Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Weighing in on everything from avocados to Zimbabwe

Thanksgiving PR Double-Down: Green Lake Gobble 5K and Seattle Half Marathon Race Recaps

posted by Leila Z. on ,

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In discussing my performance at the Magnuson Series Halloween 5K (which resulted in a 45-second PR on a yucky day), my sometimes coach/full-time husband Greg asked if I might consider trying to tackle the half-marathon distance sometime soon in order to leverage my current fitness. I've been running plenty of miles lately (at least 25 per week, trying to run 1000 miles for the year after a slow start in the winter), but my speed work and training has been focused on shorter distances: the mile in October and the 5K since then. Still, I was intrigued. Who doesn't like the idea of a bonus PR? Plus, it's a distance where I think there's room for improvement: my last and best half-marathon was only two days after getting married! (Such a great idea, btw...)

I decided to try a few longer runs to see how they felt before deciding. In the end and because my life is kind of crazy right now, it came down to one 12 mile run with Shannon, done in the pouring rain, with the last 4 as part of another Oiselle meetup. I'm beginning to think there's something in the water with #oisellevolee, because the run was fairly magical and I was sold that day. Plus, there was supposed to be a large O cowbell corner at the race, PLUS I found a $30 coupon for the Seattle half-marathon, so I knew it was destiny!
Warning: may cause giddiness and delusions of PRs!
Green Lake Gobble 5K

The way the schedule fell, I would be racing my goal race, the Green Lake Gobble 5K, one week before the Seattle half. Despite calling it my "goal race", I went into the Green Lake Gobble feeling a little blah about it. I had missed the last two weeks of workouts because of life, and with a recent big PR under my belt wasn't feeling super motivated to rachet up the 5K hurt again quite so soon. But I had registered, and I HATE wasting money, so I was racing. 

The morning of the 5K was one of those picture perfect autumn mornings: highs in the 40s, but blue skies (the bluest skies you've ever seen...) and sunny. I jogged over to the start line from my house for my warmup, met Greg and Phil for a wardrobe/shoe change, ran a few striders, and lined up. I lined up toward the front of the "joggers" (again, a highly nebulous designation), and as people poured by at the start (I tend not to sprint out as most people do at the start), teammate Danielle ran by shouting, "Go, Oiselle!" which was a delightful surprise. 

I honestly wasn't sure what would happen in this race. I had had some good workouts a few weeks ago, but I get nervous when I don't have a more recent marker of fitness. I decided to try to run 8:40's and hang on using Lauren Fleshman's "head-settle-heart" view of 5Ks. I also tried to concentrate on running the tangents, as usual, and not to be irritated by women running 3 and 4 abreast on a relatively narrow path (srsly?).

That old hurt crept up what felt fairly quickly, but I'm getting to know better what is sustainable hurt and what is not. When I made it to 1.5 miles I knew things were going well; plus, at that point I can fool myself into thinking, "It's just one more 2K rep [my favorite workout], and then a tiny sprint at the end." The mind games we play... And when things got tough in mile 3, I let the invisible string attached to runners ahead pull me along behind. 

During the race I was more focused on pace than on time, so I was pleasantly surprised -- once I caught my breath and could think straight again -- to find that my finish time was 26:18, a 54 second PR!! WHOA!! I felt like a PR was possibly in the cards for the day, given the tough conditions at the Halloween race, but never expected this. Greg was similarly agog. Mile splits were 8:36, 8:34, 8:26, 0:42 (7:07 pace for last 0.1 miles) for a 8:29/mile average.

Seattle Half Marathon

Around mile 9 or 10, I think?
Once I had signed up for the half marathon, I was puzzled as to how to run it. I wanted to have a strong race and not die at the hilly end as I have before, but had no idea what pace was feasible. Certainly the "race predictor" times based on my 5K time seemed overly ambitious. I decided to go out with the 2:15 pace group, stay with them until mile 7-8, and then do what I could to squeeze down after that.

We spent Thanksgiving with my brother in bucolic Republic, WA, where snow and icy temps contributed to a severe and unanticipated taper! We drove back to Seattle just in time to pick up my bib, and then went home and fell into bed. Race-day morning was really foggy; race-day head was just really groggy. But we got there and I huddled in the car until just a few minutes before the gun.

Once the gun went off I tucked in behind the pacers and just let myself be carried along. I am coming to love letting someone else lead; all I had to worry about was running the tangents and avoiding the odd icy patch in the road. The pace felt a bit faster than I would comfortably run on my own but doable; I heard the pacers mention that they planned to bank some time and were trying to come in at 2:14 (10:14/mile pace). Around mile 6? 7? fellow Oiselle bird Shannon caught up with me and we ran together for a couple of miles. During this time my husband checked in, and gave me the car keys so I could have someplace warm to go once I finished (the Metro busses were on serious reroute, so he wasn't sure he and Phil would make it to the finish line before I did).

During one of these miles things started to feel harder. I glanced down at my watch and noticed we had just thrown down a 9:15/mile-equivalent half mile. Too fast for this bird! At that point, I happily let those pacers go -- and while it's always sad to see that little sign recede into the distance, I knew it was the right decision. Once I got the Madison hill, I was plumb tired -- although the presence of the Oiselle Cowbell Corner did help! I walked a little at the top, and again a couple of miles later to have some water and eat a Clif Blok, which helped put a spring in my step again. Though tired, I was able to pick up the pace slightly for the last few miles and finished in 2:14:32 for a 10+ minute PR! Mile splits were 10:00, 9:56, 10:18, 11:21 (tunnel), 8:35 (tunnel), 9:53, 9:55, 10:30 (walking!), 9:56, 10:32, 11:14 (more walking), 10:04, 9:42, 2:33 (last 0.27).
The inimitable Sarah Chan Harnett, cowbeller extraordinaire
Overall, there was lots to be pleased with about this race. Although I was tired, the hills at the end didn't feel quite as soul-sucking as 3 years ago (think mountains of Mordor level of dread). There was a small amount of walking during key water stops, but overall things felt pretty good. And the 10+ minute PR, of course! Later, looking at my Garmin, I noticed that the first half of every mile I ran with the pacers was 20-30 seconds slower than the advertised 10:18/mile pace, and the second half of every mile was 20-30 seconds faster than advertised! A little irritating, but I just figure I ran my 2:14 the hard way, which makes me think there are more gains to be had.

It's been a great year (running and otherwise) -- happy holidays to all!

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