For the second year in a row I had the pleasure of serving as a pacer for the Hot Chocolate 15K in Seattle. The one thing I learned last year is that this course is tough.
And that has not changed.
The experience starts at the expo which takes place at the Seattle Center Exhibition Center. The one thing I have always enjoyed with this race series is how easy it is to get from bib pick up to goodie bag (your hoodie) and on your way. There is a small vendor area which includes a place to shop for all of your Hot Chocolate gear.
Last year it HAILED on the back of the pack. This year the weather threw it’s own challenges again. There was a cold wind and it was wet at points and the forecast actually had called for snow.
The start line is organized into corrals, being I was in the back of the pack, the corrals are not well maintained. And it does take some patience to make it to the start. But being able to see the space needle first thing in the morning is a breathtaking sight. You want to make sure you stay warm on this course.
I went into this with a 1-1 run walk plan, I knew from what I learned last year that this course is really scenically beautiful but it is tough. You get some gentle rolling up and down hills in the first two miles, going out under Pike Place Market and through the Alaskan Way Viaduct before you are hit with the hill that never ends.
The Aurora Avenue out and back gives you quite possibly some of the most scenic views of Seattle you will see but for the two miles it is almost a straight up hill climb, and if you do not know that it is coming it will hit you like a ton of bricks before you turn around right after the mile 6 point. The nice thing is it takes you downhill after.
The course is well supported and you get a chance to eat chocolate at a few of the water stops. You finish thorough the main concourse of Seattle Center which is fun. Especially as you are finishing almost next to the space needle.
After the race you get to cycle through to get your medal, water and the famous post race chocolate, where you get a cup full of snacks and chocolate to dip it in. They organize the lines so you are not waiting long for everything and this years medals continue to be one of my favorites. They look like small chocolate pieces.
I will be back, I keep learning every time I am working on this race how to think on the fly and be a pacer. This is a tough but well organized race well worth it in the end.
Note: As an ambassador I was able to get my entry for my 2016 event for free in trade for my work in 2015.
It has never been a secret that I love the Seattle Marathon event. It is one of my favorite courses every year. It is beautiful, challenging and a great example of how races should be ran in terms of organization.
And this year was no exception.
I knew going in and if you read my training blog about this, it was not going to be about making a fast strong time kind of thing, life was just to complicated this fall and not feeling 100 percent until the end of September had cost me a huge chunk of training time.
This weekend was going to be all about fun.
The expo this year actually seemed smaller then it had in previous years, which I don’t mind. The entire event is well organized and you go from getting your bib to getting your stacked goody bag rather quickly, which to me is always a key to a good expo.
Sunday morning started well.
I started on my intervals as I have been doing and I stuck to them. I was actually getting some great times in the first 4-5 miles and not feeling really bad at all.
The first couple miles of the course start in Downtown Seattle taking you through down to the International District. There are a couple climbs here, but you are rewarded with some nice downhills. Again I was trying to get some speed and work on my skills.
Then you hit the 1-90 stretch which is a batch of freeway on ramps which are small hills that take you past Safeco Field and gives you great views of Downtown Seattle. But and I think I said this before that if you are not careful and you don’t pace yourself through the early part you are going to regret it later.
I have said this a lot, my favorite part of the course is the stretch after I-90, the Lake Washington area The views are stunning and it is so peaceful and quiet. There are some minor rolling hills but nothing over taxing, is is a great place to settle into your pace.
Then you reach #whathill.
I have had a love hate relationship with that hill every year. You turn a corner and all of a sudden it hits you like a wall. The one real goal I had made for myself this year was to take that hill at a run and see what happens.
And I did it. I got all away up to the point before the turn before I knew I was going to be in serious trouble if I kept running up that hill. I paid for it later, taking it at a dead run spent my legs but I was happy.
I decided at this point I was going to take the rest as a true fun run, and I did. I enjoyed the views through Washington Arboretum,but I was indeed feeling the lack of full training and I was feeling that sprint up the hill.
The last of the race was about enjoying the ride. I literally just relaxed and enjoyed the run. I took my coaches advice and didnt stress about the pace.
This will always be my favorite race every year for so many reasons. But this year as it has seemed to do before, it reminded my that my first goal is to have fun when I race.
Disclaimer: I was given the honor of a free entry in trade for social media promotion of this race. My opinions as always are my own.
I have had the pleasure of working with Race to Remember and get to know their founder Claudia through some of the work I have been doing through Honor Flight. When she asked me to take part in the Race to Remember event for veterans day I was excited.
The Race to Remember Veterans Day Race serves as the kickoff to the Fort Vancouver Veterans Day Parade.
A little back story on the parade:
The Veterans Parade at Fort Vancouver was started in 1986 by a group of volunteers led by Mike Harding, who recognized a need in our community for a way to honor Clark County veterans and knew that a Veterans Parade would fulfill that need. With assistance and support from then Vancouver Barracks Commander Royce Pollard and City of Vancouver Mayor Bruce Hagensen, the first Veterans Parade at Fort Vancouver took place in 1986. Jerry Bloss and Fred Robertson took over as co-chairs of the planning committee and led the production of the parade for nearly two decades. Through rain, sun and even snow, dedicated volunteers have been instrumental in ensuring the annual Veterans Parade.
Race to Remember: Race to Remember is a non-profit organizations formed to honor our past and present military heroes. Our main mission is to NEVER FORGET their sacrifice and with every race or event we participate in we honor all those that have so bravely fought for our freedom. Outside of racing we organize military care packages, “Thank you Cards”, “Books for Soldiers” and help coordinate “soldiers in the classrooms”. Our ultimate goal is to develop a college scholarship for those that have lost a parent during their military service.”
The race itself started at the Fort Vancouver Visitors Center. The weather was less then steller for the event but more then 100 people showed up sporting the Red, White and Blue. Several people brought their flags.
Packet pick up was quick and efficient. Due to the fact this is a complete non-profit race and all proceeds for this race went back to the cause, the shirts had been optional (I bought one because they had been amazing) but the race had all the must haves a racer would like. Bag check was easy and they brought your bag to the finish line (which was about half a mile away.
The race started with a spectacular shot of a historical cannon. The race which offered a 5K and 11K options took you down through Fort Vancouver. And up through the spectacular Lands End Bridge (even though I really do not like this hill whatsoever) and down to the waterfront in Vancouver.
This race was was well organized and the water stop was at the turn around for the 5K.
The course was challenging but yet gorgeous. Getting the energy off the parade set off the mood the weather set in. I was not planning for anything particular on this race as this was a tune up for my Seattle trip over thanksgiving. I was able to settle into my usual run walk and it gave me a chance to reflect on how lucky I am to have so many people who are veterans in my life who have made such a positive difference.
This course was not quite an out and back, and you finished just as the Fort Vancouver Veterans Day Parade started to make it’s first turn. It was amazing to be running by some of the bands.
You received a finishers medal, great food and beer at the finish line.
This is small race ran by a group of people who truly care for service members and want to raise awareness through running events. This will be back on my calendar for 2017.
I think the best way to describe this experience is once in a life time.
Yesterday I had the honor of running 2 miles with the American Flag as part of the Old Glory Relay. Team RWB explains this best in their media kit.
From inspiration, strength, or freedom, each person who touches
this year’s Old Glory has their own story of CONNECTION to the symbol
of our great nation.
Throughout the 4,216-mile journey across the United States, the participants
and supporters of “America’s Relay” will come together to honor the sacrifice
of thousands of Americans who have fought for America’s freedom, and make
a public display of support for veterans as they return to their respective
communities. This amazing experience allows Team RWB to spread our mission
of enriching veterans’ lives, recruit new members into the organization,
and generate donations for our core programs focused on leadership
development and engaging veterans and civilians within their communities.
This is the first year the flag made an appearance in Oregon. The flag actually started on Sunday, September 11 at Microsoft headquarters in Seattle before making it to Joint Base Lewis-McChord and then Woodland Washington where my local Team RWB crew took charge.
Our smaller group of three runners picked up the responsibility at Ridgefield. Our group of three runners had decided to do the 6 miles in 2 mile solo increments with me taking the last handoff.
My handoff was at the top of a hill in the middle of farm land. I was really worried because I am on the slower side of running, and I am still getting my legs back under me a bit.
I took my handoff and I think it hit me at that point that this was not any ordinary running experience. I had said before I was running for the people in my life who are veterans who especially in the last few years have been such a support system and helped me keep my head together when things did not seem possible. These people have done so much to support their country.
The two miles are insignificant at this point. So many cars honked, applauded, yelled their support. I was on one of the less crowded roads in terms of traffic but I think it gave me a chance to take in the entire experience more. The flag that I was holding is on a journey of 4,200 plus miles and will be in the hands of 62 teams that have come together for the same common cause.
Because I was dropping some of the social media coverage, I was able to get over to the Interstate Bridge and cover the runners crossing into their first state. Watching the flag come across the bridge up the hill on the interstate bridge was just truly an experience that I will not forget.
I have been trying to put into words what this whole thing means to me, but I don’t think words do it. I think the best way to talk about it is show the pictures. Thank you to my dad for getting some of these amazing moments.
If you have been a follower of my blog for any length of time, you know that the San Francisco Marathon means the absolute world to me. It is no secret when I decided to start taking my social media and running and making them work for me that they had been the first ones to see the power in my story and given me this amazing platform to be able to share my story. This is also the first time in over three years that my focus was not tied up other places and that I got to focus on my running.
The training cycle had been interesting for this. I dumped a lot of races that I would do just to do during the spring and early summer in Portland due to both personal reasons and I wanted to focus my energy on this race. I think this was a smart move, but towards the end of the cycle I was dealing with a super tight IT band.
So I was literally walking into this not knowing what would happen.
My adventure started at the expo. If you have ever been to a SF Marathon expo, this by far is one of the easiest most runner friendly expos ever. You start with the shopping area to have a chance to get any TSFM goodies that suit your fancy. Then you can head to the back to pick up your number and gear bag. Your shirt is located at the next table and I had zero wait.
The shirts are my favorite shirts every year and I am still wearing my first one pretty constantly. Long sleeve green layers and they fit so well.
Anyhow. Friday I worked the app both to tell runners about the runner tracking application. It was a mix of technical support and being an ear to some of the runners who came in a little nervous. I always have a blast working the expo as an ambassador because I get to talk to so many runners from all over the word and see some of the most inspiring people I have met, my fellow ambassadors.
Sunday’s race morning started with the very short walk from The Green Tortise which has played host to me for two of my three years. It is so simple to get to the start line from about half a mile up the road. I checked in at the ambassador tent and found one of my favorite people on the planet and got a long overdue hug. Then I made my way to drop my bag which was super easy; as all you have to do is look for the truck that corresponds to your bib number.
I found my wave rather quickly but was starting towards the back. It felt like it took forever to get to the start. But being back at the main start line this year is amazing. I ran the second half last year and the energy isn’t the same.
The first few miles went almost perfectly according to plan. Your first few miles are in the waterfront section; from the Ferry Building, past Pier 39 to Marine Park and into Crissy Fields. This is truly breathtaking as you can see the Golden Gate Bridge breaking through the fog.
The first major hill is leaving Crissy Field and I knew going in I was going to need to conserve energy so I took it slower, but I could tell that my having to pull back on training because of my IT band was going to hurt. But I did not loose that much time here.
Now, one of the landmarks of running this race is being on The Golden Gate Bridge. Please note, if you are looking to PR, sometimes the congestion is going to get to you. It did for me here. But it is worth seeing it. Even in the fog, it will truly be something you will never forget. I did end up getting my pace killed at this point but I was ready for it.
You can check out a video here:
After making the tour of the bridge you have to head to the part of the course I compare to almost all other courses, Baker Beach. The fog was pretty thick but being able to see the ocean from that angle is always something that sticks with me.
The course is very well supported and you barley have to look before you make a water stop. You do need to be patient at the water stops; some of the water stops got overwhelmed by runners. Just be patient, and you will still get your water.
I was struggling at this point of the course because of how my training got fouled up so I decided just to do what I could and peel back to enjoy the race more.
After Baker Beach you head into Sunset which is an up and down part of the course and pretty residential. I enjoy seeing the true nature of SF.
The finish line is in Golden Gate Park and it is stunning. I was 49 seconds off of where I had hoped to be on this course and I am perfectly okay with it. I was more emotionally tired then anything because this is the first time in a long time that I got to push myself and run for me. I pushed hard, I tried to fight back from loosing the time I had banked (and I had a good chunk of it)
I have tried for the last three years to sum up how much The SF Marathon means to me, but I have truly as they say left my heart in San Francisco. This race truly reminds me what I am capable of when I set my mind to it.
You keep trying to beat me down. You keep trying to get me to say you are not worth it.
But you are.
I am back as the returning vet to the 2016 Seattle Marathon Ambassadors. IF you have read my blog for any length of time; you know this is one of my favorite races. It is also such a challenging course. It is also ran by a group that is dedicated to running a top notch event for runners (even when its 23 or so degrees at the start).
And there is
If you have ran the event you know. It comes right around the mile 8 mark in the half. You turn the corner coming off of the amazing Lake Washington; you are hitting your groove.
And then smack.
It hits you like a ton of bricks.
It goes straight up.
Like a brick wall.
Reminding you that this course is not that easy.
But it is also quite tough.
So Thanksgiving weekend, #Whathill and I get to tango again, and my entire goal is to be ready for it. I was hoping for a PR last year but it did not happen. This year; I want to finish what I started.
And Seattle is the best place to do it.
I am coming for you. This time, it will be mile 18 something as I am running the full and shooting to beat my last dance in Seattle.
I have always wanted to do the Hot Chocolate Races. Cost and travel made it less then cost effective. When Beast Pacing gave me the opportunity to be able be a pacer for the 15K I jumped all over it.
I got to the expo on Friday and it was small, but really well organized. If you did not have your information you could have a volunteer help look it up for you. Then you picked up your goodie bag which had your race jacket, which is a change from the normal hoodies that they had been doing. There had been a few vendor booths and a chance to purchase race gear.
Sunday morning started with finding my pacing crew and picking up my pacing kit. I have to thank Beast and Ram Racing for the nice shirt and the 2XU compression sleeves.
Bag check was very easy and simple to get through. The volunteers had been eager.
The start line corrals had been between Key Arena and the Armory which made it very narrow but still a well organized system. The only down side is I was pushed almost all away back to the corral behind me.
Now the course. This course is TOUGH. I thought Seattle Marathon was tough, that is actually a walk in the park compared to this. You start with a quick run through downtown before you hit the roads behind Pikes Market. This is one sharp down hill and one sharp up hill back to back before you hit the tunnels that take you to Aurora Avenue.
And Aurora itself?
If you live in Seattle you know what this entails. This was a series of up and down hills including a long climb right up after the bridge. I heard some people mention how the elevation map made it look like stairs, it had not been. It was a straight set of hills. I was not ready for how tough that side would be.
The course is well supported even in the pouring down rain. The volunteers went out of their way to encourage the runners and the pacers alike even though it was pouring down rain and windy. (We actually had thunderstorms)
I finished a few seconds back of pace, but still had runners coming up to me thanking me for running and holding my sign which meant a lot. I ran with Marie, who is one of my fellow Skirt Sports Ambassadors and she was truly a difference maker. It was nice to have a pacer with me and we kept each other in line all away through.
I finished and headed for the post race, which consisted of the famous food and chocolate finishers mug. We did not have much of a festival area so I was in and out quickly.
This is a fun race, its well organized and a bit of a challenge. I am actually excited for next year.
The fall out from Pints to Pasta was pretty epic this fall. Though I wont be able to run because that is way to close to SF, I am really excited to see what they have announced and it looks to be an amazing race set up.