After a fitful night of sleep, my alarm went off at 6:30am on Sunday – the morning of my second half-marathon race, the 2011 Girlfriends Half-Marathon. Having laid out all my gear the night before, I took my time getting ready and ate my breakfast in two stages: first, protein in the form of two slices of bacon at 7am, and carbs in the form of a buttered English muffin consumed in the car between 7:45am and 8:00am. As is usually the case the morning of a race, I wasn’t hungry and had to force the food down.
As my husband drove us the 30 minutes North to Vancouver, WA, my stomach was in knots. I was a bit worried about my lack of training, having missed two important long runs due to travel, and there was also a period about a month back where I was hating running and barely logging 8-10 miles a week. Still, I felt like I could maintain an 11:00 minute mile pace for 13 miles, which included my plan to walk through the water stations (since I haven’t mastered the art of drinking fluids while running).
The race start and finish was in downtown Vancouver, and we easily found parking and thus had about 45 minutes to kill. It was cold outside and I wanted to stay in the warm car, but I soon got antsy and so M and I headed for the race festivities. We people-watched and took pictures until about 10 minutes before the race, where I reluctantly handed off my jacket to M and lined up. M headed out about two blocks from the start in order to capture a photo of me running by.
Except I wasn’t running. I was barely jogging. Even though I had lined up mid-pack as I usually go, I soon found out that I was behind a LOT of walkers.
Now before you send me hate mail, I have nothing against walkers in races. Walking 13.1 miles is no joke and I respect anyone who can do that. BUT, I do think that’s only fair that walkers line up at the back of the pack so people who are trying to run can get by. I expended quite a bit of energy the first two-three miles trying to weave my way through packs of women walking 4-5 across in the middle of the road. It was a huge buzz kill in an otherwise fantastic event.
While I was waiting for the start, I struck up a conversation with a women named Lori who was running her first half-marathon. She was also looking to run around an 11 minute mile pace and so we stayed within about 50 feet of each other the entire time, even taking off our headphones to chat from time to time. That was the first time I’ve ever chatted with anyone during a race, and it was a lot of fun.
During the first few miles of the race, I had to keep throttling back as my legs wanted to go a lot faster, but as the race went on, I had to struggle to keep my pace below 11/mm, as you can see from the below splits.
I did a great job keeping my pace near the 11/mm mile for the first 8 miles (except for that “fast” first mile) but as the race wore on, my left hip started to seize up and my knees started to remind me of their age and former surgeries. I had a brief surge of energy at Mile 10 as I realized I only had a few miles to go, but then the series of hills during the last part of the course took their toll on my undertrained body. Not to mention that fact that my Garmin (which is always VERY accurate) showed me running a mile longer than a true half-marathon. I’m not sure if the course was actually that much longer than 13.1, or if I logged an extra mile having to wind around all those walkers, but I was a bit bummed that I wasn’t going to PR for the half, even though technically it WAS a PR if you erase the last two splits from my time.
As I neared the finish line, I had to take a hard right up a slight hill and then another right. I looked for M and there he was, video camera in hand!
I gave a whoop and gunned it, reaching a 6:13/mm pace by the time I crossed the finish line. I found my friend Lori, who had crossed less than a minute before. I collected a nice water bottle filled with COLD water (just awesome!) and a beautiful finisher’s necklace from a cute young firefighter, and just hung out in the corral for a bit as I caught my breath. Soon M walked up and I may have given him a super sweaty hug, although I don’t remember.
We drove back home with me in a post-race glow. I couldn’t believe that I, a complete non-runner until 2 years ago, had just completed my second half-marathon. I also couldn’t believe how good I felt, but attributed that to the ideal racing conditions and possibly, temporary insanity. But soon after I got home, the gastrointestinal distress set in and the muscles really started to hurt, and so I stayed in bed the rest of the afternoon, comforted by a couple of cats and bowl of chicken noodle soup.
I will definitely consider doing this race again, although next time I will line up in the front and just stay to the side so the speedsters can pass me. But at least I won’t be frustrated and worn out from trying to weave my way around large groups of people. Overall, it was a very well-organized race on a beautiful course and one that every “girlfriend” should consider.
Final Grade: B+