Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Whidbey Island Half Marathon Part 1 - Getting to the beginning

This post has become so long that I have divided it into two parts, part one leading up to the run and part two (which I will finish after I see some pictures), talking about the race itself. So, from the beginning (and before), here goes....

The Whidbey Island Half Marathon story begins a few days before the actual race. Actually, it began over a year ago... or in fact, in 2006 when I decided to run my first half marathon, Whidbey 2007.

I'll be brief with the ancient history. Whidbey 2007 was my first-ever half marathon, and I trained using Hal Higdon's intermediate half marathon training plan. I used the intermediate rather than novice, as I had run lots of 5K's and 10K's and felt I was up to something a little more rigorous. The course that year started in Oak Harbor and finished in Coupeville. It was an amazing success for me. I had a great experience, didn't die, and finished in 1:54:30 chip time, which was my half marathon PR for years after. I still wonder if the course might have been short (no Garmin back then), because it took me a long time to break two hours again and even longer to set a new PR.

The next year I re-registered for Whidbey without a second thought, and this time the course was entirely within Oak Harbor. I thought that it was slightly more difficult than before...the old course had lots of rolling hills but this one had longer uphill stretches. My time, a few seconds over two hours, reflected that.

I signed up for Whidbey in 2009 as well, but the race was scheduled to occur just two weeks after the Bath Half Marathon in England. After my great disappointment in Bath (too slow for words) and my feeling that I was in a running slump, I thought that forcing myself to run Whidbey right after my return from England would be more harmful than helpful to me. I couldn't see myself doing anything but sucking terribly, and I just didn't want that mental anguish. Lucky for me the race organizers agreed to let me defer my entry, so I took a one-year break from Whidbey.

That brings us to this year. Obviously I had to sign up, with the free entry opportunity! Once again it would be a new course, different from the two I had run previously and also different from 2009, I understand. This year the "owner" of the race was the city of Oak Harbor, so I had to go through a little red tape to locate my deferred entry information, but luckily I found my race confirmation from last year and, after some delay, I got my "free" registration for this year's race worked out.

I had no idea what to expect from this half marathon. I have learned the hard way to "never say never," so even though I have been consistently running sub-2 hour halfs since last summer, I know that there is always going to be a supra-2 out there waiting for me. For all I knew, this could be it, though I hoped not.

I certainly did not plan to PR (nor did I), or even exert a PR-level effort. I really just wanted to run a strong effort, preferably under two hours, and continue in my quest to make running sub-9 minute miles over long distances feel easy. Well, comfortable. Well, not horrible, anyway.

Whidbey weekend (the race was on Sunday) was also the weekend that my Book Club was meeting to watch Julie and Julia (and yes, we read the book) and eat food prepared from Mastering the Art of French Cooking Volume 1. (Side note: I read the book a few years ago, and didn't reread it recently. I did enjoy the book, but I do believe that this is one of those books where the movie outshines the book. Probably because of Meryl Streep.*)

So on Friday night, in addition to cooking dinner for Rod and me (a delightful meal—if I do say so myself—of baked chicken, Lundberg's wild blend rice, roasted parsnip oven fries, and sauteed spinach), I was busy chopping vegetables and preparing Julia Child's ratatouille. Seriously, I started at 5:30 p.m. (on both cooking projects), served dinner at 7:30, and around 8:00 resumed ratatouille work. It was probably done at about 9:00.

Saturday morning I had to go up to Oak Harbor to pick up my race packet. I did see on Sunday that they had a small table for race morning pick-up, which would have been a better plan, but that seemed strongly discouraged in the pre-race information. The problem was that Saturday's packet pick-up began at noon, Book Club was at 2:00, and the drive to Oak Harbor turned out to be about an hour and a half each way, plus I had to drive another hour to Gold Bar for Book Club.

Since it took longer than I thought it would to get up to Whidbey, I didn't arrive until 12:15, then it took a while to get in and out, then we had to drive around and figure out where the race started from (time well spent, though). By 2:00 we were on the freeway heading south again but still really far from home. And I had to drop off my mom at her house and pick up the food at mine!

It was an exercise in frustration. However, when I texted the girls about my delay I was told that some of them were still preparing their food, so I should be fine. And in fact, although it was almost 4:00 by the time I arrived (horrible), I got there as food was being put out and didn't miss anything but socializing. I happily accepted a glass of champagne and pomegranate juice, though.

The pièce de résistance of our meal was Pâté de Canard en Croûte (boned duck stuffed with pate and wrapped in pastry), a centerpiece of the book and movie and one of Julia Child's most intimidating-sounding and glamorous dishes. Jennifer G prepared it masterfully! It was beautiful and delicious, and I have to admit the most tempting and exquisite part of it was eating the crispy pastry soaked with duck fat. Please don't judge.

We tempered the rich main course with boiled artichokes (okay, dipped in a variety of buttery or creamy sauces), my ratatouille, a simple potato salad, and a couple of other dishes. I pretty much alternated between pieces of en croûte and artichokes.

Then we sank into couches and chairs to digest and watch the movie. About halfway through the movie, just as my complete fullness had worn off a bit, we paused the movie to bring out dessert, made by Ann—aspic de pommes (scroll down to #68 to see post and picture), which is rum-flavored apple aspic, served with creme anglaise (custard sauce). Sound unimpressive? Well, I wasn't sold on the concept until I took a bit of the delicate sweet apple concoction, swathed in creamy vanilla. We described the sauce as "like melted vanilla ice cream," which perhaps doesn't sound too glamorous, but we also agreed that if you put it in an ice cream maker you would get the best ice cream ever!

I thought at least the dessert would be light, and perhaps it would have been had I not drenched it in enough creme anglaise to clog my arteries for life. As it is, I resumed watching the movie feeling, once again, uncomfortably full. Oh well, it's not like I eat this every day (just, apparently, the day before a big run).

Before driving home, I couldn't resist one more tiny bite of en croûte. I hoped that it counted as carb loading! I was stuffed all the way home.

Once I arrived at my house I packed up all my race gear and laid out my running clothes, and got to bed as soon as I could. After the debacle driving up to Oak Harbor on Saturday, I kept moving up departure time and finally told my parents I would be at their house at 5:15. We had to get to Deception Pass Bridge before 7:00, as the road would be closed for the marathon runners after that! So my alarm was set for 4:00. Yikes!

Next—race day, with pictures!

*Just like The Devil Wears Prada. Which also has Stanley Tucci in it. Coincidence?


Heather said...

Your meal sounds delicious! After reading Julie and Julie I got inspired to cook my way through something, but knew my hubby would never go for french food. So i've slowly been cooking my way through the Taste of Home cookbook my grandma gave me as a wedding shower gift. It's sorta the same thing . . . :)

Sassy Molassy said...

I hate when my plans don't work out just right and I'm rushing everywhere and feeling super late. I hope the race went well. I ran Whidbey Marathon last year. So hilly and windy, but beautiful!