Monday, June 29, 2009

Race Report: Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon

It wasn't until Friday that I decided to run this race. After running 19 hard miles in the heat and humidity of Grandma's Marathon last Saturday, I wasn't feeling all that great and I certainly wasn't fully recovered. But after a decent short run Friday morning, I felt like giving it a go.

A beautiful day for running. 56 degrees at the start and not a cloud in the sky. A dreamy day for the race organizers of this inaugural race.

Caught up with Paul Peterson briefly prior to the race. It's always good to chat with him. There was a woman in the race with a 1:08 PR in the half which had a few of us a bit nervous.

Race started just a couple of minutes late. First mile was pretty much flat through the industrial part of Tukwila, just south of Seattle. By the Mile 1 marker there was already a lead pack and a chase pack. Crossed in 5:14. Perfect.

Mile 2 was more of the same...industrial Tukwila. Slight uphill as we crossed over I-5 but right back down. Hit mile two in 5:15. Perfect again.

Mile 3 was more uphill than I remembered from my course tour the day prior. It wasn't anything crazy at all, but it was a slight incline virtually the whole way. By this time, the lead pack had gapped me pretty good. From this point on it was me and a local running friend Destry Johnson in our pack of two. We picked off a few guys in Mile 3 who wanted some camera time and went out way too fast. Despite the gentle uphill we hit Mile 3 in 5:12. Very happy at this point.

Mile 4 was basically flat and through the neighborhoods of south Seattle. This the was last mile that Destry and I passed anyone. From Mile 4 on we didn't pass anyone and no one passed us. Hit Mile 4 in 5:11.

Mile 5 was the hardest of all the miles. It's a steady 2-3% grade uphill the entire mile. I generally run well uphill but this is one of those points in the race you have to be really careful because you have almost nothing to gain by going too hard and a ton to lose by doing so. Crossed the mile marker in 5:48. Much slower than I thought but I think the mile marker was off as my watch had us at 1.05 for that mile and my watch is usually never off that badly.

Mile 6 plummets down to Lake Washington. It has one of those short downhill stretches that is so steep that you can't really get the full benefit of the downhill. All the elevation we gained over one mile we gave back in less than 1/4 mile. The next few miles are along a beautiful stretch of Lake Washington. Again, it was a race organizers dream. Mile 6 came in at 5:00 which was pretty easy to understand given the downhill stretch. Destry is a much better downhill runner I learned.

Mile 7-9 are all along Lake Washington. Again...just gorgeous...however the beauty has its risks. This stretch is littered with "S" turns that can lengthen the race by a ton. So Destry amd I focused on running the tangents. There is no prize for running 13.3. My coach is the one who measured the course and he warned me about this stretch. He measured mile 7 the correct way (shortest possible route) and then measured it again following the center line. The difference in the two measurements over just one mile was a staggering 100 meters! So run the tangents people. 100 meters is 20-35 seconds depending on your pace and that was for just one mile. Miles 7, 8 and 9 came in at 5:09, 5:27, 5:26. The only explanation I have for the slower miles is the wind did kick up off the lake and we were exposed to that more than I expected. I also think the markers may have been off. Mile 8 is where I really started to feel the effects of Grandma's. My calves were screaming way earlier than normal. At this point I was pretty sure I wasn't going to be able to stay with Destry.

Mile 10 starts with a VERY abrupt uphill as we climbed to the I-90 tunnel. It's probably a hundred meters in length but very, very steep. Once you get to the top you enter the I-90 tunnel which was really weird. There was a band playing at the far end of the tunnel and the echoing noise was eerie especially since you couldn't see the end of the tunnel around the bend. Mile 10 marker was inside the tunnel. Destry and I crossed at 5:10. Quicker than I thought.

Mile 11...pretty flat ending with a pretty aggressive downhill portion as we headed toward Safeco Field. Mark Mandi, a local elite guy had been showing signs of weakening and we were reeling him in. He was less than 100 meters in front of us now. Mile 11 was in 5:10 as well.
Mile 12 was through the heart of downtown Seattle. A little bit of up and down. Pretty gentle. Destry was starting to gap me...probably 15 meters ahead at this point. I was just about ready to concede at this point. Crossed Mile 12 at 5:10.

With a mile to go, we went down a really steep hill as we approached the Alaskan Way viaduct. This was a turning point in the race for me. Up to this point, Destry had crushed me on every downhill stretch. This time, he didn't gap me at all and I was right on his heels headed into a brief uphill stretch that put us onto the viaduct. It was here where I passed him. But Destry is a competitor and once we got onto the viaduct and it flattened out, he passed me one more time and took the lead with about 3/4 of a mile to go. With 1/2 mile to go, we hit one final downhill stretch coming off of the viaduct and I passed him as I started to make a final move to the finish. As we made the final turn the finish line was about 250 meters away. It seemed a lot farther than that. Destry and I were now in an all out sprint for the finish. I pulled away a bit and with 150 or so to go looked back and felt like I had him beat. Then I looked back with about 75 meters to go and he was right there giving it one last push. I managed to hold him off across the finish but it was a fantastic race. Mile 13 was in 5:07...a strong finish.

Finishing time was 1:08:58. Destry was just one second behind. I ended up only a few seconds behind Mark Mandi who was fading fast. Another 1/2 mile and Destry and I both would have had him.

Finished 7th overall. 5th American and third Washingtonian. So I just missed out on the money. Oh well.

Destry is a good friend and I love racing with him because we are so similar in ability and style. He totally pushed me to a sub 1:09 finish which I didn't expect given my partially recovered state. So thanks to Destry for pushing me the whole way.

Great race. Great organization. Good course. Very scenic and not as difficult as I would have expected.

Congrats to Paul on the nice PR. Amazing what a little extra oxygen will do. He ran a very smart race and knew when to back off the leaders. While he was in sight at the finish, he smoked me.
As I sit here, my calves are wasted. I'm just glad I'm sitting here in my kitchen and don't have to get on an airplane. Ugh.

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