Back in early April my cardiologist gave me the OK to start running again, so long as I took his little magic pills to keep my heart rate down. So I laced the running shoes back on and hit the road. A month later I signed up for the Seattle Rock & Roll Half Marathon and began preparing for it in earnest. The goal, when I signed up was to complete it in 2 hours and 15 minutes, which seemed like a bit of a stretch, but doable.
Training went well and the times for the longer runs started to get back close to what they had been; especially once I learned to take the magic pill after the run rather than before. Running when my heart rate seldom climbed above 120 was pretty hard. So the new goal for today dropped by 10 minutes.
A week or two before the race I got an email from Rock & Roll. Seems like I am an old timer for the event now. This would be my fifth running in Seattle, which was all of them. So I, along with the 650 or so other masochists who had been there every time, would receive a different race bib (it ended up being green rather than blue or yellow like everyone else) and an extra tee shirt. Plus we would be able to start in any corral we wanted to. Of course we always could anyway, and many people do. But I am rule oriented enough that I have to start in my assigned corral; so it was kind of strange having to pick out my own this time around (I picked corral 10 out of at least 48).
I opted to spend the previous night at home and take the 4:50 AM ferry to Seattle in the morning. That got me to the start line about an hour early; time to mill around, stretch some and get ready for the run. The day was clear and fairly warm for the time of year, with no wind. So the warm clothes stayed home and the sun glasses came out to play.
Corral 10 started about 18 minutes after the rabbits left at the head of the pack. I started just behind Elvis and in the midst of a few tutu's and other colorful running outfits. As always, the first mile was slow until we got strung out enough to be able to run at our own pace. And after that I was able to settle into a comfortable rhythm, listening to the bands (mostly just noise to my old ears), watching the cheer squads do their thing, and experience running down a road where the cars speeding by are replaced by several lanes of runners doing their best imitation of a cattle drive. I love being able to run through red lights with impunity, have people handing out water every mile or two, and the crowds encouraging me along the way; quite different than my normal training runs along Waaga Way.
The course starts near the Space Needle, runs down 5th Avenue past I90 and on south another couple of miles before crossing over to Lake Washington and heading back north. We ran through the tunnel on I90 and then stayed on the freeway back into downtown and up onto the viaduct. Finally we made our way through the Battery Street tunnel and wound back around to the Seattle Center for the finish. A finish that was mostly uphill for the last quarter mile, which was pretty painful by that time.
This may well have been my favorite of the Rock and Roll runs in Seattle, although I am not sure why. Part of it is the course, which changed last year to a loop instead of starting in Issaquah and ending at Qwest Field. I ended up walking after the first 3 minutes last year because of a calf problem, so this was really my first run on this course. But mostly I think I was just more into the moment this year and the miles just flew by. Even when I was exhausted at the end, the miles seemed to click by much faster than normal. And by the end I was pretty beat; nothing left for a closing sprint, more like a fight to keep forward momentum going until I crossed the line. One of the volunteers actually asked if I was OK shortly after I had finished.
The finish line area was great. I got my medal, a bottle of water, 3 bottles of chocolate milk, a banana, a fruit smoothie, and several bags of popped corn. Also available were bagels (I couldn't imagine trying to eat a dry bagel after a long hot run), and sports drinks. I loaded up and headed out to the car and the long ride back around the Sound to home (just missed the ferry).
And my official time was 2:02:25; not my best, but much better than expected. That put me 23rd out of 118 in my new age group of 60-64 year old men. I don't know how I placed overall, but I suspect it was in the top third; and I am quite content with that. All around a very good day!