Monday, June 27, 2011

Seattle Rock and Roll Half Marathon - 6/25/11

I woke up on my 34th birthday in Seattle at 4:45a. When I realized that the Seattle Rock and Roll was being held on my actual birthday, and that Annelyse had been wanting to go visit the Pacific Northwest, I knew we had to make it happen. Thankfully, despite our last minute decision, we were able to get flights, a hotel room, and find bibs without too much trouble. Not only was it my birthday, but this was going to be my 20th half marathon.

We walked the mile to the shuttle stops at the Westin and realized it was a complete nightmare because of the sheer amount of people. We opted to take a cab to the start in Tukwila, which was by far the smarter decision. I'm not convinced we would've actually made it to the start on time had we waited in the chaotic lines that were snaking around the city blocks in every which direction. When we got to Tukwila we made our way to our corral, and I not so patiently awaited the start of the race with Annelyse and the other 26,000 runners. This was a huge race with both a marathon and a half marathon. The corral start was exceptionally well done with each corral starting two minutes after the last one. This really helped spread out the field in the beginning of the race, which can get so congested in large races.

The first few miles were relatively flat, and enabled me to get off to a fast start. It was at mile four when we turned onto Seward Park that we came to our first hill that stretched for about a mile, and was then followed by a steep decline. Shortly after mile five, we found our way onto Washington Blvd and ran along Washington Lake for the next four miles. With the big blue lake on my right, lined by lush trees and grass, this was easily my favorite part of the course.

Like every Rock and Roll race, all different types of bands, from folk to rock, were playing along the course. Local high school cheer squads were also out cheering the runners on. At one point, as we were running along Washington Lake, there were members of the "Wear blue: Run to Remember" community lining the course holding 42 American flags along with photographs of fallen soliders. I'd say this was definitely one of the most memorable miles I've ever run.

Mile nine found us running up to the I-90 Express lanes where we spent the next three quarters of a mile underground on a slight uphill. My GPS watch lost reception so naturally I freaked. Thankfully, as soon as we exited, it found a satellite and filled in the gap. The way this race was turning out, I knew I needed to be keeping a close watch on my pace because I was on track to PR. After a quarter mile downhill, there was another short uphill section before we had a nice, half a mile decent towards the Airport Way exit at mile 11.

The last two miles were through downtown Seattle. We ran along 4th and then 2nd Avenue, before heading onto the Alaskan Way Viaduct where we began our final mile. Qwest field was on our left and you could hear the announcer talking excitedly over the PA. We exited the viaduct onto 1st Avenue, and then wrapped our way around to the finish in front of Qwest Field, and just like that, the race was over.

I stopped my GPS watch just shy of the finish line when it hit 13.1 miles, and my time was 1:38:53. My official chip time was 1:39:12. I was ecstatic over the new PR, but even more so of having run a sub-1:40 race. My average pace was just over 7:30, and I later found out that I finished 25th out of 2,161 runners in my age group. That's essentially the top 1%. Yes, I was, I am, feeling pretty proud of that. I'm not sure I actually thought I was capable of it, but apparently hard work and training really does pay off. Now I'm shooting for a sub-1:35, but I think that's a long time off, if it's even possible.


I felt really good on this run, the entire time. With the exception of mile six, which contained a long downhill, my last three miles were my fastest. I've no doubt the abundant spectator support all along the course helped me to keep a strong pace. While sometimes I get annoyed with the pre-race shenanigans before a really large race, having all those spectators out cheering you on really makes you feel incredible.

The people of Seattle were fantastic. After I finished, as I walked to get my sweats back at our hotel, I had at least six people tell me congratulations. My favorite was a little girl who saw my finishers medal and asked me if I had won. Too cute. At one point, one of the police officers even called me over, and said of the few people that she'd seen who had finished, I was the only one wearing a big smile. How could I not? It was my birthday, I'd run a good race, and now it was time for a celebratory beer!

(pink birthday pin courtesy of my aunt Val)

When Annelyse finished shortly after, we met at Elysian Fields for some munchies and a post race beer to talk about our runs. From there the day just got better. Later that afternoon, we watched the Gold Cup final at the Taphouse where they have 160 beers on tap. Heaven. From there it was dinner at Poppy's in Capitol Hill, and to top it off, desert and chocolate martinis at Dilettante. My birthday really couldn't have been much more perfect.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

ZombieRunner SF Trail Half - 6/18/11

After being down with the flu and laryngitis for over a week, I was finally feeling decent enough to run even though my voice wasn't 100% back. This race was on my schedule and I was excited to run it since it was a trail race in San Francisco, and the elevation gain wasn't too crazy - only about 1100 ft. I woke up and after a quick shower to clear up some of my congestion I headed to the race start at Crissy Field. The parking gods were with me, and despite the fact that the parking lot was completely full, as I pulled in, some car literally right across from packet pickup happened to be leaving and I was able to snag it. Who needs a sweat check when your car is only yards from the start/finish.

It was a beautiful day; the sun was out, and it was already getting warm, which made running attire an easy decision. Definitely no sleeves. The race started with around 160 people running the half marathon. We headed out of Crissy Field, down the Marina Green, and turned around at the Safeway before running back to where we started. As we passed the start, the 10K runners were all lined up waiting for their race. We'd run only two miles and I could already tell I was still recovering from being sick. My body felt tired and heavy, but I knew this was a race I had no expectations for, and could take it as slow as I wanted.

We headed to the Presidio, and it was just after mile three that we hit our first set of stairs that took us up toward the bridge. We continued our ascent until we reached Lincoln Blvd, where we ran along the trail that ran beside it. From here it was a nice and easy downhill section before diverting down towards Baker Beach. We had a bit of a flat stretch, but it became quite tough when we had to run through thick, dry sand. The sand killed me, but luckily it wasn't for more than a quarter mile, and at the end was an aid station with M&Ms, trail mix, and all the goodies you could imagine. I awarded myself with a handful of M&Ms.

We headed off the sand and onto the paved roads of Seacliff Ave and El Camino Del Mar. I've run through this area during other races, and the houses are incredible and provided a slight distraction to the fact that I was again making a pretty good climb towards Land's End. We jumped onto the trail at Land's End which marked the most ups and downs of the course. Lot's of short steep uphills and downhills, and plenty of stairs. Thankfully, the trail was heavily shaded, but it didn't make it any easier. My legs were tired.

Just after mile seven, we made our way down the curving trail and the long flight of stairs to the Sutro Baths. At this point, I'd made it to the turnaround and I knew everything I had just done, I had to do again, going in the other direction, and it started with climbing the stairs next to the ones I'd just descended. At the top of the stairs, there was an aid station where I refilled my water bottle. More M&Ms and a dixie cup full of Coke and I was ready to make my way back. The Coke was a test, I'd never had soda during a race before so was a bit curious to see if the sugar would help. I couldn't tell if it did, but it was good.

By the time we exited the trail that ran through Land's End, I was thoroughly exhausted and knew I still had sand and the very long uphill along Lincoln Blvd. I made it to the top, passed Baker Beach and knew the rest was downhill. Soon after, I found myself back in Crissy Field running the last mile and half toward the finish. I finished with a time 2:07:41. That was an average 9:45 pace and earned me 6th place out of 28 in my division. For a true trail race, I was very pleased. I'd managed to run the majority of the uphills, while walking a good portion of the stairs. Trail running was a bit tough on my ankle, especially in the sand, but it held up really well, and nothing could beat running along the coast, with incredible views on a sunny, clear day.

(checking my watch as I prepare to cross the finish)

Like with all trail races, when I finished, I felt like I'd run a marathon versus only a half marathon. I was pleased to find out that there was a huge spread of candy, cinnamon rolls, brownies, snack mix, fruit, cliff bars, and a ton of other munchies at the finish to indulge in. I really worked up a sweat on this run, and was sufficiently coated in salt, and felt I earned the right to devour anything I wanted. Which I did.

Trail runs: I love them, but they kick my ass. I've decided not to have a separate PR for trail races. The elevation gains are just too different, and therefore, you can't really compare them, just like you can't compare trail races to road races.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Fight For Air Half Marathon - 6/4/11

Unlike the weather I woke up to for the memorial race I ran six days earlier, when I woke up for the Fight For Air Run, it was clear and the sun was already starting to peek out. I was excited to run this race because it was right in Salt Lake City and finished at Sugarhouse Park located a few blocks from my sister and brother-in-laws house. Being that it was a point to point course, the shuttles departed from the park and brought you to the start line. I was running the half marathon and my sister was running the 10k. My race started 45 minutes before Kim's, so I woke up a bit earlier, started my pre-race morning routine, and walked to the shuttles by myself. Kim would do the same 45 minutes later after she made sure Colton had a full belly.

The bus dropped us off in Holladay and the majority of us went to stand in line to use the portos before the race started. Like the previous race I had just run, this was a very low key benefit race. Proceeds of this race went to the American Lung Association. There were only 114 of us when the announcer yelled out a simple "go" to signify the race had begun. For the first seven miles we ran mostly along Wasatch Blvd and through some residential neighborhoods. The views of the snow capped mountains were incredible. I found myself in the top four females during this stretch and ended up talking to another girl for a mile or so who had just moved to SLC from the East Coast. It's always nice to have a distraction from the fast pace, and have someone to talk with.

The first few miles were much more challenging than I had anticipated. There were a lot of rolling hills, some with fairly decent grades, and at some points, I found myself running uphill directly into some pretty heavy winds while we ran along a ridge. As we came to the top of one, there was a water stop. I chugged down the water much too quickly and had some serious craps for the next two miles. A little beyond mile 6, I couldn't take it anymore and had to come to a complete stop. And then the miracle burp came and cleared up all my cramping issues, and I continued on my way. The cramps came and went, but weren't nearly as bad as it was before the miracle burp. Unfortunately, I lost a lot of time during these few miles and was passed by a number of females. I was slightly bummed, because while I knew this wasn't a PR course, I did think I could possibly place overall, not just in my division.

The 10k'ers were to join us as we ran through Olympic Hills, but it wasn't until I was running through Parley's trail, that the leaders of the 10k caught us. At one point on the trail we were confronted with a short hill that was a 20% grade. That was brutal, and I was just happy I made it up without having to walk. Exiting the trail, we wound our way down passed Tanner Park, a big dog park, where we'd taken my sisters dog, Zella, on a previous visit. From there it was only about four more miles to the finish.

(my sister and I after the race showing off our fingerstaches. The best part is that the sweat washed them off and that they're off center.)

We ran along roads I was familiar with, which told me we were getting close. Soon enough, we came down a street that ran parallel to my sisters house, and on the corner I saw Sully and crew out waiting for us to run by. Sully looked like such a cute dad, with Colton in the baby bjorn, and their dog, Zella, at his side. I dropped off my windbreaker, and headed to Sugarhouse park. As I entered the park, I was nearing mile 11, and had two long laps around the park to do. I was very familiar with these laps, since this is where I was doing my morning runs. It's a great park with a big pond, lots of geese and their babies, and rolling hills. As I rounded the hill to start my second lap, I saw my sister heading the other way running straight to the finish. She was looking good, and I could tell by the runners around her, that she was finishing in a great time.

As I completed my second lap, I turned into the finish, and ran the straightaway. I heard Sully and Kim cheering me on as I crossed the finish. My official time was 1:47:29. About five minutes slower than the race before, but the course was much more challenging, and I was happy with my time considering all the running I'd been doing without much rest. We all hung out at the park, enjoying the sun, waiting for the results to be posted. My sister ended up taking third in her age group, and ran her 10k in a pace faster than her 5k a few days before. Hard to believe she just had a baby three months prior. I ended up taking first in my division, and was pretty pleased with my overall race performance.

Having just completed two races with my sister while in SLC, I was reminded how much I miss having my her around to run races with. I'm lucky though that I live close enough where a quick trip to SLC to visit her, Sully, and Colton is possible, while giving me an opportunity to get my sister races in at the same time.

(this would be much cuter if my eyes were open)