For once, I can say YES!
So, let me back up a bit.
I signed up for this half a few weeks ago, as I was looking for something local-ish to run to change up my long-run routine. Since late November, I’ve been working off neighborhood loops of 8-14 mile range, and while I appreciate the hilly routes, and the many options for trail or pavement in my “backyard,” I was excited to return to the Foothills Trail for what I planned to be, essentially, a supported long run.
I had run the trail twice before – once for the Summerfest Half back in August, and another time with my Fleet Feet gals. It’s a nice place to run – wide, paved, and pretty flat, with some small elevation changes (it’s a gradual downhill if you run from Buckley to Orting), or a slight up/down with an out and back from Orting; perfect for nailing a negative split (spoiler alert!)
Back to the race!
Race Swag + Notes
Registration was just $40, so I knew it’d be a low-key event, which was all I needed from it. There was early packet pick-up offered, but it was in Lakewood, about ~30 minutes away, so that wasn’t super convenient. I opted to pick up that morning, and since the race had what I think of as a late start (8:30 AM), I planned to arrive about an hour early to pick up, and relax in the car before starting the race.
The pick-up was flawless – no lines, and very quick. The bib came with the pins, and a nice cinch bag with the “Pierce County Parks” logo, and filled with some snacks (candy, fruit snacks). The staging area was well-marked, and there were four porta-potties in the close vicinity of the Orting City Park.
I headed to the start at 8:20 AM, since it was a super short walk from my princess parking spot. It was a little chilly, 39 degrees, and I was dressed in a long sleeve top and shorts. The start area wasn’t crowded, but the announcer kept prompting us to move up closer to the first timing mat, as the race would soon be starting. I did a few butt kicks and leg swings, switched on a fun Spotify playlist and before long, the race was underway!
For the first few minutes of the race, I noticed that due to the small field size, I was alone pretty much right away. I didn’t look at my watch, just worked on coasting with easy effort – I could see the runner ahead of me (a guy about my age) in my field of vision.
When my Garmin beeped that first mile, I was frankly a bit shocked. I was going WAY too fast for my original plan of Miles 1-10 @ 9:00-10:00 pace, and a fast finish (11-13 @ sub-9:00). I made a concerted effort to slow it down, but my legs were just so fresh, I decided I’d allow the pace as long as it continued to feel easy.
Around Mile 4, I was still very much alone. Depending on the section of the course (as we moved from straightaway sections to twisty/turn areas), I could still see the guy ahead of me.
Around Mile 6, I realized we’d be hitting the turnaround point soon, and I still felt great. I popped open a gel (Hammer Nocciola – tastes like Nutella!) and swigged down some water (I carried a handheld since we had received an email about the water stations being just water bottles instead of cups, due to virus protocol). The lead three men all smiled and waved at me as they hit the turnaround, and as I headed back to hit the second half of the race, I realized that the next female was at least a mile behind me.
This…was a surreal feel. Sure, we were not breaking any landspeed records, but to be the first female? Wow.
So, that’s when I shift the pace for the back half, and aim to complete the remaining miles sub-8, which would be a “workout” type speed for me, but not to the point of being strenuous. Everything still felt great (other than me feeling a bit warm at this time, and I had awkwardly rolled my sleeves), and I chugged along to the epic songs on my playlist.
At Mile 10, I was closing in on the guy I’d been trailing the entire race. Little by little, our gap narrowed, and at the 5K turnaround point (there were three races going on that morning – 5K, 10K, and half), I took the chance, and passed him.
My mantra by that point was simple, “one step at a time.” My legs were still feeling springy, and though I ideally would have removed a layer to cool off a bit, I decided to embrace the slight discomfort; after all, I was less than 5K away from crossing as finish line as first female! I wondered if I’d be breaking tape, then laughed, as that was a bit overkill for the event.
The last few miles clicked off, until I closed in on the last quarter mile – the path, I remembered from my last race experience there – turned a bit of a corner, and the finish was a bit obscured by fence line and trees. This time, however, was much less stressful, because there were only a few walkers on the path, whereas the last time I had to dodge several stroller runners who had been running two-abreast, and erratically.
I powered up, stride-style, as I saw the clock tick closer to 1:48. I just wanted to go under that, so I was very pleased with the official 1:47:14, three minutes slower than my half PR, but just right for sweeping first female AND third overall!
After collecting my medal (which I was excited to receive, as I didn’t expect one!), I was delighted to see that the timing company offered results stickers to adhere to the back with our finish times.
Before heading over to the refreshment tent, I walked over to congratulate the overall winner and the second OA (two gentlemen in their 60’s! Badasses!!) and then changed out of my sweaty clothes in the car, and headed back home. I had briefly considered staying for awards, but it had just started sprinkling and it was almost 10:30 AM at that point, so I was ready to get home and eat and shower.
My Garmin data implies I ran 13.5 miles, which equates a 8 even pace, though the gun recording was a little different. No matter, I was just ecstatic at the result, and could not believe what had just happened!
I ran a smart, and smooth race, which served as a great confidence booster as I head into the next 16 week lead up to my goal marathon!
Have you ever surprised yourself in a race?