Thursday, February 26, 2015


The topic of this post has been swimming around in my head for a while. When the Shamrock Run added a half marathon for this year I initially would put myself in the "generally against" camp. Upon learning more about the half they were planning I put myself firmly in the "strongly against" camp. I'm not against the half distance (it's great!) or adding another distance (choices are good!) but the addition of the event to this historic race is completely unnecessary.

That is the part that irks me the most. For decades, this 15k was the pinnacle of the spring racing season for many around Portland. First as the Cascade Run Off (you can read more about that history here) and then as the Shamrock Run. Part of what made it so unique was that is was a 15k... how many other 15ks are out there, especially ones that attract tens of thousands of runners? With the two other events being shorter, 5k and 8k, it gave you something to strive for. When I ran the 5k back in 2012, I instantly wanted to be one of the cool 15k kids the next year.

So you destroy the tradition of the 15k being the pinnacle of the event and make it just another distance. I might not be so annoyed if they added a cool half marathon course, but all they do is add four miles to the out and back portion along Front Avenue. So it is the same exact route as the 15k except four extra miles in the ugliest part of the entire course. Take my word for it, this part of the city sucks. Everyone complains about it during the Portland Marathon, where there is a large out and back portion. So people are paying extra to run in the most un-scenic part of the entire city.

Extra along Front. Yay? No.
Before this year, the 5k and 8k races didn't receive anything at the end, but if you ran the 15k you got a bottle opener medal. Again, it was cool and something to strive for, along with the challenge of Terwillager and the bagpipers at the top. Now, the half people get a medal, but it's just a normal medal. So the 15kers still get a bottle opener medal and the halfers get a normal, larger medal. Okay. That should be fun to ferret out for the volunteers in the finishing chute.

What irks me most is the people who have no idea about the history of the event. As soon as it was announced on their Facebook page, tons of people were chiming in about how cool the medal is, how they couldn't wait to run the half, why did it take them this long to add a half, etc. Basically they had no idea about the history of the race! That's my fear, that five years from now the 15k is just going to be some weird distance they have if you are "lazy" and don't want to do the full and the average participant isn't going to appreciate the history behind that distance and that course.

That 15k race/route has deep roots in Portland running history and, to me, the half marathon greatly diminishes its value. All to add four miles in ugly industrial Portland. There are already a couple popular half marathon races in Portland that go up Terwillager and have that same general course (Cinco de Mayo comes to mind) so this half is nothing new. It's completely unnecessary and fills no need. The 15k should be the "crown jewel" to kick off the racing season in Portland, like it has been since the early 1980s. It's like adding a half marathon to Bay to Breakers or something.

Oh, and get off my fucking lawn.

Monday, February 23, 2015


Not running is great! I don't know why I didn't try this sooner! So much more free time and energy! Seriously though, I am not kidding all that much. I'm really enjoying my time off and don't miss running one lick. I was never really in love with it in the first place, I liked races and challenging myself, but the day to day battle of getting myself out the door was not very fun.

One of the problems is I am always running after work when I'm tired or on the weekends when I am running long distances. There are very few runs when I actually get to enjoy myself. These would be early afternoon runs at easy paces and not great distances. Unfortunately, barring my office getting a shower and me ditching all time goals, these runs will continue to be rare.

Anyways, I learned to tolerate running, build my social life around it, and have fun at races. So I'm not going to quit or anything. However, this time off has certainly answered the question of whether or not I would miss it if I did. The answer is loud and clear no. I had a lot of runner friends predict I'd be itching to get out there, get restless, cut my break early, etc. Nope. I've barely even thought about it, too busy enjoying my free time and not feeling like my legs are going to fall off.

One more week of freedom. I can already tell my legs feel much better but there is still some healing to go. I have a massage scheduled tomorrow and I can't wait for that. It will be my first ever professional massage. Should feel great. That, coupled with seven more days of rest, should lead to a pretty refreshed Thomas when I return to the pavement March 2nd. With Daylight Saving Time starting on the 8th, I should start feeling a lot more positive about this whole running thing.

Thursday, February 19, 2015


After my post about feeling like crap and soliciting advice from Katie at Runs for Cookies, I am pretty certain I have classic symptoms of overtraining. For months I had a suspicion this was the case, I was thinking "I should just take a whole week off" since the beginning of December but I just didn't want to "fall behind." Secretly I was just hoping it would resolve itself or I'd figure out I needed to eat an orange after running and all would be well or something.

I even backed off a little on my training, skipped a couple runs, ran a couple runs short (12 instead of 16 at Coach Jim one week) but even then I was still feeling worn down. Basically, what it comes down to is I need to completely stop running for a period of time and allow my body to heal. It doesn't matter if I'm running slow or running a shorter long run, I am still running and my body is still struggling to recover. I never really took a break after the Portland Marathon and after three continuous marathon training cycles without much of a break my body just had enough I guess.

Anyways, I started to research it a little bit and sure as shit, the symptoms of overtraining pretty much line up with the way I feel. I found this article on World Running to be very spot on. A couple of the things don't apply, like feeling like I don't want to eat or my sleep being disrupted (LOL.... I could easily eat 5000 calories a day and sleep 11 hours a night without trying)... but many of the others are spot on. This article, coupled with a few others, pretty much convinced me this was the source of my frustration.

The solution? I am not running again until March 2nd. That will be two whole weeks off and still give me almost two weeks to get a few runs in to be prepared for Shamrock. I shouldn't lose too much fitness in just two weeks. I'll run Shamrock (maybe a PR is out the window, maybe I come back refreshed and have a chance, I don't know and I won't worry about it) and see how I feel. If after Shamrock I still feel like I haven't fully recovered, I'll shut it down again. At that point I won't have enough time to properly elevate my miles to train for the Eugene Marathon, so I'd likely just do the Eugene Half and save my marathon effort for the fall.

Anyways, that's the plan! I am kind of excited! I was starting to really hate running and dreading my runs due to the way my body was feeling. Not only do I get to not run, when I come back hopefully I'll feel refreshed and start to remember that it wasn't always so terrible. Six mile runs should not leave me feeling like crap. That, coupled with the beginning of Daylight Savings Time on March 8th, should lead to a much more positive mindset.

Onward and upward!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015


At rear in yellow.
On Saturday I ran sixteen miles with Coach Jim's group. It was absolutely awful. One of the worst runs I have been on in quite some time. I felt like shit about two miles in and the entire thing was just torture. I hated every minute and pretty much wanted to quit running and find a new hobby. By the time I was done I could barely walk and felt almost as bad as after my first ever twenty mile run.

I've felt like shit for awhile now. I haven't been able to pinpoint quite why or when exactly it started. I feel like I might have started to feel crappy before the run up Terwillager, but ever since then I definitely haven't quite felt the same. Basically it feels like someone has taken meat cleavers and hammered my legs. Initially I diagnosed it as my Brooks Adrenaline shoes breaking down early (they only had some 280 miles on them, but comparing them against other retired pairs, they seemed just as worn). Based on that, I switched to a new pair of Nike Structures, my other go to shoe.

That didn't really seem to help, although maybe a little. It's really hard to say. I feel like my recovery time just tripled and the wear and tear on my legs doubled. Six mile runs were now leaving me sore the next day, when they didn't before. This "breakdown" of my body, coupled with the dark and cold, has really soured me on running. Like seriously. Fuck this shit. Then again, yesterday I went for a run and took it pretty easy, I had the day off for President's Day, and I actually had a decent time running around in the sun.

However, here it is the next day, and my legs are kind of sore. From running a 10k at 9:30/mile. I can literally feel my legs burning as I sit here and type this. Wtf? It's really weird because my last two races, both during the worn down period, went really well. They weren't PR speed, but they were solid efforts and I didn't feel my legs let me down in either of them. I didn't even feel more worn down than usual after them, so I don't fucking know.


Muscle Fatigue Accumulation Theory: Over the recent months I've slowly built up muscle fatigue/accumulation/breakdown and it's hit a critical mass point. The legs could rebuild and be okay to a certain point, but eventually they got to a level where they couldn't repair themselves decently enough before I ran on them and broke them down again. The solution is to just rest, maybe stop running for week or two, and let them reset. Kind of like hitting restart on the computer. I haven't done this because obviously if I stop running for a week I'll gain 15 pounds.

Gait Change Shoe Deficiency Hypothesis: Somewhere along the line my gait has changed enough that my shoes no longer fit my running style. I was put into a pair of Brooks Adrenalines about two years ago and since then I've changed my running style to more of a mid-foot strike as I've increased my distance. Maybe I need a different shoe? Points against this theory include my shoes working perfectly until two months ago despite the gait change happening a year and a half ago. In addition, if I go to a store and have this done, I'll feel guilty and buy shoes at full price.

Monthly runs over two years.
Old Man Body Syndrome: I'm getting older. The wear and tear on my body is increasing and I can no longer just go run without doing other forms of maintenance. Simple stretching and self massage after runs could fix a lot of my problems. I also ran out of gummy vitamins about six weeks ago and just now replaced them. Maybe my body was feeling deficient? Maybe I need to start doing other shit to work out my core and crap. I've needed a massage for about two years and now have a gift card, why don't I go get that done? Arguments against this conclusion are that I am 28 fucking years old.

That's really all I got. I really feel like the most likely theory is the first one... I never really took a rest after my marathon. I'm not doing marathon mileage, but I am still putting 100+ miles on my legs every month. Couple that with the hilly winter route, charge up Terwillager, faster pace group (not recently though), it all has just snowballed and my legs just need some time off. I haven't wanted to take time off because Shamrock is coming up and I hoped to beat my Dad's time there this year. Given my success at races still, I feel like maybe that is still a possibility.

However, if time off is all I need, then there is no time like the present. I could not run until March 1st, not lose a ton of fitness, and hopefully recharge and feel okay for Shamrock. If I end up doing the Eugene Marathon in May (still iffy, with the way I am feeling right now, a marathon sounds awful) then I need to start training basically right after Shamrock at the latest. So I wouldn't really have time to rest after Shamrock.

Anyways, I almost want to shut it down until March 1st. If my legs feel good after that and then as soon as I start running this shit happens again, then I know there is something else wrong (like maybe theory #2). But I think I maybe just need a break. I hate to break my 100 miles-a-month streak, but I think I might have to.

Monday, February 09, 2015


At one point in time I promised a post about pooping in a corn field. I never ended up writing about it because frankly the story wasn't that special! However, it has been hanging over me ever since... I promised to tell the story. Couple that with almost pooping my pants during the Coach Jim run this weekend and here we are.

The common thread amongst both of these is the consumption of alcohol in the days prior. I believe they call this the "beer shits." If I drink within reason this usually isn't an issue, but on vacation that certainly wasn't the case. Couple that with a "vacation diet" and you have the recipe for disaster.

From the first time I ran my beloved vacation loop I was searching for bathroom spots, just in case. You have to entertain yourself on a run somehow. I knew my body gets thrown off by travel and isn't quite as reliable to not cause issues during a run. Usually I'm pretty good about keeping that at bay on a run, but from time to time nature will call. Chalk this up as the second "in the wild" relief I've taken on a run.

Anyways, after scouting the route on my first couple runs I have a pretty good idea where I can go and where I can't. There are ample stretches where I can dart off into the woods, but then there are also stretches where I have no cover and cannot go.

Let's set the scene. It's August 21st, 2014 at 9:31am and the sun is already out shining. Looks to be another brilliant day in northwestern Pennsylvania. I'm running along and at about mile two start to feel the rumblies after a night of drinking and poor food choices. I have the chance to turn back toward safer pastures but decided to move forward, knowing I won't have cover for nearly a whole mile.

I run up the gentle uphill, large homes with open lawns on either side of me. There is absolutely no cover. For the first half of the hill I'm thinking I can make it to the creek about another mile onward, poop next to a tree, wash my little handsies in the creek, it will be awesome. Better than the cabin toilet maybe! Well, that pipedream is out the window about a half mile in. I need relief ASAP. Ahead, a large cornfield looms. I don't have an option.

Once I'm to the cornfield I frantically dart into the stalks of corn. They are planted in neat rows and I go about three rows in for cover. I completely remove my running shorts and then squat and, well, I'll spare you the details. Not a proud moment. Finding something to wipe with wasn't easy either. Turns out the leaves on corn stalks are tough to rip off and aren't ideal for cleanup. I was able to make it work though.

By the time I left to continue my run the crime scene had turned into an amusement park for the local fly population. I hoped they would clean up my mess before it was discovered by any other human. Once thing that freaked me out about the corn was how it was all the same height (GMO for the win). I can just imagine this one little pocket of corn sprouting about a foot higher though, the puzzled farmers scratching their beards as they ponder how this one little pocket somehow got more fertilizer or water or something.

Thursday, February 05, 2015


Leave it to me to look sleepy despite the 11am start.
After a year absence it was back to the Zena Road Runs in 2015. I was able to convince some of my PRC pals to join me... unfortunately I had to drive separately because I needed to jet right after the race to pick up Brandon and hang out with him for the Super Bowl. On the way down there I stopped at McDonald's and had an Egg McMuffin meal with a coffee for breakfast. A potentially dangerous decision. It worked out though.

The race started at 11:00am, which was super nice. I thought it started at 10am, which I was already happy about, so 11am was even better. Rarely can you sleep in that much for a race. Whether it helped or not is up for debate, but for someone who is not a morning person it was much appreciated. When you are running on country roads in the winter there is absolutely no reason for an early start, so I'm glad they realize that!

I parked on a tricky gravely slope (I seriously thought my car was going to tip over) and then went to go get my bib. Love when checking in takes 15 seconds. I really like how simple yet well put on this race is. These cheaper races put on by local running clubs are really just the best, purest events you can attend. They don't rip you off and always are well done. Consider me a fan! I met up with my peeps and chatted with them until the race start.

THE FIRST THREE (8:30, 7:58, 7:59)

Unlike two years ago, the start was a little more organized this year in that they had someone on a loudspeaker announce that the race was about to begin, sing the national anthem, and then countdown to the horn. It wasn't just a random horn like two years ago, so that was an improvement.

The first hill was no joke though. I remembered it being tough and it certainly lived up to my memory. Looking back it was 300 feet of gain in the first 2/3rds of a mile. After that initial "death climb" it levels out and then goes uphill a couple more times in the first few miles. Really that first climb is the tough part though, the rest wasn't too bad. I was happy with an 8:30 for that first mile considering the terrain.

Apparently I do catch air when I run.
After about a mile and a half it switches to gravel and honestly that was no big deal. It really annoyed me the last time I ran this race, but that was "early" in my running "career" so maybe I just wasn't used to it. It also helped that the parts worn down by cars driving where quite wide and defined and for the most part you were just running off packed dirt. Overall I wanted to average 8:30/mile over this section and I did about 8:10/mile, so things were off to a good start.

THE MIDDLE THREE (6:55, 6:37, 6:58)

These miles are great. You get to fly downhill and the gravel changes back to pavement. The combination of the two leads to some really good mile times. Like two years ago, the fifth mile was my fastest. It is just a continuous, gradual downhill that makes running easy without feeling like you are pounding your joints. It is great practice for the Shamrock Run, whose final stretch into downtown is quite similar.

The final mile of these three starts to level off. That final 6:58 had some downhill in the beginning but actually had a hill at the end. My goal was go to sub 7 average on these, so mission accomplished there. The 6:37 was honestly a surprise, I didn't feel like I was running that fast... that is my 5k PR pace! After not doing much speedwork it was still nice to hit sub 7s in the middle of a 15k... even if they were downhill aided. At this point my A goal was within reach as long as I finished strong.

THE FINAL THREE (7:34, 7:33, 7:04)

Finish strong I did. These final three miles can be accurately described as "rolling hills." To be honest I didn't mind a little uphill though. My muscles needed a break from the downhill and the uphill actually felt kind of good. By the time my lungs would start to tire with the uphill I was usually right near the top of the hill. There was only one hill that really made me slow down, I looked at my watch at the top and I was going 8:40. Wherever that was I made it up on the following downhill.

At the finish!
Based on the calculations in my head I knew I was on sub 1:10 pace but that it might be close. I wanted to finish strong and possibly even finish under 1:09. That 7:04 final mile required a lot of effort but honestly I didn't mind giving it. My head was in a pretty good place and I knew I was running a great race. You can see the finish from a ways off, so I didn't mind pushing a little harder knowing that relief was near.

I crossed the finish line and stopped my watch at 1:08:46. The official time came back at 1:08:42. 7:23 a mile! Not bad at all! Alejandro finished about two minutes ahead of me and Glenn about ten minutes behind. Felt good to leave him in the dust after he burned me at the Rivalry Clash, not going to lie. All told though I was concerned about my race and I honestly couldn't have been happier. I ended up getting 2nd (out of 2, shouldn't have invited Ale) in my age group and got a fancy ribbon.

Really like this race! I'll be back next year assuming it doesn't conflict with the Miami Marathon like in 2014.

Official Results: 1:08:42, 7:23/mile. 26/85 overall, 23/55 male.