June 29, 2008

Seafair Half Marathon

It was a tough day.

The Seafair Half Marathon had a new route this year. The marathon has been around for a few years, and the past routes have run mostly around Bellevue. This year, they renovated the course substantially with it starting in Seattle, running through Kirkland and finishing in a downtown park in Bellevue. This meant that all participants were able to cross Lake Washington on the 520 floating bridge. This opportunity is what hooked us.

If you are not from the Seattle area, you may not have seen a floating bridge before. Lake Washington is quite deep, so a floating bridge is a somewhat novel solution. There are actually two floating bridges across Lake Washington, and the Evergreen Point Floating bridge (520 bridge) is the longest floating bridge in the world. There are wonderful views of the Arboreteum, Lake Washington, Mercer Island, and on a clear day Mount Rainier. This is the first time in 24 years that the bridge has been closed for a race. Again, we were hooked.

We have had unseasonably warm temperatures the past couple of days, and today promised to be a near record breaker. The highs were going to be pushing 90 degrees, and we just aren't seasoned for running in these kind of temps. It was pretty clear that we weren't going to be setting any new PRs, and we were just hoping to enjoy the sights and stay hydrated. With memories of the Chicago Marathon meltdown last fall in our heads, we all wore fuel belts with our own fluids. I decided to carry a camera with me as well, to varying sucess.

The route started by Husky Stadium at the University of Washington. The Seafair Pirates were there to lead us out. We started a bit late, but at 7:15am the Pirates shot off a canon and we were underway. Within about a half mile we were looping onto the freeway. The bridge heads east into the rising sun, and sweat was pouring off my face within a mile. I tried to take it reasonably easy but there was no fighting the weather. Running across the bridge was a great experience, and I tried to capture some shots while I was running, but it was tough to do it justice.

Below is one from the Seattle Times

Four miles in we were off the freeway and heading into Bellevue. 84th Ave was wonderfully tree-lined, and a welcome break from the sun. I may have slowed my pace a bit to prolong the respite. The route wandered south along Lake Washington blvd with occasional water views, before turning toward Main St in old Bellevue. The wife was stationed there to cheer us on. She had run into friends from her hometown by chance, so there were a couple unexpected friendly faces to greet us. I was of course very warm and struggling in the heat, but was still doing OK. Then we hit the wall.

The course elevation map looks like this:

Here is the elevation profile my watch produced:

The hill at mile 7 that was a mere bump on the map turned out to be very long and steep. I would say it is the steepest hill I have run up, but in truth there wasn't much running going on. With my heart rate shooting through the roof I walked a good 2/3rds of the hill. My running pace wasn't much better than a walk anyway.

And it was up and down for most of the rest of the course. There was clearly some graphical smoothing on the course elevation chart. Fortunately we were running through neighborhoods at this point, and some wonderful Samaratins were out with their hoses dousing the melting runners at they went by. These folks saved our bacon.

The last three miles took us to downtown Bellevue. The full marathon course split after mile 11. I don't know if I could have made the turn. It was all I could do to run two more miles, and I can't imagine tacking on another 13 on a day like today. At the finish line it was clear a few people cut their marathon short, but fewer than I expected.

There was one more ridiculously steep (walking) hill at mile 12, but the last mile was a glorious downhill to the finish. The finish line was next to a beautiful downtown park, and the wife and friends were cheering us on as we came running down the chute. I finished in 2:07:42, which is about 6 minutes slower than my best, but all I could have asked for today.

It is just so backwards - I go to sunny Huntington Beach California and run in a torrential downpour with 30 mile per hour winds. Today I run in Seattle and bake in the sun.


Jenn said...

Awesome job, everyone!

Anonymous said...

I have to wonder if this was someone's first 1/2 or full marathon if they would think twice before doing another. It was a brutal course with or without the heat.
Nice job all! Another fab memory to add to the books!