Recap: The End is Near – Zombie Dash!

Heyooooo!

It’s been a slice, but I am excited to share that I am updating for a super exciting reason – I just hit an official/unofficial Half Marathon PR – and even cooler, it’s just about two years after I had bested the distance at Iron Horse Half, and I used today as the basis to earn my *virtual* Imaginary Horse Half (the at-home version of this very awesome Orca Running Race).

Awesome Kandi (of Pop Up Races) and more of my run pals!

I am not even sure if I remember how to write a race recap, but I will give it the old college try, as I probably should commemorate this awesome morning.

ABOUT THE RACE

The race itself, was great! As mentioned above, it was called The End is Near: Zombie Dash! as it’s the first of a series over the Labor Day Weekend, hosted by Pop Up Races on the nearby Foothills Trail. The races are no-frills, but unique; well-organized and supported, always feature cool finisher medals, and boast a friendly host of staff and volunteers.

In accordance with COVID protocols, the races feature wave starts of just a handful of runners, so there’s no unnecessary milling around, or needless huddling and waiting. Additionally, since the races take place on a local rail trail, there’s no confusion on the course, as the out-and-backs avoid navigational drama with well-marked turn around markers for each distance (there were a 5K, 10K and 13.1 offered today).

After the race, there was a great spread of cold beverages, packaged snacks, and great conversation.

This was my second Pop Up Race, and it was such a smoothly run and enjoyable experience!

MY RACE RECAP

With the rolling start, I had the flexibility of arriving anytime between 6:30 and 7:15 AM. The starting area, near the Orting Skatepark, is about 15 minutes away, so I was able to leisurely wake up at my weekday alarm time of 6 AM, grab a snack to nibble on the way over, park, chat then start just after 7.

I started the race with Stephanie, someone I recognized from the very first time I ran a race on the Foothills Trail, in August 2019, when she pushed a triple stroller and I tailed her for miles in awe.

But back to today!

Once Kandi (race director) set us off, I hit the trail, and fell into my tempo pace comfortably. Unfortunately, it was 1.5 miles in until I realized I had set my Spotify playlist on some tracks I was not familiar with and I *really* wanted to hear my specific running mix. Since I was out there for fun and a strong run, I decided to sacrifice that mile and stop, remove my phone, pull up my list, and get back at it. I lost about 30 seconds, but it was worth it.

The following miles clicked off – 3,4,5, and I started to visualize the turn around point. As I crested a small incline, I saw my friend Dan coming back, smiled and waved, and estimated I was around 10 minutes behind him.

Running the straightway toward the turnaround, I saw a runner ahead of me, and spotted the race’s signature neon flags to signal the spot on the trail. As soon as I crossed the threshold to the second half of the race, I felt a lightness in my feet, and trotted on to the comforting gentle downhill that led back to the finish.

Right around mile 9, I encountered the most lovely sight when I spotted my friend Keyle pedaling her way up the trail in her adorable adult tricycle, rear basket filled to the brim with refreshments and snacks! I graciously accepted a bottle of water, and took my GU that I had stashed in my shorts pocket (Pineapple Roctane!) and continued on my way.

Mile 10 – I dumped the remaining contents of my water, and tossed the bottle into the bin at the (stationary) aid station, thanked the volunteers, and once again hit the trail.

Mile 11 – a quick glance at my watch, and I saw a 1:2x:xx – I didn’t even notice what those other numbers were, but I was totally shocked! I knew that I was hitting some good splits, but I am never good at estimating my finish time, so it didn’t occur to me that I could actually PR – I thought I’d just coast in at my regular finish “zone” (1:45-1:50ish). But, realizing that if I could hit two low 7’s for the remaining miles, I’d likely go under my previous PR (1:44:xx), I decided to push it a bit, and take it home with the best effort I could give.

Mile 12 felt long, as I hit the stretch alongside the river, but I was cheered up by seeing my friends Leslie and Rosemary, so that gave me a good boost, before heading into the final mile, doing a little dodging as I made my way through groups of fishermen on their way to their favorite spots.

As I closed in to the finish, I gave a final kick and hit that last segment, finishing at 1:42:31 on my watch, and 1:43 flat for official results, either way, 1-2 minutes PR for me in the half distance!

I need to go back and count backward to see how many halves I have completed at this point, but based on the low-stress, high-reward vibe of today, I have to say that this experience definitely marks one of the best 13.1’s I can recall in recent history. Oh, and did I mention I won?

Sure, there were only 24 runners, but dang, that’s always a confidence booster, isn’t it?

Today was just what I needed, after two weeks of looser training plan following and the subsequent worrying if I was losing fitness (on account of my schedule being different with the kids out of camp/school), but after this week, I should be back to my scheduled workouts, and closing the gap to the BIG event of the fall – my October Marathon!

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