Sunday, June 29, 2008

Why We Run

Why We Run

I was going to title this post "Seafair Hotf Marathon" or "Seafair Half Not-Cool Marathon" but then I realized there's really more to it.

This year they changed the course up a bit. This is the 3rd different course in the 4 years they've run it. I ran the last two halfs on the same course that started and finished in Downtown Bellevue. This year it started at Husky Stadium and ended in Bellevue. As soon as I heard this I thought, "why that's stupid...why not start in Bellevue and end in the stadium?" I thought it would be nice to finish out over the lake instead of starting. Also this route resulted in an overall gain of about 100 feet over the course of the race. 

They claimed that the best option was to take their shuttle buses from Bellevue to the stadium. I figured out that if I arrived by 6 that should give me plenty of time to warm up before the race. Well, if you've been reading this, you'll know that my race mornings never go well. There's always the inevitable (and endless) stomach issues. It's getting to the point where I think maybe I shouldn't eat the day before a race. I get there a little before 6, but of course it's run-to-the-portajohn time. By the time I get back to my car and get all my stuff ready, the line for the buses is a couple blocks long and...there are no buses. 

Long story short the buses arrive slowly. I don't get on 'til about 6:40, 20 mins before the start of the race. The last race I took a bus for, I arrived ~20 mins after the start of the race. I figured that if that happened today that would be fine since I planned to start at the back anyways. I arrive about 5 mins beforer 7, but they announced that they're delaying the start 15 mins. Good. Time for a quick stretch and one last potty break.

For some reason they moved this race a couple weekends earlier than the last few years. Maybe people had complained, maybe this is the only day they could do it. There was another race today that I wanted to do, and part of me wishes I had run it instead. Anyways, the weather had predicted 90's for today, and it didn't disappoint. I knew I was in trouble when the temp was 67 at 4:45 am. I had pulled out my lightest running shirt, something that's not more than a thin mesh. It was around 70 at the start and I was already sweating. I started in the back, and finally the race started.

This year's race crossed the infamous 520 bridge. This hellish piece of civil engineer passed its "useful lifespan" about ten years ago. The best thing to happen to I-90 was when it sunk in a storm, and I hope the same thing happens to 520 soon so we can improve it. But it was a nice clear day, only a little hazy but you could see the mountains and Bellevue skyline and Mt. Rainier in the distance. A very light breeze blew along the bridge at times.

My first mile went well, just cruising from the stadium down a ramp onto 520. I somehow managed a 10:01 mile but I think my GPS got confused from the was more like 11. Second mile went well at 11:08. I felt good, didn't have much heel pain, tried to find the groove in the road that made my feet feel good. This mile brought us out over the water, through a clustering of marshes and lily pads. There also a big hill where boats can pass under the bridge.

Mile 3 in 11:05 contained a water stop which I passed since I had carried a bottle of water up until then. Still feeling good but starting to feel a little thirsty as the sun started beating down. Mile 4 in 11:46 was up off the bridge and onto dry land where the temperature increased noticeably. This split was +75 feet up.

The next three miles in 11:35, 11:27, and 11:19 were all either flat or gentle hills. I took some extra time at the water stops to make sure I had enough hydration. I still felt fine. I had a split of ~1:13 which wasn't bad given that I had estimated a finish of around 2:25 and I had run my last couple halfs with declining splits. 

Then came mile 8, and the wheels fell off the wagon. Someone put a huge hill, I mean 170 feet in 1/2 mile hill in the middle of the course. My heel was aching, my HR was way up, and I tried for a little bit but I just couldn't do it. Me and almost everyone around me wound up walking the hill. I've never walked in a half before, not even for water. According to my GPS I think I climbed that hill for almost 8 minutes. 8 mins for .5 mile is not good. I couldn't make the time up going back down either. Mile 8 finished in 13:56

From then on, the course was mostly up down up down endlessly. Fortunately a few people came out and hosed down the runners but it didn't help. I started eating my Sport Beans, drinking the Gleukos water, but nothing helped. My feet hurt and felt blistered (they weren't), my knees started aching (which they almost never do), my hip hurt, and I had very little energy left.

Mile 9 was back to 12:00, but I followed that with miles of 12:19, 12:27, and 13:41. My long run from last weekend I ran 12:00 miles, but today I had nothing at the end. Fortunately the last mile was all downhill and I did it in 11:48 but too little too late.

No PR, no course record, nothing.

So then why? Why do I do this to myself? I can barely walk from one side of the room to the other. 

All I know is that for the last few hundred meters, I had a grin ear-to-ear as I completed what was possibly the toughest race I had ever been in (or at least  2nd to 2006 Seattle Half Rainathon). But today was tough. At least 80 at the finish (I'm used to running in the 50's), leg-sapping hills, nagging injuries, it all comes down to that moment when I know I've done it and I survived to tell the tale. I know when I can push myself and today just wasn't the day. 

Well I've got a 5K later this to keep up the training (and the icing). Maybe this ordeal has made me stronger. We'll see. Somehow it all seems worth it in the end.


  1. I have no idea how the formatting got so hosed :(

  2. "All I know is that for the last few hundred meters, I had a grin ear-to-ear..."
    I think you have your answer right there. If it makes you feel that way, it must be good. Nicely done! Good luck with the 5k as well.

  3. It all comes down to endorphins in the end.

  4. It's more adrenaline than endorphins. I've never really gotten that "runner's high" but I've definitely experienced runner's low...


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