Monday, March 29, 2010

Another Sunday, another 15K

This past Sunday morning - Ft. Vancouver race day - dawned dreary with steady rain. Naturally, it was still pitch-black outside when the alarm went off.

For a few fleeting moments, all snuggled down in the covers and listening to the soggy weather falling on the roof, I actually entertained the idea of not going, but wisely thought better of it and commenced to getting my act in gear. My mom was in town, which was a nice treat, as she doesn't get to see me run very much, and I was happy to have the extra support!

Fortunately, by the time we got to Vancouver, the rain had pretty much stopped and there were even a few rebel streaks of blue overhead. There weren't a whole lot of folks there, but enough to put some energy into the air, along with some very bouncy, loud music and several little booths with free samples and other nifty things. It was clear, however, that the 15K field was small (less than 100) and that I'd probably be running this one all on my own for the most part.

The wind had picked up and a mere 10 minutes from starting time they announced over the loudspeakers that the directional signs were being blown over; this was followed up with the vague directive to "know your course!" based on the distance you were running. This concerned me a bit since I know literally nothing about the area, but I figured as long as I could keep at least one or two folks within sight in front of me I'd be ok.

My running mate Donna surprised me by showing up; she had originally planned to do the 15K as well, but hurt her knee during the Shamrock Run earlier in the month, so she switched to the 5K. I was happy just to see her there running at all!

The gun went off admist the cheers, and within no time at all, I found myself with only two or three behind me and the rest of the pack well ahead and pulling away fast, including the very nice older gentleman who was racewalking and had reported to me as we chatted at the starting line that he was banking on 11 minute miles. I'm not sure if that's what he ended up doing, but it didn't take long before I couldn't see him at all, so he was trucking in any case.

There were hills, but they were fairly short (although not necessarily gentle) and I did end up walking a couple of them. I went out much faster than I expected (11:34 for the first mile - that's a PR!) and then just sort of slowly petered out after that, kind of like a slow-leaking balloon. By mile 6, I had to really start zoning inward to keep focus and by the time I made it to mile 9, I was hurting and the last .3 was seriously the most ridiculously long 3/10ths I've done in a long, long time.

I mean, really:

I was truly shot. On the upside, this is quite possibly the most flattering picture of my legs in about the last ten years. Note the nifty Nathan Quick Draw on my right hand - a new and quite welcome addition to my extremely modest collection of running paraphernalia. (And Ron - if you're reading this - hat!)

And my time? Chip report had me at only a 20-second improvement over my Shamrock time (you can see the clock in this picture) but whatever. I was still content to just finish, although I must admit there was a tiny part of me that really wanted to come in at sub-2 hours.

Back home, I got some Motrin on board and forced myself to take a 10-minute ice bath (the trick is to get into the tub and then run the cold water and dump in the ice!) and this helped tremendously. After I warmed up from the ice bath, I took a nice, long hot shower and then napped for about an hour and a half. By evening, although I was still sore, I didn't have to grit my teeth to walk down our stairs.

Race for the Roses is in about two weeks. I am still debating whether to run the 1/2 or only the 10K. I want to do the half, so perhaps I'll go for it and stick to an intentional run/walk plan of attack instead of trying to run most of it. But the 10K might be a wiser choice considering how wiped out I was after this one. The mere thought of pushing through for nearly another 4 miles on top makes me shiver a little bit. I think I'm going to think about this a while longer before I send in my registration!

One thing I know for certain is I need a new pair of shoes, because I'm due. This is going to happen before my next long run (and in retrospect, this may have been part of the issue for this race!)

Wednesday, March 24, 2010


Given the sporadic and seemingly random nature of my training in the last few weeks, one might think I am slipping a bit in the commitment department. In my defense, I must suggest here that the best-laid plans sometimes go astray, and sometimes they are not so much best-laid as they are quasi-formed approximations of things I should do that end up derailed by any number of things, to wit:

The Bed. We have a very comfortable bed I enjoy spending my nighttime hours in a lot. High thread-count sheets are the one household item of which I tend to indulge, and along with the big fluffy comforter and all my squishy pillows it's like the absolutely perfect storm of sleeping. Thus, when the alarm goes off at approximately stupid-o'clock in the morning I am not generally prepared or even vaguely willing to spring right up and into action either at the gym or around the neighborhood.

The Clock Radio. Speaking of alarms - and please understand that I am not a violent person, really! - but I honestly would like to find whoever it was that invented that seemingly innocuous little device known as the "snooze alarm" and whack him or her upside the head with a very large and heavy item, such as a brick or an Oldsmobile. Between this truly devil-inspired invention of modern man combined with my first point mentioned above, it's pretty much impossible to get up when I really need to. I believe my all-time record of hitting the snooze button before finally hauling my sorry butt out of bed to avoid losing my job was about an hour and twenty minutes. This, of course, left no time for running that morning and also totally eclipsed the possibility of going for a run after work since I had to stay late to make up time.

The Soothing Sounds of My Brilliant Self-Rationalization. The degree and variation of this particular deterrent knows no real limit, when you think about it:
  • No clean workout clothes.
  • Too cold.
  • Too hot.
  • Too windy.
  • We are totally out of bagels, and the entire universe knows I can't run without carbo-loading on bagels!
  • Too dark.
  • Too tired.
  • Treadmills are of the devil!
  • I'm still sore from the last workout.
  • It's raining.
  • It's snowing.
  • It's hailing.
  • There's not enough shade in my neighborhood.
  • Treadmills really suck!
  • I might get mugged or chased by a pack of wild hyenas.
  • I don't have anyone to run with me.
  • Not enough time.
  • I just ate.
  • I haven't eaten since....
  • I'll just go for a run after work.
  • I'll just go for a run during lunch.
  • I'll just take a couple brisk walks around the building during my breaks.
  • Did I mention yet that treadmills were invented by satan???
  • I don't have a race coming up for a few weeks; I'll just run a couple miles extra tomorrow.
  • I read a report yesterday in the checkout aisle that said running causes nose cancer.
  • I'm doing this why???
I suppose it might be worth mentioning that I'm staring down the barrel of another 15K this coming Sunday. So during this possibly ill-advised race, when I get to about mile 7 and am busy cursing up a blue streak in my head about how stupid running is and how everything hurts and how the only way I will finish is to be drug across the line by some kind, sympathetic soul, I'll think back on this little list of excuses and vow never again to fall victim to their wiles.

That is, at least until the following week.

I mean, it is a huge conspiracy, right.....?

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Shamrocky Goodness

Well, I did it. 15K in 02:04:24. Not bad, considering I walked the hills for the most part. I won't say that all of my fear was for naught, though, because this was a hard course.

This morning it was a bit chilly but nice and clear, with very little wind. It was craziness down on the waterfront - several thousand in the 5K walk, 7,500 participants in the 5K run, 5,039 in the 8K and about 4,000 in the 15K. The excitement was tangible - lots of music playing and booths set up all over the place - this is a seriously big event in this town.

Nicholas ran in the "Leprechaun Lap" - this is the only picture we got of him (he's in the grey sweatshirt in the middle of the shot, and Justin is in the dark grey beside him.) They went out like a rocket and by the time I caught up to them, Nicholas was doubled over, gasping for breath...but before I could say anything, he was off again.

Everyone was sent out in waves to avoid mass congestion, but it was still pretty nutzoid trying to navigate through the throngs of folks, all wearing different colored bib numbers - black/white were the walkers, orange was the 5K, green 8K and blue 15K.

Donna and I before the start of the race. Just look at those smiles! Hehehe...not for long!

Finally it was our turn to go and off we went. The crowd around me thinned out within the first 5 minutes and before I knew it, we were literally bringing up the very rear, with the only ones behind us being Portland's Finest. It was pretty funny to think that we were running from the cops! Only moments later, the uphill portion began, a fairly gentle but prolonged incline up Broadway, then a slightly steeper but fairly short portion just past the one mile marker. By then, I was feeling it, and given my usual difficulties in really settling in, I was already having a hard time.

Donna gradually pulled away (I told her to, it was clear she could go faster) and before I knew it, I was pretty much by myself, the sweepers crawling along behind me, with only a few in front of me by a couple hundred feet. I finally caught up to someone - she was keeping a pretty slow pace so we instantly decided we were going to hang together for a while. We chattered away, introducing ourselves (hi Sheridan!) and generally encouraging one another as we approached the first and most serious incline going up Terwilliger Blvd. That's when it really got fun.

So, up we went, reduced to a walk - the first hill was definitely the steepest and the longest. Then it commenced with the rolling hills, more up than down, but at least there were a few declines on which we could start running again before we had to muscle our way up the next hill. All this time we were watching the time and calculating our pace since we had to get to a certain point (about halfway) within 75 minutes or risk being steered off onto a shortcut back to the finish that would shave about 2 miles off the distance. Sheridan and I were absolutely determined that we were going to make the cutoff, so when we actually did make the cutoff with 10 minutes to spare, she poured on the juice and went on ahead of me. I just kept plugging away, joking with the officer who occasionally pulled up beside me, looking a bit bored, and alternately passing and being passed by the scattered few who were still within sight.

Then, there was the top, and with a huge sigh of relief I began to finally catch my breath and really settle in, humming along down the hill - knowing that I'd just gotten over the most difficult part of the race gave me a huge second wind (literally) and I was cruising. At that point, I put on my headphones for that extra push from my running mix and actually caught up to Sheridan at about the 6 mile mark. She was dragging, and I kept alongside her for a while, and then reassured she was ok I went on ahead.

By this point, the course was headed back downtown and it literally was downhill almost all the way. From the top of Terwilliger, I managed to run about two and half miles without having to walk. But right along mile 8, though, it started to catch up to me - the hip flexors were getting very sore. Almost without fail, this is where I really feel it every time. I grit my teeth, turned up the music a bit louder, and kept going - walking for a few seconds and running for a few minutes, alternating.

When I was about four blocks from the finish line, I just sort of charged ahead and managed to run across the finish line, just ahead of Donna, who had wrenched her knee out on the course and had fallen far enough back for me to catch her and then pass her.

Definitely not the most flattering photo finish in the world, but man those blue mats had never looked so awesome! Donna is in the pink about a hundred feet behind me.

Me, still standing -  the lovely blue mats, the finish banner. This was a very good day.

Unfortunately, Donna had to go visit the medical tent and get some ice packed on her knee. She was in quite a lot of pain, but able to walk on it which is a good sign. I waited at the finish to cheer for Sheridan as she came across, about 15 minutes after I did. This was her first race ever, and she was so happy to finish I thought I might start crying right along with her. We hugged and high-fived and chatted for a bit, then exchanged contact info and went our own ways.

We retired to the booth area, where there was free seafood chowder and beer waiting for us (although I passed on the beer. I don't like beer.) The seafood chowder, however, kicked some serious you-know-what - it really hit the spot. It turns out that all the 15K finishers were supposed to get medals, but they ran out. Apparently, I will be getting one in the mail.

Happy shiny runners! Here I have a medal, but I was borrowing it from Donna's friend Win (second from the left) for the picture. He managed to finish fast enough to get one of the available medals. Lucky dog!

The first place finisher for the 15K was done in 47 minutes. I just can't even comprehend that. Seriously, I can't. It must be cool to be able to run that fast, but at the same time, I don't think I would enjoy the ride nearly as much - to be that hyper-driven and pushing that hard...I can't see that as being something I'd enjoy, even as hard as it was for me to get through the course myself. Despite the rough time I had getting up those stupid hills, I will do it again next year and my opinion of running as a pastime, a hobby, a release -  still stands quite firm - and I think ya'll know what that is!

Saturday, March 13, 2010

'Twas The Night Before Shamrock...

And all through the house -
I was pacing and fretting
Like a caffeinated mouse

My shoes have been laid by my bedside with care
In hopes that quite soon I will meet my pillow there!!

Well, I actually am not sharp-witted enough tonight to finish this little bit of parodic brilliance, but suffice to say sleeping will indeed be hard tonight.  It's always difficult the night before a race - and this one in particular has got the butterflies going full-tilt. 15K, nearly half of it mostly uphill, with a time limit. But I digress.

I picked up my race packet and shirt this afternoon - the cars were backed up for nearly half a mile from the pickup location - the race sold out at 21,000 participants, which is just totally nuts. My own bib number is well into the 16 thousands. Getting downtown tomorrow morning might end up being a bit of a chore, so I'm thinking we may take the train instead.

Just got done with a big bowl of spaghetti and since the clocks move forward tonight, it's time to turn it in and hope I can fall asleep right away. Going to think good thoughts, pray for nice dreams and with any luck, bounce out of bed ready to tear it up!

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

ORRC Champoeg 10K

This past Saturday was a gorgeous day to run a race; there was just a trace of chill in the air, the sun was out and the park was spectacular, as it usually is. Actually, I've only been to Champoeg twice, but I've seen enough of it to know that it's a very nice park. It makes a compelling argument for moving to Newberg!

My running mate Donna was there at the starting line with me, but because we'd previously agreed she didn't have to stick around if she felt she could go faster, I was on my own within the first tenth of a mile. I had my iPhone with RunKeeper going, and was pleasantly surprised to discover that for a good chunk of the first half of the race, I more or less maintained a sub-13 minute mile. My 5K time was just a hair over 38 minutes, which for me is a serious PR, but I slowed down during the second half, mostly because my iPhone died and I didn't have music to keep me fully charged.

For a while I had to fight hard against the desire to walk, especially during a fairly long and straight (but gentle) incline between miles 4 and 5. Obvious hills are a challenge, but sometimes I think the subtle "sneaker" inclines are the ones that get you! Fortunately, I am at the point where I can recover from small hills without having to walk, which is a nice milestone to hit. That being said, I managed to run the entire distance, with the exception of the water stops - drinking from a dixie-cup while running is practically impossible!

The last mile stretched out under full morning sun - and while the weather was about as close to perfect as it can get for a race, I was hot, even with short sleeves and shorts. A nice cross-breeze came to my rescue just as I ventured into another straightaway through a wide-open swath of meadow and encouraged me to pick it up just a bit. Getting to the end was a huge relief and it was fantastic to have a few folks there cheering me as I crossed the line. My time was 1:20:47, about a 6 minute improvement over my last 10K and my best 10K time since I started running again.

It's amazing how relative speed is with this sport, especially as an activity with participants of all different levels of ability. During this particular race, I was passed not once, but twice by a small herd of 20-somethings, mostly Red Lizards - these guys were doing the 30K and man, they were flying! Someday I might run fast enough to keep up with the slowest of that particular pack - that would be a miraculous day, let me tell ya! I'm not sure whether it made me feel better or worse to see them sail by - on one hand, they're inspiring because I want to run like them -  but on the other hand, it makes me wonder if I should just stop kidding myself. The more I dwell on this thought the more aware I become of every excess pound and all 42 of my years....along with a strong sense of insignificance, which is very hard to kick.

What helps is thinking of how far I've come and of my future potential, because there is potential -- and this is entirely in spite of the fact that I will never win any of these races. In fact, it will be amazing if I even place highly within my age category. But at the end of the day, I simply do what I can do. It sure as hell beats what I was doing before, which was nothing - on top of being 60 lbs heavier and unable to jog to the end of the block without keeling over.

So yeah, in a very big sense, I guess I've already won.


Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Ebb and Flow

Ya gotta love it!

You might remember I posted this big glowing speech the other day about conquering fear, and Franklin Roosevelt, and Deep Psychological Stuff about said fear and losing weight and running and blah blah blah. Big bold words on a bold topic, no?

So I guess I'll not beat around the bush and just say it: I am totally freaking out about the Shamrock Run, which is a mere week from this Sunday.

So far I've had at least three people who are all experienced and very fit runners comment on how challenging this race is - or rather, how challenging the 15K is, which is of course the distance I have signed up for. Today, on the OregonLive blog, I was glancing through some of the previous posts about Shamrock and made lumpy-throated note of this particular quote by RunOregon community blogger Kelly Johnson:

"Anyway, it's gotten me thinking that there's no better time than to start adding hills into my weekly running plan to be ready for the monster locals refer to as "Terwilliger" and those in the know refer to as "The runner-eating hill that never ends."


This is not good.

It's not that I don't think I can finish, because I know I can. My hill-training is somewhat lacking, but I am pretty sure I'll be able to muddle through - so far, I have always managed to muddle through. With this race, though, there is an added aspect that up until now, I have never had to contend with - and that is the stipulation that if one has not reached a certain point on the course within 75 minutes, he/she will be diverted to a different route that will take about two miles off the distance.

This would not the the end of the world. It's not like getting pulled off the course, as if exceeding the total allowable time for a race, and it's not technically a DNF ("Did Not Finish" for those who might not be hep with the lingo). But in a way, it would be a DNF - I registered for a 15K, not an 11-something K (or whatever it would be.) Not being allowed to finish what I started would be quite disappointing indeed.

I want to challenge myself, but I know I have limits and God forbid I would end up with an injury. I'm still too determined to do this to change my registration to run the 8K instead, which I could do, but that would be giving in and chickening out. Perhaps it's stubborn pride getting in the way; I don't know. It certainly wouldn't be the first time.

Sadly, I've no uplifting or grandiose words of profundity about overcoming and "seeing what I'm made of" to add to this post - only that I am nervous and full of doubt about this race, and I guess I really have no choice but to sit with it, keep training, and hope for the best.

Monday, March 1, 2010

A Letter (1st in a series)

Dear Toenails:

I see you are doing better these days, now that those of you who have been missing for a while are finally starting to make a reappearance. Nice of you to join the party again -and it's about bloody well time, I might add!

Honestly, I am not exactly sure what encouraged a few of you to permanently forgo your cozy little beds last summer, but I do hear from various corners of that amazing universal bastion of knowledge, the Internet, that running just might be the culprit. I guess all that incessant shoving up against the insides of my trusty Asics as I staggered through the miles did you in once and for all. Anyway, the Internet said to simply leave you alone and let you do what you must, so I did.

My goodness but you certainly took your time! And oh, how ugly you became! I never knew there were so many fascinating shades of....well, black. For a while it looked as if you'd been assaulted by a hammer, but fortunately you never hurt nearly as bad as that unfortunate circumstance surely would have caused. In fact, you bothered me so little as you gradually let go of my toes that the only times I recalled anything was amiss was in the shower or when delicately pulling on my socks, taking care to avoid snagging you against the threads. And once you finally fell off, your newer and somewhat more pliable compatriots were patiently waiting beneath, a much more pleasant looking pinkish-white, ready to take over. 

So here's to you, my trusty toe-guards, my tough little keratin phalange-crowns. I'm glad you're back, and perhaps I should hesitate to tell you, but I shall continue running even though it could mean more of you will be forced to sacrifice yourselves for the sake of my crazy habit. I will miss you if you go, but you know what they say about absence and fond hearts and all that!

But please, if you don't mind - spring and summer are right around the corner, which means sandal season is fast approaching, and while I know that all good things are truly worth waiting for, I'd sure appreciate if ya'll would pull your collective act together and grow all the way back by then!

Thanks a million!