2016 Labor Day Half-Marathon: Leg cramps and all, I conquer race No. 200

Nearly 900 runners started together in front of a Macy's store at Redmond Town Center

Nearly 900 runners started in front of a Macy’s store at Redmond Town Center

The minute I finished this race, I realized I need to do the Overlake Medical Center Labor Day Half-Marathon again next year. It’s a flat, familiar course, near where I work and where I log Fitbit steps every day. It’s also a chance to get my half-marathon time back under three hours.

Crossing the finish line of race No. 200

Crossing the finish line of race No. 200

Only next time, I will remember to hydrate better the day before.

This Labor Day (September 5) event was road race No. 200 for me, as well as my 38th half-marathon. I got my best half-marathon time since my 2011 ankle surgery (3:00:30, a 13:47 per mile pace), and would have finished under three hours had I not battled leg cramps much of the race. Because of the leg pain and the fear of cramping further, I stopped to stretch three different times, which cost me a few minutes.

Otherwise, this was a decent run for me, even if I tripped and fell for a second in Mile 3 after veering quickly to the right to high-five two young children. I momentarily lost track of where I was stepping as I reached out to slap hands, and awkwardly hit a curb. It was ridiculously clumsy; I got up quickly and tried to hide. See you next fall!

Course ran just north of my workplace

This half-marathon course started and ended at Redmond Town Center, and was pretty un-memorable. Mile 2 skirted the north side of the block where Allytics, my workplace in Redmond, is headquartered. We ran westward to Willows Road, north to N.E. 124th Street, and then east to the Sammamish River Trail at Mile 6.

The course: Flat, straight, hairpin turns

The course: Flat, straight, hairpin turns

After that, we logged six miles north and south on the trail, with two hairpin turnarounds, and then took a jaunt eastward back to Redmond Town Center to finish. Total elevation for this 13.1 miles was under 130 feet. I was oh-so-close to breaking three hours, and I was focused on doing that for the last four miles or so. But I couldn’t get to the finish line fast enough.

It was back in 2008 that I remember pushing myself through the Mercer Island Half-Marathon to break two hours. I’d gotten used to logging times in the 1:55-1:57 range at the time, and didn’t want to fall back over two hours. But, alas, I crossed in 2:00:08. A year later in the same race, I was in a similar situation and finished in 2:00:09.

Last Monday brought back those memories, even as I ran. “Go, legs, go,” I urged to my lower body. Didn’t work. I have to be happy with simply beating my now-second-best post-surgery time of 3:07:47 from the Mercer Island Half-Marathon earlier this year. (My half-marathon PR is 1:55:33 in 2005.) Full results are here.

Refreshing to worry about my other leg

Finish line is same spot as where we started

Finish line is same spot as where we started

Ironically, I spent this Labor Day race worried more about the calf muscle in my right leg than my bad left ankle. A nice change, I might add. It appears that the constant pounding on flat pavement, coupled with my lack of proper hydration, caused the cramping that started in Mile 4.

After stretching a few times and making it a point to stop at several water stations to drink water or sports drink (Nuun) the rest of the way, I staved off any more major cramping. But I still hurt and felt a problem could easily flair back up. That’s my excuse anyway.

Band and beer garden afterwards

Band and beer garden afterwards

Some 699 runners and walkers finished this half-marathon, and another 184 completed the 4-Mile Run, a race I’ve done twice in recent years. Congrats to Facebook friend Joyce Szymanski for her 4-Mile Run finish and for continuing to do at least one race a month in 2016. Nice job, Joyce!

Congrats also to one of the Seattle area’s best-known runners, Uli Steidl, who won the half-marathon in 1:10:46 (a 5:24 per mile pace). The fact that he signed up to do this run tells me the event has some cache regionally.

A few tips from a back-of-the-packer

Here are some things to pass on from this race:

  • Avoid running on cement: This course is extremely flat, and the constant pounding using the same joints and muscles can cause some soreness. Don’t make it worse by running on sidewalks. Choose asphalt over cement, and consider running on the dirt and gravel shoulders of the Sammamish River Trail where you can.
  • Watch out for speeding bicyclists: About half the run is on the busy Sammamish River Trail, which many bicyclists feel is their trail and you’re just in their way — even runners participating in an organized race. Always hug the right of the trail and be aware that bicyclists will be zipping by you and may not give you much room.
  • Don’t freak out about the hairpin turns: It can be unsettling to feel you’re getting close to the end of the course, and then seeing runners ahead of you running in the other direction. The course planners needed to work in these extra turns to bring the course to a full 13.1 miles. In the last three miles, I was entering the course’s second hairpin turn near Redmond Town Center when I suddenly started seeing runners I thought had gone off-course. Then I realized that we all had to run to the shopping center, then run back away from it, then run back to it again to finish.
  • Hydrate well the day before any half-marathon: I’ve been pretty good at doing this for warm-weather races. The heat was not an issue for this run — temperatures were comfortably in the upper 60s. But hydrating is still important, especially for running long distances on flat pavement. Lesson learned.

My coincidental bib number — and what’s next

Nice race shirts!

Nice race shirts!

I was out-of-town the days before this race, and had to get my bib the day of the event. I pinned it to my shirt and didn’t even look at the number until I arrived home afterwards. I noticed it read No. 200 — for my 200th road run (since 2001). Total coincidence; the organizers had no idea. But still very cool.

We’ll see if I get to No. 300.

In the meantime, No. 201 will likely be a 5K. I haven’t signed up for anything yet, but the possibilities include the Alpine Climb 5K Sept. 25 as part of Fremont Oktoberfest, the Issaquah Rotary Run with the Fishes 5K on Oct. 2, or the Dawg Dash 5K at the University of Washington Oct. 23.

My finisher's medal and No. 200 bib

My finisher’s medal and No. 200 bib

Unfortunately, none of the few remaining bicycle rides in 2016 work for my schedule, which includes watching a lot of football.

Thanks for reading! Till No. 201.

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About monteenbysk

I am not an elite runner or bicyclist, though I am friends with many. I run, walk, and bike for fun and the health benefits. I can get you to the finish but probably not to the Boston Marathon (and especially not to the Tour de France).
This entry was posted in 5K, Bicycling, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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