For me, the Mercer Island Half Marathon was what you might call a “double-whammy.” And both of those “whammies” were totally my fault. First, I had decided to run the race even though I knew it wasn't the most schedually convenient. Second, I hadn't actually bothered to look at the elevation (PDF) for the course. If I had, I would have realized the hills were going to kick my ass. Despite these, or perhaps even become of these, I had a total blast.
The race itself was delightful and super well-organized. As a result of this organization I was able to park, pick up my packet the same day of the race, use the porta potty (which were ample, probably the biggest indicator of a race's organization) and do a warm up run. All without showing up way too early and waiting around in 40 degree weather.
My only beef (and a relatively minor one) would be that the pacing signs were hard to see. This became an issue later as it became clear that a lot of people running a slow pace (or no-pace) were at the front of the starting line. Maybe this is hard to avoid regardless but I think most people didn't even know the signs were there. As a result, it took me almost a mile to make my way through the slower runners. And when I finally got ahead, the hills were so tough I knew I wasn't going to make my target pace of 7:39.
Regardless, the race was wonderful. Mercer Island is a beautiful place to run. Near constant views of Lake Washington, beautiful forest and, of course, beautiful houses. A lot of locals came out to cheer on the runners, including some of those who were stuck in race-enduced traffic.
In addition to the great race, I had an awesome interaction with someone that reinstated my faith in the universe. As I was inhaling my delicious post-race raw bagel, banana and orange slices, someone came up to me and told me that they were using me as their unofficial pacer to stay motivated on the race. The guy clearly felt awkward telling me that but I was thrilled. After missing my target pace, that was exactly what I needed to hear.
Lastly, and I may have to double check on this, but I'm fairly certain, I set a PR for the half marathon distance. This in spite of the hilliness of the course! I credit all the hill training and speed work my coach has been putting me through.
I would definitely do the Mercer Island Half again but next time I'll make sure to get more hill-training in beforehand. Not exactly sure what race I'll run next. Hoping to do one of the SCOTT Cougar Mountain trail run series soon. One thing is certain: eight weeks until the Surfer's Path Marathon!