Friday, December 31, 2010

2010 wrap-up

What a strange year. I went from working at a job I hated (and a boss who was evil incarnate) to working for a company I love. I went from running 500 miles and a couple of races to running 450 miles and 10 races. Weird!

This year should have been a high mileage year -- between the two marathons and the nine half marathons, you'd think I would have run lots of miles. But somehow I didn't -- despite all the events, I actually ran fewer miles this year than last year. Of course, the fact that I didn't run A STEP between the Seattle half on 11/28 and the end of the year certainly helped that...

That said, it was a great year. I enjoyed the races I ran -- even the soaking wet "Scenic" half in Sand Point. And we survived a Goofy Challenge. (In fact, we've been feeling a little bit mopey that we're not on our way to Florida in a week or so!)

So 2011....

I would like to run at least 500 miles this year. I would also like to keep running half marathons -- get a few more states under my shoes. I know we'll run a half in Alaska, but perhaps also Louisiana, Montana, Nevada... and??? Then, of course, there's the "fun" goal. I want to run fun races -- Bloomsday, Bay to Breakers, BBFR... just to remember the fun of running.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Seattle Half Marathon Report, 11-28-10

Wasn't sure what to expect from the Seattle Half Marathon -- would I see anyone I knew? Would the weather hold? Would I finish at all? But I had a little breakfast and drove to lower Queen Anne in the dark. Got lucky -- found street parking just a couple of blocks from the Seattle Center, and walked towards the start.

Of course, upon getting out of the car I realized the following: 1. I had forgotten my sunglasses, 2. I had forgotten my rain shell. Oh well. So much for being prepared...

Got to the starting line with only 15 minutes to spare -- kinda awesome -- just in time to hear the national anthem sung and watch the marathon walkers head out. It was difficult to hear because one of the speakers cut out, but after the walkers left, a bunch of us climbed over the barriers and into the starting chute. The start was on 5th, at a point where there's a big foliage median, so most people just stuck on the near side. That seemed silly, so I and a handful of others climbed carefully through the bushes and onto the opposite side of the street. There I lounged in relative comfort, peeling off layers of "disposable" warm clothing and watching people on the other side crammed together. Very, very weird.

A few minutes more and a different patriotic song was sung for good measure, and the gun fired. Guess it's time to start running... Moved forward, started my watch, and took off down 5th Avenue.

The road was surprisingly uncrowded -- in part because people hadn't really spread out the width of the road -- and completely devoid of spectators. EMPTY. It was eerie -- felt a bit like a low-budget horror film, with everyone running down a city street away from some monster.

We ran up to the crest of 5th and then down down down through the International District and on to the I-90 bus lanes. Right before the lane something really odd happened. About 50 feet ahead of me a man suddenly fell. He got up, shaken, and kept running. The minute he was up, someone else fell in almost the same spot. Again, she recovered, got up, and then another person fell. It was if a poltergeist was sitting there tripping people. Kinda funny... even if I did approach the area thinking "Oh, please, don't pick on me..."

Ran out and into the dreaded tunnel -- much more pleasant without a shrieking band playing, I must admit. Or maybe just more pleasant because it happened to be the beginning of the race, rather than the end!

At the end of the tunnel we halfers turned down the windy little path and onto Lake Washington Boulevard, while the fullers ran an out and back on the bridge, and then an out and back around Seward Park. I liked the pleasant run along the boulevard, noticing that the big portable storage pods had blossomed into water stops. It was also nice to run along the same route for a while -- made me feel good and confident for a few miles.

After Leschi we continued on, passing the Ghost turnaround and starting to head up the hill. Just after the sharp turn up Galer (oof. hill.), some charming ladies were handing out tiny Dixie cups of beer. Who am I to turn down a sip of simple carbohydrates? Was surprised to find that the beer actually tasted good. Or maybe I was just relieved after too many cups of Gatorade...

Another turn, another hill -- this one Madison. I felt strangely turned around -- not realizing until we had headed back down and into Madison Valley where we were. We turned into the Arboretum for the pleasantest stretch of the course -- lovely winding streets, glorious trees, and autumn leaves.

It was about this point that I first ran into "the mom". The first thing I noticed was her "Ironman Idaho Finisher" shirt. Hey, you finish an Ironman, you should wear the gear. Heck, wear your freakin' medal. I'm all over it. Then I noticed that she was running with a little girl... like, 10? She was also running with a teenage boy. At first I was totally impressed -- the little girl was still running strong. But we spent the next mile or so near each other and I heard them talking. I don't want to badmouth anyone's parenting skills, etc. etc., but wow. I guess everyone has seen or heard of stage moms, and overzealous parents in the bleachers at little league games, so why does it surprise me that the same thing exists in running? But hearing a child say "Oh, mile 9, that means we still have 4 to go...", and having the mom reply, "Just stop thinking about it. It's not that far, and we're not going fast." I hope the little girl continues to want to run and to enjoy running despite it all.

Anyway, was relieved to leave them behind and continue on. Again, the course was fantastic -- all autumn leaves and quiet. Then suddenly we popped out the other side and ran toward a the Roanoke freeway overpass.

I started to feel pretty beat at this point. Not exhausted, but pretty close to empty. It was strange to see the Space Needle so far away still. But I plodded along, noting with pleasure that those concrete sound barriers next to the freeway work remarkably well...

Then down under the freeway again, past the former site of the leaning townhouse (anyone else remember that?) and then back across I-5 again. That suddenly made it feel as if we were almost done, so I got a spring in my step again. We turned down toward the Center, and over onto Mercer for that last down and up underpass. Lots of honking cars, which was nice. (Finally some support!) Then another couple of blocks up Mercer and over into the stadium. Fun to finish on the field turf. I suddenly realized I had been pretty much coasting for the last mile and decided to try to finish a little stronger -- clearly I had left something in the tank. Finished in 2:42:21 -- not my slowest, but one of my slowest. Still, it was faster than my time for the Ghost, so I'd achieved the basic goal.

After crossing the line I got my medal (very pretty brushed silvery thing), gave up my timing anklet (weird!), and picked up a space blanket from a pile. Wasn't quite sure where to go next -- but joined the zombie throng heading toward the exhibition hall. Out of the corner of my eye I saw some bottles of water, so went over and grabbed one, figuring that the rest of the water would be in the much touted "recovery area".

Made my way into the crowded, noisy hall, and felt immediately overwhelmed. Lots of people, lots of lines, but no apparent food or drink. No, that's not true -- I saw some fruit cups surrounded by a throng. Weird. Part of the problem was that the food and drink were in the same building as the reunion area -- making it nearly impossible to navigate. I considered joining a line in case it led to a bagel or a banana, but then realized I was a 5-minute walk from the car and a 10-minute drive from home. So I wove through the crowd and out the door and was soon home.

Overall the race was nice, though I missed the crowds of NYC and the music of RnR. But the course was pretty, the hills were manageable, and the scene in general was laid back. But the finish line was chaotic, the post-race food and water situation was a nightmare, and I doubt I'll run it again. Still, my main goal was to finish a double and move up to 4 Moon status in the Half Fanatics. Result!

Marathon Course Map

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Seattle Ghost Half Marathon Race Report, 11-27-10

We had that snow just before Thanksgiving, and it wasn't really until Thursday afternoon when our street felt safe enough to drive on... so I had been wondering if I would be able to get to my races -- let alone complete them. But on Friday night I laid out my running gear, set an alarm, and decided to stop worrying.

My race plan was simple -- meet a few of my fellow fanatics, finish the race, and save my legs for Sunday.

Arrived in the area at about 7:35 for an 8am start. Since it was bitterly cold, I decided to just wait in my car. At about 7:45 I headed across the street to the park and joined the queue of folks checking in -- and registering. Got my number -- 22 -- and said how nice it was to race my age. Snort.

We huddled around for a while -- chatting with other runners, a few fanatics, and eyeing the posse of maniacs, many (most?) of whom had already run two marathons in two days and were hungry for more. I think we had about 200 - 250 folks at the start.

The race director (Chuck? Scott?) explained the course -- and the turnaround at the far end, and then we were off. I settled in with a group of people who were moving about my pace, slow and steady. We were quite bunched up, but the path was pretty wide and even so it wasn't any trouble. We ran down to Seward Park and then around the edge before heading back toward the start line. At some point on the way to the park a man pushing a double-wide running stroller sped past us. I overheard a woman near me say "Well, that's sure a slice of humble pie!" and we all laughed.

Then the course pretty much followed the lake all the way -- moving up the hill and back down to Leschi, of course. There was an aid station at mile 9 (?) near Leschi, which had great treats. Who doesn't love pretzels and gummi bears in the middle of a run?

I had been feeling pretty good at this point -- running my standard 5:1s, walking the two small hills, and otherwise just humming along. The morning was cold but otherwise okay -- in fact, I started the race wearing a warm vest but left it back at the start when we passed through. I had passed a few people on the way out, most notably a group of teenagers who showed up that morning with their dads, sure that if their dads could run a marathon, they could knock one out too. Awesome!

Got to the turnaround and forced myself to follow my race plan -- even though it made my ego a little sad. It was hard to let people run past me -- not that I'm competitive, really, but I sorta wanted to say "I'm saving my legs for tomorrow!" Which is absurd, because people pass me all the time. ;)

But the sky had brightened, I had good tunes on my iPod, so I just enjoyed a brisk walk back to the starting line.... almost.

See, when I got about half a mile from the finish, I saw the group of teenagers, strung out in a straggly line heading in. I had passed them early on in the race, but they must have passed me at some point during my walk (though I didn't see them). Somehow I had caught back up with them, and it was clear that they were hurting. (And also apparent that they would be doing the half instead of the full...). I decided to test my legs a bit, and started to run again. And ended up reeling them in one at a time. So absurdly satisfying... even if it was a bit childish. (That said, when they came close to being "chicked" by three women wearing tutus, the boys sprinted in as best they could as well...)

After the race a few of us stood around chatting and nibbling on crackers and treats at the finish line... until we were told that the REAL post-race food was up in the parking lot. A very impressive spread -- chicken noodle soup, vegetarian chili, hot dogs, sodas, juice, beer, and plenty of other treats. But I knew I had a lunch date with Wil so I had a soda, some pretzels, and headed home.

The Ghost was fun -- and if I was looking for a supported run around that time of year, I'd choose it over the Seattle Half... a race with 250 folks is just so much more civilized! (Even if I did occasionally worry if I would come in last...) I do wish that there had been shirts, or medals, but the race helps the RD with a charitable donation, so I'm all for that.

Completing the Ghost marked my 8th half marathon of the year -- bumping me up from one moon to two in my fanatics standings... so far, so good!