Tuesday, October 22, 2019

2019 PORTLAND MARATHON RACE REPORT

With Katie before the start of the race! This was right before heading toward the start line, about 6:45am.
Another fall, another marathon. Five months of training all led to Sunday morning. While it was nice to have "home bed advantage" this year, I wasn't able to take advantage of it. I did get a good night of sleep on Friday night, about nine hours, so the three I got the night before the marathon didn't hurt me too much. Just tossing and turning with anxiety and nerves again. I sleep like a log before any lesser race distance, so it just goes to show you what I think about the challenge of a full marathon.

Very early on in downtown.
My alarm went off at 5am. My goal was to leave the house around 5:45 and be downtown by shortly after 6:00 as the race kicked off at 7:10. So despite my lack of sleep, I popped up and got dressed. I had a cup of coffee and bagel and cream cheese, my traditional marathon morning meal. I was also able to go to the bathroom a little, not a lot, but enough to make me feel good about that not being an issue during the race. I actually got out of the house on time and headed downtown.

Getting downtown was a breeze at that time of day and I ended up parking in my trusty SmartPark garage. It was only a few blocks to the starting area. I had some time to kill but it was nice not to be in a rush. I used a bathroom without having to wait in line and then met Katie near the bag check. We chatted for a bit, but I didn't want to get stuck back in the chute, so about 6:45 I peeled off my clothes and headed to the start line. They had big banners displaying different speeds and you were supposed to self seed. Makes sense for a race this size and I was easily able to line up near a 3:40 marathon pace.

MILES 1-7: NORTHWEST & THE ROSE QUARTER (8:13, 8:12, 8:44, 8:05, 8:09, 8:40, 8:22)

It was about 45 degrees with the race kicked off but I was never really cold and the weather was honestly just about perfect! There was basically no wind so it was very comfortable. I accidentally left my beanie on, I meant to take that off at the bag check, so I almost immediately had to put that in my pocket and carried it 26 miles. My gloves lasted about six miles before they too were in my pocket. It wasn't long before the sleeves on my long sleeve shirt were rolled up too.

Coming back from the Moda Center.
The chute actually went really well. People seemed to seed themselves appropriately and it wasn't ridiculously busy like the Marine Corp Marathon. I never had trouble hitting whatever pace I was trying for. I ended up staying with the 3:40 pacer and just following their lead. While their goal pace was 8:23/mile, they were going a little fast. Not terrible though, they have to have some cushion due to not running a perfect course. In retrospect, it might have been a little fast, but nothing too drastic.

The 8:44 mile was the climb up Burnside. It wasn't too bad, pretty similar to the start of the MCM last year, or the early hill on the old Portland Marathon course. The problem with this race though... it wasn't the first of one or two hills, it was the first of MANY hills. The 8:40 mile was the hill to get over the Broadway Bridge over to the Moda Center. Some good sights on the route. I have seen all of this a million times, but if you were from out of town it is a really great course for seeing the various parts of the city.

So how was I feeling after the hilly jaunt through Northwest and the Rose Quarter? Eh, not great. The pace felt easy, which was good, but my chest was tight, like I was about to have a side stitch. I think it was just nerves that took a long time to go away, but it was uncomfortable and annoying because my cardio wasn't labored at all. My legs felt great but it wasn't as comfortable as I was hoping due to the tightness in my chest. The atmosphere of the race was great though and the 3:40 pacers were nice and chatty.

MILES 8-13: GOOD STRETCH OVER THE SELLWOOD (8:14, 8:39, 7:57, 8:25, 8:15, 8:50)

My cardio finally relaxed and felt good about mile eight or so. Unfortunately, this part of the race was just about the only part where I was feeling good. After coming back across the Broadway Bridge from the Moda Center we headed south toward Macadam Avenue. This included a nice downhill mile where I was able to clock a 7:57. Again, probably too fast. I was sticking with the 3:40 pace in the hopes I could hang with them for a good while before slowly drifting back

Coming across the Sellwood Bridge.
I ate my first pack of Shot Bloks at mile six near the Moda Center, and then another pack once I had crested the Sellwood Bridge. By the way, that 8:50 mile was the hill up to the bridge. The amount of hills in the first half of the race was a little surprising. I knew there would be hills based on the elevation chart, but I was kind of hoping they would be the type of hill that looked big but you would barely notice them during the race. Unfortunately, all of these hills were noticeable. None of them were bad, but they added up.

This part of the race down to Macadam was probably the last scenic of the entire run but it still beat the pants off of a lot of the old course. Once to the Sellwood Bridge and into Sellwood though the sights were pretty good. As mentioned, I ate a pack of gummies at the top of the bridge, so when I swung into the neighborhoods and met Vincent around mile 13, I already had a lot of sugar in my belly.

It was at this point I made a bad mistake. Vincent had brought me KitKats as a treat and he offered me one as soon as I saw him. It sounded good, so I ate it. I then swigged some of the Gatorade he brought for me. Too much sugar. My belly almost immediately started to hurt. As I crossed the half marathon mark in 1:50:18, my stomach was in a lot of discomfort. I was hoping a few burps would get rid of it, but unfortunately the rest of the race I would be struggling with a touchy tummy.

MILES 14-20: WANTING TO RALPH NEAR REED (8:13, 8:29, 8:51, 8:53, 8:47, 8:57, 8:49)

I was able to keep pace for one more mile (I think this included some downhill) before I started to succumb to the problems in my stomach. I have no idea how much further I would have lasted if my stomach wasn't bothering me though. The first half was a lot hillier than I expected and I could feel it starting to wear on my legs. They still felt fine, but I could tell the miles and elevation were starting to take a small bit of the spring out of my step. While the new Portland Marathon doesn't have a monster hill, the many smaller hills do add up.

Eating the ill-fated Kit Kat.
As you can see, my times quickly slipped into the high 8s. At this point I knew I had started too fast and had some time banked, so the goal was to just stay under 9 as long as I possibly could. My stomach was really bothersome though. I was burping to no avail and I would let out terrible sounding greats as the indigestion would rise in my throat. Not fun! The slowdown here really wasn't due to my legs or my cardio, it was trying to keep my stomach at bay. The faster I ran the more uncomfortable it was, so I was just trying to ride the line between speed and not blowing chunks.

This part of the course is really scenic though. The hilliest part of the second half, but good sights and good crowd support. There is a nice, long portion of this part of the race where runners are running opposite directions on a tree lined avenue. That was fun because I was able to spot a couple of people faster and slower than me depending on where I was. At the top of this "lollipop" portion was a loop around Reed College, which I had never actually been to. Really pretty campus, but one of the steepest hills in the race somewhere along here. Overall though the sights were a nice distraction from everything else.

At the beginning of the race I was drinking two cups at each aid station, one water and one Nuun electrolyte drink. After the stomach issues around halfway, it took everything I had just to drink one water at each station. I was DREADING the water stations (weird flip of the normal script) because I knew I had to splash water into my stomach which was making it hurt even more. However, I knew I needed to keep my fluids up, so I powered through it. I did NOT eat at mile 18 as planned though. Just couldn't bring myself to do it. Was hoping the two packs of gummies and single fun sized KitKat would be enough.

MILES 21-26.2: GRINDING TO THE FINISH (9:17, 9:06, 9:20, 9:25, 9:28, 8:57)

One of the larger hills on the backside resulted in my first mile time above 9. I was hoping to bring the next one in below 9 and try to keep that trend going, but as you can see, it didn't work. At point point my legs were definitely starting to tire. So I think without the stomach issues I could have made it to mile 21 or so before really slowing down. About par for the course. Overall the stomach thing maybe cost me 2 or 3 minutes, nothing huge.

You could say I was ready to be done.
I was just in survival mode at this point. I wasn't in any pain or anything, I was just tired with a stomachache. Honestly this was the best my legs have ever felt in the final stretch of a marathon. While they were worn down and I was exhausted, they weren't screaming at me like most years. My feet, while a little sore, weren't too bad, unlike the MCM last year. So all told I was in pretty decent shape and I knew I could finish without walking a step, so that became my new goal. I wasn't certain if I would be able to finish below 3:50, but I knew I could beat last year and run the thing in.

While it was a little risky, I did starting drinking the Nuun again. I went to wipe my face and it was covered in dried salt and I figured I should give it a try before I cramped. My stomach felt a little better at this point and I was able to get it down. Vincent kept trying to convince me to eat something and I kept rejecting him, but around mile 24 I did decide to eat one of his SIS gels. It went down okay and gave me a little boost. The 3:50 pacer passed me around this time as well, which was kind of a downer. I looked at my watch though and was still on pace to beat 3:50, so I figured she was running a little fast. If I could keep her in sight, I should still get below 3:50.

Finally we crossed back over the Burnside Bridge and into downtown for the final mile or so. At this point I was feeling pretty good. Knowing you are almost done in a marathon is a great feeling. Alejandro surprised me by showing up and running along side me for the final mile or so along the other side of the barricade. The 3:50 pacer was still in my sights, probably only 50 feet ahead of me. After some urging from Vincent and Alejandro, and initial rejections from me, I decided to pass her. I like out a primal grunt ("aaaagggggGGGHHHHH") and started to kick. Surprisingly my legs felt good. The 26th mile was below 9 and that final quarter mile or so was probably in the low 8s! Felt good to finish strong.

FINISH AND THE AFTER PARTY


Feeling decent and pretty proud!
I tried to recreate the "airplane" finish from my first Portland Marathon for the rebirth of the new course and failed miserably. In fact, just about every photo from the race has me looking miserable. There is a not a SINGLE good picture in the lot. And they are free! Ugh. Anyways, crossing a marathon finish line is an amazing feeling! Based on the clock, I got a 3:48 something, exactly what I was expecting the last few miles based on my calculations. I tried to soak in the accomplishment before wallowing in the sure to come pain.

My legs were the best they have ever felt after a marathon. Even better than last year I think. So that's very encouraging! They hurt a little, but I could easily walk around and I didn't have the overwhelming need to sit. I was able to get through the "chute" area and out to meet Vincent without much hassle. Although I did sit down for about two minutes just to keep that tradition going. But I was able to stand up and get going again no problem.

After meeting Vincent, we found a place were I could sit down and try to eat some of the food I collected. I managed to choke down a banana but that was it. I'm never hungry right after a marathon and with my stomach the way it was, food was extra unappealing. In fact, I didn't actually get hungry until 4 that afternoon. And boy did I get hungry. I must have ate 3,000 calories and I still wasn't satisfied. Don't know why I am never hungry after a marathon but I never am. Didn't even drink my beer. Don't think I've ever drank my beer after a full.

Anyways, all told, a very successful race and training cycle! I'll have some more reflections about that coming up, but I need to get this entry over with already and posted.

OFFICIAL CHIP TIME: 3:48:14, 8:42/mile. 470/2115 overall, 365/1268 male, 69/217 M30-34.

Saturday, October 05, 2019

2019 PORTLAND MARATHON RACE PREVIEW

Last Portland finish. 2015 with Alejandro and Glenn.
Well, I can't quite believe it, but the Portland Marathon starts bright and early tomorrow morning. Yikes! The anticipation for a full marathon is very unique... I do not freak out and get anxious about any other race distance, but every time I think about an upcoming marathon I start getting the cold sweats. For good reason though - marathons are hard! However, I just have to remind myself I have done them before and I can do it again. It might suck for about an hour, but that's it.

Weather still looks perfect, basically unchanged since the last update! Really lucked out with that one. It's going to be a bit chilly at the start, about 45, so I'll probably end up wearing a long sleeve t-shirt. I won't be wearing shorts with pockets due to an anti-chaffing measure, so I think I'll skip a beanie and gloves. The beanie would get ditched within the first mile anyways, and looking at the Marine Corp Marathon last year, I didn't wear my gloves for very long in similar weather. So I should be good once the race starts... maybe just a little chilly waiting.

The course itself is going to be a surprise. The Portland Marathon Clinic previewed the first half during one of their reunion runs, and then my other group previewed the second half during one of their runs. And I missed both - d'oh! Regardless, I have familiarized myself with the course a little bit, just so I am not surprised by unexpected hills or something. But the sights themselves and the neighborhoods should mostly be a surprise. Hopefully that will be a nice distraction, unlike the 2015 & 2016 Portland Marathons when I knew the course like the back of my hand.

The new course! Like spaghetti!
Much like the MCM last year, there is an uphill almost instantly. It looks to be about 150 feet in the course of a mile and a half, so about the same. Like last year, shouldn't be an issue that early. After that there is a decent uphill to the Broadway bridge starting about mile 5. After looping around the Rose Quarter, it is back downtown and heading south toward the Sellwood Bridge on Macadam. Some more uphill here, about 120 feet in two miles.  And then another 80 feet or so to climb up the bridge. Once crossing into the Sellwood neighborhood we'll hit the half marathon mark.

The difference between the MCM last year and the Portland Marathon this year will be those hills. All minor in the normal course of things, but with fatigue building they will present a challenge. I wish I could say the second half was significantly less hilly, but I can't. It is less hilly, but not by much. We go through Sellwood, loop through Reed College (hill!) and then head north toward OMSI. Luckily the hills after mile 20 are minor, so that's good at least. No climb over 50 feet. After wandering around the eastside, we cross the Burnside Bridge and head back downtown on Naito to the finish!

Overall, the course will be challenging because of those multiple hill climbs and the number of turns. It is going to be very hard to run a good tangent during this race. I have to be very mindful of that so I don't end up running 26.7 miles. While the course is definitely more scenic than the previous Portland Marathon, it is NOT faster. How much slower is it? I don't know. But I think at least a few minutes slower. So a 3:47 here might have translated to a 3:43 on the old course. Hard to tell though.

Elevation chart. At least 7 or 8 noticeable climbs.
As for my pacing strategy, I plan to start out targeting miles between 8:20 and 8:25. I need to average 8:34 to hit my "A+" goal, but that's assuming a perfect course. I have to assume I'll run something like 26.5 miles, which means the pace on my watch won't be accurate for the final race results. Last year my official pace was 8:59 enough though my watch said 8:52. So I need to plan for that, plus the eventual slowdown toward the end. If I run a course of 26.5 miles, I need to average 8:29 on my watch. Averaging 8:23 over the first twenty miles or so won't give me a ton of wiggle room at the end, it'll have to be a perfect day. Any faster though and I have no shot.

So that's that! I am ready, I did the training, so now I just have to go out and execute. I even practiced the pace of 8:25 a couple of times, so I should instinctively be able to lock in. My watch pace will probably bounce all over the place with all the turns and buildings, so I'll have to call on that "feeling" when I know my watch is being a liar. Oh, and same refueling strategy as last year... half water, half sports drink with an entire pack of gummies every 6 miles.

GOALS:

"A+" Goal: Under 3:45. I'm having an A+ goal this year. It is what I am going to try to hit assuming everything goes right. This would take doing the first 20 miles at 8:25 pace and then finishing out the rest all below 8:50 average. This will take the perfect race for me. While I will set out to achieve this, I won't be bummed if I don't hit it.

"A" Goal: Under 3:50. I would really like a 3:4X time. I feel like that is the next "step" from my 3:55. I'd be super, super happy with this time. It would feel wrong to make this my "B" goal given how happy I would be with it.

"B" Goal: Under 3:55:54. Beat last year. Show improvement. After a good training cycle and speedwork almost every week, I need to beat last year. I could be satisfied with this.

"C" Goal: Under 4:00. Barring an injury or extreme cramping or something, I need to be below 4:00. Still about a 9:00/mile pace, nothing to sneeze at. Will be bummed not to beat last year, but this is a tougher course and it might just not have been my day.

Thursday, October 03, 2019

THREE DAYS TO GO

I cannot believe how fast the Portland Marathon is barreling toward me. It feels like this week just started and it's already Thursday. Ahh!

Good news on the weather front, it is holding out. Still looks great! The temperature for the morning has ticked down some, now estimated at 45 when the race starts... a little cold but not a big deal. The chance of it raining at all has decreased a lot, now down to 3%. So basically it should be clear and crisp. Can't ask for much more!

My next post will be a preview of the race with my goals. I ran my final two runs on Monday and Tuesday, they went great, no issues. Should feel nice and fresh for race day! Haven't done a great job with my sleep schedule... I've been getting to bed a little earlier, but still sleeping in until the same time, so I don't know if that helps or not.

The expo is only on Saturday, which is kind of annoying. I liked to go on Friday and avoid the crowds, but no option of that this year. I've also learned there will be no corrals; we are supposed to line up accordingly based on our time. Which would be a great idea if people actually lined up at the right speed. So it might be a frustrating first mile or two, but this race shouldn't be too large, a couple of thousand maybe, so unlike the Marine Corp Marathon, I should be able to hit target pace pretty quick.

Monday, September 30, 2019

A WEEK AWAY FROM PORTLAND 2019

Alright, now that we are only a week out, things start to get interesting! I start freaking out at random moments of the day, I can furiously F5 the weather forecast, I can over-analyze my morning approach, etc. Good times.

Just a quick post today, but I wanted to reflect back on my September. I felt good, I hit all my runs, and when it was all totaled up, it was my second most miles EVER. I was very surprised at that fact! I had definitely hit two 20 milers in a month before and it only had four Saturdays (aka long runs) so it wasn't like it was a weird coincidence of circumstance. Nope, I just ran a lot (for me) and held myself accountable. So that was pretty cool to see, thinking back about 2014 when I was really serious about things and being right in that ballpark, albeit slower. You can also see my highest month last year, some twenty miles less.

We are also well within ten days of the race now, so it is time to weather stalk. And for NOW, the weather looks awesome. Knock on wood. I always look at the day before and the day after, because things tend to shift earlier/later and right now, both those days look pretty good as well. So right now it's looking very promising. The expected high right now at 11am is 60 degrees, which isn't bad. It also should be partly cloudy, so hopefully the direct sun won't be blasting in my face.

Click here if you want to stalk me on Sunday morning and watch my inevitable spectacular collapse!

The plan this week is pretty simple. Five easy on Monday, four easy on Tuesday, and then that's it until the race! I always love tapering! Some runners hate it and feel an itch to go out and run... not me. I will gladly sit on my ass and do nothing for a week. Vital to my training you say? Well, probably shouldn't even go get the mail then. Don't want to stress myself out.

One other thing I need to do this week is get into a better sleep schedule. I was able to do it last year to adjust to east coast time, but it is hard to do without a time zone change looming. However, I've been falling asleep around 1am recently and that is NOT going to work for this race. Knowing me, I'll be up later than that because of the nerves before the race. I'd like to get at least five or six hours of sleep and I'll probably need to wake up around 5am.

Anyways, that's the update for now!

Monday, September 16, 2019

AUGUST RECAP & TWO TWENTIES

At the top of Mount Tabor during my 2nd 20 mile run of the training cycle. No watch? No problem!
Yikes, has it really been more than a month since I lasted updated? My bad!

Training has been going really well! August wasn't the ideal month of training for me, but that was planned and anticipated. I was out of town for three of the five Saturdays, which complicated my long runs. So after doing that first twenty miler I wrote about in the previous post, my "long" runs went like this:  12, 6, 18, 16. Not the best!

However, I did do 141 miles in August, which was the most out of any month so far. So it all wasn't for nothing. I was very good about hitting all my runs. I even did 42 miles on my 8 day vacation, including that 18 miler. So honestly, I did pretty well given the scheduling challenges August presented! I even got my speedwork in every week as scheduled.

My route two days ago for 20.
The real test was when I settled back into the normal groove in September, would my "distance" legs still be there? Well, I did twenty milers the last two weekends and I have to say that question is answered with a resounding "yes!" Both of those twenty milers felt GREAT. They were no sweat! Frankly I couldn't quite believe how well they went.

The first one, on September 7th, I was a little iffy about. I hadn't run twenty in over a month, so it was going to tell me a lot about if August's schedule was going to affect me in any way. In what might have been a blessing in disguise, I forgot my watch that morning! Ahhh! Damn you 6:45am brain. However, this was actually quite liberating! Ignorance is bliss! I could just tell myself what I wanted to hear ("oh, this is mile 11, only 9 left" ... when in reality it was mile 8). Honestly the run flew by without a hitch and each time I got a distance update I was surprised we were that far. I finished this run no problem feeling spunky.

And then this last weekend, two days ago, I made myself do another twenty. With the marathon three weeks out (yikes!) this would be my third and final one. I had a compressed time frame due to the OSU football game, so I got to Sunstone at 6:50am and ran seven miles before the normal 8am start. I then ran ten miles with the group. That flew by! Before I knew it I was 17 miles in. I felt great too! My final three miles were something like 9:45, 9:30, 9:15. I've never finished a twenty mile run feeling that spunky. I honestly feel I could have done 23 before having any real issues.

Overall, I feel very confident about my marathon shape. The last four weeks I have ran 36, 36, 39, and 40 miles. I realize that is not a lot to "serious" marathon runners, but for me, that is a significant amount. For my goal, namely to give myself a chance to finish without walking, that is where I need to be. And my legs feel good. My knees feel awesome. I never felt this good before psoriatic arthritis. As I've said before, I definitely think I had it at a low level for years before it flared badly.

So that's the update! I'll try to update again at some point this month before the marathon is right around the corner. Overall, I am feeling good and hitting my runs as scheduled.

Thursday, August 08, 2019

FIRST TWENTY IN TWENTY NINETEEN

Classic waterfront loop and Springwater spur.
Things continue to tick along successfully. Last weekend I completed my first twenty mile run of the training cycle. That is always a milestone, although each training cycle it seems to become less of one. It's been encouraging just how painless the transition back into marathon form has been. I lost a lot while unmotivated this last winter, yet I am back and hopefully on pace to improve on my time from last year. Gotta keep on track and not blow up marathon day.

As I mentioned, last weekend was my first twenty mile run of the training cycle. The group I am training with was only planning nineteen, they hadn't hit twenty yet, but I got there 10 minutes early to run an extra mile. That meant a 6:35am wake up call. Ugh. Anyways, it was relatively painless. However, in the fog of morning brain I put on my everyday shoes instead of my running shoes. Yikes! Now, these everyday shoes are retired running shoes, but they have 440 miles on them (460 now) and are DEAD in terms of running support. So I noticed that a few miles in.

Also, I am part of an indoor soccer league and we have games on Friday nights. This has been an obstacle all training cycle and I think in the long run it'll actually be a net positive. My legs being just a little more tired from a half hour of soccer the night before should make these long runs that much more effective. We'll see. Anyways, couple those already a bit tired legs with dead shoes on the hottest long run morning so far, and you have the recipe for a bad run.

Honestly though, the run wasn't bad! My legs were a little more tired and achy than usual due the shoes and I started feeling the miles earlier in the run as well. However, I was able to finish without too much of a problem and felt like normal later that day and the next day. So no harm done. The weather was warm, hot even, but manageable. I have never been one to complain about the heat. Worst it can get if you start at a reasonable hour is high 70s or low 80s by the end. Just hydrate and enjoy the extra training effect.

The worst part of the run was MAJOR chaffing in the inner thigh area. Right where the "briefs" in my shorts have their seams. This was the worst chaffing I have ever experienced. It was brutal. I wished death upon myself in the shower after the run. My legs are still red today, five days later. Chaffing has been more of an issue this time around. It never used to be a problem, but I've had some low level stuff and this run just exploded things. I'm going to have to completely rethink my long run lubrication strategy.

Lastly, I'll talk about the interval run I did last night. I'm just kind of making my speed workouts up as I go along. So last night I decided to do 4 x 1 mile with some warm up and warm down to hit six miles on the night. I've never done a workout like this before, so I was interested to see how it went. My goal was to go below 7:30 on each interval and I was able to do that. 7:17, 7:06, 7:14, 7:09. It was actually kind of fun! I walked a quarter mile between each one for rest. Afterward, my body felt great and I surprised myself at how fast I was able to do them. Also can't believe I ran a 5k at 6:35/mi at one point.

Anyways, it is back to Roseburg for camping this weekend. Last time I went I couldn't bring myself to run because I felt like trash after sleeping on the ground. So I am going to run 12 miles tonight instead. That'll be my long run this week, and then I'll fit in another 6 when I get back on Sunday evening.