Monday, August 25, 2014


Cue Sarah McLachlan... "I will remember you... will you remember me?"
The last time I did a week long trip with this same group of friends my intentions of running did not get followed through on very well. I did manage one run on the second day but that was it. Things were a lot different two years ago though, I wasn't in the heat of marathon training (I wasn't training for anything really), and I wasn't nearly as determined. I consider myself a much more serious and dedicated runner nowadays and it showed on this trip.

First of all, the trip itself. It was eight days of fun with good friends. We ended up camping in a cabin for the majority of it and I was sleeping on a bunk designed for children that was not comfortable. Add in drinking and not enough sleep and the recipe for run success isn't the greatest, but I made it happen. We kayaked, hiked, golfed, went to Hershey Park, etc. It was fun!

The morning after I flew in I ran just over four miles in the town of Littlestown where my one friend lives. We were meeting up in Philadelphia with other people later that day so I woke up around 9am after a night of drinking and slogged through four miles. Not the best, but it was fun to cover new ground and get the week started on a good note.

The rest of my runs (four of them, so five in total) were from the campground we stayed at. I used my tablet to plot a route that was three miles, so I figured I'd just loop it twice. Just so happened a "square" of roads was this perfect distance. However, I also casually found a road I could do an out and back on that would let me hit six miles without having to loop twice. I didn't think too much about it, but it was an option if I got bored with the loops.

Crazy bug on cabin. Can anyone identify? It was HUGE! (#)
So on my first run, I went out for two loops. However, I recognized the out and back road and decided to do that instead. It was awesome. I have to say, I freaking LOVED this six mile run. Each of the four times I did it I loved it. It was so scenic and the roads were very lightly trafficked. It included rolling hills and flat parts. It really was just a perfect route. I so wish I could transport myself 3,000 miles so I could run this route more often.

I am also very proud of myself for getting all my runs in. I ran 28 miles in a week where I was on vacation getting not great sleep. That's awesome. I woke up an hour earlier than everyone many days so I could slap my clothes on and go for a run. It would have been so easy to say "fuck it" and just sleep more, but I was determined. My fears of having a lost week were thankfully not realized. Instead, it felt like a week where I maintained my fitness but recharged for the final push of training for the Portland Marathon.

Anyways, overall I am very proud of myself for getting in all of my scheduled runs on vacation. It took a lot of dedication! I also LOVED my running route and I was almost more sad to leave it than leave my friends. I'll see them again, I don't know if I'll ever see my beloved Pennslyvania camping six miler again.

Oh, and I got naked and pooped in a corn field.

Thursday, August 21, 2014


My vacation week auto-posts will continue with memories of running as a kid. Gather round the campfire ya'll, this is going to be good. Okay, not really. I am seriously digging for topics here. I wrote that post about becoming a runner about a year ago and it was fairly thorough. Was looking for the right time to post it and the vacation week seemed like a good time... I did notice in re-reading it though I didn't talk about running as a kid.

Cascade Runoff 15k back in the day.
Back in the day, the 1990s, I was a young lad. My dad was a runner and I remember him coming home from runs all sweaty and stretching in the family room. A couple times I joined him on his runs on my bike. I never really thought about how hard he had to work (he'd typically run like five miles... the most he ever ran at once was a 15k). I just remember being tuckered out after biking with him on his runs.

My dad did run the Cascade Runoff (what is now the Shamrock Run) and I remember going down to Waterfront Park to meet him after running that for a number of years. I even took park in the Kid's Dash race that was only a few hundred yards. Very vague memories of that. He ran a 1:04 one year and I still need to beat that. He also did Hood to Coast for three straight years back in the early 90s.

So while running was in the family, he didn't talk about it much or try to make any of us run. So it was only once I became a runner that I remembered... oh yeah, Dad actually did some official running stuff too, and it's been fun to chat about it with him. He eventually "retired" from running and switched to things easier on his body.

Yeah, I was a little excited.
Starting in sixth grade we had to run the mile twice a year as part of PE class. They'd time you in the fall and then again in the spring to see how much you improved (if any). I was always able to run the mile without walking, all the way through high school and college. It wasn't easy, I'd be coughing and dry heaving afterward, but I could do it. So since about age twelve I've been able to run a mile, even later on in high school and college when I wasn't in great shape. So my starting point was a lot better than many people who begin running. I guess I was active enough in sports and whatnot to keep a basic level of fitness.

My most fit year, until the last few years, was 7th grade when I was on a classic soccer team. For warm up we'd have to run 1.5 miles and we practiced for two hours twice a week with lots of running. That year in PE I ran a 7:55 mile, a time that I wouldn't pass until age 25. Yes, 25 year old Thomas was pretty proud of himself for beating 13 year old Thomas. Now I could sneeze and run a 7:55, but still, that is a damn fast mile and I never approached it again (I think my next best time was a "high 8" early in high school). Recreational soccer the next few years didn't quite train me as well.

So that was thoroughly uninteresting, but hey, it filled some space and hopefully you learned something. I'll be back soon with a report on my vacation running (let's hope).

Monday, August 18, 2014


Large and in charge Thomas, circa September 2010.

It seems like just about every running blog has the obligatory "how I become a runner" post so I figured I'd write mine. I'll try to keep it from becoming a novel because my story isn't that interesting or unique!

Running was something I never thought I would take very seriously. I always hated running and never thought I would ever become a runner. If I did run, it was during some attempt to get into better shape and lose weight. I didn't really know of all the races and fun things available at that time, but I doubt that would have changed my mind. I was one of those people that would look at people running and think they were crazy.

I did run a little bit towards the end of high school and early college when I was back at my parent's house on summer break. This consisted of laps around my neighborhood after 11:30pm. I don't know why I ran at night... this was during the summer and I was waking up late, so that probably figured into it. Plus, I didn't want to get my parents' hopes up about getting all into shape or anything. Each lap was .35 miles and I started out running 5 laps (1.75 miles). Then I increased it to six, then seven, and I think I finished at eight (2.8 miles). Eventually I stopped running because, well, it sucked! I doubt my pace on these was ever under ten minute miles.

My gateway drug.
In college I lost about twenty pounds by watching what I ate and running one mile in the indoor student gym and then doing the stationary bike for 20 minutes. I don't really count that though, it was just a mile and I only did that for a couple months at the most.

I then graduated, moved home, and got a shitty job. I couldn't afford to move out of my parents' house and my mom's cooking sure was good. I got pretty large, my peak weight was 215 pounds. Yikes! During this time at home I had spurts of running where I would run after work for a couple of weeks at a time. It would never last much longer than that because well, it sucked! I actually ran during the day though and had some nice two and three mile loops from the house.

The crazy part about this story is that I lost 50 pounds without running a lick! Around November 2010 me and my friend Libbie decided to work out together and try to lose weight. Well being accountable to each other really helped out and we stuck to a pretty good routine. I fell in love with the elliptical machine... all the benefits of running without the pounding on your legs and being outside in the weather. I HATE treadmills and could never have lost weight on one of those.

Anyways, five to six months of careful eating and 30 minute elliptical workouts five times a week and Thomas was down fifty pounds to 165. I then went to work on maintaining that weight loss. And during that period I would get fed up because the elliptical seemingly got more popular at my apartment complex workout center and it was becoming a chore to find it even free. So I would get fed up, say "fuck it," and just go on a run. It sucked, but I needed to exercise and I wasn't going to wait around for the machine.

Runner Thomas. Chubby Thomas would
have LOLed at this picture. That couldn't
be me?!?!

So I got used to running once in a while when I couldn't get on the elliptical. It sucked, my body and lungs would scream, but I'd do it. Eventually Libbie signed us up for a 5k, I was in decent enough shape where training for that wasn't a huge deal. Well, I did a race, enjoyed it, and wanted to do another. And then it just kind of spiraled from there!

Once you are in good enough shape to run a 5k, you actually start to not hate running so much. I still don't really like it, but when I am running now I'm not thinking "this sucks, why am I doing this?" the whole time. There are even some runs where I actually have a decent time. I love to race and challenge myself though and I've met some good friends through my running group. So running is here to stay and I am happy about that. I like the routine and the feeling of accomplishment. Plus, there is always the next race or event to train for so you just keep kind of chugging along.

So my story really isn't that unique or interesting. Started and stopped running a couple of times, got kind of tubby, lost weight on an elliptical, got in decent enough shape to where running a 5k didn't suck, liked competing in races, got to the point where running wasn't the devil, the end. :)

Thursday, August 14, 2014


Tom Petty!
After the twenty miler on Saturday I took Sunday off and then ran Monday at run group. The weather forecast had the high that day 102F but I think it only got to 96 or so. It was also cloudy and muggy later in the afternoon, so it wasn't that bad. Hot and humid, but without direct sun it was much more manageable. I ran an easy six miles knowing I still was recovering from Saturday and had a lot of miles coming up in the next few days.

So a lot of shit is fucking up my normal schedule this week. Tuesday I had a Tom Petty concert I was going to. Normally that is my night off (and bowling league) but since the end of my week was screwed up I had to run anyways. I ran ten miles from my office after work down the east bank of the Portland Waterfront and then on the Springwater Corridor all the way to Oaks Park and back. All told it was ten miles at a pace of 9:19/mile. It felt good! To my body it just felt like a normal six mile weekday run. Took longer, but didn't wear me out.

Washed up at the office and then went to the concert. It was excellent. Same thing the next night, Wednesday. Had my sister's birthday dinner at 7pm so I took off for another ten mile run. This time I was going to run along the west bank of the waterfront but the Steel Bridge was undergoing a lift and I didn't want to wait so I ended up running the exact same friggin' route again. I wanted it to be over so I ran faster, this one came in at 8:45/mile. By the end I was starting to tire and by the next day (aka now) my legs were very sore.

So the back to back ten milers definitely were a good workout. I plan to run three miles tonight and then six on Friday. That means I will have ran every single weekday this week. And if you count the seven days from last Saturday until Friday I will have ran 55 miles! That is a lot of miles and I am starting to feel it, having run 46 miles now in five days. I am glad I only have nine more to go before my vacation!

I leave Saturday morning to fly to the East Coast for nine days to visit some friends in Pennsylvania. It sounds like we are possibly camping for a good chunk of that, so I hope I am able to run from the campground. My goal is to get 24 miles in during the trip (thinking four runs of six miles) to just keep my base up, then hit it hard again when I get home. A down week will actually be good for my body at this point... I just need to make sure it doesn't become an off week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014


Yeah, I can't even fake looking good at the end of a twenty mile run. Look at my short shorts though! :P
On Saturday I had a great run with the Portland Marathon Clinic. I really can't praise this group enough for the training runs they provide for free. Even if you aren't training for the Portland Marathon itself (like next year, when I'll likely be training for Detroit) they are the perfect group to train with for a fall marathon. Long runs with a group and aid stations are just so much better!

One bad thing about this run is I forgot my watch. Ugh! When laying out my outfit the night before I normally throw my watch on top of the clothes, just to make sure. I remember looking at it on my desk and saying to myself "I'm not going to forget my freaking watch for a twenty miler. It's fine." So on the desk it was left, and 7:30am Thomas just mindlessly processed the clothes pile (shorts go on legs, socks go on feet, Body Glide goes on nipples, etc.) and then headed out the door. I didn't notice the missing watch until I had made it to the run, parked, and starting chatting with people.

Honestly though, it was kind of nice! No neurotic checking of the pace, no counting down the miles, just enjoying the run and being in the dark about mileage or pace. I did ask a few times how far we were (especially after mile ten) but even then I was just going with the flow. All told the run ended up being 20.8 miles, and I didn't even realize we were over 20 until someone mentioned we were at 20.4. Should I have had a watch on, I would have been eyeing that 20 mark very carefully and I bet my body would have felt a lot worse just from the mental knowledge that we had gone twenty. In the dark, it wasn't a huge deal.

We ran the Portland Marathon course minus about six miles that occur in the first half. The whole first four miles farting around downtown were cut off along with two miles in the out and back along Front (the least scenic part of the route, so that was fine with me). Honestly, about nine miles of the course are pretty stark and ugly... the out and back along the industrial road and then running along the highway to the St. John's Bridge. However, the other 17 miles are quite nice, including the beginning and end downtown and once you cross the bridge and run along Willamette that is pretty nice.

Photo from the 1990 PMC Marathon Course training run.
Overall the run went really well. It was fun to see the course again and relive some of the memories. It was also good to make mental notes and prepare again for the race in less than two months. Running across the St. John's Bridge was fun and it was nice to do it at mile 10 as opposed to mile 16 at race pace. PMC had EIGHT aid stations along the route packed with water, electrolyte drink, gummy bears, jelly beans, licorice, peanut butter pretzels, etc. So amazing.

After the run I felt pretty good. My legs definitely got sore and achy towards the end of the run but honestly it wasn't too bad. I might venture to say this was the best twenty miler yet. They seem to be getting to the point of being hard and long (okay, #) but completely doable. I am not in agony at the end like I was during my first marathon training cycle, and that, I'll take!

Run Stats (gleaned by creeping on someone else's watch): 20.82 miles in 3:20. 9:38/mile.

Friday, August 08, 2014


Imma sting you in the eye, okey day?
I forgot to mention that I was stung right near the eye by a bee in the Crawfish Crawl Half Marathon. There is nothing like getting stung a few miles into a half marathon you are already dreading. I was just running along and then all of a sudden I felt something hit my eye hard. I thought it was a normal bug, but nope, it was a bee and it freaked out. I, in turn, crushed it trying to remove it from my eyeular area.

So it stung me kind of on the bone of my eye socket. Thankfully bee stings don't effect me much, especially yellow jackets. I was stung by an entire hive (~35 at one time) when I was eight years old so I built up somewhat of an immunity. It still stings a little bit but I don't swell or have too bad of pain or anything. It was just annoying. By the second loop whatever lingering effects had gone away. That was a first running though!

After the races on Saturday and resting on Sunday I've done some good work. At group on Monday I ran six miles easy (9:39/mile), still recovering from the hard weekend. After a day off on Tuesday I ran a marathon pace run on Wednesday at run group. Hit seven miles in an average of 7:53. Good workout! I follow that up the next day, yesterday, with a tempo run on my home 10k course. Hit that hillier run in 7:36/mile and felt pretty good. It was certainly a challenge though.

Tomorrow I have my first official twenty mile run of the training cycle with PMC (I did the 10 and 16 back to back a couple weeks ago, that was similar). We're running the final twenty miles of the marathon course and they'll have EIGHT aid stations along the way. Should be a really fun run. Only issue is the 8am start, but it's going to be hot tomorrow, so it's a good thing.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014


Double race morning complete! Two cool medals too!
After the Ladybug 5k it was onto the next race, the Crawfish Crawl Half Marathon starting at Tualatin Park. Laurel and I got there in plenty of time. It was already fairly hot, so we found a patch of grass in the shade and plopped down to relax.

We weren't that far from the starting line but somehow we missed the start of the half marathon. There was no loud announcement or anything. Around 10:31am on my watch we wandered down there, wondering when it was going to start. There were a bunch of runners there waiting around, so I figured we were good. Then a woman said something along the lines of "Are you here for the half marathon? They already started..." after seeing our half marathon bibs. Sure enough, I look towards the course and I see a bunch of walkers in the distance.

That took the drama and dread out of the start. So all of a sudden I'm running a half. It was sort of fun to catch up and pass a bunch of people but it was also kind of annoying because of the smaller park paths. It wasn't too bad though. Eventually after a couple miles I pretty much settled into my correct "pocket." I ended up starting just over two minutes after the gun went off... oops! Thank goodness for chip times.

Death march in progress.
The course was fairly similar to the Ladybug course but certainly different as a 6.55 mile loop vs. 3.1 miles. Everything was going dandy through Cook Park, kind of deja vu, but whatever, and I even ran up that really steep hill again. At the top was a water station and I took my first bottle of water. Yes, bottle of water. Let me explain.

Everyone was bitching to the organizers of this race, the ironically named Better Series, because of the late start. In return, the promised to have "the most hydrated course ever." Unfortunately, it seems like a runner wasn't involved in this hydration planning. Because while they did have about six or seven water stations on the loop, more than usual, they were just handing out bottles of water. Like those 16.9 fl oz bottles you get in a flat at Costco for a few bucks. And 90% of them were warm.

So for the majority of the race I ran gripping a plastic bottle. I ended up drinking two during the race, one on each loop. It was a pain though. I'd rather have the cups of water at six stations, not a bottle I had to lug around. It was ridiculous. A lot of people were taking a bottle, drinking a gulp or two, and then chucking the bottle on the ground. So you had to play dodge'ems with mostly full plastic water bottles while running. It was a cluster. Not to mention none of the aid stations had any electrolytes or energy gels.

That aside, my first loop went fairly well. I was able to hit my marathon pace of 7:55/mile pretty consistently. The course was pretty freaking hilly, making their slogan of "flat, fast, and friendly" a laugher. The neighborhood detour around Cook Park was brutal. Up and down, up and down. Fairly exposed too, and it was getting hot. Nothing like turning a corner and staring into the blasting sun while climbing an 80 foot hill on mile 10. The course was NOT my favorite.

Crossing the finish! Look hot enough?
Anyways, after mile eight my legs started to give. The culmination of the hill workout, 5k, and 8 race pace miles were hitting me. I walked up the steep hill out of Cook Park into the neighborhoods. It was around that point I was done. I wasn't going to be able to maintain 7:55/mile. Maybe if the rest of the course was flat, but no way given the rolling, steep hills to come. My pace slipped about a minute a mile. I still finished out all the miles under 9:00/mile, so that was pretty good.

If you do the math, I did the 5k and first ten miles of the half in 1:41:44, which is a pretty decent half marathon time for not really racing and 36 hours removed from a hill workout. Not to mention those ten miles were in the heat, which approached 80 degrees by the time I finished. Overall, the half marathon was a PW, but I don't know if I can officially count it as a PW considering I wasn't "racing" it. If my PW is 11th out of 141 racers without really racing, I'll take that.

Back to the race. So the second loop sucked. I broke down a little bit but still managed to keep running strong. Nobody was really passing me and the same people were in my sights so they were breaking down too. It was just too hot and hilly. I wanted that loop to be over so bad. Honestly, it didn't take too long though. I just kept chugging ahead and knew I only had a few miles to go. Eventually I worked my way back to the finish line and crossed it for sweet, sweet relief.

Post race refueling at Buffalo Wild Wings.
They did have cold bottles of water at the finish line so I definitely took advantage of that. They also didn't run out of beer, which Laurel and I enjoyed later. They did run out of the free pancake breakfast though and some 10Kers didn't even get any. So terrible planning there. I didn't really care too much as I went to my parents' house, showered, and then went back to meet Laurel as she finished the half. We were both kind of irked at the event and decided to go out to lunch at Buffalo Wild Wings to console ourselves. Mmm, chicken.

All told, I wouldn't do this race again. The course sucked and the attempts at hydration were just silly. Next year I think I'll do the Ladybug and just soak that all in. They need a new course for this race and also a new start time. Maybe if they are able to manage a "Tour de Tualatin" type course and earlier start I'd consider it again. But the event I just did? Nah. If Ladybug was a 10/10 this was a 2/10. It was good training though, on the morning I got in 16 miles of "racing" and an additional warm up mile.

Official Chip Time: 1:47:21, 8:11/mile. 11/141 overall, 8/53 male, 3/7 M25-29.

Monday, August 04, 2014


Early in the race, settling into about 7:00/mile.
The first of two races on the day was the Ladybug Run for CDH Awareness that took place in Cook Park Saturday morning. I'll get into it more later, but this was a really great race and I hope to do it again next year. All told I had my second best 5k ever and placed fifth overall. Should have done the 10k, I would have likely won it considering my PR is nearly two minutes faster than the winning time!

Let me back up though. On Thursday night I decided to do a hill workout. So I ended up running loops on the Weir Road hill near my house... all told is was 1300' of elevation gain in just five miles. Needless to say, my legs were sore and worn and didn't quite feel like racing 36 hours later. Smart Thomas. Fortunately, they really didn't come into play until halfway through my next race. For this one, they felt fine. I did a short warm up jog with about a quarter mile of race pace work.

Later in the race, about mile 2.6.
Laurel came down to run the Crawfish Crawl and I also convinced her to do this race and do a "double" as well. So I was able to meet with her before the race and chat a bit before we ran. I tried to work my way somewhere close to the front of the corral... I wasn't planning on running super hard but also knew the park paths we'd be running on weren't the widest and I didn't want to get stuck behind people.

After a countdown from ten we were off! I did have to do some minor weaving the first quarter mile or so but nothing too bad. I settled into a nice pace... my first two miles were basically right on 7:00/mile, which is what I was shooting for. It was a hard effort but I wasn't killing myself. It was definitely a little too hard considering I had a half coming up, but it felt decent enough and I knew it would be over quickly.

Nothing too much to note. That hill to get out of Cook Park is a beast! Although I ran up it, my pace was slowed to over 10:00/mile. Should that hill have been more gradual I probably would have been able to shave another 10-15 seconds off my time. After climbing that we just ran to Durham Road and then along Durham to the high school. This part of the run was really flat and nearly a mile. A good spot to charge back up after the hill.

At the high school we turned left on 92nd and then wove downhill to the park. It was nice to do downhill but a majority of the downhill was too steep so you couldn't quite attack it like you wanted to. At this point I still had pretty fresh legs though so I was able to bank some time. My 6:34 final mile certainly was aided by this hill and the lure of the finish line. After taking a short detour through the parking lot and a trail in the woods we popped back onto the road with the finish line about a hundred yards ahead.

Race #1 is done! Onto Crawfish...
I had no idea I was in sixth place at this point as I honestly wasn't even paying attention. There was a man in front of me who I passed on Durham but he passed me going down the hill. At the start of these final one hundred yards he was probably fifteen yards ahead of me. I decided it would be fun to sprint to the finish and see if I could beat him. Yes, I was that guy. And I'm happy to report I beat him by a second after passing him in the final ten yards. Sucker.

Once I was done I was pretty delirious from my final sprint and the harder than expected effort. I found some water and regained my senses. Within a minute I was back to normal and able to cheer other finishers on. Pretty soon Laurel come through, so after cheering for her I ate some of the grub that was there but then we had to leave to go to our next race.

Overall a very successful race for me. Only 17 seconds off a 5k PR without really trying to run that fast. This run was a great event and honestly I'd rate it 10/10. Decent food afterward, a free-flowing beer garden for free, a great cover band, a fantastic atmosphere, etc. Really sad I had to leave and go do the other race. Next year I'll be signing up for just the Ladybug and soaking in all they have to offer.

Official Results: 20:55, 6:43/mile. 5/190 overall. 4/66 male, 2/5 M25-29.