Saturday, January 14, 2012

Nookachamps Half Marathon - A rainy day race report

I've been lucky that over the last three years I've never had to race in the rain. (And I've only run in the rain a few times.) Well today, my luck ran out. I guess it had to happen eventually, especially now that I'm living back in the Pacific Northwest.

Despite waking up to a snowy landscape this morning...

I still drove about 40 minutes south to Mount Vernon for the Nookachamps Winter Runs. In Mount Vernon instead of snow I was greeted by a steady rainfall. I picked up my race bib and waited for the start of the race within the wamth of the Skagit Valley Community College gym where we had the luxury of real bathrooms. I kept hoping that the rain would stop, but no such luck. Okay, time to find out what it's like to race in the rain.

Because of the rain, I wore a light jacket over a long-sleeve tech shirt. It was nice having the jacket pockets to hold my GU chomps. I put my Garmin on between the two layers to keep it from getting too wet, but didn't realize that once my jacket got wet it would be hard to push back the sleeve to see the watch. I checked my pace a couple times during the first mile, then just ran the rest of the race on feel. I gave up any thought of trying to finish within a specific time.

Around mile three I remember thinking that my toes felt squishy which was an odd sensation. About five or six miles in, the rain stopped but I was already soaked through. I wondered how much extra weight I was carrying betwen my wet hair, clothes and shoes. A couple times when we were running into the wind, I tried running close behind another runner to "draft" but it didn't seem to make a difference. I ran past a road sign somewhere at the end of a driveway that read "Let Er Rip Tater Chip Street". I wished I had a camera and even thought about driving back to take a photo later but had no idea where I was on the course.

Miles nine and ten were an out and back. I enjoyed the opportunity to see some of the other runners on the course. The only issue was that it wasn't clear which side of the road to be on. Most people were staying to the right, but this meant that runners on their way back had to make a left turn and cross paths with those on their way out. There needed to be cones on the road and/or someone directing traffic.

Compared to last week I felt as though I was putting in more effort but running at a slower average pace. (Even though I wasn't looking at my Garmin, I had it set to alert me if I was running over an 8:15 pace. It beeped quite a few times through the last half of the course, and not just on uphills, so I knew I was slowing.) Mentally I didn't have the drive to push myself today, so during the last few miles of the race I used other people on the course to pull me along, especially during mile 13. There was a guy right in front of me leading the way and I was determined not to fall behind.

I crossed the finish line somwhere around 1:44:28 according to my Garmin. (The official results aren't posted online yet.) It's actually my second best half marathon time, just behind last week's PR, so I'm pretty happy. I collected my finisher's medal and headed back to the gym to grab some water and change into dry clothes before heading home.

Ultimately I'm glad that I was forced to race in the rain. (I was already pre-registered and wasn't about to make today my first DNS.) It was cold and wet, but I made it through. Wearing a running hat and moisture-wicking clothes was definitely key for success. The only minor discomfort was from having wet socks and shoes, but by the end of the race I wasn't thinking about the squishiness anymore. Maybe I'd feel differently if it was a harsher rain or if it had rained the entire 13.1 miles or if I had to drive home in wet clothes. But for now I won't be so worried next time I see a forecast of rain for race day.

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