Saturday, June 27, 2009

6/27/09 Seattle Rock and Roll Marathon

4AM - Ugh. This is way to early to get out of bed.

4:05AM - Semi dressed I hear a rumbling on the street. Ten, twenty, thirty school buses rolling down First Ave. The magnitude of this race hit me yesterday as we walked to the expo and saw stacks of pallets of bottles of water. The buses confirm that this is a major operation. The race sold out weeks ago with 25,000 participants in the full and half. Starting at the same time. 7AM in Tukwilla. Shuttles leaving two points in Seattle for the start from 4-6AM. After last year's Seafair fiasco (which I managed to avoid with my always get there early attitude) I had to convince Jody to take no chances and be out the door by 4:30. She was a great sport about it. We are staying at Betty Kay's condo above the Pike Place Market - thanks BK!

4:30AM - Right on schedule we leave the condo and walk the half mile to the Westin hotel. Board a school bus and arrive in Tukwilla just after 5AM

5:15AM - I've had a good breakfast, even ate an extra bagel offered at the "starting village". More people arriving every minute. Rarely do I see a familiar face, mostly I think "who are all these people taking over my little group of regular runners?" It is chilly sitting on the sidewalk. Jody sees that a deli is open and although it looks crowded inside I reluctantly follow her in. Ah, the warmth. After just a few minutes we grab empty chairs. Now we are sitting with back support in a cozy warm spot. Very nice.

6:15AM - Say goodbye to Jody as I will use the bathroom, then check in my gear (extra shirt) with UPS who will deliver it to the finish in one of their many brown trucks. Sun is up now and it is going to be a cloudless day. This being an inaugural event with so many runners and the weather warming I have brought my fuel belt with 20 oz of Gatorade. At the last minute I decide that the organization seems so well prepared and I am going to be much closer to the front than the back, there is no way they are going to run out of fluids. I empty the Gatorade and put the belt into my gear check bag. Cell phone will have to bounce around in my pocket but should not bug me much. I have the phone to find Jody at the finish but also to snap some photos on the way. Originally this was meant to be a fun run. I was sure that it would be so crowded at the start and the course could be somewhat hilly. I was going to run with a friend and not worry about pace, just enjoy the music and the the atmosphere. But then my friend could not run, and in fact I have been running well. If I can get out of the first couple of miles at a decent pace I will roll along like usual then see what I have for the finish. Definitely want to beat 4 hours, anything under 3:53 would be swell.

6:45AM - Walking along the outside of the corrals. Jody is in #13. I look for her but do not see her. Hey I better get moving, it is easy to walk ahead on this side of the road, but I still have a sea of humans to get in front of.

6:50AM - I do make it to corral #6. A year ago when I registered on the first day (for $40) I predicted my finish time would be 3:49 and that put me up here in a low corral. I had been thinking of dropping back some, but this seems fine now. I have a great view behind me of a whole lot of people. Do not recognize anyone near me though.

7AM - Start - Very smooth. So far I have been impressed with the race organization. I walk right up to the start line and then am able to run with some elbow room.

Mile 0.6 - The first band and I suddenly miss my running friend. The moment passes with the music and I am back focused on the road
Mile 1 - 8:50 - Tremendous start. Portland needs to have a wave/corral start. This race has three times as many runners and here I was able to easily position myself well to get right into my pace. A few idiots are zig zagging and cutting me off, but its not bad at all.

Mile 3 - Hand slap a couple of cheerleaders.

Mile 4 - Been going gently uphill for some time. Now we turn off MLK way. Down a steep hill, then another turn. I hear someone fall about 20 feet behind me and see the look of concern on the spectators. I look back, see the guy get up and keep going. Note to self - keep being wary of these road surfaces. Lots of cracks and holes to trip on.

Mile 5 - Spectator says "Welcome to Seward Park". I see that there has been a sudden and significant change in neighborhoods. We are in the "nice" part of town now. Also I am now on familiar ground, having run here in the November Seattle Marathons. Long flat sections with some curves. Keep taking the tangents and there is plenty of room to do so without cutting anyone off.

Mile 7 - High five a big blue duck. Take my first Gu gel. Realize that I have developed a habit of seeking out the youngest kid at every aid station for the past couple of races. I especially like to find a 4 or 5 year old and thank them profusely, as if they are saving my life, which in fact they probably are. Hope it makes them feel important and helpful. I am going to stick to my plan of S!Caps every hour and Gu at miles 7,14 and 21. I feel a slight pull in my right achilles tendon. Same at what happened at this point in Cap City. Worry that it could progressively get worse. I could stop and calf stretch right now, it is early enough in the race that a stretch might do me good. But the discomfort is minor, more a worry that it will get worse. Continue to monitor and change the stride a little to compensate.

Mile 9 - We split off from the half marathoners with the usual jokes about changing our minds and running the half at the last second. But no, everyone with a yellow bib stays right. Up a very steep, but short hill to get on I-90. I had been worried about a bottleneck here, but there is plenty of room. The hill is steep and I consider walking, but the legs feel fine and it is not that difficult.

Mile 9.5 - Heading east on I-90, thankful for my sunglasses. Here come fast runners heading back from the turn around. These guys are about two miles ahead of me already. This is a very enjoyable time, getting a quick look and wave to the fast ones that I know. Just too many to try to name, but it seems like all the regulars are here. Oh, Steve Yee (M1) is slowing down to take my picture. You don't have to do that!! But wow it sure came out great.

Mile 10.4 - Turn around and head back to town. Can not help but think of the stormy weather we get for the November race and how spectacular it is today. Warming up a little, but a great day for running.

Mile 11.3 - We rejoin the half runners who are at mile 9.3 and enter the bus tunnel. Long dark tunnel. Oh I could take off my sunglasses and it will not be so dark. Very creepy spacey "music" up ahead. First I thought that it was strange city tunnel sounds, now I realize it is music and I can see a stage. A band is playing a standard version of Dancin in the Streets, but their sound is echoing off the tunnel walls. Grateful Dead played that song a lot and sometimes jammed to it, but as I pass and the music descends into chaos bouncing off the walls, this is trippier than a 1966 acid test. Even the photo I take in the tunnel looks like a Keith Krisa Dead concert shot. It is getting humid in here and I am thankful for the light at the end of the tunnel.

Mile 13 - Big curve on the highway ramp looking at Safeco Field. The half runners I have been with since the merge are two miles behind me and running at a slower pace. I have to do some passing to keep my pace going, but there is enough room. The GPS has been off from the mile markers for some time and I lost signal in the tunnel so I really can not trust the average pace read out. I am pretty sure that I am cruising along at 8:40 or so and I actually feel better than I did at mile 7.

Mile 15 - Split off from the halfers again and now uphill onto the Alaska Way Viaduct. I don't think that I have ever driven here let alone run on it, so it is fun new territory. We are on the lower level and the shade is nice. Pass a runner from North Carolina and I have to tell her about the earthquake danger and that this whole highway is coming down someday soon.

Mile 16 - Through another tunnel that I did not know existed. Now a long straight stretch on highway 99, most of it uphill.

Mile 17 - Still going uphill. Bright sunshine and warmth. Slowly catch up to M30 and M276. Every time I run with Manics for a bit, even if I am meeting them for the first time, they always are so pleasant and relaxed. We wave and yell to our fast friends coming back from the turn around. I give a double high five to some giant chipmunk or camel I really do not know what it is or what it is advertising. Pace has slowed just a bit as we are still going uphill and it is getting near late in the race. But I do not care. I would be happy to run all the way in with these two Maniacs. It has been a good and fun time.

Mile 18 - At the aid station I got ahead of M30 and M276 and I will miss their company, but I am ready to strike out on my own again and keep the pace constant.

Mile 18.5 - Turn around and now have a long downhill. This side of the road has some shade too.

Mile 20.5 - Slap hands with the North Thurston High School cheerleaders, my local High School. The track where I ran my only ever sub six minute mile. All of a sudden something tugs at my left foot. Strangest sensation and downright scary. Is my timing chip coming off is all I can wonder as I look down, then hear a clanging noise and realize I have been lassoed by a thin metal loop. Some rim part of a tire? As I lift my foot it rolls across the road clattering the whole way. Slightly embarrassed and freaked out, but not damaged at all I continue on.

Mile 21 - Down my third Gu. Not so easy to get down, but not so bad. Better nutrition was my only real change between this and NODM where I ran out of energy in the last miles. Maniac Val convinced me to take in more calories while running and it seems like it is paying off today. I am feeling really good. Should be a good finish but I know that the slowing can come on so fast. At least I made it this far.

Mile 22 - Back in the tunnel. With a guy who is trying to "get this little vixen to Boston" All she needs to do is run 8:30 pace to the finish and she will have her 3:45 to qualify. That sounds like a great plan to me and I stay with them, letting the guy do the pacing. I let them know that a 3:45 would have me only be 25 minutes shy of a BQ. I started ahead of them so my chip time will be a couple of minutes above theirs if we do finish together. The vixen says nothing to either of us, totally focused on her quest. I encourage her a little but keep my distance and do not distract her.

Mile 23 - Maniac Eric is back with me. I am still relaxed and feeling well. For the first time today I think that a PR (3:48:10) could be possible, although I expect a slow down at any point. We are running on the upper level of the viaduct now and getting real close to the stadium. Too bad we have to go past it on one more out and back. I let Eric know that a PR is a possibility for me in the hopes that he will encourage me onward. Oh no, now I see that on the way back, at the mile 25 mark there is a fairly significant uphill. I am convinced that I will slow there and I really doubt I will PR today. But at this point I feel surprisingly good. Eric hints that we could take advantage of this downhill now and put some time in the bank for the later uphill. I pick up the pace accordingly. I also stick to Eric's back. He is running the pace that I need to be at, so I'll just not let him get away.

Mile 24 - Hit the lap button on the watch. Hit the gas pedal and the legs respond!! I am moving faster than at any point in the race. Course turn around, splash a little water on my face but do not drink. If I walk through any aid station, like I usually do, it could be all over.

Mile 25 - This hill is not so bad!! This must be the last aid station. I am warm. One, two three cups of water splash on top of my head, good drenching down my back. Feel much cooler. Can not tell the exact time, no seconds on my digital readout. But I need to run the last 1.2 miles in about 9 minutes in order to PR.

Mile 25.8 - Passing runners, but not that many. Big turn and downhill to the Quest Events Center. Lots of spectators. Watch says 3:45 oh no 3:46. Stop looking at the watch and run hard.

Mile 26.1 - Finish line straight ahead. It better be right at those balloons. Watch at 3:47:?? Being so close to a PR, I really want this now. Sprint across the line.

Mile 26.2 - MM1 is one step in front of me. I have to stop my watch, reset the run then open the memory in order to find the finish time to the second. 3:48:07. A best ever time by three seconds. My chip time reads 3:48:04 so I will go with that one. There were two mats at the start and the finish, perhaps I did not stop or start my watch on the correct ones. Anyway I am thrilled. To be able to run for fun, relaxed, in a well managed mega event, with great weather and set a best ever time is more than one could hope for.

11:30 AM - After recovering and celebrating with small clusters of Maniacs (Eric said that we look like a swarm of bees) I find Jody who ran a good half and we walk the mile back to the condo. From the door to the building I can see runners still moving on the viaduct and snap one last photo.

3PM - Back home, on the phone with Bill and he wants to know how I managed to do so well. I thought the course was fairly easy, many hills but none were steep. Better nutrition and during the race refueling were a big factor. Also running relaxed, not stressing about time was a benefit. This was my 6th marathon in three months and I believe that my brain is better able to comprehend that distance now. I am much more at ease at the start line and I know that I can get through what will come later in the race. Also I started attending yoga classes about six weeks ago and love it. More than just flexibility and strength improvement there is some other benefit that I can not put into words just yet, but yoga seems to me to be an excellent counter balance to running.

I took advantage of the special deal at the race expo and signed up for the 2010 race for $50. Can't wait to run it again.

3:48:04 PR

788th of 5,602

Marathon 34, Marathon or ultra 35



Kat said...

So, the key to feeling good at the end of a marathon is the "extra bagel" an hour and a half before the start... Those extra carbs really did the trick!!!

keith said...

thanks for the props on mile 11.3