Tuesday, July 31, 2018

END OF JULY TRAINING RECAP

One of many weekday runs with Sunstone Running Club.
Well, thought I should update everyone on how marathon training has been going. All told, it's been going pretty well! The training schedule really keeps me accountable, I'm going to hit my runs no matter what! If I have a run on Tuesday that I skip for some reason, you bet your ass I'm out there on Wednesday getting it done. No excuses, barring injury or sickness. Same with the long runs. Do I like waking up at 7am on Saturdays to run? Hell no. However, am I always glad I did it? Yes. The rest of the weekend free with no long run looming ahead is awesome!

As planned, I am hitting three runs on the weekdays. The plan is Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, but sometimes I switch it up to Monday, Wednesday and Thursday depending on how my legs feel after the long run Saturday and Monday night run. With the increased mileage I'm definitely not feeling the need for speed, although I'm still trying to throw in a run here and there to try and keep whatever speed I have up. As, as planned, those have been sporadic as my main focus has been on getting the mileage in. So far, I've been able to build my mileage without issue, so I have to keep going with what's working.

In regards to long runs, those are going well. These were my main concern when I started marathon training... I felt confident my knees could handle 5-6 mile weekday runs at that point, the big question was whether or not they could handle the long distance weekend runs and resulting weekly mileage into the mid to high 30s. And so far so good! Last weekend I did 18 miles and my body held up very well. My legs were definitely tired by the end but nothing major at all. Better than I remembered feeling on most 18 milers. The next challenge will be 20 miles this weekend, but I'm not worried at all to be honest. It has been pretty smooth sailing to this point so another two miles shouldn't be too big of an issue (famous last words?).

One of many long runs with the Portland Marathon Clinic
My knees actually feel really awesome. Since I noticed the psoriatic arthritis at a low level for years in other areas (upper back, jaw) before being treated, it is reasonable to assume it was also in my knees at a lower level for a while. Perhaps some of the discomfort and soreness I felt during these long 16+ mile runs was actually the arthritis acting up a little. Or maybe I am just remembering it as worse than it was because the fact I am running 18 miles again kind of blows my mind. I think the real test will be in the chute after the marathon... I am 5 for 5 for being a complete shitshow as soon as the race finishes. I didn't understand how people could just be walking around and smiling after the race. Maybe, just maybe, when I finish this time, my legs won't immediately turn to jello and cramp up.

Honestly, they probably will revolt as usual because a marathon is a long freaking way. However, training is going well and I am confident I can finish it. That will be a huge accomplishment! I basically had to start from scratch after almost two years on the bench with no clue if I would ever be able to run again. So to be in the heat of marathon training feeling so good is awesome! Fingers crossed the next two months go as well as the previous two! 11 weeks down, 12 to go!

Sunday, July 15, 2018

2018 INDEPENDENCE DAY HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP

Post race celebration. Was I really happy? Find out below!
I woke up around 7:00 on the 4th of July, a Wednesday this year. I had picked up my race packet the day before at Portland Running Company, so I wasn't too stressed about the time. I was able to drive to Champoeg Park and wander to the start line by about 7:40am or so for the 8:00 start. Easy peasy!

The only thing I was worried about was the slight feeling of having "to go #2." I got in the line for a port-a-potty but with the limited number of potties I didn't think I was going to be able to go in time. Someone got some "inside info" about a pod of potties down a hill that didn't have a line. By the time I heard this and wandered down there, the line was just as long! Oh well, after a bit I gave up and just lined up to start. Hopefully it could wait!

THE FIRST LOOP (8:07, 8:17, 8:11, 8:06, 8:53*, 8:22)

After the national anthem and some final instructions, the race went off right at 8 o'clock. It was a little congested at first, as most races are, so there was a bit of weaving and holding back at the beginning, but as you can see, I still ran a pretty fast first mile. With my goal of beating Corvallis, I knew I had to run 8:30 miles or below. I decided I would try to run somewhere between 8:15 and 8:20s and see how far that could take me. All told the first few miles were a little fast, but nothing too tragic. I was feeling pretty good all told despite the lack of a proper taper for this race.

That 8:53 mile is not accurate. So we get to the turnaround for the first loop (which would total 10k) sometime during the 8:06 mile preceding it. On the way back to the start line somewhere in the forest paths my watch lost the GPS signal. I didn't realize it until I looked down at my watch to check my pace and saw it as "--:--." Great! Not. Anyways, I was in a rhythm so keeping up the appropriate pace wasn't too hard. I knew at some point my watch would kick back in and I could use it again, the mileage would just be off. It wasn't too long before the signal was acquired again. My watch, which was hitting the mile markers dead on, was now .25 miles behind at the next marker. Annoying, as my overall pace was now jacked, but whatever, my race was unaffected.

For those of you not familiar with Champoeg Park, the race is along paved trails through lush forest along the river. It's very pretty and great scenery for the race. The paths weren't too wide, but wide enough for two way traffic to proceed without issue for a race this size. There was one foot bridge that was under construction that had room for only one person going either way. Luckily, whenever I hit this bridge I didn't have an issue with oncoming traffic. The course itself was pretty flat, although there were definitely some hills toward the turnaround point.

A flavor of the trails I ran through in Champoeg Park. Screencap of this video, credit YouTube user NatureCyclist.

THE FINAL LOOP (8:10, 8:36, 8:16, 8:40, 8:19, 8:36, 8:24)

The finish line was up a small hill for about a block. Someone was shouting instructions out, if you were running the 10k you were done, if you were running the half, cross the mat and then turn around and go back out for another loop. Honestly, it felt kind of good to not be finishing, I made the turn around with maybe 33% of the other runners around me. Let's get this done! I was still feeling good, so far it was the perfect half marathon pace; my lungs were burning a little, the pace was challenging, but my legs felt good and I was confident I could go the distance without a major breakdown.

This loop was a lot lonelier, mostly it was just me and my thoughts running through the streets and trails of the park. I was in a rhythm and just plodding along. This loop would be slightly longer than the last one, as they added some distance past the first 10k turnaround to make sure we hit our 13.11 miles. Unfortunately, this extra distance was not flat and required a big hill climb on the way back. As a result, you can see the 8:40 mile. I knew I had a lot of extra time to play with at this point so I wasn't worried and just kept plodding along. I was doing the math in my head and now that my watch was off, I knew the pace reflected on there was about 10 seconds a mile too high. Considering my watch pace was still below my goal pace, I was in great shape.

On the way back to the finish I definitely starting to feel the subtle uphills that I didn't feel on the way back on the first loop. My legs were definitely tiring now, about mile 11 they started to complain a bit, but that's normal for a half marathon. I was able to keep going without issue although I was definitely ready to be done. I had also spent the whole race with that slight urge "to go" still there, so I was looking forward to taking care of that. Luckily, it did not require my attention during the race, which was quite the relief! Anyways, I rolled up that final uphill and through the finish.

POST RACE


Photo credit: www.runoregonblog.com
Holy shit! 1:47:33! Not only did I get my goal, I SMASHED it! Awesome! Good to know that my dedicated training was paying off. The marathon training definitely helped in those final miles too. Now that I was doing runs up to 16 miles, those final few felt so much better than Corvallis. I did have a secret goal of sub 1:50 but I never thought I would be in the 1:47s. Awesome! In my head, anything below a 1:45 half marathon is "fast," so hopefully I can get there by the end of the year. That used to be my baseline, as long as I got sub 1:45 I could live with it.

The post race part included a burger and a beer, both delicious. I checked the results and unfortunately I placed 4th in my division (out of 5 - ha!) so no awards ceremony for me. I was 15th out of 125 though, so that was cool. Once I was done eating I didn't really have any reason to stick around, so I drove home and took a warm bath. I then crawled into my bed and took a 3 hour nap. Oops.

Overall, a very successful race! I'm glad I signed up as it was fun to test my progress and come out feeling pretty good about how my training was going. I think I'm going to sign up for the Crawfish Crawl 5k in August - that will be my next official race. Will be good to get a baseline 5k time to work off of, although I won't taper or anything for that so it could be painful. After that, my next race will likely be the Boring Half Marathon followed by the big daddy... the Marine Corp Marathon!

Official Chip Time: 1:47:33, 8:12/mile. 15/125 overall, 13/61 male, 4/5 M30-34.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

INDEPENDENCE DAY HALF MARATHON RACE PREVIEW

Pretty good reason to miss my only run so far (midweek 6
miler. Beavers 2018 baseball champs!
Has it really been almost a month since my last blog post? Oh my word! A quick update before I get into the race tomorrow... everything is going well with the marathon training! Still sticking to my training schedule and hitting all the long runs. Body feels good, no complaints there. Really an optimal training cycle so far! A long ways to go yet, but I am feeling pretty positive. Long runs have ventured into the "actually long" territory, I've now ran 16 twice and will run 18 next week, but they are going easily enough except for the "holy crap it's been forever are we done yet?" mental challenge. Physically they feel fine!

And with that, let's get into the race tomorrow. I signed up for this one a while back when I was looking to sprinkle in some races throughout the training cycle to keep things interesting and keep me on my toes. Now, a race always sounds better in theory (like a 5:30am plane flight), and then when it's actually race day you're like "why am I doing this?" Well, why I voluntarily chose to wake up at 7am on a holiday I'll never know! At least all the hot dogs and beer afterward will be guilt free. I think I'll enjoy the race as it should have some nice scenery and a good atmosphere. Just not all that excited about running it at race pace!

However, I do want to run it to the best of my abilities just to see how I stack up. I could always just 9:30/mile it and enjoy it, but that wouldn't really tell me anything. Now, I'm not going to enter this race 100% just because I didn't taper properly before it. I ran 16 on Saturday and then 4 miles last night. Not too bad and I did cut back on the Monday miles, but ideally I would give my legs a couple days rest before really attacking a race. So while I might not be able to achieve my best possible time given my current fitness, I think I should be able to get relatively close.

When I was in Omaha last week I did what ended up being a half race pace tempo run for five miles. It was mostly motivated by the traffic whizzing by me on the highway at 55mph and a fear for my life (pedestrian infrastructure over there is garbage), but I was able to hit 8:15-8:20s pretty easily. For being 82 degrees and humid outside the run was surprisingly easy. I just hope it feels that easy come tomorrow morning! On Monday I went out for an easy four miles as part of a mini taper and 9:45s were kicking my ass. So it's hard to predict how I am going to feel on race day!

Course map for tomorrow. Let's get loopy!
The weather looks a bit warm, 68 when the race starts and around 76 when I'll finish. It should be overcast though, so that will help. Not the ideal temperature, but nothing too tragic either. It can be a lot worse in the summer. If the sun does break through I'm also fairly certain a lot of the course has shade, so that shouldn't be an issue. The course itself is two loops, the first loop being a 10k, and then the second loop being that same loop plus an extended out and back to hit our mileage.  It's also pretty dang flat. So overall, while my legs aren't super fresh and the temperature is a bit warm, it should be a pretty quick race for me assuming I can find a groove.

Overall, I'm not going to do the usual A, B, and C goals, as this isn't a "target" race, more of just a "check up." I will tell you that I hope to beat my Corvallis time. Now, that race went amazing... one of those runs where everything clicked and you are certain you performed to the best of your abilities. I'm not sure how this one will go, so we'll see. I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't beat Corvallis as long as I give it my best try. However, it would be pretty sweet to beat that time given how well that race went! I'll need to go sub 8:30 to do that, so I'll probably target 8:20s and hope I can hold on.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

BREAKING THE CENTURY MARK

Coming into the finish line with other volunteers after sweeping the course (and the reason I had to run on a Friday night).
Well, at 108 miles, May was my first month above 100 miles since way back in September of 2015 right before my back to back marathons. It's been a long road back, but it feels good! My training for the Marine Corp Marathon is going well, I've now completed the first four weeks with perfect marks. I've hit every run as scheduled and my body feels great.

I've found the schedule really helpful. I've always done well following a plan... I feel a commitment to it and the excuses my brain likes to generate seem to calm down. I know if I skip a run on a Tuesday I'll have to make it up on a Wednesday, so I just tend to go out and do it on Tuesday. I'm going to get my runs in barring injury or something like that, which wasn't always the case earlier in the year. It was really easy to intend to run four days a week and slip to three. Not anymore though!

Twice now I've ran my long after work on Friday because my Saturday morning was busy and would conflict with my normal long run. That just goes to show you that I am not making any excuses, these runs are going to happen one way or another. Sure, I just got done with a long week of work and it's the last thing I want to do, but dammit, I'll get my 14 miles in. I watched the bright, sunny day turn into dusk and it was actually kind of pleasant to be honest. Now, every week doing this would suck, but as a one off it was completely doable.

Slow and steady build toward marathon competency.
Another fun thing about my long runs recently is that I am back into "new longest run" territory. Since I kind of had to hit the reset button with the whole arthritis thing, I am getting a feeling of accomplishment as I slowly build my mileage back up. Today I ran 15 miles and it was the furthest I had ran in almost three years. So that was cool! While previously it might have just felt like another run in the beginning of a marathon training slog, this time around each of these runs has a little extra meaning to it.

Anyways, just wanted to give an update. Training has been going well, I'm in a groove and hitting my runs. I've even thrown in a few speed workouts and hill runs to keep things interesting. All in all it's very encouraging. Hopefully I can keep the sunny outlook as we enter the critical summer training months. These longest of long runs in the heat are exhausting enough to challenge the mettle of just about anyone, but I've done it before and I can do it again.

Monday, May 21, 2018

TWENTY EIGHT

The first week of Marine Corp Marathon training is in the books! Nothing too exciting about it, I've done similar weeks in the previous two months preparing for training to start, but it feels good to check a successful week of training off the plan. 1 down, 23 to go! Ha!

I plan to run four days a week, like I have done every marathon training cycle. The first three days went as planned; Monday at PRC and Tuesday and Thursday at Sunstone. At PRC I can adjust my runs anywhere from 3-7 miles, and at Sunstone I can go anywhere from 4-7 depending on whether or not I run there from my house. I'll be able to ramp them up and down as needed, so that will be great.

The challenge this week was the weekend long run. The Timbers had a game at noon on Saturday and I wanted to get there when the gates opened (10:30am) to secure good seats. Well, that meant I couldn't run with any of the weekend groups. I was planning to run my first week with the Portland Marathon Clinic, but that will have to wait. I went through all the options in my head, wake up at 7am Saturday and run from home, run after the game, run Sunday morning before going golfing at noon, run after golf, etc. None of these options sounded good.

Most miles in a week since pre-arthritis.
So what did I end up doing? Running 12 miles after work on Friday! It kind of sucked, when I headed out I couldn't quite believe I was doing it, but I just tried not to think about it and stay ignorant. That pretty much worked. Getting the run over with and allowing my weekend to continue without trying to jam in a run somewhere was a big motivator. Once I was done it felt so good to have it out of the way! I could go about my weekend and sleep in without it looming over me.

Another victory was running 4 out of 5 days, including 6 on Thursday and 12 on Friday. I don't remember the last time I ran the day before a long run. Usually I give myself a rest day to make sure my legs are fresh. Despite being a bit concerned about that, I went out for the run on Friday anyways and I'm happy to report my legs felt great! Most of my long runs have been 10 miles, so it was good that 12 felt okay even on legs that had ran 6 the day before. Wasn't limping around or unreasonably sore or anything. Encouraging!

Anyways, I'll stop the boring rambling now.

TL;DR: Week one of marathon training went well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

THAT TIME AGAIN - MCM TRAINING PLAN

The training plan. Click to enlarge!
Before I get into the training plan, let's do a little update on my running and how my psoriatic arthritis is doing. I feel like I've kind of stopped updating on that very often because, honestly, it has become a non-factor. The leflunomide seems to be working amazingly to keep that at bay. I feel like I did back in the day! Now, I still have to see how my joints will react to marathon training and a marathon, but for now, it's not holding me back in the least. I think the question of whether or not I could run a half marathon and retain that shape has been answered. Amazing to think back to just over a year ago when I was hobbling around and just starting treatment and running 2:39 half marathons.

I started doing some math in my head and it turned out the latest I would want to start training for the Marine Corp Marathon this fall is early June. I decided to whip up a plan and it ended up starting in two weeks. Yikes! I'll be doing the weekend long runs with the Portland Marathon Clinic, which means they target an early October marathon (despite there being no Portland Marathon this year). So I'll actually be ramping up the mileage about a month earlier than necessary, however, I'm just looking at it like giving my legs more time to adapt to the higher mileage. I should be more than prepared come late October!

As you can see, my plan is very simple. This is akin to my first marathon training plan, when my goal was two "easy" runs and one "fast" run a week in addition to my long run. For now, I have everything as an "easy" run, but will try to throw in a speed run every so often, they just won't be planned. Again, I am not focusing on speed at all this cycle, just getting back to marathon base mileage. Last night I did one of these random tempos with Sunstone... I thought I'd go easy but I started running up front and ending up doing 5 hilly miles at 8:09 pace. Oops.

Compared to my first training plan, this one actually lines up pretty well. I started that about 5.5 months before the marathon back then, and I'll be starting this one 5.5 months before the MCM. I'm actually ramping up the long run distance slower and more gradually this time, in line with my goals. So I think it will end up working really well. The best I ever felt during a marathon was that first time, so hopefully I can get that magic going again. I also planned a couple races to mix things up and keep it interesting... I haven't signed up for these yet, but I'll likely end up doing them.

The biggest challenge, in addition to the four 20 milers (ugh!) will be those runs after the Portland Marathon Clinic shuts down for the training cycle. I'll be on my own for the month of October and that final 20 miler! I can manage that for a couple weeks though. If I end up having to do that 20 miler on my own, I will probably break out my "spider/spoke" method of route design. I actually did my first 20 miler on my own, so it can be done!

Overall, this training cycle will be a little more relaxed than previous marathon cycles. I'm not going to stress out if I have to drop a weekday run for extra rest or don't hit a speed run for a couple weeks. The goal is to just get across the finish line of the Marine Corp Marathon as comfortably as possible.