Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Burning in hell

Kind of a negative title for a post about a generally good weekend, I know. But with the temporary recurrence of real summer, there is a downside--heat! It's hot, hot, hot. Or at least it was over the end of last week and the weekend. Today we're starting a bit of a cooling trend.

I know, I admit, that what I call very very hot is just the norm in many parts of the country during the summer. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, I don't know how you people do it! As much as I (and my fellow Washingtonians) complain about the weather here (too hot, too cold, too wet, not enough rain,* etc.), we are truly blessed in so many ways. And, best of all, very little humidity most of the time.

Friday morning was an off day for running, but I hit the Y early for 90 minutes on the elliptical before going to meet my mother. We headed north to Bow for a quick end-of-season visit to Anderson Blueberry Farm (where did the time go?). Loaded up with several flats of blueberries for the freezer, we then hurried back home so I could make my afternoon court obligations.

Saturday I had an 18-mile run on my schedule. I had signed up for the Magnuson Series National Fitness Day Half Marathon (to take care of 13 of those miles). Since the official run didn't start until 10 a.m., I had plenty of time beforehand to get in the first five!

My mom came with my for company and support, though I was a little worried about leaving her out there in the Magnuson Park parking lot on such a hot day. (But she could have gone down to the lake if she had wanted to. She was fine.) We got there about 8:30 a.m. I originally was going to run two miles, check in, then run three before the race started. But I decided to go ahead and do all five first, then get my bib number.

I had thought I would do my pre-run on the actual course (about 3.25 miles repeated four times for a half marathon), but it wasn't fully marked yet, and in retrospect I am glad I didn't have to do that same exact route five times--four was hard enough. So I just looped around the paths and trails in the park. Some of it was the race course and some wasn't.

The five mile warm-up went well enough, about 10:04 average pace. It was pleasantly warm out but not yet too hot. I finished about half an hour before start time, easily enough to get my bib, refill my nuun water bottles, and use the bathroom again.

My only goal for the half marathon run (other than surviving, of course) was to run at an easy pace ("long run pace") and not try to push myself at all. There were a couple reasons for this. One, it was going to be very hot, and didn't want to make myself sick or suffer too much for a run that was not any kind of goal race for me. Two, this was just a long run, no reason to treat it as anything but. (Maybe that's actually the same as number one!)

This race included four different distances, 5K, 10K, 15K, and the very special National Fitness Day Half Marathon. The 5, 10, and 15K's ran a 3.1 mile loop, and there was a little out and back added to the half marathon loop to make it the right distance.

Not surprisingly, there were far more runners in the shorter distances than the longer. 59 people finished the 5K, 36 the 10K, and a token six in the 15K. The half marathon had barely more than a handful, with 11 listed finishers (and one participant who stopped after three loops--don't know if they gave him credit for 15K instead).

So the strange thing was, the first two loops were like any race, plenty of people around, running faster, slower, and the same pace as me. But by the third loop I was pretty much running alone the whole rest of the way.

For the first few miles I maintained a pretty easy 10-minute pace. The 3.25 mile loop included paved trail, dirt and gravel, a decent gravel hill (I walked up this the last two times), and some some sidewalks and pavement. There was a water and Gu station about 2 - 2.5 miles in, and the short out and back was right after that (so you actually passed the water twice in a short distance). First three miles 9:54, 9:58, 10:04.

There was one major difference between this run and a "normal" long run on my own. When I am running on my own, I stop my Garmin when I stop for a bathroom, stoplight, phone call, or any reason I might pause. In this event, I didn't pause the Garmin at all, and that is definitely reflected in my pace. I had several stops or delays, including the water station, a call to my mom when I needed her to bring out my replacement nuun bottles, the actual exchange of bottles, and a bathroom stop.

Miles 4-7 (this includes all of the first two laps, plus a little): 10:15, 10:08, 10:44, 10:32. The only runner that was consistently near me after the small crowd spread out was a younger guy with a beard doing the half marathon. I think he was with a young woman who was very fast--she doubled back to check on him in the first lap, then was never seen again. She may have been the person who won the entire race, but I don't know. She definitely finished well ahead of me.

At the water station in the second loop (my 10:44 mile), the guy paused for a bit and I passed him. I stayed ahead of him for the rest of that lap, then apparently I pulled far enough ahead that I never saw him again. Either he never finished or he was the person who was 12 minutes after me (the age was right).

Miles 8-10 (I know I am not really reflecting the loops, impossible to do precisely considering the distance): 10:45, 11:50, 10:43. Mile 8 probably included walking up the gravel hill. Mile 9, I'm pretty sure, was when I walked while I called my mom to bring out the extra nuun (I almost just stopped while I called her but then I realized that it would be more efficient to walk!). Mile 10, I think, included my more leisurely trip through the water station.

I met my mom just before crossing into the final loop. She is used to me really racing half marathons, so was prepared to pretty much toss me the bottles while I ran on. But I stopped for a moment to take a couple swigs before leaving my almost empties and taking the new, cold bottles. I told her, see you in about 30 minutes, as I ran on. I was a little bit optimistic, somehow I thought that I would have a final kick for this last 5K+. As I was crossing the start/finish line to begin my final loop, a male runner finished with 1:42:44 (ah, my envy at both his time and his finish!). He must have been running much faster earlier in the race, because in the last mile he pretty much paced with me, and I was definitely not running an 8-minute pace!

Miles 11-13: 10:47 (hill, or just tired), 10:21 (a little bit of a kick!), 11:51 (bathroom stop). The bathroom stop in the last mile was crazy. Normally, if I had to go so close to the end I would push through, regardless. Normally, if I had to go so bad that I would stop in a race, I would have been suffering for several miles before the stop. This time I just approached the water stop (conveniently by a park restroom), and suddenly realized I needed to pee. I was so surprised, I announced it to the girls at the stop (I'm sure they appreciated my sharing). I thought I would do the out and back and stop after that. But then I started to pee my pants a little! How weird is that!

Weirder still, I felt compelled to announce that I was going to go to the bathroom then do the out and back. Actually, the reason I did that was to make it clear I wasn't just skipping the out and back. So I stopped, and added a minute or more to my time (my standard race bathroom time seems to be about 90 seconds--that would also be consistent with a 10:20 pace absent the stop).

All through this final stop I amused myself (if that is the word) but noting that this was the last time I would have to do such and such. The last time up the gravel hill. The last time around the big field. The last time past the sports field where there was a soccer game or something happening. The last time across the miserably hot black paved area. The last time through the parking lot. The last time over the lumpy rocky torn up road. The last time past the water station girls. The last time on the half mary out and back.

And then the best part...the last time on the out and back to the boat launch (disappointed because the guy monitoring the turnaround had apparently given up and left). And finally, finally, the last time across the start line which was now the finish line. I saw the clock was in the two-teens as I approached (slowest half in a long time**), and I crossed at 2:18:31, about a 10:35 average pace.

There were still three people behind me, so I wasn't last. Even though it felt that way--it was so deserted. I would have liked to wait to cheer in the rest, but it's just as well I didn't. One finished twelve minutes after me and the other two finished seventeen minutes after that.

Instead, I headed down to the lake, took off my shoes and socks and waded in! The water felt so good--cold but not too cold. The rocks on the bottom were mossy and slippery though. I didn't want to get in all the way because then I'd be sitting on my mom's leather seat in wet clothes. They were pretty wet from sweat already but I think that would be over the top. So after a few minutes I got out and put my shoes back on--the rocks were too hot to walk on barefoot.

I probably have not expressed well how hot it was out. I don't know the official temperature but it got over 90 that day. It may not have been quite that hot before noon but for running, it was definitely the hottest temperature I'd run in this year. By far.

I don't think there's any way I could have done that run at a race-level effort. Even the "race" atmosphere did not trick my body into running fast! Of course, there was hardly a competitive atmosphere once I was running all alone. It's a little discouraging to have such a slow time in a half marathon but I have to remind myself, I ran it the way I wanted to.

When we left Magnuson we headed back north, but made a slight detour to Coldstone Creamery to collect my free birthday ice cream (a "like it" size cup with one mix-in). I got cake batter ice cream with heath bar mix-in (450 calories total). Then my mom dropped me at my house and I hit the shower.

Later that afternoon Rod and I headed out to my folks' house for swimming in the bay, a little lounging on the deck, and burgers for dinner. The water was pretty cold but we stuck it out for a while before heading to the deck to dry off in the sun. I considered this my ice bath. I think it helped because my ankle has not been giving me too much trouble since!

I did pick up some other foot injuries at the beach though. I got a small cut on my left foot from barnacles in the water, and apparently stepped on something with my right heel because that has been sore ever since. I originally thought that was a barnacle cut too, but it's different; there's a sore spot on my heel like I have a thorn in it. Don't know where I would have picked that up, though. I hope it goes away soon--it makes walking uncomfortable, though I am able to run!

On Sunday I took a rest day and Rod and I took a ferry to Friday Harbor (San Juan Island) for the afternoon. We walked around the shops, ate a late lunch, then looked at a few more shops and the art museum before heading back to wait for the return ferry. It was pretty hot. By the later part of the afternoon I was sweating just walking around town! Luckily, once we were on the boat and moving there was a nice breeze.

The hot weather has continued this week, but I've done my running early in the morning (both Monday and Tuesday), so it hasn't bothered me. It's starting to cool a little, and by Thursday (my birthday) it will be much cooler, possibly even with some rain on the weekend. I think a little weather break will be okay. :)

*It's true. Sometimes we worry about water shortages.
**But still faster than the Bath Half Marathon.

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