Thursday, November 26, 2015

Race Report: 2015 Wattle Waddle

Happy Thanksgiving!

Today, I ran the Wattle Waddle.  This was the first race of the Seattle Quadzilla.  It’s a small race that starts and finishes at Gas Works Park, on the north side of Lake Union.

The weather was chilly but sunny.  That’s all I could ask for.  Seattle gets plenty of rain at this time of year, so I was relieved to see dry weather in the forecast.  Having just done a race in similar weather, I knew exactly what to wear.

The course begins with a long out-and-back along the Burke-Gilman Trail.  Construction near the University of Washington forced us briefly onto city streets.  After returning to the start/finish area, we did a shorter out-and-back alongside the Fremont Cut.  After each of the out-and-back segments, we ran a short loop through Gas Works Park, including the infamous Kite Hill.

Aid stations are sparse.  Last year, I avoided carrying a bottle, because I was afraid it would slow me down.  That was a warmer day, and I got a little bit dehydrated.  This year, I was going to be slow regardless, so I carried a bottle.

I went into this race feeling banged up.  During the Flying Monkey Marathon, I had more soreness in my right leg than at any other time since May.  Since that race, other muscles have been sore.  I’ve felt particularly sore in my quads and hip flexors.  I also have a tender spot on the bottom of my left foot.

Since returning from a trip to Istanbul, I’ve been waking up early.  I think the latest I’ve slept is 5:00, and that’s in my own time zone.  Now that I’m two time zones farther west, waking up early enough won’t be a problem, but getting enough sleep might.  Last night, I went to bed early.  I woke up at 3:00, but I was able to fall asleep one more time, waking up at 4:00.

In past years, this was the farthest race from my hotel.  This year, I’m staying on the north side of the downtown area, so I didn’t have to drive far.  I arrived at 6:45.  The race started at 8:00, but they had an early start for people needing more than six hours.  I expected to finish within six hours, but just barely.  Since I was there early enough, I took the early start.

Dawn was breaking as we started, so I didn’t need a flashlight.  It was 32 degrees at the start, and there was frost on the grass.  I wore layers, including both gloves and mittens.

This race doesn’t have T-shirts, but it has hats.  This year’s hat was similar to last year, but with different colors.

Most of the other early starters were running in the early miles.  I was a slow enough pace to feel comfortable to me, so I followed the lead group.  I expected to eventually do a mixture of running and walking, but I was still cold, so I needed to run to stay warm.  I occasionally noticed some pain in my left foot, but it was manageable.  Before long, I tuned it out.

We weren’t on the trail long before we reached the detour around a section of the trail that’s under construction.  After a brief tour of the University of Washington, we got onto the trail again.

I always enjoy running on the Burke-Gilman Trail.  The Seattle Marathon used to follow this trail around the north end of Lake Washington.  That’s the course I ran when I did the Seattle Marathon in 1990.  That was my first Boston qualifier, and I had to really fight for it in the late miles.  This race always brings back those memories.

After about six and a half miles, we reached an aid station. I started the race with a 22 oz. bottle filled with orange juice.  In freezing temperatures, I wasn’t drinking that much, so my bottle wasn’t empty yet.  I had enough to make to the next aid station, so I continued without stopping.

By now, the sun was shining through the trees, but it wasn’t hitting the ground yet.  I could still see a thick layer of frost on the grass.  It was supposed to get into the 40s by noon, but I still needed to run to stay warm.

Later, we had constant views of Lake Washington to our right.  I didn’t take any pictures because my hands were too cold.

It was a little over 10 miles to the turnaround.  When I got there, I refilled my bottle with Gatorade and headed back.  It took just over two hours to reach the turn.

Coming back, I eventually warmed up enough to take off my mittens.  I was still wearing a pair of gloves.  After another mile or two, I took off my Tyvek jacket and tied it around my waist.

The aid station in the middle of this out-and-back was the turnaround point for the Wittle Wattle (half marathon).  I got there just as the leaders of that race were arriving.  By now, the marathon leaders (who took the regular start), were catching up me to.  For the next few miles I saw runners coming from both directions.

As I got to the University of Washington campus again, I knew we were getting close to the detour, so I looked for the course markings.  The course was well-marked, and I had no trouble finding my way.  It helped that I remembered most of the turns.

As I got back on the Burke-Gilman Trail, I could tell I was slowing down.  I no  longer needed to run to stay warm, but I was determined to run the rest of this out-and-back before doing any walking.

I finished the first out-and-back in 4:16.  I took 15 minutes longer coming back than I did going out.  Next, I did my first loop through the park, including Kite Hill.

The hill really isn’t that big, but you feel it after running 21 miles.  I was planning to walk up and down the hill.  Then a little girl at the base of the hill said, “You can run for one more minute.  You have to run fast up the hill.”  I resumed running and asked her if it was fast enough.  She said, “Yes.”  When I got to the top, I paused to enjoy the view.  From the top of the hill, you have a good view of downtown Seattle over Lake Union.

I walked down the hill. Then I saw a course marking directing us to run over this hillside.  I don’t remember that being part of the course.  It seemed cruel.

When I got back to the aid station in the start/finish area, I checked my watch.  It read 4:27.  I made a bathroom stop, refilled my bottle, and ate some candy.  Then I began the second out-and-back.  I had an hour and a half to run a little over four miles.  I started walking.

At first, I couldn’t walk fast.  My legs were already sore and stiff.  I worked at improving my pace and evening out my stride.  My stride smoothed out, and I never got much faster.  I noticed my foot more when I started walking.  I couldn’t tune it out, but I could live with it.

The second out-and-back, was along the Fremont Cut, which connects Lake Union to Salmon Bay.  There was a cool breeze here, and I started getting cold.  I had to put on my gloves and jacket.

I walked the entire out-and-back.  At the turn, my time was 5:05. That told me I didn’t have to do any more running to break six hours.  When I got back to Gas Works Park, I had to do Kite Hill one more time.  I forced myself to run the rest of the way, finishing in 5:47:19.

Last year, the finisher medal was made from a wooden fork.  The year before, it was a spoon.  This year’s medal was a napkin ring, complete with a Thanksgiving napkin.

Post-race food included pumpkin pie.  I also had pumpkin pie after my last race.  It’s quickly becoming one of my favorite recovery foods.

After the race, my foot hurt more.  I examined it when I got back to the hotel.  I expected to find a blister, but I didn’t.  It’s just the same tender spot.  Immediately after the race, it hurt.  Now, it already feels better.

The first race of the quadzilla is over.  One down, three to go.  I expect to have sore legs tomorrow, but switching to walking when I did probably helped.

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