Seattle Half Marathon 2011 Recap: Gone with the Wind

Before yesterday I had never actually run the Seattle marathon or the half marathon. I had tried to convince Jas that we should sign up in previous years, but he never wanted to because it sounded terribly unappealing to him. I don’t blame the guy; the race is three days after Thanksgiving during a supremely shitty time of the year to be running outside in Seattle. Despite his yearly disinterest, however, this time he finally agreed to sign up for the marathon since he cut his triathlon season short and wanted something to train for before diving into Ironman training.

Meanwhile, since I was finally healed of my running ailments and was once again able to run relatively well, I wanted to do the half marathon. I hadn’t run a standalone half marathon since Eugene in May 2010, and since I had only been running strong for 2 1/2 months, I didn’t really have many expectations going into the Seattle half. It’s a tough, hilly course that isn’t typically PR-friendly, so although I was hoping to run 1:45 or better (my previous best was a 1:46:46), I figured I’d be satisfied with a sub-1:50.

Jason, meanwhile, was hoping to finally have a “good” marathon (his words), as he usually ends up cramping towards the end and has to compromise speed for the last few miles due to his size. This time he’d be racing 40 lbs lighter and with a ton of mileage under his belt, plus he figured the cooler temperatures would mean he’d be less likely to cramp, so he was excited and nervous for Sunday to roll around.

On Saturday we did our customary “Ugh, I’m feeling so tired ahhhh why does my foot hurt oh god I’m getting sick aren’t I man this race is not going to go well” freak outs and lazed around the house hydrating and acting like hypochondriacs. We also agonized over what to wear for the race. Naturally, since the weather had been relatively mild for the past few years, weather forecasts called for supremely shitty weather on race day because we were unlucky enough to sign up for the race this year (no joke, I was watching the news and the meteorologist actually said Sunday was going to be “sucky”). It was projected to be warmer than usual temperature-wise, but it looked like we’d have to battle rain and wind, so Jason and I were scratching our heads and putting way too much effort into what to wear:

  • Underarmour shirt and a long-sleeved shirt with tights and gloves!
  • Wait, no, just an underarmour shirt and a t-shirt with a pair of shorts
  • Well hold on a second, what about a long-sleeved shirt and shorts
  • No, tights and a t-shirt!
  • Or I could do tights, pants, underarmour, long-sleeved, gloves, a hat, a parka, a hazmat suit, ski pants…

This went on for about an hour before I ultimately muttered “Fuck it, I’ll just figure it out tomorrow when I’m half-awake” and we went to bed.

The next morning we woke up at 5:45 and ate breakfast (I got my “race day” coffee, something I haven’t ingested since July’s Rev 3 triathlon). I went with the uber-dweeb getup of tights, run shorts, an underarmour shirt, and a TN Multisports t-shirt and also packed a cheap pair of gloves to wear. I grabbed my fuel and some dry clothes to put on after I was done because the genius organizers decided to start the half marathoners at 7:30 and the marathoners at 8:15, so I’d have to wait around for 2+ hours after my race for Jason to be done and didn’t want to freeze my now-smaller ass off while waiting.

We left the house at about 6:45, and I made it about twelve blocks from our place before uttering “Fuck me, I forgot my watch.”

Jason: “What?”

Me: “I forgot my watch!” I had just bought a Garmin Forerunner 305 from one of my teammates and had planned to race with it, but naturally I left it at home because I’m a dumb-ass.

Jason: “So you have the heart rate strap on but not your watch?”

Me: “Yeah.”


Sorry, Jas

Me: “I have to turn around and get it.”

Jas: “You’re going to be late to the race!”

Me: “No way, I can make it!”

Jason: “You don’t really need your watch for the race, do you?”

I just glared at him. Okay, maybe I was getting a bit too dependent on heart rate zones and whatnot, but seeing as how Teresa actually gave me a target heart rate to run at for the entire race, I figured I was being a good athlete and following coach’s orders rather than acting like a spazzy control freak. Also, I was being a spazzy control freak. But screw you, I wanted my watch.

Jason, sighing: “Okay, you better make it quick.”

And so I busted a U-wee and sped back to our place. Jason hopped out and grabbed the watch for me while I sat behind the wheel like a getaway driver. After that little misstep, we proceeded to get as close to the race as possible. Once we got stuck in traffic on Denny, I pulled into a pay lot and figured that five bucks for all-day parking would be fine considering I only had 20 minutes before the half marathon started, so I couldn’t exactly be picky with parking options.

Unfortunately, Problem #2 took the opportunity to rear its inconsiderate little head: the pay stall credit card kiosk wasn’t working. I only had a dollar on me and didn’t have time to run somewhere and get cash, so I scrawled the most ghetto apology note imaginable and placed it on my dashboard, prayed to the Parking Gods that I wouldn’t get a ticket, and took off for the race start.

When we got close enough to the start line, Jason gave me a hug and a kiss like a parent seeing his child off to her first day of school. I not-remotely-gracefully hopped the barricade between the spectators and the runners so I wouldn’t have to go all the way around and fight my way towards the front. As luck would have it, the first person I ran into was Kirsten, one of my teammates. I was happy to see a familiar face and chatted with her as the minutes ticked down.

When the gun went off I woefully realized Problem #3: I had to go #1. It was probably a “Nervous Race Day Pee for the 352nd Time” pee, but still, the bladder felt full and I was uncomfortable. Of course, I didn’t want to stop at the first portapotty a sad five minutes into the race, so I gritted my teeth and kept telling myself that the full bladder sensation would fuel me to run faster. “You’ll get to pee when you finish!”, I kept mentally barking at myself.

The weather was awfully muggy, so I ditched my cheapo gloves after the first mile and rolled up my sleeves, lamenting my choice of attire. I gradually built myself up to my target heart rate zone and was surprised to find that, unlike my training runs where it felt like I had to work pretty hard to maintain zone 4, on race day I was able to hit it relatively easily and maintained it well. I took my splits every mile and gawked at how fast each one was. Should I slow down? This wasn’t sustainable, right? But I was feeling fine. Good, in fact. So should I just keep running in this zone and see where it takes me?

I ultimately decided to stay in the zone Teresa originally assigned me and hoped for the best. By mile 5 my full bladder sensation subsided into a dull whimper, and once I hit the Leschi part of the course I felt confident because I had run this stretch of the race so many times while training so it felt familiar and comfortable. I saw a bunch of my teammates spectating and cheering for me and our other teammates who were racing, which made me grin like a dope and wave like a giddy child. (Best team ever. Seriously. End of discussion.)

The hills came and went and I maneuvered through them comfortably. They didn’t feel too bad–chalk it up to living in Capitol Hill and running on hilly terrain multiple times a week. My climbing pace wasn’t fast but it was steady, leaving me some energy to descend faster than the folks around me. I puttered up the heart rate-spiking Galer hill and onto Madison, where I spotted Teresa ahead of me. Her energy levels were starting to dip due to an adverse reaction from one of her treatment shots, so I was able to catch up to her and smack her on her skinny butt. She glanced up and beamed when she saw it was me, exclaiming, “Great job!” What an awesome coach–she’s not feeling well but still cares enough about her athletes to muster up a smile and some encouraging words for us. My heart soared and I pushed on, going from feeling great to feeling super-duper great.

I powered through the Arboretum, up Interlaken, and down through Eastlake. The weather had started to turn and it was raining and getting windy now. I uncursed myself for my choice of race attire and soldiered on, gawking at my mile splits.

The look on my face when I'd check my splits

How was I running this fast? I don’t run this fast! I’m the mediocre runner! I’m the cheese at track! I’ve been injured all season! I’ve only been running for a couple months! What is going on here?!

At mile 11 I came up to a female who noticed me and kept doing the dickheaded “edge you out so you can’t run alongside me or pass me” move. It was annoying, and so was her squeaky shoe. I ran right behind her for a mile before dropping her on a descent, when she couldn’t keep up with my powerful Asian stubs. Take that, chick who arbitrarily started a rivalry with me even though I don’t know her at all and don’t care if she beats me because I’m just trying to run my best race without worrying about what anyone else is doing!

The weather was getting pretty damn ugly by this point, but I was close to the finish so I buried my head, kept wiping the rain off my face, and powered through as best I can. I ran into Mark at one corner and he said, “A quarter mile to go, attack that descent!” I got super excited. Only a quarter mile left? I could finish in 1:40! Holy crap! So I ran and ran and ran and ran…but when I hit the “26 mile” sign, I mentally cursed Mark for being off with his distance estimate. I still had .2 miles to go! Quarter mile, my ass! Oh well, so I wasn’t going to finish in 1:40, but I was still going to post a hefty PR.

I rounded the last bend and began to enter the stadium. Jason’s dad spotted me and started shouting excitedly. I grinned and waved and approached the finish…and then I heard super fast, heavy footsteps behind me and saw Random Rival, who rallied to try and edge me out one last time. It’s called a chip time, lady–we ended up finishing at the exact same time on the clock, but her chip time was half a minute better so she would have beat me even if she didn’t sprint like a doosh at the end. I didn’t care though because I had just PR’d on a hard course on an ugly day, after a season of injury, hardships, and doubt.

Final time: 1:41:15. I couldn’t believe it. Sure, I was slimmer, healthier, and had been running stronger as of late, but I had long written off my 2011 season as being a craptacular disappointment, so to end the year with such a marked improvement felt a bit foreign and strange. I shook off the initial shock and embraced my hard-earned finish time. It felt good to be back in action.

I snapped some unattractive photos with my teammates who were pouring in (I never noticed how bulbous my forehead looked until I posed with people who were all wearing hats while my fat melon remained exposed and shiny in all its Charlie Brown-shaped glory), then made my way to a portapotty to reward my bladder for its patience with a much-earned evacuation. I then wrapped myself up in a space blanket like a giant sweaty burrito and shivered my way back to the car so I could change into dry clothes.

My string of good luck continued when I realized I hadn’t received a parking ticket, so after the most awkward wardrobe change ever (picture a sweaty athlete struggling to conservatively change her pants in the backseat of a Subaru as the car shakes and fills with steam–to anyone walking past the pay lot on the corner of Denny and Aurora, no, that was not a couple getting it on, it was just a fidgeting female who was struggling to yank on dry socks while simultaneously shaking off a foot cramp), I ran to a nearby Walgreens, got some cash, and paid for my parking spot. Success! This must be what the Ocean’s 11 crew felt like.

After chugging a chocolate milk, I made my way back to the race to wait for Jason to finish. I caught up with Mark and Teresa and hung out inside a warm cafe until we forced ourselves to go back outside. The weather had gotten ridiculous by this point–when it wasn’t pouring, winds were gusting so hard that umbrellas were getting turned inside out and the spectators were becoming frozen blocks.

Eventually we saw Jason powering down the street approaching the finish. I was super excited to see him–he looked strong, albeit wet and cold. Teresa and I started cheering like maniacs and he lit up when he saw us. He asked how my race went and Teresa chirped, “She did great!,” then was all “Awwww, how sweet, he asked how you did before he was even done with his race!” Yeah, that’s right, my boyfriend is a stud who’s all caring and cool and whatnot. You know you’re jelly.

He finished in 3:20:16, a whopping 16 minutes faster than his previous best. Yaay, finally Jason gets his “good” marathon!

Me (and my bitchin' shark mittens) with a 3:20 runnin' Jas and his proud papa

We waited for his sister to finish before getting the eff out of the cold and back to the warm confines of the still-steamy-from-Becca’s-wardrobe-change Subaru. The rest of our day consisted of hot showers, a fireplace, homemade pumpkin pie courtesy of Alley and our “Pie of the Month” agreement, and gooey, calorie-licious pizza. We’re both nursing sore legs today but are very happy with our finish times.

My next goal is to do a sub-1:40 (which I might have done if I were on a flatter course), but I’m not sure when my next half marathon will be since I’ll be fully committed to Ironman training now that the race is over. I wanted to do a marathon this winter but Coach T would rather I focus on my Ironman training, so my elusive sub-4 will have to wait a while longer. If she can coach me to a PR marathon for Ironman Canada, I’ll find some way to forgive her… 😉 Until then, I’m content to enjoy my half marathon PR for another day before the training picks up again and I’m whimpering for mercy. There’s always another race around the corner, right folks?

10 Responses to “ “Seattle Half Marathon 2011 Recap: Gone with the Wind”

  1. addy dais says:

    You and Jason Killed it out there!! Two amazing races!

  2. Groupie says:

    Congrats! You’re a rock star!

  3. Teresa says:

    One proud coach over here! Was so excited to see you have a fabulous race and Jason too! You two earned it! We need to get into the pie of the month club too!!!!!


  4. Teresa says:

    Ps…..totally know what chick you are talking about too! Ha!

  5. Steph Woods says:

    Congrats on a great finish Rebecca. Woot!

  6. Cathleen says:

    I really don’t think PR’s in 2 of your distances this year (1/2 Iron and 1/2 marathon) constitute a craptacular season. Way to round out 2011 with a fantastic race. Congratulations to both of you! I’m very excited to cyber-stalk you in 2012 and see you smash more records. Also, you can guaran-f-ing-tee we will not be running your 1/2 marathon pace at the 2011 Holidazzle. 🙂

  7. Jill says:

    Awesome job, both of you! I love reading about your exploits–it definitely motivates me to get my slow-as-hell ass in a tiny bit faster gear for the next race.

  8. Mary Moltman says:

    You are amazing! I should quit complaining about how much I hate running and get my ass out there. There’s a 1/2 marathon in my future (in Feb., smack in the middle of ski season – what was I thinking?) and I want to hit 2:00:00. I’ll just keep reading this post to “dream the dream”. Way to go!

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