On Sunday afternoon I invited my mother to come with me for the drive, so she picked me up at 7 a.m. and we headed southeast to Woodinville, coffee and power scone with almond butter in hand for breakfast on the road. The race started at 9:00, but I always like to be early! Since it was Labor Day morning, there was little traffic and we arrived pretty speedily by 7:45 (maybe earlier, even). As we approached Red Hook Brewery (where the race started and ended), I noticed that a lot of wineries have sprung up in Woodinville since I was last there, about ten years ago or more. Back then it was just Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia. I was about to say that there are at least a dozen now, but I just found this website which claims more than 60 wineries in "Woodinville Wine Country"!
The parking area was at least a quarter mile from the site, and at first this felt like a difficulty, because it was a cool and damp morning, and I guess I was feeling lazy. But it turns out that the five-minute walk to and from the car wasn't a problem at all. I headed over right after we parked, to pick up my bib and stuff and make a first visit to the porta potties (only a few people in line at that time.
I picked up a bag from the gear check station because my plan at that time was to leave my jacket there while I ran. But on the walk back to the car it seemed so cold and windy that I changed my mind and decided to wear the jacket...plus gloves.
I sat in the car for a while, but when 8:30 neared I braved the weather (still not raining, and not really that cold), and headed back to take my place in the much longer potty line. The situation was such that I was not going to leave that line until I went (if you know what I mean). Luckily that was not a problem, and I had my turn in the potty in 20 minutes or less.
By that time I realized it really wasn't too cold (mid-50s, I think), and got another bag and left both my jacket and gloves with the bag check. I only had a few minutes before I really needed to be in the starting area, so I jogged around the parking lot in one of my shortest ever warm-ups--about .35 mile.
Then I lined up in the area where the eight-minute and nine-minute-mile pace signs joined. Basically back of the eights, front of the nines. If I had been pushing for a faster time, I would have gone near the front of the eights, in hopes that the faster runners up there would push me to keep up.
I had no idea as the race began that there were no chip mats at the beginning, only the end. I had my Garmin set to go, but was waiting till I crossed the mat to start it. Well, I ran, and I ran, and eventually I decided there was no mat and pushed the start button! I was a little pissed about not only the lack of mats (I figure there was at least 15 seconds delay from that, maybe more, and much more for people starting behind me!), but with myself because now my splits would be off.
I fixed the splits problem as best I could by hitting the lap button when I passed the first mile marker. My first "mile" was .89 long, so I was off by about .11. At least the laps would be correct from then on. My pace for the .89 mile was 8:55 average, but I figure that it was a little slower for the actual first mile, because there was a little walking in the approach to the start, and I noticed that my pace was a little slow in the beginning so I tried to pick it up.
"Everyone" describes this race as flat, but that is not completely true. The first six miles are pretty flat, with a few bumps in elevation. But there is a significant hill in mile seven, and in fact miles seven through nine were full of modest ups and downs! Not enough to be a problem or anything, but it did put a damper on my "race plan."
So, about that "race plan." My only plan was to run it at goal marathon pace and hopefully do it fairly easily. I suppose there's always an underlying hope that one's legs will want to go faster than expected, but that certainly didn't happen to me. While I don't think I was struggling to run a 9-minute(ish) pace, I certainly had no inclination to go faster. Nor, I fear, much ability. I am assuming--hoping--that this was because my legs were still tired from the 22 miles on Friday, plus the run-elliptical-walk on Saturday morning, plus the walking and standing at Bumbershoot Saturday night, despite the rest day on Sunday.
As I found myself chugging along in the nine-minute neighborhood, I developed my race plan. It was based on my general running scheme of, "the first five miles are warm-up" and "the second five miles are easy." So my plan was to run the first five at about nine-minute pace (or at least sub-9:09), then pick it up a little to 8:45 pace for the next five, then really put a push on for the final 5K, maybe even 8:30-ish pace if possible.
First five went as planned. 8:55, 9:03, 8:58, 9:00, 9:08.
Then let me tell you about the next five. Not only was this the "hilly" section, it also included numerous hairpin turns and back and forths and a run through the Cascadia College Campus and past the UW Bothell campus; in short, lots of things to slow me down. I feel like I did increase my effort during those five miles, but my times don't reflect it. They look like someone who is getting tired...but really, that was not the case. 9:12, 9:23 (the hill), 8:57 (the other side of the hill, down), 9:19, 9:10.
Even though my pace was all over the place in that section, I think it still reflects a fairly even effort. There were at least two other runners that I kept pace with throughout most of the run, so if I was slowing and speeding up, so were they! They were a very tall man and short woman, running together, with the male probably pacing the female as he ran slightly ahead of her throughout. At least one of them was also hearing impaired (I believe), as the male ran with his hands in a position that seemed strange until I saw him occasionally signing...he probably kept his hands out so they were visible.
The final part of my race plan was to kick it in the last 5K. Well, I did do that, even though the paces that resulted were not the 8:30s I had hoped for. But I did increase my pace for every single split! 8:50, 8:44, 8:38, and the final .20 at 8:26 pace.
I also manage to pass a few people in the last three miles. First the man and woman who had been my unintentional companions for so many miles. Left them in my dust...well, sort of. Then there was a man in a blue shirt, who managed to hold his lead on me for quite awhile. Eventually, however, I pulled ahead and left him behind too. I'm actually not sure who else I might have passed. Those three were my targets. I do know that there was a guy (not one of them) who passed me fast at the very end...there's always some guy who apparently was running at a nine-minute pace for about thirteen miles and somehow finds his seven-minute-mile in the final tenth!
I should also concede that those last three-plus miles were on a pancake flat running trail. It also helped that there were lots of good markers on the way, so I could run from marker to marker quite easily.
At the very end of the race there is a sharp turn and slight uphill before the semi-finishing stretch, then another turn into the finish area. So by the time I was able to see the clock I was quite close to it...but not close enough to beat the clock turning from 1:58 to 1:59, unfortunately! My finish time, which is not improved by the use of the chips as they did not provide a net time, was 1:59:11. That makes a 9:06 average pace overall.
My only regrets are that I could have gone under 1:59 if I had tried a little harder on the course not to waste time. I had forgotten my handheld water bottle, so I got water at three of the water stops (not stopping of course). That was good for a few seconds. My worst dilly-dally was at the mile 6 water station, where they were giving out Gu. I took a vanilla Gu when it was handed to me, but I've never used vanilla. I shouted at the next person, "whadda you got?" and when she said coffee, I paused, turned back, and traded mine in to her. Without that little exchange, I would have been several seconds faster, I am sure.
And, of course, if there had been chip mats at the start, those 12 seconds would have been gone just like that.
Oh well, hindsight and all that.
I picked up my bag and put on my jacket, then walked around the vendors a bit. I used my bag to collect a couple(ish) Top Pot doughnuts (individually wrapped), some mini-Larabars (yea!), some fiber gummies (they forced them on me, really), and a couple bags of Maui potato chips which I sent home to my dad. Along with a doughnut for each of my parents. My mother and I split one of the doughnuts, and after reading the 450 calorie count for one old-fashioned doughnut, I couldn't bare to keep any more.**
On the drive home it really started pouring, and I was so relieved that the rain had held off for the run!
There were photographers on the course (I saw them and tried to smile), so I will be curious to if any pictures of me came out. I decided not to delay this post waiting for pictures...sometimes that kind of delay turns into forever! (No, I really am going to finish my Newport Marathon post!)
*I have one more scheduled in October and plan to do one (maybe two) in November, after which I will update my Half Fanatics streak info!
**By the way, I consider samples given out at race expos or after races to be marketing ploys, not post-race food, so I have no qualms about sharing what I take.