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

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