The Pacific Northwest has always held a special place in my heart. Ever since first venturing out there in the Summer of 2014 to visit a long-lost cousin, I’ve felt a sense of belonging in Portland, Oregon, a city that prides themselves on being weird. After that first visit to Washington and Oregon, my brother Joel and I felt the yearning to keep going back, and to make an August trip to the Northwest part of our yearly routine.
It was during our third yearly venture to Washington that I wanted to squeeze a marathon into our trip. It didn’t take long to find a marathon happening during our stay: Summer Blast in the Redmond Watershed. The race was labeled as a trail marathon, which was my first attempt at one. The greenery in the Northwest is something that both entices me and makes me feel at home, so it was a no-brainer to test my limits and soak in the scenery for 26.2 miles.
Redmond, Washington is right outside Seattle, which is three hours north from our cousin’s house in Vancouver, WA. Joel and I found the location to be perfect to give us a chance to explore Seattle more. Given that the race started at 9:30 AM, it also gave us an excuse to try out Airbnb and stay in a location near the start of the race. While scrolling through the potential places to stay near Redmond, we didn’t want to drop $200 to stay one night in Seattle, even though the Airbnbs looked inviting. We then found the perfect location in Kirkland, which was 20 minutes away from Redmond. It was $50 for the night, staying in a woman’s garage that was converted into a preschool. What started as a joke turned into us booking the garage for the night, and sleeping in princess beds the day before I attempted my trail marathon. We never ended up meeting the host, but communicated frequently over the app to ask questions or gets tips on what to do in the area. We did however get very acquainted with her cat, who made sure to meow all throughout the night. Our host also left out snacks for the both of us upon our arrival, which solidified its true position as a daycare, and brought back a feeling of nostalgia to the both of us that made us reminisce on the simple times. Despite the sounds of staying in a garage, I wouldn’t have wanted to stay anywhere else for the sheer thrill of the adventure.
On the morning of race day, Joel and I made the drive to Redmond. The pre-race anxiety was getting to me, so I made sure to read the race instructions carefully the night before, and made sure to get there with plenty of time to ensure nothing went wrong. We pulled into what was supposed to be the parking lot, but found the area to be chained off. To top it all off, there wasn’t a soul in sight, which further added to my pre-race jitters. We then made conversation with a woman who looked just as confused as we did wearing running clothes. It didn’t take much to put two and two together and assume she was also doing the marathon. Her name was Amanda, and to this day we’re still Facebook friends. Turns out she worked at a gym and had connections for people who compete in Hood to Coast, a team relay out west I’ve been dying to have a connection for to get into. I’m sure I’ll be working Hood to Coast into my yearly Northwestern vacation plans in the future, hopefully with the help of my new friend.
Upon arriving at the start for Summer Blast, it was my first real experience of competing in a small marathon, only having competed in Charlevoix and Boston at that point, so the atmosphere was much more intimate than what I was used to. The ones competing were generally from the area, and were more focused on getting out and running a marathon rather than aspiring for a certain time. For me that kind of atmosphere was refreshing, as I was much more about the experience than hitting a certain time that day. What came as a surprise to me were the race instructions, which included to not spook any horses while out running. It’s safe to say that I’ve never been given that warning prior to the start of a race.
The trail marathon composed of four 6.55 mile loops, which already was a little different than what I was used to. The repetition was both a blessing and a curse during this race, as it didn’t offer any surprises after the first loop, but also because some of the most difficult hills were at the end of the loop, so I had to prepare and even more so dread those portions. A mix of not being in the best of shape, sleeping in a garage the night before and running on nothing but trails made this marathon incredibly difficult to endure, and my time was indicative of that. I still somehow walked, or should I say, crawled away with a second place finish, which was good enough to take home some local hard cider for conquering the trails.
As with most marathons, the real marathon doesn’t start until after the finish line, when your legs are exhausted and you still have to move around and get to where you need to go. This case was no different from the physical standpoint, but also from the stories that followed. Soon after the conclusion of the race, Joel and I wanted to explore Seattle more before venturing back down to Vancouver, but I had to figure out my showering situation. Our Airbnb host from the night before unfortunately already had another guest at her place, so showering there wasn’t an option. She left me with two suggestions: either say that we’re interested in a gym membership and use their facilities, or use the public showers at the beach. Since I didn’t have the heart to lie to gym workers, Joel and I packed up and decided on option number two.
Before arriving at the beach, Joel and I had to stop to a Meyer (not to be confused with the Midwestern Meijer. Fred Meyer is a very similar parallel universe grocery store) to buy a towel and some body wash. While we were there getting the essentials, we were both deliriously hungry. We kept bothering this poor worker who was giving away free samples to tie us over, which made me feel incredibly homeless in that moment. Once we got what we needed, we headed toward the local beach.
As I’m hosing off at the feet rinsing station with my incredibly painful and chaffing skin, with the water that was freezing cold, and applying the body wash that I just purchased, I then felt more homeless than I ever have before. I’m sure I got some interesting and bizarre stares at the beach, but I was too tired and in pain to care. After changing my clothes in the car, we headed back into Seattle to explore some of the local bars, one of them with the name of “Some Random Bar,” which was indicative of how thrown together and chaotic that venture was. I’ll admit, the main reason we decided on drinking at “Some Random Bar” was for the story and the funny Facebook caption we already had in mind upon checking in.
“Some Random Bar” was certainly no run of the mill bar, despite what the name inferred. The bar had a Habanero Cider that hit the spot after getting a few hours of sleep in a garage the night prior, running a marathon where horses were a potential threat and hosing off at the beach. The place had some amazing appetizers to boot.
Though the trip sounds like a classic National Lampoons story from the outside, it’s in these funny and impulsive moments that make you feel alive while traveling. Often times it’s the journey that makes the story, rather than the destination. My third marathon, and third state on my 50 state journey is certainly one I’ll never forgot, and couldn’t capture my love for the weird atmosphere in the Northwest any better.