Friday, October 19, 2018

NINE DAYS OUT

They FINALLY added some photos from the Portlandathon!
I cannot believe it is only nine days until the race. Just thinking about it gets me anxious and my heart all fluttery. This never happens with a half but always happens with a full. Plus, it will be my first full marathon in three years, so I almost feel like a rookie again! However, I am not a newbie when it comes to this, so I should find some comfort in the fact I have done it before and know what to expect. Still, it is a massive undertaking!

My training for the MCM started in the middle of May. It is honestly hard to believe I've been training for five months straight. Back when I created my plan, it was almost comical how far away the race was and how many miles and long runs I had to do. Now, here I am, almost 23 weeks out of 24 done. Only one short long run and two short midweek runs away from lining up at the start of the People's Marathon. It's satisfying to look back at my training schedule at all the hard work I've done. I've put in the effort, now it is time to reap the rewards!

Training cycle to date.
Altogether, I think this might have been my most successful marathon training period. I hit every run I had scheduled. I did have to rearrange a few times, but I always hit my three weekday runs and weekend long run at the distance planned (spare a few weeks where I purposefully planned only two weekday runs to rest up for a race). Now, most of these runs were of the easy variety, but I did sprinkle in some speedwork here and there. I forgot to note it at times on my spreadsheet, so some of those "easy" runs actually weren't easy.

In terms of my legs/knees though, I don't think I've ever felt better during a marathon training cycle. It's amazing! I remember being a lot more sore during my marathon training cycles, to the point where I was basically some level of sore every day. This time around, I was only sore on select occasions, usually after races or the longest of the long runs. I've said this before, but it bears repeating... I think I had psoriatic arthritis at a low level for years before it flared up badly. To be able to attack this training cycle with that in remission has been a revelation. I hope the "good vibes" continue into the race, but to be honest, I don't think it affected me much during the marathon previously... mostly afterward. I'll probably feel decent for the first 20 and then have to fight like hell for the final 10k as always.

Now that we are within 10 days I can also obsessively look at the weather too. Right now it looks like highs in the mid 50s, lows in the high 30s, and potential rain. So temperature wise it should be fine! Hoping for the rain to hold off and just have overcast skies. Anything from the high 30s to mid 50s with overcast skies is just about perfect marathon weather! Regardless of the forecast, I'll come prepared with a variety of outfit choices so I can make sure I'm dressed for success.

Anyways, I am excited for the race and want it to get here already! I am also going to try to adjust my sleep schedule a flew days before flying out... we'll see if I can manage that. Updates to come.

Monday, October 15, 2018

PEAK WEEK & PORTLANDATHON FIVE MILER

My squiggly spaghetti route twenty miler. Contains a 6 mile, 10 mile, and 4 mile loop. 
Recently I had my "peak" week of the training cycle. I ended up running 40 miles, including my final twenty mile run before the race. The day after the twenty I ran the Portlandathon 5 Mile race, although at a very casual pace. All told it was a busy week with five days of running but my legs responded well. It definitely gave me another boost of confidence headed into race day. Overall I am feeling strong and my body has responded really well to the training.

Long run with Sunstone.
In order to "rest up" for the busy weekend, I run 7 miles on Monday and then 4 each on Tuesday and Thursday. That left me feeling pretty spunky for my twenty miler on Saturday. Originally I thought I was going to have to run this alone, but after some thought I decided to incorporate Sunstone's normal ten mile Saturday morning run into my longer run. They were going to be running from the school by my house at 8am, which would mean I just needed to run ten more. The real question is how I wanted to break those ten up. All after the group run? Some before, some after?

I decided, despite how painful it was, to wake up at 6:30 and start running at 7:00am. That meant I could get six miles in before the ten mile group run, leaving me with just four more afterward. So before the sun even rose, I was up and getting dressed. The things running makes me do. I ended up getting to run through the sunrise, which was pretty cool. All told those six miles went pretty quick. I made myself an aid station at my car, so I ate a some snacks before joining Sunstone for their ten.

The ten with Sunstone also went really well. It was a pretty small group because of a bunch of regulars were either doing the Chicago Marathon or Portlandathon the next day. The weather was great though, nice and clear, and the fall colors are starting to hit, so it was really the perfect running day! I took two fruit snacks with me and ate those along the way. I also carried a bottle with me the whole time to stay hydrated. Definitely missing the PMC aid stations, but was able to replicate them pretty nicely on this run with the car stops.

So after the run with Sunstone I was sixteen miles in. At this point another four miles didn't sound too bad. My legs actually felt really good for the distance and I would chalk this up as one of the more successful twenty mile runs. So after another brief stop at the car, it was out to finish off the twenty miles. Went off without a hitch. What a sense of relief it was to finish! No more 20 milers! Nothing but downhill from here! Even though there were a couple weeks left in training I felt like I was basically at the finish line.

Portlandathon with Katie.
All told my legs felt pretty good, which was a positive thing, because the next morning I had to wake up early *again* and head downtown to Portland on the MAX to run the Portlandathon 5 Mile race. Katie and I had signed up for this a while back to support the race, which stepped in last minute to take over for the Portland Marathon, which folded after last year's race due to the owner's mismanagement. The Portlandathon filled the void for that first Sunday in October, offering a full, half, 5 mile, and 4 mile walk. So we signed up for the five miler just to show our support because I had no intentions of doing more the day after my key final twenty miler.

There is actually some history with me running a race the day after a twenty miler. Twice, in 2013 and 2014, I ran the Pints to Pasta 10k the day after the PMC Brunch Run twenty miler. The difference between this time and previously though was I actually raced those 10ks back in the day. This time, with Katie, we just happily jogged along at 10:20 pace without a care in the world. Really, there is not much to report from this race, it was just a giant out and back along Naito/Front, something I have done a bajillion times now, but it was still fun to be out there. The atmosphere of a race is always good to be around; plus, there was a delicious meal of mac'n'cheeese and garlic bread afterward.

I obviously took Monday off, then proceeded to run Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Wednesday was even a race pace test at 8:25 that went pretty well. So the legs really held up and responded great. Less than two weeks to go at this point. Eek!

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

HOMESTRETCH TO MCM

Can you spot me? Final PMC run in 2018!
I can't believe the Marine Corp Marathon is almost here and that I'm nearly done with my training. In some ways it feels like I just started training like two months ago, however, in other ways... it feels like I've been training forever. I remember looking at my marathon training plan, seeing those 24 weeks, and thinking about how long and impossible that looked. Yet, here I am, 20.5 weeks in and feeling pretty confident about things. The question of whether or not I could handle the marathon training has definitely been answered.

The half marathon in Boring definitely did a number on my legs though. I ran that thing 100% and I was sore from it for a few days. Even once the soreness passed, my legs were tired and lacked any "spring" for another week or so. I just now feel like I am back to normal. The good news is, I was still able to get all my runs in and keep my mileage up. I just did a lot of easy runs, knowing that the miles were more important than the speed. Eventually my legs caught back up and now I'm ready to attack the final "peak" week in the training cycle with vigor.

The weekend after Boring I had to do 16 miles on my own, as Oregon State had a football "game" at 1:00pm that precluded me from attending the PMC run. So on Sunday I went out from my house and did a 10 mile and 6 mile loop. My legs started feeling it maybe 7 miles in. Like I said, my legs had not recovered from the race by that point. However, I just kept plodding along, and while my legs ached, it wasn't anything hateful. The pit-stop at my house after ten miles was an upper too, as I snarfed down a couple fruit snacks and a tall glass of water. The final six miles wasn't as bad as I imagined.

Apparently PMC thinks I'm motivational?
Last weekend I was able to run with PMC but they were doing only 8 miles. The Portlandathon is this coming weekend, so they were in major taper mode. I still woke up early and went because I had missed the previous two weeks and wanted to say goodbye and good luck to all my pals there. So I ran eight with them and then added six more to hit 14 on the day. I had the misfortune of trying to add six by running around the waterfront in Portland while there was a Pancreatic Cancer awareness walk taking place. The place was PACKED and I had to do quite a bit of weaving (important cause though!). Anyways, I ended up scrapping my out and back plans and did a loop around the Tilikum Crossing to avoid having to go back through it. Worked out nicely and my legs definitely felt better than the week before.

Which brings me to this week. FORTY miles (I know actual marathoners, that's not a lot). Twenty on Saturday and then five at the Portlandathon 5-Miler on Sunday. The peak of the training cycle! My fourth twenty mile run! The long run is going to suck because no more PMC. Twenty isn't too bad when you are running with a group and stopping at an aid station every four miles. Twenty on your own? Ehh. I think my last two by myself was during my first cycle in 2013. It's been a while. Still haven't quite decided what to do, but probably two or three loops from the house with stops for water and snacks. It's going to suck but whatever. Just get it over with and then it's all downhill from there.

I know I'm going to start freaking out when it's closer to race time, but I feel like I'm ready. I've had a really successful training cycle and my knees honestly feel better than they ever felt even before the arthritis flared up. The marathon is still probably going to suck, I'm still going to be questioning everything and praying for death at mile 23, but yeah, let's get this show on the road!

Sunday, September 23, 2018

2018 HALF BORING HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP

Typical scene along the course. Nice long path and runners going both ways. Yellow mile marker sign in the distance.
Last Sunday I left my house at 5:45am and headed east to the town of Boring. Like last year, I made a pit stop at McDonald's; however, this year I only got a small coffee. Last year I got a medium and ended up peeing multiple times during the race. Arriving just after the marathon went off at 6:30, I went to the start line, got my packet, then headed back to the car to pin my bib on and leave my race goodie bag.

I got to the starting line with about 15 minutes to spare and stood in line for the bathroom. Even though I didn't really have to pee, it was more of a preventative measure due to the experience last year. After a couple minutes in that line it was obvious there was no way I was going to make it in time for the start. Since I didn't really have to pee, I decided to just ditch it and go for a light warm up. My warm up led me to a path in the woods which lacked any people and had plenty of cover. So it ended up all working out in that fashion and I didn't have to pee during the race either.

FIRST HALF FLYING (7:36, 7:29, 7:34, 7:39, 7:41, 7:42)

I made my way toward the front of the corral with plenty of time to spare. After some last minute announcements, including a recognition of the dry weather despite a 90% chance of rain, the race was off! With my "A" goal being under 1:45, I knew I had to run under 8:00/mile, so the goal was to pace around 7:50-7:55. However, I also knew the first couple of miles were slightly downhill, so I wanted to take advantage of that on fresh legs. So I ended up running the first few miles averaging low 7:30s. Maybe a little quicker than I wanted, but not tragically fast.

The skies after the rain stopped.
This pace felt so easy. It was crazy! I was almost in a state of disbelief about how easy it felt. I couldn't quite believe my watch. My legs felt great and my breathing wasn't even labored. I've had runs over 9:00/mile where my cardio has been more tested. It was really odd! I could tell I was going fast, it felt like a mid 7s pace based on my gait and everything, but lung and leg wise it felt super easy. It was really weird. Even when the course flattened out, I kept up a quicker pace than initially planned. Miles 4 to 6 were all almost exactly 7:40. Even though I likely couldn't keep this pace up, I was banking some time for the second half of the race.

Remember them commenting at the start line about the lack of rain? Well, almost immediately after the race started, literally within a minute, the skies opened up and it POURED rain. Big drops. Not quite as bad as Corvallis earlier this year, but close. It rained for probably close to an hour, the first half of the race or so. Eventually it piddled out and from then on the weather was absolutely perfect for a race. High 50s and overcast skies. I think this may be one reason why the pace was feeling so easy. I've been used to training in the summer heat, so this weather was like a luxury vacation to my body.

SECOND HALF SLOWDOWN (7:47, 7:57, 8:10, 8:13, 8:10, 8:24, 8:03)

The turnaround was right at mile 6.5, which confused me. Later on I found out why, there was a small out and back section along a street on the way back. It was the same thing last year, I had just forgotten about it. When I made the turn, I looked at my watch and noticed I was averaging 7:36 a mile. This meant I could average 8:16 on the way back and still end up under 8 minutes a mile. This was very encouraging. That felt so slow. I could do this. I tried to keep up my speed but the pace was now starting to wear on me. Mile eight would be my last below the eight minute mark.

All together I still felt pretty good. The legs felt fine, my breathing was still easy, the same effort was just not getting me the same speed now. I took comfort in the fact that I had built up quite the cushion and just pushed to run it in as fast as I could. While 8:16 sounded so slow earlier in the race, it was now a time I was fighting to stay under. Managed to do that except for an ugly mile 12. Although I had slowed way down, I wasn't struggling at all. I was just keeping up the same effort level and not worrying about trying to hit a certain time.

Those last few miles weren't that much of a struggle. I was trying to save a little bit for the uphill portion, but I never really saw it. Second year in a row where coming back I didn't even notice the uphill despite noticing the downhill on the way out. I think because it is so gradual, and the path is just through the woods, it's really hard to see visually. I think the 8:24 mile might tell the story though. By then I was tired and ready to be done but I knew the finish line was near. I had to grind a little bit in that last mile to keep up the pace. The race was really catching up with me now. Eventually I could hear the finish line and finally had a visual as I rounded a corner.

FINISH LINE AND POST RACE


Done!
The final sprint was done at sub 7 pace, so my legs had a little something still left in them. When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, I couldn't quite believe it. 1:42:32?! No way! Not only did I beat the 1:45 goal I thought might have been a little too ambitious, I smashed it! Funny enough, that is the exact time, to the second, of my first half marathon. I guess I'm truly back! Feels like July 2012 all over again, haha.

I was absolutely wiped after the race. While my legs and cardio felt great, for the first ten miles or so at least, this was a balls to the wall race performance that took everything out of me. I left it all on that course. I stumbled my way to the food area and scarfed down some bagels and M&Ms. I was still kind of in a state of disbelief on my time. It was way better than I could have imagined.  After coming to my senses, I cheered a few people onto the finish and then headed back to the car. I had an intense day of napping and watching football ahead.

The next couple of days I was quite sore. I still got my three weekday runs in, but my legs were feeling the effects of the race without question. Even my sixteen mile long run today, my legs were still gently screaming because of the half. That was a 100% effort, no doubt. It gave me a really good idea of where I stand with this whole running thing. Turns out, a little better than I thought!

Official Chip Time: 1:42:32, 7:49/mile. 16/165 overall, 13/57 male, 2/2 M30-34.

Friday, September 14, 2018

2018 HALF BORING HALF MARATHON RACE PREVIEW

At the beginning of last years Boring Half.
It is nearly the one year anniversary of the event where I announced "I'm back!" to running. I wasn't expecting it at the time, but this was the race that really lit the fire in my comeback. I didn't have much time to prepare, as I had spent most of August recovering from two broken toes. At the time I broke my toes, I was just starting to get back to running, my knee inflammation had finally been tamped down and I was trying to get back in shape. The toe thing really threw my planning off so when I finally was able to run again I had less than a month to prepare. I was able to manage about ten runs to cram for Boring, starting from a baseline of three miles and peaking at a six mile "long" run the week before.

My goal last year at Boring was to run it as long as I could (I figured something like eight miles or so, as the six miles the weekend before was tough). Then I could walk/jog it in. There was no thought of running the whole thing, that would be a dumb goal to make and was probably nearly impossible. Well, what do you know, I not only made it to mile eight, I ran the whole damn thing, finishing in 2:22. I actually felt stronger toward the end and ran my fastest miles up a slight hill. It blew my expectations out of the water and gave me the sense that yeah, I can do this again. After that race I started running regularly, at least three times a week, and a couple months later ran 1:56 at the Holiday Half. My mojo was back baby!

So this race really sticks out and means something to me. When I was looking for races to sprinkle around the training cycle to keep things interesting, this one was an easy addition! The race organizers are fun and put on a really good event. It's got that small, local, organic feel to it. Not some big production by a for-profit company, but a labor of love by a few people. I don't know if it will become a yearly tradition like Shamrock or Miami, but it does fall at a perfect time to test your abilities after a summer of training.

In terms of the course, like last year, it is run 100% on the Springwater Trail. So basically you run 6.55 miles along the uninterrupted pedestrian trail, turn around, and run back. The first couple miles are slightly downhill, meaning the last couple are slightly uphill. Last year I didn't even really notice the uphill on the way back even though I did notice the downhill on the way out. I think I was running on magical fairy dust at that point. So this year I fully expect to feel that uphill on the way back, although it is pretty gentle. The weather on Sunday at the moment appears to be low 50s and sprinkles. Not my ideal weather, but close to ideal running weather. Hopefully it will stay dry-ish.

Finally, my goals. I am using this as a measuring stick for my progress over the summer and to set realistic expectations for the Marine Corp Marathon. This half is coming in the heat of marathon training, so my legs won't be completely fresh, but I should be able to run near my best time given my fitness. I'm not using it as practice for my marathon pace or anything, I am using it to see what my marathon pace should be...

GOALS:

"A" Goal: Sub 1:45. This is a stretch. This means I have to average 7:59/mile or less. I ran the Independence Day Half at 8:12/mile, so I need to shave 15 seconds a mile from that. That's a tall order... but on a perfect day? Maybe.

"B" Goal: 1:47:32 or less. Honestly, this will be my main focus, beating my Independence Day Half time. 8:11/mile or less. The extra mileage I've done over the last two months for marathon training should result in a faster time. I'll be disappointed if all those miles doesn't translate into some improvement.

"C" Goal: Sub 1:50, 8:23/mile or less. To feel like it hasn't been a complete disaster, I need to get under 1:50. Maybe it just isn't my day and all those miles catch up with me during the uphill finish. Getting this goal wouldn't be the end of the world, it just means I haven't really gotten faster in the last few months, which would be okay. I am marathon training after all and have done minimal speedwork.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

BRUNCH RUN & RETROSPECTIVE

Mile 8 aid station at George Rogers Park.
After a two year absence it was back to the Portland Marathon Clinic Brunch Run on Saturday. This is the event where they bus you to a mystery location twenty miles away and then you run back to brunch. Usually pretty fun... in theory at least! Read about my experiences in 2013, 2014, and 2015. This is the run that introduced me to PMC and is usually my favorite of the training cycle because it is not the same old route and it always has great aid stations with lots of stuff.

About that same old route part though... yeah. So this year we did the Willamette Park (West Linn) to Willamette Park (Portland) route again. This was the route in my first year, 2013! This was also the route in 2015. This means that out of the four Brunch Runs I have done, THREE have been this same route! Ha! In 2016 and 2017 they did routes I haven't done before (Cook Park in Tigard and Kelly Point Park in Portland) but it's almost like they welcomed me back with this route like a homecoming or something.

I will say that this run went a lot better than back in 2015. I remember that one kind of sucking a lot. Now, that was in the middle of marathon training where my arthritis was starting to be noticeable a little bit (in retrospect). I was able to power through that cycle and a run a great time of 3:39, which was only six minutes off the year before when I was working my ass off to break 3:30. That 2015 cycle was more of a "survival" cycle, kind of like what I'm doing now. Get the miles in, but not worry about speedwork so much. Compared to the way I was feeling that training cycle, this year is going much better.

This was my third twenty miler of the season and I only have one more planned. Yikes! I'm going to have to do that one myself on the day before the Portlandathon. Will probably end up doing various loops from my house. Maybe I'll even buy some candy and shit for when I stop over between the loops. Anyways, crazy to think the dreaded twenty milers are almost out of the way. They've gone so well this year. Again, my legs felt fine during the run. Sure, they were tired toward the end, but nothing like I have felt in the past on some of these twenty milers. It gives me a glimmer of hope that with any inflammation tamped down, maybe, just maybe, the "20s" this coming marathon won't suck as much.

As for the weather on the Brunch Run, it was perfect. That certainly helped with feeling good. Do a twenty miler in 85 degrees and it's an entirely different story! It was actually sprinkling and about 60 degrees when we started. Most of the run was overcast, and then toward the end the clouds broke up a little. Still thought, it was probably 68 degrees when we finished. Very comfortable. I had to scarf down the brunch and jet because the Oregon State football game started at 5:00 and I earned some guilt free tailgating dag nabbit.

Finally, for a little fun, I was curious about how my training was doing compared to 2015, my last marathon training cycle. So far, I've been right on track, doing even more miles than I was doing back then. Awesome! Now, my long runs at the time were with the 3:30 group and averaging like 9:45/mile, so I was actually working harder. So it's not completely apples to apples, but the miles are there. Gives me confidence I can run the marathon. It's going to be a touch slower, sure, but I'm definitely on track and my attempt to "baby" myself a little through this cycle isn't really babying myself much at all!