Saturday, June 27, 2009


I did it! Not fast by any stretch of the imagination but with a certain and definite confidence.

As I write (9:20 PM) my friend GW has just checked into the Peachstone (Cal 2) checkpoint for the Western States 100. He is currently 76th and has been running for 16 hours. This puts what I did today into some perspective.

But the most important things is that I did it! :-)

Bottom Line:

Number: 18187
Age Group Place (Males 40-44): 311/438
Overall Place: 3029/5602
Official Finish Time: 4:42:57
Overall Pace: 10:48
Number of gels consumed: 8
Number of cups of water: ?? Drank a little out of my running pack + water + on course energy drink (Cytomax)
Blood: No! (Well other people but not me)
Number of Time Thinking I would be DFL: 0
Blisters: 0
Feet: Feel panel beaten
Ability to squat and bend: 95% down to the floor and up again

18187 Robin Datta M 40-44
Marathon Start: Gun 7:02:17 Chip 7:29:37
Splits:5 Km10 Km9 miHalf Way30 Km24 MileFinishO'AllSexDiv

The Long Story:

This has been a vivid day!

Woke up at 4:00 and had a pleasant walk with the dog just as the sun was beginning to come up. Not a soul was out excepting the paper delivery guy with his exceptionally noisy car. It was very pretty and the walk got things going and loosened up. Had time to sit, think, and read a bit once prepped. The FFF's (Four Footed Fiends—the dog and two cats) did not quite know to what to make of things and were very interested in my peanut butter and jelly sandwich (I had to fend off Mo, the little fluffy hair monster, and she does not even LIKE the stuff).

Checked out the newspaper to find a headline that screamed "Private firm Competitor Group gets tax dollars to stage big-money Rock 'n' Roll Seattle marathon". Already the local yahoos had been posting angry comments either for or against this. The smarter of them made the point that cities have to spend money if they want to make money. I tend to agree with this assessment and will be interested to see just how much in revenue the area managed to bring in over the past couple of days.

All week the news media has been playing up the fact that 25ooo runners were going to be descending upon Seattle. 25000 runners, most of whom are trying to get down to Tukwilla (about 13 miles south of the UW, just NE of SEATAC) in time for a 7:00 start. This is Seattle which means that traffic delays are guaranteed.

SS, my neighbor, was running the half and told me that he and some of the other people in the neighborhood were chartering a van or limo or some such thing that would leave at 5:30. I got the last spot. It was nice to meet other people from the neighborhood. Spirits were high with lots of chatter as we headed down, including a fair amount of head shaking at the back-up on the freeway as cars mingled with the shuttle buses. We followed the driving instructions instead of following the buses but ended up in a traffic jam anyway. Someone had the brilliant idea of stopping at the Denny's to use to bathroom. The hostess told us where the bathrooms were as we walked in (THANK YOU!). Getting back into the flow of traffic was pretty easy (except for the guy in the white BMW 5 series (yeah you) who could not stomach the fact that we joined in front of him).

We got to the drop off area, mostly, jumped out and footed to the start area.

First impressions? These folks know what they are doing. This was the most organized start area I've seen. Everywhere I looked there were people to direct us and excellent signage. Even though the start areas was crowded the space was big enough for it not to seem so. I ran into a few people I knew, wished them luck, dropped my bag off, and found my start corral, #18.

Waiting for the start

This went on for some time. The race was to start at 7:00 but I had heard a call come over the radio that the start was going to be delayed due to the traffic (this did not happen and we started pretty much on time). There were, I would guess about 500-700 people per corral but it didn't feel crowded at all. It was getting pretty warm. I just stood there taking it all in and listening to all the chatter going on around me. Then I felt someone tap me on the arm. I turned and a woman asked me my name. I told her and she said "Oh, wrong name" and added that she was looking for someone "special" (!!!???). I went back to my reverie, thinking about the race.

The Start

Went surprisingly fast once the gun went off at 7:02 and I crossed the mat at 7:29. Not bad.

Almost immediately both shins became painfully tight and became more so with every stride. It was awful and I started wondering if I was going to be able to make it given how hard the road surface felt. I took my time though and looked around as the pack began to sort itself out. Got distracted by a couple having an argument with each other about something or other. It sounded like they had been going at it for some time and I thought "Why did you bring this into the run?" Then the first band of the morning, don't ask who, they were just loud and that was nice. So were the cheer squads out there. After about a mile my shins felt fine.

I don't remember much about this early part of the run. We went through neighborhoods in Rainier Beach. Some folks were out, including Meko Lawson, during mile 5 or 6 who had a shrine to Michael Jackson and was playing "Thriller" really loudly. This brought a smile to my face and I listened to that music in my head for a while. Nice!

At about the six SS caught up with me and we ran together for a bit. It was nice to chat, although, I was so focused I suspect that most of my answers and comments were a bit mono-syllabic. He was having a great time and soon jetted off to meet his own goals. I was concentrating on running as evenly as possible given a fairly hilly course (I heard many complaints about the hills along the way. This is Seattle and it is impossible to avoid hills if you want to get anywhere) and also counting down from 26.2 for my mileage instead of up (quite a mental change). It was neat to be running with people from all over the place (it looks like Seattle now has a destination marathon and I have now learned that something like 40% of the runners were from out of town). At this point I was about 30-50 yards ahead of the 4:30 Pacer (thank you Chuckit).

I gotta Pee!

"Welcome to Seward Park!" a rather nice tall gentleman said as we made our way through the 6th mile or so. Incredible view from Seward Park towards the I-90 Bridge to the north, it looked so far away. I never get tired of running along Lake Washington Boulevard. During mile 7 there were runners stopped and looking up at one of our Bald Eagles sitting up in one of the trees. There was a family out around mile 8-ish with their very own rock band. Number 1 son was playing "Smoke on the Water" on the guitar with Mom, Dad, and Number 2 son (or was it daughter) banging away on toy drums and other instruments, pretty funny. And then I really needed to pee. Kept on going past water stops with porta potties until finally I found one with a shorter line (IMHO, 600 porta potties is not enough for this size of race but what do I know). I had been standing there waiting for a few minutes when a spectator came over and mentioned that there were public restrooms just across the street. Off I went. Felt immediately better to tackle the hills coming up but, I had dropped well behind the 4:30 pacer and I don't think I ever caught up.

The Bridge! (Miles 9-14 or so)

Around 9 miles we came up on the I-90 Bridge, the world's second longest floating bridge (the 520 bridge just to the North is the longest) and a split point for the Half and the Full Marathon. This was a narrow bottle-neck and I found myself frustrated behind a whole bunch of TNT runners who insisted in walking up the incline. The first tunnel of the day awaited going east to the bridge deck. It was hot and kind of still in there, not very pleasant. Running on the bridge deck was spectacular but also in full sun with little wind and hot. Mount Rainier was spectacularly out to the south and it impossible to run without looking at it. The crowd had thinned out with the departure of the half-marathon course and so, though still congested, there was plenty of room for gawking. The concrete was hard. Around 10.5 miles I saw my first marathon casualty of the day. A runner standing, bent over, to the right (she was being evacuated by a first aid crew when I came around on the return).

The headwind that hit just after the turnaround felt wonderful! Crossing the bridge for the second time felt faster. I saw JB, with whom I had run a brutal 18-mile mountain run, running with two friends just ahead of me. I eventually caught her, said hello, and then pressed on (didn't see her again until just after the 24).

The second tunnel was longer and more uncomfortable than the first. We rejoined the flow of the half-marathoners at about the 12-mile point only this time the runners were much slower and the constriction of the tunnel made moving through more difficult. People were stopping in front of me or going from a run to a slow walk especially through the water station. This congestion lasted all the way to about 13.75 when we got off the freeway and onto the city streets again. Throughout all of this were the Medical Assistance bikers (I don't think I was more than 30 yards away from one this entire run).

A nice pick-me-up @ Mile 14

At 14 PT came out of the crowd and ran with me for just a few seconds. We commiserated about the tunnel and then she had to leave me as the marathon course headed up on to the Alaskan Way Viaduct. Such a nice surprise and it was nice to know that at least one person out there lining the course was cheering specifically for me (among other people).

Alaskan Way Viaduct (Miles 15-20)

The AWV is one of the more controversial pieces of road here in Seattle. Built in the early 1950's as a double-decker elevated section of Highway 99 (Aurora), the AWV is an ugly concrete monstrosity that blocks the views of Elliot Bay from downtown. That it is falling apart and could collapse, especially during an earthquake, is an added part of the attraction. Seattle politics being what it is we cannot decide what to do with it, although it looks like we'll break ground on its replacement, a deep bore tunnel, in 2011 (people drive around with bumper stickers that say "I Love the Viaduct!" and "Keep the Viaduct, Bury the Mayor!"). So it is an interesting thing to be running on the bottom tier of this road, in the shade, mindful of the tons of concrete above my head and hopeful that the WSDOT crews do their jobs well.

After the excitement of the crowds through downtown we are back to being alone. I have finally noticed that the time in the I-90 tunnels has thrown my Garmin off by at least six tenths of a mile. But off I go, running sub-10 paces on yet more hard concrete and through the Battery Street Tunnel (shorter and emptier). Stopped to retie my shoes at a hill.

Three or Four Ladies From Canada

I came up behind three or four ladies from Canada, from the Toronto area I think, all dressed in Red and White with Maple Leafs and part of a contingent of people who travel from marathon to marathon. I overheard so many people talking about this. We were still on the AWV, though by this time off the lower section, and could see runners coming back. One of LFC's wondered aloud where the turn around was. I said not for another 3 or 4 miles and that most of it would be uphill. "Long way to go" I said and she replied "We've already come a long way." They were having fun. I spent the rest of the run leap frogging with them. Their mood was infectious.

Watching the returning runners I saw Beloved Rooster whizz by with a very determined look on her face. I called out to her but she was wearing headphones but my voice was lost in the general din.

Miles 16 through 20 or 21 were long uphills out of downtown up past Queen Anne and then down across the Aurora Bridge. I've spent a fair amount of time training here, though not on the road itself, and knew what to expect. The heat was coming up, more and more people were walking, and the medicos were getting busier. Crossing the bridge was simply spectacular with a nice cross breeze and a wonderful views of Ballard, the ship canal, and the Olympics to the West. As I got closer to the turnaround point I started hearing Gloria Gaynor "I Will Survive" pumping out of the loud speakers (the band there was doing something other than playing). A cheer squad lined the edge of the turn and provided another pick-me-up as I went past and I headed towards The Wall.

Center of Gravity

Going up to and around the bridge I was trading off with a TNT runner, a survivor whose birthday was 6/27. She got a boost every time someone wished her a happy birthday and when her TNT coach came and ran with her. It was nice to see this. I never saw her face even when I went out past her. It is a funny thing to be so focused around other people, to be so aware of their presence but also to be basically anonymous to each other (is this how cats feel?). Another thing that I discovered is that each runner has some kind of gravitational pull that you can feel going past. You pass them and try to keep a distance but find yourself drifting towards them just a tiny bit. Not sure what is going on there. On the way down Aurora I had a woman begin orbiting me much like The Horse Fly during the Dawg Dash last year—pass on the right, pull in right in front, drop off to the left, repeat. Was this the gravity thing in action?

The Wall? Not sure there was one for me. I did slow down but that was because mile 19 going towards 20 was all uphill. Actually I didn't even notice the 20 as I was eating. A good tactic for avoiding that infamous "Run Fatboy Run" scene. :-)

Cresting the hill I began the long descent back towards downtown, the Battery Street Tunnel and the upper-tier of the AWV. It was getting very hot in the direct sun and I spent time running in the shade. Going through the tunnel for a fourth time was even quieter. All I could hear was the rush of traffic up above and the footfalls of other runners. One guy grunted at me as I went past and that is when I knew that things were getting really tough for people. Another guy was squatting at the side of the tunnel trying to remove a cramp.

Coming out of the tunnel and back under the heat of the full sun onto the AWV was a bit disconcerting. I noticed that I was not really sweating and was covered with salt. Unusual. I had been drinking Gatorade from my pack and also drinking water and Cytomax at the water stops and had peed clear at the 8-mile stop. Volunteers started handing out little salt packets. I was good though and just kept going, well plodding might be the better term.

Aw Nuts!

I hate straight out-and-back courses and today was no exception. Starting at about 22 or so I could see where we were going and how far into the distance it is. Mentally, four miles is really just that, four miles, one Green Lake Unit plus an add-on. It is just that, put end-to-end, this looks so long. Here is the kicker, the top deck has a downhill which you can barely see and which masks the rest of the run at street level. I saw this and had my moment of mental crisis. Not that I would not finish the run though, I knew I would, but I wondered if I would be walking or hobbling like so many around me were. There was so much grimacing, blown muscles, and weaving going on. I guess I just don't like seeing where I have to go. Bizarre.

The turnaround at about 24.2 or so was a treat because we got hit by a wall of refreshing wind and the realization that there were only about two miles left to go. I was running behind a couple and went out to pass on the right. Just as I did, the right-most runner rinsed her mouth out and spat out all the water. She narrowly missed me but you'd have thought I gotten a bath given how apologetic she was. The perils of being a stealth runner I guess. :-P

The last few miles were really slow though. A trot more than anything else. More leap-frogging with the Ladies From Canada and Birthday Girl. This was really interesting as I would pass the ladies as they were walking after a water stop (I had started walking through the stops too) and then they would catch me up until the next time. Birthday Girl was walking but then would start running really hard whenever one of the TNT coaches turned up, then she would just stop and I would pass her again.

This went on for the last two miles and the closer I got the more excited I became. Dropping down off the AWV via an entrance ramp took us to the 26 and back into the energy of the crowds. I kicked it in for the last .2 miles, right past all the hot dog and kettle corn sellers outside the stadium (remember seeing one hot dog seller taking a BIG bite of a dog) and beamed as I went across the mat. A very big smile on my face as I had my finisher picture taken (wonder how it will turn out) and then I found a shady spot to just sit down and rest my panel beaten feet. I could not stretch. KK emailed later that he had seen me finish on the live feed and that I looked strong. I wish I could see. :-)

Then my phone started binging as congratulatory texts started coming in, even more after I sent out my time. Ah, the wonders of online tracking (thanks guys!). A volunteer asked if I wanted a bottle of Cytomax? "Ice Cold" he said. I said, "NOOO!!!" but took an iced tea instead. Wandered around to meet Beloved Rooster (big hugs), got my gear bag, met up with Sj and H (who had just run her first half marathon), hopped on a bus towards home, and sat there aglow.

Am I disappointed I didn't beat my Portland time (4:24) or make at least 4:30? Not in the least. This was a real accomplishment AND I could have gone further given better fueling and a more forgiving running surface. Very different feeling after this run than after Portland. In fact, I actually WANT to go run tomorrow. I am sure that it will be a very gingerly one though.


Mentally this was a much stronger race for me than Portland in 2006. Then I really thought of giving up during the last miles and did a lot of walking. My time was faster in 2006 than today but I think that today I was much stronger physically and mentally over all. The course was harder too, especially those last three or four miles.

Pre-thinking the race is a good idea and I spent a fair amount of time coming up with a race strategy that I actually stuck with, at least until the very end.

I need to drink more. Eating was fine, possibly. I started on a schedule of every three miles but soon lost track of that and ate when I felt the slightest energy drop-off. This probably contributed to the slowness of my final miles. When I went to clean my water bladder I found that it I had consumed maybe 15 ounces of my Gatorade. It is possible that Gatorade is not what I need, too sweet, but it also interesting that I thought I was sucking it down on a very hot day and hadn't been.

Speedwork. I need to do more speedwork and tempo runs at marathon pace to get comfortable at road pace (this is different than hammering trail runs, my preferred method of speed work this time out). I did some of this in preparation but not as strongly as I should have. It might have made a difference in the last miles too.

I am sure there will be more . . .

And there is . . .

Second Skin works well to protect nipples.

PS. GW finished the WS100 in 27:57:26!

PPS: Seattle Times and Seattle PI Slideshows


Andy said...

Great comments, RPD.

PuddleThumper said...

Yay! Such a strong and controlled race. I think you are dead on about the lessons learned.