Got back from Seattle on Monday night. I had a great trip, weather was perfect and I raced about as well as I could have, so mission accomplished. I arrived last Thursday and my host, Coulter, who I’ve known from music circles since the ’90s picked me up. Like me, he’s a rock ‘n’ roll runner (in his case a musician and DJ). You can check out his website @ coulterclub.com. He hadn’t run yet and my legs were pretty stiff from two flights, so we drove out to the Arboretum near Washington University for an easy 5 mile trail run. Really nice and scenic there and definitely a lot more hills than a typical west side of Cleveland run. Here you have to drive out of your way to find them, while in Seattle they’re everywhere.
After the run we went to a Mexican restaurant called Mama’s Mexican Kitchen. It had an Elvis theme going on, which was very cool. The food was amazing too. I had a huge veggie burrito and a couple of Negra Modelos to wash it down. Next up was band practice with the Little Penguins, an outfit that Coulter plays guitar for when he’s not doing his solo work. The band has a post-punk sound that brings to mind Joy Division bass lines combined with The Church-like atmospherics. Definitely up my alley. They rehearse in a somewhat legendary building where almost all of the famous Seattle musicians from the grunge-era and otherwise have hung out and practiced. Built to Spill actually had borrowed the Little Penguins spot for a few days when they were in town.
With rehearsal completed, Coulter and I set off to hit a few pubs and do some responsible carbo loading, nothing too much to mess up our races. We hit The Bus Stop, where Coulter does a bi-monthly Britpop DJ night called The Council. Very awesome low key joint with cool music. I remember hearing the Black Angels and 13th Floor Elevators while we were there. Post Bus Stop we hit a restaurant/bar that had a psychedelic night going on. The microbrews we got were good but the mood was a little subdued with lots of background type music and Lancelot Link visuals on the screen.
The next place we went to, whose name also escapes me, was livelier with a DJ playing a random, sometimes ironic set, and lots of youthful hipsters in the crowd. I had a bourbon and coke there served in a small mason jar! There were psychedelic visuals on the screen and 3D glasses were available. I took this picture of myself there and emailed it to my wife who was probably pretty bewildered. After having enough of the younger crowd, we walked back to Coulter’s place and crashed. One of the biggest observations from my first night in Seattle was that it’s so easy to walk around there. Reminds me of Cambridge/Boston in that aspect. I’m so used to driving everywhere now, this was a nice change of pace. When Bella and I leave Cleveland in the nearish future, I’d definitely like to live somewhere more walking friendly.
Friday was much more low key. We slept in and then went over to Jefferson Park for a light run on the Club Nationals course, including a few striders in spikes. The course was a 2K loop that was to be repeated 5 times. Pretty flat on low cut gold course grass with a few dirt segments here and there. The footing was pretty good on Friday but a bit worse on Saturday for our race (more on that later). As a side note, we stopped by an excellent local running store before our run called Fleet Feet Sports, which sponsors Coulter’s team Club Northwest. After running we hooked up with my old friend Erik from high school who now lives with his family in Seattle. It was really awesome catching up at a nice coffee shop (no shortage of coffee houses and brew pubs in Seattle). Speaking of after having a big gluten-free pasta dinner at Coulter’s house and watching Fire on The Track, we had two quick pints at a local brewery called Elysium. I opted for their stout, which was first rate.
Saturday morning was race day, which meant lots of coffee while watching the live webcasts of the girls and boys footlocker races (both featured exciting finishes) before heading over to Jefferson. The weather was overcast but not too cold — only about 40F. The course was a little soggy and worn from two community races and the womens masters race before us, but not too bad at all. I figured that a 38:00 give or take on this course would be worth a high 36 on the roads, which is the shape I’m in based on my recent 5Ks. Like last year I would have preferred to be in sub 17/36 shape like I was in 2009, but running is a sport where you can only do as well as where you’re at. Our race had a very packed start with 400 runners jostling for position on a long straightaway. Much less of a bottleneck than last year though and I was able to work my way into a good lane to pass people who started out too fast. The course had clocks at all the kilometer marks, which was helpful in letting you adjust pace if you went out too fast. I tried to keep my effort smooth and controlled for as long as possible because cross country races catch up to you way faster than road races due to the terrain. I hit the 1K mark in 3:45 (37:30) pace which was dead on perfect. In cross country you typically positive split but after this I knew I would run pretty even. The first 3K was pretty uneventful. Felt smooth and was continuing to pass people as I hit 3K in 11:20 and 5K in 19:00 on the nose. Very even running still but I did notice that even though my effort was good the legs were feeling it more than they would in a road 5K. The last few miles were agony. One guy running with me dropped out, another guy yelled an expletive at the 6K mark when an announcer said we had two more 2K laps to go! I was hurting like hell on the last two laps but I gutted my way to 8K in 30:28 and 38:10 at the finish, feeling as if I ran as hard as I could. As a cool side note, I pretty much raced the whole way with Portland University’s XC coach Rob Conner, who is my age. In addition to being one of the best distance coaches in America, he also has one of the largest collection of Slayer and Metallica memorabilia in the world! I wish I could have caught up to him after the race. Oh well.
Post-race Coulter and I went to a nice pub and loaded up on a ridiculous amount of carbs and a few pints before heading over to the hotel for the post-race party. Well, actually we hit the hotel bar first for a few more. The Renaissance is a really nice hotel — Morrissey stayed there when he played Seattle. The after party ended up being a little lame. Too many people wearing their club warm up jackets. Come on people this isn’t high school where you need to wear a letter jacket to impress people. And really was anyone impressed with cross country and track letter jackets in high school? I doubt anyone was with mine. A highlight of the evening after leaving the party was hitting a bar that had a group of people all wearing wolf t-shirts as part of a theme party. They were a fun bunch so we stayed there until we staggered home.
Sunday was a nice recovery day in all aspects. After a ton of coffee we hit a few record stores — Easy Street Records is amazing — before digging into some amazing Chinese food. Post-food coma we did an easy 5 miler in the Arboretum, which went pretty well considering how sore I was from the race. In the evening it was microbrews, pizza and a selection of videos including a New York Dolls documentary and the Ian Curtis/Joy Division biopic Control. And that pretty sums up a very fun and unforgettable Seattle venture!