Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Seattle Rock-n-Roll Marathon 6/25/11

26.1 miles!  Photo by Tony Seabolt

Somewhere along the monster hill- photo by Bob Satko
26.1 miles!  Photo by Takao Suzuki

It had been 20 days since my disappointing North Olympic Discovery Marathon finish of 3:46.  My quads felt trashed for a solid week after the race. 

Trashed: the feeling that your muscles have been repeatedly rolled over by a dump truck at the end of garbage pickup day. 

During the next 2 weeks before the Rock n Roll Marathon, something miraculous happened.  I was able to run faster than previous training runs.  The competetive monster that had lain dormant for a season was awakening.  I won't say that suddenly I could pop out 6 minute miles but I was feeling lighter on my feet and the strideouts weren't as hideous.

With a week to go before the marthon, I found myself alone during the days.  My daughters were at camp and Jeff was working.  As I reduced my mileage on the roads, I spent my energy cleaning house.  I missed my girls but it was nice to see the entire carpet minus clothing, books, papers, etc. 

Jeff and I drove over Friday morning to pick up our race packets and cruise the expo.  We saw some running friends, Pedro, Tony, Kristin, and got our picture taken at the Northwest Runner booth.  Picture from the Northwest Runner booth.  I found some new shorts and socks at Super Jock and Jill and Jeff got a steal on a running shirt.  We got hoardes of samples and entered contests.  These expos are free to the public so even if you don't run the race, you should attend one of these for the awesome deals and giveaways.  We decided to sign up for next year's race at a discount price and saved $80 combined.  Jeff and I will have done the Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon (and half-marathon for Jeff) four years in a row. 

We hit up The Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner and assembled our racing outfits that night.  The race started at 7:00 am which pushed the wake up time in the 4:00 hour.  Yuck.  Many, many people were up even earlier. 

From 4-6 am were shuttle buses leaving from Qwest Field as well as The Westin.  We escaped our room by 5:30, later than anticipated.  My body was not cooperating and that's all I want to say about that issue.  The lines for the buses were astronomically long.  As we approached McDonalds near the Westin, we had a choice between 2 lines, we thought.  Waiting, waiting, waiting.  The other line seemed to always get the buses and other people who were just arriving seemed to have better luck than we were having.  Most of the bibs were blue, which indicated half marathoners.  One girl was wearing a banana suit (?) and others were in sparkly attire.  Most runners chose convention over originality. 

Across the street, an endless line of runners kept wrapping itself around a building and Jeff and I couldn't understand what line they were in.  At 6:15 am, we finally scored seats on a bus and as we drove by the other lines, we realized that they were in OUR line.  Wow, they would never get to the start line by 7:00 am. 

The bus ride was uneventful and we were in line for the portapotty by 6:30.  It looked as if Runner's World vomited up all it's contents in Tukwila.  Maniac Robert Lopez clad in his pink "Breast Cancers Sucks" outfit walked by and told me I missed the Marathon Maniac photo shoot.  Bathroom activities take precedence over pictures. 

Temperatures would be very mild and as Jeff dropped off my sweatshirt at the bag drop, I began to shiver uncontrollably.  This happens to me a lot so I tried to ignore the chattering teeth and made my way through the expanse of runners and walkers.  Asian Elvis sighting!

My bib allowed me to enter into the second corral and Jeff's was the sixth corral.  Last year I put 3:12 as an anticipated finish time but reality sometimes hits you square in the eyes.  I could hit 3:12 if I caught a cab for a few miles.  As I inhaled every bit of competetive pride in me, I stepped into Corral 4.  Lo and behold, Terry Sentinella was a corral BEHIND me pacing the 3:30 group.  High hopes and lack of sleep kept me from moving back and I decided that a couple minutes lead on that group would be motivation for me to keep up my pace.  Realistically I knew that finishing in 3:30 was a little beyond my current reach but I don't like to give in even before the gun fires. 

Music was blaring and the crowds were anxious to get the party started.  7:00 am and the elite runners were sent on their way.  Every one or two minutes the next corral was released.  My corral pushed up to the start and 3, 2, 1...go!  My wrist bore my watch rather than my Garmin since I knew there were tunnels that would cause it to lose the satellite signal.  Not having my Garmin was a little unnerving since I can set it to keep track of current and overall mile averages.  With a watch, I have to do on the run math and in the later miles, my brain doesn't calculate nearly as quickly or accurately as I would hope. 

Within a couple of miles, I knew I had to use the portapotty.  I prolonged it hoping I could get away with not stopping but I soon realized I couldn't continue for 24 miles this way.  I lost about a minute or two.    I saw a bootcamper cheering for me around mile 4 which surprised both of us! 

After a longish ascent that wasn't too bad, we headed down and down and down to Seward Park.  I noticed a lot of male runners were more focused on women runners than the race they were running.  Various comments about the women around me floated in my ears as I passed them.  I'm pretty sure I was called a jolly green giant as I passed a very petite yet beautiful woman.  I guess I do look "large" next to these cruel women.  Whatever.  I passed the guys and they couldn't keep up so eat my green beans, boys!

Turning left at Seward Park brought us to a long, flat portion run along Lake Washington.  American flags lined the course along with pictures of fallen soldiers.  Any joy I had was set aside as I looked at the faces of soldiers that gave their lives protecting our freedom.  It was hard to keep from crying and put the race into perspective. 

We made our way along Lake Washington, the sun shined down on us and we really couldn't have had much better weather.  I stayed just in front of the 1:45 half marathon group for much of this stretch.  At mile 9 after ascending up a steep yet short hill, marathoners veered right to cross the Mercer Island Bridge while half-marathoners entered a tunnel to the left.  Suddenly the course seemed fairly empty of runners as the majority of people were running the half marathon. 

After the turnaround at the end of the bridge, I saw all the runners behind me.  The 3:30 group was closing in and just past mile 11, I heard Terry's voice and a pack of runners overtake me.  I had told David Spooner my plan was to race until my legs blew up.  I had to give it another try despite how I felt at Sequim. 

As we entered the tunnel, a sauna-like atmosphere swelled around me, noises and heat overtaking my senses.  My shirt quickly elevated to my armpits as I worked my way down the tunnel.  Tunnels are terrible places to have bands.  Doesn't anyone know this?  Running the Rock N Roll marathon sounds like it would be a huge party but for me, I barely hear the music as we go by the stages fairly quickly.  The cheerleaders were motivating and I loved the spectators cheering. 

As we exited the tunnel, marathoners were approaching mile 14 and the half marathoners were at 11 miles.  We could see Safeco Field directly in front of us and then we headed into the streets of Seattle.  I love this portion of the course because there are so many spectators and distractions that the miles seem to go by faster.  The downside to this part is that the roads have more hazards and you may trip over something while waving to your adoring fans.  A half marathoner husband and wife were running alongside me and he told me I was making him look bad in front of his wife since I was really 3 miles in front of him.  Another couple were running as part of their honeymoon.  

Soon the marathoners were directed away from Qwest Field as the adrenaline rush of the half marathoners filled the air.  We ran along the Alaskan Way Viaduct, and as we approached a tunnel, someone yelled "Ginger!" and waved maniacally from the top of a building.  I still don't know who it was and I just waved but didn't have the extra lung capacity to yell, "Who ARE you?"

The next part of the course is uphill.  It is cruel.  It is evil.  It holds you in it's grips and throws you to the pavement.  If you've raced this course, you KNOW I'm not lying.  I know it's maybe one or two miles but it feels like it's the longest hill in the world.  I had already seen leaders returning on the other side of the tunnel which means they are at least 5 miles in front of me, probably more like 7 miles.  I'm positive I'm running 10 minute miles.  I emerged from the incline, crossed the bridge over Lake Union and it felt like Christmas at the turnaround.  Suddenly my legs felt the heaviness of the pavement lift and by the middle of the bridge, I began to smile.  Yeah, I'm the goofy runner who sometimes smiles and you wonder if they have a mental condition.  I had "runner's high" or whatever you'd like to call it.  For two miles, I couldn't stop smiling as we headed back down into Seattle.  I watched runners coming at me facing their own demons as they pushed themselves up the hill.  I told a runner next to me that we were on the happy side of the barrier. 

Okay, two miles later and I was back to the reality of 20 miles of running on pavement.  We headed back to the Alaskan Way Viaduct and numerous runners were stopping to grab their hamstrings, calves, glutes, etc. and I tried not to think how much they must be hurting.  Mile 23 finally arrived and Qwest Field sadistically is placed next to the course.  Marathoners run past the finish area - ugh - and head out to what feels like the Sahara Desert.  With one S because this is not sweet.

These last few miles are a test to see who is the least cranky.  I didn't win but I didn't come in last, either.  About mile 24.5, a woman runner said to me or anyone who would listen as we climbed a hill, "Are you freakin' kidding me?  This is crap!" I'm pretty sure she was referring to the hill we had to climb to get to mile 25.  I will admit that I had taken 10-30 second walk breaks at various hilly points in the marathon.  It's hard on my psyche to take a small walk break in the last mile of a marathon but I did it anyway.  I get to the mile 26 sign, the ground has leveled and with everything I have, I force my legs to sprint the rest of the way to the finish.  The downhill and the crowds pulled me faster and faster.  A photographer rolled out from the crowd and took my picture and then Tony Seabolt's face appeared behind the camera.   I rounded another corner and there was the finish line!  3:37!  I was 9 minutes faster than NODM! 

I got my medal, water, smiled for the camera, and found Jeff who finished the half in 1:51, a personal best for this course.  We went through the recovery area, music blaring with Everclear.  After relaxing for a little bit, we made our way out of the recovery area and began our walk back to the Holiday Inn, about 3 miles away.  Our plan was to walk unless we were injured.  Thankfully both of us felt good and had no problems walking that far after our races. 

I have felt suprisingly good since the race, a far cry from how badly my quads hurt after NODM.  My next marathon is on September 25th, just under 12 weeks from now.  I hope to be in better racing shape by then and will be doing shorter races in preparation for the big day.

Next up:  Dirty Dash 10k!

Here are my mile splits:
  1. 7:31
  2. 7:50
  3. 8:35 (portapotty stop)
  4. 7:45
  5. 8:24
  6. 7:26
  7. 8:06
  8. 8:16
  9. (and 10) 16:26 - got distracted at the 1/2 and full split
  11. 8:00
  12. 8:16
  13. 8:40
  14. 7:11
  15. 9:56 -these last 2 miles were off for sure
  16. 8:20
  17. 8:50
  18. 8:59
  19. 7:36
  20. 8:26
  21. 8:30
  22. 8:32
  23. 8:29
  24. 8:26
  25. 7:44
  26. 11:18 - including .2 to finish
3:37:43 finishing time
8:18 per mile average