Tuesday, January 26, 2016


I spent a decent amount of time on this so admire it dammit. Blue=this year, Red=previous years.
Another year, another Miami Half Marathon in the books. This was the slowest of the three, but it went much better than I could have imagined. The weather during my trip wasn't the greatest, it was "cold" (for them) during much of my time there and windy to boot. So while I didn't get any beach time, I still enjoyed the time off from work and the appearance of the sun. One night there was a beautiful full moon that was reflecting off the water and it was simply stunning. Cameras can't really do something like that justice.

Before the race. Don't I totally look warm and excited?
Anyways, I lied in my preview due to laziness. I just assumed the course was the same because why would they change it? I remember checking a few months ago and it was the same so I didn't follow up after that. Well, it turns out there was some major construction taking place on the Venetian Islands so they had to re-route the course back over the MacArthur Causeway, turning the course into what I'm going to call a "dumbbell" (a take on the "lollipop" route). This means that while the course was pretty close to the same, it was hillier due to the return trip on the causeway.

We went to the expo on Friday to grab our bibs. The expo changed locations as well and it was in an interesting part of town. We'll call it "up and coming." Quite the change from the glitzy Miami Beach Convention Center of previous years, but also fun to see a new part of the city. We actually spent a good hour in the expo, my friend only goes to the one every year so he was interested in walking around and checking things out. I picked up some Shot Bloks that I didn't use but otherwise just tried to get as much free stuff with as little talking to people as I could get away with. You know, the usual running expo mode of operation.


I was actually able to get FOUR hours of sleep this year. I'm pretty proud of myself. My times may be slipping, but my sleep before this race is getting better. From 90 minutes to 3 hours to 4 hours. Long story short, sleep wasn't an issue at all this time around. With those four hours I actually felt pretty alert and awake when I woke up and it never really became a factor.

What was a factor was the cold. It was 46(!) degrees and windy before the race. I was freezing my little Oregonian ass off. The wind was coming right off the water and it was cold. When I packed for the race I saw the prediction of low to mid 50s, so I packed a long sleeved tee shirt to wear. What I was not expecting was the bitter cold wind. A beanie and gloves would have been nice but only before the race. As soon as we started running I warmed up pretty quick. While waiting to start I just huddled against the masses in the chute and they provided pretty decent protection against the cold. I did check a pair of jeans and sweatshirt for after the race.

Early on, before the sun rose.
MILES 1-4: UP AND OVER THE CAUSEWAY (8:33, 7:54, 8:35, 7:48)

My mindset going into this race was very relaxed. It was probably the most relaxed I have been for a half marathon other than the Crawfish Crawl, which I was treating as a training run. Basically, I made the decision to just run by feel and not obsess over my time. That first mile included a decent amount of weaving or slowing down due to the amount of people and also contained the first hill of the race as we went up the causeway. I wasn't alarmed as I saw the mile time on my watch. It was a little slower than I would have liked, but I wasn't going to worry about it. I knew I had some downhill coming up and the field was beginning to thin.

The second mile went really well. I was feeling pretty good, my legs were responding to the pace and my breathing wasn't too labored. I settled into a comfortable but hard pace and just enjoyed the scenery. I was pleased to see my second mile clocked in under eight minutes. I wasn't necessarily planning to run that quick, so it was nice to see that without really focusing on it. I would glance at my watch from time to time but I didn't look at it as much as I normally would. I really just wanted to go by feel so I just listened to my body.

Speaking of my body, it was telling me I had to pee. Now if I were gunning for a PR I probably would have tried to hold it, although I'm not sure I could have finished the race without taking a pit-stop. Being that I was taking this event a little less seriously, I skipped the first set of port-a-potties, knowing they are always crazy, but stopped at the second set. I was able to get in there without waiting and took about 30 seconds to pee. This was right before the mile three marker, and that's why I have another 8:35 mile in there. I was running right on an 8:00 pace before that. I was able to make up a little as I sprinted for a bit after exiting but then quickly settled back into the same pace.

MILES 5-10: SETTLED IN SOUTH BEACH (8:08, 8:10, 8:02, 8:10, 8:16, 8:18)

Locked into a groove in South Beach.
After my stop and go spastic start I settled into a nice pace and was able to maintain it for a long time. As you can see, my splits were pretty even and I wasn't really even looking at my watch much at all. There were miles where I didn't even look at it at all until it beeped to signify another mile. I wasn't pushing myself to the limit, if I really wanted my "best" time I could have probably done about an 8:00/mile pace and suffered the last few miles. I think if I gave it my "all" I could have got a high 1:45 time. Instead, I was happy at my sub 1:50 pace and actually enjoying the race more than I have in previous years.

The only issue I was really having was burping up my Mexican meal from the night before. Apparently the food didn't digest in the 12 hours I allowed and there were some pretty intense bouts of indigestion. A couple times a tiny amount of "chunkage" also came up. I'd grimace for a block, hold it down, and then the feeling would pass for another half mile or so. Overall, it really didn't affect my time. I was able to run like I would normally, it was just annoying to have to survive the waves of food wanting to come up every five minutes. By mile ten or so it died down.

Anyways, this is where the course change was apparent. I missed the neighborhoods and Venetian Islands of the previous years, but this year's course wasn't bad either. Just doubled back in South Beach and then headed back up and over the causeway. I was able to maintain pace without too much of an issue, even with the "hills" the road caused. To be fair, it does end up being a decent climb, probably 150 feet, and some of the locals were definitely struggling. To me, it wasn't that big of a deal at all. It was pretty much the same climb as Davies and I do that all the time. My body still felt pretty good despite the miles adding up and I was feeling confident in my ability to finish strong.

MILES 11-13.1: DOWNTOWN DETOURS (8:24, 8:12, 8:23, 7:19/mi final .11)

This wasn't the finish but rather mid-race.
Mile 11 came in at 8:24 and that included the final hill of the MacArthur Causeway. From a cardiovascular point of view it wasn't an issue at all, but this part was definitely the steepest "hill" and I could feel my calves pulling at the effort. I think if I were in true half shape this wouldn't have been an issue, but it was certainly something I felt. I was able to slog up it and then try to make up the time when rewarded with the downhill into downtown.

The route was tweaked a little bit here as well, as we took a little detour north to add some mileage. Just a few blocks, but certainly something new. It was around here the cheering section appeared, and as always, it was fun. Brings a lot of energy right when you need it. After that though the usual downtown streets remained, devoid of people and the miles starting to add up. They were very comfortable this year, the sun was up but wasn't zapping me of energy at all. What has been a struggle in the past was a very comfortable 8:12 mile. For a second to last mile, that was pretty good!

I didn't realize it at the time, but there was also a detour at the end. I remember thinking that final portion seemed longer, and sure as shit, we had to run a couple extra blocks before turning to the finish line. I'm not quite sure on why this mile was 8:23... no hills to speak of and I never really broke down like at the end of some half marathons, so I kind of wish this mile was a little quicker. I did some quick math in my head and pretty much figured out I had a 1:48 in the bag unless I ran a sub 8:00 mile in, so that might have been part of it. I did sprint a bit to the finish as the energy toward the finish line was great, as always.


Done! Successful race!
After coming to a halt in the chute my legs felt pretty good. I remember being in more pain after the Hot Buttered Run, so I was happy with the way my body responded to the effort. To run a 1:48 after taking a month off and only having 7 runs before this one... I'll take it. I was pretty pleased with my effort and happily bounced along the chute to collect my medal and food. Once I exited there I found a bench and sat down to eat and recuperate.

My legs were sore and definitely were feeling the effort but they weren't completely blown. It was really a perfect race in my mind, I didn't want to completely kill myself  but I still wanted to run a hard effort. My overall pace ended up being 8:12/mile (8:15 officially due to me not running a perfect course). That was about as good as I could expect. I think in a couple months I should be able to go under 8:00/mile with the same effort, but it was a good starting point. As I'm still kind of cautiously coming back from my "overdoing it" symptoms this was exactly the race I wanted.  A good test of my fitness but not hard enough to fuck things up.

Anyways, I was stalking my friend on Endomondo and went to the finish line as he got near. It was fun to see him finish strong and he finished just five minutes slower than last year after not training at all. He's keeping in shape by wakeboarding, but he seriously hasn't ran in seven months, and ended up running a good 80% of the race. Amazing. Can you imagine not running at all and then just going out and doing 13 miles? One of these years he'll train. Anyways, needless to say, he was a little more sore than I afterward.

Unfortunately the weather never really improved, so we just headed back and crashed at his place the rest of the day. We had some beers and ate pizza while watching the NFL Championship games. We were both content to go to bed early that night and then I flew out the next day. Not exactly the tropical, warm vacation I had in mind, but fun none the less. I'm happy with my time and I really enjoyed the race. I highly recommend it if you ever feel like going to Miami.

Official time: 1:48:12, 8:15/mile. 1496/14484 overall, 1186/7011 male, 148/663 M25-29.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016


Last year's finish in 1:41.
Hard to believe it is that time again! I don't know how this became a tradition, but a trip to sunny Florida every year in late January isn't the worst thing that can happen. As long as my buddy keeps running it, I'll likely keep signing up and going. Since all I have to pay for is the plane ticket it ends up being a pretty cheap trip too, which is nice. Not looking forward to the 8-10 hour plane journey each way, but I'll just load up some movies on my tablet, bring a book, and deal with it.

I'm in a unique position this year to enjoy the race. There is NO WAY I'm going to get even close to a course PR (1:41) so the real question is... how hard to I want to kill myself? I recently ran a 1:44 at the Hot Buttered Run but it was 32 degrees and I was in better shape at the time. I've only ran seven times since taking an entire month off, so I have to keep my expectations realistic. Thus... do I want to kill myself and get a "current fitness best" of 1:49? Or do I back off a little, try to enjoy the sights and spectacle a little more, and finish in 1:58?

I think the plan will be to run entirely on feel. Ignore the watch and just see what happens. Run a pace that's hard but manageable. I can't be focused on hitting 8:05s or 8:20s or whatever, but focused on running a hard pace that's sustainable for 13.1 miles. I don't know what that pace is and I won't know until I try to start running it on race day. It might be 8:15, it might be 8:40. Whatever it is, I'll run it and see how far it takes me. Hopefully I can make it to the finish. However, if that doesn't happen, again, this race is unique in that I'm not really focused on a certain time or goal. I think as long as I finish under two hours I can live with myself.

Sorry if that's a lot of rambling. Ideally I wouldn't be running a half marathon at this point. Part of me wants to just 9:45/mile it and soak in the atmosphere. I'm going to reserve the right to do that if I want to, but I still do have a competitive side and that side would die a little if I just phoned it in. I'm not sure I would actually enjoy the race more with that "Old Thomas" competitive side of me gnawing at the back of my brain the entire time.

Okay, so I think I've talked myself through it and came up with a plan. I'm going to go out and run what I think a current, sustainable half marathon pace is. I expect that to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 8:15-8:30/mile but I don't really know. I expect, somewhere around the Venetian Islands at mile ten, my legs will start to give out. The real question at that point is if I can hold it together and still sub 9:00/mile it in, or if I'm in for a shitshow.

The course is the same as the previous years, so no surprises there. Amazingly, it looks like we are due for some unseasonably cold weather on race day. Last year it was 55 at the race start and I never thought the weather would be like that again for at least another decade (so did the locals, the average temperature at race start is normally the high 60s). However, it looks like almost a repeat of last year, with weather likely in the mid 50s at race start and a high of only 66 on Sunday. Now, we are still a few days out, but if that holds it will certainly help my chances of not having an total disaster of a race.


"A" Goal: 1:49:59 or faster. The stars align and I'm able to run the race strong without hardly any letdown in the last few miles. This would be an average pace of 8:20/mile.

"B" Goal: 1:59:59 or faster. I think in a best case scenario, with my legs responding and the weather holding, then I could achieve my "A" goal. Aside from that however, whatever I run is going to be a PW. And given my recent time off, I can live with anything under 2:00. Does a 1:53 over a 1:58 really matter? Nope. I'm not sure my legs have 13.1 miles of speed in them. This is 9:05/mile, so it allows me to break down some at the end, which very well might happen.

"C" Goal: Finish. You are healthy, able bodied, and running a half marathon in a beautiful city. You are doing something most of the population cannot do and even with a "bad" time personally, it will likely still be better than 2/3rds of the field. Sometimes it is important to keep perspective. My 4:21 in Detroit was a great experience, so if this race doesn't work out, just have a similar mentality.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016


Saturday was the final part of my "training" for Miami. And by "training" I mean make sure I could run a half marathon without major issue. After this run I feel pretty solid about that. However, I am not near properly trained for a half marathon. If you've been reading my blog, you are aware why. It does feel good that all my training for the two marathons last fall still lingers though. As you'll see, this eleven mile test run went pretty well, so despite my time off my legs still have some distance in them. They just don't have near the speed of half marathons past.

Katie was unable to run with us on Saturday because of some work commitments, so it was just Matt and I for the second straight weekend. It has been fun getting back into these longer runs on the weekends and good to have a buddy to do them with. I plotted a new route that covered mostly familiar territory just to mix things up a little. There was some new ground we covered on SW North Dakota Street (milepost 6 to 7), so that was fun. We also ran through Fanno Creek and boy was it flooded. My shoes got totally soaked. There were giant lakes on the trail we just couldn't avoid.

It was also my second consecutive long run where I needed to poop during the run. So that was pretty unwelcome. As someone who rarely poops on any run, the sudden need to be on the lookout for bathrooms was concerning. Hopefully my body will adjust back into this whole "long run" thing and solve that problem. Other than that, the run was great. We took an easy-ish pace of 9:15/mile and just knocked it out. My legs felt pretty good until the last mile or so, when they began to tire. Not bad though. I could have done another two miles if I needed.

Selfie showing how drenched I was.
Something to note during the run was the absolute DOWNPOUR that occurred at mile 9. I was prepared for some sprinkles based on a glance at the weather app on my phone and was pleasantly surprised by the mild, dry, overcast conditions we had for the majority of the run. I think I may have commented on it during mile 8 or so, thus dooming us to get drenched. It started sprinkling and then within a few minutes it was pouring down very hard. About as hard as it can rain in Oregon. We're talking tropical thunderstorm like downpour, instant makeshift streams being formed.

In addition to the rain, the wind was howling too and then temperature felt like it dropped a few degrees. So what was a pleasant 48 degree dry run became just a really ridiculous situation to be outside in. The rain was so thick and plentiful we had to talk louder to hear each other, the wind was super cold and mixed with our wet clothes to create a rather chilly experience. Neither of us wanted to be out there at the moment, but we really didn't have a choice. We survived though (it switched to just normal rain after a mile or so) and it was one of those runs that is fun to look back on.

Another highlight of this run was almost being ran over by a car. We were running along and this car is pulling out of a neighborhood to turn onto a main road. The driver is fixated to his left, scanning traffic for a hole, not even looking to the right for pedestrians. Well, I like to learn folks a lesson, so I darted out in front, assuming he'd stop. Let's just call it a "California Stop" and I don't think the fucker even saw me until I passed into his driver side window. I had to sport some NFL moves and change my route but honestly I was never in danger of getting hit. Didn't even get an adrenaline rush. However, according to Matt, it looked scary. Cards and sympathy chocolate can be mailed directly to my home.

Friday, January 15, 2016


I was chatting with Katie from Runs for Cookies yesterday and I guess it finally hit me... I have to run a 10k with her in April at 7:55/mile. I already knew this, I just hadn't thought that much about it. Like me needing to be in shape to do that. And with my recent spat of being injured and not caring, that pace for that long might prove to be a challenge. Considering that nine minute miles are leaving me breathless, I better get to work on that.

That was only one of a number of reasons for doing a tempo run though. I have the Miami Half Marathon next weekend and I haven't ran fast since Thanksgiving at my last half marathon. A week after that I have the Zena Road Runs 15k and I would also like to finish that before they shut the course down. And then before I know it the Shamrock 15k will be here. So now that I am "better" I need to start incorporating some faster runs into my routine to make sure I don't completely embarrass myself.  Yes, I realize nobody cares but me, but still. Also, I want to be able to pace Katie because that is something I promised.

So when I got home yesterday from work it was off to Planet Fitness to run four fast miles. I was unable to run Wednesday with PRC, so I was planning on running anyways, just not very fast. Briefly I thought about running outside, but the drive home was rainy, dark, and cold... which just so happens to be all the reasons I joined the gym. So off to the treadmill it was. I pressed the "speed" button upward until my pace dipped below 8:00/mile. It settled on 7:55/mile, the pace I'll need to maintain for 6.22 miles in April.

I am happy to report the run went well. It was challenging but I was able to lock into a groove and it wasn't too bad. For a while I was going to stop at 3 miles and then do a "warm down" mile, but around mile 2.5 I convinced myself to just do the whole thing. And I did! The last mile wasn't really harder than the others and I'm convinced I could have gone at least one, if not two more miles. So it was a nice little boost in confidence. I still got something in my legs from all that training. It's not quite the tempo runs I was doing last summer, but it's in the ballpark.

Monday, January 11, 2016


So, Miami is coming up really quick. It always seems to surprise me... you have the holidays and whatnot and just when you are settling back in after those... BAM! Fly to Miami and run a half marathon you jackass. Anyways, this year, as I've mused, should be an epic shit show. With only two weekends left before the race I decided I better start getting serious. Normally I'd run farther, but I'm being cautious in ramping back up my miles so eight miles was the plan for this weekend.

I figured if I could do eight miles successfully this weekend then I could shoot for ten or eleven next weekend and call it good. I'm really counting on muscle memory in my legs to get me through this as I haven't done the training needed to run a good half marathon. However, I'm not that far removed from the double marathon experience or the Hot Buttered Run Half, so I think I can bullshit my way through this. And by bullshit my way through it, I'm talking about running the first ten miles before exploding into a walk/jog death march to finish just below two hours. That is the goal.

Anyways, the long run this weekend actually gave me some hope. I haven't ran more than five miles since the half marathon back in late November, so I wasn't quite sure how eight miles would feel. It was also going to be a good 75 minutes of cardio and the most I had done since the marathon was 50 or so. Luckily, the run went fantastically! The weather was nice, mid 40s and sunny as all get out. My only compliant was the wind, which was whipping at times and pretty cold. Overall though you can't ask for much more in Oregon in January.

Death in Miami, year one.
My legs felt great the entire time. The only thing holding me back was my cardio, so it is definitely true that cardio is the first thing to go. The 9:25/mile pace felt harder than it should have but still reasonable and a "conversational" pace. Matt came along and it was nice to have a buddy. By the end of the run my legs still felt fine and I could have done ten miles easily. So that was a bit of a confidence boost. I think my legs still have some miles in them. The question in Miami will be my cardio. Even if I were able to get it in decent shape here in the next two weeks, the weather in Florida will be an issue. The first year I ran it I was in great shape but the humidity killed me about halfway in.

The goal next weekend will be ten or eleven. I'm leaning toward eleven just because this eight went so well. I'm happy to report my legs feel pretty good today and there is no sign of the crippling soreness and swelling that caused me to take a month off. Whether the recent cross training or time off is reasonable for that, I don't know, but I'm happy to be able to run again without feeling like my body is rejecting it. I felt great after the run yesterday and was reminded why I actually enjoy it from time to time.

Thursday, January 07, 2016


I ended up running on the treadmill at Planet Fitness last night for two reasons:
  1. Katie wasn't going to be able to make PRC due to traffic,
  2. I thought it was going to be colder outside.
Last night actually ended up being a pleasant night. It was like 40 degrees, which felt downright balmy compared to the freezing temperatures we have been experiencing lately. It was probably a good thing I ran inside though, some of the sidewalks in shadier parts were still icy and it wasn't worth the risk. I am ready to get back outside though, as long as it's not raining.

The treadmill last night wasn't as terrible as it will be in the future. This was also for two reasons:
  1. The treadmill is still pretty new to me, and thus, a novelty,
  2. I was motivated to get running again and give a good effort.
I decided I needed to run harder than the 9:30 pace from Monday so I put the treadmill at 8:57/mile (closest to 9:00/mile I could do without going over) and went to work. I was planning on running the five mile route with PRC so I decided to run five on the treadmill as well. This would take me 45 minutes, which was a good step up from the 30 minutes of Monday.

It was hard (#, that's what she said). A lot harder than that pace should have been and used to be. My heart rate was in the mid 170s the entire run and 178 toward the end. With a maximum heart rate of 191 at my age, that is 93.2% of my max heart rate. Running a nine minute mile. Who's out of shape? This guy! I've got a lot of work to get back to running like I used to. Hopefully this cross-training/weight lifting will get me on the right track to get back there.

Long story short, the run was hard but manageable. For the first two miles I felt like I was going to die and that the pace was a sprint. The next two miles I settled in a little bit and felt pretty good about myself and locked into a groove (plus, Seinfeld was on and it was hilarious). The last mile was a real bear. My body knew it was the last mile and thus, made it harder than it should have been. I was pouring sweat and it felt like my heart was going to explode, but I managed to finish without too much issue.

Hell of a workout. Hopefully my body has enough muscle memory and baseline fitness that I can improve fairly quickly. Just think though... here I was working mightily to finish five miles at a 9:00/mile pace... in 17 days in Miami I have to run thirteen plus miles at near that pace just to break two hours. Ugh. Whatever. At least I can run and I'm not dead.

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


So my initial goal was to start running again come January. Yesterday I was supposed to run with PRC but we had some snow/ice and the sidewalks were not safe to run on. Plus, it was like 34 degrees and that's really cold. I just don't care enough anymore to make that very palatable. Anywhosle, looking back at my blog I forgot to mention I ended up running five miles on Christmas morning. It has become a favorite tradition of mine, so I ended up doing it. I ran at 9:36/mile and it felt harder than it should have been, but I did the five miles without issue.

Fast forward to last night. After that five miles on Christmas my legs felt decent.. I wouldn't say they were worse, but they still felt not great. Definitely not the crazy swelling/soreness that caused me to stop running in the first place. I still wanted to give myself additional rest so I didn't run again until last night. Since I have a half marathon in three weeks, I figured I better start running again, so I met Katie at Planet Fitness and we ran on the treadmills. I made it a goal to run 30 minutes and I ended up running 3.15 miles during that time. About 9:35/mile. Felt just like Christmas, faster and harder than it should have been.

Fortunately, I am not completely out of shape. I'm able to do the elliptical and those three miles without issue. The problem will be trying to run thirteen miles at a quicker pace. Oh, and I'll be in Miami and it'll likely be warm and humid. All signs are pointing to an epic shit show. Honestly, I think my goal will be a sub 2:00 half marathon. It's amazing it's gotten to that point, but it is what it is. Hopefully I'm able to build back up to sub 1:45, but I can't get back there in three weeks. And also, I just don't care. Between the weather and my body rejecting running lately, I'm just not motivated. Hopefully this cross training will help out my running and I'll get motivated again once the weather turns warmer.

Anyways, that's the update. I'm enjoying the gym. I like lifting weights, it's a great workout in its own regard, and if I build muscle I'll burn more calories naturally. That means I can eat more food. So that's always a win. The gym also hasn't been too bad with the New Years Resolutioners, so that has been nice. Still able to get equipment and not wait around. Definitely busier than normal yesterday but not beyond the capacity of the gym. Fingers crossed my run with PRC tomorrow tonight goes well!