Sunday, June 23, 2013

2013 Seattle Rock N Roll Half Marathon - Four Years and Counting

It was an amazingly gorgeous day with great running buddies, good times, a new PR. But we almost missed out... 
Photo by Rob Mar
For the last few years, logistical issues associated with this event have steered us away from registering for the Seattle RnR. Somehow though, my wife and I always manage to get signed up at the last minute (last week actually). Deep down, we know this race has special meaning for us and is an annual reminder of how far we've come.

It all started back in 2010. As total running "noobs", we had never run any further than five miles (even that was tough). So when we showed up for the 2010 Seattle Rock N Roll Half, our plan was to run a couple miles, then walk a mile or so, then repeat until it was over. We got  totally caught up in the crowd energy and overall vibe of this giant event. As the miles ticked off, we found ourselves running, running, and still running. When we reached mile 10, we were struggling but realized that we could NOT stop. That last mile was a killer, but we were so elated when we actually ran through the finish. Of course we were walking around like we'd just crapped our pants after that, but we had done it. We ran 13.1 miles and we were hooked.

I did not realize it at the time, but that first RnR Half in Seattle was a life changing event for us. Now with thirteen half marathons and two full marathons under my belt, I love reflecting back on that first race and just laugh. We really had no idea what we were doing, but it sparked a fire in us that is still burning strong today.

New Logistics
Last year, the the Competitor Group changed the marathon and half marathon route to start and end in downtown Seattle. This was great for us coming from across the water on the Olympic Peninsula. We could now catch an early ferry to Seattle and walk to the start...Seattle parking nightmare problem solved.

At 4AM Saturday morning our alarms went off. We groaned, got out of bed, grabbed our prearranged running stuff and were out by 4:40AM. Having run so many races now, we know exactly how to get ready quickly. As long as we can get to the start on time and claim a Honey Bucket, we're good to go and ready to run. We boarded the 5:20AM ferry to Seattle and were on our way. Phase I complete.

The ferry was full of runners. After all who else would be on a 5:20AM ferry on Saturday morning. Nobody. The cool part about a ferry ride before the race is that it gives you time to take care of the pre-race bodily purge. This is definitely NOT something you could get done if driving...not intentionally anyway.

We arrived in Seattle with plenty of time to make it from the ferry terminal to the Seattle Center, the start of the race. We ran into some friends, Melanie (running her first full marathon) as well as Eileen and her husband Lee. Together we walked up to the Space Needle and arrived at 6:30AM. The race started at 7. There were so many people and I had my doubts we would have time to check our gear and make a deposit in the Honey Bucket before the start. It all worked out though.

Unfortunately, I was not able to make it to any planned pre-race photo ops with friends. Sorry guys. It was just too crowded, plus getting to the #9 coral after my pit-stop was challenging enough.

A Change in Course
When reviewing the course map prior to race day, I realized that the course had changed a bit since last year. The race would start down 5th Ave in downtown instead of 3rd and they had taken out steep hill around mile 5. There was still a lot of elevation because, hey, this is Seattle. I would find out later in the race that they added a long uphill trek up 3rd street near mile 11.

New route with elevation

Of course, they left the nasty and annoying uphill finish. That last 1/4 mile I highlighted in yellow sucks and I would love to see that change in the future. Just sayin...

Race Go Time
I made it to corral #9 just before the start. I couldn't actually get into the corral as there was a mob of people trying to squeeze in. Eventually the mob started moving and I could squeeze in. I was looking for my friends Sharon and Erik who were determined to pace me to a sub-two finish. I couldn't find them in the crowd though. Nevertheless, I had a plan also and knew I had to keep my average pace around 9 minutes or better to have a good chance.

At 7:13AM we moved up to the start and with a "3-2-1 Go!" our corral was off and running through downtown Seattle.

The first few of miles through downtown had a mix of flat, downhill and uphills. Everything was clicking for me. I was determined not go out too fast like I did at the North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon 3 weeks ago. Instead I tried to find a good pace that I could sense, stick with and not have to always be looking at my watch. After a few miles, I settled in at around 8:55ish and felt I could hold it there. Of course there would be a little slowing on the uphills.

Mile 1 - 8:48
Mile 2 - 8:36
Mile 3 - 9:11

After mile three, I checked my pace and saw that I was holding a 8:52 average. I was a little ahead but felt good. I was going to try and keep it there.

Mile 4 - 8:57

Somewhere between 4 and 5 I heard a voice behind me calling my name. It was Sharon. They had found me. We tried to stick together but would lose each other off and on over the next few miles. No problems though...I was feeling great and holding my pace.

Mile 5 - 8:56
Mile 6 - 8:52

Photo by Rob Mar
I then heard another voice up along side me. It was another friend, Errol, who was running the full marathon. We chatted for a little while before hitting Lake Washington. He had gotten a quick start and was trying to slow down...a good plan. The marathoners split off at that point and I would not see him again.

Route along Lake Washington. Photo by Rod Mar
Mile 7 - 8:57
Mile 8 - 9:02

I held the pace nicely along Lake Washington. There is always a section of this part of the route manned by veterans and families of fallen soldiers which is very touching.

Mile 9 - 9:06

We left the Lake shortly after mile 8 and started the uphill climb through the tunnel and back over to downtown Seattle. The tunnel was really warm and had a thundering sound of DJ music. I grabbed a cup of water in the tunnel and dumped it on my head. Escaping the tunnel I was met with a refreshing breeze which cooled me right down.

At this point, the downtown skyline was in sight. It was the final stretch.

Mile 10 - 9:17
Mile 11 - 9:05

Passing behind Centurylink Field we started the trek uphill on 3rd Avenue. This part of the route was different from last year and I wasn't expecting it. It felt like about a mile of uphill and I felt I had maintained a decent pace up the long climb. After peaking the hill, it leveled off a bit then went downhill towards the waterfront and the Alaskan Way Viaduct. When my Garmin beeped my 12 mile split, I was surprised at the pace. I had lost about a minute on on the climb. I know the GPS gets a little confused downtown with all of the buildings, but I knew I was still ahead of schedule and wasn't too worried.

Mile 12 - 9:57
As I ran out on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, everything opened up. All I saw was water, sky, and the beautiful Seattle waterfront. I actually said "Wow" out loud. It was breathtaking for a moment. I think it's one of those "had to be there to experience it" moments.
It was time for the final push. With a little over a mile to go, there were a couple more uphills to tend to. Exiting the Viaduct towards the Seattle Center was slightly uphill. Then there was a tunnel and a couple more turns. I didn't remember this part of the course and wasn't sure how much further I had to go. I knew the end was near...or was it?

I remembered from last year that there was a short, but painful, hill at the finish so I prepared myself for that. I got to the hill and glanced at my watch which read 1 hour 58 minutes. I knew I had to push it up the hill and the finish would be right there.

As I got to the top of the hill, I realized that the finish was NOT right there. In fact I could see the 13 mile marker ahead. WHAT!!! My Garmin had already beeped 13 miles a while back. I realized at that point that I wasn't going to make my sub-2 hour goal. I told myself that was okay and, really, it was.

Mile 13 - 8:44

The final 0.1 mile was still on a slight uphill which makes for a pained finish. Push, push, go, go, then pose for a strong finish photo. Cheese!!

Mile 13+ - 9:22

I reached the finish and checked my watch which read 2:01:39. I was done. Here are the official stats:

Erik was waiting for me just inside the finish and we compared watches and finishing stories for a few. Our Garmins all read around 13.45 miles. Could it have been the buildings goofing up our GPS or was the course a little long? Dunno and it didn't really matter. It was a great race.

Despite not making it in under 2 hours, it was still a PR and I very happy with my performance. It was a tough course and I ran it just as I had planned to. I have no regrets.

My friend Sharon, Erik's wife, came in just a few minutes after while we were chatting with another friend, LaRee, who was volunteering at the finish. Unfortunately, LaRee had to back out of the marathon due to injury. It was great to see her there cheering us in.

We chatted for around 30 minutes until we got booted by security and told to move on. We had not even gotten our medals or bottle of water yet. We were having too much fun I guess.

Having a little fun with race photos

Gangsta Sharon (front) and Crazy Erik (Top left)
We got our medals and moved up further near the race photo area for a while waiting for my wife to finish. She was in corral #22 which probably didn't even start until 20 minutes after us.

We met up with my wife who also had a great race. We shared more stories on the lawn in the sun.

My wife and I
At gear check, we picked up our stuff, got cleaned up and headed to the Beer Garden to claim our free beer. We also ran in to friends Eileen and Lee.

Eileen and Lee

After a beer or two, we headed over to wait for our friend Melanie to come in for her marathon finish. I snapped this photo of her near the finish as she crushed her first marathon at 4 hours 35 minutes.

Melanie finishing her first Marathon. Go Melanie!!
It was time to head back to the ferry and go home. On the way we stopped at the Pike Place market and bought some flowers.

It was an incredible, exhausting, beautiful and fun-filled day with friends. I'm so glad we decided to participate. I know we would have had regrets sitting at home watching from afar.

We have realized that RnR Seattle is a race we must run each year, we have already signed up for 2014. Hope to see you there!

Want to hear about another great race?
Read my 2013 North Olympic Discovery Half Marathon Race Recap.


  1. Great recap- I'm so sad I missed it- I'll be posting a blog about the half that wasn't later. I joked around later that day as I went on a run...maybe I should have just "rocked" my race bib around Kitsap County!!?

    1. Thanks. That's a bummer you had to miss it. We were looking for you and wondering what happened.


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