Monday, July 5, 2010

LIVESTRONG Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon race report

Hi everyone!

I hope that you've all had a great Fourth of July weekend and got to spend time with family and friends or whomever you choose to spend your time with.  We had an enjoyable four days of vacation after the marathon in Seattle, then another four relaxing days.  And today is a work holiday, so one more day off for me before it's back to a more regular schedule.

Some of you were following along via twitter or Facebook, and thanks for the comments and encouragement along the way.  This marathon didn't go quite as well as I had planned, but overall it was a successful run and fundraising effort!

The weekend started out with a leisurely solo drive up to Seattle - Christine and the girls were on their last day of music camp, but I had to get to the expo to pick up my number so I rented a car one-way.  On the drive up, I had the iPod to keep me company, and listening to Competitor Radio podcasts was a great way to get psyched up for the race!  After checking into the hotel and dropping off my car, I walked a few blocks over to the expo... one of the biggest expos that I've ever seen!  Brooks running had a large area set up, in addition to the normal swag and vendors.  I did manage to keep my wallet under control, though, then headed out to a late lunch, a nap at the hotel and a bite for dinner before Christine and the girls arrived around 7:30pm.

The next morning was an early wake up - 4:15 so I could shower (the only thing that will really wake me up that early!), have some breakfast, and walk the 6 blocks to one of the shuttle stops to be bussed out to the start in Tukwila.  Staying downtown was great, but looking at the course map, you can see it was quite a ways from the start - and with no spectator parking at the start, it was better to let Christine and the girls sleep in and just meet them at the finish.

At the start, I wandered around for a bit until I ran into another Team LIVESTRONG runner, Jeff from Florida.  He and I hung out until a few minutes after the start... with me being in starting corral 17 and him in 20, it would be a while after the 7am gun when we would actually get underway.

Once my corral hit the start, I got into a pretty easy pace.  The day was nice and cloudy, and the temperature only 57F, but I decided that with the up-and-down training over the last month, I was not going to try to blast a sub-4:00 run.  I figured if things went well, I could run at a 4:15-4:20 pace over the first half, then pick things up over the second half and maybe break 4:10.  Or at least run my first sub-10:00 min/mile pace marathon (a 4:22). Or at least set a PR (sub-4:26).  And over the first 3.9 miles, it went according to plan: mile splits of 9:32, 9:33 and 9:55 put in pretty good shape.  And despite a three-and-a-half minute pit stop right before mile four, and a solid uphill from mile four to five, I was still in pretty good shape.

When I got onto the flats of Lake Washington, I accelerated a bit (splits of 9:12 to 9:51 over miles 6-12) but kept it in the comfortable range.  And there were a lot of distractions on the course - some enjoyable bands and DJs (hearing ELO's "Don't Bring Me Down" blasting through the I-90 tunnel around mile 12 was incredible!), a lot of high school cheerleading teams, creative aid stations (at mile 7 you could pick up salt packets like those at fast food restaurants for replenishing electrolytes) and tons and tons of spectators.

After coming through the tunnel, I started to feel a bit of fatigue, but when I hit the half-marathon split at 2:12:32, I figured that I was still in good shape.  But after maneuvering over some overpasses to get into downtown, then up and down some hills to get through downtown and onto the Alaskan Way viaduct, I realized that I was starting to feel tired... and still had 11 more miles to go.  The first serious walking break that wasn't at an aid station was around mile 16, and my split reflected it: a 10:52 mile.  A PR was starting to look like a serious challenge, and 4:30 even a bit sketchy.  The legs felt heavy and tired.  No cramping like previous marathons, and no blisters, but just very heavy, tired, and sore legs.  Then the uphill starting between miles 16 and 17 pretty much put both of those out of reach... miles 17-22 saw almost as much walking as running, with splits ranging from good (10:07 for mile 19) to ugly (15:37 for mile 21).

I got my second wind back on the Alaskan Way viaduct on the way back toward Qwest field - a nice 9:59 mile.  But after that, I was in survival mode.  The next three miles - another out and back away from downtown - were a melange of running and walking, but at a pretty steady pace around 12:00-13:00.  And finally, mercifully, the offramp from the viaduct came up around mile 25.8.  The crowds got very dense once again, with a lot of people shouting encouragement.  Coming down the hill I was able to get back into stride, round a couple of corners, and finish strong - with Christine and the girls cheering me on from the fencing near the finish!  It wasn't pretty at all, but finishing in 4:46:28 felt like quite the accomplishment!

While the time wasn't what I was looking for, it was a great experience.  The crowds were amazing - although considering I've run Eugene and Portland, I can't say that they were the tops... that would be a disservice to the great crowds in those races.  Running for Team LIVESTRONG was quite an experience as well - meeting a fellow team member at the start, get a lot of cheers just by wearing the team shirt, and even one four year-old who yelled "Go Armstrong!" around mile 16.  The fundraising aspect was also great - knowing that by pursuing my hobby I'm helping out cancer survivors and those locked in the battle at the same time.  This is something I'm definitely going to make a regular part of my athletic life.

Speaking of which, the next challenge is already out there... and something I'm already training for: the Echelon Gran Fondo on September 26th.  The goal is a bit more lofty than the $1,000 we raised for Seattle - a cool $2,500, in about a third of the time.  But I'm sure we can pull together and do it, since it's supporting two great causes - the Lance Armstrong Foundation and the Knight Cancer Institute here in Portland.  So join me in the next event, and let's keep it up in the battle against cancer!  Onward!