The race started down a hill, and I think the first few miles were flat with a slight downhill. My first few miles were close to nine minutes but truly felt easy. Effortless. Miles 1-4 - 9:02, 9:10, 9:07, 9:13.
When I was looking at my splits earlier I made a rough graph of my paces and, with a few blips, it showed a bell curve with the slower paces toward the middle, then speeding up in the second half. This makes sense as the was going uphill quite consistently in the first half, then we got to come back down on the return. The hills weren't extreme, but we definitely had some hills as well as slight inclines in the road.
Miles 5-7 were mid-range pace. 9:34, 9:22, 9:25. I hit my slowest point in miles 8-10. 9:44, 9:44, 9:41.
The course ran along the water for quite a while, then we angled inland and ran on a bike path to the turnaround. The sun did come out in the beginning, and I felt hot, but after I started sweating my body temperature regulated itself. Eventually it got a little cloudy and I never regretted my lack of sunglasses.
Although I was running easy (and no, I don't mean "easily") (regardless of pace), I was struggling a little with the mental aspect of a long run. After 10K it was exciting to be 1/3 through, but twelve miles to go seemed LONG. Same thing with 15K. Halfway, but a lot remaining. It was only around the half marathon distance and 20K that I felt the end was finally within reach. I tried to keep my mind on small chunks of distance rather than the big picture.
After the 15K runners turned back, the number of runners decreased a lot, though there were enough people around to assure me I was on course. There were two women who I had in my sites for at least the second 15K, maybe even before that. One was wearing a purple shirt and one red. I kept my eye on them as pace setters of sorts. They remained consistently ahead of me, at least until the final 5K (foreshadowing).
As we moved into the final miles I dug just a little deeper and took advantage of the return downhill to bring my pace back up. Miles 13-15 - 9;13, 9:11, 9:15. Mile 16 was inexplicably slow, all I can figure is that there might have been a hill. 9:44. Halfway through we hit 25K and I prepared to put on a big push for the final miles.
Mile 17 - 9:07. Yes! At the end of mile 17 I called my mom to let her know I was almost done. Unfortunately I had trouble handling my phone and after one wrong number I finally stopped to place the call. I'm sure I lost at least 30 seconds in that maneuver. Maybe more--I was running strong, when I was running. I didn't want to take the time to try to put my phone away, so I finished the rest of the race carrying an iPhone in my hand! Mile 18 - 9:46.
In the last mile I passed both the woman in the purple and the one in red. I also passed a man who must have been running faster earlier and then lost steam at the end. I do not recall seeing him at all until I caught up to him near the end. He was running, though, not walking. I passed all three and left them significantly behind.*
The very end of the race has a short steep hill. I chugged up it and then ran for the finish line, finishing strong. Final chip time was 2:56:23. That's an official pace of 9:29. (The true distance was 18.77, pace 9:24.) So, slower than last year, but I'd be very happy to manage that pace for Boston.
I considered running a little more to round up my total distance to 20 miles, but decided not to. Instead, we headed down to Bellingham for a delicious lunch!
When I came back to fix this post, I made a few corrections and added some stuff. I guess I will also add that I am not completely okay with finishing six minutes slower than last year (20 seconds per mile, pretty much exactly). The same thing happened with the Shamrock Run a couple weeks ago. I would much rather be faster than slower! However, I was in so much worse of a winter slump a couple of months ago, that I can't be unhappy with my progress. I truly feel that I am out of my slump. Whether I will ever beat the PRs of late 2009 and the comparable speed in the first half of 2010, I don't know. But I do know that I am now in good place with my running, and running makes me happy again, as opposed to (at least occasionally) angry and frustrated.**********
Okay, one more thing. Just because it was a good run doesn't mean it was all rainbows and unicorns out there. Running 18+ miles is hard, I tell you, hard! And not always fun. But I am happy that I do it.
Because of the chip timing, any of them could have officially "beat" me, however, and I have no way of knowing. Nor do I care, really. But I did get to start in the first wave of runners--they held the group right after I crossed the start line--so that could have significant affected the net times.