running nookachamps again



photo courtesy of John Dickson

This morning I ran my first event since the bike accident last July.  It was the Nookachamps Half Marathon in Mount Vernon, about an hour north of where we live.

Since starting distance running in the mid-nineties, I’ve had a soft spot for Nookachamps.  It’s a great, small event.  Well-organized, showers for after the run, and they have nice shirts (with the same trumpeter swan logo, just done in different colors each year).  I’ve run this race more often than any other, this year being my eighth trip.  I PR’d here back in 2005, and typically run pretty well.  If you’re interested, check out my race reports from 2005, 2006, and 2008 – which all reflect my affection for this event.

After over a five month layoff, I’ve been running again since December the 20th.  In that time I’ve built mileage to about 30-35 per week.  I’m typically running over a minute slower than before the accident, but figure to get all or most of that back once I’ve built strength and stamina.  So today’s half marathon was all about finishing.

I met several friends from the Eastside Runners at Skagit Valley College where the race begins and ends.  I’d been a bit nervous in the days before, because I’d not run the full distance before (topping out at 12.8 one week before).  Shortly before 10, we gathered at the start and jostled about to find a reasonable place to start in the pack of several hundred 5k, 10k, and half marathon runners.  We all lined up together in the thick fog on this chilly morning.

There was no gun or air horn at the start this year.  Everyone suddenly began running. and I was off on my 13.1 mile training run.  I’d figured that it would be difficult for me to finish in under two hours, based on my recent running performance.  I’d usually been between 9 and 10 minutes per mile.  So at the start, I figured I’d do well to finish in under two hours, but wasn’t really counting on it.

I ran with Trish Ostertag and Doug Chase for much of the first mile, which we did in 9:01.  I already felt some soreness and fatigue in my upper quads, so I wasn’t sure I’d be able to maintain the pace.  Over time I felt better and more confident though – clicking off nine minute miles one after another.

As I hit miles 8 and 9, on the out-and-back portion of the course, I decided I’d not only be able to get in under two hours, but I could most likely beat the nine-minute pace goal I’d developed.  And the really cool thing is that I was getting faster as I went.  Mile 10 saw me getting close to 8:30 miles, and the course began to slope downhill too!

The last three miles were great fun.  I always love speeding up towards the end when I can, so covering the final 1.1 miles at a 7:47 pace was phenomenal.  I took the turn off of Laventure Road, into the college with a final burst, and passed several people on the way in.  I’d really not run this fast in over six months, and it felt incredible to do this at the end of a half marathon.

I crossed the finish and felt overcome with joy.  Several times I found myself choking back tears.  Back in July and August of last year, I’d not been sure I’d ever do this again.  Finishing in 1:54 was a good ten minutes slower than I would have wanted to before last July.  But this morning it was great to finish, and to finish feeling as strong as I did.


photo courtesy of bob wismer

I unwound over lunch with my Eastside Runner friends.  We kibitzed back and forth about the race, and about events people were planning to do into the summer.  Amy and Bob talked a bit about their Ironman training.  Sue talked about training for Boston.  Many of us were snug in our burgundy 2009 Nookachamps shirts.

lunch 2009 01 17

photo courtesy of sue maybee

I couldn’t see any of the trumpeters through the fog this morning, and no horses joined the race this time around.  And it wasn’t a fast race for me, but it was strong. 

It’s great to be back in the running. 

Charts and Graphs for Running Geeks

I typically track my splits and average pace during a race to learn about how well I ran.  Good races have me speeding up late, and my average pace increasing. 

In looking at the numbers today, I’m very pleased to see these things happening, although my final average pace (8:44) is 45 seconds to 1 minute slower than I’d like.  That will come.  Today it felt good to finish, and finish strong!



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