Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Grandpa's Wishbone Marathon race report

It was day two, for heaven's sake. From the get-go, Wil was determined that we should at least get our 2 marathons in ... so it wasn't too rough getting ourselves out there. Besides, the race didn't start until 7:30, so we didn't have to get up too early...

This race used to be held in a forest near Gig Harbor. When we ran it, back in 2012, it was very, very wet... ankle deep mud, knee deep puddles... and c-c-c-cold. Because of logging in the forest, this year the race shifted to Tukwila and ran along the Green River Trail. I'll admit it -- running a marathon on a smooth, paved, essentially flat trail sounded a LOT better to me than running 27 miles in 4 loops in a muddy forest...

Still, running our second marathon in as many days... well..

But it was nice to see our compatriots, chat with some new folks, and so on. Also, I love that this race costs a simple $20 donation to the food bank. We had a brief course talk -- though, since we were standing near a generator, we couldn't really hear much. We were told that the turnaround would be pretty obvious, and that we should stay on the Green River Trail. 

We did remember to take a pre-race photo... and I think these smiles might be genuine?

why, yes, that *IS* my Wattle Waddle hat!
But in truth, we were already a little beaten up. Wil had some painful blisters on his feet, and I had that weird painful strain up the front of my right shin. And it was clear that we wouldn't be running today. Possibly at all. But we set off, determined.

The Green River Trail is surprisingly pretty, despite spending a lot of time meandering behind apartment buildings, office blocks, and industrial complexes. And the fact that it was a gorgeous autumn day, well, that didn't hurt either.

Somewhere along the way we bumped into Clint from Mainly Marathons and chatted with him off and on. Wil kept us going with a rapid walking pace -- 13:30/mile -- which was about as fast as a bunch of folks were run/walking. So we kept leapfrogging a few people. Nice to see Clint and chat about when we might run another one or two (or three...) of his races.

But for the most part, we were alone. The out and back course, which we would complete twice, meant we saw people a few times, which made it more fun. Even on this "day 2" we had a lot of "friends" on the course.

And, yes, the turnaround was well marked!

As we headed in to the start/finish area, we passed some friends who said, "Huckleberry pancakes!" So we made a beeline to the food table to pick one up... only to find a half marathoner essentially blocking the table while she asked questions about whether the boiled potato tongs had touched the sandwich bread because she doesn't eat gluten. Luckily for us, the volunteer turned to focus on us and handed us lovely hot pancakes AND a potato for the road. We then quickly headed out for lap two.

Lap two was extra lonely -- though we did see several half marathoners coming in. I did try to break the course into memorable segments, but boy, it felt longer the second time around.

Not long after we reached the turnaround for the second time we saw an older gentleman, highly recognizable in his wide-brimmed hat, coming toward us. Now, we hadn't seen him for a while, and assumed that he was waaaaaay ahead of us. So I said, "Sir, just how far are you running today?" (I believe there was also a 50K, so maybe he was doing that?)

He told us that he had gotten lost along the way somewhere where the trail split... and spent nearly two hours trying to get back ON the trail. I'm not gonna lie, I would probably have called it good. But this noble warrior wanted to make sure he completed the course. Awesome!

Again, even with few other folks out on the course, we did get the chance to say a lot of "see you tomorrow!"s, which always brings me joy.

As we approached the finish ... FINALLY ... we waved goodbyes to some previous finishers, and then limped our way in. We weren't the last folks out there... but there weren't all that many left. But the food table was still serving up hot pancakes, so we indulged in another before hitting the road. 

This is what relief and exhaustion looks like:

I do love the medals for this race -- also nice to get a "full" medal rather than the "half"!

This race is actually 27 miles long... which means, I suppose, that we have actually done an ultra! Okay, so not really, but.

After the race we stopped at the Seattle Marathon Expo to pick up our bibs and swag for Sunday's race. Even though we weren't sure we'd be able to run it. But better to get pickup done!

Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Wattle Waddle Marathon race report

We had a plan. Sort of.

That plan was to run/walk to about the 10-mile point (the turnaround on the first leg), and then walk the rest to save our legs. In my mind, these multi-day events are about survival first and foremost. Just getting to the start line ... and then the finish line ... every day is challenge enough for me.

The morning was gorgeous -- cold... c-c-c-cold... but the day was clear and we were feeling pretty good. We met up ... in the dark ... at Gas Works Park, saying hello to our Mainly Marathons friends (who had already run four straight half marathons!) and getting our bibs and lovely souvenir hats.

For the record, we also received hats when we did the Waddle three years ago -- and it remains one of Wil's favorite running hats. How favorite? Well, he wore it again this year!

Wattle Waddle 2012 hat on left; Wattle Waddle 2015 hat (layered over my Run Happy hat) on right

When it was time to start the race, "Giblet" (aka Matt, the RD), explained the course layout: essentially, follow the Burke Gilman Trail all the way out to a well-marked turnaround in Lake Forest Park, then come back, do a little loop up and around Kite Hill, then run along the trail out to the well-marked turnaround (and manned aid station) at the Fred Meyer. Then back to Gas Works, another loop up and around Kite Hill, and done. (Did that description seem long? It felt waaaaaaay longer...)

This would have been a super easy course, wayfinding-wise, had it not been for the detour through campus due to the light rail construction. But again, Giblet had done an amazing job of marking the course with chalk -- simple arrows with a W. Easy peasy. 

We started a a group across the street from the park, and just set off. Wil and I -- and a good percentage of the quad runners -- had chosen the "early start" option to give ourselves a little more time. So it was still darkish as we set off at 7, though the sun rose pretty quickly.

See: it was a very pretty morning. Less blurry in real life, though...

Once we twisted and turned our way through the campus detour, it was smooth sailing. The say the sun filtered through these autumn leaves as glorious!

There was an well-stocked aid station at the 6ish mile mark -- staffed by the same family from the Balanced Athlete Half. That day they had asked us what we like at an aid station; I had mentioned Red Vines and -- lo and behold! -- they had added them in the mix. Nice!

On on on we went. It was interesting running along the Burke Gilman -- far beyond where I had ever traveled on it. In a few places the houses along the trail look like old houses in the country -- more something you'd see on the Natchez Trace, maybe, than in Seattle. And, of course, it's pretty flat, so we just kept plodding along.

We reached the turnaround, with its small (but obvious) aid station and turnaround. When we reached there a "standard time" runner caught up with us ... that's right, he had made up almost 10 miles in 60 minutes. Wowsers.

Having reached the turnaround, it was time to go into "leg saving" mode. So e just walked back, albeit briskly. And, yes, the front of my shin did hurt the next day. Of course.

The cruelest part was that when we got back to the start/finish area, WE STILL HAD MILES TO RUN. And we had to run up and over and around the darn hill. Sigh.

But we did the first little hill loop and then headed out to the Fred Meyer -- a VERY familiar stretch of the trail. Got a few snacks at the turnaround by the big sign, then trudged back... to the park, then up and over the hill AGAIN. Amusingly, we suddenly found ourselves almost directly behind another  runner... who saw us and TOOK OFF PELL MELL UP THE HILL. Oh!

When we finished, there were high fives, hot boiled sweet potatoes, adorable napkin-ring medals, and an awesome double photo bomb in our post-race photo!

Seriously, how cute are these medals?

The nicest part of this race, of course, was seeing our fellow crazies, chatting about how the day went, and cheering each other on. I LOVE saying "See you tomorrow!" when we're running. I do know how ridiculous that sounds, but it was one of my favorite things from the Center of the Nation Series, too.

Today a colleague at work who knows that we run a lot of races asked me what makes me do it -- what gets me out there to run so many events. I told her that I love the actual events -- the camaraderie before, during, and after the races. Cheering for the leaders and the back-of-the-packers. Feeling like we're a part of something bigger. Seeing people achieve things they didn't know was possible. Hell, achieving things ourselves we didn't know were possible! And, even on a bad day, having a couple (or a bunch) of hours to spend together doing something we love.

Thus ended the first marathon of the weekend, and marathon 1 of the Sweet Quadzukilla! (Read about the other races here.)

Wattle Waddle Course Map

Monday, December 7, 2015

Mutant Quadzilla / Sweet Quadzukilla ... Say what???

We did something stupid. It was my fault. I still feel a bit weird thinking about it, a week later.

I am going to write up brief report of the individual races, but I suppose I should explain what drove us to attempt three marathons in three days, plus three half marathons in the days around them.

In short, this was part of it...

Having been Half Fanatics for a while now, we had come to envy our Maniac friends... and their Double Agent status. And, let's be honest, part of it is for THE GEAR. Oooh, I wanted a Double Agent jacket. Why? Because proper Fanatics team colors are blue and yellow. Proper Maniacs team colors are yellow, red, and black. (Why do I say "proper"? Because both clubs sell alternate color ways in their singlets and tops, but I'm a purist...) But the Double Agents main color is black. And, well, you know me...

When the Double Agents started out, I don't think there were levels... it was just a way for people who were both Fanatics and Maniacs signify that they were members of both clubs. If you were a Fanatic and a Maniac, you were a Double Agent. Simple. 

But, you know, these clubs are based on counting and levels and challenges. So of course there had to be levels of Double Agenthood!

When I heard that a local RD was going to add on to the traditional Quadzilla / Quadzuki held here in Seattle over Thanksgiving weekend ... by holding 4 additional half marathons on the weekend and days before.... well, gosh. 

I toyed with the idea of doing 4 and 4. But that would be insane for us, who hadn't run a marathon in more than 3 years. But -- being the luckiest people on earth -- symbolism saved us!

Three marathons + three half marathons within 9 days would put us at the Kilimanjaro level... a fine place to be. So we decided to aim for that. 

As an added bonus, by running the two half on the first weekend, I would move up a level in the Half Fanatics: moving to the Venus level for running 13 half marathons in 79 days. (Really? That's so weird...)

So our sights were set ... but would our bodies hold up?

Spoiler alert: YES. Barely.

To recap, the races:

Click on a race logo to read our race report!

Cupcake II: Electric Boogaloo Half Marathon, 11/21

Balanced Athlete Half Marathon, 11/22

Wattle Waddle Marathon, 11/26

Grandpa's Wishbone Run Marathon, 11/27

Ghost of Seattle Marathon, 11/28
Seattle Half Marathon, 11/29

After our second marathon in two days I didn't think we'd get through a third. But we did. And that made the half marathon feel easy on the last day. And, no, I wouldn't do this again. Ever.

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Balanced Athlete Half Marathon race report

On Sunday we ran the Balanced Athlete Half Marathon -- day 2 of the "Sweet Quadzuki" series. This race was sponsored by Balanced Athlete (natch), and started from in front of their store in the Landing in Renton. It also meant we had a nice wam place to wait before the race! (Though it was much, much warmer than on Saturday...) Unsurprisingly, we saw a lot of the same faces!

We had a brief course talk -- but at the end of the day, it was basically "follow the bike route to the turnaround". 

One odd thing -- we were told we needed to stay together at the big intersection and wait for the light. "We don't need another dead body." Okay. But when we set off as a group, and approached the intersection, he led us across ... without waiting for the light. Mmmmkay. 

We had bundled up again -- heck, I was wearing an extra layer -- but it really did warm up relatively quickly, and within a few miles I had taken off my jacket and Wil was down to a singlet. 

It was a gorgeous morning... and the leaves were turning and falling. And the field was so small that we were on our own pretty quickly. 

The course was similar to part of the Seahawks 12K course: the rolling hills to the VMAC, then beyond to I-90 and a bit.

We ran and ran and ran, finally spotting the front runners at about mile 5.5, and then more runners just after mile 6. And then, oh happy day... we arrived at the turnaround. 

We had decided to take things easy again, and walk back from the midway point. So we had more time for some lovely photos. 

Did I mention that it was quiet and beautiful?

Eventually we made our way back to The Landing, crossing with the light, and holding hands at the finish. A small group cheered us in, we picked up our cute little "medals", and then we went in the store for PIE. 

Yes, that's right, pie. 

It was fun to run another small race, cheer for our fellow runners, and REACH A NEW MOON LEVEL IN HALF FANATICS. Boo-yah!

Sunday, November 22, 2015

Cupcake II: Electric Boogaloo race report

I still don't know if I can talk about this. It still seems so ridiculous when I think of it now. 

But one day, one race at a time, eh?

The Cupcake II: Electric Boogaloo Half Marathon ran along the Centennial Trail from Snohomish toward Arlington. Thankfully the organizers sent out an email reminding runners that the race didn't start at the same place as the Spring race. Phew!

Anyway, we drive out to Snohomish on a frosty morning and joined the 60 or so runners shivering in the cold sunshine. 

The course was simple: just run along the trail to the turnaround. Easy peasy. 

It was so cold that I felt super stiff, but we headed out at our steady pace. I had negotiated (ha!) a 3:1 interval set with Wil... nice, steady, doable. 

We decided that we would keep that patter until the turnaround, and then walk back -- we have a lot more miles to go this week. 

The day was beautiful, if very cold, and the trail was a gentle downhill on the way out, and a gentle uphill back. And, for the most part, we were on our own. 

When the sun was a little higher in the sky, we passed a lake that was steaming in the sun. Nice. 

Lots of long, straight, empty trail....

We finished in a slow 2:50, but feeling pretty good, considering. And at the end, there were shiny disco ball medals and a zillion cupcakes!

Thursday, November 19, 2015


Yesterday I had a dentist appointment in the morning. I left the office in the bright, crisp sunshine to walk the 5 or so blocks to the bus stop. I passed a block swarming with construction workers, all standing across the street from a big new building, staring up at it. Then, in the middle of the long block between 20th and 22nd, I crossed the empty street at the mid-street crosswalk.

I must have been walking briskly... but I somehow stubbed my toe, HARD, on the opposite side of the street, and went down flat. No stumble, no attempt at recovery, just WHUMP.

I landed hard on my right hand, my wrist folding under me, and my right knee, which hit a metal plate. In a split second I was lying flat out on the sidewalk.

It was stunning -- literally -- and I lay there for several seconds doing a small mental inspection. I was right in front of Skillet, and had a moment when I thought, "Someone will see me and rush out to see if I'm okay." Nope; they don't open till lunch. Dammit.

I made myself stand up, wincing as I pushed myself up with my right arm, which made me feel woozy. I could sense myself freaking out a little -- I just kept saying "slow down, breathe normally" but my level of panic was rising. I saw a bench about 30 feet away, in front of the little ice cream shop, and forced myself to walk to it. I figured I would rather pass out on a bench than from a standing position.

A few minutes before I had exchanged texts with my friend Dre'. As I sat down, I pulled my phone out and called her, hands shaking. She answered and I burst into tears, telling her what had happened, that I was okay, but I just needed to sit and talk to someone for a minute.

She was perfect -- making sure I was really okay, talking to me, even making me laugh.

I did another inspection. Bloody palm, with a chunk scraped out to it. Jeans with a scuff but no hole, but a suspiciously wet-feeling knee. Throbbing toe. Pounding heart.

I was too far from home... and already blocks from the dentist... so I just decided I needed to get on the bus and go to work.

It was still early, yet, which meant the bus was busy, and I spent the ride shaking a little, and trying to hide my bloody hand in my jacket sleeve. Ewww. But I got off the bus, got to work, went straight to the first aid box, and got cleaned up in the bathroom. Heck, I could even laugh at the story and told my coworkers about it.

But here's the truth: it was scary. So very, very scary.

It's 36 hours later and my wrist is super tender, nd now my shoulders and back feel crazy sore. I must have strained a few muscles at impact. My knee is still very, very sore (though less purple and swollen) -- it's painful to bend it, and the skin on my knee is badly scraped. How is that possible, when my jeans didn't tear?!?!

I told Wil this morning that I was really sore and achy, and he very sweetly pointed out that a woman who is almost 50 fell on the sidewalk yesterday. Ouch, man. I'm still in my MID-FORTIES, okay?

As an added bonus, I am planning on attempting something absurdly stupid this weekend and next. So stupid I can't bring myself to talk about it. Or write about it. Or even think about it. Because, well, it's STUPID.

I should hasten to add that it's nothing dangerous... just something that I got into my head that suddenly seems remotely possible. Or, at least, it did before I banged myself up. But we'll see, eh?

Sunday, November 1, 2015

Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia Half Marathon race report

Up before the sun to run Rock 'n' Roll Philadelphia. The weather forecast was for 40 degrees and clear at the start. Well, they were close...

I walked the mile or so from my hotel to the start village, stopping in at the VIP area (thanks Brooks!) to grab some Gatorade and a bagel. I also noted, happily, that mimosas are back!! So I had that to look forward to after I finished. 

I went out to my corral... So far back that I couldn't see the start. I was a little surprised to see the time -- and to hear the national anthem -- but of course I still had 30 minutes to wait!

not sure where the start is...

It was really cold in the corrals -- I was very glad to have brought my Mylar from RnRVan with me. But eventually we were on deck. That said, the main announced left to go to the finish line before we even started, since the elites would potentially finish before the last corral started!

ahhh, THERE it is!!!

When it was our turn, it was a real pleasure to run on Philadelphia's wide boulevards -- we ran up Benjamin Franklin Parkway and around Logan Circle, then a little loop around downtown (was there something I should have "seen" there?), and then a big swinging loop around City Hall. We turned back toward the art museum, passing "Love Park" and Philly's iconic artwork before heading up Benjamin Franklin Parkway in the opposite direction. Philadelphia has such lovely, wide boulevards to run on!

2015 Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon course map

I was really surprised that, at the 3-mile mark, there were still people starting. But 35 corrals is a lot of corrals. And at 18,500 people registered, it's no surprise!

We passed the main stage, where the Gin Blossoms would perform later, and heard a great cover of "I Wanna Rock 'n' Roll All Night" ... which of course madee think "and part of every day..."

We had one more "spur" out and back before passing the art museum and heading out on the Shuykill River ... Or the road next to it, anyway. This was really beautiful -- mainly flat, lovely wide roads, and pretty views of the river and of the autumn leaves. Leaf peepin' while running a half marathon? Oh yes please. 

No crowding here!

This really was bliss to run on. 

Because Brooks had made a pretty drawing of the course, I knew that we would cross the river at Falls Bridge at mile 9. So getting on to the bridge was awesome - only 4.1 to go!!!

view downstream from the bridge

view back to downtown from the bridge
The road back to downtown was equally pretty, though the only thing I took a picture of was this guy. I can't tell ou how much I enjoy seeing The Dude at races! I didn't know he was going to be on the course, so it was a pleasant surprise. 

the Brooks Dude

I was feeling pretty tired by mile 12, but I had pretty much maintained my 100:25 intervals. Seeing this in the distance helped perk me up a bit!

the backside of the Art Museum -- where the finish line is
I had been planning on one last walk break so that I could finish strong, but the last half mile was suddenly very narrow and totally thronged with cheering spectators and I just couldn't. So I slotted in behind a hand-holding couple to pace myself, followed them up the last cruel little hill, and then slingshotted past them in the final stretch.

The crowd in the chute were too quiet, so I encouraged some whooping, high-fived the announcer (let's be clear, he's no John Bingham!), and crossed the line in 2:22:43. 

It was a bit rough getting through the finish gauntlet, but eventually got my medal, some chocolate milk, and made my way back to the VIP tent for a little breakfast and a couple of mimosas. Perfect. 

the finish line, as seen from the VIP area

the Art Museum and the Rocky Steps
Nope, I didn't go back and run the Rocky Steps!

Decided against watching much of the Gin Blossoms because I had gotten cold and was thinking about having a nice hot bath. So I made my way back to the hotel, stopping to visit the spitting tortoises. 

This race was fun, and the course was pretty. There wasn't a ton of support, but the people out there were super loud and enthusiastic. Best sign: "ON A SCALE OF 1 TO 10, YOU'RE A 13.1"

thank you Philly!

Most importantly, of course... This is STATE #34!!!