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
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.
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.
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.
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!