I have to be honest, I wasn’t too confident about doing well at this race. The days leading up to the race I wasn’t able to follow my pre-race routine: I didn’t eat the way I usually do, half the time I kept forgetting I was racing on Saturday, I didn’t have the comfort of my own bed to sleep in, and my warm-up right before the race was nearly non-existent. But one of my strengths as a runner is that I can push the negative thoughts to the side and focus on the job that needs to be done.
The day started out sunny, beautiful, zero wind, and absolute perfect racing temperatures (high 50s/low 60s).
I didn’t have a super early morning wake-up call, but I didn’t sleep the best since someone is regularly up every 4 hours at night. But when my alarm went off, it was time to focus on the race. I got ready, had a decent-sized breakfast, fed Cullen one last time, and then caught my ride to the shuttle buses.
The course was a point-to-point course, so we basically started 13.1 miles out of town. I only had maybe 5 minutes to warm-up before we had to board the shuttle buses to be transported to the start.
We started on this gravel road (pictured below), basically in the middle of nowhere. There were two orange cones lined up on either side of the road marking the start line. When we got off the bus, the bus driver (who also served as race official and starter) yelled, “Five minutes until the race starts.” People darted off into the woods to pee one last time. I did a few dynamic warm-ups and accels. I knew going into this race that there would literally be no time for me to warm-up. I usually spend about 30 minutes warming up for a half-marathon, so if I hadn’t known I wasn’t going to have any time, I would have been furious, and it would have gotten into my head that I wouldn’t do well. I knew I had to make the most of a short warm-up, so I did my best to get my muscles warmed up and focus on the race.
I went out with two other guys from the start. The first two miles were on a gravel road. (Which I also knew only because I had met the race director a couple days before and asked her! Otherwise once again this would not have made me a happy camper.) The gravel road wasn’t too bad actually. I was able to find a pretty solid path with few rocks.
After a few miles, we lost the one guy, so it was just me and a high school kid running together. We didn’t talk, but it sure helped with pacing and for me to keep the pace on the faster side. I started off averaging 6:35 – 6:40 pace. It was quick, but not too quick. I figured if I bombed later on in the race I would have some extra time in the bank. I knew I had to keep my pace at 6:50 or faster if I wanted to break 1:30. During the rest of the miles, my pace was right around 6:45 with nothing over 6:49, so we were very consistent.
This kid and I kept plugging away at the miles. It was easy to keep an even pace as the course was flat. . . .pancake-flat. There was literally no hills or even a speed bump on the course–and there was even some slight declines during the last few miles. You couldn’t ask for a faster course!
I was able to pull away from the other guy with about 1.5 miles to go. I cruised into the finish with the last mile being 6:31. When I crossed the finish line, I was shocked to see 1:27 on my watch. I had cut 2.5 minutes off my previous PR. I congratulated the second place runner, and come to find out this kid had just “gotten off the boat” which means he has been fishing all summer and not training very much, so he did awesome.
I had a lot of fun running this race, and I feel very blessed to have run so well. This really boosts my confidence for the marathon in August.
At the last minute Craig decided to walk the 5K with Cullen in the backpack. I think he liked it.
The rhythmic motion always puts him to sleep. I don’t know how he was able to sleep with his head bobbing around.
I would highly recommend the Alaska Salmon Runs if you are wanting to PR! It is flat, fast, and absolutely beautiful. We did catch some good weather, so I couldn’t guarantee no rain as it tends to rain quite a bit in Cordova. There were at least three people doing the half or full marathon in order to get Alaska checked off the list of running in all 50 states, so this could be an option for you if you are working towards that goal.