Race report: 2016 NODM half marathon
It was hot. I mean really, it was HOT. Hot as in 75 degrees at the start, 79 degrees at the waterfront finish line, and the day topped out at 86 degrees. That’s warmer than our high temperature for the year in about half the years I’ve lived here.
On June 5, 2016 I was up at 3:59 AM, just before my alarm went off. NODM day at last! My local half marathon.
Despite the usual race morning nerves, I managed to choke down some breakfast. My partner CFL and I began our day’s exercise with a brisk 1.2 mile walk downtown to catch the shuttle bus that would take us to the half marathon start.
At the starting line area in a community soccer park, the runners milled around slowly, with many people seeking shady spots at the far edge of the field. No one seemed to be doing any vigorous warm-up exercising. We were already warm enough.
As the 8:30 start time approached, I lined up immediately ahead of the 2:30 pacer. I knew I didn’t have a chance of beating my last year’s PR of 2:10:38, but I was optimistic of finishing in the 2:20 range. I resisted the temptation to line up with the 2:15 group, as I knew I couldn’t keep up with them. I figured as long as I could stay well ahead of the 2:30 group and save a little something for the last three miles, I’d be in good shape.
The gentle uphill in the first half mile got my heart pumping (as it always does) and gave me a good feeling for just how tough things might get later. Still, I settled down quickly, running mile 1 in 10:25 and mile 2 in 10:21. So far so good. But in the middle of mile 3 I was already ready for a walk break. So I walked for a bit and then picked it up on the downhill toward Siebert Creek.
After that I slowed down a lot. I took my time at each water station, making sure to drink all the water in the cup rather than my usual practice of sloshing down a few drops, trying not to choke, and tossing the rest. I walked the steeper and sunnier parts in the next few miles, which are a series of short rolling hills. I was hardly alone in this strategy — a whole tribe of us were running in the shade and the downhills, and walking the sunny sections and the hills. It was HOT!
Somehere in the middle of mile 5, the 2:30 pacer passed me. I let her go.
I trotted/ambled on, making my way slowly through the huge down-and-up at Bagley Creek. I walked much of the the awful dogleg on a blistering hot road (the only place the course leaves the Olympic Discovery Trail) in mile 8. It was HOT! At the water stations they were now giving everyone two cups of water, and like many others I was pouring my second cup over my head.
Finally we reached the big downhill, sailing downward to Morse Creek trestle. I crossed the bridge (4.5 miles to go!) and welcomed the next part, a long, gentle, tree-lined downhill toward the waterfront. The waterfront section of the trail (3.6 miles to go!) is where I do most of my running. I know every little hiccup on the trail here. On race day, this is where my “GO” flag drops and I give it everything I have left.
My legs were ready to go, but my head was occupied with figuring out what a realistic time goal should be at this point. To make my 2:20 goal, I needed to be just under a 10:45 pace at mile 10 and then run like hell to the finish. In actuality, I was down to an average 11:25 pace and there was no way I could make up that much time. I decided that 2:28 was realistic and that if I pushed I could just get there. I knew I wouldn’t be able to summon the mental toughness to do much better than that.
I’d like to say I ran the entire final distance along the waterfront, but did I tell you it was HOT? It was hot. My brain and my legs battled it out! My brain won. I was forced to continue walking the sunny sections. Fortunately, there is not much sun along the north-facing waterfront, so at least my walk breaks were shorter than previously.
Early in mile 12 I passed the 2:30 pacer back. Yay! Soon after, I heard someone right behind me saying they were getting old and it was hard to keep running in the heat. Someone replied, “Well, I’m 60!” Aha! Someone in my age group was right behind me! That was plenty of inspiration to keep pushing.
Mile 12: damn, it was hot. I walked over the bridge at Rayonier (full sun and 13 feet of elevation gain!) and barely trotted to the last water station just on the west side of the bridge.
After a good, long drink I managed to run from there to the finish, although I was pretty slow coming through the little bump (full sun and 7 feet of elevation gain!) at Francis Street. I hit the finish line at 2:27:58.
My brain had managed to get me to the finish line in just under 2:28.
I ended up 8th out of 50 in my age group — and sure enough, 9th place finished just 4 seconds behind me. Yes, it paid to push to the finish! And guess what: if I’d made my original, and entirely unrealistic, goal of 2:20, I’d have just barely finished in 7th place. All things considered, I ran as well as I could have — and as well as I needed to — on that day.
I got in the very long line for food. I just had time to go through it before I walked back to the finish line to watch for CFL.
While I was waiting near the finish, I watched a 30-something female full marathoner nearly collapse. Someone came out to support her, give her a sports drink, hold her while she vomited, and help her to the finish line. It was scary to watch. It was really, REALLY hot out there.
CFL walked in at 3:10:41, which was his fastest of two NODMs and his second fastest ever. He said he actually jogged a little on some of the downhills. He said maybe he’d jog a little more in the future. I am dumbfounded.
After CFL got his food, we headed to the beer garden.
After our free Space Needle IPA from Pike Brewery in Seattle, we walked home and showered. Then we walked back down to Barhop for truly local beer.
Even on a sunny day, it’s usually too cool to sit outside at Barhop because there’s always a stiff breeze off the water. Not that day! We enjoyed the view of the harbor and passers-by for a good long time before finally a gentle whiff of a breeze caused us to start thinking about dinner.
So now my 7th NODM — my 14th half marathon — is behind me. All in all, it was a good race and a great day. I’m satisfied with my race. It was really HOT. I find as I get older that making a rational decision not to kill myself out there is actually a good way to go. Stay strong and finish healthy! May there always be more finish lines ahead.
Slow and happy!