RECAP: Iron Horse Half


Today, I ran half marathon #29, and, spoiler alert, I accidentally-ish ran a PR (finally bested my ZOOMA time from 2014).

I still owe this blog a post on my updated running goals, but that’ll have to come later, as I am going to attempt a shot at writing a recap (which I haven’t done since January, yikes!), while the details are still fresh in my head.

So, here we go…

I signed up for this race nine days ago, after contemplating it for about two weeks. I had heard about it from a member of the running group I’d become involved in here, and was instantly intrigued.

I had just completed another half marathon (the August 3 Orting Summerfest Half), which I had registered for that day, and was feeling like I wanted to gauge my fitness after a few strong weeks of training. All of the reviews and race reports I had read about the Iron Horse Half called it a gradual downhill and very fast race.

While I still didn’t feel 100% confident that I was ready to race a half (I started training in July with the goal of a PR at the Portland Half Marathon), I decided that Iron Horse was my opportunity to not only get in a great long run, but “preview” part of the course that’s used in the famous North Bend “tunnel” marathons (fast courses known for high percentages of Boston Qualifying (BQ) times).

So, I pulled the trigger, and counted down the days!

Fast forward to this morning, 4 AM. Yes, 4 AM. đŸ˜› My alarm was set for 4:45 so I could hit the road by 5:30ish (Google maps said it was an hour drive), but apparently I was ready to go early, because I was on my way by 5 AM. I listened to a podcast, and there was no traffic, so the drive went by super fast.

I arrived to the finish staging area early enough to grab great street parking, right across from the finish line and port-a-potties, which had no lines long enough for me to go twice before meeting my friend Emily who had picked up our bibs the day before. (Side note: there is race day pickup, but I was happy to see her, so it worked out great).

We got on the shuttle to the start at around 6:50 AM, and had a nice chat, I didn’t even notice how long it took. Once we disembarked, we walked up a steep incline, where she dropped her bag, and we proceeded up to the start line.

I was in Wave 2, which started at 7:40 – and we got moving right on time.

From the first five minutes, I repeated to myself, “keep it comfortable, don’t go too fast,” which wasn’t too much of a challenge, since there was a bit of crowding on the trail.

(Speaking of the trail – I loved that part! Crushed gravel, and wide enough to not feel squashed around other runners; and on an obvious decline, but not painfully so – gradual, just as the description had promised).

After my first mile ticked off (8:29), I settled into a groove, tucked in eyeshot, but not too close, behind the 1:50 pacer. Those next few miles rolled along nicely, (8:02, 8:02, 8:02), and I was surprised how good it felt to be hitting that pace with relative ease.

I was thinking ahead to Mile 5ish since I knew my sister would be cheering there, and sure enough, I saw her! It was awesome, she caught us right before a flat out and back section, so I was able to see her twice!

It was then that I realized I had not only caught up to the 1:50 pacer, but I had somehow been sucked into the pack. The pacers were encouraging and positive, but I wasn’t really in the headspace to run with the large group, and so kept the pace, while searching around to find my way around and past them (8:18).

After I broke free from the group, the course was pretty widely spaced out. I was feeling my playlist and about to jam out to Goldfinger when suddenly, the music stopped.

Now, I had a conundrum. Should I stop and see what was going on with my music? Or just deal? I mean…ugh. I wasn’t even halfway through. I let the decision marinate for almost a mile before pulling over and deciding it would be worth the extra seconds – after all, I wasn’t racing, right? (8:26)

Apparently, that pit stop was the right choice, as the next miles checked off with the same ease, but, as I glanced down at my watch, to my surprise, some sub-8’s (7:37, 7:42, 7:41, 7:37, 7:44). I was flying down the path, and passed several people I had seen at the start – always a pretty awesome feeling.

I was enjoying the scenery, loving my playlist, and just zoning (in a good way) when I realized, “hey, I passed that 1:50 pacer a long time ago…” and then, “holy crap, wait a minute, I could run something in the 1:40’s,” then “OMG, I could run a PR today!”

Of course, math while running is NOT my strong suit, and adding and subtracting, plus a small out and back right near the end had me all mixed up! After Mile 12 (8:00 flat), I finally came to the conclusion that if I could muster some strength to pick up that last mile, I’d slide in right under 1:45.


So, that last mile…it hurt a little! But I pushed through. I imagined the feeling of seeing a sweet finish time on the screen (thankfully my mind’s image was better – as the clock was ticking way ahead for some reason when I got there?), of seeing what PR’s my Garmin might share with me once I crossed the finish…and honestly, I was excited to see the medal in person because the images I had seen of it had impressed me so. (7:42)

And so, with the Bay City Rollers blaring in my aftershokz headset (“Don’t Worry Baby” is a jam, fight me, haha), I crossed that finish line and earned my half marathon PR! (1:44:49)

After collecting the medal (which was even more awesome in person than I imagined), I strolled over to the Chayen Coffee Trailer and picked up a Thai Iced coffee (I had won an instagram giveaway the day before for a free drink!) which was a totally delicious way to celebrate.

Hours later, as I write this recap, I am still giddy about the way this race turned out, and feel confident about some thoughts I had brewing about future running goals. It was a great running day, and I’m excited about what’s next…




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