WOW. I am amazed, baffled, astounded at how this race went for me. Let’s just get the big part out of the way – I was hoping to break 2:10, and at least PR (current PR is 2:12:58), but NOTHING could have prepared me for the number I ended up with:
WHAT. Just WHAT. How the crap did I pull that off?! Even more astounding to me was Henry the Garmin’s report:
Not a single 10+-min-mile to be found. And mile 12, what whaaaaaaaat? How on earth did I pull off a sub-9-min-mile in a half marathon!? How the crap did I run at a 9:17 average for the whole race? (I’ve run 5ks at a slower pace than that!)
There were a few significant things I did different during this training cycle, a few of which had me convinced this would probably be a SLOW race for me:
1. I did about 95% of my training runs on the treadmill, and the vast majority of those were at a 0% incline, because I’m lazy and hate hills.
2. I had that dumb 2-month cough that interrupted my training a bit over the summer.
3. I started doing halfhearted speedwork (400m sprints and Higdon-style tempo runs) this time around.
Maybe it was number 3 that made the biggest difference, who knows! I think maybe doing my 10-milers on the treadmill may have helped me in ways – I did take walk breaks during them, but they kind of taught me to hold a consistent pace and keep going (whereas when I run them outdoors my pace goes all over the place). I am a notorious hater of hills as well, and while this course isn’t totally flat (there are a lot of mild undulations and a few gradual uphill slogs), there are no giant ego-crushing monster hills like there are at NODM and Seattle RnR. I think as a result of that I was able to run every step of this half marathon and didn’t take a single walk break – that’s a first for me!
The day before the race we hauled our crap on the boat over to Victoria and hit up the expo first thing to get it out of the way, then wandered around being touristy for awhile. We ended up going to one of the several Irish pubs downtown to carb load – and the pasta at the Garrick’s Head Pub was actually pretty fantastic! I also had probably the best cider I’ve ever tried.
Dusk was falling as we wandered back in the direction of our hotel and though I’ve been to Victoria countless times I couldn’t resist snapping some of the typical touristy photos. Our route went by the Parliament building and we stopped by the finish line that was still getting set up, on the road right out in front of the building:
I was up at the miserably early hour of 5:30am and promptly chugged coffee and got dressed. One advantage of having a hotel so close to the race start was that I didn’t have to use the portapotties, but rather the warm hotel bathroom… yesssssss. It was FRIGID and I decided to keep my long-sleeved running top on, even though I know I’m my own little furnace and odds were good that I’d be tying it around my waist at some point. After a rousing rendition of “O, Canada” (ha it had never occurred to me up until that point that other countries might, you know, sing their own anthems before sporting events) we were off!
It’s been kind of a trend now with my last few halfs (halves?) that I feel really stiff and awkward for the first mile or so and wonder what I’ve gotten myself into, but this is probably more because I don’t usually run at 7:30 in the morning. This race was no different and as we looped around the parliament buildings and up by the harbor I felt like I was running through jello, but I was still passing people pretty consistently. I remember glancing down at the Garmin somewhere around here and seeing a sub-9-min-mile pace. Oops!
I was yanking my overshirt off by mile 2. I should have known I wouldn’t need it! It became my awkward waist buddy from that point on, flapping against the back of my legs for the remainder of the race. You’d think I would have learned my lesson after last year, but noooooooo…
Somewhere in the first few miles, as we were going up a hill, I passed a guy in a wheelchair who was wearing a racing bib. This wasn’t a sport wheelchair though, this was a regular old standard wheelchair, and he was wheeling himself along the course. I couldn’t help but be impressed by how hardcore that was. I can’t imagine propelling myself through 13.1 miles with my arms!
The course takes its first real uphill jaunt into a few loops around a pretty big park right about mile 3.5 or 4. I only really remember this because I took my first Gu at mile 3.5 and also because I hit the 5k mark in the park at a number not far off from my PR, which was a little scary, but I was feeling good so I just went with it. The uphill sections were a little slow but I just kept putting my feet to the ground and trying to take quick, short steps.
Coming out of the park we hit the long section of road that travels right along the coast of the Strait of Juan de Fuca:
This part is all fairly downhill/flat (but is part of an out and back, so what goes down must go up in this case) and easy to just plow through. The sun was in our faces a bit and I kind of wished I’d brought along my runglasses. Also, the signs that said “water stop ahead” along this part might as well have said “slip and slide zone ahead” in my Pureflows… man I love those shoes, but they do not grip a wet road at all! This part of the race went really quickly though and before I knew it we were curving up a slight hill into the residential part of the race, which winds through some neighborhoods before looping around at a turnaround point shortly before mile 8. I vaguely remembered this part from last year but couldn’t remember exactly where the turnaround was and kept hoping to see it just around the next bend (which is always annoying when it ISN’T). I kept looking at my watch here as well and seeing numbers I totally did not expect, not to mention the fact that I was way ahead of pace to hit my goal of 2:10. But I still felt good and just kept going with it!
At mile 7 I took Gu #2 and shortly after that hit the turnaround. I have a memory from this part of the course with Laurel last year – she wanted to take an extra long walk break as we ate GUs, so we walked and enjoyed knowing we were more than halfway done. This year I rolled on through and back through the residential part of the course. I remembered at this point last year Laurel and I started to see the super-fast elite full marathoners (and the guy in a business suit) and realized I wasn’t seeing any this year yet… probably because I was running quite a bit faster this year!
I popped back out onto the road running by the water for the “back” portion and set myself down for the uphills I knew were coming. On one of them a guy was standing outside his house with cups on a tray, and as runners would reach for them he’d yell “it’s not water!” At that point I saw his sign – FREE BEER! Haha. I allllllmost went for it, but you know, nothing new on race day and all that.
I saw the guy in the wheelchair again around this point going the other way – still chugging along! SO HARDCORE. Huge props for that guy, I was tired and his arms must have been killing him.
At mile 10 I took my final GU (I didn’t do a 3rd one at NODM or Seattle RnR and felt pretty dead in the last few miles, so figured I should go ahead with it this time) and chugged up the gradual uphills back in the direction of the park (which thankfully we would run by instead of looping around again).
I kept seeing faster times than I expected on my watch and going holy crap, well, ok! The race had seemed to go by pretty fast up to this point but I was starting to get tired (the complete lack of walk breaks probably also contributed to this) and time began to drag. We hit a long downhill in mile 12 (see my Garmin’s clocking above) and I tried to use it to my advantage and just blitzed it, passing a bunch of people in the process. I knew once I got through this mile we’d twist through a few windy streets and then be heading straight for the finish, which was a part I remember being really fun last year, but last year I wasn’t racing faster than I ever have before for the distance. I tried to distract myself and cranked my music as I came off the bottom of the hill and headed into the final mile, just trying to keep my feet chugging. (sorry to the spectators who saw me dancing like a dork!)
As we moved into the final winding streets I spotted a photographer – right after I coughed in front of him, which he so kindly preserved on film for me:
After a final annoying hill there was the 800m to go sign (of course all I could think was agh, that’s half a mile!) and further down I could see the row of flags over the course! I tried to pick up the pace but my feet felt like rocks. And there was the finish, so close and yet so far away – but I could see the clock counting down and knew that unless I totally biffed it I was going to shatter my goal of hitting 2:10. I tried to give it all I had and crossed the finish with pretty much nothing left to spare.
I found Laurel on the sidelines shortly after and showed her the frozen face of my Garmin with my shiny new PR plastered across it:
She wasn’t allowed into the immediate recovery area so I collected my medal, grabbed the free milk and bananas and etc, and worked my way through the masses to reunite with her and gimp-walk up to the same waffle place we hit up after the race last year for the best recovery breakfast evaaaa.
Afterward we walked back to the hotel (well she walked and I shuffled) where she rubbed my legs down (having massage therapist friends = bonus!) and I had a nice soak with a Lush bath bomb, which unfortunately had the side effect of giving me a raging migraine for a few hours (memo to self, drink more water and don’t immediately suck all the moisture out of your body with hot water next time) but I recovered in time for us to go out for a dericious recovery meal and drinks later that afternoon. We spent an additional day in Victoria just being touristy and enjoying not having to rush back home… and in all it was a great weekend, a fantastic PR race (I’d probably call this my favorite course ever at this point), and full of all the fattening delicious carbs my stomach could ever desire!