Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Crystal Coast Half Marathon

I had 12x800 on the schedule for Saturday and after last week's 8x800 was a huge suckfest, I wasn't looking forward to it at all.  Then on Wednesday the Crystal Coast half marathon popped up on my Facebook feed, and after realizing that it was only 3 hours away with a 9am start time, I decided that if I had to run a 12 mile workout, there was no harm in running an extra mile for the added benefits of having people around, a nice flat course, a change of scenery, and bathrooms along the way (which I could have used during that aforementioned 8x800 suckfest on the ATT).

I headed out around 5 am on Saturday morning and even with a coffee + bathroom stop and a gas + bathroom stop, I arrived with more than enough time to spare.  Parking was really easy, and I found a spot a block from the start/finish/registration area.  I walked the block to get my bib and shirt and then went back to the car because it was cold (temps in the 30s with 15-20 mph winds) and waited until about 8:45 to make my way back over to the start.  The park has bathrooms, so I made one more stop (3 bathrooms stops on race morning is usually a good sign, so I was optimistic that the workout was going to go well).  

I met a girl who was planning to start out in the mid/high 8s, which was right around my planned warm up pace, so I asked if I could tag along with her for the first 2 miles.  It was weird lining up for a race start having done no warm up at all, but since it was built into the workout, I didn't do anything prior to the gun.  And after what felt like a long wait because of the cold, we were off.

I ended up running my first two miles with Kristin and Kaz (the director of the Tobacco Road marathon, which I've run several times and is my early season A race), and the miles went by pleasantly and quickly, even if they were a little faster than advertised (8:15-8:20).  As we finished the second mile I wished them luck with the rest of the run and took off to complete my workout (2 x building 400s on 400 recoveries + 12x800s on 400 easy).  
Nice conversational warm up miles
Going into the intervals I was a little worried that I would be playing leapfrog with some people and annoying everyone with what would probably be perceived as my inability to maintain a consistent pace, but it wasn't a huge race and it actually worked out that only a couple of the people that I passed on an interval caught back up to me on my recoveries.  The course is all flat, with the exception of one bridge that you cross around mile 4 and then again at mile 11.  My goal was to keep all of the 800s around 3:15 (Yasso-esque since I'm hoping to break 3:15 at CIM in December), and not worry about the pace on the jogs.   A nice strong tailwind helped me keep my pace over the bridge, and the first 10 splits ranged from 3:11 to 3:19, so I stayed pretty consistent.  I felt like I was running easy in between, but my recovery jogs were all in the high 7s/low 8s, which is about a minute per mile faster than I usually do them.  I was really surprised to be feeling so comfortable, and attributed it to race adrenaline, which was unexpected given that at no point did I have any intention of "racing."  

Up the bridge and into a headwind at mile 11
(It looks like I'm walking, but I really wasn't)
The 11th split was back over the bridge, this time into the headwind, and I gave up on trying to maintain pace on that one (the recovery jog down was actually faster than the "fast" run up), then finished my last 800 and tried to just run easy the rest of the way.  It was tempting to try to catch the guy up ahead of me, but I stuck to the plan (more or less) and finished in 1:35:10.  Results were available immediately, and I learned that my time was good enough for 2nd female and 11th overall.  In hindsight I wish I had gone after that guy to nab a top-10 finish, but I'm still happy with the result.

In the finisher area they had the usual bananas, trail mix, and peanut butter sandwiches, but also oreos, fig newtons, twizzlers, sour candies, jelly beans, animal crackers, etc etc etc. Plus two tickets for free beer and food at the post race party, which was thankfully out of the cold at a bar/restaurant about 2 blocks away.  

My prize was 50% off entry for next year, and I have already registered for 2018. The post-race party was well attended, and people who didn't like the free beer (Goose Island IPA) were giving away their tickets, so by the end we had a pile of them on the table.  Unfortunately I had to drive, but next year I will probably stay at the host hotel so that pile of free beer tickets does not go to waste.

I spent the night in Atlantic Beach, and though it was too cold to spend much time outside, I was treated to a beautiful sunset and a nice relaxing evening, so all in all I am really pleased with the last minute decision and may have to work on turning more of my workouts into adventures :)

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