I had a lot of fun at this one, thanks in part to the power of low expectations, and in part to getting to piggy back on JYL’s birthday plans.
This was my 3rd year running the Healdsburg half marathon, and I’m definitely a fan–it’s smallish (1157 racers this year), the course is pretty and just a little bit varied (small rolling hills). The full marathon also runs together with the half for the first 8 miles, which I find to be a bit of a pick-me-up (hey! At least I don’t have to run as far as these suckers! I only have 5 miles left after this!). It is very rural and quiet though, so if you like bands and cheering crowds, this race wouldn’t be for you. There are a few stretches where the road is banked, so it might be a problem for those with IT issues. I was worried about my knee and hip but they did ok.
JYL and the Gypsy Runner picked me up at dark o’clock (4:45), and we headed up to Healdsburg, where we arrived at about 6am and she promptly found the Best Parking Space Ever (seriously. about two minutes’ walk from the start line and directly abutting the line o’ porta potties). We picked up our bibs and chips in no time and had about 45 minutes to kill, which we spent mostly by waking up the Gypsy Runner (who was there in spectator capacity and decided to try and catch a pre-race nap) every 5 minutes or so to rummage in the car for sweatshirts and ID’s and whatnot. It was very dark and a little bit misty–a happy forecast for the day’s weather, which weather.com had been vacillating about: would it be overcast and chilly at 8am, or blazingly sunny and 75? Since miles 9 and 10 pointed directly into the sun, I was really hoping the fog would hold.
With 10 minutes or so left before the start, we split up so JYL could find some other bloggers who were running, and I could hit the bathroom one last time. I knew a PR wasn’t on the table, so pre-race jitters were at a minimum, and I didn’t mind weaving through the crowds to cross the start line about a minute after the gun went off.
The plan had been to run a very steady, conservative race at around 8:30 pace that wouldn’t do anything to upset my knee or hip, and that would help me build confidence for Big Sur next month. So I aimed for an easy pace in the first mile, and tried to stay loose and relaxed.
Mile 1: crowded, some uphill, in town. 8:40 (good job, me!)
Mile 2: downhill, along the freeway and bushes, easy to go too fast (8:20–had to keep checking my pace).
Mile 3-7: gently rolling hills along rural roads. There were hardly any people out–I think the fog scared them off somewhat. I saw a buddy (LG) at mile 3, and hearing her holler my name perked me up. I stayed right at 8:25-8:30.
At mile 7 I started chatting with Pam and Brian from Pittsburg, who come out here every year to bike and drink and run. They’re Iron(wo)men, but Pam was recovering from an injury and they were taking it easy. They held pace at 8:25 really well so I didn’t have to do anything, and chatted with me till mile 10, which made the miles pass fast! The fog held up and I never needed my sunglasses, which stayed perched on my head.
At mile 10.5, Pam and Brian stopped for some Gatorade and I kept chugging away–there was a little downhill, and when I checked my watch at the mile 11 marker I was at 8:10.
Here I debated a bit–I felt pretty good; definitely tired but not exhausted or draggy. I was pretty sure I’d be able to hold 8:30. There were a couple women right in front of me who looked about my age, so I thought I’d try to catch them up, and if I started to feel bad or like I was working much harder I’d back off.
Mile 12 went ok this way–8:16, and in the last mile the girl next to me kept edging her pace up, and up, and I kept matching her, so that as we came into the final downhill with 1/3 of a mile left we had run the past mile at 7:44. And then I threw caution to the winds and charged up to the finish line, saw TC and waved at him, saw I had come in a few seconds under 1:50, and felt relieved and happy.
1:49:33 is not a PR at all, but after being hurt and grouchy for so long about running, I was so glad to be able to be steady, have a strong finish, and not be sick or injured afterward. It’s the best I felt physically at the end of a race since the Oakland half in March.
JYL meanwhile navigated the course well despite its unfamiliarity and the fog, and finished with a PR by 5 minutes! Which I hope was a thoroughly satisfying birthday performance.
Sweaty, drenched in mist, but triumphant! The medals are also wine stoppers. Cute, huh?
After the race, we gathered up our free wine glasses and our sweatshirts (all that mist got really cold and clammy once we stopped running), and headed over to a coffee shop so we could change clothes and I could knock JYL’s coffee all over her arm (ack. sorry).
And THEN…drumroll, we took hwy 128 with some minor unintended detours over to Napa for a fantastic lunch at Mustard’s grill. I uber-recommend the pear sidecar, the sweet corn and mushroom tamales, and the Mac and Cheese. Yum!
The fog blew off around 11, and we had a beautiful drive through some fallish colors over to Calistoga and Napa. This car window picture doesn’t do it justice.
Overall, I feel like I’m officially back! Eager for harder training between now and Big Sur.