The 98.75 Mile Adventure

SNOWING on March 15th, right here on Phinney Ridge! HUGE snowflakes – perhaps the largest I’ve ever seen – and me – getting ready to head to the Leprechaun Run in Rochester, WA!

Turns out that my friend Jesse and me were in for an adventure:

  1. Make it to Rochester WA (Rochester, WHERE?) by 10.40 AM for the race
  2. Survive the snowy conditions out on the course
  3. Make it back to Seattle for a pint and a burger!

I haven’t ever raced a 10 miler before, although I’ve run plenty of 10 milers. And Jesse was running his first ever 10K – so – there was enough new in the day that the snowfall was a bit of a game changer.

We traded some quick text messages early in the morning, and decided to brave the weather and see what we could find out. (Oh, and for you that know a lot more about snowy climes? What you probably don’t know is that Seattle is HILLY and the City is more than under-prepared for snow. A couple of inches shuts us down, like it or not – and the forecast heading South wasn’t great)

I slide down the hill to Jesse’s place, we hoofed it to his car (our warm-up, as it would turn out) – because of the parking zones, (and because I misread his address) it was a decent sized hike. And then because someone took out his driver side mirror – we made it to the freeway making all right turns!

Interstate 5 was a mixed bag – several inches of wet snow and a LOT of water. And half a dozen cars, hydroplaned this way and that –some with emergency vehicles still on site. We drove carefully – but we had 88.75 miles to go – and while we’d left a cushion – we hadn’t really expected to drive in snow the whole way!

We were diverted by good conversation and the fake “gas next left” sign – you know: The sign that really means that you’ll find a gas station between here and New Mexico if you just hand a left. Well –we did find a gas station, but it was 3 or 4 miles out of the way. We gassed up and, um, gassed out, if you get what I mean – we didn’t know for sure what the bathroom situation might look like at the race – so we took advantage of the facilities prior to hitting the road!

I kept telling Jesse that I could see the sun – and he kept not believing me. Turns out – he was right –we had mixed snow and rain all of the way to lovely Rochester, where we pulled into the Swede Hall image

at 10.25 – not early and not late for our 10.40 start.

But wait! They decided to start us ALL at once – not a bad idea, given that the weather had deterred most of the runners. We’d barely grabbed our registration packs when they called the 2 minute warning!

I quickly changed into my Batman suit: All black – tights, long sleeved tee, black gloves, black hat. It’s slimming, doncha know – and anything that helps me feel lean and fast is a good idea. Jesse was already dressed for success, so we sloshed out the door and to the starting line.

I had just enough time to wish Jesse well on his inaugural race when the gun went off! We ran around the drive and out onto the street and the race was on!

This was a change of venue – so we didn’t know anything about hills, course markings, water, and the like. All I knew for sure was that I was running a 10-miler. There were about a dozen people in front of me on the road, which was still pretty slushy – my feet were soaked and frozen almost immediately.

We ran alongside of the road – and when we ran under a tree, we were soaked from above, too –the snow was melting rapidly – but there wasn’t really anywhere else to go (save for oncoming traffic) so I knew it was going to be a wet run!

Everyone was wearing the same kind of race tag – so I didn’t know who else was in the 10 mile run. At the first water stop, about half of the runners turned around (for the 5k) – leaving me to wonder about the 6-8 people in front of me.

I’d lost my heart rate strap, and while I had my watch – none of the miles were marked –so I really couldn’t tell how hard I was running, or how fast. It’s been pretty fun to run with less information than normal – it reminded me a bit of my very early running – when having a watch was the best you could do!

I felt pretty good, though, save for my feet, which were freezing. I spotted a couple of runners turning around and heading back my way, so I knew I was near the 3.1 mile mark. When I got there, a quick glance at my watch let me know that I was under an 8-minute per mile pace – but I didn’t do the math to see how far under. I was HOPING for a 7.30 pace – and felt like that was still possible. So – I sped up a bit!

There seemed to be 3 people left in front of me. One of them pulled over with a sore calf, while the other one continued. Now, I’ve run a LOT of races in my life, and at a few small races have even managed to place in my age group. But I’ve never made it to the top three in a race – and all of a sudden I could see that odds were stacked in my favor! 2 people in front of me meant that unless someone caught me from behind – I was on track for a top three finish!

I sped up a tad more, all the while wondering if the other two people were running the 10 miler or one of the longer races. I caught the number 2 guy, and saw the runner in front of me make the turn. I waved as he headed back my way, and tried to decide if he looked like he was getting stronger or weaker – but I couldn’t tell!

I hit the turn  around at 37 minutes or so – a 7.27 pace. I still felt good – and – if I could hang on to that pace, or run a bit faster, I knew I’d hit my race target. It helped to be heading back to home, and it helped to know that there was just one guy in front of me.

Or was there? He was NOWHERE to be seen! He only had a minute or so on me – and I’d had him in line of sight the whole race. There was one turn (about a mile back) – but it didn’t seem likely that he’d been able to put on a burst of speed and leave me that far in the dust!

By now, my feet had finally warmed up, and I knew what to expect, distance-wise. I got up a bit more on my toes, worked my arm swing a bit, and drank in more air, and decided to see if I could run a faster second half of the race – and maybe catch that guy in front of me!

The other runners were headed my way in groups of ones, twos and threes – and since all of us were running on the same side of the road – I couldn’t spot my guy. I pushed on, and when I got to the 10k turnaround, I knew that I had just over three miles to go. Without mile markers, I couldn’t say for SURE that I was running faster – but it felt like it. My muscles ached a bit, I was breathing harder and faster, and my feet were still warm. I thought – “Three miles? I can do ANYTHING for 3 miles!” and picked up the pace again!

The single spectator cheered from the school parking lot across from the turnaround – what a blessing. And the other runners coming my way told me a looked great. Must have been that Batman suit!

By now I was tiring, and the guy in front was still nowhere to be seen. I fell off my pace for a minute, but then realized that I was having a really terrific run – despite the damp – I was comfortable, I was able to run hard, I was still smiling – and in a few minutes, I’d get to find out how Jesse had fared in his first race!

I got back up on my toes and started looking for that first turnaround – where the 3k folks had made their turn. I knew that when I saw that, I had just over a mile and a half to go. I spotted it, sped up, and started doing math.

Now, I’m not good at math under the BEST of circumstances, and this was definitely not the best of circumstances! I had to transfer kilometers to miles, and I was working with times that were going to creep over the one hour mark! Nevertheless – I knew that if i hit 75 minutes, I’d be just at 7.30 pace, and anything underneath would be a bonus. It seemed likely – I’d picked up the pace a fair bit since turning for home – and with just a mile and a half or so left, I could tell myself that I just needed to run hard for another 10 or 11 minutes!

Which I did. I had a bad case of nerves when I saw the half mile marking – -right next to an unmarked turn! I opted to stay on the road (whew – good call!) and soon spotted the turn for the finish!

There wasn’t anyone there, so I made the same loop as when we’d left just over an hour ago. As I steamed across the finish line (I mentioned it was damp!) a woman told me I had to keep going. I was crestfallen – if THAT wasn’t ten miles, then, well – I wasn’t as speedy as I thought!

The race director popped out though, and let me know that I HAD finished properly, and the clock read 1.12.55 –  so I’d managed to run the second half of the race faster than the first – at a 7.07 pace!

I teetered into the hall – Jesse was there already – turns out he’d also had a terrific first race – finishing 2nd overall (and, I think, first in his age group!)

I was pretty sure I was 2nd overall and had no idea about age group placement – when the race director walked over and handed me a trophy. “Second place?” I said, and he replied “No – you won the 10 miler!”

I have NO idea what happened to the other runner – maybe he wasn’t running the race, or stopped for some reason.

By now the sun was actually out – so after snacks and water, Jesse and I headed back to Seattle for a well deserved pint and hamburger. Look out Rochester – see you next year!

Leprechaun Classic Trophy


One Comment to “The 98.75 Mile Adventure”

  1. Congrats on your win, big guy!!!!Chris

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