Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Seattle Striding, or Toenails are for Sissies

Took a bit o' time off from blogging (and training) in order to...

well, I'm not really sure what I did. The living room is painted, and the work is largely complete, but beyond that?

Oh yeah, I walked the dog. Much dog walking in the last week or so.

So, the marathon. The image below captures the finish line and the view of the Viaduct on which we ran the latter half of the marathon. Oh, and the lovely skyline and port too (see how lovely the day turned out to be??).

It was wonderful, in a word. I was relatively confidant that I could finish it from fairly early in the race, which was a most excellent feeling. And I did finish, not only upright (the stated goal) but running. I even ran the SOB final hill at mile 25 (race planners--you are all cruel, evil humans, aren't you?).

The Flight to Seattle
As per normal, Delta hosed the day by delaying our flight by three and a half hours. Saw yet more of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport. Was not pleased, but we did finally arrive in Seattle at about 9:00 pm local time, at which point we settled for dinner at the hotel. Had a veggie Philly-cheesesteak. Yum.

We spent Friday touring Seattle, trying to make sure I didn't walk too much, but that I did get to at least stretch the ole legs, which had been crammed into the minuscule space for the "average size person" (um, yeah, if you mean an eight-year-old. Sure.) in the economy section the day before. We went to the Marathon Exhibition, picked up the race packet and some trinkets, and, because I refused to fly across the country with them, several GU packets. Saw the Sci-Fi museum (you had to know we'd go there) and the Music museum that inhabits the same building (excellent Seattle music room, there. Loved it.). Ate at a tiny cafe next to the museum and drove around Seattle a bit, checking out some of the race course, making the pilgrimage to the REI mothership, and hunting down a grocery store. We had dinner at the Pink Door at the Public Market--good pasta, EXCELLENT coffee. Also found Elliot Bay Bookstore, which is the very stuff of my dreams, and I wandered about its wonderfulness, finally selecting a Tom Robbins novel (Still Life with Woodpecker--love it. Always love my Robbins) and the first Sookie Stackhouse novel, which I cannot recall the name of and refuse to look up because I already wasted enough time on that book, thank you. At least she's honest in her vampire porn pretensions.

The Race Run (not racing, really, after all):

Saturday dawned, well, frankly, my day dawned before dawn, as I got up at 4 am to wolf down the requisite bagel and peanut butter and banana (yum), so we'll go with "Saturday dawned dark" or "Saturday finally dawned about an hour after I got on the shuttle". I wandered out of the hotel, appropriately dressed (surprising at that hour), and headed for the shuttle bus pickup site, which was on the other side of Safeco Field from my hotel. The line of school buses would have made a teen quiver in fear. Said shuttle took us to Tukwila, which is where the marathon was due to begin....in two hours. I met some interesting folk, including Elmer from Panama, who was running in the 7th corral (I was in the 27th of 30 some odd corrals, for reference) and for whom this was the 40th or so marathon. He immediately pegged me as a newbie and gave me a great pep talk. Thanks, Elmer!! One gentleman behind me was also running his first (in his case, the half marathon) and the other was on his 125th. Yes, you read that correctly. 1-2-5. He's 65 and has been running for 19 years. Do the math--that's a holy hell bunch o'marathons in 19 years. Needless to say, I was impressed.

We arrived at the gathering area at about 5 am. Did I mention yet that it was farking cold that morning? No? Well, it was. Farking, I tell you. Farking.

Only a few organizational glitches, nothing serious, and scores of Porta-pots (company name: Honey Pot) made for a pleasant wait in Tukwila. The sun finally deigning to rise made it even more pleasant and reduced the general shivering, which was so great with 25,000 runners that it threatened to generate an earthquake in the area. They called for people to line up in the corrals at 6:30 am. We listened to the music and waited (and waited and waited and waited). The drummer of Presidents of the United States of America was running, as was a guy who had recently run a half marathon in 64 minutes.

Yeah. That was 64.

My corral started about 45 minutes after the gun (see here for an explanation of wave starts, which are a good thing with 25,000 folks). I was more excited to see the start than I would have imagined being; finally, after all that work...it's here. And, as one of the DJs pointed out (rightly, I think), this was not the finish line, this was the party after all the training. For some reason, that totally resonated with me and kept going through my head during the run.

The course was far flatter than one might imagine for Seattle; it seemed to be a good one (sayeth the newbie) . The hills were few, and while steep, they were totally manageable. I was treated to some gorgeous scenery too, such as the turn into Seward Park, which almost made me stop running just to look. The weather turned out to be absolutely perfect--low 70s and sunny (the pictures here were taken over the next day, so they don't reflect all the beauty of the day's run--oh, and the shot of Rainer is from the Tacoma side here, not the Seattle side). Saw a bald eagle in the park (very cool) and, because it was sunny and clear, Rainer was quite visible from the bridge we ran across on Lake Washington. That is one incredible piece of mountain volcano, there. Very beautiful. Though, it did give me pause...people climb that sucker on purpose. Awe. Complete and total awe.

Saw some very interesting folks and phrases along the way. One woman had affixed to her shirt that she was celebrating 10 years of remission from cancer (woohoo!); I congratulated her as I ran by--she was awe-inspiring. A young fellow, about 70 or so, had a sign pinned to his shirt that read "Expected Finish Time: Tuesday. About noon." Loved that. Also loved, as is mentioned in the post title, the hat that read "Toenails are for Sissies." Having donated two (and possibly three) to the cause, I totally agree. Thank you to the LA Racer who wore that and made me giggle.

Returning to Safeco field, we lost the half marathoners and continued on to the Alaskan Way Viaduct, which we ran out to the bridge over Union Lake and then returned on. Miles 18 through 22 were, as expected tough, but I was greeted by such kindly smiling faces (yes, I know they were thinking something along the lines of "oh, that poor fool," but let me live in this one a bit), that I did pull myself through those and onwards to the last mile, where I found a hill. I grew up around sailors and never have I heard the colorful language that decorated that hill before...again, I'd have to call it awe inspiring. I did, however, run the hill (go me and the local hill training). Upon cresting the hill, what did I find but the band playing Faster Pussycat's "Bathroom Wall." Yes, yes, my life is good.

And, I finished the race--5:36:21, about what I expected. So, *grin*. Here's me in all my race completion glory (and all the associated stuff--I look like I'm ready for a day's hike with all the gear--the medal, however, is groovy). Please ignore how incredibly awful I look--remember: post-marathon. Dragged my exhausted tail back to the hotel, cleaned up and read for a while, then wandered off to dinner at Etta's (crabcakes, yet more yum). In short, I had a blast that day. My new marathon goal (and never did I imagine saying anything like that) is to complete one in under 5 hours. Since this is getting a tad long, I'll break the post here and post the rest, which will cover what I have learned in this process, on Thursday. I will let the cat out of the bag that I enjoyed this adventure so much that I'm doing it again--sort of. On the Friday before the marathon, I signed up for the Rock N' Roll Half Marathon in Virginia Beach, so I get to run in my hometown two days after I turn 34. Woohoo! Started training again yesterday...here we go!

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