Sunday, November 30, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Seattle Marathon

Today, I ran the Seattle Marathon.  I’ve done this race twice before.  I ran it in 1990 when the course was completely different.  Last year, I did it as part of the Seattle Quadzilla.  This year, I did it as part of the quadzilla again.

This race starts and finishes downtown, near the Space Needle.

After yesterday’s race, I checked out from my hotel in Renton and moved to a hotel that was only a few blocks from the start.  The expo was at the Westin, which was a little over a mile away.  Last year I walked.  This year I took the monorail, so I wouldn’t have to spend so much time outside.  It was getting colder.

In the Wishbone Run and Ghost of Seattle Marathon, I had to cope with different combinations of cold, wet, windy conditions.  Today was another cold day.  When I woke up, it was 25 degrees.  It would warm up a few degrees, but not much.  The good news is that it was a sunny day, so I wasn’t going to get wet.  The bad news is that it was another windy day.

When I checked the forecast last night, it looked like winds would be 20 mph, with gusts up to 36.  I checked again this morning, and the wind forecast wasn’t as bad.  We would always have winds of at least 10 mph, but that’s a lot better than 20.  The “real feel” was forecast to be 17.

I neglected to pick up a gear check bag at the expo.  I never saw where we were supposed to get those.  I didn’t realize I didn’t have one until this morning.  Ever since the Boston bombings, large races have insisted that you use only the clear bags that they provide.  I didn’t have an acceptable bag.  That meant I couldn’t wear extra layers to the start unless I was willing to part with them.  All I had that I was willing to throw away was a heat shield that I saved from another race.  I wouldn’t have any extra layers to wear after the race.

Despite the revised forecast, I braced myself for the worst.  I wore two pairs of tights on my legs.  I wore three shirts, two of which had long sleeves.  I wore two pairs of gloves.  I also had a lightweight hooded jacket, but I had to be careful that it didn’t obstruct my race bib.  The timing chip was on the bib, and it might not work if it was covered up.  I had so many layers I felt like the Michelin Man.

I only had to walk a few blocks from my hotel to get to the start.  I arrived 30 minutes early, so I could take part in a group photo for runners doing the quadzilla.  There was also a group photo for Marathon Maniacs.  I didn’t have any warm-up layers, so I had to make do with my throwaway heat shield.

A few of the runners who did the quadzilla
Unlike the first three races of the quadzilla, the Seattle Marathon is a large race with thousands of runners.  It’s so big that they close down I-90, so we can run on the freeway.  We started at Seattle Center.  After running through part of downtown, we take a ramp that leads us onto the freeway.  After leaving downtown, we eventually get to the I-90 floating bridge that crosses Lake Washington.  I was worried about this section, because winds would be strongest here.  It’s completely exposed.  After crossing the bridge, we turn around and cross it again.

The next several miles overlap with the course we ran yesterday, including a loop around Seward Park.  Finally, we have to negotiate some tough hills before returning downtown, where we finish inside a stadium.

I didn’t know how fast I could run with so many layers.  I didn’t know if I could’ve run fast under optimal conditions.  My legs were fatigued.  I accepted that I would be slow.  I just wanted to finish, and I didn’t want to get chilled to the bone again.  Accordingly, I lined up farther back than I usually do, and I started at a conservative pace.

My legs felt better today than they did the last two days.  Wearing two pairs of tights didn’t seem to slow me down.  Once I started running, it didn’t even feel unusual.  I felt like I started a little faster today, although I wasn’t looking at my watch.

The first time I reached an aid station, I had a cup of Gatorade that was half frozen.  It was a Gatorade slushy.  I wondered if I would need to limit my intake to keep from getting cold.

On the ramp to I-90, I eased up.  I was wearing quite a few layers, and it’s easy to work up a sweat running uphill.  After the ramp leveled out, we entered a long tunnel.  The next aid station was inside the tunnel.  It was warmer in the tunnel, and we were sheltered from the wind.  The Gatorade at this aid station wasn’t frozen.

I was getting warm in the tunnel.  I was tempted to remove one pair of gloves, but I waited.  I knew we would get a blast of cold air as we left the tunnel.  Immediately after the tunnel, we crossed the floating bridge over Lake Washington.

The bridge is about two miles long, and we crossed it twice.  Thankfully, the wind wasn’t anywhere near as strong as it was yesterday.  I didn’t see any white caps on the lake.  I could see from the ripples on the lake that the wind direction was the same as yesterday.   That gave me a good idea what to expect.  About half of today’s race overlapped with yesterday’s course.  I knew where we would run into the wind and where it would be at our backs.

At about six miles, I was passed by the 4:00 pace group.  I didn’t want to expend too much effort to try to stay with them.  With so many layers, I had to be careful not to overheat.

After crossing the bridge once, we briefly entered another tunnel.  The third aid station was inside this tunnel, so I again got to drink Gatorade that wasn’t frozen.  After the aid station, we immediately turned around to cross the bridge again.  As I started crossing the bridge, I noticed the great views of the city across the lake.  It was a bright sunny day.  I could see some of the downtown buildings over the hillside.  Farther away, I could see the snow-capped peaks of the Olympic Mountains.

About halfway across the bridge, I started getting warm.  I only had one layer I could remove.  That was the hooded jacket.  I took it off and tied it around my waste.  As we left the bridge, we turned left and started heading south alongside the lake.  For the next 11 miles, we would be repeating yesterday’s course, but with two differences.  First, we were running in the streets instead of on the sidewalk.  Also, we would run around Seward Park in the opposite direction.

For the next three miles, we mostly had the wind at our backs.  I had to take off one pair of gloves and tuck them under my belt.  Even still, I started to overheat.  I had to slow down.  Suddenly, everyone around was passing me.  I was willing to accept a slow time today.  That was a price I was willing to pay to make sure I was warm enough.  The previous two days scared me.  I would rather overdress and have to go slow than freeze my ass off for a third straight day.

During the loop around Seward Park, I got my first taste of headwinds.  I got cold quickly.  I put the second pair of gloves on again.  Halfway around the park, I reached the half marathon mark.  My time was 2:00:44.  I was surprised to be that close to a four hour pace.  I knew, however, that the second half would be tougher.  We would have several miles into the wind.  Then we would have some tough hills.

The cold seemed to rejuvenate me.  I was now keeping up with the runners around me.  As we left Seward Park, I could see that the wind was stronger now.  There were white caps on the lake.  It wasn’t as bad as yesterday, but it was much stronger than it had been an hour earlier.

As I began a six mile stretch that was all into the wind, I started to speed up.  Now I was passing everyone around me.  I was motivated to get through this section as quickly as I could.

I considered putting on my jacket again, but I waited too long.  Within a mile, I couldn’t move my fingers.  I couldn’t untie the knot that was holding the jacket around my waist.  Although I was getting cold, it was tolerable.  My biggest concern was my hands.  It was several degrees colder today.  Today, I had to be more concerned about frostbite.  Once I get cold, I lose all circulation to my hands.  They turn white.  That makes me more vulnerable to frostbite than most people.

I picked up my effort and tried to get through the next six miles as quickly as I could.  My hands were painful, but in a way, that was good.  When you can’t feel them at all, that’s the time to worry.

After we crossed under the freeway, I started to notice views that I somehow missed yesterday.  Looking to my right, across Lake Washington, I could see the Cascade Mountains.  There aren’t many places where you can run through a city and have views of two different mountain ranges.

We eventually ran past the northernmost point of yesterday’s course.  Then we reached a neighborhood of rolling hills.  I saw the hills as an opportunity to work up a sweat.  I didn’t actually want to get sweaty, but I was hoping to warm myself up to the point where my hands would get warmer.  It was starting to work. After a few small hills, I could once again move three fingers in each hand.  To badly paraphrase Meatloaf, “Six out of ten ain’t bad.”

As we reached the 20 mile mark, I checked my watch for the first time since the halfway mark.  I was about four minutes slower than a four hour pace.  I wasn’t too disappointed.  I knew the next few miles would slow me down anyway.

We still had to go a little farther into the wind.  Without any hills, I started to get cold again.  Then I saw the runners ahead of me making a left turn.  The runner next to me said, “This is it.”  As we turned onto THE HILL, I said, “This is better than six miles into the wind.”  He agreed.  I also told him that this was our best chance to warm up.

The first block is steep.  Then it levels off as you cross a street.  After another short block that’s also steep, you turn left.  The rest of the hill isn’t as steep, but it goes on for about three more blocks.  I chugged up the hill slowly.  There was an aid station at the top.  As I reached for a cup of Gatorade, I realized that all my fingers were working now.  I’ve never been so happy to run up a tough hill.

After running down the other side, we entered Washington Park Arboretum.  The terrain is rolling, but the trend is uphill.  These miles were slow, but my legs felt good.  I was in a nice slow-but-steady rhythm.

Around 22 miles, I reached an aid station with several port-o-potties.  Since my hands were finally usable, I was able to make a bathroom stop.  When I left the bathroom, I ran halfway up the next hill before realizing I had left a pair of gloves behind.  I still needed both pairs of gloves, so I had to go back.  Thankfully, it wasn’t occupied.  I got to run that hill twice.

Even after leaving the arboretum neighborhood, there’s a gentle uphill trend until the last mile.  With just over a mile to go, we crossed I-5.  I looked to my right, and across Lake Union, I could see Gas Works Park.  That’s where we started running on Thursday.  As I neared the end of my quadzilla journey, I could see where it began.  In between were over 100 of the most difficult miles I’ve endured.

The last mile starts out sharply downhill.  After being on high ground, we needed to descend to get back to downtown.  It didn’t seem as uncomfortable as it did last year.

With a half mile to go, I passed an unofficial aid station set up by the Hash House Harriers.  I had a beer to celebrate my quadzilla.

The finish line is on a football field.  The field was still covered with snow from yesterday morning. 

I sprinting across the snow-covered field, finishing in 4:17:21.  I received my finisher medal and then went indoors where Steve Walters gave me my quadzilla medal.

The recovery area, with all the post-race food, is inside the stadium where it’s nice and warm.  After another cold race, it was nice to be able to relax and greet friends in a comfortable environment.  Since I didn’t have any warm-up clothes, it was nice that I only had to walk two blocks to get back to my hotel.

I did the Seattle Quadzilla last year, but I questioned whether it counted because it didn’t rain during any of the races.  This year, it was the real deal!  Now, I’m a real runner.

When you’re running marathons every day, there isn’t much time for shopping or sightseeing.  I don’t fly home until tomorrow afternoon, so I’ll have some time in the morning to see more of downtown.  I’ve been waking up at 4:30 every day, so I don’t think I’ll have any trouble getting an early start.

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Ghost of Seattle Marathon

Today, I ran the Ghost of Seattle Marathon.  This is the third race of the Seattle Quadzilla.  It follows the original course of the Seattle Marathon.  It’s a double-loop.  Each loop starts with a lap around Seward Park and then does along out-and-back along the western shore of Lake Washington.  The Seattle Marathon still includes a portion of this course, but in that race we run in the streets.  Today, the streets were open to traffic, so we ran on the sidewalks.

When I woke up, it was 34 degrees.  That was as warm as it would get.  The temperature would drop a few degrees during the race.  There was also a chance of snow flurries.  I’ve run in similar conditions before, or so I thought.

Although I knew how to dress for these conditions, I had to resist the temptation to pile on extra layers.  My bout with hypothermia yesterday made me nervous about going out in colder conditions today.  I wore tights, a polypro shirt with a singlet over it, polypro gloves and a warm knit hat.  I also brought extra gloves and two jackets, which I left in the car.

Before the race, it was raining and drizzling intermittently.  Just before the race started, the drizzle changed to snow.  At first, it was just a few flakes.  What caught me off guard was the wind.  When I’ve run in cold wet conditions before, it wasn’t this windy.  I started to worry that it might be as windy as yesterday. That would be bad, since it was 20 degrees colder today.

I added one more layer.  It was the lightweight hooded jacket I got at the finish of the Indianapolis Monumental Marathon.  It was meant as a throwaway, but I saved mine, and I’ve worn in in two races this week.

We started by running south for about half a mile to get to Seward Park.  I could tell we had the wind at our backs.  That meant we would be going into the wind when we started the out-and-back part of the course.  That’s about five miles long.  I started at a conservative pace.  I wasn’t going to look at my watch.  I was going to conserve energy.  I didn’t want to run out of gas later, if I was struggling with the cold.

As we started our loop around Seward Park, we turned into the wind.  It was cold.  Also, it was snowing harder.  My hands were already getting really cold.  By the time I finished the loop, I knew I needed a second pair of gloves.  Before getting back to the start/finish area, we ran close to where I parked my car.  I ran over to my car to get my second pair of gloves.  They’re cotton, which isn’t so great in wet conditions, but I needed an extra layer to keep my hands from freezing in the wind.  While I was there, I also got my other jacket and put that on too.

By now, the snow was really coming down.  The snow started to collect on my gloves and melt.  As they got wet, I started to wonder if they were doing more harm than good.  Within a mile, my hands were numb.

I didn’t carry a bottle today.  There was an aid station in the start/finish area, which I would pass three times during the race.  There was also an aid station in the middle of the out-and-back section.  I would go by that one a total of four times.  That meant I could get a drink every three to four miles.  As long as I drank at each aid station, that was sufficient.

I was really cold going into the wind on the out-and-back section.  For the first few miles, we were right next to Lake Washington.  The wind was blowing right off the lake.  Besides being cold, it was tiring.  I got through it by reminding myself that the wind would be at our backs coming back.

Before long, the snow stopped.  It would take a long time for my gloves to dry, but it was a relief to know that I only had to contend with the cold wind.

After the turnaround, I started feeling warm within a mile.  Under my jacket,
I could feel some perspiration.  Before long, I also felt perspiration under my hat.  With my core nice and warm, and without the headwind, I hoped my hands would eventually warm up.  That was too much to ask.

It was tiring running into the wind, but it didn’t feel easy running with the wind.  I think the previous two races took too much out of me.  I was never running fast, but it never felt easy.

I finished the first half of the course in 2:06.  That was disappointing, but not entirely surprising.  I knew I would get slower in the second half.  I was tired.  At the aid station, I was able to drink a cup of hot cocoa.  At first it was too hot to drink, but I added just enough cold water to make it easy to drink.  That was wonderful.

As I started my second lap around Seward Park, I turned into the wind again.  It was much stronger now.  I could see white caps on the lake.  I was only running into the wind for the first mile of this loop, but it was tiring.  It was also bitter cold.  The north end of Seward Park is surrounded by the lake, so it’s really exposed to the wind.

As I gradually turned out of the wind, it was still cold, but less tiring.  I briefly had the wind at my back, but then I was sheltered from the wind by the peninsula.  I only had a brief respite from the wind before I would start the next out-and-back.  It wasn’t enough time for my hands to warm up.

The next five miles were brutal.  The wind was much stronger.  I was getting worn out trying to fight the wind.  My hands were painful, and I could no longer move them.  I knew they would be better on the way back, but in the meantime, I worried about frost bite.

When I eventually reached the turnaround, I started to get warmer.  Surprisingly, I noticed a difference in my hands first.  They were still cold, but they no longer hurt, and I could move my fingers again.  In time, I noticed perspiration under my jacket and hat.  I unzipped the front of my jacket.

Once again, running didn’t get easy.  It just wasn’t as difficult.  I wasn’t getting any faster.  My legs got pretty cold going into the wind.  They weren’t as bad a yesterday, but they didn’t quite feel normal.  I shuffled along as best I could.

In the last few miles, I was more exposed to the wind.  Going around a bend in the shoreline, I was right at the water’s edge.  I had about a mile to go.  Suddenly, I could feel the tailwind pushing at my back.  For the first time, I felt like I was going faster.  Some of the gusts seemed to lift me off my feet.  I’ve never felt such a strong wind.

I had been ignoring my watch for most of the race, but I finally pushed up the sleeve of my jacket so I could see it.  As I got closer to the finish, I heard my watch beep.  It displayed my split for the 26th mile.  It was 10:03.  Even with the wind pushing me, I couldn’t run a ten minute mile.  I hate to think how slow I was running into that wind.

I finished in 4:23:17.  Normally, I would be pretty disgusted with that time, but I had seen the handwriting on the wall.  Battling the elements each day is really taking something out of me.

Before doing anything else, I rushed to the port-o-potty.  I had been holding it for about half the race.  I couldn’t stop earlier, because my hands were useless.  Now they finally worked again.  Next, I got my finisher medal.

In addition to the medal, this race also has a nice hooded sweatshirt.  It was nice to get something warm for the cold weather.  I didn’t pack enough warm clothes.

I stayed in the finish area just long enough to have some hot food and hot cocoa.  They had the food in a tent with heaters.  As soon as I ate, I walked back to the car.  I had to rush back to the hotel so I could check out.  Tomorrow’s race is downtown, so I moved to a downtown hotel.

Of the four races in the quadzilla, this is normally my favorite.  I like this course the best.  Unfortunately, I was too preoccupied with the cold wind to be able to enjoy it.

Tomorrow is the Seattle Marathon.  The temperature will be in the upper 20s.  It’s supposed to by sunny, but it sounds like it will be just as windy as today.  I don’t honestly know how I’m going to endure such strong winds on a day that’s colder.

Friday, November 28, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Wishbone Run

Today, I ran the Wishbone Run.  This is the second race of the Seattle Quadzilla.  It’s usually a 27 trail run in Gig Harbor, but because of logging in the area, this year’s race was held on paved paths in Tukwila.

Tukwila is right next to Renton, where I’m staying for the first three nights of my trip.  That meant that even though this race started at 7:30, I still had time to eat breakfast at the hotel before driving to the race.  I didn’t eat that much, but I had plenty to drink.  I wanted to start this race well-hydrated.

When I woke up, it was 53 degrees and raining.  I expected the temperature to drop to 51 and then stay there throughout the race.  The rain might stop, but it would most likely come back.  The hourly forecast showed the chance of rain increasing throughout the morning.  There are two ways to dress for rain.  You can wear some type of rain gear to try to stay dry, or you can accept being wet and wear clothes that will keep you warm enough.  I didn’t want to wear a rain poncho in strong winds, so I opted to wear warm tech clothes.

This is another no frills race.  There’s no entry fee, but runners are asked to make a$20 donation.  The donations go to a local food bank.

The course is a double out-and-back.  According to the website, there are aid stations at the turnarounds.  My recollection is that last year there was also an aid station in between.  Not wanting to repeat the mistake I made yesterday, I carried a handheld bottle.

Last year, there were two places where I followed other runners who made wrong turns.  It was the first time anyone had run this course.  This year, during his pre-race briefing, the RD went out of his way to make sure we knew where the first turn was.  He also mentioned another place where we would turn left instead of right after crossing a bridge.  He said this was different than last year.

It wasn’t raining when the race started.  I realized I would be overdressed until it started raining, but I expected the strong winds to have a cooling effect.  I also planned to start at a slower pace today.

I ran the first two miles in nine minutes each.  I felt sluggish and some of my muscles were tight.  The tightness eventually went away.  The sluggishness didn’t.  I eventually slowed down.  I had hoped to break four hours today, but I abandoned that goal in the early miles.

When we reached the second spot where some of us made a wrong turn last year, it was conspicuously well marked.  There’s no way anybody could have missed that turn.

At four miles, there was an aid station.  I didn’t know for sure if there was one at the turnaround, so I filled my bottle.  Better safe than sorry.

Most of the course is on the Green River Trail.  We cross the river in a few different places.  As we approached one of the bridges, I saw about a dozen runners on the opposite bank.  They were running in the opposite direction.  That didn’t seem right to me.  As we crossed the bridge, I told the runner next to me that I wasn’t sure if the people ahead of us were going the right way.  She pointed out the orange arrows on the pavement.  There were several arrows pointing to the left.  There was one arrow coming back from the right.  Was it possible that we go out one way and comeback form the other direction?  I had my doubts, but I followed the other runners.  The remarks at the pre-race briefing made me think I must have been wrong.

The arrows quickly led us off the trail, down a hill, and through a neighborhood.  Then we turned right onto a sidewalk along a major street.  There were two other runners with me.  We were soon joined by a third.  We all realized by now that we were off the course.  Then the orange arrows ended.

Off in the distance, we could still see a runner ahead of us who had gone the same way.  We was wearing a Waldo outfit.  Before long, he was out of sight.  It’s possible he turned, but we didn’t see where.  Nobody said it, but we were all thinking, “Where’s Waldo?”

We had to improvise.  We ran until our watches said we had gone 6.75 miles. Then we backtracked.  We would run it correctly in the second half.  We were all pretty sure we made our wrong turn after crossing the bridge.

By now, I was really glad that I filled my bottle at four miles.  I had enough Gatorade to make it back to the same aid station.  It still wasn’t raining, and there also wasn’t much wind.  I was overdressed, so I was getting hot. Today, I was careful to stay well-hydrated.

As I neared the end of the first out-and-back, I was wishing it would rain soon.  In the meantime, I was overheating.  I finished the improvised first half in 4:05.  Shortly after I headed out again, it started to rain.  It went from drizzle to a steady rain within a minute.  The drops felt ice cold.  The wind I missed earlier was here now, and it cut through me like a knife.  This was a distinct case of  “Be careful what you wish for.”  I got more than I bargained for.

It didn’t take long before I realized that the shirt I was wearing didn’t shed water like the polypropylene shirt that I usually wear in cold wet conditions.   I packed that shirt, but I wanted to save it.  The next two races will be much colder, and they might also be wet.

I quickly realized that my shirt wasn’t keeping me warm, now that it was wet.  If it had started raining before the halfway mark, I would have run to my car to get a rain poncho.  By the time I realized I needed one, I was almost a mile into my second lap.  Going back now would add almost two miles to my race.  I decided to tough it out.

After another mile, my hands got so cold they began to feel painful and tingly.  My feet started to feel rubbery.  Now I wished I had returned to get a rain poncho before I had gone too far.  I had thoughts of going back – not to get a poncho, but to drop out.  It’s not that I wasn’t willing to endure the discomfort.  I was getting scared.  I still had about 11 miles to go, and I was starting to worry about hypothermia.

I was wearing sunglasses with clear lenses.  The outsides of my lenses were covered with water drops, and the insides were fogging up.  Puddles were forming, and I couldn’t see them.  I could see just well enough to stay on the course, but the puddles seemed invisible against the dark pavement.  When I splashed into them, cold water soaked through my shoes.  Aside from having heavy wet shoes, it was one more thing making me cold.

When I reached the aid station, I briefly entertained thoughts of dropping.  Other than other runners, the aid station volunteers were the only people I would see for the next eight miles.  While I was tempted to ask if someone could give me a ride back, it seemed too selfish.  Even if one of the volunteers was willing to do that, they would have to abandon the aid station.  I hesitated at the aid station, but didn’t say anything.

I still considered turning around, but I would now have to run four miles in the cold rain just to drop out.  I pressed on, even though I couldn’t imagine running another nine and a half miles in this cold.  My bottle was still half full, so I didn’t bother to refill it.  My hands were so stiff that I could barely squeeze the bottle to drink.  I also wasn’t going to be sweating much.

Sabrina Seher caught up to me at the aid station.  Sabrina always wears shorts no matter how cold it is.  Seeing her enduring the cold in shorts and a singlet made me think I should be able to tough it out with all the clothes I was wearing.

When we crossed the bridge, we turned right.  I saw Steve Walters coming back, so I knew we were going the right way this time.  Before long, I started seeing signs saying that the trail was closed for construction.  I saw more runners coming back, so I was reassured.  This was the right way.

After crossing the bridge, we were more exposed to the wind.  It was stronger and colder.  I assumed we must be going into it.  It was still more than two miles to the turnaround.  I was struggling with the cold, but I kept myself going by telling myself that we would have a tailwind coming back.  Hopefully that wouldn’t be as cold.

When I made the turn, I discovered I was wrong.  We had actually been running with the wind.  Now we really did have a headwind, and it was MUCH colder.  It was also getting tired running into it.  At times, there were gusts that almost stopped me in my tracks.  I was getting scared.  It would take me another hour to finish.  I pressed on, because I didn’t have any other choice.  We weren’t within sight of any roads.

After another mile, one of my shoes came untied.  I couldn’t tie it.  My hands were completely numb.  The only way I could hold onto my water bottle was to push the hand strap over my wrist.  I caught up to three other runners and asked if any of them had working hands.  One stopped to try to tie my shoe.  She couldn’t tie a bow, but was able
to knot it for me.  When I resumed running, I realized that stopping, even briefly, had been a mistake.  When I wasn’t moving, I got colder.  My legs barely worked now.

I forced myself to keep moving, but I was slower now.  The first stage of hypothermia includes loss of blood flow to the extremities.  I was already experiencing that in my hands and feet, and now it was starting to affect my legs.

As I got closer to the bridge, I told myself that the wind wouldn’t be as strong on the other side.  It wasn’t as exposed.  I didn’t know it that was true, but I needed hope, even if it was false hope.

As I crossed the bridge, I started having symptoms I’ve never experienced before.  My whole body was shivering.  I couldn’t stop my teeth from chattering.  Then the muscles in my neck, face and jaws felt weird.  It’s hard to describe.  It’s like they were stiff and they were shivering at the same time.  I started to have difficulty breathing.

When I got back to the aid station, I again briefly thought about asking for a ride to the finish area.  This time it didn’t seem selfish.  I was now afraid for my life.  I didn’t ask, because I couldn’t risk stopping, even for a minute.  If I stopped again, and they couldn’t give me a ride, I might not be able to continue on my own power.

I kept checking my watch to see how much farther I needed to run.  It was tough to read my watch.  Visibility wasn’t the only problem.  My brain was getting fuzzy.  Somehow, I had enough focus to look for course markings and recognize landmarks along the route.  Other than that, I couldn’t think clearly.  At times, I thought I might black out at any moment.

After what seemed like an eternity, I reached the only part of the course that’s alongside a major road.  I only had a mile to go.  I saw another runner ahead of me and did my best to follow him in.  My legs were completely stiff.  My muscles didn’t seem to work normally.  I don’t know how I kept moving forward.  I seemed to be running on willpower alone.

I eventually finished in 4:20:29 and got my home made finisher medal.

I walked over to the food table.  The volunteers could see my hands were shaking and suggested I hold boiled potatoes in each hand.  That was warming up my hands, but the rest of my body was getting colder.

Steve Walters, who won the race, was still in the finish area.  I ate the potatoes and asked Steve if he would make sure I got to my car.  One of the volunteers helped me get the keys out of my SpiBelt.  Then Steve wrapped a sweatshirt around my shoulders and walked me to my car.  I didn’t eat any other post-race food, which is a shame.  Among other things, they had huckleberry pancakes.  I had food at the hotel, and that would do.

Once I was sitting in the car, I knew I would be OK.  I was sheltered from the rain and the wind.  It took me two tries to turn the key, but I started the car and turned the heat on.  It was taking a long time to get heat.  In the meantime, my wet clothes were making me colder.  I decided to drive back to the hotel immediately.  My hands were shaking, so I didn’t know at first if I could control the wheel.  I drove slowly through the parking lot, not turning onto the highway until I was sure I could drive safely.  I drove slowly, which probably irritated the drivers behind me.  Fortunately, it was only a five minute drive.

I didn’t take an ice bath today.  I immediately took a hot bath.  When I was warm enough, I ate some snacks in the room.  I had tea, chocolate milk, potato chips and pie.  When I was done eating, I was cold again.  I went to the whirlpool.  Then I took another bath to rinse off the chlorine, and I stretched.

When I had time, I looked at the label of my shirt.  I had assumed it was some type of tech fabric.  It was 100% polyester.  I learned three lessons about tech shirts today.  First, when you get a race shirt that feels like a tech fabric, check the label.  Second, for wet conditions, stick to polypropylene.  Accept no substitutes.  Finally, when it comes to wet conditions, polyester is almost as bad as cotton.

I didn’t mention this to anyone, but this was my 250th lifetime marathon or ultra.  That’s not a major goal.  It’s just a milestone on my way to 300, which IS one of my lifetime goals.  Still, I thought it was something I would celebrate at the finish.  Instead, I was only celebrating my survival.  I was scared today.  The last several miles weren’t even about finishing a race.  I just wanted to get to safety, and I didn’t like my chances in those last few miles.

Tonight, I’m having dinner with a few friends at Smoking Monkey Pizza.  It’s my favorite restaurant in Renton, and it’s becoming a tradition.

The forecast for tomorrow morning is low 30s and snow.  Sunday will be even colder.  Are we having fun yet?