Race recap: Walnut Creek Half Marathon

On Saturday morning, I got up at the flipping awful time of 4.30am. Drank some tea, put on my clothes and headed out for the hour-long drive to Walnut Creek to run the half-marathon. The race started at 7am, which is a brutal time, but I realized why when I parked. There’s plenty of street parking near the race which is free till 10am. 3 hours gave most people enough time to do the race before having to worry about feeding the meter. Okay, thanks guys.

My original goal had been to PR but I knew that was unlikely so I had three goals.

  1. Negative split.
  2. Beat my Blerch time of 1.58.59 on a harder course.
  3. Run with guts.

Ref the photos in this post – I accidentally got most of my hair cut off this week.I asked for an inch off and ended up with an ear-length bob. I rather like it but am still learning how to run in it. This is it on a good day – the race photos show it on a VERY bad day. 

me

 

It was bitterly cold at the start – about 4C/39 F. I scurried over to get my number (fast, easy) and then met up with my friends – Michelle, Caitlin, Jen and Debbie. Into the corrals which was a bit disorganized. Beautiful rendition of the national anthem and then off we all went. Within a couple of hundred yards, runners had split out – it was easy to run at my own pace.

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Me and Michelle at the start

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The race split into four sections. The first 4.5 miles were flat. Then there was a giant 2 mile hill. Then we’d plunge down the hill and finally somehow push on for a final flat five miles to the end.

I ran at a comfortable pace for the first four miles. I was careful not to go out too fast – I covered my watch and ran to feel. Except that the first mile was 8.43. Hmmm. I ran on. The route was not pretty – suburban sprawl on busy roads. We were very safely coned off from traffic but cars zoomed by at speed, nevertheless.  The hill loomed into view – it was pretty daunting. I started the climb feeling decent. I’m a rubbish climber and lots of people passed me, which was discouraging but I knew I couldn’t push on the hill so plodded on. Half way up, I spotted Cheerer Extraordinaire Danielle and got a wave, so good to see her.

Like a speeding bullet
Like a speeding bullet.Photo – Danielle.

The hill flattened out for a while, which gave me a chance to recover and then we turned a corner and started climbing again. This hill was pretty relentless – we turned a corner at what looked like the top…and I saw it climbing further as far as I could see. Eventually we crested the top and were treated to a beautiful  view of the valley – the one nice view in the race.

It was time to race. I’d run the first half conservatively, now it was time to suffer and I was up for it. The downhill section was fab. I focussed on passing as many people as I could, reeling them in. And eventually we hit the bottom and had five long flat miles and it was just a case of hanging in there. Mile 9 was notable from the policeman playing Chariots of Fire loudly out of his car, that made me smile.

At Mile 10 I planned to take my gel and to put on the music. Gel taken. Music on…except that my aging, dying iPhone wouldn’t turn on the music. I was really dismayed and the remainder of that mile was a bit of a struggle. And then, as I started fatally fading, somehow the music turned itself on. It turned on Mozart’s Requiem. I’ve never run to classical music before but actually it was kind of amazing. I ran on with the most incredible music blasting in my ears.  It was like I was running in 18th century Vienna. Me and Wolfgang against the world.

The final miles were tiresome. There was a lot of running round parks and then at M11 we ran a good mile on a muddy grass path. Seriously….muddy! That slowed me down a lot. There were some tough rollers out of one park into the next but eventually I turned into the final stretch and crossed the line.

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Photo: Danielle

1.56.58.

I was very content with my time. It’s far from a PR but it reflects the amount of training I put it. It struck me (at M3) that I hadn’t run any more than 6 miles since Beat the Blerch so I really didn’t deserve a PR.

Saw the girls afterwards. Lots of hugs and some photos.

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Danielle, Jen, me, Debbie, her friend Amanda and her little girl. Photo credit: Danielle.
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Me and Michelle at the end

 

There was an excellent expo at the finish area and also laptops where you could check your results, which I really appreciated.  We finished the morning’s work with brunch at Denica’s, which was excellent.

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So chilly I kept my bobble hat on all brunch. Any excuse. I’m obsessed with that hat. Photo credit: Jen.

 

Some thoughts on the race.

Pros

  • I thought the race was very well organised.The early start meant we didn’t need to pay for parking!
  • Easy packet pick up.
  • REALLY nice shirt. Love it. Top notch. Didn’t take it off all day.
  • Loads of police marshaling.
  • Plentiful water/gatorade stations.
  • Good expo, race results available via laptop.
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Me and our tree, Richard Hammond, modeling the WC shirt.

Cons

  • Expensive. I think it was about $100 which is prohibitive especially given the next point.
  • Not a PR course. Between the hill and the muddy path section, I wouldn’t have PRd there even if I’d trained better.
  • Boring course. Lots of suburban streets and some streets with cars whizzing past (although I have to say we were well coned off and I felt safe). But it wasn’t a pretty race.
  • Muddy paths. Never good unless in a trail race, in which case they’re excellent.

This is likely to be my final half marathon until October ’16 (the Husband is doing an Ironman in July and so I’m going to be focussing on shorter distances) and I had fun.

Did I hit my goals?

  1. Negative split. BARELY!!!  Despite the giant hill in the first half, the negative split was about one minute. I tired at the end, looks like I did go out too fast AGAIN…but technically YES!
  2. Beat my Blerch time. YES!
  3. Run with guts. Pretty much yes. I kept fighting even at the end when I was tiring. So YES!

All in all, a good day’s work.

13 Comments Add yours

  1. ErinAMG says:

    Great work on hitting your goals! A one minute negative split is enormous, especially on a tough course!!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thanks. I think having goals other than ‘PR!!!!!’ really helped with satisfaction about an unspectacular result!

      1. ErinAMG says:

        I believe it. I think I came to the realization finally that if I expect to PR at every race, I’m going to be disappointed like, 99% of the time. I think I’m slowly realizing that my joy from running extends much farther beyond what my watch tells me.

    2. Cathryn says:

      It was so much tighter than I expected. Still need to work on not flying and dying.

      1. ErinAMG says:

        dude, you and me and the entire world alike!! 🙂

  2. Angela says:

    Nice job under the circumstances! I’ve come close to running this race several times, but ew, $100 for muddy paths?? Good to know!

    1. Cathryn says:

      I don’t think I could recommend it, there are cheaper, better, more PR-worthy races out there. I like hills, despite not being good at them, but that’s what trail races are for. Having said that, it was excellently organised and I can’t fault the event itself.

  3. Paulette says:

    Yay for hitting goals! You hair looks really cute!

    1. Cathryn says:

      Thank you!! I’m getting used to it.

  4. CONGRATS!!! It may not have been a PR but it certainly was a well managed race!!

  5. Cathryn says:

    Thanks! I’m happy with it because I think it reflects the training I did and I ran the best I could on the day.

  6. Jen says:

    Very late here, but I think you did awesome given the course and not-very-exciting scenery. Good job!

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