Occupy the Age Group! Santa Claus Half
This remains one of my favorite races here. Low key, quiet, the weather's good, and the off-road portions don't leave you beat you up. Like last year, I came in with uncertain expectations. I wanted to improve on my time from 2011 but after a month of so-so training (about 50 miles a week but only a couple of tempo runs) and a sore foot, I wasn't sure if it was possible. The plan was to go out in 6:10 pace and see what happens. I woke up Saturday morning with the thought, 1:19:46 that would be nice.
The lead pack of Micah Chelimo, Devin McDowell, Steve Chu, and Peter Alden broke out immediately, but unlike the the paper's report Chelimo didn't pull away from that group until after the aid station at 2 miles. We had our own pack of about five or six runners, and I tucked in behind a guy in black wearing headphones while the others were just off my shoulders. We hit the mile in 6:06 and 2 at 12:22. I waited to 2.5 to make a light move to the front and two or three hung tight. We cat and moused for another mile or so, before Mr. headphones dropped off and it was down to me and young Andrew, my son's former high school teammate, and now in college. I was a little off the pace by 4 (24:40s) and worked to keep it right around 6:00 pace. Andrew hung on for a long time and was just 10 meter back at 6 miles (about 36:45).
Alden had fallen off the lead group just before 2 miles and was almost 1:30 ahead at about 3 miles, but by the time we were moving off the dike just before 8 miles he was up by 45 seconds. I focused on gaining and checked every mile or so. The closest I got was about 35 seconds at 10 miles (about 61:05) but my legs were starting to feel a little dead.
I have usually finished fairly strong in this race, but this one seemed to hurt more than usual. He looked just after the last aid station at 11 and picked it up. Just tried to keep my legs moving and avoided slowing down.
I managed that with the last two miles at 5:58 and 5:50 to finish in 1:19:36, in 5th place behind Alden. My 7th SCHM, and 5th time under 1:20 (just missing by a tick last year). Not complaining and 10 seconds faster than my wake up thought. Don't tell anyone, but I enjoy hammering down every summer in North Pole and the Chena Flood Control project.