Independence Day is usually a day where I sit around and hope someone invites me to a barbeque, and then go watch mediocre fireworks in my neighborhood. In the end, this year was no different, but it at least started out differently, because I decided to begin my July 4 with the Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon. I suppose that technically I should say I started my July 4 with sleep, as I do most days, but only 5 hours into the day I was getting up and making my way to Sauvie’s Island. This race had the ridiculously early start time of 6:45 AM, which I’m pretty sure makes it my earliest race of all time (if we exclude crazy running times during Hood to Coast).
The only bad part of the event was the first part: getting there. They should probably make taking a shuttle the only option, because spending 45 minutes to go 3 miles is absurd. I briefly considered joining those who ditched their cars and jogged to the race start, but with 13 miles already in my very near future, I didn’t know if I could handle anything else. The worst part about how terrible the traffic was, was that as we started the race, we had to look at the sad faces of all the people idling in their cars, missing the race start as we took off. There’s nothing worse than watching sad people when you’re having fun.
Traffic aside, the race was awesome. I started around the middle of the pack, which meant I was stuck behind tons of sloggers, forcing me to slow down and forgo my typical first-mile sprint. I always race better when I can keep my adrenaline in check during the first mile or two. From then until mile 8.5 I felt great. I used my Nike+ app to let myself know how I was doing. Nike+ was feeling extremely optimistic about my running, which always boosts my self-esteem, but makes it difficult to figure out exactly how fast I’m going.
Right around 8.5 miles, things changed significantly. At first I was sure that everyone around me had simultaneously decided to speed up, but after a while it became apparent that I was definitely slowing down. I tried hard to hang on though, until I was just 2 miles from the finish and realized that if I kept up 8 minute miles for the remainder of the race, I could PR. Long story short (it’s actually a short story, but it felt super long), I did it. My half-marathon PR has now been lowered by almost one-and-a-half minutes! Overall I got 245th place, which was even more exciting, because my goal was to be in the top 245 people. Here’s a video of me beating everybody except for 244 people:
The most annoying part of this race was all of the millions of sandwich boards all over the place. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sauvie’s Island, it’s pretty much just a giant island where you go and pick berries. There are so many berry-picking farms, that you’ll never choose the right one if there aren’t sandwich boards outside of every single one telling you about their berry-picking farm. The annoyance in this situation comes from the fact that the event coordinators also chose to use sandwich boards for their mile markers. This meant that every time I saw a sandwich board in the distance, I assumed I had run another mile, even if it had only been two minutes since the last mile marker. Usually it was not, but the sandwich boards continued to play mind games with me the entire race.
Foot Traffic made up for their tricky sandwich boards after the race, when they provided an ice bath for me to soak my achy legs in. I liked the ice bath because even though I, and everyone around me, had just finished running a half-marathon, the ice bath is what everyone thinks is crazy. “Oh my gosh that looks so cold! You’re crazy! I can’t believe you’re sitting in an ice bath! How are you possibly doing that right now? Oh my gosh!” This is what every single person says when they see somebody in an ice bath, verbatim. But the truth is, when it’s nearing 80 degrees and you just ran a half marathon, it feels much better to be in an ice bath than to not be in one.
My current goal is to keep up with my long runs, so I feel a little better for a little longer in the next half-marathon (probably Run Like Hell, in October). Somehow I continue to struggle to find people to do my long runs with, but I did see my old friend Laura at the Flat, and we have tentative plans to start long-running together. I might even try to get some kind of long-run running group started up, so if you enjoy 10-15 mile runs at 8-9 minute/mile pace, let me know, and I will consider inviting you!