Moving on...to the race report!
One of the factors that seemed to define this weekend (the race part of it) was lack of time. I always seemed to be just a little bit short on time (except for the race, which took a little too much time, haha).
My mother was my race travel companion, as usual, and she met me at my house after work on Friday to head to the expo and our hotel in Tukwila. I got home a little bit later than I would have liked (about 4:00), and after throwing together a few last minute details we hit the road to Seattle. With traffic and such (especially around Qwest field) I didn't get into the expo until 5:30. I pretty much raced through it and at 6:30 we were on the way to Tukwila.
We actually got to the hotel without much problem, checked in to our room, and unloaded what seemed like vast amounts of bags for less than a 24 hour stay. Almost all running clothes and gear (including food)—seriously, the only non-running clothing I brought was a nightgown, a pair of shorts, and a tee shirt (which happened to be a souvenir shirt from the Newport marathon).
I had made a dinner restaurant for 7:30 at Grazie Italian restaurant near Southcenter, so we hustled onward quickly. It should have been pretty easy to find, but I had gotten some weird directions from mapquest, and we ended up driving around in the industrial wastelands for a while before I tried again and found some directions that made sense. Still, even though we made it to Southcenter Parkway, we couldn't find the restaurant amongst all the mini-stripmalls filled with mattress and furniture stores! I finally called the restaurant and they directed us back, where we found the restaurant tucked between Car Toys and the Men's Wearhouse. We were at least fifteen minutes after our reservation, but even though they were busy we got a table quite promptly.
I immediately tucked into the bread basket (carb loading, okay?) and ordered a house salad and Penne al Pollo (chicken, mushrooms, green onions, tomatoes and marsala wine). I ate about half the pasta and took the leftovers back to the hotel (where it was left behind in the room fridge). I didn't want to get overstuffed, for obvious reasons and also because I had eyeballed the dessert tray when we came in! We shared a Chocolate Decadence Torte, which had a layer of white chocolate mousse, a layer of chocolate mousse, and a base which I swear was solid dark chocolate. In a puddle of raspberry sauce. (Yes, this was one of the exceptions to my "no sweets" edict!)
By the time we finished it was after 9:00, late already when you think of the early hour awaiting tomorrow. This was one example of the lack of time I bemoaned...really only enough time to lay out my clothes and gear for tomorrow and try to get some sleep. Not nearly enough time to lounge around on the comfortable hotel beds (I had tested the mattress when we got the room, and I approved) and read the books and magazines I had brought along. (Way too much reading material for an overnight trip!)
With the original forecast of partial sun for Saturday, I had planned to wear my running dress and capris, and also threw in another sleeveless top as an alternative. But by the time I got home from work on Friday the weather had clouded over (in Everett) and seemed sort of cool and breezy, so I hedged my bets by throwing in my Half Fanatics (short-sleeved) shirt and matching hat, in case I wanted a little more coverage.
I had also, on Friday morning, stopped at Goodwill while I was downtown and bought a few (five) zip-front jackets that I could use for throwaways in races. I bought extra because I didn't want to go through the "what can I get rid of" routine again soon. This is so much better because I don't have to torture myself with trying to get rid of my "good" stuff (although I really should thin out my workout wear wardrobe someday). I raced home with my purchases, put them through a short wash cycle, and threw them in the dryer to dry while I was in court.
So after dinner I put the D-tag on my shoe, laid out all my clothes and bib, loaded up my waist pack with money and stuff, and pinned two Gu packets to the waist pack. I decided to try pinning them instead of stuffing them inside so that I wouldn't have to fumble with the zipper to get my Gu. (In retrospect, the flapping bugged my a teeny bit but generally speaking it worked well.) Instead of my gear belt I was going to carry my handheld with Nuun. I had been using the gear belt in half marathons just as practice for the marathons, but decided to go light for this one.
We also came up with a plan for my mother to meet me after the race. After the difficulty getting to Qwest Field on Friday, she did not want to tackle it on Saturday, especially considering that the marathon would still be in full fling when I was ready to leave! We decided that I would take a bus to Northgate, and my mother could pick me up there. I would just call her after the race to figure out the times. That way she could also hang out at the hotel throughout the run, rather than rushing out of there early.
I set the alarm for 4:40 a.m. It is amazing to me that I was staying in a hotel only a couple of miles from the race and I was still getting up at 4:40 for a 7 a.m. race. That meant if I went to sleep at 10:30 I might get six hours of sleep.
I didn't even get to sleep at 10:30 though, and I didn't sleep well even when I did turn out the light. My mother wasn't feeling too great, so she was sleeping noisily, and that kept me awake. Of course when I did doze off, any time I woke I had to go to the bathroom, so I was up and down several times. I finally fell sleep decently by some time in the early morning hours, although I remember dreaming just before the alarm went off that I was running a marathon by running laps around the hotel room!
Part of my reason for getting up so early was that the hotel was opening the breakfast room at 5 a.m. I went down there promptly at 5 and got myself a hard-boiled egg, wheat toast with peanut butter and jam, coffee and a small blueberry muffin (an indulgence). I carried it back to the room and ate while putting the finishing touches to my preparation.
Around 5:30 I headed back to the lobby to catch the hotel shuttle to the race start. Luckily (as it turned out) I decided to take one final visit to the restroom off the lobby, then I got in the line that had formed. There were about fifteen people ahead of me, and eventually, and least as many behind.
The word was that the hotel had a bus that held about fifteen people plus a van that would carry another eight. They had started shuttling at 5 (at least that was the plan), and the idea was that they would just keep going back and forth. Since the distance was only a couple miles, I am sure everyone thought they would easily make several trips. I (like the people around me) thought that leaving before 6 a.m. was plenty early!
But the front desk clerk kept getting calls about how bad the traffic was, and promises that they would be there soon, and we stood and waited. And waited.
I don't know what time the bus finally arrived, but it was well after 6. We piled on, squeezing in as many as could be seated and stand (illegally, I'm sure) in the aisles. It still seemed like we should have plenty of time to go two miles....
I had originally contemplated walking or jogging to the start, but I was unsure of the route and figured I might as well take advantage of the shuttle. As we crawled along and saw the sidewalks filled with walkers, it seemed that there wouldn't have been that much difficulty finding the way! I am sure that I was not the only one in our bus thinking that maybe I should have walked instead.
Most of the people on the bus had pretty high corral numbers. There was one guy in corral 1, and me in 6, and another guy who might have had a low number but had a jacket on; almost everyone else I could see had numbers in the 20's and 30's. So being late wasn't such a problem for them, as they wouldn't be starting until quite some time after 7. But for those of us in the front corrals, the time crunch was more severe!
About halfway along, the bus came to a stop and the driver said the engine had died, and we should get out and walk. I interpreted this as it broke down, but in retrospect I wonder if this was just the driver giving us the opportunity to actually get to the race instead of crawling along in traffic....Didn't matter, I hopped out and started jogging in the direction that everyone else was going.
In addition to all the walkers (and a few joggers) around me, I saw cars stopping in the street and runners jumping out. I think I am the only person from our bus who chose to run...including the guy in corral 1. I don't see how he could possible have made it there by the start if he didn't!
I didn't have a chance to put on the Garmin during this, um, warm-up, but I feel like I did about a mile on the road and close to another mile just getting to the race starting location in the Gateway Corporate Center. As I weaved around a few people in some of the narrower spots, I heard somebody saying something about "running to get to the start" to their companion. I suspect they were saying that it is a waste of energy. Well, I disagree with that. Even though needing to run to the start was not my preference, I always try to do a warm-up run before a race...even in a marathon (a short warm-up for that). I like to give my legs a chance to get through a 10+ minute mile before expecting them to go fast(er).
I try not to over-analyze how my legs feel in the warm-up. Sometimes they do feel light, which is encouraging. But even if they feel heavy, or achy, that doesn't mean I won't shake that once the race starts. I can't say that my legs felt especially light or fast on Saturday morning. My quads felt a little tight (and continued to for quite a while) and I felt some twingles in my ankle which luckily backed off once the race got going.
At the Expo on Friday I had ended up spending $150* and "earned" a VIP porta-potty pass. I didn't plan to do that, but once I made the decision to buy some stuff it seemed like I might as well. So, at least I have my stuff. I certainly didn't have time to find the VIP potties, or stand in any of the HUGE lines for the other porta-potties.
In fact, I didn't even have time to get to my corral. Even though I disrespected the Star Spangled Banner by continuing to move forward during it, the first race gun went off before I was near corral 6. When I did get to the entrance, corral 8 was already moving through. I did push forward a little more, and step over a rope, and ended up crossing the start line with the folks from corral 7.
Obviously that was perfectly fine. My only regret at losing my designated corral-companions was that I lost the opportunity to hook up with the 1:52 pacers (who would be in corral 6) and perhaps be pushed to a faster pace than my natural inclination. (For the same reason I didn't want to be too far back, behind 7 or 8 anyway, where not only would I have to pass people to go the pace I wanted, but also could be dragged into running the pace of those around me. Which has happened before.)
I really didn't have my heart set on any particular time goal (except under two hours, as usual), but I had got it into my head that if I felt really good I might try to manage sub-1:53 (which would be a PR). That would require about an 8:30 pace. Pushing it, for sure.
Mile 1 went well enough, coming in at 8:33. However, by mile 2 I had slipped into my default pace, 8:45. And I was already feeling the urge to go to the bathroom. Since I had missed a pre-race stop, it had been more than an hour and a half since I'd gone! Although I'd run through the urge to pee in other races, this seemed more difficult. By the time I was into mile 3 I knew I had to stop. I felt like I was running slower because of the need to go!
Luckily, since it was early in the race, there wasn't a line at the portapotty I soon approached, and I hopped in and out as fast as I could. My time for mile 3, with the stop, was 10:16, so I suspect the stop was about 90 seconds (which would give me a net time of 8:45 or so). Garmin shows "moving time" for that mile as 8:59. But in mile 4 I was back in a reasonable track with 8:45 again.
After the race was done I looked at the elevation chart and it is almost funny how my slowest running miles correspond exactly to the hills in the course. The first major hill was in mile 5, pretty much from start to finish, and my time for that mile was 9:21. Afterwards we got to go downhill in mile 6 and my pace reflected that, a very nice 8:28!
If I was disappointed in myself for anything, it was my performance in miles 7-9, the most perfectly flat part of the course and yet my times were exceedingly lackluster. 8:51, 8:58, 9:05, to be precise. This part of the course was also the most scenic, past Seward Park and along Lake Washington, so there is no real reason for me to have been so slow. Maybe it was just sort of that middle mile slump. This stretch was thickly strewn with Team in Training coaches (all of whom appeared to be good-looking men) shouting encouragement to their team members and pretty much everyone in general. They were saying something about taking advantage of this easy section before we got to the hill.... Somewhere during this stretch I ate one of the Gu's that I had pinned to my belt. (I never ate the second one.)
Around mile 8 I started feeling like I needed to go to the bathroom again, and even briefly considering making another stop (the same thing happened during the Newport Marathon; I resisted then as well). Luckily for me, the porta-potty I saw had a line, and I wasn't going to wait for that, so I pressed on, and by mile 10 the urge had receded.
Mile 10 was my slowest mile (except for the one with the potty stop). This mile included the other big hill in the race, as well as the I-90 tunnel. I am not quite sure if the hill was actually in the tunnel or not. Whatever, it took me 9:27 to get through that mile. While I was in the tunnel I lost the Garmin satellite signal, and I think I used that as an excuse to not pay attention to my pace. I really did not enjoy running in the tunnel at all, and was glad to escape! I wasn't sure if the loss of satellites would mess up my time for the rest of the race, but somehow it all got sorted out once I was back under open sky.
Once we were out of the tunnel there was another uphill, then a pretty steep downhill; the two combined for a pace of 8:55 in mile 11.
In a half marathon I mentally divide the mileage up into warm-up (miles 1-5), "easy" (miles 6-10) and the last 5K. My intent is always to put on a big push for the final 5K, but I think I only managed to fully do that in the Whidbey Island Half this spring. What usually happens is I start mile 11 and think, okay, one more mile easy and then I'll push for the last two miles. That is how it went this time. By mile 11 we were pretty much at Qwest Field (the finish), but we had to continue north to downtown Seattle and then turn back. Somehow I did manage to find that second (third, fourth) wind and push myself to 8:35 in Mile 12, then 8:32 in mile 13!
Mile 13 contained some of the same stretch as the Race for the Cure, which I've run a few times (but not in 2010), so I tried to pull up some of the 5K sprint to the finish energy that I've had for that. As you near the end, you turn sharply into the finish line area...although I must say (as have others) that the sprint to the finish is a lot longer than you expect it to be! That last .22 mile (I ran .12 over, which isn't bad) was at 8:02 pace.
I forked over the big bucks to order the digital picture package from the race, as there were more (and more decent) photos of me than usual. They are all from the finish area, though, so there is not a lot of variety in the surroundings. Unfortunately you will see that they also depict two women passing me in the final stretch! (Interestingly, they both had corral 7 bibs, which meant we probably ran approximately the same times in the race. In fact, I looked them up, and one finished in 1:59:44 and the other was 1:58:13. So we really ran the entire race together, even though I don't know them at all.)
Earlier in the race, as I passed by various time clocks, I had determined that I crossed the start line about seven minutes after the official clock. So I had told myself that as long as the finish clock read under 2:07 when I passed, I would be okay. I saw it said 2:05:22, and sure enough my watch said 1:58:23 (in the finish line video you can see me look at my watch—classic!)
After I crossed the finish lines a volunteer immediately handed me my medal and someone else gave me a bottle of water. As I got into a post-race photo line (the lines weren't very long at this point), I tried to get my phone out to call my mom and let her know I was done. Fumble-fingered me, I dropped the phone and the battery popped out. Luckily, even though I'd removed the protective case, it was fine once it finally rebooted (BlackBerries take so long to restart!).
I got my picture taken then wandered into the finishers area, picking up a couple of bags of chips and a granola bar as I went, as well as a space blanket (which I didn't think I needed, as I was so warm still, but would soon be glad to have!). Then I called my mom to let her know I was done. I had forgotten that I signed her up for text message updates—she knew my times** before I did! Then I finally made my bathroom stop. I stayed in the porta-potty a long time...it was my first opportunity to sit down!
Since it didn't seem like a good plan for my mother to drive downtown to meet me, we had decided that I would take a bus to Northgate and she would meet me there. I told her I would call her when I got to the bus stop, or on the bus. Then I wandered into the shopping area, thinking that I might buy something just to get a bag for all the odds and ends I was juggling. I didn't want to buy more expensive clothing, so I bought a guitar shaped fridge magnet for Rod.
A little bit later I wished I had bought clothing, after I cooled off and started to feel chilly in my sweaty clothes. But instead of going back and dropping another $50, I wrapped the space blanket around me and that was good enough to keep out the wind. I kind of wish I'd had a picture of me walking through Seattle wearing a medal and wrapped in a foil cape!
Unfortunately, the first bus stop I went to was closed because of the marathon. So I did another route search on my BlackBerry and saw that I should go to the bus tunnel station at Union Street. So I hobbled northward to Union Street. Just as I got to the intersection of 1st and Union a taxicab pulled up to the curb to let someone off. I seriously contemplated just taking the cab! But as I was considering that, I spotted the entrance to the bus tunnel so I walked away from the taxi. In the tunnel I located Bay A and, after only a few minutes wait, boarded route 41.
The bus ride to Northgate was pretty quick, so I ended up sitting on a bench for a while waiting for my mother to get through traffic and meet me. I was almost about to give up and go to Macy's to pass the time when she called me that she had arrived.
While I was waiting, I talked to another runner who had also caught this bus, a woman from Wisconsin who was working on running a race (of any length) in every state. She had a daughter living in Seattle who she was staying with. We chatted about various races in different states and countries, before she got the call that her daughter had arrived. She told me that she was 59 and looking forward to getting into the 60+ age group (where she would have a better chance of placing). What I would like to know is, why are all these women in their 50's asking me about my age group? Do they think I am in their AG? This is at least the third time I have had that conversation. Hmmph!
Anyhow, after my mother met me we went to Duke's for lunch then headed back to Everett. That was the end of my participation in the Rock 'n' Roll half!
Unlike many others, I did not take advantage of the bargain price to sign up for next year's race. Although I enjoyed it, I don't feel compelled to necessarily do this one again, at least not soon. Besides, I have other ideas for the date of next year's Rock 'n' Roll....
*I bought a Rock 'n' Roll hoodie sweatshirt, a hat, a gear pack, a Rock 'n' Roll onesie (for my niece) and three shirts that were not commemorative. And a refrigerator magnet.
**The text messages gave the actual time (e.g. 7:36 a.m.) and the split time (e.g. 28:57 for 5K). Splits were 5K - 28:57, 10K - 57:00, 9 mi - 1:22:11, and finish 1:58:23.