My best half marathon time was here, three years ago (1:40:23). I missed the race in 2009 but ran a 1:41:44 here last year. A good half for me is anything under 1:43. I think that I am in decent shape for this year. My 1:42 at the tough Chelan course and my PR at the Sound to Narrows in June has given me enough confidence to at least try to go for a sub 1:40 and PR today. Its funny how a 1:39 sounds so much better than 1:40. Its like buying something for $3.99 thinking that is so much cheaper than $4.00. It has been 15 years since I started running halfs in the 1:40s and anything under that is always what the fast people do. To have just one finish under 1:40 in my running career would mean a lot, at least to me. I feel great, the weather is perfect, I know the course, there will even be two runners pacing 1:40. I will stick to the pacers and see if it is to be my day.
Start - Getting to the start is a snap. I have plenty of time to greet friends, be in a group photo with the Marathon Maniacs and do a very short warm up. Now lined up with Bullseye Bob one of the 1:40 pacers and ready to follow him all the way from Gig Harbor to Tacoma. Just before the start I see Maniac Ginger. We give each other the evil eye. Then we are off so fast. I do not see Ginger ahead of me, nor do I see her at the out and back at the half mile mark. So I assume that she is behind me, and throughout the race I think about that and expect her to breeze past me. But no, she is ahead and running a great race. If she is having a good day at all, I have no chance of catching her and today will be one of those days.
Mile 2 - The pace seems so fast. We need to average 7:39/mile but here we are going at 7:25. It is somewhat downhill with uphills to come. I will trust my pacers.
Mile 3 - On the Narrows Bridge going downhill. Amazing views. I am running comfortably hard and I have Bullseye Bob on my left, the Rogue Wave on my right and another friend, Paul H with me too. I love this moment. Paul spits out over the bridge and I feel like that is something I should do too, so I do. I can not be too chatty at this pace, but I am able to talk a little and stay relaxed. So far so good.
Mile 4 - Now the part of the course that I fear. The long uphill side of the bridge and more up after that. RW says that it is not as bad as it looks from here, and I know that I have done this before, its just where things get tough. Pacer Bullseye Bob starts to drop back and the other pacer MM1694 (Brad) who I have not met before is holding the same pace up this hill. Should I stay with Bob? He had said that we would ease up on the hill and make the time up later. He also is just getting better from having the flu and I think that he asked for a second pacer just in case he did not have the energy to run so fast today. I end up sort of splitting the difference. I just can not keep up with Brad or the Rogue Wave on this uphill, but I also leave Bob behind somewhere. I will not look back to see where he is. Paul is also behind now, but will finish right after me.
Mile 5.5 - Through the neighborhood with its turns and ups and downs. Seems like every little uphill I lose ground on pacer Brad and RW but reel them back in on the flats or downhills. This is a little frustrating because one thing I have been working on in training is hill repeats. Guess that I need to work them even harder. I claw my way back to them. Now with most of the uphills done the running gets easier and we are at 7:33 average pace, ahead of schedule. We are back on the paved trail along Highway 16, same route as the Tacoma Marathon. Feeling good.
Mile 6.5 - Our 1:40 pace group has fallen apart. RW is ahead. A couple others are hanging in off and on. I have been side by side with Brad for a while. I could go faster, but it is way too early to do that. Brad has to use the port-a-potty. I offer to hold the 1:40 sign and keep running as he goes and promises to catch up to me. How exciting! I am now the pacer. I feel a little surge of energy but vow to hold the pace at the 7:33 we have been running. I do catch up to the Rogue Wave and tap her with the sign just to freak her out and show her that I am now in charge. We remember that she had a similar experience at the Tacoma Marathon one year.
Mile 7 - I am glad to pass the sign back to Brad and let him keep track of pacing. RW must be feeling good, she is forging ahead and will leave us in the dust going on to her own PR. I think about trying to keep with her but decide that the PR and the sub 1:40 are my primary goals and that staying with Brad is the smart thing to do.
Mile 8 - Off the paved trail. Around and then into Cheney Stadium. Run around the warning track of this Minor League baseball stadium. See ourselves on the Jumbotron. I love this course. Exit, through the parking lot and back to the paved trail.
Mile 10 - Very steady 7:33 pace the whole way so far. A few small uphill sections and I feel like I am starting to struggle. Now the watch says 7:34 average. Focus on the Target Store logo in the distance. Encouraging words from Brad about how it is only a 5K to go. How fast can I run a 5K? 21:30 on a good day. "Well you only need to run a 24 something to reach your goal time" he says. He also says that I should pick myself up and get moving like Scott Jurek at Badwater.
Mile 10.5 - I hate this little hill out of the trail and onto the road. Steep little bugger. Brad is a little ahead, I just can not keep up. I am next to a woman who has been with me off and on for a long while. I say that we need to pump our arms to get up this thing. I often forget to do that. It really makes a difference. We both pump our way to the top. the whole hill is like 50 feet, but it is always so epic. Because now it is flat and then a huge downhill.
Mile 11 - Make the turn to the downhill and fly down the steep. I have also been off and on with a guy with a green shirt. We joke about how bad this must be for our bodies to go pounding down like this. Soon it is over and now it is flat and gentle downhill the rest of the way.
Mile 12 - Pacer Brad says that we did the last mile in 7:25. I still am not convinced that I will PR. I feel like I could fall apart at any moment and I am afraid to push harder.
Mile 12.5 - Now I know that I will make it. What a terrific feeling.
Mile 12.8 - Brad says that it is time to sprint but I don't. I am afraid that I won't be able to.
Mile 13- Now I go for it and I am surprised at how much speed I still have in me. I should have gone faster earlier and I fly into the finish area. So thrilled to see 1:38 on my watch and know that I could have been even a little faster if I had picked it up earlier.
Mile 13.1 - Fist pumping and just so happy. This is the same finish line as the Tacoma Marathon where I missed a PR by one second back in May. Those last miles had been torture, I cursed at the finish line and then barfed a minute later. Today it is all smiles and feeling great. I get a hat for being one of the top 100 finishers. Recover, check results at the computer station, have a slice of pizza and watch finishers come in. Whatever happens in my running career I will always have this sub 1:40 half. Now if only I could get ino the 1:20s where the fast runners are.....
Next race is the Transcendence 12 hour ultra on 8/14. I will be running a whole lot slower on that day, but hopefully getting a mileage record.
76th place of 826
Race #245 Half Marathon#23