I could write a whole long race report but I can pretty much sum it up in four words:
[OK, OK, I’ll write a real race report.]
That’s the Whidbey Island Half in a nutshell… but really, it’s so much more than that. I had the pleasure of living in Oak Harbor, Whidbey’s largest city, when I was stationed at NAS Whidbey Island in 1999 and 2000. Oak Harbor is a small city with a small-town feel. Despite the hordes of Navy folks who come and go like the seasons, there are many who “homestead” and stick around for years and years. I was not fortunate to be one of those, though given the opportunity I might have made a go at it. 🙂 The day I left, I remember feeling quite despondent and I have missed the island ever since.
The course starts in the middle of town, auspiciously enough with an UPHILL start. That’s when I knew this was going to be a challenge, especially considering it was about 46 degrees with overcast, heavy skies that threatened rain and some seriously blustery winds. I went into the race with the goal of 2:15 or better, taking into account the hills I thought I expected. Well, I was about to be surprised.
Uphill, downhill, rolling hills, and all with this infernal WIND that kept blowing from all directions. It wasn’t like a headwind going one way and a tailwind coming back. It blew from side to side and all around. My hat almost flew away at one point, and at another, the tailwind was so fierce I kicked myself in the ankle and almost took a header. On more than one occasion I had to hang onto my hat to make sure it didn’t blow off again and also ensure my bib didn’t come tearing off the safety pins holding it to my shirt. The gusts were at least rolling through at 30+ mph. Thankfully it didn’t rain on top of that!
The first half of the course was *mostly* flat, with a few rollers at the beginning. Miles 5-6 were through downtown, and then we headed south into the Scenic Heights area – yes, Heights. It’s not a metaphor. We hit mile 6 and up and up and up we went. For about half a mile. With the strongest headwind I have ever encountered. Normally, my plan is to walk steep hills, but this time I just kept running, albeit at a slower pace. FINALLY we made it to the top and it was flat for a short time, then a slight downhill. I wanted to be elated about this until I thought about how it would be UPHILL on the way back. We passed houses, farmlands, and even a field with three horses – one black, one brown, and one tan and white – who were running around in a circle as if they were participating in their own track event. I grinned while watching them (until the wind threatened to whip my hat off my head again)…then they just stopped dead in their tracks, watching us run by down the road. After a moment or two, they started up again, running around in a circle.
We turned a corner, and guess what? Another hill! And more headwind! We were at about mile 8 by this point and I was starting to get quite tired of hills. I reminded myself that the San Francisco Marathon has more hills and buckled back down into myself to gut it out. Another gentle downhill, some more up, a banked curve (no runner likes those) and soon we were at the turnaround point, roughly the 15K mark. We headed back UP the hill and the wind started again. Would we never get any relief from this infernal wind??? After about a mile of that, there was a brief respite and then there was much rejoicing – a giant downhill portion. Needless to say, Jen likes downhills. A LOT. Sooooo, I took off running like the hounds of hell were behind me. It was glorious. We hit a flat patch, a slight uphill, then, at long last, that big half-mile hill I hated so much at the beginning? We were baaaaack! And it was downhill! I took off again, clocking myself at around 7:40/mile for a good portion of it. I started making up the seconds I had lost at the beginning.
After the hill, we made a turn back into the park and I was flying down the gravel path – I passed a Brightroom photographer going at about what felt like 8:20/mile – I have a feeling I’m going to love that photo – and kept going. Finally, after another couple of turns, the finish line was in sight… and the wind came back! Argh! What I had intended as a sprint finish ended up as more of a fast trot because I just couldn’t beat that wind. I crossed the finish line in 2:07:12, average pace 9:40/mile, and my third fastest half marathon time to date. (Hence, the surprise! I did not see that one coming.)
It was so cold that I couldn’t feel my fingers – I quickly got my medal and my clothes bag (thankfully I had thought to pack my chocolate milk!!!) and threw on every bit of clothing in my bag. I was shivering so badly I could barely get my clothes on. I then waited for the shuttle and got back to my car as quickly as I could. I didn’t stick around for the post-race food or anything. I just wanted to be warm.
Fantastic race – I’ll defintely be back. Perhaps I’ll go for the whole enchilada next time and run 26.2! 🙂
10:31 (evil hill)
10:17 (other evil hill)
10:13 (slightly less evil hill)
9:08 (wee, downhill!)
8:22 (amazing downhill)
8:01 (0.1 mi sprint to the finish)