I ran my second half marathon of 2011 last Saturday, January 8, up near Bellingham around Lake Samish. The course was 6.5 miles around the lake, doubled for the half marathon (there was also a 6.5 mile race).
The run began at the civilized hour of 10 a.m., which was good as I had my Book Club the night before and didn't get to bed until after midnight. (Book Club menu - Roasted Tenderloin of Beef with Root Vegetables, mini Yorkshire puddings, salad, and sticky toffee pudding made by me for dessert! All was delicious. It was an English theme. An Ideal Husband by Oscar Wilde and the splendid movie version to watch.)
My mother drove up to Bellingham with me and although we tried to be very early (before 9), we were not early enough to get a parking spot in the park that was the home base for the race. We had to park in the park & ride lot a few miles away and I took a shuttle to the race while my mother stayed in the car. (Yes, for almost three hours. She is a trouper.) There were actually way more people than the shuttle vans could transport quickly...I was lucky enough to get in the first van, but it took so long to transport everyone and get them checked in that the start time was delayed to 10:15.
Before I knew there would be a delay, I did a one-mile warm-up and got into the porta potty line at about 9:45. I got to the front of the line just before 10, about when they were announcing the delay. So I had 15 minutes to pass while I waited. I had decided during my warm-up that I wouldn't need my jacket, even though it was a pretty cool day (upper--maybe mid--30s). I had a half-zip over a long-sleeved shirt, and that was plenty. I even ended up taking off one of my gloves before I finished.
I am definitely still not anywhere near peak half marathon pace, and I knew this would not be a sub-2 hour run. I really wanted to get all my splits under 9:30, but that didn't happen at all, either. I did keep all but one under 10 minutes, and my other miles were fast enough to average 9:40 pace overall. As before, my fastest miles were in the first half, slowing in the second half, except that I did pick up the pace for the final 1.1 mile.
The course around the perimeter of Lake Samish (not the whole lake, we crossed over a bridge at the beginning and middle) was scenic and fairly comfortable to run. Gently rolling, I would call it. It was definitely not flat but none of the hills were epic. (Well, there were a couple that were pretty long, though.) And every uphill eventually had a downhill.
The first half of the race was more crowded, with both half marathoners and 6.5 milers running together. When we came into the last mile of the first half, the road sloped downward almost the whole way, which is nice for a finish. After a bunch of 6.5 milers dropped off, I found myself running almost alone for quite a while. I saw a couple of males ahead of me, but no one else. (No, I had no illusions that I was in the lead of anything! I just hoped I wasn't quite last! Turns out I was neither.)
A couple of miles along, though, two women caught up to me and spent quite some time running ahead or just behind me. One of them was wearing a Portland Marathon finishers shirt. She pulled ahead of me a fair amount, but then I passed her when she stopped for something. Later she passed me again, eventually pulled ahead, and then I never saw her again. The other one was running pretty much the same pace as me. I stayed on her heels for a long time, but in the final mile or so I picked up the pace, passed her, and finished a few minutes ahead of her.
The point of doing these half marathons so early in the year, when I know my times are going to be mediocre, is to give me a fun way to get my mileage up and to push myself to a harder pace (even if not an ideal pace). I was using all kinds of tricks to pass the time. Of course there was my usual story that the first five miles are warm-up, and the second five are "easy." That works a little. I was also doing a little fartlek tempo, running easy for a stretch then pushing it for a bit. I tinkered with my methods a little. For a while it was 3/4 mile easy and 1/4 pushed, then I modified it to 1/2 mile easy, 1/2 mile accelerated. I thought I would try to pick up the pace in the final 5K but, as usual, after mile ten I decided to wait until the final 2.1 miles. I really did push it in the final mile!
I'm not bothering posting my splits because they are nothing to write home about. I crossed the finish line at 2:06:40 (we had chips but only for the finish), which is an average pace of 9:40. A little slower than last Saturday but the course was a little more challenging too.
I've signed up for another half marathon this Saturday (now that snow has been removed from our weather forecast), and then of course have the Maui Oceanfront Half on January 23. After the month of half marathons in January, I will go back to doing long runs on my own and then working on my speed with few shorter, faster (hopefully) races.