Saturday, November 05, 2005

Huddart Park Half-Marathon - 3rd Place

The deer were grazing, the sun was shining, and the trails were soft and welcoming. What an excellent race in Huddart Park, well organized as usual by the Redwood Trails Company.

The route along the trails of this pretty park in the city of Woodside effectively formed one large hill. We trudged uphill for just over 4 miles at the beginning, climbing almost exactly 1500 ft, but then we were rewarded with mostly level ground and a nice long downhill towards the finish line.

About 60 of us in the half-marathon race lined up at 9am and off we went! I was in a front pack of 5 people pretty quickly. The guy setting the pace was probably going too fast for his own good and he started gradually slowing down and we passed him when we could on the single-track trail. The amazing runner, Kevin, from the Pumpkin Run 10K was in front of me, quickly eating up the steep uphill switchbacks. He was soon out of sight and I was in 4th place at around mile 3 with the guy behind me slowly falling back until the first aid station. As a reward for quickly climbing 1500 ft, and out of a disdain for littering, I completely stopped at the unmanned aid station for a liesurely 5 or 6 second break, gulping down a whole cup of sports drink. I suddenly felt great again, taking off on the now mostly level trail. But then a strange thing happened, my left foot started to fall asleep! How can a foot fall asleep while running? I figured it must have been a combination of the shoe laces being slightly too tight while continuously climbing that steep hill. I wiggled my toes to keep it awake and I thought about stopping to fix the problem but then after a short segment on the asphalt road, the foot woke up completely and didn't cause any more problems. Weird! So now I was feeling strong and fast and cruising along easily. But then I started getting cramps in my chest around the sternum, presumably from so much heavy breathing. I tried to vary my breathing which helped a bit. Then I started getting a cramp in my right side which surprised me since I never got cramps in my side any more, either during training or races. Sigh. The course had turned back on itself by now and it was a nice distraction facing the oncoming runners. Everybody congratulated each other "good job" and gave each other encouragement. Finally I was getting into some real downhill and I opened up my stride, covering the ground quickly. I started feeling good again and my side ache disappeared. Somewhere around mile 8 I caught sight of Kevin again and I was surprised. Here's the guy who ran 5 minutes 58 seconds a mile in that 10K, beating me soundly! Yet I was quickly catching him on the downhill. After a 20 seconds or so of riding his heels there was a good opportunity to pass him after a short bridge and he stepped to the side and congratulated me. I quickly resumed the fast downhill pace but I was getting plenty fatigued, unable to quite catch my breath, on the flat sections and brief uphills. I made a mistake of looking at my watch one time and it read 1:12:00. One hour, 12 minutes into the run, I was feeling tired, and I had probably 35 to 40 minutes remaining. Disheartening. At mile 12, I would have been quite happy to stop! But I kept on going, slowing down a bit, I'm sure. Finally I got to the wide open sunny area where we had started and I tried to put in a good finish but I was in no shape to sprint. I was worried that Kevin would have caught up to me and could sprint past me to the end. I heard some familiar cheers and was happy to see that Jennifer and Claire had made it, in addition to my friend Tamara from Santa Cruz being there (she ran the 5 mile race today). I did a little wave (Jennifer said she didn't notice and thought I hadn't seen them!) but I was in no condition to really smile or do anything else except run the last couple tenths of a mile to the finish. (See photo above.) Whew!

Was a good tough run and I was happy with how I did. My time was about 1:36:17 with a pace of 7 minutes 21 seconds a mile on average which I feel good about considering the size of that initial climb and the inherent limitations of trail running. Thank you, Jennifer, for watching Claire so I could do this!

UPDATE: The results are in. I was 3rd place of 63 runners. My official time was 1:36:17.

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