I’d been planning to run the Lake Washington Half Marathon this weekend, but I’d put off signing up because temperatures were predicted to be in the low 30s, and I didn’t want to run if it was also raining. Unfortunately, it ended up selling out! I’ve actually never had that happen to me before. I’ve been taking it easy for the last week and a half, so I wanted to race, but there aren’t a whole heck of a lot of races in November, and it’s predicted to be low 30s and pouring rain Sunday morning, so it had to be Saturday. I ended up deciding to try a trail run. I haven’t done one since high school cross country. The Carkeek Cooler is a 5K/10K (where the 10K just does two loops), and it features 500 feet of elevation gain. To put that in perspective, my normal neighborhood run, which feels pretty darn hilly to me, has only about 300 feet of elevation gain.
This morning, waking up to 33 degree overcast weather (after cold, clouds and snow yesterday) did not make me super-enthused to go out and race, but I persevered. I’d gone for a training run yesterday in about the same temperatures, though it was snowing, in long sleeves, a light GTX jacket, and tights, and I’d felt a bit overheated. Therefore, I decided to wear tights, long sleeves, a hat, and gloves today. When I went to sign up for the race, I just felt freezing. There was no sun whatsoever to warm us up, just that cold, damp, gray air so typical of Seattle at this time of year. I got my number, dropped off my stuff in the car, used the bathroom (which was surprisingly clean), and started warming up. I didn’t used to be a fan of warming up, but since I’ve gotten old(er), I’ve begun to appreciate it. This morning, I just ran until I got warm wearing a cycling jacket over my race outfit. After about a mile (forgot to turn on my watch initially), I was warmed up, just like usual. It was about 20 after, with the race starting at half past, so I headed to the start and stood there jogging in place waiting for the race to start.
The people at the race looked more athletic and serious than your typical 5K clientele. I saw lots of trail shoes and lots of thin people without a lot of clothes on, given the temperatures. I’m not saying they looked like pros or anything, just not like they were running their first 5K. Finally, the race director told us about the course, warning us about the steep hill at the midpoint, and assured us the course was well-marked. My biggest worry was getting lost. That would definitely suck, but he turned out to be right; the course was very well-marked, and it would have been hard to make a wrong turn.
When we finally started out, I started at a very cautious pace. Between the cold, the hills, and the rough footing, I wanted to start cautiously and pick up the pace later if I felt good. This turned out to be an OK strategy. While it meant I felt pretty good throughout the race, I got stuck behind slower runners, and it was very hard to pass on the narrow trail. We ran up a slow gradual hill to the first mile marker, and I felt great. At the turnaround, I was ready to run fast, but passing just wasn’t safe, so I had to maintain a slower pace. I gradually picked off a few ponytails, though. I’m still waiting on results, but I was near the front as far as women went.
At maybe 1.5 or 1.7 miles, we hit a short but very steep hill and gained about 150 feet of elevation. My pace slowed to as much as 16 minutes per miles, per my GPS. (I take the GPS with a bit of a grain of salt due to all the tree cover.) I actually walked up a couple sets of very steep steps. Then there was a flattish section, sort of slight rolling hills, a little more unphill and a steep downhill. Apparently I hit 5:50 mpm at the end of the downhill, but it many places, it was difficult to pick up any real speed due to narrow, steep steps. The race finished with a nice flat stretch, and I hammered it in feeling pretty good. Unfortunately, the HR monitor on my watch didn’t work properly, so I don’t have that data point, but I’d classify this as a hard effort, but not really all out.
Overall, I’m proud of myself for trekking across the city at o’dark thirty (forty minute drive) and getting out to run up hills in the cold. The race director assured us that he measured the course with the wheel, and it was in fact 5K. (My watch read 2.97, not shocking given the tree cover.) Therefore, my pace was 8:35 per mile overall – not bad given all the hills. I’ll take it. On to the next!