Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016 {1:38:40}

The Lake Sammamish Half Marathon on Saturday, March 5 was my third half marathon. My first half marathon was a 1:46:06 in November 2014 and my second was a 1:43:12 in April 2015. I ran the Lake Sammamish Half, only 16 months after my first half marathon in 1:38:40 (7:32/mile average pace).

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

Before I get to the race recap, I just want to take a moment to thank each of you who has been so supportive and encouraging during this training cycle! Particularly Ryan, who is the most supportive, encouraging, and motivating person ever and whom I am so lucky to call my husband. (He also took all of the photos for this post!)

And to all of you readers who have cheered me on throughout training—it’s beyond the capacity of words to express my gratitude for all of your support and encouragement.  It’s the community that really makes blogging worthwhile.

Mindset:

I approached this race with significantly less anxiety than I did the Portland Marathon or the Go! St. Louis Half Marathon. I had done all of the hard work, and now was just the time to trust my training and trust my race day plan. There was no point in stressing.

Of course I wanted to sub-1:40, but even more so, I wanted to run a smart and enjoyable race, so I let go of the internal pressure of any time goal. Trust your training, trust your fueling plan, trust your pacing plan.

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

I was just plain excited for this race, as you can see in the photo above. I am not an elite by any stretch of the imagination and there was nothing significant at stake, so why not enjoy the race above all else? By enjoy, of course, I mean race well and race hard, but not stress myself out about the outcome or uncontrollable factors such as weather. This training reminded me so much of how I love running and particularly love the half marathon distance. 

Weather:

Somehow, between two rainy and windy days, the weather on Saturday was the perfect race weather. Partly cloudy (no need for sunglasses!), in the 50s, and just a light wind off the lake. You never know what type of weather you’ll get in Seattle, but when those beautiful clear days happen, they are simply sublime.

The Race:

The race directors moved the start of the race to Redmond Town Center, which is an upscale outdoor shopping center on the Eastside of Seattle. This meant two significant changes from previous years. Redmond, for reference, is one of the largest towns on the Eastside of Seattle: it’s where Microsoft is headquartered.

First, they removed a zigzag loop over the last mile; second, this new start location provided plenty of parking and numerous actual restrooms for runners in the town center’s nice facilities, rather than porta potties. You can imagine how nice it is to have an actual toilet with real sinks and shorter lines on race morning! Plus, the Redmond Town Center has fireplaces and several benches and tables, which were ideal for relaxing before the race.

The race website encourages runners to arrive early, so we arrived in Redmond by 6 AM for the 7:30 AM start time. If Seattle traffic is anything, it’s unpredictable (some days it takes Ryan 60 minutes to drive to Redmond for work, even though it’s only 15 miles away), and the last thing I wanted was to get stuck in traffic and be rushed before the race. Arriving early meant avoiding bathroom lines, having time to warm up, and finding a great parking spot. It was nice to just relax with Ryan before the race.

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

 

I love small races. Approximately 2000 runners raced Lake Sammamish Half Marathon and the race had a truly small and local yet well organized feel. Ryan and other spectators were able to stand along the start and finish lines, separated only by a bit of blue tape for maybe ten or fifteen yards from the chutes. I only had to get into the corral 10 minutes before the start, which definitely prevented that antsy pre-race feeling of waiting.

The course was clearly marked, and the markers were accurate. My Garmin beeped within a few steps of each marker, and read 13.13 miles upon finish. It was easy to run tangents on this course, since it had very few turns and the trail was fairly narrow.

The only downside: rainy weather in the days before meant several puddle to dodge along the way! Amazingly I finished with only a bit of mud on my shoes, but other runners had mud splashed up to their knees. 

The Course:

After crossing a closed-off street, the race course immediately led onto the Sammamish River Trail for a mile, before leading onto the Marymoor Park Connector Trail, which then connected to the Lake Sammamish Trail. A brief portion of the final 2 miles was along a sidewalk, but the course quickly joined up with one of the trails leading through the Lake Sammamish State Park.

A majority of the trails were paved, but several of the middle miles were on a dirt/packed gravel trail. Honestly, I liked this – less impact on the muscles. Sorry, road racing, but paved and gravel trails win. The course had maybe five turns total, and no hills other than a little up and down climb (more like a speed bump) along a small foot bridge in the first mile. Flat, straight, fast and, most importantly, scenic.

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

Miles 3-11 were directly along the coast of Lake Sammamish. A glistening large lake, mountains looming in the background, and enviable lakeside houses as scenery made the usually boring middle miles pass by quickly. There were some spectators along the trail, but there were also miles without anyone but runners. However, the runners were friendly and encouraging, so even in the zones without spectators there still was an upbeat and supporting vibe. 

Pacing:

The first mile of this race was crowded, particularly as runners dodged some huge puddles from this week’s rains. Instead of chasing after the 1:40 pace group, I just focused on starting out at a conservative pace. By partway through mile 2, I eased in with a group of runners at a similar pace. I had a bit of a light muscular cramp in my upper abs just under my ribs during miles 2 and 3, which was just an initial physiological reaction to the fast pace, so I focused on my breathing and easing into goal pace. The cramp went away in a matter of minutes. Miles 1-3: 7:42, 7:30, 7:41.

I quickly identified two men who were running a similar goal time, so I focused on staying close behind them throughout the middle miles. The 1:40 pace group was far ahead of me, but I trusted my pace strategy and wanted to run a smart race more than I wanted that 1:40. These middle miles were about settling into a flow, a steady and comfortable pace while slowing passing runners. Miles 4-7: 7:28, 7:34, 7:36, 7:30.

I caught up with the 1:40 pace group around mile 8, and passed them by mile 9. I repeated this tactic for the next couple miles: slowly catch up to a pack, pace with them for a minute or so, and then surge ahead. Those fartlek long runs definitely paid off! Everything felt good until mile 11, when some anticipated fatigue started, especially in my legs, and my pace required more mental focus. Miles 8-11: 7:29, 7:29, 7:29, 7:24.

I stopped passing as many people during miles 12 and 13, since that feeling of burning lungs and total body fatigue began to set in. But these were the final miles of a half marathon, so what else was to be expected? I just held onto my pace as best as I could I flipped my watch over to time once I turned into the Lake Sammamish State Park (about mile 12.25) and realized I could slow down significantly and still squeak in a 1:40. But of course I wasn’t going to slow down. Miles 12-13.1: 7:32, 7:26, 7:10 (for last .13). 

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

As I followed the trail as it curved onto the beach, I could hear Ryan cheering. I could not help but throw my arms up in joy as I crossed the finish line: the clock read 1:39:05, and I knew based on when I crossed the start line that I finished in a 1:38:xx time.

Post-Race:

The finish line allowed spectators to get within a few feet of the finisher’s chute, which meant incredible crowd support and a quick reunion with friends and family. The course also finished within a few yards of the Lake Sammamish beach, so as soon as I reunited with Ryan (which was within a minute of finishing the race), we kicked back on the beach to just soak in the moment of a goal achieved. 

Lake Sammamish Half Marathon Race Recap 2016

They provided computers on site so we could easily learn my official time within minutes of finishing: 1:38:40!

Ryan said he enjoyed spectating this race, which means more to me than any other aspect of the race. Unlike some of the bigger city races I’ve done (which still weren’t huge races), this race was stress-free and friendly for families and spectators.

The food was simple but just perfect for after a race: Clif trail mix bars, Nuun, Naked juice, coconut water, peanut butter on whole wheat sandwiches, muffins, fresh fruit, and M&Ms. Nothing fancy, nothing heavy, just simple and easy to eat carbs. I don’t know about you, but some post-race food offerings such ice cream (Go! St. Louis Half) or chili (Valparaiso Half) have absolutely no appeal to me after pushing myself for 13.1 miles.

I actually finished not feeling sick to my stomach (a first for me), so I ate half a peanut butter sandwich and a handful of M&Ms and drank Nuun and a coconut water. Whoever thought to include M&Ms in the post-race spread is a genius. We hung around on the beach for a while longer before heading home. 

This race attracts fast runners: a new course record was even set this year of 1:07:57. I finished in 14th place for my age group (20-29), because most of the top women run sub-1:25. Overall, I placed 182nd out of almost 2000 runners. The race is also friendly to walkers and slower runners, as the course stays open for four hours. 

I’m thrilled that I achieved my goal time, but even more excited that I ran a strong race with a negative split and that my fueling and hydration went perfectly. For the sake of brevity, I’ll discuss more on my fueling and hydration in a specific post later this week. 

And oh yes, do I plan to do this race again next year. It’s $55-70 to register (depending on how far in advance you sign up), which is a steal for a PR-perfect half marathon.

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Do you prefer small local races or big city races?
Would you run a race on a dirt/gravel trail?
What’s the best post-race food you’ve ever had?

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39 Responses

  1. yay! congrats again. you did so so awesome and I love how relaxed you were too! it’s always nice when they have real bathrooms at a race. I hate the porta potties. and the m&m’s were such a perfect touch! more races should have them, it’s not like they are pricey and even better if they can get them in the colors of the race lol (my marketing side kicks in sometimes). I am so excited to train with you, ugh we will know today what we are focusing on!

    1. Thank you so much! Real bathrooms really are the best at a race – the porta potties can get soooo nasty when people don’t have good etiquette (or even when they do, porta potties are gross). I’m so excited to hear about today to find out what we’ll be training you for!!! Either way you’re going to do great, I just know it!

  2. CAN I GET A BOOOOOOMM! I am so happy for you–and I never doubted that you could. This is a race that you knew you were ready for, and ready to blast out of the water. And you totally did. The size race that I like depends on the distance. I don’t think that I would want to do a super small sized distance race (I like having people in my periphery, and the organization) but I don’t like to be cramped. Twin Cities was a perfectly sized race for me.

    1. Thank you so much! I definitely agree with people in the periphery, which is why I liked this one so much – I always had people around me and people to reel in and chase down. But being cramped is the worst – I’ve heard that about the Chicago Marathon!

    1. Thank you so much! Point to Point courses are so great for PRs because they have less turns – and because there’s no looping or out and back on the same roads, which can get boring! I was amazed at how quickly the miles ticked by on a point to point course.

  3. Congrats again on meeting your goal and running such a smart race! All your hard work really paid off! Sounds like you had great race conditions too. Smaller races are great but I also will race larger ones as well for the experience of it! Enjoy some R&R this week after a great race 🙂

    1. Thank you so much!! The race conditions were too good to be true, especially considering the weather we’ve had every other day for the rest of March. There is definitely something to be said for the experience of big races – definitely worth doing at least once! 🙂

  4. Congratulations!! What an awesome, strong race you ran!! Enjoy the post-PR high and your recovery, you’ve earned it. Yaaay so happy for you!

    I also really like smaller, no-frills races. My PR half marathon is on the trails a mile from my house and cost $12 to register for. Less than a dollar a mile to run a PR, and support the local running community? Yes please!

    1. Thank you so much!! Smaller races really are the way to go – especially supporting a community or charity over a bigger corporate race. And wow – you can’t beat a race where you could do your warm up run to arrive there! I’m so excited for you as PGH Marathon approaches – it’s coming soon!!

  5. I meant to message you and ask you how your stomach held up. I’m glad it was okay! You’ve got the best smile. It sparkles. 🙂 I’m so happy for you, congrats again. Enjoy basking in the afterglow!

    1. Thank you! I used your imodium trick and took one 15 minute before the race start. Plus not having the stress of traveling and getting in water/Nuun early and often in the race helped so much. Awww and thank you so much! 😀

  6. Congratulations on a great race and meeting your goal! I knew you would because your training has been sooo race specific and on point. I really admire your dedication and I love reading your training and workouts because we have similar PRs and times, so it’s neat to see what’s working for other people at close to my ability. Don’t get me wrong, I love reading more elite blogs too and I take things away from that, but it’s good to see others who are around my pace but trying hard to improve.

    2,000 runners to me is a really big race! I know that is all relative but most of our races here aren’t anywhere near that, even half marathons. But this one sounds well organized and the large crowd probably helps everyone run a little faster because you have people to pace off of and push you, and “rabbits to chase” in the later miles. Your splits are like clockwork and slightly negative, it shows that you have a ton of endurance from the marathon training and from racing the other half marathons.

    I hope you have a good recovery and onward to the next goal 🙂

    1. Thank you so much! I really enjoy reading your training and race recaps for the same reasons – it’s inspiring and interesting to know how similarly fast runners train. 2000 definitely is big (my first half was maybe 400?) but it felt small the whole time. It definitely helps to pace off of other runners, both mentally and physically, and I love how fast the field is – there’s more room to push when there’s well over a hundred runners logging even sub-1:20 and sub-1:30 times! I’m excited to see where your training takes you next! 🙂

  7. CONGRATS!!!! I’m so, so happy for you. Great race and awesome consistency. Our current PRs are so similar, which is another reason I wish we lived closer and could run/train together. Sending you a big virtual high five. Next stop: sub-1:35 🙂 xoxo

    1. Thank you so much!! Our PRs are so close – just within a few seconds! It would be so nice if we could train/run together. Let me know if you’re ever in the Redmond/Seattle area and we’ll try to log some miles together 🙂

  8. CONGRATS! Awesome time but, more than anything… Awesome strategy! It takes a lo of confidence to do what you did (trust your plan, let the 1:40 pace group go…) and I’m so happy it worked out for you!

    1. Thank you so much! It was tempting to chase the pacers, but I know sometimes they settle right into goal pace or even bank miles, which I found doesn’t work for me.

  9. Congrats! This is so awesome! I think it’s so cool that you were able to enjoy the experience and not feel a ton of pressure. Plus the course sounds really nice too. Great job!

    1. Thank you so much! The experience really is why we race, isn’t it? And the course was wonderful, if you’re ever looking for a good race to run in the Seattle area!

    1. Awww, thank you so much! A smart pacing strategy really makes such a different – I used to go out too fast but starting slow made it easier to stay steady and then push at the end.

    1. Thank you so much!!! 😀 He really is the best for how supportive he is, and I keep telling him that whenever he wants to race he should so I return the support!

    1. Thank you so much! The route is beautiful, which makes racing so much easier – road races mess with my head a lot when there’s not great scenery. You should definitely visit Seattle – tons of races, lots of hiking, and just so much to do! Even when it rains all the time like this year has been.

  10. This is so funny– I’m actually the girl in the neon pink shirt behind you in your pre-race photo!! 🙂 so glad you had an awesome race and I’m excited I found another Eastside runner/blogger to follow!!

    1. Oh that is too funny! 🙂 I hope you had a good race as well – what a beautiful day and fun race! It’s exciting to find another Eastside blogger/runner – it seems like there are so few out here compared to other parts of the country!

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