Seattle Marathon Race Report ( or my 11th Marathon)

The numbers all go to eleven. Look, right across the board, eleven, eleven, eleven and…Nigel Tufnel (Spinal Tap)

 I made the decision after Boston to run a late fall marathon because I just didn’t want to train in the heat of the summer. I know my limitations and racing in early October has bitten me twice with heat. So I was going to take it entirely out of the question. The decision was made to run Seattle after brunch when we already had a few adult beverages. My sister-in-law also decided to run her first half marathon there as well. It was on.

Training went well except for some days when work responsibilities just made it impossible to run during the week when I traveled. I trained with the Pfitzinger 18/70 plan once again. I did all of my long runs. I really didn’t race much this year so I ran the Prairie State Half as a fitness test in early October. I ran in in 1:37:32 (missing the AG podium by a spot) and it encouraged me to shoot for another Boston Qualifier time. The entire family came with me and we stayed at our first Airbnb. It was a great condo in the heart of Seattle’s downtown, closer than the host hotel to the start/finish and cheaper. A downstairs coffee house put an exclamation point on it. We visited with my cousin and her family on Friday night for dinner who live out there.

Seattle View

My wish for cold weather came true. In fact it was my coldest marathon start ever at 34F. Fog was everywhere.  There was a very light zephyr of wind which made it bearable and made running in shorts comfortable. I wore my long sleeve Boston shirt over a short sleeve tech shirt. Running events are where I never feel like I’m bragging about Boston. The marathoners were last to go after the half marathoners. I saw my sister-in-law and wished her good luck as she was in her first mile as I walked to the race start. She was incredibly nervous/excited prior to race day and just wanted to finish. At 8:15 AM we were off. The course is mostly flat but the race director had said at the expo that “no one negative splits this course”. The course elevation did not look that formidable, but I took the man at his word and decided to go out a bit faster than my 3:28:xx qualifier pace.

 Mile 1 was slightly downhill so I tempered the pace a bit and it came in right at the planned 7:55.  After Mile 2 we prepared to enter the express lanes of I-90.   Hell we’re not that fast.   It was here I noticed a  few tents in the grass on the sides of the expressway from homeless people.  Not cardboard boxes but lightweight camping tents. I thought about throwing my long sleeve cotton shirt here over the fence near the tents.  They need it more than I do but it was still too cold at this point.  Off to our right was Safeco Field and CenturyLink Field.   No tailgaters that I could see for the Seahawks game later.  The half marathoners and Marathon walkers (yes you read that right) were separated in another lane when I noticed a woman face down and not moving.  It must have just happened because no one was helping her yet.  It was then I noticed frost had formed on the bridge we were running.   She was up by the time I passed and she had a nasty cut on her face and was being helped.  Better watch my footing.  The first timing mat was at Mile 4.5.  34:34 (7:41 pace).  Better back it off a bit.

We headed for an out and back on the I90 floating bridge (second longest on Earth) which heads to Mercer Island.   It was cool running that close to the water and being surrounded by it.

Mile 5 – 7:32 Ummm…back it off there killer
Mile 6 – 8:23 What…don’t back it off that much.
Mile 7 – 7:23 Did I forget what pace feels like…this is nuts.
Mile 8 – 8:23 But I had an excuse.  Had to leave some liquid in the porta-a-potty which were conveniently located with the mile marker sign taped to it. We head off the bridge and west along Lake Washington’s shore.
Average is 7:52 pace at the second timing mat.  Mile 8.1 and all systems go.

The next 3 miles are enjoyable but if there was less fog I could see more Pacific Northwest scenery.   Houses were along our right side and the race leaders were headed past us on the other side of the road.

Mile 9 – 8:07    Mile 10 – 7:51  Mile 11- 7:54 Mile 12- 7:55   I was glad to be slightly ahead of pace but could not figure out why pace was so erratic.  The race field is not huge and no one is running in packs.   I am not running with anyone as we are spaced out. Usually there are giant packs all running the same pace.
Mile 13.1  – 1:43:37 (7:55 pace)

It was here we ran around Seward Park. No roads just an asphalt path

A Wikipedia Seward Park photo.  The fog made it look way different.

Mile 14 – 7:56  We head north on the opposite side of the path and view the slower runners going the other way

Mile 14-15.  Good to see both feet of ground.

Mile 15 & 16  – 8:20 average.  I have to hit the portable again at Mile 16.  I need to figure this fluid thing out in future marathons because it’s costing me 20-30 second every time I stop.

Mile 17 – 8:02   Mile 18 – 8:02  Mile 19 – 8:01 Got the pace finally knocked trying to hold back for the next stretch 

It is about here I begin to run with a younger couple maybe in their late 20’s. We’re running the same pace so I try to stick with them.  She is looking stronger than he is and wearing a neon orange long sleeve shirt and slightly ahead.  We’re about to head into the toughest section of the course.   Mostly uphill from Mile 20-23.   Cruel.  Just cruel.

A look at the hill grading from 20 -26.2

Mile 20 – 2:36:58 Overall (7:51 pace) Holy crap.  As we make a left hand turn at Galer St (Mile 20.44)  The street goes straight up (5% grade).  It’s not long but steep. My muscles were temporarily overwhelmed and I walk about 15 steps up the first part and resume running. It was more the shock than fatigue.  We climb 135ft in the next half mile .  Mile 20 clocked in at 8:30
Mile 21 – 8:45 We enter the Botanic Gardens. Lots of turns and more uphill.  This would be a cool place to just walk.   I’m picking off people slowly.  Pass someone and find the next victim.   So I’m surprised at the pace here.  Orange girl and her partner are keeping pace behind me.
Mile 22 – 8:06 Still passing people.
Mile 23  – 8:32 The grade gets a bit silly here.  Strava calls it the East McGaw Street Climb.  Strava puts me in the top 10 for this section so I’m not fading.

Mile 24- 8:10 Almost home now and I haven’t looked at my watch in 3 miles because I don’t want to get discouraged.  Just run on feel baby and love that fatigue in your legs.   At the water stop which is uphill, I walk through it to get one last drink.  Orange girl passes me and yells to me “C’mon you can do this”.   I yell back, “I got this”.  I start running and pass her at the top of the hill…and never saw her again.
Mile 25- 8:09 There was a very short insane downhill on Republican St. that I brake a bit because it surprised me.  Almost home now.  A pacer passes me running by herself with no pacer sign.  Is she the 3:30 pacer?  For some I still have not looked at my watch since Mile 21 but decide to go with her just in case.
Mile 26 – 8:14 Uphill one more time as we head into Memorial Stadium and finish on the field.  I blow past pacer girl and see my family. Glance at the clock.

Pacer girl in green.  Still have no idea which pacer she is.

Finish time: 3:31:26   My third fastest marathon out of 11. 12th out of 97 in my AG.  72nd out of 466 Male masters (must be a destination race for fast old guys).  I’m good with the time due to the late hills on this course.  A flatter course might have been a BQ time. The elevation chart on the website was very deceiving since there is a lot of up/down in the last 10k. A positive split for sure and the RD was right. Garmin read 26.29 miles so I ran the tangents well.

I get a big hug from my son and it made me really emotional for a second.  My sister-in-law was shooting for a 3:20 time in the half.  I joked she needed to beat Al Roker’s time at the 2010 Chicago Rock n Roll half.   Turns out she had some ankle pain from Mile 8 on and I told her it was a big accomplishment to finish even if it was in 3:40 something.  She was mad just the same which makes her an official racer because of that kind of thinking.  The recovery area was indoors which was plus to get warm.  The drop bag recovery is cruel though because you have to climb stairs of the stadium to get it.  Just mean…..
There weren’t a lot of spectators on the course.  I should have known because my cousin and her husband who live here weren’t really aware of the race.  It’s a small race, only 1633 marathon finishers in total but scenery was very different for this Chicago guy (aka Flatlander).   This was a day that fit the Pearl Izumi motto: Endure and Enjoy


I’ve been away so here’s my White Rock report

It’s a new year.  I haven’t been writing much due to some outside stress in my life.  As I work to resolve it, I owe a belated race report.   In the meantime, I have been following all of my favorite running blogs.  I’ll be writing way more often.  2011 was a terrific running year for me.   I’ll recap my year and goals for 2012 in my next post.

Dallas White Rock RR

After a disappointing October marathon in Chicago, I needed my revenge.  Literally, fifteen minutes after Chicago ended a friend told me, “you may not want to hear this right now but you should run again real soon.”   He was right.    Intestinal issues, warm weather and back spasms at the halfway point of Chicago trashed my run.   
I decided on Dallas because I would have time to recover and get right back into top fitness without delaying it to spring. It was also inexpensive because we used points to fly and stayed at a friend’s house. Almost like a hometown race except for the time travelling.   Pfitz’s 8 week between marathons was used.  A piriformis issue flared after a hard 10k two weeks before race day.  But I was able to rest and stretch it enough to get back to healthy running after 8 days off.   My wife and I also have great friends that we had been promising to visit for two years.
My race really started with a change in my fueling.   I switched my energy replacement from Gu to ClifShots.   They aren’t as thick to me and I also wanted to avoid a repeat of Chicago.  I also switched my pre-race carbo load to rice from pasta.   Our friends are Cuban and we ate a wonderful pre-race meal of arroz con pollo.   
Race morning I got up at 4AM to the sounds of thunder and lightning.  I drove the 20 miles to Fair Park and was one of the first cars into the lot.   It was 5:30 and I still had two hours before the start.   I sat in the car a while and finished up my bagel/peanut butter/banana breakfast.  There were several indoor building open to allow for an indoor bathroom stop.   It also kept us out of the rain.   I got the start line about 20 mins ahead of time.  The flyover had been cancelled due to the continuing rain and low cloud cover.   I was in third corral from the front based on a 3:30 guesstimation of my finish time. 
Some facts about the Dallas course:  Start elevation 472ft, Max Elevation 627ft, Total Gain 430ft.   Hill ascents run from Mile 6 thru 9 and 20.5 thru about 22.8. From 22.8 it is all slightly downhill to the finish.
Temps were in the low 40’s and a mild N wind.  We were off at 8AM under a light rain.  The first mile always makes me anxious  as far as pace goes.  Usually a forward corral means you are running with others your speed.  Ah, the joys of running without a Garmin!   Suddenly I look at my watch and it reads 8:42.   Missed the first mile marker.   Have to judge pace on Mile 2.   My watch now reads 18:xx and no mile marker.  This isn’t good.   I start to look for Garmin wearers and ask a guy how far we’ve run.  He said about 2.3.   I continue to run on feel.   I start to panic when listening to another runners say to their running partner, “right on our 9min pace.”  Uh, oh.  More time passes as I ask another Garmin wearer.  The girl is unresponsive and I realize her headphones make me inaudible.    We’re running through downtown Dallas and hit an area with cobblestones and trolley rails. I ask another guy and he tells me 4.6m in and he hasn’t seen any mile markers either.   I quickly do some math in my head and look at my 3:25 pace band.  Very slightly behind pace but not horrible.  I avoided a too fast start at least. It turns out my first 5K split was 24:25 (7:51).   I saw the Mile 6 marker and hit my watch lap button for the first time.    It wasn’t until this time that I finally relaxed. 
10K split 48:27 (7:47 pace) Race Rank #479
We’re now running through an area of residential mansions.  The mile marker dilemma continued throughout the race and I could not monitor my mile to mile pace.  Instead I was forced to run on feel.  A benefit of not owning a Garmin is that I run on feel a lot.   It continued to rain for the entire race.  Mile markers would show up intermittently or be turned around due to the wind.   When one did present itself I would check the pace and see I was about 2 mins slow of a 3:25 pace.   
About Mile 9 nature began to call but I fought it off.   Mile 10 nature said it was time to sit down in a porta a potty and as luck would have it one appeared.   I’ve never had to do this in a marathon before so I knew it would cost me some time.   But running through it was never gonna happen.  Mile 11 we entered the loop around White Rock Lake.   Through 13.1m at 1:45:36 (8:03 pace) Race Rank#588.  I estimated it might have taken up to two minutes at my pit stop.  The first hill section might have accounted for some lost time as well.  It seemed like every intersection had a giant puddle we had to leap or run through.  I chose to leap and mentioned to someone next to me that I didn’t think we had signed up for a steeplechase.
By Mile 14 the exposed trail (read wind and rain)around the lake was getting to me a little and I had picked up my pace a little so I was brething heavier.   Suddenly my wife son and friends appeared.   It gave me a boost as the loop continues around the lake until Mile 21.  I did enjoy the views and would be a great place to do long runs if it weren’t in Texas’ summer heat!

Running downhill at about Mile 23 or 24

Mile 20 split is 2:39:41 (7:59 pace).  I’ve passed moved up 110 places since the half.  The Clif Shot station has Hooter girls…completely covered up from the rain/cold.   I’ve been stalking a bald guy in a neon green shirt for half the race now and I pass him here.   Legs begin to fatigue, but that is my only problem.  No pain or other issues.  I fight off the urge to walk through any stops the rest of the way.  The Dolly Parton hills appear but there are not overwhelming.   Just that they appear at Mile 21 of the course.   The last four miles are slightly and sweetly downhill.   I just keep the legs moving as fast as they will let me.   I pass a ton of people (which inlcudes half marathoners) and cross the finish line at 3:30:25.  I’ve passed an additional 89 marathoners in the final 10k and was only passed by 3.

I’m fully satisfied with my effort.   A tougher course than Chicago and remove that porta stop and who knows what might have been.   I loved the course, the State fair start/finish and even the weather.   Dallas also has one of the the coolest finishers stats sheet I’ve ever seen.  BQ can’t be far off now.   A news video of the day can be seen here.

Chicago Marathon Pace Goal

My motivational coffee cup.   I plan to drink out of it all week.   Yes, I’m weird.

The Chicago Marathon is one week away and the excitement is starting to build.  I’ll be honest, laying around last week because of a respiratory infection was depressing. It was also necessary.  If you’re gonna run a marathon, it’s a lot easier if you’re not coughing up a lung.  I finally got back on the roads this week and it’s a good thing because my lungs need it.   Slowly but surely I’m returning to form.  I’m not that concerned about fitness loss. Only psychological loss!   This week I ran 25 miles with a 12 miler scheduled tomorrow per Coach Pete.  I’ve put in 5 MP miles and a couple of sub MP miles to get the intensity up to compensate for last week.

The cold hard stats:
Pfitz’s 18/55+ has been good to me.
I averaged 51.2 mpw for the previous 8 weeks prior to the week off in the first week of taper.
My half time of 1:34:46 from four and half weeks ago has me encouraged.
McMillan predicts a marathon of 3:19:52 based on my half time
GMaclin predicts a marathon of 3:22:30 based on a moderate prediction and 3:26:59 based on a fairly conservative prediction
14 runs of 11m or more midweek
One 20m and two 22m LR’s at 8:52, 8:59 and 8:52 average pace respectively. I have the time on my feet covered.
My May marathon in Green Bay was 3:35:55 on an insanely windy day.

So I’m declaring an A goal of 3:25 BQ at Chicago in a week. Based on this year’s Boston registration, I think it would guarantee me a 2013 Beantown debut
The B goal is sub 3:30.  It would still get me a PR by 5+ minutes and I’d make a final assault for Boston in the spring.
There is no C goal.  Do or Do Not  There Is No Try.

If you disagree, I would love to hear your thoughts.

HELP Taper Time and Thinking Too Much

Notice the new Brooks logo.   My race shirt/uniform unfortunately will not be here in time for the Green Bay marathon.    I haven’t decided exactly which shirt/singlet I’ll be wearing but it will have some kind of anti-Viking logo which should get me some extra cheers in Packerland.  

One week left before race day.   It’s Saturday morning and there is no run scheduled.  What’s that all about?   There is a joke among marathoners that says, “I train for marathons just so I can taper.”  The reduction always comes as a shock to the system.   Energy returns.   I am no longer zapped and ready for bed at 9 PM.   The runs that are scheduled seem too easy.    My legs have started pushing marathon pace this week and I have to force myself to run slower.   Here are  my latest workouts:

Date       Mile  Time    Pace
05/06/11 5.1m  00:41    8:06

05/04/11 8m     01:07    8:26  Includes 2 x 1600M  @ 6:52 and 6:55

05/03/11 7m     01:00    8:34 

05/01/11 16m  02:20     8:45 

04/30/11 6.25m 00:50  8:03 

04/29/11 4m 00:33       8:07 

Too much time to think has been my problem.   Worrying that I can hold an 8 minute pace for the 26.2.   But my favorite podcast MarathonTalk, recently addressed the issue of doubt.  They advised to look back at your top 5 workouts during training.  It’s great advice.   I have done two long runs of 22 miles without a problem.  A 10m race at a 7:21 pace.  Shorts runs that feel easy at marathon pace.   All statistical data and logic tells me I’m ready to get the elusive 3:30 marathon time.

The race cannot come fast enough now.   Even the advanced weather forecast has a high of 60F and a low of 41F with a 30% chance of rain.  Scary how everything is falling into place.  I’m excited and anxious knowing that friends, family and virtual running partners will all be seeing how my race turns out.   It will be added incentive during any rough patches during the race.  

The Green Bay race is not as large as I first thought as there are only 5000 marathoners.  Half marathoners and marathoners share the 12 miles or so.   I have a really low bib number which I take as a good sign.   There are no corrals that I am aware of so I need to find out how the start is lined up.  I was also made aware of a potential logjam entering the players tunnel of Lambeau Field.  It is now single file because a couple of years ago a marathoner advised me he was blocked by three really large women half marathoners holding hands.   If there was a choice between losing a BQ and plowing through the people, he would be plowing through the women.   Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.