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Hasty Half 2011: Recap


I stayed up late Friday night drinking Alaskan IPA and dancing foolishly to live bluegrass – a standard Juneau weekend night for my age group. Afterward, I stopped at a friend’s house, ate a selfishly large pile of carrot cake and peanut butter M&Ms, guzzled down about three glacier’s worth of water, and ran home in the rain so that I was in bed by 3am Saturday morning.

I popped awake around 8:30 and drank another Nalgene’s worth of nuun-spiked water, figuring I’d lie around going braindead on the internet for awhile prior to heading out for a relaxing Saturday long run.

Oh, the best-laid plans…

At 9am, just as I was clicking feverishly through the Facebook wedding album of some friend of a friend’s acquaintance, a running buddy called and asked me whether I knew there was a half-marathon going on that morning at 10.

What! No. I hadn’t known.

I slammed my computer shut, dove into some running clothes and semi-sprinted the two miles from my apartment to the race registration area. The race, it turned out, had no entry fee aside from a donation (since it was a fundraiser), and was also untimed – you just use your own watch.

This was excellent news for my IPA-carrot-cake-peanut-M&M bloated and sleep-deprived self. My asshat half-marathon time would not have to be published on any race website or in any newspaper. Thank the good lord.

The half-marathon course was a point-to-point, starting from an area called False Outer Point and ending at the registration area at Sandy Beach. In other words, this is the second half of the Juneau Marathon course: one long road of gently rolling hills. (Oh yeah: I ran the Juneau Marathon; it was back in July. I actually wrote a race recap but never published it because, well, I got bored with posting for awhile. I’ll publish that race report in a few days. I might throw in a post about the Klondike Road Relay too, simply because it was an outstanding experience.)

But back to Saturday’s half-marathon. For a race with no official entry fee, the people putting it on took lovely care of us — that’s Juneau for you. They shuttled us out to the start, staffed smiling faces at well-stocked aid stations every three miles, and had even decorated the pavement with witty chalk messages at steady intervals along the route. I really can’t emphasize enough how much I adore the Juneau running community.

In any case.

There were perhaps 20 or 30 of us running the half-marathon, and after arriving via shuttle to the beginning of the course and collectively dashing into the woods to pee, our shuttle driver beeped his horn to signal the start of the run. I hit the start button on my watch as I crossed the line.

Due to my late night and lack of preparation, I figured this run would be a nice, uptempo medium-long jaunt. I was not planning on racing or posting a fast time. (Let’s be honest here: I never plan on posting fast times. I prefer to keep my expectations low, sandbag the shiz out of myself, and then be pleasantly surprised if I happen to have a good day. Yeah. It’s not a very diehard angle, but it works for me.) In fact, I’ve been afraid of racing a half-marathon – this was actually my first time running a “race” at the distance. There’s something about the combination of length and speed required that intimidates the heck out of me in a way marathons and 10Ks never have.

But, yeah, the race.

A high schooler shot out into the lead and I settled comfortably into second place as I took things out at what felt like 8:00 pace or so. In my head, a sub-1:45 training run sounded solid. I knew there would be mile markers spray-painted on the road left over from the marathon, so I could key off those if I wanted to, but I didn’t end up taking any splits aside from the halfway point.

Since the course is all on one road, I had several opportunities to see the first place guy – the high schooler – a long way ahead of me. I could only hope that he’d overestimated his abilities and would fade, but I was in no rush for this to happen: I figured I’d catch him by about mile seven or eight. And besides, I wasn’t there to race. Right?

So I settled in and cruised. Checking down at my watch on the mile markers, I saw that I was maintaining a pace comfortably under 8:00 through mile five, but I didn’t feel like doing the math and figuring out just how far below. It felt like “regular run” pace.

In terms of what was going on behind me, I turned my head to spit a few times and realized there was someone hanging on a hundred feet back. What the heck! I’d been sure I’d dropped everybody else, but this was false. This guy had been stalking me patiently the entire time, like a mountain lion moving in for the kill.

All the sudden, I was running scared. Like any runner, I don’t enjoy being passed. I pride myself on my conservative starts and strong finishes. Unexpectedly, I wasn’t hanging out on a Saturday morning leisure run anymore. This had turned solidly into a tempo run. I kicked things into another gear and decided to stop kidding myself: I wanted to cross the line before both the mountain lion behind me and the high schooler ahead of me. I also didn’t want to waste a lot of energy doing it, because, guys, I am not a badass racer. I am not hardcore. When it comes to running, the reality is that I am a lazy underachiever.

Nevertheless, I steadily made up ground on the high schooler in first place, reeled him in and found myself matching him step for step by mile eight. The Mountain Lion came with me, maintaining his anxiety-inducing striking distance a hundred feet behind.

I figured that once I caught the high schooler, he’d be about ready to tank and I could commandeer the lead.


I caught up to him, and the first thing he did was throw down a nasty surge.

Mothereffing curses. Not this mind games garbage! I let him pull away, and then I reeled him back in again.

Another damn surge!

He pulled away again. Jeez, this kid was good. I reeled his punk ass in again. This sequence repeated several times. At first, I was immensely annoyed by all his surges and mental trifling, but I soon called upon the inner strength I have gained from my yoga practice, withdrew into myself, summoned my patience, and decided to rise above it… uh, SIKE, friends, Sweaty Kid is still a yoga-free zone. But I did elect to ignore the surges and just keep to my pace, thinking, go ahead, kid, waste your energy – I’m banking that you’ll run out of gas by mile 10.

Mountain Lion, however, presented a worrisome problem: Why was he still hanging back there so tirelessly, a hundred feet behind? Why hadn’t he faded or made a move? What cards had he yet to play? Was he going to serve me with a demoralizing kick and rip me to shreds once the finish line came into view?

At mile nine, I found myself shifting into another gear. It was time to stop lollygagging and commit to having a faster run than I’d planned. The high schooler was beginning to struggle next to me, and Mountain Lion was still locked squarely in position behind us.

As we approached mile 10, the high schooler was looking pretty rough. His breathing was labored and his feet were slapping the pavement desperately. It wouldn’t be long. I kept my foot to the pedal up a sneaky long hill and he bravely attempted to hang tough, but it was clear that his threat was over. A quarter mile later, he was roadkill.

To seal that deal, I ripped things into much higher gear. All by myself in the front, I was scared again. Front-running at all is uncomfortable territory for me, and front-running with a Mountain Lion at one’s back is even worse, so I decided that with two miles to go, I didn’t have any excuse to slack any more. Mountain Lion could come with me or not. His choice.

I pressed hard to mile 11, figuring that if there was any time to actively put some focused distance between myself and the Mountain Lion, this was it.

The last two miles of the course featured about a 1.5 mile gradual uphill and then a blissful half-mile downhill into the finish area. I scooted up the hill, turning my head and spitting every so often in order to see if I could get a location on the Mountain Lion runner. I couldn’t. But I ran past a pedestrian who warned me to be careful of a black bear in the yard next to the road.

I looked where he pointed. Oh yes, there’s the black bear, gamboling around on somebody’s lawn like a frickin golden retriever. Jesusmaryandjoseph. But I did not have time to be bothered with that, as I presently had more compelling megafauna to outrun.

With a mile to go, I realized that I had dropped Mountain Lion in a big way – it took a full crane of my neck to identify him far back in the distance, and the high schooler was nowhere to be seen. Ah, excellent. All alone, I instantly relaxed and eased off the accelerator considerably. I would later regret this when I saw my final time, but oh well: I bounded along, bombed down the final hill, and crossed the finish line in 1:32:15, wondering instantly if I could’ve broken 1:32 without my fit of sloth in the final mile.

I’d run the first half of the race in 47:45 (7:17/mi pace), and the second half in 44:30 (6:48/mi pace), for an overall pace of 7:02-ish. It was not the kind of performance I expected from myself that morning, and I am very pleased with it.

The cool temperatures and gentle rolling hills made for an incredibly comfortable racing experience, and, again, I think the fact of my low expectations helped me have a good run.

On Sunday, I was up like usual to meet running pals at 7:30 for the weekly “Geezer Run” (as they call it), and we ran on the Treadwell Ditch trail, dashed up an icy boardwalk, across a frozen muskeg meadow, and up a ridge to the top of Mount Troy where I pretended to be a character in Braveheart, and then down again to bushwhack through the forest back to the Ditch trail, all of which took us about four hours. I spent the entire run alternately suppressing an overwhelming urge to leap, sing and twirl around like Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music because the scenery was so enthralling and muttering violently to myself like Gollum because scrambling down icy rocks and twisting your ankle seven hundred times is grating to the naviculars. I now have scratched limbs, a constellation of devil’s club thorns embedded in my palm, about 86 miles to my name for the week, and an ever-growing infatuation with Juneau, Alaska, where I could very well end up living indefinitely (just kidding, mom and dad… but not really.)

24 Comments leave one →
  1. 10/02/2011 20:38

    Awesome race! I was wondering what happened to you when you dropped out of the blogosphere.

  2. 10/03/2011 00:42

    Um, oh HEY. Way to return and shame us all with your terrificness. Nice race. I’ll remind you of your infatuation sometime in February.

    • 10/03/2011 20:09

      You will not extinguish my infatuation in February because I will be too busy hibernating. Also, I tried to look at your blog a little while ago and it was marked private. I decided it must be a glitch and I was imagining things. But I just tried and that moose denied me again.

  3. 10/03/2011 01:53

    First of all, YAY, you’re back (maybe?). Also: holy crap! That’s some serious negative splitting right there! Awesome.

    • 10/03/2011 21:54

      That negative split probably means I should’ve taken things out a bit harder! It felt good to write about racing again. Now I’ll just work on, you know, cutting it down to about 1/4 that length…

  4. 10/03/2011 02:29

    Yay for you being back to blogging and a big fat yay for being all badass, winning a race, AND running by a black bear. WTF?!?! I ran past a possum the other day and thought I deserved a metal.

    • 10/03/2011 22:12

      I submit the following photo as evidence that possums are utterly terrifying and I would honestly rather deal with a black bear.

  5. 10/03/2011 04:33

    So if you can win a halfer in Juneau at a 7:02 pace, I’m trying to figure out where I need to go to win at a 10:00 pace. Tortilla Flat, AZ has a population of 6. I think I’d have pretty good odds there.

    No but yeah: you are a badass. And I was probably way more excited than I should have been to see a SK blog post in my inbox this morning.

    • 10/03/2011 22:20

      …and lucky for you, it was about 10 times the acceptable length of a reasonable blog post.

      If Tortilla Flat, AZ has anything to do with tortilla chips, please send me a few bags. And I need a haircut, so you should send Juan also.

  6. 10/03/2011 07:10

    Marie, I was that excited, too. And it didn’t disappoint.
    So, yeah: glad you’re back. And, um, DAMN. Good job on the race!!!

    • 10/03/2011 22:28

      Thanks. I will try to be less of a delinquent for a little while at least. You actually summed up my attitude toward blogging in the past few months perfectly in your most recent post.

  7. 10/03/2011 07:54

    You are back!! This makes me very happy and this totally made my Monday!!!

  8. 10/03/2011 08:00

    So, WOW (for your race) and YAY (you’re back)!

    So the key to running faster is to get lazier? Hmm… not sure how to do that…

    • 10/03/2011 22:23

      Not laziness, exactly, but… staying relaxed about it all. That’s absolutely been the key for me.

  9. 10/03/2011 08:35

    Hahaha. Always impressed by your “I’m not racing” race results. Congrats on beating the high schoolers, mountain lion, and black bear.

    • 10/03/2011 22:21

      I’m telling ya, the “i’m not racing” mentality is what brings me any shred of success. Keeping the expectations low!

  10. 10/03/2011 10:56

    you’re baaaack!! dear god, i aspire to be you. that is a fracking fast half!! especially with your low expectations, lmao.
    ps – i am SO happy to know that you can still be speedy sans thyroid. you kick ass.

  11. 10/03/2011 22:38

    In regards to ur comment to me – back at ya on the whole Juneau wx = epic treks. This place certain demands Sir Edmond Hillary efforts anytime the Sun’s out. Anything less and ur an oaf

  12. 10/04/2011 03:42

    Welcome back. Can’t blame you for staying off the computer and making the most of summer. I’ve missed your race reports though — that one was a beauty. We were desperate to see a bear in the wild (or a moose, or anything unusual) — only saw a dear and a chipmunk.

  13. Mike permalink
    10/05/2011 15:51

    Glad to see you blogging again. Great race story.

  14. 10/05/2011 16:40

    Um, you were second in that marathon.

    So yes, post the story please.

  15. Michele permalink
    10/06/2011 19:40

    AMAZING. I can’t believe you haven’t told me about your sweaty kid blog sooner!! Psh, holding out on me. I love it. HILARIOUS. I may try your techniques with my next half…although the negative splits…I may need a real mountain lion behind me.

  16. 10/12/2011 16:52

    I’m glad you came back from the abyss. 🙂 I also love peanut butter m&m’s and understand how many one can eat once one gets started…

    Great race recap, congratulations on a fast race!! Can’t wait to read your marathon recap from this summer.

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