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.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 CORVALLIS HALF MARATHON RACE REPORT

Starting on the field... through the start line and up the ramp to the streets!
Sorry for the delay in getting this posted, I was waiting for the photos to be posted and they took forever to come back! Anyways, onward! In the days leading up to this race I was pretty anxious and excited. I knew it would be a good test of my abilities and whether or not I was making any real progress. The conditions during Miami weren't really fair, so I was eager to see if I could beat my Holiday Half time and prove to myself that I was making progress, even if it didn't feel like it at times.

PRE-RACE PREP

Early on in the race.
As I noted in the preview, the race didn't start until 9:30. Thank goodness! I still had to wake up at 7 and boogie out of my house at 7:30, but honestly that's not bad at all. Once summer hits and races locally are starting at 8 at the latest, that is the case even if it is right down the street. I stopped at the grocery store real quick to get an energy drink and a donut, the race breakfast of champions! The goal was not to be a spouting fountain of urine like coffee can do, so I figured a more compact drink would be a good choice. I've had this combo before and it usually works out well.

I made good time to Corvallis and rolled in there about 8:45. On my way there, the further south I got, the harder the rain was. I was definitely driving into the storm. The forecast showed a good chance of precipitation, however, it can be hard to tell what exactly that is going to look like. Sometimes the forecast for off and on sprinkles and steady rain can look the same. 70% chance of what? Anyways, the closer I got to Corvallis, the harder the rain was and the darker the clouds were. I was mentally prepared to run in the rain though, so that wasn't going to stop me. As soon as the race started I knew I wouldn't really care about it.

After parking at Reser Stadium, where the race would start, I wandered toward packet pickup, umbrella in hand. That process was pretty smooth and then almost immediately I had the urge to "go" - which was awesome! Usually I don't have any issues during the race even though my body rarely cooperates like that, but it was still a nice mental relief to have that done and not have to worry about it. While other runners were huddling for shelter under the stands at Reser I went back to my car and chilled until 9:20, at which time I wandered to the start line.

FANTASTIC FIRST FIVE (8:16, 8:14, 8:16, 8:18, 8:30)

Sufficiently wet.
The race started on the field at Reser Stadium, which was cool. Again, I would have much rather finished there, but this worked too. The OSU Marching Band was there to play some tunes to get us pumped up, including the OSU Fight Song. Excellent. Anyways, after the national anthem, the race was about to begin. My friend Glenn found me in the chute and we exchanged wishes of good luck. I lined up halfway between the 8 minute and 9 minute sign, reflecting my desired pace.

Once the race started we had to run immediately up a small ramp out of the stadium and onto the adjoining street. Not an issue on fresh legs! After that ramp the race was given full right of way on the roads so there was plenty of room to stretch my legs. Crowding was not an issue at all. I settled into what I thought was the appropriate half marathon pace. Upon checking my watch, I would find my pace being somewhere between 8:05 and 8:10. I couldn't believe it - it felt so easy! I purposely tried to slow myself down, knowing that wouldn't be sustainable. While I still ran it too fast, it was a good sign it felt so easy. If you start a half marathon and the pace feels hard at the beginning... you are in for a world of hurt.

The first four and a half miles are pretty dang flat. A couple minor bumps but nothing major. I was able to get into a nice rhythm. I knew the pace I was running probably wasn't sustainable, I didn't have visions of averaging 8:20, but I knew it wasn't tragically fast. Again, in a half marathon you can get away with running a little too fast in the beginning. Marathon, no way, but in this race, I knew even if my pace fell to 9:00 toward the end, I would have built up enough of a cushion to still hit my goal. There was a decent, but brief, hill around mile 4.5 which is why that mile was a little slower. Rain at this point was moderate and I was definitely wet.

MIDDLING MIDDLE MILES (8:57, 7:56, 8:22, 8:31, 8:43)

This bridge is actually around mile 11.
Alright, now was the time for the real test, the big hill! Honestly, it wasn't bad at all. It was pretty gradual, even more so than the Shamrock Run, so I just kept a consistent effort and plugged my way up it. You could definitely see the road rising in the distance but it wasn't a hill that totally pooped you out. Toward the end of the hill mile (it basically ended right at the mile six marker) I looked at my watch and noticed I was right on a 9:00/mile pace. I pressed a bit to get it below 9. Now, if I could hold on the rest of the way under 9, I would have another feather in my cap, as during the Holiday Half my final few were above that mark.

After the uphill mile was a completely downhill mile. Basically the same thing I did just in reverse. I didn't look at my watch once during this mile and just let my body dictate the pace. I knew if I got too focused on a certain time and pushed myself I could blow out my legs. So steady as she goes, even effort. It was the perfect kind of downhill, gradual, so it gave you extra speed but didn't hit your knees too hard. I was very pleased when my watch beeped and I saw I went below 8. Excellent! The question now would be what my legs felt like after going up and down that hill. When would the race start catching up with me?

As you can see, I nearly resumed my previous pace once things flattened back out. However, I definitely could feel the miles accumulating and my legs tiring a bit. The next couple of miles included some minor uphills, and that coupled with the building fatigue led to the 8:31 and 8:43. Still pretty good though! 8:43 was still below my "A" goal pace! During this time a man was pacing right behind me, I could hear him breathing pretty well. After about a mile he says "sorry, I'm not stalking you, you are just running the perfect pace," haha. Eventually he ran past me. Rain at this point was steady and hard. Totally soaked, head to toe.

ENDURING ENDING EXHAUSTION (8:40, 8:47, 8:51)

Must... finish... strong...
Okay, these alliterations are really becoming a stretch. I was definitely tired at this point. The minor, rolling ups and downs of the Bald Peak Natural Area seemed to take the final bounce out of my legs. It made sense. Thirteen miles right now is my limit. During most of my training I ran ten on the weekends, and threw in a twelve here and there. This is not like when I run a half during marathon training and thirteen is no big deal! So, despite my legs tiring, I was determined to finish strong. These final three miles were very gently downhill, I never really noticed it, so I made a goal of finishing them all under 9:00 mile.

My body was screaming at me to walk, but I ignored it. I've been through much worse and kept running. Just keep chugging Thomas. The rain at some point had LET LOOSE. It was seriously like a tropical thunderstorm, only there was no lightning and it was 45 degrees. You could see the rain hitting the ground and bouncing back into the air. The sound of the rain was almost deafening. It was crazy. Definitely the worst weather I have raced in. But you know what? It was fucking fun! I was already a drowned rat, so bring it on! Made you feel alive, running in that weather, and it was definitely memorable!

Overall, these miles were a slog but doable. My cardio felt great, that wasn't holding me back at all, it was all the conditioning in my legs. Again, thirteen miles is a stretch, but it was doable. I had to watch check a little in that last mile to make sure it was below nine, but otherwise I just kept my head down and ground it out. Unlike five years ago, where you were a couple blocks from the finish line but they routed you around to add an extra mile, this year the finish was pretty direct. You saw it and you ran toward it, right oustide Gill Coliseum next to Reser Stadium. I finished that final tenth of a mile at an 8:06 pace, so my legs weren't completely dead. A couple pumps of the fist and I was through the finish line. 1:51:30 on my watch! Holy hell! I blew it out of the water!

AFTERWARD ACTIVITIES

Steps from the finish and a PAPR!
Even though I drank at every aid station along the way, I chugged a bottle of water as soon as I finished. I was thirsty! I also wandered around and ate a couple chunks of a bagel. I was going to wait for my friend Glenn to finish, but I was so wet and it was pretty cold... I knew within a few minutes my core temperature would begin to drop drastically. No beer garden for me this year, and I'm going to bet they had a lot leftover!

I hurried toward the car and along the way I definitely started to get cold. It was still pouring. In a brilliant flash of foresight, I didn't bring a change of clothes or even a towel. So once I got to the car I just blasted the heat as high it would go. It would have to do. I texted Glenn to say I was sorry I couldn't wait for him, then headed out of town. Along the way I stopped at Dairy Queen and got a Bacon Cheeseburger. Yum!

The drive home was pretty uneventful. NPR and the heat so hot the LCD panel on my dashboard started to freak out. Good times. I was home shortly after 1:00pm and all told my legs felt pretty good. Definitely worn, but I was able to go up and down stairs without too much complaint. Took a long bath and then had a lazy Sunday before going to a birthday celebration for my aunt. More guilt-free food was consumed there. In the days after the race my legs were somewhat sore but nothing out of the usual. I am getting faster despite not focusing on speed and my legs are feeling back to normal - very encouraging! A very enjoyable and memorable race, despite the weather, and it felt good to finish cap the training cycle by smashing my goal.

Official Chip Time: 1:51:27, 8:31/mile. 206/958 overall, 147/458 male, 24/56 M30-34.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 CORVALLIS HALF MARATHON RACE PREVIEW


I can't believe it has been FIVE years since I last ran this race! Crazy. In 2013 I had a great race and ended up with my first sub 1:40! Looking back, it was actually my second ever half marathon. So much has happened since then! Anyways, I'm looking forward to going back. I had been meaning to do this race just about every year since and even signed up once but had to give my entry away to Alejandro. Finally, I'll be back in Corvegas and ready to rumble!

Thankfully the half marathon doesn't start until 9:30am. You hear that all other races? Quite the reasonable hour! Unfortunately, since Corvallis is nearly 90 minutes away, I'll probably be leaving around 7:30am or so. Still, could be a lot worse. The weather for race day isn't looking so great. Right now it is predicting showers and mid-40s for temperature. I'm sure it will be fine once we get going, but waiting around in that and the first mile or two might suck. Saturday is supposed to be dry and low 50s. That would have been perfect. There is still time for the weather to shift, but even if the forecast stays the same it shouldn't be too terrible.

When I looked up the course for this year I thought "Wow, it's almost exactly the same as five years ago!" until I realized we are actually running the course backwards from when I first ran it. So that will be interesting. The good news is that the finishing three miles now are generally downhill. Not much, 110 feet down over three miles, but hopefully enough to make a difference. Otherwise, the major climb remains in about the same place, halfway through the course, just going the other way. 140 feet over 1.2 miles. Not too terrible, much better than Shamrock, that's for sure. There's another hill of 100 feet over 1.5 miles, but not too much later after that. Hills of any significance are done after mile 9.

One of the major differences is that the race will START in Reser Stadium instead of end inside of it. It ends on the road right outside. That's kind of a bummer. It was fun to run down the ramp into the stadium and cross the finish at the 50 yard line. I'll miss that for sure. Don't know why they couldn't run us back into the stadium to finish. We're right there! And obviously accessing the stadium isn't an issue if we are starting there. Whatever. It'll be fun to be back either way.

As for my goals.. I am still not entirely sure what I am capable of. I know what a half pace should feel like, I just have no idea what pace that will be come race day. I did just do a tempo run last week and ended up at 8:36 over three miles. I'm pretty sure I can't maintain that pace over ten additional miles. The question is, how much slower do I have to go? Back in the day my half pace was usually just a hair higher than my average tempo run, so I'm right in that Holiday Half territory I believe.

"A" Goal: A new PAPR (post-arthritis PR)! This would be 1:56:33, or 8:53/mile or less. On a good day, I know this is possible. This would be pretty sweet and encouraging. My focus since this race has been building miles, not getting faster, but still, I feel like I should be faster after five months!

"B" Goal: 1:59:59 or less. Gotta be in "ONE"derland. This is 9:09/mile or less. I'm going to be pretty disappointed if my time starts with a 2. I was really feeling it during the Holiday Half and maybe Corvallis won't be my day, but dammit, I need sub 2.

"C" Goal: 2:06:17 or less. This is 9:39/mile. If I can't beat my Miami time from January then I quit running.

Monday, April 02, 2018

TWENTY SEVEN

Weekly mileage since December 2016.
That is the number of miles I ran this week. It was my first week over 20 in five weeks. Now, if I were coaching someone, I would absolutely not tell anyone to go from the high teens to 27 in one week. However, I've been running for over six years so I am pretty sure I can get away with it. Nothing these old legs haven't seen before. I really wanted to start running four days a week and the weather cooperated so getting out there wasn't too hard. I even ran 12 miles on Saturday to get ready for the Corvallis Half Marathon in two weeks. I'll taper next week and then look to get back to sub 2 halves in my long awaited return to that race.

One major thing I wanted to test this week was running on sore legs. I've been avoiding that due to my association of it with my arthritis flaring. However, now that my arthritis is being treated and near remission, I needed to test it out again. When I am marathon training I'll be running on sore legs many times. So last Tuesday I ran with Sunstone on tired legs after 10 and 5 the Saturday and Monday before. I'm happy to report my legs responded like they used to; well, before the arthritis that is. After a mile or two they warmed up and the run felt pretty great. It was even a killer hill route. The next day they even felt pretty good; mostly I could just feel soreness going up stairs.

My next test was playing soccer the day after my 12 mile run on Saturday. Soccer has long been a nemesis for my knees. I haven't been able to play it appropriately since before the arthritis crept in years ago. Even when my knees were feeling okay, when I went to play soccer, I was reminded that they weren't normal. Even when I could run just fine, soccer was a whole different level. Well, I'm VERY happy to report that soccer felt normal. I could kick the shit out of the ball with ZERO complaints. It felt good to go out there and seemingly have no restrictions... another step forward!

Anyways, between this and the weather finally starting to turn (as long as I don't look at the current 10 day) I'm feeling pretty positive. I ran the most miles in a week since my arthritis flared up, played soccer without issue, ran the Shamrock way faster than I thought I could... everything is going pretty well! A far cry from hobbled and broken Thomas in late 2016. Hopefully I can continue feeling better and strong the year progresses and I eventually start training for the marathon.