Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon race report

I LOVE THIS RACE. There, I've said it. I love it. I love everything about it. Sure, I'm now blasé about the start of races -- where I used to love the nervous excitement of the corrals, I'm now mainly bored and just want to get going. But, boy, I love Rock 'n' Roll Seattle!
It started with the excellent marketing to the 5-year legacy runners. Yeah, I'm one of 'em. Here's proof.
Rock 'n' Roll Seattle legacy running banner
Yep, that's me.
Seattle Rock 'n' Roll legacy runners
And I even love working the expo -- it's fun to talk to runners, from "yeah, I run a lot of races" to "it's my first time!", and to share stories about training and strategies for race day with complete strangers. I worked the Friday day shift in the Brooks Cavalcade of Curiosities -- the last ever stop on the Cavalcade tour -- in the "ticket booth" where I handed out our scan 'n win cards, explained the contests, cheered for the show, and was generally Very Perky, nonstop, between 10am and 3pm.
John stopped by at one point to give me a pair of VIP wristbands (sweet!), and I promised, in return, to give a good post-race interview. :)
Time passed pretty quickly -- and suddenly it was 2:30 and Suz had arrived. She went off to have her gait analyzed and to look around the expo while I "trained" my afternoon replacement. Sweet!
Then at 3, I was free! I picked up my sweet legacy bib... green, rather than the standard blue (half) or yellow (full). I also picked up my "5 year runner" shirt -- kinda funny, because it wasn't a "5 year finisher" shirt. But I guess they can't give that to you before the race even starts!
I then bought my obligatory pint glass and pin (yes, every race...), and then Suz and I headed out to the expo. I was a little scattered -- I knew I had things I needed to do, but hadn't really thought them through. I did want to register for next year (always a good deal at the expo, and, yes, of course I'm running in 2014!). I also wanted to pick up the Rock 'n' Roll Seattle 2013 charm (though finding the booth proved challenging!). And other than that... just wander around.
It feels like the Rock 'n' Roll Expo is actually getting bigger and better -- there is very little of the "random booth full of crap" sort of booth you see at a lot of races. I'm guessing that booth fees are really high at RnRs, but it still does keep the quality up! Suz said it was "kindof overwhelming" -- which is exactly why I wanted her to come down and see it. :) Well, that and to try a bunch of different nutrition and hydration options.
After the expo Suz and I both rode the bus uptown, where I met up with Wil for a pre-race Manhattan at the Whiskey Bar. Ahhhh. Alcohol is full of carbs, right?
On race morning we got up on the early side, as usual, knowing that we would have the VIP area to relax in. We drove to the west side of lower Queen Anne, parked in about 45 seconds (lucky!), and then wandered over to the center.
Space Needle
I LOVE that the race now starts and ends at the Seattle Center. It's the perfect place to stage the event -- plenty of bathrooms, green space, covered areas, and even a Starbucks. We were there really early -- it wasn't quite 6am for a 7am start -- so we got into the pen, had a coffee (Wil) and an orange juice (Sunny), and just sat down. The morning was beautiful -- a slight chill, but nothing much if you were in the sun. And you could tell the day was going to be perfect.
Wil before Rock 'n' Roll Seattle
Wil gets his VIP race face on before the race
Still, we got a little restless, so we headed out for a little while to walk through the Armory. We made a pitstop there, where I ran into my colleague Ryan, who was about to run his first half marathon. I tried to be extra chipper -- I remember how scared I was when I ran my first! -- but he seemed like he was going to be okay.
VIP flowers -- yes, those are records
We then decided to head back to the VIP area to sit and relax a bit more. At 6:45, the elites were called assembled to head over to the start line. Coincidentally, WE had just got up to head over. So there was this weird little, "um, no, not us... sorry" moment. Well, okay, no one had that thought but us, but it WAS funny.
We made our way over to the Brooks VIP Porta Potty -- again, so fabulous! -- and chatted with the crew for a few minutes. Then it was time to make our way into the corrals. There was the usual crush, but we just settled in and entered when the corral moved forward. Somehow we ended up right in front of Jess and right behind Tineke. And then, especially oddly, the race just sorta started. I mean, yes, there was a little of the "corral shuffles forward"... but then, waaaaay before the start line, we started running. Wil said, "Um, are we starting?" And we broke into a run.
obligatory pre-race photo, with needle
The course had shifted a little -- we started right in front of EMP, and then ran under the Monorail all the way down 5th Avenue to the International District, around the corner on Dearborn and over to Rainier Avenue. I was mentally preparing for THE HILL... but it never came. We ran down Genessee... including an odd little half block out and back ... and then along 43rd to the lake. NO HILL!!! Somewhere just before the lake we! saw the Dude, straddling the course proudly. Lovely, as always, to see him
Brooks rocker dude
hello Seattle!
Another thing -- the front half of the course was packed with bands. Every half mile or so. My favorite band was ... hmmm ... I can't figure out what band it was. But while we were in earshot, they played a Time cover (The Bird!) AND then went into a James Brown cover. Sweet!
Then we ran along the lake -- ahhh, pretty -- and past the long line of "wear blue to remember" folks.... each holding a flag and celebrating a fallen soldier. Which always makes me feel a bit weepy.
We headed up the horrid little hill to I-90, behind a grumpy man shouting WALKERS TO THE RIGHT (actually, fair.) Of course, in my mind, that hill happens at, oh, mile 9. But it's only mile 7.5. But the tunnel was cooler than some years -- at least, I didn't feel faint. And hooray for DJ Vodka Twist, spinning very cool music that perked me up for the looooooooooong ramp into downtown.
Not much to say about the ramp -- other than I am constantly surprised by how long it is. We hit the 10-mile marker right at the end of the ramp, and I said, "Only a 5K left!" and a couple of girls whooped.
view of downtown Seattle from the I-90 ramp
the Space Needle is still REALLY FAR away
The stretch up to (and then down, and then back up) on to the Viaduct was pretty non-eventful. I was just looking forward to running on the Viaduct -- quite possibly my favorite part of any race. I mean, I love love love the Viaduct. And I love running in the built environment, in places where one can't normally walk or run. Combine that with the gorgeous view and the perfect day, well, it was heaven.
Team Wil-Sun on the Viaduct
Then into the dingy tunnel, which makes me want to do "clean graffiti" like others have done (where they wash bits of the wall to create words, rather than apply paint). Not sure how exactly one would do that without risking their life, though...
Out of the tunnel, around the little corner, and then into that last, annoying little down and up to the finish. I was running past a woman who was complaining about "all the hills". What hills? There were very, very few inclines in this new course. I'm guessing she was a flatlander. :)
We started sprinting as we entered the finishing chute, shouting "God save the queen!" at the mile 13 marker and getting very strange looks in return. We saw John about 15 yards from the finish, waved, heard him say to stop, and I shouted, "We have to finish!" We crossed the line in 2:27:37, had a smooch, and tried to stand out of the way a little while John made his way to us.
Team Wil-Sun with John "the Penguin" Bingham
post-race interview...check!
In our "post-race interview", we chatted about the race, the fantastic course updates, the great bands, and of course the great weather. I was pretty endorphined out -- plus I do LOVE THIS RACE. John also pointed out the Brooks plane circling overhead with the giant Run Happy banner. Perfect.
After a few minutes we grabbed a quick photo, made our way through the finish gauntlet (medal, Gatorade, chocolate milk, smoothie), and then went to pick up our super sweet extra medal: the Pacific Peaks medal!!!
Ahhh, lovely to clank again. :)
Then up to the VIP area, where we saw lots of Brooks colleagues, had a breakfast burrito and a couple of mimosas, and just enjoyed the morning. The headliner, Hot Chelle Rae, started playing songs that sounded pleasantly familiar without my ever having heard them. Ah, pop music. The singer said, "This is pretty much the only concert where you have the perfect excuse for sitting down." Cute. After about half an hour we said our goodbyes, walked to the car, and went home.

Overall, another great race. Favorite random memories: Seafair princesses -- all wearing tiaras -- handing out water at a water stop; two Elvii chatting at a course split point; the elite bike support crew barking at wayward pedestrians; multiple "your mom" signs; multiple "zombie" signs; high-fiving cheerleaders; surprisingly few tutus; VIP "restrooms" (just porta potties, folks -- not even the fancy kind ;)).
Oh, and of course, some great new bling:
2013 Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon medal
2013 Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon medal

The bonus medal:
2013 Pacific Peaks medal
2013 Pacific Peaks medal
And -- I love this -- here's my Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon medal collection:
Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Half Marathon medals
collect the entire set!
You know we're already signed up for 2014. Who's with us???