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The Bloomsday Race Report – 2017

BRIG SEIDL TULIP RUN framed (1)

 

 

By Brig Seidl
5/6/17 – Spokane

 

Seattle, with its vast array of athletic events, stadiums, millionaire athletes, and just general abundance and opulence in all areas touching on sports monopolizes Washington’s spotlight on sports for 11 months out of the year. But May is Spokane’s moment to shine with the famous Lilac Bloomsday running race always slotting into the first Sunday of the month and the festive but fierce 24 Hours Round the Clock mountain bike race occupying the final weekend. The two biggest running and mountain biking events in the state bookending the month of May in the Lilac city. When spring arrives think Spokane!

Attendance was down at Bloomsday this year – likely a result of the severe winter we’ve endured – but even so 42,985 hearty souls registered to continue this magnificent tradition. And when race morning dawned cool, gray, and raining it likely dissuaded even more people from coming out. But such is the force of Bloomsday’s momentum and traction within the community that 38,748 participants did suit up and toe the line making the 4,237 who registered but didn’t show up a bigger number of people than all but a handful of other races in the state garner outright.

Included in those pre-race participation number projections were the Dietrichs and Larsens who, sadly, ended up having to withdraw on account of Larry having injured his leg while….swimming! I honestly don’t even know how that is possible. I suspect he really took a header on a secret mountain bike training ride for the 24 Hour race but didn’t want Nancy to know about that so invented this bizarre swimming injury story.

It was my intention to start in the “Second Seed” wave behind the Kenyans again this year so as to avoid the dense congestion of the later waves. But as wonderful as the Bloomsday organizers are they don’t just let any Tom, Dick, or Mary into the Second Seed, you must qualify. And that entails  having run last year’s race in 48:00 or less or, if you’re lucky enough to be a Silver Strider, 53:00 or better. I didn’t do either of those things. You can also get in by having run sub 39:00 in certain 10ks around the state but I hadn’t quite managed that recently either. Also if you had an age/gender score of 80 or better in any certified race in the past year they’ll open the velvet rope for you but, err, I hadn’t pulled that off either. It was looking a whole lot like I was a damnable fraud. So I tried the last thing I could think of with the steadfast Second Seed Coordinator: “Ah, did I mention that I know Judy Fisher?”

Mark Starr – Chairman

Hey! You used that ploy last year! Who else do you know?”

Um…Bruce Fisher?”

Who’s that?”

Man this guy was strict! He eventually relented but I acutely felt the need to run a legitimate qualifying time to avoid this ticklish experience next year.

You get a sense of the enormity of this event at the Expo the day before. But not on account of long lines, big waits, and huge crowds because there is none of that. The esteemed Don Kardong and his crew seriously know how to run a large event and move people efficiently. You know how when you go to pick up your race packet at the local 10k there will typically be 2 tables; one for pre-registered folk and the other for day of registrants – but there will only be 1 pen?

In bigger events there might even be a 3rd table for Masters or some other sub-group – and a 2nd pen but it won’t have any ink in it. At the Bloomsday Expo packet pick-up there are hundreds of tables! Each possible age / gender division has four tables (volunteers) to assure you won’t be waiting in line. For example the “Females 14 – 16” division(!) will be further sub-divided by last name “A – F”, “G – K”, “L – P”, and “Q – Z”. Incredible.

And if you’ve weaseled your way into the Second Seed they will even offer you a sweet tote bag, race singlet, and other goodies for a paltry $25 and then deliver the bag to the finish area for you after the race. Suffice to say you are treated like the royalty you’ve always believed yourself to be at Bloomsday. Chapeau Mr Kardong.

In what is largely becoming my natural state now that I’m over 50 I found myself injured (torn calf) as this race approached so once again training was nixed in lieu of healing. Annoying to be certain but I’m almost accustomed to it by now. I wouldn’t know what to do if I showed up at a race uninjured and properly trained. Probably bolt off and run into a tree or something. But this calf thing would certainly complicate my original intention of running a solid qualifying time for next year.

It was cool and cloudy as everyone made their way to the starting corrals but sonofagun if the sun didn’t pop out and unveil beautiful blue skies mere minutes before the race started. The elite women had already started by the time I got into position in my corral so I missed seeing them off as I had last year. It’s curious that they start before the national anthems are sung.

Greg Waters

Despite the massive number of participants last year I knew the guy right next to me in the corral – Greg Waters. And this year a similar thing happened; I found myself running alongside Kevin McGinnis – who was dressed as a devil and carrying a novelty pitch fork – for the initial mile or two through Brown’s Addition and down the first big hill.

After worrying that it was going to be another cold rain race when I first got up in the morning it actually became certifiably warm, a little too warm even for my liking, by the time I reached the first significant uphill. But I felt reasonably good and was holding my own within the surrounding group I started with. Some passed me whilst I passed others but I clearly belonged in this company. In fact I think I was making net progress.

It is bunched up at the very start so you don’t find clear running room until at least a mile or more into the proceedings. And speaking of miles, they have big mile marker signs each mile but I only ended up seeing the “4 Mile” one for some reason. Too many other people and things around distracting me.

Hayden James

One of those people was the “2-Pin Pin-Up” (later identified as Hayden James) who cruised past me on Fort George Wright Dr at about the halfway mark. She looked super strong but was wearing a sports bra type top that didn’t have enough surface area to allow her to pin the bottom part of her number which then kept flapping up into her face. It looked annoying as hell so I was impressed that she just calmly kept swiping it back down with her hand without breaking stride or throwing a hissy fit like some people, OK, me, might have done. She would go on to put almost a minute and a half into me before the finish.

Keith Lerew

Doomsday Hill had sweet new smooth pavement but the Buzzard wasn’t there when I went by! I later saw photos of it being there so perhaps it got into position after the Second Seed wave had already passed or was eating a piece of roadkill at the time. Climbing the hill was the most open space I had all day as there was nobody super close in front or behind or beside for just that section. I passed 1 guy and 2 people passed me but according to the official results I had the 63rd fastest time up the hill which is way better than I expected. Same thing last year, my time up Doomsday didn’t seem to be in line with my overall time and place. For sure I run uphill much better than down and who am I to dispute timing mats?

Once Doomsday is complete there are about 2.5 miles remaining and they are pretty much the only flat miles on the course. A great scrap broke out among the group I was with. Some old guy I caught right at the crest of Doomsday then subtly upped the pace and damn near broke me but little by little I clawed him back and we began picking up other runners like a descending snowball.

The Monroe Street Bridge finish

 

By the time we got onto Broadway everyone had begun their push for home and the pace became pretty brisk. I was teetering on blowing up and holding on. A woman came up on my right side and went in front just enough for me to read the back of her shirt, “If it’s physical, it’s therapy”. Various participants of all types were either swallowed up or blew by. It was good, honest running with everyone trying to hold on or gain a few positions before the final turn onto Monroe St – which never seemed to come! When it finally did I knew it was just a very short downhill sprint to the finish so I went for it and managed to finish just ahead of the group that had pushed and pulled me so hard for the final 2 miles.

 

 

The red wave and one other (pink maybe?) hadn’t even started the race when many of us had already finished it. That’s how big it is.

The red wave walkers shed their sweats and hung them in a tree at the start line

After the finish we were funneled down Main St where the long, long rows of tables were set up manned by volunteers dispensing the heretofore secret t-shirt. It is a Bloomsday tradition that the color and design of the t-shirt is a guarded secret until the very moment you actually arrive at the finish to collect it. I like it. Both the color and the tradition. And I like the fact that the whole Bloomsday event is so epic that it has sufficient mass and inertia to create its own traditions.

The one thing I never did quite figure out was the medal situation. Unlike other races they don’t award medals upon finishing the race. But I’m pretty sure they are available as I recall reading something about it when registering. Maybe you pay extra and pick them up at the Expo? It’s kind of cool how Bloomsday inverts the normal t-shirt / medal algorithm.

Wendy’s finger

And it wouldn’t be Bloomsday without bumping in to someone I know among the huge crowds; and incredibly it was…Greg Waters again! He ran a superb sub 50 time and Wendy and I encountered him while returning from checking out the Corporate Cup Compound (a fancy phrase for “Beer Garden”).

A photo was taken to memorialize the moment but unfortunately it turned out to be mainly of Wendy’s index finger.

Man! I’m sure glad I know Bruce Fisher!

 


 

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