Monthly Archives: November 2012

what, a wattle waddle?

The Wattle Waddle Marathon takes the crown for the race title most difficult to get right.  I’d munged Wittle and Wattle with Waddle every time I mentioned it. 

See what I mean?

In any case, I’d wanted to do at least one more event in 2012, and the Wattle Waddle fit the bill.  The first of the infamous Seattle Quadzilla events, it draws many Marathon Maniacs and Half Fanatics who wish to do four events in four days.  Note to the reader – the Wittle Waddle is the Half Marathon event, run on the same day as the Wattle Waddle.  At least I think this is right.


picture by takao suzuki

I had no plans to do the other three Quadzilla events held on the Seattle Marathon weekend.  Following the Grand Ridge 50k the previous weekend, I was tired.


The course was pretty straightforward.  We’d wind a loop around Gas Works Park, and then head north on the Burke Gilman Trail for about 10 1/2 miles.  We’d turn around, head back to the park, and then do a 5 mile out a back stint to Ballard, before coming back to the park.  One park loop later, and we’re done.


a beautiful morning for a run in seattle


the gasworks in the park.  seems more like an idea for a superfund site than a park, but it’s a pretty nice spot.

One of the things I love about smaller local events is that getting to them doesn’t require much lead time.  This race started at 8am.  Factoring in travel, check-in, and eating something, I could sleep in until about 6:15 and get there in plenty of time.  So that’s what I did, arriving at Gas Works Park, fed and relaxed at 7:20.


a motley crew of Thanksgiving Day marathoners – picture by Steve Walters.

And there were lots of friends there – Eastside Runner friends, familiar Marathon Maniac faces among them.  We lined up for a group photo, and then embarked at 8 sharp.


the view looking up Kite Hill – picture by Tory Klementsen.

First thing we did was a loop of the park, including a trip up Kite Hill – probably the steepest climb of the entire course.  By the time we wound our way back to the Burke Gilman Trail, I’d fallen in with my friend Bob. Although the overall split time for that first mile was long, the initial pace along the trail felt a bit fast for me.  Each time I’d check my GPS, it would tell me that we were doing a sub-8:30 pace – about 30 seconds faster than my target.  The course was flat, so best to leave some spring in my legs for the middle miles. 

As we headed north along the trail, Bob and I talked about running and life.  We’d first met out on the course of the 2005 Nookachamps Half, and have had the opportunity to share miles together over the years.  Doing this with friends can make the miles fly by.  As we ran and talked, it was a kick catching familiar faces coming along the other side of the trail – some were faster runners, some had taken the early start.


heading north on the Burke Gilman Trail – picture by Michael Hsu

The turnaround point on the north end of the course happened at about 11 miles, and we enjoyed some fluids before heading back.  Our splits had edged up into the 9:15-9:30 range, which would put us above 4 hours for the race.  This wasn’t a big deal – the pace felt pretty good.

We got separated around mile 15, and I decided to push myself a bit more.  My splits through mile 21 were all under 8:30.  By the time I rolled into the aid station at the start/finish area, before heading out for the 5 mile out and back stretch over to Ballard, I was definitely feeling the miles.  Running solo and being tired made the miles feel longer than before.  It only took about 20 minutes to reach the turnaround in Ballard, but I was ready to be done.

My splits for the last two miles were pretty good, still under 8:30, although it felt harder.  I came back into the park, and had to do the same loop around that we’d started with.  That final trip up Kite Hill felt like a bad joke, but soon enough I did the loop around the Gasworks, and crossed the finish. 

I’d just completed my 40th marathon, and my 12th marathon or ultras for calendar year 2012.  Most importantly, I had lots of fun doing it.

charts and graphs for running geeks


50k on grand ridge

One of my goals this year was to do more trail events.  My rationale was that trail running is more beautiful than hitting the road, less pounding on the body, and can be more challenging in a good sort of way.  So coming off of the Fort Steilacoom Marathon several weeks back, I registered for yet another Evergreen Trail Runs event – the Grand Ridge 50k.

My training mileage volume this month had been okay, but the quality had been a bit sub-par.  My motivation was low, and I’d been feeling a bit restless.  The curtain of fall had come down pretty hard on us – the days were getting short again, and the rain was pretty constant.  I’d been pushing to reach some running goals too – I was getting closer, but there was still some work involved in hitting them.  And that can be hard, particularly under a gray Seattle November sky.

Grand Ridge Trail Run-380 (ZF-10353-14932-1-001)

enjoying mile 24 of the Grand Ridge 50k – photo by Steve Sanders

When we lined up at the start of the Grand Ridge 50k, I wasn’t sure what kind of a day it would be.  My hill work had been sparse – not what you’d like heading into an event with 5000’ of ascent involved.  And I was likely to do most of it solo.  I didn’t have any close running buddies to lean on this time around.  The good news is that Evergreen really knows how to put on an event.  They’re great at keeping things simple and low-key, while providing the support you need. 

We started just about on time, with the weather dry and balmy for November.  I took things a bit briskly until we hit the first hill, a nice long climb up to the ridge.  The course was pretty straightforward – we’d do two half-marathons, followed by a five miler.  I let my mind drift pretty quickly, so didn’t really get to know the course that well the first time up.  This was a good thing to do, as the climb might have loomed larger in my mind (we’d do this three times).

We hit the aid station at Grand Ridge Drive four miles in, and then embarked on a nice downhill stretch on the first part of the out-and-back stretch for the half-marathon course.  Where there were hills, they rolled.  This made both my legs and spirit happy.  This was a nice course.  The next six miles flew by, and I returned to the Grand Ridge aid station to down a peanut butter and banana sandwich, washed down with Nuun and Cytomax.  Not fancy weekend brunch fare, but it works well when running trails. 

On the shorter route back to the start, we flew down the hill, careening around switchbacks.  Note that when you’re flying early, often you’ll crash later. 

I hit the turnaround at the start at about 2:41 – about what I’d expected.  The course was still dry, but it had gotten chillier.  So I downed more fuel, and headed out again pretty quickly.

The second time around the half marathon course was tougher.  I did more walking on the initial climb, and found that out and back stretch on the other side of Grand Ridge drive, just a bit longer than before.  On the trip back in, I fell in with a group of younger guys who were doing their first marathon.  The late mile glumness had set in for them, and when I remarked at how nice the course was, they responded “Yeah, I’d like to come back here sometime when I’m not running a marathon so we can enjoy it”.

They were clearly faster than I was, but weren’t used to the distance or the hills, so I passed them.  I traded places a couple of times with one of them – name was Jared.  We talked for a while.  He asked me how many marathons I’d run – and was surprised at the answer (this was my 48th marathon or ultra).  We talked for a while about how he’d already done the most difficult part (getting to the starting line), and how he could be really proud of this.  I shared some of Scott Jurek’s writing that I’d found very inspirational – “I run because I can” and “this is what you came for”.  And then a few minutes later, when we hit that downhill stretch off of the ridge, he rocketed past me – clearly feeling better.

By the time I hit the turnaround again, the rain was coming down pretty hard.  It was cold, and my own motivation was waning.  The second half marathon had taken me about 3 hours.  This was a twenty minute positive split, and was also the same amount of time I’d spent walking the Seattle Half four years ago.  Amazing how these hills can slow you down.  And just as my own inner whining started I reminded myself that “this is what I came for” too, and headed up the ridge one last time.

That final five miles was some plodding.  I walked much of the climb up the ridge, and thought that the turn that took the five mile course away from the half would never show up.  When it finally did, I felt great – knowing that the hard part was over, and that I could glide back downhill now.

Grand Ridge Trail Run-626 (ZF-7136-01707-1-001)

definitely not gliding on that last downhill – photo by Steve Sanders

Well – gliding wasn’t really how it felt.  My turns on the switchbacks were tentative, given my fatigue.  But when I hit the final stretch, as the trail exited out to the forest road, I tested myself a bit and pushed the pace.  I still wasn’t gliding, but felt good that I could muster a decent pace after traveling thirty plus miles.

I crossed the line in 6:52:20, gathered my stuff, and went to get warm.  By the time I made it back to the car, I was so cold and wet that it was a struggle to get my dry clothes on.  I cranked the heat on, downed a nice fish burrito, and caught the end of a board game gathering at my younger daughter’s school.

Reflecting on the day is pretty nice.  I’d gone out and challenged myself nicely, while still keeping it fun.  And at the end of the day I was able to enjoy reentry back into real life.  Nice day on the ridge.


evidence that GPS devices do indeed lie sometimes.  the numbers should be mile splits – and that big zig-zaggy stuff was not me teleporting.