Sunday, November 25, 2007

seattle marathon

In last year's Seattle Marathon, Andy Martin spent much of the race "just catching up" with his pal Uli Steidl before Steidl pulled away in the final four miles for his eighth consecutive win in the event. "We talked about our families," Martin said.

This year, Steidl chose to run a 50-mile ultra marathon in San Francisco this Saturday and didn't enter the Seattle event.

So for the 32-year-old Martin, the race was "totally different." He said he and eventual runner-up Brett Winegar of Shoreline "didn't talk the whole way."

Martin -- joined by his 6-year-old son, Charlie, for the last few strides -- won the 26.2 mile event in 2 hours, 27 minutes and 12 seconds. Winegar finished exactly two minutes later.

One factor in Martin's win might have been a particularly restful night. Now living in Los Osos, Calif., Martin has family in this area and made the trip north for Thanksgiving. The day before the race, an uncle told him that Steidl wouldn't be running.

"That helped me sleep better," he said.

While it's not clear how well Trisha Steidl, Uli's wife, slept, she did win for the second year in a row, in 2:59:21. But it didn't come easily. She spent much of the race in third place, sometimes as much as 30 to 40 seconds behind.

"I didn't like being in third," she said. "I felt that a Steidl had to win. A couple of times I said to myself, 'Damn it, Uli, why aren't you here?'."

Her familiarity with the course helped ease her anxiety. The last part of the course has some hills and Steidl figured she'd catch the leaders there. Her confidence proved to be correct.

"I felt strangely fine on the hills," she said.

The result also buoyed her confidence as she preps for the upcoming U.S. Olympic trials in the women's marathon in April. Steidl, 30, still needs a qualifying time of 2 hours, 47 minutes to qualify and she says she hasn't run anything near that time lately.

"This let me know that I have good endurance and I'm on my way to do something good," she said. She hopes that "something good" will come in mid-January at the P.F. Chang's Rock 'n' Roll Arizona Marathon.

Martin benefited from the same hills. In preparation for the men's Olympic marathon trials, held early this month in New York, he had done a great deal of hill training. While his time at the trials was only about a minute faster than his Seattle time, he had been plagued by injuries until shortly before the event and was eager to do another marathon.

Like Steidl, he used his familiarity with the course to his advantage. Winegar "had me on the flats, but I knew the hills were coming up. I was trying to save for the hills."

In addition to a sound night's sleep and his hill training, Martin may have had yet another edge: his Ironman experience. In addition to 12 marathons, Martin has also completed four Ironmans (2.4-mile swim, 112-mile bike ride, and a marathon).

"My wife tricked me into the first one," he said. It was a sprint triathlon for beginners in 2003, and Martin won. He did his first Ironman a year later and for more than a year competed as a professional triathlete. But the increased demands of competing in the triathlon forced him to give up the sport.

Martin noted, "I just didn't have the time to train," he said. "With three kids, it was just too much."

But he does have the time to train for marathons, logging up to 100 miles a week. "I'm still on an upward path," he said. "I still have something left."

And that "something left" might result in something other than a two-hour exchange of pleasantries next year if both he and Steidl appear at the Seattle Marathon starting line.

"Tell Uli he's in trouble," he said. "I'm coming after him."

For the first eight years of her tenure as race director for the University of Washington Medical Center Seattle Marathon, Louise Long always held the finish-line banner for Uli Steidl.

She'll have to get used to a new face Sunday as Steidl announced he won't seek a ninth consecutive title. Instead, he's resting for an ultra marathon next weekend, a race with a five-figure first-place prize.

A Steidl still might be first across the line. In this case, it would be Uli's wife, Trisha Steidl, who won the women's division last year in 3 hours, 1 minute, 36 seconds, and has entered again this year.

"I was happy to hold it [the banner] for Uli, and I'll be happy to hold it for whoever wins this year," Long said. "I wish him well and hope he's back next year."

One thing is likely to remain the same: the growing number of those participating in the marathon and its accompanying events ― the marathon walk, half-marathon run and walk and the Seattle Kids Marathon.

The turnout last year was just more than 14,000 and Long said she anticipates that entries this year could approach 15,000, especially with the forecast of good running weather.

Many of those entrants will gather at the Westin Seattle Grand Ballroom today for the Runners Expo, which runs from 11 a.m. to 8 p.m. The Expo includes vendors offering running-related items in addition to exhibitors providing information on a wide variety of subjects, and is the last opportunity to register. Admission is free.

Both the marathon and half marathon begin next to the Experience Music Project on Fifth Avenue and finish at Memorial Stadium.

One of the highlights on the moderately hilly marathon course is an out-and-back leg on the Interstate 90 express lanes.

Uli Steidl has become synonymous with the Seattle Marathon. In each of the past eight years, the Shoreline man has won the Thanksgiving weekend race.

That streak will end Sunday morning. Steidl will be in attendance for the marathon's 38th running, but as a spectator, there to watch his wife, Trisha, defend her 2006 victory in the women's division.

Jim Bryant / P-I
Uli and Trisha Steidl share a kiss after becoming the first married couple to sweep the men's and women's races in the Seattle Marathon in 2006.
"I've been running a few cross country races in the last two months and will run a 50-miler in San Francisco on Dec. 1," Steidl wrote in an e-mail. "The competition there will be very tough, so I can't run a marathon six days earlier."

Steidl, 35, began dedicating himself full time to competitive running late last year. He finished 12th at the Boston Marathon in April, and competed for the German national team at the world track and field championships last summer.

Trisha Steidl, meanwhile, will use the race as part of her training regimen in preparation for the Olympic trials next April in Boston.

The cross country and track and field coach at Seattle University (her husband is one of her assistants), Trisha Steidl, 30, said Sunday's marathon is an important training race, though she confesses that her competitive side relishes the opportunity to defend her championship.

"I'm not going to go in thinking that I have to win," she said. "But I know the competitive side of me. If I have somebody in my sights, I'm going to go after them. I do need to be smart about it, that I have an objective I'm trying to reach, but at the same time you can't just show up thinking this is only a training run, and understand that this race is challenging."

With their intimate knowledge of the course, as well as the success they've achieved in the marathon, the couple offered their thoughts on some of its distinctive features, as well as personal observations of their hometown race.

For Uli, the first two miles serve as a warm-up before the runners arrive at the Interstate 90 bridge, which takes the competitors to Mercer Island and back. This is the section of the race where the casual and elite runners begin to separate.

"No more spectators at this point," he said. "This is time to find your rhythm, and where the field starts to spread out. The I-90 bridge back is your only chance to see how close friends and competitors are ahead or behind."

Once back in Seattle, the runners head to Seward Park, then loop back toward Lake Washington Boulevard, which they will follow for the next seven miles.

"It's always nice to get to Seward Park because you know it's the halfway point," Trisha said. "It's a beautiful part of the course and you have people there cheering for you. The Edmonds-Woodway (track) team operates one of the aid stations there. We coached there a couple years ago, so we still know some of the kids, and they're cheering and giving you high fives."

Added Uli: "Seward Park to Lake Washington, this is where you still want to feel good. If you don't, the last seven miles will hurt."

What follows -- from miles 19-21, generally the toughest part of a race for marathoners -- is the course's most challenging stretch.

There is a pair of smaller climbs on Lake Washington Boulevard followed by a brutally steep ascent up Galer Street and then another climb up Madison Street.

"And they make a big deal about Heartbreak Hill at Boston," Uli said.

Echoed Trisha: "It's easy to want to take that part of the race super easy. If you go too fast up Galer then you still have Madison to contend with, which isn't as steep, but it's longer. You have to make sure you don't expend too much because you still have a ways to go to the finish."

A gradual climb up Interlaken Boulevard follows, followed by a short stretch on I-5 then onto Eastlake Avenue and South Lake Union.

"(The Eastlake/Lake Union area) is a few blocks of quad-busting downhill -- if you have any quads left -- followed by a flat section that seems a lot longer than it is," Uli said.

Then the final push down Mercer Street and the finish at Memorial Stadium, which the Steidls know a little about.

There are the eight consecutive victories for Uli, and Trisha's breakthrough win in miserably cold and wet conditions last year, but perhaps the most memorable moment was Uli's finish-line marriage proposal at the 2004 race.

"It's always nice at the finish, with the crowd cheering you and that final charge into the stadium," Trisha said. "It's always a great feeling when you get to the finish. That never gets old."


WHEN: Sunday, main race starts at 8:15 a.m.

ENTRANTS: About 11,000 expected for the running and walking events.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS: Men, Uli Steidl, 2:27.55; women, Trisha Steidl, 3:01.40

RECORDS: Men, Robert Greer, 1983, 2:17.25; women, Isabelle Dittberner, 1989, 2:41.04.

TRAFFIC ADVISORY: Fifth Avenue from Seattle Center to the Interstate 90 express lanes will be closed from 5:30 to 9 a.m. The I-90 express lanes are closed from 6 a.m. to 11 a.m. Lake Washington Boulevard (including 36th Avenue South) heading south toward Seward Park has restricted access from 7:45 a.m. to 1 p.m. Northbound lanes of Lake Washington Boulevard (to East Galer Street) are closed from 7:45 a.m. to 1:45 p.m. East Galer Street and a stretch of East Madison Street (to the intersection of Interlaken Boulevard) are restricted from 8:15 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Interlaken Boulevard is closed from 8:30 a.m. to 2:15 p.m. Stretches of Boylston Avenue East, Lakeview Boulevard East, Eastlake Avenue East, Republican Street, Dexter Avenue North and


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