2017 Washington Beer Run 5K: The slackers’ alternative?

Runners joined other beer enthusiasts at the Brewers Festival after the race

Runners joined other beer enthusiasts at the Brewers Festival after the race

My boss asked me last week if I was doing any runs on the weekend. I said, yes, I am doing the Beer Run. “I mean where you actually run,” he responded with a laugh. He thought I meant I was going to go out to get, like, a case of beer to sit around and drink over Father’s Day weekend.

A family holds hands as it crosses the finish line

A family holds hands as it crosses the finish line

Out of character for me, but fair point.

The Washington Beer Run is indeed a 5K race, but most of the 500 or so participants in 2017 did it for the free beer tokens they get at the Washington Brewers Festival nearby at Marymoor Park. I did it because I wanted get back into running after a month focused on bicycling. But, yes, I was more than happy after the race to sample some craft brews from around the state.

I used three of my nine free tokens. Out of some 500 craft beers available, here is what I drank:

  • Raspberry Summer Ale from Top Rung Brewing out of Lacey.
  • Scud Runner German Style Hefeweizen from 20 Corners Brewing in Woodinville.
  • Raspberry Pilsner from Sound to Summit Brewing in Snohomish.

It’s not that I have a thing for raspberry, I just liked these options and all tasted great. Some 130 breweries around the state pumped their beer at the annual Brewers Festival. It’s a cool opportunity for breweries to raise their profile and engage a Seattle-area audience of beer fanatics they may not otherwise get a chance to reach.

Now, about the run

Between 400 and 500 runners and walkers participated at Marymoor Park

Between 400 and 500 runners and walkers participated at Marymoor Park

Many people may think the Washington Beer Run 5K is a slackers’ alternative to the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon and Half-Marathon going on at the same time. Another fair point. But I just wasn’t ready for a full or half-marathon after doing Flying Wheels Summer Century bike ride the previous weekend and two other rides before that. My bad ankle wouldn’t have approved anyway — it was still mad at me for that 100-mile bike ride.

The Norreds — Sally, Louie, Chris and Ollie — are a true running family

The Norreds — Sally, Louie, Chris and Ollie — are a true running family

But it felt great to get back into running races, even if I ran this event well slower than I did a year ago. It was my 211th road race overall.

The Beer Run is a mostly flat 5K, even with changing courses. It starts and finishes at Marymoor Park and this year traversed the Sammamish River Trail, with a small loop around the Bear Creek Trail near Redmond Town Center. These trails are not far from where I work and I often do walks or training runs on them. So I know them well.

The first mile through Marymoor Park is a narrow, crowded trail, and it was tough getting running room. After I got running room, I had limited acceleration. Race organizers don’t provide chips, so no official time is kept. My watch showed 39 minutes, behind the 36 minutes I did on an even flatter course for this event a year ago.

Congrats to Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle finishers

The Beer Run t-shirt is a keeper

The Beer Run t-shirt is a keeper

Thanks to friend and fellow University of Oregon alum Chris Norred, who slowed his own pace to run and chat with me the whole way. Chris has a running family — sons Louie and Ollie and wife Sally all did the run too and finished ahead of us. It’s fun getting together with them at these runs.

I hadn’t run in two weeks, and my ankle was sore from the bike ride, so I was better off doing a smaller race. I do, however, want to do the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Half-Marathon again — because of conflicts with bicycle rides, I haven’t done the Rock ‘n’ Roll half since 2011 and the full marathon since 2010.

Waiting for the starting gun

Waiting for the starting gun

A shout-out to the many friends who competed in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle races last Saturday and Sunday: Mark Nelson earned his 20th full marathon medal, and wife Tyra Nelson, as well as Jen Gaudette, Siri Haynes and Doug Hightower, all finished the half. Gaudette was one of few who also ran the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle 5K (a new event) last Saturday, the day before she ran the half-marathon. Congrats to all.

July runs are next

More from the Brewers Festival next door

More from the Brewers Festival next door

Looking forward to another 5K and an 8K in July. The Redmond Derby Dash 5K is on July 7, an after-work race with several Allytics teammates again, and the Seattle Torchlight Run 8K is right before the Torchlight Parade on July 29. I’m also hoping to do another bike ride in the next month or two.

Will I need another ankle surgery soon? I am starting to think so, after experiencing more pain in recent weeks — especially after the 100-mile ride. August 2017 will mark six years since my first surgery.

That’s my story. Thanks for reading.

Posted in 5K, 8K, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Marymoor Park, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Sammamish River Trail | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Flying Wheels Summer Century: Got through 100 miles with a little help from my friends

Inglewood Hill to Sammamish at the 4-mile mark is one of the toughest in the ride

Inglewood Hill to Sammamish at the 4-mile mark is one of the toughest hills in the ride

The heat of my bicycling season took place over the last six weeks, and it culminated last Saturday (June 10) with the Flying Wheels Summer Century. The century is bicycling’s version of the marathon (though not quite as hard on the body, in my opinion).

J.D. Stefaniak, visiting Seattle from his native Ireland, poses at the finish line

J.D. Stefaniak, visiting Seattle from his native Ireland, poses at the finish line

There were shorter distances for this event, but I rode the full 100-mile route again, as I have for four years now. It continues to be a challenging test of energy, mental toughness, bicycle efficiency, and just how long I can sit and pedal.

But I got to the finish line after about 10 hours (9 hours of riding time), and it felt as good as it always does. This was my seventh century and 31st event ride overall. (Five days later, my rear end has fully recovered; but thanks to all those who asked about it.)

A special shout-out to the Cascade Bicycle Club volunteers who kept all the food stops open long enough for me to get muffins and bananas when I really needed something to eat, and to the Cascade communications support folks who patrolled the course to make sure all riders were safe.

It was also very cool to meet JD Stefaniak, a software engineer from Cork, Ireland, during the ride, and to see my former Zones teammate, Russell Poe, at rest stops and on the ride route. They gave me inspiration to finish. More on them below.

Another new course for 2017; will it stick?

Flying Wheels route mapAbout 2,200 riders participated in either the 23-, 46-, 75- or 100-mile routes at the Flying Wheels event, according to race organizers at the Cascade Bicycle Club. The turnout was a 20 percent drop from recent years, they said. It was a mostly cloudy day with some showers, which perhaps affected participation.

For a third straight year, the 100-mile course was different — more of a vertical loop extending further north into Snohomish County than in past years and avoiding Duvall and Fall City. It also did not cross into Bellevue or Newcastle as it did in 2016. The inclusion of the south and east Bellevue neighborhoods near where I live in last year’s course was a departure from the past, but I liked it a lot, and was sorry to see another revamp for 2017.

“The route changes are a combination of rider feedback, community feedback, road construction, and other events going on in the (Snoqualmie) valley,” said Anna Telensky of the Cascade Bicycle Club. “Last year, we were avoiding Duvall Days, this year we were avoiding Fall City Days and trying to cut out a few parts of the route that we’ve received negative rider and community feedback on in the past.”

Highlights and lowlights of the ride

Here’s my half-dozen:

  • A third steep, challenging hill added: Mainstays of the course (46- to 100-mile routes) are the two hills leading up to the East Lake Sammamish Plateau, from the west and east. These hills are at the 4- and 84-mile marks of the century. New this year, because of the new course, was a deceptive 1.5-mile climb northeast of Snohomish at the 44-mile point. I shifted down as fast as I could but was unprepared for this sudden steepness, and ended up walking my bike to the top. Maybe next year. The other two hills? No problem; I know them well now.
  • Ah, but got to go down Novelty Hill Road: I’ve ridden the 7 Hills of Kirkland Metric Century twice, and a dreaded part of that 60-mile ride is climbing up the endless Novelty Hill. But the new Flying Wheels course had riders flying down the hill instead and I’d much rather do that.
  • The ride’s most unpleasant portion: In a 20-mile section north and east of Snohomish, you ride on country roads past fenced homes with signs like “Private Property: Keep Out,” “No Trespassing Allowed,” “Beware of Dog,” and so on. It does not feel safe or bike-friendly. I was glad to finally enter the Monroe city limits.
  • Downtown Snohomish: Just before that section, however, was colorful downtown Snohomish, which is indeed bike-friendly and always fun to spin through.
  • Food stops stayed open to feed stragglers: My late start and general slowness put me at the back of the pack, and the popular peanut butter and bagels were gone at several of the stops after 50 miles. But I devoured a few muffins at one stop and bananas at several.
  • East Lake Sammamish Parkway home stretch is back: After a one-year absence, it was nice to have the final eight-mile sprint up the East Lake Sammamish Parkway to Marymoor Park added back in. You can smell the finish line at Marymoor during that last leg.

Bonding with fellow riders

Riding through downtown Snohomish is J.D.'s manager, with

Riding through downtown Snohomish is JD’s manager, with
JD in the background

JD Stefaniak, an avid cyclist, happened to be in town this past week to visit his Seattle-based manager at EMC Isilon. I didn’t catch his boss’s name, but they both did the ride, and I first saw them outside a bathroom stop in downtown Snohomish.

My turn to pose at the finish line; great to get off the bike!

My turn to pose at the finish line; great to get off the bike!

After I passed them on the course and they passed me, the three of us found ourselves trying to climb the steep hill northeast of Snohomish together. It was futile, but much fun chatting. I rode ahead of them and did not see JD again until he pulled in to the final food stop at the 90-mile mark as I was riding out. To my surprise, he passed me in the final four miles and finished ahead of me by about 100 yards.

It was great to formally meet JD and chat again at the finish line. (His boss finished well behind us both.) It was his first time doing this ride and I was impressed that he handled the course as well as he did. But JD let me know he’s already signed up to do a multi-day ride around the perimeter of Ireland later this year, so he knows endurance bicycling. Perhaps we’ll hook up again in another Seattle-area ride.

Congrats to JD and his manager and to Russell Poe, a veteran cyclist who did the 75-mile route with relative ease. Interacting with other riders like this is one of the best parts of doing these events, in my opinion.

Back to running, for now

We got rained on a bit, as seen in this food stop at 26 miles

We got rained on a bit, as seen in this stop at 26 miles

I’m not sure of my next ride in 2017, but hopefully I will do another one this year. Anyone want to join me for RSVP (Ride from Seattle to Vancouver, B.C., and Party) in August? I’d love to do that one again — I did it in 2014 — but don’t want to ride it alone.

Meanwhile, it’s back to running for awhile, though my ankle is sore after this century. I’m doing the Washington Beer Run 5K on Sunday with runner friend Chris Norred (I did the inaugural Beer Run last year).

Finishing with a picture at the starting line

Finishing with a picture at the starting line

And I’m planning on two July runs — the Redmond Derby Dash 5K on July 7, with several Allytics teammates again, and the Seattle Torchlight Run 8K on July 29. The evening Torchlight Run took last year off, but I’m glad it’s back.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, 7 Hills of Kirkland, 8K, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Marathons, Marymoor Park, RSVP, Running, Seafair Torchlight Run | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2017 Memorial Day weekend: Back-to-back bike rides fun to do, but selfish to try

Emerald City Bike Riders head back to Safeco Field via the Interstate 90 express lanes

Emerald City Bike Riders head back to Safeco Field via the Interstate 90 express lanes

Unlike road runs, the Seattle area does not offer enough organized bicycle rides throughout the year for me to do. So when two rides I like to do each year were on the same weekend, such as the Memorial Day weekend, I signed up to do both.

Map of the Emerald City Bike Ride 25-mile route

Map of the Emerald City Bike Ride 25-mile route

This is probably not a good idea without checking with my wife first. Liz did not raise a stink about it, but she did wonder why I hadn’t thought about the possibility of us getting away somewhere for the weekend. Good idea for next time this comes up. Ask first — before I sign up for two bicycle rides that keep us at home in a hot, muggy house much of the weekend.

There’s my mea culpa. Lesson learned. But, yes, I did both rides: the 2017 Emerald City Bike Ride on Sunday (May 28) and the 7 Hills of Kirkland on Monday (May 29). And I felt I got my money’s worth out of both.

Riders cross the finish line

Riders cross the Emerald City finish line

I worried about this being a physical challenge, but it was really no big deal. That’s because the Emerald City Bike Ride was a flat, scenic, 25-mile ride that offered fast riding on freeways and major roadways that were closed for the morning. The 7 Hills of Kirkland was much more hilly and challenging, but I did the traditional 38-mile route instead of the far more ambitious metric century (60 miles) or full century (100 miles).

I had enough gas left over from Sunday’s jaunt to tackle the major hills in Monday’s more serious ride.

Scenic ride over freeways free of cars a big draw

Another shot on the I-90 express lanes, which will soon be closed for light-rail tracks

Another shot on the I-90 express lanes, which will soon be closed for light-rail tracks

Give area cyclists a chance to ride on Interstate 5, State Route 520 and Interstate 90 and you will get a strong turnout. Some 7,000 cyclists rode in Sunday’s Emerald City Bike Ride, including lots of casual riders and parents riding with their children. The freeway lanes and express lanes were closed to car traffic to allow only bicyclists.

Emerald City provided a food stop at Medina Elementary School

Emerald City provided a food stop at Medina Elementary School

Many elite riders started and finished early. Many other cyclists stopped on the bridges and freeway viewpoints to snap selfies and pictures with views of Puget Sound, Lake Washington and Mount Rainier in the background. The photo opportunities were incredible.

A year ago in April, this ride was first held to celebrate the opening of the new Evergreen Point Floating Bridge over Lake Washington. I did that ride and the turnout was similar — about 7,000 riders — for a 21-mile course that went both directions on the 520 bridge and also included the I-5 express lanes.

Half of the 520 floating bridge was closed to cars for the ride

Half of the 520 floating bridge was closed to cars for the ride

In an effort to make this ride an annual event, the organizers, the Cascade Bicycle Club, created more of a loop course for 2017. The start and finish lines were next to Safeco Field, and the 25-mile loop ran from I-5 in Seattle to 520 to Medina and old Bellevue and then back to Seattle on the I-90 express lanes.

For me, it was a thrill to ride on the closed freeways with thousands of others, and to see so many enjoying themselves on a bike. It took me two-and-a-half hours to ride, due to all my stops to take pictures. But the only real challenge was getting to the starting line by the 7:45 a.m. starting time, and I did.

The 7 Hills of Kirkland more for hardcore riders

The 7 Hills of Kirkland had fewer riders, but an important cause

The 7 Hills of Kirkland had fewer riders, but an important cause

It was my fifth time doing this annual Memorial Day event, sponsored by EvergreenHealth and held to raise money for sheltering the region’s homeless. I wasn’t all that worn out after Sunday’s ride, so I got to the 7 Hills of Kirkland starting line in downtown Kirkland’s Marina Park in OK shape.

Posed for a picture after conquering Hill No. 3

Posed for a picture after conquering Hill No. 3

But, as I said, I decided not to ride the metric century route, as I did in 2016 and 2015, but opted for the traditional 38-mile route. That meant seven hills and 3,023 feet of elevation — instead of 11 hills and 4,635 feet of climbing as in the metric century. (The full century has 14 hills and a horrific 7,036 feet of elevation; I don’t know when I am going to try this very difficult ride.)

The 7 Hills traditional route runs through six Eastside cities

The 7 Hills traditional route runs through six Eastside cities

I’m happy to say that I conquered all seven hills, as I usually do, and finished the ride in four hours. Four of the hills — Seminary Hill near Kenmore, Norway Hill in Bothell, Winery Hill in Woodinville and Rose Hill spread over Redmond and Kirkland — are tougher than the others. At 390 feet of climbing, Winery Hill overlooking Chateau Ste. Michelle is not the biggest hill, but is clearly the steepest. I continue to need to weave back and forth up the hill (which is not very safe, by the way), just to make it to the top.

About 1,100 cyclists, most of them serious riders who are experienced at hill climbing, did the ride. I talked to several who, like me, participated in Sunday’s ride as well.

The 7 Hills ride is for a great cause, so I always appreciate the chance to do it. I also like the tradition of having strawberry shortcake at the finish line.

Next up is my annual 100-mile ride

These were my 29th and 30th organized rides since I started bicycling in 2011, and my fourth and fifth rides of 2017.

Cyclists head to 7 Hills finish line in Kirkland

Cyclists head to 7 Hills finish line in Kirkland

Congrats to friends Katherine Long and Geoff Hazel for doing Sunday’s Emerald City Bike Ride, even though I did not see them among the huge throng of riders who participated. And congrats to friends Richard Mareno and Doug Cooley, who completed Monday’s ride. Thanks also to the great support crew riders, one of whom insisted on taking a picture of me at the top of Seminary Hill.

It’s time for my annual 100-mile ride. Again this year, it will be the Flying Wheels Summer Century ride on Saturday, June 10. I’ve checked with Liz, and it’s OK.

Finish line near Safeco Field at the Emerald City Bike Ride

Finish line near Safeco Field at the Emerald City Bike Ride

I’m looking forward to another new Flying Wheels course. This one goes deeper north into Snohomish County, extending north of the city of Snohomish, than it has in the past. I’m hoping for good weather and safe bicycling.

Then, it’s back to running.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

 

Posted in 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century, Flying Wheels, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

2017 Fiesta 5K Ole Run: Sidestepped all the potholes!

Yours truly crossing the finish line. Hayley took this picture

Yours truly crossing the finish line. Hayley took this picture

The city of Seattle was planning in late April or May to conduct what it calls a “Pothole Palooza” — a 10-day public works campaign to patch all the potholes and re-pave crumbled streets reported throughout the city.

Runners at the starting line included one carrying a big plastic Corona bottle on his back

Runners at the starting line included one carrying a big plastic Corona bottle on his back

It appears that street crews haven’t yet reached the Capitol Hill neighborhood around Volunteer Park. I still hope they can do so in 2017.

More than 1,000 people ran the 2017 Fiesta 5K Ole Run last Saturday (May 6) and most expended much energy dodging all of the potholes and weather-damaged streets on the course. I noticed the pothole problem last year when I first did the run, and was hoping the city’s patch campaign would help improve the streets. Not yet. But maybe for next year’s run. We’ll see.

This is otherwise a fun race — I just want it to be safe too. Until they fix these streets, many of us are a misstep or two away from a serious face-plant.

Dry weather, tacos, beer and hard rock

The good news is I was able to get through this crowded run and hilly course without any missteps. The result was a good workout and a good time running with a pair of my co-workers at Allytics, Hayley Halstead and Michelle Garcia. Dry weather predominated too,  after it had rained a lot the preceding night.

And even though I had just one free beer (a cherry-flavored Bud Light) and watched others eat, it was a nice vibe being around the dozen or so taco trucks, the busy beer garden, the young, energetic crowd, and the loud but nicely harmonic hard-rock trio. The Taco Truck Challenge is a big part of this event — many people skip the run and show up for the tacos and beer.

Michelle Garcia crosses the finish line just ahead of me. Hayley got this shot too

Michelle Garcia crosses the finish line just ahead of me. Hayley got this shot too

The only thing missing was Macklemore; I didn’t spot him in the starting line, as I did a year ago in my first time running this race.

I should add that the overall turnout was about 500 runners and walkers less than in 2016, which I chock up to the threat of rain. Last year’s run featured blue skies and sun.

Don't know the name of the band, but it was decent

Don’t know the name of the band, but it was decent

Still, this event always has a Cinco de Mayo theme and is popular with millennials, both because of the Capitol Hill location and because of the opportunity to get every type of taco imaginable — Korean and Vietnamese food tacos, for example. I am not sure if the fruit-flavored Bud Lights are a draw or not. (Hayley ordered a shrimp taco with grits; the truck was out of grits, but she liked her shrimp taco.)

In keeping with the theme, I saw several runners wearing sombreros during the race. One runner ran with a huge plastic bottle of Corona strapped to his back.

Slower time than last year, but strong finish

Boring guy that I am, I ran my regular running clothes, and did not partake in the food. I handled the two relatively steep hills on the course as best as I could, avoided all the potholes (as I said) and finished in 38:30 (12:25 per mile). The last hill came just before the finish line, but I powered up and over it, crossing the finish line fairly close behind both Hayley and Michelle. However, I came in 40 seconds slower than my time a year ago. Oh well. Full results are here.

This was my fifth road run of 2017 and my 210th overall.

I couldn't get a picture of Hayley running the race, because she ran ahead of me. Here she is afterward

I couldn’t get a picture of Hayley running the race, because she ran ahead of me. Here she is afterward

Congrats to Hayley and Michelle on their races! Also, a shout out to runner friends Mark Nelson for completing the Vancouver Marathon and Jen Gaudette the Vancouver Half Marathon the same weekend. The big Bloomsday 12K Run in Spokane and the Eugene Marathon also was last weekend — a big weekend for Northwest running.

One of the more popular taco trucks

One of the more popular taco trucks

I move from running to bicycling now, unless I get talked into the Beat the Bridge 8K Run on May 21. As I said last time, I am signed up for the Emerald City Bike Ride through Seattle on May 27, the 7 Hills of Kirkland two days later on Memorial Day, and the Flying Wheels Summer Century on June 10.

Got to do some training rides up ahead to get ready.

Thanks, as always, for reading. Till next time.

Posted in 5K, 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century, Eugene Marathon, Flying Wheels, Marathons, Running, Vancouver Marathon | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Ride for Major Taylor: Invigorating ride through an unfamiliar part of Seattle

Early in the ride you pass through downtown White Center, shown here

Early in the ride you pass through downtown White Center, shown here

In an effort to try a new event, ease my way back into bicycling, and see a part of the Seattle area that I don’t know well, I signed up for the third annual Ride for Major Taylor. Held last Saturday (April 29), it accomplished all three objectives.

Several riders sported the Major Taylor Project jerseys

Several riders sported the Major Taylor Project jerseys

This somewhat hilly, low-key 24-mile ride supports the Cascade Bicycle Club’s Major Taylor Project, a youth cycling program focused on introducing youth from lower-income communities to bicycling and its fitness and other benefits.

Some 250 bicyclists rode the course, which roams through some of the Seattle area’s oldest and most ethnic suburbs. These include Burien, White Center, Normandy Park, SeaTac, Tukwila and Des Moines. A rectangular loop, the course is located to the west of Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, and south and southwest of the Seattle city limits.

Many of the participants were casual riders, not elite bicyclists, which was probably a good thing. The course was peppered with intersections and stoplights, and a rider focused on speed would have been frustrated with all of the stops.

Riding through working-class and airport neighborhoods

The ride starts and ends at Evergreen High School in the White Center area, one of the region’s older high schools. You ride through decades-old neighborhoods with lots of smaller homes, commercial areas with mom-and-pop shops, plus signs in Vietnamese, Korean and other Asian languages, a whiff of marijuana here and there, and streets that could be worse but still in need of repaving.

The 24-mile course is outlined in red

The 24-mile course is outlined in red

The Major Taylor Project sponsors activities at a half-dozen or more schools in the area, plus others in Tacoma. It’s a genuine working-class area until you get closer to the airport, where you find more parks, hotels, parking lots, strip malls and government offices.

Though this is the third year of this event, the course seemed to be new to most riders, including me. We all had to follow the so-called Dan Henry course markings to stay on course. About five of us veered off course at the 15-mile mark — and it was not because of any marijuana fumes. We followed a rider who seemed to know where he was going. But he didn’t.

Day-of-race signups were high

Day-of-race signups were high

This miscue cost us 20 minutes to a half-hour, but did not mar the event. We used GPS on our smartphones to find our way back on-course. Thanks to the fellow rider (I did not catch her name) who got us back on track!

I finished the ride in 2 hours, 38 minutes, counting time stopped. The reward was a free meal — hot dogs or brats with cream cheese and onions, chips and a drink. The food from Seattle Sausage was delicious.

My 28th organized ride since 2011, and my second of 2017, this event was a worthwhile event, and for a good cause. I would ride it again.

Next up: my favorite taco lovers’ run

Crossing the finish line was a good feeling for most

Crossing the finish line was a good feeling for most

This Saturday is the Fiesta 5K Ole Run in Seattle’s Capitol Hill neighborhood. I am looking forward to doing the run with a few colleagues from Allytics. There will be tacos and beer afterwards, so we all hope the sun is out.

As for bicycling, I’ve got at three more rides planned: The Emerald City Bike Ride through Seattle on May 27, the 7 Hills of Kirkland two days later on Memorial Day, and the Flying Wheels Summer Century (my seventh 100-mile-plus ride) on June 10. So lots of riding ahead — there aren’t half as many bicycle events as there are road runs in the Seattle area, so you have to take advantage of the rides that are held.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Seahawks 12K Run: Seahawks’ involvement makes this event worth it

The Seahawk mascot, Blitz, performs a pre-race dance to Blue Thunder music at the starting line

The Seahawk mascot, Blitz, performs a pre-race dance to Blue Thunder music at the starting line

The Seattle Mariners don’t sponsor a road race in the area, and I wonder how popular it would be if they did. I’m a die-hard Mariners (dying hard these days), and I would sign up for it. But would thousands of others? Also, how much would the Mariners spend on it, and how well organized would the event be?

Women accounted for 1,969 of the 2,531 finishers in the 12K

Women accounted for 1,577 of the 2,524 12K finishers

I thought about this last Sunday, after running in my fifth Seahawks 12K/5K Run, and then watching the Mariners give up a 9-3 lead to the Angels in the 9th inning and lose 10-9, to finish the season’s first week at 1-6. The Seahawks have given us a Super Bowl victory and have played in three Super Bowls since 2005. The Mariners have not been in the playoffs since 2003 and have never made it to the World Series.

Two winners in the costume contest after the race

Two winners in the costume contest after the race

In this post, I won’t try to compare the two organizations. Everybody knows that one has a better track record than the other, and one has Seattle’s attention much more than the other.

I just want to bring it up to point out the Seahawks do a great job with the annual Seahawks 12K/5K event. I enjoy running it each year. 2017 was no different, even if my times are not improving.

Reasons to like this road race

Why do I think the Seahawks do a good job with this run?

  • Volunteer holds up the finisher's medal

    Volunteer holds up the finisher’s medal

    The Seahawk presence is huge: Several Seahawks’ Sea Gal cheerleaders were prominent at the starting line, and so were members of Blue Thunder, the team’s all-purpose marching band. And there was Blitz, the Seahawk mascot. Linebacker Kevin Pierre-Louis fired the starting gun. All in all, the Seahawks organization was well-represented.

  • The shirts and medals are always classy: I liked this year’s event shirt — a long-sleeved tech running shirt with a hoodie — as much as any of the five I have now. I liked it so much that I wore it on race day (usually I don’t wear an event shirt until after I have completed the run).
  • There are more than enough volunteers: Lots of course marshals and others are on hand to keep runners going the right way, staff the water stations and hand out medals. But it so nice to see other volunteers offering encouragement and high-fiving runners on Lake Washington Boulevard. Most runs don’t have this volunteer support.
  • The 12K course runs along Lake Washington and includes a loop around the Seahawks’ training facility: For at least some people, getting a chance to see the Seahawks’ headquarters building (the Virginia Mason Athletic Center) and the team’s lush green practice field is one of the biggest attractions of this run.
  • Here's the runner's shirt. You can't see the hoodie

    Here’s the runner’s shirt. You can’t see the hoodie

    The Seahawk costume contest afterwards gives you a reason to stick around: I’d say 95 percent of the runners and walkers are dressed in Seahawk blue (or green and blue). Some go overboard with their outfits — many of these folks do it to enter the costume contest, where the prizes include game tickets and gift certificates to local restaurants. My vote went to the guy who dressed like a Seahawk blue alien from outer space (but he didn’t get first place).

    Watch the video on the Seahawks 12K Run home page for a good look at the highlights of the 2017 event.

About my race

This runner is a Kansas City Chiefs' fan

This runner at right appears to be a Chiefs’ fan

I came away satisfied with my steady pace and my ability to finish with a bit of a kick, passing a few people. But when I found out my time, 1:40:53 (a 13:11 per mile pace), I was disappointed. It was behind both the 1:38:46 time I recorded for this race a year ago and the 1:39:32 I clocked in 2015. Full results are here. (My 12K PR is 1:06:57, run in 2005.)

The course is mostly but not completely flat. It has these annoying rolling hills on Lake Washington Boulevard that expend some energy to climb. But they aren’t that difficult, even if most of the run (about 4.5 miles) is an out-and-back on Lake Washington Boulevard.

More 12K finishers

More 12K finishers

Despite my slower time, it was an exhilarating run with a spirited group of mostly Seahawks fans (I also saw fans of the Packers, Chiefs and 49ers doing the run). The weather was very accommodating as well, as the rain took the day off, the sun came out, and temperatures were mild and in the 50s.

Bottom line: I can’t see not doing this run again.

Turnout drops again — and what’s next

Some 4,805 runners and walkers completed the two races — 2,524 in the 12K and 2,281 in the 5K — which is a surprising decline from last year’s 6,113 total and the 9,448 of 2015. I attribute the drop to simply more competition from an increasing number of area races.

More costume contest entrants

More costume contest entrants

It was great to see runner friend Mark Nelson on the 12K course; he’d just come out of the loop around the Virginia Mason Athletic Center as I was headed in and we passed each other on Lake Washington Boulevard. His wife Tyra, my former Zones teammate, ran the 5K, so I did not see her. Both ran great races! Congrats, Mark and Tyra!

Shelley Way, a former Microsoft teammate, finished just ahead of me in the 12K. Nice job, Shelley! Sorry I missed you. Congrats to all of the finishers.

This is what a runner next to me wore

This is what a runner next to me wore

My next event is a bicycle ride on April 29 called the Major Taylor Project. Organized by the Cascade Bicycle Club, the ride is 24 miles long through West Seattle and neighboring communities, and benefits youth cycling programs in that region. It sounded interesting enough for me to spend a few hours supporting this cause.

I will run again in the Fiesta 5K Ole! Run at Seattle’s Volunteer Park on May 6 (which will be my 210th road race). I had a blast doing this race last year with several runner friends I work with at Allytics. I am also considering running the Kirkland Mother’s Day Half Marathon a week later on May 14.

Thanks for reading! Happy Easter, everyone! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, Bicycling, Kirkland Half-Marathon, Running, Seahawks 12K Run | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Hot Chocolate 15K: Event organizers are doing something right

Warmly dressed runners line up for the start of the 15K

Warmly dressed runners line up for the start of the 15K

I always like new challenges, things I haven’t done before. So on this year’s list was running the Hot Chocolate 15K in downtown Seattle. I ran the Hot Chocolate 5K for the first time last year, but had never done a 15K race (9.3 miles) before.

My free photo, taken in the last half-mile

My free photo, taken in the last half-mile

I got my chance last Sunday (March 6), and the results were … well, somewhat disappointing.

But more on that a bit later. Let me first talk a bit about the Hot Chocolate 15K/5K races in Seattle. It was the fourth year of this event, part of a national series that benefits the Ronald McDonald House Charities. It has to be considered a success.

Despite a forecast of rain or snow, the Hot Chocolate races saw mostly dry (but cold!) weather

Despite a forecast of rain or snow, the races saw mostly dry (but cold!) weather

More than 10,600 runners and walkers turned out for the races on a cold day when rain or snow was the forecast. The 2017 participation beat last year’s strong turnout by more than 300.

The Hot Chocolate event has impacted the turnout of March races such as this Sunday’s St. Patrick’s Day Dash 5K, which has long been one of Seattle’s biggest road races.

Millennials and women getting what they want in a run

When many other, local races are seeing declining numbers, the organizing sponsor, Chicago-based RAM Racing, appears to have a successful formula for drawing the two largest target audiences — women and millennials. Why are so many coming out to run or walk? Here are some reasons, in my opinion:

  • The chocolate: All 15K or 5K finishers get a plastic blue dish containing a cup of hot
    The reward after a cold, hard run

    The reward after a cold, hard run

    chocolate; some rich, melted chocolate for dipping; a banana, some pretzels and some cookies. I personally ate and drank all of mine.

  • The fleece jacket: Participants get more than a T-shirt or running shirt. This year, they got fleece jackets that look pricy, even if they really aren’t. Anyway, they’re warm and in-season, and even if I don’t see a lot of them around town, I believe they’re being worn.
  • The distance: The 5K is the bigger draw (6,092 finishers) and a popular distance, but 4,511 ran or walked the 15K as well. The latter is seen as a good training run for a half-marathon, which seemingly many women plan or aspire to run.
  • The free pictures: Most road runs and bike rides ask you to buy the pictures they
    Fleece jacket and finishers' medal

    Fleece jacket and finishers’ medal

    take. The Hot Chocolate event organizers pay professional photographers to shoot pictures of all participants during and after the run, then send you a couple of images that you can download. (I’ve included mine and my Allytics teammates as part of this post.)

  • The emails and training plan: Registrants received a series of emails in the weeks leading up to the run, with training and workout tips for that week. This guidance was sure to be helpful to new runners seeking to improve their times or just finish.
  • The medals: I won’t put much emphasis on this one, as many local races provide finishers’ medals. But these medals (for 15K finishers only) were as good or better than many of my marathon finishers’ medals, and added a classy touch.

The races start and end at Seattle Center, and I will talk about the hills in a second. But the fact that the course is centrally located in the downtown area is probably a draw as well.

Hayley is the runner laughing at left. Don't know why.

Hayley is the runner laughing at left. Don’t know why.

At any rate, two of my faves as Allytics teammates and fellow runners, R.J. Ricker and Hayley Halstead, did the 15K with me. These two (millennials and women) are very discerning about the races they do, so their decision to run this one tells me the event organizers are doing something right. Even if R.J. denies the chocolate was a big deal to her.

That hill went on and on and on

OK, about me. I was disappointed in my time — 2:16:08, or 14:37 per mile — because I was hoping to come close to breaking two hours, and I didn’t expect to run so slowly up the big hill. Another reason: Many of my half-marathon times in previous years are better than this. It’s not true that I stopped and had breakfast in the middle of this run; it just looks like it.

Full results are here.

R.J. heads to the finish line after a nice run

R.J. heads to the finish line after a nice run

Roughly, miles three through six are up the Aurora Avenue hill heading north from downtown Seattle. You feel like you’re headed to the Canadian border, but you do finally turn around at mile 6 and head back down the hill. I ran the entire race without stopping, even for water. But going up this hill on my bad ankle, I was getting beat by some of the faster walkers, sad to say.

No complaints about the course, however. It’s a long, tough hill, but I climbed it before in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Seattle Marathon (2010) and the St. Patrick’s Day Dash (2010 through 2014, until they changed the course). Though my time going up that hill was unbearably slow, I ran virtually the same time coming back down, which was unfortunate and where I could have done better.

Kudos and what’s next

Congrats to R.J. and Hayley, who posted exceptional 15K times, and another Allytics co-worker, Cassi Frickelton, who ran the 5K. It was nice that Hayley and her friend, Elisa, waited for me at the finish line. Thanks!

Hayley and me after the race

Hayley and me after the race

Congrats also to R.J.’s dad, Arthur, who ran his first 5K in a long time, and to former Zones teammate Tyra Nelson and her daughter, Taryn, who did the 15K. Nice job!

This was my 208th road race! So far this year, I’ve run a 5K, 10K and 15K, in that order.

I am taking a vacation later in March and, as I said last time, am skipping the Mercer Island Half-Marathon (a 21K) on March 19 because of it. I’m already feeling guilty about it. (I’m also skipping this weekend’s St. Patrick’s Day Dash 5K.) My next run will likely be the Seahawks 12K Run on April 9, and I hope to be in better shape. I have lots of bike rides planned for April, May and June.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 10K, 5K, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Rock 'n Roll Seattle Marathon, Running, Seahawks 12K Run, St. Patrick's Day Dash | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment