This week, boyziggy and I traveled to Seattle to celebrate our 10th wedding anniversary (a week early) by running our first half-marathon together: Beat the Blerch. We scheduled two days on either side of the race day, Saturday, to relax and enjoy the area. (I'll write more about the rest of the trip in a future entry.)
Friday we went to Road Runner Sports to pick up our race packets and get an autographed book from Matthew Inman, aka The Oatmeal. We arrived mid-afternoon and were able to get our race packets immediately, but the line for autographs was extremely long. We weren't in a hurry, so Ziggy shopped and did test runs in shoes while I stood in line. I had a great conversation with the woman behind me, a local who was also a running enthusiast and the same age as me.
After 2 1/2 hours (!) I reached the front of the line. Matt not only signed my book but drew a quick picture! I assume he did that for everyone, and must have had hand cramps by the end. Not only that but he would be racing on both Saturday and Sunday, and signing merchandise there as well!
Race day arrived, and we left early for the 40-minute drive (in a Zipcar) from Seattle to Carnation. It was foggy and in the 50s, but the weather forecast said the sun would emerge and the temperature soar later, so I didn't want to over-dress. I wore shorts, an undershirt, and my No Meat Athlete tech tee, and didn't bother with a jacket. Ziggy forgot his jacket, and was most freezing and quite unconvinced at my assurances that he would be quickly warm up.
We started right on time, 9:30 a.m. (quite late for a race, but befitting fans of The Oatmeal). The marathon runners had already started at 9 a.m. I'd lined up in the back (there were pace signs, but the slowest was 9 min/mile), as I didn't expect to run a fast race. I had no time goal, but thought it would be nice to at least average 12 min/mile. I vaguely remembered my half-marathon PR, at my birthday race last year, being 2:26-something, but had no expectation of beating that as I hadn't been training that hard. Ziggy had never done a race of this length, and we agreed to run separately so we could each go at our own pace.
The going was slow in the beginning, as the path wasn't that wide and I had trouble passing people. I also had trouble getting to the right side of the road and out of people's way for my walking break (I did my usual 5 min run, 1 min walk intervals). I finished the first mile in 11:44. But I was grateful for the slow pace so that I could enjoy the beautiful scenery. The race went through a forest on a trail, which had a few rocky places in the first mile but otherwise was quite smooth and flat, an ideal running surface.
The race featured several people dressed up as "the blerch", a fat cherubic creature taunting us with demotivational phrases. Slow down, walk, have some cake... There was also a sasquatch hanging out at the mile three aid station. He was behind a tree when I first saw him; on the way back, he was sitting on a couch posing with people for photos. Each aid station also featured Nutella and birthday cake, neither of which I ate (being vegan, and also not wanting to throw up). I stuck to Medjool dates and water.
I so enjoyed this run, I was going faster in the second half of the race than in the first. I had some soreness in my left hip but no other pain. In the last couple of miles I really picked up speed. I had only looked at my pace at each mile marker, but after mile 12 I saw that I was at 2:14:05 and realized I might actually be able to get a PR. So I cut out the walking breaks and just ran. I actually ran mile 13 in 9:15, which for me is almost unheard of. Of course, I haven't done much fast running since going on testosterone, so that's certainly a factor, but the ideal race conditions really helped.
I sprinted to the finish and indeed got my PR, by a full two minutes, finishing in 2:24:36. Even more surprising, I ended up in the middle of the pack: 400 out of 949 overall, 193 out of 344 males, 36 out of 70 for males 40-49. I expected to fare much worse in my first race signed up as a male, but Oatmeal fans are not really known for their athletic prowess. It's also possible more of the fast people ended up in Sunday's race, which is identical to Saturday's (Sunday was the original race day, but he added a second day of events when it sold out in under 30 minutes).
(ETA, Sep 22: Official results have now been posted. My finishing time is unchanged, but the field of official finishers is smaller and thus my place in the pack is a bit lower, which makes sense.)
Ziggy finished in 2:04:16, really great for his first half-marathon. We were both very happy with this race, and hope to run more destination races together.