Sunday, September 23, 2018


Typical scene along the course. Nice long path and runners going both ways. Yellow mile marker sign in the distance.
Last Sunday I left my house at 5:45am and headed east to the town of Boring. Like last year, I made a pit stop at McDonald's; however, this year I only got a small coffee. Last year I got a medium and ended up peeing multiple times during the race. Arriving just after the marathon went off at 6:30, I went to the start line, got my packet, then headed back to the car to pin my bib on and leave my race goodie bag.

I got to the starting line with about 15 minutes to spare and stood in line for the bathroom. Even though I didn't really have to pee, it was more of a preventative measure due to the experience last year. After a couple minutes in that line it was obvious there was no way I was going to make it in time for the start. Since I didn't really have to pee, I decided to just ditch it and go for a light warm up. My warm up led me to a path in the woods which lacked any people and had plenty of cover. So it ended up all working out in that fashion and I didn't have to pee during the race either.

FIRST HALF FLYING (7:36, 7:29, 7:34, 7:39, 7:41, 7:42)

I made my way toward the front of the corral with plenty of time to spare. After some last minute announcements, including a recognition of the dry weather despite a 90% chance of rain, the race was off! With my "A" goal being under 1:45, I knew I had to run under 8:00/mile, so the goal was to pace around 7:50-7:55. However, I also knew the first couple of miles were slightly downhill, so I wanted to take advantage of that on fresh legs. So I ended up running the first few miles averaging low 7:30s. Maybe a little quicker than I wanted, but not tragically fast.

The skies after the rain stopped.
This pace felt so easy. It was crazy! I was almost in a state of disbelief about how easy it felt. I couldn't quite believe my watch. My legs felt great and my breathing wasn't even labored. I've had runs over 9:00/mile where my cardio has been more tested. It was really odd! I could tell I was going fast, it felt like a mid 7s pace based on my gait and everything, but lung and leg wise it felt super easy. It was really weird. Even when the course flattened out, I kept up a quicker pace than initially planned. Miles 4 to 6 were all almost exactly 7:40. Even though I likely couldn't keep this pace up, I was banking some time for the second half of the race.

Remember them commenting at the start line about the lack of rain? Well, almost immediately after the race started, literally within a minute, the skies opened up and it POURED rain. Big drops. Not quite as bad as Corvallis earlier this year, but close. It rained for probably close to an hour, the first half of the race or so. Eventually it piddled out and from then on the weather was absolutely perfect for a race. High 50s and overcast skies. I think this may be one reason why the pace was feeling so easy. I've been used to training in the summer heat, so this weather was like a luxury vacation to my body.

SECOND HALF SLOWDOWN (7:47, 7:57, 8:10, 8:13, 8:10, 8:24, 8:03)

The turnaround was right at mile 6.5, which confused me. Later on I found out why, there was a small out and back section along a street on the way back. It was the same thing last year, I had just forgotten about it. When I made the turn, I looked at my watch and noticed I was averaging 7:36 a mile. This meant I could average 8:16 on the way back and still end up under 8 minutes a mile. This was very encouraging. That felt so slow. I could do this. I tried to keep up my speed but the pace was now starting to wear on me. Mile eight would be my last below the eight minute mark.

All together I still felt pretty good. The legs felt fine, my breathing was still easy, the same effort was just not getting me the same speed now. I took comfort in the fact that I had built up quite the cushion and just pushed to run it in as fast as I could. While 8:16 sounded so slow earlier in the race, it was now a time I was fighting to stay under. Managed to do that except for an ugly mile 12. Although I had slowed way down, I wasn't struggling at all. I was just keeping up the same effort level and not worrying about trying to hit a certain time.

Those last few miles weren't that much of a struggle. I was trying to save a little bit for the uphill portion, but I never really saw it. Second year in a row where coming back I didn't even notice the uphill despite noticing the downhill on the way out. I think because it is so gradual, and the path is just through the woods, it's really hard to see visually. I think the 8:24 mile might tell the story though. By then I was tired and ready to be done but I knew the finish line was near. I had to grind a little bit in that last mile to keep up the pace. The race was really catching up with me now. Eventually I could hear the finish line and finally had a visual as I rounded a corner.


The final sprint was done at sub 7 pace, so my legs had a little something still left in them. When I crossed the finish line and looked at my watch, I couldn't quite believe it. 1:42:32?! No way! Not only did I beat the 1:45 goal I thought might have been a little too ambitious, I smashed it! Funny enough, that is the exact time, to the second, of my first half marathon. I guess I'm truly back! Feels like July 2012 all over again, haha.

I was absolutely wiped after the race. While my legs and cardio felt great, for the first ten miles or so at least, this was a balls to the wall race performance that took everything out of me. I left it all on that course. I stumbled my way to the food area and scarfed down some bagels and M&Ms. I was still kind of in a state of disbelief on my time. It was way better than I could have imagined.  After coming to my senses, I cheered a few people onto the finish and then headed back to the car. I had an intense day of napping and watching football ahead.

The next couple of days I was quite sore. I still got my three weekday runs in, but my legs were feeling the effects of the race without question. Even my sixteen mile long run today, my legs were still gently screaming because of the half. That was a 100% effort, no doubt. It gave me a really good idea of where I stand with this whole running thing. Turns out, a little better than I thought!

Official Chip Time: 1:42:32, 7:49/mile. 16/165 overall, 13/57 male, 2/2 M30-34.

Friday, September 14, 2018


At the beginning of last years Boring Half.
It is nearly the one year anniversary of the event where I announced "I'm back!" to running. I wasn't expecting it at the time, but this was the race that really lit the fire in my comeback. I didn't have much time to prepare, as I had spent most of August recovering from two broken toes. At the time I broke my toes, I was just starting to get back to running, my knee inflammation had finally been tamped down and I was trying to get back in shape. The toe thing really threw my planning off so when I finally was able to run again I had less than a month to prepare. I was able to manage about ten runs to cram for Boring, starting from a baseline of three miles and peaking at a six mile "long" run the week before.

My goal last year at Boring was to run it as long as I could (I figured something like eight miles or so, as the six miles the weekend before was tough). Then I could walk/jog it in. There was no thought of running the whole thing, that would be a dumb goal to make and was probably nearly impossible. Well, what do you know, I not only made it to mile eight, I ran the whole damn thing, finishing in 2:22. I actually felt stronger toward the end and ran my fastest miles up a slight hill. It blew my expectations out of the water and gave me the sense that yeah, I can do this again. After that race I started running regularly, at least three times a week, and a couple months later ran 1:56 at the Holiday Half. My mojo was back baby!

So this race really sticks out and means something to me. When I was looking for races to sprinkle around the training cycle to keep things interesting, this one was an easy addition! The race organizers are fun and put on a really good event. It's got that small, local, organic feel to it. Not some big production by a for-profit company, but a labor of love by a few people. I don't know if it will become a yearly tradition like Shamrock or Miami, but it does fall at a perfect time to test your abilities after a summer of training.

In terms of the course, like last year, it is run 100% on the Springwater Trail. So basically you run 6.55 miles along the uninterrupted pedestrian trail, turn around, and run back. The first couple miles are slightly downhill, meaning the last couple are slightly uphill. Last year I didn't even really notice the uphill on the way back even though I did notice the downhill on the way out. I think I was running on magical fairy dust at that point. So this year I fully expect to feel that uphill on the way back, although it is pretty gentle. The weather on Sunday at the moment appears to be low 50s and sprinkles. Not my ideal weather, but close to ideal running weather. Hopefully it will stay dry-ish.

Finally, my goals. I am using this as a measuring stick for my progress over the summer and to set realistic expectations for the Marine Corp Marathon. This half is coming in the heat of marathon training, so my legs won't be completely fresh, but I should be able to run near my best time given my fitness. I'm not using it as practice for my marathon pace or anything, I am using it to see what my marathon pace should be...


"A" Goal: Sub 1:45. This is a stretch. This means I have to average 7:59/mile or less. I ran the Independence Day Half at 8:12/mile, so I need to shave 15 seconds a mile from that. That's a tall order... but on a perfect day? Maybe.

"B" Goal: 1:47:32 or less. Honestly, this will be my main focus, beating my Independence Day Half time. 8:11/mile or less. The extra mileage I've done over the last two months for marathon training should result in a faster time. I'll be disappointed if all those miles doesn't translate into some improvement.

"C" Goal: Sub 1:50, 8:23/mile or less. To feel like it hasn't been a complete disaster, I need to get under 1:50. Maybe it just isn't my day and all those miles catch up with me during the uphill finish. Getting this goal wouldn't be the end of the world, it just means I haven't really gotten faster in the last few months, which would be okay. I am marathon training after all and have done minimal speedwork.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018


Mile 8 aid station at George Rogers Park.
After a two year absence it was back to the Portland Marathon Clinic Brunch Run on Saturday. This is the event where they bus you to a mystery location twenty miles away and then you run back to brunch. Usually pretty fun... in theory at least! Read about my experiences in 2013, 2014, and 2015. This is the run that introduced me to PMC and is usually my favorite of the training cycle because it is not the same old route and it always has great aid stations with lots of stuff.

About that same old route part though... yeah. So this year we did the Willamette Park (West Linn) to Willamette Park (Portland) route again. This was the route in my first year, 2013! This was also the route in 2015. This means that out of the four Brunch Runs I have done, THREE have been this same route! Ha! In 2016 and 2017 they did routes I haven't done before (Cook Park in Tigard and Kelly Point Park in Portland) but it's almost like they welcomed me back with this route like a homecoming or something.

I will say that this run went a lot better than back in 2015. I remember that one kind of sucking a lot. Now, that was in the middle of marathon training where my arthritis was starting to be noticeable a little bit (in retrospect). I was able to power through that cycle and a run a great time of 3:39, which was only six minutes off the year before when I was working my ass off to break 3:30. That 2015 cycle was more of a "survival" cycle, kind of like what I'm doing now. Get the miles in, but not worry about speedwork so much. Compared to the way I was feeling that training cycle, this year is going much better.

This was my third twenty miler of the season and I only have one more planned. Yikes! I'm going to have to do that one myself on the day before the Portlandathon. Will probably end up doing various loops from my house. Maybe I'll even buy some candy and shit for when I stop over between the loops. Anyways, crazy to think the dreaded twenty milers are almost out of the way. They've gone so well this year. Again, my legs felt fine during the run. Sure, they were tired toward the end, but nothing like I have felt in the past on some of these twenty milers. It gives me a glimmer of hope that with any inflammation tamped down, maybe, just maybe, the "20s" this coming marathon won't suck as much.

As for the weather on the Brunch Run, it was perfect. That certainly helped with feeling good. Do a twenty miler in 85 degrees and it's an entirely different story! It was actually sprinkling and about 60 degrees when we started. Most of the run was overcast, and then toward the end the clouds broke up a little. Still thought, it was probably 68 degrees when we finished. Very comfortable. I had to scarf down the brunch and jet because the Oregon State football game started at 5:00 and I earned some guilt free tailgating dag nabbit.

Finally, for a little fun, I was curious about how my training was doing compared to 2015, my last marathon training cycle. So far, I've been right on track, doing even more miles than I was doing back then. Awesome! Now, my long runs at the time were with the 3:30 group and averaging like 9:45/mile, so I was actually working harder. So it's not completely apples to apples, but the miles are there. Gives me confidence I can run the marathon. It's going to be a touch slower, sure, but I'm definitely on track and my attempt to "baby" myself a little through this cycle isn't really babying myself much at all!