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 , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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 , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2019 Resolution Run 5K: Brisk, cold, puddle-jumping run to launch the new year

The detour into Lake Washington

The detour into Lake Washington (click any image to enlarge)

My resolutions for 2019 are hardly radical or game-changing. I will try to lose at least five pounds, to make up for those I gained post-surgery in 2018. I will try to exercise every day. I will continue to cut back on red meat and eat as healthy as I can. I will try to be nice to all my co-workers and others.

All wet but done!

All wet but done!

Maybe this is a little more exciting: I would like to get back to playing the drums, after a long time off. These days, I’ll I play is my steering wheel. And I want to write a book (or two).

Lastly, I will continue running races and doing bicycle rides in 2019, including running my 40th half-marathon and more than 300 miles total (I ran 272 in 2018). I got started on this one by running the Club Northwest Resolution Run 5K last Tuesday, January 1.

For hardcore runners who don’t go crazy on New Year’s Eve (I’m in bed by 11), this event is a great way to start the new year. Change that — there are likely a large number of people who do go crazy and still come out and run with a hangover.

No, the race venue, Seattle’s Magnuson Park, is not exactly a dream course in early January. Its muddy puddles, cracked pavement, and narrow hilly sections are safety hazards. But it was still a thrill to be back running in this event after a year’s absence. A year ago at this time, my ankle fusion surgery had me on a scooter.


Two-thirds of runners took the plunge

Another shot of Polar Bear Dive finishers

Another shot of Polar Bear Dive finishers

I joined some 950 runners and walkers, of which nearly 650 did the Polar Bear Dive into Lake Washington. I ran the dry race again and didn’t jump into the lake. The Polar Bear Divers, at the three-mile mark, take a detour into the lake and splash their way through a 50-foot section of water before getting back on course to the finish line. The rest of us just run straight to the finish line.

I did the Polar Bear Dive in 2016, and was surprised that the water temperature was not as shocking as I’d expected. Actually, I was nonplussed; it was OK, but I’d rather take advantage of the relatively flat course to improve my time. Boring, I know. I have done this event 12 times now, and for the other 11 have been content to skip the lake plunge and stay dry.

Post-race: from right to left, yours truly, Chris Norred, Sally Norred, Oliver Norred, Oliver's friend

Post-race: from right to left, yours truly, Chris Norred, Sally Norred, Oliver Norred, Oliver’s friend

But as you might imagine, the biggest reason for most others to do this run is to indeed get wet. My friends, Chris and Sally Norred and their sons Louie and Oliver, are veteran Polar Bear Divers. They gracefully splash through the water and get to the finish line in swift times, and are usually already changed into dry clothes when I see them at the chili feed that follows the race. It’s always good to catch up with them.

Instead of getting wet myself, I hurry after I’ve finished the dry run to go take pictures of the others frolicking in the water. Most don’t simply wade in like I did in 2016; they dive in head-first and swim and jump through the water, coming out dripping and sopping wet. Some couples and families hold hands as they scream and laugh and share the experience together.

I am totally good with watching it all. The Polar Bear Divers’ 0.1-mile lane to the finish line is often icy and slippery in cold weather, though I’ve seen no one take a spill.

Running carefully in the last mile

Barefoot runner at the starting line

Barefoot runner at the starting line

Fortunately, the weather itself was mostly dry for last Tuesday’s event. Temperatures were in the chilly 30s, but the sun was out, and it was just nice to not have to run or eat chili in pouring rain.

The 3.18-mile loop course is entirely inside Magnuson Park. You start not far from where you finish, and run on streets and trails around the soccer fields and along the lake. It’s generally flat except for a hilly section around the halfway point.

I mentioned the muddy puddles and potholes; these are mostly around the two-mile mark when you are coming off a small hill and trying to speed your way into the home stretch. It’d be nice to have an easy way around these muddy pools of water that form in and around the asphalt. But because many days of Seattle rain and cold weather lead up to this race, I don’t see this ever changing. You just have to run carefully here.

Wheelchair finisher in dry lane at left, wet runners at right

Wheelchair finisher in dry lane at left, wet runners at right

Most of the last mile is a flat trail run along the lake where you say to yourself, “C’mon legs, get me there!” There are cracks and holes in the pavement, so you can’t stop being careful.

While the majority stay left and go straight into the lake for their wet romp, I get excited about taking the right turn to the finish line. As I said earlier, that path is generally dry and not as slippery for a finishing kick.

First place in her age group

Done running through water!

Zipping through water!

I finished in 38:35 (12:27 per mile), good for 205th place out of 313 runners. It was not my best time for this race, of course, but not my slowest either. Full results are here. It beat my 2016 Polar Bear Dive time and my 2012 Resolution Run time coming not long after my first ankle surgery. (It also was much better than my recent 12Ks of Christmas 5K time.) My Resolution Run PR is 24:59 in 2007 (8:02 per mile).

A shout-out to all the Norreds, but particularly Sally, who beat her husband to finish the Polar Bear Dive in 25:14 (8:09 per mile), good for first place in her age group! Congrats also to Microsoft friend Jen Gaudette, who always runs well in this event.

Final water shot

Another runner speeding out of the water

What’s next? I need some time to work on my other resolutions, and won’t be running another race or bike ride until early February. Then, I get a chance to see the end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the beginning of the Highway 99 Tunnel along the Seattle waterfront.

The Tunnel to Viaduct 8K Run is on Saturday, Feb. 2, and the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Tunnel Ride 2019 on Sunday, Feb. 3. These back-to-back events give us an early look at the new tunnel opening soon, plus a final jaunt across the viaduct being demolished in February. There is still time to sign up for both.

Happy New Year, everyone! Thanks for reading.

Posted in 12Ks of Christmas, 5K, 8K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Resolution Run 5K, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2018 12Ks of Christmas: Elves, reindeer and Grinches among the 2,100 runners

Santa heads to the finish line at Heritage Park

Santa and his companion head to the finish line at Heritage Park

After a year off for ankle surgery, I was back running the popular 12Ks of Christmas last Sunday (Dec. 16). I’ve done this event 14 times and usually run the 12K. But I ran the 5K race this time, largely because I knew I wasn’t going to have much training time in what has been a marathon December for work.

Running downhill to the finish line

Running downhill to the finish

I found it interesting that Snohomish Running Co., the event organizer, didn’t publicize the race courses in advance. Perhaps they didn’t get the courses nailed down very far in advance. But it also could have been that neither the 5K or 12K course could be promoted as “flat and fast.”

Both races featured running up Market Street and other challenging hills in the neighborhoods north of downtown Kirkland. As a consequence, only one 5K time was under 20 minutes, which to me is a sign of a tougher-than-usual course.

Yet the race was invigorating and fun. More than 2,100 people finished either the 5K or 12K, and the event again brought out some great costumes — runners outfitted in holiday red and green and wearing Santa suits and hats or ugly sweaters. They came dressed as elves, reindeer, snowflakes, Grinches, even a holiday dinosaur. The event organizers provided a free holiday beanie (as well as an ugly sweater-like running shirt) to all participants.

That is what the 12Ks of Christmas is all about: holiday spirit. Getting a fast time is less important for many than spreading good cheer, even if it means an uncomfortable run.

More about the hilly course and downhill finish

Interesting costume: a Christmas dinosaur

Interesting costume: a Christmas dinosaur

For the record, I did not dress in a costume. I prefer running in comfort. And also for the record, I wouldn’t want anyone to think that I can’t handle a course with hills. Even if I can’t.

Actually, I train on the hills in my Woodridge Hill neighborhood in Bellevue. But I still don’t move very fast up them. Ankle surgery or not, I’ve always been slow going up hills.

Not knowing the course in advance, I labored a bit in that first mile. About 100 yards after the start in front of Heritage Park, we turned left to trudge up Market Street toward Juanita. Five blocks later, we went right on 10th Avenue up another hill that finally leveled off.

More interesting costumes

More interesting costumes (click any picture to enlarge)

I got warmed up fast and felt a surge of energy for some flat and downhill stretches. We made our way east to the Cross Kirkland Corridor trail. It’s a great running trail, but we were on it for less than a mile before heading back up some of the hills we’d just run down.

The final half-mile, this time, was down Market Street, and it was exhilarating. I pushed it as hard as I could without pulling a muscle in heading back to the finish line inside Heritage Park.

A note on the 12K course: I don’t know where they ran. The 12K runners covered the same ground as the 5K runners, plus an additional 4.3 miles. Where those additional miles were, I’m not sure, since they didn’t post course maps.

Running on a fused ankle

The 5K course on my MapMyRun app

The 5K course on my MapMyRun app

I’d thought my faster pace on the downhill portions would offset my slower uphill performance. But, no, it didn’t. I finished the 3.13-mile race in 41:15 (13:17 per mile), for 467th place out of 882 5K finishers. I’ll take it, and try to do better next time. Full results are here.

A heavy-duty work schedule this month has limited my running (and walking) time — Christmas shopping time too. That’s my best excuse, anyway. But happy to be back running this race again, and it will also be great to do the Resolution Run 5K again on Jan. 1.

The finish line at Heritage Park

The finish line at Heritage Park

This past Tuesday (Dec. 18) was my one-year anniversary of my ankle fusion surgery. I missed the 12Ks of Christmas and Resolution Run a year ago because I was just getting ready for surgery or on a scooter.

Earlier this month, I had an end-of-year checkup with my ankle surgeon, Dr. Eric Powell. I told him about my running the Seattle Half-Marathon in late November, and he sounded amazed and said my X-rays looked great. “You did that on a fused ankle,” he said. “It is extremely rare that someone goes out and runs a half-marathon on a fused ankle. I’m impressed.”

Nice to hear all that, and hope I can stay injury-free for awhile.

Next steps

12K runners head down Market Street to the finish line

12K runners head down Market Street

It was my 11th run of 2018 and my 224th overall. But time to cut this short, so I can get my Christmas shopping done!

After running the Resolution Run 5K — the dry version, not the Polar Bear Dive — I will take time off until the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K on Saturday, Feb. 2, and the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Tunnel Ride 2019 on Sunday, Feb. 3. Those back-to-back events to celebrate the end of the Alaskan Way Viaduct and the beginning of the Highway 99 Tunnel will be fun.

Thanks for reading and Merry Christmas, everyone!

Posted in 12Ks of Christmas, 5K, 8K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Resolution Run 5K, Running, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2018 Seattle Half-Marathon: Cool new course for my half No. 39

Marathoners cross the finish line at Memorial Stadium. I love this finish line

Marathoners cross the finish line at Memorial Stadium. I love this finish line

For more than a decade, the Seattle Marathon or Half-Marathon has been a Thanksgiving weekend tradition for me. Last Sunday (Nov. 25), I resumed this tradition after a two-year break by running the Seattle Half-Marathon. It was my longest run of the year, my first half-marathon since September 2016, and a challenging but fun experience.

Here's me about to cross the finish line

Here’s me about to cross the finish line

I actually signed up for the Half-Marathon Walk, because I wasn’t sure how much of it I could run. But I ended up running at least 12 of the 13.1 miles. So, I ran the Walk, as I’ve done a few times before. After my latest ankle surgery last December, as well as my previous one in 2011, I’m cautious about doing too much pavement pounding — yet I continue to find that my ankle is up to the challenge.

This was half-marathon No. 39 for me, as I work toward getting to 40 in 2019. It was also my eighth Seattle Half-Marathon, to go with six full Seattle Marathons (21 marathons total). I’ve been doing this event since 2002, but missed the last two — in 2016, we spent Thanksgiving weekend in New York with our daughter Molly, and last year I had stopped running to get ready for the Dec. 18 surgery.

It felt great to be back at it, to be doing a longer race with nearly 5,000 other people, including some of the area’s hardcore runners. You don’t see any tutus or Thanksgiving costumes in the Seattle Marathon or Half. Most of these athletes have trained extensively for this event and are focused on PRs. On top of that, the course was great and the weather was mild and dry.

A refreshing new course with a downhill final stretch

Scene from the finish line

Scene from the finish line

Since my last Seattle Half in 2015, the courses for both the marathon and half-marathon have changed twice (the half-marathon course still remains pretty much a half-segment of the full marathon course, geographically).

The old courses I knew well; they included the Interstate 90 express lanes, the marathon out-and-back to Mercer Island and to Seward Park, the scenic west Lake Washington waterfront leg through Leschi, and the challenging hills leading to and through the Seattle Arboretum. But those loop courses had to be revised because the I-90 express lanes are now off-limits — they’re being converted into Seattle’s light-rail link to the Eastside.

I can’t tell you much about last year’s revised courses, except that without the I-90 stretch, the full marathon added a southern jaunt through Mount Baker and then east to Seward Park, and the half-marathon stayed north of I-90 and made up extra mileage in the Madison Park area. Otherwise, they covered a lot of the same ground as the previous longstanding courses.

Chilly at the starting line

Chilly at the starting line

This year’s courses, however, were a complete overhaul. We ran on the I-5 express lanes for the first time, plus the Burke-Gilman Trail, the streets of Fremont, the Aurora Bridge, and Aurora Avenue. All are relatively flat, except for an uphill climb in Fremont and a downhill final stretch on Aurora.

What stayed the same: The start in front of Seattle Center and the finish inside nearby Memorial Stadium. Running across the stadium football field to the finish line is, and always has been, an awesome feeling.

I liked it all. I vote to stay this course for at least the next few years.

Pushed myself to avoid being disqualified on I-5

Here are some of the other highlights of this event and the new course:

  • The 7 a.m. or 8 a.m. start times: There was a 9:10 a.m. deadline for runners and walkers to be off the I-5 express lanes (miles 2 through 5) so they could be reopened to traffic — otherwise, you’d be shuttled off and disqualified. Those doing the Marathon and Half-Marathon Walk events were encouraged to start at 7 to avoid missing this deadline. I started at 8 because I wanted to sleep longer; that meant I had to push myself to get to mile 5 on time. I did, and appreciated this incentive to run hard.
  • Running the I-5 express lanes: I’ve done this a few times in the Seattle Jingle Bell Run 5K, but this course took us further north across the Ship Canal Bridge. I liked having all this running room with no cars.
  • Joining the marathoners on the Burke-Gilman Trail: The marathon race started a half-hour before our race, and marathoners headed north and east on the Burke-Gilman Trail all the way up past Magnuson Park and back. Then they joined us as we ran westward on the trail, with faster marathoners passing slower half-marathoners like me. It was fun seeing some elite runners in action.
  • Running downhill for the last two miles: I started to feel spent crossing the Aurora Bridge, but got some energy back when I realized that Aurora was going to take us most of the way back to Memorial Stadium. This is a hill that I’ve run up and back down in the St. Patrick’s Day Dash, the Hot Chocolate 15K, and the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon. It was awesome just having to run down it.
  • A friendly finishers’ area with hot chicken soup! For my more recent Seattle Marathon runs, it was so late in afternoon that the finishers’ area under the grandstands at Memorial Stadium was nearly empty and all the food gone. But after last Sunday’s Half, I finished well in time to get soup, bananas, chocolate bars, and anything else I wanted, and to chat with a few friends and fellow runners.

Happy to beat my goal time

More marathon finishers

More marathon finishers

My conservative goal for the race was to beat 3:30, and I did, without too much trouble. I finished in 3:22:35 (15:28 per mile), obviously not my best time (my PR is 1:55:33 in 2004), but not my worst, either. While I didn’t beat my last half-marathon time of 3:00:30 at the Overlake Labor Day Half-Marathon in 2016, I didn’t expect to. We’ll see if I can ever break three hours again.

My time is listed in the results among the half-marathon walkers (93rd out of 277). But had I signed up for the run, I would have finished 3,068th out of 3,152 runners. Good enough for my first half-marathon after a second ankle surgery. Full results are here.

Half-marathoners getting ready for the start

Half-marathoners getting ready for the start

Congrats to Boston Marathon veteran and former Ragnar Relay teammate Larissa Martin Ralph for her impressive marathon finish, and to journalism and Microsoft friends Anthony Bolante and Jen Gaudette for their strong times in the half. I could tell from their Facebook posts that they all enjoyed the event as much as I did.

I’m looking forward to half-marathon No. 40 next spring (probably the Mercer Island Half-Marathon in March). In the meantime, I am running two 5Ks in coming weeks, the 12Ks of Christmas 5K on Dec. 16 and the Resolution Run on New Year’s Day. With a busy work schedule in December, I’ve got little time to train for longer races.

Another race (my 223rd), another medal

Another race (my 223rd), another medal

As I mentioned last post, I’m also signed up for the Tunnel to Viaduct 8K on Saturday, Feb. 2, and the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Tunnel Ride 2019 on Sunday, Feb. 3. These back-to-back events will give us an early look at the new Highway 99 Tunnel, plus a final jaunt across the Alaskan Way Viaduct being dismantled soon.

Happy holidays, everyone! Thanks for reading.

Posted in 12Ks of Christmas, 5K, 8K, ankle surgery, Bicycling, Burke-Gilman Trail, Jingle Bell Run, Marathons, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Resolution Run 5K, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Seattle Marathon, St. Patrick's Day Dash, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments