Monday, October 21, 2013

The Biggest Loser Half Marathon race report

For months, my pal Suz (a.k.a. The Long-Suffering Friend) has been running, and training to run a half marathon. Team WilSun recommended the Tinker Bell Half as a PERFECT first half, even if the time of year isn't ideal. But Suz was determined to run another race first -- a sort of "practice half" -- so she could assess her training, work out any kinks, etc.... All without the added stress of traveling to a half marathon.

So I looked at race calendars and spotted a new event: the Biggest Loser Half Marathon. The timing was perfect, it would be very first-timer friendly, and the early bird registration fee was a completely reasonable $35. I showed it to Suz and she agreed, so we signed up.

Fast forward a couple of months to race weekend. We went to pick up our race packets the day before the race. I was hoping the expo would be nice, but it was pretty mediocre. One or two local sponsors, the usual bib, bag, and shirt pickup. The only semi-interesting part was that they had speakers; and this being a Biggest Loser race, they had a few past contestants. Of course, neither of us watch the show, so the man standing on stage, yelling into aicrophine while lifting up his shirt to expose his less-than-perfect abs held no fascination for us. So we grabbed our stuff and left. 

Over a pint at the Blue Star we planned out race morning. Now, I hate being late. I hate worrying about being late. I'm that person who would just rather get to the airport and through security, thank you very much. 

So it's no surprise that we arrived at Gasworks Park just in time to get great parking across the street from the parking lot... right by the park, but not trapped in the lot or near the busy entrances. We had only been parked for a few minutes when the other spots on the street filled in around us. 

We sat in the nice warm car until 15 minutes before the start. Perfect! Then we made our way across the street and toward the start area. 

say cheeeeeese!

We took the obligatory pre-race pic, chatted with a few of the runners, and just stayed loose. 

Looking toward the start line ....

Suz looking ready to run!

In order to reduce crowding on the initial out and back portion of the course -- something I was very concerned about! -- they released runners in a number of waves, spaced a minute or so apart. They also had pacers in the starting chute, which (hopefully) encouraged runners to line up near their own pace. It seemed to work; I didn't feel as if we had to do all that much weaving at the start. 

the people on stage are, apparently, famous
As we got closer and closer to the start, we wondered who the various announcers were. I think we were suppose to recognize them as past contestants? 

Finally, it was our turn to go. Suz and I had settled on a 3:2 run:walk interval. I set THE LOUDEST WATCH IN THE WORLD to beep out the timing, and we set off. 

There was a tiny bit of clumping and weaving at the very beginning, but it wasn't too bad. From the very start, we stuck to our intervals, and just clicked through the distance. 

We ran out of the park, along the trail to Fremont, then across the Fremont Bridge. Then we started the bit I was dreading... the out and back along the Ship Canal Trail. But all in all things were okay. We kept up the intervals and eventually settled into our rhythm.

Beep beep beep, on we went -- hitting the unmanned turnaround (odd?), cheering for lots of runners behind us, and trading positions with a few other runners... orange polka dot, the camo girls, purple shirt... Then out along the Cheshiahud Loop trail, one of my all-time favorite runs. As we rounded the south end of the lake, we were heading toward a water stop when Suz said, "That girl looks like Meg." As we got a bit closer, we realized it *WAS* Meg. Pretty funny to see her -- and she was super excited to see us.

But there's no rest for the wicked, so we continued around the lake... even if I lost track of whether we were in a run or a rest and we had to get back on track after. Guess I should consider getting some sunglasses with a magnifying strip...

Around the loop we went, up the steep hill, back down, back up, lather, rinse, repeat. (If only we were allowed to run up the rest of the block on that first hill, then we could have skipped all the extra ups and downs!) Soon we were on the University Bridge, with its surprisingly long uphill... but Suz was a star and kept moving. In fact, we passed a number of runners on this stretch. Woot!

Then down onto the Burke-Gilman again, where we did the second out-and-back. They had police at the big intersections in the U District, so we didn't have a problem keeping moving. And before I knew it, really, we had run around the edge of campus and come to the turnaround... which was also unmanned. I don't know why that sort of thing makes me so sad, but it does...

We headed back toward the finish -- the "home stretch", albeit a long one. We stopped for a quick potty break at a pair of deserted porta potties, but continued on our way, discussing how disgusting hand sanitizer smells, but that it's probably better than the alternative.

We did notice that on the way back, one of the police at a key intersection was gone -- but we had no problems getting across 15th. Then on, on, on to Gasworks. We spotted a course photographer and Suzanne suggested we link arms. Let me tell you, it's hard to run like this!

run happy!

We were getting verrrry close to the finish at this point. Suz had been a total rock star during the whole race, but I could tell she was flagging a bit. Right as we entered the park, my watch chimed for a walking interval. Suz wanted to walk, I was going to let her... but a woman we had seen on the course shouted "jog it in! jog it in!". Suz said, "Yeah... run it in!" and started running. Atta girl! As we rounded the last little corner ("stupid hill at the finish!") she said she wasn't sure she could sprint... but then, of course, she took off and RAN IT IN!!!

yay Suz!!! You just ran a half marathon!!!

It took me a while to realize that the voice I could hear as we approached the finish line was this woman... who is potentially "famous"... but I heard her say, "High five! High five!"... so of course I went for it.

Here's another shot of the finish... yes, I'm clapping. I think I was mainly clapping for Suz, but a quick examination of some of my other finish line photos -- at least when I run alone -- ALSO show me clapping. I guess I don't know what to do with my hands when Wil isn't holding one. (ha ha!)

After the race I turned to Suz and said, "Suzanne Roman, you just finished your first half marathon... What are you gonna do now???"


I'm stupidly proud of Suz for being such a trooper and finishing so strong!

After the race we stretched a bit, drank water, ate some snacks, and I believe we had a photo taken... though I can't seem to find the darn thing. (Suz, is it on your phone??) Then, of course, we headed to the pub for a celebratory pint. Huzzah!

A few thoughts on the race -- they needed more volunteers... or perhaps a little better training of the volunteers at the water stops. But the race wasn't too crowded so it really wasn't that much of a problem. And, actually, that was my main complaint. I even don't mind the BRIGHT ORANGE TECH TEE. As always, I think, "Well, it will look good in the next race quilt..."

Also, the race featured a very heavy, handsome medal -- which was different than the 5K medal. (This is ESSENTIAL in my book.) It's hard to tell in this photo, but the blue background is sparkly. Nice job!

2013 Biggest Loser Half Marathon medal
Would I run this race again? Probably not. But I'm glad I ran it, and I'm glad to have run it with Suz. I'm super happy that it went well -- we'll have an even better time at the Tinker Bell Half Marathon in January!

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