Thursday, June 11, 2015

North Olympic Discovery Half-marathon 2015 Pacer Report

The Backstory

I had paced the 1:45 half at NODM last year. This year I was able to get the 1:40 half pacing gig. That was perfect since at this point my perfect pacing assignment is around 1:35-1:40

I intended to run and pace the Rock and Roll Seattle marathon the week after. Therefore, I was tapering and had been keeping up with the training. So this was expected to be a hassle free run without any dramatics.

I got a free entry to run the Brunch run 5k the day before. It was my first 5k in four years and I ended up with a PR of 19:58 (yes, I am not born with fast twitch muscles). Eddie was running the 5k too. When he discovered that I was doing NODM the next day, he wanted to come along. What made things interesting was that he was having so much to drink at the post-run event (free bloody maries and mimosas) that there was a doubt if he would recover. I texted him at 3 am before leaving and he was still up for the challenge of heading down to Port Angles. This was cool since I didn't have to drive and could get some rest (unlike last year).

We finally got on the road at 4 am... With the Summer Solstice approaching, soon we were driving in daylight. We were treated to a beautiful sun rise and some spectacular scenery as we approached Port Angeles. After reaching at 6:30 am, we hung out at a quaint breakfast joint for a bit. The shuttles for the half only started at 7 am.

The shuttle ride to the start (Storm King soccer field) was more eventful than it should have been... The bus driver got lost and had to be guided by a couple of runners who were aided by their smartphones :) This made for some anxious moments for the marathon runners in the shuttle. Their race started at 8 am!

By 8 am it was already pretty warm. There was not much respite from the sun. I did not envy the marathon runners or anyone who was planning on going all out on this day. That said it's a good thing that Port Angeles is about 10F cooler than Seattle! It was nice that there was ample water and Gatorade at the start. After getting my pace stuff, dropping my bag and visiting the porta potty, I found some shade to veg out until the start. The local high school band was keeping the folks entertained...

About 15 minutes to the start we lined up. I was the fastest pacer so I was almost at the start line. There were very few runners who lined up ahead of me :-| The colors were brought in, the national anthem and we were off!



Race

Temperature - 61-70 F, Humidity - 72-55%, Sunny

I had learnt from my pacing experience last year and had a better strategy in place. I intended to keep a little bit of a buffer for the climbs from 5-8. I knew the huge downhill would help me make up some time. Then I had the flats at the end. Last year I had gotten a little rattled by the time I had lost on the climb...

mile 1: 7:30

In the first minute there was a guy who questioned if I was going out too fast. I explained my plan and also talked about other pacing experiences. He seemed sold and would end up sticking with me all the way till the very last half of a mile :)

mile 2: 7:33

For the first four miles I had quite a solid pack keeping up with me. I noticed that a couple of folks were breathing hard - they conceivably would soon have to course correct :(

mile 3: 7:33

Normally, I don't drink any water or Gatorade at any aid stops while pacing. Today I actually did get some in 3 aid stations. Out in the open, it did feel warm.

mile 4: 7:31

We came across a drone taking pictures of the runners. Now that the first I've seen at any race!!

mile 5: 7:40
mile 6: 7:40

A short out and back section where we got a brief sighting of runners just behind us.

mile 7: 7:37

The climbs also came with the bonus of shade and hitting the greenery of the North Olympic Discovery trail. Crossing the bridge on the route just felt so peaceful.

mile 8: 8:00

Yup. Even while pacing, this climb did feel tiring and I was breathing a little heavily. I was not very concerned about the time expended here. The focus was on even effort!

mile 9: 7:13

This was a steep downhill but I wanted to ensure that I did not descend too fast. This ended up being just perfect - I made up exactly the time lost on the uphill but nothing more.

mile 10: 7:39
mile 11: 7:30
mile 12: 7:28
mile 13: 7:29
mile .11: 0:53



The final miles along the Strait of Juan de Fuca is just quite amazing. Cool and flat, with sweeping views of the sound. I had two runners who had kept up with me. The guy would stay with me right to the final half mile and the lady fell a little behind towards the end but would still make the 1:40 time! We passed 10k and 5k runners who cheered for us and I cheered back. They would profess amazement at the "fast" pace we were going at. How relative pace is!

The finish with the announcer thanking the pacer.

There was such a nice array of post race food - Popsicle, Chocolate milk, ... I discovered that pacers could get a free massage if there were no lines. There wasn't any line yet :) Eddie got a massage too. He had shot a video of my finish with his hands on the lens. So a black video with only sound :)

I learnt that the 2 hr pacer had to pull out due to cramps. I hope the rest of the pacers did a good job because I do want us to be able to pace this again!!

This year they had the long sleeve quarter zip race shirt again. That's going to be incredibly handy come winter! I can see it becoming one of my favorites :)

Result
Net time: 1:39:27
OA - 28/895
Male - 25/237
Div - 5/30

Final Thoughts
  • I loved the race, loved the experience. I intend to be back pacing for as long as I can. 
  • I noticed that the ratio of men to women in this half was about 1:3. That's quite something!
  • All in all a great weekend at a great event!

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