I had a GREAT day! For those that just want the quick and dirty here are the stats:
Chip time - 1:42:45
Overall Place (Women) - 98/3585 (which is based on Official Time because of USAT rules which doesn't make a ton of sense but whatever)
Division Place - 11/630
I drove down to Seattle around 11 stopping and hanging out with Demetra, Collin and baby Z before meeting up with my Mom to hit up the Expo and a little shopping at the Nordstrom Rack. The afternoon flew by and before I knew it I was tired, hungry, and ready to call it a day. My feet were not happy with me and that was reflected in my attitude (although I did wear my compression tights all day so that may have been one saving grace).
A note on the Expo - I LOVE running expos. In comparison to traithlon expos (which are completely lack luster btw) they rock. There are so many booths to visit. I especially like the discounted shoes from Road Runner Sports - although I didn't buy anything, there is always the potential. You can't beat $50 for one pair when they are typically over $100. Also...I was tempted to purchase a fancy headband like these but they were 15 bucks and seemed not so worth it (and they weren't this brand so...). Since my Mom was with me I took the opportunity to point out potential Christmas present ideas - namely this Amphipod reflective strap and these compression socks.
Once home, I dumped out the goodie bag and got rid of all the race paperwork - a note to all you race organizers...save some paper and don't give me that stuff, it goes instantly in the recycle bin without even a glance. There wasn't much else in the bag. A packet of peanut butter, a pencil and chap stick. RANDOM! Oh well. I was able to snag a few LaraBar samples to round out my 'goodies'. Oh yeah, and the shirt this year was an odd blue/greyish color. Works for me because I don't really care - it's just another shirt to throw into the mix.
Before dinner I took a moment to lay out my gear so I wouldn't have to rummage through my bag in the morning. The forecast was 100% chance of rain and in the low 50s so my plan was shorts, tank top, arm warmers, gloves, and CEP compression sleeves. Hat and/or ear warmers were optional. Additional gear included the Garmin (charging up just in case), 3 Chocolate Gus to be dumped into a gel flask and watered down for easy consumption, race belt, timing chip, and a ratty long sleeve shirt to toss once the race started.
Staying at my parents' house is always a win before a race. I don't have to worry about eating out and instead I get an awesome home cooked meal to whatever specification I want (that makes me sound like a spoiled brat...but it's not like I was asking for something ridiculous). So my request was french dip. This is my newish 'go to' pre race meal. This summer when I raced in Chelan it was the only thing appealing on the menu at the restaurant we landed on. And, since I had a great race in Chelan...well, don't mess with a good thing. The same meal was consumed prior to Ironman. My Mom whipped up easy french dip and we had leftover mashed yams with pecans and cranberries. Delicious!
Post meal it was movie time and trying to keep track of baby Z bouncing on the bed - that girl has a lot of energy! Then it was early-ish to bed only to lay there wide awake visualizing the race - for some reason I was pretty nervous about my training plan. 12 miles at race pace was a big leap. In previous runs the longest 'race pace' portion was 6 miles.
My alarm was set for 5:50 - plenty of time to slowly wake up, eat breakfast, get things moving and then get dropped off for my warmup. Breakfast consisted of a piece of toast with peanut butter and a few sips of an energy drink. I diluted 3 gels with water into a gel flask. I wasn't sure how many gels I would need but figured 3 was more than enough. My plan was to sip the flask throughout the race at around 20 minute intervals.
We left the house around 6:40 and drove south. It wasn't raining at the time and the temperature was pretty mild so I skipped both the hat and the ear warmers (a good choice in the end as I think I would have been hot although a hat may have been handy given the rain). I stuffed one last gel into my glove just in case. I remembered as we drove to my drop off point that I would be running a total of 15 miles and 3 gels may not cut it.
My parents dropped me off on the east side of Lake Union about a mile and a half from the start line. It was still dark but Eastlake is all lit so I didn't need a headlamp. I started off nice and relaxed. I kept repeating to myself 'today is going to be a good day to run'. The weather was perfect and my legs felt good. It was actually quite pleasent to warm up this way. There was no nervous energy of other racers around me. In fact I passed the slow moving line of cars all headed to drop runners off at the start. They were probably looking at me thinking I was crazy for running to the start. I think from now on this is the way to go. I completely enjoyed that time to myself. Unfortuantely, I timed it poorly. I allotted a bit too much time between my drop off and the start time. I got to the start at 7:05 and then stood around waiting until the 7:30 start. Oops.
Steffanie met up with me around 7:20 and we hopped the fence to get into the starting chute. I, of course, forgot that I had a spare gel stuffed in my glove and as I pressed down to launch myself over the fence I popped it. Disgusting! Chocolate gel oozed between my fingers and covered the palm of my hand. I tossed the glove and the popped gel packet and proceeded to ungracefully lick the rest of the gel off my hand - classy. We made our way up near the 8 min/mile pacer and settled in. I figured I wouldn't see the pacer again since the first mile was supposed to be a warm up for me (I was shooting for around an 8:30 pace) but it is always better to start a little ahead of where you 'think' you'll end up - that way you don't have to weave around people.
The race started right on time and Steffanie and I took off around an 8:30 pace. We chatted and weaved in and out of other runners. The first mile starts off fairly flat and then turns into a steady climb as you work your way further downtown. At the mile marker we said our goodbyes (Steffanie's plan was to just run - she had been sick for a few weeks and unable to train so today was a training day rather than a race), I hit my lap button to switch over to the race pace portion of my run, and took off. I used the Advanced Workout option on my Garmin leaving both the warmup and the race pace part open ended so I could go by the mile markers on the course as opposed to the satelitte miles. I set the race pace part to have a range between 7:40 to 8:05 pace. I figured that would give me plenty of wiggle room for my pacing and keep it on the faster side.
As I sped up I crested the top of the hill and made my way easily down into the International District. The Garmin beeping annoyingly telling me I was going to fast - DUH, I was going downhill and wasn't about to put on the breaks this early in the run. Downhills equal free speed. I knew it would even out once I hit the I-90 express entrance so I ignored it and prayed that everyone around me wasn't wanting to kill me.
We funneled onto the on ramp and I scooted to the middle of the lane. One year at this very same spot I was crowded on the edge and it was SCARY! Nothing like a nice shove from a competitor to knock you right off the ramp and down 50+ feet to concrete. No thank you. Running up the hill felt easy. Baby steps.
From the ramp you make your way towards the tunnel before being dropped next to Lake Washington to head towards the Arboretum. The tunnel smelled terrifying from the thousands of bodies that were going through there in their technical gear. I'm sure I didn't help the situation but at the same time I was thinking how lucky I was at the front of the pack before things got really 'steamy'.
Once I hit the lake I knew I had at least 3 miles of relatively flat pavement to run so I picked it up a notch and enjoyed the scenery. At this point it had started to rain but to tell you the truth I didn't really notice that. I was focusing on staying relaxed, sipping my GU at intervals and clicking off the miles. It felt easy.
At mile 7ish you make a left hand turn and start your way up Madison. It's a long slog of a hill. I didn't push it but kept it steady and passed a lot of people. Towards the top I ran right into Pat. I said hello but didn't start up a conversation. I was working hard and I wanted to get up and over so I could pound down the other side.
Pat and I ran together as we dove into the Arboretum, winding our way towards Interlaken. It 'could' be gorgeous along this stretch of the race but the weather sucked and I was focused so who knows what it looked like around me. We hit the turn onto Interlaken and started snaking our way up - literally. This section is a lot of switch backs and it seems to go on forever. The first part is relatively steep and then it flattens out after a mile or two but you're still weaving in and out. I kept thinking 'maybe this is the last bend in the road...' but usually it wasn't (obviously since there would only be one of those). At this point I was focusing on cutting the corners, running as straight a line as I possibly could - free distance right?
On one of these winding sections Pat dropped back a bit. I didn't know how far and didn't risk looking back. I was just ticking off the miles at that point AND I had seen the 8 min/mile pacer and was hunting him down (nothing like a rabbit in front of you to chase after). I was excited that he was in my sights since I had assumed I wouldn't see him again. If I could catch him and stay with him then I would for sure average 8's for the entire 13 (not planned) AND I would PR. The best part - We were narrowing in on the 10 mile mark which would mean only 5k left.
When I popped out of the woods and made my way down Boylston I could feel my right hip flexor aching a bit. Luckily it wasn't too bad and I continued at the pace I was going but it definitely wasn't happy with me - must have been all the hills!
Shortly before the freeway overpass on Boylston I made my pass of the 8 min/mile pacer. Ha! Now let's see what I can do. Apparently (as I learned later on) Pat saw this move and was surprised since my plan was to run an 8 pace but she was pacing me so she went for it too. Around mile 11 I was starting to feel pretty fatigued. My hip was annoying and I was ready to be done with this wet race. Pat ran up next to me and said basically just that - 'let's get this thing over with'. The mantra in my head at this point was '2.1 miles left, 2.1 miles left'. Typically I start to count down the miles and parts of miles when I have this distance left. Then, I look down at my watch periodically and am disappointed by how little it has moved. So instead I took this route and pretended like I still had 2.1 miles to go all the way until mile 12, then it became 1.1 miles to go.
The last mile and change are brutal in this race. It's a steep downhill bottoming out about 3/4s of a mile away from the finish and then a steep uphill before you get to turn into the stadium and run to the finish line. Not a fan. But, like all the other downhills in this race I let gravity take me and then prepared myself mentally for the uphill. Baby steps up the other side and then turn on the gas to the finish. I didn't have a whole lot left and so saved most of it for that final sprint into the stadium. I'm pretty sure I passed at least 5 people in that final 100 yards - AWESOME! I crossed the finish line pooped but at the same time exhilarated by my PR and by the fact that I successfully ran my 12 pace miles (albeit faster than 'pace'). Pat and I celebrated by downing fresh smoothies, chocolate milk, chicken noodle soup, and hot cocoa.
A great race! I had a smile (at least internally - even if they didn't show in the pictures) the entire race...well, maybe except the last mile and a half. I felt strong and confident. Both of which I need to take with me to Phoenix in January. Lastly, more pictures to come once I steal them from my Dad's camera. Oh yeah...and thanks everyone for the support - I felt like a rock star with all the comments on FB.