I still don't know why I thought this was a rational idea - I was exhausted, my legs were spent and I was ready for some serious rest after 7 days of competition. The thing is, I remembered how AMAZING my first pacing experience was with Emily just a short month prior at the Vancouver USA Half Marathon and I was interested to do it again.
I decided to let my legs rest for a few days following Ragnar and then see how I felt. My first run on Wednesday said no, luckily my Friday legs said "go ahead, why not!?"
So Sunday morning at 6:30 a.m, Emily picked me up in downtown Portland and we drove together to Washington. It was a small event so we were able to pick up our pacing stick and and find our way to the start fairly easy.
|All smiles at the starting line|
My legs were still warming up but up up up we had to go. The good thing about such a brutal incline so early on a course is that once you conquer it, everything else feels easy. By the first mile marker we were coming upon Lacamus Lake and some gorgeous views. I was happy this was a large loop course. We circled the lake and did a short out and back stretch on the second half before returning to the start. It was lovely to have such pretty views - even if the temps were climbing.
|Intimate race - starting line shot|
I had wrongly assumed the first major climb would be our only hill of the day. The course seemed to be a never ending up and down rolling hills course. I asked Emily why she didn't prepare me for this and she said the organizers never posted an elevation map so she didn't realize it herself. Normally - this is my kind of race. I love the opportunity to surge on the uphill and coast down the declines but I was running with the pacing stick so instead I just focused on my overall pace and kept things nice and consistent.
By mile 4 it was obvious Emily wasn't feeling this course. I didn't realize it at the time but she was dealing with a recurring case of Plantar Faciscitious and was experiencing some real pain. It was obvious to me she was going to fall off pace so we had a few glances and acknowledgement that I'd continue ahead with the pacing stick and keep the 11:30 minute mile pace for the group and she would do what she had to do. Although I was unaware of the ups and downs of the course, I did know there was an out and back portion and that if necessary, Emily could slow down her pace and rejoin the group if needed. I went on ahead.
I could feel runners behind me but nobody kept pace WITH me at this point. It was an odd sensation for me as the other time I paced the runners ran along with me and we talked and ticked the miles off blissfully unaware. Unfortunately for me, this time I felt like I was all alone. As we neared the long end of the first half of the lake, the course truly flattened out and I felt like this was a good time for me to make up the 40 seconds we were behind from the big first climb. I allowed myself to run a little closer to my regular speed - hoping I wouldn't lose too many of my pace group. I really had no idea though as nobody would run alongside of me, I couldn't ask anyone how the pace felt. What I did know is that by mile 6 we were on target to finish at 2:30 and that made me happy.
|Post race with the other pacers|
|Wendi at the finish line still proudly sporting her Ragnar tat|
Once I hit the turnaround portion of the out and back I started scanning the crowd for Emily. She wasn't that far behind and I encourage her to join me since she was the one wearing the pace shirt (although I was carrying the pace stick). I asked her how she was doing but it was obvious she was in pain and not having the run she was expecting,
I dropped her again a mile later and decided to run the 2:30 group in solo. Of course I still felt alone but it was ok because we were entering my favorite part of the race. Around mile 8, we entered a lovely scenic trail. It felt great to get off the pavement and under the shade of the trees. Since we were on a trail I felt even more isolated from the rest of the race but it was so pretty and scenic I didn't really mind.
It was on this portion that I caught up again with a father/daughter duo that I had talked to around mile 6. They wanted to know if I was running on pace - yes, I was. They told me all they wanted was to beat me to the finish line. I told them that I was rooting for them and hoped I didn't see them again.
As I entered the soft shaded trail I spied them in the distance, we were probably around mile 9 at this point. The father was wearing a Rock and Roll San Francisco 1/2 Marathon shirt so I yelled ahead of me - "Hey Rock & Roll San Fran! You better move it or I'm going to pass you!" They turned around and said "NOOOOOO!" and thus our little game of cat and mouse was on. For the next remaining miles we took turns leading one another. I must admit it was fun. They were awesome. Then the father pulled off the trail to tie his shoes and I told him I expected him to catch up quickly and pass me.
As I pulled off the trail and back onto the abrasive pavement I was ready to be done with this course. If my math was correct I was on pace, but I was missing my friend Emily - the mathematician that was so good at calculating distances and pace so I didn't have to be bothered by it all. As I pulled up to the final water station I learned we were exactly a mile out. Even the English nerd that I am could figure out I was running about 3 minutes ahead of pace. I decided to stop at the station and wait out my time so those running the pace could catch up.
As I cooled my heels, took in some water and talked to the volunteers manning the water station my favorite father/daughter duo passed and they were elated. I was happy to see them as well, I really wanted them to meet their goal.
Soon after they passed I noted that it was time for me to move again. I quickly fell into my assigned pace once again and noticed yet one more incline. As is typical with me, I had a desire to pull up and move more quickly on the climb but I kept my pace constant and passed a few folks that had just passed me at the last water station. One guy told me I was a turtle . At first I was appalled but he told me it was because I was so consistent, never slowing even when running uphill. I realized this was actually a compliment and then he told me I would eventually catch all those hares on the course. I don’t think he realized I was a pacer. Although I don’t know how he could have missed this consider I was carrying the pacer stick high in the air, but none the less it was a nice compliment and I took it.
I also passed my father/daughter duo on this final hill of the course. As I passed them I said ‘don’t worry, I will be going this exact same speed as I go downhill, so I’m sure you can take the lead back one last time.” And you know what? I was right. As we began our approach on that last final significant decline – the one that tortured so many at the start, I channeled my inner pace coach and slowed. I didn’t open my hips and speed down that super steep hill. In fact, I slowed to a near walk at one point because it was so darn steep and I was worried about re-injuring my hip. And somewhere on this descent the father/daughter duo indeed passed me and surged ahead to the finish line.
I crossed the line about 40 seconds slower than I should have. I was a little disappointed that I didn’t cross right on target but considering I was left without my mathematician pacing pal, I think I should be ok with my lag.
|Finish line shot|
In summary – it was hard pacing alone. I don’t want to do that solo again anytime soon. It’s much much better with a friend to help you calculate splits.
Post race Emily and I hightailed it south to the city of West Linn, just south of Portland where we met up with my other running buddy and Emily’s bo – Brady for a little refreshing Lululemon Yoga. Lululemon was hosting a “Vinyasa and Vino” event at a local winery. I was unsure of my ability to hold a warrior pose consider my legs were rubber and I haven’t practiced yoga in literally at least 6 months (probably much longer if I’m honest). But truth be told it was exactly what I needed. I stretched out my sore muscles and challenged my body just a little tiny bit more that day. It was a gorgeous sunny day and when all the strain was over we were all treated to some lovely delicious wine. I could not complain – not for one tiny second. It was a really truly perfect Sunday afternoon.