Thursday, June 27, 2013

Race Report: Seattle Rock 'n' Roll Half Marathon

Seattle offers so many different outdoor activities we decided to plan a vacation around this half which I was doing for the second year and Julie for the third year.  I met Julie in Seattle around midnight Thursday night and we made our way to our friend Lauren's place for some sleep before that start or our latest  adventure.

Seattle From the Ferry
Friday morning after breakfast we headed down to the docks and caught the 40 minute ferry over to Bainbridge Island.  The skies were overcast but it was offered a great view of the Seattle skyline and my first encounter with a Seattle's Best coffee vending machine.  They take their coffee way too seriously out there.   Once on the other side of the bay we started our drive to the west side of the Olympic peninsula.  The drive takes you through small towns and forest until you reach the larger city of Port Angeles, where we stopped at the wilderness information center to pick up our back woods permit for a couple of nights backpacking in Olympic National Park.  The ranger at the center was very helpful and gave us some good tips about camping at hole in the wall.  After a brief unneeded fuel stop we continued on to Rialto beach.

Riatlo beach is strewn with drift logs and offers wonderful views of the Pacific.  We changed into our boots and headed out for hole in the wall and it's campsites about a mile and a half away.  It may not sound like much but a mile and half over sand and rock made this little hike a nice warm-up for the rest of the week.  

Bald eagle above our camp
We made our way just short of hole in the wall and found that we were the first ones there so we had a pick of the campsites.  We grabbed one near a sea stack with great views and not too far and not too close to the pit toilet, and set up camp.

The view from camp
The high latitude of the Olympics (and Seattle) offers a great deal of sunlight.  It doesn't get dark this time of year until around 10PM, which allowed us to take our time making dinner and gather some wood for a beach campfire.  Despite the light cloud cover the sunset with hole in the wall and the campfire was spectacular.

Sunset at the beach
 After a VERY cold night, we got up early (since is also gets light early here), we packed up camp and headed over to check out hole in the wall and the tide pools surrounding it as the tide was on its way out.   Left by the receding water was star fish (I guess they're called sea stars now?), anemones, muscles and more.  We took some time to walk through the hole and explore the area before heading back to collect our packs  and head back to the car so we could make our way over to the Hoh rain forest.

The Hoh rain forest is about an hour and a half drive from Rialto beach which takes you directly through Forks, WA which is known only for the Twilight series books (and movies).   Warnings aside we didn't see any Vampire nor werewolves while in town.

After a quick lunch in Forks, we arrived at the Hoh and started our hike to Five Mile Island along the Hoh river trail.  The hike takes you through lush rain forest with ferns, waterfalls and two hundred plus year old tree covered with moss.  

As we made our way up the trail I made my way ahead at a faster pace to claim a campsite.  I was trucking along when just about 200 feet from the turn to head to our campsite I passed a tree and heard a snap to my right.  I looked and froze as less than 10 feet to my right was a black bear.  As a quickly reached for my bear spray he lowered his head and pawed at the ground but didn't charge. I found my spray and readied it then reached for the next most important piece of equipment, my video camera.  After about 30 seconds or so of this staring contest and my asking him to leave buddy the bear seemed to lose interest and went back to munching on greens (and thankfully not my face).  I started to back away and when I was at a safer distance restarted the camera, but the adrenaline was pumping too much and I double taped the button resulting in no additional video of the bear (and the deer that decided the beer was no biggie) and some fun 'Blair Witch' type video of the ground and trees, but I did manage to grab a few pictures of both.  Eventually I made my way back to Julie and as we headed back towards the campsites, buddy the bear was gone so we made camp by the Hoh River for the night.

Buddy the bear

Hoh river campsite
The next morning we broke camp and headed back the way we came without any visits from buddy the bear nor sightings of bigfoot and made our way back to the car.  With the good timing that only we have, the rain forest was dry until the last 100 feet as we neared the ranger station on our way out!  A restful ride back towards Port Angeles and we arrived at the Lake Crescent lodge where we would be spending the rest of our time in Olympic National Park.

Deer outside out door

The next morning we made our way to Adventures Through Kayak about 25 minutes up the road for a day of Kayaking and Mountain Biking.  The Kayak trip was very full with 6 double kayaks making their way out into the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and the animals put on a show for us.  We saw, otters, a school of small salmon, bald eagles, and even a porpoise off in the distance.  The paddle offered spectacular views of the coast and we were even able to catch a little sun!

River Otters

After the paddle we made our way back to the shop for a quick lunch before getting fitted for our mountain bikes and shipped out to the trail.  ATK starts you at a point where there is a wide open circular track to get you used to the bikes which is a good thing if you're not used to disc brakes (they works really well and get really hot so you shouldn't touch them I now know that now) and not used to hairpin turns, the first of which sent Julie sling-shotting into the bush.  This is when I was thinking, "maybe this wasn't such a good idea", but she came up laughing so that's a good sign.  We headed down the trail, and I think it might have been the most fun on the trip!  The first part was downhill allowing you to go fast but we were both taking it relatively slow but the trees were still whipping by at a good pace.  I wished, not for the last time on this trip, I had invested in a GoPro camera.

Eventually we bottomed out and we had to start to climb.  Thankfully these bikes were about a third of the weight of our $100 target specials back home, even so the climb was still a challenge, but when we topped out at the living room we were greeted by a gorgeous view of the Elwha river valley.

Who harvests the trees and leaves THOSE TWO in the middle of the view?
After a short break to let our legs recover it was back down the other side and through the woods to the van which would take us back to the shop.  Our guides Chris and Ben were great and both made us feel comfortable on the trail.

After returning to the shop the guys and gals at ATK have one more treat for you, a coupon for a free wine tasting at Harbinger Winery which is right next door, to save you the $5 tasting fee.  Don't mind if I do.  We headed over and the newly remodeled tasting room was all ours, so we settled up to the bar.  After the wine tasting I partook in the beer tasting as Julie picked out some wines for us to take home, looks like Julie is driving!  

Tuesday we headed back to Port Angeles and up to hurricane ridge.  We took our time making our way up the 12 miles to the ridge stopping at turnouts to take pictures.  Once at the top we were rewarded with amazing views of the Olympics. We stayed there a while, taking in the views and taking more pictures before we hiked up a small ridge for some lunch.
Ski Patrol

Out lunch view
On our way back to the lodge we headed up the Elwha River park of the park, but it was mostly closed due to the NPS demolishing a dam on the River, then back to the lodge for one of our bottles of wine and the USA vs. Honduras World Cup Qualifier on the Watch ESPN app on my phone and the Lodge's Wi-Fi.

The next day we woke up early to be able to Kayak in crescent lake a bit before we headed back to civilization.  The lake is BIG.  If we rented the Kayaks all day we would probably be able to get all the way around, probably, but today we were only doing an hour and the winds were up which made where we wanted to go (the other side which you could only get to by boat or hiking) a bit scary.  The lake's size and temperature along with the wind meant that if we were to capsize we were in some serious trouble, but we made it across the wavy surface to explore and take some more pictures.

Yup that's a picnic table in the water

After traversing back across we packed up our stuff and grabbed a bagged lunch for the drive back to Seattle.  Since we had some time we planned to drive the long way around the west side of the peninsula which takes about four and a half hours vs. the two and a half via the east side and ferry, but offers a ride through Forks again (still no vamps nor werewolves) some different woods and along the coast where we stopped for lunch at Ruby beach which provided several sea stacks and plenty of driftwood to use as a picnic table.  Once 101 turns back from the coast though the views start to diminish, but did provide the opportunity to try my first drive through espresso truck.  Filled full of caffeine the drive to Seattle flew by, and we returned our rental car and met up with Lauren for dinner and to set up shop at her condo.

Thursday was expo day so I slept in while the ladies got up and studied and worked.  Mid-morning we were off to Pike Place Market for breakfast, with great views of the sound and giant breakfast sandwiches to hold us until dinner.  After a quick stop at the U of WA Husky Store, we made our way over to Century Link Field for the expo and to meet up with Julie's cousin Sue.  The expo opened at noon and we arrived around one making it relatively not crowded, and allowing us to be able to move amongst the vendors freely.  I grab a Seattle shirt with a trident reminiscent of the old Mariners baseball logo but green (Julie has me pick her up the same one in blue on race day), and we grab our snacks to hold us during the hike we're planning on later, along with a chocolate covered marshmallow at the hot chocolate run booth because they are delicious. We also made a sign for Lena our Nashville Crew member who was missing Seattle due to a broken leg. 
While there I headed over to the Books running booth to get a gait analysis.  I've had them before but seeing the one that they did Portland, it looked much more in-depth with the rep taking video and photos of your stride via an iPad and using it to review the angle at which your foot is landing, something that can't be just done by watching me run outside the store.  In the end I end up in the same shoe that I am currently in (always good to be running in the right shoe) and the analysis is sent to me via e-mail.

Once we've had our fill of free stuff we make out way to the car to figure out which hike we want to do.  After much lobbing by me we're headed to Poo Poo Point!  How can you not want to hike something with that name???  
Free Snacks
The hike was about two miles of fairly steep terrain and was starting to get muddy as the non-Seattle like rain continued to pour down.  I was just wearing sneakers as Julie made me get out in the lake the day before to pull the boat ashore but I'm able to manage.  Poo Poo Point (admit it you just smiled reading that name) is known for its hang-gliding and paragliding launch.  When you reach Poo Poo Point it's got a steep downhill which has been covered by artificial turf to give the gliders some traction as they take off.  Even with the low clouds the views are spectacular.
The view is no poo poo
We make out way down from Poo Poo Point (sorry had to throw it in one more time) and headed back to Seattle to dry out and pick up Lauren's Friend Amanda to round out our crew and eat some ice cream cake to celebrate her birthday.

Friday we headed out towards Woodinbridge to pre-hydrate with some wine tasting.  One the way we stopped at Maltby Cafe which serves big breakfasts, highlighted by a cinnamon bun which is about eight inches in diameter and about four inches thick!  How this breakfast isn't on Man vs. Food is just a travesty.  
After that feast we needed time to digest so we headed over to Redmond to meet up with Sue's husband Joe, at his construction site which will soon be Hi-Fi brewery and tap room to get a tour. The space is coming along nicely and they have all of the brewing equipment in so hopefully it won't be long now.  We even got to try one of the first beers they'll have on tap, a nice IPA.  If you're ever in town be sure to stop by!

At least one of us is excited about beer
Being with a pilot and the majority of our wine tasting time was spent at Airfield Estates which turned out to be a good find.  Brought in by the biplane on their label we stayed for the good wine! They had several varieties to try and Dave, our pourer, was great at telling stories and telling us about the wine. 


A couple of hours and wine club membership for Amanda later, we walked out a case of wine heavier before heading over to Sue and Joe's for a pre-race BBQ of salmon, burgers, steaks and great views of Mount Si before heading back to grab some sleep for the race in the morning

Mount Si
Saturday morning race day!!!  I got up at 5AM for the 7AM start time and began my pre-race rituals. Eventually the rest of the group joined us and just after seven we started our walk towards the corals. The race had 48 corals so we figured that we would be able to make it the half mile to the start and into a middle coral with ease, and we were, starting in coral number 23.

The race started on a downhill following the monorail and headed south towards Tacoma.  The weather was about as nice you could ask for, but after mile five it started to get a bit warm, as the course turned to head down Rainer ave which provided a great view of said mountain.  Somehow I missed it, but thankfully Julie did not, before heading towards lake Washington.  
Running under the monorail
Rainer in the distance
Last year just before the lake we were greeted with a hill that was gained about 750 feet in less than a quarter of a mile, only to immediately lose all of that elevation in the same amount of time.  As I reached  lake Washington I realized that this wasn't going to be repeated this year, score!

Headed towards lake Washington under the rocker man
At the lake the marathon course splits from the half marathon course.  While us half marathoners just turn left the marathoners turn right for 6 miles and then end up right next to us again.  It's a bit of a buzz kill to see someone race right by you when they're at mile 13 and you're only at mile 7.
Funky robot
From there the course takes another interesting turn as you run up and onto 90 and into a three-quarter of a mile tunnel.  Yup the same interstate as the mass pike is being used as part of race course on the west coast.  The tunnel puts you out heading back into town with a view of Safeco and Century Link fields along with Puget sound, and also puts you on a long downhill before turning right and having you run (on the highway again) along the sound.

Here you'll find another unique part of running in Seattle, pitched roads.  I assume it's to help drain away the rain they get but some of the roads along the last couple of miles were more like something you would find making the turn at the Daytona 500 rather than a downtown interstate, an my knees (and time) paid the price.  

The final part of the race does a slight U turn and heads back to finish up a nice hill right near the space needle, and I finished with an official time of 2:36:44, 11 seconds faster than last year.  I grabbed by Gatorade and Jamba Juice, and then headed over to the heavy medal tent.  When you hit five you can pick up your heavy medal at the race rather than it being mailed to you, and medal number three on the day is the Pacific Peaks medal for finishing both Portland and Seattle in the same year!  My Seattle half finisher, rock star and pacific peaks medals bending my neck, I started back to Lauren's for our post-race BBQ on her roof deck.

Julie passes a band

Showing off the bling
Seattle Panorama from the roof deck BBQ
Sunday and the festivities aren't done yet!  For the second year in a row we rafted with River Recreation except this year we moved up from the Class III/IV rapids of the Wenatchee into the class IV/V white water of the Skykomish River.  The trip started a bit in auspiciously as we had some trouble finding the meeting spot but we made it with enough time to sign our life away on the waiver and get changed into our wet suits before heading down to the river for our safety briefing.

I was a bit leery of a couple who we might get grouped with because they didn't look the most sure of themselves despite claiming to have rafted before, but ultimately we were only stuck with one random person, John, who proved to be more than enough random for us and our guide, Nibbles.  

We headed out and from the start this trip was much more intense than last year with a lot of consecutive rapids for about the first hour.  Everything was going pretty well despite John not listening to our guide and just stopping paddling when he left like it, until two rapids before the class V.  At this point John was slow to or just didn't paddle which turned the boat and resulted in us getting pushed into a hole.  The left side of the boat was pushed under and I was ass over tea kettle into the 35 degree river (according to Nibbles the official temperature was "cold as fuck").  I took a quick look back and saw Julie, Sue and even Nibbles went for a swim.  

I was still with the boat as I was able to hold on to the OS rope (yes that stands for outside safety) and John took this opportunity to try and pull me back in, but we were still in the rapids so both Nibbles and I told him to leave me and paddle leaving me to butt surf for a set.  Back in the boat I was out of breath from the combination of swimming, climbing back into the boat and the cold as fuck water, but we were able to navigate the rest of those rapids before we pulled out of the river to scout out the class V rapids.

Our group of guides told us that we would be doing this scouting trip before we got on the river, it gave them a chance to pick the lines they'll run and give any passengers a chance to say they don't want to do it and walk that stretch of river.  No one bagged out and we watched from shore as the safety boat and first boat took their respective turns over the rapids then it was our turn.

Nibbles had told us that we'll go over a small drop (about 6 ft.) and then the river will do one of two things, turn us left (which is what we want to have happen) or keep us there.  Either way we need to be prepared to paddle once we get down there.  He also told us that he's been down this river since he was young and has never swam this part and didn't intend to start (we learned at the end that of the 40+ times he had run this river, this was only the second time he'd actually guided people).  We started down the rapids and navigated the first pool and down the drop, the boat turned left and nibbles told us to go, which is when John decided to post for the camera person on the side of the river.  Luckily this time Nibbles was able to correct us and we made it out and eddied behind a boulder on the left side of the river.

A couple of minutes the last boat started down, which included the couple I was leery about, and a couple of people stopped paddling and just like that all but one of the people in the boat were swimming 95% of the class V rapids including the drop.  The couple in their yellow helmets went down together, the guy in the boat fell out at the drop and managed to stay with the boat along with one other of this crew while the last person from the three man crew took the mixer down getting a concussion for his troubles. Once they were clear of the drop our crew got to learn some swift water rescue techniques.  

 The first boat made its way out and grabbed the man who ended up with the concussion and the woman of the couple, while the male portion of couple was picked up by the safety boat.  We paddled over to the two hanging on to their boats.  Thankfully I had switched sides with Lauren and was seated behind John who wasn't paddling and wasn't able to decide who to get in the boat first.  I told him to paddle and I pulled in the swimmers, one of which who had hit a rock and has a bloody lip but was no worse for the wear.  Our now crowded boat navigated the rest of the rapids until it could eddy out again, where we waited for the guide of the empty boat who had made is to the river bank suspiciously quick.

A guide who was on our trip learning the river was able to jump in the empty boat and guide it to safety near our boat.  The safety boat with the guide and male half of the couple joined us leaving us with the guy in our boat and after a brief discussion,  the guides decided the best thing to do was keep everyone where they were and navigate the last rapid before lunch and reload the now empty boat there which left our boat with eight people plus the guide to navigate the last rapids.  

The crowded space didn't leave much room to paddle, and as we started down the rapids bumping ensued and Lauren was thrown for her swim.  We were able to get her back in the boat and headed for the beach and lunch.  After lunch we made one more stop to drop off the guy with the concussion to be driven back to our meeting/take out point, and the rest of the trip passed without incident.  
As we neared our take out point an ambulance made its way across the bridge above us and was working on the man with the concussion when we arrived and he was transported to the hospital as a precaution.  The moral of the story?  Only raft if you have enough people to fill the boat and you trust doing what they are told!

As we got changed we ran into our guide from last year, Jamie, and took one more picture with our get well soon sign for Lena.  We made our way back to Seattle for the last night of our vacation and sushi at Ohnana restaurant and tiki bar.  All in all a great trip and a race I would recommend to anyone, especially if you're in the rafting circle of trust.

The last part of our river




Segment Pace

Overall Page

















Overall: 8,1 out of 12,367 Division: 703 out of 830  Gender: 3,530 out of 4,404

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