Sunday, April 3, 2011
Mercer Island 10k / Yakima River Canyon Marathon
Mercer Island has a series of events in March which kicks off the racing season here in Seattle. The Half marathon is the big draw and brings out the speedsters. It's a tough, hilly course and the weather is usually passable. Last year I ran the half but this year thought the 10k would be better. It would give me a chance to work on hills and pacing and holding a hard effort. I had no idea what to expect for a reasonable time but was hoping to hit around 50 minutes (I ran just under 49 minutes last summer in a flat 10k).
I admit that the hills had me very nervous. I did NOT want a crash and burn like what had happened at Nookachamps earlier this year. And this was a tough course in that the first half mile starts downhill. Mile 2 is about the only flat mile and then a series of hills begins. The finish is uphill too just for fun. I got out at a good start (not too fast) and felt very comfortable for the first couple miles. As the hills started, I stayed even with those around me and would still pass people on the downhill. The last mile uphill, I managed to stay at 8 flat which I am very pleased with. For the uphill at the end of a race, this is real progress. 50:22 chip time and I was 6th in my age group. Not bad at all.
Even better, I was not at all sore from this race and went into the heaviest mileage of my training so far. I've been able to hit speed workouts well and have had better long runs. I was chatting with DRS a few days after the race. DRS also ran the 10k and was very disappointed with the race. I'd been disappointed with the time but knew the effort was right for where I am in my training. Maybe I could've gone faster but mentally and physically, I wouldn't have been happy to have a slog into the end. This course is brutal for that and I watched many people blowing up on the course. It's tough. No doubt about that. I've been thinking of the 10k as one more stepping stone onto that marathon in Eugene.
This past weekend was another stepping stone. We drove over to Ellensburg Friday night for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon (YRCM). Ok, I'd not do that drive over Snoqualmie Pass again at night at this time of year. Yikes! That was a little hair-raising. No snow but it was rainy and very hard to see. it was great to get to Ellensburg and realize it was dry. yes!
The YRCM is a fantastic event. It's pretty small and laid-back but they do know how to put on a good event. The course starts in Ellensburg and does a little loop before starting down the Yakima River Canyon to Selah. I do mean down. Overall this course drops but there are some nasty hills later in the course. I am not sure if this would be a PR course or not? Probably but that downhill hurt after a while.
My plan was just to do this a training run. I'd originally wanted to run the entire event very easily but coach was quite concerned that 26 miles would be too much. I had to agree. I'm not a high mileage runner and I'd run 20 miles last week for a long run. So I planned to run 20 and then start walking, aiming to be picked up by course officials and taken to the finish where K would meet me. And it worked.
It was sunny, windy and cool at 40 degrees when we got started. I opted to dress a little warmly with the idea I need some heat acclimatizing for Eugene. I figured it would warm up once the sun got up and it did but for the wind. Mostly we had a tailwind through the canyon but at times, the head wind or cross wind would be ferocious! I was aiming for marathon pace for a chunk of my 20 mile run and trying to hold MP when into the wind even downhill was impossible.
I carried a small water bottle and refilled at aid stations. I guess my only complaint with this course and the conditions is that there needed to be more aid stations. If I had not carried water, I'd have been hurting. Otherwise, I loved the event. Friendly and helpful volunteers and while the road is not officially closed, traffic is encouraged to go elsewhere. it was not a problem running on either side of the road. Sometimes i found the cant of the 2-lane road a bit severe.
I did have fun chatting with runners around me. From about mile 12-15 I ran with a gal from BC. She's running Boston in 2 weeks and just keeping it easy (better her than me!). Then I saw the guy who hated being chicked on a training run a few weeks ago.
That's right. A few weeks ago on the Snoqualmie Valey Trail, EC and I were doing an easy run and ran into a group of Team in Training runners doing their long run. Turned out that they were aiming for YRVM. We generally and gradually passed most of these runners except for one guy who as soon as we were within passing on the uphill, sped up to stay ahead of us. We both rolled our eyes at each other. he eventually stopped and then came charging past us later. Again stopping to fix a shoe or some such thing. I just wanted to yell at him to run his own training run.
This guy had a distinctive stride with one foot that turned out. Around mile 16 once I'd slowed again after my marathon paced miles, I saw him! And started chatting with him. He was a nice guy out for his third and he said last marathon. I'd say he was at least running his own marathon and it was nice to have company for some miles.
And mile 20 ticked over and I started walking. half a mile later, I hit an aid station and told the radio operator that I'd like to drop and that was it. It took a bit to arrange a ride with the medic and another runner who'd dropped at teh previous aid station. That poor runner was hideously embarrassed to drop out of the race even though he could barely walk with a quad strain.
it was a good experience and I"m glad I did it especially since the course was just beautiful. My legs were tired from the training miles and my feet were really starting to hurt. yeah, I could've walked/jogged another 6 miles but to what point? This way, I got back to the finish in good time and we got back to Ellensburg to do some tourists activities. It was a very good day in the sunshine.
Then we went and drove the course so K could see it. It was a short weekend getaway and I'm tired but it was worth it for the experience and the sun! And taking a break from it all was really pleasant.