Another PR (personal record) of 3:50:13 (chip time). Woohoo!
Weather: Cold (37F or so), raining, solid overcast, no wind. Not as bad as it sounds, since I was well layered (4 layers on top, nylon leggings, gloves, running hat). I did a test run on Friday around the Phantom Lake area and wore the same outfit, replacing one of the two lightweight upper layers with a heavier shirt. I was actually a little warm for the first 10 miles or so, so maybe I didn't need to do that.
Course: As I expected, much hillier than Portland's course but not as hilly as the Seafair course in Bellevue. The course (PDF) starts at EMP in Seattle, runs through downtown, across the I90 floating bridge to Mercer Island, back to Seattle and down Lake Washington to Seward Park, then north on Lake Washington through Lechi and the arboretum back to finish at the Memorial Arena in Seattle Center. The latter part from Lechi to the end is the hilly part, with two fairly good hills which I mostly walked. Large portions of the course I've either driven or bicycled, so all was familiar.
Vibe: This was a more "get down to business" kind of race for the runners. Perhaps it's because I was with a faster crowd - most everyone around me seemed highly focused on getting the race done. The inclement weather was probably a factor as well. There were a lot of marathon and half marathon walkers chatting up a storm, though. The course was wide enough most everywhere that there were no issues with runners vs. walkers and people getting in the way.
Support: I enjoyed the packet pickup and Expo at the host hotel (the Westin Seattle). Well organized. Good exhibitions at the Expo; in fact I should have bought another pair of my running shoes but didn't think to do so until I'd left. I did buy a running hat and another race number belt, the kind that holds gel packets in place. Good deals.
The course itself was clearly marked with good aid stations well stocked with what I use (Gatorade Endurance and Gu). The roads were all closed or wide enough for runners on one side and cars on the other and well coned; there were no issues at all with car / runner interaction. All in all, great race support.
Race: I raced the plan from yesterday and though my heart rate was high my perceived effort was sustainable, so like in Portland I didn't bother with worrying about heart rate and only used that to guide my efforts on hills. After the huge clot of runners at the front thinned out, I was immediately on a fast pace with the 3:45 pacers in sight most of the way. I passed them at the 13 mile point in Seward Park and never saw them again, even though I finished after 3:45.
I kept up an 8:15-8:30 pace most of the way, and at mile 15 reset my goal finish time to 3:50 instead of 3:57. I had only one set of cramps (both hamstrings, one right after the other but not too bad, up a hill near the arboretum) until the last few yards before finish line, where my right hamstring cramped again. My finish photo will probably show me looking a lot worse than I deserve -:)
My limiter on this race was leg endurance at this speed. They just pooped out at 22 miles, and it was all I could do to maintain a 9 minute pace. Earlier in the race I had seen a family holding a sign alongside the course with the phrases "Courage to Start, Strength to Endure, Spirit to Finish". I found that very motivating to think about for the last 4 miles as I pushed through the exhaustion.
Results: 3:50:13 chip time, 3:50:41 gun time, 1:51:01 first split, 1:59:40 second split (clearly, the hills plus dead legs), 80/196 in my age group and 451 of about 1323 male marathon runners.
Oh, and by the way - who am I kidding? Of course my finish time is important! Even though this was a 'B' race, as soon as I tasted that PR I wanted it. And that was about mile 5! I vowed after the leg cramp incident that if it happened again, I'd throw in the towel and walk. But I didn't back of my pace. "Spirit to Finish!"