Monday, October 28, 2013

FIRST LONG RUN BACK

The highlight of my run on Saturday. Don't act like you're not jealous.
Saturday I finally did my first long run since finishing the Portland Marathon. It seems like it has been forever, but it has only been three weeks. The weekend after the race I was recovering and just did a 10k, and last week I go busy and didn't run at all. So honestly it could be a lot worse! I had the chance to let my schedule ruin Saturday's long run, but I made it happen, even waking up earlier than I would like to get it in. So I am happy about that!

I ended up doing a half marathon for my long run. I was going to settle on 12, but was feeling guilty about skipping the long run the weekend before. I wasn't feeling super fresh and I think 15 would have been a bad decision first long run back (plus, I was pressed for time), so I settled on a half marathon. Can't do 13, have to do 13.1.

The run went really well. The highlight was running over a pedestrian bridge I normally run under. It's pretty sad how excited I was for that. So after adding the neighborhood navigation to make that happen I still had 11 miles. I was just going along at a nice pace, not too easy, not too hard. I had a football game to make at 1pm so I couldn't dilly dally too much.

Around mile six at a stop for water I made the decision to try and finish the half marathon in under two hours. I was currently on pace for about a 2:02 or so and would need to pick it up. I then proceeded to hit 5 out of the next 7 miles under 9:00 after averaging 9:15/mile to that point. I was worried about the Davies hill screwing things up but I managed to do that mile in 8:46.

The rest of the run was along the Fanno Creek Trail. I haven't run in there for a couple weeks since switching to the winter route at PRC and boy it is pretty in the fall! Shame it gets dark so early now, I would have really enjoyed running through there during October! By the time I do another long run most the leaves will be on the ground.

I was able to finish the half marathon with about 90 seconds to spare before hitting two hours. So I felt pretty accomplished that I was able to go under two hours on a relatively easy training run pace. I didn't tire too bad toward the end and certainly think I could have done two more miles without too much pain. So next run I'll shoot for 15!

After my 6:56 mile on Wednesday night and intervals the day after I have a muscle on my right butt area that is bothering me. It seems like a different one than I injured before Miami, but maybe it's the same one (both got pissed after speed focused runs). It seems to be running over a bone and almost 'catching' when I walk. I think it just got a little strained and is swollen. Should take it easy and ice it. 5k this weekend with PR as the goal!

Friday, October 25, 2013

8x400 INTERVALS

Did intervals again last night. This time I did 8x400, so two more times around the "track" fast for two miles total at a 6:27 average pace. My times did improve over the first session, but I am not sure if that is because I have gotten any better or I just ran them harder. Honestly while running them I felt like I was giving the same effort, but the average rest pace tells a different story.

Interval 400m Time 400m Pace Rest Time Rest Pace
#1 1:41.45 6:46/mi 2:26.99 9:48/mi
#2 1:35.68 6:23/mi 2:30.76 10:03/mi
#3 1:35.07 6:20/mi 2:32.00 10:08/mi
#4 1:38.39 6:34/mi 2:35.27 10:21/mi
#5 1:36.82 6:27/mi 2:31.84 10:07/mi
#6 1:37.33 6:29/mi 2:33.28 10:13/mi
#7 1:36.30 6:25/mi 2:35.27 10:21/mi
#8 1:33.21 6:13/mi 2:42.02 10:48/mi
Average 1:36.78 6:27/mi 2:33.43 10:14/mi

Obviously I should run them harder if I am capable, so my new goal will be to always be in the 1:30s... except maybe that first lap to feel things out. On that last one I certainly went a little harder knowing it was my last one.

Monday at group I did the 7.2 mile hilly course. It is still very difficult... have to get used to all those hills again. Wednesday just did the five mile loop at PRC (still recovering from Monday) but did bust out a 6:56 final mile with Alejandro. Then intervals yesterday. So a well deserved rest today, Friday, before my long run tomorrow. I think I'm going to do 12. The weekend after I have a 5k race, so I don't know how I'll handle the long run that weekend.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

WINTER RUNNING SCHEDULE

Really not much is going to change from what I am doing now. I'd like to do speedwork so basically I am looking to do that on Thursdays. That means I should probably take it easy on Wednesdays. Still shooting for four days a week. As long as I hit four, I should be good. Don't want to drop down to 2-3 like last winter.

That'd put me at 27 miles/week minimum, topping out around 35 or so. That's about what I'd like to average (~30) per week when I am not training for anything in particular.

MON: 7 miles @ PRC (if worn out from weekend long run, do 5)
TUE:Rest
WED:5 miles @ PRC (do these easier to rest up for...)
THU:Speedwork/Intervals (get at least 5 miles in)
FRI:Rest
SAT:Long Run 12-18 miles
SUN:Rest

While I will probably stick pretty close to that, I can always re-arrange the weekday runs and the day I do my long run too. Just as long as I am getting all the runs in. My goal is to set 5k and 10k records by the time spring rolls around. I have a 5k on November 3rd and a 10k possibly on Thanksgiving Day. Even after the records are set I'd like to keep getting faster because that will be a key to improving my times in the longer distances as well.

Overall I think I am still recovering from the marathon. It's been a little over two weeks but my legs still don't feel as fresh and springy as they should. They just feel a little worn and tired. The switch to the winter running route at run group has been killer because it is super hilly. The 7.2 mile "rollercoaster," as we call it, has been a fun challenge though. I just really feel it the next day...

Monday, October 21, 2013

REPLACEMENT OF FEARS

Worth skipping to go on a run? N to the O.
This weekend I didn't do a long run. I was supposed to do a long run of twelve miles so I could start that 12, 15, 18 rotation. Imagine me as a puppy who just did something wrong. Head down, tail between legs, unable to look owner in eye. That is me fair reader.

My weekend just got super busy and since I am no longer training for the marathon, I didn't go way out of my way to make it happen. The run was supposed to happen Sunday morning, but Brandon and I made it to the finals of the Little Big Shot activity the day before, which meant we got to do down on the floor at the Moda Center/Rose Garden (19,800 seat arena where the Blazers play) and shoot hoops on the same court that LeBron James and all the NBA guys play on. So it was an opportunity that wasn't going to be missed!

Anyways, that took the timeslot my run was supposed to be in as the rest of my day was full. Now, had I woken up at 7am on Sunday to run I could have made it happen. I needed sleep though, so I didn't. And while I feel bad, I don't feel too bad. This weekend should be an outlier. I WILL make sure it is an outlier. I am very sensitive about not slacking off and losing the fitness I built during marathon training. And I can practically feel myself getting less fit by the second.

Fear of hitting the wall has been replaced by fear of slacking off and getting out of the shape I've worked so hard to achieve. So this Saturday morning I will wake up early to make sure I can fit my long run in. I'm debating about whether I should do 12 or 15, but at least 12 will get done.

Friday, October 18, 2013

URBAN TRACK - MY FIRST INTERVALS

After writing that post about the perfect "(sub)urban track" I found, I just couldn't wait to try it out. On my way home from work I swung by to check it out for flatness. Turns out it is pretty flat but not completely flat. One "end" of the track, the southern part, has a small 10 foot incline right at the curve, then it flattens out in the "endzone" and then it goes back down those 10 feet on the next curve. Both inclines are pretty gradual and weren't a deal breaker. I had a track!

So naturally, I had to go run on it... like now. Instead of doing my usual 10k loop I do on my own Thursdays, I decided to replace it with intervals. So much for waiting for my watch. I used a "stopwatch" app on my phone instead to track my splits. It was kind of annoying because I had to unlock my phone and manually hit the "lap" button each time round (risking tripping on my face while trying to operate phone while busting ass) but I managed.

Without really looking up interval workouts or anything I just figured I'd do 6x400m repeats with 400 meter jogs in between for rest. That basically means you bust tail for a quarter mile (one lap), take a "rest" lap, then bust tail again, etc. until you hit three total miles, a mile and a half of which is really fast.

By the time I arrived it was already dark. Turns out doing laps in this neighborhood is popular because there were three other people there doing laps. They were walking, but they were definitely just circling that neighborhood. A younger couple was walking the interior sidewalks, thus not in my way, while an older woman was doing laps on the outside edge where I was running.

It will be interesting to see if I always have company when I go to run there. Honestly, they didn't seem to blink an eye. The older woman and I took turns getting out of the way for each other. It all worked well. Since it was dark I felt less judged from the houses around me too. Overall, I had a good time.

The workout itself was fun! After a 1.3 mile uphill warm up to get there, I started with my first fast lap. I tried to go as fast as I could without really just outright sprinting. It felt good. And the lap was over before I knew it. For the rest laps I just did a comfortable jog. These ended up slightly under 9:00/mile which is crazy. Some nights just running 9:00/mile seems torturous, tonight it was a nice chance to catch my breath.

The varied paces and constantly changing from one to another really helped this workout speed by. Before I knew it I was done! I felt great too - like I got a really good workout and my legs might be feeling it tomorrow, but my body felt awesome. Close to a runner's high! I know they all won't be like that, but it was a fun workout. I'll be back!

Interval 400m Time 400m Pace Rest Time Rest Pace
#1 1:38 6:32/mi 2:15 9:00/mi
#2 1:42 6:48/mi 2:13 8:52/mi
#3 1:42 6:48/mi 2:10 8:40/mi
#4 1:40 6:40/mi 2:14 8:56/mi
#5 1:42 6:48/mi 2:10 8:40/mi
#6 1:38 6:32/mi 2:15 9:00/mi
Average 1:40.30 6:41/mi 2:12.83 8:51/mi

I've always wanted to do a chart like that as a stat nerd. So stat nerds eat your heart out. I should add cadence and heart rate... then we'd really be talking, huh? My "watch" did hundredths, but I rounded... that makes the paces jump in four second increments though... next time I'll probably post the more precise numbers.

All told, I think this 6x400m workout is great for 5k preparation and general speed gathering. I'd like to see if I could get my average pace on the intervals to 6:15/mile in the next couple months. Funny to think that's only dropping to a 1:33.75 lap, so just a few seconds. I'm so used to the longer distances where you chuck seconds in the dumpster. Here to shave a few seconds off is a lot of work!

Also surprised I was able to run relatively even splits (even the resting laps) without a watch. I know once I get the watch I'll be glancing at it when I hit the halfway point and trying to really dial the times in.

Thursday, October 17, 2013

WOULD IT BE WEIRD IF...

At some point I'd like to start doing some interval/speed workouts. Typically these are done at a track because you are doing common track distances like 200m, 400m, 800m, etc. Problem is, the track within running distance from my house is Southridge High School, and that thing is locked down with multiple layers of fencing.

I don't really understand that, it is a public resource, paid for by my tax dollars, but they really lock it off. I've been there twice, once on a quest for water, another time to play tennis, and was not impressed with the accessibility of their facilities. Where I grew up in Tualatin the high school was open to all and any night there were at least a dozen people on the track doing various exercises.

Long story short, I'd basically have to find a track and drive there. That doesn't sound fun. Battle rush hour traffic to get home, change, then drive somewhere to run laps. Shoot me. I could just take off from my house and set my phone to alert me every .25 miles or whatever, but I want a flat surface for speed workouts, and you can't run anywhere near my house without some hills. You need to be able to compare splits and that just wouldn't work.

So I got to thinking. Maybe there is a flat quarter mile loop I can find by my house. What if the roads just happened to form a quarter mile? I could just use that as my track. So I load a map and on my third track like loop I try I hit a home run. I literally trace the sidewalk I'd run on and it comes out to pretty much exactly .25 miles... almost like it was designed that way.

Only problem is, Google Street View didn't journey there. Everywhere else, yes, but that one street, no. They got close (the bend in the upper right) and from the view there the neighborhood looks pretty damn flat. I even ran through it at one point trying to find a 10k route. I think I remember it being flat. So I think I'll investigate that neighborhood very soon to make sure it is flat.

If it is flat... would it be weird to run circles in it? I mean, if I were a home owner and someone came flying by every 90 seconds (oh Thomas, stop flattering yourself) it might be kind of weird. I'd probably run around it 12 times and then come home. My house also happens to be just about exactly a mile from there, so a mile warm up and warm down. It's perfect!

I don't think I'll start intervals until I get my watch though. Maybe I will... we'll see. I want to try and set a new 5k PR and gain some speed in the next couple months.

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

WHAT'S NEXT?

What big city marathon might be next for me? Read below to find out where this is from!
Right now is kind of a weird time for me because I achieved the goal I had set out for myself 18 months ago. Around March 2012 I decided to do the 2013 Portland Marathon, and now I have done it. What now?

Well, I'd like to do another marathon. I think they'll become a semi-regular thing for me. And by that I mean like two a year. Really depends on how my body holds up because they are demanding. I'd also like to continue doing other races though too, everything from 5Ks to half marathons. They all have their charm. I guess I can't really ever become super at any of them if I don't concentrate on just one distance, but I'm not an Olympic athlete so who cares.

In the upcoming winter months I'd like to concentrate a little bit on shorter races. My goal is to set a new 5K PR. I've signed up for a 5K on November 3rd and hopefully I can do it there. If not, I'll have the HoHo 5K in December again probably (although that is hilly). I'd also like to do a Turkey Trot, maybe I can find a 10k or something for that. Anyways, I'm not magically going to get faster, so in the upcoming weeks I'll have to concentrate on speed a little and maybe even start some interval type stuff.

It looks like my next marathon will be the BMO Vancouver Marathon in Vancouver, BC. Nothing is for sure yet, but Alejandro and I have been talking and that is one marathon he'd like to do. Since Eugene is no longer an option in the spring, I think I'll replace it with Vancouver. It's only a five hour drive from Portland, so we can drive up Saturday morning, do the expo, explore the city a little, spend the night, do the race, and then come back Sunday afternoon. Only one night needed in the hotel, so it shouldn't be too much money.

The plan is to rotate my weekend runs so stay in "near marathon shape." I think I'll do 12, 15, and 18 every three weeks. Meaning when it comes time to train for Vancouver (February-ish), I'll just need to throw in a couple 20 milers and make sure I'm getting enough weekday miles.

Anyways, that's the plan for now! Three weekday runs and the long run on the weekend is pretty engrained into my routine now, so I'll try and keep it that way to avoid a winter lull.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

BACK IN THE SADDLE

Well, I finally had my first run post-marathon. I was going to wait until Saturday, but Friday night I was feeling so itchy I just had to get out there. So I did an easy three miles when I got home from work. It felt great! I averaged 8:52/mile and the effort felt pretty easy. I will say I was a bit more winded than I thought after that run and the 3.1 miles seemed to take a while. What the heck, I just ran 26!

Today I laid around and watched football most the day. I finally got out the door around 5pm and did my usual 10k loop. Another great run, averaging a slightly faster 8:43/mile. My legs feel fully recovered and the only lingering effect of the marathon is a slightly sore left knee. The pain isn't anywhere in particular, it's just a very low level soreness of the whole knee. Doesn't really bother me and it seemed better today than the day before. I'll just keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't get worse, but right now I am not worried. Hopefully it'll fade into history like my butt muscle pull.

Next post... where from here?

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

PORTLAND MARATHON REFLECTIONS

Me and my peeps at run group Monday, soaking in the glory of our marathon finishes.
I have a lot of thoughts about by first ever marathon. I am just going to kind of write them down as they come, so this might not be the most organized post, but oh well.

First off, the biggest thing to me about this race was being able to finish it without having to walk and feeling fairly decent the entire time. Now, I definitely wanted to stop around mile 20, and my body was overcome with a fatigue around mile 23 that I hadn't really felt before, but I was able to finish. I'm used to my body screaming at me to stop but continuing to run, and that is what happened here. I am very proud I was able to run it in and maintain a pretty decent clip.

This makes me proud!
I think I can attribute this relative late race success to two things. First, my training. I did three twenty mile training runs. On these runs I was outside running nearly 3.5 hours. So I was used to being on my feet running for 3.5 hours. Running it faster is harder, yes, but with the extra rest for the taper, this wasn't as big of a shock on my body. Secondly, I fueled... a lot. I had two packs of Shot Bloks and lots of gummy bears and pretzels along the course. I probably ate 750 calories and I think I needed just about every one of those from mile 20 on. I didn't hit the dreaded wall and for that I am so grateful!

Overall, I LOVED the Portland Marathon. Some people are snooty about this race, especially seasoned local marathoners who prefer, cheaper, smaller races, but I thought it was great. It is the 10th largest in the country and I loved the size of it and the support along the course. It seemed HUGE and I can't imagine a race like Chicago with 4x the people! Maybe once I am a jaded marathon vet the Portland Marathon won't appeal to me as much, but it is my hometown race and I had an absolute blast. Like I said in the preview, I wanted hoopla and I certainly got that!

This is humbling. Before I even crossed the bridge!?!
A big plus for me was the support along the course. Except for the stretch on the St. Helen's Highway, the route was packed with spectators. Literally, they were everywhere! They really helped me along. I must have got over a 100 "Go Thomas!" cheers along the route. Really glad I put my name on my bib, because people would cheer for you. I high fived a bunch of people too. It was just really fun and took your mind off the race a little. The finishers chute was lined with spectators and totally chaotic... loved it!

Another thought from this race is the common marathon wisdom "nothing new on race day." Well, fuck that apparently. I ate a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast, which I never eat for breakfast. Honestly though, how could that hurt my stomach? Get the cheese and jalapeƱo one? Okay, did that, still fine. Second, I never trained with Shot Bloks. Plowed through two packs. I was fine. I don't have an iron gut, but I guess my stomach isn't super sensitive.

The average runner was over 5 miles behind me when I
finished. Not too shabby there TG!
Tapering. I tapered the shit out of this race. The weekends before the marathon looked like this... 20, 16, 12, 3. Ideally I think you'd want the 20 mile run a week later, because it had been over a month since my last 20 mile run. Then only 3 miles the weekend before? And only 12 the weekend before that? Most people would think you'd start losing your fitness. Maybe I did a little, I don't know. I was super rested though, so obviously it worked for me. Just goes to show you (along with the 'no new' thing) that everyone is different.

Today is Wednesday and it marked a huge improvement on the soreness of my muscles. Sunday, race day, was the worst, but I was still able to get up and down the stairs and it wasn't too bad. Monday and Tuesday were incrementally better. Today was the day I got a lot better though. I am still a little sore there are some minor pains in my left knee and right shin still, never of which I felt during the race, just after, but overall I feel much better. I'll probably go on a run Saturday, give myself tomorrow and Friday to heal properly. I just ran a 3:36 marathon, I think my body deserves a few days.

A minor slow down, but not a
breakdown. Half splits:
1:45:25 / 1:51:17
Will I run another marathon? I sure will! It was hard, it was a challenge, and I don't think I'd want to do one every month, but it was a lot of fun too. The feeling of accomplishment was huge and now that they are no longer an unknown I don't have to be so nervous about it. I think I'll rotate my weekend long runs to stay close to marathon shape. Do 12, 15, 18, repeat. Or maybe 10, 14, 18? If I can get to the point where 18 isn't really a huge deal, then "training" for a marathon should just be throwing in a couple 20 milers and making sure I'm running enough during the week.

I think I'll target Spring 2014 for my next marathon. I was going to do Eugene, but they moved it to July, so that's out the window. So I'll get looking. Any suggestions? Next October I either want to do Chicago, Detroit, or Portland again. And eventually I need to get in the NYC raffle.

Monday, October 07, 2013

PORTLAND MARATHON RACE REPORT

The start of the Portland Marathon!
Well, the long awaited day was finally upon me. I was definitely nervous the night before and wasn't able to fall asleep for probably an hour and a half after I turned the lights out. I got five hours of sleep at most. The night before I was able to get ten hours though, so overall I think I was pretty well rested. I certainly tapered enough, so all told I was ready to attack this race.

I ate a bagel and cream cheese for breakfast and then headed to Glenn's house. We all decided to meet there and then just carpool over instead of dealing with MAX. It was a good call, as we got downtown around 6:15am and were able to use the restroom at Jon's office before heading to the race. At this point I was very nervous and kind of felt like I was going to throw up. Looking back, it is almost like this part of the day was a dream. I was really in a different mental state, just a million emotions at once. Overall I kept very calm on the outside, Jon even remarked that I "didn't even seem nervous." I guess I was good at masking it!

We entered our corral with about a half hour to go. With about twenty mintues to go we decided to do our bag check since we didn't want to get stuck in a line. I was wearing sweats and a hoodie to stay warm but once I took them off I was still fine. It wasn't THAT cold (probably low 50s) and the nerves were keeping my senses numb to a degree. We got in line for the port-a-potties at 6:40am and I finally was able to pee at 6:58am. Barely made it! Glad I was able to go though because the nerves of the impending race and the amount of water I had drank the day before were making me fountain of urine.

THE START

You'd think this would be enough port-a-potties... nope.
After singing the national anthem all together the race started in waves to everyone singing "Sweet Caroline" in honor of Boston, which was really cool. The A corral started and it wasn't more than a minute later when our corral started as well. Bill Rodgers was there to do the countdown and send us off. It was a crowded start but luckily everyone was basically going the same pace. Glenn, Alejandro, and I all stuck around the 3:40 pacer. The start really showed how important being in the right corral was. The race didn't really thin out until mile 11 or so, and until then, moving up would be hard. Everyone was basically going my speed though and the traffic might have helped me reign it in those first few miles.

The weather was absolutely perfect. The race shot off around dawn and we were able to see the sun rise as we ran those first few miles. Really beautiful. It would continue to be sunny and warm up throughout the day. It got a little hot towards the end, but not too bad, probably mid 60s when I finished. Overall, I couldn't have asked for better weather!

Miles 1-6: FEELING IT! ... MAYBE A LITTLE TOO MUCH (8:23, 8:08, 8:20, 7:38, 7:41, 8:05)

The start of the race was very exciting. The electricity of the 10th largest marathon in the USA was infectious. I was yelling and hooting and hollaring at the crowd and the bands along the route. I was having a grand old time. I still felt nerves through the first few miles but they eventually faded once the race settled in.

Part of the route along Naito near the start of
the race. (portlandmarathon.org)
Through the first two miles I stuck with the 3:40 pacer along with Alejandro and Glenn. Shortly before the turnaround near mile three I moved ahead of the pace group because I was getting annoying being all bunched in and just wanted some space. I didn't have a plan to put them in the rear view mirror. Alejandro, seeing this move, was not about to be outdone. He said something along the lines of "where do you think you are going?" and then promptly pulled in front of me. He eventually faded into the distance and finished with a 3:28. I knew that guy could do it, even more than he knew apparently!

I had no intentions of pulling ahead of the pace group and certainly didn't follow Alejandro by gunning ahead. I thought I'd just settle in 20 feet ahead of the pace group and maintain. Well, it turns out when they are no longer in your sights you tend to speed up. Especially with an extended downhill portion. I rattle off two 7:40 miles without even realizing it. Checking my pace band arond mile 5 I saw that I was now about a minute up on the pace group so I had an idea I might have pulled ahead a bit. Overall though the miles felt easy and I just decided to go with it.

Good thing I banked some time because about two miles in I had to pee again. Damn my proper hydration! I ended up stopping at a port-a-potty right after the aid station at mile 5.5. This was the first time I have ever used a bathroom during a race and it kind of annoyed me to have to stop, but I knew ignoring the urge would just be uncomfortable. So I pit-stopped and took a pee, eating about 35 seconds of clock. I made sure to grab some sanitizer on the way out and felt much better with an empty bladder. I pushed it a little to make back the time I had lost, knowing that was probably stupid, but doing it anyways. I eventually caught back up to Glenn a few minutes later (we had been side by side for the most part).

The half/full split. Marathoners to the right,
halfers stay straight.
Toward the end of this portion I eventually caught up with the 3:35 pace group. I figured I would now just try to hang with them, knowing I had a ten minute cushion as compared to five. It was amazing how fast this portion of the race went. Almost like a snap of your fingers.

Miles 7-13: THE REAL RACE BEGINS (8:09, 7:53, 8:06, 8:04, 7:57, 8:14, 8:04)

At this point the "honeymoon" phase was over. I was still going a little too fast, that 7:53 mile was on total flat terrain, so I was still gunning it a tad fast. I was feeling so good I passed the 3:35 pacer. I knew a 3:30 marathon was just about 8:00/mile, and I had no delusions of catching up with them, so I thought maybe I could do a pace in the low 8s for the entire race. Glenn stuck it out with me too. Every once in a while we checked in on each other, asking how the other was doing. Eventually, around mile 10, I pulled a few steps in front of him and lost contact. I thought he might have fallen back a ways but he crossed the half marathon timing mat just a few seconds after me. Later on I'd learn he fell apart around mile 16 and had to walk/run it in. Still a respectable 4:10 finish time for someone who barely trained!

This part of the course didn't have much to look at, as I predicted. However, it was fun because the giant out and back allowed you to see the rest of the racers for nearly the entire 5 mile stretch. So at first we got to see the scattered fastholes really pushing it and making it look easy. Eventually the runners became thicker as the 3:05 and 3:15 pacing groups came roaring past. About a tenth of a mile before the turnaround I was able to see Alejandro and we were both on the edge of our lane in the middle of the street so we were able to high five. That was fun to see him doing so well! He was probably 90 seconds ahead of me at this point.

The Fit Right NW "Teaser" Arch (facebook.com/FitRightNW)
On the way back I got to look at the people running slower than me and cheered them on. The runners seemed to get thicker as the pace groups went into the four hour range. I had hopes of maybe seeing Libbie but couldn't spot her. There was a group of "pirates" at one point for entertainment and as I was running past one shot off his fake gun and it made a SUPER loud "BOOM!" sound. It sounded a lot like the bomb at Boston and scared the shit out of me. When I realized what it was I could only laugh and wasn't mad or anything, but maybe that wasn't the best choice this year!

The race split the full/half runners off right about mile 11. After turning there and wandering through NW a little there was a giant inflatable arch near the Fit Right Northwest store and for a second I thought it was the half marathon mark. A small letdown when I realized it was only mile 12. I was still feeling pretty good at this point but I was starting to feel the race in my legs a little bit. No longer were they fresh, instead I could feel them starting to ache a little. I crossed the half marathon point at 1:45:25 still feeling pretty good but acutely aware I was only halfway done.

Miles 14-17: THE HIGHWAY AND THE HILL (8:04, 8:01, 8:14, 8:34)

Up the hill to the left, and over the St. John's Bridge.
Eventually after winding through NW Portland (and a pleasant surprise downhill patch) we popped onto St. Helen's Highway and saw the St. John's Bridge far in the distance. It looked so far away! Three miles isn't that much to a marathoner, but when you visually see a bridge out in the distance three miles it really puts things in perspective.

Anyways, as planned, I just put my head down (okay, not really, just figuratively) and charged ahead. As you can see on my mile times, I was still hitting a pretty good pace. The miles were definitely starting to wear on me as I could feel my legs aching, but it was a very low level. Honestly, this stretch wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. I knew it was coming, was prepared for it, and realized the reward at the end would be a trek over the most beautiful bridge in the city. It was nut up or shut up time and I nutted up.

I was excited when the hill to the bridge came. Two reasons I think... first, because the straight, boring path along the highway was over; and second, because I was excited to challenge myself. Up the hill I went. It was steep, but not too steep. A lot of people started walking here. As with most races, I passed a lot of people on this hill. I just kept up the same effort I was doing before. I was definitely moving a lot slower, but I was making steady progress. I could hear the 3:35 pacer behind me coaching his runners up the hill. Before I knew it I was at the top and while my legs felt tired, I wasn't breathing heavy or anything. All told, I felt pretty good.

No pictures of me on the bridge, but my friend Jon is in this
one with the "Prince" bib. (Mike Zacchino/The Oregonian)
Then came the highlight of the race, running over the St. John's Bridge. It was SO BEAUTIFUL. The day was nice and clear and you could see Mt. St. Helen's, Mt. Adams, and Mt. Hood all very clearly. Not to mention the river in both directions and Portland way far away in the distance. Honestly you couldn't have asked for a better day and it felt like I was floating for that half mile over the bridge. An out of towner was asking which mountain was which and I cleared that up for him. Conversation was still easy at this point and I was feeling good.

Miles 18-24: PARENTS! ARE WE THERE YET? UGH (8:09, 8:25, 8:26, 8:28, 8:17, 8:06, 8:28)

Right after the St. John's Bridge my parents and aunt were waiting to cheer me on. It was so fun to see them! I was waiting the whole race to see them and that five seconds was exciting. I was going to high five them or something, but I didn't know exactly where they were going to be and by the time I recognized them and they recognized me it was a little too late to run across the road. They were making a racket though and seeing them definitely put a pep in my step.

Hey, look, me! Near the U of P, mile 20.
After that excitement faded the race really started to get challenging. I was looking forward to see them the whole race and now I was looking forward to the finish. I was still along ways out. It became a slog at this point and I slowed down a little bit. I settled into more of a 8:25 pace as opposed to the 8:10 pace I was running. The miles were starting to build and while my legs didn't hurt too bad and my breathing wasn't too labored I was starting to fatigue and get tired. The support through this section was pretty good though.

At this point I was looking forward to the downhill on Greeley. The bluff portion of the course past the University of Portland was pretty exposed so the sun in my face didn't help. Overall, I was ready for the race to be done. Crossing the 20 marker though I did get a shot of energy. To think about my previous twenty mile training runs and how much those SUCKED compared to today was amazing. Here I was twenty miles in, running way faster than before, and feeling much, much better. I can do this! I had the same experience at mile 21. Every step was now my new longest distance and I was still feeling pretty good comparetively. I was pretty tired and wanted to be done, but overall I was hanging in there.

The downhill portion came miles 22 & 23 and I was able to run miles of 8:17 and 8:06. My 3:40 pace band, which I got at the expo, had those miles at 8:16 and 8:06 for a 3:40 marathon (they adjust each mile for the terrain). So I was now hitting times for a 3:40 marathon. I was passed by the 3:35 pacer near the top of the hill. I stuck with the pace group a while and was still within about 15 yards by the time this portion of the race was over. My brief dream of a sub 3:35 was over and I was okay with it. I was still smashing my goal and would finish under 3:40 as long as I could run it in.

Grinding hard during the last few miles.
You'd think the downhill would be a relief, and I guess it was a little, but when your legs are tired pounding down a hill isn't very comfortable. So while I did speed up, it wasn't quite the break I was hoping for. The 3:35 pacer was talking about using the hill to "charge back up" but I in no way felt that happening. My mission was to get down it without trashing my quads and in as little pain as possible, which I was able to do.

Miles 25-26.2: DESPERATION AND ELATION (8:19, 8:29, 8:02 last .22)

After a relatively flat mile we climbed up a small hill to the Broadway Bridge. At this point I was so ready to be done. Thankfully I was able to get up that hill without problem. It was a hard feeling to describe... my legs felt tired and sore, but not too bad. It was just a whole body fatigue that was dragging me down. The last few miles of my first half marathon I was basically running through pain in my legs, and that wasn't the case here. While my legs were certainly achey and sore, they really didn't hold me back. It was just a whole body tiredness that started to overtake me. Luckily I had fueled so much during the race (two packs of Shot Bloks, numerous cups of gummy bears and pretzels) otherwise I probably would have hit the wall. Instead, I was able to fight through this. I really wanted to start walking but I could keep running so I kept running.

Mile 25 finally hit right after we crossed the bridge. It was awesome to know I only had "just over a mile" to go, but I knew that would be the ten longest minutes of my life. And they were. The race course at this point was like the walking wounded. It seemed like half the people were walking, some were stopped to stretch, one or two were wretching by the side of the road. It was a sad sight, I felt like I was in a war zone. The 3:35 pace group shot off like a bat out of hell so it was just me and my thoughts. Depsite feeling so tired and run down I was able to pass a lot of people. That motivated me. Just the sheer fact that I was running this in and not breaking down like so many others was motivating to me. I wanted to keep it that way.

Airplaning it into the finish!
Eventually we wound our way back onto Naito and I could see the long stretch of runners in front of me. It seemed like FOREVER before they turned up back into the city for the finish line. This portion was slightly uphill but I just kept on fighting. I was so close. I am so proud of myself for running it in; it was a really, really hard thing to do. That last mile split might have been 8:29, but I am damn proud of that for mile 26. Those last five miles were the longest of my life. Five miles doesn't seem like that much to me anymore, but when you are fatigued and they are the final 40 minutes of a marathon, it's easy to see how they drag on.

What seemed like an eternity later I finally turned off Naito and down to the finish. The course was lined with people making a racket. It was a lot of fun and even though I was wasted I tried to enjoy it as much as possible. I scanned the crowed for my parents but there were so many people and so much noise I probably couldn't have spotted them anyways. My pace picked up a little here for sure, as I ran an 8:00/mile coming in. The crowd definitely carried me those last .22 miles.

At long last I took the final left hand turn and headed toward the finish line. I was in a pocket kind of by myself so they called my name, which was cool. It took just about every ounce of strength for me, but I did the "airplane" through the finish line. It was so awesome to cross that finish line. I held my hands in the air as soon as I finished. I had done it! I was a marathoner! HOLY CRAP! That was awesome!

No caption needed.
THE AFTERMATH

HOLY CRAP, my legs are tired! Right when I stopped running my legs gave out from under me. I didn't fall or anything, but I certainly stumbled and then limped around. A concerned volunteer came up to me and kindly asked if I was okay. Yes, I'm okay, just very tired. I then wound through the finisher's chute, limping from table to table collecting all the freebies and shoving food in my face. I was jealous of all the people walking normally and seemingly happy. Inside I was proud and relieved, but I really just wanted to sit down.

Eventually I made my way through the chaos and then there was about a block you had to walk to get out of the chute with nothing on either side. It was walking along here, much less crowded and chaotic than the chute, where I almost cried. I could feel the emotion welling up but it never really got out of me. I was okay with crying, it just didn't happen. I guess it takes a lot for me to cry, but the fact I was bleary eyed should tell you how much this meant. I was so proud and so tired all at the same time.

Me and my dad!
Finally I was able to exit and meet my parents. I spotted my mom before she saw me and then limped my way over. They were so proud and so happy to see me, it felt really nice. My mom was choking up a little and that made me almost choke up... good times. I was so glad they were there and that I could share that moment with them. They were so proud of me and it was nice to have someone at the finish with such open, encouraging arms. I quickly found my way to a curb so I could sit down and my mom massaged my legs a little, which would cramp if I moved them in the wrong way.

After about a half hour with them they headed home and I went and found Alejandro, Jon, and Glenn. All were feeling the same way, very proud, and also very sore. Jon almost PRed a week after doing another marathon (he's a machine). We went out for burgers and beer and those tasted so very good. Eventually we wound our way back to the finish line and tried to find Libbie but 20 minutes of looking and no dice. Since she could MAX back home we figured she finished, didn't see us, and went home. Turns out she had a tough race and took a little longer than we thought but toughed it out!

Overall a hell of a day. The feeling of accomplishing my goal of not only completing a marathon, but knocking my goal out of the park is amazing. I worked my ass off for six months for that moment and it was worth every minute. I am a marathoner. And nobody can take that away. My two proudest moments to date are graduating from college and completing my marathon. I don't know which is #1 at this point, but both took a lot of work and were super rewarding.

I'll have a post later this week with more pictures and reflections on the race.

Official Chip Time: 3:36:42, 8:16/mile. 656/3281 male, 113/414 M2529.

Saturday, October 05, 2013

I'M READY... LET'S DO THIS!

I'm feeling surprisingly good today. I thought I would be totally freaking out - and I am, at a low level - but overall I feel pretty good. I'm rested and ready. Nobody feels completely ready for their first marathon, so I'm in the same boat as hundreds of thousands of others.

Should be fun getting to start with my friends Glenn and Alejandro. I predict that Alejandro finishes ahead of me, Glenn behind. We all have the same target pace, but Alejandro is a lot better than he thinks he is and Glenn didn't train enough for the race (I think he signed up five weeks before and did a couple 16 mile runs).

Anyways, I have my clothes all ready. They forgot to put my name on my bib so I had to do it myself. Accidentally smudged it a little bit, but not too bad. Looks good enough. My first marathon bib needs my name!

I should get to bed. I think my brain is going to be active tonight... hopefully I'll be able to fall asleep because I have a 5am wake up call.

ONE DAY - PORTLAND MARATHON PREVIEW


My first ever marathon is tomorrow. The day I've been thinking about for almost 18 months is finally here. I don't remember exactly when I decided to do the 2013 Portland Marathon, but I believe it was around the Shamrock Run in March 2012. At that point I decided to run more than 5Ks and part of the long term goal was to eventually run a marathon. I worked my way up to 10Ks, then a half marathon, and now, some 15 months after that half marathon, the day of reckoning is nearly upon me.

The Portland Marathon has been around for a long time and is easily the largest marathon in the state of Oregon (probably 2nd or 3rd to Seattle and Vancouver BC if we are talking about the Pacific NW). I don't know exactly, but I think there will be around 8,500 marathoners. That pales in comparison to marathons like New York, Boston, or Chicago (all on the bucket list) but it is certainly sizable. Which I like. If I am going to do a marathon, I want it to be a big deal. Not a few people standing around a finish line somewhere random politely clapping... I just ran 26.2 miles, make it a fucking event. If I ever get to where a marathon is just "another race" I'm sure I'll like the smaller ones, but for now, I need hoopla!

I'll be waking up around 5am to get downtown shortly after six. I think I'm going to park at the Sunset Transit Center and take the MAX in because I don't want to deal with parking. They have a clothing check in each corral, so I'll definitely take advantage of that to stay warm while I wait for the race to start. I plan to just stretch and use the port-a-potty. I think there are about 1,000 people per corral. Glenn and Alejandro from my run group will be in my corral (corral B) so that should be fun. We are one corral away from the fasties so we should start just a minute or two after 7 o'clock.

My plan is to stick with a pacer so I don't have to think about checking my phone or setting the right pace. I hope to be able to stick with the 3:40 pacer, which is about 8:20/mile. My main goal is to finish under 3:45, so I figure that will give me some cushion should I fall off a little, need to poop, etc. So hopefully the 3:40 pacer is in my corral (I predicted a 3:45 finish time), if not though, I will just hang with the 3:45 pacer.

Miles 1-6 Preview: Fartin' Around Downtown

I'm breaking the race into chucks I can mentally picture before the race so I can concentrate on completing "mini races" during the marathon. Trying to think of the whole thing is a bit overwhelming, but having small victories by completing chunks should help.

The first six miles is just wandering around downtown, getting some miles in before they really shoot us out for the meat of the race. We'll be running up Naito to the point where it hooks into Barbur Blvd. There is a slight uphill at this point, but it'll come two miles into the race and isn't too steep, so that won't be a problem. We'll instantly get rewarded by doing a little lollipop and then heading back from whence we came. At this point the adrenaline is flowing and I should be feeling good. Back all the way along Naito under the Fremont Bridge until the next "chunk."

Miles 7-13 Preview: Big Out & Back and NW Portland

The race should start to settle at this point. There is a large out and back along Front (Naito becomes Front) that is 2.5 miles each way. So five miles where you are running with people going both ways. Normally these portions of a race are motivating for me, especially on the way back when I see everyone I have passed and just the mass of people I am racing with. This scenery at this point isn't the greatest, kind of just industrially, so it might be the first time where I start to notice my body tiring.

After the out and back, there is another mile or so through NW Portland. There will be a slight uphill at this point but again, it is nothing too bad. Way smaller than the hill at the start. The half marathoners (only about 1,500 of them) will break off at this point and it will be only the full participants from here on out.

Miles 14-17 Preview: The Mental Test and THE HILL

This is a shorter chunk of miles, but it is the part everyone bitches about. The main issue is that you are running through an ugly part of town, which is basically just a highway near the river going through an industrial area. I've driven this many times before and I agree, it is ugly. It's hard to have 26.2 miles of beautiful course though. The three mile stretch of highway will seemingly take forever and only half of it is closed to traffic. So you have traffic blowing by you on the other side of the road and basically no spectators for this entire stretch - at a point where your body is starting to really feel the effects of the race.

So this is nut up or shut up time. I look forward to being mentally strong and plowing through this section. The reward will be well worth it (running over the St. John's Bridge) but certainly this four mile stretch will feel like a long time. Luckily it is still relatively early in the race, I think having this stretch at miles 21-24 would be a much bigger issue. I should still feel good enough to get to the base of the hill up to the bridge without issue.

The St. John's Bridge at mile 17.
This is the part that makes or breaks people. When people talk about the Portland Marathon, the one part of the race that stands out to just about EVERYONE is the hill up to the St. John's Bridge. It starts about mile 16.5 and lasts almost a half mile. The official race map lies about the steepness of the gain, it tries to make it look like you gain 150 feet in the course of a mile and a half. Not true. You gain those 150 feet in a half mile at most. The highway is flat... the road up to the bridge is not. The gain does NOT start at mile 15.

Anyways, one needs to be careful on the hill. Charge up it and you'll blow your load and slog through the last 9 miles. Take it too easy and your goal time will fly out the window. Luckily, I seem to be pretty good with hills compared to others, so I'm hoping this hill won't be an issue. I am no hill expert though and it will be a long ways into the race at race pace, so you never know. If anything, I'll error on the side of caution and take it easy. There is still too much race after this to leave it on the hill.

Miles 18-23 Preview: The Bluff & Some Downhill

One you are up the hill to the St. John's Bridge you are treated to an awesome view as you run across it. Then you get to run through the St. John's neighborhood, which is notorious for their enthusiastic support of the Portland Marathon. This should also be the place where I first see my parents, as they plan to cheer me on around mile 17.5 along with my aunt. So assuming the hill doesn't kill me, I should have a pep in my step at this point. The mentally tough part of the race is over and we have just single digit miles to go!

We'll run along Willamette and past the University of Portland. This part should be pretty scenic. After a couple of miles we'll get to around where Pints to Pasta started and basically do the first three downhill miles of that race. I'll have to be careful here... I might get the urge to bomb down that hill, but I'll need to restrain myself. My legs will be very tired and trashing them at mile 22 is not a good idea. It will be nice to have a downhill here though to give us a little break as long as we use it right.

Right after crossing the Broadway Bridge.
Miles 24-26.2 Preview: The Homestretch

This is a short 2.2 mile stretch but it will feel like a long ways! After the downhill along Greeley will have a short climb up to the Broadway Bridge. Although a small gain, at this point in the race it'll probably feel pretty big. We do get a small downhill coming off it though, but then we wander back downtown and up Broadway, which will be slightly uphill. Ugh.

I know the finish line is going to take FOREVER to get there. I'll feel like I am downtown, so I should be done. However, we'll wind back to Naito before finally ducking back into the buildings and crossing the finish line. My parents should be there to cheer me on again, however it doesn't look like they'll see me cross the finish because it will be a heavily secured area. Bummer. Oh well, the crowds a few blocks before that should be bonkers and push me through the finish.

Anyways, that is a very long preview and I just got really nervous writing it. My hands are clammy and shaky. Ugh. I won't bore you with details of the finisher's area, but I'll go through that and then meet my family. Then probably really want to go out to eat. We'll see. Hopefully I can still walk. This will be such an accomplishment!

This is what all the training was for. The sense of
pride crossing this should be huge!
GOALS:
I've thought long and hard (tee hee) about these. I've finally settled on the following:

A GOAL: Under 3:45. Anything 3:44:59 or less would be gravy. That would be an awesome time for a first marathon! I think I can get this if my body holds up. This is about 8:35/mile.

B GOAL: Under 4:00. Anything starting with a 3 would be pretty sweet for my first marathon. While I would like my A goal, I'd still be very happy with this. A lot of people work years and years to go sub 4, so to get it my first time out would be nothing to sneeze at. This is just under 9:10/mile.

C GOAL: Finish. I'll be a marathoner. Stuff happens. If I bonk at mile 22 or my butt flares up on the St. John's Bridge hill, then whatever. Lots of people have crappy first marathon experiences. It doesn't mean I failed, just as long as I finish, then I have something to be very proud of. I'd like to avoid slinking across the finish line, but if I move my ass 26.2 miles then who cares about the time, I did it.

So there you go! I'll probably have a short post Sunday night with my time and a few sentences on the experience, then a full recap sometime later in the week.

Friday, October 04, 2013

TWO DAYS

Eeek! It's getting close now. I'll have a preview of the race tomorrow along with my goals. I am eager to get racing. I look forward to when a marathon looming won't be a huge deal... it'll always been significant, but not to the point where I am freaking out about it. Kind of like a half marathon is for me now. I might get a little nervous and whatnot, but I know I've done them before and doing 13.1 miles is very achievable for me.

The scary part about the marathon is I've never done one before and the distance isn't something you can really do in your training. The unknown of the marathon is what is kind of scary. I am pretty confident I'll be able to finish in a decent time, but I know it'll be hard and I'll probably be in a lot of pain afterward. I look forward to the day when the marathon would be like a half marathon for me now... a challenge, but doable. Maybe a little sore for a few days, but nothing too bad.

Anyways, I don't have much to say because all I am doing is tapering and trying not to think about it too much. The weather looks great! If anything it might be a little too hot. That is nitpicky, especially since it'll probably be mid 60s at most when I finish, but running along the bluff near University of Portland is pretty exposed so the sun might feel a little hotter, especially 20 miles in. I'll take that over the alternative though.

Thursday, October 03, 2013

THREE DAYS

Yesterday I had my last run before the marathon. I ended up running three miles at 9:00/mile, which was a little faster than I wanted but it felt SO EASY. I think the tapering is already starting to take effect. We ran the first mile in 8:30 and I was shocked we were running that fast. It felt good but started to pour rain a few minutes into the run. It didn't relent and by the time we walked back into the store it look like we fell into a swimming pool.

Speaking of the weather, the marathon forecast is looking much better. The potential rain that was on Sunday seems to have slipped over into Monday the last couple of days. According to weather.com, the weather on marathon day should be perfect! Obviously, it still has time to change though, so I won't celebrate yet.

Today was really busy at work so I didn't have time to freak out about the marathon. Tomorrow is packet pickup... I have a feeling I'm going to start freaking out when I get there and not stop until I cross the finish line.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

FOUR DAYS

Took a rest day yesterday that was needed. Feel much better today. Any soreness or creakiness from the 5k and indoor soccer is extremely low level and I would say almost gone. Today at run group I'll be doing 3 miles at a very slow pace. Based on my new found appreciation of recovery jogs, I should feel like a million bucks tomorrow. That will be my last run and everything is setting up for feeling good on race day. Half my office is sick but I've managed to avoid getting sick with anything.

I'll be going to the expo for packet pickup after work on Friday. I'm going with Alejandro, Jon, Libbie, and Glenn from run group. So the five of us will meet at the expo, check it out, then go to a nearby Italian restaurant to carbo load. Should be fun. I think I will drink coffee all day Saturday until I have to use the restroom... would hate to have a large Italian meal still in play come race day. :)

Read an interesting article today that can be found at this link here. Basically I was nodding my head along the whole time because most of my workouts are in the "medium effort" range and I have certainly plateaued to a point. I'm still slowly getting better, but once the marathon is over I am going to mix up my routine to include speedwork. If I'm running four a days a week one day will be a recovery run, one will be speedwork, one will be a tempo run, and then a long run. I'll have to decide which days for what though.

Weather still looks the same. I'm not worried about it. I've lived here long enough to know a day that has a picture of clouds and rain with a 40% chance means that it'll probably sprinkle for an hour at some random point and then be just fine and possibly even sunny the rest of the day.

Tuesday, October 01, 2013

FIVE DAYS

Let the countdown to the Portland Marathon begin. It is coming entirely too fast! Could we just delay it a month or so?

Yesterday I went to run group and ran 5.5 miles. We switched to the winter route since the Fanno Creek Trail was flooded in parts due to the weather we've been having. I'm happy to say that run went really well. The winter route is much hillier than what we run in the summer, so it was a good test of my muscle strain that was aggravated by hills. I am pleased to say I ran the whole thing at a 9:00/mile clip without any problems at all. So that was very encouraging!

On Wednesday I'll run 3 miles REALLY easy at run group. Probably shoot for 9:45s. A final shake out run. Reading up on tapering there are conflicting theories. Some say don't scale back too much, some say take it really easy. Different strokes for different folks. My body doesn't recover super quick so I am definitely doing the "take it easy" approach. I think the most important thing for me come Sunday will be how fresh I feel. Doing 10 miles instead of 20 miles the week before isn't going to make a huge difference after months and months of training. Feeling fresh and recharged will.

So after my run tomorrow I don't think I'll run again. I might go on a couple walks but otherwise I'll just concentrate on resting up.

Weather watch. Guess which one of the days to the right is the marathon. Can only laugh at this point. We're still a few days out and light showers wouldn't be the worst thing in the world. I'm not too worried about it. It will likely change before Sunday, but even if that forecast holds, it should be fine. The real challenge with marathons is heat, and we won't be having that. So just as long as it doesn't pour, I'll take it.