My fifth run at this race and so far each time I have gotten a little faster:
2002 - 1hr 20 seconds
2005 - 59:08
2006 - 58:27
2008 - 57:21 (7:35 per mile)
Since I ran a solid marathon just six days ago I am not expecting a super fast time today. I feel very relaxed and am just happy to be out here. Keep seeing old and new friends. Talk a little with Patty, Brett, Billy, Tammy, Debbie, Sabrina, Pedro, Jaymie, Kristi, Judy, Mike and probably others I am forgetting. Plus plenty of nods and waves to other familiar faces in the distance. Jody is here too, for her first Sound to Narrows. This is a big one, with tons of runners of all types streaming in to Vassault Park in Tacoma. It is cloudy and cool, great weather for running.
Although I do not have much of a time goal, I should be able to get in under one hour. I am wearing a yellow bib, representing the second wave (7:30-8:30 per mile pace). Four of my friends who are a little slower than me most days have selected green wave starts (sub 7:30) which is too fast for them. I do not quite understand or agree with their reasoning and decision, but this does set up a wonderful challenge. My wave will start five minutes after theirs. Can I catch and pass them? They will wisely start near the back of their wave and if I go off near the front of mine I could start off about four to 4 and a half minutes behind them. I think that I have a pretty good shot of catching them on the long uphill in the last mile.
Course review - almost 1.5 miles downhill, then 5 miles of twisting mostly uphill through the old growth forest of Point Defiance Park (same as miles 10-15 of the Tacoma Marathon), followed by a good mile of uphill. Very tough course and in some ways more difficult than running it during the marathon because I am going much faster.
Start - I had a nice one mile warm up and feel ready to go. Watch the green wave leave and take my place near the start of the yellow wave. The five minutes goes by very quickly and soon we are running. With so many runners it is great to start off on this wide street. Down down down we go. Really quiet group, no chatting, everyone running hard. Plenty of room around me, I do not feel boxed in at all.
Mile 1.5 - Turn into the park and onto the more narrow road. Steep uphill and now the fun is over. I slow, but I feel fine. Legs feel great, breathing is the tougher part.
Mile 2 - Total time is 14:10, sure that I will be slowing but hope to hold a good pace. I hit the lap button, it will be interesting to see how much I slow here on the ups and downs and again on the long uphill to the finish.
Mile 3 - Passing some green wave runners now, some of whom are walking. I try to run fast through the water station and end up getting some water up my nose. Follow the curve of the road, take the shortest curve each time. Feeling good and pleased for it to not be so crowded. The uphills make my breathing ragged, but at each downhill or level section I am able to regroup and find my rhythm. I wonder if I can hold a 7:30 pace through this section? Ripe Rubus spectabilis berries draped over the road. I could grab one without even slowing, I will leave them for Jody though.
Mile 4 - Catch a runner and then I realize it is Sabrina. Now I see Debbie up ahead. Debbie is my marathon equal these days but she was not planning to race especially hard today. I sneak up and tap her on the shoulder, but did not startle her. She says that Billy and Tammy are far ahead, but I can see Bill, only about 40 yards up the road. I press on and it takes some effort but soon I am even with Bill. Tammy, the last of my prey is in site now, but farther ahead. I keep her in my sites as best I can and move on at my steady pace.
Mile 6 - Out of the park and a sharp turn to a steep hill. The hill is short and anyone who has been here before knows that at the top of the hill is another turn to the giant down and up steep dip, some are now calling the "toilet bowl". I catch Tammy and grab her hand at the top and we turn to face this challenge together. Steeply downhill we run. Trying to not let my feet slap on the pavement, trying to stay smooth. Hard to not go too fast and possible damage something. Soon enough we are at the bottom of the bowl with only a very steep up hill, turn to a flat area, then long steep uphill followed by less steep uphill to the finish. I am tempted to stay with Tammy, but I am still feeling strong and I charge up the hill. Going so slow now because it is so steep. I am next to another woman and I remember about swinging the arms. I tell her that we need to swing our arms and she does so with me. It gets us to the top.
Mile 6.5 - Long straight uphill. I can see the flashing light. I think that I am on PR pace, but not sure because I had hit the lap button. I could push a few buttons on the watch and do some math, or I could just keep running hard. I am in a good mood and have felt positive and relaxed all race.
Mile 6.7 - This has been a really good race. I caught my prey. I should beat one hour. I can just coast in and not struggle much and still have a decent finish time. Some spectators line the street now. Music. Familiar music blaring. Usually it is "Born to Run" or "The Eye of the Tiger" but no this is different. One of the great all time classic bits of rock, right at its most awesome moment. And in a span of two seconds this is what goes through my mind: "Funny just yesterday my friend Lin (no da) mentioned her birthday buddy Pete Townshend. Neither Lin nor Pete would want me to ease up now and especially not at this moment in the music. It would be a shame to not give it my all right at this time. This is just the perfect moment for this song. I dig deeper and run this in honor of Lin. I am now directly next to the speakers, Rodger Daltry howls and it is "Meet the new boss, same as the old boss" and a surge of energy and emotion wells up from within and drives me forward. To suffer here and run my best is the right thing to do.
Mile 7.2 - Turn to the park is up ahead. Look at the watch and realize that I have a significant personal best time in the bank. Hurry around the turns then finish strong but do not sprint to the death on the grass at the very end.
Mile 7.5 - Finish. Really psyched. Do a little uncharacteristic fist pumping. Start bragging a bit. Celebrate the moment anyway because they do not come so often. I have been hearing more and more runners say that their best times come when they are relaxed and not planning for it. Last week was a bit of a let down because I thought I had peaked for that run and carefully ran a well planned out race only to come up short of the PR. Today with no expectations I took 40 seconds off last years time. That on very little speed work, certainly way less than last year.
We all meet up and exchange stories. Jody also ran well and enjoyed the course. I think that having my green wave prey helped me focus during the middle stages and having The Who kick me up the last hill at just the right moment were instrumental in the PR. Positive attitude, beating the tough course and finishing strong makes this one of my all time best ever runs. Amazingly awesome day.
56:40 12K PR
255th place of 2,507