Update: I added the full race recap to the end of this post, because I’m lazy and didn’t want to post all the pics again, I guess!
Well, it wasn’t an 80-degree day of death like 2 years ago, but it was still HOT and sunny out there today. I managed to pull off a PR, if not my goal of 2:10 – I finished in 2:12:58, officially!
I managed to track the 2:10 pacer until around mile 7 or 8, when I lost him on one of the steeeeep uphill creek beds that I walked, and he squirreled away from me for good. I picked up the pace again after that but never saw him again. The last 3 miles (out in the exposed sun along the coast) were a pretty rough mental battle – I wanted to walk sooooo bad and was boiling lava hot and just ready to be done, but I also knew if I started walking I probably wouldn’t be able to run as well again, so I just chugged on as best I could. (Have I mentioned how much I hate running in the sun?)
My heart didn’t love the sun either:
I’m now covered in crusty sweated-through sunscreen but I don’t think I burned, huzzah! I do however have the most epically nasty blood blister thing (that I’m surprised didn’t burst and give me a bloody toe, actually) on one of the toes on my right foot. I’ll link the picture so as not to induce vomiting in y’all, but you have been warned! (Not sure if it was the Newtons – they felt great during the run, but I’ve definitely never gotten a blister like this running a half in my Asics!)
Some photos my dad took right after the race:
The race itself:
I got up around 6:30am (to the “Runnin’ down a dream” alarm tone I made just for race days) and lurched through getting ready and gulping coffee on autopilot. (I am not quite a full human in the morning; my body might look like it’s awake but my brain sleeps in a little longer)
I drove down to the city pier, parked near my old church, and caught the 7:30ish shuttle out to the start line. My seatmate was a girl who moved from Pennsylvania (PA) to Port Angeles (locally referred to as PA) and was running her second half marathon. She said she chafed super bad on her first one. I realized at that point that i’ve never chafed during a half marathon… huh, well I guess I have some kind of tough rhinoceros skin or something.
When we arrived at the starting area for the half (a big soccer field out in the middle of nowhere) I went straight for the portapotty lines and got the requisite thing done that runners do, then took up shop in a corner of the field to apply sunscreen, prepare my Nuun, and nom down a Powercrunch bar. At this point the sun was still hiding behind a cloud and I was holding out hope that the clouds would stick around… (spoiler: it was not meant to be.)
I saw some old church friends up ahead of me near the 2:00 pacer in the starting chute and was instantly impressed – I was hanging out near the 2:10 pacer (who I planned to get out in front of and then hoped to stay in front of) and will probably never be standing next to a 2:00 pacer. To my brain, sub-2 is one of those mystical seemingly un-obtainable goals that mere mortals such as myself can’t imagine to meet.
At promptly 9am we were off! Unlike last year, when I was caught unprepared and messing around on my phone at the start (and ended up carrying it in my hand the whole way), I didn’t touch my phone during this whole race. Too bad, cause now I don’t have any extremely flattering mid-run selfies to inflict on share with you.
These miles are fairly flat (except for a slight uphill dogleg right after the start) and then tip down to the first creek bed of the half course – doooown and then steeply uppppp. I kept glancing at Henry the Garmin during this section to see I was zipping along far too fast, though with the slight downhill I wasn’t worrying too much about it and I felt pretty good. This was also the point when the clouds burned off for good and the sun started to bake down around us mercilessly. I’d put some distance between myself and the 2:10 pacer and was feeling happy about that. We traveled past a pasture full of cows that all wandered over to the fence to stare at all the crazy runners as we filed by. “These cows are like ‘what the heck is going on?!'” I laughed with a guy who was running near me. “It’s my fan club,” he joked back.
I walked out of the creek bed (seriously, steeeep steep mountain-like hill), which conveniently hit around mile 3.5, when I planned to take my first Gu, and gulped down a mint chocolate one. I picked it up again after the aid station at the top of the hill, with the 2:10 pacer still nowhere to be seen.
Here begins the forested, somewhat shady (YESSS), rolling hill section of the course. I began to notice that there were little fuzzy orange caterpillars ALL OVER the path. At first I tried to dodge them but after awhile I gave up and crushed all the pre-moths in my path. Sorry, Mr. Caterpillar and your 50,000 friends! I was in chug/survival mode during the uphills and it was at this point the 2:10 pacer caught up to me. I cat-and-moused him a little bit, catching up on the downhills and letting him pull away on the uphills, but managed to keep him in my sights. I knew there was another creek bed coming but couldn’t remember exactly where it was and kept expecting to see it around the next corner. Started to get a little tired…
And boom! There was the creek bed. There was a nice long fun downhill going down to the bridge, but then a looooong uphill that I walked. I’d planned to take another Gu at mile 7 but was feeling a little urpy (I think last night’s pasta was not quite playing nice with my innards) and decided to skip it. At this point the 2:10 pacer squirreled away from me for good. At the top of the lonnnng steep hill a marimba group was playing, which got my legs moving again at the top, but I was definitely feeling the hill and not moving terribly fast. I walked another slight hill and took a slightly extended walk break heading up to the part of the trail that briefly runs by the highway, telling myself I would pick it up again when I hit that part, knowing it was pretty much alllllll downhill after that. Running again felt good, but kind of tiring, and I headed into my favorite part of the course – about 3/4 of a mile of DOWNHILL! Weeeeee! I charged it with gusto (and think this is where my epic blister of doom came from) and passed a bunch of people. I train this way – charging the downhills – so I totally feel badass ok with running the crap out of them in races (never mind that I then chug the uphills at about 2 miles an hour)
At the bottom I saw my grandma, who volunteers as a race official every year – normally she’s out on the course after I’ve gone by, but she came out early to see me this year. I gave her what was probably a gross sweaty hug and continued on over the cool wooden bridge over Morse Creek, heading to the section of the course that’s completely forested over for about a mile, shooting straight north toward the coast and the final 4 miles along the water. I was feeling it at this point and started to wonder if I should start taking walk breaks at the mile markers once I popped out on the coast – I knew from past NODMs the final stretch is mostly unshaded, partially gravel, and can be mentally challenging when you’re tired. I kept chugging and decided to at least take a Gu at mile 10 and go from there.
The course here goes from paved to gravel to paved to gravel to paved. I kind of hate the gravel sections. At mile 10 I nommed down a chocolate Gu and decided I wanted to push through and just run my way to the finish. My legs were doing alright but my brain REALLLLLLY wanted to walk. I kept fighting on though, chugging along at what felt like a super hard pace but what was actually mostly around a 10:00 pace (don’t you hate that when you feel like you should be going a lot faster for your effort? Like you feel like you must be flying with how hard you feel like you’re pushing, look at your watch, and realize you’re crawling. FAIL)
Around mile 11, when the course takes an annoying half-mile gravel detour around an old mill site, I caught up to the husband and daughter of my old church friend – I almost didn’t realize it was them until I was already past them. They must have been having a pretty bad day… they’re definitely faster runners than I am and they were walking along. A little ways up ahead my church friend was doing a run/walk – I kept catching up to her a bit as she walked and she would spurt away when she started to run. I never quite caught up to her (I ended up finishing about 6 seconds behind her).
Right after the gravel detour the course spits back out onto the pavement for the final 1.5 miles of paved trail to the finish! The final aid station right at that point is always manned by the PA high school band and I saw my old band teacher there again this year and called out to him (not sure he recognized me in my shades and visor, but he said “good to see you!” hehe). I then steeled my gaze around the corner toward the finish line, which looked sooooo tiny, but just a straight, flat, final run away!
The final mile is kind of a pain. You can see the finish slowly getting bigger and bigger and it just takes forever to come back to you. I didn’t have much in me to sprint but I tried to will my legs to run faster. At this point I noticed the mile 13 marker seemed to be a lot further than .1 away from the finish (and I hit it about right on according to my Garmin). The last “tenth” seemed to take FOREVER. I tried to pick up my feet and as I ran into the final section lined with spectators started looking around for my folks, who I knew were going to try to be there. I crossed the finish line and there was my dad just off to the left!
I staggered around for a bit with my folks, had some post-race food and sports drink, and became even more determined to hit 2:10 at my next half (Seattle Rock n Roll on June 22). That one’s a hilly beast, but maybe I can do it!