And here's the rest of the story . . . be warned, it’s still long!
After our excitement on Saturday evening, we were all ready to go to bed almost as soon as the door closed and the other couple had left. We headed to our respective rooms, and my husband and I prepped things for Sunday morning, setting the alarm on our cell phones to wake us in plenty of time to make the 10-15 minute drive back to Oak Harbor and the race.
Sunday morning dawned beautifully clear and just a little cool--about perfect for running. Shannon, Dale and I headed out while Pat and Brogan slept in to find our typical prerace breakfast at Starbucks as well as where the race started. We weren't entirely sure where to go but figured there would signs or people that would give us a clue where things were happening. Sure enough, we drove into town and saw where to park and Starbucks across the street--double score! After parking and dashing across the street for breakfast, we went on over to where people were milling about waiting for the start and found our place at the back of the pack just ahead of the walkers. We didn't have long to wait before it was time to shuffle to the official start line and then start running. Here's a picture of Shannon and me:
And one of my wonderful husband and me:
The three of us started out together, then Shannon went on ahead when my husband and I started doing our walk breaks. I've found going to whatever run/walk ratio we are aiming for right from the start works best, just like Galloway says. I kept watching for Shannon throughout the rest of the race, but I never did see her (you go, girl!).
My husband and I continued on together, starting with a 3:1 run:walk pattern, for the first portion; when he needed to take a bio break, though, I told him I was going to go on and to not necessarily try to catch up with me. He's been having some issues with his calf and was getting over a cold, so I didn't want him pushing himself too hard, while I wanted to see what I could do this time out.
Now I was on my own, no one to push me or hold me back. I love running with other people, but there are times when running "alone" is nice, too--if you can call running in a race with 1,000 other people alone! I didn't pay a lot of attention to my Garmin other than to note whether it was time to walk or not. I often extended the run segments an extra minute or two because I was feeling so good, but I tried to pay close attention to how I was feeling.
The Whidbey Island Marathon and Half Marathon has been billed as one of the most beautiful courses in the world, and I have to say I'd agree. The full marathon crosses Deception Pass, which has spectacular views going across the bridge, while the half marathon goes along the coastline. Even though I was doing the half and missed out on Deception Pass, the views we got were amazing. Here's a sample:
The course was reasonably flat much of the way, but there were two fairly steep sections. In the past, I'd walk when I got to hills, but I was able to keep up the same run:walk pattern even on the first set of hills, just slowing my run down some if the hill was steep enough. At the end, though, I walked on the steepest parts--I wanted to make sure I could finish the race in good condition.
When I did glance at my Garmin to see how long I'd been running and how far, I was surprised at how well I was doing. I realized if I could keep up a reasonable pace, there was a good chance of meeting or beating my best half marathon time. I didn't get too excited; typically I slow by the end of a race, and with another half marathon just two weeks away, I knew I should not push myself too hard. Somewhere around mile 9 or so, I briefly wondered if I'd be able to do those last 4 miles since I haven't done any longer runs recently, but I quickly dismissed that thinking--I was still feeling good.
As I approached mile 10, one of the steepest sections, I knew that barring something happening, I'd be able to finish in a reasonable time (for me--remember, I'm NOT fast!). I started doing some mental calculations; even if all I could do was walk the rest of the way, I'd likely finish in about 3 hours or maybe less.
I was still feeling remarkably good, so I kept running 2-4 minutes for every minute of walking. As I passed the 12-mile mark, I was tempted to keep running and not take any more walk breaks, but I didn't want to get that close and burn out. At about a third of a mile to go, though, I decided to go for it and run the rest of the way. After I crossed the finish line, I looked at my Garmin to see my actual time. I was hoping for anything under 3 hours and was pretty sure I’d done that; the numbers on my Garmin:
Later when I could look up the actual chip time, it was a second better: 2:53:10. That's a full 8 minutes off my best half last year, even with the hills!
Here are my splits along with the elevation gain/loss:
Lap 1: 12:44 / 78 (the early hills were in mile 1 and 2)
Lap 2: 13:36 / 110
Lap 3: 12:04 / -55
Lap 4: 11:34 / -111
Lap 5: 13:24 / 32
Lap 6: 12:33 / -60
Lap 7: 13:16 / 24
Lap 8: 13:15 / -15
Lap 9: 13:15 / -3
Lap 10: 14:20 / 90 (start of the second set of real hills)
Lap 11: 14:20 / 69 (a continuation of the hills with a dip in the middle)
Lap 12: 13:20 / -56
Lap 13: 13:01 / -106
Lap 14: 11:07 / 2
I have yet to fully master the whole negative splits thing, but I'm pretty pleased with that; the only time my pace really slowed down was on the steepest portions, and I was able to pick the pace up as soon as I got through those sections.
I looked for Shannon once I got through the finisher’s chute and picked up my beautiful medal:
It didn't take long to find Shannon; she had finished a mere 4 minutes before me. Then it was time to start watching for my husband while walking around to stretch out and grab some post-race food. He finished a little over 20 minutes later; his calf was bothering him some, so he wisely chose to stick to a slower pace to avoid injuring himself. After everyone had whatever food and drink they wanted, we made our way back to the car and back to Fort Casey, where we cleaned up and packed up our things.
My husband and I locked up and said goodbye to Shannon, Pat and Brogan, then drove down to the office to drop off the key in the drop box. As we approached the office, we saw Patty, the on-call person, walking towards the units, and she waved us down to talk to us. She apologized profusely for the mixup and for no one being able to reach her the night before; apparently this was the one time she left her phone in the car, so she didn't get the messages and texts until much too late to do anything about it. She had spent the morning trying to figure out what happened, and she said she could not find the other couple in their system anywhere--we had a reservation, but they did not. She had given them a key when they arrived and then another key to us when we connected with her because it's not unusual for parties to arrive separately to stay there, so she didn't really question them OR us about the reservation. She said she had already talked to her manager, and if we want to stay there again at a reduced rate, they would be happy to make that happen.
So all's well that ends well. We stayed at a nice place, had a good race, and will almost certainly do this race again. The medal, after all, is the first in a series of three. Gotta complete the series, right?