The pre-race routine was pretty normal this morning. There were two minor changes I made. First, I ate about 300 calories (banana, peanut butter and Kind bar) at around 4:30AM. Second, I shaved last night instead of this morning.
I decided to wear long-sleeves under my mint-green M-Dot shirt for the race today. Compression socks, my M-Dot hat and Saucony Kinvara shoes rounded out the outfit for today. I left my house at 5:35AM. I picked up Elizabeth and we drove towards the race.
Thanks to Elizabeth, we had access to the Microsoft building about a mile from the race. This meant that we could not only stay in the warmth of the building, but we could also use their clean restrooms and relax in the lobby until about 30 minutes before the race. I was actually able to nap for 15 minutes on the lobby sofa. Bonus!
At 7:15AM, we left for the starting line. As we walked up to the corral, I ran into Mike and then Babette. Mike was doing the 10k while Babette was starting in corral 5 for the half. I was to start in corral 2 which was absolutely jam packed. People were standing outside the corral fence just to get in. I stood there patiently. There was no room to even stretch. Precisely at 7:50AM, the elites took off. The corral cleared a bit as people moved forward and about 50 of us entered corral 2. The race started promptly at 8:00AM.
Miles 1 and 2: As I took off, I was relaxed. I felt good. There was a chill in the air. Running conditions were perfect. The plan was to go pretty easy for the first two miles. I wanted my heart rate in the 140s and my speed to be just above 8-minutes per mile. As I looked down at my Garmin in the first half-a-mile, my speed was sub-8; lower than expected and my heart-rate was at 140. I ran relaxed for the first mile. At the beginning of the second mile, my heart-rate was reporting weird results. I ran by feel and still felt good. It was a near perfect start. I found a girl in sleeveless pink with Newton shoes as my key. Her pace was just a bit faster than mine. She would stay with me until mile 10. She was a good find! I ran miles 1 and 2 at a pace right around 7:45.
Miles 3, 4, 5 and 6: The mid-stretch is flat and boring. Hundreds of people had gathered to cheer us on with signs like, “Run faster cuz I just farted” and “Is that a Gel in your shorts or are you so excited to see me?” I smiled at these and ran at a relaxed yet brisk pace. The girl in pink was a dozen yards in front of me. Her cadence was just a bit slower than mine but our speeds were the same. My heart-rate was now well in the 150s (level 3). The plan was to run miles 3 through 10 at this heart-rate and then pick up the pace. Dozens of faster runners passed me. I ran past dozens of slower runners. I settled into a smooth rhythm. I drank a few sips of water at a water station as I ran on. At the 47-minute-mark, I reached into my back pocket and pulled out a vanilla stinger waffle and ate it heartily. I was burning sugar and needed carbs. I also picked up a GU at the station and ate half of it. I ran miles 3, 4, 5 and 6 also at a pace right around 7:45.
Mile 7 and 8: Mile 7 is pretty flat but mile 8 starts to go slightly uphill. I wanted to run at a steady heart-rate in the upper 150s. I knew that the upcoming miles would be tough. The girl in pink was surging just a bit ahead. She was still in sight, but she had added to her lead. I had plenty of energy left but tempered my pace. Some runners were starting to huff and puff by the 8-mile mark. I ran on smoothly. I ran miles 7 and 8 at a smooth pace of around 7:50.
Mile 9 and 10: Mile 9 is the toughest mile on the course. It has a pretty steep uphill. I know the course well enough to take it easy on the uphill and then smoke everyone coming back down. That’s exactly what I did! I saw a few people walking up the hill now. They had clearly used up all their sugar and had nothing left in the tank. The girl in pink was still in front of me as we ran uphill. She was a good 30 yards in front of me now. As we turned around and started downhill, I caught up with her very quickly. I was clearly faster now than most of the folks around me. In spite of the undulations and hills, I managed to run miles 9 and 10 at sub-8 pace!
Mile 11 and 12: I owned miles 11 and 12. I was now passing dozens and dozens of people. Some runners had lost it while others were digging deep. The wind was blowing gently but was against us. We were going downhill but the wind was slowing us down just a bit. The girl in pink was left in the dust. At the start of mile 12, a guy in yellow passed me. He would be my key. I drafted him. I ran a couple of feet behind him and felt relaxed. My heart-rate was now well in the 160s. I had a bit more in my tank, but didn’t want to go any faster and feel the wind. I ran mile 11 and 12 in the 7:40s.
Mile 13 and The Finish: A guy in orange passed us right at the beginning of mile 13. I ran directly behind him now leaving the guy in yellow behind. I drafted the guy in orange for about a mile. With a quarter of a mile to the finish, I started to accelerate. I sprinted to the finish line passing not only the guy in orange, but also a dozen other runners. I finished strong with a sub-7:20 final mile. I felt good!
All in all, I finished in a time of 1:41:32. It was about 8 minutes slower than my PR in Tucson but Tuscon is a super-fast track. I finished a good 5 minutes faster than the same race last year. The course today was tough but the weather conditions were quite perfect. My conditioning has improved considerably over the past couple of months.
I will savor the race for the next day or two and then start the training regimen for the next month. A tough month is coming up!