I was pretty nervous about this race due to the fact my training had been absolute FAIL the last few months. My last run was 10 days before the race, an 8 miler that did feel good, but was the longest I went in training. In the following days I did Jillean Michaels DVDs and moved my entire house over a weekend, which kind of counts as working out, but there was zero running after that 8-miler. I’d gone on the runner’s world forums and asked how stupid I was to attempt even finishing the half marathon and got some pretty good advice – go with a run/walk strategy and run in the final 3 miles if I was feeling good. I decided I’d take a 1-2 min walk break at every mile marker and also walk the rough hills if I felt like it, and also wore my sweet knee-length compression socks to help my legs along. That seemed to work! This was actually my best half marathon to date (SOMEHOW) – I ended up PRing with an official time of 2:17:15!
Since this race is in my hometown I stayed with my folks and my mom kindly honored my request for race-eve spaghetti. It’s ironic since we ate spaghetti at least twice a week while I was growing up and I developed an intense dislike for it, but now that I’ve lived away from home for 10 years (dang, really that long?) I’ve come to like it again, especially the night before a half marathon.
I set my alarm for 6am and hit the hay around 11pm, and laid out all of my race gear for easy groggy grabbing in the morning. I actually slept pretty well, which isn’t typical for me the night before a race, but I’ll take it! I chugged coffee and ate a banana and half a balance bar and drove downtown to catch the shuttle to the race start.
I ended up catching the last bus to the start around 7:45. NODM is awesome and uses city busses instead of school busses, weeee! As we chugged out to the halfway point between Port Angeles and Sequim I gleefully gazed up at the overcast skies and prayed it would hold so I wouldn’t have a repeat of last year’s death march through the sun.
We arrived at the half marathon start (which is a soccer field out in the middle of nowhere) and I took care of bizniss before the portapotty lines got too long. It was kind of chilly and I decided to leave on my red long-sleeved race shirt and not check it in my bag, even though I knew I’d just end up wrapping it around my waist at some point. I also prepared my Nuun mix and tried to seal the top of my handheld bottle as best I could (if I don’t get it down just far enough it likes to leak all over me no matter how full it is)
I stood nervously at the start thinking of my complete lack of training. I completely threw out any idea of PRing or even beating my time in this race from last year, which was 2:35:39. I just wanted to finish without my legs falling off! I brought 3 GUs as well which I planned to take every 4 miles (at 4, 8, and 12) to keep me going.
When they blew the horn I was dinking around on my phone and was taken a little by surprise – I didn’t have time to stuff it back in my ifitness belt and ended up carrying it the entire race in a plastic bag (but that worked out ok since I ended up texting a bit to facebook as I ran).
Right after the start my legs were feeling pretty rusty and I started to wonder what I’d gotten myself into. As we headed down the country road and up onto the only dogleg of the race I chugged along, shaking out the kinks and getting my road legs back. The weather was absolutely perfect for running – low 50’s and overcast – though I was already regretting wearing the longsleeved race shirt.
I missed my planned mile 1 walk break (I’d set Henry the Garmin to beep at intervals to tell me when to walk and run but he must have forgotten that part), which I realized when I glanced at my watch and saw 1.32 miles. I decided to just do a 2-min walk at mile 2 instead and chugged on. I hit Mile 2 on a stretch of road between two fields with the Olympic mountains looming in the background behind the clouds, a spot I distinctly remember being miserably warm last year. I pulled off my longsleeved shirt at that point and actually had to force myself to do the walk; I was feeling good and I’m not used to throwing walk breaks into my runs!
We dropped into the first long downhill of the race which unfortunately ends with one of the steepest hills in the race – a creek bed that dips under the highway and then back up to the trail. Last year I was determined to run it and was about dead by the time I hit the top, so this time I happily walked it out, but was still panting as I ascended the summit – it’s seriously a death hill! A lady next to me kept trying to start running it and dropping to a walk again and muttered something under her breath as I went by her at the apex of the hill. “This one’s a killer,” I mumbled in agreement. There’s thankfully a water stop right afterward and so I walked through it, grabbed a cup, and picked up the pace again on the other side.
At mile 4 I took a walk break and ate a delicious chocomint Gu, mm… I seriously would eat these even if I wasn’t running a race, heh. This was the rolling forested part of the race, with some gentle and not-so-gentle hills, and I was feeling pretty good, still loving the overcast skies. I remembered a lot of this part of the trail from last year, though last year it was all death patches of sun between blessed bits of shade, and this year I was able to appreciate the beauty of the trail a lot more since I wasn’t distracted by the possibility of my imminent death by lava-hot sunbeams.
At mile 5 I texted my good buddy B and took a 2-min walk break. I also posted a brief blip to facebook that I was feeling pretty good (somehow) but that there was still a looooong way to go. Right around this point I kept seeing the same mother and maybe 10-year-old daughter for awhile; the daughter and I walked some of the hills together and laughed about it while her mom chugged on ahead.
Around mile 7 the trail heads up toward the highway, which it runs alongside for a short while before dipping down into one of the most fun downhills of the race along Morse Creek, weee! I love this downhill, and I decided to keep running through mile 8 (which hits right about the middle of the downhill), took a short video and self portrait for some reason and stormed up over the bridge over the creek itself (which is sooo pretty and fun to run over). I took a late walk break once over the bridge and realized I’d forgotten to take my delicious chocolate Gu at mile 8 since I was too busy enjoying the downhill, so I ate it around mile 9 instead.
The trail after the Morse Creek bridge slants gently downhill, is packed with comfortable dark dirt and forested over with a canopy – super pretty and easy on the legs. When I started running again on this stretch I was feeling really good, and didn’t take a walk break again till mile 10 out on the coast. There was a guy out handing out water from his own little cooler – I think he was the same one who did so last year – and I called out “thanks!” as I ran by.
Sometime during mile 9 the trail breaks out of the woods onto the coast for the final stretch to the finish, which is so amazing! The Strait of Juan de Fuca is so beautiful and you can see Vancouver Island, Canada faaar across the way. By this point I was starting to feel it a bit, mostly in my hips, and as I chugged down to a 2-min walk break at mile 10 I steeled up my resolve for the final 5k. I posted the below pic to facebook and texted B again as well as my dad, letting him I know I was around 30-40 min from the finish, so he could hopefully meet me there.
I hadn’t really been paying attention to my time at all, but as I glanced at Henry the Garmin I noticed I was hitting this point of the race a lot earlier than I’d originally guessed. I thought I might have a chance to PR or even break 2:20, but I didn’t want to allow myself to over-exert trying to catch these goals, and as I picked it up to a run again after my walk break, I just tried to focus on running smooth and steady and maintaining my form.
I ping-ponged with another girl for a little while who would catch me as I walked and I would catch her when I ran – we kept encouraging each other up around the 1/2 mile dirt-trail mill bypass in mile 11, which is kind of the last sucky part of the race.
I took 1-min walks at miles 11 and 12, and saw my old high school band teacher Mr. Gailey at the last water stop (each one is organized/sponsored by a different group and the band owned this one) – he recognized me even 15 years later, ha, calling to me “Courtney! Good to see you!”
I decided not to take my final Gu at mile 12 like I thought I might – I had enough energy still and decided to just run it in, plus I would only be on my feet for 11 more minutes at the most! I tried to keep up my pace though I was definitely feeling tired at this point. I spotted the final course photographer at the old waterfront trail ending and tried to summon up a grin for him.
Then it was just the looooong straight flat shot to the finish, which is kind of death because you can see the chute and it seems sooo far off and takes forever to come back to you, lined with people and the finish mats calling your name. I could see the big timing clock ticking away and realized I was not only going to PR but break 2:20 as well! Like a dork I glanced behind me to make sure I wasn’t going to get swallowed up in a bunch of last-minute sprinters like last year and then ran it in to the finish, picking up the pace a little but mostly just running steady. I actually heard my name this year too! (Last year they said someone else’s name as I crossed, haha.) I managed an about 18-min PR over last year – 2:17:15! – in spite of crap training and walk breaks… probably mostly due to my 20 pound weight loss this year and the much better running weather.
An old friend/leader from high school youth group, Teresa, coincidentally happened to be my finish line buddy (NODM has a rotating line of folks who hand you your medal and a cold drink and walk you through the chute) and met me as I crossed the line with “COURTNEY! That’s a good time!”She asked if I felt like I was going to puke and I said I felt totally fine, just tired (weirdly, I felt like puking after my last 5k, but that’s a whole different level of effort heh). She walked me to the end of the chute and I spotted my dad walking up from the road – he’d JUST missed me finishing by probably 15-20 seconds! He was bummed to have missed it, but took some photos:
My mom showed up as well about 10 minutes later and we bummed around the finish festival for a bit; I picked up the free food and chocomilk and tried to keep moving around for about 20 minutes – I could already feel the soreness setting in.
Afterward, I went back to my folks’ house and foam rolled like a baws and bummed around in my race outfit for pretty much the rest of the day. Gotta wear a medal while you can!