Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Seattle Marathon recap

On December 1, I ran the Seattle Marathon. Spoiler alert: I really liked it. 

Before the race
I was, of course, a bit anxious. My training had been much stronger (running six days a week, higher mileage weeks) than any other training I've done. But, I cut almost all of the longer tempos and speedwork short.

I trained with paces for a 4:15 finish, but never, ever thought I would finish in 4:15. That's just pretty much what the charts in the Hansons book told me to do, so I went with it.

My husband and I stayed in a hotel a few blocks from the start to avoid a 4am wake up for the 5:20 ferry. Such a great decision.

We left our hotel around 7:45, walked the two blocks to the bag check (very well organized), jumped in the (short) line for the potties, then headed to the start. We just stopped where the crowd got thicker, which was a ways behind the 4:40 pacer.  There wasn't a 4:30 pacer, that made me kind of disappointed. I knew my Garmin would be off (it has been in every race I run in a city), and thought if I got a sub 4:30, I'd be really, really happy.

Within five minutes, we were off.

The race
The first 2 miles of the race run down 5th Avenue in downtown Seattle. There were a lot of spectators cheering, and it was a lot of fun.  I really wanted to run this first mile much slower than the rest - like an 11 minute mile. I stayed well behind the 4:40 pacer and would slow myself down when my watch had me going  a bit too fast.

I checked last year's results and saw that a lot of mid pack runners positive split the course. The major hills come at the end, so I wanted to make sure I didn't use all my energy too early and completely bonk once I got there.

At mile 2, we rounded a bend to head on to the 1-90 express ramp. The race volunteer shouted "hold on to your hats". After a few yards, I realized she wasn't kidding.  The weather forecast had heavy rain and wind. Fortunately the rain held off, but we did get the wind. Running up the on-ramp hill against the wind was a bit of a challenge, but it made it more funny than frustrating.

Running across the I-90 bridge was fun. The views of the water and Bellevue were nice, and the lead runners were heading back towards us. I ran in the middle of the bridge to lessen the effect of the wind, and to see my husband coming back. He trained for a 3:45, and when I saw him a few minutes behind the pacer looking good, I shouted out to him and waved. Since the race was not too huge, he actually heard me and waved back with a smile.

Around mile 6, a bit before the turn around, I saw the 4:25 pace group heading past. I took a gel at the stop, turned around, and decided that I would gradually catch up with the 4:25.

It didn't take too long to reach them. The pace seemed a bit too easy at the time, but I decided that sticking with them for a few miles would be a good idea to conserve some energy.  This part of the course is flat and makes a loop through Seward Park. It was really pretty - the lake, the trees (the usual northwest fall-ness.) I remember feeling like a weird excitement around mile 10 or 11.  The scenery, the way the pace felt so easy, the crowds. Three days before, I ran a Turkey Trot with my girls and my 10 year old kept shouting "this is awesome" at random. I laughed because I felt myself thinking the same thing here (but figured the pace group didn't want to hear me shout it.)

from the Seattle Marathon facebook page.  Leaves. Water. Pretty

I decided to leave the 4:25 group after the half point. I was feeling great and  ready to kick it up a little bit. The hills start around mile 20, but I knew if I wanted to try to bank any time, I should do it during this stretch.  My "strategy" was to change it a bit here - keep it comfortably hard, not the "extra" comfortable I was keeping in the first half, walk through every water station, eat a gel or shot blok every 2-4 miles, drink Gatorade at the stops where I didn't eat.

Miles 14-18 went by fast. The scenery was awesome. The crowd was awesome. The wind picked up at times. My hair kept getting blown out of the bun that I adjusted so many times.  I finally decided to  give it up and run the rest of the way with a big, messy, ponytail beating me up.

proof  - that I kept messing with my hair

At 18 I turned on my music. We came in to the fancy-fancy area (after miles of just regular fancy.)  Past Daniel's Broiler, Seattle Tennis Club, and two teenagers walking with tennis rackets who looked like they were out of some pretentious Ralph Lauren ad. It made me laugh out loud. I was still having fun.

The clock at the 20 mile timing mat read 3:18:something and I was excited! (and mistakenly thought I could totally do the last 6.2 in under an hour, oh well)

The first hill was steep, but short. I kept going, shortened my stride, changed my breathing from a 3:2 to a 2:1, and it was done. Not bad. The long hill on Madison was harder. It wasn't steep, but seemed to go on forever. A lot of people were walking. I was just about ready to do the same when I saw the water station ahead. After that we headed down a bit, and in to the arboretum. My hips started to get a bit tight a few miles back, so I stopped a bit before an up hill to stretch them out.

The arboretum is the tough part if the course. I studied the elevation map and read plenty of race reviews that gave me an idea of what to expect.  I told myself that it was supposed to be hard and to let it hurt. Seriously out of character for me. I kept repeating to myself, let it hurt, let it hurt. When I was running through it, it really didn't seem that bad and went pretty quickly  (I didn't think this section slowed me down while running, but looking at my results it actually did quite a bit.)

still with a stupid smile

Once we were through the arboretum a bit before mile 24, I grabbed some pretzels at the aid station and loosened my shoe a bit. The top of my right foot near the ankle took a beating during the rolling hills.

We crossed over the freeway and headed down the ramp back in to town. A huge gust of wind hit me at this point, pushing me up the ramp. I laughed about it with the Marathon Maniac guy next to me. Then we went down a steep hill (that really hurt), and were getting so close. I skipped the last aid station and kept going, as fast as I thought I could. What I didn't realize earlier was that the course included the hill that is right before the Rock 'n' Roll finish. I hate that hill. I got up without walking (though walking might have been faster) and kept going to past where Rock 'n' Roll finishes, made the turn to head in to the stadium and the finish line.

As I approached, I saw that the race clock read 4:24:something.  Since my previous marathon time was a 4:54, I kicked up my pace even more to get a 30 minute PR (but wasn't thinking that I started a couple minutes after the gun went off.)

Hello, mid-pack. My favorite thing about this graphic is the lower right hand corner - over the final 6 miles I passed 222 runners and 1 (guy) passed me. That shows how tough the end was.

I crossed, smiling, happy, and looking quite haggard (evidence so rudely captured in my race photos.)

My hips hurt, the top of my foot hurt, but I didn't care.

After a few texts and calls, I found my husband who finished in 3:48! Just 3 minutes off of his goal time for his first marathon?! Awesome. It was also awesome that he grabbed me a chocolate milk and banana because the after race area is a mess of runners and families, and we heard the food runs out pretty quickly.

After the race
My hips were super sore and stiff for a day or two. I went to work on Monday, which was pretty much the last day that stairs and those first few steps after getting up were crazy hard.

Though I didn't follow the Hansons plan exactly, I would definitely say that (mostly) six days a week running made a huge difference in my race. I didn't feel overly fatigued at anytime, and recovery was surprisingly easy.  Does that mean that I didn't push enough or 'leave it all on the course'?  Probably, yes. That is something that I've been working on, and I can see some progress there. After this, I think a 4:15 is totally doable.

Thoughts on the event itself
I loved this race. Big enough to have a lot of energy, but not too big that you are stuck weaving in and out of people.  There were plenty of aid stations, and the volunteers and spectators were great. So many reviews that I read before the race said that there wasn't much of a crowd at this race, and the later sections felt 'lonely'. I didn't find that true at all. Maybe because is was like 50 degrees and dry?

The course itself was was more scenic than Rock 'n' Roll (though I've only run that half, maybe the full is better?) Some people complain about the 1-90 bridge, but I liked it. Miles 8-23 are seriously beautiful. I may have to make this an annual thing.


  1. That data is awesome! What a fun collection of stats. Sounds like you had a great race! Have you thought about doing the RnR full?

  2. what an AWESOME race for you! congrats on a job well done on a truly difficult course - hillz at the end of a marathon? gah! Yes, I agree, that short steep hill isn't as bad as it's followed by more hills in the arboretum. I will tackle the half again, though - hopefully next year :)

  3. Great recap! I just ran the Rock and Roll full marathon this year and the course is slightly different. FOr this one you do 90 first then seward park, but for the rock and roll its the other way around, and the rock and roll goes through the not so super rich area where as this one goes through the super rich amazing homes area. this course has more hills on account of the arboritum.


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