Thursday, February 15, 2018

FEBRUARY UPDATE

Last 6 weeks of training (Miami was 1/28)
Oh, hi there! Still running at least three times a week and going to try to hit four more often. I'll need to be running four if I really want to give a marathon this fall my best shot. Better to get in the habit of that now while mileage is still low. However, listening to my body is still top priority. I was able to run four a days last week. I am attempting to do that again this week, but had to rearrange my plans tonight. I was going to run with Sunstone but I was feeling run down and sore. I'm going to try to run tomorrow instead and then still do a long run on the weekend. If I still don't feel great tomorrow I'll scrap it and do just the long run since I already have two weekday runs in.

I'm still struggling with knowing when to push myself and when to lay off the gas. Back when I was really running hard and doing well I would run on sore legs all the time. After a few miles, most the time, you'd warm up and be able to run through it just fine. However, when the psoriatic arthritis started hitting, one of the symptoms I got, along with the knee inflammation, was really bad muscle soreness. It felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my legs at times. So I'm worried to run on sore legs now, afraid it's going to result in some sort of flare and sideline me for a while.

However, I think I need to test it out sooner rather than later. If I'm really going to run a marathon this fall and a four day week has me sidelined... then I have major issues. So I think I just need to go for it and see what happens! The four days last week was no issue! So it could be as simple as my conditioning and still trying to build that mileage. Improvement does not come without discomfort in running, so I'll try to balance that with the need to be diligent about my knees.

Otherwise, I'm still running along and have felt pretty good all told. Looking forward to daylight saving time here in a few weeks, that will put the weekday runs in daylight again, which should be a plus in the motivation department. Hard to be motivated to run in the dark sometimes, but I've bitched about that enough.

Friday, February 02, 2018

2018 MIAMI HALF MARATHON RACE REPORT

Oh hai there! Do I look tired? I have no idea why! It's only 5:30am Eastern Time. Jolly ho, onward with this jaunt!
First of all, fair readers, I have to apologize for my lack of posting. I was going to do a preview for this race but didn't get around to it. Not sure I'd have much to say anyways, I was hesitant to set any goals since traveling to Florida is always a wild card. Between weather, sleep, digestive uncertainty, and now arthritis, it's hard to really gauge anything.

I will say I was trying to shoot for under two hours. I did a 1:56 at the Holiday Half but I didn't necessarily feel any faster. If anything I felt slower... I had a lot of mojo going into that race and then the time between that and Miami was a slog to stay motivated. However, I felt like I was about in the same shape, so maybe I could do something similar. As you'll see, that was a pipe dream!

Anyways, I had another ungodly early fight requiring a 4:30am wakeup. Twelve hours later, I was in Miami! Did some fun stuff in my free time there... went golfing, laid on the beach and got some sun, ate delicious food without giving a shit, etc. I tried to adjust to east coast time but failed miserably this year, leading to a lot of tossing and turning and only 2.5 hours of sleep before the race.

PRE-RACE PONDERING

Spoiler... I finished and looked terrible.
We woke up around 4:00am and were out the door by 4:30. Painful wake up, but I've done it before, so I know I can fight through it. We found a neat parking lot last year that was mere blocks away from the start line that we hit again this year. Pretty slick. We were at the start line by 5:10. After walking around to get some photos we split into our separate corrals and waited for the start of the race. I was in corral "E" this year, placed with other people looking to run around a 2:00 half marathon.

The weather this year was going to be the main hurdle. I watched over the week as the temperature kept creeping upward. All told it was 75 degrees with 90 humidity at the start of the race. Not good! Now, there was no direct sun, it was overcast, so that helped. There was also a pretty stiff breeze, another positive in the cooling department. It wasn't as bad as the death march my first year, but it wasn't ideal. While the weather had been unseasonably cool the last three times I was here, that wouldn't be the case this time around.

MILES 1-4: CAUSEWAY CRUISING (8:48, 8:42, 9:03, 8:54)

I paced myself at my Holiday Half pace, shooting for something around 8:50 a mile. As you can see, for the first few miles it went pretty well! I was a little concerned about how I was feeling though. The short amount of sleep was really weighing on me and the weather was not ideal. I could feel my core temperature rising and as a result, my cardio was labored for the effort. It felt harder than it should have. The Tuesday before the race I went to the gym and did a four mile "race pace" run... it was nowhere near as hard as the first four miles here!

As always though, the race was cool. Always neat to run over the causeway and see the cruise ships in the dark. The sun wouldn't rise for another couple of miles so for the moment I was doing okay. I did have a sneaking suspicion I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace, but I would cross that bridge when it came. I ran into Miami Beach feeling a lot like I did back in 2014... uncertain of what the rest of the race would hold. Comparing my feeling at mile four here with mile four of the Holiday Half... night and day!

MILES 5-8: SOUTH BEACH SUFFERING (9:07, 9:11, 9;15, 9:34)

Rolling along, looking strong (?)
While I knew I probably wouldn't be maintaining my pace, I didn't expect to slow down so quickly. I was putting forth the same effort but I just couldn't get those damn miles below 9:00. By mile 8 I had accepted my fate and walked my first aid station. To that point I was doing a slow jog or powerwalk through the stations, getting my fluids and then quickly resuming pace. This aid station however... nice leisurely stroll and a good twenty seconds to drink the water before resuming.

This section of the race was identical to last year. Instead of going through some neighborhoods like the first two years I did it, they now do an out a back a few blocks west of Ocean Drive. While I kind of liked the neighborhood change of scenery, this is also fun. Something about an out and back with runners going both ways is exciting and electric. I was on the lookout for my friend who was running a quicker race than me but I didn't see him. I think he was long gone by the time I got to this section. Overall, I had slowed down a little but nothing too drastic.

MILES 9-11: VENETIAN VENGEANCE (9:40, 9:57, 10:18)

Well, this is where any thought of finishing under two hours vaporized into thin air. The conditions were just too uncomfortable. Now, had I ran this race after a summer of training in the Oregon heat... no problem! I am running in 80, 90 degrees all the time then. Your body gets accustomed to it. But training all winter in 44 degrees and then trying to run a half in this? Just not happening. I hate excuses. I really do. However, sometimes the conditions are just not right. And I, dear reader, put forth that they were not good.

Over the Venetians.
I am now gratuitously walking through the aid stations. Nice thirty second strolls. Drink the water, throw the cup, walk ten seconds more, groan, slowly begin to shuffle. Apparently I was also mentally out of it, because I'm trying to think back about running through the tollbooths (always a milestone because you are almost back on the mainland) and I can't even remember doing that. Zero recollection. So yeah. I think I was a little checked out. My legs felt okay, my cardio was just really labored as a result of being too warm. I felt crummy. It was really hard.

MILES 12-13.1: DOWNTOWN DISTRESS (10:16, 10:35)

Alright, gotta admit, took a couple unsanctioned walking breaks toward the end of this thing. Once the two hour goal flew out the window I was lacking in real motivation. I then thought about doing it under 2:05, but really, I didn't care. I'm surprised these miles were as fast as they were to be honest. I've done long runs at this pace without walking. So what really was going on was I was running a 9:30 clip and taking teeny weeny little breaks here and there. Sue me.

I can't express how crappy I felt. These miles really sucked! I'm not going to compare them to the last few miles of last year or the last few of a marathon, but they sucked. A lot worse than the Holiday Half! I again took the pineapple. Year two... maybe I'll make that a tradition, even if I get fast again. Anyways, after some slogging along we wound our way to the finish line. It felt like a different route this year, and what do you know, it was! At some point you turned the corner and there was the finish, a half block away. Hallelujah!

Suck it Miami, I am done!
POST-RACE PURGATORY

My legs actually felt pretty good after finishing.I remember being in pretty bad shape after last year. This year I was fine. It honestly felt like after a long run. The pressing concern was my energy level and general well being. I felt like garbage. You can see it in my face in the pictures, I look like shit an and lack any color. My body was zapped of any energy. And while my legs were sore for a few days, it wasn't anything too bad. I was going up and down stairs no problem. So the story of this race really was the weather and the resulting lack of cardio.

If I had ran a slower pace to begin with I could have easily maintained a consistent pace and ran this bitch in. Hindsight is 20/20. All three of us did worse than we were expecting. Had one friend who is in 1:42 shape do 1:50. So I can't feel that bad about my race. Hell, I did a half marathon in 2:06, that's pretty fucking good. I need to keep perspective. A year ago I was more than a half hour slower. I was in the top 50% for every category. Onward.

Afterward we took some naps and then gorged ourselves at Pizza Hut. Completely worth it, every soul sucking mile.

Official Results: 2:06:18, 9:39/mile. 3657/13837 overall, 2517/7002 male, 365/873 M30-34.

Monday, January 15, 2018

SPOKES

My spider-like "spoke" route from Sunday.
Warning: Dull ramblings about long run strategies...

This weekend I ended up having to run my 12 miles by myself because I was out of town for the Sunstone run on Saturday. This long run would be exactly two weeks before the half and is one of the most important of the training cycle. It's where I would "peak" before a shorter long run next weekend in an attempt to taper a bit and go into the race fresh. Most of my long runs had been of the 10 mile variety. That is long enough to get you ready for a half (for a casual approach at least) and it is what Sunstone runs every weekend so it makes it easy. I did tack on an extra two to a Sunstone run about a month ago and I figured I should do so again just to make the 13 on race day seem a little easier.

Saturday night I began plotting my course. When you are running by yourself it is important to know where you are going to go ahead of time. That way you don't run too long or run too short and have to painfully go out for more after getting home. Anyways, there are two types of long run strategies and the pros and cons of each in my eyes:

Out and Back: Run half the distance you want to achieve, then turn around and run the exact same way back. Basically ends up looking like a giant squiggly line. The pros of this type of route are many. It is simple to execute and hard to get turned around. It works great on dedicated running paths. My favorite part is that usually halfway doesn't seem like that far. So by the time you hit, say, six miles, you still feel pretty good. Then you turn around and every step is a step closer to being done. The worst part of this run type is the repetition of scenery. If you are looking for variety as a distraction, this is not the run for you.

Loop: My favorite, but the harder to do than an out and back. Once you are beyond about seven or eight miles and want to avoid busy roads, this can get complicated. On one hand I like that, I memorize the route in my head and then have to pay attention to run it correctly. Another great feature is that you are running all new terrain the entire way. In terms of variety, you can't beat it! The downside is that there is no major milestone, like a turnaround. You can start feeling kind of desperate when you are 65% into your run and still so far from home.

Now, you can always combine the two and end up with a "Lollipop" route. There is also a strategy of combining multiple routes from a home base, whether they be loop or out and back. I've used this strategy in the past on long runs for marathon training, typically those in length of 16 miles or greater. When you are running these by yourself and have no supported aid stations, it is nice to loop around to the car and have some cold drinks and snacks before heading back out. Typically it is a good idea to have the second "trek" be shorter, so you are already more than halfway done at the pit stop. A good example of this strategy was my 21 mile run with Alejandro in 2013.

Basically, I lay this all out because I was really struggling with my route on Saturday night. Nothing sounded good and I was dreading the 12 miles alone. I was being a baby, I know! I've just gotten used to running with people on long runs. Now, I had done some out and back 10 milers by myself recently, but those were really starting to drag on. Sunday morning I woke up and decided I didn't want to do the 12 mile loop I had planned the night before. I wanted to try something new.

I came up with the idea of doing multiple two mile out and backs. That way I would always be, at most, a mile from my house. It would also be very satisfying in terms of the reward center of my brain. I was always, at greatest, a mile from some sort of an accomplishment. Either I was at the turnaround or back at my house. And only a mile, those come pretty quickly, so my spirits should remain pretty high! I also set out on distinct routes that were different from one another for variety and worked my way clockwise around the base of my house.

It ended up being pretty cool! The run did go by pretty quickly all told. It wasn't like "wow, I can't believe it's over!" but it wasn't the struggle like some runs are. My main goal was just not to make it look like a swastika and I think I was able to avoid that! Anyways, I could see the novelty of it wearing off with overuse, but I think I'll keep this idea on the back burner for another time I need some extra push to get out there. Normally, these "pit stop" runs have a singular stop, but why not five? I didn't actually stop except twice... once at mile 6 to check a sports score, and once at mile 10 to grab a quick drink. It was nice to have the option though!

Anyways, long story short, I am calling this a "Spoke" route. Copyright 2018 Thomas. Although I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this. Regardless, the bulk of my Miami work is over now. I'll do 8 or 9 miles next weekend and then the weekend after is the race! What a difference a year makes in terms of my physical health!

Friday, December 29, 2017

LIFE ON LEFLUNOMIDE

Remember when I was getting PT for arthritis? Ha!
I'm writing this post mainly to help anybody out who might find this blog via searching for running with psoriatic arthritis while taking methotrexate or leflunomide, etc, etc. I can only share my experiences, but I did detail my journey with methotrexate pretty extensively and I feel like I've been ignoring this drug switch a little. Anyways, running wise there is nothing new, I am still running at least twice during the week and then a long run on the weekend, so full steam ahead there. It's very challenging to stay motivated with the cold and the dark but that's why a race like Miami is so beneficial. Gives me motivation to get out there!

Long story short, I am loving leflunomide so much more than methotrexate. Like orders of magnitude more. It's like one of those Magic Wave ovens... "set it and forget it!" Instead, in this case, it's "take it before bed and forget it!" With methotrexate I was always conscious about the fact I was on it and it was affecting my body. Now, in terms of symptom relief, it was amazing! Essentially full remission of psoriatic arthritis. The price I had to pay though was steep... feeling like shit one day a week after taking it, constant bruising, dreading the next dose and constantly thinking about it, ridiculously prone to sunburn, etc. The side effects weren't going down and the thought of taking that for decades to come was very depressing.

Also in the "try again!" hall of fame.
I'm so glad I made the switch. When I complained at my rheumatologist appointment she presented leflunomide as an alternative but really didn't expect me to agree to it so easily. She was basically like "You don't have to decide now, you can think about it and if at your next appointment you are still struggling with methotrexate, we can switch." And I was like "No, let's switch it now." Very glad I pulled the trigger, if I hadn't, I would still be taking methotrexate. Just writing this post and thinking about it is genuinely making me nauseous.

With leflunomide I just take my daily pill before bed. It's a very small pill and the only side effect sometimes is a rumbly tummy. Sometimes I don't even feel it. Sometimes it's annoying for about 15 minutes. Never is it too bad. Probably has something to do with the last time I ate. Other than that I have noticed zero side effects. The potential side effects are similar to methotrexate but I haven't experienced any of them. The sunburn one will have to wait, but otherwise I feel back to normal. When I was first taking methotrexate I had problems sleeping too, that is no issue here.

As for symptom relief... I would say it's almost on par with methotrexate. I don't think it's had a fair shake yet, right when I switched I got a little more serious about running to train for the Holiday Half and just now it has built up to near full efficacy. There also was a chance at a small flare as the methotrexate worn down and the leflunomide built up. I think I did experience this a little... I had some slight jaw and upper back pain a couple weeks ago. And my knees felt a little funny. It's hard to tell with them, whether or not they are just a little worn from a run or if they are feeling some inflammation... at super low levels it's tough to distinguish. Regardless, at this level it doesn't effect my ability to run or do anything at all.

Onward! My long awaited return to Corvallis this spring!
The jaw pain and back pain is basically gone again and my knees feel pretty good. I want to say maybe like 95% of the way to where they were with methotrexate, but that also might be me being picky and concentrating on them so much trying to compare and contrast. Regardless, in the grand scheme of things, they feel AMAZING compared to this time last year. I can run and maintain half marathon shape without a doubt. Pretty confident they can handle a full marathon too. I still don't know if there is a speed or distance barrier I am going to hit with them, but I'll just keep plugging along and see what happens.

Overall, I am thrilled with how things have turned out. It was the relief I was hoping for during 2016! As for my plans in 2018... a return to the marathon is in the cards! I already tried, and failed, to get into the Chicago Marathon. My next attempt will be the New York Marathon lottery in January (results in February). That has a < 20% acceptance rate, so probably not a good bet that I get in. I will then try the Marine Corp Marathon, which apparently has an ~85% acceptance rate. Should that fail, I'll just sign up for some less popular race, location TBD.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

CHRISTMAS UPDATE

This was unintentional, I swear. Although, I might have to expand (heh) on this in a later run...
Sorry for the lack of updates! The week after the Holiday Half I didn't accomplish very much. I took the beginning of the week off to recover and then felt under the weather toward the end of it. I did accomplish one run on Thursday and then was planning to do 8 miles or so on the weekend. By the time it rolled around the weather was terrible and I still didn't feel too well. So I just skipped it. No harm taking one week after the race a little easy.

I did make it a point to go out there and get it done this last week though. My "slacker" week almost tainted me to the point where I was going to be lazy and start skipping runs again. I could see it all snowballing downhill! I ran on Monday with Matt at PRC and my body felt really slow and lethargic. I felt run down most the week actually. It's been really cold too so it's been hard to be motivated to get out there. So much easier to just sit inside. A few weeks of slacking couldn't hurt, right?

Anyways, I was able to find some time on Wednesday during my lunch to do a short run. I decided I needed to kick things in gear, so I went out and did a tempo run. Now, my focus is just getting back to regular running, so I haven't been focused at all on speed work, but I figured now was a good time to challenge myself and see where I was at. I ran three miles and gave it 100%. 7:58, 8:06, 8:04. First mile under 8:00 since the arthritis diagnosis! Felt good too. Definitely a hard run, but not impossible, and my body responded really well. So that was encouraging.

Thursday it was so cold outside the thought of running through the dark was really bothering me. I have to get past that. Instead, I went to the gym and did four easy miles on the treadmill. Dramatic of me, but whatever, I got my run in. And then today I accidentally run a phallic shaped route of 10.5 miles. I went off on my own around 9am and let me tell you, convincing myself to get out of bed to do that should have earned me an Olympic medal. But I did it! And I ran 10.5 miles at 9:49/mile pace. And my body felt good.

So I feel strong again! It is still very hard to get motivated to go out in the cold. That will continue to be a struggle, but I have to just keep fighting through it. I want to continue to be in shape for Miami at the end of January. Everything arthritis wise still feels fine. The leflunomide appears to be keeping it at bay, which is awesome. No more nasty side effects and continued joint relief. Here's to an awesome year of running in 2018!

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

2017 HOLIDAY HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP

Lined up with about a minute to go until the race. Beautiful weather!
My alarm went off at 6:30am Sunday for my own personal "Breaking2" attempt. I was out of the house by 7:00 and parked near the event at 7:30. I met up with Sunstone to take some pre-race photos. I wasn't really nervous at all this time around as I knew I was trained and I knew I could finish. While I really wanted a time below two hours it wasn't critical. Just the fact I would be out there running around two was a victory.

The weather when the race started was sunny and clear and 30 degrees. I wasn't too cold before the race as there were enough people to block the wind. My outfit was pretty warm too; I wore a beanie, warm gloves, a short sleeve tech shirt on top of a long sleeve tech shirt, long basketball shorts, and high black compression socks. It ended up being just about perfect... I took the beanie off about two miles in and then was comfortable the rest of the race. Not too hot, not too cold.

THE FIRST FIVE (8:45, 8:31, 8:50, 8:59, 8:51)

Before the race with Sunstone.
My goal pace going into the race was 8:55/mile. I was preparing for running a long course (which was good, as my watch clocked 13.2 miles) and the desire for a bit of a cushion at the end. To run a sub two half marathon you technically need a 9:09/mile pace, but you should always shave 5 seconds or so a mile for a long course. I then shaved another 10 seconds to have a two minute cushion to finish in 1:58 if I managed to hold pace.

Anyways, as you can see, I didn't pace myself too great. It partially wasn't my fault though! After starting, the roads were very packed and it was hard to move. I wasn't quite able to get to the "under 9" corral so I was running with people who were going a little slower than I wanted. I ended up popping up onto a sidewalk and slowly passing a lot of people. Every time I looked at my watch I was going to fast. I'd slow to correct myself, but by the next time I checked my watch I was going too fast again. Probably letting the energy of the race get to me. My splits weren't tragically fast though so I wasn't too worried.

After those first miles that were too fast, I settled into the appropriate pace. It felt good - like an appropriate half marathon pace. I was able to enjoy the sights and sounds of the race. Lots of people dressed in wacky costumers, carolers along the course, residents with bluetooth speakers blasting Christmas music. It was good times! Like I mentioned, I had to take the beanie off, but otherwise my outfit was perfect for the cold but clear conditions. The sun was shining and it was just the perfect day for a race. This was a moment when I was so glad to be back running!

THE MIDDLE SPRINT (8:38, 8:34, 8:40, 8:45)

So, as you can see, I started to pick up my pace again? What happened? Well, I was feeling good. My body seemed to naturally keep going a little faster than the target. I didn't want to spend the whole race staring at my watch either, so I only checked it every so often. The pace felt perfect, like a half marathon should, so I wasn't too worried. I figured I might slow down a little at the end, but with the way I was feeling I knew I wouldn't blow up and now had a decent cushion on my two hour goal.

Another factor was some very gradual downhill. I figured I should take advantage of it a little bit, so when my times kept coming in under the 8:55 target I wasn't too upset. The course was very flat, much more so than I expected, so none of this was very significant. There were even some slight uphills portions here. I think even at times it might have looked downhill but was flat, or vice versa. Anyways, I was trucking along and felt good. I could tell my legs were tiring somewhat but with just four miles to go I knew I could survive.

HELLO NINE, MY OLD FRIEND (9:04, 9:11, 9:08, 9:18)

The only significant hill of the race was contained in that 9:04 mile ten. It was probably only about a city block in length and I didn't want to tucker myself out on it, so I took it easy. When I hit the top I resumed my 8:55 pace. When my watch beeped with a 9:04 mile I thought "Dang, that sucks. Would have been cool to have all my miles below nine." Ha. Little did I know, my miles would only get slower from that point.

I was working just as hard, but my pace seemed to naturally be 9:10ish now. I had experienced this before, especially in marathons. You feel like you are going just as fast, you are certainly working just as hard, but your pace drops. It sucks! It's because your legs are tiring and you aren't quite springing the same distance forward as before. Anyways, I knew at this point to speed up to try and chase a certain number would be a bad idea, so I just kept my effort consistent and knew the finish line wasn't too far away.

As you can see, my mile thirteen was the slowest. Oops. The too fast start was catching up with me. I wasn't in shape to run a half marathon at 8:40, which I apparently was attempting to do. Luckily, with a half, you can get away with it for the most part. Marathon would be a different story. But with a half, you just need to hang on for a few miles. I knew I had built up quite the cushion and that even 10:00/mile at this point would likely get me into the finish under two.

FINISH

A "flattering" shot of me right after finishing.
When we were just under a half mile away a woman saw me look at my watch and asked "How much further?" Haha. I feel you. I told her it was only fourth tenths more. We both agreed that was nothing and we would finish no problem. And it wasn't! In fact, I ran the final quarter mile at a 7:40 pace. So I wasn't completely clobbered. Felt good to sprint strong through the finish line. I knew I had gotten my goal but the 1:56 on my watch was a surprise. Didn't expect it to be quite that fast! Awesome!

After finishing I wandered around and got my food and beer. My legs were tired but not tragically so. I was still able to slowly climb stairs without too much effort. Unfortunately, the finish line was a crowded mess and I didn't spot any one I knew. So I chowed down on my free soup and beer and then headed home. A warm bath and day reclining and watching football was calling anyways.

Shaved another 25 minutes off my half time! Wohoo! Unfortunately, I am now at a pace were gains will be much harder to come by. But the journey of rapid improvement from 12s to 9s certainly was fun!

Official Chip Results: 1:56:34, 8:53/mile. 585/1846 overall, 324/674 male, 53/92 M30-34.