Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Bloomsday - May 4, 2008

I'm just about to the point where the Bloomsday Run is long enough ago that I am having trouble remembering it. Such are the consequences of delay!

Luckily I already wrote about the trip to Spokane and all the events leading up to race day. So all I have to remember is the race itself!

I remember it was a Sunday....

Okay, seriously now. ('Cause this is such dead serious stuff. Writing a blog about my running experiences that nobody really reads but me.)

Okay. I woke up early, as planned, around 6 a.m. (so much easier in a hotel room, for some reason). The weather was supposed to be rather warm, so for the first time this year, I was going to be running without a jacket (or gloves, for that matter).

I probably ate some breakfast, a breakfast cookie and a banana, I think (this is fascinating stuff, isn't it?). Then I zipped down to the lobby for my pre-race latte, using the free drink card that came with the room.

Bloomsday is such a huge event—some 40,000 runners and walkers—that all the participants are assigned a color group based on their projected pace. If you've run Bloomsday in the past, your color can be based on that time, but if not, you have to prove your abilities by submitting a recent race time in your pace category. I was "yellow," and I worked to earn my place! Since I didn't have a past Bloomsday time, I sent in my times from three races—the Smelt Run 10K, the Tulip Run 5 mile, and the Shamrock 15K. (In each of those my pace was under 9 minutes per mile.) (I only needed one qualifying race, but I sent three in case they didn't like one of them. Or maybe just to impress them.)

The yellow group was estimated to cross the starting line about ten minutes after the official start. The only groups ahead of me would be white (elite) and brown (better than me). Behind me were green, orange, blue, lilac and red.

Around 8, 8:15 or so I headed out for my warmup run. I ran west on Main, parallel to Riverside where the color groups were gathering and the race would eventually start. Then I ran back and in the other direction past the starting point on Lincoln. I didn't see whether the elite runners were gathering yet.

The timing of a warmup run is always such a challenge. Ideally you want to finish it shortly before the race starts, before you actually cool down again, y'know? But you also have to factor in last minute bathroom stops and getting in line for the start. The bigger the race, the less last-minute you can be.

So around 8:30 I ducked into the hotel for my last bathroom stop. (This was probably about stop #4.) By 8:45 I was standing in a mob of yellow bibs, waiting. Around us the trees lining Riverside were strewn with clothing. (This is apparently some kind of Bloomsday tradition. The unclaimed clothes are later donated to charity.)

By 9:00 I was wishing I had time for another bathroom trip. (This is typical.) I had no choice but to hold it, and by the time I was a few miles into the run, the urge had gone away. (The question is, was the need to go purely psychological? Or did the liquid just evaporate into sweat as I ran? This is probably not biologically possible, but it really seems to happen!)

Then we were moving forward (slowly). At about 9:08 (I determined the time later), I crossed the starting line and the official race had begun.

I quickly found a reasonable pace, even though the crowd was still thick around me. It was probably a couple of miles before I could run my own pace without hindrance from other runners. Although, I must say, being surround by runners going roughly the same pace as me did prevent much of the passing and swerving that takes place in many races.

At almost every milepost there was someone calling out splits. The first was meaningless to me, since it was the time from the start and I still didn't know exactly when I had actually begun. But on each subsequent mile I did some quick math and was able to roughly gauge my pace for that last mile. It seemed like most of them were under nine minutes.

Now, a word about hills.

I have been running a lot of hills. I have been training for hills, and almost every race I've done recently has been hilly. (Whidbey Island? Robie Creek?) For some reason, I thought Spokane would be pretty flat. But turns out it has hills! We actually started out with a downhill pretty early in the course. That was pretty cool. But every downhill leads to an uphill (usually), and from mile 2 through 4.5 we climbed, with dips. Then another downhill, which was just a half mile reprieve, because just before mile 5 we arrived at Doomsday Hill. The name says it all! Up, up we climbed (a 6.5% grade), until we finally topped out at mile 6. The rest of the course was flat to the finish.

As I pounded across the finish line, the time on the clock was meaningless to me because I had no idea how delayed my start was. I think the clock said 10:15. So the amount of delay would determine whether I was under or over a 9 minute pace! A woman who was walking beside me as we filed through the extended finishing shoots said she thought we started (at least she started) about 9:08. And it turns out she was right. My final chip time was 1:06:56, for a pace of 8:58. I wasn't displeased with that. I was quite relieved to be under nine minutes!

After collecting my shirt and getting my picture taken in the park, I walked back to the hotel to meet my mother. I changed out of my sweaty running clothes (into jeans and the race shirt) and we left to find our cinnamon roll! The day before I had come across the most delightful French-style patisserie, called Madeleine's, that had large cinnamon rolls on display along with other baked goodies. Thinking that it would be overrun with runners, I made a reservation, but we got there early and easily got a table.

Ooh lala! The cinnamon roll was scrumptious. The scramble (of some sort, can't remember exactly what I got), was delicious. And my (presumably) nonfat, (supposedly) sugarfree toffee latte was the most delectable coffee beverage I've ever consumed. Either the barrista has magical talents, or the contents were not as guilt-free as I believed!

After filling our tummies we crossed the street for a shopping spree at Macy's. Many, many good deals were found! Sales galore, I promise.

Then rest time at the hotel. I needed it, and my mother is always up for a rest.

Our only other scheduled activity was dinner with my sister's mother-in-law and sister-in-law (who live in Spokane) that evening. Lani had walked in the race and the sister was supposed to, but got out of it--I mean, had to cancel--when she had a couple of injuries. We were meeting at the hotel then going to a restaurant called Europa.

I got ready a little early and took my extra time to walk over to the old Davenport Hotel and take some pictures. The first thing I saw when I walked in a side door was the candy shop (closed) where they sold the famous soft peanut butter brittle and other enticing treats.

What, have I not mentioned the soft peanut butter brittle? A serious omission. We were introduced to the soft peanut butter brittle our first night, when a maid came to turn down the beds while I was out. My mother sent her away, but she left behind two little envelopes of the candy. This candy is nothing like traditional hard peanut brittle. This is more like a delicate version of the filling in a butterfingers bar, coated with chocolate and broken into rough pieces. We intended to buy boxes to bring home as gifts, but since the candy shop was closed this evening I planned to come back in the morning before we left for the airport.

After a moment of drooling into the window, I walked into the lobby and my heart stopped. I have said, and I meant it, that it was so beautiful I wanted to cry. Our contemporary Davenport Tower is very nice and attractively decorated, but this is the hotel I was born to stay in. Or maybe I grew up to stay in, because my tastes are definitely formed by my experiences over the years. (Not that I've stayed in a lot of fine hotels, but I have walked through many, many lobbies.) This was a true grand hotel in the best European style, exquisitely renovated a few years ago. I strolled through, took a few pictures, and looked enviously at people who appeared to be guests there. I wanted to be a part of this too.

And I could be, for a few minutes this evening. I had some extra time still, so I sat myself down in the fireside lobby section of the Palm Court Grill (every European hotel has a Palm Court), and hoped a server would approach me quickly before I had to go. I caught the eye of a waitress, and asked for a glass of sherry. But... they didn't have any sherry. (Okay, not completely a European hotel.) I settled for a glass of white wine. And for the next few minutes, as I sipped my wine and looked at the fire, I was a guest at the Davenport Hotel.

Next year, perhaps, I will be able to stay in this part of the hotel. (Although I am still cheap. We'll have to see what the rates are. I got something of a deal on the Tower, so that is how I ended up there.)

The Europa Restaurant is basically Italian style, and also has a nice European ambience, although in a cozy way rather than grand. We had a nice dinner, a nice visit, then everyone was on their way. Back at the hotel, I stopped in the business center to see if the race times were posted yet. They were, and I was relieved to see that I squeaked in under a nine minute pace. My official time was 1:06:56 (8:58 pace).

The next day our flight didn't leave until midday. So I had enough time to get up early and go for a run. I ran down to Riverside Park and along the Centennial trail, then, after a bit of a misdirection, across the river and back the other side. It was a slow run, with a lot of stops to peruse my map! When I crossed the pedestrian bridge back, I had a spectacular view of the river and the Washington Water Company power plant. I borrowed this picture from someone else's travel website.

I did take my own pictures of a fun running sculpture in Riverside Park. We must have walked right by it after the run on Sunday, but with all the people I didn't even notice it at all!
After that it was all about packing, running over to the candy shop for boxes of soft peanut butter brittle (and a few other goodies) and getting a taxi to the airport. When our ordered ordinary taxi didn't arrive in time, the bellman put is into a luxury taxi which had happened to pull up to the hotel. Very nice, and the fare was just the same.

A quick flight home, shuttle to the parking lot to get our car, and the drive home took the rest of the afternoon. We finally got back to Everett just late enough for me to miss Pilates. Too bad, so sad....

The only thing remaining was looking for my pictures on the Bloomsday site. It's quite an elaborate system of searching the vast numbers of race photos. I managed finally find myself in the pre- and post-finish line mob photos, and actually picked out one where I was unobscured by other runners and actually looked pretty good. I also had a posed picture from the park afterward. Eventually I plunked over the money (credit card number) to order the digital versions, and here they are. The first is my cropped version of the finish line shot, to bring me out of the crowd a bit.

1 comment:

Laura said...

I love the color coded corrals! The New York Road Runners just started doing that and it makes life so much easier.

Great job in the race - under 9 minutes is awesome, especially for that distance.

Also, the statues in the park are so pretty! They should really have more tributes/monuments to runners :)