Sunday, August 7, 2011

Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon - August 6, 2011

This was my 4th time running the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon.  My training has been going well and I've been curious to see what kind of racing shape I'm in for this distance.  The half marathon can be a good predictor of a marathon finishing time notwithstanding extraneous circumstances out of your control on race day. 

On Friday night, I searched for my prior finish times and found:  1:33, 1:33:22, and 1:35:30.  I really wanted to beat last year's time and more imporantly, beat fellow Maniac, Andy Fritz, to the finish line.  He was aiming to beat 1:40 so I had to keep him in my cross hairs if he got in front of me.  Another Maniac, Bob Martin, is usually fierce competition **thankfully he's not in my age group or gender!** but he had been sick with a flu and left his, "Come and get me!" bullseye at home. 

I finally went to bed just after 10:00 pm and had my alarm set for 5:00.  Race start was 7:30 a.m. in Gig Harbor, a 20 minute drive.  My goal was to be out of the house by 6:30 and to the packet pickup by 7:00.  I decided to wear my new Brooks outfit and relished in the fact that the weather was not cold and I wouldn't have to start in layers.  Jeff was working the weekend so I was on my own.  This is the first time he's missed this race.

I arrived at the start and on my way from packet pickup, spotted Terry Fritz.  He ran Boston in April, suffered a blister of epic proportions and hadn't run much since that time.  He was aiming for around 1:30 and thought he might stick with me.  Well!  That would be a PR for me so I didn't anticipate him staying with me very long.  He finished the race in 1:25 while wearing a tragically sewn inner liner in his shorts. 

Sharon Stevens Butler waited ahead of me in the porta potty line and mouthed, "Stupid Girl" to inspire me to run faster.  Love her!  Some guy said under his breath, "Stupid girl!" as I passed him during a race years ago.  The comment made me mad at first and then I decided that I liked it.  Not being called stupid, but that competetive edge you feel when you pass someone and they can't keep up.  It made him mad.  It made me happy!

I lined up at the 7:00 minute pace sign and spotted Andy Fritz, who quickly gave me the "I've got my eyes on you" hand gesture.  I may have said, "try and keep up" or something equally obnoxious based on the looks I received from other runners.  Just having fun, people.

Tony Phillipi made a few announcements and he said something about a change in the course which totally went over my head.  The countdown from 10 began and I felt like I could hardly catch my breath and I wasn't moving!  Why was I so nervous? 

We headed out from the Tacoma Narrows airport and I quickly settled into a high 6/low 7 minute per mile pace.  I reviewed last year's splits and saw I had hit the first 2 miles in the 6s so that was my goal for this race.  By 2 miles, I felt my lungs finally settled and we were treated to a dynamic aid station at 2.5 miles.  Route 16 had a fantastic group of people running the aid station and I saw my newest running hero, Lori Mathews Moriarty, who recently clocked a 3:10 marathon.  I need to run with her!

Crossing the bridge, I took in the water view and prepared myself for the next 2 miles.  I thought to myself that I needed to race smart as I crossed the bridge.  The elevation change would happen quickly and I talked myself through it with "light steps, quick feet" and attempted to keep my effort level the same.  I couldn't let these 2 miles blow up my race. 

It's funny how hard coming off an uphill can feel.  Race experience has taught me that the majority of runners ease off at the top of the hill in recovery.  My goal when I reached the top of the hill was to keep a quick turnover while I was recovering so I wouldn't lose too much time.  Mile 5 was my slowest at 7:57.  By the time I was across the walkway over the highway, my breathing felt somewhat more controlled and I began to pick up the pace.

We headed back over the walkway and were treated to a sea of runners crossing the walkway and headed to where I just ran.  I love these sections and get a boost of motivation from other runners.  I'm always so impressed and proud of everyone who chooses to line up at the start of a race.  The race continued along the Scott Pierson trail and brought us to Pearl Street where police officers held up huge lines of cars so we could get across the street.  The halfway point was near this stretch and I took in some fluid.  I didn't use any gel or gu during the race as I felt good without it and the water and sport drink seemed to work for me. 

As we continued on the trail, I saw the girl wearing a peach tank who had taken off so fast in the beginning (there were other women but this one had been in my vision for most of the race).  I had thought she would burn out by mile 3 but she was still there, showing me once again to never judge runners by how they look.  She appeared to be closer and I made it a goal to reel her in.  As we exited a small tunnel, Scott Gaines directed us to turn left and head for Cheney Stadium from a different direction.  This was the course change.  It turns out the terrain was easier than the original course.  By the time we entered Cheney Stadium for the loop around the field, I had caught up with peach girl and struggled to stay in front of her.  My lead lasted a few minutes and I could hear and see her increasing her effort to repass me.  This one was a fighter!

Mile 10 gave me the assurance that only a 5k awaited me and I reminded myself to get through this mile and then the gifted 2 miles of downhill would be mine.  It was this mile where I wish I could have a do-over.  I think I relaxed a little too much and had a 7:35 split.  This particular mile seems to get me in the Tacoma City Marathon as well. 

Mile 11!  A sight for sore legs, that is for sure!  This is where the race gets exciting if you know what's coming and you have anything left to give.  As I headed down the steep hill, I recalled a piece of running advice from an elite athlete about downhills:  "you should feel like you are about to fall but not quite" or something like that.  I was feeling like I may fall any second!  I rounded the corner and up ahead I saw peach girl again and another woman in black further up the road.  She seemed too far out of my reach but peach girl could be possible. 

"Leave it on the road, leave it on the road!" went through my mind as I tried to get my legs to turn over faster and push off behind me with more power.  Mile 12 was was approaching and I was within striking distance.  6:53 for mile 12.  One mile!! I had to give everything I had and quickly found myself neck and neck with peach.  I passed her like I meant it and saw that the woman in black was getting closer.  Could I?  Is it possible?  She looked like a master, I was sure.  I had to dig deeper.  I didn't know who else was in front of me but if she was a on!

12.5, 12.6...and she was right in front of me.  12.7 and I made my move.  12.8, 12.9 and I hear her coming up behind.  Come on legs!  Mile 13 and she passed me and said, "Good job".  Ugh.  I could not get my legs to move any faster as much as I tried.  She hit turbo drive and got beyond striking distance.  In the final straightaway, peach girl passed me a moment before the finish line, although our times are identical.

It turns out the woman in black won the female Master's Division! I was so close.  $100 and free entry into next year's race would have been a wonderful surprise.  I'm disappointed that I missed it by 10 or so seconds but without her as motivation, I don't know if I would have had a 6:22 for my 13th mile.

My finish time was 1:33:30 and I came in 7th female overall, 1st in my age group and 39th runner overall. 

I hung out with my running friends while we waited for the awards and was able to catch a shuttle bus back to the start by 10:45 a.m. 

Tony Phillipi put on another stellar running event and this is a race I hope to run every year.  If you haven't run it, why not? 

Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon Website

As I thought about my race, it occured to me that I might have qualified for the Half-Fanatics club and it turns out, I did!  I got in at the Neptune Status and applied for membership today.  Woo-hoo!

Maryanne and Ginger - Gilligan took the picture

Lizzie and I after the race

Lizzie, Maryanne and I after the race

On my way to Cheney Stadium
Race Schwag:  Finisher's glass, age group coaster, 1st place ribbon, top 50 finisher cap, and race shirt

1st place in age - standing with Betsy Rogers and race director Tony Phillipi is behind me.

1 6:45 (airport)

2 6:47 (still in Gig Harbor)
3 7:03 (crossing the bridge)
4 7:28 (bridge and across to Tacoma)
5 7:57 (Heading up War Memorial Park and recoverying - phew! Neighborhood loop)
6 6:57 (Scott Pierson Trail paralleling the highway)
7 7:02 (Heading towards Tacoma Boys Town near Pearl Street)
8 7:18 (Nearing the altered part of the course - still on Scott Pierson Trail)
9 7:04 (Running inside Cheyney Stadium)
10 7:18 (Trail paralleling highway and crossing over Union Street)
11 7:35 (Onto 25th street from trail)
12 6:53 (Wee!  Last 2 miles of downhill and flat!  Wilkeson to Center Street)
13 6:22  (Center St. curves into Jefferson Street)
13.15  :57  (Commerce Street finish line!)