June 29, 2009

Seattle Rock n Roll Marathon (part 2)

Time to get started. So our group included Tami and myself running the full marathon, and David, Alyssa, Cherie and Wendy running the half marathon.When we signed up for the run, we were asked to predict our finishing times, and you were given your corral assignment based on your best guess. There were about 35 corrals of runners, so the start line went on for blocks. Since they were staggering the start, it would take about an hour for the final runners to cross the start line. This was an added benefit to anyone late to the start, though it meant a lot of weaving between runners.

David and I ended up starting together in corral 7, and the women decided to start together as well. Cherie and Wendy had decided to run together the whole way, and I think they had the best time of all. As David and I stutter-stepped our way toward the start line, we wished each other well and disappeared into the mass of runners. We both had time goals in mind, and we were prepared to run solo at our own pace. We ended up running together for parts, losing each other at water stops, then reconnecting down the road. This was David's first half marathon, and he ended up running a terrific race.

The course started in Tukwila and headed north to Lake Washington. We spent three miles along the water's edge enjoying the views and the shade the tunnel of trees provided. The day started in the upper 50's but would reach the upper 70's, so any shade was relished. Folks saw eagles and the out-of-towners marveled at the view of Mount Rainier.

At mile 9 the course split and those doing the full marathon ran onto the I-90 bridge for a 2 1/2 mile out and back, while the half marathoners turned left toward the finish line. I was already feeling a little more tired than expected. I had a time goal of four hours and I decided to run a bit faster pace in the first half in hopes of building up a little time cushion. After leaving David and the shaded lake shore for the first of three out-and-backs on the bridge, my pace and energy waned a bit.

There were no bands on the bridge, but at the turn around there was music blasting. As I reached the turn, the end of Michael Jackson's Thriller was playing. You know, the part with the great Vincent Price laugh. I tried to replicate it, but didn't have the lung strength to push out a worthy cackle.

The bridge led to the Mount Baker tunnel where we rejoined the half marathoners. I was really looking forward to the shade, but the tunnel was a sweatbox. Those runners can really throw off some heat. There was also a band in the tunnel, so it was a wall of sound and heat.

We followed the express lanes past the finish area to downtown Seattle. As we passed the halfway point, I checked to see how I was doing for time. I had about a four minute cushion which was right on schedule. We headed onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct where we split one last time with the half marathoners. The last bail out point. Cherie and Wendy actually waited for Tami so they could cheer her on as she made her turn north.

The second half of the marathon was not as scenic as the first, and Tami and I were kind of dreading it. There are some great views from the Viaduct, but we had run on it several times previously so it wasn't as inspiring as it would be for out-of-towners. Running along the highway also meant less spectators and bands. And no shade.

What we did have was frequent, well stocked water stops. Each water stop seemed to go on for blocks and there was never any problem finding a volunteer with a cup to offer. After about mile 9 I made it a habit to put as much water on me as in me, wetting down my hair at each stop to try to stay cool.

Climbing the hill at mile 17, my glutes, hamstrings and calves tightened up pretty badly. I tried to take it easy, worried that I was going to pull something. They stayed tight as long as we were climbing, but nothing snapped. The last major hill was around mile 20, so after that I was able to maintain pace with flagging energy, using gravity as my friend until mile 24. We passed the finish line again for one last two mile out and back. This is where things started to fall apart.

I took a walk break. And then another. I was tapped out. My stomach had been feeling queasy for most of the second half, so I had stopped taking in gels and sometimes skipped the sports drink. I made the turn and headed toward the last hill, deciding to walk the first half of it. Another runner pulled up alongside and started walking with me. He pointed to the other side of the road. It was the 4:00 pace group. He said "Hey, as long as we stay ahead of them, we're good." Just what I needed to hear.

I started running again and it wasn't long until we were turning toward the finish line. As I came down the onramp I heard my name and saw my running group cheering me on. I went from struggling to smiling in a couple of steps.

A block later we made a U-turn and entered the finishing chute. I heard my name again and I had one more big smile for my wife cheering me on. I pressed on to the finish and just tried to keep it together. All the good and bad of the year started welling up along with the physical exhaustion of the day, and by the finish I started sobbing. I crossed the finish line physically and emotionally spent.

I couldn't catch my breath and my queasy stomach couldn't be held back any longer. I threw up a little. One of the medical staff grabbed me and took me into the tent. They gave me some water and a salt packet to put under my tongue. They wanted me to lie down, but that sounded like a bad idea. They said either lie down or start walking, so I started walking. They had a couple of their staff follow me to make sure I was all right. From start to finish it was a well run operation.

My final time - 3:57:40. This is a 21:32 improvement over my personal best, so I am really happy with the time. Tami also shaved 12:10 off her time in San Diego, Alyssa beat her time from Leavenworth, and David turned in a stellar time of 1:53:21 in his first half marathon.

The marathon was another great experience. I ran a pretty strong race and pushed myself to another edge. I was again impressed with the Rock n Roll marathon franchise. The runners were well supported from start to finish. We'll probably be back for more next year, hopefully with a new route to explore.


matt said...

Great Run! Congratulations!

tami said...

Wear that medal proud! You earned every ounce if it!