I had a great start this morning: backing out of the garage I side-swiped a friend’s car. That‘s the way to start off your race day. (Sweetie thinks the resulting adrenaline helped.) With the wanton destruction portion of the morning done with, I headed for Sauvie Island, a half-hour drive from home. Sauvie Island is a large island along the Columbia and Willamette rivers, northwest of Portland, not that far from the end of the Wildwood Trail. There were two to three miles of lined-up cars getting into the parking fields, but I had left plenty of time (even with the unfortunate incident) and had no trouble hitting up the port-a-potties and getting to the start line with tons of time left.
The course was a loop with one short out and back and, as promised, it was flat. There was one short hump that you might call a hill, and any number of very gradual inclines and declines, but it really was as close to a pancake as a road race is likely to get. The weather was my main worry. Portland has been having a hot spell. Leaving my house at six am, it was already 55 degrees. But you know what? It turned out to be five degrees cooler on the island! Yay! The sun was turned up to 11, but it didn’t get over 60 before I was done. I’m glad I did the half marathon and not the whole — temperatures were going up rapidly.
My half marathon PR from three weeks ago was a 7:27 pace on a hilly course. I figured that if conditions were good, I’d do 7:20s or 7:15s here and be happy. But I was also planning to just run hard and see what happened.
I did the early miles at a 7:00 pace. (6:59, 6:57, 7:00.) I wasn’t struggling but I wasn’t in a great rhythm. I also didn’t have too many problems with negative thinking. There really wasn’t much thinking at all, except about the moment-by-moment issues of running. This stayed true for the whole race.
After six miles I was still around 7:00/mile. (7:03, 7:02, 6:55.) OK… I just bested my 10K PR (set in April on a pretty flat course) by 10 seconds a mile. Good thing? Bad thing? Was I sure I knew what I was doing? Like I said, I didn’t think about it much. I just focused on keeping up with whoever was ahead of me, and on trying to run the shortest line on the course. I wasn’t feeling all that comfortable at these speeds, but I wasn’t going to worry about that, either.
Mile 7: 7:01. Mile 8: 7:05. Mile 9: 7:01. Was I really going to keep this up? I kept expecting to drop down to the 7:30s. Not that the 7:30s sounded much easier to me! Might as well just keep up the full discomfort. The sun blazed down hard but the heat wasn’t there yet.
After 7:03s for both miles 10 and 11, I knew I could finish it at the same pace. Well, I knew I would try, anyway, and not succumb to the slow-down temptation. What’s running through my head? Breathe in breathe out breathe in breathe out how do those guys up there make this look so easy? Count steps one two three four one two three four my toe hurts breathe in breathe out oh look some shade coming up that will be nice after this horrible long exposed straightaway one two three four…
Mile 12: 7:11. My slowest yet, but my average page was still 7:02 or something. I knew, just knew, I’d find a way to pick it up a little in that last 1.1 miles. Just… keep… going. Counting steps forever, until, at last! I could see the parking lot field, and beyond that, the barns and the finish line! I could go bankrupt in my oxygen debt and come out OK. I finished mile 12 in 6:53 and surged a little more for the last desperate bit across the line.
They had strawberry shortcake for the finishers. That was good.
Official time: 1:31:47. 7:01/mile. 5:44 faster than my PR three weeks ago. Nine seconds a mile faster than my 10K PR. A second a mile faster than my 5K PR! What the hell!? I guess my ad-hoc training regimen is really working. The McMillan running calculator suggests that I could run a 3:13:34 marathon under similar conditions and with appropriate training. It also says I have a sub-20 5K in me right now. Beautiful madness.