Monday, June 21, 2010

Emerald City Run

No…this is not the Wizard of Oz story, but another running log of a great run in a great city. The land of Curt Cobain, Starbucks, and the wettest city in the West. Seattle was the latest city that showed up on my work schedule, and as always, I packed the Asics, Garmin, and running gear to explore a new run.

As usual, I consulted the audience of twitterland, DailyMile, and MapMyRun.Com to see what was recommended in Seattle. I’ve had some cool runs (literally) in Bellevue before and for those not from (or have never been,) Seattle has gorgeous terrain with a mix of mountains (St. Helens, and Mt. Rainier fame,) ocean, and some serious trees from all that rain. You put a pencil outside and it will have moss on it within a week, but runners like their cool temps.

I owe a special shout out to twitter runner @wsearunner for providing an awesome list to pick from below which was tough to choose from, but settled on Alki beach. I’ve been to Seattle countless times and never saw a beach; plenty of hotels, restaurants, office buildings, coffee shops…”they have a beach in Seattle?” For some reason, I thought it was not really a beach city—kinda like San Francisco. I guess I fail geography.

Bellevue / Eastside
Like every metropolis there is some kind of divide in town - here it's "East Side" and "Seattle." Seattle is on the water so we the sea level option. Bellevue is suburbia but as you get closer to the Cascade Mountains you hit more and better trail running.

Downtown Bellevue has little to offer but if you want to street run you can get out there. I'm guessing you're staying in the central business area. If you do want to run on the streets then I'd suggest the Marina area in Kirkland but there are better options in Seattle.

Most of what I run on the East Side is trails so I'm a little biased toward that medium.

1. Bridle Trails,-122.158022&sspn=0.013424,0.022552&gl=us&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Bridle+Trails,+Bellevue,+Washington&ll=47.650183,-122.164021&spn=0.053599,0.090208&z=14

I have honestly not run much here but for Bellevue / Kirkland this is a hidden forest in the middle of town about 3 miles from downtown Bellevue. There are lots of horses here but the trails are nice. Not terribly hilly or interesting otherwise.

2. Cougar Mountain\

Probably the coolest place to run around the East Side - 36 miles of trails and plenty of up and down. Trailhead is 6-8 miles from downtown Bellevue. Lots of people out here on a nice day but with the route variations you can quickly get away from the crowds. Trails start wide and switch to single track further in.

3. Grand Ridge

By comparison, Grand Ridge has virtually no one on it and other than the feeder path to the trails it's all single track. This is a "get away from everyone and everything" kind of run. Ups and downs are a little steeper but runnable. Tiger Mountain is across I-90 and has much more traffic (and is brutally uphill) so I prefer this one. While you feel isolated it's also tucked under a big housing development so you are in civilization.

This one is 20 miles from downtown Bellevue to the East and a touch tricky to find.

4. Gene Coulon Park

This is in Renton but is along Lake Washington on the East Side. You're not going to get huge miles in down here but there are paths out to the streets along Lake Washington to the north. Parking is good here and there is an Ivar's fish house if you want to eat after the run (ok, there is a Kidd Valley burger but why would you want that when you can have Fish & Chips?). You get views of South Seattle, Mercer Island, and the Boeing Facility in Renton. The path is all asphalt until you get to the roads to the north.

Seattle Runs from Jeff @wsearunner

1. Alki Beach,-122.206056&sspn=0.006536,0.011276&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Alki,+Seattle,+Washington&ll=47.584429,-122.391772&spn=0.026833,0.045104&z=15

North end of West Seattle, this stretches 3-4 miles from the West Seattle Bridge on the east to 63rd on the west. I run here often (usually on a long run) and it's flat and has an asphalt multi-use path (I compare this to the Marina in San Francisco) so you will see plenty of runners, roller bladers, cyclists along with walkers, skaters, and kite flyers! BEST VIEWS of the Seattle downtown from across the bay here as well as great views of the Olympic Mountains and all the Sound traffic (ferries, port traffic) which I much prefer to the jet skis of Lake Washington. This is what you'd imagine - it's flat and allows you to mindlessly gawk at the scenery (on shore and off :-)). Plenty of restaurants and pubs along the path for post-run fueling (I partook of the Irish Pub after the marathon last year).

You can also run as far as you like south on Beach Drive if you want to venture around the point - I live all the way south in West Seattle so this is what I do. You're sidewalk running here but it's open views to the Sound in many places and you're surrounded by houses with open views to the Sound otherwise which isn't so bad.

2. Lincoln Park,-122.391772&sspn=0.026833,0.045104&ie=UTF8&hq=lincoln+park&hnear=&ll=47.530184,-122.396278&spn=0.026137,0.045104&z=15

This is where I run the most mainly because it's closest to my house. Actually that's not true - it's a great park with probably 8 miles of paths. There is an upper part of the park which is trail / forest running. Not too up and down. The lower section is along the water. There are feeder paths between the two and they are steep - I do hill repeats there. Lower path is asphalt, gravel, and limited single track. The lower area has open views to the Sound, Olympics, inner San Juan Island as well as the Kitsap Peninsula.

North end of the park hooks up with Beach Drive so you can run north as far as you like as well.

3. Seward Park, Lake Washington Drive,-122.396278&sspn=0.026137,0.045104&ie=UTF8&hq=&hnear=Seward+Park,+Seattle,+Washington&ll=47.561093,-122.268047&spn=0.026845,0.045104&z=15

Best lake running by far. Seward has a 2.4 mile asphalt path (some gravel single track) around the peninsula with open views to Lake Washington, Mercer Island, and Mt. Rainier to the south if it's a nice day. Can be crowded with some bike traffic but usually not too bad. Parking can kind of suck but you can park up Lake Washington drive in some of the auxiliary lots. The RnR route comes by Seward Park and runs all the way up Lake Washington Drive to I-90. The Seattle Marathon runs down Lake Wash, around Seward and back up all the way to the Arboretum so as you can imagine there is a lot of marathon training that happens here.

Lake Washington drive runs about 3-4 miles up to I-90 and there is a runner's path fully along this distance. Open views to Lake Washington the full way, beautiful houses on the left. Not much bike traffic - they are in the streets as the road is unofficially a cycling road (they do shut it down to cars on the weekends). Not bad for views but a little flat and meandering.

4. Discovery Park,-122.340016&sspn=0.026786,0.045104&ie=UTF8&hq=discovery+park&hnear=&ll=47.662931,-122.413831&spn=0.026793,0.045104&z=15

Great park - I run here often. It's a bit remote out in the Magnolia hood but it's a great location. Once you're out on the Sound you are high and have expansive views to the west. Main trail is 2.5-ish miles but you can hit various spurs to lengthen that. You are really "in a forest" when you run here especially on the NW quadrant. There are paths to take you down to the beach - pretty up and down. Temple of the Dog filmed their video for Hunger Strike here. The path around is all dirt and wide - some single track on the spur routes.
5. Green Lake,-122.340016&sspn=0.026064,0.045104&ie=UTF8&radius=1.26&split=1&rq=1&ev=p&hq=green+lake&hnear=&ll=47.676629,-122.340016&spn=0.026786,0.045104&z=15&iwloc=H

Total outdoor hotspot - if you are 20 and active you run at Green Lake. Path is 2.8 miles around - asphalt with gravel single track most of the way around. There is an outside path along the road but I don't find it as appealing - may as well run on a sidewalk. Green Lake is crowded - runners, LOTS of walkers, bikes, roller blades, you name it. Lots of folks (was about to say kids) play their rec league stuff here. Lots of options post-run for food, coffee, etc.

Thanks again for the great route info from can catch his blog at;

I finished the day with a great meal at the stone bar at the Purple Cafe and Wine Bar in downtown Seattle which featured a great wine list, bar menu, and Seattle friendly service. I now have a number of other good options above to test out next time I’m in the Emerald City.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

More Cow than Cowbells

Talk about extremes. A month and a half ago I ran on hallowed ground in Boston. Massive crowds and hysteria lined the 114th running of the Boston Marathon. Jonesin' to get another marathon in this summer, I ran the Steamboat Marathon in gorgeous Steamboat Springs, Colorado. They couldn’t have been more different yet both are highly recommended.

Sea level vs. altitude
. Attitude vs. low key. Crazed Wellesley college girls screaming at you like a rock star vs. the crowd literally showing up the last four blocks of a marathon. More cows vs. cowbells.

It took some creativity to come up with a training plan with roughly seven weeks between marathons and having run three within six months (Steamboat, Boston, and CIM/Sacramento.) Feeling over-trained for Boston and only one month into my heart rate training program, I consulted my running coach and came up with a shortened plan that took into account that I’ve logged over 1400 miles since last July.

The curve thrown at me three days before leaving for Steamboat was a bout of the flu bug that kept me in bed all day on Tuesday. Already feeling a bit run down from all the training, a flu bug felt like a death knell to any notion of even running on Sunday. I put myself on a “brat diet” composed of oatmeal, bananas and fluids. Most rational minds would have kept the trip but skipped the race. Running three marathons in six months eliminates me as someone with rational thinking when it comes to my running.

Steamboat Springs at race time was still considered to be in their “mud season.” Mud season is just like it sounds...halfway between snow and ski season and their true summer with reports of snow a week prior to the race. Given the offseason, they had some phenomenal promos on lodging so I scored a five bedroom townhome for what it would have cost me for two low-end Marriott rooms in town. With plenty of room, we invited friends and brought the whole family.

Having logged many drives up Colorado’s I-70, I take the mountain scenery for granted. Steamboat Springs however is Northwest of the typical I-70 corridor ski towns which takes you up highway 40. The car ride scenery itself was mind blowing as it felt like “we’re not in Kansas anymore.” As we drive into the “boat” I was awestruck with the beauty and quaintness of the town.

Saturday was expo day just like all other marathons, but this one was a small fraction in size of other’s I’ve attended—there was no giant Nike, Gatorade, or Asics booth at the expo. In fact, you could have fit the whole expo into the Nike booth at any large city expo. Ski mountains covered in green and yellow and a very full Yampa river framed the expo. Small town charm and friendliness greeted me at bib pick-up—they didn’t even check my ID. My daughter Nikki had been chronicling the trip and expo (see my pre-marathon video interviews here.)

The final interview focused on “are you nervous?” proved to be an indication of what was to come on race-day as I said I was uncertain as to how I’d handle a full marathon just coming off a flu bug.

Saturday night’s pasta dinner at the townhouse was followed by a typical restless night of sleep (what is up with that?!…gotta work on that one.)

Despite double-checking where the bus pick-up was for Sunday morning, I walked up to the designated bus pick-up area and questioned, was I in the right place? I was a little early, but there was only one other runner waiting. Eventually, other runners and two large buses showed up to escort us 26.2 miles out of town to Hahn’s Peak as the starting spot.

At Hahn’s Peak I ran into some fellow Runner’s Edge of the Rockies (running group) members. Based on Saturday’s weather and not freezing my butt off at the start of the race indicated that I was in for a hot race. No national anthem, no corrals (other than the rodeo one back in town) and plenty of cows characterized the start of the course. Knowing the Wellesley ladies and drunk BC college students wouldn’t be there to cheer me on, I considered an iPod, but decided to be “one with nature” and soak in what Runner’s World called one of the 10 most scenic marathons of the year (’96.)

What should have been a fun run (and it was,) I decided to once again try a 3:15 pace. Four days earlier I was in the bed with the flu. There was an imaginary 3” running coach hologram on my left shoulder of my running coach Dave telling me to slow it down. No regrets, I held a consistent 7:30 pace well past the halfway point and my energy felt halfway decent. Being a smaller race, they had fewer water stations and could certainly have used more of them and placed them around the two hills at mile 20 and 22. Like Boston, this one was a bit of a screamer out of the gate starting over 8100 in elevation and ends at 6,695 downtown. Hills training paid off as this one was more of a “roller” than the elevation chart would indicate.

Once again, I have respect for 26.2 miles and hit the wall with this one slowing down around mile 18 and approaching 22 or 23, I actually took a walk break. I took knee bend breaks at a couple water stations near the end of Boston, but I’ve never walked in a race. I took the last shot of my Strawberry Banana Gel pack and decided to run the balance of the race. As I entered town, it was definitely heating up, but the small crowds lining the streets got me through the last part of the race combined with being able to pass some of the ½ marathoners who had a 13.1 mile head start.

My family greeted me at the finish line along with six or seven cups of ice cold water and an ice cold towel.

Given everything I’d overcome, I was not disappointed with a 3:36 finish. As the family was headed off to buy me a giant breakfast, the results were being taped to the historic courthouse stone exterior wall. Knowing I was well off my goal and best times, I still checked. Much to my delight, I realized I was picking up some hardware for the first time in a marathon. I’d finished 3rd place in my division.

An awesome way to end an awesome race in an awesome city.

A footnote to this blog. I dedicate my third place finish to my Dad. My Dad and Stepmother, Ruth were enroute to Steamboat and ran into car troubles so they have to settle for the virtual version on my blog. His (good) stubborn qualities lead me to "lace them" up four days after the flu. His persistence qualities helped me pick it up and finish this one running--not walking into Steamboat. An early "happy Father's Day" Dad.

Saturday, June 5, 2010

Steamboat Marathon Pre-Interview

Interview Day I: As I approach my latest marathon, the beautiful Steamboat Marathon in Colorado, I will post videos on my RunTV Vimeo account. Catch the first installment below; what do you do to get ready for a
marathon and what do you eat before a marathon?

Interview Day II: The Expo

The Steamboat Marathon Expo. What do you eat during a race, and is it true that honey is a natural laxative?

About Me

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Average guy w/ an above average appetite for marathon racing and triathlons. Ran my 5th Boston in '15. 3:21, 1:29, 19:21 PR;full/half/5K Opinions & wit are mine