Snohomish River Run – Race Recap

For two weeks our weather has been very foggy with no rain, and the weather report for today was supposed to call for clear skies this morning. So what do you suppose woke me up this morning at 6:45, two hours before race time?

That’s right – pouring rain.

I seriously considered rolling over and going back to bed but then I thought about my race fees, and how much I hate wasting money. And then I thought about how hard I had worked to get ready for the race and forced myself up and out of bed. Besides, I thought, if you are going to be a runner that lives in Seattle you simply cannot be the kind of person who backs out of races because of weather. And so, I got dressed, ate some oatmeal, drove through Starbucks for a latte, and arrived at my parking spot one minute before they closed the road.

Perfect timing.

Given the change in weather I had to make some last minute changes to my race day attire. Out with the lightweight capri tights and in with the UnderArmour cold gear long pants. I opted to add a second lightweight jacket under my soft shell, to keep warm before and after the race. I also swapped out my lightweight running socks for wool, since if my feet had to be wet, I wanted them to at least be warm. Under my two jackets I wore my official race shirt, a blue long sleeved tech shirt. It got a real test today and it passed – I felt warm enough and dry the whole time.

My parking spot was about a quarter mile from the start. Definitely worth the $10 to have guaranteed parking near the start and not have to ride the shuttle. On the other hand, I did have to arrive an hour before start time to use the parking spot. The best part was really after the race being able to go right to my warm car and straight home. I think the shuttle would have turned into a real hassle on the way home.

I parked the car, drank all the water in my bottle (decided to pre-hydrate and not carry – when it’s cool I don’t usually feel the need to drink on the run), and chugged the rest of my coffee. Next thing, time to scout out the porta-potties. An hour before race time there was already a line about 30 deep and the potties were running out of TP. Not a good sign for later, so I decided to get that taken care of sooner rather than later. I walked a little further and arrived at the start, where everyone was milling around in the rain.

I saw a friend from my gym who was going to run the half and wished her luck as they were calling half runners to the start, which began at 8:30. The 10k started at 8:45 and I was feeling chilly so I went to the coffee tent and got a cup just to hold on to.

While I was standing there, a woman approached me and asked, “so where do the runners start? At the start line?” I politely answered yes, but it did take some self discipline to avoid telling her that they actually would start at the finish line and run in reverse.

I considered taking a selfie but opted against. Did take a picture of runners standing around though.

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At 8:40, they called the 10k runners to the start. I wasn’t really sure whether I should be in the 10 minute or 9 minute pace corral. As I was training for the race, my big goal was just to finish in under an hour. That is about a 9:45 pace. I knew I could manage that pace – but I also thought of the advice I got from a friend on Saturday that said that if I wasn’t sore the day after, then I didn’t run hard enough. It is a race, after all. You’re supposed to go fast.

So I opted for the 9 minute corral but since I wasn’t sure I’d be able to pull off a race at that pace, I stood towards the back.

The gun went off and we all started running. I never bothered to turn on my gps and just ran by feel. I was surprised at how many people I seemed to be passing – I’ve never started that far forward before and expected to be getting passed a lot. I figured out why when we got to the first mile marker and the guy running next to me goes, “that’s 8.”

I asked him incredulously, “8 minute mile??”

He said yes, and I said, “holy cow, I’d better slow down!”

I did back off a bit after that but since I was feeling surprisingly okay, I didn’t back off too much – just enough to where I was breathing easy. At about mile 2 I started shedding layers, at which point I realized I had forgotten to take off the light jacket under my soft shell, which meant I would not have anything dry to put on at the finish. I was kind of bummed about that but decided to take it as a lesson for next time; I really need to write myself a note with things I need to do before the start since when I am excited I really can’t remember anything.

It was an out and back course along the Snohomish River, so we hit the turnaround just shy of 3 miles. As we were running I noticed I wasn’t seeing many people coming back from the turnaround. I figured out I was toward the front of the pack. I couldn’t help but feel pretty proud of myself for that, so as we hit the turn I made all the ladies standing there give me a high five. Yay me – I’m now a front of the pack runner!

After the turn, the pace started to affect me more – the tightness I’ve been feeling lately in my shoulder started really burning, and some new tightness in my hamstrings and hips reminded me that I was at the edge of what I really could handle. I pushed myself to maintain pace anyway though. I had a couple of people that I just stayed with most of the way back.

I enjoyed the course itself but I will say something that surprised me was the smell. It is riverbottom farmland that the course runs through and they must have had some cows around, because there was a definite odor of manure in the air. Didn’t bother me on the way out but on the return trip it did. I think I get more sensitive to smells when I am more tired.

As we made the final turn towards the finish we passed the photographer and I was feeling good so I made some crazy face. Apparently, that sapped the last of my energy because I could not get my body to cooperate when I tried to kick it in to the finish. But I held my pace. I looked up and saw my family right before the finish, and then I saw the clock and realized I had run my race a full 4 minutes faster than I had expected.

In spite of the rain, it was a pretty awesome race experience. I ended up 8th in my age group and was very happy with how everything went.

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Eat and Run Mom Guide to Running in the Rain

Tomorrow I will be running in this:

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But as my aunt reminded me on Facebook, there’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothes. Or at least the wrong clothes. I have a 10k race in 4 weeks, so skipping out on this run is not really an option. And besides, it’s only September 28. If I start skipping out on things because of rain now, then I will be trapped inside until March – and that’s if Spring comes early. So I gotta get out there. Rain or no rain, I am doing this thing.

Fortunately, having lived an active life in Seattle for most of my years means I know a few things about how to stay happy and comfortable in bad weather.

The main thing to remember is that rain is not the enemy. Wind and cold combined with rain can be your enemies, however. If nothing else, they’ll all conspire to make you miserable. So you need to dress appropriately. Look for clothing that cuts the wind, without adding too much warmth. You will only be cold for a few minutes at the beginning of your workout anyway. Your body warms itself up pretty quickly, so what you are looking for is to stay as dry as possible, and to keep wetness away from your skin. You want to avoid chills and chafing. So avoid cotton, look for wicking fabrics just as you would during hot weather. Synthetic fabrics are usually best.

For me, the ideal rain gear includes a pair of long tights with a slightly fuzzy inner layer (such as the Under Armour cold gear brand), a lightweight long sleeve top for fall type weather, or a heavier top when it gets colder, and an outer layer jacket that cuts wind and is water resistant. I say water resistant, NOT waterproof, because your own heat and sweat should be able to escape. The worst ski jacket I ever had was one that was waterproof – I sweat a lot, so waterproof meant all that water couldn’t get out. After about an hour I would be wet all the way to the skin – in skiing, this is a downright dangerous situation. Not a very comfortable situation for running either.

Protecting your hands and feet is also important because fingers and toes can get cold. Personally, I prefer to wear wool socks, but no gloves unless it’s really cold. What works best for me is a long sleeved short with a hole for the thumb. If hands are cold at the beginning of the run, then I tuck them inside, and slowly let them poke out as I warm up. If I get really warm, I push the sleeves up. Obviously this wouldn’t work in Minnesota, but it works here where it’s not so cold.

Headgear is another important consideration. I like a hat with a bill – baseball type caps are good – because it keeps rain out of my eyes and off most of my face. Rain on the face is kind of annoying, plus I wear glasses most days and they create a visibility issue, so a little protection in that area goes a long way towards keeping me happy. Stocking caps don’t really keep the rain off, and for the type of weather we typically get in Seattle, they are too warm. Anything too warm just has to be discarded after a couple of miles anyway.

While we are on the topic of discarding your clothes, the last “rule” of dressing for Seattle type rain is to dress in layers. As I said, you warm up as you go along, so you have to plan to unzip or remove things along the way.

The final thing you need on a rainy day run is a positive attitude. The hardest part is just getting out the door – as always, the first mile is the hardest. If you can just get geared up and going you will probably find yourself happy to be outside even if the weather isn’t so nice.