This year the Deception Pass Half Marathon, part of the Bellingham Trail Series, was held on Sunday, June 6. Two hundred and twenty persons participated. That’s nearly 100 more than the year before. Except for a couple of organizational snafus, the course and race experience were about the same as last year.
While in search of the elusive Indian Pipe plant at Cornet Bay two days before the race,
I ran into race director Candice Burt and her dog River. She was marking the course with a pretty cool system, clothespins covered in reflective tape with pink and orange and gray striped flagging, easy to attach to and detach from vegetation. I said hello and she let me take a photo of her with the flags. Of course, she had no idea that I was the one who, after the 2014 race, had asked her about the not-quite-13.1 mile half marathon distance. Weeks ago, I went so far as to email her a proposed revision within the trails at Cornet Bay that could make up the 1.4 mile deficit.
The weather on race day could not have been better. The forecast: clear blue skies and 70 degrees. I arrived at West Beach, as I had the year before, about an hour before the start and realized that the secret was out. The short line from the previous year had been replaced by a rather long one. I waited behind three nice gals holding water bottles who drove down from Bellingham. They suggested Nathan as the best brand and valve type over pull top. I realized I’d forgotten to purchase a t-shirt for an extra thirty bucks, gray with orange and white lettering.
At the designated shuttle departure time of 8:15, I wasn’t worried to see the second of two buses leaving for Cornet Bay. A number of runners milled around and others were still checking in, so I knew I had time. When the first one returned, I got on, and chatted with a friendly gal named Elisa who I’d met earlier. We talked about our shared interest in photography and she showed me some of the neat nature photos she’d taken.
At Cornet Bay, I connected with my friend Rebecca who was decked out in florescent yellow. She was a little nervous about running her first trail half. We cheered on a few marathon runners who passed by and listened to Candice’s pre-race instructions, then headed towards the giant blue inflatable race arch. The race began.
I knew that if Candice had decided to increase the distance, she’d do so within these trails.
At one point, a guy flew by a line of us within the trails at Cornet Bay, saying that his shuttle had arrived after the start. I was relieved to have avoided that.
By the time we’d completed the loop, the only difference from the previous year being the direction in which we ran it, I realized that the first part of the course was the same—gorgeous, a sea of green—but still the same.
By the time I finished the loop (this is the view as you exit the trail),
drank some Gatorade at the aid station, noticed the geese and goslings I’d noticed several times before in the past few weeks, I’d reached the trails adjacent the Cornet Bay Resident Group Camp area that led towards Goose Rock. These were the wettest of the day and the least familiar to me.
Partway up Goose Rock, a recently-made-friend named Dani passed me. It turned out she’d been on the same post-race-start shuttle.
The second change to the course came just after the Goose Rock summit. Instead of continuing towards the bridge, we ran down a steep hill and along the Perimeter trail, one of my favorites. I knew the course, so when I reached the bridge, I headed up the stairs, while the runner in front of me ran towards North Beach and the finish. This part of the course was not well marked and the previous year they’d had a volunteer stationed at the foot of the stairs. I yelled to the guy in front that he should “go up” and mentioned to the volunteer at the top of the stairs that the directions below weren’t clear. She said, “okay,” but I’m not sure there was much she could do.
The rest of the race was uneventful. I ran across the bridge, which is a little scary to me because of the noticeable deflection, especially at mid-span, when large trucks cross. I drank more Gatorade at the Bowman Bay aid station, continued to and around Rosario Head, where race photographer Glenn Tachiyama was stationed in the same place he had been the year before, did same in reverse and returned to the south end of the bridge. Once at the bottom of the steps, we ran along North Beach to the finish at West Beach.
My watch indicated a distance of 11.9 miles, a 0.2 mile increase from the previous year.
Best of the race, perfect weather, the prettiest course ever, and hanging out with new and old friends. The after party was also excellent. We listened to live music, ate hamburgers and drank beer while cheering on other runners. I met my new friend’s friends, one of them, a gal named Aly, had been the second woman to finish. But then, she’d been on the shuttle that arrived after the race had already begun! She said that they could see the runners take off and they asked the shuttle driver to stop there and open the doors. Not only had she, along with the entire last load of participants, started late, she ran extra distance. But the consensus at that point was, it was too beautiful to complain. I look forward to running the race again, hopefully, with a new and improved 13.1 mile course that maybe begins and ends at West Beach. After months of running nearly all the trails at Deception Pass State Park (except a few of the more obscure ones at Cornet Bay), I came up with the following course. My friend Erin and I ran it (very slowly) today. Here it is, with about 2,000 feet of climb and a 13.1 mile distance:
The Deception Pass Half Marathon, one of six races in the Bellingham Trail Series, was held on Sunday, June 1, with one hundred and thirty-five persons participating.
The race begins at the gate at Cornet Bay, part of DPSP. These two shots, one just before the start and one just after show Glenn Tachiyama’s talent (note: I’m the scared-looking one of the rhs, bib number 424). Runners follow Cornet Bay Road to the trail head, race up the hill and continue counterclockwise along the West Hoypus Point Trail, Fireside Trail, East Hoypus Point Trail and back along Cornet Bay Road to just south of the Cornet Bay Retreat Center, where they re-enter the trail and run (most are walking by the time they approach the summit) straight up the Goose Rock Summit Trail and then down northwestward towards the Deception Pass Bridge. Pink surveying tape (and a volunteer) marks the exit point from Highway 20 to the trails that lead to and loop Rosario Head (approached along the right side, nearest the Urchin Rocks). The course becomes “out and back” until it crosses the Deception Pass Bridge a second time, then continues to the North Beach trail to West Beach and across the parking lot to the finish. Super excited to have finished (motivated by the support of a fellow participant and friend, Nina), I wondered about one…small…thing: my GPS watch read…ahem…11.73 miles. This fact (if true, note: my watch had not failed me before in the six months I’d had it) reduced my happiness at having finished by only a little bit because that day, not only was I joined in running the race by my three regular Tuesday running partners, I met a fellow runner who’d hit the same decade as I had that (this) year. She had inspired several friends to join her in support of the big birthday. We became better than acquaintances and ended up running Ragnar together. See? Running brings people together.
Notable about the race: the t-shirts ran small. The volunteers were awesome, as were the hot dogs, hamburgers, beer and other food prepared for us right there, post-race as part of our entry fee. I will consider running it again next year, hoping that the course is increased by about…1.37 miles. Drat GPS. To sign up, go to the Bellingham Trail Running Series site.