Saturday, June 26, 2010

Freeway Marathon marks my Super Six and Life 25

Another city, another marathon but this one marked a few milestones for me:
  • Half-way point in total miles for the 2010 Rock n Roll Endurance Series
  • My 25th career marathon
  • My 11th US state - completing a marathon in each
Rock n Roll Seattle Marathon is the 6th event in the 2010 Endurance Series and while Chicago, in August will be half way through the number of events, the series was front-loaded with full marathons (5 of them). Seattle provided near-perfect running conditions, some gorgeous scenery and some not-so-nice out and backs.
The event started at the health and fitness expo on Friday where
Competitor Group allowed me
to pick up my Super6 Heavy Medal. And heavy it was - over a pound. This is the next to last
medal in their progressive medals program - or so it appears. The folks at Competitor keep telling me they are planning something special for 14 so we'll see what they come up with.

Race #6 started in Tukwila, Washington, a suburb of Seattle and as usual, the stellar event organization by Competitor Group shined early on. I walked from my hotel, the Inn at the WAC the few blocks to where the downtown buses collected us to shuttle up to Tukwila and there were an ample supply of transports. I waited around for my fellow SMSers a while but when it was time to board, I got right on. The temperature at the start was just perfect - mid 50s and overcast. No wind, low humidity and lots of local adrenaline.
After wishing my colleagues well, I met up with @adamrisu in corral 2 and we took off just minutes after the starting gun.
The first few miles were rather uneventful as we passed through some industrial streets, past a few junk yards and scrap dealers (didn't exactly show Tukwila in its best light) before entering some nice quiet neighborhoods where everyone came out to cheer.

The highlight of the run came a few miles later along Lake Washington which provided sweeping lake views to the right and gorgeous wooded neighborhoods to the left. I will definitely have to return here during one of my many business trips to Seattle to run here again.
After this, the race turned into people acting like cars, as the majority of the rest of the event was on freeways and highways. we took a short out and back jaunt into the lake region on the Interstate 90 bridge. The
tailwind on the way out was nice as were the views but the headwind on the return sapped a bit of my energy. Since Lake Washington I had been running with another San Francisco Bay Area runner doing his first full but lost him in the wind.

We then came into the city on I-90 then merged onto Highway 99 for two, yes two out and backs. This event played a rather cruel mental game with us 26.2'ers in that we turned onto H-99 just as the half marathoners were turning the other way and heading to the finish, then on the way back south on 99 we passed right by the finish are and continued on south for another out and back. Ugh.

Thankfully, however, my good friend and fellow SMSer Faisal was waiting for me at the mile 18 turn around in North Seattle and rode his bike alongside me, keeping me company and energized through this whole last section. Faisal - you da man! Thanks a ton!

With 27,000 runners I can certainly see why Competitor Group was relegated to the highways as running on the downtown streets might have been a bit congested if all the halfers and full marathoners were on the streets together, but only us crazy marathoners made the turn onto Highway 99, so hopefully they will look at this next year.

The nice part on Highway 99 was the northbound loop as it provided nice views of Puget Sound and the Seattle downtown skyline. There was even a Norwegian Cruise Lines tour loading for a trip up to Alaska. Man, the cruise ships today are enormous!

The weather was a real godsend for this event as it helped a ton with keeping my body temperature down so I could keep a strong pace and never had to use any of the water stops.
My trusty Amphipod water bottle filled with PowerBar Endurance drink and my PowerBar Gels kept me going strong. But I gotta say, the freeways really took their toll in the back half. After holding a 3:15 marathon pace for the first half, I couldn't hold it and watched the 3:20 pace group, then the 3:30 pacer pass me by in the 20s. No matter. I'll take a 3:33 and the fact that I live on to race another day.

After finding Reesa and the SMS crew at the finish we headed over to the nearest pub for a
victory dance - Guiness -- and the world cup match between the US and Ghana. Hats off to the boys from Africa for the victory and heads held high for our boys. They played a strong game and have nothing to be ashamed of. We'll get 'em in 2014!
Rock & Roll Seattle marked the 25th marathon of my career taking me halfway to my long-term goal of completing 50 marathons by my 50th birthday.

Next up is Rock & Roll Chicago Half Marathon in August. The next full is Rock & Roll Denver in October. I'm looking forward to the short break from 26.2s so I can focus on the summer TNT season. Go Team!

Thanks again to everyone who has thus far supported my efforts and my fundraising for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society. We've raised $7,500 thus far but have $2,500 still to go, so keep the donations coming!

Monday, June 7, 2010

A Great SoCal Weekend

Rock & Roll Endurance event #5 is in the bag and I’m writing this race summary from Heathrow Airport at around 5am the Monday after the race. Yep, I ran the marathon then immediately jumped on a plane to Europe. While I don’t recommend this plan it was unavoidable. But thanks to a pair of recovery tights from 2XU my legs are feeling great!

The weekend started with a frantic day of preparation for both the trip to San Diego and two weeks in Europe.

We took our two kids (our cairn terriers) up to Aunt Chelle who graciously agreed to watch them while we were gone, then poured through a to-do list of other actions that needed to be taken before we left. No, I didn’t get through all of it, but did complete most of the things I had to complete in person or over the phone before we left. That night was the Virgin America flight to San Diego with fellow SMSers Miriam, Nicole and Rachel. Later that night another three members of our group were arriving so we upgraded the rental car to an SUV, all piled in and made our way to the gorgeous Hilton San Diego Resort in Mission Bay.

Day two was the requisite visit to the Marathon expo which was packed with enthusiastic runners – many doing the event (and the distance) for the first time. Rock & Roll San Diego is the founding event in this crazy series I’ve committed to completing this year. Its first running was 1998 and this year they added a half marathon which brought the total number of participants up to 30,000. They weren’t all at the expo Saturday morning, but you could have fooled me.

After the expo we headed down to Ocean Beach for a classic San Diego meal – fish tacos at South Beach Bar & Grille. We dined on a gorgeous spread of mahi mahi, shark, lobster, ceviche, and shrimp tacos, then walked to the beach and watched a bit of a surfing competition being sponsored by Red Bull. On the way back to the car we picked up supplies for the next morning’s run and Miriam and I hit the funkiest coffee place in town – Pirate’s coffee. Kinda touristy on the outside but good coffee and chai tea.

As before most marathons, I highly recommend taking it easy and in San Diego that means taking in the warm weather. We grabbed our suits and headed to the pool for a relaxing afternoon. Ironically, it was mostly overcast that afternoon and brought a big of chill – while it was a gorgeous day in the mid-eighties back home. Go figure.

That evening was the SMS pasta party and we were in full force. Twenty-eight people, runners from SMS, TNT and friends of the family joined us at Fillippi’s Pizzeria in Little Italy. We were clearly the largest party in this place which always has a line out the door. Good food, good conversation, good friendship.

Then off to prep our chairs and get some sleep before the start of the race.

We arrived at 6th and Olive at around 4:45am and the park was fully buzzing. A sea of purple shirts filled the park as Rock & Roll San Diego is an official Team in Training charity event.

The corrals started filling up around 5:30. I jumped into my corral around this same time looking for my Twitter buddy Adam but most have lost him in the crowd. At the sound of the gun at 6:15am we were off. Well, to be frank, with more than 30 corrals of runners very few were off at this time. There were 1-2 minutes between corrals which made for a rather anticlimactic start, but one in which you weren’t weaving frantically to fight for running room either – always a plus.

The course presented lots of opportunities to see and cheer on your fellow participants as the half and full took off together, then split off and rejoined several times. Competitor Group always does a great job of course design that ensures you never get lost in the half-goes-left, full-goes-right blending that can happen in some of these large races. When half and full were together we were mostly separated by a road divider or a series of orange cones.

The race started by going North through down then the full peeled off for a trip through downtown, past Petco Park where the San Diego Padres play (a bit of a city within the city), through the Gas Lamp district (a great area for night life). The scenery and ubiquitous bands every mile made the time (and miles) fly by.

Then it was out to the freeway heading west. This was a challenging part of the course as there were fewer bands (or so it seemed) and the roads were banked to facilitate water runoff. While I appreciate the engineering need, running on banked roads is tough on the knees and hips and I was feeling it. I, and others, kept moving to the high spots on the road to minimize the roll but it wasn’t always easy.

Once we got to West San Diego the ocean became visible and Mission Bay, where the rest of the race would take place. We headed straight for our hotel initially, then veered North for a loop around the Mission Bay park. As I made this turn, the cloud cover that had kept the morning so cool, dissipated and the temperature began to rise. What started as a low 60s, overcast and slightly humid morning was rapidly becoming a sunny mid-70s.

Our hotel was between miles 19 and 20 and as we swung down toward the south end of Mission Bay we could hear the sounds of the finish line in front of us. When you hear the finish but you are only at mile 20, that’s usually a bad sign – means you’re just being teased and a detour is ahead. And there it was. We turned west onto Fiesta island, a rather barren sandbar in the middle of Mission Bay. As we looped around the island the sun and heat came in full force. Thankfully, as we passed through the Boy Scouts Youth Camp on the island cold wet sponges were being handed out and troop leaders were holding sprayer hoses for a much-needed water douse. The miles around the island were hard and seemed much longer as the view didn’t change much. Finally we returned to the Mission Bay trail and mile market 25 arrived. I picked up the pace knowing I had just 1.2 miles left and still wet from the dousing and sponges I was feeling strong. With a half-mile left I turned to the guy running next to me and said, “Come on, let’s kick it,” and we both broke into a sprint. We flew through the remaining distance at each other’s elbows crossing the finish line in 3:28.

It’s an amazing feeling when you can push through 25.5 miles of a marathon and somehow muster the strength for a last kick. I felt elated.

After recovering a stretching in the finishers area, I walked down toward the finish line hoping to find others from our crew but the crowds were thick and I had no luck. I walked into the ocean up to my hips for a quick ice bath, then over to the concert area to take in a few songs from Big Bad Voodoo Daddy, the headliners for this event. They were in fantastic form, pulling out all the swing classics and performing some incredible solos on the sax, bass, trumpet, piano and even the trombone, which I used to play in school.

Then it was time to start heading to the hotel to shower, check out and get on the road. As I was walking back I actually felt so good I broke into a run for most of the 1.5 miles back to the Hilton. Good thing I did, too, as I was able to catch my colleagues who were walking back to the hotel as well.

This week is my company’s European client event, IT Forum, in Lisbon, Portugal and I’m due to lead a session with our clients on Tuesday afternoon, so I didn’t have much choice but to fly directly after the race. I was worried about how my legs would recover and feel after 26.2, a two hour car ride to LAX and 9 hours in the air, so at the Marathon Expo I stopped into the booth of 2XU an Australian clothing company specializing in compression gear. I picked up a pair of their compression tights which feature graduated compression. This innovation helps your muscles recover at rest by increasing blood circulation. Where normally if you sit for long periods of time your circulation has to fight gravity and you end up with blood pooling in your feel, graduated compression is tightest at the bottom squeezing the blood vessels more here so blood circulates more easily throughout the legs. The product worked as advertised as after the 9 hour flight I had no soreness and was walking normally all through the airport. Sweet!

Next up is Rock & Roll Seattle in just three weeks. This means I’ll be doing all my training for it while in Europe.

Thanks to everyone who has supported by cause thus far. Together we’ve raised over $7,500 for the fight against blood cancers. But there’s more to go. Please help me make my goal of raising over $10,000 for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by making a donation today. Just click on the Donate Now picture at the top of this page. Thank you!