Sunday, December 20, 2009

LiveSTRONG Seattle Marathon training week 4 - time for Plan B

Hello everyone!  I hope that you are all having a great lead-up toward Christmas.  Around here, we have most of our Christmas shopping done, and most of the presents are already wrapped and under the tree (or sent in the mail).

While it was a good week from the Christmas preparation side, it was by no means a good week training-wise.  This was my first zero week in a long time... zero runs, zero rides, not even a good walk (unless you count wandering around the mall for an hour and a half yesterday).  Not only was the hip acting up most of the week, but some aches in the right quad (same side as the hip) were flaring up pretty bad.  The only positive fitness thing was that I got in a solid 4 days of stretching this week.  Stretching for a runner is important, but when dealing with hip dysplasia, keeping a good level of flexibility is not only important to stay pain-free but also to limit the amount of damage that running will do to the hip socket.

There was supposed to be a long run yesterday, and that didn't happen.  And honestly, I'm coming to grip with the fact that an ultra-marathon is not going to happen, at least in the next 6 months.  It's going to take some time to adjust my training to deal with this biomechanical burden, and I want to make sure I don't injury myself - either for the Seattle Rock N Roll marathon or for the 50+ more years I hope to get with my current hip.  So the race schedule now reads:

Now what it boils down to is 1) getting the trainer set up and start getting some good fitness minutes on the bike; 2) learning what my body can endure for marathon training, even if it's going back to the one-run-per-week-plus-massive-amounts-of-crosstraining schedule that got me through the 2007 Portland Marathon; and 3) continuing to work on flexibility and core strength to protect my hip as much as possible.

In related news, I ran across a blog from author / athlete / coach Martin Dugard that really resonated with me.  Right now, it seems that entry (titled "Lactate Threshold") has disappeared from his blog, but he essentially talked about how he didn't seem to be satisfied unless he has some nearly-impossible, challenging, bizarre fitness/racing goal.  And how he let other facets of his life suffer (especially his family) in pursuit of those dreams.  So maybe, just maybe, this hip issue is a blessing in disguise, and a good excuse to scale back and focus on the things that are more important....

Speaking of importance, yes, we were touched by two more cancer stories this week.  Another extended family member is battling prostate cancer, and it's not clear how far it has progressed.  And a colleague of my wife is in terminal stage bone cancer, which comes with a lot of pain.  Add this to the relative with Hodgkin's, a high school classmate with pancreatic cancer, and a former student of my wife's with brain cancer, and you just can't help but hate this disease.  I'm not only looking forward to contributing to the fight through Team LiveSTRONG, but I'm starting to wonder if there aren't other ways I should figure out how to help.  Food for thought for now.

Until next week and always, onward...

Saturday, December 12, 2009

LiveSTRONG Seattle Marathon training week 3 - one more reason

Hi everyone - another week of running is in the books, and it was a second tough week of training in a row.  The week started out fine with a 4.02 mile run in 36:28 on Sunday.  Monday was a busy day at work, and with my new hip dysplasia diagnosis, I figured running every other day for a while - until I learn to listen to my body a bit more - wasn't an unreasonable approach.  However, Tuesday I started feeling run down.  Another rest day, this one unplanned.  Then when I woke up Wednesday morning, the dreaded fever - 100+.  No running for me.

As it turns out, I basically lost the middle of my week, from both running and work, due to a sinus infection.  And for those of you who are "knowledge workers", I highly suggest not attending conference calls and trying to sound intelligent when you're running a fever and taking sinus medicine!  Fortunately the infection finally passed, and Saturday afternoon I finally got back on track with a 4 mile run in a leisurely 37:44.  Not a great pace, but I'll take it.  So now the total for the week ended up being 8.02 miles in 1:14:12.

Ultra training resumes next week, with a planned 21 mile (or 3.5 hour) long run.  Yes, that's right - as of right now, I'm still training for the Hagg Lake 50k despite the hip.  I'm going to see how the longer runs go, and if they give me problems, I'll drop the goal of an ultra.  But I suspect this will be my one-and-only ultra if I do make it, because I don't feel like I really need a hip replacement when I'm 50.  And after the Seattle RnR marathon, I'll have to re-evaluate running marathons as a hobby.  But even if I drop that from the repertoire, there's always 5ks, 10ks, half marathons and even triathlons out there.

As for Seattle, the support has been good - I've gotten both encouragement from many of you as well as donations from some of you, which I really appreciate!  Of course, the most impressive fundraising I saw this week was from the supporters of Fat Cyclist (aka Team Fatty).  If you don't know about him, check out is site... and definitely check out the links regarding his most recent fundraising challenge here, here, here and here.  And no, I'm not going to be able to give away a bicycle or a trip to France as part of my fundraising... but if you have any good ideas on giveaways (or something to donate other than $$$ which might help encourage others to donate), please let me know!

Now in case some of you are wondering about the title of this blog entry.  Yesterday (yes, within the last 24 hours), I've learned that a member of my extended family has just been diagnosed with what is likely Hodgkins' disease.  Hodgkins is a cancer of the lymphatic system, and even in advanced stages, it has a good survival rate.  Right now, there's still no word on a prognosis - but obviously the fight against cancer is something that touches everyone, and usually in more than one way.  In fact, right now my wife and I know three people battling three different types of cancer.  That's why support to various cancer research and support programs are so important.  So even if you don't donate to my Team LiveSTRONG effort, please consider supporting the fight in some other way!

Until next time.... onward. 

Sunday, December 6, 2009

LiveSTRONG Seattle Marathon training week 2 - a week of challenges

As promised, a big event announcement this week - which you can probably figure out from the title.  More on that in a bit - or if you want to cut right to the chase, go down to the last third of this post.  But first, the week in review.

Training-wise, it was an off week.  It started out well with a second rest day on Sunday (I ran long on Friday and have decided that my body likes two rest days after any 15+ mile run), and then a nice 4-miler on Monday.  The calves were a bit tight still from the long run, but I did get in 4.09 miles in 38:14.  Then the business trip.  A few days in Arizona for group face-to-face meetings (planning for 2010), which should have been conducive to running.  But between the late evenings (we had to keep Asia-friendly times since one of our group members was still calling in from Malaysia) and all the other meetings, I was only able to get in one run.  A nice peppy 3.11 miles in 26:57.

Unfortunately, I caught one of those "traveler's colds", where you come back with the sniffles and sinus issues, so I took it easy on Friday and Saturday.  But all things equal, I wasn't too disappointed with the weekly total of 7.20 miles in 1:05:11, considering the busy-ness of the business trip.

Friday gave the biggest challenge of all, though.  For all of my adult life, my right hip socket has felt a little tight, a little stiff.  But lately (the past 6-12 months), I've had some soreness in the lower back, glutes and side of the hip.  Sure, it could have been poor posture causing lower back pains and IT band issues - but with the chronic hip tightness, I decided to get it checked out at the Orthopedic & Fracture Clinic (if you're in the Portland area, this is the place to go for sports injuries!).  What the x-rays showed wasn't too surprising: mild dysplasia of the right hip.  For those of you that aren't familiar with it, it means the joint is malformed.  Maybe from birth, maybe a developmental defect during the growing years.  In either case, the hip bone isn't deep enough, and the end of the leg bone puts extra pressure on it.  Right now, I've probably got just mild irritation.  But eventually, it can lead to a torn labrum, osteoarthritis, or enough degeneration to warrant a hip replacement.

A = good hip; B = dysplasia
(borrowed from Wikipedia)

So.... now I need to learn more about this to find out what it means for my running "career".  The doctor said that as long is it doesn't hurt, I can keep running.  And for now, when it does hurt, I can just take time off until it doesn't hurt anymore.  But in the longer term, I need to look at the big picture - do I really want to have a hip replacement when I'm 60 or 70?  And the funny thing is, there aren't a lot of resources on the internet to educate myself about adult hip dysplasia.  There are tons of resources about hip dysplasia in dogs, and WebMD has great resources - if you're an infant.  Mayo Clinic also has great resources - if you suffer from dwarfism.  So far, the best resources I've found are on HowStuffWorks.  Apparently it's not just for mechanical and electronic stuff. :)  But if you have some resources on adult hip dysplasia, please let me know - I definitely need to learn all that I can.

Finding out that I have a condition that may significantly worsen by the pounding of running long distances has put my 2010 race schedule into question.  Three weeks ago, what I had planned to run/swim/ride was:

  • January: ORRC Y2K10 20.10k
  • February: ORRC Hagg Lake 50k
  • May: Eugene Marathon
  • August: HulaMan half-Ironman or Portland Century ride
  • October: Portland Marathon

But two weeks ago, I was accepted to be part of Team LiveSTRONG.  Specifically, to run the 2010 Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon to help raise funding for the Lance Armstrong Foundation.  For those of you that don't know about the LAF, they provide support, resources and inspiration for those battling cancer as well as survivors.  The LAF is a great organization, and I encourage you to donate - whether you "sponsor" me and help me reach and surpass my goal of raising $1000 for the Seattle Marathon, or whether you find another way to contribute.

Now, based upon my medical diagnosis and my participation in Team LiveSTRONG, my race schedule looks more like:

  • January: ORRC Y2K10 20.10k ??? - maybe run the 10k?
  • February: ORRC Hagg Lake 50k ????? - really have to think about whether this is a good idea
  • June: Seattle Rock N Roll Marathon! - even if I have to walk it!
  • August: HulaMan half-Ironman or Portland Century ride xxxx - not very likely
  • October: Portland Marathon ??? - we'll see

This leaves me with some thinking to do, exactly how I want to approach training in the future.  Maybe become a cyclist like my uncle?  Maybe stick with marathoning but keep things flexible and listen carefully to what my body is telling me?  Something in between?  In any case, I now have a great objective for June with Team LiveSTRONG.  And I strongly encourage you to visit my page and donate.

Now it's time to get in a nice easy run and hopefully start out a good (but not overdone) week of training... Onward!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Training & volunteering update - Thanksgiving week 2009

Hi Everyone-

Yes, I know I owe you a race report from HulaMan, and a race report from the Portland Marathon, and a big event announcement.  Those will be coming later in the next two weeks.  But I did want to let you all know that I'm back on track.  I had a great training week this week:

  • Sunday: 4.4 miles in 39:33.
  • Monday: 4.73 miles in 42:48.  It was great getting in back-to-back runs, which hasn't seem to have happened for a while.  Also great that both runs were around a 9 min/mile pace, and I wasn't killing myself running 8:20-8:40.
  • Tuesday: rest day.  Yep, I wanted to run, but for a change I'm trying to be smart about about things like rest and pace.
  • Wednesday: 3.41 miles in 29:14.  Ok, a little faster than I was planning for on a base run, but I need to burn of some Lucky Charms that somehow ended up being consumed with my lunch...
  • Thursday: rest day.
  • Friday: 18.33 miles in 2:56:26 (according to Nike+/iPod, but according to my watch 2:57:11).
The long run went great.  I was able to go out at a steady pace of 9:54 for the first couple of miles, and it never got any faster than the 9:20s (except for a 9:09 thrown in there on some downhill).  And the weather was beautiful: 48-51 degrees, sunny and only a slight breeze that was rarely a headwind.

Tomorrow is going to be a rest day, so that brings the total mileage for this week to 30.87 miles in 4:48:01.  Very solid.  Now if I can keep that up for 12 more weeks until the Hagg Lake 50k!

The other big news of the week was a great experience at the Oregon Road Runners Club Turkey Trot at the Zoo.  This is a great event that I ran back in 2006.  This year, Christine decided to run it... so for a bit of variety, and a way to contribute back (both to the ORRC as well as one of our favorite organizations, the Oregon Zoo) the girls and I decided to volunteer.  We ended up getting stationed at the entrance to the zoo, which is about 3.7 miles into the 4 mile race.  We got to see some very fast runners (the guy who won was probably running close to 5 min miles and "won" this non-competitive race by a minute) and a lot of other people who were out there enjoying the typically soggy Oregon weather (including a cow and an Elvis, along with a number of running turkeys).  It was great being able to give back to the running community, and put the event in a whole new perspective.  [You fast runners who get frustrated about pedestrians in your way... may I remind you that after you're finished, you're now a pedestrian and should stay out of the way of the runners? ;-) ]  It's something I'm looking forward to doing again, and despite some protests at the start of the day, the girls seemed to have a lot of fun too.  And yes, Christine ran a great race and we all had a great time.

That's it for now... with any luck, I'll be able to get that big event announcement out in the next week, and then follow up with some race reports.  Until then... onward.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Small World (redux)

Konnichi wa from Tokyo!  Just a brief update... yes, I haven't posted since Portland.  It went well.  I finished in 4:30:53, which is less than 5 minutes off my PR.  Considering the last few miles were a very painful mix of running and walking at around a 12:00/mile pace due to a nasty blister on my left big toe, I'm pretty happy with it.  If I hadn't blistered.... maybe there's a sub-4:15 in this body?  Hmm.

Anyhow, I just finished my Nike+ Human Race this morning.  For those of you that don't know about it, the Human Race is held in ~25 cities, but you can also run it on your Nike+.  There were two host sites in Tokyo, but neither of them would have allowed me to make it to the airport on time for my return flight home.  So I put on the shoes and iPod, and headed out the door to run around the Imperial Palace.  It was actually a PR run - 52:31 for 10k!  But more interesting, I ran into a guy wearing the "Bob Dolphin's 80th birthday" shirt.  Turns out he's a running celebrity in his own right: Barefoot Jon!  We had a nice chat around 1.5 miles, then I saw him again around 5.5 miles.  It's always great to see a running celebrity on your run, especially when you've run with a personal friend with his (I ran next to Bob at Portland from mile 18-20 on his birthday and his 452nd marathon).

That's it for now - time to pack and head to the airport.  And maybe get in another run when I land.  How many times can you run two times in a day when it's not really the same day. :)

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Ready or not...

Hey Everyone-

I've been MIA from this blog for a while, so here's a brief update. Yes, I successfully completed HulaMan. 6:39 and change, which I'm pretty happy with. I'll have a full race report... at some point. But it was not without cost. I managed to give myself a pretty nasty case of posterior tibial tendonitis - which if you're not an MD means that my right foot hurt like crazy and I could barely walk on it for a couple of days, and had to lay off training for a week.

After taking a week off, I thought I was back on track - got in a couple of solid runs while visiting family in Colorado on 8/22 and 8/23, but then a week of business in Wisconsin intervened and despite having my gear, I got in zero training. Then as I started to get back into things the following week, something flu-like hit me. Then as I started to get back into things, another business trip. Well, this week finally went OK - solid runs Sunday, Monday and Thursday, then a good 17.5 miler today.

In case you're keeping track, that's one single long run and otherwise horrid training in the 5 weeks since HulaMan, and the PDX marathon is right around the corner in 15 days. But I'm going to give it the old college try, making sure I do some variety of run-walk-run (walk through aid stations at least, maybe more depending on how things are going) and see if the good base I put in this spring and summer will carry me through. So we'll see whether I'm ready or not for PDX!

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Ups & Downs

Hi Everyone - Yep, it's been a long time since my last post. A lot of stuff going on as usual... not sure that I'm cut out for being a blogger, but I'm going to stick with it a while longer and see how it goes. Hopefully by the time the Portland Marathon comes around in October, I'll have figured this out. :)

So the last 4 weeks since I posted have had some ups and downs. One of the ups: our family vacation to San Diego. We had an enjoyable drive down, seeing the Redwoods (see the last post) and spending some time in San Francisco (Fisherman's Wharf and Ghirardelli Square). And once we got down there, the girls were excited as they had their own room with bunk beds:

Our first full day we spent at Sea World, visiting Shamu and his friends. It was baking hot, so even though we had a good time, we were happy to get out of the sun to some of the indoor attractions. But before the heat got to us, we were able to see the Shamu show. I'm assuming having your trainer stand on your nose is done primarily with the orca in mind. ;)

The next day, we made it to a place I've always wanted to go to: the Wild Animal Park. Basically, it's a wildlife preserve that is part of the San Diego Zoo organization, out in the near-desert conditions near Escondido, California. The amount of land they have gives the animals plenty of room to roam, and they are in much more natural conditions than the typical zoo. There was an amazing collection of wildlife: okapi (they look sort of like zebras, but are actually close relatives of giraffes), lions, giraffes, rhinos, a variety of antelope and gazelles and gorillas.

The third day, we went to the world-famous San Diego Zoo. Of course, we saw the pandas:

Despite the heat that continued to dominate our stay in San Diego, we managed to spent almost the whole day, visiting over half the zoo, and seeing the gorillas several times. Unfortunately, none of the gorilla pictures turned out well, but we did get a picture of these two primates:

The last full day we spent in San Diego was at the beach on Coronado, as well as wandering around the beautiful Hotel del Coronado.

During our four days there, we had a great time. We also found a lot of good eats while in the area: great pizza at Sammy's Wood-Fired Pizza (I had an amazing goat cheese, spinach, mushroom and onion pie), good gluten-free grub at Barolo's Ristorante (I had the gluten-containing but surprisingly tasty pear & Parmesan ravioli with a sauce of marscapone, pear, walnut and sun-dried tomato), our first experience with Pei Wei Asian Diner (which is now a favorite of both Christine and I), and even some yummy gluten-free pizza at Steve's Pizza in Woodland on the drive back.

The first "Down" came after we got back. While I managed to get in 4 solid runs on the 9 days we were on the road (including a couple of tough hill climbs in San Diego), my training took a nose dive as soon as we got back... we got back Sunday night around 7pm, and by the next morning, I was running a fever with the flu. For the duration of the week, I battled a fever that came and went, along with the wonderful body aches. Swine flu? I'm not sure, but it was definitely something tenacious.

By Friday afternoon I was starting to feel semi-human, so I decided to go for a ride on Saturday. Bad idea. A half-hour into my ride, I had conquered one of the hills that I hadn't been able to get up before (Helvetia Road between Meier and Jackson Quarry), but at the price of a splitting headache. So I lightly pedaled my way home and crawled back in bed for another day.

The next week, I started to slowly get back into the swing of things, with a few easy runs. But at this point, I'm starting to wonder - am I going to have the endurance to finish a half-Ironman in just a couple of weeks? Well, this down 7-10 days was followed by a great "Up": I had to sneak in a long run before work on Friday the 31st, so I decided to run it at an aggressive pace. It turned out not only was I able to keep a 9:20 pace for the first 8 miles, but I was able to drop that down to a 8:50-9:00 pace for the last 4 miles. I ended up running 12 miles at a 9:08 pace!

It looks like the time off was nothing more than a mini-taper, and a good portion of my endurance is still intact. Whew! :) In fact, looking over my running at Nike+, it's pretty clear that I've been consistently hitting my long runs every three weeks:

While I missed some long rides and bricks in there, I know that the hardest leg of the triathlon (for me) is the one I'm best trained for. And with any luck, I'll get in a quality ride this weekend or Monday and will be ready for HulaMan only 7.5 days from now.

Oh, and another piece of good news: it looks like the folks putting on HulaMan made a couple of recent changes to the courses. First off, the bike course has been reworked. As far as I can tell from the course description, there's no longer a downhill on a gravel road 43 miles into the race. One less chance to end up splattered on the side of the road. :) However, I am puzzled a little - it looks like it's a 54 mile ride now (or 53 miles, depending which part of the website you look at). Isn't a half-Ironman really 56 miles??? Hopefully no one will be denied entry to the Kona lottery based on this. The other positive change is that the run course has been changed from a bunch of brutal up and downs to a relatively flatter run. That was the main part that was worrying me, so now I have no excuses, right?

In any case, balancing workload (I didn't mention the business trips to California and Arizona, or the week where I finished between 8pm and 11pm every night, did I???), family life and training has been an interesting challenge. A big thanks to all who have helped by being flexible with schedules and time commitments, and putting up with an often-frazzled triathlete-in-training. Hopefully all of it will pay off with a great event next Sunday!

Until next time...

Saturday, July 11, 2009


A ton of stuff to catch up on with this post, so please bear with me... :)

First of all, it was a decent training week. Not a great training week like last week by any means, but definitely not a lost week like the last two weeks of June. Sunday was a rest day, Monday was an unexpected rest day as well (i.e., work!). I got in a good run Tuesday morning. Then the piece de resistance of the week - a run at 3:30 in the morning. I knew I needed to get in a run, because Thursday was going to be another bear of a day... but I had to leave for a one and a half day business trip to Arizona on a 6am flight. So I set the alarm clock for 3:15am, and shocked myself by actually running at a decent pace:

After that small victory, I took another (scheduled) rest day on Thursday before getting in my every-three-weeks long run on Friday. 14 miles in 2:12. And then a rest day (a vacation day!) on Saturday. Sure, it was only three runs, but three pretty solid runs.

And besides, there was no way I was going to be able to ride this week... the Specialized was in the shop. I mentioned in my last post that my bike was "fixed but having some shifting problems". Unfortunately, it wasn't fixed. I took the bike into River City Bicycles on Monday to finally get it fitted and had their mechanics look at it to see if they could adjust the shifters for me. The mechanic that I got pointed out that the derailleur hanger was still bent, and I left it with them to repair. After more adjustment, and replacement of a bent derailleur, I'm finally back in action. I think... since I haven't gotten a chance to take it out on the roads yet.

Sure, I should have gotten some swimming in. There was a brief glimmer of a plan to do that Thursday afternoon, but between travel fatigue and the opportunity to attend an interesting technical lecture at work scuttled that plan.

And now for something completely different... a few weeks ago, I promised a review of the book Spent by Frank Lipman.

My overall impressions were distinctly mixed. On the plus side, he makes some very good points:
  1. "Western" medicine doesn't account for the holistic interactions of the body's systems and things like environmental contaminants, processed foods and the likes.
  2. Naturopathic and Eastern medicine offer some great complimentary approaches (not alternatives) to Western medicine in treating some of the chronic ailments that affect cube-dwellers like myself.
  3. Life has to be approached in whole - looking at diet, stress, lifestyle, habits, spirit, etc. to address quality of life. Just popping a pill (or just getting acupuncture or just _______) will not "fix" things alone.
Within the book, Dr. Lipman offers a lot of great insights into Eastern / Naturopathic remedies. That being said, I didn't find this part of the book that useful, since I've read up on a lot of his suggestions on the naturopathic side (yes, I have a naturopath, and if she suggests or prescribes something, I'm going to read up on it before ingesting it - same as I do with my general practitioner). But those not familiar with these treatments may find it useful - as long as you take some of it with a grain of salt.

Why the grain of salt? Some of the statements in the book are just flat out wrong. For example, Dr. Lipman maintains in one part of the book that homogenization of milk creates new fats. Looking at the context, it's pretty clear that he's saying that "new fats" means chemically different. I hate to tell the man that homogenization does break up fat globules into smaller globs, but it's still the same fat. If you take a stick of butter and cut it into 16 pats, it's still butter - not dynamite. I realize that taking perfectly good grain and turning it into white bread takes out a lot of the nutrients and pretty much ruins the end product health-wise, but his scattered fear mongering makes me wonder a) how many other mis-statements are in there that I didn't catch, and b) why he feels the need to scare people with falsehoods when there are plenty of scary truths out there about modern diet and stress.

Bottom line: he's got some good ideas, but I'd hesitate to recommend his book to anyone that doesn't already have a solid grounding in both diet/nutrition and naturopathy.

The last tidbit this week is something I mentioned earlier in the post... vacation! Christine, the girls and I are heading down to San Diego for a few days of R&R. A nice family road trip. Today we made it to the Redwood State and National Parks of northern California. As you can see below, we found a nice toppled tree to give us a good background for some pictures. :) I'm not sure what internet connectivity I'm going to have the rest of the trip, so I might not check in again with y'all until the 20th. Until then, aloha!

Saturday, July 4, 2009

Back on track

Hi everyone! Yes, it's been a while since I last wrote. There were a couple of week-long business trips to the Midwest following my last post, and I spent the last week getting back on track both at work and with my training. But somehow, I managed to keep the important parts of training in place even during the traveling, although I definitely was scoring low on the consistency meter.

Normally, not posting in three weeks, I'd just skip to what's been going on lately, but I do need to write a little bit about the "epic" training ride that I did on June 14th. What made it epic? First of all, it was my first 50+ mile ride in... almost forever. I think I was 13 or 14 the last time I went that far. The goal for this ride was to ride from home to Forest Grove, where I'd meet up with the second half (actually the last 23 miles) of the HulaMan bike leg. That was the second piece of epic-ness, since mile 42 is where the massive Clapshaw hill is. Little did I know that as fun as climbing the hill would be, the descent would also be quite exciting.

I spent that first 70 minutes cruising at a nice 18.0 mph out to join the race course out at the metropolis of Dilley. Note to self: next time, take it easy on the way out so you don't use all your energy that you'll need for climbing! :) The nice thing about cruising the flats is that I got to take in some beautiful scenery on a misty day, with the fog shrouding the hills that I'd eventually be climbing over and through:
Once I got onto the HulaMan course, it was nothing but rollers - some small, some larger. One of the larger rollers was the exact same hill that I curse every year when I run the Oregon Road Runners Club Y2K race. (Side note: This year, it was a 10k and a 20.09k - next year it'll be a 10k and a 20.10k. See the theme? If you run the long distance, you're guaranteed a PR every year up until 2109 or 2110 when it'll be half-marathon distance!)

A little while later, I passed several vineyards, hitting a portion of Oregon wine country that I didn't realize existed. Then I turned off onto Clapshaw Hill road, and saw a hill that will surely be my arch nemesis on August 16th:

Yes, the road is perfectly flat until it hit the trees. If you look closely you can see the yellow sign that warns cars of the upcoming switchbacks. I was pretty happy getting up the first couple of switchbacks chugging along at a 7-8 mph pace, but then my over-loaded frame conspired with gravity to slow me down. Eventually, on the two steepest sections I had to actually get off an walk for about a minute on each. Fortunately, only the trees were around to snicker at me (unlike the last time I had to walk a hill, when a guy on a tractor got in a good chuckle as he was passing).

Once I got to the top, the fun really began. The descent is steep and steady. Since the road curved slightly and I had no idea what was up ahead, I rode my brakes a bit and still hit 37 mph. I did see a trio of cyclists heading up the hill in the other direction and was thinking that they've got a crazy descent ahead of them with the switchbacks! When the road flattened out again and my speed dropped a bit below 30, I was presented with a dilemma: approximately 8 teen Sunday School students from Hillside Bible Church walking almost perfectly spread out across the road.

After somehow dodging them, the road was still slightly downhill when I saw a fork in the road. I knew I was supposed to dart left on Old Clapshaw Hill Road, but the road on the left was a descent on gravel versus going straight on pavement. No way, they wouldn't do that, would they? After I flew past the fork, I saw the sign - yep, I'm supposed to go down the gravel. I slowed down, turned around, took the fork and then had the most puckering 5-10 minutes of riding in my entire life. Riding my brakes the whole way, I was still hitting 15-16 mph... and this is the first time ever I've had 1" tires on gravel.

Finally the road flattened out, and I was actually able to enjoy riding on the gravel at a steadier pace for the conditions. And right before I turned back onto the tri course, I was able to get a nice picture. Keep in mind that this is the flat part, and doesn't do any justice for the descent portion. If I ride this beast again before the tri, I'll be sure to take a good picture. :)

The last 8 miles was pretty uneventful, other than the fact I was thrashed. Between the pretty solid pace on the way out to the course, the challenging rollers, and the gnarly hill, I was done. So on the way back, I was lucky to keep a 16mph pace even on the flats. It was a solid ride, though, and I managed to do the 54.7 miles in 3:20.

Now fast forward a week - a business trip to Wisconsin left me with zero time for training, but I still managed to get in a long run the following weekend: a 12 mile jaunt in 1:53. Yes, I actually kept a 9:23 pace. I guess the week of laziness acted like a mini-taper. :)

Fast forward another week - a business trip to Minnesota, where I did manage to get in a single 5k mile run through the morning humidity. But this time, I didn't manage to get in the scheduled brick - I was hoping to ride 1-1.5 hours then run 4-5 miles, but between spending time re-acquainting myself with the family and celebrating my 38th birthday the weekend brick didn't happen.

However, last Sunday, I managed to start one of the best training weeks I've had... since college? Here's a quick summary:
  • Sunday 4 mile run
  • Monday 3.5 mile run
  • Tuesday 5k run
  • Wednesday 2000 yards in the pool (at a speedy 500s on 8:30 pace!)
  • Thursday rest day
  • Friday long ride (more about that below)
  • Saturday 7 mile ride at a quick 18.7 mph pace (basically a TT in honor of the 1st stage of the Tour de France!)
The long ride yesterday was the best of times, the worst of times. The plan was to ride from home to Hagg Lake, do a lap around the lake (the tri is 1.5 laps) and follow the tri route back to Dilley, then hop over to the tri half-marathon course, ride it, and ride back home for a 55-60 mile ride. It started out great: I kept a 17.0-17.5 mph pace on the way out, leaving me plenty of energy left to deal with the heat (started at 70F, expecting 85F by the end of the ride) and also deal with the hills around the lake.

When I got out to the lake, I had another case of deja vu. Some of the more challenging hills on the SE shore of the lake are the same ones that I powered up on the way to my post-college 10k PR of 52:56 at the ORRC Hagg Lake runs. And once you get fully around the lake, there's another huge descent coming down off a hill, past the dam, down to the state park gate - hitting 35 mph between cars that are also going 30-40 is just a little bit nerve wracking.

Disaster hit once I made the turn onto Old Highway 47. My front derailleur has proven itself to be a little mal-adjusted, as occasionally downshifting on hills, I pop the chain off the small chainring. The first hill I hit on Old 47, it happened again. I've gotten pretty good (I thought) at slowly pedaling the chain back onto the chainring, but not this time. All my pedaling resulted in was the chain somehow jumping off the biggest rear cog into my rear hug, taking the rear derailleur with it, right into the spokes. For those of you that aren't cyclists... that means your rear wheel not longer turns. Fortunately, I had lost a lot of momentum going up the hill, and the slow motion crash that occured was basically due to me not being able to clip out of my pedals quickly enough. It was probably pretty funny, but there was only a wheat field there to watch me.

Fortunately, my brother-in-law was able to come out and get me (I never leave home on a ride without the BlackBerry!), but the bike was more than a little messed up. The force of the derailleur hitting the spokes, transferring all that angular momentum into the derailleur, managed to mangle the derailleur hanger:
Yes, that purple part is supposed to be parallel to the cogs, not crashing into them. And guess what - if that aluminum hanger breaks when you try to straighten it out, you get to buy a new frame. Yikes! Fortunately, once I got back in, I was able to head into Performance Bike in Beaverton, where a mechanic named Eric managed to straighten it out without breaking it, essentially saving a few thousand dollars in the process (for the cost of $20 labor). So other than a scary few hours where I thought the bike was a fatality, and the disappointment of cutting a 60 mile ride to a 32.5 mile ride, it was actually a pretty good day - I still had a lot of energy left after the first 30 miles, so apparently I've learned how to pace myself. :)

Today I did get in a brief ride just to check out the bike (as well as log a stage for MapMyRide's virtual Tour de France). There are still some problems shifting - the rear gears shift just fine when on the small chainring, but I have trouble getting onto the large ring, and when I'm there, there are all sorts of phantom shifts on the rear cogs. It was great fun powering up a small hill only to have my bike shift into a tougher gear all on it's own. :-| I am getting the bike fitted on Monday morning, so maybe they can do a bit of maintenance to bring it the rest of the way back from the dead!

Thus ends, the best calendar week I've had in a long while. We'll see if I can keep it up next week. I've got a long run planned for Friday before work, but have a 1.5 day business trip on Wed/Thurs, so we'll how this week goes. Hopefully I can get in a ride and a swim, along with a couple of runs... it's felt great getting in this level of fitness!

That's all for now folks - I know we've got a fun 4th of July afternoon and evening planned, and I wish all of you a great 4th as well!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

So far, so good

In my last post, you probably noted that I was fighting off a bug - well, the bug is history, and so far it's been a pretty good week. On Tuesday, I had a bit of insomnia - the internal alarm went off at 3:30 in the morning, and for whatever reason I couldn't get back to sleep. So after surfing the internet on the BlackBerry while lounging in bed (and trying not to wake up my wife), I decided that I'd take advantage of the early Oregon daylight and get in a 5am run. I managed to crush a 4-miler - slightly under an 8:30 pace, making it one of my faster runs. And I love the fact that an early morning run really helps you get going for the day.

Wednesday was another good run. Sure, I slept in since I was sleep-deprived from the insomnia the day before, but I got in a nice 5 mile run at a reasonable 8:45ish pace. And when I synched my iPod after my run, I realized that I was now in first place in a Portland marathon training challenge that a friend put together. We'll see how long that lasts after he gets back from injury, though...

In other news, I finally got a new bike helmet. My friends at Performance Bike were having their anniversary sale, and between it and the 15% off coupon I had, I managed to get a new Giro Ionos for 30% off:
Sure, it would have been great to get one in the LiveSTRONG colors, but you can't beat 30% off on a quality product!

Speaking of quality products, I'm only a few chapters into it, but Spent by Frank Lipman looks to be a great read so far.
It delves into the fact that a ton of us are overstressed from various aspects of life, and as a result have no energy. That is me. In fact, in Chapter 1 there's a 13 item questionnaire that highlights the maladies that can come from modern life. Sadly, I scored in the 10+ category (but not all 13!). So far, it looks like it's a good combination of western medicine, naturopathy, Chinese medicine and various other holistic treatments. Yeah, it looks like there's probably some snake oil there too, so I'll let you know what I think of it once I finish.

Well, that's all for today... in between conference calls, so I've gotta run. Wish me luck getting in a run sometime this afternoon to keep the streak going!

Monday, June 8, 2009

A change in plans

As I mentioned in the last post, Saturday was supposed to be a long ride. I figured that I did a long ride two weekends ago, then a (sort of) long run one weekend ago, so Saturday should have been a long ride. Then I would transition to a three week cycle: long ride, brick, long run. Well, it looked like it would be a little more convenient to get in a pretty full day with the family to do a shorter workout than a 3-3.5 hour ride. So... time for my first brick of the season!

The brick started out ok... I had a pretty good ride. Sure, I tried going up Cooper Mountain, my arch nemesis which gains ~400 ft in ~3/4 mile (that's a ~10% grade!), and the score is now Cooper 3, Mike 0. However, at least this time I got up the first steep wall and actually had a little acceleration across the first false flat before the second steep incline. With some solid training this summer, I should be beating that thing sometime before the half-Ironman. I hope.

70 minutes after setting out, I got back to the house. Made a pretty quick transition - changed shirts (yep, I don't have a tri singlet yet, and I wasn't going to run in a long-sleeve thick cycling jersey), plopped on my shoes and iPod and headed out the door. And of course, my legs felt like I was running through wet cement. Or oatmeal. Or mud. Or maybe all three. My planned run was going to be a 4 mile run, but after a mile... ugh. My legs were starting to feel better, but the digestive system was warning me something was up. I cut it short, got home without any incidents, and called it a day. But when I checked out my Nike+ workout summary, I got a pretty good laugh:
What exactly is that? Was I really speeding up and slowing down that much? Is that what a bricked run looks like? Looks like I need to work on the bricks a bit more...

Right now, I'm still fighting off whatever bug came on during the run, but hopefully tomorrow I'll be able to get back to training and put in a couple of solid runs on Tues & Wed. Maybe even get in a mid-week ride? Would love to get to the point where there's only one rest day per week, because I need to put in some serious focus on burning some calories (and not putting them back on) if I ever want to even the score on Cooper Mountain!

Friday, June 5, 2009

A crazy & busy week

Hi all - sorry for not posting lately, but it's been a pretty busy week on the work front, as well as the challenge of getting in a few workouts. It started out last weekend with a planned long run on Saturday that definitely didn't go as planned. May in Oregon has a habit of fluctuating between summer-like weather and the rainy drizzle that stereotypes the Northwest. The weekend of May 30/31 decided that it was going to act like summer. Which is definitely nice if you want to get in yardwork or relaxing on the deck or spending some leisure time outside, but not if you want to get in a run. On top of that, I made the cardinal mistake of sleeping in - so by the time I got out there, it was already 57 degrees and rising fast.
The run was planned for 12.5 miles - run from home to the Nike campus, run the 2 mile trail at Nike, and run back. For those of you that haven't been to the Nike campus, it has an amazing loop that goes from woodchip trail through forest to pedestrian bridges across the entrances to the campus, to running by the parking garage that has murals of Michael Jordan, Alberto Salazar, Lance Armstrong and others. And the forested part of the trails are quite beautiful!
The run to Nike was pretty easy - but after 5 miles, I realized that it was starting to get just a bit hot outside. The woods on the Nike campus gave a bit of relief, but by the time I got back on open trails and road, I realized that not only was it hot out, but I had gone out waaayyy too fast (9:11). I probably could have kept up the pace had it not been already 70 degrees outside. So on this day, I let discretion be the better part of valor, and cut it short at 8 miles. And have I ever mentioned that running with a fanny pack is nice, because you can keep your cell phone in it and call your wife (who was running errands in the area) and get a nice air-conditioned ride back home?
On Sunday, since I had cut my long run short, I decided to go for a bike ride. Keep in mind, this would be the first ride with the new rear cassette - and it turned out to be a great purchase. While I didn't tackle any big hills during this ride, I was able to find a more comfortable range of cruising gears (53/21, 53/19) toward the middle of the rear cassette instead of crossing up from the large chainring to the larger gears on the rear. And I was able to take on some smaller hills and work on my climbing - I was able to get up and sustain a solid effort out of the saddle for a solid minute at a time. Sure, it's not a Lance Armstrong-type performance, but it's a good sign that I'm getting more comfortable on the bike.
Monday was a rest day, and Tuesday morning I put in an easy 4 mile run before work. Then the challenge started - a two-day trip to Arizona. Wednesday happened to be National Running Day, so I figured I would somehow squeeze in a run down in AZ. Well, after a pretty long day (up at 4:15am, hours of meetings and conference calls) and a fairly large dinner (PF Chang's is my Achilles heel when I travel down to Chandler), I wasn't quite ready to take on the 98 degree weather at 8pm. So National Running Day went on without me.
Thursday was also an adventure, but I missed out on most of it - we had the rare major thunderstorm in Oregon, and on the flight back, we ended up spending an extra 20 minutes circling the airport waiting for the storm to clear. And once we landed, it was drizzly and humid. It made for an interesting run, but I still managed to get my 3 miles in. All in all, I did manage to sandwich seven good miles (~8:45 pace) around National Running Day.
Today was a bit of a rest day, although I did get some "exercise" in... 9 holes of moderately decent (for me) golf. I shot a 51, which was only 2-3 shots of my best round of 9. The funny thing is that my friend Bryan and I got paired with another random pair. And one of those random folks turned out to be my in-law's across-the-street neighbor. It made for some fun discussions.
The plan for this weekend: long ride tomorrow, then maybe an easy run or swim on Sunday afternoon. I'm shooting for a 3 hour ride tomorrow, and it looks like I should be able to ride out to the lake where the swim leg and first half of the bike leg of my impending half-Ironman will be held. So I started doing some research on the tri course. I knew that the bike was supposed to be "challenging", and the new run course for this year was also a bit hilly, and here's what I found for the bike:

That doesn't look so bad! But I know that I've had problems with MapMyRide before, giving false elevations... so let's see what says:

Yes, the mileage is off by about 30% for some weird reason, but the elevation looks pretty accurate: total gain of 4000+ feet. And look at that isolated hill (which is really around mile 42)... nasty. Looks like it'll be a good idea to get some time on the roads out there before August 16th. I'm not planning to do that this weekend - just checking out the first few miles of the bike will be fine - but I've got two more long rides scheduled between now and the tri... better get out there and find out what I've gotten myself into. And right now, I don't even want to see the elevation gain and loss on the run.

I hope everyone out there has a good weekend and is able to get outside. I'll let you know how the long ride goes next time I check in...

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Small world...

Hey everyone... a little late getting out this post, but better late than never. First, a training update: last Saturday and Sunday, I had a couple of nice, easy runs. Five miles on Saturday at around an 8:45 pace, and four miles on Sunday at an 8:40 pace. On Monday, I took advantage of the day off and put in an epic (for me) ride. Around 41 miles in 2:40. The first major hill showed up around 9 miles, and based upon my current level of fitness and the gearing on the bike (39x23), I decided to skirt the first hill. Over the next 15-20 miles, I got into a pretty good rhythm, maintaining a 17.5-19 mph pace on the flats and rollers that abound in the Tualatin River valley.

Then the trouble started... I had a T in the road where I could either take a left to a direct downhill toward home, or a right to a set of hills that I knew were going to be a challenge. I took the right, and the fun began almost immediately. A nice speedy downhill was quickly followed by two pretty significant hills that I forgot were there. How significant? Well, in cycling shoes, they each take about 5 minutes to walk up... the 39x23 was not happening. But after I got up the second hill, things got a lot better. The next big hill wasn't so big, and I was actually able to keep a good 90 rpm cadence up it. And when I crested the top, I immediately hit 40+ mph on the downhill - while riding the brakes, since this was an incredibly steep hill with lots of pucker factor. It gave me enough momentum to get up the next huge hill without pedaling at all. A slightly technical descent, and then a nice easy ~10 mile pedal home.

After all that fun, I took a rest day on Tuesday - and took the bike in to get a new rear cassette (12/27, so I can hopefully start to actually pedal up those hills). I'm definitely looking forward to trying some hills on Friday or sometime over this weekend. I also took another rest day today, since I had the weekly trip down to Arizona for work.

During my flight to Arizona, I got to chat with a coworker that I hadn't talked to for a while. Even though he's a close enough friend that he ushered at my wedding, and I knew he had run a marathon and a few halfs and 10ks over the last 10-15 years, he surprised me with the fact that he's completed a variety of tri's, including Wildflower. We had the opportunity to chat about training strategies, refueling (Gatorade, Gu and salt tablets, oh my!) and the wonders of the "natural break" during and/or after the cycling leg. It was great to be able to chat with someone who had accomplished the same goals that I'm hoping to this summer, especially when I had no idea he'd enjoyed the 6-7 hours of a half-Ironman. Small world indeed.

On a completely unrelated topic, I did have to brag a little bit. Last Friday, my wife got up at 4:45am to get in her morning workout - and Jonathan Roche, the inventor of the No Excuses Workout program, took note on his Twitter account:

Kinda cool to see your spouse recognized for hard work and dedication in the cyber world. :)

The plan for the next few days is get in a little base training Thursday and Friday - hopefully a run Thursday morning and an easy ride Friday morning. Then we'll see how the first long run since the marathon goes, with 10-12 planned for either Saturday or Sunday. Definitely looking forward to testing out the legs and see if the running endurance is still there 4 weeks after Eugene!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Triathlon training begins

The last few days have been good for training, but I have a challenge coming up as we shall see...

After recovering from the back issues I was battling last week, I got back outside on Friday morning. I got up early to put in a chilly 5k - cold enough that the stocking cap came in handy. Saturday I went for the early wake-up again and got in another 4 miles, and the back (and legs) felt fine. After helping my brother-in-law assemble some furniture at his new condo, I had some time in the evening. Now what was it that I had on my to do list? Oh yeah, get the road bike ready for a ride.

A little background: I came into this road bike via inheritance. My uncle, a very avid cyclist, passed away unexpectedly from a brain aneurysm four years ago at the age of 56. At the time, he owned a small fleet of bicycles - a top-of-the-line road bike, a TT bike, a Specialized Epic Comp road bike (yes, I realize the only Epics out there now are MTBs, but apparently they use to have an Epic road) and his old Peugeot road bike. My aunt sold his top-end bike, as it was still relatively new, and my cousin got the TT bike. But when my aunt passed last September, the Specialized and Peugeot were not spoken for.

It was a couple of months before that I started riding my roaded-out mountain bike (mainly because I had my wonderful runner's knee and wanted some exercise) and somehow got the crazy triathlon bug. And I'm thinking - what am I going to do for a bike, because there's no way I'm riding 56 miles on a cheap mountain bike with road tires. Well, when going through the estate, my cousins let me pick up the Specialized, which is a great bike. And I got the Peugeot as well, of which I have some fond memories. Back in middle school, when I first started running and cycling (before I quit, restarted, quit again and restarted again), my aunt & uncle would come visit nearly every summer. Bill and I would go for a ride - sometimes the 10.5 mile loop in the countryside near home, once a 50+ miler down the local highway. And what was he riding? It was always that Peugeot - so that bike will always serve as a reminder of what was and what can be.

So Saturday night, there I am in my home office, wrestling the Specialized off the trainer it had been attached to all winter. I got out my spiffy bicycle maintenance book to figure out how to adjust the shifters (having problems shifting to the large chainring), adjusting the saddle (angle was a bit off), adjusting the cleats (this will be my first time using clipless pedals outside) and making sure I have the tires pumped full enough (one guy at the bike shop I always go to recommended that "a guy like me" try to pump up to 115 psi rather than just 110 psi....). I even took it for a brief spin outside after, just to make sure it'd be ready for the morning.

Come Sunday morning, I'm up at 5:30am. Yeah, that doesn't happen often. I want to get in a solid ride before heading off to church. I eat breakfast and get out the door by 6:30am, and decide I'm going to ride a route I rode a couple of times last fall - one with a gnarly hill about 14 miles into the ride. How gnarly? According to, it's got 485 feet of climbing in just 1.5 miles or so. That includes a couple of false flats. Last summer, I barely made it up the first 80 feet of the climb before realizing heavy rider + heavy bike = not getting up the hill.

The first 10 miles of my ride on the Specialized, and I'm cruising right along. The ride is smooth, it's so much more responsive than my mountain bike (a little too much, sometimes - need to work on the bike handling skills!) and I'm enjoying what's turning out to be a beautiful day. But on the couple of small hills I encounter in the first part of the ride, I realize that this bike is geared for certifiable studs only (I later confirm that the rear cassette is a 12/23 and the front a 53/39). So I decide to skip the big hill in favor of a route I hadn't rode before. Well, it turned out I still got to enjoy a good 200 foot climb followed by a descent that had significant pucker factor - mainly because I haven't been riding 37 mph on a city street with traffic before! After that was another 200 foot climb at a pretty steady grade... there I was in my granny gear in the bike lane, struggling to make it up (note to self - get up out of the saddle next time!). But I did make it up, and had a nice and enjoyable ~2 mile descent at a 25+ mph speeds. And despite later missing a shift and popping the chain off the chainring, I managed to make it home, get showered and still make it to church.

While it was a great ride, hopefully next time I'll be smart enough to not only get up out of the saddle and "dance on the pedals" for a little more uphill momentum, but I'll take a nice warmdown too. Sitting down for the entire climb made the outside of my calves incredibly tight, and coupled with the lack of warmdown, made me almost immobile by 8pm. Thus, Monday was a rest day... even though it was already scheduled to be a rest day, there was no way I could have run had I wanted to.

This morning I did get up for the early run again, and managed a nice 3.5 miles in between the overnight rains and the morning rains (and as I type this on my lunch break, I see the noon rains getting pretty heavy). Even though I was sleepy, it felt great to be out there - but the sleepiness will mount this week.

Remember the challenge I mentioned? Well, there's actually two of them. The first one is how do I work in the swimming that I'll need to get into tri shape? I'm sure I'll figure that one out assuming I can find some Friday or weekend time. But the bigger challenge this week (and likely for several weeks in June) is how to keep up the schedule while traveling? I suspect it means lack of sleep. Tomorrow is the usual 6am flight to Arizona, which for me means waking up at 4:30am. Then a full day of meetings when I get there... my last meeting is a 8pm-9pm teleconference. That means that tomorrow is an automatic rest day, and if I want to run Thursday it's either waking up early (have to be on site for an 8am meeting) or running when I get home (assuming the flight lands on time at 7pm). And if I do run while I'm in Arizona, how pleasant is it going to be to run at 5:30am when it's already 78 degrees out, or something ridiculous like that? This schedule is definitely going to be a tough nut to crack, but I've got all the motivation I need... I've got that half-Ironman on the calendar, now only 89 days away. :)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Training update - 5/13/09

Unfortunately, there's nothing new to report on the training front. This has been a very frustrating week. I did get in a run last Saturday morning, which allowed me to work the kinks out. There was a bit of tightness in my right knee (which was the one that had runner's knee last year which shut me down for a couple of months), so I decided to take a rest day on Sunday. Afterall, it was Mother's Day, and we had a pretty busy day planned. The girls made Christine breakfast after she got back from her run, we did the card & gift thing, then went off to church. After that, we had about an hour and a half at home for lunch and some homework before going off to the in-laws for a great Mother's Day / birthday (for the Mother-in-law) celebration. A little bit too much good food (pork tenderloin, corn, zucchini, strawberry short cake), but nothing that a good week of running will take care of... right?

Well, Monday morning I got a late start, which was fine because my meetings were once again concentrated in the 2pm - 9pm timeframe. But as I was getting out of the shower, I twisted wrong as I was picking up my towel - and the next thing I know, pain is shooting up my back from just below my ribs to between my shoulder blades. I go meet a colleague for lunch thinking it will go away, but apparently not. It got worse as the day went on. So I went back home, sent out an out-of-office memo to those who needed to know, and crawled into bed with some painkiller (codeine-flavored tylenol).

Tuesday when I woke up, I was still in pain - but wonderfully hung over from the codeine. I set up a chiropractor appointment, but then I made the mistake of going into work. While standing up and lying down both felt fine, sitting in an office chair (even my spiffy ergo-friendly one) was excruciating. After an hour, I went back home and laid around until the appointment. Our naturopath / chiropractor generally does a good job, and I felt fine after the appointment - for about an hour, at which point the pain was coming back. At least this time I had her guidance of using arnica for the inflammation and an interesting valerian root / passion flower remedy as a muscle relaxant. After using those plus a heating pad, I actually feel somewhat human as I write this Wednesday night.

So for now, running is on hold... I do hope that I feel good enough to go out for a run either tomorrow afternoon (there's a hole in the schedule from 4-6pm!) or Friday morning. Wish me luck!

Saturday, May 9, 2009

Eugene marathon race report

Last weekend was a blast - I got to spend a relaxing weekend with Christine and the girls, sandwiched around a good run. It was a truly amazing event, and I hope my words can do it justice.

We drove down to Eugene Saturday afternoon. After a few days of pretty good weather (considering it's spring in Oregon), a Pacific weather system decided to move in for the weekend. I packed well: running jacket, cap and gloves - but it wasn't cold enough to justify long pants. On the two hour drive down, we drove through some very heavy rainstorms. All the while I'm thinking, "I'm going to be running through THIS tomorrow? This has the potential to be miserable!"

Fortunately by the time we got into Eugene and got to the expo, the really heavy squalls had past. The expo itself was great - a good range of exhibitors, easy packet pickup, and importantly, I joined up with the Clif Bar Pace Team. Specifically the 4:15 group. On my long runs, I had been training at a 9:35ish pace... and bonking and cramping around 18 miles. I figure that I can back off to a 9:44 pace and have enough left in the tank to make it to at least 22, maybe 24 miles, then use willpower to get through the last few miles. Nice idea, but it didn't quite work, as we'll see later.

For dinner, we went to McGrath's fish house. I truly carbo-loaded before running Portland in 2007, and I found out that my body doesn't really take well to carbo-loading. For me, it basically leads to frequent appreciation of where the course organizers have placed the portajohns. This time I figure that since we're eating a pretty healthy mix of carbs and lean protein at home, I should do the same the night before the race. After a decent crab cake appetizer and a nice salmon dish with potatoes, mission accomplished. Afterwards, we went back to the hotel and vegged out until I turned in around 10pm.

The alarm goes off at 4:30... wow, it's early. Only an hour earlier than the usual wake-up time, so fortunately it doesn't seem too ridiculous. Also, typical of some runners, I was scarcely able to sleep through the night, so I wasn't completely groggy but did get enough sleep to feel rested. After my usual breakfast of Trader Joe's Os, I start downing Ultima replenisher drink at 6am to get some electrolytes into the system.

6am we start to make our way to the race area. There's no parking close by, so Christine drops me off at 6:20. By 6:40, I'm safely in the 10:00 and faster starting corral, I've found my pace group, and Christine and the girls come find me. Which is great, for a couple of reasons: 1) it was awesome to get some last minute encouragement from the loved ones; 2) my Amphipod race number belt managed to destroy my bib, so I gave the belt to Chrsitine rather than carry the extra gear for 26 miles. On the bright side, there were a couple of folks in the pace group who donated a couple of pins so I could pin my bib on my shirt (thanks, Wendy and whoever else!).

7am and the gun goes off as expected. Since we're toward the back of the fast corral, we don't get to the line for about two minutes. But once we do, we're off and running - and immediately the whole concept of a pace group comes in handy. Nearly every race that I run, from 4 miles to marathon, I go out too fast in the first mile. Having a pacer there holding us back was great... instead of bolting out of the gate too fast, I race the first mile in 9:50 - within 6 seconds of the goal pace, and on the slow side. But then the big downhill comes on mile two. The pacer (Star) constantly talked to us, giving pointers on how best to run downhill to save our quads for the important miles. And downhill we fly... second mile goes by in 9:19. However, we still have a bit of momentum and even more downhill - mile 3 in 8:41. At this point, I'm starting to get a bit worried, but I'll see how it looks once the downhill ends.

During mile 4, I start to get in my groove. That wonderful feeling that you can run forever. I'm running a 9:30-9:40 pace on the flats, and it feels easy. I also start to notice the crowd a bit more. The crowd was hard not to notice in the first two miles around the University, but now we're in the residential section, and there are people (and occasional bands and street performers) out to encourage us. The only downside is that on the other side of the greenway we see runners coming back from the turnaround at 5 miles. And we continue to see them. And even more runners... it makes miles 3-5 seem like they go on forever.

After the turnaround, we get more running tips from Star. She points out that most of the group gets ahead of her every time we pass a band or a radio truck - not only are downhills our enemies, but music subconciously makes us speed up unless we're very intentional about running a slow pace. She also gives us one of the tidbits that will probably stay with me the rest of my life: running a marathon is really three races. The first 10 miles, you're running with your head. You're pacing yourself, you're using your mind to keep your body under control on the downhills and when you pass those bands that trick us into speeding up and wasting the energy we'll need later. The second race, miles 11-20, you're running with your legs. This is why we train, this is why we have the long runs leading up to the marathon. This is where the endurance pays off, and our legs, now accustomed to the pace, take us up to mile 20. The last race, the last 6 miles, you race with your heart. Your head is telling you that you want to (or need to) stop. Your legs are begging "no more!" I keep this advice in mind not only because it's wisdom from someone who's run 106 marathons, but also because I know that I'll need it later.

Miles 5-7 are pretty much cruising, then onto a greenway through Amazon park for the 8th mile. At this point, I realize that our pace group is being rude and taking up the entire path. Yes, we need to move over, but I think - who are these crazy yahoos sprinting past us on the grass? Star reminds us that we'll see them later, and they probably won't be running. Especially since if they've been behind us for 7 miles, why are they running a sprint at mile 8? Hopefully for their sake, they're all running the half marathon. :)

Mile 9 is back up that hill that we saw at mile 2. Wow it's steep, but the wonders of the pace group again - Star reminds us that we need to take shorter steps and down worry about slowing down up the hill. I'm really digging this pace group... until we pass 8 miles in a little less than 76 minutes. Can you say 9:30 pace for the first 8 miles? And I was bonking at 18 miles on a 9:35 pace? This is suddenly looking like it could be a long day - but it also could be a major PR, so I figure I'll stick with the pace group as long as possible.

The marker for mile 9 is back in the start area, and another pacer joins us. Around mile 10, he points out that people who use GPS or Nike+ during their marathons actually log about 27 miles during the race, darting back and forth across the road, to the water stations, and not cutting the tangents as closely as they could. That thought enters my mind that I actually need to run 27 miles in 4:15, which is actually a much speedier pace (9:27). Hmmm... starting to worry just a bit. At mile 11, the second pacer (name was Jim or Ron - but I can't remember for sure) sidles up and chats with me for a while. He's just a rookie compared to Star, as this is only his 46th marathon, having started doing this crazy marathon stuff in 2001. Pshaw - only 5-6 a year? What does he know? :)

Around mile 12, I start to float out in front of our group. Not too far - about 100-200 yards, which means I can still hear 90% of Star's commentary. I do hear her promise us a story around mile 17, so I'm going to make sure I don't get too far away from the group. I do pass through the half marathon check in under 2:07. At this point, I'm feeling pretty good, so I'm not sure whether I should be happy or worried. :) I have been keeping myself well-hydrated up til now. While I did miss one water station around mile 3 or 4, I've hit all the other ones, and had two, sometimes three, cups of water at each. And most of the water has been going down the hatch, although there were a couple of noteable spills. And I've been keeping myself well-fed too. At mile 2 I broke out the first pack of Clif ShotBloks. Three blocks (100 calories) every two miles, so I'm taking in a good amount of energy. I'm also taking four Hammer Endurolytes every five miles, hoping to stave off the cramping that I encountered back in Portland.

By mile 15, two things are starting to happen. First, I'm starting to feel a little bit... tired. Exhausted. Not sleepy, but worn out - strangely, like I've been running for two and a half hours. I'm still out in front of the group by a hundred yards, and I hear Star telling everyone "if you're starting to feel tired, that's perfectly normal - you've been running for over 15 miles". So all systems are still go, and miles are still clicking off between 9:37 and 9:48 pace. But also, the sun is starting to peek out. Remember that rain that was so nasty on the drive down, and was supposed to be here all weekend? Well it was drizzling for the first two miles, so I felt pretty secure in my jacket and hat. But now it's been more or less dry for two hours, and I'm still wearing that jacket. Yeah, it's unzipped almost all the way down, but it's still on. There will be good and bad results from that....

By mile 17, I've rejoined the pace group. We're all running together on the Willamette River trail. For me, no more running out ahead, and besides, I want to hear Star's story. But by the time she's getting to the good part (it's about her trying to run an aggressive pace at a marthon in 90 degree weather 6 weeks after being dumped by her boyfriend) we're at mile 18, and I realize I'm headed for bonkville. So I drop off the pace and am now running miles of 9:58-10:04. And by mile 21, I slow down to 10:19. Mile 21 is also important, as it's the river crossing that will put us on the south bank, and it's pretty much a straight line back along the river to the finish. But finally, around 21.5 miles into this thing, the legs and head win out over the heart - I decide I'm going to walk for a while. In retrospect, maybe - just maybe - I could have slowed down to a nice 11:00 or 11:30 pace and kept running, but I think the walk break - about three quarters of a mile - rejuvenated me enough to bring it home in decent style.

While I was on said walk break, I did pass someone that was either unconscious or pretty darn near it. She had someone holding her, wrapped in a blanket, and a couple of other runners had just called the paramedics, who I could hear coming from somewhere close by. Note to self: do not end up like that.

At the same time this is going on, I start to notice something. The crowds, which have been amazing all along, are really starting to use people's names (for those of you that don't know, you usually have the option of putting your name on the bib along with your number). While I'm walking, I get people yelling "Great job, Mike, you're doing great!". That's enough to inspire the heart; a little after the marker for mile 22, I get back to running at a nice trot, around a 10:00 pace. I even get into a groove - run 4-6 minutes, walk a minute. And lo and behold, I'm making progress. And people are continuing to cheer me on. And I'm remembering Star saying that you run the last 6 miles with your heart. Well, mind and body got the best of the heart at mile 21.5, but now the heart is clearly winning and carrying the day.

By mile 25, I've got that goofy smile plastered across my face, and I can't get it off. I'm not going to make my goal pace of 4:15, but I'm probably going to break 4:30 and take at least 40 minutes off my PR. And I'm having fun! One more walk break around 25.5 miles, and I realize that I'm running the rest of this thing. Who cares that it's uphill... my mind could clearly see that it was uphill toward the finish, but my body didn't feel it - the heart was pulling me along. Around that last corner, and I can see the finish banner. A few more steps and I see Christine and the girls taking pictures and cheering me on! A couple more steps, and I hear them call out my name over the loudspeaker as a finisher of the Eugene marathon. Wow! There's even a small bit of video of me finishing around 4:28:06 "gun time": Crossing that line at a normal running pace was an experience like no other!

The aftermath: well, it took me probably ten minutes to get my bearings, as I was completely out of gas - no sugar left in this body (I stopped eating around mile 20 because I was getting nauseous), so no energy for the brain to run on. And once I stopped after the finish line, my legs didn't want to move anymore. And I could barely put anything back into my body. I did drink some water and some SoBe stuff, but could only eat two Famous Amos mini-chocolate chip cookies for the first hour or so. But Christine got me safely back to the hotel, where I was finally able to eat the rest of my Famous Amos cookies and take a shower. Two hours in the car later, and we were safely back home with me not looking forward to climbing up the stairs, but very much looking forward to an epsom salt bath - which works wonders for reducing muscle soreness.

This was an amazing, incredible experience, and I did learn a few things:
  1. Star's three races of the marathon. Incredible wisdom.
  2. Slower pace group next time. I should have run with the 4:30ers and then left them behind around mile 10-13. Probably could have run a 4:20-4:22 had I run negative splits, but I left too much out there the first 10 miles.
  3. Ditch the jacket. Unless it's raining cats and dogs, don't worry about a little cold and wet - there'll be enough heat generated by running to keep me warm, and when that sun came out, it was just brutal. Or at least tie the jacket around the waist next time. I'm pretty sure it didn't cost me much, but it did probably make me sweat a little extra and make the bonk come a little earlier
  4. Bandaids for those sensitive areas. Christine mentioned that they saw a lot of men with two bloody spots finishing. Well, as soon as I took off my jacket, I realized I was one of those men too. (Fortunately all the during and after-race pictures are of me with my jacket on!) I put on plenty of Glide, but apparently it wasn't enough. Next time, bandaids or athletic tape or something. It didn't hurt during the race, but the shower after was killer.
  5. Eugene is an amazing running town. The crowds were incredible. The people during the last five miles along the river were amazing - some of them were clearly spectators, but some just seemed to be out for a day at the park and decided to cheer us on anyway. And the volunteers were amazing too. I do hope I get to run this one again, because it can give the Portland marathon - also an amazing event - a run for it's money.

There are probably a lot of other things I could have written about - but having almost a week to reflect, these are the things that stick out. I'm definitely looking forward to the next marathon (Portland on October 4th), as well as the next chance I get to run in Eugene. Who knows, maybe this fall or next spring I'll finally break that 4:15 goal? :)