Wow! What a race. I am really proud of how I ran the Tacoma City Half Marathon, even if it was just a training run.
As I discussed before, I was going into Sunday’s race with the plan that I would run it as a tempo workout in preparation for the Newport Marathon. My goals were to run the first half of the race with an average 8:40-8:50/mile pace, then to cut down to my goal marathon pace, somewhere between 8:20-8:30/mile pace for the last half, running a negative split. I exercised some serious running discipline and followed this plan nearly to a T.
Here’s how it went down:
I visited the expo on Friday afternoon to pick up my bib. The expo was much smaller than years past, with noticeably fewer exhibitors, but I still managed to snag a sweet registration deal for the Seattle Half Marathon ($65!) and a quick massage from my favorite massage therapist, Heidi from BeHive Massage Therapy.
Yes, that’s me, wearing my work clothes, lying face-down on the table. Not the most flattering photo, but pretty educational. I never considered how goofy I look on a massage table until I saw this picture. Heidi, on the other hand, looks adorable as usual. (Heidi also massaged the almost-as-famous-as-me Bart Yasso at the expo on Saturday. I bet Bart didn’t look goofy on the massage table.)
Even though I wasn’t racing the half, I still tried to treat Saturday like a pre-race day, complete with a lot of water and a carb-heavy dinner. My kids’ school held its auction that night and so I really partied it up with my sparkling water, pasta primavera, and two dinner rolls. Because we arrived home a bit late from the auction, I didn’t get to sleep until almost midnight. I laid my outfit out that night so that I wouldn’t have to scramble around for its components when I woke up at 5:33 a.m.
I ended up switching out the shorts at the last minute because I wanted to wear my new bright green Oiselle Distance Shorts.
5:33 a.m. arrived like a bullet. I woke up feeling only semi-rested, with that nauseated, I-woke-up-too-early feeling. I almost barfed when I brushed my teeth. I managed to choke down my usual pre-race breakfast of a packet of apple and cinnamon oatmeal and a banana, the babysitter arrived at 6:00 a.m., and we were off to pick up my friend, A, and get to the race.
Because my husband was running the marathon relay, we had to arrive early at the Tacoma Municipal Airport in Gig Harbor for the 7:00 full marathon start. Temps were in the mid-40s, with light rain and gusty wind, so most of the runners hung out in one of the hangars.
It was warm and dry in there, which was nice. Not so nice, though, were the three porta-potties in the hangar and the odors they emitted. I’m not too sure about the decision to put those inside. There’s a reason you usually see porta-potties outside.
A and I still managed to smile, despite those porta-potties.
Suddenly it was 7:00 a.m. and we cheered for my husband and the other (real) marathoners as they took off.
After that excitement, A and I still had about an hour until the half marathon started at 8:00 a.m. We hung out a while longer in the hangar until around 8:35, when we decided we should start our two-mile warm-up run. We ran out of the airport and along a couple of different roads, passing serious-looking runners who were–like us–warming up and–unlike us–probably preparing to win the entire race. We also passed some people who thought we were either lost or crazy.
We ran those two warm-up miles at a decent pace of 9:15 and 9:04 and arrived back at the airport with a few minutes to spare.
Miles 1 and 2: 8:23, 8:40
A and I lined up between the 1:50 and 2:00 pacers, keeping in mind my pacing goals for this race. The race started and we were off. It was very difficult keeping my pace at between 8:40-8:50/mile during the first part of the race, which was on the landing strip at the airport. Like a plane, I wanted to fly. Ha ha, no, not really, but I did want to run my usual half-marathon starting pace, which would be sub-8:00/mile. But I tried not to. My pace fluctuated a little wildly during that first mile, but I ended up averaging an 8:23, which wasn’t too bad. And it just felt so easy.
We ran from the airport down a couple of tree-lined streets and an early water stop (where I practiced taking a cup of water and drinking while running without spilling all over myself–long story) before turning down a short decline that follows Highway 18 across the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. During this time, many, many people (including the 2:00 pace group) passed me. I mean, we were running downhill for God’s sake. But I was trying to hold the pace my coach wanted me to hold: 8:40-8:50/mile. Constantly checking my Garmin, I tried to keep the pace down and considered that I was succeeding if so many people were passing me. Mile 2: 8:40. Perfect!
Miles 3-6: 8:39, 8:56, 8:34, 8:25
These miles took me across the Narrows Bridge, which has an incline that doesn’t register with GPS, but the grade isn’t much so it doesn’t feel like a struggle. The beautiful view helps distract from the extra effort, too.
After the bridge was a steeper, much longer hill with about 260 feet in elevation gain. We were running on a fairly narrow trail and it was a little tight to pass people. I started passing people here as I kept close to my pacing while they slowed down. Wear Blue: Run to Remember located its station along the last third of the incline, putting my immediate challenges in much-needed
After that we had a bit of a reprieve as we ran relatively flat streets through neighborhoods. Some churches on one of those streets had posted motivational messages on reader boards normally reserved for church-focused issues, which was pretty cool.
I trucked along, obsessively checking my Garmin through some rolling hills. I continued to pass people on the inclines, even though I didn’t feel like I was working that hard. This made me feel very, very good about my goal pacing for the Newport Marathon.
Miles 7-11: 8:22, 8:09, 8:22, 8:17, 8:17
At around the halfway point, I released the Kraken. Well, not really. But I did allow myself to speed up a bit to that planned 8:20-8:30/mile pace. Mile 7 is pretty much all downhill, which made that increase in speed effortless. I was enjoying a nice little decline action while still trying to keep my pace sufficiently slowed down and not at my usual half-marathon pace. I saw my coach and her husband around here, which was a fun surprise.
I didn’t pass very many people on the long, gradual decline into Ruston because most runners were allowing gravity to do the work. At Mile 8, I did manage to pass the 2:00 half-marathon pacers, who up to that point had been running at a much-faster-than-9:09/mile pace. By the time I passed them, they had managed to keep what appeared to be only one runner with them. It looks like they need to go to pacing school. Maybe they should call my coach?
After passing the 2:00 pacers, I spotted my husband and his team at their last relay exchange point. I’m generally an excitable person, and I became pretty excited when I saw them.
I wanted to do the “bull by the horns” gesture to show I was super hardcore but couldn’t figure it out and I didn’t want to end up gesturing something that would be considered obscene in a foreign country, so I ended up doing the “I’m number ONE!!!” gesture. Even though I was most definitely not number one at that point. Unless they were ranking idiots who can’t figure out situation-appropriate hand gestures.
I ran past them and down the hill to the Ruston Way waterfront, which is flat for miles. Back on flat land, it took a little more concentration to stay at that 8:20 sweet spot, but I kept checking my Garmin and I was doing just fine. I continued to pass people on this stretch. It felt great.
And then I saw my kids. Squeeeeeeee! They were waiting for me at around mile marker 11. I blew kisses to each of them and waved and noticed my son had what looked to be a fake mustache on his upper lip and kept going. Passing her, passing him, passing runners. I ran up a not-insignificant—and undetected by the Garmin—incline up an overpass, then down again, continuing to pass runners on the inclines and flats. I wanted to make sure I finished strong.
Miles 12 and 13: 8:12 and 8:11
The last couple of miles went by quickly as I ran along the old boathouses down Dock Street, continuing to pass people on my way. My coach had advised me this would happen with my pacing strategy because I had been holding back the whole time, especially the first half, and not running with my regular effort for this distance. Not that this was a walk in my park, mind you. By Mile 12, I was ready for this race to end. And I knew I had one more incline left to tackle before the finish line.
I saw my coach and her husband again as I turned off at the half and full separation point, at the base of that hill (really, just another overpass, but still), and that gave me that last boost of energy that I needed. I trucked up that incline, passing a couple more people, and then saw a dude with a multicolored Mohawk wig directing us towards the finish line.
As I turned left down into the finish chute, with spectators lining one side, I spotted A, who called out, “Sprint to the finish!” And so I did, or certainly felt like I did. While I felt like a gazelle, I probably looked like someone running through thigh-deep water.
After collecting my medal and a bottle of water, A (who ran a speedy 1:45-something training run) found me. I didn’t want to stand there long enough to let the blood pool in my legs, so we quickly set off for the 2-mile cool-down my coach wanted me to run. We doubled back through the crowd in the finish area and behind the adjacent Union Station and the Washington State History Museum up to Pacific Avenue, where the marathoners were starting to run down towards the finish. The cool-down miles felt really easy after the last mile of the race, and A and I chatted so much I kind of lost track of distance. I felt like I could have kept going, but A reminded me we should probably turn around and so we did.
As we ran back along Pacific Avenue, more marathoners started coming in towards the finish, and we cheered them on. Endorphins were flowing, life was good, everything was awesome, until… I was a little too focused on cheering on a runner and I tripped on some uneven sidewalk brickwork and went flying, hands-first.
It felt like slow motion, like my Chicago fall all over again. “Oh shit,” I thought, “Newporrrrrt…” And, like in Chicago, I tried to roll as I fell to the pavement. Unlike in Chicago, the time I was successful. No separated shoulder, no maimed finger. And, thankfully, no worse injuries. Because I’d rolled correctly and the pavement was wet, I slid a few feet and ended up relatively unscathed. Other than some bruises and scratches (as well as the humiliation of tripping and falling in front of dozens of people, including my husband and his relay team, who we had just spotted on their way to meet their anchor at the finish), I was just fine. Success.
After having my wrist examined in the medical tent to rule out any serious problem, we watched my husband’s last teammate finish the race, and cheered along other finishers as well.
His team took first place in their division. Woohoo!
I needed a little extra stretching TLC post-race and decided to get a brief massage to address my IT bands and hamstrings, which were tight. Heidi wasn’t there at the BeHive booth (which was offering massages at $1/minute, with all of the proceeds going to Wear Blue:Run to Remember) but a student therapist worked on me and I felt much better afterwards.
Unbeknownst to me, a photographer was on the loose during my short session, and I was caught in another face-down massage photo. I think this is my good side, no?
After my massage, we had brunch. Surprisingly, although brunch was fun, it wasn’t the best part of the day. The best part was the feeling of accomplishment post-race, something I haven’t felt since PR’ing at the Eugene Half last year.
I had a great time running the Tacoma City Half Marathon. I ran according to my coach’s pacing plan for me, and still felt like I could have kept going at my goal marathon pace. Not only did I run a negative split, but I ran a 9 minute negative split.
I feel strong and ready for running a Boston Qualifier at the Newport Marathon. Only one more long run left to go and then it’s Taper Town.