Sunday, September 07, 2014

Skagit Flats Half Marathon 2014 Pacer Report


This was to be the third last stop in my redemption road tour. It was also slated to be the last day of running before I started tapering. A day when I would be pushing to get in 23 miles as part of a 92 mile week. A last push. (Post note: It ended up being 24.7 miles and 93.5 miles for the week)

Last year, injury ridden and misguided, I was signed up for the full marathon. I had not run for 2 weeks before toeing the line. I ran about 14 miles feeling horrible at slower than 8:30 min/mile pace before deciding I had enough. I took the injury van back to the start... I'd never done that before in a race but it was a sensible thing to do. Not a good feeling.

This year I was to be the 1:45 half marathon pacer. What would be challenging here was that it's been quite a while since I've averaged anything as slow as 8 min/mile for a run. Weird huh!


My day was off to an early start, to get on the road by 5:30 am for the 70 odd mile drive from Seattle. I reached the start to an amazing sun rise. It was to be a warm day, especially for the marathoners, with the high reaching 77F. For the half marathon it was more manageable and in the 60Fs.

I picked up my race packet and pacer essentials before commencing on a pre-race run. The plan was to run 5 miles before and after the race. However, after 1.4 miles I reached the conclusion that I did not need to run in such a boring area when I lived next to such a beautiful waterfront trail in Seattle. I'd get in the remainder of the miles once I got back home.

The pacer jersey was a singlet. Considering the warm conditions expected for the race, it was actually the perfect attire. However, I was not appropriately groomed for a singlet and so wore a T-shirt underneath.

The fun part of being a pacer is being able to chat with folks about their goals. Quite often they end up running with you at some point of the race and it's useful to be able to relate to their "story" and goals.


At 8 am we commenced running. The half marathoners and marathoners started together. The half was an out-and-back which would turn around after 6.4 miles.

mile 1: 7:52 + :10 (long)

The first mile made it's way from the Burlington high school to the roads which cut through the pastures (of berries, broccoli and other goodies). This would be the atmosphere for most of the race. During the first mile, I got to chat with a lady who had moved to Anacortes from South Africa. I of course mentioned my dream to run the 100th Comrades Ultra in 2025. She had in fact run Comrades and warned me about the difference between an up and a down year.

I aimed for around about a 7:55 min/mile pace. I needed to maintain a buffer in case the mile markers were off. I had to finish before 1:45 gun time and had committed to stay within 90s of the target time.

The first mile ended up being long. In a straight course like this, the gps distance should have been very close to the actual distance.

mile 2: 7:51 + :02 (long)

I had two loyal followers for most of the race. An African American guy who had not run longer than 10k and a lady who had just had a child (impressive!). I reminisced about my first half with the guy, about how it got mentally hard for me after mile 11 (my longest run).

mile 3: 7:38 (short)

I didn't stop for water through the race (I haven't needed much water during runs in this training cycle. I hope for my goal marathon my body will be shocked and energized by the inflow of nutrients and hydration during the run :) I did however pick-up a Gu for a future need). The volunteers were dedicated (perhaps from the local schools) and just about the only support for the runners.

I made it a point to encourage my group with mental "landmarks" - a quarter done, half an hour to go, the last 5k...

mile 4: 7:58 + :20 (long)

I asked the folks with me to take a wager on whether this mile marker would be on track given that all 3 so far were off. Of course this was off track too. I commented on how like a mirage on these flattish courses the road always seems like an incline.

mile 5: 7:55 + :06 (long)

We started seeing the leaders coming back after the out and back. The African American guy remarked that he only had enough energy to clap for the first three runners and the first lady :)

mile 6: 7:47

It's always nice to get to the turn-around point of an out-an-back course. You get to "people-watch" the runners on the opposite side. In this case I got to give a shout-out to all the other pacers and several others. It's nice to not be expending your energy "racing" :)

mile 7: 7:33 (short)

mile 8: 7:57 + :09 (long)

mile 9: 7:42 (short)
The African American guy left us here. He had run a sensible first race and clearly had a enough in the tank to push forward.

mile 10: 7:56 + :23 (long)

mile 11: 7:57 (short)
The new mom had been breathing hard for the last few miles. I had hoped that she would be able to make it. After all she had mentioned that she knew she would hit her goal if she stuck with me. With 2 miles to go she had a burst of energy and accelerated. I felt like a mother bird whose chick was ready to fly away from the nest :)

mile 12: 8:02 + :03 (long)
Running at this pace was not optimal form for me. My 10 miler after the race at sub-7:30 pace in 78F heat would feel way more comfortable than this. Also, the surface of the road was not smooth which made you work harder.

mile 13: 7:54 + :04 (long)
The last few turns to get to the finish at the Burlington high school track. As I came in a race organizer joked - "Hey pacer you're way off! Just kidding you're right on".

mile .11 :55
As I came in the announcer made a valiant attempt to get my name right, the pacer from Seattle. It's always nice to have folks who'd run with you thank you for pacing them.


Chip: 1:44:22
Gun: 1:44:31
Bib: 1029
AG: 18/39
Pace: 7:58
Overall: 74/410

I was spot on in terms of pacing. I wanted to keep a small buffer - 30s was just right! The medal I have to say was beautiful. There was a good spread of post-race food.

I returned home and headed out for a 10 miler. It made me wonder if I should have just paced a marathon given that I ran 24.7 miles for the day. I concluded that providence was important - pacing would require the miles to be run continuously and with sub-optimal running form.

The redemption road tour continues as taper kicks in at the end of a 93.5 mile week...


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