Monday, July 28, 2008

Race Report -- Seafair Torchlight 8k

I was nervous going into tonight's race. It's only the second time I recall being nervous before a race. Torchlight is probably the biggest race in Seattle in terms of the number of top guys in the area who run it. Last year when I ran this race, I was still a bit of an unknown in the area. But after several good races over the last year, including a trip to the Trials, there's an expectation that I have of myself that I have to do really well, especially in a race with all of my peers. As I toed the starting line this evening, sure enough, virtually all of Seattle's finest were right there too. Last year I was edged out by a good running friend of mine, Ben Mangrum, in the final half mile and there he was right next to me this year. So I was indeed nervous.

This race is notoriously a hot one in terms of temperatures. We're going into the hottest four-week period of the year and it's not uncommon to have 90 degree temps for this race. Luckily, the temp was about 70 with some cloud cover. It was a bit humid for our area which I noticed pretty quickly after the start of the race.

The race starts at Qwest Field (home of the Seahawks) and quickly turns west then south heading over the Alaskan Way Viaduct. There's a pretty good hill going up the Viaduct and you don't crest it until right at Mile 1. Going into the race I wanted to average 5:01 miles in an attempt to break 25:00. Mile 1 came in at 5:03. Not bad considering the uphill and gusty winds. I figured the winds would dissipate once we got off the Viaduct which is an elevated structure exposed to the elements.

Mile 2 is almost all on the viaduct and mostly flat until the end when it drops down into a bus tunnel. I felt like I had picked up the pace a bit and expected a 5:00 or better for the mile split. Oops. 5:09. Ugh. So I was almost half way through the race and already 11 seconds off the pace. I'm not sure how I got a 5:09. I was running pretty much alone at this point in third place and the main pack falling behind me. But I was really diheartened by the slow split especially knowing that a tough third mile lie ahead.

Mile 3 is a net uphill and had a couple challenging stretches. I didn't look back but could tell that my lead over the chase pack was widening. I was not losing any distance to Mike Sayenko in 2nd place but I also wasn't gaining. He was probably 20-25 seconds ahead of me. Mile 3 came in at 4:59. I was surprised because I felt like I had slowed down. Regardless of the good split time, this was the point in the race where I was really hurting. Right after the Mile 3 marker there's a short hill and then you turn on to 4th Ave. The good news about the 4th mile is that it's along the Torchlight Parade route which attracts nearly 100,000 people who line 4th street to watch the ensuing parade. The bad news is that it's a gentle uphill that seems to last forever. And it's a straight stretch so you are constantly looking at the hill. There was no Mile 4 marker so I didn't know what my split was and my GPS watch got screwed up on the distance while going through the tunnel so I had no idea. When you crest 4th ave, I think there is about a mile to go. And it's downhill hill the rest of the way.

The reason I love this race is not because it's fast, because it's not. I love it because its the only race of any kind in Seattle that reminds me of the Trials and Boston in that thousands of people are screaming and blowing horns and cheering you on and it comes at a very critical part of the race. Kids venture away from the curb and stick out their hands to give you a high five. It's an exhilerating experience that really helps take my mind off of the pain and fatigue that was setting in.

I crossed the finish line in third place in a time of 25:03. I really wanted to break 25 minutes but in the end I was happy. It was a PR by 29 seconds and considering the strong winds, which weren't at all part of last year's race and the fact I again ran almost the entire race alone (unlike last year) I am very happy with the results.

Next stop: 2008 USA Masters Outdoor Track & Field Championships in Spokane in two weeks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Great posts -- keep them coming and good luck with your upcoming races!