Delta thanked me for being a frequent flyer. I don't consider myself a frequent flyer, although I've done a bunch more in the last two years than ever. Good flight, though, and I was traveling light, with just a backpack.
There were Loopsters at the airport - HPS, zamgirl5, gingersnapMKE - and it was a pretty short wait for RunEatRalph, who was making a long road trip from his place in VA, and had graciously volunteered to let a few of us pile into his wheels. The 2-1/2 hour drive from Reagan to the coast went pretty quickly. That Gingersnap can really talk. I can't, usually, but I said a couple of things that might have contributed. We stopped at a KFC for chicken tenders (Ralph and I were starving). We stopped in some other place for a few groceries for dinner. Once we got to Rehoboth, the rest of Friday was hanging out a little at the Dogfish Head bar, getting settled in the Airbnb with runningplaces9919, then making and eating dinner, and I mostly listened to the bigger and bigger group of Loopsters laughed and joked and I wondered if I was getting too old for this sort of gathering. But the food was excellent.
RP and I called it early and drove the mile to our house. We'd tried a practice run to the Loopster house to see what made sense for race morning - drive or walk. The main bridge was closed, so we couldn't scout the route very well and decided that a drive and park was the safest bet. The little house was perfect for two guys with no intentions to party.
Had trouble sleeping Friday night. Not normally a problem for me, but I was all nerves about the race and the knee and being with Loopsters after a long time. But eventually I dropped off and got a decent night's sleep. We were both up at 5:00. We didn't have the best parking, but it was within reasonable walking distance from the Loop house and the finish line. We gathered with the Loopsters and then walked to the starting line, just a few minutes before the start. Good thing, too, because it was cold. Just under 30o, which is a tough spot. Just on the border of whether to go with multiple layers. In the end, I had double shirts, shorts, double gloves and my trusty old Twin Cities headband. That turned out to be the perfect choice. I was cool most of the morning but never freezing, and never over heated.
Mile 1 was OK, at 8:38. I'd lined up behind the 3:40 pace group, forgetting that my slower start should have people passing me early. The first half mile I was seeing sub-8, so I dropped off some, even though I was a little in the way. Etiquette fail. But there were plenty of others slower than me and no one was really blazing the first mile weave, so I didn't feel too bad. Mile 2 was 8:18. Not perfect, but pretty close and no danger signs from the knee or from the ankle, which has been sort of bothering me the last couple of weeks. I haven't mentioned it, hoping it'll go away of course.
The I get to mile 3 with a 8:15. No issues. Didn't feel all wonderful or anything, but that kept me from trying to go faster, which was smart. Not that I'm usually smart. I was keeping y eyes open for Loopsters on the course, and saw ocrunnergirl after the turnaround. Just behind of me was a couple of guys, and one of them was a loud-talker. I could tell you all about their jobs and their wives and a bunch of other things except it would not doubt be as excruciating for you to read as it was for me to listen to. Sadly, they were very nearly at my pace and I knew I didn't have it in me to push any more. A woman had something go wrong with her watch about then, and Loud-talker made it his mission to settler her down and mansplain how she'd be OK and she shouldn't let it ruin her race and that everyone else had a watch if she needed to ask where her pace was. She apparently did have it in her because she took off and got as far away as quickly as she could. I hope she finished well. Mile 4 - 8:08.
This is where I figured that discretion would be the better part of valor and not panic about losing those 8 seconds. My effort felt about right. Pushing would only come back to haunt me later. And I hadn't had a sustained effort double digit run in over a year, so I had no confidence I could run down 8-10 seconds per mile for nine more miles. Head down and take it one mile at a time.
That next mile was 8:03. I never felt great the whole morning, btw. The race was a grinder and I just hung in as best I could. Running that 8:03 should have given me a boost, but it barely registered. Back through downtown and past the finish area I started looking for Loopsters again. Corc-o-rama and PearlGirl were spectating and I expected them around there, but missed them I guess. Then as I approached the bridge (taking the sidewalk to avoid the open grating that everyone hates so much), I spied aschmid and slow_running ahead of me. I was gaining on them, but since I wasn't hitting my 8:00s I hadn't planned on seeing them until a little later if at all. I slowed a little to stay with them for a little, but lost them when we turned onto the road that went towards the gravel path The road was open and they had the runners restricted to the bike lane which was barely wide enough for two runners. I went in front and they dropped off. I followed two women running side by side all the way to the path. I didn't have the energy to try swinging out around them, and that would have put me outside the cones unless I put on a good surge which I wasn't prepared to do anyway.
But, after fueling up I just needed to wait for a few minutes to feel rejuvenated, right? Nope. Instead, my stomach decided to treat my heretofore trusty Hammer Gel like a foreign invader. It also happened that I was now behind Loud-talker and his buddy again. Fortunately, they were working harder and not talking as much, but it worried me some. I worried more about getting to the POP at mile 8. And it felt like I'd added ten pounds to each leg. Please get me to mile 8! 8:18.
The POP is at about mile 8-1/2. There was no line! Just a quick stop for business and I'd be good as gold again. Again, nope. I watched the watch that (still) has yet to be named count and count and count, while I tried to make sure there wouldn't be another pit stop when I came back through at Mile 10. One minute. Two minutes. THREE MINUTES! And I was finally on the trail again. So much better. Mile 9 counted out at 10:59, so it would have been one of the best of the day without the stop. The three minute break probably helped my last four and a half miles, I guess. So I'll take that little victory. Somewhere after that I saw NCAthlete coming back the other way. She was working and looking better than I felt (she always looks better than me anyway).
Some people love trails. I don't mind them if I'm not in a hurry. The little path through Ritter Park in Huntington is a Loop-Marshall favorite. Not mine. Nor is this part of Rehoboth. Last year I stopped more times than I can tell you to shake rocks out of my shoes. This time I avoided that somehow (dumb luck), but the top layer was just sandy enough that the footing was a few degrees away from slippery. Added stress I didn't need. I couldn't wait to get off that trail. I saw aschmid as I approached the turnaround. She and Slow_Running had of course passed me while I was in the POP. I called out but she didn't look very happy. Found out later she'd also stopped at the POP, and was on her way to make a second visit. Never did see SR. Mile 10 was 8:11. Not great again, but now I only had a 5K to go. Like I'd been afraid, there wasn't much more I could put into my pace, and I mostly hoped I wouldn't slow down a ton, although that's exactly what I wanted to do. Grind.
On the grates going back over the bridge, which didn't suck nearly as bad as the trail. I was actually passing a few people along here, too. My brain was off and I was mostly making sure I stayed on the route. Would have been bad to get lost. It was at Mile 13 (7:46) that I finally saw Corc and Pearl. They gave me a cheer and I kept up my not-death march. I've felt way worse in races, so this was fine. Not comfortable, but pretty good all things considered. Final .1 (.19 per Garmin) @ 6:56.
- Official time 1:50:46 (8:27)
- 3 mile split - 25:26 (8:25)
- 9 mile split - 1:17:28 (8:36)
- Overall position - 337/1651
- Men - 220/562
- Two miles (6 & 13) @ sub-8:00
- Slowest miles - 1 (8:38 - planned) and 9 (8:28 - fumbling with Hammer Gel) (not counting the 10:59 Mile 9, of which 3 were spent stationary)
So, let me consider. First time training specifically for a half marathon. Ran zero miles for much of the year. Training was more or less spotty even after getting through the end of summer. Still getting older. 1:50 was my B-goal, so I can check that off. I'll also give myself an A for effort. Maybe it's just from not racing in so long, but I was never comfortable after the first three miles.
Now for an easy winter. I'll run if I'm not too busy, it isn't too cold and the sidewalks are mostly clear. I can plan a late spring marathon (May?). Maybe something early in the fall and Disney World in January, provided I stay healthy. That's the only bucket race I have left and I'd like to get it done sooner rather than later.