“Never leave your wingman,” is what I always think (and sometimes say) when my race running partner starts to fret about us sticking together during a race. In this case, it was my 11 months older, 52-year-old sister JoDee, who took up running in April and now, fewer than four months later, was running her first half marathon: Race the Reserve in Coupeville.
We were wary about the weather, which we needn’t have been as it turned out to be in the upper 60s and lower 70s on Saturday. My sister and I arrived at Coupeville Elementary School at 7:30 am for the 8:30 start. She’d only agreed to participate the day before when we learned of the favorable weather forecast, so was forced into day of race registration. After parking in the adequately-sized lot, a friendly parent volunteer greeted us at the registration table, helped her complete the forms, and sent us on our way to race number/t-shirt and packet pick-up. We said “hey” to a friend, chatted up fellow runners in the porta potty line, loitered, discussed our strategy, and, when we heard the fifteen minutes to the start warning over the PA, headed over to the track.
En route to Coupeville, my sister had said she was worried (1) about slowing me down and (2) about having to walk. I allayed her fears about speed. I was thrilled to get to experience her first race firsthand. I said if she had to walk, it would be fine, though suggested that instead, she try to run the entire thing at a speed slower than her average of 10:30ish minutes per mile.
Minutes later, the announcer gave the one minute warning, began the countdown and we were off! The race follows Main Street towards Highway 20, then the paved Kettle’s Trail parallel to the highway to S Sherman Road, Cemetery Road, W Rebecca Road, then a gravel road to Ebey’s Reserve, the most scenic section of the course. I stopped to take a few shots of the view (sorry to anyone I irritated by stopping, then speeding up to catch my sister).
We reached Ebey’s Landing Road and followed it about a mile and a half (warmest part of the course) past the start area along W Terry Road, did a little semi-shaded loop to W Henry Drive, then headed south onto Fort Casey Road, where we found more shade. At W Engle Road, we turned off and ran up a little hill at which point newbie JoDee wasn’t saying much. She had music piped into her phone, which she set at a decibel level loud enough for us both to hear but not so loud that it would annoy the rest of the runners. Mostly students manned and womanned the water stops, complete with cheering, smiles, and water-filled Dixie cups. We stopped at every one during the first three quarters of the race..
The race profile was pretty flat, in fact, the course contained a mere 500 feet of climb, the biggest hill was shown at mile 9, a small grade that continued past open fields. We were passing (along the uphills) and being passed by (along the dowhills) by a cute, strong runner gal wearing an orange tank, so when we passed her on the uphill late in the race, I said, “Good job. We’ll see you when you pass us later on the downhill.”
Along the entire course, we noticed a woman in green who was following a run/walk plan. I couldn’t quite figure it out, but she’d run most of each mile and then walk a short distance. When we reached 10.5 miles, passing and being passed by the gal in green, my sister was in entirely new territory, as that had been her furthest all-time running distance. Fortunately, that was at about the point that we reached the last downhill, shady section.
Soon, we were re-running along the exact same part of Engle Road that we’d run during the first few miles. At about mile 12, we reached a water stop with three teenage girls, one a girl I know from our neighborhood: Julianne, who I expected to see at some point since I knew she was part of the Coupeville High School Class of 2016. I called out her name and she cheered us on as we continued past. My sister decided she no longer wanted to stop at the water stations as doing so made it hard to get started again. Finally, we reached the sign indicating 12 miles and passed a man walking, who then began running. The run/walker gal in green didn’t walk at all during her last mile and finished ahead of us. We never saw woman-in-orange again after our last pass, though it may have been because the last part of the course was flat to uphill. Finally, we could hear the crowd cheering finishing runners in the distance. Not too many steps later, we passed through the fence, continued to the track and crossed under the blue inflatable awning and the finish line, where a volunteer handed us each a medal and, even better at that point, a bottle of water.
I felt verklempt. My sister said little, except that she was ready to leave. I insisted we spend a few minutes stretching, so we found some shade and did so, then made our way to Bowman Bay in hopes of scooping up some crab. Deception Pass State Park was packed with kayakers, hikers, crabbers (on the dock) and beach combers, but we didn’t see a single crab! As we waded through the cold water, I hoped it might substitute for an ice bath, in which I’ve always been too much of wimp to partake.
My advice: if you’ve never done it, Race the Reserve! If you have then you know it’s worth doing again. The event, which boasts a long list of sponsors and supports the Coupeville High School Class of 2016 (event year plus 1), has wonderful volunteers, is super organized and boasts a great (cotton) t-shirt and one of the most scenic courses you’ll likely have ever seen. The only downside…those who have high standards for race medals (I don’t) may be a teensy bit disappointed.