It seems that the theme of this past summer has carried over into the fall—that theme, being, complete and total race/running spontaneity. I suppose this comes with the territory of not being extra strict with training or having a huge A race on the horizon… two things of which are my typical M.O. 24/7.
My broadly stated goal this fall was the work on speed, and while there is/was a tangible goal time I’m working toward, it’s been fairly loosey goosey around these parts for the past few months.
Which is why, when asked on a Tuesday if I wanted to run a half-marathon (The Salty Half) that following Saturday, it took me all of a few minutes to happily accept. Those who know me wouldn’t think that this was an exceptionally random decision, with the small caveat that I’m running another half this coming weekend, the Snohomish River Run. I couldn’t pass this one up though; not only was it $22 and included the company of these two, the start line was about a half mile from my house.
That said, I knew that I’d have to choose one of the two races to actually race and one to fun run. Since the Salty Half was a last minute decision, less official, and wouldn’t be tapered for whatsoever, I decided to take it easier on this one. Anddd, that actually didn’t end up being the case, but we’ll get to that later.
Saturday morning bright (dark) and early, I trotted down the hill to meet Lindsay and Nicole at the start line. There were just under 100 people running the race, so it was easy and casual—not timing chips or mats. It was super foggy, probably 85-90% humidity, but it was brisk and cold which is always my jam.
I had very little plan in terms of race execution. I wanted to save race pace for the next weekend, but I also know myself well enough to know I would want to compete a little. And considering the size of this race…I knew I could probably do fairly well if I tried. So, upon starting, I decided to just feel out the first few miles and settle wherever I felt comfortable. I knew for sure I wanted to go for a fast finish, so the only plan really was to save some for the end.
I settled into a group of two girls and a dude running a ~7:45 pace, which felt super comfortable. We were continually switching spots in the pack, and it was the first time I really understood to concept of “doing the work” in a pace group. I took the lead a few times, but otherwise I decided to just stick with this group so long as the pace felt manageable.
The course circled around Alki beach to Lincoln Park, which is my normal long run 80% of the time. Needless to say, I knew every upcoming turn and divet in the road, which meant I didn’t need to worry about course surprises.
We dropped one of the girls around mile 5, and then it was primarily another gal and me side-by-side, nearly stride-for-stride. She introduced herself, thanked me for the company, and we kept on like that for nearly 3 miles. It was the perfect silent runner agreement: You keep me going, and I’ll keep you going.
The turnaround in Lincoln Park was right at the halfway point (out and back course) and my legs felt good. I admit, I heard the siren sound of the race atmosphere get a little louder, and I started to think about executing a kick.
As we exited Lincoln Park (~5 miles to go), my new friend fell back a bit, and since I felt great, I kept on at the same clip. To go from having lots of fellow-runner support around me to instantly having no one was weird. Crazy how simply having someone to share the miles, fatigue, and pace with can make such a difference.
I was in a bit of a conundrum at this point. I knew I was the current 5th overall female (they were giving out prizes out to 5th place), and I (obviously) liked the idea of a top-5 finish. I also knew that the girl behind me could be thinking the same thing, and playing an A+ game of letting me take an early lead. I went back and forth or whether I should slow down, speed up, or stay where I was. It was the first time I’ve ever actively thought about placing strategy in a race. Kind of fun! But stressful. I ultimately decided that since the pace I was at felt good, I would stick with it. If she caught me, I’d let her go by, and I’d save the chase for the final few miles.
Between miles 10 and 11, a familiar face strode up beside me; my friend Charles was out for his weekend long run and I filled him in on the spontaneous race decision and my current position. Charles is faster than me, and when he offered to help me ward off the girl behind and nab a top-five finish, I was 100% on board. He told me to tell him what felt pace manageable, and we’d hold that until the end.
And so we ran. I attempted to chat, but he made me save my breath while he distracted me with his own stories. Around 11.5, I started hurting some, but I was determined to keep stride with Charles and finish the race strong.
It was a little hard to determine exactly who around us was running the race and who wasn’t, since it wasn’t a closed course and there were tons of people out, both racers and non-racers. So, when Charles asked if a girl about 200 yards ahead was the 4th place female, I wasn’t sure. He said we could catch her if I wanted, and with a nod, we were on the hunt. Sure enough, once we passed, he verified that she was wearing a bib and I was now in 4th place. There was less than a mile to go now, and I was feeling both anxious to finish and determined to keep on my game face.
I have a fairly instinctual finishing kick, which comes I think from my track days, but also from my ingrained competitiveness. With a half mile or so to go, without even realizing it, we were passing another girl, and Charles turned to me and said the most Robyn-Broker-esque motivation there is: “You’re in third now, and you have to prove it.”
So, with my aching legs and screeching lungs, I officially kicked my “fun run” intentions to the curb, opened my stride, and gutted it out—determined for my first “podium” finish.
(Side note: The nice thing about having a pacer is that they can check and see the progress of the person behind you)
With the finish line in sight, I gave it everything I had, only to be directed into a mini-turnaround and loop to the actual finish line (way to throw off our momentum guys!). Charles took off running on his own, I squawked out a thanks, and ran my way to cinch the 3rd place female spot.
Unofficial finish time: 1:40:06 for 13.2 miles
Hooray! I was awarded a huge plastic fish with a “Third Place” tag on it as soon as I finished, along with a “Salty Half Marathon” sweat towel. Sweet!
*FYI, the race has self-declared “messed up” the places and timing on their results page, which they promised to fix. Just in case anyone decided to lurk 🙂
After thoughts: Obviously, this wasn’t exactly the relaxed race I intended it to be. Did I shoot myself in the foot though for this upcoming weekend? Not necessarily. Yes, it was a harder effort than I intended, but with the exception of the last three miles, I felt composed and comfortable for the entire race.
This was certainly a small, pick-up race, but I’m glad I was able to actually learn a lot from it. This was a first time for running in a pack, “making a move,” and truly executing a big finishing kick. All of these are valuable training tools, and I feel like they’ll come into play more often now that I have a better feel for them. I was also really encouraged by this race: it was my 5th day of running in a row, my legs were pretty wiped going into it, and yet the 7:35 pace I averaged felt very do-able.
Good things from a small, random race.
I’m excited for this weekend. As has become standard, I’m not sure of my specific goals, other than to log another solid half-marathon. This distance has been really fun to practice recently, and I’m looking forward to seeing how racing 13.1 more often affects my next 26.2 endeavor. On that note: less than 6 months til Boston!!!
And since this race recap is void of any pictures whatsoever (sorry…) here is a picture of Jasper with my fish prize. He is not too impressed.
Thanks Lindsay for the race idea and Nicole for submitting to peer pressure 🙂