Friday, December 08, 2017

2017 HOLIDAY HALF RACE PREVIEW

Starts under the arch near Adidas USA headquarters.
This Sunday I'll be doing a race I've been eyeing for years... the Holiday Half! This race is notorious for shitty weather, which has been the main culprit scaring me away from it. I signed up a while back ready to embrace whatever Mother Nature had in store and luckily she has decided to be very gentle with me. So I'm excited! It's a race I've been meaning to do since I started running and now I'm finally doing it!

Before I get into the nitty gritty of the race preview, let's do a quick update with how things are with my body. Everything is still clear sailing on the psoriatic arthritis front. It's now been a full month since I stopped taking methotrexate and I still feel GREAT. Very encouraging. There are virtually no side effects I've noticed so far with leflunomide. A little rumbly tummy for a few minutes right when I take it (before bed) but that's it.

The verdict is still out on some of the other side effects that I had with methotrexate that I could have with leflunomide. Sunburning more easily will have to wait a while to be determined, along with my lips chapping ridiculously easily due to sun. One thing I can test out is how easily methotrexate made me bruise. Like a peach! Like I peach I tells ya! That seems to be gone with leflunomide. The other day at work I really whacked my arm and it for sure would have been an ugly bruise before. Now, not so much. I'm also not finding random bruises on my body which came from who knows where.

Rolling downhill toward the finish line on Greeley.
My legs did feel a little worn this week but it makes sense. Last week I ran four times for a grand total of 25.6 miles. Definitely the most since the onset of psoriatic arthritis. I only ran twice, 5.5 on Monday with PRC, and then 4 on Thursday with Sunstone. My legs felt a little worn but it was the normal worn, not "flare impending" worn. They should feel fresh enough and ready to go on Sunday for the half marathon. So I'm excited to get out there and give it my best shot!

As for the race! Expect temperatures around freezing with partly cloudy skies when the gun goes off at 8am. I remembered similar conditions for the Hot Buttered Half Marathon two years ago, so I double checked my outfit for that race. I plan on wearing a long sleeved shirt with gloves and a beanie. I can always roll up my sleeves and take my beanie off if I get too hot. I'll have a red/green color scheme going on to be festive. I am truly a hobby jogger now!

In regards to the course, it's pretty flat. Sure, nothing in Portland is truly flat except maybe Sauvie's Island, but in the grand scheme of things this one isn't very hilly. I have seen a couple of elevation charts that differ with each other, so I'm not sure quite what to expect. I think the area right near the start/finish will be hilly and then again near the turnaround point in St. John's. I know for a fact that Willamette Blvd, the bulk of the race, is very flat from many training runs and the Portland Marathon.

Luckily the race has an indoor area to hang out before and after the race. Thank goodness! I will know a number of people at the race so I'm hoping to bump into them. There is beer and chili and general festiveness after the race so it should be a good time. Will be nice to run a half marathon in half marathon shape again. It will be hard but the question of whether or not I can run 13 miles is not really a question at all!

GOALS:

"C" Goal: Beat my "post PsA" half marathon PR of 2:22. If all else fails, I need to at least beat that mark! This is 10:53/mile.

"B" Goal: Sub 2:10. This is the next step. Miami in January was around 12:00/mile. Boring was just under 11:00/mile. This would put me just under 10:00/mile and get my half marathon pace back into the 9s. Heck yeah!

"A" Goal: Sub 2:00. The old "sub two hour" marathon goal. I am now a proud member of this club. I think if I'm feeling good and run a good race my time could realistically be anywhere from 1:57-2:03. I could run my best and not get this. But there's a chance! I'm going to start the race by pacing myself to this time and we'll see if I can hold on!

Tuesday, November 28, 2017

LEFLUNOMIDE UPDATE

From last Tuesday's Sunstone run (Indy Mini hat!)
I've now been on leflunomide for two weeks. The first week has a half dose and I've been doing the full dose for seven days now. The verdict? Still nothing on the side effects front. That's good news! I feel like if the medicine was going to cause fatigue, nausea, or gastrointestinal issues I would have felt them by now. Knock on wood, but zip, zero, nada for side effects, which is encouraging. I suppose I could still see my hair fall out...

So half of the puzzle is working out well. Side effects wise this stuff is SO MUCH BETTER for me than methotrexate. It's a non factor, whereas I was dreading my weekly dose of methotrexate practically all week. Symptom wise I am still symptom free! My knees and other affected joints feel great. The methotrexate is still somewhat in my system and the leflunomide is building, so we'll see if there is a point where I have a flair in the transition. However, so far so good. Let's hope once I am solely on the leflunomide I still have complete symptom relief. That would be the dream!

On the running front I am continuing to get better slowly. I was pretty pleased with the 10k turkey trot on Thanksgiving. Because I didn't want to push anything, I didn't go to any group run on Saturday morning. I didn't want to put 10 or more miles on my legs that close after a race - even though they felt pretty good. I figured I'd go out for a long run Sunday, maybe 8 miles, but by the time Sunday rolled around it was cold and rainy and I just couldn't motivate myself. So I had three days of rest in a row, which hasn't happened in a while.

Anyways, to somewhat make up for that, I am going to try running four days this week, up one from my usual three. I already have two down, Monday at PRC and Tuesday with Sunstone. I'll run with Sunstone again Thursday and then join their long run on Saturday. This weekend is actually the last weekend before the Holiday Half. Yikes! I'm going to extend the 10 miler with Sunstone on Saturday to 12 miles by running a couple extra after we are back. I could do 13 easy right now, but I think it would give me a little piece of mind to get those extra couple in just to be sure.

Later gators.

Friday, November 24, 2017

2017 GIVE N' GOBBLE RACE REPORT

Give N' Gobble post race 2013 (left) vs 2017 (right). Remind me not to do time comparison photos anymore, ugh.
I woke up around 7:45 for an 8am departure to this race. I purposefully recreated my outfit from 2013 when I last ran this race for fun. Nothing like neon orange on top of powder blue. I hopped in my car with the rain coming down hard. I was a bit afraid it would be a wet one, but the rain stopped right before the race started and didn't return until after the run was complete. So good timing there.

For some reason, out of the blue on the way to the race, I began to question if I had even signed up. I had planned on going for a long time, and signed up for a lot of races (my bank account felt it), but I had a creeping suspicion that I forgot to register for this one. Once I parked at the race I tried to find my registration confirmation in my email. No dice. Uh oh. When I went to the table to pick up my bib they couldn't find me. Fuck. This race didn't have day of registration either!

Luckily, the woman attempting to check me in was very nice. She said I could just run the race. They have a policy of letting people do that if they try to sign up on the day of or make a mistake and forgot to register, etc. When I was like "Are you sure?" she was like "Absolutely! It's not for profit, just for fun, you just won't have an official time." I still felt weird about it. I went back to my car to contemplate. I figured I could just go home and run my own 10k. Eventually though since the race itself didn't seem to care, I decided just to go for it. So my first "bandit" race, even if it was sanctioned, haha.

MILE ONE (8:38)

I lined up toward the back of the pack and waited for the gun to go off. It went off right on time at 9:05am. Unfortunately, since I was toward the back, I was stuck going at a slower pace than I wanted. I had to shuffle about a block before I could pop up on a sidewalk and run the pace I wanted. Throughout this first mile there was some more dodging around, I figure I lost about 20 seconds to all of it. Maybe it was good though, start me out a little slower and ease into the race. As planned, I didn't really look at my watch and just settled into what a 10k should feel like.

MILE TWO (8:20)

Holy shit this race is hilly. This wasn't a race with half flat, half rolling hills. It was rolling almost the entire time. It seemed like you were always going up or down. Annoying at times, but honestly I don't think it impacted my time too much other than the mostly uphill mile five. It's definitely NOT a PR course, I think I could shave 10 seconds a mile on something flatter, but it wasn't tragically hilly I guess. Still, it kept you on your toes, you couldn't really zone out and settle into a rhythm like some races.

It was also during this mile I was passed by a young woman that looked like an old neighbor of mine. It wasn't her, but she looked very similar. I could hear her breathing heavy behind me and eventually she overtook me. Once she passed me she seemed to slow down and then just settle 15 feet in front of me. Almost like she made it a point to be ahead of me. Now, I had to run my own race, but if I could beat this look-a-like, it would be a cherry on top. You use anything you can for motivation during the race.

MILE THREE (8:22)

During this mile I was beginning to have some doubts about whether or not I was going too fast. My lungs in particular were screaming, as they should in a shorter distance race. However, I wasn't entirely sure I would be able to maintain the pace the entire length of the course. I knew by my mile splits how fast I was going, which was a little faster than I expected. Regardless, I just decided to keep going at my "10k pace" and see what happened. If I misjudged things, then so be it. This mile included some country roads and nice scenery as we left the suburban homes and started running on a narrow two lane road by some farms.

MILE FOUR (8:25)

Just chugging along. I knew eventually the course would enter the city again and there would be a mostly uphill mile. I couldn't remember if it was mile four or five and about halfway through this mile I figured it was the next one. The look-a-like girl was now a solid 30 yards in front of me. I was maintaining visual contact but she was slowly pulling away. Dammit. Oh well, just focus on my race.  As you can see, my split times were remarkably consistent, especially when you consider the extra 15-20 seconds I gained on the first mile due to congestion. My "by feel" pacing was leading to some pretty even splits and by the time this mile was over I was thinking I could probably hold it through the finish. Only twenty more minutes.

MILE FIVE (8:53)

If you didn't guess it already, this was the uphill mile. The uphill wasn't visually impressive... it was just one of those relentlessly gradually uphill type deals. The uphill was enough to really slow the pace though. There was a short downhill break in the middle but then it was right back uphill again. I was slowly gaining on my target as well. By the end of the mile I was probably within 20 yards; close, but still a ways to go. Eventually toward the mile marker the course switched back to up and down rollers and dumped us onto a nice walking path through some woods.

MILE SIX (8:20)

Right back to my pace. Really happy with my pacing by feel in this sucker! The race was starting to catch up with me but I knew I could maintain through the finish line. Just like a 10k should be! In addition, I was starting to pass a few other 10k people who were running out of steam. I was slowly rolling in the look alike too. By the end of this mile I was a mere 10 feet behind her. I was determined to finish hard. I remembered from four years ago that you came out of the wooded portion and the high school was right there in front of you, it was only a few hundred feet at this point.

Eventually the high school comes into sight. I'm five feet behind the target at this point. She's sensed my presence and picked her pace up accordingly. We turn toward the school. She runs a really bad tangent. I run the correct tangent and take the lead. At this point I begin a sprint for the final two hundred feet or so. I can hear her sprinting behind me as well. That was all the motivation I needed. I went into a high gear and flew through the finish line steps ahead. Phew!

POST RACE

It took a minute or so to wind down from the race. I walked around with my hands behind my head gasping for air. Eventually my senses came back and I headed toward the car. I was very hungry and thirsty. I forgot to eat my Clif Bar on the way over and then refused to take any water or snacks from the race out of principle, so I needed to get home for some liquids and grub. I did stop really quick and try to recreate the photo from four years ago... didn't do a great job but I didn't try that hard.

Anyways, overall, I was very pleased with the effort. On a flat course I think I hit the pace from the 5k I ran about a month ago. So that's definite improvement! It felt good to let things fly and have everything respond appropriately. I'm slowly improving and thinking back to the Boring Half Marathon in September it's amazing how car I've come in just a couple months!

Unofficial Results: 52:19, 8:24/mile. 90/345 overall, 61/160 male, 10/23 M30-34.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

2017 GIVE N' GOBBLE RACE PREVIEW

From 2013. Might have to recreate this outfit.
So, I'm running a 10k tomorrow! This one kind of snuck up on me but I always like to do a turkey trot on Thanksgiving so I'm glad I signed up. I ran this one four years ago and set a PR (at the time) at it. You can read that preview here. The course is still the same... although the goals have changed! Ha.

Anyways, I remember this course being hillier than I expected or wanted last time. It wasn't a fast, flat course - it had some rolling hills and a decent sized incline toward the end. I've gotten some of my hill shape back... the rollercoaster route two weeks ago went pretty well and on runs with Sunstone I'm able to plow up the hills without too much issue. They slow me down for sure, but they don't kill me physically. Plus, my goal right now it to just get in decent all around shape, so I welcome the hills. Would rather have this course than something pancake flat.

As for goals, I am not having a particular time goal. I'm still not sure on my abilities enough at this point to set something appropriate. I'd hate to set a target pace, hit that, and then realize I had more in me. Or set a pace, struggle to maintain it, and then blow up at mile four. So the goal is just to run a 10k pace. I remember what a 10k should feel like. I used this same strategy at the 5k a few weeks ago and it was pretty successful. So my goal is just to run a 10k pace and challenge myself that way.

Since I don't have a specific time goal and will be running on feel, I don't plan or want to look at my watch much. I don't want to look and think I'm running too fast or too slow. So I'll probably just put it on the time of day screen and ignore it for the most part. I probably won't be able to resist looking at the mile splits though. I am a runner after all!

In other news, I am one week into my leflunomide treatment. I have yet to have any negative side effects. The first six days I was on a half dose though, so I've only had one full dose. Kind of ease my body into it. I already like it a lot more! The only side effect, if anything, is a slight rumbly tummy right when I take it. It's gone pretty quickly though. So much better so far than methotrexate in those terms. Hopefully that will continue with the full dose. The big question remains though... will it be able to achieve the same symptom relief that methotrexate did? TBD. Joints still feel dandy but the methotrexate is still in there working for a few weeks. It's got a long half life.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

MIXING IT UP

Everything is still full steam ahead on the running front. I'm keeping up with the two weekday runs and a weekend long run very nicely. Just finished my fastest training run since all this arthritis crap happened. Didn't really plan on it, but I was running with Sunstone and decided to press myself a little. Anything under 10 was good so I started with a 9:51 first mile. When a 9:22 followed, I figured I might as well try to run a progression, so that's what I did. 9:13 third mile followed by a 8:57 fourth mile. The final .35 I ran at 7:35 pace.

Overall it was only 9:12 but still, that's my fastest training run in a very long time. It felt good too! I was actually having fun doing it. Toward the end when I was really going I felt strong and like I was flying. Knees were a complete non-issue. They really haven't been since early summer. My psoriatic arthritis has retreated and is trembling in fear. Just kidding. It's just biding its time. But hey, make hay while you got it, right?

Since everything is working so well I figured I might as well switch medications and fuck this good thing up. Why not? Seriously though... I saw my doctor today. And while the arthritis has become a non-factor (yay!) the methotrexate was really cramping my style. Thursdays were garbage and I felt awful. The side effects weren't going away. I started to dread Thursdays and it would be in the back of my mind on Tuesday and Wednesday. It just wasn't the greatest. It was better than non-treatment, but it still wasn't ideal.

With that expressed to my doctor, she said it might be worth it to try another drug. There are really two "entry level" drugs for psoriatic arthritis, methotrexate and leflunomide. Here in the good ol' US of A we typically try methotrexate first. Other countries do leflunomide first. They are basically like Tylenol and Advil for headaches. Achieve the same outcome through different means. When someone isn't tolerating the methotrexate well, they switch them to leflunomide. Everyone's body is different, so some people having trouble with one might just tolerate the other one perfectly fine.

Please don't make my hair fall out any faster please, kthx.
So, as of last Wednesday, I took my last dose of methotrexate (yay!). For now at least. If this doesn't work, or the side effects from leflunomide are just as bad, we can always go back to what was working. However, it's worth a shot to see if I can get relief and not write off an entire day of the week every week. And dread that day for days in advance.

One of the potential side effects is hair loss. She said 5-15% of people might experience that. If that happens, I'm going to have to nope out. Haha. But, she said generally it is actually slightly easier on the body. You also take one pill every day, instead of a bunch of pills or an injection once a week. I'm hoping the smaller doses will help me tolerate it better. We'll see.

Anyways, I really hope I can keep running without issue. Everything is feeling so good down there (#) I'd hate to screw it up. She said there might be a small window in the transition between the two drugs where I get a little flare, so I'll have to monitor that. The leflunomide takes time to build up just like methotrexate. Hopefully though, when all is said and done, I'll still be relatively symptom free and not feeling like crap half the time.

Onward!

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

TWO MONTHS STRONG

Saturday's Coach Jim run.
Well, I've been running pretty consistently for about two months now. If you go into the graphs and stats on my RunningAhead account you can really see the uptick in activity. While I was very cautious at first about it being sustainable, I'm beginning to think it may actually end up proving to be so. I've been running three times a week consistently and going anywhere from 15-22 miles without an issue. So that is very encouraging.

On Saturday I went to a Coach Jim run, my first since nearly two years ago. It is always hard to get motivated to go at 8am, especially when it is still dark at 7:20am when you wake up and cold and foggy outside. However, I forced myself to go out there and was so glad I did it and got it out of the way. We ran from the Cedar Hill Foot Traffic store and it was a really good 10 mile route. Two loops that kind of made a figure eight shape.

I think I'll do most my long runs on the weekend with Sunstone still though. Coach Jim is a marathon training group and I'm not training for a marathon. He always does his run in two loops, which is nice, but once each loop is 7 or 8 miles it becomes a bit awkward. Because I'd want to run more than one loop but not the full two loops. So you'd have to abandon the group and turn around. It'll remain a good backup option, but Sunstone runs a solid ten and you can always tack on a couple miles extra if you need to once you're back without it being awkward (people do that all the time).

Another run of note was last night. I ran the rollercoaster route at PRC for the first time in almost 21 months. It was really enjoyable! I was a bit hesitant to do so... my legs were a little worn from Saturday still, the Coach Jim run was a bit hilly, so when Matt suggested we run it I was a little scared. But I've been really babying my legs so I figured it was a good time to test it out. So off we went on the 7.2 mile hilly route. Felt great! We even managed 9:51/mile, much quicker than I thought. Today my legs feel just fine. So that was super encouraging!