Saturday I ran my first race. I heard about it last minute via Facebook and signed up on a whim. There was also a 5k and 10k option. Everyone started at this same time as there were only about 75 runners max. The race starts at the end of the road(there are two main roads in Sitka) at Herring Cove and goes past the Medvejie Hatchery and turns around at the power house. The entire course is on a dirt/gravel road which is usually gated off to the general public. For a town having only 30 miles of city road I chose to run an impromptu race on the one portion of road I had never run. Generally this race course is different and much easier, but due to blasting on the side of the road it was changed up this year. I was told it would "not be flat", which turned out to be true. My main goal was to not come dead last.
My boyfriend came with me and took the dog, Maggie on a hike on the Herring Cove/Beaver Lake trail while the race was going on. As soon as we drove up I was looking for a spot in the bushes to empty my bladder. I tend to find the greatest places to pee with the best view. Right after I came out from the bushes looking onto the ocean DBF informed me there was a Porti-poti.
The race race started about 15 minutes late due to the road construction. The RD got everyone's attention by blowing a bear-noise maker and gave a few quick instructions. And with a "GO!" we were off.
My pacing strategy for this race went like this: I thought a sub 2 hour finish would be nice. So the morning of as I was running out the door late I looked up what the splits would be for a 1:55:00 finish. Which turns out to be about 8:50/mile. I don't own a Garmin, run by feel and use a Timex to see how long I run. I also had no clue what sort of race course this was going to be. After "Go!" I took off and set out at what felt like a comfortable-tempo pace. The RD was kind enough to have a cone marking Mile One, where I found out I ran the first mile at 7:44. Oops. After the first mile I start noticing a bit of hills and around mile 2 I am coming to understand that I need to slow down quite a bit as I am already feeling some discomfort. At mile 1.55 the 5k races turn around.
To mile 3.1, where the 10k-ers turn around I kept a few runners in my sight while reminding myself to keep to my pace, not theirs. Honestly after the 5k turn around I don't remember many details. The hills were long and had a good grade to them. Now, I am one of those special people who actually enjoy hills. But these were not the typical "trail hills" I am used to. There were not roots or rocks to watch out for. Only bear scat. The same D-1 gravel mile after mile. Some of the hills were shorter, but there were a number of hills that seemed to go on for a while.
I ran the majority of the race alone, especially after the 10k turn around. There was a lady a bit behind me that I kept looking back to see where she was at in relation to me. She was my motivation to not walk. As I was really starting to feel some pain the first half-marathoner passed me on his way back, Here I started counting people. I had no clue how many people were in the 1/2, but I did know that I was about #15-ish on the sign up sheet. As I crossed paths with more and more runners it was hopeful feeling that the turn around was near. But of course, not after another killer hill. When I finally reached the power house I turned around the cone and headed back up. At this point I had counted 13 other runners ahead of me.
Here I would pass the lady who was still close behind me, and then pass by a number of other runners. I soon lost count, not because there were so many runners, but because I was giving myself a constant pep talk to "get up the damn hill". It was really great passing by people. Every single person said some form of encouragement. And I always returned it. I think these miles of crossing the paths of other 1/2-ers my pace really picked up. But eventually I heard foot steps behind me and within a few minutes the lady who was my motivation to keep running passed by me. Right after she passed I walked for about 45 seconds. I would never catch her again, but no one else ever caught me either. Putting me in 15th.
I really had no clue how far I had to go. I had an idea of how fast/slow I was running and tried to estimate how much further. When I reached the Mile 5 AS I thought "Okay, 5 miles to go, you've got this". And from there, the count down was on. I kept peaking at my watch seeing the time elapse and compared it to my guess at the distance left. When I reached the 10k turn around I realized a sub 2 was still in the air if I didn't puss out and walk again. By the 5k turn around I knew I had it if I didn't A.) eat shit(I kept tripping over nothing, air) or B.) get mauled by a bear(who frequent the hatchery where the 5k turn around was). At this point I was counting down 1/4 miles.
Now, the finish for the 1/2 had to be made .1 mile longer than the finish for the other races. This was because we literally ran to the end of the road. So to get 13.1 miles you had to pass the start/finish line and then turn up into the parking lot. Here I gave it everything, I mean everything I had. There was a small up into the parking lot, which compared to the rest of the course was nothing, but it was the hardest hill ever. I passed the finish line with trying to keep up my "kick" and finished in 1:57:09.
A few things to add:
-At the beginning, even before the 5k turn around my guts did this really great thing where they turned inside out, knotted themselves up into a really tight ball and then continued to bounce around my stomach for 2 hours. It was really, really... wonderful. I have never experienced cramps like that ever while running. This was not your typical side stitch.
-At 62 degrees this was the hottest weather I had run in since....well since before I became a consistent runner over a year ago and probably since high school.
-With the race distance this week is my highest ever weekly mileage.
A few of the many things I learned:
-While I finished where I wanted to, my pacing is terrible.
-I can't drink from a dixie cup and run at the same time.
-It's amazing how quickly I became a wuss when it comes to "heat".
-I'm a bit competitive.
-I'm really thankful for aid stations. I was looking forward to them(only H2O and Gatorade) and the people who were there cheering me on.
-I do really have a sub 2 in me, giving me a bit of encouragement for my marathon at the beginning of August.
-I should take the day off work after my marathon as I was dragging ass all day at work after.
Also, to put some numbers to this hills, here's the Elevation Profile:
Elevation: +7799.6 ft / -7784 ft / net: 15.6 ft.
You are more than welcome to look at my log, I believe I have the map for this race view-able to anyone.
Just as a coincidence, when DBF and I went out on the boat yesterday, we actually went into the bay on this end of town and I got a few pictures of where I would unknowingly be running before my camera died. The race is along the left side of the picture, following the shore. Sadly the runners view was 98% limited to gavel and trees, rarely seeing the water.
Here I am after the finish throwing a stick for Maggie. Actually this was my wonderful "bathroom" view right before the start of the race(as if you really wanted to know that). I kept trying to stretch my hips out which is why I look as if I am strutting my stuff.
Awesome job on a last minute race!!!! Was this your first half or just first in awhile? I couldn't imagine running a half without some sort of garmin or knowledge of how I was doing - I would go nuts...
speaking of garmin, do you want one? I have an older model that I don't use anymore. Can't promise the longevity of it, but it was good for me. You are welcome to have it if you like!
Great job!! I'm so impressed you were able to do so well on such short notice! Great pics too!
Wow, you are speedy! Sounds like a super tough race and you rocked it, especially after starting out faster than you wanted. Looks like some gorgeous scenery up there too!
Nice job on the half marathon! I'm impressed that you're so speedy! I once ran a 12k that only had eight runners. I came in dead last by a long shot, but it was super fun! Also, Alaska looks amazing!
Thanks guys! I had a really good time. It was low key, no awards or anything, just a run. It's interesting running and not knowing how much further I have. I've never ran with a gps, but I also just come home and see how far I ran, not run for a certain distance. It was interesting running for a distance and seeing the time.
OU- This was my first race ever. If your don't want the Garmin, I'll try it out. And if I end up not using it I can pass it along to another runner.
Seattle- That's so funny about a 12k with only 8 runners! That would be hard to not come in last!
Nice job Snowden! Sounds like a really tough half but now you know you can do it.