Anchorage Midnight Sun Mayor’s Half-Marathon Race Report

Disclaimer: Overly long, as is typical.

I’ve had a disappointing couple of weeks as far as running goes, mainly because I’ve been settling here in Anchorage for the summer, taking a class and (*gasp*) working (and not getting paid while doing it). I’ve been doing a little running, but I’ve been so tired adjusting to actually doing things, and a bout with super dehydration, tight calves, and plantar fasciitis (again) has limited me. This race is probably my last running race of the summer, and last race period, until I get back to Seattle and start my triathlon “career”.

Pre-race: Woke up at 6, chowed down on some oatmeal (delightful) and a little cottage cheese. Been eating terribly this week, and last.  Even if we haven’t been getting paid, we’ve been wined and dined, and I’ve had more BBQ, hors d’oeuvres and reindeer sausages than I can count. At least I haven’t hit up the poutine cart that’s all the rage here in Anchorage. After a quick shower and checklist check-down, I hopped on my suitemate John’s bike (which he was kind enough to lend to me while he visits Fairbanks for the weekend), and made the 5 mile trek to Anchorage West High School. Weather cooperated while dragging all my stuff over there, and didn’t rain.

Checked in my clothes, which was more painless than any other race I’ve ever done, and used the restroom, which was quicker than every other race I’ve ever done. Race management was bizarre mix of awesome and awful, which I’ll touch on at the end. Did maybe a half mile total of warmup running, .25 at 8ish pace and .25 at goal race pace (6:40). Felt really, really stiff, which has been my M.O. at every single running race I’ve ever done.

Lined up in the front row of the chute, which is the first time I’ve had the brass to do that, but when “scoping” out the competition, I’m pretty my 6’7″ frame intimidated the crap out of everybody who doesn’t understand that tall people kind of suck at endurance events. I was lined up next to four local East African collegiate runners, and knew that aiming to be less than a minute down on them after the first mile would probably be too ambitious of a goal. Soon enough, the countdown began, and we took off.

Race: As is typical, people went absolutely blasting off the start, and I think I was passed by 100 people in the first half-mile, which was full of small rolling hills.  I let myself go for about a half mile before slowing it down, as I hadn’t gotten a real warmup in. Crossed mile 1 in 6:20, but don’t feel I really paid for it.

The next couple miles were pretty much feeler miles. Took water at the first aid station, ~1.5 miles into the race; I always slow down a little to make sure I don’t choke, and given my proclivity to calf cramps late in races, I knew that I would be stopping at every aid station. At this point, probably half of the 100 people who had jumped the gun were passed by me and my tortoise/hare tactics, wondering why it isn’t smart to sprint the first 4% of the race. Course had us go on an arterial that was slowly up and slowly down. Mile 2/3 splits were 6:38 and 6:36.

I was feeling a little stagnant at this point, but my legs were holding up, which had been my main concern. We pulled off of the arterials and took a long stretch on the road towards the airport. Mile 4 had a huge hill that scared me, but I was able to take it in stride, and hold sub 7:00 going up. At this point, I moved away from the little “pack” I had been running with, as they began to die too. A nice, long downhill followed the uphill, and I screamed down it. Of course, it was immediately followed by a pretty steep uphill again, and my calves began to hate me. Mile 4 split was 6:48, and had the most net uphill of the race.

There were some little rollers in the leadup to the airport, which met us with numerous 747 landings that hurt my ears, an aid station with the most watered down “juice” I’ve ever tasted, and a long, long, long  (mile and a half long) downhill. Took a packed GU at the aid station. Not much to say other than my hips started to get sore about here, and my calves got a little tight too. After the downhill we ended up on a slightly gravel, slightly asphalt road, and this is probably the part of the race where I felt the best. The sugar from the GU was kicking in, and I was running 6:20s paces easily on flat road. Mile 5/6 splits were 6:42 (aid station slowdown) and 6:28 (slight uphill kick at the end of mile 6).

We pulled off of the gravel road at about 6.66 miles (I remember thinking this funny), and onto a trail. Slowed down at another aid station for water before starting to run on a short grassy section, and then single track for the next mile and a half. This was my favorite part of the race, probably because I started passing people again. I had been running mostly solo for the last 3 miles, and nobody had passed me since the second mile. A guy came roaring by me just past mile 7, and it kind of kicked me into gear. I tried hanging onto him, and while I couldn’t, I blew by 3 or 4 people who I had seen just in front of me. Mile 7 split was 6:42, but the terrain was rough, and the tangents brutal.

We pulled off of the single track at about 8.5 and were welcomed by another aid station, where I fumbled orange slices and could only get one cup of water. To this point, I was feeling pretty great, though and started to pick it up, really believing that sub-1:28:00 was a possibility. Mile 8 split was 6:36, and my total time to this point was 52:52, a 6:36 pace.

Of course, I then saw I was about parallel with the water, and knew we had started a couple hundred feet up. After a relatively flat section for most of the mile, there was a treat in store. The steepest hill of the course greeted us, and we climbed 100 feet in the next 1/8th of a mile. Despite killing my splits, I passed four people in this 1/8th of a mile, and my tight calves didn’t worsen too badly. Mile 9 split was 6:58, and just like that, my buffer over 6:40 average was gone.

After ascending this hill, we went downhill for most of the next 2.5 miles, which gave me a bit of a false sense of how I was doing. I passed a couple more people who were absolutely toast from the hill and couldn’t descend very fast, but I probably pounded the ground a little hard, as my calves really tightened. We pulled through the Coastal Trail and along the water, and were greeted to musky sulfur scents and humidity, and I actually felt pretty warm. These miles, with the exception of a little hill in the middle of Mile 11, were really, really fast. Hit the last aid station, and kindly passed, as the home stretch was hitting. Miles 10-12  splits were 6:29/6:30/6:36, and my 6:40 dreams were within grasp, until…

…the infamous hill leading back to Anchorage West High at 12.5 miles got me. My friend David, an Anchorage native, has recounted the horror of this hill many times to me, so I knew it was coming. I actually took the second quarter mile of mile 13 relatively easy to give my legs a chance to get what was coming to them, and I dealt with the hill itself pretty well. Leaving the water front, and getting back on the streets, it was less than a quarter mile long, and was easier than the hill at mile 9. I was able to pass three people in this stretch, including the second place female (who was reminded of this fact by every single person who we passed.

Unfortunately, when it crested, I just wanted the race to be over with… I didn’t have anything left, and all three people who I passed, passed me back. Two of them absolutely destroyed me in the last 1000 meters, finishing 30 and 20 seconds ahead respectively, and I was outkicked in the last 100 meters by the girl (always comes to down to me kicking with the podium female finishers… or 10-year old girls; what’s up with that?). Usually, in running races, I can get my split down to a 5:30 for the last .25-.5 miles, but this time, I think I *may* have hit 6:30 for the last 100 meters. Mile 13.1 split was 9:11, an 8:21 split average (pretty sure miles 10-12 were a little short somewhere).

Overall Finish: 1:28:38 (6:45 pace); 29/1574 overall, 27/516 gender,  8/42 age group (20-24male)

Race Review: From a performance analysis, can’t complain at all. 2.5 minute PR from Mercer, on a course that probably is just as, if not more, difficult. It’s by far my best finish in a longer distance race, while I’m not really racing to win, that’s still fun. Didn’t feel ideal at the start, so all things considered, I’m beyond the moon. There are always points where you can say “what if”, and maybe if I ran and paced and pushed myself perfectly I would’ve broke 1:28:00, but I don’t think that today I was capable of much more than what I laid out there.

As far as the race goes, I love this course more than any other course I’ve done for any race; it is simplyAWESOME. So much different terrain, awesome elevation changes, wonderful scenery, and a good challenge. Organizationally, some things were great. Post-race food was nice, with lots of good bread, fruit, pretzels, and cookies. Free massage was awesome, and saved me, as I had to bike home the five miles again. Clothing check-in was simple, as was pickup; there was not wait, and there were plenty of volunteers there.

On the other hand, aid stations were pathetic. All the volunteers were also really enthusiastic, but they really need to get a sports drink sponsor; I don’t care about food, as I pack my own nutrition, but some people rely on the sports drink. The other complaint I have is regarding packet pickup, where two 9 year olds shoved me my bib without a bag or any of the swag they were giving or pins. This after I had to walk 1.5 miles out of my way, because the Sheraton is located on the fringe outside of downtown. Mostly nitpicky stuff though.

Post-script: Because I hadn’t ranted enough already. The past 9 months have been amazing in showing me what I’m capable of doing when training. I haven’t been remotely consistent, and the payoffs have already been tremendous. As I start to do triathlon training, I just hope I can bring to the bike what I’ve brought to the pool and the road.
One more thing: completely and randomly ran into Lindsey Middendorf, a buddy from the Mathes dorms at Western who I haven’t really chatted with in probably 3 years. Fun to catch up with somebody who you haven’t seen in awhile, really glad to see somebody else getting into running!

Splits: Just because, mostly for my own reference:

Manual Split Distance Split Time Total Time
Mile 1 6:20 6:20
Mile 2 6:35 12:56
Mile 3 6:38 19:34
Mile 4 6:42 26:16
Mile 5 6:48 33:04
Mile 6 6:28 39:33
Mile 7 6:42 46:15
Mile 8 6:36 52:52
Mile 9 6:58 59:50
Mile 10 6:29 1:06:19
Mile 11 6:30 1:12:49
Mile 12 6:36 1:19:26
Mile 13.1 9:11 1:28:38
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~ by cdviking on June 20, 2010.

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