Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Runaway Pumpkin Half Marathon: Race Report (new PR)

I use the term “race” here loosely as I signed up for this event with the intention of taking it easy and using it as a supported training run—however, I suppose you can say I “raced” a little as I did come away with a 4 minute half marathon PR!  ICYMI, on tap for the day was 3.5 hour run broken down into a semi-long run and a shorter run later in the day. 

After running into a hiccup with race registration, I emailed the race and promptly received an email back with instructions to help me with my issue.  Gotta love that kind of service!  Thank you T!  Things were off to a good start.

I loaded up in the car around 6:15 am.  The race was scheduled to start at 9:00 am but involved a bit of a drive to get there and not knowing the parking situation or how busy packet pickup would be I left with plenty of time to spare.  I got to the race with about an hour to go.  I hit the porto’s which were clean and didn’t have any lines.  I picked up my packet, which had all kinds of goodies, and headed back to my warm car.

Start/Finish Line in the morning hours with the fog surrounding the hillside

No line for the porto's this early...however, even later when there was a line it went quickly

Swag bag full of goodies, even a local dentist had put in a new tooth brush, floss and paste--I point this out b/c 1) it was unique to find in a race packet and, 2) I've been looking for a new tooth brush to take to AZ

I spent 45 minutes killing time listening to a podcast and texting—love being able to sit in my car until the very last minute.  Around 8:45am I headed to the race start.  The announcer stated that they would be doing a staggered start as the first mile or so was on a narrow packed gravel pathway.  They did a great job of staggering!  It felt slightly silly to me at first, given that I’ve done some massive races (hello, Disney with 30,000 people and Bay to Breakers with 80,000+), but the staggered start really did make for easy running.   About 6-7 minutes after the start, I was off and running.

Waiting in the "corrals."  I think people generally did a good job of seating themselves according to pace.  I didn't have to do a lot of weaving in/out which was great.  I think it helped that there was a "walker" division which started at the back of the race and the walkers really did all start in that group.

My strategy was to just enjoy myself.  Talk to people, take in the amazing fall running weather (read: sunshine and cool temps), pace myself well and be excited about being in a race environment again.  This year certainly didn’t go completely according to race plans as I had to take 9 full weeks off of running when I broke my foot and have slowly rehabbed myself back into shape.  Here is how this race went down.

From the get-go I knew that a half marathon PR was possible but not something that I was really gunning for.  My previous half PR was set in 2009 at Race for the Rose and was 2:27 for an avg pace of 11:13 per mile.  Knowing that I would be running this half, plus swimming, PLUS running more later in the day I really wasn’t gunning for a PR at all.  Going in, I kept thinking of the wise words of Sweaty Emily, pace, pace, build, race.  Breaking the race down into quarters became my approach.

Miles 1-3: Totally easy running, kept my HR squarely in my easy zone, in fact, I did not even look at my run pace.  Somewhere during these miles I caught up to a couple dressed in superhero costumes and chatted with them for several miles.  The husband was running between his sister, who was ahead and his wife who was back with me.  Turns out they had several other family doing the race including a couple of their triathlete friends! 
Miles 4-6: Again, easy running.  The course was really flat just a couple of small rollers.  I was watching my HR on the rollers but really it wasn’t budging.  I kept the pace easy and walked through the aid stations which were about every 2 miles, grabbing two cups of water at each.

Miles 7-9:  Around mile 8 I realized that I was on track to PR and decided that I would try to hold my pace steady but if my HR crept up I would slow down.  I had another hour of running later in the day + swimming!  As the miles kept ticking by I was soaking up every awesome moment.  The scenery really was incredible—if I had been thinking I would have taken photos!  At one point I rounded a corner and on one side was the Santiam River and a waterfall and on the other was gorgeous hillside full of fall colors---ahhhhhh! 

Not the hillside mentioned above, this is near the start/finish area but the whole race looked like this...blue sky, crisp air and fall foliage.

Miles 10-13:  At about mile 10, something strange happened.  I started passing people!  You see, this never happens to me, this is usually when I start to get passed-LOL.  I had picked up my pace and was running well with plenty of energy to spare.  At mile 12 I noticed that my HR had crept up some –not wanting to sabotage the rest of my day and weekend I actually backed off some.  When I was around 12.75 I picked it back up to the finish.

And, just like that, I breezed through a half marathon, with a new PR of 2:23 (10:57 avg)—this makes me really want to race a half marathon…but my eye is squarely on the November 17th prize.  
The face of a new half marathon PR!

Overall impressions…this was a great and well organized race.  Despite registering kinda last minute I even got a shirt, which I picked up at the end.
Colorful, women's specific tech shirt!  And a fun medal with a running pumpkin!

I appreciated a new course and a well-supported training day.  The weather could not have been better and the race staff and participants were all super friendly.  I encountered several first time half marathoners which is always fun to see, especially now that I guess I’m kinda a veteran runner (at least at the half distance), the energy of the first timers is pretty infectious!

I would recommend adding Runaway Pumpkin to your fall calendar for 2014!