Fort Ebey Kettles Trail Marathon Race Report

While I’ve been to Whidbey Island before to hike, this was my first time running up there and it was great. It was a well organized race with a very well-marked trail (always important in the maze of state park trails). It had a low-key, minimalist vibe that is one of the many reasons I love trail races!

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Course map from Northwest Trail Runs website

While I ran the marathon, Adam ran the half. We both had a good day and it was fun to compare notes post-race (in between the grunts and groans of discomfort that comes with moving about after a marathon, lol.) The marathon course was just two loops of the half marathon course. Normally loops are not my favorite, but it was nice to know what I was getting into for the second loop, and I could run a bit more strategically that way. I remember this bit is flat for awhile – push it now and save the cookie break for that upcoming hill. 😉

 

Spotted in the beginning of my second loop – a couple enjoying the beautiful view!

 

The website says the total elevation gain is 5500 feet, which is quite a bit for a race of this distance. It was advertised as lots of little rollers versus any really big climbs. I can tell you now that a lot of those rollers are in the first 4 miles. I’d say that overall, while the scenery was charming, those miles were my least favorite. Lots of tiny twists and turns, while going up and down. It forced me to focus intensely on the trail so I wouldn’t totally faceplant (and hey, I didn’t, success!)

Some sunshine on the moss – looked idyllic!

While I didn’t particularly enjoy that section, the entire course had very smooth trails which just some roots now and then and hardly any rocks. I enjoyed the lack of technicality on this race (even though it’s something I know I need to work on for future races *cough* Chuckanut *cough*.)

So much green in here!

During the first loop, I was basically alone after the first aid station at mile 4. There were less than 50 marathoners, so this didn’t surprise me as I often run a pace that doesn’t seem to match anyone else’s pace. At about mile 6 or 7, I was in a very enclosed part of the trail – surrounded by green underbrush and small trees. It was dead quiet, and I was deep in thought (maybe about burgers?) when I heard a shout behind me, “Runner up!” I nearly jumped out of my shoes. The half marathoners (who started the race 40 minutes after the marathoners) had caught up with me. As thin guys in singlets and short shorts whizzed by me, I had to remind myself that I had three quarters of the race to go, while they were already halfway done. It shouldn’t have been discouraging at all, but I mean, who likes to be passed?

Much to my relief, there were a lot more runnable sections after that first aid station. I made a mental note of that so I could push more on the second loop. Something else I will say for this state park – it has some pretty entertaining trail names. I didn’t catch them all, but I had to grab a picture of this signpost.

Humpty-Dump and Whipper-Snapper Trails

At about mile 10.5, we suddenly popped out of the trees onto the bluff. Now THIS was what we run for – these great views! I was not the only one that stopped to take a photo.

 

A remarkable view at the top of the bluff!

After running along the bluffs for awhile, we ran a loop tortuously close to the start/finish and headed back into the woods. During this part I ran and chatted with a woman named Kalee who was fun and cheerful. Not too long after, we came back to the start/finish. The crowds were cheering and the chute beckoned! Alas, the celebration was for the half marathoners. Kalee dropped here due to a nasty cold, but encouraged me, “Go get it!”I followed some signage, and turned away to continue on to my second loop.

By this point, the sun was out, and I was cheered by being halfway done. The second loop felt faster (it wasn’t), but I was happy to still be moving pretty well. My coach had given me the goal of trying to pace the two loops evenly, so I had to push hard on this second loop to try and make that happen. I’m glad I had that focus, though, otherwise I definitely would have dawdled and possibly gotten bummed out by how far I still had to go. Such good mental practice for longer races!

Not to say that my legs didn’t hurt. They did! As it’s been about 10 months since I ran this kind of distance, I needed to get used to that feeling of running on sore legs again as it’ll be happening more times this year! 🙂 During the first loop, my right hip flexor was irritated and sore, but on the second loop, everything was sore so I didn’t notice if it still hurt! A silver lining, lol.

After the mile 17 aid station, I treated myself to blasting some music to give myself a lift. It was pretty perfect when my favorite Brandi Carlile song “Raise Hell” came on to bring me across the finish line! Despite running alone for the majority of the race, I was happy to learn that I wasn’t DFL, but 26 of the 41 marathon finishers. Nice to know there were plenty of other crazies out there too. 🙂

Some quick numbers:

Finishing time: 5:59:18

Elevation gain: ~5,500 feet

Calories consumed: ~600 (5 Glutino Oreos, half an orange, 2 pouches sweet potato/apple baby food, handful of pretzel M&Ms)

🙂

 

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