Friday, May 18, 2007

05/13/07 Tacoma City Marathon

The Tacoma City Marathon is brand new… a labor of love for one of the founding Maniacs. To understand this race, it helps to know a little bit about how Tacoma is treated by Seattle, its larger neighbor to the north. We generally don’t go to Tacoma. Tacoma is known for monster truck shows and the “aroma of Tacoma”. This is quite unfair, really… Tacoma has some stinky areas, but so does Seattle. And I know a lot more about Seattle’s various stinky places. Tacoma “needed a marathon”. But not just a bunch of loops through a park – the founders really wanted to show off Tacoma’s good areas.

The good news is that the Tacoma City Marathon nailed it. The price for that good news, however, is hills. Or more specifically, HILLS. Like Seattle, Tacoma is a fairly hilly place. And to see the good areas, hills are required. I don’t have a lot to offer up about this race. Not because I didn’t like it - I actually liked it quite a bit. It helps, of course, that I like hills. I don’t have much to say because I ran this race with one of my bestest running buddies (let’s call her BRB), and I’ve sworn not to share those stories.

It’s pretty obvious that the founders would like to grow this race into a bigger deal. The expo didn’t have a ton of booths, but it was held in a cavernous hall in the convention center (side note – in the months leading up to the race, my job was to try to sell it to various vendors around the country. It was a hard sell because of the one not-nice aspect of this race. It was on Mother’s Day.). All volunteers got a swell hooded jacket, which is a nice touch considering the iffy weather this time of year. The race offers up tons of aid stations, a couple ad hoc music stops, and a nice post-race gathering area. There’s a marathon, an early start option for the marathon, a half, and a 10k to choose from.

The days leading up to the race had been quite warm by Pacific Northwest standards and unseasonably sunny. Not so for race morning. We were treated to a great day by May standards, really, because it did not rain. But it was cold for Island Boy, and windy. I started out with my typical four shirts, and unlike last week’s adventure at The Pig, I wanted those shirts. I also wore ditchable gloves, and I never ditched them.

My goals for the race were simple: “about 4”, and if I could run a few miles with my friend, that would be great. Alas, when I crossed the line, I couldn’t find her. The first few miles zigzagged through the downtown area. I spotted another friend, who just happens to be BRB’s SIL. She was volunteering as a course marshal. A very cold course marshal. Who was hopped up on 3 Red Bulls. I asked her about BRB and she told me “she’s just ahead of you”. Sure enough, I looked a few streets over, and there was BRB in Maniac Red. Now, I figure she was almost a mile in front of me at this point (remember, the course is in major zigzag mode), but after the race, my friends tried to tell me it was nothing like that. I don’t know. I sped up trying to catch her, but she was absolutely smoking.

Until somewhere around M6. I saw BRB jump into the potty. Aha, my chance to catch up. And by M9, we were running together. We headed up through some hills, by Ruston, and into Point Defiance. I’m pretty sure we circled a zoo, but I never saw any animals. We *did* get nice forest views, some peeks at Puget Sound, and then a spectacular view of the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. Or more specifically, bridges. They are almost done with the new one that sits next to the original. Which is not really the original, because the original famously shook itself apart in a windstorm.

I chatted a lot with BRB during this race. I mention that because several times, BRB apologized for not being chatty. Everyone has different standards, I suppose. That said, many of our little conversations went something like this:

Me: Hill.

She: Hill.

We’d say this as we’d round a bend and spot the next uphill. I think we had this little conversation about 100 times.

BRB and I took turns encouraging the other. We walked the aid stations, thanked the volunteers and the poh-leece at the intersections. We said hello as we encountered people we knew. By M19, the “alright, what do we really need to do to break 4” game started. We stayed pretty consistent, but on a hilly course, this was more about even effort than precise splits.



Around M23, we started the mostly downhill trek towards the end. The “break 4” game seemed in hand. I remember saying that we had 36 minutes to run a 5k. However, I’ve had some really bad last 5ks in marathons, so I didn’t really want to say it outloud. No need. We stayed on track – gravity is a nice thing when race organizers put downhill into the last miles.

“There’s that weird bridge by the dome.”

“Just around the corner.”

We didn’t sprint the last mile, but it was still one of our faster miles.

I don’t recall whether they announced either of us. No need. 26.2 and we were done. I think we finished side by side, but for some reason I autopiloted the end. I was hungry and cold.

3:53. We beat 4. It’s worth pointing out that BRB is generally faster than me, sometimes by a lot. But on this day, we ran together, and I think it helped both of us.

I will definitely do this race again, and I’d even suggest it as a nice race for people traveling from afar.

Next up: A double. In fact, the first in a series of FOUR doubles over the next FIVE weekends. I’m racing in Palos Verdes (think Southern California) on Saturday. On Sunday, I will run… stiff like a mummy… the Capital City Marathon in Olympia, Washington. The half version of this race holds a special spot in my heart because it was the very first race of any distance I ran after being sick. Last year, I ran a respectable 3:48 on the new (and HARD) full course. This year? I don’t predict anything close. And the weather is supposed to be icky. But the weather on Saturday in Southern California will make up for all that.

I’ll see you there.

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