Race Review: 2016 Beat the Blerch Half Marathon

race-review_-2016-beat-the-blerch-half-marathonI ran for agony.

I ran for serenity.

And I ran for cake (which was delicious, by the way).

The 2016 Beat the Blerch half marathon in Seattle on Saturday was one of the most fun races I’ve run in awhile for obvious reasons, but was also in it’s own category for a half marathon race experience. It’s meant to be a fun run, yet I was racing it as a pre-marathon tune up, so there’s that. The course was also 90 per cent trail, which can slow you down a bit but also has less of an impact on your legs and feet. And instead of warming up by doing butt-kicks and leg swings before the race, people were entering doughnut-eating competitions, downing bacon cake and eating marshmallows thrown into the crowd at the starting line by a dude dressed as a Blerch while Mathew Inman (aka The Oatmeal) read us Bill Pullman’s Independence Day speech (hahaha what???).

I’ll recap my race experience below, but first here’s what happened leading up to the race and what I thought of the race itself.

Pre-race day

My bestie Janine and I drove from Vancouver down to Green Lake in Washington on Friday so I could pick up my race package and stop by the Oiselle Flagship store. The first stop was package pick-up, where I got to meet Matthew and had him sign my race bib. He asked what I was running tomorrow, and I said the half and asked if he was running as well.

Matthew: “Yeah, I’ll be doing the half.”

Me: “The whole thing?”

Matthew: “No, the half.”

Me: “So half of the half?”

Matthew: “Uhhh… yeah.”

Hahahah, it so awkward. Instead of telling him about all The Oatmeal comics about grammar we have up in our office at work, I just kind of walked away slowly while Janine laughed at me.

Lookin' good Janine!

Lookin’ good Janine!

Next stop was the Oiselle store so I could pick up a few things and not spend a million dollars on duty.

Proud of myself for not buyng #allthethings.

Proud of myself for not buying #allthethings.

I picked up the Window Knickers (which fit amazingly and the fabric feels awesome), the Hi Ten Bra (which I wore for the race and had zero chafing, despite all the rain), and the super cute Satellite Tank (pictured below).

Head up wings out!

Head up wings out!

After some shopping, Janine and I hit up VeggieGrill, a vegan fast food joint, for my pre-race meal.

Nom nom nom

Nom nom nom

After dinner we drove to our hotel in Redmond, played Exploding Kittens and went to bed super early.

Race swag and Oiselle purchases!

Race swag and Oiselle purchases!

On race day, we had breakfast at the hotel (continental for Janine, Kashi Go Lean Popped Clusters Vanilla Pepita Cereal, almond milk and a banana for me) and drove to Carnation for the race. Unlike the day before, it was cold and pouring down with rain, so we tried to stay as dry as possible in the hour-ish we had before the race start at 9:30 a.m. There were a few booths set up, including a Zappos doughnut booth where you could top your own plain doughnut with candy, chocolate and bacon.

The doughnut booth!

The rain did-nut kill our vibe

There were also a few runners partaking in a doughnut-eating contest just before the race started. I bet they regretted that decision later.

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With about 15 minutes to the race start, I bumped into a few other Oiselle Volée runners, including Joemarie, who helped me at the Oiselle store the night before. We said our good-lucks and lined up at the starting line, where Matthew and a Blerch sent us on our way with marshmallows and a few inspirational words by Bill Pullman.

2016 Beat the Blerch Half Marathon Seattle race review

The course: As mentioned above, the course was about 90 per cent trail. It was an out-and-back route that follows the pretty Snoqualmie Valley trail with about 300 feet of elevation gain and loss. The course is relatively flat, and you don’t really notice the incline to the half-way point until you turn around. The start and end of the course consisted of really loose gravel and was pretty muddy thanks to the rain.

Race expo/amenities: The race was held at Tort-MacDonald Park that had a big barn for shelter from the rain, which was nice. There were only a handful of booths set up, including a Blerch-andise tent, the Zappos Doughnut tent, and THE KITTEN TENT, which was by the Seattle Humane Society where you could pay $5 to go in and play with kittens. They were also up for adoption, and it took everything I had not to bring one home.

I didn't go in, as there was a big line up and the poor things looked like they had had enough.

I didn’t go in, as there was a big line up and the poor things looked like they had had enough.

There were plenty of outhouses and no waits (there were only about 2,000 people running I think — there were close to 800 in the half), lots of food and water, and enough shelter to keep the majority of us out of the rain.

Race garment/swag:  The race shirt was a cotton fitted t-shirt (which I didn’t mind as I have enough technical running gear) with the Blerch logo on the front and back. We also got a deck of playing cards, candy, stickers and tattoos.

Food: Obviously the food was the best part. While I passed on the doughnuts and Nutella sandwiches, I did have a piece of cake after the race and it was delicious. There was also bananas, cookies, and chips, as well as water and Gatorade. There were no line ups for anything and lots of food to go around.

I passed on the pre-race bacon cake...

I passed on the pre-race bacon cake…

Volunteers/Aid Stations: Although they could have done with one more aid station on the half course (they were spread out weirdly, with an aid station less than 2 miles from the start and finish), overall the volunteers and aid stations on the course were great. I was expecting more Blerches, though, and the one Sasquatch they had lurking near mile 6 didn’t jump out and chase anybody as I had hoped. Maybe it would have been different if I wasn’t racing it and doing it as a fun run. Of the two aid stations I passed on the course, each had a Blerch or two standing there with Nutella on a stick, and there were couches for napping as promised. I blew past these for the first half, but on the way back the mid-pack 10K-ers had just reached that point and the whole area was jammed, so anyone running a faster half got caught behind the 10K runners for the rest of the way back. It is what it is, and I was expecting that to happen so I just dodged and weaved the best I could.

Overall: I loved this event. The expo site and all the shenanigans were worth it alone. If I were to do it again, I’d want to run it for fun and not as a tune-up race, because I feel like I missed out on all the Blerch silliness while I was focusing on my racing pace.

My race experience

Despite the rain, the squishy trail and bottleneck at the 10 mile mark all the way to the finish line, I ran a half marathon personal best of 1:38:39!

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I was also 4th female overall and less than a minute off a third place finish. I was so stoked! Granted, this was a fun race and not a big, serious race with lots of fast people — but I’m still happy about that placing. I was also happy that I paced perfectly (4:45 per km) and had gas in the tank at the end. I didn’t feel winded or tired at all, and felt like I could have kept going. This is a huge confidence boost going into the marathon in a few weeks, as I’ve been a bit unsure about my training this time around.

We did it!

We did it!

Joemarie and I posing with the Nutella...

Joemarie and I posing with the Nutella…

My sprint to the finish!

My sprint to the finish!

I’m really glad I went and did this race — for the experience and to get ready for my third BQ attempt in a few weeks. As long as I stay healthy (knock-on-wood), another BQ could be in reach.

Indy approves of this medal.

Indy approves of this medal.

Have you done Beat The Blerch?
What was the most fun race you’ve ever done?
Do you usually do tune-up races before a big event?

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