Running, beer and people who fart...

I just got back from a great weekend in Leavenworth, WA where I did several of my favourite things - I ran a half marathon and I drank lots of beer. As for the farting well you will have to read on.

My plan for the half marathon was to take things fairly easy. Its my first long race since the Vegas marathon last December due to a slight injury I had earlier in the year. Well the injury hasn't gone away 100% but either a) Its gone away enough to run on -or- b) My pain tolerance has gone up enough that I don't feel it as much any more. So I've been slowly ramping up my distances aiming for some bigger races later this year and early 2008. Coach N has been trying to crush my spirits with killer track workouts (which I apparently whine far too much about!) and I've been doing really well on the long runs over the weekends. But I've not really tested the legs fast over this distance for a while and I do have a full marathon in 6 weeks so it made sense not to push it. My PR of 2:00:14 from Mercer Island 18 months ago was looking pretty safe.

The Leavenworth course starts with the only major hill of the race. Its not too steep for the first 2 miles but the last 1/4mile is a little challenging. I tried to be good and start slowly but got dragged along with the pack and clocked 8:32 for the first mile.... not good when I was estimating 9:30 pace for the race at best (around 2:05 final time). So I tried to slow down for the second mile which was easy as the hill was getting steeper... but 9:08 was still faster than i wanted. I was, as always, entertained by a couple of people who think its socially acceptable to fart as loudly as possible while in a big pack of runners. Then the steep bit hit and showing a little caution to my poor calf muscle I managed to back off, take a drink and turn around to head back down the hill.. only to find I ran 9:16. OK so I went out a bit fast... I can take it easy down the hill and see how I feel. An easy 8:21 and 8:55 back down for miles 4 and 5 wasn't surprising but I'm wondering if I should be concerned. I throw my vest to J who is doing a great job with the cowbells and realise that even with the hill out of the way I am under 9 minute pace which would be a PR if I can keep it up. My legs are feeling a bit tired though so I'm pretty sure that's an unreasonable goal to go for - I decide to blame a rather brutal track workout from over a week ago for the tiredness.

Mile 6 seemed very long and tiring and people were passing me - a group of 5 deer crossed the road right in front of us all and looked about as confused as most non runners do when you tell them you are running 13.1 (or 26.2) miles 'for fun'. After a few minutes watching they headed off to munch goodies at the local golf course. Near the 6 mile mark one of my fellow runners was waiting to cheer and rather surprisingly I discovered I had run an 8:42. I'm starting to wonder what is going on here as people are still passing me and I am feeling tired but apparently I am not slowing down. Maybe the mile marker was bad I think. I totally miss the mile 7 marker so as my clock goes past 9:30 I think that maybe, just maybe I have found a more sensible pace. Then it passes 10:00 and 10:30 and I realise what has happened. I grab some water and as I start to run again I find myself behind the US farting champion. No kidding this guy is farting almost every time his left leg (yes his left I watched carefully) hit the ground. After 10 or 15 strides I am wondering where the gas is coming from but I reckon I need to be in front and pass him. Before I know it I am at mile 8 and while I have slowed slightly I have still run 2x8:55 and my total time is now over a minute faster than 9 minute pace. I start to think that maybe all those track workouts have been good for me - maybe I am fitter or maybe I learned to tolerate the fatigue better but either way I start to enjoy things more. I'm still pretty convinced that sub 9 pace is out of the question but I decide to keep plugging on and if I am still under 9 minute pace at the 10 mile marker I am going to go for it and try to PR. Mile 9 has a water stop at the bottom of a steep but short hill so almost everyone takes their water and walks the 30 yards or so before starting the downhill. This was the main contributor to my slowest mile of the race at 9:21 but I followed that with an 8:32 putting me 1 minute and 10 seconds ahead of PR pace and now I had to go for it as per my earlier deal with myself.

By this point in a long race you are running with the people who will finish at a very similar pace. Some of them are people who went out fast and slowed and some have run an even race. But this has one good advantage its actually very easy to pass people since you only have to speed up a little bit. I've used this as a technique to speed up in other races - sometimes it works and sometimes you just don't have the energy but today things are going well. Around this point I find farting guy again (though I don't remember him passing me) who thankfully is out of gas and pass him along with quite a few other people. I'm counting off the miles and things are feeling a little harder but amazingly I'm holding a great pace. Somehow I miss the 11 mile marker but did approx 2x8:35 followed by an 8:16 for mile 13 and 40 seconds for the final .1 mile (yes folks that's sub 7:00 pace!!!) for a final time of 1:55:02.

So I smashed my PR, and I smashed 9:00 pace - the final count is an average of 8:46 per mile. Just out of interest I looked back through my training logs and found that on June 20th 2005 my running group ran a measured mile. The idea is to give you a baseline to compare how well you are improving and after the measured mile you should be totally spent. On that day I ran my 1 mile in 8:50. Its taken me over 2 years of running but this weekend I ran 13.1 miles faster than that pace and I know I felt much better after finishing the half marathon than I did on the measured mile. I guess all those hard runs pay off even if I do whine about them at the time - I must have a good coach or something ;-)

After a soak in the river - man THAT was cold - and a shower it was off for some celebratory beers. For some reason Leavenworth thinks I should pay $10 entry to get into the Oktoberfest and buy their promotional trinkets and probably pay extra for the beer. So we spent the $10 on beer instead and drank in a non Octoberfest venue that sold perfectly good German beer. In fact it was so good we drank quite a lot and I may have told the farting marathon runner story in a VERY loud voice... for anyone sitting near me I am very, very sorry.

Finally to end a great weekend we went to the best cheese shop in Washington, the (formerly) best bacon shop in Washington (sorry Willi but your bacon has gone the way of most US bacon - 80% fat so we didn't buy any today), a tour of Applets and Cotlets and on the way home popped into a roadside farm store for apples, cider and of course a pumpkin. How did it get so expensive on the last day???

Published 15 October 2007 08:32 PM by zman

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