Race report: the Rain Run (half-marathon)

On 04/16/2022, I ran the Rain Run, which is a local half-marathon (Strava activity). The route starts and ends in Marymoor Park and goes along the Sammamish River Trail. The route is as flat as it gets, and the weather was gorgeous. So, it was a perfect culmination of the last half a year of systematic training.

Sammamish River Trail

Based on my training, I was expecting to be able to maintain the average pace of 8:20 min / mile. I was hoping to achieve time better than 1:50:00, since my PB from 2014 was 1:50:35.

The logistics got tricky: the night before the race, I realized that my hydration pack, which I trained with, was broken. Given that I’m not good at drinking from cups while running at a sufficiently fast pace (aka waterboarding myself), I decided to forgo any water and, as a result, gels during the race. From my first half-marathon I knew that it should not be a major problem, but still it was a bummer, since I wanted to test out hydration and fueling in race conditions.

In the morning, I had a toasted bagel with some butter and a disgustingly sweet Starbucks coffee. The day before I had some Thai noodles around 4pm and tried to minimize the amount of fiber consumed.

Knowing that the first miles of a long run are always a bit rough, since the body is trying to “get into the rhythm”, in addition to the usual dynamic warm-up I ran 1.5 easy miles before the race started. Still the first few miles were a bit harder than the rest, I wonder if the next time I should bump up the warm-up to 2 miles.

The heart rate was a bit crazy. Normally, during my tempo runs (which happen around 7:50 pace), my heart rate is in the high 150s, but during the race, from the beginning my heart rate was oscillating between 160 and 165. It was a bit scary, because during training at such heart rates I start having shortness of breath and fatigue very quickly, but given that I felt good and thought that perhaps such high HR can be explained away by the excitement of the race day and caffeine I consumed, I decided to stop worrying about it and pace myself by the feel.

First 10 miles were fairly easy, it felt like a nice steady run with a bit of extra exertion. First 3 miles my pace was almost exactly 8:20, but then I started going a bit faster: 8:10, 8:11, 8:14, 8:05, 8:04, 8:11, 7:57.

Last 3.1 miles were much more painful: 7:48, 7:57, 7:29 (this is squarely into the tempo land and the last of these miles is even coming close to the 5K pace) and the last 0.1 miles with pace 6:54 (which is not far from my 1 mile PR). It really helped that over these miles I was able to hang on to some other runners, otherwise, I don’t think I would be able to sustain this pace.

The official gun time was 1:46:00 (with average pace 8:05), while the chip time was 1:45:51. Overall, I got a pretty massive negative split: the first half took two minutes longer than the second half (54:03 vs 51:57); 5K splits: 25:55, 25:28, 25:15, 24:27, and the last 5K in 24:00, while my 5K PB is 23:13). On one hand, it indicates somewhat suboptimal pacing, but on the other hand, it helped me to avoid massive suffering in the end, so it was a good call overall. Having the watch made a huge difference, since it helped me to hold myself from racing much faster people in the beginning, and I knew all the time that I’m on track.

The next day I waddled a bit, and then was somewhat sore one more day, but then in the following week I was able to run my usual 30 miles without any noticeable injuries or niggles (knock on the wood).

To sum up, it was nice to race for the first time after 8 years. Next, my aspiration is to work on my 5K / 10K times and run some parkruns, which means some VO2 Max intervals and repetitions in addition to the aerobic base and tempo runs.