(Thank you, Char! This picture is courtesy of Charlene Huang-Roberts facebook page!)
I work the swing shift. Afternoon and evening. When I have to get up at 3:30 AM, either something catastrophic has happened or I am dedicated to something! It was the latter. I had to get ready to run a marathon.
Several months ago my friend, Tom, decided that he wanted to do a marathon run. Tom and I have been friends since elementary school. I decided to run the same one with him. He is faster than I am so I doubted that we’d run it together, but we could train and learn the process together. I’ve done this before, so we could draw from what I had learned as we progressed through the training. We decided to use Hal Higdon’s Intermediate I marathon training schedule as our base.
I ran with another friend, too. Her name is Penelope The Cat. Penelope is an internet phenomenon. She has been a little bit of everywhere across the world. If I was going to cross the finish line, she was going to be there with me. You can find out more about her at http://www.facebook.com/penelopethecat.
Remember that this would be my 3rd attempt at a marathon distance. I failed to complete at Chicago in 2008 falling to the ground with debilitating lower leg cramps at the 40 kilometer mark (I’ve learned to conquer that problem since). I did complete the Las Vegas Marathon in December of 2008 bringing it in at 6:04:22.
My brother, Clint and his lovely wife Susan, were kind enough to provide his house as a base for our Seattle activities. They live North of the city. We had to get up early to catch a shuttle from a hotel just north of city center.
Everyone has their own procedure for race preparation. The evening before I made sure that I had what I needed for the morning. It would be an easy matter to get up, eat, dress and get out the door in an easy manner. Clint had volunteered to shuttle us to the shuttle bus location.
The morning was cloud covered, cool and somewhat misty. By the time we made the journey, the mist had cleared. Clint dropped us off 1 block from the shuttle bus loading zone. We got right on the bus and we were off. We were headed for the starting line of the 2010 Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon.
Everyone on this school bus shuttle was a competitor. They were all nervous and contemplating what they were about to do. We talked about what we registered for, our sport watches, & recent aches and pains. One runner said he stubbed hi big toe badly recently. It was black and blue, but the Doctor gave him clearance to run, so he was going for the half.
Then, we arrived. We were at the staging area for the start line at the Seattle RnR 2010 race! We found ourselves a city block away from an industrial park in Tukwila, Washington. We followed the other runners over. The next hour was spent just looking. There was water, fruit, bagels and Cytomax. There were several UPS trucks at the gear station. There were also a whole heck of a lot of porta potties. No lines when we arrived, but long, long lines as the start time approached.
We checked out the corrals at the start line. A corral is an assigned starting position based on the finish time that you gave yourself at registration. I had Corral 27. Tom was assigned to Corral 22. In total, there were 39 Corrals. At the back of the line was the silver car that denoted the end of the competition. It was the car that would run the course at the very end of the assigned time closing the course.
As zero time approached, we went to our corrals. Tom and I had talked about it time and time again, but we went over it again. Start out slow. When you think you are slow enough, slow it down a little bit more. The start is a good time to conserve energy that you’ll need toward the end. Tom’s brother, Don, had called the day before and reminded us both of that. In January, Don completed his first marathon at the Phoenix RnR! It was advice based on his own real experience.
I entered corral 27 and looked about. There was a younger man standing close by. I saw that he had a yellow bib. The yellow bib was the full marathon color. He told me that this was his first marathon and that it was a “Bucket list” item. I told him that it was my second attempt at a marathon completion.
7:00 AM was approaching quickly by now. We had the privilege of having John Bingham (waddle on, penguin) as the announcer! I looked about again and Pat had moved on. The line grew quiet as the national anthem was sung. The countdown to the start of the race commenced and this competition was on!
To a runner this is a special period of time. I contemplated the task that I had taken on. I thought about the weeks of training that I had completed. You could hear the nervous contemplation as corral after corral was started. As my corral got closer and closer to the start line, my nervousness grew and grew. Tom’s corral 22 started their run 34 minutes after the start gun. My corral started 43 minutes after the gun.
We got our “Go” and I started to run. Before I had run far, Pat was at my side. He told me that he’d like to run with me if he could. Well, misery loves company and so do marathoners! We ran the entire course together. We discussed a lot about running and Pat shared his knowledge of the area with me. We made a great team.
We ran at a pace of about 12 minute miles. The first half was very scenic. We ran through industrial areas, nice neighborhoods, parks, and along the shore of Lake Washington. We contemplated the floating bridge as we approached it. Then we converged on the first split point. Full marathon runners were to run to the right, half marathoners to the left. As Pat and I moved over, the half runners cheered us on! We returned the favor. We were on the floating bridge and headed across Lake Washington soon after.
There weren’t many hills to this point. If there were, it didn’t matter as we were still fresh. The floating bridge did have a ramp down and into the bridge, and up again at the other end. As it was an out-and-back at this point, so we had it to do again. There was a slight breeze that cooled us off under those cloudy skies. Pat found some friends headed back across the bridge, and I saw Tom. We stopped and caught up but you don’t finish until you run, so on we went.
After the floating bridge we entered our first tunnel. It wasn’t very long and we were back out and into the light. They had split the courses after the floating bridge. We ran on one side of the road and the halvers on the other. We passed the 12 miles mark and then came up on the 13.1 (halfway) mark. I looked at the Halvers and told ‘em that we had completed 13.1! Then I said that it was OK, though, as we had the same distance to go!
We were in the sports area of Seattle. I remember Safeco and Qwest Fields. Soon, the Halvers would again split and head for their finish line. We were at one cross walk watching as some Halvers who had finished were crossing the course. I stopped one young lady asking to see her medal. It looked great! I commended her. She saw my bib and commented on my being a marathon runner. I told her not to worry as Pat and I were on our way to a finish. We took off again.
Seattle downtown was a fun part of the run. We ran down some steeps headed toward the water front. We headed toward the Alaskan Viaduct. At the split, we marathon runners headed North as the Halvers headed for their finish line. We wished them luck and ran on the middle level of the viaduct.
The viaduct was not too bad headed North. We were covered and cool as we headed toward the tunnel.
At this marathon, there were medical people with red shirts on bicycles. They were observant and everywhere. Tom told me that one was behind him and commented that his shoulders were too tight. He loosened them up and felt better. He did say that he had to turn around and comment that she was just making him nervous after a while. She smiled and moved on.
The tunnel was interesting. Noise echoed the entire length. I took the opportunity here to take a couple of electrolyte supplements. There was a DJ spinning disks near the end that had music on way too loud. Hurt the ears.
Pat sure enjoys his music! At every band and chance to dance, he did. The bands picked up on that. It was enjoyable all the way around. This was a Rock and Roll event and there were bands all the way along the course.
We came out of the tunnel into faded sunshine. It felt good to have some warmth. This was at mile 16. The course had been slowly gaining elevation. It would continue to gain all the way to the Aurora bridge.
We crossed the bridge and got a break from the climb. I knew that we were on a bridge but my concentration was on our endeavor. I wanted to get the view but I also wanted to achieve the end. To conserve energy, we ran right down the middle and not the edge. So… No view. On the other side, it was a few blocks to another turn around point. We were headed South again.
Mile 19 was just past the South end of the bridge. We started the run and I felt cramping in my lower legs. I reached for my coin purse with the electrolytes. It was not there! I must have dropped it in the tunnel. Shades of Chicago! What was I going to do. Pat agreed to walk for a while (What a great guy)! As we passed the next water station, there were salt packets (the kind you get at fast food joints). We both downed one. I grabbed some extra packs. We washed it down with bot water and Cytomax. Now it was time to see if it would work.
It was after the water station that I decided to down another salt pack. Pat did one, too. It left the nasty taste of salt in the mouth until the next water station. BUT… The cramps were easing up. Soon, we were alternating running and walking. We passed the 20 mile mark. Pat and I were on the final 6.2! This was a doable competition now!
Water on the North side of the Viaduct came from hose water and tasted like it. No way around it, I suppose, but it was noticeable.
We entered the Viaduct tunnel headed South. It was about the same length as the other side but much quieter. We exited the other side into some bold sunshine. Didn’t matter, though. We were nearing the end. We were on the upper level of the Viaduct now.
Miles 21 and 22 passed. Running, walking, running, walking… Nice and level at this point. We kept on going.
Mile 23 passed. I thought that I was running long. After all, the race was a 7:00 hour maximum. I knew that Pat and I would make it, though. Up ahead, the viaduct was ending. It appeared to be a ramp headed down. What lies ahead now?
We neared it and watched as others ahead of us were reaching another ramp leading down to the finish line.
Expecting some relief, we saw that at the bottom of the ramp the course continued (and continued and continued). We could see the turn around, but it was a ways up there. At the bottom of the ramp was the 25 mile marker for those closer to the finish line. I wouldn’t be long now! W e ran and we walked. It took a long time (seemingly) but we reached the 24 mile marker a little before the turn-around. There was a Med station there. Behind that there were two “Vulture” buses. It was their job to take those who couldn’t finish to the final staging area.
Pat and I bolstered each other up and kept going. We ran toward the 25 mile marker. The ramp after the marker was steep. We decided to walk it. At the top, we started to run again. It felt good to know that the finish was so near. We were going to finish!
Soon, we were at the final downhill ramp. We passed the 26 mile marker on level ground. There was a left turn and then another left turn and we could see the finish line. Pat and I looked at each other. We made it! He was kind enough to let me go ahead. I dropped my glove and got Penelope The Cat out. She went into my right hand for the finish line.
I heard my name being yelled. I turned to the right and there was Manager John and GAG Char cheering us to the finish line. My arms went up and I smiled. I crossed the finish line! Marathon number 2 is in the bag!
Pat and I shook hands, hugged and congratulated each other. Tom was there waiting for me. We congratulated each other on a marathon completion. Tom had come back to get a picture of both of us at the finish. What a guy!
My medal record goes on! I waited for a young lady handing out medals to place mine over my neck. She put her hand out but I asked for my usual hug. She agreed!
We got water, granola bars and fruit. We left the finisher’s chute. Poor John and Char. Here was a sweaty, large guy that just finished a marathon refusing their out stretched hands for a full body hug!
Unfortunately, Clint and Susan missed my finish again. They met us soon after. I don’t like to think this now but I might have to run another so they can see me finish one!
It was great weather and a great personal achievement. I did feel a disappointment as I saw the finish clock was at 06:31… I missed my PR I was trying for. It wasn’t until several hours that I found out that it took mr 43 minutes to pass the start line. SO… I DID PR! My new Personal Record was 15 minutes and 39 seconds better than my first.
As we were leaving the area to get the car, a familiar face came out of a restaurant. Pat!! He said that he was telling his family of our experiences together when he saw me! Coincidence? Who knows… Pat was a great guy to run with and it made this race a great experience! Thank you so much, Pat!
Oh, yeah… Tom… My friend, Tom, did a great thing. One of the Team-In-Training people was having a hard time at the 19 mile mark. Tom saw her and talked to her. He recognized that she had the spirit but could use some help. She felt exhausted and was contemplating dropping out. He offered her some of his energy gel, some encouraging words and an endurolyte or two. He stayed with her until the end. That made the marathon experience even better when 2 runners can assist each other to make it work. Congratulations to both Tom and Elizabeth for your spectacular finish together!
Overall, a great day for everyone involved!