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Race Report: Coeur d’Alene.

29 May 2018

Well, over Memorial Day weekend, BB and I drove out to Coeur d’Alene, Idaho, to run a half-marathon. I felt like I was in pretty good shape, after all the running I’ve been doing. Running in Seattle is a lot different from running in ECC. The hills here are B A N A N A S, and as a result I am stronger and fitter than ever. I’m also doing more distance than I have routinely done in the past, even while marathon training. Harder workouts. More time on my feet.

And this weekend it paid off. Though I’m finding myself feeling oddly disappointed too. But let me describe the race first. First of all, Lake Coeur d’Alene is staggeringly beautiful. Just a jewel in the heart of the foothills to the Rocky Mountains, and the weather this weekend was mesmerizing. Cool in the morning, warm in the afternoon, sunny, crisp, and all around delightful. We got in Saturday morning, and wandered about the charming, hipsterish idyll that is CDA. Good coffee, great art, cute little local shops and services. LakeCDA.JPG

The race began at 0700. It was sunny and about 54 degrees. I’d have loved a bit of overcast skies, but I wore sunscreen. BB and I went out together, as we always do for half-marathons. We did our first mile at 8:38, which would be our fastest for the race. But we didn’t exactly slow throughout. The next two miles I deliberately held back a little bit, in order to save some for later in the race.

Mile 4 had a hill. About a half mile long, and about 150 feet of gain, that doesn’t sound like much, but when you’re trying to set a PR, it’s a lot of work. It was also on a curve, and the road was steeply graded to allow water runoff. The result was running with my left leg an inch or two higher than my right, which caused my IT band on the left side to start singing. But we made a 9:49 pace up the hill, even with a shoe-tying stop!

The mile down the hill we did at 8:40, and I was feeling good about my paces. It was around the halfway mark that I figured I wasn’t going to get below an average of 9:00 min/mi, but that I also figured if I could maintain what I was doing that a new personal record was definitely in the cards for the day. I was working very hard, and in a decent amount of pain. But I felt like I had the legs and the lungs to break 1:59:42.

Mile 7-8 was after the turnaround, and back up the hill. It is a longer but shallower hill going the opposite direction, and we managed a 9:20 pace up it. BB was stronger than me all day, but I’d at least managed my bladder and hydration well. I didn’t need to stop to pee at all. I should have had more calories though. I ran the race on 4 Clif shot bloks (133 calories total) and three Skratch chews, for another 60 maybe. I should have probably had another 100 calories.

Nevertheless, as we came down the hill and into the homestretch, I felt like I was going to succeed at my new PR. But I was feeling frustrated too, because I felt like it ought to be easier. I’ve been training so hard, I was really hoping that breaking 9:00 would be “easy” and that I’d feel like I was flying the whole way. Probably a ridiculous expectation from the start. After all, CDA is at about 2200′ of elevation. That’s not a lot, but it’s enough to reduce your maximum oxygen consumption by 5-7%.

So, maybe on a good day at sea level I’d break 9 min. Hard to say. What I know is that despite suffering and fighting and leaving every last drop of energy I had on the course, I ran through the finish line, hand in hand with BB as usual, with a brand new personal record of 1:59:10.

I worked as hard as I could, and gave everything I had, and I took 32 seconds off of my personal record for the half-marathon. I did it on a course with a couple big hills, and at higher altitude than I’m used to training in. The last couple of miles were constant pain and I had to dial it back just a bit, turning in 9:26, 9:05, and 9:11 for the last three miles. But I had a good kick for the final tenth. Overall, my pace was 9:03 min/mi.

That’s a reduction of about 5 seconds per mile from my previous PR, more than two years ago. 5 seconds per mile may not sound like a lot, but it represents a noticeable change in effort when running. I wish I’d gotten another three seconds per mile out of myself. But I still have a goal to pursue at the half-marathon distance, I guess. That’s a good thing.

On the way home from CDA, we went a couple hundred miles out of the way to take highway 20 across the North Cascades. It was as beautiful as you’d expect it to be:


And on we go!


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