Last few steps of the race
Tammy and I both long ago recognized that it was important to take part (at least occasionally) in the type of events within the community that you wanted to be a regular part of the community. In this vein, Tammy had decided to volunteer for the local half marathon last weekend. I decided on thursday that i'd run it. I was planning a run on the weekend anyway (as kind of a 'getting back into it' effort after the previous weeks 6 days in the mountains of wyoming) so figured that at least this way i'd have water stops and maybe a free gel or two. It was a while since i'd run this far, and judging from my bike ride two days before i was pretty 'sub-par' physically speaking - still recovering from all the 12 hour days and 15000 feet of elevation gain of the recent trip. Knowing this i was able to go into the race with little expectation which was actually pretty nice.
It went better than i thought it would. 'little expectation' doesn't mean that i didn't have any expectation - i thought it reasonable that i'd finish in around 1:40-1:45. i went out moderately at a comfortable (and what felt sustainable) clip - but struggled mentally for the first 4 miles, which seemed to take forever. After that something changed and the next 4 miles i seemed to settle into the work involved. I passed one fellow who had zoomed by me in the first mile (he latched on to my heels) and then another who'd passed me at about two miles and proceeded to get quite far ahead at one point. When the lead runners started coming back from the far turn around i counted - one-two, three (top female, only a short distance behind the two leading men), four, five..... and then i - suddenly, i was at the orange cone and vest clad volunteer directing me back the way i'd come. Five miles to go and in sixth place. [Note - grand forks is a small town and this was a 'local' race. there were only about 80 runners total in the half marathon, and although there were a few very talented runners - the depth of talent wasn't that great. Still, it's kinda fun to place high!]
The next 4 miles seemed to fly by. I had decided that i wanted to try to maintain my placing. I kept looking over my shoulder and saw that except for the guy who remained steadfastly 10 feet on my heels, there was no one that seemed able to catch me. Now in fairness, i had used this same guy as a rabbit for about 6 miles - though at a much greater (~100 ft) distance. He was returning the favor and it was making me nervous and excited at the same time. It was cool to have competition. I kept imagining that he was just biding his time - seeing what i had, waiting for the last 400 meters to make his move. When i passed my wife's aid station at mile 11 he was still right there, only a step behind me.
My dad and I with my two boys, Keegan (in orange) and AJ (being shy) after the race
At mile 12 i decided i had to go. the last few miles had gone so quickly i thought i'd be done in no time, so i picked it up. My shadow couldn't answer and i put 100 meters on him over the next half mile. But it took it's toll - the last mile seemed longer than all the rest, and to make matters worse it snaked back past the finish line before doubling back, uphill, to the end. It felt like that last mile worked me more than the previous 12 - despite the small increase in effort. But maybe it was my mind playing tricks, after all it was over 90% humidity and over 80 degrees by 9 am. I ran by my dad, uncle, and two boys near the start and got an extra boost, crossing the line in 1:35:20 - a new PR for me (which doesn't say much since i rarely do pure running races and have actually trained at the distance faster than this on many occasions). It was cool to be able to go out so soon after a fairly big endurance effort (Too much Fun expedition 2010) and run 13 miles at about a 7:15 pace (actually just under 7:17) - gives me a bit of confidence in what lies ahead.