• Juan J. Arrieta

North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon: A race full of natural beauty

Disclaimer: I received free entry to the North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon (NODM) as part of being a BibRave Pro. Find and share race reviews by going to www.bibrave.com. Learn more about becoming a BibRave Pro by going to https://www.bibrave.com/bibravepro.

This race is held in Port Angeles, Washington. Port Angeles is located approximately 2.5 hours through car and ferry from Seattle, and is what I would describe as a quiet, postcard-perfect town. It sits on the northern edge of Washington state's Olympic Peninsula and along the shores of the Strait of Juan de Fuca. Everywhere you look, Port Angeles is surrounded by great views, whether it is thick and tall pine forests, snow-capped mountains, or deep blue ocean. If you are looking for a peaceful race destination without large crowds and to connect with nature, then Port Angeles is probably a great option for you.

Registration A smooth online process through a quick, easy-to-complete form. Received an email receipt within seconds of completing the process.


Packet Pick-up/Expo/SWAG The packet pickup and expo was held at a medium-size waterfront hotel, the Red Lion, which is adjacent to the race finish line and one block away from the Port Angeles town center. The process of picking up my bib was extremely easy and quick and took just a few minutes. The staff handling the process was very friendly and professional. Included in the packet for participants in the full and half marathon events was an OUTSTANDING long-sleeve, 1/4 zip runner's top of what I'll call a salmon color. It has a nice zipped pocket on one of its sides that is big enough to fit an ID, a key, and perhaps a gel or two as well. It also has the race logo on the left upper chest and another one on the back. I found this top to be extremely convenient as it helped me stay warm on race morning during my walk to the shuttle bus that took us to the race start line as well as during the first couple of miles of the race until I warmed up sufficiently. It is the type of gear I value as I know that I will use it for a long time, even in occasions when I am not running. Kudos to the race organizers for including it on the race packet. The expo itself is quite small, with approximately 15-20 booths, most of them of representatives from other racing events in the Pacific Northwest area.

Start Line The start line for the half marathon was located at a large soccer field a few miles away in the town of Sequim. The race provided free shuttles to take all participants there, leaving from the Port Angeles Town Center every few minutes as they filled up (6:45am to 7:30am for the 8:30am start). Participants also had the option of driving their own cars to the start line, then riding a free shuttle back after the finish. I feel this was also quite a flexible feature provided by the race organizers that showed their efforts in making things easy and convenient for participants. At the start area there was more than plenty of room to fit everyone comfortably. One one of the sides of the field there was a long block of port-a-potties to handle all the runners in hand; I didn't see or notice any particularly long lines on any of them at any one point while we waited for the start. In addition, there were a couple of tables with water and electrolytes for anyone needing pre-race hydration as well as a local high-school band playing awesome music pumping us up and keeping us entertained while we waited for the 8:30am start.

Weather Climate on race day was optimal for racing. Temperatures were in the low 50s with just a slight wind at start time. There was a threat of possible rain in the air, but it held off at least for the first couple of hours of the race. After I finished (around 10:45am), it started drizzling and the wind also picked up, so conditions deteriorated a bit at that point.


Course & Support The bulk of the race course followed the Olympic Discovery Trail through rural farm lands and amazing views of the Olympic Mountains. Most of the trail is paved with asphalt and surrounded by trees on both sides offering plenty of shade and protection from the sun. There were plenty of rolling hills along the first 8 miles or so of the course, but perhaps with only a couple of exceptions, most of them were short and not too steep; in my opinion just slight elevation changes that add variety to the challenge and make it fun. If you have included some hill training in your workouts, you should be able to handle this course without a problem and shouldn't worry about it. The hydration/support stations were plentiful along the way and fairly evenly spaced. They all had a variety of items such as orange slices and gels in addition to water and electrolytes. They all also had plenty of volunteers staffing them with a friendly and cheerful attitude. At around miles 9-10, the course reached the beautiful coastline and turned basically flat the rest of the way, following the shore all the way until the finish line. This helped me get into a really good pace and rhythm and I was able to make my last mile the fastest one for the day.

View around mile 9-10

One of the most steep hill climbs along the course

Finish Line/Medal/Food The finish line had plenty of volunteers handing out medals, water, and electrolytes, and was quite wide with plenty of room for runners to walk or greet friends and family on the sides. The medal has an image of colorful painting of a group of runners crossing one of the beautiful bridges found along the course, with the snow-capped mountains and sun behind them. The post-race food and refreshments included a variety of fruit, muffins, yogurt, granola, chocolate milk, and beer.


Conclusion

I found this to be an extremely enjoyable race from beginning to end, and feel that out of all its positives, the top one is the scenery and beauty of the course. It is definitely a race I'd recommend to anyone who hasn't had an opportunity to experience it yet.

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