Seattle Rock ‘N’ Roll Half Marathon – 6/27/2009
In June 2009, I traveled to Seattle for the main purpose of moving my then-fiance’ and my now-stepdaughter to Colorado. First things first, though. I had my first half marathon to run.
The day started VERY early in the morning, and Gabriella was sweet enough to drive me down to Tukwila to the start. I was not nervous, which surprised me. I had run the distances at altitude so I knew I could finish the 13.1 miles ahead of me. I had no idea if the 8:00/mile pace I was planning was going to be too fast or not, though, and I resolved to just run smart and slow down if it wasn’t going well.
As the race got underway, I settled into a pace just around my target. The first couple miles went by fairly fast, as I took in the surroundings and the initial climb to Lake Washington. I felt fantastic and picked up my pace. Within a couple miles, I was running along the west side of Lake Washington on a perfect day and with many more people than I expected cheering on all the runners. My pace quickened a bit more.
Once past Lake Washington, the course turned west along the express lanes of I-90. This was a fairly uninspiring stretch of the race, although I did get a kick out of the band playing at the opposite end of a long underground portion of the express lanes. The music echoed loudly through the tunnel and took my mind off the surroundings for several minutes.
As the express lanes emptied into downtown Seattle, I felt my legs beginning to tire. However, with only about two miles to go, I knew I was in great shape and running much faster than I had hoped for. And the crowds in downtown were amazing. They cheered loudly for all who passed, and I found that energy necessary to push me up the slight uphill grade before I turned once, then once again to head down the final stretch toward Qwest Field. As I turned into the last .2 miles, I picked up my pace and caught a glimpse of Gabriella out of the corner of my eye amongst the crowd.
Finish time – 1:40:01 (7:37/mile pace)
PF Chang’s Rock ‘N’ Roll Arizona Marathon – 1/17/2010
I had always said I would never do a marathon…until I finished the half-marathon. From that point, it was all I could think about. The training I had done for the half-marathon was acceptable, but I knew I could do more and I knew that meant I could run faster and/or farther.
With all of the traveling over the summer moving Gabriella and Christy to Colorado, followed by my class reunion, and a trip to California for Christy’s birthday my running was sporadic but adequate. Early in the summer, I found a beginner’s marathon training plan and set my mind to stick to it. It was a 16-week program, which meant my start date was September 28, 2009, and it culminated at the marathon January 17, 2010.
With the exception of days with bad weather and one week when I was sick, I stuck to the program. That included some pretty interesting long runs on weekends that were snowing or a lot of snow was already on the ground, but I got them all in and felt good going into the taper time leading up to the marathon.
26.2 miles. That’s a long way to run. I’ll never forget the course…both what I knew about it from the video of the whole route and what I experienced when I was out there.
I remember getting started in downtown Phoenix and being distracted for the first mile getting through the crowd to the extent that I didn’t feel like I would get tripped up. I was familiar with the downtown from the second Phoenix 10k I ran with Dad, and I recall thinking how far I had come since that time. On the turn north out of downtown, I settled into a comfortable pace and noticed the crowds on the streets. I knew that I needed to try to stay on an 8:00/mile pace to hit my target time of 3:30:00. The crowd thinned out fairly soon and it seemed like little time at all passed before I reached the 10k mark. By this time I had turned east and had Camelback Mountain in my sights. I knew I’d be running toward it for a while, and by the time I finally turned away from it I would be heading south toward Tempe and the finish line.
Around the 10k mark, though, I was aware that my stomach was not settled and there was building pressure. Not good. Through the next few miles, I contemplated whether I was going to be able to make it to the finish line without making a pit stop – and that if I did stop, how much time I would lose if I did. At mile 12, I couldn’t take it anymore and veered into a portable toilet. In 40 seconds or less, I did my business and was back on the course and ran the next mile in about 7:40 to make up the lost time.
That didn’t solve all my problems, but it solved them enough to allow me to keep going. After I made up the lost time, I locked in on my pace again and noticed that each time I passed a gun clock that I was ahead of my goal pace. I tried not to look at my Garmin too much because the miles don’t go by as fast that way. So I focused on my surroundings and running all the tangents I could. After passing through Scottsdale, I was nearly to 20 miles and still feeling okay. I went on through the 20-mile wall and pushed on.
Within a mile, it hit me. I was tired and my legs were hurting. “Less than a 10k,” I told myself. “So close. Don’t give it up now.” And I pressed on. About a million years later, I crossed under I-10 and painfully climbed a bridge over the Salt River…and there it was. I was only about two miles away, but I could see Sun Devil Stadium and the finish. My pace had dropped a little in the two previous miles but picked back up again. About a mile from the finish, I distinctly recall someone yelling, “Lengthen those strides, pump your arms, and push it all the way in!” “Screw you,” I thought. “Real easy to say from the sidewalk.”
I made the last couple turns and there was the finish. I pushed across the line and made it…and then the waves of pain and emotion washed over me.
Finish time – 3:28:16 (7:52/mile pace)