Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Spokane Half Marathon

"As I ran toward the finish line, I started thinking about how, just a few years ago, I thought my running days were over, and about how much I really love running. I got a big, goofy grin on my face and pumped my fist as I ran across the line and into the chute."

-Me, Oct. 2009

That was from my race report from the 2009 version of the Spokane Half Marathon, which was the first half I ever ran, but I could have just as easily written the same about my race last Sunday (although, I didn't have the grin & fist pump this time around).

I have to admit, I'm losing count of how many "I thought my running days were over" proclamations I've made in my life. I suppose I should leave them in the past, because I somehow keep returning to the scene of the crime, as it were.

So, yes, I just finished the Spokane Half Marathon, my first half marathon since 2010 (and, as I said, a repeat of my first half in 2009), and...they still hurt. But I still love the distance. And this course, while the toughest half marathon course I've ever run, is enjoyable both for its scenery, and the challenge. But, let's be honest — the hills SUUUUUCK! They were every bit as tough as I remembered them. 

The race started at 9:00am on a PERFECT day. Clear as a bell, and about 45°f at start time. My goal (as usual) was to go out slow and hopefully have enough juice for the last few miles of the race. I did go out slow the first mile, but when the downhill stretches showed up, I decided to not put on the brakes and just let gravity do its thing. I ended up passing a lot of people on the downhills. It took a few miles to feel like I was in the groove, but I never felt peppy. At the start of mile 7, my average pace was about 8:03 per mile. I knew I was over my head, but I didn't feel overextended. I adjusted my plan mid-race and decided that, if I could arrive at the base of Doomsday Hill with an 8:10 average pace, I might be able to hold on for my goal of a sub-1:50 finish. Sure enough, with Doomsday in sight, my Garmin said I was pacing at 8:09, so up I went. SLOWLY. I never stopped to walk (as much as I was tempted to), but I'm pretty sure I was over 9:00/mi pace going up much of that monstrosity. I knew that I had to still be sub-8:20 pace by the time I reached the top, or I wouldn't be able to hit my goal. Fortunately, I had only dropped to 8:14s. However, that hill destroyed me. I didn't have much left in the tank, and there were still 4 miles yet to race. I tried to find an 'auto-pilot' mode and hang on. But my calves had zero push-off power left, and my hip flexors were fried. I knew there was one short, but steep, uphill left, about a quarter mile from the finish. I trudged up it (even walked for about 10 seconds), went around a couple of corners, then "sprinted" (ha!) to the finish line. The medals seem to be getting nicer in races these days (maybe the participants are asking for nicer medals?), and there was a free race photo (below) afterwards, which was nice. Food was plentiful (pizza, fruit, nuts, donuts, chocolate milk, etc). Once finished, I could tell my calves were very close to cramping. Thankfully, I had parked close to the finish line (which was about 1/2 mi from the starting line). I walked to my truck to get my phone, and as soon as I tried to climb in, my left calf cramped horribly, and I let out a loud scream. I'm surprised the authorities didn't come running!

Fake smile, through the fatigue and sweat

Here were my results:

Chip Time: 1:47:36
Avg. Pace: 8:13
Avg. HR: 148
Elev. Gain: 620' (I've seen higher on Strava)
Overall finish: 91/498
Males: 56/198
Age Group (50-54): 4/18

Yes, I just missed an age group award. I was honestly surprised to get 4th. I was just hoping for top 10. The number of runners was down this year, for some reason.

Incidentally, of the 6 half marathons I've run, this was my slowest, by several minutes. Yet, it was probably my most satisfying, given all the garbage my body has been through the last couple of years.

That was my "A" race for the year, so aside from a low-key 5k or 10k between now and the end of winter, I'll just be doing a lot of base training. Mostly outdoors, I hope. Man, I hate winter more every year...