Victoria BC Canada half marathon 10/13/13

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:

That there is also a 10k PR!

That there is also a 10k PR!

WHAT. Just WHAT. How the crap did I pull that off?! Even more astounding to me was Henry the Garmin’s report:

Holy poop!

Holy poop!

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!

not flat, not ridiculously hilly. Think this is my new favorite course, sorry NODM.

not flat, not ridiculously hilly. Think this is my new favorite course, sorry NODM.

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.

delicious, delicious carb loading and the BEST CIDER EVER AMG

delicious, delicious carb loading and the BEST CIDER EVER AMG

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:

The Parliament building (top, where the race started/finished) and the ivy-covered Empress Hotel

The Parliament building (top, where the race started/finished) and the ivy-covered Empress Hotel

See you tomorrow, finish line.

See you tomorrow, finish line.

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:

A good section of the course is out along the water like this - it's beauuuuuuutiful. And you can see my hometown across the way!

A good section of the course is out along the water like this – it’s beauuuuuuutiful. And you can see my hometown across the way!

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).

Heading up one of the longish moderate hills in mile 11

Heading up one of the longish moderate hills in mile 11, on the “back” part of the out and back

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:

I noticed him right after this and was like oh great..

I noticed him right after this and was like oh great.. also, charming sweat mark there!

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.

Apparently it took me 3+ min to cross the start line!

Apparently it took me 3 min to cross the start line!

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:

I just noticed you can see Gu on my arm from where I wiped my mouth. Hot

I just noticed you can see Gu on my arm from where I wiped my mouth. Hot

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.

We've done this twice, it's now a tradition.

We’ve done this twice, it’s now a tradition.

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!

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NODM half marathon race report

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!

so cloooose.. kind of

weird, I was ahead of the mile markers until mile 12, and suddenly I was almost .3 behind at the end? I think the course was a bit long cause I definitely ran more than a tenth of a mile after the marker for 13!

My official results - I blacked out my last name because of reasons.

My official results – I beat over half the people, inconceivable!

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?)

derp, accidentally started my watch again for a few seconds getting into my car

My heart didn’t love the sun either:

welp, I'm glad it didn't explode I guess! My max HR per all those calculators is 189, sooo I was working pretty hard out there

welp, I’m glad it didn’t explode I guess! My max HR per all those calculators is 189, sooo I was working pretty hard out there

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:

Right after I crossed the finish line feeling hot and tired but pretty happy

Right after I crossed the finish line feeling hot and tired but pretty happy

Being shuttled through the finish chute by my "finish line buddy" (every racer gets one) who had a lot of questions about my Newtons

Being shuttled through the finish chute by my “finish line buddy” (every racer gets one) who had a lot of questions about my Newtons

My dad and I. Always hated my bow legs!

My dad and I. Always hated my bow legs!

Mom and I :) Not sure how she could stand to wear that coat, I was roasting!

Mom and I :) Not sure how she could stand to wear that coat, I was roasting!

This year's medal looks kind of like a Christmas ornament... I liked the previous years' better

This year’s medal looks kind of like a Christmas ornament… I liked previous years‘ better

The only official race photo of me (the photogs kind of sucked... they only had one photographer at the finish line and that was it!) - think I was looking for my folks in the crowd

The only official race photo of me (the photogs were kind of disappointing… they only had one photographer at the finish line and that was it!) – think I was looking for my folks in the crowd

I found myself in the background of someone else's photo and I'm just glad I'm not gumby-legging it

I found myself in the background of someone else’s photo and I’m just glad I’m not gumby-legging it

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.

Miles 1-3ish

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.

Miles 4-7ish

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…

Miles 7-9ish

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.

Miles 9-finish

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!

A new 5k PR (somehow) – the Firecracker 5000 5k

I know I haven’t posted my RnR recap yet, but just wanted to mention I ran the Firecracker 5000 July 3rd and 4th (it starts at 11:55pm July 3rd and runs into the 4th, obvs) and even though it was kind of a hilly course and I hadn’t run since the Seattle RnR half, I managed to beat my old 5k time, coming in under 29 minutes with a time of 28:52… and Henry the Garmin actually measured the course a little long, too! I think this is all speed by weight loss and not related at all to how I’ve been training, which is sucktacular.

weee!

I somehow went sub-8 min-mile in the last tenth of the race o_O

The race itself was fun though; I wore a statue of liberty crown thing (my brother took a picture of me getting ready and posted it to facebook… thanks bro >_>)

I fail at costumes

my room is kind of a mess.

There were a TON of other folks dressed up, so I didn’t feel too overly ridiculous. This guy must have been SOO COLD:

seriously!

for reals, it was FREEZING!

I think I arrived a bit too early (half marathon habits and all) as I had to stand around and freeze for about an hour before the race started, and ended up putting on my longsleeved NODM shirt to stay warm, which covered my bib during the race… oh well. We ran by a bunch of bars on the route and drunken patrons had come out to watch us run by and cheer, which was fun. My Statue of Liberty crown hat thing managed to stay in place during the entire run as well, and there was a nice long gradual downhill at the very end that I was able to pick up some speed on. I was actually kind of surprised to PR given the several crappy hills in this race… but I’ll take it! Maybe I have a sub-28 in me somewhere?

wee!

annnnd we’re off! The watermark on these photos is so annoying

chug chug

in hindsight, I should have taken off the red overshirt in the starting chute, oh well… I was trying to hold it up so my bib was visible

blarg

man, my legs look so chunky in some photos…

Green Lake Gobble 5k recap

Finally! A long-standing goal of mine has been crushed – namely, finishing a 5k in an official time under 30 minutes. At long last I pulled it off in this race, clocking in exactly 3.1 miles (per Henry the Garmin) in 29:27.

To be fair, Green Lake is pretty much mostly flat with only just a few very gently rolling hills, and the weather was COLD (about 31 degrees at the time we started!) which also usually makes me run a little faster. I even somehow overdressed – I wore my Brooks running fleece from RnR Seattle last year over a long-sleeve Nike top and I actually got a little over-warm (also had gloves and a running beanie, which I thought would be good due to the temps, but I ended up yanking off the gloves sometime during mile 2). I did push into the uncomfortable zone but I think overall I probably have it in me to go even faster, though that would require “visting the pain cave” as they say.

Also, they just posted race photos and LOL I think this is quite possibly the most flattering picture of me ever:

Ironically I actually didn't feel as bad as this photo suggests

Of course, that’s also the ONLY photo they got of me…

I started off the race checking my watch neurotically to make sure I was sticking around the pace I wanted (I was shooting for 9:30) and had to keep reining myself in the first mile – I would glance down and see numbers like 9:08, 8:56, 9:15. I eventually settled in behind a tall older fellow in a blue track suit who was chugging along right about exactly where I wanted to be and let him pace me for a little while.

After a while, though, I glanced at Henry and realized track suit guy had fallen off pace and was going around a 10:03 clip. I picked it up a bit and trotted on by him to do my own thing.I was actually getting pretty warm (somehow) and made myself wait until 1.55 miles (exactly halfway!) before unzipping the necks on both my fleece and Nike long-sleeve shirt underneath, and the rush of cold air on my neck felt awesome.

Mile 2 is usually one of the worst for me – on my route at home, it’s the hilliest, so I inevitably slow down for this mile, and I think my body is used to taking a little break. As such mile 2 was my slowest of the race at 9:40 average. I kept glancing down and reminding myself that if I wanted to hit my goal, I was going to have to work for it and not slack off. Strangely though I never hit the “I feel like death” mode that I usually do during a race – I was working, and keeping my feet moving (and “running tall,” a piece of advice I read on the McMillan site a week or so ago), but I felt strong the whole time. (I’m kind of shocked considering how random and inconsistent my training has been lately.)

We hit the 3rd mile and I knew I had to keep it up and finish strong. I kept repeating my posture-helping tips over and over in my head and focusing on keeping my feet moving quick and my shoulders back and tall. With around .6 of a mile to go I drew next to another girl and she sped up to keep stride with me, and we ran side by side for a few minutes until she dropped back with about two tenths of a mile to go. I picked up the pace again , summoning whatever I had left, and when I hit mile marker 3 I sprinted as best I could (OK, maybe I did feel a little like death right at this part) to the finish, stopping Henry the Garmin right after the mats in 29:30!

Then there was the obligatory stand-there-breathing-like-a-freight-train-while-getting-your-chip-cut-off-your-shoe moment, and I staggered over to the food booths to snag a banana and a bottle of water, feeling very accomplished. Achievement unlocked!

I guess my next goal should be to go even faster, eh? And perhaps even train a little more consistently ;)