Thursday, November 27, 2014

Race Report: 2014 Wattle Waddle

Today, I ran the Wattle Waddle.  This is a small, no frills race.  It’s also the first race of the Seattle Quadzilla.  The race directors are Empress Turkey-Tush and Giblet (a.k.a. Betsy Rogers and Matt Hagen).  They’ve been putting on this race each Thanksgiving morning for the past five years, largely so people can do a quadzilla.  You don’t have to do the quadzilla, however, to do this race.

The Wattle Waddle is a marathon, but they also have a half marathon, called the Wittle Waddle.  (I am not making this up.)  Both races start and finish at Gas Works Park, on the north side of Lake Union.  They mostly follow the Burke-Gilman Trail, a paved path that goes around the north end of Lake Washington.  Running on the Burke-Gilman Trail always brings back fond memories for me.  In 1990, I had my first Boston qualifier in the Seattle Marathon.  At the time, that race followed the Burke-Gilman Trail.

For the first three days of the quadzilla, I’m staying at a hotel in Renton, which is near the airport.  I stayed here last year and found it to be a convenient location for the second and third races of the quadzilla.  Today was the only day I had to drive a long distance.  It takes about 30 minutes to get to Gas Works Park from Renton.

This race offers race morning packet pickup, but you could also pick up your race packet on Wednesday at Road Runner Sports.  I was tempted to pick up my packet at the store, so I could do some shopping, but it didn’t make sense to drive that far when everyone was on the roads trying to get home for Thanksgiving.

The race started at 8:00, but I wanted to get there before 7:00, so I could see the runners who were doing the early start.  I set my alarm for 5:00, but because of the two hour time difference, I was awake before the alarm.

I never used to eat breakfast before races, but since I started doing triples and quadzillas, I’ve switched to eating something light with a cup or two of tea.  I’m staying at a hotel where I can get a free breakfast, but because it’s a holiday, they didn’t start breakfast until 7:00.  I wanted to leave before that, so I ate some food that I bought yesterday.

The temperature was in the low 50s.  It wasn’t raining when I got up, but there was a 50 percent chance of rain throughout the morning.  Not knowing if it would rain during the race, I dressed for dry weather, but brought rain gear with me to the start.

When I arrived at Gas Works Park, it was still dark, so I was able to get a nighttime photo of downtown Seattle across Lake Union.

Instead of T-shirts, this race usually has something more creative.  Last year we got arm warmers.  This year, we got these beanies.

Here’s a photo of some of the runners who started at 7:00.  Rick Haase got bib number 400 for his 400th marathon.

Just after I took that photo, it started to drizzle.  After that it rained intermittently, so I left my camera in the car.  As it got closer to 8:00, a friend took this photo.

Bob Hearn, Steven Yee, Betsy Rogers and me
 There were two changes to the course this year because of construction.  We used to do a short loop through Gas Works Park before getting onto the Burke-Gilman Trail.  Because of construction, that part of the course wasn’t available.  Instead, we ran farther on the Burke-Gilman Trail before turning around.  There was also a one mile section of the trail with construction, so we had to take a detour on city streets and sidewalks.

The modified course was two out-and-backs.  First, we ran north along the trail for about 11 miles.  After returning to Gas Works Park, we ran west on the trail for just over two miles before returning to the park again.  There aren’t any mile markers, so I wore a watch with GPS.

My main goal for this race was to break four hours.  Since this was the only race of the quadzilla that I would start with fresh legs, I was tempted to go for 3:30.  I would only do that if it didn’t seem like the pace was taking too much out of me.

When the race started, I set out at a pace that was slightly easier than my usual pace.  Through the first five miles, I was averaging eight minutes per mile.  After that, I kept up a similar effort, but didn’t worry about maintaining the pace.  If I happened to run eight minute miles, great.  If I slowed a little, that was OK too.  As it turns out, I stayed on the pace for the first 10 miles.

It rained for the first two miles and then stopped.  I was wearing a light-weight jacket.  When the rain stopped, I started getting hot, so I had to take it off and tie it around my waist.  I also took off my gloves.  At times, I was still hot, because I was wearing the race beanie over my running hat.  I didn’t really need it, but I wanted to get into the spirit of the event.

The aid stations were somewhat more sparse than at larger races.  On the first out-and-back, there was a self-service water stop at four miles, and larger aid stations at 6.5 and 10.5 miles.  We would see the same aid stations on the way back.  The main aid station was at Gas Works Park.  Finally, there was an aid station at the turnaround of the second out-and-back.

I didn’t want to carry a bottle with me.  Since it was a cool day, I figured I could get by just drinking at the aid stations, but I might have to drink more than one cup.  I didn’t want to waste cups, so I carried the Hydrapouch that I bought last year at the Jackson Hole Marathon.  That’s a cupless race.  The Hydrapouch is lightweight and clips to my belt.  It can’t be used to carry water, but you can use it to drink at an aid station without using a cup.

I never saw the self-service aid station, so I didn’t get a chance to drink until the aid station at 6.5 miles.  I filled my Hydrapouch twice.  At 10.5 miles, I only filled it once, but I went through that aid station again after the turnaround.

When I made the turn, I immediately noticed a headwind.  Apparently, the wind was at our backs on the way out.  The wind cooled me down, but it was also slightly tiring.  My pace slowed to about 8:30 per mile.

On the way back, I continued to slow down.  It wasn’t by choice.  I was running out of gas and couldn’t sustain the pace.  In the early miles, I wondered if I was running a bit too fast, but I wasn’t concerned about being able to sustain the pace.  My concern was that if I ran too fast today, it might come back to haunt me in the next three races.  It was disconcerting to be struggling to sustain a pace that would normally feel easy.

Two or three miles before returning to Gas Works Park, I ran up a small hill.  This is a fairly flat course.  I didn’t even notice this hill last year, but this year it slowed me down, and I never recovered.  For the rest of the race, I was struggling to keep going.  Breaking four hours was never in doubt.  Even my slowest mile was faster than the pace I needed to sustain.  What worried me was the way I felt.  I was dragging myself through the last six miles.  I’ve never felt that way on the first day of a double, triple or quadzilla.  I worry about tomorrow.

I finished in 3:43:47.  After finishing, I had a few sweet snacks and three cups of Betsy’s hot apple cider.  I had a water bottle in the car.  I didn’t feel particularly thirsty when I finished, but I emptied that bottle as I drove back to the hotel.   It was only as I was driving back that I realized how thirsty I was.

I’ve been trying to figure out why I struggled so much today.  At first I thought I might not be recovered from my hard effort at the Philadelphia Marathon four days ago.  I now think it’s more likely I got badly dehydrated during the race.  Because it was a cool day, I thought I could get by without drinking much.  That was probably a mistake.

When I got back to the hotel, I made myself a cup of tea.  I also drank three glasses of fat-free chocolate milk.  I also drank some water.  I was still thirsty.

I’ve done everything I usually do to recover from a race when I’m racing again the next day.  I refueled with the chocolate mile and some snacks I had in my room.  I took an ice bath and spent some time in the whirlpool.  I stretched and used my massage stick.

The hotel restaurant has a Thanksgiving dinner buffet tonight, so I know I’ll have a hearty dinner.  My biggest concern is the dehydration.  I’m sure I can be rehydrated by morning, but I don’t know if that’s enough.  It’s possible that getting dehydrated during the race today took something out of me that will have a lasting effect.  Only time will tell.  Tomorrow, I’ll start at a slower pace.  I’ll also be more diligent about hydrating during the race.  Wish me luck.  I may need it.

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