Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Seattle Marathon

I know this post has been a long time coming. I could give a dozen different reason as to why I have taken so long to get this up, but I won't bore you with the tedium that is my life. I'll just say that my life hasn't gotten any easier since finishing the greatest race I've ever run.

The Seattle adventure began on Thanksgiving Day. That was when my mother and I flew in for the race weekend. I had invited her earlier in the year, since she had never been to Seattle before and I knew that bringing along a support crew would make things a lot more fun. We arrived at the host hotel early in the afternoon and my plan was to do an easy seven mile run to recon one of tougher parts of the course. As I left the hotel that afternoon, I could not have known that the events that would soon follow would foreshadow the remainder of the weekend. The events that I am going to reveal here have not been told to my marathon advisor, John Ellis. I began my run feeling well prepared. I had printed a map before I left of the course that I planned on running. I don't know if it was the change of location, the tall buildings, or typical Seattle cloud cover; but my Garmin would not grab a satellite signal. After waiting ten minutes, I decided to take off and see if it would get something along the way. I ran Northeast out of downtown, toward Interlaken Park. This is where the toughest hills on the marathon course would be and I wanted to check them out. The hills were fairly decent, climbing 500 feet in a little over a mile. I was pretty confident of my ability to climb, based on my training and being at nearly sea level. Something happened as I was descending back into the city. I took a wrong turn. I'd been following my printed map and it seemed pretty straightforward. It was probably another forty-five minutes before I got the feeling that I was going the wrong way. At that point I had no idea were I was and because the hills and the weather, I could no longer see the cityscape. I ran a bit longer until I found someone to point me in the right direction. Remembering that it was Thanksgiving and no businesses were open. Upon finding out how far I had gotten off course, I decided to start walking up the hills and jogging the downhills and flats. Before leaving, I had told my mom that I wouldn't be gone any longer than an hour and a half. That time had passed, but I didn't want to call her until I was sure that I was back on track. My mom asked, "why didn't you just call a cab?" With hindsight, I might have, but I figured that this would all make for a good story. It wasn't until I was within a couple of miles from the hotel that I began to get concerned that I might have made a big mistake. I might have sacrificed all of the training I had followed so religiously, out of stubbornness. I determined though, when I arrived back at the hotel that I would maintain a positive attitude about this and I wouldn't tell John until after the race. All told, I ran and walk a little over 15 miles in right around three and a half hours. We walked a couple more miles for seafood Thanksgiving dinner at the pier that night.

The next day I awoke, not feeling any fatigue from the night before. We spent the day Friday, walking around to many of the famous Seattle landmarks. I had spent two years in and around the Seattle area while attending school for work, so I had seen everything before; but I wanted to give my mom the opportunity to see as much as possible. We kept it pretty leisurely, with the primary focus being good food and coffee. For dinner that night we visited a highly regarded pizza restaurant, where I had a delicious clam pizza. We watched the lighting of the annual Christmas tree and I made a quick trip through the race expo. I picked up my packet, with plans of spending more time there the next day. The day was finished off by going to bed early.

I awoke the morning before race day at 3 a.m. with the feeling that I was going to be sick. I tried as best as I could to convince myself that I was OK, but eventually I couldn't hold back any longer. I then had the fortune of revisiting the same feeling on an hourly basis for the next ten hours. I wrote John that morning to pass along my situation, which I had determined as food poisoning, and seek his advice once again. He quickly wrote back with words of encouragement, recommending water, yogurt, and pasta when I could eat. By 1 p.m. I was starting to feel better and was able to hold down the yogurt, rice crackers, tea, and bananas that my mom had gone out and picked up for me. I continued to rest for the remainder of the afternoon and finally felt well enough to go down to have a pasta dinner at the hotel restaurant that evening. I finished off the night by laying out everything for the next morning. It ended up not being the day I had planned on and I was feeling pretty anxious about how I would feel in the morning.

Race morning I got up and felt like the previous 30 hours had never happened. I had a high protein breakfast of a smoked salmon and egg bagel sandwich, a banana, a bottle of water with nuun and coffee. I jogged my warm-up from the hotel to the starting line. I got there just in time to watch the half marathon take off. The start was broken into four waves, marathon walk, half marathon run, half marathon walk, and the marathon run. My mom arrived about fifteen minutes before the start to take my warm-ups and shoes. I decided to race in my Brooks T6 Racer distance racing flats. I had put around 40 miles on them during track and speed workouts two months prior to the marathon. I wore a long sleeve shirt under the Brooks Distance Singlet that I had printed with a large Brooks logo across the back and the Team Point Two logo that Jamie had designed for the team, on the chest. The day was supposed to be in the upper 40's with a good chance of a drizzling rain, but I figured I could get away with my Brooks HVAC Shorts. All told, I think I nailed the attire perfectly. I was never too warm and I didn't feel cold at all.

The race plan John had given me was to let the pace come to me. Go out uptempo, but not strained for the first ten miles, not looking at the Garmin at all. Then from mile ten through twenty. just maintain, not dropping the pace or speeding up. The final advice was to race from mile twenty on. I understood the plan and did the best I could to follow it. From the start, I was pretty impressed with my position. I had placed myself just three seconds back from the starting mat, so as not to waste any energy getting past people while finding my pace. I found a group that felt right fairly early on and we stuck pretty close together through mile 15.

I knew pretty early on that my pace was faster than planned, but it felt comfortable and I wasn't straining to maintain. My first 5K was 18:40 (6:00/mi) and I was 38:51 (6:15/mi) at the 10K mark. When I finally checked my Garmin at mile 10, I was running a 6:38/mile pace and feeling great. From mile 3, I had been alternating between water and sports drink at each aid station. I took a GU between miles 11 and 12. When I crossed the mat at the half marathon mark I was 1:26:52, running at a 6:37/mile pace. The next seven miles were fairly flat and I followed the plan of maintaining the pace and nutrition. By mile 20 I had only dropped to a 6:40/mile pace and was still feeling good. I started pushing the pace as I entered the first of the hills that would last the next three miles. At that point I figured my overall place to be 29th. Just past mile 21 I came alongside one of the runners, in a Boston Marathon shirt, that I had been pacing with and told him that he was doing well. He told me that I had a great stride and that he would probably not be able to hang with me for much longer. He was right, just not the way he had planned it. He started to pull away from me slowly and try as I may, I couldn't close the gap. Others began to pass me, but I knew that my Boston Qualifier time of sub-3:10 was secure. I wanted to do John proud and pass some people in those last miles. I think the downhills actually took more out of me in those last miles. I just couldn't push my cadence the way I needed to. I held strong, not letting anyone pass me in the last mile and putting on a kick at the end.

I finished the Amica Seattle Marathon in 3:01.26 (6:55/mi). I finished 36th place overall and 4th in my age division. I not only met my goal of running a sub-3:10 and gaining a BQ for 2011, but I crushed my previous marathon time by over 20 minutes. I could not have been more pleased with my performance. I was overwhelmed with feelings of pride and happiness. I owe such a huge debt of gratitude to John Ellis, my teammates from Team Point Two, and everyone else that supported me along the way. My mom soon caught up with me after finishing, with warm clothes and a big congratulations. That evening, we went out for a post-race sushi and sake dinner. It was the perfect end to an incredible day.

We flew home the next day with no incident. By the time I arrived home, I was already planning my upcoming racing year. It is to include two half marathons, three marathons, and an Ironman triathlon, all culminating with the Boston Marathon in April 2011. I am a little disappointed that registration had already closed for 2010, but this will allow me to re-focus my priorities and achieve my future goals. I would recommend the Seattle Marathon to anyone interested. It is a challenging course, but Seattle is a wonderful city with a well run race.


Erin said...

Very proud of you! Your hard work definitely paid off. Hope you keep up with the writing.

Jamie said...

What a great race report! You had a great 09, but I can't wait to see what you do in 2010! Stay in touch and let me know if you ever need anything.
Hugs, lucky7

Sotally Tober said...

Absolutely fabulous job. Great race report too. Congratulations.

Susan said...

Good God, man -- 15 miles by accideny AND food poisoning!?! Wow - you are one tough cookie - but I knew that already. You did an OUTSTANDING job, my friend, and I am proud to call you my teammate!

jen said...

WOW!! Congrats on the blazing marathon finish. WOW! Can I just say that again? W-O-W!!

I can't believe you pulled off that ridiculously fast time after your "wrong turn" run and food poisining episode! You are superhuman!

I bookmarked your blog a while back because I have family in Worland- the Hendryx's (email me if we turn out to be cousins?) and I can say with certainty that you did your state damn proud! Well done man!!

What have you been up to in the meantime? And what is next for you?

Clint said...

Wow, that's awesome. Congrats on the the BQ!

runnergirl said...

Great job LJ! I can't believe you're "incidences" prior to the race! lol - What doesn't kill ya only makes ya stronger right?

I haven't been on here in quite a while, obviously. Getting geared up for a half-Iron in Bozeman, MT in July and that's my big race for the year. Gregg is training for a 100-miler later this fall. You coming over for Splash N Dash? May 8th I think.

brooks running said...

That's absolutely one great race report! Congrats!!!