Sunday, September 27, 2009

9/27/09 Bellingham Bay Marathon

Third running of this event. Third course variation. Third location for packet pick up on the day prior. Beautiful sunny cold morning. 258 in the full marathon, just over 1,000 running the half. Races start at the same time and follow the same course for the first eleven miles.

Mile 1-7 Easy running in the neighborhood. Blazing sunshine in my eyes (even with sunglasses on) on some roads. Short new trail section. Nice running with some Maniac friends to keep the pace even and enjoy the time.

Mile 8-11 - Along the waterfront. I like the wooden boardwalk. Hill out of the waterfront and I feel my legs tire a bit for the first time.

Mile 12-16 - Through a different hillier neighborhood. Last year we did this section after the long trail. I think that I will like getting this done first better. All along catching folks I do not know, having pleasant short conversations for a about a mile, then moving on. It has thinned out with all the halfers off the course now.

Mile 16-23 - Gravel and dirt trail. I really like this part. California hill is as steep as ever. Harder to run down it than up. Tiring but hanging in there. Temperature is perfect. Kid volunteers are great. Not just at the aid stations but at all the road/trail crossings. Full of enthusiasm for the runners.

Mile 22.5 - Looking at a zig zag uphill and not wanting to go up. No runners close by, but two spectators encourage me. I get an idea to be funny and I come to a complete stop and say "I quit. I can't go on". The spectators looked shocked and don't know what to say. "Just kidding" I say and start up again. It was good for laughs.

Mile 25 - Clock looks good, no PR but under 4 hours for sure. I could ease up and do fine. But I read the back of the T-shirt of a guy in front of me. It says "Never stop challenging yourself" I like that, and it means that I should keep trying my best. I run beside the guy and tell him that his shirt inspired me. We stay together and run comfortably hard to the finish.

Mile 26.1 - Jody and Bill are cheering on one side of the road. On the other side I hear someone yell that is was great that I did not quit. That makes me laugh and we accelerate to the line.

75th of 258
Race #175, Marathon or Ultra#39, Bellingham Bay Marathon#3

Sunday, September 13, 2009

9/13/09 Skagit Flats Marathon

Last year I dwelt on the negatives about this race (boring course, flat out and back, too hot and sunny) but today I am thinking about the positives. Although it is 120 miles from home, it is an easy drive and just off the freeway. No problem parking at the High School. Easy day of race packet pickup. I like out and back because I can see so many Maniac friends. Finish on a track with bleachers providing a good recovery and spectating area. Shower facilities available too. Logistically this is a terrific race. Unfortunately the weather is shaping up to be sunny and hot yet again.
Start - I do not have plans to run with anyone in particular. I am also completing my third marathon in three weeks and do not feel the need to run conservatively like I did last week, but also have no idea how the recent races will affect me today. I will just set my own pace and hope to do well. I would like to get in under 4 hours. I'll go out just a little faster than that, just in case I am feeling great, and want to go for a PR, though with the heat and recent races this is unlikely. What I do want to do is focus on my form. With all of these long straight and totally flat miles I can set and hold my pace. I decide that I will try to concentrate on one element of form (elbows straight, head steady, slight lean forward, navel to spine......) along each straightaway and change to thinking of another element after the turn. White cap and sunglasses. Find some friends and then we go off.
Mile 1 - Crowded with all the halfers too. Started a tad fast but find my pace and stick to it.
Mile 3 - Aid station. I am sweating already. Tempted to pour a little water on my head, but it is too early for that.
Mile 5 - Thinking about holding my head steady. I zone in on a yellow cap in front of me that I am gradually catching up to. Soon I recognize the hat and the runner. Nice to run with Ron, Una and Herb for a few minutes. Halfers are coming back and I see three Marathon Maniacs who are doing the Half Fanatics thing today.
Mile 6.5 - Half turnaround. Happy that the runner with me (18 years old) is continuing on. Pleasant conversation, then she slows some and I move ahead. Try to think about form, but then catch up to someone and run with them for a mile or two. This would become the theme of the race till mile 22. Run for a while with someone I do not know, but enjoy a little conversation. Try to not talk too much, especially with the two who are trying to BQ. With each runner though they can not hold the pace and I slide ahead.
Mile 13.1 - Halfway in 1:56
Mile 16 - Bob Dolphin Sighting
Mile 19 - Starting to be a grind. Not so much fun anymore. Pavement seems old in places, some uneven surfaces. I wish that I could adequately describe the blazing sunshine. I have been pouring water on my head and the slow drip through the hat is nice. I have run in hotter situations though and I am ever so gradually passing runners. Diligent with the S!Caps, Gu and hydration. Aid stations staffed by High School athletes and I like most of their enthusiasm. One guy offers me a branch of blueberries he just plucked from the field. I take one berry. Pass a runner who is scraping her feet on the ground with each step.
Mile 22 - I almost always speed up a little prior to the aid station, then walk through to make sure I get what I need and this gives my legs a change of pace. Leaving the aid station here I can not help but make a wailing cry like a baby because I do not want to start up running again. A woman behind me must have recognized my cry, because she asks if it is me, then I recognize Maniac Susan who I met a few months ago. If it was nice to have some company from strangers along the way earlier, this is wonderful. We run together and encourage each other. My spirits are lifted, although the body is tiring. I am starting to slow, but not dramatically. I'd like to walk, but we look at sights ahead, telephone pole or corner, and commit to running that far. I did a horrible job of concentrating on form, with all of the out and back folks to wave to and run with, now it is too late to think about anything but persevering onward.
Mile 24.5 - Small patch of shade and without any conscious decision I find myself walking. This lasts about two seconds and I break into a shuffle, then get back on pace. Odd moment. I am pleased with how this is going, my best Skagit race as far a even pacing.
Mile 25 - Susan gets ahead and I am fine with that, but she is staying 30-40 feet in front of me. Every few minutes I yell to her to keep running. That is the thing about the marathon. The idea that we are competing with each other never entered my mind. I am happy for her that she is having a good run and she is encouraging me to keep going.
Mile 25.5 - I can tell that the end is near and I have a little kick left. I pass Susan and a couple of others. At the last aid station I dumped three cups of water on my head and now I feel that my shoes are soaked. I also had water roll down my back and front so I am pretty much drenched all over between sweat and water.
Mile 26.2 - The friendly volunteer most excellently removes my tag and I walk off to shower and recover while watching others finish. Pleased with my time (one second slower than two years ago, but two minutes faster than last year) and a much more enjoyable final hour than previously here. Not my favorite race, but I hope to do it again.

76th of 225
Race #174, Marathon #37, Marathon or Ultra #38

Sunday, September 6, 2009

9/6/09 Michelles Grande-Ass Marathon

The Portland Marathon makes a big deal about all the turns on their course and puts the full directions on the T-shirts. That race has nothing on this one:

1) Start in front of Meridian Place Shopping Center Starbucks. Run North to 43rd Ave SE
2) Turn Right on 43rd Ave SE to four way stop at 5th St SE
3) Turn Left on 5th St SE. Continue North. @31st Ave SE road will veer right and eventually turn into 7th St SE. Continue to 23rd Ave. SE.
4) Turn Right on 23rd Ave. SE crossing at the intersection when it is safe. Run East to 17th St. SE
5) Turn Left to 17th St. SE. and run to 19th Ave. SE
6) Turn Right on 19th Ave. SE and run East to 21st St. SE
7) Turn Left on 21st St. SE and get ready to run down a very steep hill into the Puyallup valley. This road is closed to cars so you will need to go around two yellow gates at the top of this hill. Run to end of 21st St. SE to East Pioneer, which is a busy thoroughfare.
8) Turn Right on East Pioneer and run to 134th Ave. E.
9) Turn Left on 134th Ave. E (Pioneer way will curve to the right at 134th).
10) Run along farming road to the end of 134th Ave E at which point you will come to a dead end. Run around the yellow gate and down under the overpass. Trail will be very sandy under the overpass.
11) Turn left when you get to other side of overpass and run up the small hill towards the restaurant.
12) Turn 180 degrees and head up Main Ave (The road you just crossed under)
13) Main Ave. turns to Traffic Ave. Stay on it to Maple St.
14) Turn Right on Maple St. and run to Bonney Ave.
15) Turn Left on Bonney Ave. to Main St.
16) Turn Right on Main St. and run to Valley Ave E. Cross to STARBUCKS!
17) Turn Right on Valley Ave. E and run to Elm St.
18) Turn Right on Elm St.
19) Elm St. curves left and turns into E Valley Hwy E.
20) Run short distance on E. Valley Hwy E. to Puyallup St. E.
21) Turn Left on Puyallup St. E., cross tracks and run to Tacoma Ave.
22) Turn Right on Tacoma Ave. Road curves to left. Run over bridge crossing river.
23) After crossing river run to trail entrance on left just before 142nd Ave E
24) Run on paved trail that follows along the river until it comes up to 142nd Ave. E.
25) Turn Left on 142nd Ave. E. and cross river to Fryar Ave.
26) Turn Right on Fryar Ave. and run to West Main St.
27) Turn Right on West Main St., West Main St. curves left and turns into Hunt Ave.
28) Turn left onto Hunt Ave. (West Main becomes Hunt Ave at turn) run to State St.
29) Turn Right on State St. and run under large overpass. Run to trail on right.
30) Turn Right on paved trail and loop around the beautiful Sumner sewage treatment plant.
31) Trail will take you back to E. Main St.
32) Turn Right on E. Main St. and cross river.
33) Turn Right doing a 180-degree turn back down to the trail after crossing bridge.
34) Turn Left on Trail and run along river for about 2 miles. Run under Hwy 512 overpass to 2nd Ave. NE
35) Turn Right on 2nd Ave. NE and run to 5th St. NE.
36) Turn Right on 5th St. NE and run to trailhead on left. Trail is just past 8th Ave. NE and just before the bridge that crosses the river. If you cross the river you are off course.
37) Stay on trail along the river heading west. Run under the overpass for N Meridian and watch for arrows on trail (about 100 yards) indicating a left turn into the back parking lot of Fred Meyers.
38) Follow the arrows painted on the parking lot around Fred Meyers to the River Road Starbucks Aid Station.
39) Go East on River Road from Starbucks to N. Meridian.
40) Turn Left on N. Meridian and run across bridge passing over Puyallup River.
41) Turn Left on N Levee Rd. just after crossing the Puyallup River. Levee Rd. has no shoulder so use caution on this road. Use sidewalk when available. Run about 2 miles to 70th Ave East.
42) Turn Right on 70th Ave. East and run one mile to Valley Ave. E.

43) Turn Left on Valley Ave. E., this road winds gently about a mile and then turns right and becomes 54th Ave E.

44) Turn Right on 54th Ave. E. and run over I-5 being careful in the busy intersections. Run to Pacific Hwy E.

45) Turn Left on Pacific Hwy E. and run about 1 mile to Fife Starbucks Aid Station on left

46) Leave Fife Starbucks on Pacific Hwy E. heading West and run to bridge crossing Puyallup River. Pacific Hwy E. changes to Ells St. over bridge and then to Puyallup Ave. as you cross E. Portland Ave., Run one block past E. Portland Ave. to E. L St.

47) Turn Left on E. L St. (East L Street) and run up the hill to E. 29th St.

48) Turn Right on E 29th St. (more up hill). E29th St. veers left and becomes Upper Park St., run skirting edge of McKinley Park follow arrows to McKinley Way.

49) Turn Right down McKinley Way (becomes E. D St.) past Tacoma Dome on your right to East Dock St. Careful crossing the intersections on this stretch. Run to E. Dock Street.

50) Turn Left on E Dock Street (near Mile 23), run under overpass for Hwy 509 follow arrows leading to sidewalks / stairs through Museum of Glass. Run over Museum of Glass Bridge crossing Hwy 705 follow arrows to Pacific Ave. Cross Pacific Ave.

51) Turn Right after crossing Pacific Ave. and go to Downtown Tacoma Starbucks Aid Station.

52) Continue North on Pacific to just past S17th St. where you will cross Pacific Ave. Watch for light rail cars before crossing / use crosswalks then run down Hood Ave. on right beside the Tacoma Art Museum. Follow arrows on Hood Ave. across small bridge and down to Dock St.

53) Turn Right on Dock St. and run just under a mile to the end of Dock Street. Dock St. curves to the left becoming S4th St. up a short hill to S Schuster Pkwy. Use crosswalk to cross S Schuster Pkwy and run over to sidewalk.

54) Turn Right and run on sidewalk along S Schuster Pkwy. Run about a mile till you see an overpass and stay left on sidewalk. You do NOT want to go over the overpass. The road on left is N 30th St. Run up the sidewalk along N 30th St. to the top of the hill and you will see the FINISH @ Old Town Tacoma Starbucks!

If anyone read all that they would have found that we start and end at a Starbucks and have four Starbucks aid stations/checkpoints along the way. That is where the Grande part comes in. The race is in the "fat ass" style which refers to no frills and low cost events put on as much for fun as competition. Michelle is Michelle Barnes a "coffee drinker with a running habit". Her husband Eric is the race director, course marshal, van driver and everything else. A couple of dedicated volunteers to help along the way and we have the makings of a nice little marathon.

Arrive at 5:30 for the 6AM start. I know about half of the participants and the other half are also friendly Marathon Maniacs. Its early but that will allow us to beat a lot of traffic. Much of this race will be on busy roads, open to traffic. Just before the start, RD Eric gives a briefing and I learn that he will transport drop bags to the finish. I wish I had known, I am sure that it is going to rain and to have a towel and dry shirt at the finish would be really nice. It is two minutes to the start, but I have time; I dash into the parking lot and grab some gear out of my trunk. Toss the bag with the others and get to the start line about three seconds before he says to go.
Mile 0.5 – It is still dark. I can see that no one is really taking the lead and we are all bunched up and owning the roads. I think it will be fun to take the lead for a second so I zoom up and take the front spot. Just for a moment, then it is back to the middle of the pack. Not raining so I take my jacket off and it starts to sprinkle right away. Jacket goes back on.
Mile 2 – Settling into a nice easy pace. I am surprised when I look at my watch and see how slow we are going, about a 10 minute mile. It feels faster than that and I have no urge to go any faster. We come to a very steep and long downhill. M761 remembers having to run up this hill, while on the High School team, until legs were quivering. It is a tremendous hill and I am glad that we are going down. My toenail that was bruised last week seems fine, but the top of my other foot, which mysteriously started hurting midweek, does not like the downhill.
Mile 3 – Nice farmland, more rural than I expected and what I know is coming. Running with M1040, M971, M761 and M678
Mile 5 – A little confusion as some runners ahead of us are telling us to go a different way, but they are not doing so themselves. Eventually I realize that they are from the early start group for slower runners. These folks started at 4:30AM and were completing a five mile loop that I was just starting. Sure enough the course markers indicate the way we should go and we were saved from making a wrong turn.
Mile 6.6 – Starbucks aid station. Water at a table outside the store. Water added to my fuel belt dilutes the Gatorade. We stop for a few minutes. I really want to stay with my little pack and do not feel rushed at all. I am a little surprised to see that the average pace has risen to 10:45/mile by the time we get back running.
Mile 7.5 – One runner is way ahead and as I keep her in my sights, M761 points out that we are supposed to turn here. That runner would come back and catch up to us eventually. I am consulting the directions (in a ziplock bag) often and we all are looking for course markers. Generally they are very well placed with just the occasional slow down or stop for a quick group decision on where to go. This feels like a Club Oly long run, or maybe a very low key version of the Amazing Race.
Mile 10 – Nice long section on a paved trail along the Puyallup River. So many people fishing for salmon. I remember my days as an avid fisherman. It was quite the hobby some years ago, but as the running picked up I found I only have time for one hobby. Fishing also became a little boring, the whole “been there, done that” feeling. I wondered if I would get bored with marathoning, but each race is so different and I never quite know what is going to happen on race day. I see some kids carrying limits of fish and I realize that I am much happier to be running here now.
Mile 13.4 – River Road Starbucks. M761 is still getting back in shape and will drop out here. My little pack is down to two out of the aid station. I still would like to stay with someone, to help navigate. Keep the pace at a very easy 10:40.
Mile 15 – No shoulder on this busy road. Look back once in a while to make sure I am not getting too far ahead of M678.
Mile 16 – Green mile marker gives confidence that I am still on the right road. See someone land a fish. Amazed at how many people are fishing this reach of the river.
Mile 18.5 – More confident of the course as I go up over I-5 (river of traffic) and turn left on Pacific Ave in Fife. There is the Poodle Dog Restaurant with its gigantic sign that reads “Good Food”. Starbucks will be somewhere here but I don’t know which side of the road. There is MacDonalds, Wendy’s, Taco Bell, KFC, Taco Time. I will never eat at any of those places, not with the Poodle Dog so close by. Again it is significant to race where I sometimes drive. I will never drive this way again and not think of this moment. Finally I see Starbucks.
Mile 19.1 – M678 catches up and I explain that I would like to take the last miles at a faster pace. He figured that so off I go.
Mile 20 – Set the lap function on the watch and go off at 8:40/mile. Minor adjustments to stride to keep top of foot from hurting, but energy level is great. Zip along Pac Ave into looming dark clouds ahead.
Mile 21.5 – Turn onto East L street. At once the rain starts and it is heavy. Thankful for my jacket with hood. Also the road is a major hill. Long and steep. I would not be able to run a nine minute mile here on fresh legs. I feel fine and I can not be discouraged that I am not able to maintain a quicker pace. Right turn on 29th and the hill continues even steeper. And the rain is heavier, really dumping now. The hill is so steep that I find myself pushing on my thigh as I climb up. The skin is cold from the rain, but the leg is very warm inside, weird sensation. OK, top of the hill and around Mckinley Park.
Mile 22.5 – For the first time in about three hours I see another runner up ahead. Slowly catch up to him and we run past the Tacoma Dome and through the Glass Museum grounds together. Up the steps at the Glass Museum. Steps are short and I try to take them two at a time, but that is not happening.
Mile 23.7 – UW Tacoma Starbucks. Quick stop here, passing some of the early starters, then move on feeling strong. Pass two more runners and can see four more up ahead. Nice to have some company.
Mile 25 – Still dumping rain. Hours ago I was dodging puddles to stay on the dry ground. Now it does not matter, I am soaked. Shoes are heavy and slogging. I do avoid the cars splashing by on Schuster Parkway.

Mile 26 - Uphill. Starting to tire. Drenching rain continues. Running with M932 and M11. Not going to be able to pass them. Don't have much urge to do so any way, I am happy to just try to keep up. Wish this was 26.2 not 26.6. Almost there anyway.

Mile 26.5 - Up into Old Town. The finish should be right ahead. The two ahead of me are gaining somewhat, wish I knew exactly how far to go. They cross an intersection and as I get there I see a car approaching. With the heavy rain and having been running for so long, I play it safe and stop. The car stops ahead of the stop sign, totally blocking my crosswalk. Again I take the safer option to wait a bit, then go out behind the car as it pulls forward. Now I can see that it is less than a block to the end so I jog it in.

So happy to have a dry towel and shirt. Recovery goes well as I did not have much of an all out effort today. Grande Carmel Macchiato really hits the spot as we wait for enough runners to make a van load and get a ride back to the start. I had a fun time and a good run. My finish time is horrible for a road marathon, but I did run the last 7.5 miles much faster than the first 19. I think this was a good strategy for the middle marathon of three weeks in a row. We shall find out next week, when I try to get back under four hours.


12th place of 38 finishers

Race # 173, Marathon or ultra#37