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Race #12/Half Marathon #6 of 2012: Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon

Sunday, August 05, 2012

Yesterday my husband and I did the Tacoma Narrows Half Marathon. We did this race last year as well, and because of the route, we decided just a couple of weeks ago that we wanted to do it again this year. The route goes from Gig Harbor to Tacoma by way of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge and through Cheney Stadium, home of the Mariners' AAA ball club, the Tacoma Rainiers.

Since the finish line is nowhere near the start, the race organizers ran shuttle buses from the finish to the start before the race as well as the other way afterward. We opted to park by the finish and take the shuttle over; we know from experience that after a half, we don't want to have to wait around, we want to leave when we're good and ready. That meant a 4 a.m. wake-up time in order to get there plenty early. (One of the big mysteries of life is how a couple of people who HATE to get up early on weekends regularly pay money for races that make us get up before the birds!)

After taking the shuttle over, we made our way to the porta potties for the traditional pre-race bio break and then warmed up a bit. Last year the weather was somewhat misty and cool; not so this year. As we waited for time to start, we heard an announcement for a pre-race photo for Half Fanatics. We finally were in the right place at the right time to get in on one of those, seems like we miss them at most races.

I turned on my Garmin shortly before the start, only to see the dreaded "Batteries Low!" message. How could that be?! I know I had charged it completely after the last time I used it! The message went away, and all seemed well. Then it was time to get in position to start; we lined up toward the back of the runners. Promptly at 7:30, the race began . . . and at about 7:31, right after crossing the start line, my Garmin shut off. ACK!

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I wanted some way to record my race, so I quickly pulled out my phone and got Runkeeper going. That would not do me much good during the race unless I wanted to carry the phone in my hand or keep pulling it out of my belt, but at least it would track my run. Moral of the story: never count on your Garmin being charged for a race; ALWAYS charge it the night before, and have a backup plan just in case if you really want a record!

Two things stick out in my mind about this race:

1. It was WARM, very very warm! This was the hottest half we have done so far. I took advantage of every water stop along the way and went through all 16 oz. of coconut water I had with me, and I don't think it was still enough for how warm it was.

2. The course was hillier than I remember. I know that Tacoma = hills, but I did not remember quite so many on this course.

My husband and I ran together the first three miles or so until we got over the bridge (lovely views on a beautiful warm summer day). When we headed up the off-ramp on one of the steeper hills, though, we parted ways; I opted to trot up the hill until I got to the steepest part, and my husband opted to walk the whole thing.

I had been relying on his Garmin to tell me when to walk using our 2 to 1 run/walk pattern, so once we separated, I was on my own. I have no idea what pattern I used, if any, from there on out. I just walked when I felt like I needed to bring my heart rate and my body temperature down and ran the rest of the time. It was kind of cool running with no real technical feedback, just trying to pay attention to my body. I don't want to do it all the time, but I may do it more often in the future.

I did not see my husband again until Cheney Stadium; he was just entering as I was leaving. I made it a point of running all the way around the track, not just when the camera was showing me on the big screen (one of the fun parts of this race).

Running through neighborhoods in Tacoma, some kind residents had their sprinklers on and I took advantage of the chance to get cooled off by letting the water hit me. One man was actually out there with a hose and a mister spray from his hose to cool off anyone who wanted it; yes, please!

I did not know what my pace was on the race other than when I would occasionally hear Runkeeper, which was not often. I knew I was doing the second half slower than the first because of the heat and hills, though. I always harbor a hope that I will be able to PR in a race, but once the heat and the hills started affecting my pace, I figured that was not too likely. I did, however, get my second best time: 2:50:11, only 5 minutes slower than my best time and a full 20 minutes faster than what I did it in last year. Looking at the official race results, it showed me finishing 3rd out of 8 in my age group, but they had my age group wrong, listing me in my husband's age group. Oops! I really finished 11th out of 17 in my age group and 314th overall out of 712. I am very happy with those results!

I got my medal and a bottle of water and found some shade to stand in to wait for my husband. He finished about 14 minutes later, with the heat and hills affecting him quite a bit. We enjoyed the refreshments available (chocolate milk, fruit, cookies) sitting at a table in the shade before heading back up the hill to where the car was parked.

Now I am looking at a few more half marathons to get on the schedule, but not until September. Summer is here in full force, and I'll stick to shorter races while it is this warm!

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