Friday, December 12, 2014

Seattle Half Marathon 2014

Well I suppose it’s time to talk about the Seattle Half Marathon, which was a couple weeks ago.  Kind of a crazy few weeks, but it was such a fun race it needs to be written about! :)
A couple weeks prior, Mac told me I needed to run the race myself and see how I did.  Which is good, but also kind of scary!  She has always been there with me, and it has allowed me to focus on having a good time and running it with a friend.  We’ve both gotten PRs in the process, but it was a lot easier to just think about having fun that focus on numbers.  So, this time did feel different.

I initially decided I would shoot for 1:45.  That was my 13.1 PR, which was from Skagit Flats (pancake-flat course) so if I could manage the same time at Seattle (very hilly), then I would be happily impressed.  But of course, that’s never enough, and somehow 1:40 worked its way in my head—just because it’s a nice round number, I think.  Anyway, I spent a lot of time thinking about it and going over the math and trying to figure out if that was actually do-able or not.  I’ve run the distance and run fast enough, but never at the same time (and also never on hills)…and I didn’t want to set unrealistic expectations only to be disappointed, when really a 1:45 was a perfectly reasonable stretch of a goal.  Besides, I could shoot for the 7:38/mi pretty easily (needed for 1:40), but then you always run a little further on the course, etc etc etc so needed to account for that so I figured 7:28ish… all in all, I was thinking about it a lot and trying to balance my eagerness to really push myself hard, along with still have fun and manage reasonable, physical expectations.
I finally I would go for 1:45 (8:00min/mi with hills sounded reasonable) and would be super happy with that, but would push it and see how close to 1:40 I could get (assuming it felt alright).  Then of course, the night before the race (as I was procrastinating and NOT packing my stuff) Kyle texted me to wish me luck..and told me to run a 1:40.  Well, shoot.  Now that someone ELSE is putting it in my head again…  After  a quick pep talk from him, consisting of both numbers/logic and friendly encouragement (my friends know me so well), I figured sure, I’ll shoot for it!  And if nothing else, at least I tried.  The plan was to take it mile-by-mile and try to stay on pace one mile at a time.  I needed a 7:35/mi (for the 13.1 mile distance) and would rack up as much “extra” in the beginning as possible.  I remembered the first few miles were slightly downhill, and it’s always easy to get a little extra speed at the beginning, so gaining any extra time would be perfect and I wouldn’t have to worry too much if I slowed a little with the hills at the end.  Plan in place, it was finally time to get to bed.

The next morning was early—and COLD.  I think it was 17F when I got up, and I think temperature in Seattle at race time was up to 24F.  Did I mention COLD?  We picked up MacBeth and met Kyle there, and basically spent the time waiting trying to not freeze.  Soon enough, it was time to get rid of the puffy jackets and mylar (sad…), so Mac and I pushed our way to the start line.  Then it was REALLY cold.  My toes were completely numb, and really just needed to get moving!  I saw the 1:45 and 1:35 pace groups were right ahead of me, and right next to each other, so figured I’d keep an eye out and try work out positioning from there.
After a pretty underwhelming countdown, we were off!  No horn or anything which was odd, but suddenly everyone was moving so—ok, guess it’s time to go!  I quickly tried to weave and navigate the first few blocks, which is always tough… but managed it ok.  I was greatful that I had remembered the first few miles correctly—it really is mostly all a gradual downhill.  Not steep enough that you really feel like you’re going downhill, but enough that it definitely speeds you up.  I even ran a 6:45 for a mile!!  I was very conscious of gauging how I felt, because I did NOT want to burn out later, but everything felt in check so I tried not to stress it too much.

My toes were still number.  It hurt to run.  They slowly began to thaw, but as feeling returned, it was a pins and needles feeling.  Not pleasant.  Spoiler alert: it took about 5 or 6 miles for them to thaw out completely and stop hurting!
Anyway, we came up to the big overpass which is the first real hill.  Not bad.  It’s long and gradual and intimidating looking, but luckily it’s so early that it didn’t bother me.  I kept sighting people and then passing them, which was nice…of course, some people went BLAZING past me.  Oh well.   Still on pace.  Even with the big hill, I was around a 7:35 so just right.

The I-90 tunnel was next.  Bleh.  Luckily it wasn’t nearly as humid, but still..yuck.  No GPS either, so just kept running and tried to match the speed of people around me, knowing I could adjust when we got out.  That’s when I realized that I had just about caught up to the 1:35 group, which was right ahead of me!  I considered pushing it ot meet up with them, but then remembered that just 24 hours ago I was thinking 1:40 was a huge stretch, and figured it would be better to hit 1:40 than to try for 1:35 and pay for it.  When we got out of the tunnel I kept them in my sights for a while, but eventually they got away—and I let them go.  (I found out later that my cousin was actually the pacer for that group!  If only I had known.  I definitely would have caught up and tried to run with him if I had known it was him!  Oh well.)
Running along the lake was nice.  The sun was finally coming out and it was gorgeous!  Overall I was a lot less cold and unzipped my jacket just a little..but it definitely was not warm.  I kept tabs on everyone around me, kept tabs on my pace (still looking good), kept tabs on how I felt..really tried to play it safe.  Around halfway done with the race at this point, and while it wasn’t super effortless, I knew that I wasn’t going to run out of gas just yet, so that was encouraging. But, there was still on giant hill and then the hills in the arboretum coming up…

And, there was the big hill!  In all honesty, this was the only hill I truly remembered from last year.  It’s a short, VERY steep hill…and then goes a round a corner and gradually continues up for a long time.  It’s deceptive, but also annoying because you use up energy on the super steep part at the beginning, but then you have a long way to go before you get any time to recover.  I managed it ok, though.  Tried to be smart, and not push it super hard…I knew I could push it on the downhill.
The arboretum was next.  I knew there were hills there but honestly didn’t remember much of them, so figured they couldn’t be too terrible.  Turns out, yes, there are a whole lot of hills…and some are a little steeper and its’ very repetitive up and down..but I don’t know, still not terrible.  Thinking back, I don’t remember any hugely terrible ones, I think because they are at least relatively short so there is always a downhill coming up to look forward to :) There was one photographer on one hill that was awesome…all alone in the arboretum, and there he is, sitting there yelling “woah, yeah, you look AWESOME!  GREAT JOB, you are KILLING IT!  Looking AMAZING, you’re like a model!” etc etc etc.  It was soooo over the top that it just made everyone smile and laugh—which is brilliant, because then you got good photos.  So, that was fun.

The last few miles got tough, as expected.  It seems so far away, since you can see the space needle waaaay off in the distance and you know that’s where you’re headed, but you know there’s only about 3 miles to go.  Plus there are still hills.  And it just seems to go forever…  I started doing the math near the end of the arboretum, and knew I should hit 1:40 as long as I kept going, so that was a lot of great encouragement for me.  I was feeling it, but I wasn’t dead just yet and it wasn’t TOO far to go!  It’s funny, my legs rarely get very tired, it’s usually just my heart rate and breathing that let me know I am going hard and struggling.  But that’s manageable, so kept on going.  Staying on pace, checking my garmin way too often to see how much further….
Running through the streets of Seattle at the end feels like forever.

Finally, finally, FINALLY, the last turn into the stadium was in sight!  Check the garmin—it was around 1:36 so YES, I was going to make 1:40 unless I fell over and died on the spot!  I could probably walk and make it, so now I got to run and see if I could go UNDER 1:40…what?!  I was shocked, and also super happy.  As I ran into the stadium, I tripped in a pothole and seriously almost fell and twisted my ankle (my ankles aren’t super strong, and I felt it twist and give out, but THANK GOODNESS it didn’t give out and I didn’t hurt it).  Phew, crisis averted!  Running to the finish line was great.  I saw 1:38 on the finish line clock, and just like that, I was ready to stop running!
It wasn’t until after I had gotten my medal/water/mylar and found Allen and had time to really realize I was done…that I realized I had pushed it.  Which was a great feeling.  Probably could have pushed it more ;) but I had pushed it none the less.  My chest was tight (I think from just all the cold air) and I had trouble focusing on too many things at once so…decided to focus on breathing.  Finally started feeling better and headed over to cheer on Mac as she finished.

Overall, such a fun race!  I am so stocked on my 1:37:59 (officially haha), and so glad that everyone encouraged me and pushed me to go for it. :)  And I think the BEST part was rushing over to Mac when she finished, and Kyle must have already told her because before I could even get to her she was yelling “BADASS! Awesome job!”  Barely finished her on race, and she was already happy about mine!  She is like the epitome of badass in my mind, so it was such a compliment and just really sweet.  Icing on the cake.  She had a great run too, solid time and it was a beautiful day so all-around good times.  The giant breakfast festivities afterwards weren’t bad, either ;)
Anyway, it was an amazing way to end 2014.  I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: the bike will always be my #1 love, but this year was truly a year for running.  From running my first marathon in May, to seeing huge improvements and speed (both in tris and also just long runs), I feel like I have really “grown” as a runner a lot this year.  I’ve learned so much about how my body feels and what it needs and how it reacts, and when to push it (and just how far it really can be pushed).  You wouldn’t there there’s too much to “learn” about running, but I have definitely learned!  The fact that my VO2 results confirm that I’m stronger running that on the bike kinda sealed the deal on the “2014 was all about running” front.  Go figure.

I’ve had such a fun time smashing goals this year, and now more huge goals for next year, for sure.  Only a few more weeks to take advantage of loose, no-plans training..then it's time to buckle down and really focus in on a little somethign happening Juen 28th, 2015.... ;)