FitOne Half Marathon 2019

The FitOne Half Marathon takes place in Boise every September. They offer a killer deal on National Running Day in June where you can sign up for $20. I couldn’t pass that up, so I signed myself and Cyndi up. I had never run it before, so I was looking forward to the flat, fast course this year.

After the Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon in late July I took about two weeks off of running to try to let my Achilles heal (didn’t work). Hood to Coast was the only race I’d done since then, so beginning in mid-August I was able to get some decent training in. I didn’t think I was quite back up to the shape I was in during the spring, but I was feeling pretty good and looked forward to getting a decent half marathon time.

One thing going against me was the cruise that I went on the week before. Besides eating way too much food, I did a pretty tough (but awesome!) run on the Monday before the FitOne Half Marathon. My run was on Catalina Island and included 1800 feet elevation gain and loss.

We also walked around touring, danced a bit, and I forced myself to walk countless stairs on the boat to try to offset some of my eating (elevators off limits). This all had me coming off the cruise fairly worn out.

That said, I took it easy on Friday and felt that I could still hit a decent time. I had run the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon at a 5:57 pace, and I thought I could do FitOne between 6:05 and 6:10/mile.

Between the 5K, 10K, and Half Marathon there are thousands of FitOne participants, and therefore they hold a large Expo. This year it was a JUMP downtown. They were lots of booths with various running, fitness, and nutrition offerings. We took our kids and two of them got free bike helmets.

On Saturday Cyndi and I woke up early and drove downtown to get ready for the 7:15am start time. We ran into our friends, Julie and Chad, and talked to them before the start. Chad and I did a little warm up around the Idaho state capitol building. When I lined up I noted there were a few really fast guys that I know from the area. I introduced myself to one of them who I had only seen on Strava and who I figured would win (he did).

As usual, I tried to take it easy when the race started. I was successful and I ran the first mile in 6:04, which was right about on target. I fell in behind a group of three guys in about 10th place. Mile 2 was a 6:01 pace. I felt pretty good and thought that I could probably get at least a 6:05 average for the race.

Mile 3 swings up near the old penitentiary, with some uphill followed by downhill. On the downhill I sped up and passed the group of three I had been following. My next two miles were nearly the fastest of the race for me, 5:56 and 5:57. I felt good and the guys I had just passed were right behind me. We were also still not too far behind a few runners ahead of us.

Mile 6 was a little slower at 6:02. During Mile 7 there is a 180 degree turn where you pass runners up to ~150 yards ahead and behind you. I cheered for my high school classmate, Kenny, who was ahead of me, and then I cheered on Chad who was behind me.

After Mile 7, which I completed in 6:03, we started a very gradual downhill portion that followed the Boise River. At about this time, one of the three guys I had passed sped up slightly and passed me back. Mile 8 was 5:59 and Mile 9 was 6:02. I hoped that I could catch some of the runners I could still see ahead during the last few miles, but that wasn’t to be. I was starting to tighten up in my hips and didn’t feel that I could give a lot more.

Apparently I slowed slightly during Mile 10 and Mile 11, coming in at 6:05 in each of those. At the end of Mile 11 we merged with the 10K runners and started up the Boise Depot hill. I worked hard up the hill and managed to run Mile 12 in 6:04. I closed the distance on the runners ahead of me, but then I got a little light-headed at the top of the hill.

Everyone sped up during the final mile, which had some downhill. I managed to run a 5:49 pace, but the runners ahead of me sped up more and widened the gap back out.

The course was short, about 12.95 miles. I came across in 8th (or 9th?) place with a pace of 6:01 (according to my watch).

I was happy with the time, and it makes me think that I have a great base going into the winter training. I feel like maybe I held back a little too much in some of the middle portion of the race. Perhaps I could have gone a few seconds faster, but overall it was a good race. I’m hoping that next year I can PR again.

Chad came in shortly after me and he was very happy with his time and performance. I had to take one of the kids to an activity, so I jogged back to the car and I wasn’t able to watch Cyndi come in. She was also happy with her sub-2:00 time. I found that I was already really tightening up as I jogged back to my car. (Cyndi got a ride home with Chad and Julie, as planned.)

What makes FitOne Half Marathon fun is that there are lots of runners. It’s a big race and well organized. There were plenty of volunteers at every little turn, a good Expo, and a good finish area. The course is OK, but it’s very similar to other races in Boise (Famous Potato, St Patrick’s Day Run), so it’s not a noteworthy course. However, the price is right. For $20 I can definitely see myself doing this race again in years to come.

Hood to Coast 2019 – Single Van Insanity

This was my third year doing Hood to Coast and we decided to do something that I’ve always been intrigued by, but that I knew would be a little crazy: combine two vans into one.

We did this for a few reasons:

  • There was a death in the family right before the relay, and we thought it would be better if we were all together (this was a family team).
  • Because of the death, 1 person had to drop out last minute. This meant we had one less runner whose running we’d need to cover. It also ruined our original van line-up and made the responsible driver situation tougher. One less runner made one van a little less daunting since there would be 11 people instead of 12.
  • Finally, we just thought it would be interesting, in a twisted way. And no one wanted to miss out on the party.

Those that have done a 12-person road relay know that the advantage of two vans is that one van can take a break (~3-5 hours) while the other van runs legs. Van 1 gets 2 solid breaks and Van 2 will basically get one break in the middle of the night (and start later the first day). Thus, without two vans, there would be no breaks. Knowing this going into the relay and given that we were using my Ford Transit, I assumed I would get nearly zero sleep. I was correct.

Talking after our pre-race dinner the night before the Relay

To make matters worse, we had a fairly late start time of 10:45am. We planned out our legs on Thursday night after agreeing on one van. We switched things around a bit so that three of us could cover a second leg. The coverage would occur by running two legs back to back instead of running 4 separate legs. On Friday morning the 11 of us piled into the van and headed to Mt Hood.

Our revised leg assignments

Kara was team captain and took Leg 1 because she wanted to start off with some fast downhill. She was followed by Ben (the only person not in our family) and then Chad. Chad was followed by my immediate family: Paisley, then me, then Cyndi.

Hood to Coast Leg 5

My run went well. I pushed pretty hard and ran it slightly faster than I did last year (I ran the same leg last year). It started with a little downhill then had a decent climb during the second half of the run.

Pro tip: After each leg in a relay, immediately drink a chocolate milk. It tastes sooooo good and it calms your stomach down. Especially if it’s fully loaded (full fat). Keeping your stomach calm during a relay is vital to a good experience.

During Cyndi’s leg we stopped at Safeway to grab some food. I got a roasted chicken, some rolls, and some JoJo’s for $10 to share with Cyndi, Paisley, and Ben. It was an excellent meal in my opinion, with plenty of good protein and some carbs. I overate a bit.

When everyone is in one van, the major exchanges (6, 12, 18, 24, 30) are not as major. Usually this would be the few minutes you get to see the other van and everyone is excited. If you’re in one van, it’s just another exchange. It does have a lot of people at it which makes it a little more interesting I suppose.

Cyndi handing off to Brenden at Exchange 6

Brenden came next, then Jaci, Kelsey, Kaden, and Tyrel. Tyrel ended up running legs 11 and 12 to cover for our missing runner, Christy. He did a good job and knocked out 12 miles despite having never ran that far. Ever.

Cyndi and Paisley at Exchange 12

During one of these legs I was able to lay down and just rest for a while, although I don’t think I actually slept. Although we were all in a van together, I tried to be more supportive of runners 1-6 and rest more during runners 7-11. All the in and out of the van and standing and waiting can really drain me, so I was purposeful about being supportive to the other runners about half the time.

Exchange 13, just after dusk

Hood to Coast Leg 17

As night approached I started dreading my second leg a bit. I was tired and didn’t feel like running very much. This is pretty typical. During the night is primarily when relays really start to wear me down. Nevertheless, I put on some tunes to pump me up a bit (The Final Countdown) and got into the mood the best I could.

Also, I was driving for most of this time. The only time I didn’t drive was during legs 4, 5, and 6. That was while I was getting ready to run, running, and just finishing.

My Leg 17 run started just after 12:30am. It was a flat 7.85 miler along a 4-lane highway. It took me about a mile to warm up my legs, particularly my Achilles which has been giving me trouble for a few months. Once I was warmed up I tried to maintain a strong pace. My goal was to hit 6:30/mile. For the most part I was passing people the whole time. I was surprised when an older gentleman came up behind me 2-3 miles into the leg and proceeded to pass me. He must have been going at a 6:00 pace and he had to be around 50 years old. I was impressed. I increased my pace for a while, but I wasn’t dumb enough to try to keep up for very long. I stayed under 6:30 for most of the first 5 miles. However, I realized during the last third of the leg that I still had a tough long run ahead of me (Legs 29 and 30 combined). As I grew more fatigued, I decided to back off and reduced my pace during the last 2 miles to upper 6:00’s. That would hopefully leave me with some energy for my last run. There’s a stoplight right near the end of Leg 17 which is really annoying, so after stopping at that I finished strong and gave Cyndi a kiss as I handed off to her.

One thing I insisted on before running my leg was that I would be taking a shower at Exchange 17. The showers in Hood to Coast are in unusual and seemingly random places. Some people don’t worry about taking showers during relay races. I love them — it feels so good to get all the sweat off my skin and to feel clean again. It helps me rest better and loosens me up. (I also try to jump into lakes after a day of backpacking for the same reason.)

After I took a quick shower, a couple of our runners grabbed food, I grabbed my chocolate milk, and we continued to Exchange 18 which is a “major” exchange. There were lots of people there and I was still awake and alert so I got out to get Cyndi from the big crowd.

I knew I needed to eat more so that I’d have energy for my big run later in the morning, so I asked Jaci to make me a PBJ. She doesn’t like peanut butter, but I told her to load it on. It ended up being the most peanut buttery sandwich I’d ever eaten. Delicious.

By about 3am I was feeling really tired and I asked someone else to drive. I took a back seat and laid down for an hour or two. I didn’t sleep a lot, maybe 10 minutes, but it was good to lay down.

Eventually we got to Exchange 24, which is another major exchange. I whipped out my backpacking stove and made a few of our team some hot cocoa and myself some hot oatmeal. Warm meals are wonderful to eat during relay races. I was informed by a volunteer that stoves weren’t allowed, but fortunately I was done anyways. (This was a green, grassy, wet field so I don’t know what the problem was.)

Hood to Coast Leg 29 and Leg 30

Eventually it was approaching my turn to run again. We were starting to hit some traffic. With 2.5 miles of Leg 28 left we hit bumper-to-bumper traffic. I got my shoes on and jumped out to warm up right before Paisley, our Leg 28 runner, approached us. This meant that I ran 2.5 miles with her, then my 5.97 mile Leg 29, then 5.32 mile Leg 30.

I took it pretty easy with Paisley during the last part of Leg 28. Leg 29 begins with a 3.5 mile uphill stretch. I was pushing pretty hard and passing people. About a mile from the top I heard someone approaching behind me, so I started running harder. Once we crested the summit, I continued a hard pace and the other runner stayed right behind me. I gave just about everything I had to hold him off — we ran two miles at about 5:33/mile. We eventually caught up to another line of cars in traffic and many of them were yelling funny things as us as we charged by. It was actually quite fun, but it pushed me to my limit. With about a mile to go I broke. I justified slowing down a bit since I knew I still needed to run another leg. My competitor finally passed me and I thanked him for pushing me.

He finished the leg about 50 yards ahead of me, and then I ran through the exchange as I started Leg 30. By this time it was raining and I became fully drenched. With all the traffic, I was wondering how long I’d be waiting at Exchange 30. I slowed down to ~7:00/mile for this leg and I was starting to feel tired from all the running and lack of sleep.

I finished the 13.91 mile run and was happy to be done. Amazingly, our van pulled up about 1 minute later, and I hopped in as our next runner, Brenden, hopped out and started running. I learned that our van had been in bumper-to-bumper traffic the entire time, and they were going crazy.

Can I just say that the traffic at Hood to Coast is awful? It’s really a problem, and maybe the organizers have tried everything to solve it, but it makes the Hood to Coast Relay almost unbearable. I remember how much I hated it the first year and how it ruined my experience. These past two years I’ve been more prepared for it, but it still grates on me. I feel like the issue is primarily how the traffic is controlled at some of the later exchanges. I don’t think some of the volunteers understand how holding up cars can really back things up. I think the organizers should put some very efficient people at the later exchanges and figure out how to get the traffic flowing the best way possible.

During my run I passed 92 runners! That’s about 8% of the teams, although I’m not sure how the walking and high school teams factor in. It’s crazy to me that all those teams were packed in the course that tightly.

We finished our last 6 legs without too much excitement. Kaden had a great run and Tyrel cramped a bit, but we finally made it across the finish line at the beach at about 5:45pm. Since it was so late, we just spent about an hour walking around town and then we headed home.

Finish Line

Finish line after a long night

Another Hood to Coast Relay in the bag. Going in one van was pretty crazy, but also pretty fun. I have an idea of how I can add in a little sleeping area in the back of my van for next time which would space things out a bit better. I think I’m going to try one van again…

Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon 2019

I’d recommend Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon as a great race. It’s a fast course and has pretty scenery. Be prepared for wet conditions and for downhill that will eat unprepared quads. Overall it was a great experience for me.

Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon starts at Snoqualmie Pass, a few dozen miles east of Seattle. It begins with a two mile train tunnel and then follows a train track that’s been converted to a dirt bike/hiking/running trail. The trail is hard-packed dirt with a little gravel. (I wore road running shoes and they were fine.) The vegetation is lush on both sides of the trail, and the elevation decline is a very gradual ~80 feet per mile for essentially the whole course. There are half marathon and marathon races on both Saturday and Sunday. I signed up for the Saturday marathon which had about 700 runners.

It was a 7+ hour drive from the Boise area. There aren’t many (or any?) hotels around North Bend, WA where the race ends and where packet pickup is. The nearest hotels are about 10 miles west, they were pretty pricey, and we had all our children with us, so we decided to camp. There are two camp grounds nearby which I’m pretty sure were all full, but luckily there is dispersed camping all along the roads that run parallel to the freeway. We found a nice spot and set up camp. Packet pickup went smoothly and the shirts they handed out were nice racing singlets.

We ended up grabbing some food at Safeway to eat — a roasted chicken, some rolls, and JoJo’s (potato wedges). It was actually a decent pre-race meal. We also threw in some ice cream and of course s’mores since we were camping. Camping the night before a marathon means even less sleep than usual, but I didn’t expect much sleep anyways, so it was fine. I “woke up” at 4:30 and Cyndi took me to the starting line. The marathon powers that be had assigned me a bus time of 4am, so camping a few miles from the starting line worked out well.

It was drizzling while we waited for the race to start. I talked to a few people about the course and previous marathons and general runner-talk. Despite the rain it was fairly warm — about 60F. The race started right about on time.

The Tunnel, Miles 1-3: 6:47, 6:34, 6:31

Jack & Jill’s Downhill Marathon starts on a pathway and after a half mile curves around into an old train tunnel. Runners had been instructed to wear headlamps and/or carry flashlights. I did both. Since there were ~700 runners and we were still pretty bunched up, there was sufficient light to see the muddy spots, holes, drips, etc., even with my cheap lights. The tunnel was cool, dark, and damp. Running through the tunnel was great. I looked back several times to see all the headlamps behind me. Looking forward, you could just barely make out the other end of the tunnel, or at least I could as I’m 6’4″ and I was in the top 15 runners. The light gradually got bigger until we were out.

There was an aid station shortly after exiting the tunnel, and I was able to drop my flashlights there for pickup at the end of the race.

I was amazed to see that at mile 3, my Garmin Forerunner 235 was dead on the distance. I’m not sure how it kept accurate distance in the tunnel.

I tried to keep my pace somewhat conservative through the tunnel, although I felt myself getting a little fast as a lead group pulled ahead. I ended up keeping just slower than my overall target pace, which is what I intended with the first miles.

Downhill, Miles 4-10: 6:20, 6:19, 6:19, 6:20, 6:21, 6:21, 6:32

Once out of the tunnel, Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon is mostly the same thing for the next 20 miles: a very gradual downhill with little curves and trees everywhere. The trail is double-track, with a slightly raised, rocky middle. I mostly kept on the hard-packed track on the sides, but I crossed the middle several times to attempt to run tangents. The forest is lush on both sides of the trail, with towering pine trees, wildflowers, and brush. Occasionally we’d see glimpses below of the river, the freeway, or the mountains on the other side of the gorge. However, it was drizzly/rainy and gray, so visibility wasn’t great. I was thoroughly wet even coming out of the tunnel, and I stayed wet for the whole race. There was a significant headwind at a few points in the race, although the curves mitigated it a bit (we weren’t running directly into it for too long at any time). We also went over a few bridges which I thought were spectacular. Sometimes we’d run on a bridge even with the tops of the towering pines from the ravine below.

The downhill in Jack and Jill’s is nice and gradual. It isn’t crazy like Big Cottonwood or the other Revel races, but it’s good enough to provide a good speed boost. I tried to do a little extra downhill training to prepare for this race. Anyone who doesn’t will probably suffer in the form of ripped up quads.

I came out of the tunnel somewhere around 10th-15th place. The pace I fell into was slightly aggressive, but it was basically where I wanted to be. I wasn’t sure I could run a PR, but I thought I’d give it a shot. To run a PR I’d need to hit 6:27/mile; I settled into low 6:20’s. One runner from the group ahead started slowing down around mile 6 and I caught up with him. It was his first marathon, so I surmised he’d gone out a little too fast (I didn’t tell him that). Later on I passed a couple runners who had to take a bio-break. Then I caught up with one more guy around mile 10 from Vancouver. I ran with him for a while and we chatted a bit before we got separated.

More of the Same, Miles 11-18: 6:23, 6:34, 6:17, 6:25, 6:23, 6:30, 6:17, 6:35

Around mile 12 a lady came up fast behind me and passed me before we got to the halfway mark. I was feeling pretty good. I had a few tired spots, but overall I thought I had an outside shot at a PR still and my pace was right on target. My nutrition was going down well although I realized that I’m starting to tire of Honey Stinger Waffles. I used to love them, but I’ve eaten so many and I’m starting to associate them with tough marathons too much.

A few miles into the Jack and Jill's Downhill Marathon
A few miles into the race

Around mile 17 I had to start pushing a little harder to keep my pace. It had been fairly smooth before that. Sometimes I thought the course was leveling out, but it remained gradual, dependable downhill.

Finishing, Miles 19-26.2: 6:25, 6:31, 6:46, 7:06, 7:15, 7:29, 7:36, 7:29, (7:23)

I started breaking down at mile 19 of Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon. My legs just couldn’t hold it any more and the pain suddenly started to spike. I was still in decent condition overall, but my legs were tiring out. I hadn’t done a 20 miler since running Boston in April, so before the race I was concerned about what would happen as I approached mile 20. I think up until mile 19 I was on PR pace, but it wasn’t going to happen in this race.

I trudged on and held the line better than I often do — I didn’t run any miles slower than 7:36. I forced myself to eat one last Stinger gel at mile 20 even though I didn’t want to. I was glad I got it down since the liquid fuel helped me in the last few miles. I didn’t have a total “bonk” like what happened in Boston and what has happened to me a dozen times, it was more just tired legs that wouldn’t move like I wanted them to.

Jack and Jill's Downhill Marathon
Passing a half marathoner near the end of the race. I was wiped out by this point.

The course finally changed during mile 22, with some sharp turns and changes in scenery. It was also really muddy as the rain poured beyond a drizzle. Instead of running tangents I began running to avoid puddles.

I think I got passed by two people who had strong finishes and didn’t fade like I did. As usual, I was very happy to see the finish line and to see my family waiting there for me.

Jack and Jill's Downhill Marathon
Approaching the finish line – alive enough to smile
Finishing Jack and Jill's Downhill Marathon
Happy to be crossing the finish line so I can finally stop running!

I ended up running an official time of 2:54:37, which I was happy with. The pace was about 13 seconds slower than I hoped for, but I was glad that I still ran sub-3:00 despite not having the best summer of training. That was good enough for 13th overall and 1st in my age group.

Jack and Jill's Downhill Marathon
A photo op with the kids after finishing the marathon

I’d recommend Jack and Jill’s Downhill Marathon as a great race. It’s a fast course and has pretty scenery. It was well organized with sufficient aid stations, port-a-potties, and volunteers. Be prepared for wet conditions and for downhill that will eat unprepared quads. Overall it was a great experience for me.

Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon 2019

The YMCA puts on the Famous Idaho Potato Marathon and Half Marathon every May. They do a great job with it. I used the 2016 Famous Idaho Potato Marathon as my qualifier for the 2017 Boston Marathon. I ran the half marathon one time back in 2010, before I was training consistently.

I considered doing the marathon again this year and running at an easy pace, but I decided instead to use all the training I did over the winter to attempt a half marathon PR. Specifically, I wanted to get 1:17:59 or faster. I’m pretty sure I could have achieved this in March as I was about to taper down for the Yakima River Canyon Marathon, but I didn’t find a good half to run. The PR certainly wasn’t a guarantee — I’d already completed two marathons and a tough half in the previous two months.

I’d also been experiencing some Achilles tendinitis issues. I did a great training run on the Saturday before the race, but after another training run on Monday I tapered down to recover and to give my Achilles a chance to heal.

The course starts at Lucky Peak Dam and runs along the Boise Greenbelt for most of the route. It’s really a decent course, although I run on the Greenbelt enough that it’s not particularly interesting to me anymore. Marathoners and half marathoners run together for most of the half.

I knew a few people running the half (including Nate, Cade, Beau, and my wife’s friend Danielle) and one person running the full marathon (Eric from work). Before the race I saw Jimmy, who is very fast and always beats me, although I’ve only run against him in shorter distances. I also sat by a couple guys with beards and man-buns on the bus who looked fast and serious. Then there were people who were fast that I couldn’t pick out of the crowd. I was hoping for a top 3 placement, but I was primarily focused on getting my PR.

A PR of 1:17:59 would require a pace of about 5:57/mile.

Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon, first five miles: 5:53, 5:51, 5:54, 5:53, 5:50

The Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon started at 7am and the weather was great. The temperature was about 45F and there was a very slight breeze. It had rained for the few days before and more rain was in the forecast, so the race was perfectly timed for weather.

I went out at a solid pace. Jimmy was initially in the lead, but he purposefully stepped aside after about 500 meters to let others lead. He was running with someone and there were a couple guys as well as one lady, Kristen (I learned her name later). She looked pretty serious.

I talked to Jimmy a little bit and eventually I settled into 4th behind Kristen and Jimmy settled into 5th. My pace was right on target and I felt great for the first few miles. I felt like a PR was really within my reach, although I had plenty of race left. Around 2 miles I passed Kristen, but she stuck right with me.

Miles 6-9: 5:51, 5:56, 5:58, 5:56

By mile 6 I was starting to have to fight to hold my pace a little bit. Kristen passed me back and was looking way stronger than I felt. Occasionally I could see the 2nd place guy ahead of us, but he had a solid lead of a minute or so. I had eaten a Gu and I was trying not to slow down at water stations, so I usually only got a couple swallows because most of the water sploshed out at the handoff. One volunteer soaked me when she tried to run with me for a step. I figured that water would be nice, but it probably wasn’t completely necessary for a fast half marathon (UNLIKE a full marathon).

Halfway through the race I was still holding on and thinking I could make it in time. I had banked some extra seconds due to some splits faster than my 5:56/mile target, but I knew that I could blow through that bank in no time at all.

By mile 8 and mile 9 I was really having to push to hold the pace. I was trying to hold the line at 6:00/mile but it was getting increasingly difficult. Often my split would start out at a 6:10 or 6:20 pace and I’d have to work to bring it down after noting the split pace on my watch.

Jimmy was still trailing me, but not by enough of a margin to allow me to be comfortable.

Miles 10-13.32: 6:05, 6:01, 6:05, 5:58, (last .32) 5:29

By mile 10 of the Famous Idaho Potato Half Marathon I was feeling pretty miserable. Mile 10 was the first time my split was over 6:00. I wanted to go faster but my legs didn’t. I knew I was on the cusp of a PR and that Jimmy was close behind me, so I was barely the 3rd place male.

I pushed the turns and any slight downhill segments we hit and I tried to maintain pace on the small uphills. Mile 11 had one nasty (albeit puny) ~20ft climb, but once we were up that I figured it would be pretty flat/down. We turned onto a straightaway at 11.5 and I could see the 2nd place male ahead and that Kristen had passed him. I hoped he’d come back but he never did. Meanwhile, Jimmy wasn’t letting up and seemed to be slowly gaining on me, although I tried not to look back too much.

I finally felt like I turned it up a bit for mile 13. Jimmy was close behind and I did not want to blow what could be my last chance at a new half marathon PR.

I was a little disappointed when I passed mile 13 and there was clearly more than 0.1 miles left. In fact, after passing mile 13 we passed mile 26 for the marathon! I glanced back a Jimmy and then put everything I had into the last quarter mile. It was a strong finish, and I came in at 4th overall, 3rd male.

Half Marathon Personal Record (Kind of)

I was pooped at the end, and I had to lean on some railing for a minute to collect myself. I think this is one of the hardest efforts I’ve ever sustained in a race. I mean, marathons are harder than half marathons without question, but it’s a different kind of hard. Marathons are more about enduring a slower pain for me.

My official time was 1:19:01, but Strava says I got a 1:17:43 half, so I’m taking that as my PR. My watch says the race was 13.32 miles long and two other people said it was 13.4 miles long. It was obviously wrong just by where the last mile markers were or even by the official course map.

About 6 years ago, I trained with my friend Brian for several weeks on the track. We did 400 and 800 repeats as well as other training. After a couple months we did a mile time trial and I just barley broke 6:00. In this race, I averaged that pace for 13 miles.

Overall I was very happy with it. I hope I can run a faster half someday, but I’m not sure it will ever happen with all the training required and potential for injuries. It was very satisfying to hit my primary goal and to run a half marathon below a 6 minute per mile pace. The pace actually tied my 10K PR pace as well.

The YMCA puts on a well-organized race. The course is well marked and there are plenty of volunteers. I got a delicious baked potato at the end as well as a 5lb bag of potatoes for getting 3rd place. What more could I want?

Race to Robie Creek 2019 as Gandalf the Grey

This was my ninth time running the Race to Robie Creek, which definitely makes it the race I’ve done most frequently.

In my post about my 2016 race, I outlined how my times had improved over the years. It turned out that 2016 was the peak (so far). I skipped the Race to Robie Creek in 2017 to run the Boston Marathon. In 2018 I had a knee injury that sidelined my training and hurt my fitness leading up to the race (I forgot to post about it).

This year I ran the Boston Marathon on Monday and would be running the Race to Robie Creek five days later, so I had very low expectations for my time. I used Tuesday through Friday to rest, but I was still sore coming into the race, especially since I blew up at the Boston Marathon. Therefore, I decided to have some fun this year.

I ran the race as Gandalf the Grey.

The Race to Robie Creek had a superhero theme this year. Cyndi made me a Gandalf costume when The Hobbit was released in theaters so that I could dress up for the premier. I wore it to all three Hobbit movies and every Halloween since. For some time I’ve wanted to run a race as Gandalf. Given that I was wiped out from the Boston Marathon anyways, and with the superhero theme, this seemed like a great opportunity to fulfill my dream.

The costume worked pretty well without too many modifications. I usually wear a robe under the huge cloak, but I decided to ditch the robe and just wear grey shorts and a grey shirt. I still wore the rope-belt and the satchel. I didn’t carry a staff. Cyndi modified the beard so that I could pin it to the pointed hat and let it hang under my chin while I raced (I didn’t want to be breathing through a fake beard for the whole race). The cloak has a ton of fabric and must weigh 4-5 pounds.

I’m not the most outgoing person, so when Cyndi and I arrived at the start area I felt a little uncomfortable. Nevertheless, I walked around as Gandalf. A couple people asked for a photo with me (this is pretty common when I’m dressed up as Gandalf the Grey). I did my usual prerace routine, except that I didn’t warm up a lot since I was sore anyways and I wanted to save my energy.

I wished Cyndi good luck and lined up pretty close to the front, which made for some good photos with Gandalf behind all the serious runners. Including one that made it into this article in the Idaho Statesman (I’m about 4 people back from the front, and in one of the attached photos, although there’s an error in the description).

I was a little concerned about me or someone else tripping on my cloak, so when the race started I was careful to grab it to prevent it from getting away from me.

I ran the first mile in 6:40, which I was pretty happy with. The first mile has a lot of spectators and it’s the only flat mile of the course. Lots of people recognized me as Gandalf and cheered for me as I ran by in the crowd.

Since runners always start fast in this race, I started passing some people in the second mile on the hill. The runners also started thinning out, which meant that Gandalf the Grey got more attention and cheering.

I was still feeling good when I crested the first hill, but my quads really felt the short downhill portion. This was concerning since I was only 2.5 miles into the race. I was also somewhat concerned about the heat — it was mid-60’s and the sun was out. I was wearing a grey cloak and a hat and beard, plus normal running clothes underneath.

Throughout the race I struggled with how to contain the cloak/cape. In my mind I thought it would gently flap behind me as I ran. Reality was that its length and heaviness caused it to wrap my feet if I wasn’t holding onto it with both hands. I still let it go sometimes for photos or for small crowds so they could see the full effect.

After the little downhill portion it was back to climbing, which was much gentler on my quads. I was now in a relatively fixed position relative to other runners. At one aid station around mile 5 a man was counting out runners and I was number 78. This was a pleasant surprise. I would be very happy with a top 100 finish as Gandalf the Grey at the Race to Robie Creek.

Some spectators on the way up the hill. This gives an idea on how large the cloak was (I’m 6’4″). The guy in white is Ryan G. who I ran Ragnar Trail Zion with.

Up the hill we trudged. The heat didn’t get to me as much as expected, and eventually we got some cloud cover that really took the edge off. I drank extra water to ensure I wouldn’t get dehydrated.

Since runners were now pretty thinned out, I got big cheers whenever I came up on an aid station or group of spectators. I made a lot of people smile and yell the classic, “You shall not pass!” or a simple, “Gandalf!” It made me smile too. It was actually quite fun. I even made all the photographers smile. I gave lots of high-fives and fist pumps.

As always, it was a relief to crest the hill at mile ~8.5. For the downhill I had to really grab onto my cloak and push hard on sore quads. Surprisingly I was able to approximately maintain my position going down the hill. I was 57th to the top and 66th to the finish. I was afraid it would be much worse than that.

On the downhill there were several groups of residents with friends that were drinking beer. They really appreciated Gandalf.

As I came to the finish I let the cape flow and gave some fist pumps. I got a good finishing cheer from the crowd, and I was very pleased with my finishing time of 1:42:42. My pace was 7:49/mile (keep in mind, 2100 feet of climbing). I think I was the first finisher in full costume, which also made me happy, although that’s not an official division.

It was really a fun experience. All the smiles made it worth it. Cyndi came in around 2:15. After I was done, tons of people said, “You didn’t run the whole thing in that, right?”

Maybe next year I’ll actually improve my 2016 time… without Gandalf.

Here’s a YouTube video of the finish (I come in at about 6:50 in the video or 1:42:40 on the clock).

Here’s a KITI news article about the race (I have a ~5 second interview near the end).