On race morning I woke up a few minutes before my 5:45am alarm was set to go off. I ate a breakfast of oats, banana, green tea and water while rechecking all the weather forecasts I could find online. It was unseasonably warm on race morning (8C with a high of 12C), foggy and rather humid. Contrast that to two years ago when it snowed! I got all my gear together and headed out to take the bus down to Seattle Center. I arrived at the start area at about 7:15 which was 15 minutes before the half marathon was scheduled to start and an hour before the marathon start. You know me, perpetually early for everything! Because I had so much time I decided to go to the indoor recovery area to relax and get organized.
I settled on wearing shorts, a long sleeved technical shirt and gloves to the start of the race. I dropped off my extra clothes at gear check and took a gel about 15 minutes before race start. There were just over 2000 marathoners so that start line wasn’t nearly as crowded as for the half marathon with over 7000 runners. I lined up between the 4:00 pacer and the 4:45 pacer. I was aiming for a 4:00 finish but I didn’t plan to run with the pace group and frankly I thought they were positioned too close to the front.
The race started on time and within about a minute I was across the start line on my way to running my second marathon!
First Half 1:58:15 (Downtown – I-90 – Lake Washington – Seward Park)
The first mile was not nearly as crowded as I’d expected. In fact I finished the first mile in 9:00 flat which was faster than the 9:09 pace I was aiming for. You can see the rest of my splits in the data section below. My focus for the first few miles was to settle into my goal pace and take things easy. I enjoyed the run through downtown and felt the climb up the I-90 express lanes was easier than I’d remembered. Also somehow all the walkers were in a different lane separated by a concrete barrier so there weren’t the same crowding issues I experienced two years ago during the half.
By mile 4 I’d warmed up significantly and decided to throw away my gloves. They were cheap gloves I’d gotten for free at a race last year so I wasn’t sad to see them go. I also took a gel/water break at this point. Throughout the race I stuck with my plan of a walk/water/Gatorade/gel break every two miles. Running across the I-90 bridge was like being in some kind of a sci-fi movie. It was so foggy that you couldn’t see Mercer Island or the lake and it looked like the bridge went to no where!
The first real indication that this wasn’t going to be the day that I beat 4 hours was during the eighth mile on the bridge heading back to Seattle. I was passed by the 4:00 pace group. I’d started behind them so I’m not sure when I passed them but now they’d caught back up to me. I could tell that they were a few minutes ahead of pace but I couldn’t hold with them and watched them slowly creep ahead and out of sight. I was still maintaining a good pace myself which is why I was happy to let them go but I was starting to wonder how long I could hold this up for.
I was happy to get off the I-90 bridge and off the concrete onto the relative softness of the Lake Washington Blvd asphalt. Somewhere along this stretch I saw my favourite t-shirt of the day. It read “My sport is your sport’s punishment.” Nice. Made me think of all the basketball pro-sprints I used to have to do! I also got to see the marathon leaders go by heading north while I was still running south.
I hit the half marathon point in Seward park in 1:58:15 which was great but in the end this quick first half would cost me dearly.
Second Half 2:12:04 (Lake Washington – Galer/Madison – Interlaken – Finish)
Looking at the pace graph and table below I started to steadily slow down starting at mile 15. My heart and lungs felt fine but my legs just couldn’t maintain the pace I’d put out in the first half. Knowing the course really helped though because I had a landmark at the top of every hill and I knew what I was aiming for. By the time I hit mile 17 I knew for sure that 4 hours wasn’t happening. My legs just did not have the turn over that I needed.
I then shifted into focusing on my secondary goal of setting a new personal best. I could feel myself fading and I realized that this race had become totally mental. I had to will my legs to keep moving. Mile 21 included the climbs up Galer and Madison and I was devastated to see it come in at 11:29. There was a gel/water break in there too but I really didn’t think I was running that slowly!
As I moved along through the arboretum and along Interlaken I encountered a new problem. Everywhere around me people were walking! It is so hard to keep running when the temptation of walking is all around you. I don’t remember seeing this many people walking when I ran in Ottawa so I’m going to attribute it to the hills. In fact despite the fact that my pace over the second half was over a minute per mile slower than during the first half I still passed 152 runners in the second half while only 82 passed me! I pretty much ignored my splits from this point on and just tried to keep moving forward and quickly as possible.
I can not tell you how much I hated the Mercer climb just before mile 26! It was agony. My legs were killing me and mentally I really just wanted it to be done. I did manage to put on a decent sprint to the finish once I got into the stadium though. My final chip time was 4:10:19 a personal best by 14:54!
Once I crossed the finish line all I wanted to do was sit down but I made myself to keep moving for fear that my legs might seize on me otherwise. I had some water and chocolate milk and ate a banana but that’s all I was really interested in consuming for the time being. I recall immediately thinking “I’m only going to do half marathons for a while!” but imagine that will pass eventually.
Upon reflection I honestly don’t think that I hit the wall during the race. I feel good about my nutrition and hydration strategy and I was mentally focused the whole time. In the end I think it comes down to my leg strength. As the race progressed my legs got more and more fatigued and tight/sore. This is frustrating because I’ve known leg strength is a limitation for me for a while but I haven’t figured out how to deal with it yet. I also think that I went out too fast. Next time around I’d probably try and be more disciplined even if I’m feeling good and aim to run around 2:02 first half just so I have more energy saved for the second half. That strategy would probably work better on a course with a more even distribution of hills though as opposed to Seattle when they mostly come in the last six miles.
At the end of the day I’m very pleased with my finish time and with setting a new personal best. I hadn’t set a personal best yet in 2008 so this race was my last chance to show improvement! I still think I can do better though!
--------------------------------------------- Cumulative Cumulative Projected Mile Split Time Pace Finish --------------------------------------------- 1 09:00 0:09:00 09:00.0 3:55:48.0 2 08:44 0:17:44 08:52.0 3:52:18.4 3 09:16 0:27:00 09:00.0 3:55:48.0 4 09:17 0:36:17 09:04.3 3:57:39.3 5 08:35 0:44:52 08:58.4 3:55:06.1 6 09:00 0:53:52 08:58.7 3:55:13.1 7 09:12 1:03:04 09:00.6 3:56:03.0 8 09:01 1:12:05 09:00.6 3:56:04.4 9 09:11 1:21:16 09:01.8 3:56:34.6 10 08:52 1:30:08 09:00.8 3:56:09.0 11 09:06 1:39:14 09:01.3 3:56:21.3 12 08:51 1:48:05 09:00.4 3:55:58.9 13 09:22 1:57:27 09:02.1 3:56:42.4 13.1 1:58:05 14 09:06 2:06:33 09:02.4 3:56:49.8 15 09:40 2:16:13 09:04.9 3:57:55.5 16 09:23 2:25:36 09:06.0 3:58:25.2 17 09:54 2:35:30 09:08.8 3:59:39.2 18 09:38 2:45:08 09:10.4 4:00:21.6 19 09:54 2:55:02 09:12.7 4:01:21.7 20 10:03 3:05:05 09:15.3 4:02:27.6 21 11:29 3:16:34 09:21.6 4:05:14.4 22 10:01 3:26:35 09:23.4 4:06:01.3 23 10:43 3:37:18 09:26.9 4:07:32.0 24 10:40 3:47:58 09:29.9 4:08:51.8 25 10:16 3:58:14 09:31.8 4:09:40.1 26 10:17 4:08:31 09:33.5 4:10:25.7 26.2 01:48 4:10:19 09:33.2 ---------------------------------------------