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.

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