Sunday, July 15, 2018

2018 INDEPENDENCE DAY HALF MARATHON RACE RECAP

Post race celebration. Was I really happy? Find out below!
I woke up around 7:00 on the 4th of July, a Wednesday this year. I had picked up my race packet the day before at Portland Running Company, so I wasn't too stressed about the time. I was able to drive to Champoeg Park and wander to the start line by about 7:40am or so for the 8:00 start. Easy peasy!

The only thing I was worried about was the slight feeling of having "to go #2." I got in the line for a port-a-potty but with the limited number of potties I didn't think I was going to be able to go in time. Someone got some "inside info" about a pod of potties down a hill that didn't have a line. By the time I heard this and wandered down there, the line was just as long! Oh well, after a bit I gave up and just lined up to start. Hopefully it could wait!

THE FIRST LOOP (8:07, 8:17, 8:11, 8:06, 8:53*, 8:22)

After the national anthem and some final instructions, the race went off right at 8 o'clock. It was a little congested at first, as most races are, so there was a bit of weaving and holding back at the beginning, but as you can see, I still ran a pretty fast first mile. With my goal of beating Corvallis, I knew I had to run 8:30 miles or below. I decided I would try to run somewhere between 8:15 and 8:20s and see how far that could take me. All told the first few miles were a little fast, but nothing too tragic. I was feeling pretty good all told despite the lack of a proper taper for this race.

That 8:53 mile is not accurate. So we get to the turnaround for the first loop (which would total 10k) sometime during the 8:06 mile preceding it. On the way back to the start line somewhere in the forest paths my watch lost the GPS signal. I didn't realize it until I looked down at my watch to check my pace and saw it as "--:--." Great! Not. Anyways, I was in a rhythm so keeping up the appropriate pace wasn't too hard. I knew at some point my watch would kick back in and I could use it again, the mileage would just be off. It wasn't too long before the signal was acquired again. My watch, which was hitting the mile markers dead on, was now .25 miles behind at the next marker. Annoying, as my overall pace was now jacked, but whatever, my race was unaffected.

For those of you not familiar with Champoeg Park, the race is along paved trails through lush forest along the river. It's very pretty and great scenery for the race. The paths weren't too wide, but wide enough for two way traffic to proceed without issue for a race this size. There was one foot bridge that was under construction that had room for only one person going either way. Luckily, whenever I hit this bridge I didn't have an issue with oncoming traffic. The course itself was pretty flat, although there were definitely some hills toward the turnaround point.

A flavor of the trails I ran through in Champoeg Park. Screencap of this video, credit YouTube user NatureCyclist.

THE FINAL LOOP (8:10, 8:36, 8:16, 8:40, 8:19, 8:36, 8:24)

The finish line was up a small hill for about a block. Someone was shouting instructions out, if you were running the 10k you were done, if you were running the half, cross the mat and then turn around and go back out for another loop. Honestly, it felt kind of good to not be finishing, I made the turn around with maybe 33% of the other runners around me. Let's get this done! I was still feeling good, so far it was the perfect half marathon pace; my lungs were burning a little, the pace was challenging, but my legs felt good and I was confident I could go the distance without a major breakdown.

This loop was a lot lonelier, mostly it was just me and my thoughts running through the streets and trails of the park. I was in a rhythm and just plodding along. This loop would be slightly longer than the last one, as they added some distance past the first 10k turnaround to make sure we hit our 13.11 miles. Unfortunately, this extra distance was not flat and required a big hill climb on the way back. As a result, you can see the 8:40 mile. I knew I had a lot of extra time to play with at this point so I wasn't worried and just kept plodding along. I was doing the math in my head and now that my watch was off, I knew the pace reflected on there was about 10 seconds a mile too high. Considering my watch pace was still below my goal pace, I was in great shape.

On the way back to the finish I definitely starting to feel the subtle uphills that I didn't feel on the way back on the first loop. My legs were definitely tiring now, about mile 11 they started to complain a bit, but that's normal for a half marathon. I was able to keep going without issue although I was definitely ready to be done. I had also spent the whole race with that slight urge "to go" still there, so I was looking forward to taking care of that. Luckily, it did not require my attention during the race, which was quite the relief! Anyways, I rolled up that final uphill and through the finish.

POST RACE


Photo credit: www.runoregonblog.com
Holy shit! 1:47:33! Not only did I get my goal, I SMASHED it! Awesome! Good to know that my dedicated training was paying off. The marathon training definitely helped in those final miles too. Now that I was doing runs up to 16 miles, those final few felt so much better than Corvallis. I did have a secret goal of sub 1:50 but I never thought I would be in the 1:47s. Awesome! In my head, anything below a 1:45 half marathon is "fast," so hopefully I can get there by the end of the year. That used to be my baseline, as long as I got sub 1:45 I could live with it.

The post race part included a burger and a beer, both delicious. I checked the results and unfortunately I placed 4th in my division (out of 5 - ha!) so no awards ceremony for me. I was 15th out of 125 though, so that was cool. Once I was done eating I didn't really have any reason to stick around, so I drove home and took a warm bath. I then crawled into my bed and took a 3 hour nap. Oops.

Overall, a very successful race! I'm glad I signed up as it was fun to test my progress and come out feeling pretty good about how my training was going. I think I'm going to sign up for the Crawfish Crawl 5k in August - that will be my next official race. Will be good to get a baseline 5k time to work off of, although I won't taper or anything for that so it could be painful. After that, my next race will likely be the Boring Half Marathon followed by the big daddy... the Marine Corp Marathon!

Official Chip Time: 1:47:33, 8:12/mile. 15/125 overall, 13/61 male, 4/5 M30-34.

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

INDEPENDENCE DAY HALF MARATHON RACE PREVIEW

Pretty good reason to miss my only run so far (midweek 6
miler. Beavers 2018 baseball champs!
Has it really been almost a month since my last blog post? Oh my word! A quick update before I get into the race tomorrow... everything is going well with the marathon training! Still sticking to my training schedule and hitting all the long runs. Body feels good, no complaints there. Really an optimal training cycle so far! A long ways to go yet, but I am feeling pretty positive. Long runs have ventured into the "actually long" territory, I've now ran 16 twice and will run 18 next week, but they are going easily enough except for the "holy crap it's been forever are we done yet?" mental challenge. Physically they feel fine!

And with that, let's get into the race tomorrow. I signed up for this one a while back when I was looking to sprinkle in some races throughout the training cycle to keep things interesting and keep me on my toes. Now, a race always sounds better in theory (like a 5:30am plane flight), and then when it's actually race day you're like "why am I doing this?" Well, why I voluntarily chose to wake up at 7am on a holiday I'll never know! At least all the hot dogs and beer afterward will be guilt free. I think I'll enjoy the race as it should have some nice scenery and a good atmosphere. Just not all that excited about running it at race pace!

However, I do want to run it to the best of my abilities just to see how I stack up. I could always just 9:30/mile it and enjoy it, but that wouldn't really tell me anything. Now, I'm not going to enter this race 100% just because I didn't taper properly before it. I ran 16 on Saturday and then 4 miles last night. Not too bad and I did cut back on the Monday miles, but ideally I would give my legs a couple days rest before really attacking a race. So while I might not be able to achieve my best possible time given my current fitness, I think I should be able to get relatively close.

When I was in Omaha last week I did what ended up being a half race pace tempo run for five miles. It was mostly motivated by the traffic whizzing by me on the highway at 55mph and a fear for my life (pedestrian infrastructure over there is garbage), but I was able to hit 8:15-8:20s pretty easily. For being 82 degrees and humid outside the run was surprisingly easy. I just hope it feels that easy come tomorrow morning! On Monday I went out for an easy four miles as part of a mini taper and 9:45s were kicking my ass. So it's hard to predict how I am going to feel on race day!

Course map for tomorrow. Let's get loopy!
The weather looks a bit warm, 68 when the race starts and around 76 when I'll finish. It should be overcast though, so that will help. Not the ideal temperature, but nothing too tragic either. It can be a lot worse in the summer. If the sun does break through I'm also fairly certain a lot of the course has shade, so that shouldn't be an issue. The course itself is two loops, the first loop being a 10k, and then the second loop being that same loop plus an extended out and back to hit our mileage.  It's also pretty dang flat. So overall, while my legs aren't super fresh and the temperature is a bit warm, it should be a pretty quick race for me assuming I can find a groove.

Overall, I'm not going to do the usual A, B, and C goals, as this isn't a "target" race, more of just a "check up." I will tell you that I hope to beat my Corvallis time. Now, that race went amazing... one of those runs where everything clicked and you are certain you performed to the best of your abilities. I'm not sure how this one will go, so we'll see. I'm not going to be disappointed if I don't beat Corvallis as long as I give it my best try. However, it would be pretty sweet to beat that time given how well that race went! I'll need to go sub 8:30 to do that, so I'll probably target 8:20s and hope I can hold on.

Saturday, June 09, 2018

BREAKING THE CENTURY MARK

Coming into the finish line with other volunteers after sweeping the course (and the reason I had to run on a Friday night).
Well, at 108 miles, May was my first month above 100 miles since way back in September of 2015 right before my back to back marathons. It's been a long road back, but it feels good! My training for the Marine Corp Marathon is going well, I've now completed the first four weeks with perfect marks. I've hit every run as scheduled and my body feels great.

I've found the schedule really helpful. I've always done well following a plan... I feel a commitment to it and the excuses my brain likes to generate seem to calm down. I know if I skip a run on a Tuesday I'll have to make it up on a Wednesday, so I just tend to go out and do it on Tuesday. I'm going to get my runs in barring injury or something like that, which wasn't always the case earlier in the year. It was really easy to intend to run four days a week and slip to three. Not anymore though!

Twice now I've ran my long after work on Friday because my Saturday morning was busy and would conflict with my normal long run. That just goes to show you that I am not making any excuses, these runs are going to happen one way or another. Sure, I just got done with a long week of work and it's the last thing I want to do, but dammit, I'll get my 14 miles in. I watched the bright, sunny day turn into dusk and it was actually kind of pleasant to be honest. Now, every week doing this would suck, but as a one off it was completely doable.

Slow and steady build toward marathon competency.
Another fun thing about my long runs recently is that I am back into "new longest run" territory. Since I kind of had to hit the reset button with the whole arthritis thing, I am getting a feeling of accomplishment as I slowly build my mileage back up. Today I ran 15 miles and it was the furthest I had ran in almost three years. So that was cool! While previously it might have just felt like another run in the beginning of a marathon training slog, this time around each of these runs has a little extra meaning to it.

Anyways, just wanted to give an update. Training has been going well, I'm in a groove and hitting my runs. I've even thrown in a few speed workouts and hill runs to keep things interesting. All in all it's very encouraging. Hopefully I can keep the sunny outlook as we enter the critical summer training months. These longest of long runs in the heat are exhausting enough to challenge the mettle of just about anyone, but I've done it before and I can do it again.

Monday, May 21, 2018

TWENTY EIGHT

The first week of Marine Corp Marathon training is in the books! Nothing too exciting about it, I've done similar weeks in the previous two months preparing for training to start, but it feels good to check a successful week of training off the plan. 1 down, 23 to go! Ha!

I plan to run four days a week, like I have done every marathon training cycle. The first three days went as planned; Monday at PRC and Tuesday and Thursday at Sunstone. At PRC I can adjust my runs anywhere from 3-7 miles, and at Sunstone I can go anywhere from 4-7 depending on whether or not I run there from my house. I'll be able to ramp them up and down as needed, so that will be great.

The challenge this week was the weekend long run. The Timbers had a game at noon on Saturday and I wanted to get there when the gates opened (10:30am) to secure good seats. Well, that meant I couldn't run with any of the weekend groups. I was planning to run my first week with the Portland Marathon Clinic, but that will have to wait. I went through all the options in my head, wake up at 7am Saturday and run from home, run after the game, run Sunday morning before going golfing at noon, run after golf, etc. None of these options sounded good.

Most miles in a week since pre-arthritis.
So what did I end up doing? Running 12 miles after work on Friday! It kind of sucked, when I headed out I couldn't quite believe I was doing it, but I just tried not to think about it and stay ignorant. That pretty much worked. Getting the run over with and allowing my weekend to continue without trying to jam in a run somewhere was a big motivator. Once I was done it felt so good to have it out of the way! I could go about my weekend and sleep in without it looming over me.

Another victory was running 4 out of 5 days, including 6 on Thursday and 12 on Friday. I don't remember the last time I ran the day before a long run. Usually I give myself a rest day to make sure my legs are fresh. Despite being a bit concerned about that, I went out for the run on Friday anyways and I'm happy to report my legs felt great! Most of my long runs have been 10 miles, so it was good that 12 felt okay even on legs that had ran 6 the day before. Wasn't limping around or unreasonably sore or anything. Encouraging!

Anyways, I'll stop the boring rambling now.

TL;DR: Week one of marathon training went well.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

THAT TIME AGAIN - MCM TRAINING PLAN

The training plan. Click to enlarge!
Before I get into the training plan, let's do a little update on my running and how my psoriatic arthritis is doing. I feel like I've kind of stopped updating on that very often because, honestly, it has become a non-factor. The leflunomide seems to be working amazingly to keep that at bay. I feel like I did back in the day! Now, I still have to see how my joints will react to marathon training and a marathon, but for now, it's not holding me back in the least. I think the question of whether or not I could run a half marathon and retain that shape has been answered. Amazing to think back to just over a year ago when I was hobbling around and just starting treatment and running 2:39 half marathons.

I started doing some math in my head and it turned out the latest I would want to start training for the Marine Corp Marathon this fall is early June. I decided to whip up a plan and it ended up starting in two weeks. Yikes! I'll be doing the weekend long runs with the Portland Marathon Clinic, which means they target an early October marathon (despite there being no Portland Marathon this year). So I'll actually be ramping up the mileage about a month earlier than necessary, however, I'm just looking at it like giving my legs more time to adapt to the higher mileage. I should be more than prepared come late October!

As you can see, my plan is very simple. This is akin to my first marathon training plan, when my goal was two "easy" runs and one "fast" run a week in addition to my long run. For now, I have everything as an "easy" run, but will try to throw in a speed run every so often, they just won't be planned. Again, I am not focusing on speed at all this cycle, just getting back to marathon base mileage. Last night I did one of these random tempos with Sunstone... I thought I'd go easy but I started running up front and ending up doing 5 hilly miles at 8:09 pace. Oops.

Compared to my first training plan, this one actually lines up pretty well. I started that about 5.5 months before the marathon back then, and I'll be starting this one 5.5 months before the MCM. I'm actually ramping up the long run distance slower and more gradually this time, in line with my goals. So I think it will end up working really well. The best I ever felt during a marathon was that first time, so hopefully I can get that magic going again. I also planned a couple races to mix things up and keep it interesting... I haven't signed up for these yet, but I'll likely end up doing them.

The biggest challenge, in addition to the four 20 milers (ugh!) will be those runs after the Portland Marathon Clinic shuts down for the training cycle. I'll be on my own for the month of October and that final 20 miler! I can manage that for a couple weeks though. If I end up having to do that 20 miler on my own, I will probably break out my "spider/spoke" method of route design. I actually did my first 20 miler on my own, so it can be done!

Overall, this training cycle will be a little more relaxed than previous marathon cycles. I'm not going to stress out if I have to drop a weekday run for extra rest or don't hit a speed run for a couple weeks. The goal is to just get across the finish line of the Marine Corp Marathon as comfortably as possible.

Tuesday, April 24, 2018

2018 CORVALLIS HALF MARATHON RACE REPORT

Starting on the field... through the start line and up the ramp to the streets!
Sorry for the delay in getting this posted, I was waiting for the photos to be posted and they took forever to come back! Anyways, onward! In the days leading up to this race I was pretty anxious and excited. I knew it would be a good test of my abilities and whether or not I was making any real progress. The conditions during Miami weren't really fair, so I was eager to see if I could beat my Holiday Half time and prove to myself that I was making progress, even if it didn't feel like it at times.

PRE-RACE PREP

Early on in the race.
As I noted in the preview, the race didn't start until 9:30. Thank goodness! I still had to wake up at 7 and boogie out of my house at 7:30, but honestly that's not bad at all. Once summer hits and races locally are starting at 8 at the latest, that is the case even if it is right down the street. I stopped at the grocery store real quick to get an energy drink and a donut, the race breakfast of champions! The goal was not to be a spouting fountain of urine like coffee can do, so I figured a more compact drink would be a good choice. I've had this combo before and it usually works out well.

I made good time to Corvallis and rolled in there about 8:45. On my way there, the further south I got, the harder the rain was. I was definitely driving into the storm. The forecast showed a good chance of precipitation, however, it can be hard to tell what exactly that is going to look like. Sometimes the forecast for off and on sprinkles and steady rain can look the same. 70% chance of what? Anyways, the closer I got to Corvallis, the harder the rain was and the darker the clouds were. I was mentally prepared to run in the rain though, so that wasn't going to stop me. As soon as the race started I knew I wouldn't really care about it.

After parking at Reser Stadium, where the race would start, I wandered toward packet pickup, umbrella in hand. That process was pretty smooth and then almost immediately I had the urge to "go" - which was awesome! Usually I don't have any issues during the race even though my body rarely cooperates like that, but it was still a nice mental relief to have that done and not have to worry about it. While other runners were huddling for shelter under the stands at Reser I went back to my car and chilled until 9:20, at which time I wandered to the start line.

FANTASTIC FIRST FIVE (8:16, 8:14, 8:16, 8:18, 8:30)

Sufficiently wet.
The race started on the field at Reser Stadium, which was cool. Again, I would have much rather finished there, but this worked too. The OSU Marching Band was there to play some tunes to get us pumped up, including the OSU Fight Song. Excellent. Anyways, after the national anthem, the race was about to begin. My friend Glenn found me in the chute and we exchanged wishes of good luck. I lined up halfway between the 8 minute and 9 minute sign, reflecting my desired pace.

Once the race started we had to run immediately up a small ramp out of the stadium and onto the adjoining street. Not an issue on fresh legs! After that ramp the race was given full right of way on the roads so there was plenty of room to stretch my legs. Crowding was not an issue at all. I settled into what I thought was the appropriate half marathon pace. Upon checking my watch, I would find my pace being somewhere between 8:05 and 8:10. I couldn't believe it - it felt so easy! I purposely tried to slow myself down, knowing that wouldn't be sustainable. While I still ran it too fast, it was a good sign it felt so easy. If you start a half marathon and the pace feels hard at the beginning... you are in for a world of hurt.

The first four and a half miles are pretty dang flat. A couple minor bumps but nothing major. I was able to get into a nice rhythm. I knew the pace I was running probably wasn't sustainable, I didn't have visions of averaging 8:20, but I knew it wasn't tragically fast. Again, in a half marathon you can get away with running a little too fast in the beginning. Marathon, no way, but in this race, I knew even if my pace fell to 9:00 toward the end, I would have built up enough of a cushion to still hit my goal. There was a decent, but brief, hill around mile 4.5 which is why that mile was a little slower. Rain at this point was moderate and I was definitely wet.

MIDDLING MIDDLE MILES (8:57, 7:56, 8:22, 8:31, 8:43)

This bridge is actually around mile 11.
Alright, now was the time for the real test, the big hill! Honestly, it wasn't bad at all. It was pretty gradual, even more so than the Shamrock Run, so I just kept a consistent effort and plugged my way up it. You could definitely see the road rising in the distance but it wasn't a hill that totally pooped you out. Toward the end of the hill mile (it basically ended right at the mile six marker) I looked at my watch and noticed I was right on a 9:00/mile pace. I pressed a bit to get it below 9. Now, if I could hold on the rest of the way under 9, I would have another feather in my cap, as during the Holiday Half my final few were above that mark.

After the uphill mile was a completely downhill mile. Basically the same thing I did just in reverse. I didn't look at my watch once during this mile and just let my body dictate the pace. I knew if I got too focused on a certain time and pushed myself I could blow out my legs. So steady as she goes, even effort. It was the perfect kind of downhill, gradual, so it gave you extra speed but didn't hit your knees too hard. I was very pleased when my watch beeped and I saw I went below 8. Excellent! The question now would be what my legs felt like after going up and down that hill. When would the race start catching up with me?

As you can see, I nearly resumed my previous pace once things flattened back out. However, I definitely could feel the miles accumulating and my legs tiring a bit. The next couple of miles included some minor uphills, and that coupled with the building fatigue led to the 8:31 and 8:43. Still pretty good though! 8:43 was still below my "A" goal pace! During this time a man was pacing right behind me, I could hear him breathing pretty well. After about a mile he says "sorry, I'm not stalking you, you are just running the perfect pace," haha. Eventually he ran past me. Rain at this point was steady and hard. Totally soaked, head to toe.

ENDURING ENDING EXHAUSTION (8:40, 8:47, 8:51)

Must... finish... strong...
Okay, these alliterations are really becoming a stretch. I was definitely tired at this point. The minor, rolling ups and downs of the Bald Peak Natural Area seemed to take the final bounce out of my legs. It made sense. Thirteen miles right now is my limit. During most of my training I ran ten on the weekends, and threw in a twelve here and there. This is not like when I run a half during marathon training and thirteen is no big deal! So, despite my legs tiring, I was determined to finish strong. These final three miles were very gently downhill, I never really noticed it, so I made a goal of finishing them all under 9:00 mile.

My body was screaming at me to walk, but I ignored it. I've been through much worse and kept running. Just keep chugging Thomas. The rain at some point had LET LOOSE. It was seriously like a tropical thunderstorm, only there was no lightning and it was 45 degrees. You could see the rain hitting the ground and bouncing back into the air. The sound of the rain was almost deafening. It was crazy. Definitely the worst weather I have raced in. But you know what? It was fucking fun! I was already a drowned rat, so bring it on! Made you feel alive, running in that weather, and it was definitely memorable!

Overall, these miles were a slog but doable. My cardio felt great, that wasn't holding me back at all, it was all the conditioning in my legs. Again, thirteen miles is a stretch, but it was doable. I had to watch check a little in that last mile to make sure it was below nine, but otherwise I just kept my head down and ground it out. Unlike five years ago, where you were a couple blocks from the finish line but they routed you around to add an extra mile, this year the finish was pretty direct. You saw it and you ran toward it, right oustide Gill Coliseum next to Reser Stadium. I finished that final tenth of a mile at an 8:06 pace, so my legs weren't completely dead. A couple pumps of the fist and I was through the finish line. 1:51:30 on my watch! Holy hell! I blew it out of the water!

AFTERWARD ACTIVITIES

Steps from the finish and a PAPR!
Even though I drank at every aid station along the way, I chugged a bottle of water as soon as I finished. I was thirsty! I also wandered around and ate a couple chunks of a bagel. I was going to wait for my friend Glenn to finish, but I was so wet and it was pretty cold... I knew within a few minutes my core temperature would begin to drop drastically. No beer garden for me this year, and I'm going to bet they had a lot leftover!

I hurried toward the car and along the way I definitely started to get cold. It was still pouring. In a brilliant flash of foresight, I didn't bring a change of clothes or even a towel. So once I got to the car I just blasted the heat as high it would go. It would have to do. I texted Glenn to say I was sorry I couldn't wait for him, then headed out of town. Along the way I stopped at Dairy Queen and got a Bacon Cheeseburger. Yum!

The drive home was pretty uneventful. NPR and the heat so hot the LCD panel on my dashboard started to freak out. Good times. I was home shortly after 1:00pm and all told my legs felt pretty good. Definitely worn, but I was able to go up and down stairs without too much complaint. Took a long bath and then had a lazy Sunday before going to a birthday celebration for my aunt. More guilt-free food was consumed there. In the days after the race my legs were somewhat sore but nothing out of the usual. I am getting faster despite not focusing on speed and my legs are feeling back to normal - very encouraging! A very enjoyable and memorable race, despite the weather, and it felt good to finish cap the training cycle by smashing my goal.

Official Chip Time: 1:51:27, 8:31/mile. 206/958 overall, 147/458 male, 24/56 M30-34.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018

2018 CORVALLIS HALF MARATHON RACE PREVIEW


I can't believe it has been FIVE years since I last ran this race! Crazy. In 2013 I had a great race and ended up with my first sub 1:40! Looking back, it was actually my second ever half marathon. So much has happened since then! Anyways, I'm looking forward to going back. I had been meaning to do this race just about every year since and even signed up once but had to give my entry away to Alejandro. Finally, I'll be back in Corvegas and ready to rumble!

Thankfully the half marathon doesn't start until 9:30am. You hear that all other races? Quite the reasonable hour! Unfortunately, since Corvallis is nearly 90 minutes away, I'll probably be leaving around 7:30am or so. Still, could be a lot worse. The weather for race day isn't looking so great. Right now it is predicting showers and mid-40s for temperature. I'm sure it will be fine once we get going, but waiting around in that and the first mile or two might suck. Saturday is supposed to be dry and low 50s. That would have been perfect. There is still time for the weather to shift, but even if the forecast stays the same it shouldn't be too terrible.

When I looked up the course for this year I thought "Wow, it's almost exactly the same as five years ago!" until I realized we are actually running the course backwards from when I first ran it. So that will be interesting. The good news is that the finishing three miles now are generally downhill. Not much, 110 feet down over three miles, but hopefully enough to make a difference. Otherwise, the major climb remains in about the same place, halfway through the course, just going the other way. 140 feet over 1.2 miles. Not too terrible, much better than Shamrock, that's for sure. There's another hill of 100 feet over 1.5 miles, but not too much later after that. Hills of any significance are done after mile 9.

One of the major differences is that the race will START in Reser Stadium instead of end inside of it. It ends on the road right outside. That's kind of a bummer. It was fun to run down the ramp into the stadium and cross the finish at the 50 yard line. I'll miss that for sure. Don't know why they couldn't run us back into the stadium to finish. We're right there! And obviously accessing the stadium isn't an issue if we are starting there. Whatever. It'll be fun to be back either way.

As for my goals.. I am still not entirely sure what I am capable of. I know what a half pace should feel like, I just have no idea what pace that will be come race day. I did just do a tempo run last week and ended up at 8:36 over three miles. I'm pretty sure I can't maintain that pace over ten additional miles. The question is, how much slower do I have to go? Back in the day my half pace was usually just a hair higher than my average tempo run, so I'm right in that Holiday Half territory I believe.

"A" Goal: A new PAPR (post-arthritis PR)! This would be 1:56:33, or 8:53/mile or less. On a good day, I know this is possible. This would be pretty sweet and encouraging. My focus since this race has been building miles, not getting faster, but still, I feel like I should be faster after five months!

"B" Goal: 1:59:59 or less. Gotta be in "ONE"derland. This is 9:09/mile or less. I'm going to be pretty disappointed if my time starts with a 2. I was really feeling it during the Holiday Half and maybe Corvallis won't be my day, but dammit, I need sub 2.

"C" Goal: 2:06:17 or less. This is 9:39/mile. If I can't beat my Miami time from January then I quit running.

Monday, April 02, 2018

TWENTY SEVEN

Weekly mileage since December 2016.
That is the number of miles I ran this week. It was my first week over 20 in five weeks. Now, if I were coaching someone, I would absolutely not tell anyone to go from the high teens to 27 in one week. However, I've been running for over six years so I am pretty sure I can get away with it. Nothing these old legs haven't seen before. I really wanted to start running four days a week and the weather cooperated so getting out there wasn't too hard. I even ran 12 miles on Saturday to get ready for the Corvallis Half Marathon in two weeks. I'll taper next week and then look to get back to sub 2 halves in my long awaited return to that race.

One major thing I wanted to test this week was running on sore legs. I've been avoiding that due to my association of it with my arthritis flaring. However, now that my arthritis is being treated and near remission, I needed to test it out again. When I am marathon training I'll be running on sore legs many times. So last Tuesday I ran with Sunstone on tired legs after 10 and 5 the Saturday and Monday before. I'm happy to report my legs responded like they used to; well, before the arthritis that is. After a mile or two they warmed up and the run felt pretty great. It was even a killer hill route. The next day they even felt pretty good; mostly I could just feel soreness going up stairs.

My next test was playing soccer the day after my 12 mile run on Saturday. Soccer has long been a nemesis for my knees. I haven't been able to play it appropriately since before the arthritis crept in years ago. Even when my knees were feeling okay, when I went to play soccer, I was reminded that they weren't normal. Even when I could run just fine, soccer was a whole different level. Well, I'm VERY happy to report that soccer felt normal. I could kick the shit out of the ball with ZERO complaints. It felt good to go out there and seemingly have no restrictions... another step forward!

Anyways, between this and the weather finally starting to turn (as long as I don't look at the current 10 day) I'm feeling pretty positive. I ran the most miles in a week since my arthritis flared up, played soccer without issue, ran the Shamrock way faster than I thought I could... everything is going pretty well! A far cry from hobbled and broken Thomas in late 2016. Hopefully I can continue feeling better and strong the year progresses and I eventually start training for the marathon.

Wednesday, March 28, 2018

I'M IN!

Marine Corp Marathon course map. Click to embiggen.
Alright, I finally have a target marathon this fall! After a couple of failed attempts to get into Chicago and New York, I have secured a spot in the 2018 Marine Corp Marathon (MCM)! So late this October I'll be packing my bags and flying to Washington DC to make my marathon comeback - three years in the making. I'm actually pretty excited! I feel comfortable enough with my progress that running a marathon definitely seems like an attainable goal at this point.

As I've mentioned, the MCM has implemented a lottery system. It used to be the first 30,000 to sign up got in, but after it became so popular and the spots were gone within hours of registration opening, they implemented this lottery system. The odds are fairly good, certainly much better than New York or Chicago. However, I didn't have to enter the lottery. Why? Well, I knew the lottery was open from 3/21 to 3/28. I had checked every few weeks just to assure myself. Well, a few days before the lottery opened I checked to make sure once again. And upon this visit of the website a new option appeared... "rush registration." Apparently the first 11,000 people to sign up the morning of 3/21 would automatically get in!

I guess they snuck this option on the website about a week or so before it opened up. They expected it to sell out within 25 minutes and from what I can tell that's exactly what happened. It opened up at 6am Pacific on 3/21, and if you know me, I'm not a morning person. So what did I do? I enlisted a generous East Coast friend (thanks Jon!) to sign up for me. So I woke up at 8:30am with a spot secured. That was easy! I'm in! No need for a lottery or anything. My friend ran the 17.75k over there a few weeks ago to secure his spot, so I'll actually have a friend at the race to run it with. Wohoo!

Now that the mystery of where is solved, I can start focusing on my training. I probably don't have to start ramping up my training until the beginning of June... that would give me five months to get ready. More than enough time for someone like me who is in half marathon shape. So until that point, I'm just going to keep staying in half shape and try to generally increase my mileage. Instead of 4-5-3-10 weeks, I need to try and establish 5-7-4-13 type weeks. My body is currently used to around 15-20 miles a week (mostly because I've only been going out 3 times a week). So I hope to get out there 4 times a week and gradually move the needle toward the mid twenties in terms of mileage. That will be a good leaping off point into marathon training.

So that's the update! I think I'll really like this race... lots of other runners and lots of sights to be seen along the way. One thing I really need to do is try and adjust my sleep schedule before this race. I cannot go out there with my body used to sleep at 3am Eastern. Really need to dedicate myself to that this time.

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

2018 SHAMROCK RUN 15K RACE REPORT

Lining up, taken through Ziploc bag. This wasn't actually our start line, we had to walk forward and do a 180... ours is the
one you see in the distance to the left of us, so we started by running toward the camera here.
There is nothing like the home bed/timezone/climate advantage. What a stark difference from the Miami Half Marathon this race ended up being! This was one of those rare races where everything fell into place, felt easier than it should have been, and blew my expectations out of the water. With Daylight Saving Time now in full effect and better weather hopefully on the way, I'm feeling much better about this whole running thing now.

Thankfully the 15k didn't start until 8:55am this year, so I didn't have to wake up too early. I got a decent amount of sleep, probably seven hours, and then headed downtown at 8:00am. I was thinking about taking the MAX like usual, however, now that they've rearranged the courses to only use Naito downtown, it really opened up a ton of parking garages. No more getting stuck for hours like what happened to Katie and I back in 2016! So downtown it was, parking at a garage about eight blocks away from the start line and getting there with plenty of time to spare. Easy peasy!

Sporting my now traditional Shamrock outfit.
I felt really calm before this race. Time wise I know I am slower than I used to be, so I don't feel a huge pressure there, and distance wise I knew I could handle the 9.32 miles. Hell, I wasn't even too worried about the hills. I've done them before and I could do them again. The only thing I was slightly worried about what the amount of coffee I had before the run... probably a good pint or so. Was I in for pee city? The last time I drank so much coffee before a race was the Half Boring Half, and I smashed my expectations there but I had to pee a lot. So I was just hoping my bladder would hold out (it did).

Getting in the chute was much easier than previous years. I had no problem finding a gap in the fencing and everyone in there seemed to be more spread out so it was easy to move to the appropriate pacing. I worked my way forward until I was behind the 9-10 minute sign, which might have been a little slow, but I didn't want to get roped into running faster than I should have. The weather this year was great... sun breaks, little wind, and mid-40s. Perfect racing weather really. I decided to ditch my gloves and beanie in the car and was glad I did, as I was perfectly comfortable without them.

UPHILL ADVENTURES (8:20, 8:43, 8:39, 9:30)

Just moments after starting!
As I detailed in the preview, the Shamrock 15k course is now run backwards in regards to its historical direction. So instead of flying to the finish on the gentle, constant downhill of Barbur, you start by running up it. I tried not to look at my watch and just went by feel. I'm a grizzled vet by now, so I know what a 15k pace should feel like. I was surprised as all get out when my first mile came in at 8:20. I ended up having to weave around some people too based on my starting position, so overall I was feeling good and doing well.

However, I knew it was a long race so I just kept going by feel and only occasionally looked at my watch. The beginning part of that first mile was flat and the race adrenaline was pumping so I had to make sure I didn't go crazy. What I didn't anticipate was how good those uphills were going to feel. I was worried about doing them under 10:00/mile, and it turns out that was no issue. They are gentle uphills for the first three miles, so if you have any sort of hill shape and adjust your pace accordingly, you can zip up them pretty easily. Honestly, they didn't feel that hard. I've done Bald Peak and Zena enough times to know these hills are in the minor leagues.

So when 8:43 and 8:39 miles beeped on my watch, I was pretty excited. If I was able to do the uphills at a pace faster than my overall goal pace it meant I had a chance to really smash my expectations. However, I knew there would be a sharp uphill at some point because I remember running down it in previous years. And sure enough, there it was, looming before us. I knew it would be short though and it was the finale of the uphill, so get up it and you're pretty much done.

That 9:30 mile included a good amount of time at 10:45 huffing and puffing up a steep incline. My body was screaming to walk but I was still easily passing all the people walking. I'll walk if a brisk walk isn't much faster than a jog, which definitely happens on some uphills and can actually be smart in terms of saving yourself for later in the race. However, I just kept my even energy output, chugged up, and got it over with. My hill training really came in handy, because not only was I able to scale it without too much issue, I was also able to recover pretty quickly and move on with the race.


DOWNHILL(ISH) TO THE FINISH (7:53, 7:56, 8:02, 8:08, 7:43)

Chugga chugga choo choo!
Finally, my reward... downhill miles! The bagpipers were at the top at the Chart House again, so that was a welcome auditory signal that the elevation had been conquered. The downhill direction on Terwillager isn't quite as good with this course arrangement, as it's a little steeper and has breaks of flat and even slightly uphill. My main concern was that my legs would be trashed from the uphill, but I was pleasantly surprised at how they reacted to the downhill. I felt strong! I was hoping to hit these under 8:00/mile and that's exactly what I did. My breathing was comfortable and all told I really felt good.

There were two miles of pretty much nothing but downhill and those clocked in at 7:53 and 7:56. The 8:02 mile include about a half mile of downhill, a flat portion, and a quarter mile of uphill. At the Duniway track they now route you back onto Barbur for a long out and back to get the mileage in. About halfway into this out and back you hook into Barbur where you came from downtown, so you're retracing your steps a little. At one point there were three lanes of traffic, halfers heading up, 15kers headed up again, and 15kers going down to the finish. It was pretty creative of them! When the 15k finally turned downtown toward the finish you were in the middle of the three lanes smugly looking at all the idiots running uphill on either side of you.

Not quite as excited as the other guy.
Luckily, on this smaller uphill portion, I still felt spunky and was able to resume my same uphill pace as before. The 8:08 mile ended up being about half up and half down. Once the out and back was over, it was all downhill on Barbur to Naito for that classic Shamrock finish. I started to fly (at least for me now). 7:43 mile nine (included beer "aid station" stop) and 7:21 pace for that final third of a mile. By this time I had assumed I'd get a sub 1:20 but I never paged over on my watch to see my overall pace or time. I wanted it to be a surprise. Rolling into the finish, I finally switched over and was blown away with what I saw. 1:16 and sub 8:20? No way!

FINISH LINE AND AFTER PARTY

I felt great at the finish line. Exhausted, yes, but my body and legs felt good. Worn, but good. My energy level between this and Miami was like night and day. The first thing I wanted to get, after my medal, was a water. The only fluids I had on the run was that 3oz cup of beer a mile from the finish line (a YOLO last second decision which I don't regret). There were plenty of aid stations, but honestly, when it is the mid-40s out, you don't need fluids for a 15k. Hell, even a half you're probably fine. However, once I found the water I sucked a bottle down because I was definitely thirsty.

Another Shamrock 15k complete!
I then wandered toward the beer garden, at least, wandered toward where I thought the beer garden should be. I was a little confused at the lack of people and it wasn't until I hit the Saturday Market that I realized I went the wrong way. So another eight blocks or so to retrace my steps and I finally found it. Bastards put it on the other side of the festival this year. Anyways, no Brandon this year, so I was able to partake in the post-game festivities. I couldn't enjoy it too much though, as I did promise Brandon I'd go to his soccer game and I had to leave pretty quickly in order to make the kickoff. So I drank my beer, ate my soup from Bob's Red Mill (delicious!) and then headed off.

Getting out of the parking garage was a breeze. Definitely an upgrade over the MAX. Same price, $5, and way quicker and more convenient. As long as they keep these same routes, I think that will be the plan in the future. Overall, I felt great. I absolutely shattered my expectations and ran faster than I thought possible. While it was technically a PW, it wasn't too far off from not being a PW. Certainly gave me a bump of confidence after struggling through the winter feeling like I hadn't made much progress!

Official Results: 1:16:44, 8:13/mile. 582/3516 overall, 450/1626 male, 93/257 M30-34.

Friday, March 16, 2018

2018 SHAMROCK RUN 15K RACE PREVIEW

New route as of last year.
Well, this Sunday the Shamrock Run is upon me once more. I've ran this race ever year since I started running, dating back to 2012. So this will be my SEVENTH year running this thing. Crazy to think about; it doesn't feel like it's been that long since I started running. It will also be my fifth time running the 15k. I will never run the half marathon, I detailed why in this blog post, so barring injury or feeling the need to mix things up, I hope to be in the 15k yearly for many years to come.

Last year I had just been diagnosed with psoriatic arthritis and was only two weeks into treatment. I ran the 8k with Brandon and was actually able to finish it at 10:20/mile without stopping. It was a pretty good accomplishment at the time! This year, however, it is back to the 15k and a chance to set my PW. How bad will it get? We'll just have to wait and see! I'll be able to finish it, no problem. Obviously I did the Miami Half not too long ago and I've been keeping up the weekday and weekend runs. This last weekend I did 10 miles at 9:15/mile pace and felt pretty strong.

Some things have changed since the last time I ran the Shamrock Run 15k. They are still doing the modified courses they instituted last year due to the police staffing shortage. I really liked the previous route, not only did it mostly stick to the course of the historical Cascade Run Off, it broke the run into easy thirds. The first three miles were flat, the middle three were uphill, and the final three were downhill. With the changed course, you are basically running in the opposite direction. Instead of going up Terwillager and down Barbur, you run up Barbur and go down Terwillager. However, the course doesn't quite break down into easy thirds like before. The first three are uphill, the next three are generally downhill, and the final three are generally flat,but there is some variation in those final six.

I don't feel like I've gotten much faster since last fall. Honestly, I can't complain about it that much, I am not doing any targeted speedwork on purpose. I'm just trying to get my mileage up and see if I am able to build to a marathon again. If I can, then maybe next year I can think about getting faster. However, the meantime, I am kind of stuck where I am. So I have to set my expectations accordingly. I think the Holiday Half was my current "peak" of fitness, I don't believe I am any faster, so I can kind of set my "A" goals by extrapolating from that.

This race is shorter than the Holiday Half by four miles but is also much hillier. The first three miles uphill are going to be killer. Which is kind of why I am thinking a pace right around the Holiday Half pace is a good target to go for. I am hoping I can do the uphill around 10:00/mile for those three miles. If I can do that, then the rest of the race I need to average 8:20/mile to get my overall pace at 8:50/mile, which is around the Holiday Half pace. Hopefully I can go below 8:00 on the downhill parts and then manage 8:40 or so on the flat stuff. We'll see.

Anyways, I'm just going to try my best and whatever it ends up being, I'll be happy with that. Still just glad I am out there running pain free.

GOALS:

"A" GOAL: 1:22:48 or quicker. This is 8:53/mile, which is my Holiday Half pace. Everything seemed to go right that day, so if I am able to match that pace on this hilly course, then I will consider it a victory.

"B" GOAL: Under 1:25. This is 9:07/mile or quicker. I really think I should be able to at least get this time. I just ran 10 miles at 9:15 pace for training. I should be able to get 9:07 in a race, even if it is kind of hilly. Assuming my legs feel decent, this should be an achievable result.

"C" GOAL: Under 1:30. 9:39/mile or quicker. I can only see this coming into play if I absolutely kill myself on the hills and then bonk out. I want something starting with a 1:2X. Anything less is a failure.

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

CAN I WIN THE LOTTERY TOMORROW?

My final Portland Marathon finish in 2015.
SPOILER: I didn't win. Next try, MCM on March 21st.

Tomorrow I find out if I won an entry into the New York City Marathon. I have no expectation of actually getting in as the odds are less than 20% (16.5% last year) and pretty much nobody gets in their first time, but hey, I'm giving it a shot! Assuming that doesn't go through, my next attempt will be to sign up for the Marine Corp Marathon. That is also a lottery system, however, the odds there are much higher (85% in 2016 according to this article).

Should I be unable to get into the MCM then I'll probably settle on something local. Maybe the Seattle Marathon? I'd have to wait until the Oregon State football schedule is released though, as it is the Sunday of the Civil War football game and the Beavers are at home. Actually, that pretty much rules it out to be honest! Maybe the Columbia Gorge Marathon? I've avoided that one due to the proximity date-wise to the Portland Marathon and the hills, but I'm going to be slow anyway and won't be trying for speed, so maybe I should just go for it. We'll see. First things first... New York and the MCM.

Speaking of the Portland Marathon, it looks like the shitshow will continue one more year. I wasn't aware they were seriously considering replacing it for 2018, but this article goes into the drama of what is going on. Sounds like this year will be Les' last hurrah. I'm sure it will be even more poorly attended than last year. It's a shame it was mismanaged and rat-fucked into the ground. I really liked it the three years I ran it. It wasn't perfect, but it was a good race. However, it looks like some shady shit was going on behind the scenes so it's death is actually welcome.

Hopefully in 2019 they will go through with a new event. Sounds like the city wants to work with someone new and put on a great event. Maybe even get a really good course that shows the city off better. I'm sure city officials recognize the impact a good marathon can have on tourism, so let's hope some other group can deliver that for the city. Assuming I am still mobile and want to run a marathon next year, I would LOVE to sign up for the inaugural 2019 event by the new organizers.

As for the running, I'm plugging along. Hate the cold weather. Can't wait for spring. Motivating yourself to run when it is dark and 42 out versus light and 60 is a completely different ballgame! The Shamrock Run 15k is coming up soon... that'll be my next race. Legs still feel pretty decent. Not 100% like at the peak of methotrexate, but more than good enough to stay in half marathon-ish shape.

Thursday, February 15, 2018

FEBRUARY UPDATE

Last 6 weeks of training (Miami was 1/28)
Oh, hi there! Still running at least three times a week and going to try to hit four more often. I'll need to be running four if I really want to give a marathon this fall my best shot. Better to get in the habit of that now while mileage is still low. However, listening to my body is still top priority. I was able to run four a days last week. I am attempting to do that again this week, but had to rearrange my plans tonight. I was going to run with Sunstone but I was feeling run down and sore. I'm going to try to run tomorrow instead and then still do a long run on the weekend. If I still don't feel great tomorrow I'll scrap it and do just the long run since I already have two weekday runs in.

I'm still struggling with knowing when to push myself and when to lay off the gas. Back when I was really running hard and doing well I would run on sore legs all the time. After a few miles, most the time, you'd warm up and be able to run through it just fine. However, when the psoriatic arthritis started hitting, one of the symptoms I got, along with the knee inflammation, was really bad muscle soreness. It felt like someone had taken a baseball bat to my legs at times. So I'm worried to run on sore legs now, afraid it's going to result in some sort of flare and sideline me for a while.

However, I think I need to test it out sooner rather than later. If I'm really going to run a marathon this fall and a four day week has me sidelined... then I have major issues. So I think I just need to go for it and see what happens! The four days last week was no issue! So it could be as simple as my conditioning and still trying to build that mileage. Improvement does not come without discomfort in running, so I'll try to balance that with the need to be diligent about my knees.

Otherwise, I'm still running along and have felt pretty good all told. Looking forward to daylight saving time here in a few weeks, that will put the weekday runs in daylight again, which should be a plus in the motivation department. Hard to be motivated to run in the dark sometimes, but I've bitched about that enough.

Friday, February 02, 2018

2018 MIAMI HALF MARATHON RACE REPORT

Oh hai there! Do I look tired? I have no idea why! It's only 5:30am Eastern Time. Jolly ho, onward with this jaunt!
First of all, fair readers, I have to apologize for my lack of posting. I was going to do a preview for this race but didn't get around to it. Not sure I'd have much to say anyways, I was hesitant to set any goals since traveling to Florida is always a wild card. Between weather, sleep, digestive uncertainty, and now arthritis, it's hard to really gauge anything.

I will say I was trying to shoot for under two hours. I did a 1:56 at the Holiday Half but I didn't necessarily feel any faster. If anything I felt slower... I had a lot of mojo going into that race and then the time between that and Miami was a slog to stay motivated. However, I felt like I was about in the same shape, so maybe I could do something similar. As you'll see, that was a pipe dream!

Anyways, I had another ungodly early fight requiring a 4:30am wakeup. Twelve hours later, I was in Miami! Did some fun stuff in my free time there... went golfing, laid on the beach and got some sun, ate delicious food without giving a shit, etc. I tried to adjust to east coast time but failed miserably this year, leading to a lot of tossing and turning and only 2.5 hours of sleep before the race.

PRE-RACE PONDERING

Spoiler... I finished and looked terrible.
We woke up around 4:00am and were out the door by 4:30. Painful wake up, but I've done it before, so I know I can fight through it. We found a neat parking lot last year that was mere blocks away from the start line that we hit again this year. Pretty slick. We were at the start line by 5:10. After walking around to get some photos we split into our separate corrals and waited for the start of the race. I was in corral "E" this year, placed with other people looking to run around a 2:00 half marathon.

The weather this year was going to be the main hurdle. I watched over the week as the temperature kept creeping upward. All told it was 75 degrees with 90 humidity at the start of the race. Not good! Now, there was no direct sun, it was overcast, so that helped. There was also a pretty stiff breeze, another positive in the cooling department. It wasn't as bad as the death march my first year, but it wasn't ideal. While the weather had been unseasonably cool the last three times I was here, that wouldn't be the case this time around.

MILES 1-4: CAUSEWAY CRUISING (8:48, 8:42, 9:03, 8:54)

I paced myself at my Holiday Half pace, shooting for something around 8:50 a mile. As you can see, for the first few miles it went pretty well! I was a little concerned about how I was feeling though. The short amount of sleep was really weighing on me and the weather was not ideal. I could feel my core temperature rising and as a result, my cardio was labored for the effort. It felt harder than it should have. The Tuesday before the race I went to the gym and did a four mile "race pace" run... it was nowhere near as hard as the first four miles here!

As always though, the race was cool. Always neat to run over the causeway and see the cruise ships in the dark. The sun wouldn't rise for another couple of miles so for the moment I was doing okay. I did have a sneaking suspicion I wouldn't be able to maintain the pace, but I would cross that bridge when it came. I ran into Miami Beach feeling a lot like I did back in 2014... uncertain of what the rest of the race would hold. Comparing my feeling at mile four here with mile four of the Holiday Half... night and day!

MILES 5-8: SOUTH BEACH SUFFERING (9:07, 9:11, 9;15, 9:34)

Rolling along, looking strong (?)
While I knew I probably wouldn't be maintaining my pace, I didn't expect to slow down so quickly. I was putting forth the same effort but I just couldn't get those damn miles below 9:00. By mile 8 I had accepted my fate and walked my first aid station. To that point I was doing a slow jog or powerwalk through the stations, getting my fluids and then quickly resuming pace. This aid station however... nice leisurely stroll and a good twenty seconds to drink the water before resuming.

This section of the race was identical to last year. Instead of going through some neighborhoods like the first two years I did it, they now do an out a back a few blocks west of Ocean Drive. While I kind of liked the neighborhood change of scenery, this is also fun. Something about an out and back with runners going both ways is exciting and electric. I was on the lookout for my friend who was running a quicker race than me but I didn't see him. I think he was long gone by the time I got to this section. Overall, I had slowed down a little but nothing too drastic.

MILES 9-11: VENETIAN VENGEANCE (9:40, 9:57, 10:18)

Well, this is where any thought of finishing under two hours vaporized into thin air. The conditions were just too uncomfortable. Now, had I ran this race after a summer of training in the Oregon heat... no problem! I am running in 80, 90 degrees all the time then. Your body gets accustomed to it. But training all winter in 44 degrees and then trying to run a half in this? Just not happening. I hate excuses. I really do. However, sometimes the conditions are just not right. And I, dear reader, put forth that they were not good.

Over the Venetians.
I am now gratuitously walking through the aid stations. Nice thirty second strolls. Drink the water, throw the cup, walk ten seconds more, groan, slowly begin to shuffle. Apparently I was also mentally out of it, because I'm trying to think back about running through the tollbooths (always a milestone because you are almost back on the mainland) and I can't even remember doing that. Zero recollection. So yeah. I think I was a little checked out. My legs felt okay, my cardio was just really labored as a result of being too warm. I felt crummy. It was really hard.

MILES 12-13.1: DOWNTOWN DISTRESS (10:16, 10:35)

Alright, gotta admit, took a couple unsanctioned walking breaks toward the end of this thing. Once the two hour goal flew out the window I was lacking in real motivation. I then thought about doing it under 2:05, but really, I didn't care. I'm surprised these miles were as fast as they were to be honest. I've done long runs at this pace without walking. So what really was going on was I was running a 9:30 clip and taking teeny weeny little breaks here and there. Sue me.

I can't express how crappy I felt. These miles really sucked! I'm not going to compare them to the last few miles of last year or the last few of a marathon, but they sucked. A lot worse than the Holiday Half! I again took the pineapple. Year two... maybe I'll make that a tradition, even if I get fast again. Anyways, after some slogging along we wound our way to the finish line. It felt like a different route this year, and what do you know, it was! At some point you turned the corner and there was the finish, a half block away. Hallelujah!

Suck it Miami, I am done!
POST-RACE PURGATORY

My legs actually felt pretty good after finishing.I remember being in pretty bad shape after last year. This year I was fine. It honestly felt like after a long run. The pressing concern was my energy level and general well being. I felt like garbage. You can see it in my face in the pictures, I look like shit an and lack any color. My body was zapped of any energy. And while my legs were sore for a few days, it wasn't anything too bad. I was going up and down stairs no problem. So the story of this race really was the weather and the resulting lack of cardio.

If I had ran a slower pace to begin with I could have easily maintained a consistent pace and ran this bitch in. Hindsight is 20/20. All three of us did worse than we were expecting. Had one friend who is in 1:42 shape do 1:50. So I can't feel that bad about my race. Hell, I did a half marathon in 2:06, that's pretty fucking good. I need to keep perspective. A year ago I was more than a half hour slower. I was in the top 50% for every category. Onward.

Afterward we took some naps and then gorged ourselves at Pizza Hut. Completely worth it, every soul sucking mile.

Official Results: 2:06:18, 9:39/mile. 3657/13837 overall, 2517/7002 male, 365/873 M30-34.

Monday, January 15, 2018

SPOKES

My spider-like "spoke" route from Sunday.
Warning: Dull ramblings about long run strategies...

This weekend I ended up having to run my 12 miles by myself because I was out of town for the Sunstone run on Saturday. This long run would be exactly two weeks before the half and is one of the most important of the training cycle. It's where I would "peak" before a shorter long run next weekend in an attempt to taper a bit and go into the race fresh. Most of my long runs had been of the 10 mile variety. That is long enough to get you ready for a half (for a casual approach at least) and it is what Sunstone runs every weekend so it makes it easy. I did tack on an extra two to a Sunstone run about a month ago and I figured I should do so again just to make the 13 on race day seem a little easier.

Saturday night I began plotting my course. When you are running by yourself it is important to know where you are going to go ahead of time. That way you don't run too long or run too short and have to painfully go out for more after getting home. Anyways, there are two types of long run strategies and the pros and cons of each in my eyes:

Out and Back: Run half the distance you want to achieve, then turn around and run the exact same way back. Basically ends up looking like a giant squiggly line. The pros of this type of route are many. It is simple to execute and hard to get turned around. It works great on dedicated running paths. My favorite part is that usually halfway doesn't seem like that far. So by the time you hit, say, six miles, you still feel pretty good. Then you turn around and every step is a step closer to being done. The worst part of this run type is the repetition of scenery. If you are looking for variety as a distraction, this is not the run for you.

Loop: My favorite, but the harder to do than an out and back. Once you are beyond about seven or eight miles and want to avoid busy roads, this can get complicated. On one hand I like that, I memorize the route in my head and then have to pay attention to run it correctly. Another great feature is that you are running all new terrain the entire way. In terms of variety, you can't beat it! The downside is that there is no major milestone, like a turnaround. You can start feeling kind of desperate when you are 65% into your run and still so far from home.

Now, you can always combine the two and end up with a "Lollipop" route. There is also a strategy of combining multiple routes from a home base, whether they be loop or out and back. I've used this strategy in the past on long runs for marathon training, typically those in length of 16 miles or greater. When you are running these by yourself and have no supported aid stations, it is nice to loop around to the car and have some cold drinks and snacks before heading back out. Typically it is a good idea to have the second "trek" be shorter, so you are already more than halfway done at the pit stop. A good example of this strategy was my 21 mile run with Alejandro in 2013.

Basically, I lay this all out because I was really struggling with my route on Saturday night. Nothing sounded good and I was dreading the 12 miles alone. I was being a baby, I know! I've just gotten used to running with people on long runs. Now, I had done some out and back 10 milers by myself recently, but those were really starting to drag on. Sunday morning I woke up and decided I didn't want to do the 12 mile loop I had planned the night before. I wanted to try something new.

I came up with the idea of doing multiple two mile out and backs. That way I would always be, at most, a mile from my house. It would also be very satisfying in terms of the reward center of my brain. I was always, at greatest, a mile from some sort of an accomplishment. Either I was at the turnaround or back at my house. And only a mile, those come pretty quickly, so my spirits should remain pretty high! I also set out on distinct routes that were different from one another for variety and worked my way clockwise around the base of my house.

It ended up being pretty cool! The run did go by pretty quickly all told. It wasn't like "wow, I can't believe it's over!" but it wasn't the struggle like some runs are. My main goal was just not to make it look like a swastika and I think I was able to avoid that! Anyways, I could see the novelty of it wearing off with overuse, but I think I'll keep this idea on the back burner for another time I need some extra push to get out there. Normally, these "pit stop" runs have a singular stop, but why not five? I didn't actually stop except twice... once at mile 6 to check a sports score, and once at mile 10 to grab a quick drink. It was nice to have the option though!

Anyways, long story short, I am calling this a "Spoke" route. Copyright 2018 Thomas. Although I'm sure I'm not the first person to think of this. Regardless, the bulk of my Miami work is over now. I'll do 8 or 9 miles next weekend and then the weekend after is the race! What a difference a year makes in terms of my physical health!