Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Seattle Half-Marathon Race Report

So, the last race of the year has come and gone. Shortly after the Rock-and-Roll San Antonio Half Marathon, I packed up Pooh and Monkey and headed up to Washington. As soon as we landed in Seattle, we headed straight over to my parents' place -- La Toscana Bed & Breakfast and Winery in beautiful Leavenworth, Washington. Within hours of our arrival, the snow started -- and pretty much didn't stop until we left more than a week later! Leavenworth is a beautiful German village in the Cascade mountains, and although it's idyllic, it's not necessarily a training Mecca. But we've all got to "suck it up" at some point, don't we? Undaunted, I headed out the next morning for a beautiful 10-miler through the mountains...19 degrees and breezy when I started, with light snow falling, it was gorgeous but COLD. Mission accomplished, and on to turkey and stuffing!

Shortly after our family Thanksgiving, I headed back over the mountains with Pooh and Monkey, with my sister and brother-in-law (and Team Michael Moyles co-founder) close behind. The passes were pretty icy, but we managed...

We picked up Linda -- stalwart TMM member just flown in from sunny Florida -- at the airport on the way in to Seattle. I've never seen anyone so bundled up for November in Seattle! But more on that in a minute...after a few relaxing days at home, we all headed out for the race...

Pre-Race Expo. The expo was crowded, and the location they chose -- the Westin in downtown Seattle, the same place as last year -- simply isn't adequate. The facility in comparatively small, the vendors are packed together, parking can be hard to find and expensive, and both the hotel and the expo itself were rather difficult to find. Packet pickup was well-marked, and the technical tee provided (Brooks) was comfortable. The biggest score of the night -- a pair of Gel-Kayano 16s, size 12.5 for $50! The savings on that purchase almost covered the cost of parking.

Race Day. Race day was well-organized and easy -- everything the expo wasn't. It helps that we ran the same race last year, so we knew where to go, what garage to park in, and exactly how to get to the start line. Sunday morning dawned cloudy and very cold -- low 30s -- and we made our way downtown. We all froze, and took turns teasing Linda about her attire -- two pairs of pants, three shirts, two jackets, a scarf, two hats, and gloves. I was in shorts and a t-shirt with a disposable jacket, and my B-I-L (brother-in-law) and sister were dressed similarly. Fortunately, we found a large 24-hour grocery store right at the start line, and made liberal use of their clean bathrooms (no porta-potties!) and their heater. With nearly 30,000 racers, there were only about 25 people in the foyer of the grocery store...perfect for us. The Team stretched, warmed up, and made a dash for the start line with about 10 minutes to spare.

The Course. The course was the same as last year -- only last year, I ran the full marathon, and this year I ran the half. The half-marathon course really just preserved the hardest parts of the full-marathon course, removing only a five-mile out-and-back across Lake Washington and a 7-mile loop around Seward Park, both almost completely flat. The race starts by winding from the Seattle Center through Seattle's streets out to Lake Washington, then a rather confusing series of loops consisting almost entirely of on-ramps and off-ramps from Interstate 90 and Interstate 5. I ran the first 7 miles or so with BIL, at about 7:55 pace, then pulled off to the side to wait for my sister. There is a miserably wicked hill at mile 7.5 -- basically straight up -- and I actually got to run it twice, once with BIL and once with my sister. The last half of the course is almost entirely uphill, starting with the big hill, then transitioning into Intelaken Park, which is about a 3-mile sustained, gradual climb. The views of downtown Seattle, the Space Needle, and the Puget Sound are incredible, and are a fit reward for completing the hilly portion of the course. From the top at Interlaken Park -- about mile 11 -- it's downhill back to the Seattle Center, and the finish line. BIL finished first in about 1:49, and my sister and I finished together in 1:56, easily blasting away her goal of sub-2. It was a very emotional finish, and a great way to end TMM's 2010 season.

What a great surprise to see Ade, one of the charter members of TMM, waiting at the finish line -- along with Pooh, Monkey, and other friends and family. Not long after hooking up with our supporters, we spied Linda sprinting across the finish line, still wearing most of the layers and clothes she had on when she arrived at the airport...but she was comfortable and finished easily.

Support along the course was great, both spectators and volunteers -- aid stations were well placed, well supplied, porta-potties were plentiful, and miles were clearly marked.

Post-Race. The "finish festival" was hardly a festival, but it was fair -- decent food and supplies, but just like the expo, the facility was simply inadequate. Crowded, too hot, impossible to move, long lines, poorly organized, just not what you'd expect from a major race. As the race grows, Amica and other sponsors will have to find better facilities for both the expo and the finish festival. At the end of the day, the Amica Seattle Marathon is still my "hometown" race, and one I'll probably return to every year -- but I'd love to see the race sponsors and organizers find better and bigger facilities now that the race is drawing tens of thousands of runners. We all celebrated (medals still on, of course) with a big burger and beer at the Elliot Bay Brewery, and toasted a great race, a great year, and a great team. Go TMM, on to 2011!


MAJ said...

Stumbled on your blog through a friends. I am a fellow survivor and I love it.

I hope this part of the training year is treating you well!

faithrunner said...

Absolutely love the pic of you and your baby girl, how precious.

Miss reading your blog, hope you're doing well and your is staying healthy.

God bless