My best ever half marathon was achieved at the Leavenworth Half Marathon and based on the results it was a relatively close contest with 3rd-9th all within about five minutes of each other. What a great feeling! What makes it even better is that this is after I had two big falls from my bicycle (each one requiring a full week of no activity). I am really proud of myself.
Also heartfelt thanks to Shelley for supporting me yet again in an athletic activity. It means a lot.
I did not get a ton of sleep (read: about four hours) Thursday night and also did not sleep a lot the night before but what can you do? Drink Cola-flavored Nuun, that's what. I learned recently - since I obviously don't read labels - that the Cola flavor has caffeine so that is what I put in my bottle today. I can't say I'm a huge fan of caffeine but sometimes it sure gets the job done.
The forecast was for cool so I tossed a selection of tops in the car and off we went to the start. There was a lot of parking so we only got there about on hour in advance and it was plenty. I had already pinned my number on and was wearing my shorts under my sweats so really there was not much to do except for check out the start/finish, stretch a little and kill some time.
The course was VERY different this year than last year. Last year we only were on dirt through the Waterfront Park but this year we ran the first two miles on dirt and sand, then some pavement, through the park, more pavement and then two more miles of dirt and sand at the finish. I liked that. But it was unexpected and it did slow you down some.
I would be lying if I said I was confident of achieving my goal. I knew I could go under 1:40, was hoping to go under 1:35 and my dream was to go better than 1:30. Seeing as my running progression had no been ideal and since I had only done about three or four 'fast' runs I was slightly nervous. Of course I was going to try and post a 1:30 and of course I wanted to run that fast but I also did not want to blow in the process. My friend and running mentor keeps telling me to start under control and then speed up if possible. When I told him I was going to Leavenworth he said make to sure my first mile was my slowest and my last mile my fastest. Knowing that my tendency is to go out hard and then try to hang on I was resolved to try.
Once near the start I walked past the line to see what the first bit of the course looked like and it was cool. They were heading us straight into the woods.
By the time I was done stretching and eating my gel and sipping the last of my pre-event bottle and standing in line at the porta-potty twice I was pretty pumped up. And the weather was cooperating big time. With about eight minutes to go before the start I stripped out of my pants and jackets, handed them to Shelley, grabbed my bottle and headed up to the start line.
ASIDE - I had opted for the hand-held bottle thinking it would make the whole run more relaxing. No worrying about spilling liquid all over myself at the aid stations and no worrying about forgetting to grab a gel at the halfway point. Funny too as I used to hate these things but after using them for a while it is not a problem to run with it. That decision was easy.
Off we went.
The lead bunch formed really quick and I forced myself not to keep up. There were a few people getting tailed off of the lead pack so I decided to keep them in sight. I am not very good at determining my own pace yet so I had resolved to simply look at my watch at every mile marker. Since my goal was to run 1:30 I knew I had to average about 7 minutes per mile which made the math really easy. One mile was 7 minutes, two miles was 14 minutes, you get the idea.
We were cruising right along for sure and I thought it might be a little fast but was not breathing that hard so carried on. We ran down a paved path for a few hundred meters and then hung a left and were in the dirt.
actually it was dirt mixed with sand that had been packed in two narrow strips by some sort of vehicle. The leaders were already up the road and so around me it was not hard to stay in one of the tire tracks and keep from sinking into the softer ground. There were a couple of guys near me and one woman so I decided to keep up with them and see what happened. We passed the one mile marker and I glanced at my watch.
This is not the strategy I had planned. I made a huge mental effort and slowed down. The two guys and the one woman slowly pulled ahead but I stuck with it and let them go. At mile two I think we were were still in the sand and I glanced at my watch.
Yikes! Still not slow enough. But I felt great! But on reflection of course I felt great… the race had hardly started. And I knew I was NOT going to feel so great after half way if I kept up this pace so I tried again to slow down just a little. At 2.25 miles we exited the dirt and hit the road, shortly after at mile three I looked at my watch.
Whew, that was more like it. Now if I could just maintain this pace and then hopefully ramp it up just slightly at the end I was golden. IF.
The next couple of miles were a flat road into town. I felt my pace was very steady and yet I was slowly reeling in this woman and one of the guys that left me behind at the start. I was a little concerned at first that they were coming back to me so quick but then I had an epiphany, I was probably not the only person who had started too fast. :) By the time we hit Highway 2 I had left them behind and was trying to keep pace with this other guy in front of me.
As soon as we got on the highway we turned left and got right back off of it. Then we ran along a side street for a couple of blocks and dropped down to the park. Through here I was passed by at least six guys. I guess they had started further back in the pack (I had started right in the front) and were obviously faster than me and it was a bit disheartening as they came streaming by one by one. Two were running together and chatting up a storm as they passed me. One was saying to the other how he was just not feeling it today. A very relative thing obviously.
At the end of the park was a hill. According to the (totally incorrect) MapMyRide route for this race the hill was one mile long and climbed 700'…?! I knew this was not possible but was steeling myself for a substantial climb anyway just in case. I think the hill was about 100 m long and climbed less than 100'. Oaky, it was steep but not that bad. I just shortened up my stride some, slowed down just a little and managed to pass at least four on the way up. That felt good.
At the top I even remembered to eat my gel! It took a little longer than I wanted to rip the packet open, suck down the contents and stow the wrapper than I wanted but hey, I think it helped. I even remembered to chase it with a couple of swallows from my bottle and by then I was totally out of breath from eating and drinking and not breathing!
From here it was back on Highway 2 for a short stretch and then left on Icicle Creek. More than half way done I told myself and tried to keep my pace steady. At every mile marker since mile three I was consistently 30 seconds ahead of my target time so I knew may pace had been exactly 7 minutes/mile for the last few miles and I was just hoping I could maintain.
Icicle Creek has some slight ups and downs but nothing to worry about. Except for the event photographer that is. He caught me at my most glamorous for sure.
I even saw him well in advance and tried to look all casual and not labored. Oh well.
The race route map said we were going to do some dogleg and then get back on Icicle Creek. It never happened. WE just kept going straight all the way up to the Sleeping Lady and then turned off the road into the dirt which was the cross country ski trails.
I had been pretty confident that my pace had not slowed on the road but the effort of maintaining it was increasing without a doubt. As I ran onto the dirt I was excited and at the same time worried as I knew this was going to slow me down just a little. I knew there was only about two miles left so I tried to stay focused. The reason I was so excited is I had looked at my watch with two miles to go and I had plenty of time in had to make my goal. If I recall correctly I had about 17 minutes to spare and I would still make it in under 1:30 so that helped motivate me for sure.
Turns out not only is my sense of pace impaired but so is my sense of distance. Those last two miles were looooooong. How do I know this? Because after a while I saw the fish hatchery where we started in the distance and picked up my pace. As I rounded what I thought was the last corner it was just the corner next to the ONE MILE TO GO SIGN. Damn. That kinda hit me hard. Especially when we did a 180 degree turn and headed back the way we had just come meaning away from the fish hatchery. Argh…
I tried to rally and now slow down but I think I did some. After winding my way through the forest for what seemed like at least two miles I was finally headed back towards the finish. This time the finish surprised me and I did not know it was approaching until I hit the pavement with maybe 50 m to go. I sped up and it turns out I had plenty left in the tank for this short acceleration. Luckily.
When I crossed the line and stopped my watch I could not believe what I saw. 1:26:14. YES. I had not looked down at all the last two miles for fear of learning that the sandy soil was slowing me down but it appears I managed to pick up the pace some there at the end. Whew.
Shelley was right there when I finished and gave me a big hug. Awesome. Then some guy that had been trying to catch me congratulated me on my run. Fantastic. Did I mention it was sunny out and my clothing choice had been perfect? And my bottle was almost totally empty meaning I had carried just the right amount of liquid. It was a good day.
Two of my friends were here as well and they ended up having great runs too. And a friend of a friend who was running his first half finished with a huge smile. Good times.
Did I mention that it was Oktoberfest in Leavenworth…? Oh yes.
Of course I was drinking by 1:30 PM and of course I over-compensated for that 1.5 hours of exercise but hey, that's the way I roll.
Congratulations to Andy G and Grace W for showing up and having great days and to Jim for finishing his first ever half marathon. That is huge. And what a course! With literally five miles of dirt this is not what I had expected but it was a fun surprise.
Here are all the pictures and video.
|6:30 AM - LARABAR, half a Clif Bar, banana, half a large bottle w/1 tablet Nuun and 2 scoops HEED
|11:00 AM - potato chips, cookie, some crackers, water, banana
|2-5 PM - 2 spicy bratwurst w/mustard, ketchup, sauerkraut and bun, 3 beers, ice cream
|30 minutes before start - gel
race - small bottle w/1 tablet Nuun and 1 scoop HEED, gel
|Time of Day
|mid 40s to mid 50s, clear, sun at the end, calm
|2 miles of flat dirt and sand, 3-4 miles of flat pavement, 1 mile of hard pack dirt, 3 miles of pavement, 2 miles of dirt. One short hill of note at mile 7.
|Male 45-49 - 3rd
|13.1 miles (12.3?)
|6:35 min/mile (7:00?)
|Brooks Defyance, hand-held bottle
|Patagonia shorts, sleeveless active T