Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Seattle Half Marathon 2014

I was looking for another race to keep myself motivated during the fall, and since we were going up to Tacoma for Thanksgiving weekend, staying up there through Sunday for the Seattle Half seemed perfect. I knew it was a bit of risk weather-wise, as 40s and rainy is pretty typical for both Portland and Seattle this time of year. I've previously done the Holiday Half in mid-December in Portland for my fall goal, and it was quite miserable! I was hoping being a couple weeks earlier in the year would make it less so.

I stayed at the Quality Inn a few blocks east of Seattle Center, so I only had about a quarter mile walk to the start line. Though it's a perfectly adequate motel, I wouldn't necessarily recommend it, per se. The location's very good relative to this race, and it is marginally cheaper than the other options in that area (there is also a Best Western, Travelodge, and Holiday Inn next to it, on John St just east of Seattle Center) (and they're all way cheaper than anything half a mile away in downtown). It is clean and feels safe, and the breakfast is decent, but the rooms are pretty small and it has just a tiny bit of a rundown vibe (like the decor is a little older vibe and paint starting to peel around the floorboards). Kind of feels like something that used to be nice, but hasn't been fully kept up. If price is the most important factor, it's fine, but next time I'd probably check out one of the other nearby motels that cost $10 - $20 more.

Without having to worry about parking, I only arrived about 20 minutes before my start time. It was about 24° - with a "feels like" 12° - when I was getting dressed; I think it was closer to 30 by the time I finished, but it was definitely chilly the whole time! Fortunately, there was no rain or significant wind during the race as the area had had earlier in the week. There were only a small handful of places on the roads where ice from precipitation earlier in the week remained in shadowed spots; though it was cold enough for ice to form as water cups were tossed at aid stations - fortunately the volunteers were really great about warning about it!

I ended up wearing: 
  • Layer 1: Knee-length shorts, knee-high socks, t-shirt, arm-warmers.
  • Layer 2: Long running tights, long-sleeve (thick-ish - in between tee and sweatshirt materials) shirt with thumb-holes, gloves, headband.
  • Throwaway: scarf and sweatshirt. I tossed the sweatshirt at the start, but kept on the scarf until about mile 10.
I really wish I'd thought ahead to buy a cheap pair of sweatpants (thought ahead = prior to the night before. I did stop by a Walgreens, hoping to buy both sweatpants and a sweatshirt, but only found the latter. I swear I've seen cheap sweatpants at a Walgreens before, but either I'm imagining that or just this store didn't.). My legs were freezing beforehand, even though I wasn't waiting for that long.

I'd been warned that the course was hilly; overall it wasn't too bad, none of the hills were terribly long (and only one was all that steep), but it was a lot of up and down.

A couple miles are screwy because of the tunnel; see explanation after mile splits.
The parts around 3 that look like hills, whether green or white are actually hills.
The straight section at mile 4 is from being in the tunnel.

The course starts by Seattle Center, in front of the Experience Music Project, then south-ish through downtown, before heading onto I-90. Running along the freeway doesn't sound that interesting, but it also provided some nice views of downtown Seattle.

I think it was during mile 2 that I paused briefly to take off my arm-warmers. Next time, I'd use some cheaper (or home-made from tall socks) arm-warmers, as the ones I had on are high-quality with a silicone band at the top to keep them up. Normally a great feature, but not so great when you're trying to quickly rip them off from underneath a long-sleeve shirt! I thought I'd be able to do this while moving or at least walking, but ended up having to stop briefly to make it happen.

1 - 3: 12:53, 13:11, 13:02

It then goes through the tunnel, then heads along the water on Lake Washington (this section is nice and flat), before heading through some residential neighborhoods for a short bit. The tunnel was a nice respite from the cold for a bit, as well as a mostly flat, slightly down incline. Along the lake there were some beautiful views across of what I assume is downtown Bellevue. If I hadn't thought I'd be close to a PR, I definitely would have stopped for some photos!

4 - 7: 13:30*, 13:30*, 12:54, 13:23

The course then heads up through Washington Park Arboretum on beautiful wooded paved trails. Hilly, of course, but lovely. My right foot started hurting, which made it a little harder to run up hills, and took more walking breaks than I needed (cardio or leg-wise) because of that (and I apparently compensated for it with my left leg, resulting in an extraordinarily tight left IT that my massage therapist had to pound out a couple days later). 

8 - 10: 13:42, 12:43, 13:21

Then back through the northern edge of downtown back towards Seattle Center, finishing in Memorial Stadium. Someone really mean put some hills in the last mile - small, but really challenging at that point when you think you're so close!

11 - 13.1: 13:00, 12:17, 11:41, 4:12 time for .34 per Garmin (12:29 pace)

*The course goes through the I-90 Mount Baker Tunnel from about 3.75 to 4.4, blocking GPS signal. My Garmin extrapolated to catch back up after, so the total distance and time ended up correct, but the auto lap happened when it regained signal after the tunnel, not at the actual mile 4. Miles 4 and 5 showed 18:45 and 8:15 splits, respectively, between the times the auto lap recorded.

The half marathon had about 4,800 runners, plus a few hundred more walkers (who started 15 minutes later). I think anywhere from 2,000 - 5,000 is a pretty good size race - small enough that you're not completely squashed in a crowd, but large enough that even if you're at the back of the pack you won't be completely by yourself. Though there weren't separated corrals or waves, there were some pace groups with signs, so it seemed like people seeded themselves pretty well based on their speed relative to the pacers.

My official time is 2:52:15, which is a few minutes off my PR, but I'm pretty proud of this race nonetheless. Sure, I could have done better training, more speedwork, longer long runs. But considering mostly-decent training and a hilly course, I really did put out close to my best effort.

This really was a beautiful course and well-organized race (with a cute comfy shirt and pretty medal), and although future weather on this race day will likely be low 40s, windy, and rainy, I'm tempted to make it a tradition whenever we're in Tacoma for Thanksgiving!

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