Wednesday, June 19, 2019

FIRST INTERVALS IN NEARLY FOUR YEARS

Oh, hai. Just a quick post about the workout I did last night. I was feeling a bit rickety after my run Monday at PRC. It ended up being just over six miles and I accidentally wore the wrong shoes. Without noticing I put on my "everyday" sneakers, which are a retired pair of Nike Structures with 430 miles on them. Oops. About halfway through the run I was wondering why my legs felt like garbage and I looked down and was like... "Oh, that makes sense."

Anyways, I still felt a little out of sorts yesterday, not bad, but not great. Regardless, I wanted to get my four mile "speed" run this week out of the way. When the Sunstone route came out and it was a journey up the hilliest part of Beaverton, I knew that wasn't a good option for a tempo run. For whatever reason I got a wild hair and started to think about doing intervals on the track at Southridge High. I knew I wanted to vary my speed runs this training cycle, they can't all be four or five mile tempo runs, so I thought this was a perfect opportunity to get some variety in.

This time around I had the right shoes on and after a warm up lap my legs were actually feeling pretty good. So I went for it. The plan was 8 x 400m with 400m rests. A workout I had done numerous times in the past. It would be a good baseline to compare my fitness back against 2013-2015 when I was significantly faster. I remember my 400 times usually being around 1:35 back then, so I was a little surprised when my first 400 clocked in at 1:32.5. Huh?

Interval times: 1:32.5, 1:33.9, 1:33.1, 1:34.5, 1:34.9, 1:34.7, 1:35.1, 1:32.6
Overall Average: 1:33.9 (6:16 per mile)

Every lap I was blown away at the times. There was no way. I was expecting like 1:42 or something. Needless to say, my first set of intervals in almost four years was a success! Looking back at my training log on Garmin Connect, this was the fastest I had averaged on 400m intervals. Even beating back when I was in my best shape. What gives?

I'm almost certain the reason I was able do them so quickly was because of my wholesale embrace of the "run slower to run faster" running theory. Basically, do your easy runs TRULY easy. Too many runners, the vast majority I would say, run their easy runs too quick. It feels "easy" but it isn't necessarily the easiest on your body. I used to do this all the time. I would run an "easy" 8:45 pace and then call 7:45/mile a tempo run.

While I was aware of this theory back in the day, I would kind of "yeah, yeah" poo poo it. Now, if I was sore and I truly needed an easy run, I would do it, but basically the majority of my "easy" runs were really "moderate" runs. Also, looking back at my old intervals, my "rest" laps were done at like a 9:00/mile pace. That's not resting! No wonder I wasn't able to hit the actual intervals harder. I shake my head looking back at my historical data sometimes. My recovery laps were 10:30-11:30ish this time around and I started to walk parts toward the end. Frankly, I could have walked the recovery laps and hit the intervals harder and it would have been a better workout.

Anyways, I am a huge subscriber of the "actually easy" run now. It works, people! Sometimes I miss chatting with people at run group because of it. You are going to run 9:00s? Sorry, see ya. I'll be back here doing 10:00s. I think this workout shows tangible result of that restraint though. I'm building mileage and hitting my speedwork hard when I do it. Speedwork on tired legs is not nearly as effective. So onward with this training style I go! I will sing its virtues from the hilltops.

Now watch me run a 5:15 marathon...

Saturday, June 15, 2019

MARATHON TRAINING TWENTY NINETEEN

Tomorrow, by resting and doing absolutely nothing, I will have completed my second official week of Portland Marathon training. However, as you can see by the calendar off to the right, I actually got in the groove a few weeks back. With the weather officially turning over to "nice," it has not been hard to motivate myself to get out there. And, with a running group almost every night I want to run, they are usually pretty fun too!

My long run distance is already up to 16 miles. My last four weekends have been 13.1, 13.5, 15, and 16. None of those were particularly hard either. The sixteen mile run today was a breeze. So that's really cool. I think after all these years my legs are adapting well and remembering distance after some time off. My legs also being treated for psoriatic arthritis helps. Who knows how long I had it at a low level affecting me. My knees never bug me anymore. Nary a complaint.

Last year, I basically did no speedwork. A couple of races during the training cycle and maybe like three random tempo runs? Nothing structured though. That was on purpose. The whole point of last year was to build mileage and see if my knees would hit a limit at some point. Everything last year went off swimmingly. I honestly think my knees are better than ever. I could do a 100 mile race and I don't think they'd be any worse off than anyone else's knees (I am NOT going to do a 100 miler btw!).

Group long run last Saturday for 15 miles
So, with that said, I am determined to do speedwork this year. Once a week I will do a speed run of some sort. Probably a lot of tempo runs, because that is still something I can do at run group and sometimes even have someone run with me. But I would also like to break off to the track and do some intervals at some point. We'll see. While I am dedicated to one speed run a week, I'm going to just play those by ear. Maybe sometimes I'll feel like doing it on Tuesday. Maybe some weeks I'll wait until Thursday. Just as long as I get it in.

In addition to the speed runs, I plan to do a couple races too. Nothing in stone yet, but a half marathon around the Fourth of July weekend and then probably another half in there somewhere. I meant to do more 5Ks and 10Ks, but those are hard with long runs on Saturday. If I do a lot of tempo runs though, I will basically be doing the same thing, so maybe I can distract myself with shorter races once the marathon cycle is over.

Anyways, that's the update! Can't believe I am in the middle of a training cycle again. At the same time though, it just feels right. What would my summers be without waking up at 6:45am on a Saturday on run for hours on end?

Friday, May 31, 2019

THOMAS THE HUMAN METRONOME

Early on when the group was larger. Notice there isn't a cloud in the sky.
A quick report from pacing the Hippie Chick Half Marathon... it was a lot of fun! Getting there as a bit iffy as the roads were really backed up trying to get to Hillsboro Stadium. Once again, traffic lights not adjusting to the crush of people trying to get to one spot. After nearly sitting in place for fifteen minutes I called an audible and eventually found my way to an official "secondary" lot at Intel that was a breeze to get into. Very glad I did that otherwise I would have been late!

We all met at the start line at the designated time. I just happened to be wearing a bright yellow shirt, which ended up working well because all the "pacer" indications were bright yellow as well. We each wore a bib on our front and back with our mile pace and then also had a balloon with it as well. No sign to hold up the entire time! Yay! Each time had two pacers. There was a group for 8:00, 8:30, 8:45, 9:00, 9:30, 10:00, 11:00, 12:00, and 15:00. I was assigned the 10:00/mile pace, which was perfect, as that was my normal long run pace.

The start was a little congested but nothing too horrible. Within a quarter mile or so we had enough room and were able to hit our pace. It was interesting being under pressure to hit a certain pace. Because it wasn't just enough to average 10:00 over the course of the race, we were trying to hit 10:00 each mile! Plus, when there are two watches and they are saying different things it can be a little concerning! Luckily, I have been known to be a "human metronome" so I instinctively know that pace pretty well. So a couple times when one of our watches was saying 10:30 or 9:30 or whatever the hell, we didn't panic and just kept on trucking.

Mile 9ish. Our numbers have dwindled.
Now, a 10:00 mile in a half marathon is a 2:11:05, which is a weird time. So not a lot of people were hanging out with us. Overall time group might have made more sense. 1:45,1:50, 2:00, etc. While we had a decent group with us at the beginning, they gradually spread out. Not many people had a 10:00 mile as their goal. This race also had a Quarter Marathon, and it was funny because a woman asked which one of us would be breaking off to pace the quarter. She was quite disappointed with the "neither of us, sorry!" response we had. By the time the half split off we were basically only leading two runners.

Those two runners though, their goal was under ten. And they were using us as a measuring stick on their progress. Honestly, I didn't think they were going to make it. Because they seemed to be grinding by about mile 8 or 9, and when I've been in that situation before, I've always fallen back (to be fair, that was in marathons though). However, they both dug deep and did not let us pass them! If we caught up to one of them, they'd kick it up a little and get a bit of distance. It was a tough race because the course had NO shade and it was warm, in the sixties, during the race. Even I was grinding a bit toward the end.

My final chip time details.
Overall we did a really good job. We were targeting 9:55 miles to account for a long course and we hit that each mile within about 5 seconds either way. We did notice the mile signs getting further and further away at each mile. By mile ten our watch would beep about .07 miles too early. I did the quick math and an extra .10 at 9:55/mile would still get us under 10:00/mile on the clock. Well, while mile 12 beeped .08 early, mile 13 beeped .12 early. Crap! By then our two gals were sprinting toward the line though. We continued at the right pace and crossed at 2:11:14. NINE seconds over the goal time. First of all, that's really fucking good. Second of all, the gals we were with finished at least ten seconds ahead of us, so they were good. So despite our watches saying 9:55/mile our official pace was 10:00.

It was a really fun experience! Not only was it nice to run a race and get that race day energy without having to haul ass, it was cool to help those two gals stay on pace and get their goal. And, despite being a "ladies" event, a lot of the pace team was male, so it wasn't too awkward. If given the chance, I would definitely do it again!

Friday, May 10, 2019

UPDATES AND PACING A HALF MARATHON

So, I finally have my target marathon for this fall. After trying for Chicago and New York, and failing, I figured I would wait to see what the new organizers of the Portland Marathon would come up with. By the time May Day rolled around there was still no announcement and I was getting a little antsy, but BAM, May 2nd the new race was announced!

It will be put on by Brooksee (they put on the "Revel" series of downhill marathons), which we knew. What we didn't know was the course and whether the City of Portland was actually going to play ball to get a first class event up and running. Thankfully, the new course looks GREAT and it appears Brooksee will take over the historic "Portland Marathon" name. I've heard great things about the Revel series, so I'm sure they'll do a fantastic job with the Portland Marathon. So I'm excited! It will remain on the traditional first Sunday of October.

New Portland Marathon course!
They were having a deal so I already signed up. $105 for the full, not bad. Unfortunately, that means I'm going to have to start officially marathon training soon. I'll need to mock up and plan and this time around I'm going to include speedwork. As usual, I'll run four times a week... two easy runs, one speed run, and then the long run. My main focus will just to be faster than last year (3:55), so I'll be working toward that this summer. Hard to believe I'll be facing twenty mile runs in the heat here soon. Oh well, bring it on.

Lately I have been really good about getting my runs in. As predicted, the turn in weather made it a lot easier to motivate myself to get out there. So I've been pretty good about the three weekday runs and then the long run on the weekend. Since I'm already in that routine, marathon training will just be increasing the mileage and getting a speed run in. Easy enough. For my long runs, I've basically only been doing ten miles, which seems like the right distance to (sort of?) stay in half shape. Which brings me to...

I'll be pacing the Hippie Chick Half Marathon tomorrow. This is a woman-centric event that I actually volunteered at with Libbie many years back as a flagger. This time, I have been recruited as a pacer though. They were trying to get me to do a faster pace time but I basically said I'll volunteer if I can do 10:00 or slower. I mean, I could probably pace 9:00/mile, but my actual half marathon time wouldn't be much faster than that. Plus, I'm trained for ten, not thirteen, and while I know I can do thirteen, the question of whether I could be consistent and not slow down toward the end isn't something I wanted to find out.

Anyways, I'm confident I can provide a solid, consistent pace at 10:00/mile so that's what I'll be doing! That's around what I do my long runs at, so the pace should be very familiar. The course is really flat and I'm good at "locking" into a pace, so I'm hoping I'll be a pacer that people will appreciate and not one that is all over the map! Looking at the results from last year, about 500 people ran it and about 10 would have been in my "area." So I won't likely be leading a large group. Luckily, I also have a fellow pacer, so it's not all on me, and many of the other pacers are male, so it won't be too awkward. Let's hope!

Monday, April 29, 2019

2019 BRIDGE TO BREWS 10K RACE REPORT

The start along Naito!
My first 10k in 18 months! Exciting I guess? Anyways, my prep for this race wasn't the greatest. I had basically done no speedwork since the Shamrock Run, and my friend was coming into town to do the race as well. Needless to say, the days leading up to the race weren't the best in terms of eating or drinking choices, but I kept it within reason as to not totally crash and burn during the race.

Honestly, if anything held me back, it was my legs. Thursday we went on a 6 mile run AND a 5.5 mile hike and then Friday we went on another hike through Ape Cave. About four miles there, but a lot of bouldering. My legs felt pretty worn Saturday, a day on which we did nothing, and they were still a little tired by the time the race rolled around Sunday. Not terribly so, but I may have been able to do teeny tiny bit quicker on fresh legs.

Again, this race would be a good benchmark for my current fitness level. I keep thinking I'm about to turn it up but then never do. I need to get some more races on the schedule. The weather appears to have finally turned in my favor (70 and sunny any day of the week over 45 and cloudy), so hopefully I can actually start doing some speedwork or something. I don't have any ambitious goals or anything, I think I'll just want to beat my MCM time this fall, but I need to actually, you know, do something, in order to make that happen.

RACE MORNING

Thankfully this race wasn't ridiculously early, kicking off at 8:45am. We left the house shortly before 8am, so I was able to sleep into about 7:30am before throwing on some clothes and chugging a mug of coffee. I drove us downtown and parked in my standard Smart Park garage. That thing is like 8 blocks or less from everything! We approached Waterfront Park and marveled at the amount of people bustling about. This was a major production!

In usual Thomas fashion, I didn't want to be there too early, so we got there with about 25 minutes until the gun went off. We walked toward the bag check and there was the LONGEST LINE. Dammit! Did I mess up? Were we going to be stuck behind a bunch of walkers? Luckily, that line went amazingly fast. We checked our bag and still had about 15 minutes to go. With that, we wandered toward the start line and settled into the appropriate pace group of under eight minutes per mile.

THE RACE

It was fun starting on Naito Parkway and not doing a giant out and back or a run up Barbur. Instead, we quickly turned west into the city and run through "scenic" Old Town/Chinatown. The people around me seemed to be going the right pace so I didn't have to weave very much despite there being a decent amount of people. A couple slowdowns, but nothing tragic. My goal was under 8:00/mile and I knew there was that giant bridge climb, so I was trying to target my miles around 7:50. If I could do that for the other five miles, then I could go 8:45 on the hill and still be at 7:59/mile.

My first mile hit in 7:53. Just about perfect. Despite not having done a 10k in a while, I felt like I paced myself correctly. For whatever reason, I can judge my 5k/10k/15k/half paces pretty well. Instinctual for me. Long story short, I settled into the correct pace and it felt like a 10k should. Challenging, not really comfortable, but sustainable for six miles.

Certified finishers.
The "hill" in this race, the bridge climb, was from miles 1.5 to 2. Only a half mile and after that, only rollers are worst. So I just did my normal hill strategy of trying to keep the same energy "output" as if I were running on flat ground. This meant I was doing the hill at about 9:20 or so for this level of effort. Not the fastest, but the hill ended pretty quickly and my mile time was 8:39, so I was a tiny bit ahead of schedule. This was the part over the Fremont Bridge. Unfortunately, we were not on the top deck, so while the view was good, it wasn't as good as it could have been. Plus, we were socked in with clouds so you couldn't even see the mountains.

After the climb, we got the downhill portion, and I knew I would want to take advantage of this and get a cushion of time for later on in the race. My pace on the third mile was 7:28 and honestly I was a little disappointed. I was hoping to go a little faster, but hey, I was still ahead of schedule. After we exited the bridge, we did a bunch of random streets in the industrial area around the Widmer plant and Interstate Avenue. Not very scenic, a couple tiny hills and downhills, not much to write home about. 7:38 fourth mile.

Eventually we wound our way out of that area and onto Interstate Avenue heading south. Major Portland Marathon flashbacks. That is about mile 23 and the site of many painful memories for me. Luckily, feeling much better this time around! 7:55 mile five. Crap. Can't quite make up the uphill on the downhill on these rollers. Still ahead of schedule but getting close. Need to finish strong. Over the Steel Bridge. I can see the finish line. That was all the visual I needed after an 8:05 mile six (oops!). 7:10/mile on that last .22 coming home.

AFTER PARTY

The after party beer festival.
I crossed the finish line with a great sense of relief! My watch had me at 7:55/mile, beating my goal. However, I also had it clocked at 6.27 miles, so I knew with the adjustment down to 6.22 it might be close. Luckily, when all was said and done, I averaged 7:59/mile. PHEW! Literally a couple seconds away from not meeting my goal.

Part of the draw for this race was the beer festival afterwards; hence, the "to Brews" part of the name. Everybody got 10 "tasting tickets" and then there were about a dozen breweries set up showing off their product. 1 ticket got you a 4oz taste, while 4 tickets got your whole cup filled up. The lines were already off the wall for these places, so I was set on full beers. The first we tasted as a dunkelweizen, usually one of my favorites, but this rendition from West Coast Grocery was just so-so. We then were able to taste whiskeys from Westward Whiskey for two tickets. These were delicious and very interesting to try! Our final four tickets went to another beer, this one an IPA from Laurelwood. Yummy!

With that, we headed home for a day of doing nothing and gluttony. Well earned!

Official Results: 49:35, 7:59/mile. 163/1831 overall, 119/726 male, 25/138 M30-34.

Wednesday, April 10, 2019

RUNNING UPDATE & BRIDGE TO BREWS 10K

Hi all - as you know I've been very bad about updating my blog! As mentioned, I was struggling with motivation this winter but still made myself get out there. Most weeks I managed three runs, sometimes I only did two, but I ran enough to stay in somewhat decent shape as evidenced by my Shamrock performance. Since Shamrock, I have been doing the same thing, trying to get out there three times each week. Most of the time I am able to do so. The weather changing definitely is a big help.

What I need to do is get some races on my schedule. It is much more motivating when you are working toward something. So I need to get a half or two planned. However, I think I want to do some shorter races before I get back into "half mode." Most of my races these days are halves... and while that is my favorite distance, one goal this year is to get a little faster for the marathon so I can beat my time from last year. I want to get back into some speedwork this year, and having a couple 5Ks or 10Ks in the schedule will help motivate me to get those done. Then, come mid-June or whatever, I can then start focusing on the fall marathon with a half or two along the way.

On the topic of 10Ks, I have one this weekend! A friend is coming in from out of town and we are running the Bridge to Brews 10k. This is the final year they are running it over the Fremont Bridge, so that will be cool to experience while it is still a thing. Now, this race won't be ideal for testing my current fitness. Neither of us are going to take it super serious because we want to have fun in the days leading up to it. So that will include hikes and booze. Which won't be ideal come Sunday morning. However, we'll try not to screw ourselves over too much and then just run it hard and see what happens.

I do have a goal for this race... average under 8:00/mile. Earlier this year I did a few tempo runs where I managed to do four miles under 8... just barely. So that might be a stretch, but I think it would be possible with a hard effort. I did 8:10 at Shamrock, and that is three miles longer and generally hillier (this race isn't necessarily flat either). So I'm hoping I can get 7:50-something. We'll see. My preparation for this race won't be ideal, I've done no speed work since Shamrock, but maybe I'll be able to gut it out.