With the Walnut Creek Half Marathon as my final race of 2011 and my fifth half for the year, the expectations were different from most events. Recently my legs seem to have developed a little bit of speed and my pace has quickened by almost a minute per mile.
With the course covering a route that I regularly run as part of my training, the mystery of the route was instantly removed. The good: I know what to expect on race day. The bad: I have zero excuses to fall back on if my race is a disaster.
Four other friends that I regularly train with joined me at the start as this race was the final event of the Northern Ca. Half Marathon Series. We had all participated in four (pre-selected) half marathons throughout the year and this was the culmination of our hard work. Oh ya, and we got an extra medal at the end.
We met up before the race and walked about a mile to the start. It was in the low 30s and was a great way to get the blood flowing. The starting line was pretty low key. There was plenty of room for the runners to line up, but there were no corrals and the porta-potty situation was less than desirable (only 6 available). Apparently there was a mix-up with the vendor. Luckily, our group was all fellas and we were able to “water the bushes.” Not ideal, but I’m sure the 85 ladies in line appreciated us not taking up a spot in line.
I ran into (figuratively) @SJRedGirl(Katie) and @LaylaBohm (Layla) at the start line. We exchanged well wishes, good lucks and high-fives. Layla was pacing the 2:10 runners and Katie told me she would be cheering at the 5/10 with the LuLuLemon crew. Of course she told me this while whacking me with Layla’s pacer sign and calling me a baby. She is a ball of energy and it was awesome.
I met back up with my group, snapped a photo together and all of a sudden everyone started running. From where we were, we didn’t here a “Go” or a National Anthem or any indication that the race was starting. I was fine without the bells and whistles at the start. I’m sure the neighbors appreciated it as well.
I ended up coming upon Layla and her 2:10 runners. As I ran by, I screamed out some jibberish to cheer on the 2:10ers… crickets. I guess I’m used to larger events where you can shout out to a group and everyone around joins in. Nope. Luckily Layla gave me some shouting back, otherwise I just would have been that weird guy screaming at mile one.
Subconsciously, I think I ran the first 6 miles at an easier pace than I had originally planned for. Knowing the course, means I knew how giant that hill was near the turnaround. Taking it easy on the way out would set me up for flying towards the finish line. Here were my splits for the first half:
Mile 1: 8:13
Mile 2: 8:42
Mile 3: 8:56
Mile 4: 8:43
Mile 5: 8:42
Mile 6: 10:39 (up the hill)
Mile 7: 8:03
There was a decline going down during mile 7, but one that we would soon have to climb again on the way back. At the halfway point, I was on pace with some downhill portions coming.
Mile 8: 9:05
Mile 9: 8:53
Mile 10: 8:01 (down the hill)
At the base of mile 10, I came across the LuLuLemon cheer crew again — the first time around at mile 5, I made sure to slowly maneuver to the right so I could spot Katie. She cheered like a crazy-energetic runner the first time and it totally fueled me to make the climb. I also got to high-five from @CourtPancakes as well. On the return trip, they spotted me again and showed lots of support. Thanks ladies, I was really looking forward to feeding off your energy. @runnersrambles, @running_onfaith and @kristin_running were also there, but they are ninjas, so I didn’t recognize them on the course.
For a full spectator report and photos, check out @runnersrambles’ blog here.
Oh ya, I also came across the 2:10 pace group on the return trip. At this point, I had been running for an hour, so my support was much more mellow and I didn’t want to frighten the runners… AGAIN. I gave Layla a shout out and she returned it right back. She ended up leading her group to a 2:09 finish, which is amazing on her pacer debut on an unfamiliar, challenging course. Kudos.
For the final three miles, I decided to put the pedal to floor and see how long I could hold it. I knew the route coming back was mostly flat-to-downhill, so I was going to give it my all. There was a small climb at 12, but it was manageable.
Mile 11: 8:13
Mile 12: 9:26
Mile 13: 7:47
Mile 13.1: 6:40/pace
Finish Time: 1:54:18 — a 4 minute PR
Overall, I was really happy with my time. I was aiming for 1:55, but had 1:53 in the back of my mind as a “I will go absolutely nuts if I finish that fast” goal. I gave it my all and if you didn’t notice, my final mile was a sub-8… holy moley. I didn’t know I had that in me after 12 miles. That gives me incredible hope and confidence that I can keep getting faster.
After the race, I met @4GFarms (Brent) and a co-worker (Gerry) that dressed up in costume. I’ll let you guess which one is my co-worker. Congrats to Brent and Gerry on a great race. Gerry was the star, I saw other runners asking to take a photo with him at the start and cheering him on the course. He ran CIM last weekend and was back for more!
I also took advantage of the podiums they had at the finish line area with my friend Paul. Clearly we are enjoying our TWO medals.
After the race, we all gathered at Katy’s Kreek for a post-race brunch. If you know our running group, you know that we can easily take over a restaurant pretty quickly. I’m glad I made reservations a week in advance. We celebrated, ate, drank and enjoyed each other’s company. It was the perfect end to a great race and a wonderful 2011 race year.
Thanks again for all the support and congratulations on Facebook and Twitter. You definitely provided some extra motivation to strive towards a fantastic finish.