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

2017 Chilly Hilly: Equal parts great fun and sheer misery

Bicyclists just starting to get wet wait in Seattle for the ferry to Bainbridge

Bicyclists just starting to get wet as we wait in Seattle for the ferry to Bainbridge

My sixth Chilly Hilly ride last Sunday (Feb. 26) was probably my wettest one yet. I continued to hope (pray) into the late stages of the 33-mile ride around Bainbridge Island that it would … Just. Stop. Raining. It didn’t — until after I crossed the finish line.

Getting ready to ride as we reach Bainbridge

Getting ready to ride as we reach Bainbridge

So I was a rain-soaked, cold, dirty mess as I waited with hundreds of other bicyclists for the ferry to take us back to Seattle. Tired and sore too. Maybe 2,000 bicyclists turned out last Sunday, a typical smaller turnout for a rainy Chilly Hilly (dry event days bring out as many as 6,000 riders). Yes, it was an exhilarating ride on a challenging course, but it was a pain in the ass to get through. Icy cold. Layers of wet clothing. Miserable. Fun.

Riders cross the finish line at Bainbridge

Riders cross the finish line at Bainbridge

I said this after last year’s event: This would be a great ride to do in July. But that isn’t going to happen. The Chilly Hilly will probably always be in February. The Cascade Bicycle Club, which organizes the annual event, knows there are enough hardcore bicyclists like me who are eager and excited to launch their biking season each year with this ride, rain or shine. Or, should I say, rain or snow.

We train, we ride, we shiver, and then many of us catch colds. Fortunately, I narrowly avoided one this year.

My recap of the good, bad and ugly

Here is why Sunday’s ride was equal parts great fun and sheer misery. I’ll start with great fun:

  • The course: With a total elevation of 2,191 feet, the Chilly Hilly route lines the perimeter of Bainbridge Island, a rustic, woodsy, smartly developed land mass in the Puget Sound west of Seattle. You get scenic views of the Seattle skyline. You also ride by lots of single-family homes, small commercial areas and small wineries. What I like about this course is that the first 10 miles are relatively flat and get you warmed up for the major hills that follow.
  • The hills: Among the half a dozen challenging hills, some are deceptively steep and others come quickly so you can’t shift down fast enough. Every year, there’s at least one hill where I have to stop at mid-point and walk my bike to the crest. This year, there were three — although I successfully climbed N.E. Baker Hill Road, the steepest and highest on the course (300 feet in less than a mile). It felt great riding to the top.
  • The volunteers and support: I continue to be amazed at how well-staffed this event is. Course marshals were spread throughout the route, warning riders of sharp turns and congested intersections. Radio support vehicles could be seen every two miles or so. If I had gotten a flat (which I didn’t), I’d have felt safe that help to change my tire was not far away. On top of that, there was more food than riders at the rest stop near the halfway point. Kudos to the event organizers.
  • The ferry ride over: Riders are eager to get started, and the 30-minute ferry ride from downtown Seattle to Bainbridge is always full of energy. Actually, there are four different ferries carrying bicyclists to the starting line, but the 9:40 a.m. boat I took generally has the most participants. You get a sense of who and how many people you’re riding with.


Now then, here is the sheer misery part:

  • The constant rain: It rained before the ride and during the ride, then subsided after the ride as I waited with other bicyclists for the ferry back to Seattle. It was a steady downpour, not hard or stormy like last year’s ride, but I had raindrops on my glasses through most of the ride. I seriously need windshield wipers for my glasses when I do this ride.
  • The cold: Yes, they call it the Chilly Hilly. But you’d think it would warm up in the late morning or afternoon. It did not. Temperatures remained in the 30s, and it felt like it was just getting colder and colder as I kept getting wetter and wetter.
  • The issues with my bike: The inside frame for my bike chain is a bit worn down, making shifting down a bit problematic. This is aggravated by wet weather. So, at least three times when I geared down to take on a big hill, my chain got stuck and I had to stop and get it working again. I’m getting this fixed at Gregg’s Cycle, as I write this.
  • The ferry ride back: There’s no way a ferry ride across the Puget Sound in wet clothes is going to be any fun. My effort to stay warm by wearing more layers seem to backfire. They all got wet. I was happy to finally get to my car in downtown Seattle and drive home.
Nice views of Puget Sound in the first 10 miles

Nice views of Puget Sound in the first 10 miles

OK, enough ranting. My riding time was about 3:30, but counting breaks, stopping for pictures and time at the rest stop, it was almost four hours total time. A bit slower because of the elements. It was my 27th organized ride since I started doing them in 2011, and fortunately, most have been in dry weather.

And guess what — I will very likely do this ride again next year.

Congrats to journalism and Microsoft friend Anthony Bolante for his ride, which he posted about on Facebook. Sorry I didn’t see you there, Anthony. Maybe next year.

What’s next: Hot Chocolate 15K

Volunteer course marshals offer support to riders

Volunteer course marshals offer support to riders

There’s more ugly weather this weekend, and I am running the Hot Chocolate 15K (9.3 miles) on Sunday. I’d rather run in the rain than bike in it. But I’d still prefer to run 9.3 miles in dry weather, if possible. Looking forward to having some Allytics teammates run this with me.

After that, I am taking a vacation in mid-March (sunshine! baseball!). So I have decided to skip the Mercer Island Half-Marathon in 2017, after running this race for 13 of the last 14 years. But I’ve already signed up for the Seahawks 12K Run in April, so that is looming.

Bicycles on the ferry ride back to Seattle

Bicycles on the ferry ride back to Seattle

My next bicycle ride will probably be the 7 Hills of Kirkland on Memorial Day. I’m hoping to be able to do the full 100-mile route, my seventh century, this year. Counting on dry weather too.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 7 Hills of Kirkland, Bicycling, Century, Chilly Hilly, Mercer Island Half-Marathon, Seahawks 12K Run | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

2017 Valentine’s Day Dash 10K: New 10K has limited appeal to Green Lake set

This fun-loving (or morbid) couple were among nearly 900 finishers of the 5K

This fun-loving (or morbid) couple were among nearly 900 finishers of the 5K

The Valentine’s Day Dash remains my favorite race for the month of February. After all, where can you find a woman at the starting line wrapped in a shower curtain with fake blood on it — and accompanied by a man with a huge knife? That certainly had to be the best outfit for 2017.

This 5K has drawn some of the most interesting cupid-inspired costumes I’ve ever come across. A few years ago, a couple somehow finished the race together inside a large wooden, heart-shaped contraption. It certainly must have been a costume contest winner, but it looked most uncomfortable. Another year, I got beat by a runner wrapped up as a Hershey’s chocolate.

One of the few runners finishing behind me in the 10K

One of the few runners finishing behind me in the 10K

And where else can you do a run where 70 percent of the participants are women?

But for last Sunday’s 13th annual Valentine’s Day Dash, I wanted something different. So I signed up for the event’s inaugural 10K run. I’ve done the 5K run 10 times since the race started in 2005.

The 10K turned out to be OK, as I got a good training run in, and the weather was overcast, but dry. But I was one of only 122 finishers, with nearly 900 others opting to do the 5K. And it was a challenge to fight through all of the non-race pedestrians and dogs on that second loop around Green Lake. I think I will go back to the 5K next year.

Second loop a battle for running room

Green Lake, Seattle’s gem of a park on the city’s northwest side, remains the venue for this event and is just too busy for any distance beyond a 5K.

Cloudy but dry weather at the start

Cloudy but dry weather at the start

When the 5K and 10K runners are together for the first loop, it’s crowded, but with packs of runners all going the same way (clock-wise around the lake). There’s power in numbers. It also doesn’t hurt that most of this first loop is on the outer streets that rim the park. The second loop moves mostly to the inner trail that surrounds the lake.

Since the vast majority of runners preferred the 5K, it was a slimmed-down race for that second 3.1-mile loop. I ran mostly alone — and against the groups of non-event recreational runners, walkers, strollers and dogs going the other way. It’s taxing and a bit frustrating running around and through people and dogs (although I got a few cheers and thumbs-up from people for persevering).

More late 10K finishers

More late 10K finishers

I not only fought pedestrian traffic around Green Lake to get to the finish line, but also a nagging cold that had slowed me down the week leading up to the race.

Consequently, I finished in 1:22:14 (13:16 per mile), one of my slower 10K times, but not my worst. And not a surprise, either, given how I felt last week. (My 10K PR is 51:44 in 2004; my post-surgery best are the 1:16 times I did in two different races a year ago.) Full results are here.

Low turnout may doom 10K event

I’m not sure the race organizers will want to stage another 10K race at this event. We’ll see. Some 888 runners and walkers completed the 5K, compared to the 122 who finished the 10K, a meager turnout for the longer race.

A local florist sells Valentine's Day flowers at the race

A local florist sells Valentine’s Day flowers at the race

The combined number (1,010) is better than the 803 finishers for the 5K a year ago, but these turnouts are well done from the 2,000-plus participants in 2012 and 2013. However, the ratio of women to men — 704 women (70 percent) and 306 men — represents the same nice odds (for me) as that of past Valentine’s Day Dash events.

One thing that wasn’t similar: I saw no one I knew. What were all my runner friends doing last Sunday? It’s rare that I don’t run into someone I know at this event.

What’s next: Chilly Hilly

I’m happy to have completed my 207th road race without a DNF. But now I’m eager to get back on my bicycle for the first big ride of the year, the Chilly Hilly on Feb. 26. I need another good-sized training ride first; hoping to get that this weekend.

A gray-colored tech shirt is the event shirt for 2017

A gray-colored tech shirt is the event shirt for 2017

A week later, on March 5, I’m back running the Hot Chocolate 15K, ready or not. I’ve never done a 15K (9.3 miles) before. At least I will have friends from Allytics joining me on this lengthy jaunt through downtown Seattle and up and down Aurora Avenue.

I’ll do an race at the Mercer Island Half Marathon after that on March 19; not sure whether I’ll do the half marathon of the 10K, for something different.

All of this, of course, is subject to my gimpy left ankle holding up. So far, so good. Knock on wood.

Thanks for reading! Till next time.

Posted in 10K, 5K, Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Green Lake, Running, Valentine's Day Dash, Walking | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2017 Resolution Run 5K & Polar Bear Dive: Happy to run dry and watch others take the plunge

This romp through Lake Washington is the draw for many.

This romp through Lake Washington is the draw for many

Call me whatever you want, but I consider a brisk 5K run in icy cold weather a good way to start a new year. So I’ve run the Resolution Run 5K & Polar Bear Dive 11 times now, including January 1, 2017.

Jen Gaudette takes her plunge (pic is stolen from her Facebook page)

Jen Gaudette takes her plunge (pic is stolen from her Facebook page)

The Polar Bear Dive, where you take a side jaunt into Lake Washington just before crossing the finish line, is a big part of this experience for most. But it is optional. I ran into the lake a year ago — the only time out of 11 that I’ve taken the plunge — but decided to stay dry this year. Staying dry means going right to the finish line without that short venture into the lake and back. You declare when you register: wet or dry.

My experience last year was fun, yet underwhelming. What was more memorable was feeling before the race that I might be coming down with a cold, and stressing out over whether to even show up, let alone get wet. I felt rundown as I debated whether to race, but a sudden burst of energy before breakfast convinced me to go meet friends and do the run into the lake. It all worked out.

Wet runners get to the finish line

Wet runners get to the finish line

Rather than worry about a possible repeat of that situation this year, I signed up for the dry run a couple of weeks ago. No regrets. I got a chance to do the run and take lots of pictures, without worrying about getting sick, or my smartphone getting wet. I also didn’t have to change clothes right after the race.

OK, this is lame. I’m a wuss. But give me credit for getting up and running on a day (temps in the 30s) when most people prefer to stay in bed.

Why I keep doing this run

The Norreds -- Sally, Chris and Oliver -- and friend J.R. after changing clothes

The Norreds — Sally, Chris and Oliver — and friend J.R. after changing clothes

I enjoy this run because about 1,000 people are there — the vast majority because they really want to be. It’s a mix of fitness freaks and wannabes.

While the jump into the lake is the draw for many, there are similar Polar Bear Dives around the Seattle area on Jan. 1 where you don’t have to run a 5K first — you can just run into the water. So most who come to Magnuson Park for this event do so for the exercise too.

Former Allytics teammate Jamin King finished second in the dry 5K

Former Allytics teammate Jamin King finished second in the dry 5K

Friends Sally and Chris Norred have done this race together for several years. They always run into the lake. It was great to see them again, with their son Oliver and his friend J.R., at the post-race chili feed. They all finished ahead of me, even if they slogged through the water and I didn’t. Sally and Oliver both came in third in their age groups, and in the Top 20 for women and men, respectively.

Microsoft friend Jen Gaudette is another regular who always goes into the water. Too bad I didn’t see on Sunday. Interestingly enough, she finished fourth in her age group, right behind Sally. Sorry, I missed you, Jen!

Meanwhile, former Allytics teammate Jamin King does the dry 5K, to win it — as he did in 2016. Jamin on Sunday finished second overall in 16:21 (5:17 per mile), 26 seconds behind winner Mark Mandi. Awesome run, Jamin! Nice to chat with him and meet his mom after the run.

Feeling the cold at the starting line

Feeling the cold at the starting line

Slower time for me, but I finished strong

I felt great in this run, and even kicked at the end to avoid being passed. But my time was not one of my best. I finished in 37:28 (12:05 per mile), over a minute slower than my dry 5K times in 2015 and 2014. Last year’s time doesn’t count since I did the Polar Bear Dive, which adds a minute or so. Full 2017 results are here.

The best outfit of the race

The best outfit of the race

My best time for this event is 24:59 (8:02 per mile) in pre-injury 2007, on a different Magnuson Park course. (My 5K PR is 24:32 in 2005.) In 2009, they moved the starting line and finish line to the southeast side of the park (from the northwest side), and it’s been the same course for eight years. The course is essentially a full loop that includes a hairpin turn at the two-mile mark. It’s mostly flat but has a couple of small inclines just before the hairpin turn.

I have no complaints about this course. But the icy spots and half-water, half-ice puddles throughout can make it difficult to navigate. I was glad to not trip over any runners dodging the icy spots and to avoid being cut off by dogs or strollers. What I like about the course: The last 0.7-mile is a mostly straight stretch to the finish, where you can go all out (unless you go into the water).

Another shot from the lake

Another shot from the lake

What’s next: running and bicycling

The race shirt

The race shirt

Other January races are few and far between, so I probably won’t race again until the Valentine’s Day Dash 5K at Green Lake on February 12. As I said before, I’m looking forward to the start of bicycling season, which begins for me with the Chilly Hilly ride on Bainbridge Island on February 26.

One road run I’m planning to do for the first time: The Hot Chocolate 15K in Seattle on March 5, a week after the Chilly Hilly (I ran the 5K last year). So I have a bit of cold weather training ahead for both running and bicycling. Looking forward to it!

Thanks for reading, and Happy 2017 to everyone! Till next time.

Posted in 5K, Chilly Hilly, Resolution Run 5K, Running, Valentine's Day Dash | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment