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The Seattle Marathon Race Report: Beware Gingerbread Man

I'm right behind you!

I’m right behind you!

Now that I finally am lying on the couch with my recovery socks and a beer, it is time to briefly recount the torture that was today’s Seattle Amica Marathon. Please, snuggle up and share my pain with me.

Pre-Race Summary

After having a bonk on the treadmill a few weeks ago, I decided to actually try carb loading prior to today’s race. Nothing drastic: I just focused on carbs for the last three days. Things were a little tough to swallow yesterday when I took in 1500 extra calories in carbs. Thank God for bagels and baguettes.

Despite being in a hotel room just off Pike St, I got a whopping eight hours of sleep, even with the little one. I woke rested, got dressed, and caught the Monorail from Westlake to the race start by the Space Needle.

After kicking my feet up in the Armory for a good 30 minutes, I lined up. My fastest marathon before this was 4:28 at the Virginia Beach Shamrock Marathon in 2008. At that time, I barely understood what a marathon was. So lining up at the front of the race with the 3:40 pacer was certainly a new and nerve racking experience.  After a few minutes of warming up, off we went, luckily without a rain drop in sight.


Off we go, and all I focus on is my coach saying “don’t go out too fast.” Naturally, my first few tenths were  too fast, and I dialed it back down. Weather wise, it was amazingly warm yet very, very windy. I actually was way too warm zipped up in my long sleeve running shirt, gloves, and hat. Fortunately, I felt perfect with it unzipped and my sleeves rolled up. As I rounded 4.5 miles, my watch was telling me that I was way off in regards to pace. This caused a certain amount of panic. I couldn’t tell if running through tunnels and underpasses had thrown my data off, but at least the pace calculations seem decent. In any case, I sped up a little. In retrospect, I was actually right on track per the official results. I came through 4.5 miles at 7:51 pace.

Coming across the 90 bridge in the wind was difficult, but luckily I found some big dudes to hide behind. As we turned south towards Seward Park, my legs were feeling good and I settled into my pace.  Data from the Garmin had my clicking off miles around 7:55 and this coincides with the official results. I passed 8.1 miles at 7:59 pace. As I made my way through Seward Park, my legs starting to complain a little, but nothing out of the norm. At  13.1 miles, I was somewhat shocked to see that I was right on pace per the race clock, especially since the volunteer shouted times had me behind pace.

It was about mile 14 that problems started to arise. Never once in my long training runs did I have any problems with my quads or knees. So of course, today, I started getting a lot of pain and cramps in my quads, left and right. At roughly 16, I was really hurting, so much so that I started wondering how I would get home if I pulled the plug on the race. But, thanks to a gel and some Gatorade, I found some new energy, and my pace seemed to pick up.

Briefly, at least. Things seem to get worse and worse, and by the time I reached 20, I was really hurting. At about this time, a few random events occurred to essentially squash any adrenaline I had stored up in my legs. First, the hills started. Second, the 3:35 pace group passed me. How this is possible, especially since I was on pace still at mile 20 by the official results, I can’t figure out. Cramps in the quads were leaving me walking on downhills. And to top all that off, the gingerbread man that was stalking me for TEN MILES finally passed me. Yes, I endured ten miles of people shouting “good jo….oh look a gingerbread man!” Tough times, but apparently that is how the cookie crumbles.

So needless to say, the last 6 miles was pretty much exactly like the end of an Ironman marathon for me. 11 min plus pace, frequent walking, and mentally telling myself that every step is one close to an IPA. The last 6 were a total disaster.

In the end, I came in way off goal at 3:49.30. I was on pace all the way to mile 20:00 and then disaster struck.

Synopsis: 3:49:30, 39 minute marathon PR, 10 minute half marathon PR, 65/206 AG, 405/1338 males, and 505/2106 Overall.

While certainly a fail as a race day, it was a learning experience. Judging by the way my legs felt (there were literally times that I asked myself while the hell I do these type of things to myself in the last miles), I need more dexterity. I need more training runs in that zone of complete hell endurance wise.

That being said, there were many victories. I didn’t bonk. I had energy; I just couldn’t tolerate the pain in my legs. Second, I ran a PR for both my half marathon and marathon races. Overall, it looks like a lot of people had problems as I still placed ok.

In the spirit of my medical background, I think I will rate this race using a self-invented score system. Behold the Van Race Scale:

Packet Picked Up Without Problems 1/1 point
No money spent at expo 1/1 point
Successfully started race 1/1 point
On pace at half 2/2 points
On pace at 20 miles 2/2 points
Finished at goal pace 0/5 points
No puking 1/1 point
No GI issues 1/1 point
No crapping my tights 1/1 point
No porta potty stop 1/1 point
No falls 1/1 point
No walking 0/2 points

17 points = Epic day         16-10 = Learning experience       <10 WTF!

Seattle Marathon score = 10

I want to thank my real and virtual friends for all their support; your comments really do make a difference. Hopefully, I will be back next year for a better time. However, for now, it’s time for real vacation, great craft beer, and thinking about BOISE. At least I feel comfortable with my half performance.

The Calm

The beauty of freezing fog in the Northwest.

The beauty of freezing fog in the Northwest.

Finally,I am back in Seattle, with only 2 days to go until the marathon. Despite the building stir crazy, I find that this is one of the most rewarding times in racing. Training is all done. My mind and body are ready to rock and roll. All I have to focus on is  eating. As soon as I get done with the race, I am back to zero mentally and already looking toward the next goal. Right now, I am satisfied. It is not something I get to say often.

From the race standpoint, everything is looking ready to go. I got in a 15 minute stretch run yesterday and I had a hard time keeping my legs over race pace. No pain, no excessive sluggishness; everything just felt perfect. Today, I also checked off one of the most important victories when it comes to racing: I successfully picked up my race packet without spending a penny at the race expo. I’ll be honest, my entourage or four kids made it easy to skip the 50% Brooks clothes bin, but I’ll still pat myself on the back. Today, I got the mandatory shopping routine in with the wife and tomorrow I will be chilling in the hotel room all day with the kids. So, barring some epic disaster involving Godzilla, an eruption of Mt. Rainier, or a tsunami, I’ll be running a marathon on Sunday. Official goal is sub 3:45. Will see how things pan out. I am feeling optimistic.



Race day weather wise, the outlook is dreary. The title of this post is apt as an epic storm is about to roll into the Northwest. There is 90% chance of rain on race day, followed by plummeting temperatures. But I figure, if it sucks for me, it sucks for everyone. And hey, it wouldn’t be a Seattle marathon without rain right?

As for vacation, no matter what comes Sunday, this trip has been an epic win already. Somehow, likely due to some divine intervention, my family got out on the road on schedule Thanksgiving day. As I expected, there was hardly a single car on the road. On top of that, the little ones tolerated the five hour drive to Moses Lake with barely a cry and zero puke. To boot, the 13 month old went down without a single wail in the hotel room.

Even survived the sushi without far.

Even survived the sushi without puking….so far.


Today was even better as we safely navigated through the worst driving fog I have seen in a while. I’m not kidding; there were times I couldn’t see more than 20 feet ahead of me as we crossed through the Columbia River Gorge. We even saw two cars upside down on the road. After three hours we made it to Seattle, again sans puke. And to top the whole transition off, my mad hotel skills again triumphed by securing a dirt cheap, ginormous suite, with its own conference room. Currently, it is doubling as a nursery and a dining room. WIN.

This is how to have a family pre-race meeting!

This is how to have a family pre-race meeting!

Okay folks. Next posts should be my race report. I just want to say thanks for all the people who have helped me along the way as always, and all my virtual supporters out there. I’ll be thinking about all of you as I click the miles off on Sunday. Have a great weekend!

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