Sunday, November 29, 2009

Seattle Marathon Race (Pacing) Report 2009

November 29th, 2009, 8:15am

Temperature: 51F, 80% Humidity

Background:

I've always wanted to finish the Seattle marathon, our local marathon. It's held during the Thanksgiving weekend (last weekend of November). November is the wettest month of the year here in Seattle so the weather can be a crap shoot. With the course having some non-trivial hills it's not a PR course. So it's been a race that I've wanted to finish but not race.

I've manned the Asha For Education water stops in '06 and '07. I was an official pacer for the 1:45 half marathon in '08. This year I was going to be the official pacer for the 3:45 marathon. The pacing duties for the Seattle marathon is divided into 6.5 mile chunks so 4 pacers for the marathon. While this makes it easy to pace I think having just one pacer it preferable. How can the last pacer with fresh legs understand what the runners are feeling like at mile 24? Someone OTOH who has run the last 24 miles with them would totally get it.

My intention was to run as pacer #1 and then run at my own pace and finish the marathon. Tim had some other obligation so he insisted that he wanted to pace the first leg so a little grudgingly I moved to leg 2. Effectively, this meant I'd be on tap to pace two legs.

Between the St George marathon in the beginning of October and Seattle, I had just run the New York city marathon and run 3-4 times. So my fitness was sort of diminished and this would probably be exposed in the last 10k kind of like in NYCM. You really can't cheat the marathon?

For the Thanksgiving long weekend I went to Coeur d' Alene with some friends. As can be expected I was staying up late and in general not sleeping much. On Saturday evening I drove back, getting home around mid-night. So I was a little low on sleep.

Anand had been kind enough to pick up the pacer and race bibs for me. He lives a block from the race start. We hung out at his place till the race started.

The start line was just next to the Space needle. The Space needle had it's holiday tiara on top! It looked beautiful in the dark as the half marathon started. The marathon starts 45 minutes after the half so there is no interference between the two runs.
Race:

I lined up with Tim. We had a sizable pace group to start off.

mile 1: 8:25

For the first leg I ran behind Tim since it was his job to keep the group on pace. He had a pole with the pace we were running. We also had pacer bibs on our back "3h 45 - 8:35/mi". The course heads into downtown in the first mile so it's difficult to keep a GPS signal and have an idea of our exact pace. After marker 1, it was obvious that we were going out too fast. I had hoped Tim would adjust... It's almost criminal to run too fast to start off a marathon!

mile 2: 8:12
In downtown by the closed shops... Nordstroms, Macys, ANF,... I indicated to Tim that we're going too fast a number of times before giving up. Not much I could do if he did not want to slow down. I just fell back and followed them.

mile 3: 8:19
Still too fast.

mile 4: 8:31
Heading onto I-90 bridge. The climb onto the bridge ramp finally slows us down. Beautiful views of Lake Washington. I have to cross this bridge everyday to work. It's nice to be able to cross on foot :) Weather-wise we lucked out - a great day for running!

mile 5: 8:26
mile 6: 8:25

mile 7: 8:26
Tim's done. I get to run with the pacer pole. It was a little bit of a challenge to hold the pole against a non-negligible head-wind. My first task was to try and slow down the pace and run closer to the 8:35 we'd promised to run! We'd maintained our pace group size thus far.

mile 8: 8:38
mile 9: 8:31
Onto running by Lake Washington. I've run so many miles on this trail...

mile 10: 8:23
mile 11: 8:38
mile 12: 8:28
mile 13: 8:31
Time for me to hand off to Steve. Folks in the group thank me for doing a good job - always feel nice to hear! We're about 2 minutes ahead of schedule. That's perhaps a little too fast but given the hills in the end not too ridiculous...

half: 1:50:36
mile 14: 8:35

I continued to run this mile with Steve so that he gets in-sync with the pace...

mile 15: 8:37
I removed my pacer bib and fall off from the group. I've done my job and now it's for me to finish the run on my own. I knew it was going to be a tough day since I was feeling pretty exhausted already...

mile 16: 8:39
Dying ...

mile 17: 8:17
mile 18: 8:18
Channeling the last bit of my energy as I ran the last stretch by the Lake...

mile 19: 8:34
The Asha water stop at the 30k mile marker... This year the junior Asha folks were manning the water stop :) Good to see the youth turning up and getting involved with Asha :)

mile 20: 9:20
mile 21: 10:57
The Madison St Hills. I decided that I was going to walk up the hills. It just not worth suffering more than I needed to :p

mile 22: 9:52
mile 23: 10:45
More hills and more walking. I overheard someone say - "There's the pacer". That was such an embarrassing moment :p I would not have wanted anyone seeing me walking even though I was done with my walking. Pacers are supposed to be able to encourage the runners... Trained or not. 3 marathons in the last couple of months or not ...

mile 24: 9:24
The Chuckit waterstop at mile 23.5. I could not let Chuck see me walking. So I manned up and ran. As I passed I told him - "I just want to finish this thing!" He told me - "Yeah? 3 more miles to go :)"

mile 25: 9:39
mile 26: 10:11
mile .22: 1:44
The final miles towards the Memorial stadium. I saw Amol spectating here... I didn't want anyone I knew to see me walking... Into the stadium. Glad to be done :p An official finisher of the Seattle Marathon and yet another 26.22 mile odyssey done:)

Post-race:
I stopped by Anand's place to pick up my stuff... His mom was visiting. She treated me to a delish South Indian lunch. Mom cooked food is always a luxury for a single guy :))

Results:

Gun time: 3:53:51
Chip time: 3:53:13
Overall: 699/2253
Male: 538/1448
AG: 69/198

Reflections:

- Pacing is difficult... Having done this a few times now I'm still working on getting this perfect. You can make or break some one's race if they're trusting you. They have put in a lot of effort training for the event...

- I wanted to run my home city marathon and I've done it. It's very unlikely that I will run the Seattle full marathon again. The half marathon as a pacer, very likely...

- I now have a shiny new personal worst time in a marathon. Agreed it was as a pacer but it all counts. I've got to make sure that this is one PW that stays around for a looonnngg time :)

[I am writing this report almost a year after the marathon. It's time for the 2010 Seattle marathon. I won't be here this weekend. Maybe next year I'll partake in the event again. Maybe not]

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