Saturday, January 17, 2009

Nookachamps Half Marathon

This is a great event in the great Northwest frozen tundra. It's an inexpensive race and about the only one that happens around here at this time of year. It draws all the gazelle people from the area. I have always wanted to be in shape to race this half marathon but it just never seems to happen. I've raced the now defunct 4 miler and the 10k or I've been injured or out of town. I still wasn't in shape to race the half but I was in shape to run it as a long run and enjoy myself.

And 13.1 miles would be a long run for me. Looking back over my running log from last year, the last time I ran 12 miles was in May. Really this shocks me and makes me a bit sad. Well no wonder it was so challenging to get ready in the morning. It took me a bit to remember that I should probably bring a gel to have mid-run and I had better wear the comfy running shorts with multiple pockets. We went off to pick up RPD who was also going to be running the half and set off for Mount Vernon.

RPD promptly fell asleep as soon as we hit the freeway. Truly I am envious. We made it up to Mount Vernon in record time and followed the line of cars/suvs with bike racks into the parking lot and were registered and ready to go in no time. I kept running into people I know which was pretty nifty.

It's a new course this year and I really loved it. Flat and hilly with lots to look at as you are running alongside farm land, lakes, sloughs and across creeks. Every time I have raced here, it has been well below freezing. Today's temps were actually above freezing which was novel so I wore shorts even though it was chillier (just above freezing) because of the fog. The shorts I was wearing were so comfortable after the tights I have been wearing that i honestly thought for a moment that I wasn't wearing anything. I had to check a couple of times!

And we were off. The goal was just to settle into a comfortable easy pace and enjoy myself. The second mile has a big downhill and I didn't get suckered into running that harder than I wanted. Pace was around 8:45-8:50 and I was happy. Just in the past week my pace had dropped for effort so I was curious as to what was going to feel comfortable.

1 - 8:47
2 - 8:29 (downhill)
3 - 8:52

The best and most memorable part of the race occurred around mile 3. We were running by horse paddocks and the stunningly gorgeous horses seemed to be excited about the race. One of the stallions was galloping about his paddock. In the fog, it was just an awesome scene. All the runners around me also took time to comment on the beauty. About mile 4 I started chatting with Retail Guy who was running the same pace. He politely took out an ear bud and we chatted about what all runners chat about - races and next races. He was actually a tennis player who loved running because it kept him in such good shape. We were chatting a bit too much (going uphill) and slowed through one of those miles. He seemed ready to move up the pace after around 7 so I let him go.

4 - 8:55
5 - 8:52
6 - 9:04 oops. chatting too much.
7 - 8:35 short steep up and then down.

there was a very long out and back section which I wasn't prepared for at all around miles 8-10. It seemed to go on forever. But it was very interesting to see the runners coming towards me. They were obviously working hard and I really felt fresh and full of of vim and vigor. In fact as I was coming towards the turn around pretty much by myself, the lone volunteer gave me a "good job" and I thanked him for being out there with a huge grin on my face. He laughed and said that I must've started later because I obviously had way too much energy at this point in the race. That got a big laugh out of me and I explained I was just out for a fun run.

8 - 8:37
9 - 8:47

Not too long after the turn around I acquired Heavy Breathing Guy. He stayed on my tail for the better part of two miles until I finally got him to pass me. He said he was using me as a wind break (there was wind?). No biggie for me. I quizzed him about the hills the final miles but he didn't know what to expect either.

It was a little strange the last couple of miles. We made a turn back to the main road and were serenaded by a flock of turkeys. I laughed out loud about that one much to the delight of the volunteers at that intersection encouraging the turkeys. It was a little confusing the last miles about which side of the road runners were supposed to be on. the road was not closed and there was a lot of traffic. Cars and big trucks were going slowly but still didn't like it.

Finally we started the rollers the last couple of miles. I was ready to be done and enjoyed the ups and downs. I had been passing people very steadily for the last few miles and set my sights on one person after the other on the way in. I didn't mean for that last mile to be 7:50 pace but it sure did feel good to let 'er rip!

10/11 - 17:42 Big uphill in mile 11. sorry I missed the splits.
12- 8:36
13 -7:50

1:54:01 by watch time. An easy run where everything felt great. Another fabulous aspect of this race is being able to wait before and after the race in the heated gym and we can use the shower facilities. RPD came in shortly afterwards. After freshening up we went off to Skagit Brewery for hamburgers and beer. It seemed that every other Nookachamps runners was doing the same thing. the place was full of happy runners.

I have run shorter races for fun but usually have paced people to PRs. This is the first race I have run where I am just out there to have a good time. I have never trusted myself in the past to be able to hold back. Ok, I let it slip there just a bit at the end. However it is really a neat feeling to know that I am able to run a half marathon casually and so in control. I consider this another lesson learned in my running life.

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