Sunday, January 8, 2012

First PR for 2012 at Lake Samish Runs

I'm happy to have a new PR to write about for my first race report on my new blog. But before I get into the details, let me back up a bit first to give you some background.

The Greater Bellingham Running Club is the local running club in my area. They have a pretty good schedule of races throughout the year and for a $20 membership fee, members can participate in any of the races for free. This is an amazing value that I'm definitely planning to take advantage of this year.

Today's race was called the Lake Samish Runs and included options for either 6.5 miles or 13.1 miles. For the half marathon, we ran two loops around the lake.

Since it was a free race I was mainly approaching today as a training run and my only goal was to finish sub two hours. I thought I could get close to my half marathon PR (1:45:21, 8:03 pace) since last weekend I ran 14.4 miles at an 8:43 pace. I also figured that I'd break my PR at some point this year since it was set on an extremely windy day. But I hadn't anticipated that today would be the day for a new PR.

I started the race running at what felt like a comfortable pace. When I checked my Garmin, I was surprised to see that I was running in the 7s and tried to pull back a little because of course I didn't want to go out too fast. But once the pack spread out and I settled into my own little zone, I was still maintaining a sub 8 pace without much effort. During the first loop I felt like the distance was going by very slowly. The course had a few rolling hills but none large enough that I was dreading them the second time around. Here's a photo from sometime during the first loop - maybe around mile 4 or so?

After the first loop, I realized I hadn't had any fuel yet and took an orange GU energy gel. I think the caffeine gave me some kick because I passed two women during the first mile of the second loop. My goal then became to stay ahead of them for the rest of the race (which I did). My splits don't show it, but mentally the second loop passed more quickly for me. I guess it helped knowing what was ahead on the course. I had two GU chomps at the beginning of mile 12, then just focused on getting to the finish line.

I finished in 1:41:47 (7:46 pace) which put me at:
  • 48 out of 164 total finishers
  • 9th female finisher
  • 4 out of 23 in the 20-29 age group (which earned me a ribbon)

Now that I think about it, despite my new PR the overall race was pretty uneventful. Everything just kind of fell into place and I felt good throughout the run. My feet are a little tender, but my legs aren't sore at all. I'm pretty sure I have it in me to aim for a sub 1:40 half... maybe even next weekend? But I'll get into that in another post.

I want to mention a few of my observations about the race in general. First, the positives:
  • Chip timing - Even though it was only a gun start, I'm still impressed that the finish was chip timed. I didn't expect that for what I thought would be a small, local race...
  • Size of race - based on the results, there were about 350 participants between both distances. I'm not really sure whether to still consider that a small race. I liked that there weren't a lot of people to weave around, but there were enough people that I never felt like I was the only one on the course. (Also, I'm not sure I can even consider it a local race since the results show there were people who drove down from Vancouver and up from Seattle.)
  • Mile markers - There were mile markers. Not much else to say, except that I've paid higher registration fees for races without them.
  • Post-race food - A good spread with hot soup, bread, and cookies. I think there may have been coffee too.
It's hard to really make a complaint about a free race. So let's just say these are a couple areas for improvement:
  • Shuttles - There's limited parking at the race start so a lot of us had to park about a mile away and take a shuttle van over. While the wait wasn't awful, there was a decent line and it would have helped to add another shuttle. (Although I think they already did go from one shuttle to two this year.) Or as an alternative I'd suggest either limiting the shuttle to runners or asking non-runners to drop their runner off at the start before parking.
  • Water - Actually, I guess it could be considered a positive that they even had water (and Gatorade). There was one water stop on the course that the half marathoners passed twice, and one at the finish. It would be nice to have a second one on the course, making a total of five water stops for the half.
Today was a great way to kick off my 2012 racing season, and I hope there are still more PRs to come in my future.

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