Tuesday, July 17, 2007

07/08/07 Seafair Marathon

Seafair is a month-long celebration in the Seattle area. It involves hydroplane races, air shows by the Blue Angels, a parade, and lots of other tie-in events. For several years, there has been an 8k race and a sprint triathlon during Seafair. In 2003, they added a half marathon. In 2005, they added a full. The half and full have been mixed bags. In the first years of both events, they were advertised as "flat". In fact, they were very hilly courses. They've changed a little in the past few years, but the races are still quite challenging - hilly and warm.

Seafair is one of my two "cursed" races (Grizzly in Montana is the other). In 2003, I was signed up for the inaugural half, but I showed up on race morning only to find out that I was supposed to pick up my packet the day before. In 2004, I ran the half with what I thought was a pulled right quad. Nope. I collapsed at the end of the race. It was a stress fracture in my femur. I ran the half with a broken leg :-(. I didn't run again for two months.

I skipped the inaugural marathon in 2005 so I could race Grandfather Mountain in North Carolina. And that brings us to last year. In 2006, I started out with 50-in-50-in-50 Sam Thompson... and he's a lot faster than me. Because it was the second week of his 50-in-50-in-50, he was running a 3:45 pace, which was doable for me based on races during the prior month. One problem, though, was that I had just run the Leadville Marathon the week before Seafair. Leadville was... and is... the hardest race I've ever done. It chewed me up and spit me out. This was a big problem. Here I was, eight days later, running on the faster end of my comfort zone. It wouldn't last. Sam pulled away from me by M10. And that was it. The last 16 miles were rough, and it got really warm. 3:45? Nope. I pulled in at 4:15.

One skip, one broken leg, and one spontaneous combustion. That's a cursed race.

I should add that Sam had also run Leadville. Along with seven other marathons in between. He finished hours in front of me at Leadville and indeed nailed his 3:45 at Seafair.

What would this year bring? I had two goals: 1) run evenly and 2) beat last year's time. Assuming I didn't do anything stupid... like (cough) trying for 3:30 (cough), #2 wouldn't be a difficult goal to achieve. That's alright.

The Seafair course is a loop, plain and simple. The whole course is hilly, but most of the hardest hills are in the first half. There's lots of downhill in the second half - which I didn't even notice during last year's blow up. However, they throw in a really nasty trick on this course. The last two miles, right up to M26.1 are uphill. UPHILL. Boo, Seafair.

So, I was standing in the portapotty line with BRB (Best Running Buddy) when we heard the call on the PA: two minutes until the start! Ooops. We did what needed to be done, and ran towards the line. Before we got there, BOOM, the runners were off. Luckily, this race uses chips. We jumped in after everyone had gone by and we were off too.

Weaving, weaving, weaving. Unfortunately, I wasn't paying enough attention and I lost track of BRB. The first few miles of the course went through downtown Bellevue, so I looked at the buildings. I also said hello to a few Maniacs that I didn't know.

Somewhere around M6, I came across a Maniac I do sort of know - he has the interesting nickname 'coconutboy', and he apparently actually reads my stories. So, Hiiiiiiiii coconutboy. He was running with his wife. Now, I don't want to refer to her as 'coconutgirl' because that doesn't seem to be her approved nickname, so I'll call her Sherry. Hello, Sherry. When I am having a good day, they are roughly my pace or a little bit faster... but it seems that I'm not usually having a good day when I'm in the same race with them.

About M8, I had to make the first of several pitstops. This would bode poorly for my finishing time, but as always, it makes for a muuuuuch happier running experience to deal with such things in an appropriate manner and timeframe. As I closed the door, I heard coconutboy shout, "Make sure you lock the door." Ha. Coconutboy really does read my stories :-).

I did lock the door. And that was the last I'd see of Sherry and coconutboy until after the race.

The course went up hills; the course went down hills. I passed M13.1 around 1:54.

It was hot, so I drank the nasty Gleukos that they served, but my stomach didn't like me much for it. By M16, I had to stop again. I was not able to regain my pace afterwards, but the downhills in this section helped a lot. Most of this part of the course snaked through neighborhoods and parks. Not a lot of spectators came out to cheer, but there also wasn't a lot of traffic to dodge. Overall, I was having a lot more fun than last year.

Around M18, I started catching back-of-the-pack half marathoners. I also talked to a few full marathoners... it was one of those days that distraction seemed like a better fatigue management coping mechanism than focusing.

The nasty hill at the end was everything I could have hoped for. Up we went. Left turn, and...

Robert Lopez, from Seattle.

Woohoo, I got announced. 3:51. Well, like the previous race at Swan Lake, it wasn't 3:45. It was also a couple minutes slower than Swan Lake. However, this was a harder course. And 3:51 with a smile beats the pants off of 4:15 and feeling like I want to die. My split was 1:54/1:57. Not quite even, but that's about as even as I get. I made both my goals, hooray!

I spent about 10 minutes drinking water and eating cookies, then I decided to go back out and find BRB. I took a couple bottles of water with me, and out I went. I didn't have to go far - about .2 out, here was BRB and another Maniac, Rob. I turned around and we ran in. And...

Robert Lopez, from Seattle.

HA. I got announced twice! The other Rob got announced too, but either I was shielding BRB or her number was turned around because they didn't say her name. Later on, it looked like she was right behind me in the finish line picture. Sorry, BRB. Didn't mean to block you.

I gave them the bottles of water. Kind of a weird move on my part because we were standing right next to... lots of bottles of water. But hey, I tried.

Almost 25 minutes better than last year. I felt great. I got to talk to lots of Maniacs I know, and meet new ones that I did not previously know. The weather was good... and I didn't have to drive or fly for hours to get home.

It was a good day.

Next up: Already happened. The inaugural Missoula Marathon. Would I finally break 4 in Montana? Come back real soon now and see!

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