2019 Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle 5K and Woodinville Wine Ride: Museum running, wining on a bike, and more

The Brooks inflated doll towers over 5K runners at the starting line

The giant inflated Brooks doll towers over 5K runners at the starting line

I didn’t get to sleep in at all last weekend, but my near-triathlon spread over two days otherwise went pretty well. The back-to-back events, the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle 5K on Saturday (June 8) and the 24-mile Woodinville Wine Ride on Sunday (June 9), were both worth doing.

Running on East Marginal Way

Me on East Marginal Way

More below on the bicycle ride that featured three wine stops. The 5K run that kicks off the annual Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle races — the marathon and half-marathon were both the next day, when I was out wining, I mean biking — was clearly the weekend highlight for me. I’d run the Rock ‘n’ Roll marathon (2010) and the half-marathon (2009 and 2011) before, but this was my first time doing the shorter race, which was added three years ago.

The 3.1-mile course meanders through the Museum of Flight in south Seattle, just south of Boeing’s main Seattle campus. For my 230th road run, it was absolutely cool to dash around the wheels and underneath the wings of numerous historic aircraft — a first.

The thrill of reaching the finish line

The thrill of reaching the finish line

The museum features an assortment of both military and commercial planes and space vehicles. It has a roof and gated fences, but otherwise is an outdoor facility. I wanted to stop and take pictures, but I worried that I would get stampeded.

Nearly 1,800 runners and walkers weaved through the complex in the first mile. The run then continued along the ultra-flat, four-lane East Marginal Way for an out-and-back through Boeing country. The finish line, like the starting line, was in the museum’s spacious parking lot, and included food booths, a rock band and beer garden.

Rock ‘n’ Roll organizers do it right

The queue at the starting line

The queue at the starting line

Running through the museum was a bit slow and congested, but there was loads of room once we got on East Marginal Way. I shook off some pain in my right hamstring in the last mile to finish in 38:14 (12:18 per mile), my second-best 5K time this year (out of four races at that distance). That got me 924th place out of 1,786 total finishers, and fifth out of 15 in my age group. Full results are here.

The courseNot only is the Museum of Flight an awesome venue, but the Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon Series organizers put on a first-class event, with medals that could be engraved with your name and time, runners’ photos, lots of swag, music, and refreshments. I’m glad the organizers saw fit to add a 5K race for runners with less time to train, and also thankful to Brooks Running Co. for being a key sponsor behind the 5K event.

On Sunday, nearly 10,000 runners did the half-marathon and 2,100 the full marathon on different courses to the north in downtown Seattle and up through the Queen Anne and Green Lake areas.

The Rock 'n' Roll Seattle Marathon Expo is always full of great stuff

The Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon Expo at CenturyLink Field is always full of great stuff

These are the races where numerous rock bands play at spots alongside the course. The 5K had only a dee-jay spinning tunes alongside the course, but that was OK. I always wear headphones with music while running, and in doing the longer Rock ‘n’ Roll races before, I never felt compelled to stop and listen to any of the bands.

A shout-out is in order for my Microsoft and runner friend Jen Gaudette. She ran both the 5K and half-marathon and finished in the upper half of each. Congrats, Jen!

My bad left ankle would not have been happy had I tried to do that. So, I chose a bicycle ride for the next day instead.

The second wine stop at Cougar Crest Estate Winery was busy for several hours

The second wine stop at Cougar Crest Estate Winery was busy for several hours

Lots of wine poured, but no crashes seen

The Cascade Bicycle Club indulges beer lovers with its Seattle Bike-n-Brews ride in May. It did the same with wine lovers last Sunday with the Woodinville Wine Ride, taking bicyclists through Woodinville’s growing region of wineries, wine bars, and tasting rooms. About 500 riders turned out on a warm, sunny day.

The first wine stop at The Junction

The first wine stop at The Junction

The 24-mile course started and ended at the Woodhouse Wine Estates, a winemaking establishment just north of the Chateau Ste. Michelle and Columbia wineries. We rode west into Bothell and past the University of Washington Bothell campus, looped back east into Woodinville, and zipped south down the Sammamish River Trail into Redmond to circle around the Willows Run Golf Complex. Then it was back up the trail to the finish line.

Much of it was flat, but it felt good to climb a few hills and get some views from a bicycle of the I-405 corridor that I now drive everyday to my job at Fluke Digital Systems. I also got a chance to see a few areas of Woodinville and Bothell I hadn’t before.

The Woodinville Wine Ride courseThe course was a mesh of those from a number of rides and road runs I’d previously done. And there was the stretch of the Sammamish trail that was all too familiar from my marathon training days (my last marathon was in 2012). I got a chance to relive some memories of pushing myself through 20-mile Sunday runs.

Along the way were two stops for wine: The Junction in Woodinville’s Warehouse District, where you could order bottles or fill your cup (I focused on the big cookies from Costco), and the Cougar Crest Estate Winery, where the upstairs tasting room was way too crowded. I must say that the wine samples were relatively small, the riders all seemed to manage their alcohol intake, and I did not see any crashes or incidents.

I personally held off on any wine consumption until crossing the finish line back at Woodhouse. After riding for about two and a half hours, a cup of Riesling went down nicely in the hot sun.

It wasn’t the most exciting ride I’ve done. But a highlight was seeing former Microsoft co-worker Susan Woodside at The Junction wine stop. Great to see you again, Susan!

What’s next

Former co-worker Susan Woodside and me at The Junction

Former co-worker Susan Woodside and me at The Junction

For my next run, I am hoping to reunite with some Allytics teammates at the Redmond Derby Dash 5K on July 12. This race takes place after work on a Friday on the Sammamish River Trail. For at least a few hours that day, it would be nice if the bicyclists stayed away and let the runners have the trail.

Later in July, I have a chance to do another back-to-back bicycling and running weekend (I also did one in February). But I likely won’t. I am planning to decide whether to do the Seattle Night Ride on Friday, July 26, or the Seafair Torchlight 8K Run on Saturday, July 27, but probably not both.

Thanks for reading, Happy Father’s Day, and enjoy the summer, everyone!

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Posted in 5K, 8K, Bicycling, Cascade Bicycle Club, Green Lake, Marathons, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail, Seafair Torchlight Run | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2019 Emerald City Ride: Not as scenic anymore, but still a thrill to ride carless freeways

Riding on I-5 just south of the Ship Canal Bridge

Riding on I-5 just south of the Ship Canal Bridge

This year’s Emerald City Ride was without the featured stretch on the Alaskan Way Viaduct because, well, the viaduct no longer exists. Replacing it with a jaunt through the Highway 99 Tunnel means that you can now escape the rain or cold for a couple of miles, but you miss out on the scenic views of Puget Sound, the ferry boats, and the Olympic Mountains.

Just getting on the Ship Canal Bridge, with the best views of the ride

Just getting on the Ship Canal Bridge, with the best views of the ride (click any picture to enlarge)

Still, some 3,000 riders turned out last Sunday (May 26) on a Memorial Day weekend because of the chance to bicycle several miles of freeway through Seattle without worrying about any cars. That part hasn’t changed, and it makes this once-a-year opportunity (provided by the Cascade Bicycle Club) still worth it. Many of the riders were parents biking with young children.

This is only a 12-mile ride, and the course is largely flat with just a few significant hills. But I got a decent workout anyway Sunday because I showed up fashionably late and had to push myself hard to make the I-5 express lanes cutoff time at the six-mile mark. When race organizers say they won’t allow any riders on I-5 after 9:30 a.m., they mean it. Fortunately, I got there around 9:22 a.m. so I could complete the ride.

No time for a food stop

The Emerald City Ride courseThat first part of this ride is northbound through the three-month-old tunnel — it opened last February, at the same time the viaduct was closed for its imminent dismantling (now about 90 percent completed).

Since I rode through the 2-mile-long tunnel in the inaugural Highway 99 Tunnel Ride on Feb. 3, it was not new to me. But I got a chance to relive the memory of how you start out fast on a downhill plunge, level off, and then climb the last mile or so up a 5 percent grade to make it out (it is the same situation going both northbound and southbound).

In my haste to make the cutoff, I didn’t even think about the next hill after coming out of the tunnel. But I was pedaling up Highway 99 to the Aurora Bridge, a gradual incline that I ran up earlier this year as part of the Hot Chocolate 5K. It is a stretch that I know well from the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon, the St. Patrick’s Day Dash, and several other road runs.

Climbing to the north end of the Highway 99 Tunnel

Climbing to the north end of the Highway 99 Tunnel

We rode across the Aurora Bridge and then turned down into Fremont. There was a food stop at Gas Works Park, but I had no time to stop. They didn’t want us to stop either — they were putting away tables and booths, and urging everyone to keep riding to get to the I-5 entry way. I was glad to finally get there on time and not have to argue my way on, as I did in last year’s Emerald City Ride.

 

Four miles of bicycling down I-5 

Pictures at the finish line

Pictures at the finish line

Once on I-5, the best part of this new Emerald City Ride (sans viaduct) begins. You enter going southbound on the Ship Canal Bridge, and can stop to take pictures of Lake Union, the Space Needle, downtown high-rises, and the Sound off in the distance.

I simply like having multiple lanes to bike in, much in the way that I relished having all that room on I-5 northbound in running the new Seattle Half-Marathon course last November. You have four miles of free riding down I-5 until you exit back into downtown through the express lanes tunnel to Fifth Avenue. No cars, no stoplights — only young kids riding slower to watch out for.

My reward for completing the ride

My reward for completing the ride

I finished the ride in just over an hour, as I stopped several times to take pictures. The start and finish line was behind the Pyramid Alehouse that is across from T-Mobile Park in south downtown. For the second straight ride, I gorged on a sausage dog afterwards.

This was my third ride this year and 38th overall (since 2011), and I have at least one more planned for 2019.

New job underway at Fluke; plus what’s next

Getting to the finish line behind the Pyramid Alehouse

Getting to the finish line behind the Pyramid Alehouse

As I noted in my last post, my day job has changed. I left Allytics to become the content manager at Fluke Digital Systems, starting on May 13. Three weeks into the new job and I am enjoying the new challenge, with still lots to learn about the Industrial Internet of Things and the Fluke/Accelix product line and marketing strategy. So far, so good, but I do miss my peeps at Allytics.

I’m hoping some former teammates will join me in running the Rock ‘n’ Seattle Marathon 5K — it’s a 5K race on June 8, the day before the big marathon and half-marathon races (I’ve done both before, but will not do either this year). I like the idea that this run starts and ends, and runs through, the Museum of Flight in south Seattle.

Another I-5 shot, closer to the exit to downtown

Another I-5 shot, closer to the exit to downtown

The following day, I’m bicycling again — the Woodinville Wine Ride, a 24-mile ride through northeast King County sponsored by the Cascade Bicycle Club. I did this ride in its inaugural year of 2015, when the course was a simple, unremarkable spin from Woodinville to Seattle via the Sammamish and Burke-Gilman trails.

I signed up for this year’s event because the course through Woodinville’s wine country seems a bit more interesting than the previous one. I’m hoping the swag again includes a wine glass.

It is a second weekend this year where I’m running a road race one day and doing a bicycle ride the next, so wish me luck.

Cheers, everyone. Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5K, Bicycling, Burke-Gilman Trail, Cascade Bicycle Club, Hot Chocolate 15K/5K, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail, St. Patrick's Day Dash | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2019 Seattle Bike-n-Brews: A little ride before the Big Move

The finish line leads into the post-race beer garden at Georgetown Brewing Co. in south Seattle

The 2019 version of the Seattle Bike-n-Brews last Sunday (May 5) was only 32 miles long, cut five miles short from what was planned due to construction work on a section of the Interurban Trail. It was also as flat a ride as I will ever do; I didn’t change gears at all during the ride.

Riding past the Museum of Flight (click to enlarge)

It should have been a walk in the park. But riding against a stiff wind on the return to Georgetown Brewing Co., where the event started, made it as challenging a ride as many I’ve done in recent years. I was relieved to reach the finish line, where sausage dogs and beer were waiting.

Speaking of reaching the finish line, I am doing the same this week at Allytics. After nearly five years, I am leaving this Redmond-based marketing agency for a new and exciting opportunity starting next week. More on this below.

Free beers at two stops

First beer stop was at Odin Brewing Co. in Tukwila

We had sunny, dry weather for this Cascade Bicycle Club ride, so no complaints there. About 850 people did the ride, enjoying a rest stop at Odin Brewing Co. near the Southcenter Mall (22-mile mark) before the final stop. The entry fee included free beers at both stops, plus a well-earned sausage dog and chips at the Georgetown brewery. Yum.

 

This was the second straight year I’ve done this ride (last year I rode the full 37 miles), and I don’t remember the winds making it as rough a year ago.

Riding along Foster Golf Links in Tukwila

Riding along Foster Golf Links in Tukwila

I do remember the course traversing the south Seattle streets in and around the Boeing campus and the Green River and Interurban trails through Tukwila and Kent. We rode past the Museum of Flight, Southcenter Mall, the Foster Golf Links, the Riverbend Golf Course, and the Starfire complex where the Seattle Sounders are headquartered.

Many of the trails were narrow, bumpy, and in need of repaving. The worst bumps were all marked in pink. The course could have been slightly better marked overall — there was rider confusion in a couple of spots about which way to go. But … we all guessed right, because we got back OK.

The beer, food, and rider camaraderie made it all worth it. I stopped beside the course a couple of times, just for water or to take pictures. Each time, a rider passing me asked me if I was OK. Made me confident someone would help me if I’d had a flat tire, which I didn’t. (I am challenged when it comes to changing flat tires.)

 

Busy riding season begins; I need more training rides

Had to stop for a train in the first mile

Had to stop for a train in the first mile

This ride took me under three hours, or 11.3 miles per hour — faster than I usually go because of the lack of hills. It was only my second bike event of 2019, and my 37th overall, with more planned for May and June. It was good to get back into bicycling, and my bad ankle got through it just fine, but I need to log some more training miles.

Some cool rides are coming up:

Also, I am considering trying out the relatively new 5K as part of the Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll Marathon on June 8, as it will cover some of the south Seattle streets that I just rode my bike on.

Saying hello to Fluke, and farewell to Allytics

Party time at the finish line

Party time at the finish line

Meanwhile, as I said, I start a new job next week as the Content Manager at Fluke Digital Systems in Everett, supporting an Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) platform called Accelix.

I am very much looking forward to this new opportunity and a more focused marketing effort. But I will dearly miss my awesome teammates at Allytics. I’ve had some great times with them, and hope to continue doing some road runs with R.J., Hayley, and others in our informal running club.

Thanks for the great memories, Allytics!

Thanks for reading and Happy Mother’s Day to all the moms! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

2019 Beat the Bunny 5K: The bunny rides me to the finish line

The rain came down intermittently, as medals await these finishers

April is usually the month that I celebrate my Seahawk pride by running the Seahawks 12K Run in the team’s hometown of Renton. But that popular race is on hiatus in 2019. The event website promises “an exciting new event in the near future,” which may or may not be a road run. We’ll see.

After faking an injury and running in circles, the bunny decides to finish beside another runner (click to enlarge)

So I chose another April run, the smaller, low-key Beat the Bunny 5K Run at Marymoor Park. This race last Saturday (April 13), organized by the city of Redmond, was as much for kids as it was for fitness-minded adults. It also took place in wet, somewhat windy weather, on a course that included sections of grass and gravel as well as park trails and a half-mile on the Sammamish River Trail.

All that was fine. I got my fastest 5K time since my second ankle surgery (Dec. 18, 2017), and even beat the bunny — though both of those accomplishments come with asterisks. The first asterisk is because the alleged 3.12-mile course may not have been marked accurately and may have been shorter than a 5K. I only say this because my MapMyRun app tracked it at 3.02 miles, although it could have been wrong too.

Let’s just say the course was marked correctly, and give me the credit. I’ve gotten no notification from anyone that it wasn’t.

The course was an out and back that started and ended in front of the Redmond Community Center

Meanwhile, the “bunny” in this race was a man partially dressed in a bunny suit who could have easily finished in the top five. But he chose to stay near the back of the pack — right behind me, for much of the race to pace and inspire slower runners like me. He’d get right behind me or beside me, making sure I was pushing myself. I was. The bunny made me run as hard as I could.

Near the 3-mile marker, he passed me to escort to the finish line a woman and her son who were just ahead of me.

But about 15 feet in front of the finish line, the bunny stopped and faked an injury. He let me and numerous others pass him. He then ran in circles and eventually crossed the finish line beside a woman laboring to get to the end. So, technically, I beat the bunny by almost a minute, but it was a ruse.

Nice to shave my 5K time a bit

Finishers check for their results

This pre-Easter race had only 291 finishers, but still was fun and a good workout. I finished in 36:43 (11:50 per mile), almost two minutes faster than my previous 5K bests in 2018 or 2019. (My 5K PR is 24:32 in 2005, so I realize I am well passed my prime.) I also got second place out of four in my age group. Full results are here.

This was my fifth road run of the year and my 229th overall. It was a nice break between extremely busy recent workweeks at Allytics, where big Microsoft spring marketing campaigns are keeping us hopping. It also was less grueling than last month’s Mercer Island Half Marathon, where I completed my 40th half-marathon, accomplishing a goal I set before my latest ankle surgery in late 2017.

Walkers and strollers finish in the rain

Now, I’m looking forward to a week of vacation!

That will be followed by my annual switch to bicycling. I am signed up for the Seattle Bike-n-Brews Ride (37 miles through south Seattle and south King County) on May 5. I also plan to ride the Emerald City Ride (12 miles through Seattle) on May 26 and the Flying Wheels 67-mile route (through the Snoqualmie Valley) on June 1. All these rides are put on by the Cascade Bicycle Club.

I may try to work in a road run in May, but definitely will get back to running in June, perhaps for Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half-Marathon or 5K. The last time I ran Rock ‘n’ Roll was in 2011, the year my ankle problems got bad enough to require my first surgery.

A couple of shout-outs

A mariachi band entertains pre-race as runners huddle out of the rain inside the Redmond Community Center

Congrats to former Ragnar Relay teammate Larissa Martin Ralph for her 7th Boston Marathon finish last week. It was her 50th marathon overall. Impressive, Larissa! Just qualifying for Boston is an accomplishment, but Larissa does it routinely.

A shout-out too to my Allytics teammate R.J. Taylor for her nice run at today’s (April 20) Tenacious Ten 10-mile run. R.J. is our fastest runner and leader of our running group at Allytics. Nice job, R.J.!

Thanks for reading. Happy Easter, everyone!

Posted in 5K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Flying Wheels, Marymoor Park, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail, Seahawks 12K Run, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2019 Mercer Island Half-Marathon: It’s my 40th half-marathon, and it felt like it

The Half-Marathon Run gun sounds and some of the elite Seattle-area runners are off.

The Half-Marathon Run gun sounds and some of the elite Seattle-area runners are off.

I achieved my goal last Sunday (March 24) of running at least 40 half-marathons. It was fitting that my 40th was the Mercer Island Half-Marathon, a demanding race I’ve done 14 times now, including before, between, and after my two ankle surgeries (2011 and 2017).

Just get to the finish line. Combined, some 2,153 did.

Just get to the finish line. Combined, some 2,153 did.

The course is a clockwise loop around the perimeter of Mercer Island, and I know it well. It’s rolling hills most of the way around, with a few major dips and inclines. Besides running it 14 times, it is a regular bicycle training ride for me that gives me a decent workout.

After a two-year absence of doing this run, I was challenged to get through it. I’d signed up for the Half-Marathon Walk so I’d be OK if I undertrained because of work demands, and I am glad I did. I ran most of it, as did a few others in the Walk, but finished in 3:24:37 (15:37 per mile), good for only 101st out of 165 in the Walk. It was a bit slower than my recent Seattle Half Marathon time, but this was a harder course. Full results are here.

Half-marathon runners make the first turn

Half-marathon runners make the first turn

Yes, I got passed by walkers as well as runners. It’s amazing how fast some speed-walkers can go. The Half-Marathon Run started 90 minutes after the Walk, and those runners clocking 1:50 or faster also passed me on their way to the finish line. Altogether, 1,072 people finished the Half-Marathon Run.

But it was all OK. Why? My second surgery — the ankle fusion surgery performed by Dr. Eric Powell in December 2017 — has allowed me to run a half-marathon without much ankle pain or swelling. Though I have reached new levels of slowness, it is relatively pain-free, an acceptable tradeoff.

That doesn’t mean my body wasn’t sore at all, because it was. I had trouble walking down steps the next day because my quads were tight. But I can quickly bounce back from that.

Newer course added tough hills at end

Finishers and their medals

Finishers and their medals

I did my first Mercer Island Half-Marathon in 2003, and the following year got my best time for this event of 1:57:31 (8:57 per mile). I’ve been unable to run it in under two hours since then, though I finished in 2:00:08 in 2005 and 2:00:09 in 2006.

The course was slightly different then. You started in the downtown area and ran around a few blocks before making your way to East Mercer Way for a semi-loop around the island. Since 2008 or so, the start and finish lines have been at the north end of the island, near the Mercer Island Community Center. The race is now a complete circle around the island.

The course around Mercer Island, which is shaped like a foot

The course around Mercer Island, which is shaped like a foot

With the current course, you’re spent by the time you hit those last three miles, and there are tough hills in miles 11 and 12. The last tenth of a mile to the finish line is also an annoying uphill climb. But crossing the finish line always feels good, especially when it is No. 40.

Also since 2008, the Mercer Island Half-Marathon includes 5K and 10K races (I’ve only done the half-marathon). Some 2,153 runners and walkers combined finished the four events, a slight decline from prior years but still a strong turnout.

What I like about this event is that the participants are serious runners and fitness buffs, including lots of couples and families. It is also for a great cause — colon cancer research and awareness. The main sponsor is the Swedish Cancer Institute.

I’d like to give a shout-out to Larissa Martin Ralph, a veteran marathoner and former Ragnar Relay teammate, who led the 1:50 pace group at the event. Larissa’s mom recently passed away. Larissa, your pace group passed me in the last mile, but I was too busy laboring to get to the finish line to give a yell or even see you. Good luck in the Boston Marathon coming up!

My half-marathon highlights since 2002

In light of this being my 40th half-marathon (to go with 21 full marathons), I put together some of my half-marathon highlights:

  • Half-marathons completed: Mercer Island (14), Seattle (8), Super Jock ‘n Jill Labor Day Half (5), Kirkland (4), West Seattle (3), Seafair (2), Seattle Rock ‘n’ Roll (2), Overlake Labor Day Half (1), Black Diamond (1).
  • First Half ever completed: Seattle Half-Marathon, November 2002 (my time was 2:20).
  • Fastest time: 1:55:33, Seafair Half-Marathon in Bellevue, June 2004.
  • Slowest time: 3:46:56, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, March 2012 (seven months after my first ankle surgery).
  • Best course: (tie) Seattle Half-Marathon (2018) and Overlake Labor Day Half (2016). Both courses were largely flat.
  • Worst course: West Seattle Half-Marathon (2005, 2006, 2007). No police or volunteers were available to escort runners through the West Seattle business district, so you had to stop at stoplights. Still, I was close to breaking 2:00 in all three of these runs.
  • Most memorable: Last two miles of the Overlake Labor Day Half (2016), as I was trying to beat 3:00. I gave it my best shot, but earlier leg cramps set me back. I finished in 3:00:30, my best post-surgery time.

An April run, and back to bicycling

These runners came in just under two hours

These runners came in just under two hours

This was my fourth road run of 2019 and my 228th race overall since 2001. Nos. 5 and 229 will be a smaller, Easter-themed 5K run at Marymoor Park in Redmond on April 13, called the Beat the Bunny 5K Run. I wanted to do a run that weekend because the following weekend I am starting a well-deserved vacation.

My normal April run, the Seahawks 12K Run, is taking a hiatus this year and may never come back.

Three cheers for the volunteers!

Three cheers for the volunteers!

I need to get back to bicycling, however, as some of the best rides of the season are coming. I’m planning to ride the Seattle Bike-n-Brews Ride, a 37-mile ride into south King County that I enjoyed doing last year.

Thanks for reading! Go Ducks and Mariners!

Posted in 10K, 5K, ankle surgery, Kirkland Half-Marathon, Marathons, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Seahawks 12K Run, Seattle Marathon, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2019 Hot Chocolate 5K: It’s official — I will run for chocolate

These lovely ladies who did the 5K with me agreed to pose post-race to show off their chocolate bowls

These lovely ladies who did the 5K with me agreed to pose post-race to show off their chocolate bowls

The Hot Chocolate 15K/5K event in Seattle last Sunday (March 3) was, by all signs, another rousing success. More than 9,800 runners and walkers did either the 5K (3.1 miles) or 15K (9.3 miles). That’s a slight decline from the 2017 and 2016 races that I did, but still a good turnout.

Finish line!

Just crossed the finish line!

The weather was again chilly but dry. There was cool swag, free race pictures, well-marked courses, lots of volunteers, and a participation rate that was nearly 75 percent women. All similar to previous years. In its sixth year in Seattle, the Hot Chocolate event remains one of the city’s largest road runs (though nowhere as big as the one-off Tunnel to Viaduct 8K in February).

But what I will remember most about my third time doing this run is how good the chocolate tasted. I decided this year to sit down and enjoy it — to take my post-race chocolate bowl of goodies inside the nearby Seattle Center Armory and focus on eating and drinking everything in it. That included downing the hot chocolate drink, then dipping my banana, cookie, marshmallow, and pretzels — everything — in the delicious melted chocolate fondue provided.

The men's tech race jacket is comfy

The men’s tech race jacket is comfy

It was as satisfying as you might expect after a 5K run. The day before, at the event expo to get my race bib and swag, I prepared by squandering all the freshly made samples I could get. I couldn’t get enough.

Yes, I like chocolate. And this event does a good job of providing chocolate as your reward for taking part in this early morning run. It’s a formula that works in 19 cities across the U.S., where thousands of others in this national series of races are running for chocolate.

Now, about that start time

My only complaint with the event locally is the 6:45 a.m. start time for the 5K. To get to the starting line (and Corral E) at the Seattle Center near downtown on time, I must get out of bed in the middle of the night. The companion 15K race starts at 7:55 a.m., which is more reasonable but still early.

I’m not sure why these races need to start so early, but it could be because race organizers must have all participants off the public streets by noon. I don’t know that, but it is plausible. With nearly 6,000 running the 5K and more than 4,000 the 15K, such large volumes make running the races concurrently out of the question on the two-lane streets involved. So they need to get two back-to-back races done as quickly and efficiently as possible.

But 6:45 a.m. for a race in downtown Seattle is still too early for me.

R.J. motors to the 15K finish line in 1:19:58

R.J. motors to the 15K finish line in 1:19:58

Both courses are out-and-back jaunts up Aurora Avenue (Highway 99), away from the new Highway 99 Tunnel that we ran through in the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K last month. The Hot Chocolate 5K course, mercifully, turns around before the Aurora Bridge and before runners have to do much hill climbing up Aurora.

The 15K course takes you up Aurora past the crest of the hill and then downhill on the other side to Green Lake. So you scale that hill coming back and end up climbing two tough hills in the run.

The long hill going up Aurora in the 15K is especially challenging and tedious. I ran the Hot Chocolate 15K in 2017 and labored up the hill, eagerly awaiting the turnaround point. The course then was slightly different; we ran to the crest of the hill and then turned around to make our way back. The 2019 course — minus the Alaskan Way Viaduct being torn down and the now-closed Battery Street Tunnel — had runners going all the way north to the northwest corner of Green Lake before turning around.

Joined by R.J. and Hayley, who ran the 15K

Hayley, left, and her friend Elisa get ready for their chocolate

Hayley, left, and her friend Elisa get ready for their chocolate

Two of my runner pals from Allytics, R.J. Taylor and Hayley Halstead, ran the 15K again, with R.J. getting 24th out of 324 in her age group. Great job, you two!!! Both were just starting their race as I was sitting down to enjoy my chocolate. I have pictures of them from the free runner photos that the race organizers provided again in 2019.

I was happy to stick with the shorter race, and finished in 39:26 (12:42 per mile). That earned me 2,295th place of 5,822 5K runners — wow, upper half! The time is, well, what it is. I will never do as well on a course with hills as I will on a flat course. (My 5K PR is 24:32 in 2005.) Full results are here.

I must say a word about the runners’ jackets that come with your entry fee. These are always nice jackets and I wear the ones I got in 2016 and 2017 a lot; just not for running. The 2019 coats are made of tech fabric and more versatile, in my opinion. You can wear them for running as well as for casual dress.

My corral at the starting line

My corral at the starting line

Black is an OK color for the men’s jackets; I like the color of the red jackets the women got a little better.

Most running events provide you with running shirts. I have about 300 of those stuffed everywhere (ask my wife). It is nice to do an event where the key swag is a jacket instead of a shirt.

What’s next: My 40th half-marathon

Women finishers in their red race jackets

Women finishers in their red race jackets (click to enlarge)

This was my 227th road run in 18 years of doing races. That includes 21 marathons and 39 half-marathons. I am planning to run Half No. 40 on March 24 — the Mercer Island Half-Marathon. I’ve done this run 13 times, so I know the course pretty well.

After that, I’m looking for bicycle rides and road runs to do in April. I skipped the Chilly Hilly ride in late February to avoid a cold, rainy ride. The Cascade Bicycle Club’s Ride for Major Taylor on April 20 and Seattle Bike-n-Brews ride on May 5 should be warmer rides that I haven’t done as many times as the Chilly Hilly.

Looking forward to spring! Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5K, 8K, Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Green Lake, Hot Chocolate 15K/5K, Marathons, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Hello, tunnel; goodbye, viaduct! Two days to obsess about both

Runners pore through the new Highway 99 Tunnel, about two miles in length

Runners pour through the new Highway 99 Tunnel, about two miles in length

Even after the big snow dumps this week, the run and bicycle ride through downtown Seattle’s new tunnel last weekend is still memorable.

Co-workers R.J. Taylor, Hayley Halstead and Kathleen Esses waited for me at the finish line; sweet!

Co-workers R.J. Taylor, Hayley Halstead and Kathleen Esses waited for me at the finish line; sweet!

It won’t be easy to forget joining a thousand other runners from Corral 6 as we first entered the new Highway 99 Tunnel. As we raced into the white-walled, 21st century tunnel with its elegant, well-lit, high-tech ambience, screams of excitement and bliss came from many, as if they were seeing Pearl Jam for the first time.

But the screaming soon stopped and the excitement began to wear off. The downhill leveled off and the run turned into a bit of an annoying climb. Suddenly, it was hotter than hell inside that contraption. And the tunnel seemed to go on and on and on, for about two miles.

It may look like a party on the viaduct, but it is actually Mile 3 of the run

It may look like a party on the viaduct, but it is actually Mile 3 of the run

Relief! We were finally outside again. Good to run into the tunnel, and good to get out too!

It was indeed fun running through the tunnel for the first time, and on the viaduct for the last time, in the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K Run last Saturday (Feb. 2). This was the biggest run I’ve ever done — 25,246 finishers segmented into more than a dozen corrals. Eight runners from my workplace, Allytics, took part. I made myself stop to take pictures throughout the race — something I rarely do in the middle of a race.

Running one last time on the Alaskan Way Viaduct, as we did later in this five-mile race, was OK; however, I’ve run the viaduct countless times before. And I’m not going to miss the big cement dinosaur being torn down because of its vulnerability in an earthquake. It was the tunnel that made the run.

Bad time to get a cold

The 8K run route

The 8K run route

I got a chance the next day (Sunday, Feb. 3) to do the Highway 99 Tunnel bicycle ride for another, faster spin through the new tunnel. Also, a chance to say my absolute final goodbye to the viaduct. (Or “Goodbye, Viaduck,” as a display sign pulled through the ride by an Elvis-impersonator bicyclist read.) A sellout of 12,000 bicyclists — reportedly, the state’s biggest ride ever — took part in this 12.5-mile, family-friendly event.

Late last year, when I signed up for these back-to-back events to celebrate the beginning of the tunnel and the end of the viaduct, it sounded like a dream fitness weekend. But as we got closer to the weekend, I caught a miserable cold. I coughed and weezed through both events anyway but have no regrets (even if my wife chided me a bit).

The bike ride route

The bike ride route

After encouraging my co-workers at Allytics to join me, and having several take me up on it, I was committed to doing the 8K run. It was an enormous event — so big that co-worker Hayley Halstead and our CEO, Neil Sturgeon, were both in my corral, and I had no chance of finding them. (Runners were segmented into corrals of about 1,000 each that started at different intervals, so that the tunnel avoided a massive logjam.)

The starting line — when my corral was finally led there after more than a half-hour of waiting for those ahead of us to start — was right in front of the new tunnel heading south on 99. It starts in South Lake Union and takes you all the way to near Century Link Field and T-Mobile Park (formerly Safeco Field). Heading back north through Pioneer Square at the halfway point, we got on the viaduct for a swan song run and then entered the old, battered Battery Street Tunnel for a last time.

Two tunnels featured; one new, one old and dumpy

The finish line at Seattle Center

The finish line at Seattle Center

The 64-year-old Battery Street Tunnel is also closing so that it can be the dumping grounds for cement waste when the viaduct is torn down in coming weeks. Sounds good to me. Compared to clean, white new tunnel, the 0.7-mile-long Battery Street Tunnel is a smelly, oily mess that has seen better days. It’s been a staple on the Seafair Torchlight RunHot Chocolate 5K and 15K, St. Patrick’s Day Dash, and other runs, but I won’t miss it.

Riders coming out of the tunnel southbound in Sunday's ride

Riders coming out of the tunnel southbound in Sunday’s ride

Enough about that tunnel. Once through it heading north, we turned off Battery to the finish line at the Seattle Center. All in all, it was a challenging run for me because of the crowds, a few hills, the stopping to take pictures, and the fact that I was still feeling sick. I finished in 1:18:23 (15:47 per mile), barely better than my latest 10K time from last August. But, hey, I finished in the top 18,000. Full results are here.

A highlight of the day was having co-workers Hayley, R.J. Taylor and Kathleen Esses wait for me at the finish line for a group picture. Thanks, you guys! R.J. and Kathleen were in earlier corrals (2 and 4) and waited more than a hour, which was awesome. They also had the two fastest times among Allytics participants. Neil, Kerry Stevenson, Joe Huber, Zack Sweeten and Kiersten Walker were others from Allytics in the 8K event. Congrats to all!

Crowded and cold but picturesque ride

Inside the tunnel as riders tackle the hill

Inside the tunnel as riders tackle the hill

The 12.5-mile bicycle ride the next day, sponsored by Cascade Bicycle Club, was much less demanding but still crowded and in weather many degrees colder. We started in the same place as the run and had our “Weeee!” moment right away as we zipped downhill through the southbound tunnel before it shifted into an incline. The hill was much more manageable on a bike.

The route had only a mild elevation gain, and I stayed in high gears throughout it. We rode from the tunnel past the stadiums on 99 and under the West Seattle Bridge before we turned around and came back north, this time through the tunnel northbound. Where it was hot and stuffy during the run, the tunnel was a lifesaver in the bike ride. It warmed us all up from the brisk winds and temperatures in the low 30s.

A Day 2 party on the viaduct, with riders going both ways

A Day 2 party on the viaduct, with riders going both ways

After riding 8.5 miles up and down Highway 99, the bike route included an optional four-mile spin down the viaduct and Battery Street Tunnel and back. This was good for picture-taking — the Seattle Great Wheel, the ferry boats on the Sound, the Olympic Mountains in the background — so I did it. The winds began to cease. With all the stops for pictures, the entire ride took me about an hour and a half, though it was officially untimed.

I was happy to get a bike ride in so early in the year, and this was not one to miss. Several friends and a few Allytics co-workers did it with me, according to their Facebook pages, but there were too many people riding for me to find anyone I knew. Great to see such a strong turnout, though.

What’s next: Another bike ride?

This AP photo by Ted S. Warren gives you a sense of the volume of runners doing the 8K

This AP photo by Ted S. Warren shows the volume of runners in the 8K

The annual Chilly Hilly ride around Bainbridge Island is coming soon, Feb. 24. I am contemplating that as well as the Hot Chocolate 5K the following Sunday, March 3. In the back of my mind is the Mercer Island Half-Marathon on March 24, which would be my 40th half-marathon.

These events may be contingent on whether our Seattle area remains drenched in deep snow, whether I get another cold, and other factors. As I write this, I am stranded at my house and am unable to go anywhere due to the snow. But I look forward to more running and riding, and soon — warmer weather!

Thanks for reading, everyone! Stay dry and safe.

Posted in 10K, 5K, 8K, Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Running, St. Patrick's Day Dash | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments