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


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