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 , , , , , , , , , , , | 3 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

2016 12Ks of Christmas 12K: How could I run so slow when I have so much to do?

The starting line for the 5K race

5K runners at the starting line in front of Heritage Park in Kirkland

This post will be short and sweet and rather dull (and possibly with some missing words and typos). That’s because I still have lots of Christmas shopping and wrapping to do. And what new can you say about a run you’ve done for 13 years?

The finish line at Heritage Park

The finish line at Heritage Park

Here’s me trying. My 16th and final run of 2016 was the 12Ks of Christmas 12K in Kirkland on Sunday, Dec. 18. I continue to wonder why I do this 7.45-mile run every year when I am always so busy with work and things to do to get ready for Christmas.

I guess it’s because this is a local event that’s easy for me to get to. Also, I have a history of doing this race with friends, and a 12K is a rare and challenging (for me) distance.

I only wish I could run it faster. I’ve been running it since it debuted in Kirkland in 2003, when along with an event shirt, all participants got a Seahawks T-shirt signed by 20 or more players. The Seahawks then were still headquartered at Northwest University in Kirkland.

A sampling of some runners' costumes

A sampling of some runners’ costumes

My fastest time in this 12K is 1:06:57 (8:58 per mile) in 2005, the closest I will ever come to breaking an hour.

But these bad-ankle days I struggle to beat 1:40, and last Sunday, I didn’t. I finished in 1:40:49 (13:38 per mile), a regression from last year’s 1:38:38. Full results are here. And I ran end-to-end — no pit stops, no walk breaks, no water breaks. My excuses: It was bone-chilling cold out (in the 20s), and I haven’t been able to train that well for recent races, due to just being busy.

Even as sore as I am a day later, the run still felt great, and I’m surprised my pace wasn’t stronger. But enough about me.

Still enjoy running the Cross Kirkland Corridor

In the 13 years that I’ve run this race, I’ve seen at least a half-dozen different courses through Kirkland. This year’s was the same as a year ago; meaning that for a second straight year, the course had a big chunk — 3.72 miles — that traversed the flat and straight Cross Kirkland Corridor.

12K_courseThis stretch includes a jaunt through Google’s Kirkland campus and is the best part of the run, even if there are tough hills leading to and from this gravel trail. I like it because you have views of Lake Washington and some of Kirkland’s nicer neighborhoods, and the dirt and gravel surface is less taxing on my ankle and legs.

Slightly more than 1,000 runners did the 12K and another 430 did the 5K. The event had a festive and holiday feel, much like the recent Jingle Bell Run in Seattle, but with more Eastsiders and fewer people overall.

I don’t understand why someone would run either distance in a full-fledged Santa outfit, but several runners did. At least one Santa had a reindeer head emerging from his torso, as if he was riding the animal. It looked uncomfortable, but that’s just me. Hope he won the costume contest, but there was competition from elves, Santa’s helpers, and others.

Congrats, and what’s next

Taking a picture for social media

Taking a picture for social media

Time for a shout out to Joyce Szymanski, a Facebook friend who ran the 5K to complete her goal of doing at least one road run a month in 2016. Congrats, Joyce! Don’t stop at one year; continue on in 2017!

My next run is the Resolution Run 5K in Magnuson Park on January 1. I’ve done this run 10 times, and last year also did the optional jaunt through Lake Washington (the Polar Bear Dive) as part of the run. It was OK (i.e., overrated), but this year, I plan to stay dry . The Polar Bear Dive is a must-do only once, in my opinion.

Cool tech running shirt

Cool tech running shirt

Looming in February is the 45th annual Chilly Hilly bike ride on Bainbridge Island. I’m looking forward to that, but need to start riding again!

Thanks for reading these posts in 2016. See you in 2017! Merry Christmas again and Happy New Year to all.

Posted in 12Ks of Christmas, 5K, Bicycling, Chilly Hilly, Resolution Run 5K, Running, Seahawks 12K Run | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

2016 Jingle Bell Run 5K: Merry high before the Seahawks’ low point

Fake snowflakes greeted runners at the finish line

Fake snowflakes greeted runners at the finish line

Well, the Oregon Ducks’ dreadful football season for 2016 is over! I’m looking forward to the energy and vibe that new coach Willie Taggart seems to be bringing for next year. But in the meantime, I am caught riding the Seattle Seahawks’ roller-coaster, and worried about a crash up ahead (especially without Earl Thomas). I’ve been counting on them going back to the Super Bowl.

Just before the Hawks got clobbered 38-10 at Green Bay last Sunday, Dec. 11, I joined a few thousand runners and walkers for the annual Jingle Bell Run 5K in downtown Seattle. This race is part of a national series supporting the Arthritis Foundation that is billed as the nation’s largest holiday 5K series.

A greeter in the finishers' area

A greeter in the finishers’ area

The Christmas-sy fun and the challenge of it helped make the day better, even if I really hate to see the Hawks play so poorly in December. (The Duck basketball team’s narrow win over Alabama also eased the sting of the Seahawk loss. A promotion at work last week helped too.)

But since this is a blog about running, I should stick to talking about the Jingle Bell Run. I should not even mention how we need to buckle up for four years of Donald Trump and a roller-coaster ride that could also lead to a crash.

Yes, about the run …

I hadn’t run in this event since 2010, so I got a chance to re-familiarize myself with it. It is a cheerful, colorful and casual race that starts and ends near Westlake Center. Most of the course runs through the I-5 tunnel and express lanes, and it is crowded and deceptively hilly.

Crowded at the start

Lots of Santa hats at the starting line

The volunteers beforehand told me that about 6,000 people had signed up for the timed and non-timed “waves.” The race results listed 1,302 timed finishers, so I will assume a couple thousand or so did the non-timed wave (though I’d be surprised if it added up to 6,000). Still, it was a strong turnout — and Santa Clauses and Santa’s elves were well-represented among the participants. Most everyone wore red and/or green.

As usual, I got to the starting line a few minutes before the race started, and had no time for a pit stop. I made it through the 3.1 miles OK, but this lack of being completely relieved is my first excuse for recording a poor time. Here are three others:

  1. Congestion in the first mile: The starting line is the intersection of Fifth Avenue and Pine Street, and it is a mass of runners and Santa caps. It spreads out a half-mile later at the crest of a hill, but you do lose time running around and through and into people until then.
  2. The hills! This is much more of a hindrance. The first hill up Fifth, combined with the congestion, are sure to hurt your time. But there are also inclines in the two-mile stretch of express lanes under I-5 (yes, mercifully, they are closed off from cars for the morning). And the ramp from the express lanes back to Pike Street in downtown is hilly and a bottleneck in that last mile. In iother words, this is not a fast course.
  3. The scenery: One of the best reasons to do this race is to look around at all of the cool costumes and interesting people. But it does slow you down.

My slowest 5K, but one well worth doing

So, about my time: I finished this race in 40:27 (13:02 per mile), my slowest 5K time since 2013. Full results are here.

Cold and wet at the finish line

Cold and wet at the finish line

This was the fourth time I’ve done the Jingle Bell Run, and it’s turned out to be one of my worst races. My best time is 28:48 (9:16 per mile) in 2007, and I followed up with 30:06 (9:41 per mile) in 2009, both before my ankle problems began in 2010. In 2010, the year before my surgery, I slowed down to 37:16 (11:59 per mile), a time I’ve beaten five times this year (admittedly on flatter courses).

My 5K PR is 24:32 in 2005, and my post-surgery best is 34:29 in 2014. While my latest time is a step backwards — it’s my first time over 40:00 since 2013 — I’m not overly concerned about it. Here’s my one tip for this event:

  • Enjoy the race, and don’t worry about your time! It’s very cool to see runners and walkers in costumes having fun. Or moms running with a pack of kids. Or entire families keeping up with each other. It’s a pleasant holiday vibe worth soaking in, even if it means a slower time because you’re people-watching.

What’s next: my last race of 2016

My fourth Jingle Bell Run race shirt

My fourth Jingle Bell Run race shirt

Congrats to all of the runners and walkers who finished, timed or untimed. Despite the mob of runners descending on the heart of Seattle’s downtown retail district, I did not see anyone I knew.

Upcoming this Sunday, Dec. 18, is the 12Ks of Christmas 12K in Kirkland, an event I am doing for the 13th year. A good chunk of this 7.45-mile run is on the Cross Kirkland Corridor, a trail that bisects the Google campus. Looking forward to getting through what will be my 16th and final race of 2016, and my 205th race overall.

After that, I will start 2017 with the Resolution Run 5K and Polar Bear Dive. Then I will take a break from running to get ready for the Seahawks in the Super Bowl. Or not.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year, everyone!

Thanks for reading. Till next time.

Posted in 12Ks of Christmas, 5K, Resolution Run 5K, Running | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment