Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Seattle Marathon - 11/28/10

Last year, before I had ever run a marathon, when I was beginning to think about running a marathon, I thought about the Seattle Marathon...and decided that I didn't want to run it. I ended up registering for and running CIM instead (a wonderful experience), and I ran the Seattle Half as a warm-up race for CIM. An acquaintance who runs a lot of marathons and has been a pacer for the Seattle Marathon and half told me that it's much nicer to do the half...the Seattle full is "horrible"! So I felt validated in my decision.

Fast forward almost a year. My Bellingham Marathon plans had fallen through, and I was trained for a marathon at the end of September with no marathon to run. I tried to find a good October marathon to substitute, but couldn't really come up with anything without traveling (and that just didn't seem practical). Portland, which would have been my top choice, was full and didn't allow me to transfer my half marathon registration to the full.

I believe I said, "I can't do the Seattle Marathon because that would stretch my training period out way too long." (Another eight weeks!)

However, the thought persisted. "Do the Seattle Marathon. Do the Seattle Marathon. Might as well do a difficult course before tackling Boston in the spring."

So, after I ran the Portland Half on 10/10/10, I wandered down to the computer center at the hotel, and before I knew it had made a hotel reservation at the Westin Hotel for the night before the Seattle Marathon.* Then I consulted with my mom and, perhaps surprisingly, she agreed that I might as well do it. (I never know when she is going to take the "go for it" side versus the "you need to rest" side!) I don't think I actually registered until later in the week, though. I faxed my registration from the office to avoid the huge online registration fee. (Really, it's a lot. Like $10 or more.)

So I was back in marathon training mode. Really, I never left. My main concentration was getting in enough long runs to maintain my endurance. Unfortunately, I did no speedwork between the end of September and the Seattle Marathon (except for the 5K and 10K races I did). That really hurt my pace, I'm afraid.

I really pounded out the long runs, though. I did 26.2 miles over two days on three consecutive weekends (September 17-18, September 25-26, October 2-3.) The Portland Half on 10/10. The 22.5 mile trail run on October 16. The Lake Sammamish Marathon (26 miles, it was a bit short) on October 23. A half marathon on November 7. Eighteen miles on Veteran's Day. Maybe all that slow distance hurt my pace too....

And then it was Thanksgiving. Thanks to our Thanksgiving week snow and ice (and bitter cold), I didn't run at all on Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday, but I squeezed out a few miles on Friday. The snow had mostly melted on Thanksgiving Day, but on Friday there were still a few melting icy patches on the sidewalks.

That was fully gone by the day of the marathon, though! Sunday, November 28, was just about perfect weather. It was cool (very upper 30s to very low 40s) but not cold and stayed constant throughout the day. There was no chance of rain in Seattle, and the clouds eventually broke a little bit in late morning and gave us a few rays of sunshine. Not too hot or anything, though!

The marathon started at 8:15 at the Seattle Center, about a mile from the Westin Hotel where I was staying. I got up about 5:45, made coffee, and then went back to bed to drink my coffee and eat breakfast. I was a little worried whether my chosen clothes would be too warm or not warm enough, but it worked well. I wore long Asics Thermopolis running pants rather than capris...I didn't need the extra warmth of the long pants, but I wanted to wear recovery socks and that would look goofy with with capris! I also wore my Lucy half zip top that I have worn in many races (including last year's Seattle Half and CIM), with a throwaway sweatshirt over it for the beginning.
At around 7:15 I headed out to walk over to the start. I was not alone...the surrounding streets were littered with runners walking, and occasionally jogging, northward. I got to the McDonald's across the street from the Seattle Center just as the half marathon was starting at 7:30. It was fascinating watching the start...I've never seen a half marathon from this perspective! (Usually I'm in the mob.) I heard there were 15,000 entrants in the half...don't know if that is right but there were a lot of people!

I (along with a number of others) decided to stop and use the indoor bathroom at McDonald's before heading on. There was a bit of a line, but it hardly mattered as we were warm inside. My wait, plus use of the bathroom, took about another 15 minutes. Half marathoners were passing by the entire time. In fact, there were a couple of them still in the bathroom!

When I crossed the street to the starting corral I decided to hit the porta potty, even though I had just gone. Might as well pass the time! There were tons of porta potties and since there were far fewer marathon entrants, the lines were practically non-existent. I stood in a short line just to stay near the starting area, but if I had walked a little further I probably would not have had to wait at all.

I had hoped that there would be a 4:15 pacer that I could try to stay with, but I confirmed at the Expo that they were only have pacers up to 4:00, plus 4:45, which seems so ridiculous. Don't most marathons have pacers for 4:15 and 4:30? And if they are only doing pacers for BQ qualifying times (which is one of the things that was said), why have a 4:45? Oh well.

I lined up a little ways behind the 4:00 pace group. I had no intention of trying to keep up with them, but I figured by getting in that general area I would be running with people trying for a moderate pace, and that would help me with my pace.

While waiting for the start, I saw at least two people near me wearing Vibrams, and at least a couple of people during the race! (Don't know if they were the same ones as at the start, or different.) I also saw, somewhere on the course, someone running completely barefoot.

And then, at 8:15, we were off. I figured out along the course that I crossed the starting line almost exactly one minute after the clock, which made things convenient for calculations along the way. Not that I needed that, with the Garmin showing my cumulative time along the way.

If I had been able to achieve my 4:15 goal, I would have had to average about 9:45 per mile. With a first mile of 9:53, it seemed possible, but as I was hovering in the 9:50s and around 10:00, it soon seemed unlikely that could happen, though maybe 4:20 was a possibility.

We started out running south on 5th Avenue through downtown Seattle. At about 1.5 miles I ditched my sweatshirt on a pile of other dropped clothes. This picture is somewhere downtown after the sweatshirt was gone.

Just past the two mile point we went into the express lane tunnel onto I-90. I don't like the tunnel because there is no Garmin signal and it messes up my timing. Mile 3 was okay but miles 4 and 5 are all goofy and have to be averaged together. Mile 4 was 11:15 and mile 5 was 8:21; together they average about 9:49 each, which seems right.

That brought us to the I-90 floating bridge across Lake Washington. The half marathoners left us at that point to finish their last eight miles (which would eventually be our last eight miles) and we headed over the bridge to Mercer Island. In another tunnel on Mercer Island we reached the 10K point and turnaround back to Seattle.

Here I am on the return trip across the bridge! Honestly, I am running, not walking!

In examining my splits later on (much later), I determined that in the first six miles I was on pace for a 4:18 finish, with an average pace of 9:52 per mile. However, I slowed a bit in the next seven miles. Part of this can be attributed to a bathroom stop in mile 10. It was necessary, I knew a stop would be unavoidable (I have yet to get through a marathon without one), and I am not bummed about it. I only had to wait a short bit to get into a no-line potty, so I consider that a bonus. This stop probably didn't take much more than a minute. Still, my cumulative average pace at the end of thirteen miles had slowed to 10:09, which was on track for a 4:25 finish time.

Miles 9-13 were "out" into Seward Park, and the remaining miles up to 17.5 were the return trip. Seward Park is actually a very pleasant run (I'm sure I ran through it in the Rock 'n' Roll Half), and I was doing well despite the bathroom stop. I saw the mile marker for mile 16 shortly after we got into the park, and the return to that point was a significant landmark in my mind.

Somewhere after the halfway point I started to feel an "urge" for the bathroom, and I wasn't sure it would be a good idea to try to hold out for the finish. This wasn't important enough to me to risk some kind of embarrassing disaster. When I saw an empty porta potty at the end of mile 14, I jumped in. And I am really happy that I did.

So far in the race I had been dividing my mental race into 5-mile blocks, with a nod to landmarks like 10K and halfway. After I finished mile 15, my next mental landmark was that 16-mile marker that I had seen coming into Seward Park. Then I was planning on dividing it into two-mile blocks up to mile 20 (not that you can ignore miles 17 and 19). My pace was still slowing, thanks again in part to that second bathroom stop. Through mile 19, my cumulative pace was now 10:22 (for a 4:31 finish).

I am not good about race fueling, and I really need to try to work on that. I ate my first Gu after mile 8, and another after the halfway point. Somewhere after that, though, I started to feel a little nauseous and couldn't stand the thought of trying to eat Gu at Mile 18 (as planned). I did force myself to drink Gatorade at two water stations, and walked a few steps there to make sure I got it down.

After Mile 18 we ran easily along Lake Washington, and my pace for miles 16-19 are in the 10:30-ish range. After mile 18 we met up with the half marathon course, and soon began the hardest part of the race.

Mile 20. Short, steep hill up East Madison. I walked. This was the only part of the race that I walked, and I am happy with my decision. This hill was so steep that I really felt running would be like my dream of the gravity pushing me back. Walking, however, I felt strong and powered up that hill.

The next few miles were on very hilly Interlaken Boulevard. I didn't walk again, although my pace slowed measurably. Miles 20-24 were well into the 11-minute plus time frame. If I had kept that extra minute or so off those five miles I would have been oh-so-close to 4:30!

Strangely, although these miles were hard to run, I felt okay during them. Probably because I was running so slowly and not forcing myself to push hard. I had felt a lot crapppier around Mile 18. You know those thoughts..."why would anyone want to run 26.2 miles?" "This is really hard." "I don't want to do this again for a long time." (But I didn't say never!)

Miles 25 and 26 took us back toward downtown Seattle and finally we got some downhills to make up for all the climbing. I was too beat to pound too hard down the hillls, but I tried to let my legs loose and make up for at least a little of the time lost on the uphills. Unfortunately, I was only able to run fast enough to get back into the 10s, but not as low as I would have liked.

The Seattle Marathon is known for its cruel trick of one last hill on Mercer before the finish line. I was expecting it, so I didn't let it bother me. I turned into Memorial Stadium and pounded--well, trotted--across the finish line with a smile on my face.

I really did feel just fine as I crossed the finish line. (Obviously, I hadn't worked hard enough to feel like I'd been hit by a train.) Chip time 4:38:34.
I was still smiling for the post-run picture.
I stopped to email Rod and call my mom to tell them I was finished. By the time I did that, I still felt okay but my legs had started to turn to cement. I don't know if I would have been able to avoid that if I'd just kept walking around!

I hobbled into the finisher's area and the first thing I saw was the Seattle Massage tent. Yup, I got myself another massage. I know it's not the best thing to get massage right after a marathon but it felt good!

By the time I was done with that I went to look for post-race goodies and found almost nothing. I did get a piece of banana and a cup of hot chocolate (kind of wish I'd had two, it was good!). There weren't tons of samples and giveaways like last year. I don't know if they just didn't exist or if they were all taken by the half marathoners! Instead, I did a little more shopping in the Seattle Marathon shop.

Finally, I headed outside and found the bus to return me to the Westin Hotel. Because of the race route going through downtown, the bus had to take a convoluted route through Queen Anne, and for a lot of time we were actually going away from downtown Seattle! I briefly wondered if I was on the right bus. (I was, of course, the Westin was the only shuttle destination.)

Finally I returned to our hotel room, where I took a shower and put on a new pair of recovery socks (I.Love.Them.). Then my mother and I went down to the lobby, where we ate a very late lunch of bar food, then checked out a Christmas tree display that was being set up in a ballroom on the fourth floor (where the expo had been the day before!).

Later that evening we ordered pizza from room service for dinner, plus two desserts. Yum.

We spent the night on Sunday, then had to get up pretty early Monday morning so I could get back to work. I had enough time to back up to the 4th floor and check out the magnificent finished trees. Then I got coffee from the hotel coffee shop and got us two "free" scones using the $5 credit we earned by declining housekeeping services in our room on Sunday. (Thus participating in Westin's scheme to save costs by screwing housekeeping staff out of work.Smiley)

Here are a few of my favorite trees...there were about a dozen overall.

Time for Christmas.
Northwest Christmas...with crystals for raindrops!
This one has a musical theme.
Christmas around the world.
This one is based on the movie, A Christmas Story.
This one is my favorite, "Classic Christmas Memories." Here is a close-up below!
All in all, I am happy with how the Seattle Marathon went. I would do it again, although probably not next year because I have other things in mind for the fall. I might do the Seattle Half, though...but I guess there's plent of time for those decisions!

*Much later, only about a week before Thanksgiving, I added Sunday night to our hotel reservation so my mom would have a hotel room to hang out in while I ran, and I would have somewhere to come back and recover.


Marie said...

Kristin. You are simply AMAZING.

lindsay said...

fun christmas trees! i probably would've taken the $5 credit too, because i wouldn't have thought about the fact that they're cutting back on staff-pay. now that you mention it, $5 is not worth someone's job!

congrats on toughing out the race. my first thoughts are that perhaps the extended training cycle + "LSD" runs (and not speed) were the biggest factors in holding you back. i know "overtraining" gets tossed around a lot and we mortals tend to think "oh, that's not me, it's not like i'm running 140 mile weeks" but it can happen to us! looking back on my past year, i think that's what happened to me and i was barely running 40mpw. anyway, take some rest! enjoy some cross-training for another week or two before ramping up for BOSTON!

Laura said...

I like your bridge pic and the commentary - I HATE when they catch you at that weird point in your stride where it does look like you're walking. I swear that's like every race picture I have. Love the finish pics though - congrats!