continued to follow up, there was still no news. I still had no entry for the race either, and by the time September rolled around, I began to be very anxious -- the weekend was a prime race weekend for races both in the US and internationally, and I had a few on my list, but if Chicago were to happen, it would obviously take precedence.

After Labor Day, I finally got word - Bank of America decided to choose someone else to perform the anthem, but as compensation and thank you to me for my diligence and interest, Carey offered me a complimentary bib to the 2018 Chicago Marathon.  It was an incredibly kind gesture, and I took him up on it, registering for the race through the comp code they provided on September 13, and officially receiving my approved entry six days later.  It was only 18 days away, but I secured my entry to the race, my four year anniversary of my first marathon. I quickly found flights to the Windy City, arriving on Friday night and leaving Monday night (as Columbus Day was a holiday for my office), and found accommodations with cousins who lived walking distance from the startline in Grant Park.

Me and my bib, in portrait mode.
Also back in 2017, my cousin Mico decided she'd tackle a marathon, initially asking me about good "first marathon" races that were mostly flat and in the fall.  I immediately told her about Chicago, and she ended up getting in through the lottery for the 2018 edition.  When I didn't, she was obviously sad, but I kept the hopes up that I might still make my way to the startline. What we both didn't realize was it would literally be less than three weeks before the race when I would confirm I would be there!  When I got my bib assignment, I was strangely assigned Wave 1 Corral D, a pace for a marathon completion time much faster than I would be capable - by well over an hour - while Mico was in the last corral, Corral L, in the third wave, not a surprise for this was her first marathon, and Corral L would be the largest of all the corrals, holding most first time marathoners. I told her I would be helping to pace her for the entirety of the race, and would start the race with her in her corral.  I'd make sure she would run this race smartly, and to help her progress further as we reached that finish line... together.

Forecast since the week before called for rain during pretty much the entirety of the weekend, and varied between percentage chance of showers and thunderstorms.  Obviously the latter would not be welcomed - any semblance of lightning could end up canceling races altogether.  I was to leave on an evening flight to Chicago after work, but ended up changing to a flight leaving some three hours earlier.  It was a smart move, as the flight I was originally on ended up getting diverted to Detroit due to thunderstorms that rolled into the area. I arrived to a foggy Chicago, rolling up to my cousin Mark and his girlfriend Hanna's beautiful condo in the South Loop, overlooking downtown, Soldier Field, and Lake Michigan.

We got to bed somewhat early, as we all planned to run the International Chicago 5K the following morning, but ended up waking up to lightning and thunder.  We were actually going to casually run it with my other cousin Dennis and his wife Ants, but they ended up contacting us race morning that they wouldn't be able to come in, partly due to a late night of the work the night before and partly due to weather. There was no word from any race officials about the start of the race until barely a half hour before, even as many folks questioned whether the race would go on on social media.  When we realized they were still planning on holding it, just with a delayed start, we ultimately decided  to stay home and continue sleeping instead, waking up a couple hours later and casually getting breakfast at The Spoke & Bird just down the block.  Afterward, I headed into the expo at McCormick Place, where I would ultimately spend four hours wandering the place (matching the amount of time I spent at the same expo four years earlier with my cousin Kaye!) running into many friends from all over the world who were coming to race Chicago!

Mico made it to the expo!
Mico got into Chicago from Newark after 12pm, and met up with me at the expo, as we went around and took lots of photos and took in all of the awesome sights and sounds to help keep her excited for her first marathon.  We stopped by my cousin's place so I could throw together my clothes for the night, as I agreed to stay with Mico at her hotel the night before to accompany her to the startline. We took a Lyft to her hotel, the Residence Inn by Marriott Chicago Downtown/Loop, conveniently located only a few blocks away from the park on LaSalle Street, and actually right alongside the marathon route, for her to officially check into her room, before we headed up to Lakeview to meet up with my friends who kindly added the two of us to their reservation for eight at Mia Francesca, an Italian restaurant, for a proper pre-marathon carb load.  There, I introduced Mico to my friends Brian (from Nashville), Jim (from Atlanta), Johannes (from Zurich, Switzerland), and George (from Glasgow, Scotland), and met Brian's friends Jonathan and Daniel (also from Nashville) as enjoyed the company of fellow runners getting ready to run the next morning's marathon. After dinner, we retired back to the Residence Inn, ready to get a good night's sleep before the big day. My friend Hollie stopped by to drop off an INKnBURN shirt she had ordered for me, and to offer me and Mico entrance wristbands for the Ronald McDonald House tent at the finish line.
Mico and the boys, pre-race dinner!
My race kit, all laid out and ready to go for the morning!
Breakfast of champions.
The two of us woke up at about 7am ready to go - Mico having woke up a bit earlier, feeling obviously nervous for her first 26.2 mile race - but both of us feeling nervous about how the weather would be for the day.  With our start not beginning until 8:35, we casually made our way downstairs to grab a quick bite to eat at the complimentary breakfast buffet, then headed out toward Grant Park.  Just outside the park, we met up with Mico's friend Aileen, also attempting her first marathon that morning.  With Mico and Aileen, we headed through our assigned gate and into Grant Park, eventually finding my friend Elaine.  The sidewalks were crowded as all of the runners trickled into Grant Park, individually making our way through tight security.

The startline!
We stopped into an area with long lines for portapotties while some of the corrals in our wave beginning to close. As we waited, we began to feel raindrops; when Mico and Aileen were ready, we made our way into corral L, as the crowds began to swell around us for our race start. I tried to locate my cousin Kaye, running her fifth Chicago Marathon (finishing today would make her a legacy runner and allowing her guaranteed entry in future years) as well as my college friend Drew, running his first ever marathon - but no luck, there were far too many people in the crowds.  We found my friend Ken, pacing 4:55 alongside Marie, and decided to start with them.  By then, the rain was starting to come down a bit steadier.  I gave my last pep talk and provided race-specific suggestions to my two marathon newcomers - namely, considering the rain, running on the carpets that are provided over the six open-grate bridges that pass over the Chicago River.  The crowds moved forward, and at approximately 8:49, we crossed the start line, embarking on a 26.2 mile journey through the streets of the Windy City!

Lower level streets
We made our way northward along Columbus Drive, a nice and steady clip, somewhere around 10-10:30 pace, eventually heading through the tunnels on the lower level of streets that define downtown Chicago, and a sight I was very familiar with having begun all of my distance races in the Windy City in the same way.  Almost immediately, my watch began to not enjoy the concrete and difficulty in paring down a proper signal, so my GPS was off practically by the get-go. 

The iconic Chicago Theatre
Mico and I started off by running the first 19 minutes of the race straight before taking a walk break, which took us nearly to mile two as we turned left onto Grand Avenue, then down State Street.  I shot a few photos, including one of the famed marquee of the Chicago Theatre, with perfect timing to hit the first aid station of the race right around our scheduled walk break.  After looping down along Jackson Boulevard, we headed back north along LaSalle Street and past our hotel, for the long route northward to neighborhoods due north of the downtown area.

Our pace stayed fairly consistent, staying between a 10:15 and 10:45 pace as we continued on, and as the rain continued to fall.  The 5K split was just over 33 minutes, a 10:39 pace.  We passed by my friend Monte, running his incredible 601st marathon that day, along LaSalle Street as we went from River North into the Old Town neighborhood, eventually making a right turn at the 8K mark into Lincoln Park, running along Stockton Drive, Fullerton Avenue, and Cannon Drive. Along the way, we ran into my friend, former Chicagoan and fellow Black Sheeper Hyalker, We hit the 10K mark at 1:06:38, only 26 seconds slower our split from the 5K mark, showing our strong consistency in our pace!

Corgi spotting!
Now that the first hour had passed, I decided to shorten our interval ever so slightly to a 14 minute run, 1 minute walk. Still, our pace stayed consistent as we continued northward along Sheridan Road through the neighborhood of Lakeview East.  Right near Belmont Avenue, I encountered a woman with a corgi, which I obviously had to stop for! We continued on alongside Inner Lake Shore Drive opposite Belmont Harbor, running along one of the windiest parts of the race, as we were exposed to the elements with no buildings to the east. Eventually we reached the northernmost point of the race, turning left onto Sheridan, as we then began our southward journey down Broadway, and the mile 8 mark of the race.

Heading up Belmont Ave
It was along Broadway after 8 mile mark that the rain finally let up, and it stayed dry, though humid for the remainder of the race. Just before the 9 mile mark, we reached the Frontrunners Chicago aid station in the heart of Boys Town! Each year, the club dresses to a certain theme as runners pass through one of the most remembered aid stations of the entire course, embracing the LGBT community who both make this place home and a center of life and commerce.  Four years ago, the theme was the Miss America Pageant; this year, it was Superheroes!  It was a thrill to pass by the stages on both sides of the street featuring Frontrunners Chicago members decked out in superhero drag!  We passed the 15K timing mat shortly thereafter at 1:39:33, clocking in our fastest 5K split yet, coming in 32:56 since the last timing mat at the 10K mark.

We spotted the Philippine flag!
Old Town Chicago
We continued on through Boys Town and Lakeview, as we progressed down Clark Street, and into Lincoln Park.  The course continued down Sedgwick Street and Wells Street, as we returned to River North and the tall buildings of the downtown coming near.  We slowed down a bit over the last few miles as we broke into the second hour of our race, shortening our pace once again, now to 9 minutes on and 1 minute off.  We reached the 20k mark a bit slower than the last several splits, and hit the halfway mark in officially 2:21:18, which Mico was comfortable with - not too fast, not too slow. This gave us some wiggle room in still managing a sub-5 hour marathon, but now the hard work began.

Finding De Moe in the West Loop!
We passed through the West Loop, now heading down Franklin Street, before turning right onto Monroe Street.  Just before turning left onto Jefferson Street, my friend Anna was there cheering, but I didn't hear her until we made another turn onto Adams Street and she found me again yelling out my name. Around the same time, Mico and I came across my friend De Moe, in his unmistakeable kilt, but decked out in all pink. We stopped for a quick selfie before continuing on, running down Adams Street westward as we passed through the Charity Mile, past tents housing the charities that many of my fellow runners raised thousands of dollars of money for.  We continued past mile 15, and at Damen Avenue near the United Center, we turned left, to run one block down to Jackson Boulevard.  Just as we were turning onto Damen, I hear a bunch of folks calling my name - and I spot my cousin Jose and his wife Malu and kids JJ and Ian. They were all out cheering for Jose and Malu's eldest child, Inna, who was running her first marathon that day! The 25K mat was on the block where we turned onto Damen, clocking a split of 2:50:54.
Champagne stop along the Charity Mile
Heading east on Jackson Blvd
Mico and I continued down Jackson Boulevard, passing miles 16 and 17, with the Willis Tower (formerly Sears Tower) completely shrouded in clouds in the distance, before turning right onto Halsted Street, as we ran alongside a stretch of course next to University of Illinois at Chicago (UIC). We turned right then on Taylor Street, as we passed by Chicago's Little Italy and University Village in the Near West Side. After turning left onto Loomis Street, we hit the 30K mark in 3:26:34, consistent with a 35 minute 5K, and just a hair faster than the last 5K split. We continued on with a manageable pace, doing the 9 minute/1 minute intervals with the water stations interspersed for shorter stops right up until we reached the 19 mile point. We then turned left once again, now heading into the lively neighborhood of Pilsen, where Latin music wofted through the atmosphere, giving us a little beat to groove to as we ran down 18th Street, as we slowed our intervals down to 4 minutes/1 minute, to give Mico's tired legs a bit more rest. We turned right on Halsted once again passing the 20 mile mark, then made a quick pitstop at some port-a-potties at the intersection with Canalport Ave, where we'd make a sharp u-turn at Cermak, past an artists' loft building that used to be home to the Chicago Macaroni Company, pumping out 82 varieties of pasta at the turn of the 20th century, as much as 150,000 pounds of pasta a day! The plant closed in 1968, and now houses the Lacuna Artist Lofts, which rents event space and work space for artists and other creative endeavors.

Passing through Pilsen
The Cermak Road Bridge
We made the turn onto left turn onto Cermak, and continued along the course as it made its way toward the imposing looking Cermak Road Bridge going over the Chicago River with a very slight uphill, the last real "hill" to encounter before the well known 26 mile mark hill on Roosevelt Road just before the finish. I kept on pushing us toward making our intervals, and Mico was doing quite well, considering we were now past the distance of her longest run in preparation of this race.  As we made our way through Chinatown (where was the dragon?!), we realized that Mico was now in "uncharted territory," and despite this, she was still feeling pretty good with the way the intervals gave her legs time to stave off the pain.  We turned right onto Wentworth Avenue, for a long straightaway section that took us southward and right alongside the Dan Ryan Expressway. Here, we encountered my friend Jim, struggling in the final miles of the race with leg cramps.  We also passed the 35K timing mat, clocking in at 4:06:00 (and our slowest 5K split) with 7k to go. We continued on south, as the course veered left on 33rd Street and into the campus of the Illinois Institute of Technology, and just before turning once again on State, Mico had her first real test of fortitude, as her calves began to cramp, with only 5K left to go.
Continuing on through Chinatown, and well past Mico's longest run to date...

Only 1.2 miles to go! We can hit 5 hrs!
We stopped to massage the cramp away for a short period of time, then continued along the course on State Street, knowing the course ran only another 1/3 of a mile south to 35th Street, before turning left once more to run another 2/10 of a mile.  When we made the stop, I noted that my watch indicated we had been on course for 4 hours and 20 minutes, giving us roughly forty minutes to finish the last 5K to get us under 5 hours; easily doable if we kept on at this interval and this pace.  Surprised by that revelation, Mico at first wasn't so sure about needing to finish under a certain time - she was more concerned about finishing without injuries; but with only three miles to go, something kind of clicked - she felt ok, and pushing felt fine, maybe she could finish before the cramping came back (haha) - that "5 is doable." We began our last northward progression along Indiana Avenue, as we set our sights on the straight shot northward to the finish line back in Grant Park.  Ken passed us with his 4:55 pace group, which I knew was going to happen somewhere in these last three miles, but at least that way, Mico had visible proof that we were still within striking distance of that potential time goal. The course veered leftward one block back onto Michigan Avenue near 31st Street, and the 24 mile mark appeared, where my cousin Mark's girlfriend Hanna had told us she'd be to cheer us on.  Hers was a good face to see as we came upon the last two miles of the race!

Finishers! Mico is relieved. LOL...
The last two miles were a bit of a blur, but we crossed the 40K mark in 4:44:14, averaging a 12:19 mile for the last 5K, a slight improvement from the previous 5K split.  We were still some 1.36 miles from the finish, and with just over 15 minutes of time left before the 5:00 mark, we would be VERY close. The crowds thickened as we came up Michigan Avenue and inched our way closer and closer to Grant Park, then before long, we were at the turn onto Roosevelt Road, and the dreaded "Mount Roosevelt," the only real significant incline in the entire race.  Though it was tough, we climbed that sucker with as much gusto as we could in our legs as we passed the countdown banners indicating we had 800 and 400 meters left in the race... though the 5:00 hour clicked by, we made the turn onto Columbus Drive, and found ourselves crossing the finish line in 5:00:57.  Mico, thrilled that we were done, was now a marathoner!

A wet Victory Headstand!
Exhausted, we trudged through the finish line chute, grabbing photos with our well deserved medals, then exited out to find the Ronald McDonald House Tent, where hot food and a place to sit were waiting for us. Mico's friend Nathan, who was in town from Miami and also attending the conference in town later that week, came by to greet us and celebrate with us immediately following the race.  After Mico and I refilled our empty stomachs with food, we then headed back to the hotel to take much needed showers, then retired downstairs to the hotel bar to have a drink with Nathan. We then headed up to Boys Town to celebrate with fellow runners at Side Track Video Bar, one of my favorite places to relax and have drinks in the city - with delicious frozen alcoholic beverages! The three of us then got dinner at nearby New American spot, Wood.  Tired from a long day, Mico and I both began to grow lethargic after dinner, and we retired back downtown, as our Lyft stopped Nathan at his hotel before dropping Mico and I back at the Residence Inn, as the skies opened up to a heavy downpour.  We crashed bigtime that night, and slept well!
College friend Drew the next morning!
Monday was a holiday for me, and my flight wasn't until later in the day, so I made plans to grab brunch at Bongo Room in the South Loop with my college friend Drew, also now a first time marathon finisher (I never found him or my cousin Kaye on the course!) We had a fun time reminiscing about our college days and what we thought of the race, before heading downtown to get our medals engraved at the Nike Store! After dropping off my medal, I had plans to eat once again, this time with another college friend Mark, an attorney now living in Chicago who is also friends with my cousin Chrissy through an Filipino lawyers network.  We headed to a dimsum place not far from the Nike Store, where we also got a chance to reminisce about college life and catch up on our lives since the early 2000s!  After getting my medal and returning to my cousin's apartment to grab my suitcase, I headed out to O'Hare Airport for the trip home later that night.  Another Chicago Marathon done, another vivid memory made!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Race Report: Bellingham Bay Half Marathon

Celebrating Nina and Aaron!
I reunited with one of my good friends from college, Nina, when coming to visit Seattle in April of 2017.  I've known her since even before our freshman year at the University of Michigan even started, meeting at orientation.  So when she sent me a save the date for her wedding, I knew I had to be there for her and her fiancé Aaron, to celebrate their special day!  The wedding was set for September 29, 2018 in Bellingham, Washington - which happened to be the same weekend as the local marathon, the Bellingham Bay Marathon. On a whim, I sent a quick email to the race organizers offering my services for the anthem, and it just so happened, they were trying to find someone to perform it for their race around the same time! They were more inclined to have a live singer for the half, 10K, and 5K start, as the crowds there would be much larger at the stage set up at Depot Market Square, so with that, I was conveniently booked to sing the anthem, run the half, and attend my friend's wedding, all within the same weekend!

Packet pickup at the cruise terminal.
I flew to Seattle on Friday night after work, arriving before 10PM, then drove the 1.5 hours up to Bellingham. I got to my Airbnb at about 12:15, ready to crash, since it felt like 3:15 in the morning for me, having the three hour time difference.  Getting to sleep in on Saturday morning, I decided to hit up the Fairhaven historic district, a neighborhood in the southern side of the city of Bellingham, to grab a late breakfast, grab my bib at the Bellingham Cruise Terminal nearby, then had some time to go to Aslan Brewing Company for a lunchtime beer. In the afternoon, I attended the wedding at the nearby Church of Assumption, followed by the reception at the Hotel Bellwether, part of the "Bellwether on the Bay" mixed-use waterfront development.  I retired early from the wedding, tired from the drive and the three hour time difference, and knowing I'd have to wake up the next morning for the race.

The forecast in the week leading up to the race was gloomy, with rain expected to mar the morning.  In fact, it already had started to rain during the reception for the wedding, and I continued to hear it come down before going to bed, waking up to it still coming down in the morning. I left my Airbnb to walk less than a mile to the startline, umbrella open, where we would begin the race at 9am. I found co-race director Brooke at the start, and met with the emcee, before he introduced me to sign the national anthem, as runners began to assemble.  I sang, and shortly thereafter moved into the corrals, assembled along Railroad Avenue.
A wet startline
Under rainy skies, we took off from Depot Market Square, and quickly headed out to the northeast along Railroad Avenue. What was once roadbed for four sets of tracks for freight delivery from the Bellingham Bay & British Columbia (BB&BC) Railroad is now a very wide avenue with two lanes of traffic, four rows of angled parking, and a median. The site of the Downtown railway station, Railroad Avenue connects several primary Downtown destinations - Depot Market Square on the south end, Bellingham Station in the middle, and major trail connections on each end (South Bay Trail on the south, and Whatcom Creek Trail on the north).  We then turned left onto Holly Street, heading out of the central business district, then turned slightly right onto Prospect Street, with the city's 1892-built Old City Hall Building, a beautiful red brick building with Victorian cupolas and a stately central clock tower defining the city skyline, home to the Whatcom Museum of History and Art since 1941, to our left. We continued northward into the trendy Lettered Streets area, curving left along Dupont Street and passing over Whatcom Creek, as we entered the largely residential area of the Columbia neighborhood, historically established as Bellingham's middle class community adjacent to the city's downtown district.
Running up Railroad Avenue
Bellingham's Old City Hall, now the Whatcom Museum
Residential areas of Bellingham
Running north along Marine Drive
We continued northwestward, eventually curving our way onto Madison Street heading due west.  Eventually, we were back on a northwestward path, making our way along Eldridge Avenue, the edge of the city with backyards of homes abutting the bayside railroad tracks separating the residential neighborhood from the more industrial marina side of Bellingham. We crossed over a bridge we'd eventually run under later on in the race (Squalicum Way) until the road turned into Marine Drive, and became wider and more commercial; we hit the 5K mark, gladly putting down a split just under 30 minutes - mile splits all under 10 minutes per mile. This was also where we also began to feel a little bit of the uphill - from a low of 72 feet climbing to 148 feet over the course of 1.25 miles. And surely, I felt it, as my pace slowed for the fourth mile.  Likely on a clear day, you could see Bellingham Bay and its islands, but the weather had other plans for us.

We turned right onto Alderwood Avenue, a location where the marathoners finally met up with the half marathoners, as they came down from the north -- at that point in time, marathoners were 2 hours and 10 minutes into their race at the 17 mile mark, some fast runners posting 7:40 average mile pace reaching this juncture when I was there only 4 miles in!  We passed by the south edge of Bellingham International Airport, as the course continued to climb up to a crest of 160 feet, before flattening out somewhat.  Then we got to coasting - the course began to descend some 140 feet over miles 5-7 as we ran through the Birchwood neighborhood, and my splits returned to the 9:30 per mile vicinity.  I even got in a quick beer stop after grabbing a small bag of cookies, taking in a little chug of Rainier to wash down that bite to eat, as we made our way eastward along Cottonwood Avenue.

Muddy trail through Birchwood Park!
The descent flattened out as we made our way south on Firwood Avenue, turning left onto Cedarwood Avenue, and then turning right into Birchwood Park, as we made our way along the somewhat muddy gravel track to the Coast Millennium Trail and Squalicum Creek Park.  We finally hit our first timing mat at the 6.5 mile mark, which I crossed at 1:06:18, a decent 10:12 mile pace. We were met with a nice crowd of supporters cheering us on at this juncture, as we made our way off of the concrete path and onto the side of the road, Squalicum Way.  We then ran through a nice wooded area, as we made our way closer to the water's edge, eventually crossing under Eldridge Avenue, and merging onto Roeder Avenue, as we ran alongside the not-so-pretty industrial waterfront section of Bellingham.

Running down Squalicum Way
Arriving at the waterfront
Bellingham's marina and the Bay
We eventually made our way onto the sidewalk, running alongside the marina, and I even passed Bellwether on the Bay, where I had just spent the evening the night before for my friend's wedding.  At mile 8.5, we crossed over Whatcom Creek and ascended the ramp onto Chestnut Street, eventually back to downtown Bellingham. I still had 4 miles to go as I reached Railroad Avenue, turning left as I saw the faster half marathoners and some marathoners hitting their homestretch to the finish line behind me.

The nicely paved South Bay Trail
The road made its way past some condos, before we found ourselves on the South Bay Trail, surrounded by tall evergreen trees, as we left downtown Bellingham.  Shielded from vehicular traffic, and going down this beautiful paved trail made this part of the race unlike anywhere else on the course.  It wasn't particularly hilly here either, maybe only a bit slippery from fallen leaves and all the rain. I managed to take off 30 seconds from my pace at the tenth mile, as we continued down the trail.  A half mile later, we were coming down toward the next timing mat, and the last before the finish line, which happened to be right before a railroad crossing - and I could hear the train coming down the tracks not too far away!  We were actually warned that this was possible, as the race had no power to ask the trains to change their schedules on race morning, so they set up timing mats to make up for the differential if people became stranded by the train.

The train is coming!
Crossing in 1:44:24, I passed through probably a minute or two before the train came barreling down the tracks, and watched it pass by at a relatively high speed as I made my way around the pathway through Boulevard Park, continuing southward as the trail became overwater boardwalk, known as Pattle Point Trestle and Taylor Dock, altogether some 572 meters of wooden planks and Bellingham's most popular and scenic promenade. The wooden planks allowed my knees a bit of a rest from the pounding asphalt and concrete I've been running on for miles already.

Pattle Point Trestle to our big "hill"
We could see the next big "hill" ahead of us, as the dock ended, and we turned left to climb the short, but steep incline into Fairhaven..  We veered northward along 10th Street as it gently ascended to become State Street, and later the mononymous Boulevard, following the route back into downtown Bellingham. Along the way, we ran past the popular "Welcome to Bellingham" sign, visible to boats on the bay, pointing the way to Mount Baker in one direction (the 10,000 foot tall mountain impressively standing over Bellingham some 31 miles due east of the city), and Chuckanut Drive in the other (widely considered to be one of the most scenic drives in the region, oftentimes called "Washington's Big Sur.") Over the final mile, the course gently descended to the deafening roar of crowds cheering us in to the finish line back at Depot Market Square.

Victory Headstand at the goat statue
It had rained the entire 13.1 miles, even as I crossed the finish line in 2:15:42.  I grabbed my medal and immediately beelined it to the bag check where I could get my coat and gloves to warm up from the chilly weather -- it's not that fun to be running in cold and wet weather!  After enjoying a "Running on Empty" craft beer, the official beer of the race crafted by local brewery Wander Brewing, I found a fellow runner to take my headstand photo with Depot Market Square behind (as well as the notable goat statue, a meeting point for local runners).  With my Airbnb host having locked up, I arranged for getting a much-needed shower at the Whatcom Family YMCA just up the street, then eating lunch at Boundary Bay Brewery, literally steps from the finish line.  I enjoyed a pint of Dry Irish Stout and some grilled fish tacos before getting on the road to head down to Seattle to spend my afternoon and early evening.
BLING at the brewery!
Save the Ales, guys.
Pumpkin Beer flight!
A stop in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Seattle capped off my Washington weekend trip, as I enjoyed a flight of pumpkin beers from Elysian Brewing Co. Public House then stopped in at the highly popular Salt and Straw Ice Cream Shop (a Portland institution, but this location had some local flavors such as Whatcom County Honey Rocky Road, which I had - fittingly, since I spent most of this weekend in Whatcom County!) before heading to the airport for my redeye flight back home to New York City. A fun weekend, killing two birds with one stone... attending a good friend's wedding (as well as reuniting with college friends, many I haven't seen since I graduated in 2006!) and running a half marathon, to bring my total up to 91 lifetime half marathons!