The 2011 Seattle MarathonJanuary 3, 2012 11:39 pm Life, Running, Seattle
The day was like any other. Except I got up at 6 am, ate a quarter cup of blue berries, a half cup of granola and a half cup of yogurt then went back to bed for 45 minutes.
I was worried about weather. Seattle is known as a wet city, and the forecasts had a 56% chance of rain. Upon waking up to eat, it was still dry and 50 degrees out. Warm. Things were looking up.
At 6:45, it started coming down. Then the wind kicked in.
I’ve trained in bad conditions, but never on the long runs. I’ve run in sub-freezing temperatures, but for only for five or so miles. Rain and wind for up to maybe ten.
On with the shorts and the tank top, the standard wear for the 20+ mile runs. Overheating may become an issue, better play it safe.
Phone in armband. Headphones in phone. Shoes on. Chip tracker on. Race number on chest. Five cliff shot gels in my pocket.
And away we go. Nothing but rain the entire drive to the Seattle Center. Oh man.
Snap decision. After a last minute switch to a long sleeve technical shirt and pounding a Cliff Gel, and I’m out stretching. They’re already calling the Full Marathoners into place. I jump over the barrier and start stretching. Five minutes to start.
I rip my phone out of it’s arm pouch, and with my headphones dangling I snap a photo of the start. I try sending out a tweet, but it takes forever to upload and panic sets in. I still need to get my GPS tracker on, my music going, plus put my armband, head phones and so on back together. Maybe next time.
Inaudible mumbles coming from the announcer at the starting line. I finally take a minute to get my bearings and I see someone holding a sign that says “4:30 pace.”
What? 4:30? That’s slow.
Then I realize I’m in the slower part of the pack, and will have to pass a bunch of people at the beginning, which is fun, but annoying if you’re trying to set a good time.
Then the race begins, in the shadow of the Seattle Space Needle.
Dire Straits, Money For Nothing is how I start all my long races. Something about the slow build and rhythm of that song sets me up mentally for the long haul.
Passing, passing, passing. Right down 5th, the monorail splits the pack and I end up threading back and fourth through the monorail support columns. I nearly slam into one at 8 or 9 miles per hour avoiding another runner trying to do the same thing.
Mile 2, I drink some water. I didn’t drink anything with my first gel (before the race), so I need something to wash it down.
The wind and rain aren’t really affecting me, at least, not until a few miles in at the I-90 on-ramp, where I step in a huge puddle. I was too close to other runners and I didn’t see it. My prize is a soggy right foot which I ignore after a few seconds.
I’m not passing as many people now, although the opposite lanes host a bunch of marathon walkers. As the pack zips past them, I begin to wonder how long they’ve been walking for, and how long their marathon is. Is it an all day thing for them? Is it a full 26.2 miles? That would take forever I would think.
I pass the guy holding the 3:30 sign. Holy crap, I’m making great time. Hopefully I can keep up the good pace. 3:30 would be an awesome time, but my goal is 3:45.
Eventually, we end up in the West I-90 bridge tunnel. I’m actually hot at this point, even with the low temps and rain. I’m mad at myself for making the last minute switch to long sleeve. I roll up my sleeves and zip down the front as far as it’ll go.
It’s nice being dry for a moment as we go through the tunnel. I’m reminded of a zombie apocalypse film for some reason. It’s a dirty but dry refuge. Then I see it, the 3:20 pace setting. Am I seeing things? Was it 3:30 again? I get past him.
Onto the I-90 bridge. It’s cold, rainy, and windy. For the first time in the race, my mental fortitude is breaking down. Then Britney Spears comes through my headphones. The wrong song for what I’m going through at the moment. Why did I put this in my playlist again?
I start getting a side ache. Nothing I can’t run through, but these haven’t happened on the long runs before, so it’s one more variable to keep track of.
The numbers 6, 11, 15 and 19 cycle through my mind and keep me going. 6, 11, 15, 19. 6, 11, 15, 19.
The mile markers at which I plan on refueling.
We get to the turn around point on the I-90, at mile 6, the East tunnel. Covered and protected, I take a Gatorade rip open another gel and down both. People blaze past me, but I’m not anxious. I’m pacing myself.
Back across the I-90 and the wind is really kicking up now. Blowing me to the side, I’m glad it’s not in my face. Headed downhill, I can see the entire pack in front of me, and the remaining 2/3rds of the pack coming up behind and headed into the tunnel. So many runners. A few thousand, easy. I see people in garbage bags and people with no shoes on running this thing.
The side aches are getting really bad now. I’m starting to question if Gatorade plus gels are over doing it. Too much sugar? Too much to eat and drink? On my training runs I did water instead, not Gatorade. Not a good time to start experimenting.
Finally, across the I-90, I turn and go down Lake Washington Boulevard. Pretty sights along the way, but I’m concentrating on mile marker 11. Where is it?
This area has the most fun people. Lots of kids and parents, students, even a guy dressed like a robot. Awesome.
Then the race leaders blow past us going the other direction. I cheer for them as they fly past. These guys are setting 2:30 times. Crazy.
We hit Seward park and I finally see mile marker 11. Then, the water station I planned on stopping at. One more Gatorade and gel down the hatch, and I’m off.
100 feet in, and the side aches is almost unbearable now. The pain and general feeling of being uncomfortable occupies my entire mind. I can’t even hear my music. Yep, time to hold back on gels and drinks now. I call an audible and decide to push my next stop past the 15 mile marker. Maybe 17. Snap decision.
Seward Park would have been enjoyable, but I’m only focusing on surviving at this point, and it’s not halfway over. I step in a few more puddles, not paying as close attention as I should.
Eventually, we make it through the park and get to the 13.1 mark. 1:42:58. Holy crap, that’s a personal record. If I were running a half, I’d have a PR.
The next set of miles go by in a blur, but I’m now noticing a hot feeling in my right foot.
The thing with blisters is you can totally run with the them, so long as you fight through the pain. But, you’re supposed to stop as soon as you feel them. Which no one does.
Now, the official Seattle Marathon website tells racers to “avoid moisture” to prevent blisters. This is amazingly ironic.
A technique I like to use is to pick up a lot of time on downhills by sliding my feet along the ground as I go downhill. That’s now impossible, as sliding my foot causes intense pain on the pad of my foot where the blister now lives.
And then it happens. The 3:30 pace setter passes me. No… no… noooooooo!
Can I keep up with him? He’s not going that fast. I can do it.
I stay with him for a mile or so. Then gather up a second wind due to some Rhianna and pass him. If I can just get far enough ahead now, maybe I can slow down later.
At a water station, he passes me again. I try to keep up, but he outpaces me slowly. Next thing I know, I see him far in the distance, the hope of a 3:30 long gone. I hold out hope that I can turn on some magical, hidden afterburners near the end and still make it happen.
Next thing I know, it’s mile 19. And the side aches are gone! But then I start counting with my hands.
11…12…13…14…15…16…17…18… yeah I should have fueled by now. On the run, I awkwardly open up another gel pouch, down it and keep going. Another first. Usually I stop and walk a bit to fuel.
19 to 20 is devastating. The rain comes down in buckets and I can’t even keep my eyes open. I run long stretches with my eyes closed and keep wiping water from my brow. I can feel the weight of my shirt hanging on my chest and my nipples turn into raw hamburger.
And then I see the 20 marker. Now, 20 is where most people hit the wall, as that’s where the longest training run usually ends. I expect fan fare, a huge crowd, something. Instead, it’s a sign reading “20” attached to the side of a porta-potty.
The furthest I’ve ever run in my life.
Six more! You can do this. You’re ready. Forget the knee pain, the nipple chaffing, the side-aches, the blisters. Six miles is a short training run. In my neighborhood, this is a run to the park and back, plus a run though another small neighborhood. You got this.
Headed up a hill through the infamous Seattle Arboretum and I feel like I got shot in the leg. I stop dead in my tracks but do a flopping step forward. Then stop completely.
Hamstring cramp, left side.
I can see the aid tent up the hill, which I now have to walk to. The 3:30 time is now the least of my worries and my heart sinks with the thought I’d never thought would pop into my head: “Will I be able to finish?”
The two overweight burly men at the aid station aren’t much help. “Want me to call a car? They can pick you up…” I’m offended. And shocked. I’m five miles out. I start stretching hoping that when I start again, everything will just work.
“Be thankful nothing else is cramped up. But it’s a sign your electrolytes are bad.”
Skipping the gels was a bad idea. Side aches would have been preferable to stopping completely.
I get going again, hoping there aren’t many more sharp hills. Each step causes a light twinge in my thigh, testing me. As if to say “Go ahead. Step down a little harder. I dare you.” I take another gel for good measure.
Downhills mostly, which I can’t get speed on due to blisters. Uphills which I’m afraid of causing cramps. I’m basically running in fear and hope now. Just hoping I can finish this.
The next four miles are the longest I’ve ever run. I have to run 9+ minute miles (7-8 is normal for me), gimped and mentally shot. I’m basically broken at this point, and teetering between holding out for a 3:45 or finishing at all.
I feel bad for some other folks though, who have gotten just as far and are walking as well. They’re probably cramped out as well. The wind is blowing against the pack as well, into everyone’s face. I feel like I’m not moving forward at all. Plus it’s still raining.
Mile 25. People cheering. “You’re almost there! Great job! Wooo!” I turn down Republican, a major hill, extend my foot, and there it is again. Cramp 1. Then Cramp 2. Both Hamstrings out.
I try walking down the hill. Impossible. I try walking sideways down the hill. Impossible. Am I really going to give up 1.2 miles away from the finish? This is ridiculous.
So I start walking backwards down the hill, the only way my body will let me, besides crawling.
Slowly but surely, I make my way down the steep hill. Then I notice it’s nothing by downhills for the next half mile.
I’m walking the whole way if I have to.
Luckily, the hills aren’t so steep that they trigger the cramp, so I’m able to keep going again, ever so gingerly.
I’m passing people left and right again, even if I feel like I’m running slow. Then I see it… mile 26. Almost there.
One more step, and bam, it feels like a bee sting in my right foot. My blister popped.
Screw it, 2/10ths of a mile? Grind it out.
I enter into Memorial Stadium in a zombie-like state, with hundreds of people cheering who I barely notice. All I can think about is crossing that finish line without falling over.
As I run through the stadium, I see 3 something. 3:40 something. Is that a 3?
3:43:50 is my finishing time.
People are cheering and someone puts a medal around my neck. I make a beeline for the recovery area.
All I care about is getting some carbs and protein in me, getting home, taking a shower and passing out.
I guess that means every other marathon from here on out will be a breeze.