I had everything all laid out and ready this morning and had gotten to sleep around 10 last night, so getting up early to get out to Hillsboro Stadium well before the 8:00 am start was no big deal. M was running it too, and we were going to carpool from my house if he made it there in time, which he did. Traffic around the stadium was heavy, but all things considered, not too bad. I think we made it there by 7:20 or so.
The weather was cool and just beginning to sprinkle a little. The rain would pick up throughout the race, but it didn’t bother me at all during the run. I didn’t want to mess with the little paper cups of water or sports drink at the aid stations (and I like to drink when I like, not at set intervals) so I was carrying my own drinks. I went with a belt-and-suspenders approach, carrying my small Amphipod hand-held bottle and also wearing my CamelBak fanny pack. The bottle was to be my main supply, hopefully getting refilled along the course, and the CamelBak — not completely full, so it wouldn’t bounce as much — was the reserve supply in case something went wrong with the refill plan. The Camelbak had a “CamelBak Elixer” electrolyte tab dissolved in it; the bottle held plain water to start with, along with a couple Clif Shots in the handle.
M took the opposite approach, carrying nothing whatsoever. His other strategy was to take an Immodium before the race, which seemed to work out. We talked trash a little before the race, I think, but mostly (as far as possible with two hypercompetitive guys like us) were determined to run our own races and hoping to meet our own goals. We both wanted to break two hours. M had been having some trouble with his legs for a few week, which had him a bit nervous, I think.
We got into the enormous starting pack around the area marked for 9-minute milers. I saw a walker I knew from Portland Fit right by me — she didn’t know why her little group of walkers was lining up so far forward either — and talked to her a bit. She was wearing a two-liter hydration backpack, so we talked hydration equipment a bit. After some more standing around and trying to keep warm, we were off.
I wanted to go out slow and pick up steam only after the hills were done, which is around mile eight. M’s plan was to set his Garmin Forerunner to have him doing a 13.1-mile workout with a target time of two hours. This turned out to have a few flaws, we saw later, but it did mean that he was running consistent times — uphill, downhill, all about the same. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. (Maybe he did try to gain a little on the downhills and lose a little on the uphills — I’m not sure. But it seemed fairly consistent, from what I could see.)
The first few miles weren’t much fun; they never are for me. But at least they were pretty flat. Mile one was 9:10, about right or perhaps a little fast. Mile two, 8:56, again, too fast. Three, 9:11, about right. During this time I had M in front of me, pulling away a bit, but always in-sight in his distinctive green shirt.
The hills started at mile three and my times slowed down as they should. Miles four and five were 9:23 and 9:50. Mile six had an extended downhill section where I put on the afterburners (ok, where I ran faster than most people around me). I think this is where I caught M — he says he didn’t care for my “make way, coming through!” as I rolled past him on my way to an 8:43 mile. I slowed down a bit to recover and have a Clif Shot after that, and M managed to sneak past me again, without seeing me. I came up beside him and asked how his legs were doing. They were ok. He told me I should get a move on and not dawdle with him, so I could break two hours. I told him something about how the two hours would have to come naturally, not be forced, or somesuch, but shortly after I sped up a little and didn’t see him again until the finish line. (Oops, I gave away the ending of one sub-plot there: I did end up finishing before M. Here’s an extra-special “SMOKED YA” going out to my pal!)
One of these miles in here had considerable uphill, but I was feeling good and running well and it didn’t slow me much. I ran mile seven in 8:44, and that included a stop to refill my bottle with Gleukos sports drink. That was a little iffy. I show the guy my bottle, lid already off, and ask if I can get a refill. He tried to hand me a little cup. “No, can I refill this?” He points me to the big barrel of the stuff they’ve mixed up and tells me to help myself. There’s a pitcher floating in the barrel, for pouring. Well? I got my bottle refilled, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some of my sweat into the remaining Gleukos too. Ick. Sorry.
It was somewhere during mile seven that I started to feel good. The hills were done, my stride and pace were in the good place that I only seem to get to when my legs have been running for a long while, and my heart rate was going down. This was interesting. Running faster splits in the (flat) last five miles of the race than I had in the (also flat) first three, I also had a considerably lower heart rate. Apparently my feeling that it takes me an hour of running to warm up sometimes isn’t just an illusion!
Miles eight through eleven were an uneventful 8:33, 8:32, 8:59, and 8:58. Getting past mile 10 felt good – with just a 5K left, I felt like I could throw away any worries about not finishing, or having to walk the rest of the way. Getting past mile 11 was another story: as soon as I ran past the 11-mile marker, I found myself thinking “every step I take now is the farthest I’ve ever run! What am I doing trying to run it fast?” I didn’t slow down, but the mental side got a lot more difficult. I ran mile twelve in 8:51.
As with my two previous races, the last mile was the hardest part. Thinking back to how I felt I could have finished the Bridge to Bridge 10K with a lot more left, I pushed my speed past my comfort level. I was huffing and puffing, but — huh? — my heart rate was still around 84% of my max, not the 88% it had been at the start of the race. Checking the time at mile 12, I knew I had plenty of time to finish and still break two hours, so that was good, and kept me going strong. Mile 13 went by in a very long-feeling 8:34.
The extra tenth of a mile takes place inside Hillsboro Stadium, on a springy track that just begs to be sprinted on. Sprint I did. I remembered to stop my watch, which was displaying 1:58. The “gun time” hadn’t passed two hours yet either, which made me feel pretty good. All in all, I felt elated. I recovered my breath waiting in the line to have my timing chip removed, than passed through the gauntlet, getting my finisher’s medal, shirt, and hamburger. Mmmmmhmmm hamburger. The shirt and burger were outside the stadium and some steps had to be climbed to get there: ouch! My hip flexors were tender! My calves, not too bad.
After I got my burger I started retracing my steps looking for M. I found him, looking a little dazed, but he said he was ok, and we went and got his shirt and hamburger. He knew he didn’t break two hours, and thought he got 2:02-something. But talking to him, it turns out that was the time shown on the gun-time clock when he crossed the finish line, not the tape-to-tape time that will be official. I asked if he had forgotten to stop his watch and he explained that when his 13.1 mile workout was done the Forerunner said he was done and stopped timing — and that was maybe 0.1 miles short of the actual finish. (Why? (a) The GPS isn’t perfectly accurate. (b) 13.1 miles is with a perfect line.) Workout mode? Maybe not the best for races. For a while he fretted that if he’d sprinted the finish, maybe he would have broken two hours, but then he remembered that the Forerunner said he had been running almost exactly two hours when it stopped. Next time, if he keeps using the workout mode like this, I’m sure he’ll add in some padding distance.
It was cold and the rain was really starting to come down. We had some trouble finding the car, and got even colder and wetter. Getting out of the parking lot took forever, then I got lost in Hillsboro a bit. But that’s pretty dull. The take-home message is this: run a half-marathon! It’s fun!
Here’s a graph. The top line is heart rate, the middle elevation, and the bottom pace. As I said, the heart rate is very interesting.