Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon RECAP

I guess this recap is better late than never . . . nearly 11 days ago Jenny and I ran the Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Marathon and I have no excuse for posting my recap so late other than life comes at you fast sometimes. Here's how it all panned out!

The Health and Fitness Expo at Quest Field

Absolutely the best race expo I've attended yet. Competitor Events, Brooks and the Rock 'n' Roll series did it right and absolutely smoked the Disney Marathon Expo, Run for Donna Expo and Bay to Breakers expos to name a few I've attended in the past 6-months. It was absolutely huge with Brooks taking up at least a third of the expo. Yup, I was in Heaven. Jenny and I tried on the new Cascadia trail running shoes. I purchased mine and Jenny held off. Good thing because when we got home we learned she won a free pair in a drawing! All the vendors were amazing and for some reason it seemed as if there was an abnormal amount of free stuff to be had. I scored all kinds of free swag. I think Jenny and I lived off all the free snacks, nutritional bars & candy for at least one day trip of the vacation!

The Start Line
Jenny, Jeanie (who flew up from Sacramento to run the Half Marathon) and I scouted out the starting area the night before and learned it was exactly 2 miles from our hotel. I don't know if it was the cool-dry air or the nice beds at the Tukwila Comfort Suites, but I slept better the night before this race than any other race yet! Jenny probably didn't sleep, but that's the norm usually for both of us the night before. We were up before the alarms sounded at 5 a.m. and each of us went into pre-race routine. I think for future marathons I'm going to make a rule that whatever time we decide to get up and get to the start line that we add an hour to that time as we ended up rushed just like Disney in getting to the starting area. Our plan is to have Jeanie's boyfriend drop us off in our rental car and have about 30-to 45-minutes at the start line to do what runners do before races - use the bathrooms again and again. This is the first and one of the only FAILS for the race. A half mile down the road from the hotel we come to a dead stop in traffic. Many runners are getting out of their cars at this point and running or walking to the start line. We continue on at a soccer mom's pace (no offense all you soccer mom's out there. You've probably passed me in races before!) and I can tell that Jenny is getting anxious. I have no desire to run a mile or two before running a marathon. We still have plenty of time, but the clock is ticking.
We finally come to a "runner drop off" area and the vehicle traffic is being filtered directly onto I-5. There's no choice but to get out here and all the runners are being directed to the north along side the I-5 entrance ramp, but eventually underneath it. This is NOT what we envisioned last night. The start area is less than a quarter mile from where we get out of the car and now (since we can't cross the road) we are being directed away from the start area. At first we walk patiently and learn that we are going under an I-5 overpass and in a giant circle that leads into the back of the corrals. Jenny and I had our corral changed from 11 to 6 at the expo. When someone says the time and how far we have to go Jenny and I start running to the start line. Instant Deja Vu of the Disney Marathon back in January where we had to run a full mile to the start line kicks in. As we arrive at the corrals it appears that we are somewhere around corral 40! All the bathrooms have at least 50 people in line each! We continue to run through the 30 or so corrals until we can see the start line. There's 4 minutes until the 7 a.m. start time and no short lines in site! We jump the fence into Corral 6 and decide our only option is to start the race and use one of the bathrooms at mile 1 or 2. The race starts and the elites take off like a heard of gazelles being chased by a pack of lions. Corral 2 advances to the start line and we all start to move up. A minute later the gun fires again and all the crazies in Corral 2 get on it. We move up again ever so slightly. Corral 3 takes off. I look around at the people for the first time. Most people appear to be wearing half marathon bibs. Then I spot a woman that is at least 7 or 8 months pregnant wearing a yellow full marathon bib. Holy sh*t! And she's in the 3:40-3:48 pace corral. If that's not hardcore I don't know what is! When corral 6 makes it to the start line we have a minute to make a critical decision. Leave the corral, jump the fence and use some bathrooms we have spotted 50 yards away with only a few people in line or start the race and lose time using the bathrooms down course. We decide to hope the fence. See ya later corral 6 and hardcore pregnant lady! By the time we get back and jump the fence again we are in corral 10 almost where we originally would have been in corral 11. The gun fires. Our marathon officially begins!

The Race

Starting temperature is upper 50s. Finishing temperature is upper 60s.

It's a little crowded to begin with, but nothing as bad as the first few miles I experienced during the Disney Marathon. The race heads north along Lake Washington on wide closed off roads so there's plenty of wiggle room. The night before I wrote on my forearms the pace time for each mile to finish at 4 hours. Every few miles I check my watch for our chip time and cross check it with my forearm. We are doing great! Each time I check we are 1-3 minutes ahead of the 4-hour pace time. Thinking back after the race I realize I was pretty freaked the first 10 miles. I was quiet and reserved. We decided to run through the aid stations, something I had not even done on any of the training long runs. We took water, but on the fly. During the first 10 miles I'm feeling great, but scared more of uncertainty of how I'll do later on than the actual act of running 26.2 miles. Jenny on the other hand was relaxed and enjoying every aspect of the race. After the race she asks if I remember seeing multiple things and I have no recollection of most of them. I was in a zone with tunnel vision. There are some great bands we pass along the way. There are some not so great bands along the way. One of them is playing some kind of jazz/blues music. I remember telling Jenny to please kill me or the singer! One band is playing a Blink 182 song and the singer looks like Bon Jovi. I raise an arm and make the "rock on" sign with my fingers and the singer acknowledges with enthusiasm! For about 5 miles we are running near a guy that is constantly yelling at a woman to keep up the pace. He's trying to motivate her to finish the Half in under 2 hours, but he's NOT being nice about it. He even runs ahead of her and comes back almost like he's doing circles around her. She's breathing so hard we can hear her from 20 feet away. Jenny is getting so upset with this situation that I'm afraid she is going to go kick him in the balls or something. Finally we pass them and one older fellow next to us makes a remark about how that relationship isn't going to last past today! Somewhere around the mile 10 mark we split away from the half marathon runners and head out over a bridge that goes toward Bellevue. I'm stoked to be leaving behind the half runners because the course really thins out. The bridge is about a mile long and is one of those floating bridges. It looks beautiful, but looks can be deceiving. I quickly decide and proclaim to Jenny and anyone else within earshot that "this bridge sucks!" For the first time in the race I start to feel a little discomfort. There is a significant amount of wind over the lake that actually makes me cold. Plus the nearby traffic lanes are thick with cars and while it looks scenic my lungs are telling me a different story as they breath in exhaust fumes. There are no bands playing on the bridge and no crowd support. We run across and then all the way back and no sooner am I thrilled to have that over with we are faced with a tunnel. At first I think, better to go through a tunnel than run over whatever I'm running through. A minute later I decide the tunnel, like the bridge, is also no bueno! It's loud and I can't hear a thing Jenny is saying. It's also warmer than the normal outside temperature so it's kind of like shell shock to go from the cold windy bridge to the warm loud tunnel. There's one band, or single dude, with two turn tables spinning rave music inside the tunnel. For some reason this is funny to me. He's wearing a tux and sunglasses.
When we emerge out of the tunnel downtown Seattle is in full view and we're on a series of overpass highway roads heading straight for it. We pass the 13.1-mile marker and I check my watch. We're right at 2 hours exactly! This is bittersweet because while it's an awesome Half Marathon PR for me (busted my old PR by more than 16 minutes) I realize that we're going to have to do negative splits to bust 4 hours and I know there's hills on the horizon. The 4 hour mark really isn't a goal for this race, but it would be nice. It's more of a long term goal that I realize will come with more running experience. As we run through downtown there are hundreds of people lined along the course and for the first time I feel the advantage of having lots of crowd support. Jenny and I try a new strategy to make up some time. Since she is better running up hill than me and I'm better running downhill than her we flip flop back in forth on the hills. She sprints up leaving me behind and I sprint down catch up and even passing her. This works and we're back on track a few minutes ahead of the 4-hour pace up until mile 15ish and that's when it happens. Nope, not the infamous "wall," but something worse... our parents! Just kidding! I meant to say a long hill that goes up for more than a mile, but we do encounter are parents during this part of the race. First, it's Jenny's parents on the other side of the road. We wave and yell hello and keep running. Then it's my family. They've got water guns, bongo drums, cowbells and cameras and are cheering for us! All this in about a quarter mile and since we haven't introduced our families yet, they don't even know they are so close to each other! At the end of this long drawn out hill (aka my worst nightmare since I like them steep and short) there's a bridge and a turn around. Just before the turn around I notice the 4-hour pace group leader passes us. The hill has slowly worn me down and with only around 6 miles to go I feel my hopes of a sub-4 hour marathon slipping away. I see the red sign with black letters "4:00:00" bobbing up and down and slowly running away from me and there's nothing I can do about it. Not even on the next mile, which is mostly downhill, can I regain my composure and catch up. It's now that, for the first time, we walk through an aid station. I slam two cups Cytomax. Jenny points out that soon we'll be coming upon our parents again and I say, "well, I guess we should probably run past our parents," and she laughs. This time around all of our "parental units" are on the correct side of the road. My cousin, Bob, sprays us with a water cannon. It feels great! Jenny's mother, Sally, has made friends with a squad of cheerleaders (probably high school cheerleaders) and they are chanting a cheer with Jenny and my names in it. Her mother is so excited for us and her father is taking pictures!At mile 21 we emerge out of the Battery Street Tunnel and I'm in a ton of pain. The camber of the road is steep as it is a curve and every step I take is rocked with pain in my ankles. I slow to almost a walk and Jenny turns around to see what's wrong. I look up at her and almost start to cry. "You know what the best part of this moment right here is," I ask rhetorically. "I can see the finish line," I cry out. Off in the distance 3 or 4 miles away we can clearly see Quest Field. For a minute I forget the course map and the fact that we have to run a mile past the field and then back before exiting the Alaskan Way Viaduct down to the finish line.If you haven't already run 21 miles this would probably be the most scenic part of the marathon. Imagine being up high on an overpass highway with a clear view of the Pugent Sound to your right with the Olympic Mountains dominating the horizon and to the left dozens of high rise buildings making up downtown Seattle. It's an amazing sight to behold even when you're driving it in a car, but at this point it becomes less and less enjoyable. The road is concrete. The hard kind of concrete with visible rocks in it. Most of the course is concrete, NOT asphalt, and neither Jenny nor I anticipated this factor. Jenny always says she doesn't want to run NYC Marathon because it's mostly concrete. I told her after Seattle that she might as well of run NYC. The visible rocks within the concrete start playing mind games with me and I imagine feeling the individual grooves between rocks through my Brooks Adrenaline shoes and directly upon the balls of my feet! I can honestly say I enjoyed ALL of the marathon except these last 2-3 miles. There are bands playing along the way, but very few spectators have made their way atop the viaduct. At mile 24 I'm feeling completely defeated and stop to walk through an aid station. If there's a "wall" for me this is it. My brain is telling my feet to take run step in front of the other, but my feet will not listen and continue to walk. At mile 25 we see a girl laying on the side of the road getting medical attention. She does NOT look good and I tell myself to shape up, it could be a lot worse. Jenny motivates me to start running again each time I stop. We pick a random object ahead and decide we'll run once we get to it until we have to walk again. It's slow going and the last 2.2 miles takes me nearly 28 minutes. That's more than 10 minutes longer than my intended pace that we held for so many miles. Around mile 25.5 I hear a girl behind me ask, "Tallguysurfing, is that you?" I spin around and instantly start running to keep up with these two strangers as they run past. "Yes," I respond and instantly recognize that it's Marlene from Mission to a(nother) Marathon and she's running with Tall Mom on the Run.I couldn't believe it! I knew they were also running this race, but never thought I'd literally run into them, or them run into me during the race. Just like at Disney when I ran into long lost high school friends during the race, here are two bloggers that have recognized me. Marlene looks at Jenny and says, "you must be Jenny" and for a second I can see Jenny is a little shocked until she remembers that I write about her so much. Marlene and Mel are looking strong... a lot stronger than myself and they continue on ahead as I am voiced to walk again despite my brain's constant orders to feet to run!Near mile 26 we exit the Viaduct and I again almost cry as the finish line is so near you can feel it. Hundreds of people line the last 285 yards and I hear Jeanie yelling my name from within the crowd. Jenny and I cross the finish line running. My official chip time is 4:18:00 and like a true Southern gentleman I let the lady go first with her official chip time clocking in at 4:17:59.

Here's the race stats and break down:

Full Marathon: 4,094 Finishers (2,068 Men)
Male Winner: Jynocel Basweti - 2:18:19
Female Winner: Sopagna Eap - 2:43:05

My Splits

Chip Time start: 7:11:52
5K mark: 27:54
10k mark: 56:05
9-mile mark: 1:21:31
Half: 2:00:32
30k mark: 2:53:26
24-Mile mark: 3:50:33
Finish: 4:18:00

Overall Finish: 1,499th

Gender Place: 996th

Division Place: 168th of 343

By comparison the Half Marathon boasted 17,608 finisher (5036 male/12,572 female).

Post Race
We grab whatever food we come across. My sweat quickly turns to goosebumps as the shivers set in. We sit down within the "chute" to collect ourselves before meeting up with our families. I'm spent. I can officially say that I left everything out there on the course. I didn't bust 4 hours, but I accomplished every other goal I set out for, all of which take higher priority over time. A few minutes later we reunited with our families at letter "J" and introduced them for the first time. The rock band Tonic was set to take the stage in about an hour, but at this point I could care less. We managed to go get our free beers. I can say that MGD 64 has never tasted so good! Then we made our way back to the cars to warm up and head back to the hotels to recover. Overall it was an amazing experience and I'm pleased to say this will not be the last marathon for Tallguysurfing!
I'll post some pictures from the race in my next post. Stay tuned! And once again thank you to everyone that contributed to our efforts to raise money for American Heart Association!


  1. Better late than never! Sounds like you got off to a chaotic start! I heard similar stories from others.. not cool! The washroom lines sucked too!

    You ran a really great race and I love your matching outfits!

    So cool to have "run" into you out there!!

  2. Congrats! I was afraid the lack of recap meant the race didn't go well. Way to go on conquering the 26.2.

  3. Seattle is a tough course. Great run and great report!

  4. Great recap! What a gentleman you are, letting Jenny cross first! I can read your shirt, but I can't see all of Jenny's. Just wondering what hers said! Great job out there!!

  5. Congrats on a great race! I loved the report, I felt like I was there with ya...nice shirts, too :).

  6. Congrats to you both! Great recap (except the part about MGD 64 - come on!) and great accomplishment!

  7. Nice work! You had a great time:) Fun race report and cute picture!

  8. Congrats. Nice race report! Looking forward to the photos