Seattle Rock n’ Roll Marathon – A New PR

On Friday evening, I decided that it’d be a good idea to sign up for the Seattle Rock n’ Roll Marathon. I had been feeling pretty good about recent runs and thought it’d be fun to try to run 26.2 without actually spending three months obsessing about it.

Late in the day, I surfed the web and found the race to be sold out – long ago. It looked as if there might be charity spots available via the American Cancer Society. However, they weren’t available via the website.

So, just after 6 p.m. on Friday, I drove down to Qwest Field to go to the marathon expo. A visit to the American Cancer Society booth revealed that I’d need to raise $1,200 to get a bib number. After posting about it on Twitter and Facebook, I received an initial commitment for a contribution from friend and former Microsoft co-worker Jeri Johnson. With that, I decided to take the plunge.

A pasta dinner and an early bedtime seemed to be the preparation I needed (or was capable of) to get ready for the race. Unfortunately, I overslept (am/pm alarm mistake) and nearly missed my ride. Thankfully, driver Kelly was kind enough to swing by to pick me up. I quickly dumped everything I needed into a bag and raced downstairs. We made it with plenty of time.

As the race kicked off, the announcer was thanking the pacers. Pacers are runners who carry signs indicating various finish times – 3 hours, 3:30, 3:45, 4:00, etc. They allow other runners to gauge how fast they are they going throughout the race. GPS watches (and normal watches accompanied by mile markers and some math skills) really replace the need for pacers, but they are great to have for easy visual cues about how steady you are running. The announcer thanked the pacers and said “the pace is the race.”

With that phrase rolling through my head, I decided to try to hold a pace of 8 minutes and 8 seconds per mile. That’s the approximate pace I ran in the 1997 Marine Corps Marathon, my first 26.2 race and still my best time (3:33:10). I’ve run 5 marathons since then (when including the run portion of the two Ironman races). I’ve tried in earnest to beat that time twice. In 1998, I tried to qualify for the Boston Marathon when I ran the Twin Cities Marathon. At that age, I would’ve had to finish in 3:10:59 (they give you the seconds). I started strong, but cramped pretty severely at mile 17 and walked to finishing time of 3:34:10. In 2005, I ran the Honolulu Marathon and thought that I was trained up enough to beat the 1997 time. Again, the race began well but the Honolulu heat in December was too much for my temperate Seattle training and I finished in about 3:43.

I knew it’d be tough to beat the time of 3:33 in yesterday’s race. The only way to do so would be to avoid previous cramping problems, which meant that I’d have to do a better job on the fuel and food front. I had packed five packets of Gu gel (two of which I consumed before the race because I didn’t really get to breakfast due to oversleeping), one bag of Gu chomps (two servings per bag) and eight Endurolyte electrolyte supplements. That wasn’t going to be enough Gu for my plan of having 100 calories of supplement at the :15 and :45 times, so I picked up a couple extra at aid stations along the way. I took one of the Endurolyte tablets at :00 and :30 each hour. At each aid station, I had a half cup (or whatever I could get from the cup to my mouth) of Cytomax (the official energy drink of the marathon).

As the miles passed by, I was buoyed by the near perfect (for running) cool weather, the thousands of runners, the bands along the course and the supportive crowds. My longest previous runs had been 18 miles a few weeks back and 16 a couple before that. When I passed the 20 mile mark, I knew that I’d finish with a decent time. At mile 22, I calculated that I actually had a shot of getting my PR – but I’d have to average 7 ½ minute miles until the end. Mile 23 wasn’t quick enough – 7:42, and mile 24 was three seconds slower at 7:45. With the end – but not cramping – in sight, I was able to step up the pace in mile 25 with a 7:28. I knew I had to shave more time to beat 3:33, so mile 26 was a limit-testing 7:04. A few hundred yards out, I saw the finish line and was elated to have a little left in the tank for a final sprint (finished at a 4:48 pace according to my watch). Stopping my watch at the finish line and realizing I’d beaten my 1997 time by 41 seconds was an incredible feeling – one I didn’t expect to have when I signed up less than 16 hours prior to that moment.

Overall, I came in 281st out of 4,080 marathon finishers. Being in the top 7 percent is my best placement ever. It’s an even sweeter victory given that I didn’t expect it.

Below is the Garmin data from my watch. The overall pace and mileage is a bit off, as the watch didn’t quite adjust to the long I-90 tunnel run. I lost signal and it threw the pacing of a couple miles off (13/14), which made the overall pace displayed too low. My real pace was 8:07 per mile – 1 little more than 1 second per mile faster than my 1997 time. The pace is the race.

If you’d like to support the American Cancer Society (and my improbable, unplanned run yesterday), visit my fundraising page. A special thanks to all of those who’ve already contributed to this worthy cause.

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This entry was posted on Saturday, June 26th, 2010 at 7:34 PM and is filed under Triathlons, Varied. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

2 Responses to “Seattle Rock n’ Roll Marathon – A New PR”

  1. Joel Says:

    C’mon, Scott – you know that the REAL reason you beat your PR was because of the cheering section at mile 6.8, right after you came out of the Port-o-Let. 😉 Congrats – lots of PRs broken on Saturday. Nice job!

  2. Jerry Van Valkenburg Says:

    Congrats Scott. Now it good to hear the whole story how your entry and the race came about. I just got the alert from Jeri Johnson FB page and said sure- I’ll join the Stanzel team. Glad to know you, and glad to help. Congrats on the PR. Boston Marathon next?
    Jerry V