Can Matt Sustain a Sub 6:00 Per Mile Pace for 13.1?

2015 Lake Sammamish Half Race Report

Photo Mar 07, 7 22 00 AM

At the start with the wife!

One of my major Run Happy Goals for 2015 was to run a sub 1:20 half marathon. My first attempt was scheduled for the Lake Sammamish Half on March 7. It’s a great race. I ran it two years ago and I really liked it. A fast and scenic course with not a lot of turns. And it is near my house and I regularly run sections of it so there is some element of home court advantage. The timing makes it a great build up race for Boston. It has been very well organized both times I’ve run it and I was excited that my wife was running it as well this year. I set a PR at the race two years ago and I hoped that I would have a similar result this year.

The plan was to hit the midpoint of the race right at 40 minutes and then see how I was feeling. If things were going well I would try to negative split the course and see how fast I could run the back half.

It was a chilly 38 degrees the morning of the race. It was a clear morning though with a lot of fog rolling across the lake. A beautiful morning for running. I was in no hurry to strip down to my singlet and shorty shorts that are part of the Seattle Running Club Brooks team uniform though. Seriously, these are the shortest shorts I’ve ever worn. I don’t have a lot of track history and it took a lot of courage for me to wear those things in public. As the 8:00 am start approached I stripped down to my uniform. As I shed my outer layer I noticed that I had forgot my Garmin watch. What a rookie mistake. I decided to resort to carrying my iphone in my hand for the whole race – something I was not a huge fan of but I really felt I needed something to track my pace with. I took off my now useless heart rate strap and stowed it in my drop bag as well, my nerdy data driven mind regretting that I would not be able to have the data to scrutinize later.

It was a little strange when I toed the line because I looked like such a pro runner in my matchy outfit that everyone urged me to go to the front since I must be super fast with such a fancy kit. So I obliged them and went to the front and peacocked a bit for the camera.

As the race started I surged ahead with the leaders and hung on, wondering what kind of pace I was running at since my iPhone was locked and I couldn’t see the screen. I didn’t want to take the time to try to unlock it since I was wearing gloves. I was pretty confident that I was going much faster than the 6:05 pace I had planned for. So I slowed down to the secondary pack of five folks as the top 3 got progressively further ahead.

Around mile two I worked out my audio cues for RunKeeper and found that I was running at about 5:54 pace – not totally outside of plan but faster than I wanted to be going. But I was with a nice pack of seven folks at this point along with the lead woman who was running for Oisille and I was feeling good so I decided to stick with them and see how things worked out.

Pack I ran most of the race with. Did I mention the shorts were a bit short?

Pack I ran most of the race with. Did I mention the shorts were a bit short? Photo courtesy of:

There was some shuffling in the pack after the midpoint – which I hit about 50 seconds ahead of schedule – the woman and and another guy dropped back as we kept up a pretty consistent 5:55 pace. Around the mile 9 aid station when I stopped to grab a cup of water. I started to drop back from the group of about five other guys that was in the pack. I didn’t immediately catch back up after walking through the aid station and I was struggling to keep from falling further behind. A guy who was obviously running for the negative split blew past me around mile 10. About mile 11 I became aware that another negative splitter was closing on me and I picked it up to try to hold on to my position. At mile 12 he pulled even with me and passed me. I wish I could say that I got fired up and told him that we should both pick it up and catch the pack that was still within sight but instead he surged past me and I just tried to hang on.

Pain face. Who is the dork with the iPhone in his hand?

Pain face. Who is the dork with the iPhone in his hand? Photo courtesy of:

As we entered the State Park for the last meandering mile I was confident that I would PR – but I also was pretty sure I wasn’t going to catch anyone. I was excited that I had maintained a sub 6:00 per mile pace for the whole race and was super satisfied with my performance. As I rounded a turn I looked back and there was no one in sight so my position was set. The other year I ran this race it curved through a parking lot like four times and this year there were just a couple of turns so it wasn’t so bad.

I kept my pace up and finished with a 1:18:25. I had beat my goal by a minute and a half! A couple of years ago a single mile at a 6:00 pace seemed like an extreme effort – it’s hard for me to believe I could keep it up for a full half marathon. I didn’t end up negative splitting but they were pretty darn even – second half about 30 seconds slower than the first. It was a 3:21 PR. I don’t know how I keep pulling these PRs out of my hat. Although it does look like my improvements are diminishing. Here are my last three PRs for all you data junkies – which happen about annually since I usually run half marathons in the Spring:

  1. 2013 Lake Samm: 1:27:36 – a 5:33 improvement
  2. 2014 Cinco Half: 1:21:46 – a 5:28 improvement
  3. 2015 Lake Samm: 1:18:25 – a 3:21 improvement

We’ll see if I have another one in me next year. Maybe at the 2016 Lake Sammamish Half. I highly recommend this race!

I ended up taking 12th place overall and 5th place in my division. Here’s the track on Strava. I’m kind of addicted to Strava right now. I don’t think I’ll be going back to Runkeeper.

Finish line smile by the lake

Finish line smile by the lake


I wore my Brooks Racer ST5s  – this was the first time I ran in racing flats and I liked them. They are super light and fast. I my feet did a bit beat up after the race so I’m not sure if I’m going to run in them or something more supportive in Boston.

Other Gear:

  1. Brooks Rev III SRC Team Singlet in lime Green. Worked great really like the style and fit.
  2. Brooks Infiniti 3″ split shorts As mentioned – super short for me but I liked the freedom of movement they provided.
  3. iPhone 6 – seriously? I ran with the phone in my hand the whole time – what a noob. Turned out OK though. I’m sure if I would have had my watch I would have picked up an extra minute. 😉

Seriously loving being part of the team and the Brooks gear. I have to admit that representing the club and knowing my teammates will want to hear about the race gives me just a little extra motivation to show well.

What’s Next?

I’ve jumped into training hard this week in preparation for a return to the trails on March 21 for the Chuckanut 50k! I’m having a hard time setting my expectations for this race. It wasn’t on my calendar until January and isn’t a “A” race for me this year, but a lot of the team is going to be there and I’m hoping for a good showing. I don’t want to over do it and get hurt though with Boston next month. The current plan is to run hard but not try to do too much and enjoy being on the trails – whatever that means. As long as I finish it will be a 50k pr since it’s my first one.


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