Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Whidbey Island Half Marathon Part 2 - Ups and Downs

Finally, I am going to finish my Whidbey race report! To refresh your recollection, this run happened back on April 11. (And it's still April, so there!)

I didn't set any real goals for this half marathon, because I wasn't sure what to expect. The good thing is, I can't be disappointed over not meeting a goal (such as not getting a PR, which I didn't expect, so certainly would not set that as a goal). The (slightly) bad thing is, I also don't have the opportunity to be super-excited about meeting my goals! (But I am happy with the result.)

Goals that I could have set and been excited about reaching:

  • Finish under two hours
  • Average pace less than 9 minute per mile
  • Finish faster than my last half (Nookachamps Half, 1:56:17)
  • Strong finish in the final 5K
  • Really strong finish in the final 1.1 mile

Goals that I would have been disappointed over had I actually set them:

  • PR
  • Every mile under 9 minutes
So, all in all, the positives definitely outweighed the negatives in this race, certainly as far as pace and time accomplishments. As for positives and negatives about the race itself, I'm sure the positives also outweighed the negatives. I'll probably mention them as I go, rather than tallying them upfront. It's not really an election or anything.

We left extremely early on Sunday morning, to make sure we got across Deception Pass Bridge before roads got closed off for the marathon (which was starting half an hour earlier than the half). We did so well that once we were on the island and into Oak Harbor, we stopped at Starbucks so my dad could get coffee (he had left his cup on the kitchen counter at home) and I could make my first bathroom stop.

The starting point of the race was actually just a few blocks from Starbucks, so we were there and parked a good hour before start time. Pretty much the first thing I did was walk down to the starting area to ascertain my destination, then visit the porta-potties (yes, again). There were no lines at this point!

Back at the car, I pinned on my race number and decided that I would go ahead and wear my jacket. I was wearing my Half Fanatics short-sleeved shirt, and there was enough of a nip in the air that I felt I needed the extra layer. The temperature was probably in the low 40's. That's not horribly cold around here, but it's chilly! And I have the ability to run in a jacket even at temperatures others might find too warm. That was good, because once I pinned my number on my jacket I certainly didn't want to take the time to change it.

Then I started out on my warm-up jog. I trotted up and down the streets in the area, including up the hill that would start our race. After about .75 mile I figured I had better take a hiatus to make my final visit to the potties! This time I did have to stand in line, but it wasn't terribly long and it moved quickly enough that I was certain I would get through in time. In fact, I had enough time to do a little more than a quarter mile of additional warm-up before heading to the starting area. I'm not sure that the warm-up run did anything for my legs--although I like to think of it as an opportunity to get my 10-minute-mile out of my system--but it did add another mile to my total distance for the day!

The announcers asked us to self-seed, with (obviously) the faster runners in front. There may have been pace number signs to guide us, I am not sure; if there were, I stood roughly between the 8-minute and 9-minute signs.

When the starting gun (or signal of some kind) went off, we headed uphill (as we had been warned). I don't know if it was the uphill start or what, but my whole body felt achy as I plugged through the early blocks. This was strange to me! Still, without extraordinary effort I finished the first mile in 8:59. Right on pace, generally speaking.

After our first uphill mile, we were rewarded with two downhill miles. My "even effort" pace gave me times of 8:28 and 8:24 in miles 2 and 3! But no worries, I would make up for that later in the race. Miles 4-6 were pretty much flat (8:47, 8:53, 8:52). Somewhere in those early miles we also had a short out-and-back segment (practice for the long out and back to come).

About halfway through the race we ran through Windjammer Park for the first time. I didn't realize that was where we were, of course. And I didn't see my dad on the sidelines either! But he manage to get a good picture of me as I passed.

While the first half of the race was pretty moderate in terrain, the second half was where the hills really kicked in. The first one, and probably biggest (at least according to Garmin, and my pace), dragged me down to 9:30 for mile 7. That was the average pace for the whole mile, so it is entirely possible that I might have been going slower at some point! When the road flattened out a bit, I looked at my pace and saw it still was at 9:30-ish...I felt very discouraged for a moment and thought that this was it, I had burned out and I was not going to get back to a sub-nine again.

But luckily I managed to pull myself together and finish mile 8 in 9:09...even though it was still uphill.

This second half of the race was essentially a big long out and back. For several miles we ran along one side of the road with the faster runners returning opposite to us. Eventually, of course, I reached the turnaround point and then I got to be one of the "faster" runners! (Compared to those I was meeting, that is.) Miles 9 and 10, which I think were past the turnaround, were fairly level and I picked up the pace a tiny bit, to 9:07 and 8:55.

After mile 10 we went into the final 5K and I was excited enough about that to shout "only 5K to go" at a neighboring runner, gesturing "5" with one hand as I accelerated past him. I think he grunted...I'm sure he was very excited.

In half marathons I always plan to put on a big push in the final 5K and I always end up postponing the push to mile 12 or 13. This time I pulled it off (helped by a slight downhil in mile 11!). If I had been "racing" this course harder, I might not have been able to pick it up so easily, but I finished mile 11 in 8:30! Mile 12 was a little slower at 8:43.

Somewhere in these last few miles, as I was watching the slower runners who were still on the "out" portion of the run, I started to see the first marathon runners come through. I figured this out when I saw a very slender, black runner and thought that he certainly didn't look like a slow half marathoner. That's when I realized that he was the lead marathon runner! Several others followed. It must have been awkward for these very fast runners to be comingling with the 11-minute mile half marathon runners!
In mile 13 and the remaining .14 to the finish, I finally found my racing legs. Of course a decent downhill in mile 13 helped! But the final .14 was entirely flat. In fact, the finishing chute was on grass, which I think is a little slow; otherwise I'm sure I would have been sub-8 for that final minute of running. My pace for the final 1.14 miles was 8:01.

My dad was at the finish line as well (actually just before the finish), and caught this picture of me pushing to the finish.

Not crazy about running on grass....


After I turned in my chip and got my medal, we took a quick tour through the finish area. I snagged a whole bunch of snack-size bags of pop chips to take home for work lunches! I also took a scone from the very generous food spread. I think it was provided by Albertson's. I recall there were scones and muffins and maybe cookies, as well as bread or bagels and lots of fruit. I split the scone with my mother when I got back to the car. Although I don't remember the flavor anymore, I do know it was very tasty!

After we got out of the parking lot we left the island and headed to Anacortes for brunch at the Calico Cupboard. I had a veggie omelet and some bites of my dad's cinnamon french toast.

Next year this run will probably be the week before Boston, so I don't know if I will run it. I am not opposed to a gentle half marathon the week before a marathon--it worked well with Seattle and CIM--but those hills are a challenge! (Of course, Seattle had some hard hills as well....) But it's almost a year away, so we shall see, I guess!

1 comment:

kara said...

WTG - getting in under 2hrs. I've always wanted to run The Whidbey Island Half. Maybe next year!