Monday, April 29, 2013

The Whidbey streak continues

I mentioned recently that the Whidbey Island Half Marathon had some significance for me, and some particular goals. Whidbey was the first half marathon I ever ran, back in April of 2007. I have run it again every year except 2009. In 2009 I skipped it due to a trip to England.

Last year, in looking back on my finish times over the years, I realized that I had run it in two hours (plus seconds) or less every single year. I knew that Whidbey had always been good to me, but I hadn't really noticed this streak before. Suddenly, beyond just wanting to do well, there was a whole new pressure on me running this year (I noticed after my 1:59:19 finish last year.).

The Whidbey course has changed at least four times during my six times running, so there really is no comparing the times for each year. My fastest Whidbey time was the first one, in 2007, at 1:54:30! That was the Oak Harbor to Coupeville route, which they changed the following year so I never had a chance to try that route again. I also didn't have a Garmin at that time, so I have no idea whether the course might have been a little short in distance.

It's hard to explain how my first half marathon ever was also my PR for a couple years (and still in the top four times I've had). I did train very thoroughly for that race, and there is a certain freshness and excitement in the first long distance race (before you beat up your legs through repetition). After all, my first marathon is still my PR marathon as well (CIM 2009).

Anyhow, my times for Whidbey 2012-2007 were 1:59:19, 2:00:10, 1:55:40, 2:00:52, 1:54:30.

So, there was my challenge. Could I hang onto the streak for another year? My January and February half marathons, Maui Oceanfront and Birch Bay, were not encouraging (2:09 and 2:08). But my speedwork efforts were paying off a little bit, and in March I ran the Mercer Island Half Marathon in a little over 2:02. I had hope....

As Whidbey approached on April 14, I turned to carb loading in preparation. Friday night our book club theme was Out of Africa, and we all fixed Kenyan-style food.  Our menu:

Chicken in Coconut Curry Sauce
Beef Stew
Pilau (rice with blackeyed peas)
Coconut rice (cooked in coconut milk, I used light coconut milk)
Irio (potatoes with green peas and corn)
Sukuma wiki (greens with tomatoes and onions)
Naan (we subbed in this Indian bread for an African flatbread as it was more convenient and delicious)
Stoney ginger beer (an African pop which is sweet, very gingery, and quite delicious)

You'll notice that there are a lot of carbs on the menu.

I continued carb loading on Saturday morning with Swedish pancakes at the Sons of Norway Normanna Hall.  Mmm, pancakes. Before leaving for Oak Harbor I ate leftover Kenyan food for lunch, then had some pretty basic spaghetti with meat sauce for dinner that night.
My Kenyan lunch. Clockwise from left: Naan, coconut rice with some chicken curry on it, pilau with some beef stew on it, and irio.

Sunday morning I got up a bit before 6 a.m. and dressed in my running gear and had breakfast. Then I laid around and read blogs and facebook for about an hour. I had considered running the two miles from the hotel to the start as a warm-up, but I decided that maybe that would be a little too much, so my parents drove me over. I had enough time to go to the porta-potty, run a mile warm-up, and stand in line for a final potty stop before the race started. I was the last one out of the porta-potty though, so I went directly over to the starting area and found myself a spot in what I thought might be the two-hour group. Actually I figured I was in the right place when I saw the two-hour pacer sign nearby!

I had been checking the weather forecast all week (of course), and although rain was originally predicted on Sunday, by Saturday night the chance of precipitation was down to 10%. So I decided it was definitely not going to rain, and didn't even consider wearing my contacts instead of glasses. In fact, I tucked sunglass clips into my pocket as well (big mistake).

I was pretty startled, then, when I discovered it was raining lightly but steadily at the start of the race! I prefer to wear contacts in the rain because my glasses get wet and steamy, and it's hard to see well. The rain persisted at least halfway through the race, and I had to clear my steamy lenses with a finger a couple times (which didn't work too well). Eventually the rain did stop, and the water on my glasses dried up. I don't even remember when that happened, actually.

I started writing this right after the race, then when the Boston Marathon bombing happened I put it on hold. So my clear memories are much foggier now. In the end that's probably for the best as it will keep me from getting enmeshed in too many details.

As I mentioned, I started near the two-hour pacer and thought that I would try to stick with her. That worked well for a little bit. But we soon hit the first hill (the revamped course included some hills in the first half as well as the second, hurrah), and I must say she did a good job of keeping an even pace as she trotted up the hill. I stuck to an even effort, which meant I slowed down on the uphills. Mile 1 was 9:11 (just about right on pace) and Mile 2 was 9:25. (I never did see that pacer again, even though she should have finished just ahead of me...which leads me to think she ended up running too fast.)

Luckily I also sped up on the downhills! This uneven pacing continued throughout the race. I was doing 8:45-8:55 on the downhill portions, 9:17-9:40 on the uphills, and a couple miles around 9:05 on a rare very flat stretch.

The race ended at a waterfront park in Oak Harbor, and we passed through it around mile 8 before heading into the final, hilliest segment of the run.

Yes, I am wearing compression socks with my capri running pants, perhaps the geekiest running look ever. I am not doing it because I think it looks cute! I have been wearing the compression socks with long pants all winter, and I really like how they make my sometimes achy ankle and heel feel better. I fully intend to wean myself off them once we get fully into capri and shorts weather.

In the last three miles of the race you climb up hills for about half and then turn around and fly back down. In an earlier incarnation of the race, you passed through the park about halfway along and then went uphill for three miles and then back down...this is probably better. Although I must say that the year I did that course was the only time I really was able to kick ass in the last 5K of a half marathon! (I always intend to....)

My two slowest miles were 10 and 11, at 9:35 and 9:40. I did manage to pass a few people on the uphills though! Then I did turn it around in the final two miles--mile 12 - 8:47, and mile 13 - 8:27.

 The clock showed the time for the full marathon, which started an hour earlier.
My watch said 2:00:34; chip time 2:00:31. I made it. The streak continues.

My parents had left during the race, gone back to the hotel for breakfast, then returned for the finish. My dad saw me cross the finish line.
My splits for the whole race:
1 - 9:11
2 - 9:26
3 - 8:54
4 - 8:46
5 - 9:17
6 - 8:56
7 - 9:29
8 - 9:07
9 - 9:05
10 - 9:36
11 - 9:40
12 - 8:47
13 - 8:27
Plus .22 at 8:32 pace.

Whidbey has a nice post-race area but I didn't hang around. We headed back to the hotel and I had enough time to take a shower and change before we checked out.

Then we drove into Anacortes for lunch at the Calico Cupboard! I had just seen someone post on Facebook about having clam chowder in a sourdough bread bowl, and that was what I wanted too. Mmm yum. Obviously, I ate some of the bread after the chowder was gone. It seemed just a bit dry (maybe day old bread makes a better bowl?) but I got some butter and that fixed it right up.
Since I am a couple weeks behind now, I'll try this week to recap some of my highlights...which would include a 5K, a 22-mile long run, and a half marathon yesterday which was my 2013 PR!

Monday, April 15, 2013

I just don't know what to say.

At 6:30 to 9 a.m. this morning, I was watching the exciting elite women's finish in the Boston Marathon. I had to go into work before the elite men's finish. Throughout the morning I received periodic athlete tracker text updates on a blogger friend who was running the Boston Marathon today, the dream of her running life. She was doing pretty well, although slowing in the later miles. I was puzzled why I didn't receive a finish time update well past the time she should have finished.

Logging onto Facebook during lunch, I got my first word of the tragedy at the Boston Marathon finish line. (I later went to my friend's Facebook page and found out that she had not been at the finish line when the explosions occurred--she was fine, although was diverted about a mile from the finish and was not able to finish the marathon.) Over the lunch hour, I scoured online news reports and listened to the radio on the way back to work.

I have no words to respond to the tragedy that occurred today. I am just numb at the thought of the carnage, of the injury and destruction that has happened. Why did this happen? How did it happen? In Boston, not a great place of controversy or political import. I am stunned, I am saddened...I just don't understand.

All my prayers are with everyone who has been affected by this tragic event.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Memories of Boston 2011

The Boston Marathon is one week from today. In a fit of nostalgia, I wanted to read my post about my Boston Marathon experience two years ago, but it seems that I never did write about it. Why? Well, the usual inertia, in part. Also, in many ways Boston was a bittersweet experience and I guess it took a couple of years to process it! Actually it didn't take that long, but I do have a better perspective now.

I qualified for Boston at California International Marathon (CIM) in December 2009, so there was a huge delay between that marathon and Boston. In between I ran several marathons, but none as fast as CIM. I quickly learned that just because you run a sub-4 marathon once, you can't count on doing it again!

I retained a lot of my CIM speediness into 2010, but by summer I was dragging a little. And I think in the fall of 2010 I went into an overtraining slump. I finished the year with a 4:38 Seattle Marathon, a disappointment to be sure, but seriously, given my experiences since then, not that bad!

I kicked off my Boston training cycle in January 2011. It's always hard training in the winter, and I'm pretty sure we had some bad weather in January (ha!) but overall it went pretty well. I had no expectations of a PR in Boston, but I wanted to do better than I had in Seattle, and I wanted to finish under 4:30.

I actually think the Seattle Marathon is a good training course for Boston. Those are the two hardest marathon courses I think I've done (even though my times for each are really in the middle of my finish time spectrum).

One of the rules of training for Boston is to train for the downhills as well as the uphills. I did so, I think. It's hard to remember but I know a lot of my pre-Boston races had significant downhill portions...e.g. the Portland Shamrock Run and the Whidbey Half Marathon. In recent years, even though my overall paces and times have slowed, I think I have strengthened my downhill running and maybe I would deal with that element of Boston a little better now.

My parents and I flew east a few days before the marathon. We flew into Manchester, New Hampshire, I think on a Thursday, spent the night there, and drove to Boston on Friday.

We stayed at the Omni Parker House Hotel, which is the oldest hotel in Boston (and the longest continuously operating hotel in the U.S. (since 1855). It is known for the invention of Parker House rolls and Boston Cream Pie. I got a "good" rate from Marathon Tours and it really was a lovely place to stay. It was right in the heart of historic Boston and only a few miles from the marathon bus stop at Boston Common. If I were ever to run Boston again I wouldn't mind staying there, although I would also seriously consider a hotel near the finish area (such as the Copley Square Hotel, the second oldest hotel in continous operation).

The weather on marathon day was fine but the days preceding were cold and windy. On Friday we went to the expo where I got my bib, race shirt, and other commemorabilia (to add to what I had already purchased online beforehand).

On Saturday we took a trolley tour of the sights of Boston. It was a hop-on, hop-off tour but it was so cold out that we didn't want to hop off at all until we were done! Afterwards I desperately wanted clam chowder. We considered going to a traditional Boston restaurant but instead went to the nearest, McCormick & Schmick's in Faneuil Hall. I kind of felt like I was in Portland (the last place where I went to McCormick & Schmick's). But the chowder was good.

I will admit that we weren't the most adventurous with venturing out to far flung locations and restaurants. Both Saturday and Sunday night (maybe Friday too?) we had dinner at a casual pub/restaurant just a couple blocks from the hotel. On Saturday night I had a lobster roll and then I had pasta on Sunday. Or maybe I had a lobster roll on Friday and pasta both Saturday and Sunday...I can't remember.

On Sunday we made the traditional trip to the finish line near Copley Square. I will admit that I was wearing my official jacket in advance of the race. Everyone was doing it, I promise!
Selfie in jacket.
We took a bunch of pictures at the finish line area. I'm pretty sure I was smiling a lot more here than on race day!
 The finish area.
 My dad tries to take a picture.
 The famous finish line!
After our finish line tour, my dad got back on the trolley to use up the rest of our 24-hour ticket, and my mother and I visited another location that has great significance to me.
 A visit to the mothership.
Then we picked up some lunch and went back to the hotel to chill.
For dinner I had pasta with tons of vegetables. Maybe eating a gross of broccoli the night before a marathon isn't the best idea, but it was so good! (Although basic, not at all gourmet. Fine with me.)
On Monday morning I was up early for a trip to Starbucks to pick up coffee and breakfast. Even though my start time was 10:40 (Wave 3, for people who just barely qualified), I still had to catch the bus pretty early, around 7:00 I think. I dressed in capris, a sleeveless shirt, and a jacket. I also had another warm-up sweatshirt to wear to the start. It was a pretty cool morning, though it did get warmer later.

 The outfit on race day. That jacket came off minutes after the start!
I stood in line to get on a bus for a long, long time, but eventually we were on the road to Hopkinton. When we got there we had to walk to the Athlete's Village.

 Arriving at the Athlete's Village.
 The Athlete's Village.
Even though I had a couple hours wait to the official start, the time seemed to pass quickly. I stood in not-too-long porta potty lines at least twice, and before I knew it, I was walking with the crowds to the official start. I dropped off my bag (I no longer remember what was in it) at the well-organized bag drop and soon we were off!
 Heading to the start!
I shed my throwaway jacket right away. It didn't take long before I also took off my other jacket and tied it around my waist. Despite the cold, stormy weather over the weekend, the sun was out, it felt quite warm, and the only wind was a tailwind! Much has been said about the favorable tailwind during Boston 2011. I have to say I didn't feel it. Maybe there were just too many people around.
The first few miles are somewhat downhill and there are many tales of people going out too fast and wrecking their legs. I didn't feel like I was going too fast, but it's true that a 9:30ish pace felt easy. That might have been too fast but of course I would have liked to think it was a sustainable pace for the long run.
My first real problem was that within the first couple miles I urgently needed to go to the bathroom. Like "I'm going to pee my pants" bad. Maybe I could have forced myself to get through it, but at least there were no porta potty lines in the first couple miles!
I'm sure there were difficult moments, but the first half went really well. Except for the bathroom stop, I didn't have a mile over 10 minutes until mile 13.
1 - 9:41
2 - 9:29
3 - 10:31 (potty)
4 - 9:15
5 - 9:41
6 - 9:30
7 - 9:25
8 - 9:50
9 - 9:45
10 - 9:54
11 - 9:57
12 - 9:51
13 - 10:01
Looking at the Garmin elevation, the course was pretty much downhill-ish for most of those miles. I will say from recollection, though, and what I've heard from others, there is no part of the Boston course that is flat. It is either uphill or downhill all the time. There were lots of little rollers in those first 13 miles.
My pace continued pretty steady for a couple more miles. Well, three more miles, but the middle one included another bathroom break. (This is the point in the marathon where I traditionally have a bathroom stop. Apparently my early stop did not empty the tank.)
14 - 10:14
15 - 12:15
16 - 10:04
I wish I could say that I remember some of the famous sights of the Boston Marathon along the way, but I really did not notice a lot of stuff. I was quite absorbed in the running. I noticed the signs for the various towns along the way, and appreciated it at the time, but did not retain much. (The towns are Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley, Newton, Brookline, and Boston.) I recall the cheering, drinking, yelling crowds along the way. Some of them were pretty obnoxious, yelling criticism at people who were walking or on their cell phones.
Another think I clearly remember is that the "T" transit train ran alongside the course for many miles. Although I never would do it (unless I were dropping out), I certainly understand how easy it would be to jump on and ride away! I feel ya, Rosie Ruiz! (Although I don't know how anyone could do it without being seen, in this day and age.)
The Newton Hills begin at about mile 16, and extend to mile 21. They are actually four hills (some people say three, I counted four), and of course the final one is the famous "Heartbreak Hill" from mile 20-21.
If you ask me, though, the hills are not that bad. They are no worse than the hills in the Seattle Marathon, and I've run up steeper ones. I guess they are long, in the sense that you have five miles that are going primarily uphill. And I suppose if you are set on maintaining a certain pace, especially if that is a fast pace, that would be tough.
But I just slowed as I needed and plugged on up. Mile 16, as I already noted, was just over ten minutes.
17 - 10:38
18 - 10:40
19 - 10:25
20 - 10:48
21 - 11:29 (okay, I guess Heartbreak Hill was a little harder than the rest)
I didn't mind the hills. The hills were great compared to what came next. Five miles downhill into Boston.
Five miles downhill sounds like a gift, right? The perfect way to recover from your uphill slog, make up some time, and sail triumphantly to the finish line, right? Well....
Not so much. I've said a few times that I think it takes about three hours (18 miles) for your legs to really feel the effects of distance running and start to break down. The few miles of uphill was actually a reprieve, because my quads essentially got those miles "off."
But when I started downhill I quads are toast. I was in such pain, I couldn't run any faster on the downhills than I did on the uphills! That only added to my suffering, realizing that I was not able to take advantage of the beautiful gift of downhill. What's more, by this time my whole body was hurting, I was nauseous, and I couldn't even stand the thought of Gu. I had been drinking sports drink at the aid stations in the later miles to try to get some energy and stay hydrated.
It was during the last few miles that I had my weakest moment in a marathon (at least until I let myself walk way too much in the Honolulu Marathon). I took another bathroom stop at the beginning of mile 24. I wanted it more than needed it. I know I could have held out for another 5K (at least I believe I could have). But in a way, stepping off the course into a porta potty for a minute or two was more of a mental break than physical (although the physical relief was good too). Then I was able to jump back out and push myself through the final miles.
22 - 10:49
23 - 10:49
24 - 12:52 (bathroom)
25 - 10:52
26 - 10:45 (at least I was consistent!)
27 - .46 mile at 10:05 pace (yea! a finishing kick)
Final time 4:34:08.
I ran across the finish line with a smile on my face and got my medal. I actually felt a little woozy for a few minutes and had to lean against something.
I called my mom to tell her I was done. My dad had come to watch along the way (near the finish), but I never saw him and he didn't see me (although he took some random pictures of people who might have been me!).
Then I went through another "marathon experience" in trying to get on the T to ride back to the hotel. Runners rode free (though I didn't care about the cost), but it was extremely crowded and it took a couple of passing trains before I could even get on.
Finally I got back to the hotel, flopped onto my bed and ate some delicious food (no longer nauseous!).
That night we had a fancy dinner in the hotel restaurant. I had filet mignon and, of course, Boston Cream Pie for dessert!
 Dinner at the Parker House restaurant. Yes, that is a Parker House roll! And I promise everyone was wearing their medals to dinner.
On Tuesday we left Boston and drove up to Maine for a few days R & R. Unfortunately the cold, damp weather had returned. Maine isn't quite as nice in the cold early spring as it is in the autumn (and I presume, summer). But we stayed at a favorite inn near Wiscasset, the Squire Tarbox, and enjoyed their cozy rooms and gourmet food. They had actually opened early to accommodate us (they don't usually open until Easter, and Easter came late in 2011)!
 The Squire Tarbox Inn in Maine.
On one of our days in Maine we drove up to Camden, a charming seaport town.
A trip to Camden, Maine.

One of the reasons my Boston Marathon experience will always be bittersweet is because my calico cat, Sophie, died while I was gone. I still remember when Rod called me on Wednesday morning to tell me. She was only ten years old, but she had been quite ill, probably with a kidney disease. It was not a surprise, but it was still heartbreaking. I thank her for hanging on until after I ran the marathon, so I would not have that burden on me during the run.

It took me a while after Boston to see the run in perspective. Two years later, after running many more marathons, some faster, some slower, I have even more perspective. I did pretty darn well. Yes, I still wish I had been under 4:30 (and I think about the three potty stops and wonder what if...), but I have been a lot slower in marathons that should have been easier. My only lingering regret--and I don't know what I could have done to change this--was that I didn't run the final five miles faster. One minute faster per mile would have put me under 4:30 even without omitting the porta potty stops. happened. And I am happy that I had the opportunity to run.

After all, I got into Boston just a year or so before the qualifying standards changed (2012 was the last year of the old standards) and just before they started the tiered entry system. Plus, I managed to get in even though registration closed so quickly! That was lucky (and I was on the computer the minute registration opened).

I don't know whether I will ever qualify for Boston again or even try. When I go up an age group in a couple years the time standard will be the same for me as when I qualified in 2009. If I was able to hang in there another five years I'd get another ten minutes...but that would still require a 4:10 marathon at the age of 55!

So who knows. The Boston Marathon may well have been a once in a lifetime experience for me. Two years later, I can genuinely say that it was a truly fantastic experience.

Birch Bay 30K

I am departing from my usual practice of delaying race reports until I can't remember much of anything, or starting one but not finishing (cough, Honolulu Marathon, Maui Oceanfront Half Marathon), to squeeze in a quickie recap of the Birch Bay Road Race 30K from Saturday!

This is the fourth consecutive year I've run this 30K and every time I've had a good experience (on one level or another). I really like the 18-ish mile distance for a long run, and the 30K "race" gives me an opportunity to test my marathon chops in a more formal setting than my typical solo runs. I like the Birch Bay course because it is pretty flat (unlike the Birch Bay Marathon/Half Marathon), but with enough elevation change to keep it interesting. (Honestly, I don't like pancake flat courses for more than a 10K!)

Usually the Birch Bay Road Race is the last Saturday in March, but this year it was a week later, maybe because Easter was on March 31. It was fine for me but no good for anyone who wanted it as a final long run before Boston, which is April 15 this year. I don't know if that applies to that many people but I did that in 2011.

Birch Bay is about 80 miles north of here, but it's a (fairly) quick drive on the freeway, with a four-mile jog west off the freeway to the start of the race. I picked my parents up at a little past 6 a.m., and with a stop at Starbucks we were there and parked by 7:45. (The race started at 8:30.) The primary parking is at the Birch Bay Waterslides, but even though there were still open spots (usually there are not, a sign that attendance was down), we parked on the side of the road facing the water. That way I would run right past my parents at the start and they would have a nice view the rest of the time.

The weather didn't suck as much as I thought it might. Rain was definitely a possibility--in fact we drove through several downpours on the way up--but it didn't rain once during the race. It was windy though! Even though the temperature was not cold (it was around 50), the wind made it feel chillier. I had originally planned to wear just a long-sleeved shirt (the 50s are warm for running!), but ended up adding a half-zip top and I was never too warm, except for a short spell when my body temperature was regulating itself.

We weren't as early as I had expected, so I only had time for a quick .7 mile warm-up. It was enough to get some sluggishness out of my legs, and also allowed me to get in line and accomplish one final bathroom stop. Then I squeezed myself into the middle of the pack (I had been standing in line when they did the seeding, so I just guesstimated) and headed to the start line.

The race included a 5K (which barely counts, as they left us all so quickly), a 15K, and a 30K. The 15K had way more runners than the 30K (247 versus 70!) (which became obvious later on). Everyone started together, but the 5K group turned back after about 1K. The rest of us continued on into Birch Bay State Park. We ran into the park and turned around at about four miles. Then we backtracked toward the start for another 3.5 miles (or so).

As we passed the road where my parents were parked on the hill, I waved in case they were looking towards me. They didn't see me (I heard later), but I could tell from the car that I would have been visible had they been looking.
Around mile 8(ish) the 15K runners got to turn back to go to the finish. And every single person around me was doing the 15K. I was completely alone. This has never happened in the past with this race. I honestly felt like maybe I was the only person doing the 30K. I was able to see one other person about a quarter mile ahead of me every now and then. That was almost the only thing that kept me convinced I was on the right track (that and the occasional aid station).

My hope for this race was to run about a 10-minute pace, ideally closer to 9:45 if possible. In the first 10K, or even 8-9 miles, I was on track with 9:45-10-minute miles. After I lost the 15K runners, I started to slow down a little. Mostly this was because the course had some hills in this section--fairly minor, but I'm pretty sure the elevation was primarily uphill to the 13.1 mile (21K) point. I really wanted to run even effort, and I think I was doing that, but it was slightly discouraging to see splits around 10:15 or slower.

I also think the solitude slowed me down a little. That's silly, because I am almost always alone when I am running, but it hardly feels like a race when you're the only one running it! I definitely lost any kind of competitive boost during this segment of the run.

I remember from last year, the stretch between 15K and 21K is the most mentally challenging. Not only is it uphillish, it just seems so far to be done. I found myself thinking dark, how can I be tired at 9 miles when I easily ran half marathons the last two weekends? Why do I even want to run a marathon? It's so far. As the kilometer markers on my side of the road inched upward (16K, 17K....) I could see the return markers on the other side. The closer the numbers got to matching, the nearer I was to the turnaround.

As I got closer to the 21K marker, I began to meet other runners on their return trips. So, it seemed, I was not actually the only person running the 30K. However, it seemed pretty clear to me that I was probably in last place. Dark, dark thoughts.

Finally, finally, I reached the 21K/13.1 mile point and turned around the cones and headed back. Then, many of my dark thoughts lifted and hope returned. Only five miles to go! (I was conveniently mentally ignoring the final kilometer after 18 miles, which would make the total distance 18.6 miles.) And there were still people coming in my direction! I wasn't last after all! I shouted cheerful encouragement to the oncoming runners. Nice job! Looking good!

Somewhere after the turnaround I heard someone say, "I read your blog!" I was quite startled and I think I said "oh!" I know it was a woman wearing red. I kind of wanted to wait and say hi to her at the finish but at that point I also really just wanted to go to the car. So if she is reading this, "Hello! Hope you had a good race!"

The other great thing about the trip back is that we got to go down all the hills we ran up. Now mind you, it wasn't that great, because we also had some rollers, and after 15 miles even downhill isn't the fun it should be, but it did make it easier to regain some of my earlier pacing (keeping with that even effort).

I am a little vague about my exact mile splits because my Garmin Ant Agent is not working and I haven't been able to download my data. I did look through the mile by mile times on my watch, but it's at home and I'm at work, so I only have a vague idea of the details.* However, I do know that the 25K point I stepped up my effort and started pushing for a strong finish. My final 2.67 miles were at or under 9:45, which makes me happy (and the mile before that was around 10:00). Granted, there was a good downhill in one of those miles!

At the 25K point was also where a guy named Brian passed me and commented that he had to work hard to catch up to me--great, I guess, except he left me in the dust from there! I noticed later that he finished about a minute ahead of me, with an official pace of exactly 10:00. Great, he stole my finish time! :)

The evil trick with the Birch Bay Road Race (it's not a surprise any more) is that there is a short, steep hill right before the finish. So you get to struggle up that then run gasping for the finish line. Cool, right? I don't have a finish line picture because my parents waited in the car and didn't come to the finish. I called to tell them I was done, then used the porta potties before heading back to the car.

Another small (but HUGE) victory is that I did not have to stop for a bathroom throughout the race, nor did I feel any urgent need to do so. Actually I have only stopped once over the four times I've done this race. So how come I can get through a 30K without a bathroom but in marathons always need to stop by mile 13.1 (once I held out to 15)? I was tempted to see how much longer I could hold it after the race but figured that sitting in the car would not be a good comparison to running another eight miles, so I just went.

I had one Gu at around mile 8 and one after 13.1. This is right on target with my marathon plan of miles 8, 13, 18, and 23 (which I have never executed perfectly actually). I am currently reading The New Rules of Marathon and Half Marathon Nutrition by Matt Fitzgerald, and contemplating tweaking my plan a little bit...we'll see. I can tell you right now, though, that there is no way I will be consuming the amount of fuel that he recommends in a marathon.

My final time was 3:07:20. That's an official pace of 10:04 (for 18.6 miles) and an actual pace of 10:02 (for 18.67 miles). With my .7 warm-up, I ran a total of 19.37 miles on Saturday.

I am okay with my just-over-10-minute pace for Saturday. As I said, I would have preferred closer to 9:45, but I still have almost two months to bring it down before the marathon. (And if I don't, that's fine too.)

I should probably feel a little bit more disappointed in my results. It does sting to realize that every year I've run this my pace has been slower. My first, best, and unbelievable time was 2:50:xx in 2010. Seriously, I think that was a 9:09 pace! Each year has been a few minutes slower. I don't really expect to get close to 2:50 again, but it would be nice to be under three hours next year! Maybe I should set a goal for that. But really, it's hard to be too upset about a perfectly decent finish time. And when I looked up the official results this morning, I learned that my mediocre-at-best time was third in my age group (out of eight total). So that's something.

After we left Birch Bay we drove south and stopped in Bow for lunch at the Rhododendron Cafe. I haven't been there for so long! I had the Finnish Pancake with marionberries.
We drove through the tulip and daffodil fields on the way home. The tulips are just coming out, but I didn't have a good place to stop for a picture. The daffodils are in full bloom and and a little past peak, but this field was still bright and golden!

On Sunday morning I decided to do my Monday run in advance, to help with a mini-taper for the Whidbey Island Half Marathon next Sunday. Also, for some reason I like to run on the day after an 18-miler. I squeezed out nine miles at 10:10 average pace. It rained steadily throughout. I probably should have taken a picture of me as a drowned rat but I just wanted to get out of those wet clothes.

This week my plan is speed work on Tuesday, a medium-long moderate tempo run on Thursday, and two days off running before Whidbey. I really want to have fresh legs for Whidbey. It was the first half marathon I ever ran and it's sort of significant for me...I would like to do well.

*Edited to add...I had to run home for a minute so I looked at my watch and wrote down the splits old school style, on a piece of paper. Here are my times for 18.67 miles. 9:48, 9:46, 9:54, 10:12, 9:52, 9:49, 9:50, 9:59, 10:10, 10:30, 10:18, 10:20, 10:37 (this was mile 13 by the way), 10:00, 10:27, 10:04, 9:38, 9:44, and .67 at 9:36.