Today was my half marathon "anniversary" race! Last year, the Seattle Rock'n'Roll Half Marathon was my very first half marathon, so I was excited to do it again this year but as an experienced half marathoner (this was #13!).
But before I give a race report, I have to back up a couple of days. Due to some scheduling conflicts at work for the days I originally signed up for vacation, I needed to change my vacation around. I thought taking a couple of days off to go enjoy the expo for the race one or both days would be fun. I ended up volunteering to help at the expo both days and had an absolute blast doing it--if you get a chance to volunteer either at a race or an expo, do it! It's a great way to give back a little to the running community and the people who put on races.
One of the highlights of the expo for me was meeting and chatting with John "The Penguin" Bingham. He is just a hoot; since I had my race crew shirt on with a nametag, he called me by name. He also recognized my face since I sat in on his talk at the Portland RnR; he must have a great memory for faces to do that, I've seen him do it to others in the past. I got him to sign my copy of "An Accidental Athlete" after his talk. It happened that he was moderating a couple of other talks that day, so he called me out and asked what I was doing there. Funny guy.
When we got home from the expo last night, we immediately set about getting our race gear together. Somehow it took us until nearly 11 p.m. to get ourselves organized, not at all the early hour I was hoping for. That made the alarm going off at 3:30 a.m. even worse, but we managed to crawl out of bed and get out the door when we needed. We met up with our friend Shannon at a designated park and ride lot and headed into Seattle. Knowing that parking would be a zoo, we had pre-purchased parking for the race; the only issue was we HAD to be at the garage by 6 a.m. in order to use it. Getting to Seattle was no problem; getting through town to the garage was another matter. I was sweating just a little by the time we got near the garage, then we managed to miss the turn into the garage and had to wander around to try and get back--many streets were closed either because of the race or due to construction. We made it, though, with about 10 minutes to spare.
The race started at 7 a.m., so we had time for our bio breaks, finding pre-race snacks, dropping off a gear bag, and finding our corral (#39 out of 48). Of course, the 7 a.m. start was for the elites and corral #1; our corral would not make its way to the front and cross the starting line until about 8:10! No problem; we chatted with one another and with others we met and enjoyed the music as we slowly moved forward. While we were waiting, I told Shannon about meeting a woman in the restroom at the expo who was complaining that they don't make running clothes for "fat girls," and I told her I knew how that was. She looked me up and down and said, "I don't think so!" It hit me that people who meet me know don't have any idea that I've lost over 100 pounds, they think I've always been at a healthy weight. A woman standing next to us in the corral overheard and asked me how I'd done it; I was able to spread the Spark a little and tell her about SparkPeople.
The race start and finish was near Seattle Center, so we had a great view of the Space Needle as we made our way forward:
As you can see from the skies, it was overcast. The weather forecast was for showers during the hours of the race, but as we started out, it was thankfully dry. Would it stay that way? Who knew!
Finally, we were at the front waiting for our turn to go:
We were near the stage where John Bingham was talking and starting off the corrals, and as I stood there waiting I heard, "Denise! What are you doing there?" John Bingham was pointing at me--he apparently recognized me in the crowd! I yelled back, "Waiting to run!" My fleeting moment of fame, LOL!
At last, we were off! Dale, Shannon and I were able to stay together quite awhile, doing a 2:1 run:walk ratio for the most part. Then Dale needed to stop for a bio break, and Shannon and I went on. The three of us have an understanding--if at any time one of us needs to stop, go slower, go faster, we're free to do that and leave the others. We all have to run our own race. For the rest of the race, Shannon and I stayed together. Shannon had planned to do the full marathon and had gotten to the point of doing a 20-mile run, but it had been a horrible experience--she had thrown up and been sick for several days afterward, so she had not run at all since then and had switched to do the half marathon. I wanted to make sure she had FUN in this race, more than anything else, and I think she did.
One of the things I like about the Seattle Rock'n'Roll is that the charity it benefits is the American Cancer Society. I couldn't help but think of the family and friends I've lost to cancer as we ran; remembering them and thinking about the people who wish they could be out there running is part of the motivation for doing races like this. A sobering section of the race is along the lake, where pictures of members of the military who have died in combat are posted, and people stand at attention with a row of American flags. That always touches me when I see that.
My longest run this month has been a single 10-mile run last weekend, so I really was not sure how well I'd do. I knew I could finish, but that was about it--I hoped it would be in under 3 hours. By the last couple of miles, both Shannon and I were getting tired, but we were able to keep running with occasional short walk breaks. We even managed to pass a fair number of people the last mile or so, and we finished with big smiles for the cameras in 2:55. That's not a PR, but I'm happy with that time; shoot, compared to last year, I'm THRILLED with it! We had some fairly steep hills, and we did not push it hard but rather enjoyed the experience.
After we collected our medals, we set out in search of food (LOTS of it) and where we could pick up our extra medal for doing both Portland and Seattle Rock'n'Roll this year. We located the tent, gave our names, and collected our bling:
That sparkly background is my cool running skirt that I wore. Hey, if we can't be fast, we can at least look good, right?
We wandered around a bit, then made our way to where we had arranged to meet up and soon found Dale; he finished in 3:06, so about 10 minutes after us. After he collected his extra medal, we made our way slowly back to the parking garage and headed out of town. Oh, and the weather? God was smiling on us today; we had NO RAIN until we were IN THE CAR and headed out. We passed the last of the marathoners coming across the floating bridge as we left town; we felt bad for them, running their last few miles in a downpour. That has to be discouraging, knowing your among the last to finish and then having to do it in the pouring rain.
I'm still amazed at what a difference a year makes. This year's race was so much easier to do, in spite of some pretty steep hills, and after a short nap when we got home, I'm feeling great--we may even try to do a short recovery run if we're feeling this good tomorrow. We're already signed up to do the FULL marathon next year; now it's time to get ready for Ragnar next month and figure out a marathon training plan that we can live with!