Monday, June 24, 2013

Born Again - Rock n Roll Seattle 2013

Every marathoner can point to a few races where their journey took a turn, where they made a decision to change the way they look at races. Rock n Roll Seattle 2010 was one of those races for me.

In March of 2010, I had my fourth knee surgery - full reconstruction of my left ACL with a cadaver graft. I started telling people I 'felt a little dead inside'. I was coming off my full marathon PR at the Inaugural RNR Mardi Gras in February 2010 when I found out I'd been walking on the torn ligament for over 5 years. RNR Seattle 2010 was my first race after surgery, and, with doctor's clearance, I decided to give the new knee a decent road test. I just cracked my half marathon PR that year, walking under a 13 minute/mile pace for the first time. At that point, I had already slid in a couple couple of incidental full marathons, so Susan decided to do a full to try to catch up. I ran into Marathon Maniac Kamika Smith who was doing his 100th full marathon at the time. If you ever find yourself in Kauai, be sure to look up his family luauHe's one of a long list of friends that I credit (or blame) for sucking us into this lifestyle.

Looking at our race schedule now, I don't know how I was able to stay sane taking 16 weeks between races. RNR Seattle was where I started pushing for faster times. Here now in 2013. I'm back with a new course, a lighter body and coming off 5 Halves and 3 PR's in 5 weeks.

First, a quick plug for some of our friends. After a while, you get used to the layout of the Expo and know where everything is so in theory, you can grab what you need and be out of there quickly. The problem with that idea is that we've made friends with so many of the vendors that we want to chat and check out anything new.
Left: Wendy at the Power Crunch booth. We live off these protein supplements. The new Chocolate Mint Power Crunch bar is coming out soon. Chokolat is a gluten free alternative. Center: Amy and Dave at Gypsy Runner. When my friend Laura commits to RNR Dallas, I'm taking her on a shopping spree here. Right: The Biggest Loser Run/Walk series has a Seattle race in mid-September. The series features a range of 5K, 15K, half marathon road races, off-road challenges and Spartan races. We highly recommend their series for any experience level.
Race Day: Seattle has a huge contingent of the Half Fanatics and Marathon Maniacs clubs. The pre-race picture was a reunion of sorts, though these days, it's less a 'reunion' and more like a weekly happy hour. 

I should mention that I broke the cardinal rule of marathoning: "Nothing new on race day." Instead of the usual sesame or whole wheat bagel, I made what I thought was a reasonable switch to a multi-grain roll. By mile 7, I had some serious lower GI pressure that may have aggravated a hernia to the point where I had to pull over. It went away by mile 9. Lesson (painfully) learned and I'm going to have things checked out this week.

Along the shore of Lake Washington was the Team Blue mile. This stretch was lined with pictures of servicemen and women who were killed in action. There were dozens of pictures, followed by dozens of American flags, with the supporters cheering for Team Blue and the rest of the participants on the course. Al generously decided to stick with me through my 'issues', so I was able to take this picture. He held the salute as he ran through the entire stretch. It was a powerful moment.

The course for RNR Seattle was a bit challenging. There were a few long hills in downtown and on the highway, the second tunnel had a bit of a right-to-left slope, the concrete surface on the viaduct was punishing in the last few miles. The inconveniently placed underpass drop-and-rise at mile 12-point-freaking-8 dashed a lot of hopes for strong finishes. Al described the course as 'designed to zap your legs', so if you were coming off a strong time at San Diego you might want to look at this as a recreational race.  Clear skies gave us some stunning views of Mount Rainier on a fabulous day. Our weather luck continues.

Caryn and I saw this fellow making great progress on the Viaduct near mile 11. Steve Martin lost both of his legs in a bomb blast in Afghanistan and his goal was to finish the half marathon in under 3 hours.  His finish time was 2:59:59. A better picture of Steve is on the Rock n Roll site here.

Susan and I finished a few minutes apart. Al ran ahead to bring Susan in with another solid walk time of just under 2:42. I recovered enough to catch up with Caryn on the last few hard miles to finish just under 2:44. It was not what I came in planning to do, but technically a PR in the state of Washington. I'll take it. 

Caryn and I gave our shoes to Give Your Sole, a local organization collecting donations for the needy. They collected 617 pairs after the race.

It was great to give something back through the sport that's given so much to us.

After you reach the Rock Star level for 5 RNR races in a year, you get to pick up the bonus "Heavy Medal" at the race instead of having to wait for it to come in the mail. Seattle is also the second leg of the Pacific Peaks challenge (RNR Portland in May was the first). Kevin pointed out this was one of the only times where you can get three medals in one race. We always wear our medals on the flight home. It's tradition. But with this kind of hardware, it may be easier on our necks if we checked them.

Four more months to our 50th Half Marathons. For the record, I no longer feel 'dead inside'.


Rock n Roll Seattle celebrated its 5th running in 2013. There were 2,345 finishers in the full marathon (median finish time 4:35) and 12,367 in the half marathon (median finish time 2:22).  

The course was a point to point course in 2010, but was modified in 2013 to eliminate a hill or two and shorten the stretch on the Viaduct. The 2013 courses for both the half and full marathon start at the Seattle Center in the shadow of the Space Needle, traveling south on 5th Avenue, east on South Dearborn and south on Rainier Avenue before turning north on 43rd. The Full splits at Lake Washington Blvd at mile 6 and rejoins the half at mile 12.5 (mile 6 on the half). A second split sends the full marathon out and back on the Lacey Murrow Memorial Bridge for miles 14 - 21. Both courses run the last 5 miles along Highway 90 west, through surface streets to the Viaduct (Highway 99), back onto surface streets finishing back at the Space Needle. An interesting artifact of the tunnels is that satellite-based GPS watches measure the distance OVER the mountain, making the total distance closer to 13.5 miles unless you have an accelerometer based device like the Garmin Foot Pod. Al's blog has a good overview of the device.

Course Setting: City streets, highway (with some canted road in the second tunnel), lakeshore drives. The full crosses a bridge; that experience draws mixed reviews.

Support: Very good. Gu stations in the late miles, water and Gatorade every 2 miles like most Rock n Roll events. Entertainment in the tunnels and on the bridge were boom box 
Weather (2013): Low of 60, high of 72. The days before and after had rain - its the Northwest, this should not surprise you. Seasonal temperatures range from a low of 53 to a high of 70.

Race weekend activities: Pikes Marketthe original Starbucks, Space Needle tours, the Great WheelA's/Mariner's game, Boeing factory tour (car or bus package required).

This was our second time racing in Seattle. In 2010, Ron did the half (race #21,  Half #12 - PR) and Susan completed her 8th full marathon (race #20). 2013 was Susan's 47th half and Ron's 46th. Both of us are at 58 races with 7 more to go this year. 

We've already signed up for RNR Seattle on June 21, 2014. The Pacific Peaks medal is way too cool to pass up. Rumors of another Rock n Roll race in Vancouver for 2015 are circulating and if they're true, we'll jump on that as soon as its announced.

Quite possibly the busiest race day yet.
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