I woke up early (way to go Kyle), lubed up with Body Glide for the heart rate monitor and then proceeded to consume my wonderful gluten-free, pre-race breakfast. Okay, it wasn't wonderful. That was sarcasm in case you missed it. I just had a rice cake with peanut butter on it. Yes, a 'single' rice cake. Satisfying...no. Same as a toast with peanut butter....no. Enough for a pre-race breakfast...no. But don't worry, I ate a banana and a gel before the start of the race.
After hanging out at the house for an hour or so (killing time since we were SOOOO early) we headed out to Everson. This race is tiny although it's grown since I did it last. Basically registration was a breeze, using the porta-potty wasn't a hassle (although there was a line the second time I went), and every 5th person we knew. Twenty minutes prior to the race start Kyle and I went for an easy warm up, stripped the last of our extra layers (I even made fun of Kyle for putting Vaseline on his feet - maybe saying something along the lines of 'I never get blisters'...karma), and then headed to the poorly organized start line.
The start was terrible. That's my only beef with this race. Half the folks were facing West and clustered in the parking lot. The other half was facing East (the appropriate direction) and filling up the entire Westbound lane of Main Street. The little lady on the bullhorn could not be heard by anyone. Being 'race savvy' I found the fast looking people and wedged myself behind them - facing East. About 5 minutes later I heard a faint - 'Ready, Set, Go'. Luckily I heard that much because I at least got my watch started on time. Everyone else may have been a little late on the uptake.
The first 4 miles flew by. I felt strong and consistent. I was hitting right at an 8 min/mile pace. I knew it was fast (for me, for now) but I just went on how I felt. My goal 'became' - 'let's just see what I could do' - that sounds vaguely familiar (I think I do this a lot). I wasn't being conservative that's for sure. I can't say I was working hard but in terms of an endurance run I definitely wasn't holding anything back. At first I had my watch set to show me my heart rate. I was 'supposed' to run the first half at L3 and then the second half at L4. I've been pretty good at listening to coach but I kind of threw that out the window when I decided to push myself and when I switched my watch back over to showing me time. Oh well, you don't know until you try.
Around mile 5 I caught up with two runners chatting away. They were obviously trying to hit an 8 min. pace as well so I made myself comfortable and joined in their conversation. Although I must say I don't add much to running conversations. I like to keep my conversational input to a minimum...basically I just grunt and give short answers so I don't have to actually talk. That's just exerting useless effort! Besides, the girl was doing most of the talking. Asking me if I knew the age of the girl in front of us and debating whether or not she was in her age group or mine. It was non-stop. Seriously! For a tiny race, this girl was a bit obsessed about beating people in her age group.
Just before mile 8 Laura and Jen caught up with me (and were questioned on their age by my new chatty/competitive friend). A '9 min pace' my A**! They were cruising and looking totally comfortable. I was excited for the addition and excited at the prospect of running to the finish with them.
Then mile 8 hit. I can't put my finger on what exactly happened. Basically I just didn't feel right. I felt...spacey. I mean seriously spacey. Not lightheaded, not dizzy, just kind of out of it. I dropped back a few feet from the rest of my little group just to give myself some time to get back into it. I ruled out nutrition, I had had a gel only a few miles back and it wouldn't have worn off this quickly. It could have been dehydration...the day ended up being warmer than expected and I was a bit overdressed and definitely feeling sort of thirsty, but I had stopped at every water station and taken something in. Or, it could have just been plain exertion.
Over the next two miles I slowly faded from my group. I started to feel blisters forming on my feet (where was my Vaseline now?), the spaciness wasn't disappearing, and all I wanted to do was walk. Instead, I closed my eyes and ran on - one nice thing about flat and straight country roads. I didn't want to look at my watch and get discouraged by how slow I was going (although surprisingly I was still clipping along at 8:30s whenever I did look). But I still wasn't feeling right. Around mile 10 I was seriously thirsty. A guy (not a water station) was handing out water to runners. The cup he handed me was a USED coffee cup. There were coffee stains at the bottom of it. DISGUSTING! But, I drank it anyway because I needed to. I started wondering if I had the guts to ask the guy running next to me, with a full fuel belt, if I could have some of his water. Ha!
I'm not really sure how I got through the last 3 miles of this race. It was both a mental and physical struggle. I walked maybe 5 times total - twice due to cramping in my calf and foot that started around mile 11. The AWESOME part though - I came to a dead stop at mile 12.7 because my toes had spread apart. That felt great (again, more sarcasm in case you're not catching on). At least it wasn't in the finishing chute like Lake Stevens and I could actually run across the finish line. I guess that's a positive spin.
All in all, I definitely left it ALL out there on the course. Lesson learned - maybe try to race what I came prepared to race? I don't think I should have expected to have a 10 minute PR when 1) my longest run in the last 6 months was 10 miles and 2) none of my training runs have been for speed. I just haven't been training for a half marathon. I've been training to exert energy, at low levels, for long periods of time. Oh well. It was worth a shot and a new PR - 1:50:41. I'd say it was 'fun' to see what I could do but I definitely don't know that I would have said that during miles 8 through 13. It's always nice to have post-race amnesia.