The owls were hooting outside the window when the alarm went off this morning. I’m not sure what they felt they needed to say to each other, but they kept at it for almost an hour until dawn lightened the sky.
It was overcast, and chilly. Excellent. Yesterday, sitting in the SB Running parking lot (passing out race packets), I was too hot, and I was afraid for the race.
Rusty wanted me to do a 3 mile warmup, strides, and then start easy. My whole pace group was supposed to start out at 6:35, marathon pace. Which should be easy, except, of course, the first two miles of the half are up-hill. So it wasn’t quite as easy as all that.
Still, we were a very companionable little group. Chrystee, Michelle, Jeff and Laura (Yay! we haven’t seen her in a month!), we lined up behind Drea’s little group (Drea, Tim, Jamie, Mike). Eric was there too, but although normally part of our group, he was going for a faster start than the rest of us.
I noted with some glee that Shiggy did not appear to be here today. Perhaps I’ll win my age-group? If not today, then never. I’m the youngster in the group, and I’m pretty sure that Shiggy is the only one of our local runners who can beat me in a half… so if he’s not here…
When the gun went off, it was hard to hold back — I kept wanting to run with Drea. After a bit I was running beside Tim a bit behind from Drea, and asked why he wasn’t running with her. “She’s going too fast,” said he. Oops. Chastened, I dropped back a bit.
We were chatting together as we went up the hill. Novel. I’m not used to chatting in a half. In a marathon, yes. And I guess I’m going at marathon pace, so it makes sense.
At the 1 mile mark I discovered that I had failed to start my watch when we crossed the chip mat. I start it now. All it displayed was that my heart rate at about 85% — which seemed reasonable on a hill. Chrystee says 6:23, and then corrects herself to 6:33.
Drea is being paced by two out of town women. I worry a little about that. I want Drea to win. I want Chrystee to place. Michelle too. I don’t want out of towners in the top spots.
The male leaders are beyond my ken already, but the women leads are all around me.
One (out of town) woman, breathing very heavily, passes us. I think she’s going way too hard. And a mile or two later we pass her again. Breathing even more heavily.
Laura says she’s feeling poorly and is speculating that when we run past her house (somewhere along here) she’ll just run inside and stop racing. I tell her not to do that.
At the two mile mark the previous mile was 6:40, and I shout to the others that we need to speed up. Chrystee and Jeff both point out that it was an uphill mile and 6:40 is just fine.
I realize that Mike is running with us. Normally he runs with Drea, but he seems to be happy to hold our pace for now. Then Kent comes up from behind. Kent likes to start slow and speed up, he is nominally in our group too, and for now he seems happy to be part of our clump.
As we climb up Mesa Lane, I hear a father, who is spectating, explain to his daughter “It’s alright, they are allowed to run fast in the street.” Mmm. Yes, he probably doesn’t want his three year old out running in the street.
As we run we switch places, we’re a rather loose clump, sometimes one person will be in front, sometimes we’ll be in a long line across the street, sometimes a different person will be in front. Hmm. When we do tempo runs we’re not usually in so much flux… I wonder what’s different today.
We’re up on Cliff now, real traffic beside us for the first time. We have one lane of the Cliff’s four, so we’ve got a fair amount of room.
And here is the three mile mark. 6:27. 🙂 I guess Jeff and Chrystee were right, we didn’t need to try to speed up, it just happened when we got away from the steep hills. Behind me Jeff says, “We can speed up now!”, and I do.
I’m testing something on this race. I want to eat GU on the marathon course — one every half hour or so, just as I did in the ultras this summer. But I’m not sure how well that will work. I’m running a lot faster than I was then, it’s harder to manipulate things at high speed. So I’m testing to see if this idea will work. I’ve got a small belt pouch with 3 GU packages in it. I haven’t reached the first half hour yet, but I know there is a water stop coming up, and I want to drink after the GU.
I can’t find the zipper on the pouch, so I rotate it round to the front and discover the zipper is on the wrong side from what I was expecting. I open it in front of me, extract a GU pack, and rezip, and rotate it back. Seems to have worked. Then I eat the GU. I hold the packaging in my hand until the water stop, dump it in a trash can, grab a cup, and go off.
At the 4 mile mark I see 6:03. Oh dear. Way too fast. I got excited. Of course it is a downhill mile, but still too fast. Nice that I could do that while manipulating the GU and going through a water stop. So I think the system is working. But I do slow down a bit. It’s still a downhill mile, but I don’t want to go that fast again.
Footsteps behind me. Jeff? No, Kent. He passes me. Kent has gotten faster recently (and I have gotten slower) — in fact, this will be the first race we’ve run together where he has beaten me, but from the way he’s been running in workouts it is not surprising.
We’ve looped back down to the starting area again, and Nichol and her kids are on the side of the road cheering us on (They’ve made up several signs, the one being displayed now says “Go George!”, 🙂 ).
No longer downhill. There’s a certain jerk when I hit the flat level ground and I have to remind myself to slow. I can’t run that fast on the flat — or I can’t run that fast and still run another 8 miles…
At the 5 mile mark I see my pace was 6:19. Oh.
I had hoped it would be faster than that. Somehow. Foolishly. I was hoping I could run 6:20s for the rest of the race. But it doesn’t look like it. If I could only do 6:20 on that downhill, there is no way I’ll maintain it for the next 8 miles. Sigh.
I don’t adjust my pace, because I’ve already slowed to what feels right for the flat, but I do adjust my expectations. Pity. In the back of my mind there was the faint hope of a PR. Gone now. I’m still nursing the hope of a PR for this course — my previous best (here) was a 6:30 pace, and I think I’m a little bit faster than that. But we’ll see.
Suddenly the bushes beside me erupt and there is Eric.
Hunh? How did he get behind me? I thought he was ahead?
He had to use the port-a-potty. Oh dear, that is not a good sign for him. You don’t stop in the middle of a race unless things are fairly grim. Still he passes me and moves ahead.
At the next water stop I observe that Kent does not know how to drink. He slows, and I pass him. Not that I am that great at it — I often end gasping for breath with my head swimming, or coughing and then gasping — but I don’t slow as much as he does.
At mile six (State St.) my pace is 6:24. This does not feel bad. I’ll bet I can maintain this. Excellent, looks like I’m on track for a personal course record. Well, it’s something. And maybe an age-graded PR?
At mile seven (before Milpas) my pace is 6:23. Looks good.
Jamie and Kent come up from behind and pass me again. Sigh.
Coming up to mile 8, 6:24.
I am passing Eric now (he must be feeling awful if I can pass him). As I pass I tell him “You know you are faster than I, come on.” and he sadly replies “Not today.” Poor guy.
I make myself look up as we go past the bird-sanctuary. Seeing mountains across the lake is probably my favorite view on this race. Little spots of clouds dot the mountains and the sun is shining now, but I’m in shade.
Here is the race leader, preceded by Rusty on the bike, it’s Aaron Sharp (Haven’t seen him for a couple of years…).
No one else is visible for the return.
There’s another water stop coming up, time to do my little GU dance. Again it works. And again I get to pass Kent as he slows to drink. He needs to learn how to do that. Or at least how to do it better.
And now uphill again. Not nearly as hard a climb as up to the Mesa, but I’m tired now. And then down the other side. Oh, no! Up again. I had forgotten that. Sigh. and mile 9 is at the top of the hill. (6:25) And then down again to the turn around. Urg. Then we do turn around and reverse the process. So many bumpy little hills.
Meanwhile I saw 3 guys I didn’t know on their return journey, and then Ricky in 5th place. Then I lost count. Tim. Drea is the first woman, and then Sara next — must have missed Sara at the start (Mmm. Maybe she was one of the two running with Drea and I didn’t recognize her from the back). Out of town women have vanished, I guess I passed them all.
Now I turn and get to see who is behind me. Chrystee is much closer than I had hoped, Jeff, Michelle and, yes, Laura are all back there. And many more people. I try to greet everyone I know, but I don’t have much breath and I have to give that up and resort to a thumbs up gesture.
It now amazes me how many people I do know in a race. As the pack gets denser I don’t always see everyone, but they see me and cheer me on. 🙂
Down the last hill now and here’s mile 10. 6:32. Gleep! Well, it was a hilly mile that’s ok, I guess.
Through the water station again in the other direction, I decide that at this point drinking is pointless, and has a fair likelyhood of causing a coughing fit.
Then the long slog back. I’m tired now. And the little hill going up to mile 11 seems interminable. And I ran it in 6:40? Yuck! that’s appalling. I’ll have to speed up.
Chrystee told me later that at one point she thought she was going to catch me. I bet it was on this stretch.
A car pulls out of a parking lot, and almost runs over the guy in front of me. There was a break in the stream of runners from the other direction and I guess the driver just wasn’t expecting anyone from ours. There aren’t many runners ahead of me…
Someone passes me. I learn later he is Tim Townsend. He passes, but this is exactly what I need, and I don’t let him pull away. I dog his footsteps. After a bit he notices and begins encouraging me.
Bike path now. With people strolling and biking, so it’s a bit of an obstacle course.
Seems to go on for ever.
Finally a change, here’s mile 12, and State St. with it’s jumble of traffic. Nice. 6:25! Thank you Tim. Back on track.
Do I really have to keep pushing? Can’t I let the pace drop? I’m tired. No one important is going to catch me. I can just coast in now.
No. I. Can’t.
I don’t know who is behind. There might be another 50 year old. There is Chrystee.
Past the swimming pool.
Tim is starting to catch up with the guy in front. And I am too.
As we pass the harbor road a large truck tries to run us over.
But stops in time.
As we make the final twist I manage to catch the guy ahead, but when we turn the corner and he sees the finish line and pulls away from me again. I don’t have anything left to fight with.
Rusty is directing traffic, when he sees me go by he tells me to catch the guy ahead. I feel like strangling him. I just lost that race.
The line is getting closer. I do pull a little closer to the guy ahead, but I’m not going to catch him, I know.
1:24:25 says the clock as I run toward it. 1:24:30. 1:24:34 and it’s gone and I’m done.
So about half a minute faster than my previous best time here, but probably not an age-graded PR. (I learn later that I fell short of an age graded PR by 0.06%. Almost.)
Then I learn who Tim is, and who the guy between us is (and that neither is in my age-group), and the guy who was behind me explains that he would have caught me if he’d known where mile 13 was, but because it was unmarked he started his sprint too late. He’s a bit put out.
And here’s Chrystee (half a minute after me). And Eric, two minutes after me, poor guy, but he hung in there. And Michelle. Jeff. Laura. (Kent finished half a minute ahead of me). My group!
I go congratulate Drea and Sara and …
I look at the posted results. I’m 27th, time 1:24:31 (right, it’s a chip race, I guess I was further from the start than I thought). And oh damn, I didn’t win my age-group. I’m second. Someone from out of town beat me by 25 seconds. Oh well.
And then, change shoes, and drag myself up the hill again for another four miles. But these are extremely slow miles. I waited long enough to get really stiff, and can barely hobble up the hill (Chrystee thinks I’m damaged, but I don’t feel off (and believe me I have felt off a lot recently), just really tired). As I go, I start to smooth out. Some anyway. But I’m still going excruciatingly slowly.
Eventually that ends. Roughly 20 miles today. Not a bad training run. 4 weeks to the marathon!