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Posts Tagged ‘race report’

Heading down to LA for my last half marathon of the year, I was sort of up in the air about how I wanted it to go.  I wanted to run really well, especially after getting sort of robbed in San Jose.  I wanted to run fast, but I also wanted to feel good about it.  However, after two weeks of struggling through speedwork and feeling like crap, I wasn’t sure if I was going to be able to run fast.  I had time goals I wanted to hit, but felt like running to those goals was just going to end in pain.  Instead, I decided to take the very reasonable approach of going out and what felt like an appropriate pace (I’ve run enough halfs this year that I felt pretty confident in being able to figure that out) and then just keep it consistent through the whole thing.  Whatever time I ended up with would be fine, and with any luck it would be faster than the last one.

Once we got down to LA and started making our plan for race day, one thing became very clear: the logistics for spectators for this race just sucked.  There was absolutely no way for him to come see the start – the closest parking was a mile away and spectators weren’t allowed on the shuttles that were running to the start area for the participants.  (Which is totally fair, in my book.  Plus, it’s not like he would have had any way to get to the finish from the start after that.)  Since he wouldn’t be missing much by not being at the start, we decided that I would just shuttle up there in the morning.  No problem.  However, the more we looked at the map, the more we realized that the point-to-point course just didn’t give him any good places to come and see me along the way.  He’d have to settle for catching me at the finish line.  (I’m sure if we were more familiar with the area we could have figured something out, but for two people from out of town?  It wasn’t going to happen.)  Once we realized this we sort of kicked ourselves – I mean, we could have saved ourselves a couple hundred bucks on airfare and saved Irwin from getting up and dark o’ clock to drop me off downtown and then just…. hang out.  For several hours.  (He did it, though, and didn’t even complain.  Happily, he had some food trucks and geocaching with which to pass the time, so I felt a little better.)

I spent a good chunk of time in line for the shuttles, but they got me to the start line with just enough time to find my corral and make a quick pre-race pit stop.  I took my place in the corral with about 5 minutes to go until the start and then we were off!  I was amazed, though, by the number of people that were in the start area but not in the corrals yet when the race started.  There were a ton of people in line for the port-o-potties or just floating around.  While it’s not a huge deal since the race was chip-timed, a few more announcements by the MCs at the start letting everyone know how much time was left would have been helpful.  I don’t think I heard them once mention how much time was left until the start of the race until there was just 5 minutes left.

The race started at the top of a hill in Griffith Park, which meant our opening miles were slightly downhill.  Starting the race in the park was a great way to go and I made it through the first mile in 9:34.  It was, in all honesty, on the slower end of what I was hoping for, pace-wise, but it didn’t feel like I was going to go any faster without seriously hating life later.  I just knew that 9:30s were all I was going to get out of my legs that morning, so I decided I was just going to stick with it.  I knew that would still get me to the finish around 2:05 which was perfectly acceptable in my book.

While I stayed on pace through the first few miles, I had a few moments when I wondered if I was perhaps going out a bit too fast.  However, I just stuck with it and figured I’d deal with it later if it was too much.  The course took us out of the park and through a few urban neighborhoods before moving into some residential areas about halfway through.  We ran along the Silver Lake Reservoir and then, a few miles later, passed by a nice little pond/lake in the Echo Park neighborhood.  We went through Echo Park around the 10 mile mark and that was when I started feeling a little off.  I got chilly and just felt gross overall.  I’d picked up a salt packet at the start line and decided to take that down with some water.  I also started grabbing Cytomax at the aid stations instead of water for the remainder of the race.

I don’t know if it helped or not – I was absolutely freezing for those last 3 miles, but I kept my legs moving at the same pace.  At each split, I could see that as long as I held the same pace I could come in under 2:05.  I picked up the pace a bit too much at the 12-mile mark and, as a result, that last mile felt absolutely endless despite being the fastest of the race.  When I rounded the last corner, though, I knew I had it in the bag.  I just had to keep my legs moving and gave that last tenth of a mile everything I had.

I crossed the finish line feeling absolutely horrible and just about stumbled through the chute.  I’d made it, though, with a final time of 2:04:24.  Under 2:05.  My fastest half of the year.  A new PR.  Absolutely nothing to complain about.  I grabbed food and water and Cytomax and found the family reunion area where I sat down to wait for Irwin.  (This was the first race where I didn’t spot him as I was coming through the finish.  Happily, the reunion area was just about empty, so I wasn’t too worried about him finding me.)  Once I sat down and got some liquid and calories in me, I felt 400 times better.

As excited as I am about running a good, solid, super-fast race, I’m even more excited by the fact that I did it with splits that were just about dead even.  There were some hills on the course, but I found my pace and stuck to it like glue.  Behold my cookie-cutter splits:

9:34
9:30
10:31 (1.1 miles – taken @ 5k mark)
8:25 (0.9 miles)
9:23
9:26
9:44 (Gu break)
9:39
9:35
9:30
9:33
9:28
9:07
0:53 (0.1 miles)

Like I said: absolutely nothing to complain about.  Plus, having such a great race has me somewhat re-energized about running the full next month.  It’s looking like my original goal of going sub-5:00 is, well, it’s a little conservative.  (Or, to put it another way: I am a giant, dirty sandbagger.)  It looks like I’ll be re-evaluating things after my next couple long runs.  On the plus side, I’m pretty much guaranteed to destroy my current marathon PR of 5:21, which is awesome.

Bring it on, yo.

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So far, this year could very easily be described as the Year of Racing.  I’ve been so excited about getting back into regular running that I’ve done just about every race that has come down the pike.  Somehow, most of them have gone really well and I’ve set a whole new set of PRs.  I’ve seen my times come down to a point that I, quite honestly, was faster than I ever had a shot at running.  It has, in short, been a super awesome year.  Which means that I had a less-than-stellar experience coming to me, a fact that I had been successfully ignoring up until last weekend.

Last Sunday was the inaugural You Go Girl half marathon in Tacoma.  The pace groups were organized by the Marathon Maniacs/Half Fanatics which is how I found out about it.  Betsy, a local maniac, was leading the 2:10 group and told me I should come and run with her.  This was shortly after I ran New Orleans, and at that point 2:10 sounded like a challenging yet doable goal for the fall, so I signed up.  Then I ran that incredibly fast 10K right before the wedding and started getting ideas.  The week before the race, I decided I was going to shoot for 2:00 even, despite the fact that I hadn’t really been running all that consistently since the wedding.

Race day dawned wet and chilly, and as we drove down to the start I began to seriously question my commitment to running it.  Not helping things was the fact that shortly after hitting the highway, I realized that I’d forgotten my watch.  We were too far along to turn back for it, so I became immediately grateful for the pace leaders on the course.  I wouldn’t be able to keep track of how I was running, but at least I could tag along with someone that would be running at a nice, even pace.  Crisis averted.

Then a number of things happened: the two-hour goal was a bit too aggressive for me that day and the pace leaders went out just a wee bit on the fast side.  With the hillier-than-expected course, I quickly started feeling the speed.  The one good thing is that it didn’t take me long to realize that I wasn’t going to be able to hang with them for the entire race, so shortly before the mile 2 marker I let them go and found my own pace.  I recovered a little bit, but then the monstrous hill from mile 3 to 4 just about finished me off.  I was now firmly in damage control territory, just trying to finish the race with absolutely no expectation on how long it would take me.  I gave some very serious thought to ditching early when I passed the turnoff for the 10K finish line, but convinced myself to run the whole thing for the miles.  If nothing else, I could get a decent long run in as part of my marathon training.

As I wound my way through the course, I had absolutely no idea how fast I was going.  The 2:10 group was still behind me, but I had no idea by how much.  All I knew was that the 2:00 group was well out of sight and I was just chugging along the best I could, putting one foot in front of the other and feeling like absolute hell while I was doing it.  The giant overpass we had to climb before hitting the finish just added insult to injury, but I still managed to come in for a strong finish.

My final time?  2:06:15.  A new PR and a full 7 minutes faster than I ran in Alaska.  It may have felt horrible and been slower than I wanted it to be, but it was still a great race.  Go figure.  I moved past it pretty quickly, since I’d have another chance the next weekend to run a super-fast time.

That second chance was the Rock & Roll half in San Jose this past Sunday.  That course was definitely going to be super-flat and super-fast and I was going to remember my watch and not rely on a pace group, so I saw no reason that things wouldn’t go well for me.  What could possibly go wrong?  Sure, I’d felt a little iffy for the past few days and, as a result, hadn’t really been eating as much or as well as I might have liked, but that was fine.  I felt fine on Sunday when I woke up, so there was absolutely nothing to worry about.  Even the weather was cooperating with an overcast 60-degree morning: perfect running weather.

I got through the first 5K just fine – a little on the slow side due to the crowds on the course, but I felt like I had some room to speed up once things cleared out.  Then somewhere between miles 3 and 4, I just ran out of gas.  I reached for a Gu and, while that helped a bit, it didn’t really do a whole lot.  By the time I hit the 5 mile marker, I just wanted to be done and back home in bed.  This time, there was no 10K finish to ditch out early at, so I was stuck finishing it out whether I liked it or not.

Once again, I found myself easing up on the pace and letting go of any ideas I had of running a PR.  Unfortunately, this time I just couldn’t seem to recover.  No matter how much I slowed down, I still just felt like I was running through molasses.  It was horrible and awful and I felt incredibly gross for the pace I was running.  I finally just stopped and took a nice, long walk for a quarter-mile or so just before mile 11 and then regrouped.  I just had two miles left, and I could totally handle that as long as I ran them nice and easy.  Super easy.  Super slow.  Two miles.  Totally doable.

I made it to the end and even managed to pick it up a bit for the finish, but I didn’t feel any better for it.  My total time was 2:13:11 – slower than last weekend, but since I’d been sort of sick, I let it go.  It was annoying and frustrating – especially on the heels of last weekend’s race – but at least there was an explanation for it.  Hopefully I’ve gotten the icky races out of my system for a while, and I can make a much better showing at the half in Los Angeles at the end of the month.

However, as horrible as those races were, I can’t lose sight of two very important details:

  • I finished both races.  Despite feeling like absolute crap, I still managed to run 13.1 miles.
  • Both races were faster than the half I ran in June, which, at the time, was a PR.

So, yeah, they weren’t as fast or as fun as I would have liked, but they weren’t even close to being failures.  Like I said – I’ve had so many really good races this year, that I had something like this coming for me.  At least I got it out of my system before the full marathon next month.

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Today is the one-week-to-go mark before the wedding, and what better way to kick off wedding week than by running a 10k? Sounded like a plan to me, so Irwin and I got up bright and early for a race. The start & finish area of the race was actually right next door to where our wedding is going to be next weekend, which was kind of exciting. We got to the race about 20 minutes before the start, which to me totally felt like it was last-minute. I had time to pick up my number, get it pinned to me, put my chip on, hand my extra stuff off and then it was time to go line up. It was a little weird not having time to kill walking around before the race started.

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My goal for this race was to come in somewhere around or under 55 minutes. Considering I ran a 56+ minute 10K back in May and my last couple of 5Ks were both around the 26:30 range, I figured it was totally doable. The fact that the course was going to be pretty flat was also a nice bonus, and added to my confidence. When the morning dawned nice and cool, I knew I had a pretty good shot at having a good day. (Although, this is the first time I’ve run a race in August where I’ve been chilly at the start. Only in Seattle.)

The first mile? Was slow. Slow and crowded. I worked my way through people where I could and hung out until an opening appeared when I needed to. It was certainly annoying, but I hung in there and by the end of the first mile things opened up and I was able to settle into a good pace. I had to run an 8:50 pace to make my goal, but I knew that first mile was going to be slower than that. I got myself prepared for it so I wouldn’t panic, and I was totally right. My split for that first mile was 9:05 However, I felt like I was in a really good groove, so I didn’t get too worried. I figured I’d keep pushing along at the same effort level, which felt about right for a 10K, and get a better idea of how fast I was moving when I hit the mile 2 marker.

Then something crazy happened: I went through that second mile in 8:20. Way, way faster than I needed to. I told myself I could back off a wee bit on the pace, since I had plenty of room, and chugged along as the course took us off of the roads and onto the Sammamish River Trail. I’ve run this chunk of the trail several times, so it was nice to be on familiar ground. I totally missed the mile 3 marker, which initially threw me off. How fast was I going? Had I slowed way down? How would I know if I was going to make my time? AAAACK! Then I took a deep breath and took a quick inventory: I was passing people, so I was still moving along pretty good. My watch said I’d been running for 30 minutes, so I was most likely somewhere beyond the halfway point of the race. Did I feel OK for being halfway through a 10K? Yes, yes I did. I was working hard, but not killing myself, and I still had plenty of gas left in the tank. I decided my current pace was a good one and stuck with it, assuming that I must have slowed down a bit.

So you can imagine my absolute shock when I looked down at my watch at the mile 4 marker and saw a split of 16:43. Apparently I hadn’t really slowed down at all, and I felt surprisingly good for hauling ass at an 8:20 pace for the last 3 miles. Go figure.

20100821-IMG_7053.jpg

At that point I was almost done, so I just kept on moving. I managed to get through mile 5 in 8:15 and mile 6 in 8:20. My final time? 52:32.

Way under 55 minutes. Way under. Once again, totally in the category of, “I didn’t know I could run that fast.” I still have absolutely no idea where that came from – I certainly didn’t feel like I was running 8:20s the entire time, but apparently I was. Clearly the weekly speedwork is doing me some good. (Although it looks like I’m going to have to start running in a faster group, which, man, that’s just going to be a lot more work. What’s up with that?)

The high point of the race, though, was at the finish line. Somewhere around mile 3, I caught up with a girl and a guy that were running together. At some point, the guy dropped off but the girl stayed right behind me. It was somewhere between miles 4 and 5 that I realized she was just going to follow me right into the finish.

20100821-IMG_7056.jpg

I was OK with that. From overhearing her talking to her running partner earlier, it sounded like it was her first 10K and the furthest she’d ever run. If she needed to follow someone in, well, that’s totally understandable. I ran my race and she tagged along. I had a feeling that once we got to the finish, she was going to pull ahead of me and beat me. I was sort of right: she tried to pull ahead of me, but I emptied the tank and managed to stay with her, crossing the line at pretty much the same time.

As I was standing there getting de-chipped, she came up to me and congratulated me on my race. She admitted to following me in because she’d wanted someone to pace off of. I asked her if it was her first 10K, and when she said it was, I congratulated her and said she’d done an awesome job. Her response? “Thanks! You’re really fast!”

I didn’t even have anything to say to that. I’d argue with it, but after today? I sort of have to agree. I flew over that course and it didn’t feel anywhere near as hard as the numbers tell me it should have. It might be that I’m starting to get some actual speed, which is awesome.

My next race is a half marathon at the end of September. My goal for it has always been 2:10, but I’m wondering if I should rethink that. I know I can beat 2:10, but I’m starting to wonder if getting under 2:00 could be in the cards for this year.

After all, I am really fast these days.

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Firecracker 5000

When I ran the Great Kilted Run at the end of May, the announcers were promoting another race that was being put on by the same organizers. It would be at midnight on the Fourth of July in downtown Seattle, and that just sounded like way too much fun to pass up. Since it was only a 5K, I decided to squeeze it in to the busy schedule for the weekend.

Irwin came with me, and when we arrived at the Seattle Center, we discovered it was way chilly. I was wearing my Brooks singlet and arm warmers, and I knew that I’d be just fine once I started running, but standing around before the start was a little rough. Since my running (well, exercise in general, really) has been a little sporadic over the past couple of weeks, I didn’t really have any big expectations for the race. I knew I wasn’t going to run another PR, so my goal was just to run hard and have fun. I lined up halfway between the 8:00/mile and 9:00/mile in the start corral, figuring I’d be able to run something in the 8:30-9:00 range.

A few minutes before midnight, we were off! We had to go up a small but fairly steep hill to get out of the stadium where the start/finish line was, but I just reminded myself that going down that same hill at the end would be really nice. We came out of the stadium, made a few turns, and were on the roads of downtown Seattle. I knew this wouldn’t be a flat course, and it didn’t take us long to hit our first hill with an underpass. I let my legs stretch out on the downhill and powered up the other side as fast as I could. The first mile or so of the course headed back towards the expressway, so there weren’t a lot of spectators. That didn’t matter, though, since I was just enjoying being out and going for a run in the night air.

I totally missed the first mile marker – it was on the right side of the course and I was on the left – and I quickly decided I just didn’t care. I was going to run my butt off, and if I had to stop and take a wee little walk break to catch my breath? That was fine.

Somewhere around the 1.5 mile mark, we started up a loooong uphill. I remembered it was there from the Livestrong ride I’d done a couple years ago, and I was just as displeased with it. It just seemed to go on forever. On the plus side, there were a couple of bars along this stretch where the customers were standing on the street cheering us on. The encouragement definitely helped, and we passed a few more bars between that point and the stadium.

The course was two loops – a 2-mile and a 1-mile, more or less – so we passed by the stadium right around the 2 mile point. I hit that point around 16-minutes, so it was fun to see the race leaders heading down the final stretch to the stadium before I turned off for my second loop. The second loop was mercifully short, and when I heard the finish line as we ran around the back of the stadium, I gave it everything I had left. Coming around the last corners, I knew I wasn’t going to beat my last 5K time, but I was going to be right around it. Perfect. I was expecting one more turn to get into the stadium, but it was just a straight shot.

I hit the downhill into the stadium hard and threw myself across the finish line.

IMG_6893

Final time: 26:42. Just 11 seconds off last time. I was just thrilled to pieces to reproduce that sort of effort on a more difficult course, since it tells me it wasn’t a fluke. (I didn’t really think it was, but it’s still nice to have it confirmed.) After crossing the line, I found Irwin, who wasted no time in letting me know how much running he had done, with all his camera equipment and everything, so he could see me both on the course and at the finish. I patted him on the back as I told him how proud of him I was, to which he simply said, “Ew, you’re sweaty. Don’t touch me.”

Well, he left me no choice there, so I showed my appreciation for all his hard work with a big sweaty hug. He was totally asking for it.

After terrorizing my fiance, I made my way through the finisher chute and collected my post-race refreshments. In this case, that included Top Pot donuts, which go down as the second-best post-race food ever. (First place goes to the watermelon that was after the Mayor’s Half in Alaska.)

IMG_6906

Irwin got a donut, too, which I offered to put on a string so he could have a medal. For some reason, he turned it down.

Overall? It was an excellent way to kick off the Fourth of July, and totally worth staying up past my bedtime for. The only thing that could have made it better was fireworks at the finish.

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The main reason for this weekend trip to Anchorage was to run the Mayor’s half marathon. My original plan was to run the full, but when I spent most of March not running and then most of April taking it easy instead of building mileage (thanks to the bursitis), I decided that running the full just wasn’t worth pushing things. I’d still go and spend the weekend hanging out with Rachel, but I’d run the half instead. Since I hadn’t pushed it as hard as I had hoped in Nashville, I decided to make this race my “fast half” race.

Since Rachel lived here, she hooked us up with a fabulous pasta dinner at a friend’s house last night. We had a great time hanging out with a few of her other friends that were also running today, and it was nice for me to spend some time talking about running, as most of my friends in Seattle aren’t runners. Once we got home, I got everything I’d need for the race together so I wouldn’t forget anything this morning.

IMG_0639

Clothes, number, Gu, watch and, most importantly: Body Glide

My biggest concern was how I’d sleep. I didn’t sleep well at all Thursday night, despite being completely exhausted. While we were out and about downtown yesterday, I picked up a sleep mask. I didn’t know if it was going to help, but I was confident it wouldn’t hurt and for five dollars? I was willing to try.

I am pleased to report that those five dollars may have been the best spent money of the entire trip. Seriously. I still woke up about an hour earlier than I needed to, but I felt refreshed when I did. Besides, the race didn’t start until 9, so even with getting up at 6 I felt like I’d gotten to sleep in. Most of the races I’ve run lately have started at 7, which made this one feel luxuriously late. I fueled up with my traditional pre-race breakfast of a bagel with peanut butter:

IMG_0640

Carbs? Check. Protein? Check. Hydration? Check.

The race started at a nearby high school, and my only complaint was that there was no organization to the starting line. It’s a smaller race, so I wasn’t expecting corrals, but some sort of signage indicating a general pace would have been nice. Rachel and I found a spot about 1/3 of the way back from the starting line, but I still spent the first half mile or so dodging walkers left and right. Grrrrrrr. Happily, by the time we hit the first mile marker, the crowd had spread out a bit. I had room to navigate around people when I needed it, and I was running around people that were more or less running my pace.

Mayors Half Marathon (4 of 178)

Rachel and I before the race.

Mayors Half Marathon (9 of 178)

Cheesy camera face!

The first half of the race? Was tough. We ran around behind the airport, and it was a little hilly. There weren’t any giant hills, but it was a constant up and down with no flat spots in between. I’d been hoping to go out and a 10:00/mile pace, and I was fighting to hang on to a pace around 10:10-10:20/mile. I was worried that even that was too fast, that I just wasn’t well rested enough or recovered enough from last week’s cold, and I had pretty much convinced myself this just wasn’t going to be my day. I really wanted to get under 2:15 for this race, and I was secretly hoping to run closer to 2:10, but as I was dragging my butt up a killer hill just before the 5 mile marker, I kissed all those thoughts goodbye. This race was going to suck, and I was just going to do my best to avoid barfing my lungs up until after I crossed the finish line.

Then a miraculous thing happened. We turned away from the airport just after mile 6 and the ground flattened out. I went from struggling to run 10:10 miles to cranking out 9:45 miles. I had a Gu and some water and regained my will to live. The back half of the race was on a running trail that runs along Cook Inlet, and with the exception of a pretty good hill right around the 8 mile point, it was pretty flat. Some gradual ups and downs, but nothing like the first half of the race. When I hit the 10 mile mark around 1:41, I started to think that a 2:10 might be possible after all! If nothing else, I knew that I’d break 2:15, for sure. I can’t even tell you what a welcome relief that was.

Mayors Half Marathon (131 of 178)

Shortly after mile 10: regained my will to live and happy to see Irwin

I hit the 12 mile mark at 2:00 and change, and I knew that I’d have to haul some serious ass to get a 2:10, but I only had a mile left! I asked myself what I had left and proceeded to let it all rip. I was moving along pretty well until we came off the trail and back onto the residential streets by the high school. Rachel had warned me about the huge hill here, and she wasn’t lying. She’d warned me not to stop at the aid station there and just barrel on up, but I felt like I needed something. I grabbed a cup of water, sucked it down, then mentally steeled myself and sprinted up the hill like it was the last thing I was ever going to do.

I paid for it – there was a half-mile of race left, and I suffered through every bit of it, never really catching my breath. However, I just kept pushing along since I knew I was almost done. The hill had cost me a couple of minutes, and I was not about to let that 2:15 get away from me. The race course actually makes you run past the starting line and around the school parking lot so you finish on the track, and that felt incredibly mean at that point. I kept looking for where we could turn, and then I kept looking for where we could enter the track. Rachel and a friend of hers were standing at the end of the parking lot, and hearing them yell my name perked me up enough to make it to the track itself. Then I gave those last 100 yards everything I had.

Mayors Half Marathon (158 of 178)

Ah, yes, the "I hope I cross the finish line before I fall over and/or barf" shot. Always flattering.

Final time? 2:13:28. A new PR by about three and a half minutes. This was the race I’ve known that I had in me all spring, and it was so nice to finally get it out.

Mayors Half Marathon (177 of 178)

The crew after the race

Irwin did a great job as support crew and photographer (all race photos in this post were taken by him). He even thought to have the long-sleeved shirts Rachel and I had been wearing pre-race with him, so we could put them back on right away at the finish. That was awesome – I’d been running in a tank top, which was fine for the race, but as soon as I stopped moving? I was sweaty and it was chilly and I was so very glad to have something else to put on. For being a non-runner (and for having absolutely no desire to be a runner), he does a great job of supporting me in my races.

I don’t have anything big planned until the fall, when I’ve got a few half marathons planned for September and October. I’m going to spend the summer working on my speed with weekly track workouts and building my mileage in preparation for the Seattle marathon in November. I’m hoping that I’ll be able to knock down that 2:10 by the end of the year, because that would be incredibly awesome. (I do have the secret weapon of knowing the pacer leading the 2:10 group at the half I’m running in September, so I’m thinking it’s pretty much in the bag there unless something goes terribly wrong.)

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Two weeks ago, I was supposed to run the Kirkland half marathon.  Part of the course runs along roads that I run on all the time and the start/finish line is just a few miles from the house, so why wouldn’t I run it?  Initially it was supposed to be part of my training plan for the Mayor’s Marathon in June, but since the logistics of it were so easy, I left it in the schedule even after I decided to drop down to the half marathon at Mayor’s.  However, that morning I discovered something that I’ll need to remember for next year: that race is cursed.

At least it is for me.  When I was supposed to run it two years ago, I woke up that morning with lady cramps bad enough that the idea of running for a couple of hours was enough to send me back to bed.  Last year, I didn’t register for it because I was still rehabbing The Foot and I just wasn’t in shape to run it.  This year, I was healthy, I was in shape, and I was convinced I was going to have an awesome day.

Which I did, for the first three miles.  Then something happened and my digestive system staged a rebellion, for reasons that are still unclear to me.  I walked a bit to let things settle down and feel better.  Then I realized I needed a bathroom.  I’d passed one about a mile back and, thinking the next one was much closer than it was, I decided to just keep walking to the next aid station and go there, rather than backtrack.  I wound up walking another 2 miles before coming up on the nearest facilities and at that point?  I was done.  The pit stop didn’t make me feel any better and I had no desire to stick the race out because… why?  I know I can run a half marathon.  I know I can run it well.  And I know that if a ride home is waiting for me a half mile up the road, I’m going to take it rather than spend 2 hours dragging my sorry behind over another 7 miles.  So that’s what I did.  I was just grateful The Boy was still there waiting for me instead of assuming he’d missed me and moving on to the finish line.  (Happily, we were close enough to home that, had that been the case, I would have just gone straight to the house.  I was that done.).

As tempting as it’s going to be to run that race next year, I might just accept the fact that the universe is trying to tell me something and pass on it.

Happily, the 5K I ran this past Sunday has a much happier story.  Based on my time from the 10K I ran in March, McMillan told me I could run a 5K in 27 minutes.  That sounded totally reasonable to me, so I made that my goal.  Sort of.  A 27 minute 5K would mean a pace of 8:40 per mile, but I decided to shoot for 8:30s… just because.  I have absolutely no logic for this outside of, “It sounded like a good idea.”

Naturally, after a week of sunny 65+ degree weather, race morning was windy, overcast, drizzly and… 45 degrees.  A bit brisk, especially since we were all wearing kilts and standing on the lakefront while waiting for the start.  Happily, once people started to congregate around the start, I was able to position myself in the middle of the crowd so I was protected from the wind a little bit.  I’m not sure if it actually helped, but I told myself it did.  I positioned myself about halfway back in the pack and impatiently waited for the gun to go off.

When the race started, I immediately realized that I should have stuck myself way, way closer to the start line.  I was passing people left and right, which made me wonder if I was going out way too fast.  I don’t wear my Forerunner for races, instead relying on a plain old watch and mile markers to tell me how fast I’m going.  It’s a system that’s worked well for years, but in short races like this where I want to go out aggressively, I don’t get any sort of feedback on my pace until the end of that first mile, and this was one of those races where that mile lasted forever.  I checked my effort level with myself a few times and, yes, I was going pretty hard but, yes, it still felt OK for a 5K effort.  I convinced myself I was right where I needed to be and didn’t need to change anything until my time at the mile marker told me otherwise.  When it came along, my watch read 8:35.  Exactly where I needed to be.

The surprising thing is… I was still passing people.  Even more surprisingly, the crowd I was running with was mostly guys.  And I was passing them.  Sure, they’d probably spent some quality time warming up in the beer garden before the race, but I was still passing by them and, stranger yet, the women on course were few and far between.  I kept chugging along and hit the second mile marker with a split of 8:28.  Perfect.  One more like that and a bit more and I was home free.

The third mile took us back to the starting area which meant running directly into a headwind in a few places.  That was less than enjoyable and it slowed me down, but just a wee bit.  The Boy had joked pre-race that I needed to run this one fast so he wouldn’t have to stand in the chilly weather all that long, and when I passed by him around the 2.5 mile point I asked him if it was fast enough for him.  To which he replied, “Run faster!”  Smart ass.

I hit the mile 3 marker with a split of 8:37 and dumped everything I had left in the tank into that last tenth of a mile.  I’d been hanging on the back of a guy for the last quarter-mile or so and I tried desperately to pass by him, but couldn’t quite get there.  I was OK with that, though, since as I crossed the line the time on the clock had a “26” in front of it.

Final time: 26:31.  A new PR by over a minute and, get this: good enough for 5th in my age group.  Yes, it was a small race and no, there weren’t a lot of fast women (the first woman crossed the line in 21:05), but that’s all beside the point.  I was in spitting distance of placing in my age group for the first time ever, and it felt pretty darn good.

Additionally, this race was also a wee baby step towards my big pie-in-the-sky goal of someday qualifying for Boston.  To do that, I need to run a marathon in 3 hours and 4o minutes.  Now, since my fastest marathon to date was around 5 hours and 20 minutes, this clearly isn’t going to happen anytime soon.  However, the pace that I ran this short little 3 mile race at?  Is the same pace I need to run a marathon at in order to go to Boston.  Yes, I’m still a very, very long way away from being able to do that, but this race puts me one little baby step closer and makes me feel like running Boston may eventually be possible.

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Which isn’t a bad way to go at all, if you ask me.  DWD features some pretty hard-core technical stuff – super-steep climbs and descents, mud pits, and trails that are only trails because you’re running in a mid-pack team and there’s already been 100 or so runners through that leg so far that day.  If that’s what you think of when you think trail running, then, in my limited experience, most other trails seem relatively tame and totally doable.  Sure, it might be viciously hilly, but it’ll probably be at least well-defined on-the-map single-track at the least.

So, yeah, basically all of my trail running experience has been through the 3 legs I’ve run at DWD every year for the past 5 years (except for 2006, when I was gallivanting around the UK with Nathan and Rachel).  I keep saying I’d like to do more of it, and when I moved out to Seattle I got all excited about the local trail running opportunities I’d have here, but I just never do.  When it comes time to run, I tend to toss on my shoes and head out the front door because it’s easier than finding someplace to run and figuring out a new trail system by myself.  So despite all of the great trails right in my figurative backyard, I stuck to the roads because, well, because I was lazy, essentially.

Then someone sent a message about a local trail race series to the running alias at work.  I filed it away thinking, “Hey, that sounds cool,” but didn’t do anything with it immediately.  I was in the middle of the not-running-letting-the-bursitis-heal phase, and I figured I’d check it out later in the summer.  Then I promptly forgot all about it, until this week when I was going through those e-mail files to see if there was anything in there I wanted to keep.  (I’ll be leaving that job in two weeks – which is a whole separate story – and I’ll lose access to that e-mail file of “Things I Wanted to Save for Some Reason but Have Totally Forgotten About.)  I came across that message again and…. hey!  There’s one on Saturday!  And they have a 5-mile option, which lines right up with how much I wanted to run this weekend.  So I made a mental plan to check it out, and Thursday night with just a few hours to spare, I decided to make the commitment and pre-register online.  (Mostly because it saved me nine dollars.)

This morning, I dragged myself out of bed at 8, got dressed and then headed out to Sammamish for the run.  The schedule was going to be a bit tight – I’d finish running around 10:30, which would put me home right around 11, which would give me just enough time to shower before leaving again at 11:30 to get to Bothell by noon, where I was volunteering at the Brooks outlet sale – but it was workable.  When I pulled up to the race start, I found it was just as low-key of an affair as I was hoping.  There were some runners milling around, there was a tent for check-in, and 5 minutes before the race started we got a quick briefing on the course and course markings, then they said, “Go” and we all headed into the woods.

We started off on the wide main trail, which was super-soft and super wet.  (A fact that, if you stopped and thought about it, wasn’t terribly shocking since it’d been raining for the past 24 hours at that point.)  We all started off desperately avoiding the wet spots, but it soon became clear that was a pointless task.  It was taking more work to go around things than through them, and, honestly, if this was how the beginning of the trail looked, our feet were going to get wet eventually.  Might as well just make life easier on ourselves and get over it now.  As soft and wet as that main trail was, it was nice to have the race start out on it, since there was plenty of room for people to pass each other and it meant that when we hit the single-track a mile into it, no one would have to worry about leapfrogging a whole bunch of slower people in front of them.

The nice thing about the single track was, sheltered by the trees like it was, it was in much better shape than the main trail.  Sure, there were some pretty good puddles, but the mud wasn’t as soft and it was easier to run on.  I got myself into a good groove and worked my way up and down the hills and around the curves.  Every now and then I remembered to look up, because this was why I’d wanted to come out here this morning: it was pretty.  We were running through the forest, where everything was impossibly green and coming back to life after winter.  I wasn’t running hard – this was just a training run for me, not a race – so I was able to really enjoy the scenery when I wasn’t scanning the ground for Things I Could Trip On.

At some point, the woman who’d been running right behind me spoke up and said, “If I’m going to follow you the whole race, I feel like I should introduce myself!  I’m Kim, and this is Jody.  Go ahead and set the pace, and we’ll just tag along.”  Well, OK then.  I’ll admit – this has never happened to me.  Usually when I can hear someone behind me for that long, they’re just waiting for a good spot to pass me, not sucking wind trying to keep up.  I’ll admit – the competitive part of me was enjoying the fact that I was just out for a nice, relaxing run through the woods and she was clearly working a lot harder than me.  I kept waiting for her to drop back, but she stuck with me until we hit the aid station at mile 4.

Just after mile 3, though, we came across a section where the trail was pretty wet for a good long chunk.  There wasn’t really room to go around this puddle, but it wasn’t that deep.  The race director had warned us about a place near mile 3 where we’d be forced to get our feet wet.  The guy who was running behind the two women behind me asked if this was what he was talking about, and we all figured it must have been.  Until we came around the next corner.  Then we saw what he was talking about.

The trail was completely flooded out, enough that I came to a quick stop before moving forward.  There was enough water that you couldn’t tell how deep the puddles were or how sticky the mud was going to be.  There was a small path around it, but it involved climbing over some logs and there was a line – most of the main pack of runners, which had been just out of my sight until then, were backed up as they all climbed over the logs and navigated around the water.  I thought about it for a second, then, deciding the mud probably wasn’t that bad since none of it so far had been sticky enough to loosen my shoes from my feet, I plowed right on through the water.  The awesome part?  My little group of runners followed me right on through.  Apparently they figured I knew what I was doing.  We passed a chunk of runners, one of which shouted “Hardcore! Yeah!” as we passed them by, trekking through the ankle-deep mud and water, and when we came out of the pond, we were right in the middle of the main pack.  A few people passed us, but not as many as I was expecting.

Just before mile 4, we came off the single track and back to the main trail.  I lost my little group as they stopped at the aid station and I just kept on going, figuring it was only a mile to the finish and they’d have water there, too.  Coming back to the main trail was tough – my legs were tired from all of the up and down the hills in the woods and the ground was soft enough to be noticeably more work.  I walked up most of the really long hill, then jogged it in to the finish.  By my watch, I finished in 57:10, which is a few minutes faster than I expected.  (I’d hit the aid station at 45:xx, which was way faster than I expected.  Go figure.)

At the finish, they had wheat rolls and peanut butter and bananas and oranges and hot chocolate and water and sports drink.  It was awesome.  I had some water and made myself a little peanut butter and banana sandwich before heading home.  It was right at this point in time that I realized a fatal flaw in my plan for the day: I was running in my Brooks Ravennas, which are the only pair of Brooks shoes I currently own.  I was supposed to wear Brooks shoes to work the outlet sale.

Oops.

I took them off to drive home in, and set them on the floor by the passenger seat, where they had the heat blowing on them all the way home.  Then, once I got home, I banged the big chunks of mud off of them (they didn’t even get to come in the house, they were so dirty) and stuffed them full of newspaper to help dry them out while I went and cleaned myself off.  This was no small feat, since the back of my legs looked like this:

365.044 - After the Trail Run
Yeah, those shoes used to be white.

Then, I wore my Crocs to drive to the sale while my shoes got to once again hang out on the floor on the passenger side with the heat blowing on them full-blast.  I had to open the windows since it was so warm in the car, but I’ll tell you this: it worked.  My shoes were about 75% dry when I put them back on, which was far better than I expected.

Before I left the sale at the end of my shift, I picked up a new pair of Cascadias.  I plan on doing a lot more trail running this summer, so I figure I might as well have a pair of shoes designed to take that sort of abuse.

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