2019 Portland Marathon

So. Hi. Yeah.

One thing or another and my running had fallen by the wayside. For years and years I’ve been running maybe 15 miles a week (on a good week) and not racing at all. A big part of it was having a daughter in 2014. It turns out the rumors are true: children take up a lot of time and energy.

So it’s been seven years since I’ve run a marathon. I’m 49 now. Old for a dad of a five-year-old. Old for a runner?

The Portland Marathon has been a mess for years. After a series of poorly-managed races and financial scandals, the old organization folded up shop for good in 2017. Good riddance. The Run With Paula folks put on a replacement run called The Portlandathon in 2018, but they were saddled with some pretty awful constraints, like being forced to use a route even worse than the bad old normal one.

For 2019, the city picked a new race manager: Brooksee, an organization out of Utah, known for their Revel running series. Both Brooksee and the city seemed committed to addressing the problems of the past: the gross old route, the problems with train crossings, the general sense that the Portland Marathon itself was totally more important than mere runners and shouldn’t have to listen to opinions or ideas.

Toward the start of May, they finally announced the new course for this year’s marathon. I took a look and it got my interest. I read about their plan to avoid all train blockages. I saw they were doing free race photos. I had a crazy idea. I wanted to run it. I’d have to train up for it, almost from zero, in just five months. With Sweetie’s approval, I started the process. My first weekend’s “long run”? Six miles.

My GPS Track

Relevant side-note: I do figure skating now. Have for a few years. I started taking classes with my daughter when she was three-and-a-half. I think it’s been a real help with strengthening various muscles that running doesn’t. That means it’s also helping with injury prevention.

Then again, I took a nasty fall on the ice more than a year ago and wrenched my right ankle something awful, spraining it pretty badly. My foot bent up, so I overextended my Achilles tendon and messed up a bunch of other stuff down there. I thought I was all recovered when I started training, but…

I guess not? Through the entire five months of training, my right foot, ankle, and calf were problems. I’m stubborn and just kept running. It seems to have worked out OK so far.

Other than that, my training cycle was pretty remarkably good. I didn’t miss any long runs, I got my weekly mileage up above 35 for a month-and-a-half, and I wasn’t sick much. I started getting faster thanks only to just running more. My only injury issues were the aforementioned chronic right ankle problems.

I enjoyed training. I enjoyed getting up at 6am every Saturday and getting out the door for a long run. I enjoyed running in Portland. One weekend, we were on a trip and staying in Everett, Washington. I was doing an 18 miler. During that 18 miles I saw one other person running, and one race walker. I’m grateful Portland isn’t Everett. In Portland people don’t look at you funny for running.

Weekly running miles. It’s not hard to see where the training begins.

To get some idea what pace I should run, I participated in a one-mile fun run at my daughter’s school three weeks out from the marathon, and did a 5K Parkrun one week before. I managed a 6:25 mile, mostly on turf, after a 13-mile “warm-up” run. For the 5K, I huffed and puffed my way to 21:12 on a mildly hilly course. The equivalent-effort running calculators said I could do a 3:25 marathon or something crazy like that, so I decided to try for 3:35.

Mile 11 or 12? I’m the one in the white cap

The weather was perfect — maybe 46 and cloudy. I thought the sun would come through while I ran, but it mostly held off. At 7:10 we started running from downtown Portland.

Three miles in, in the heart of the Northwest Portland district I call home now, I got caught up in a conversation with another runner in the 3:35 pace group. She kept creeping forward, though, and I did a bad thing and kept up with her. By mile six, during our loop around the Moda Center, we’d caught up to the 3:30 pace group. When she kept moving up, I finally let her go. At this point I was feeling fine, and of course I stuck with the 3:30 group.

I felt good for the next 15 miles. We went back down Front, then made our way down to Macadam, over the Sellwood Bridge, around Westmoreland, then did a circuit around the neighborhood near Reed College. A lot of beautiful areas to run. I have a few nit-picks about the course, but overall it is an enormous improvement from the old one.

Mile 17 maybe? Feeling fine on a lovely crisp fall day.

Around mile twenty it was starting to take some effort to keep up with the 3:30 pacers. That’s OK, I can do effort. A steep little uphill followed by a sharp little downhill at mile 22 finally did me in. My quads were in screaming pain on any slope, and not super-happy about running on the level, either. One of my usual marathons, then. I let the 3:30 pacers recede into the distance and focused on making constant forward progress through the hurt.

Those last four miles sucked. Using my legs hurt. I got a little nauseous. I walked quite a bit of mile 26. I got there in the end.

I can haz stop now?
  • Chip Time: 3:36:36.04
  • Gun Time: 3:37:21.12
  • Pace (min/miles): 8:16
  • Overall Rank: 303 out of 2115
  • Gender Rank (Male): 244 out of 1268
  • Age Division Rank (M45-49): 24 out of 126

I am proud of that time, given my long time off. I wish I had got there a smarter way. I wish I had stuck with the 3:35 pace group. That’s OK though.

The rest of the day was really something. I got over my nausea in 30 minutes, but the overall fatigue was somewhat more crushing than I remember it being before. I spent the rest of the day taking a bath and lying in bed. I did hobble over to a restaurant three blocks away for my traditional burger and martini with my family.

Mile splits. Click to embiggen.

The new marathon organization should be very proud of the job they did. Instead of accolades, though, if you Google 2019 Portland Marathon, you’ll find a bunch of articles about how 15 or 20 of the front-runners lost sight of the lead runner (and the lead motorcycle he was following) and ended up off-course. The race director has handled it with class, taking all the blame and giving these runners their money back and free entry into all future Portland Marathons he puts on. (Compare to the old race organizer who infamously called this kind of thing “not a big deal.”)

I’m so frustrated with this bad publicity. This time around, I can tell you it’s undeserved. This was a great race with great organization, put together on a whirlwind time-frame. I’m positive it’ll be even better next year.

Multnomah Falls to Larch Mountain and back

On Thursday, I hiked as fast as I could up to the top of Larch Mountain from the base of Multomah Falls, then ran back down.


The highways at the base of the falls (it’s accessible from both I-84 and the Historic Columbia Gorge Highway) are at an elevation right around 50 feet. Sherrard Point, the top of Larch Mountain, is at 4056 feet. So that’s a 4000 foot elevation gain over seven miles. It’s a relatively consistent climb.


The first mile is on paved switchbacks, getting up to the top of Multnomah Falls. The first quarter mile of that is wall-to-wall tourists, getting up to the bridge over the creek between the upper and lower falls. The rest of the paved way to the top is only a little less crowded. If you’re a runner doing this, don’t plan on running this part.

Up at the top, you can follow a dead-end trail branch to go over to the overlook at the top of the falls, or follow the main trail upstream along Multomah Creek. This is “Larch Mountain Trail 441” and you follow it all the way up. The next few miles along the creek are scenic and offer varied terrain, including some difficult-to-run rocky bits.


Eventually you leave the creek and head off into a section with some serious rocky bits. This was entirely unrunnable on the way back down.


There’s only a quarter-mile or so of this kind of exposed carved-through-the-rockfall trail, but long sections of the forested paths around there are also dangerously rocky to run through.

After slogging uphill forever, you get past all the rocks and reach the last stretches, angling up the side of the shield volcano that is Larch Mountain. The trails here are fairly evenly graded and runnable, though if you still have the energy left to run it on the way up, you’re a stronger man than I.

I took two hours and one minutes up and an hour six down, stopping for lunch at Sherrard Point in between.

Race Report: 2012 Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon

I’ve been getting back into shape over the last few months, working my way back to 40-mile weeks while focusing on speed instead of distance. (In the past, a 40-mile week was often a 20-mile run on Saturday plus twenty more miles spread across four weekdays; this time around I’m running six or seven days a week without the really long run.) Based on some recent training runs, I thought I might have a shot at a PR at the Foot Traffic Half, the same race where, back in ’09, I set my previous best. That was a 1:31:47, a 7:01/mile average pace.

July 4 was a Wednesday this year, so that’s when the race was. I tried to get up early to beat the traffic out to Sauvie Island, but I failed: even at 5:40 in the morning, there was still a very long line of cars backed up on the road to the start. I was finally parked at 6:15, which didn’t leave me a lot of time to pick up my bib number and use the bathroom before the 6:45 start. The weather was sunny but not hot. There were some unpleasant headwinds on the course.

I ran it hard, focusing on the race and on staying in the moment, rather than on the scenery or on worrying about whether I could finish. Or I tried to, anyway. Once again I was reminded that racing my hardest never feels good. Up against my limits, I always feel out of shape — it doesn’t matter what actual speed I’m running.

Mile splits, according to my GPS: 6:40 6:43 6:46 6:42 6:37 6:43 6:50 6:51 6:53 6:50 6:55 6:48 6:32. The same, in graph form:

So, I guess I came out fast and slowed for miles 2 and 3, then warmed up and got a little faster until mile 6, when I started getting tired. I picked it up nicely for the last three miles, though. Near the end, I knew from my watch that my average pace was going to be near 6:50/mile, but I wasn’t up to trying to do any math to figure out what that meant as far as total finishing time — all I knew was that it would be a PR and be close to an hour thirty. In fact, between my last couple fast miles and my poor math skills, I did better than that.

Official time: 1:28:46. 6:46/mile average pace. Three minutes and one second better than my old PR!

Official results here. It was a strong field. I was 61st place overall, out of 1874 finishers. 50th male out of 610. 8th male aged 40-44 out of 85.

Race Report: 2012 Eugene Marathon

My training was compromised for this race. Even before I broke my toe, I had a long bout of Plantar Fasciitis. Then the toe took me totally out of running for six weeks, so I started building up again from scratch in early February. I did manage to do two 20-mile runs, but my weekly mileage was mostly under thirty, and my speed never recovered.
Then I had a heck of a week leading up to the race:

  1. The Sunday before, the toenail on that toe I broke came off. (This would be the one on my left big toe.) I may have wiggled it off a little before it was ready, but I thought that would be better than having it fall off during the marathon. Little did I realize how wounded the nail bed was underneath! Either the original wound under there never healed up (after four months?) or my continued running kept re-injuring the area. I would have some bleeding during most training runs, but I was chalking that up to a loose toenail shifting around and cutting the skin or something. Instead it turned out to be a good-sized moist and inflamed horror of a wound under there. It didn’t hurt much, but would that be true for 26 miles?
  2. The next evening after I laid down in bed I started to feel an all-too familiar feeling in my lower back: I was experiencing a kidney stone. It would be my third such incident in 11 years. Once I was sure what it was, I figured the marathon was not to be — I’d be on painkillers and in no shape for anything physical for several days. This time turned out different though. We headed for the emergency room as the pain was peaking. By the time we got there, it was already starting to subside. Three hours, one I.V. bag, and a CAT scan later, we had a confirmed diagnosis of a three millimeter stone almost out already and no pain or irritation whatsoever left. It didn’t bother me again.
  3. I had some painful sciatica most of the week, leaving me hobbling around in pain and further psychologically demoralized.

For most of the week, then, I was telling people that I might or might not run it, depending on how I felt as race day approached. It wasn’t until Friday that I made up my mind to go. We headed down to Eugene on Saturday and stayed the night with my mom as usual. I had a pretty big pizza dinner, then slept well the night before.

What perfect weather we had! It wasn’t cold at the start and it never got too hot. The sun peeked out a little but it was mostly cloudy.

A friend of mine was running his first marathon and I had offered to pace him. He thought he could run about a 3:40. He didn’t want me pacing him until the bitter end if he started slowing down, but we agreed to run together as long as he was hitting his splits. This was a great plan until I was unable to locate him at the start line. It seems like Eugene is getting more crowded every year… There were a few rounds of fruitless phone- and texting-tag which led me to believe he was still in the bathroom lines as the race was starting, but I couldn’t be sure.

I spent the first two miles of the race kind of sweeping the area between the 3:45 and 3:35 pacers, looking for him. I didn’t have any luck, so when I passed our families on the sidelines around mile two, I stopped and asked if they had seen him. They had not. I waited with them for a while, looking for him to pass. Some seemed shocked by this — what happened to ultra-competitive Scott?  Eventually my friend’s parents spotted him and pointed him out to me. I quickly caught up to him and found that we were a little behind the 3:45 pacer. We slowly inched our way past.

It was fun running through South Eugene with my friend, pointing out the personal landmarks — my elementary school, the house I grew up in, etc. My “pacing” mostly consisted of telling him he was running a little too fast and holding him back, especially down the gentle hills. I think I did a pretty good job of it — we came through the half marathon at almost exactly 1:50. I told him banking time when you’re still feeling good almost never pays off, and that even splits are the best way to go. I still think it’s true.

Near mile 17 my friend’s breathing was getting labored and we were starting to slow down. I was still feeling pretty good. My toe wasn’t a problem. We talked about our plan once more and we parted ways. I sped up to a pace somewhere under eight minutes a mile. Up until then, we’d been doing around 8:24. Even at the faster speed, I was still having fun. Miles 17-20 were all pretty easy feeling. It didn’t hurt that I was passing so many people. I thought I would try to catch up to the 3:35 pace group.

After mile 21, my left thigh stiffened up a lot. I could feel the tight muscles pulling on my kneecap as well. At last my poor training volume was coming into play. I could feel the leg get better when I shortened my stride and slowed down a bit, and worse when I sped up. I had no real motivation to kill myself, so I tried to maintain a speed below the tightness threshold. That turned out to be just a few seconds slower than eight minute miles.

My other problem was that I really hadn’t tied my shoes tight enough, and my right foot (not the one with the nail-free toe) was sliding around too much. I was getting some pain from a couple of the nails. In the end, I think they were just digging into the toe a bit; they hurt a lot after the race but healed almost completely by the next day. It’s a tricky balance, tying the shoe — too loose around the ankle and this happens, too tight and your whole foot gets bruised.

I never did catch that 3:35 pacer.

I had a few sips of PBR from the unofficial beer aid station at mile 24 (briefly chastising them for the poor choice) and carried on toward the finish. As always, that last lonely mile on the inaccessible bike path before you get back to the streets was a test. This year I passed.

Heading into Hayward field for the finish was fun, as always. With twenty yards left, I looked over to my right and saw some guy trying to pass me! This could not stand. I ratcheted up my speed and left him behind. What a jerk. (Him, or me? You decide.) I finished in 3:36. My finishing photo is not too bad if you ignore the weird angle of my trailing foot.

Once done, I found myself relatively mobile — those right-side toenails were the biggest problem. I had a chocolate milk and a banana in the recovery area, then I found my people in the stands just as my friend was finishing. He did great! I was worried that he would really fade, but he pulled out a 3:45.

Our families had a combined victory lunch later at one of our usual spots, Marché in the Fifth Street Market. I had my hamburger and two excellent Bulleit Rye Manhattans. Because I am a dork, I wore my race shirt and finisher’s medal.

I’m quite happy with this race. I had a lot of fun, and feel re-motivated to keep training and run some fast marathons again soon.

Official results: 3:36:37 (8:16/mile avg pace). 570th/2346 finishers. 447th/1281 men, 78th/205 men 40-44.

20: St Johns Bridge and Leif Erickson

I ran my first 20-miler in what seems like forever today. The route, above, worked out really well. Running over the St. John’s Bridge in far North Portland is fun (as anyone who’s run the Portland Marathon can tell you) but running on NW St Helens Rd/Highway 30 to get there or back is not (as anyone who’s run the Portland Marathon can also tell you). But you can detour around that by taking Forest Park’s Ridge Trail, which connects the south end of the bridge to milepost 8.5 of Leif Erickson Drive. If you finish the loop across the Broadway Bridge, it works out to almost exactly 20 miles, all on sidewalks or trails and with few busy road crossings.

The Ridge Trail is a steep little six-tenth of a mile. It’s pretty obvious where it falls in this elevation profile. (Ignore the dip between mile eight and nine; that’s where the software doesn’t know there’s a bridge and thinks I  ran across the water.)

I mostly walked going up the trail. It was in pretty good shape, especially considering all the rain we’ve had lately. The rain continued during my run and there were lots and lots of puddles everywhere. For a while I tried to go around them, and found myself irritated every time I drifted off and stepped in one. But after three or four miles I gave up on keeping my shoes dry and just waded through.

My feet were sore by the end of the run, but other than that, all good.

Accomplishment Unlocked: Cross Ross Island Bridge on Foot

Check one more lifetime accomplishment of extremely dubious value off the list: I’ve now run over the Ross Island Bridge.

There’s no reason to ever do this, other than to say it’s been done. The bridge run is seven-tenths of a mile on a sidewalk with four lanes of very fast traffic shooting by right next to you. The river view from up there might get more interesting when they get further into the construction of the new Portland-Milwaukie Light Rail Bridge, but for now you find yourself looking at pretty humdrum section of the river with a few barges and cranes playing around it it.

The west-side approach to the bridge is pedestrian-unfriendly, involving scrambling across a crosswalk-free ramp. Neither side is particularly easy to navigate on foot — it’s not obvious just how to get up to the bridge from the more usual running paths down along the river. (I ran west-to-east, since I had a slightly better idea of where to get onto the bridge on the west side, and figured getting off the bridge would be easier to figure out than getting on.) I can’t give any good directions, but if you stare at that GPS-generated map up there closely enough, you might get the idea.

The seminal work on being a pedestrian on the Ross Island is, of course, cyclotram’s “How to walk the Ross Island Bridge and not die, if you’re lucky“.  It is an absolute must-read for anybody with any interest in the topic of how crappy it is to walk across the Ross Island Bridge. It is a true classic in the genre. (I refer here to the how-to-walk-across-various-Portland-bridges-without-dying genre, of which cyclotram is the primary and perhaps only contributor.) My small efforts (like this) perhaps don’t count, since I am in fact running, not walking, which arguably makes it easier not to die. Cyclotram’s posts also have a lot more pictures, maps, and history than mine. He makes the interesting note that the Ross Island Bridge has been crappy to walk across since the 1940s, which demonstrates some remarkable forward-thinking.

I decided to run across the Ross Island Bridge today because (a) I never had and (b) I thought it would be a good way to get an eight-mile run from our new place in NW Portland. This eight-miler capped an 18-mile week for me, and my toe feels entirely healed. I’m slow slow slow still but I’m getting back.


Three very slow miles yesterday, with the running group. It was fine. I could feel a little pressure and numbness in my toe, but nothing alarming, and it felt perfectly fine post-run. As much as I’d like to ramp up my miles immediately, I’ll probably try to stick to alternate days running and resting it until it regains its full flexibility: right now, it’s still  little difficult to bend it fully down, presumably indicating that there’s still some swelling.

A small problem with my toe

Two days before Christmas, we were almost done unpacking the important stuff after moving to a new place. (For the first time in either of our lives, we’re actually living inside the Portland city limits! But that’s a story for another time.)

That’s a ceramic platter we have. It weighs nine pounds.  It fell off a chair onto the tip of my left big toe. I was wearing socks and standing on a hardwood floor. The platter hit edge-first. The good news — the platter is fine. The platter thanks you for your concern. My toe hurt like a mother. Here’s a blurry picture of what it looked like a few minutes later, after the searing pain had subsided.

I could wiggle my toe and touching it didn’t seem like it hurt that much — except for the nail — so I didn’t think it was broken. But soon it started to bleed out of the corner of the nail, and once it got going the blood wasn’t stopping. It didn’t hurt much, so we wrapped some paper towels around it and had dinner.

It was still bleeding an hour and a half later. It showed no sign of letting up and I was going through a lot of paper towels. We decided to go to the emergency room. I put on a flip-flop and we drove over. Here’s my toe in the hospital:

After an hour or so of waiting and triage, we saw a nice PA. The best thing about her was that she was also a marathon runner, so she was very sympathetic. Especially after her and my wife talked me into getting an x-ray, and it came back looking like this:

You don’t have to be much of a medical expert to see something wrong on that big toe. That should all be one bone, not five or six. Ouch. Shouldn’t that hurt more? Don’t ask me.

They pressure-bandaged the toe to slow the bleeding and sent me home in one of those open-toed post-surgical shoes. It oozed and bled for about four days; it was such a relief when I no longer needed any bandages. I limped pretty badly for a week and I still have to be very careful if I’m wearing shoes. I saw a podiatrist the week after it happened, but he didn’t give me anything different to do — no casts, splints or boots.

Obviously, I can’t run either. I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be out — I’m supposed to go by how it feels. Six to eight weeks is a good guess though. I’m two weeks and three days into it now.


Race Report: 2011 Silver Falls Half Marathon

I have a pretty good streak going: I have finished this race every single year it has been held. (This was its second year.) Here’s my report from last year. You will note that I have reused the same scenic picture. Ah, you’ve seen one giant waterfall with little ant-like people running behind it, you’ve seen them all.

Really, though, it’s a spectacular course. I know someone who runs a half marathon or two every single week, and he ran this one today for the first time, and you should see what nice things he’s saying about it on Facebook. Even if you aren’t a runner, if you live anywhere near here and haven’t been, you should take a trip to Silver Falls State Park and hike around a little — it’s a gem. If you live anywhere near here and are a runner, this is a must-do race. But hurry, because it fills up fast. This year they opened registration on August 1st and it filled up on the 3rd. New next year: they’re going to be doing a full marathon also! If it’s just two loops of the half-marathon course (as seems likely), I’ll probably take a pass on that, though.

I was in mostly decent shape coming into the race. No real aches or pains to speak of; not sick; plantar fasciitis very mild. My biggest problem was that I’d only been putting in 22-26 miles per week for the previous six weeks, to give the aforementioned PF a break. Still, I thought I had a good chance of beating my time here from last year, when I was sick and gimpy.

The course has a lot of uphills and downhills. Here is the elevation profile, as published on the race web page.

As you can see, the race sucks you into going out way too fast during those first four gentle miles. I’m not sure what my pace was but I’d guess it was 7:30 or faster through there. Everybody else seemed to be running fast too. Seriously, this race seemed to have attracted a lot of fast runners this year. The winner posted a time of an hour and eighteen minutes. Look at that elevation profile! Remember that most of it is on wet and/or rocky trails. That’s just insanely fast.

Mile four kind of sucked. I complained about this hill last year, writing “My lungs weren’t giving me enough air and my legs felt heavy.” Well, no duh, that’s actually a pretty steep climb there! I probably got up there faster this time around but it was certainly no easier.

Near mile six, we descended into the gorge via a route that wound behind the North Falls, then we got two miles of mostly-downhill trail, downstream alongside a creek. I was feeling OK and I ran this portion hard. Maybe seven-minute-miles; it’s hard to say since I wasn’t doing manual laps on my Garmin and its accuracy is rubbish in that kind of terrain.

Shortly after mile eight, we started heading upstream along another creek, and then we hit the two big waterfall climbs. The first involved an endless series of stairs; the second only some very steep trails. I knew better this year and just briskly walked these sections, rather than pretending I could run them and then petering out into into a gasping slow trudge.

After that, it was all pretty easy except for (a) the fact that this was my longest run in two months and (b) the sadistic hill they insert just before the finish. At least I was mentally prepared for the hill this time around. I finished in about 1:44:10, which would be a 7:58/mile average pace, and more than six minutes faster than last year. So, mission accomplished there.

Post-race, they had bread, chili, and a roaring fire in the picnic area shelter. They didn’t have finishers medals, if you care about that sort of thing. I don’t, and would much rather have a lower race entry fee. I think it might have been $25 this year? An unbeatable race bargain.

Update: Official Results. 1:44:11, 67th of 454 finishers.

Race Report: 2011 McKenzie River Trail Run 50K

(Preliminary) official results

The McKenzie River 50K is usually a pretty easy run, at least as far as thirty-one mile trail races go. Yes, there are a few miles of “technical” rocky trail where you have to pay attention to every footstep. And, yes, there is a bit of climb in the first few miles. But most of the last two-thirds is downhill and you cruise to the finish on miles of soft, gently downhill trail. Usually.

This year, the Shadow Creek forest fire changed all that, closing the upper portions of the route and forcing the organizers to stay away from the ranger station that normally serves as the finish area. The race organizers did a great job coming up with a workable plan at the last moment, and communicating the changes with the runners. The new route was basically an out-and-back, down the river and then back up. There was also a separate 2.5 mile out-and-back at the very start, along the waterfall trail just upstream of Carmen Reservoir.

With the changes, here is what the elevation profile of the course looked like. (Elevation is in feet.)

Hard-core trail runners are looking at this and chuckling a bit — a thousand feet of climb over the last fourteen miles: big deal. Compared to the normal course for this race, though, this was a big change in the “harder” direction. I’d wanted to break five hours but with the new course I knew that would be unlikely.

Now, did I mention that the race turned out to be on the hottest day of the year? And that the whole area was a little smoky from those forest fires? Not that I’m making excuses. At least the bees (or wasps, or whatever they are) along the course decided to ignore me again. A lot of people do get stung every year and 2011 didn’t seem like it was an exception. (So much for my theory that the smoke would calm down the bees :-)

I don’t mean to be negative though. This is a beautiful, gorgeous, incredible trail and it was great just to be out there running it. I love this race.

We had no problems getting to the 7:30 start from our motel room 25 miles away. It wasn’t hot yet — probably in the mid 50s — but it was the first time I can remember not actually getting cold at one of these early-morning race starts. Earlier, I had a cup of coffee in the motel room, and that helped gear up my digestive system to properly do what it was supposed to pre-race, if you get my meaning.

I went a bit faster off the starting line than I usually would, because I didn’t want to get caught too far back when we reached the tight single-track trail a few hundred meters farther along. Of course, this meant I was up with people who were probably in better shape than me, and the first uphill mile proved challenging. I felt like I was having trouble getting enough air, and no doubt I was — probably not because anything was wrong, just because I was running hard to keep my place in line.

Fitness-wise, I was a mixed bag coming into the race. My weekly mileage and long runs had been adequate but nothing spectacular. My taper was too long. I had tweaked my back doing nothing at all on Wednesday, and that still bothered me a bit. My left foot hurt.

After a bit more than a mile of uphills and steps along the spectacular waterfall section of the McKenzie headwaters, we crossed a little bridge to the north/east side of the river and headed back downhill through the first tricky steep section. I had no problem keeping up with the people around me here. I enjoyed all the downhills, including the rocky, volcanic boulder strewn “cheese grater” sections. I got through the race without any falls, and only twisted my ankle once, which is still one time to many, but is a lot better than I did last year.

Soon, we passed a little water-only aid station and could look down the hill through the trees to our left and see where we started. From here on out it was an out-and-back course, and every nice downhill plunge plagued me with thoughts of having to run back up it so many miles later.

Sweetie was going to see me at the aid stations again this year, and this time we decided that as long as she was “crewing” me, she should really crew me. With that in mind, we brought two handheld water bottles, so we could swap out. We also brought a cooler, which we filled with ice that morning at the motel, so that when we did swap out, I’d be getting ice water. Without even having discussed it, Sweetie started putting gels and pretzels into the handle pockets on the water bottles, which cut my aid station stopped time to literally zero seconds. The trickiest part of getting through the aid stations was waving off the official volunteers who wanted to take my bottle to refill it. They were doing exactly what they should — great volunteers.

After five or ten miles, I stopped noticing my aching back, which was good. My foot, though, stayed painful through the entire run. It never became a sharp pain, though, and after a while it stopped getting worse, so it wasn’t a major concern.

Predictably, I ran strongly for about 25 miles, then we hit the technical section below the famous Blue Pool, this time in the uphill direction. Soon, I was sucking wind. My legs felt OK but my heart rate was too high and I was breathing too hard. The heat probably was having some effect on me too, but it was hard to tell while running — I just felt bad.

The aid stations that had seemed so close together on the way down now seemed about three times further apart on the way up. They said it was five miles to the finish after the last one; it took forever. I started walking a lot. I wondered why I did this to myself. Eventually I made it.

Official results: 5:09:48 (Which is an average pace of 9:58/mile, if the course was an accurate 50K). 37th out of 151 finishers.

Tough 26

I suppose it is good once in a while to run yourself into the ground, then force yourself to keep on going. That happened to me on Saturday, twenty miles into a 25.6-mile run in Forest Park.

I started at the Leif Erickson trailhead (at the top of Thurman Road) but turned off almost immediately, for almost a mile on the sharply uphill Wild Cherry Trail. After that it was basically a loop, more than 14 miles north on Wildwood and more than 9 miles south coming back on Leif. (Other connecting trails were Dogwood and Springville Road.)

I took the whole run slowly, but I already had a lot of miles on my legs from earlier in the week, and it got hard for me shortly after getting back onto Leif. Fortunately, Leif is (relatively) flat and (mostly) downhill in that direction. So I was able to keep shuffling along the whole way, with only the occasional walk break. It was mentally tough, though. I was taking it mile-by-mile, treating each new whole number on the every-quarter-mile mileposts as a little victory.

Eventually I finished, in about 4:35. My feet hurt quite a bit, but have gotten much better since.

Still Running After All These Weeks

Hola, amigos. I know it’s been a long time since I rapped at ya, but at least the running has been going better than the writing. July and August have been good training months. I’ve had three recent weeks with more than 40 miles of running, and recent long runs of 19, 21, and 18 miles. Tomorrow I’m doing about 26 miles in Forest Park, which will give me 50 miles for the week. I’ve been feeling pretty good. My biggest worries are my left foot, ankle and calf, which get tight in various places between runs, especially when sitting at my desk at work.

Stress and Rest

The last few weeks have found me in a pretty consistent training pattern. Monday I’ll feel good and run hard. Tuesday I’ll struggle some through an easy run. Monday’s fast pace is still catching up to me during Wednesday’s run, too, and I start to feel some worrying aches and pains in my feet, ankles, or calves. Thursday is a rest day, but on Friday I’m still not feeling great during an easy run. Then I do my long run on Saturday, which feels iffy for five or six miles then gets better. After the long run, all those aches and pains somehow seem to reset themselves, and after a super-slow two-mile recovery run on Sunday, I’m good to run hard again Monday.

It’s probably a pretty good stress-then-rest training pattern, if I manage not to overdo it and get injured.  My current plan has me doing about 45 miles this week and the next, then dropping down to 40  for something of a rest week. After that it’s a peak week of about 50 miles, before three tapering weeks heading into the McKenzie River 50K.



Wildwood 19

I almost didn’t feel like going through the hassle of driving to a trail to run this morning, instead thinking about doing a street run from my house. But then I remembered that I I had bought a shiny new pair of trail shoes earlier in the week (Brooks Adrenaline GTSes) and that gave me all the motivation I needed. I drove out to the Germantown Road trailhead and ran 19 slow miles on Wildwood.

The first five miles weren’t that great. My ankles and calves felt sore and I was having some stomach trouble. I took care of the latter (don’t ask) and eventually my legs warmed up and/or capitulated to the inevitable and stopped troubling me. The middle ten miles were pretty good. I was taking it very easy, making this run much more about time-on-my-feet than anything else. The last few miles weren’t bad, either, really, but after three hours out there I was ready to be done.

Our Oregon slugs have grown large this year.

Of Trail Signs Old and New

In Forest Park, the old classic trail signs, like this:

…are slowly being replaced with a new generation of signs, like this:

The old ones are made of painted wood, apparently hand-stenciled. They could degrade fairly quickly in our wet conditions, but they must have been pretty inexpensive to replace. To my eye, they had a classic look that fit in well in the woods.

The new signs are metal or metal laminated over plastic, printed in a heavy Helvetica typeface, with some additional “Forest Park” and “Portland Parks and Recreation” lettering in the margins. Precluding vandalism (an unfortunately common problem in the park) they could probably last forever. To me, they look wrong, and somehow cheap. I’m glad they kept the trapezoidal shape. I wish they had used a stencil typeface. Helvetica’s modern, clean look just grates on me in this context.

What do you think?

Anyway, I took these pictures during my 16-mile run on Wildwood on Saturday. Two more miles today, in the pouring rain, gave me a 41-mile week, which is not bad. I’m still feeling slow and out-of-shape and still wrestling with various aches and pains, ranging from a sore back to top-of-foot aches and most things in between at one time or another. But I think it’s getting better.

Augh! Summer!

Most people probably say we had a crappy spring in Portland this year, but except for some rain, it’s been ideal for running. Warm enough for shorts and short sleeves, but still nice and cool. But today it was in the 80s, and I’m as far from acclimatized to the heat as you can get. That made my lunchtime run a bit of a struggle toward the end. I’m also generally not in the greatest shape right now. Just as I was starting to recover from the Vancouver Marathon, I came down with a cold, so the last couple of weeks have been pretty sorry as far as training goes. I figure it will be at least another week before I feel like I’m kind of back into normal shape, plus — if the hot weather sticks around — it will take another week after that before I’m more-or-less acclimatized.

Feels like starting over

My thighs are still quite sore from Sunday’s marathon, but I went out for a two-mile jog anyway, just to let my legs know I still expect things from them. It was painful, but not in an alarming way. All the pain was in the muscles, none in the knees, ankles, or feet. My legs will get better quickly.

That’s my last road marathon for a while. My next goal race is the McKenzie River Trail Run, a stunningly beautiful 50K in September. I’m out to break five hours there. I am looking forward to hitting the trails for training this summer.

Race Report: 2011 Vancouver USA Marathon

Why are marathons always so early? Who wants to get up at five a.m. for a seven a.m. start time? Well, there’s a good reason for it in the summer months, at least: the later it gets, the hotter it might be. But that wasn’t a problem today — it was fully cloudy with fairly stable temperatures in the upper 50s all morning. Pretty perfect marathon weather. But of course we still had to get up early.

Driving through Portland and across the Columbia to get to downtown Vancouver took less than 25 minutes at that hour (OK, missing traffic is another good thing about the early times) and finding parking wasn’t hard. I had an hour to kill before the start, which I used up by going to the bathroom time and time again.

They said there were about a 1000 runners in the marathon, and 1800 more starting the half-marathon later. One thousand people is a good size for a marathon: low-key, but you won’t have to spend much time running alone. There was plenty of room in the start chute. I lined up between the 3:40 pacers and the 3:20 pacers.

I guess I felt pretty good the first miles. I didn’t have much trouble settling into the run and all my body parts seemed to be cooperating. After maybe three miles, I noticed that I was starting to reel in the 3:20 group, which had been way ahead of me shortly after the start. I decided to catch up to them, not so much because I wanted to run 3:20 (I didn’t think I had it in me) but more to ensure that I’d have a good number of runners around me. Why? I find running in cadence with a crowd somewhat hypnotizing. It makes the time pass quickly and lets you just focus on running smoothly.

I took quite a while to catch them, though. By mile seven I was among the stragglers trailing behind the group; by mile eight I had caught the pacer. I stayed right in the group for the next seven miles.

Now, this was the first running of this marathon, and I think it might be the first time these organizers had put on a marathon at all. So I don’t want to be too negative. Was the course perfect up to this point? No. It had a few issues, mostly to do with unnecessary turns and the general hassles that come along with running on the shoulders of roads with live traffic. Nothing bad, and nothing unexpected. There were also some very nice parts on bike paths along the river. I suppose it’s also a ding against a supposedly “full-service” type of marathon that they didn’t have any split pads at all, not even at 13.1. In fact, 13.1 wasn’t marked. (They did have good mile markers though.) Anyway, I’m trying to say these are minor things.

But what happened as we came back into downtown Vancouver around mile 15 of the race was a major problem. We merged into the half marathoners. The slow trailing end of the half marathoners. Who were about a mile and a half into their race. Which followed, from that point, the same route of the full marathon. It’s interesting to contemplate what happens in this situation: you’ll be continually having to get around people for the next 11 miles, because you can never catch up to the half marathon runners who are going the same pace as you.

In any event, this was a clusterfuck. The pace group quickly splintered up, unable to maintain cohesion while pushing through the walkers and joggers. There were a lot of them. On some narrow paths. This problem was acute for three miles, serious for three more, and then only mildly annoying after that (because the half had an extra out-and-back that the full didn’t at that point, which meant we got to kind of instantly fast-forward past a lot of them.)

There’s no excuse for this. The race organizers should have seen this coming from miles away (so to speak). The best solution is to not have a half, or run it on a different day. Second best, run it on a completely different route. Third best, start it at the same time as the full — the crowding at the start would be bad, but it is dwarfed by the badness of doing it the way they did.

Anyway, back to the race. I had pulled a little ahead of the 3:20 pacer while we all played dodge-em with the half runners. Around mile 20, the crowds were thinning a bit and the course took a fairly steep uphill, so I slowed down and let her catch me. (A guy paced the first half and a girl the second.)  I was pretty much the only one in the “pace group” at this point. My thighs were starting to hurt and the hill took a lot out of me. It leveled off for a bit, then there was a mild downhill. After that, a steep downhill.

“Oh no!” I said to the pacer, referring to the damage that sharp downhill was going to do to me legs.

“Oh no!” responded almost everyone around us, referring to the freight train that was about to cut us off at the bottom of the hill.

Yep, we got stopped by a train. I didn’t let it bother me. One of the good things about the stop was that there was an aid station right next to the tracks (on our side), so I got to have a leisurely drink of Gatorade. It was a very long train, but it was moving very fast. The total time I lost was somewhere between a minute or two.

After that, I kept up with the pace group (which re-formed a little) for another three miles, then let them go ahead. I was surprised and pleased to have held onto them for as long as I had. My legs didn’t have much left in them at this point, and any little uphills were killing me. Miles 25 and 26 were a slow jog, interrupted by the occasional uphill walk. I was still happy.

My finish time was (according to my watch) 3:25:12. My second-fasted marathon. I’ll take it.

Edit: Official results. 3:25:11 (7:50/mile average). 75th of 798 finishers, 63/408 men, 15/78 men 40-44.

Geez, I’m running a marathon tomorrow!

That’s right! Sunday! Sunday! SUNDAY! One day only! Your faithful blogger will be running in the Inaugural Zeroth Annual Vancouver USA 26.2 mile marathon!

Starting around seven in the morning Vancouver, Washington time, you can track me live on a little map here. Which will be awesome.

I’m not going into this with any fixed time goals; I’m just going to see how it goes. Just lying around on the couch a couple of days ago, I got a terrible cramp in my calf, so actually running 26 miles should be great.

Not the ideal training schedule

It’s two weeks until my next marathon, the inaugural Vancouver USA Marathon. (Vancouver is in Washington, right across the Columbia River from Portland.) Ideally, then, I would already have been tapering some this weekend. Things have been far from ideal, though: it is only in the last few weeks that I have begun to feel confident once more in my left knee. I hadn’t done any runs longer than 15 miles since Boston. And last weekend  we were vacationing in Ashland. Which was great, but even doing the couple of shorter runs I did manage to squeeze in (a 6.5 and a 7, both in the beautiful hills up above Lithia Park) felt heroic.

So here I am with two weeks left and I ran twenty miles yesterday. Which also happened to be the hottest day out of the last 273 in Portland. The high was in the low 80s, which isn’t normally that bad, but after a very long cold and wet spring, my body wasn’t ready for it.

Knowing it would be warm, and that I wasn’t in great shape, and that I didn’t have a lot of time to recover, I made sure to run the 20 miles very slowly — I averaged ten minute miles. That’s not quite as slow as it sounds, because there were a lot of hills along the way, but it was still pretty pokey.

I ran along a lot of unfamiliar roads and paths, including the weird bike paths along 26 between 217 and the zoo. Exploring is fun. My body held up well, especially my knee. Looks like I’ll definitely be running Vancouver.

So far barefoot running is working out great for me

I was feeling pretty good last week until Thursday, when I offended the god of running shoes by trying a very short barefoot jog. I have read many stories of injury-prone people finding more success by ditching their shoes, and I thought it was worth a try, as an experiment at least. Could it build up foot and ankle strength while reducing strain on my knees?

My first try was just four-tenth of a mile, with walk breaks. I’m doing it entirely barefoot, rather than in minimalist shoes, in order to force myself to build up very slowly. I found a smooth concrete path in the park and tried it out on a sunny day. I was surprised that it felt great on the soles of my feet. It felt invigorating, like a foot massage. I didn’t really want to stop after one lap, but I did.

That evening, I mowed our hilly, uneven lawn. My right ankle started to hurt. The next morning it was still hurting a little and some right-side sciatica  was making itself known. It may have been sympathetic pain accompanying the ankle, or I may have stressed my back; I don’t know. By Saturday afternoon the sciatica was fairly painful. I made it through 13 miles Sunday Morning OK though.

Now my sciatica still hurts, plus I think I might be coming down with a cold. You’re probably thinking that the cold has nothing to do with having run barefoot. But maybe the god of running shoes is a jealous god, and a mean one.


Sorry about the quiet blog lately — there just hasn’t been much going on. I’m continuing to rebuild after Boston. Last weekend I ran six easy miles on Friday, then tried for 10 on Saturday. I made it to about nine and a quarter before my knee started feeling funny,  and I walk-jogged the last bit. I was also very worn out, much more so than I normally would be by a ten-mile run.

This week I’ve had a fairly normal (if light) training schedule, with a fast six-miler on Monday, three recovery miles Tuesday, six pretty easy Wednesday, and five miles at a moderate pace Thursday. I’ve had no knee pain, but even these shorter runs have felt like a lot of running.

It’s a rest day today, then I’m hoping to do 13 on Saturday.

Knee-Jerk Reactions

As you may recall, my left knee got tight and painful during the Boston marathon. I’ve had this happen before. It didn’t surprise me when it was sore for a couple of days afterwards. And it didn’t surprise me when running more than a few miles made it sore again in the following weeks.

So it was a pleasant surprise yesterday when I ran a full six miles with no pain or tightness. I’m not going to fool myself about being fully recovered. It stiffened up a little during the drive home. I’m still going to take it easy getting back into my regular running routine. There’s still a fair chance I’ll take a pass on running the Vancouver USA Marathon on June 19th. But it was a nice surprise nonetheless.

The vacation is over

After Boston, my legs were tender as hell and my left knee was sore. I didn’t run at all for a week — walking up and down the four big flights of stairs to our Manhattan hotel room was quite enough exercise, thanks. Actually, we walked a lot in New York, which was fine. In four and a half days, we managed to see two Broadway shows, visit four major museums, and eat at three “destination” restaurants. Running never crossed my mind.

Monday, I ran with my regular running group. I should have been smarter than to just go out and run like I normally would. I should have eased back into it. I thought I was ready. After four or five miles, though, my legs were giving out and my knee — which hadn’t bothered me in a few days — was hurting again. I made it six miles, but probably shouldn’t have.

(Then again, there’s a kind of freedom I’m feeling right now, with no goal races coming up. If I want to do stupid things and tie myself in knots, now’s as good a time as any for it. Yes, I’m registered for the Vancouver USA marathon on June 19th, about seven weeks from now, but I don’t find myself fretting about it — what will be will be, for that one.)

I rested Tuesday and Wednesday. Today at lunch I did what I should have done Monday: headed out by myself, very slow and easy, for a short four-mile run. My knee made it about three miles before it complained at all. Good enough.

Race Report: 2011 Boston Marathon

I apologize for how late this is; after the marathon, I was on vacation for a while and only had my phone. Composing a full-blown race report by phone was not going to happen. Plus I was really busy overeating and overdrinking.


Saturday morning we took a fairly early direct flight between Portland and Boston. I was expecting that there would be other marathoners on the plane, but I wasn’t expecting just how many. It was the skinniest plane-load of people I’ve ever seen. Alaska Airlines should have given us all a refund on their fuel costs. Here was a picture one of the flight attendants took; everyone standing or leaning into the aisle is running the marathon. You can just make me out at the farthest back, right side, light blue shirt.

It was after five by the time we checked in at our hotel. (We stayed at the Back Bay Hilton, which was a pretty good location, but I think the perfect hotel would be a little farther east, and thus closer to both the finish area exits and the place where you catch the school buses in the morning.) The rest of Saturday, we had time only to rest up a little, go out for dinner, and get some sleep.

Sunday morning, I got packet pickup out of the way early. Like many large marathons, you went over to one person handing out a certain numeric range of bib numbers. It being so early, most of them had no lines at all in front of them. Mine had five or six people though. Grumble grumble. The volunteers doing this were so nice, congratulating everyone and shaking their hands good luck.

Once I got my bib number, it was a short walk to the t-shirt pickup area. Which had the best idea right next to it:

All races should have this. I started with a small, and it was too tight, so I traded up to a perfectly-fitting medium.

I have heard that the expo at the Boston Marathon is a real zoo, so crowded you can barely move. Shortly after nine on Sunday, though, it was easy enough to look around. I had no interest in buying clothes or anything though, so I kept it pretty quick, just grabbing an impromptu breakfast of free samples (Greek yogurt, and, oddly, saffron-flavored rice) and a few other free goodies.  I did enjoy Brooks’ M*A*S*H-themed tent:

Business done, I strolled back to the hotel then we spent the rest of Saturday having a little fun: cannolis at Mike’s Bakery and enormous lobster rolls at Neptune Oyster (both in the North End), then the Isabella Stewart Gardner art museum. Yes, too much time on my feet. We lounged around in the late afternoon and retired early after a light Italian dinner, though.

Race-day morning

The marathon starts at 10, but I had to get up at 5:30 to go catch one of the school buses that take 20,000 people or so out to the start in Hopkinton. Not that I got much sleep that night, anyway. The buses were lined up on Tremont Street alongside the Boston Commons, more than a mile from my hotel. I took the T (Boston’s subway) to get there. At my station, they were letting marathoners on free, but there had to be an attendant around to do that, so I’m not sure how much it could be relied on. I had bought a seven-day transit pass anyway; it was fairly inexpensive and it was one less thing to worry about. It was just before six and there were only a handful of marathoners in my subway car, so I thought maybe I’d missed the rush, but when we got out at Boylston station, there were already big crowds. The buses board between the Boylston and Park T stations (on the Green Line).  From what I could see, getting out at Park would have been better because the lines were shorter on that end.

Anyway, the buses that were sitting there were already full, but enough walking eventually got me into a short enough line that I was able to board in the second wave. It was a short wait, but it was cold in the wind. The weather was sunny, cool, and quite windy — but it would be a tailwind for the race. Even in several layers of throw-away sweats, I was glad to get out of the cold.

The bus ride was very long. Twenty-six miles is a long way. We seemed to be deep out in the country by the time we were finally let off at Hopkinton High School, whose grounds were transformed into the “Athlete’s Village” for this one day.

Big damp lawns, enormous tents, plenty of portable toilets, and the world’s longest line for free coffee: that was athlete’s village, my home for the next three hours. A lot of that time was spent in that coffee line. If you wanted water, Gatorade, bananas, or bagels, it was easy… but coffee was the A-ticket ride. I talked to one Michigan guy originally from the Ukraine and one Wisconsin gal originally from Bulgaria while waiting. His second Boston, her first. Here’s the picture the race photos guy took of me in line:

I guess I was pretty excited. Like me, everyone carried around the official bag-check bag with their bib number prominently displayed on it. The bib numbers aren’t arbitrary: the faster the qualifying time, the lower the number. My 7604 is squarely in the “mediocre male runner” range. People with numbers under 300 were scary. I got to thinking about how much different regular life would be if we all had to display numbers like this — maybe SAT scores or something.

Eventually the first wave of runners was called down to the start line. From athlete’s village, that’s a 3/4 mile walk. I know, cruel, right? Well, what can you do?

I was in the second-to-last corral of the first wave. Here’s a picture looking backward at the start, toward the front of last corral:

A few more minutes of standing around and we were finally off, for the 115th running of the Boston Marathon.

The actual race thing, itself

I think it may have been too long since the race for me to give any sort of accurate mile-by-mile recaps, so bear with me if this gets kind of stream-of-consciousness.

At the start, I felt good, and I felt confident. I wasn’t sick or injured. I felt well-trained, rested, and ready to go.

The pack wasn’t as crushing at the start as I had feared it might be, and I had no problem running my own pace down the long steep hill out of Hopkinton. As I had planned, I warmed up through that first mile in a super easy eight minutes. Switching to 7:40s for the next four miles was easy too. I liked the crowd in front of the biker bar in Ashland, all in their leathers cheering while “Highway to Hell” blasted out of their speakers. The first half of the race also had plenty of spots where there weren’t roaring crowds. That wasn’t a bad thing — by the end of the race, I’d be feeling some crowd fatigue.

My main impression of the first 12 miles of the race is that it was longer than I expected. I know that sounds dumb. It’s just that it’s so easy to say “Hopkinton, Ashland, Framingham, Natick, Wellesley” and I just kind of felt surprised by how long it actually took to make it through each of those townships. Between miles five and 15, I was aiming for 7:25 miles. I brought them all in between 7:20 and 7:26, but they definitely got harder as it went on. The Boston course has few extended level sections. Almost every step is a little bit downhill or a little bit uphill. It took its toll on me. The tailwind was great, but the sun blasting down was also a problem. I had sunscreen on, but I didn’t put it on my forehead — having it drip into my eyes is death — and maybe not enough elsewhere. I totally should have worn a cap.

The famous Wellesley college girls around mile 12 were loud but not unbearable. I saw one “kiss me I’m from Oregon” sign, but I wasn’t stopping for kisses. (Actually I don’t think I saw any runners around me do so. We’re all so serious. Well, all except for the guy running in the gorilla suit. Or the guy in the tutu. Or the ones in the crazy wigs. But generally, you know, serious.)

By mile 13, I noticed a little pain in my quads. Isn’t that too early? Isn’t that a bad sign? Yes, and yes, as it will turn out.

Miles 15 through 21 were the Newton hills, a series of four extended uphills culminating in Heartbreak Hill. In between the uphills were some moderately steep downhills as well. This is a lot of hill work at this stage of a “fast” road marathon. My race plan had me dropping back down to 7:40 miles for it.

I came pretty close to that through mile 20. The first hill was easy, the second was a tester, the third was tough, and the last — Heartbreak — was torture. Huffing and puffing hard, the best I could do for mile 21 was 8:06. Far from a disaster. Now all I  had to do was “coast” to the downhill finish. Right? Ha.

There’s a serious downhill after Heartbreak and it hurt my legs to run it. My left knee had also started to bother me as I made my way through the hills, almost certainly because my tightening left quads had been pulling it out of alignment. I did some exaggerated high-kick steps to try to stretch it out, which helped a little. My knee wasn’t really the problem, anyway — it was the pain in my quads that was going to break me.

Somewhere after mile 22 I grabbed a cup of water at an aid station and slowed to a walk to drink it, instead of gulping on the run as usual. It  was an act of psychological capitulation: the race had beat me. I got to running again pretty quickly that time, but I was also thinking this: “if I jog along slower, it will hurt less. I’m not going to meet my goals. I just don’t want to hurt as badly.” My discarded race plan called for 7:25s, but my split for mile 22 was 7:36. Mile 23, 7:54. Mile 24, 8:37. Then it got ugly.

I walked a lot in the last two miles and let me say clearly: that sucks. It sucks tenfold at Boston, where people in the crowd scream at you, picking you out by bib number: “Hey! 7604! IT’S THE BOSTON MARATHON! You Can Do This!” Such pressure works — I would lurch into a jog and get a cheer out of them, while I muttered “bastards” under my breath.

Jog. Walk. Jog. Walk. Sucks. Mile 25: 10:30. Mile 26: 10:42.

Finally we rounded the last two corners and the finish line was in sight, maybe a third of a mile away. With a fixed target to focus on, I was able to jog the rest of the way in. With my goals shot and feeling a little boosted by the crowd, I decided to take my phone out of its armband and snap a few pictures of the crowd and the finish line.

Much later I looked at the pictures and saw shots like this:

I wasn’t mentally there enough to point my phone the right way to take a picture. I remember pointing the screen at what I was photographing, instead of — say — the lens. What I don’t remember is smirking for the official finish-line shot:

After that, I stopped running

Then I was through the finish line, out of hell and into… purgatory. There was a lot of congestion in the finisher’s area. And I wasn’t feeling OK. This surprised me. I had thought that I had more-or-less just psychologically failed this race, or at the most any problems I had were in my legs. But after a few minutes of standing around in the finish area crowds, I was feeling pretty wonky. “Am-I-going-to-pass-out?” wonky. I considered going to the medical tent. But sweetie was waiting for me. I kept moving. I kept conscious. Good enough. I did get lost trying to find the family reunion area, but I still say that wasn’t my fault.

The smirk stuck around a while.

Ah well, all’s well that ends well. My problems were nothing another trip to the North End that evening for some marvelous red-sauce Italian food and plenty of red wine couldn’t fix.

Here’s what was in the mail when we got back to Portland.

3:27:45. A 7:56/mile average pace. You know what, that’s still my second fastest marathon. I’ll stop whining now.

Lessons learned:

  1. If it’s sunny, wear a cap.
  2. 40 miles a week might be enough for me for a flat marathon, but if I’m going for a goal time on a rolling one, I probably need more.
  3. Boston’s fun, but not life-changing. I’m sure your local marathon is awesome too.

Boston Marathon : brief results

I think I might have had a 3:25 in me today, but surely not the 3:17 I was going for. The first 19 were fun and right on plan, but my quads got a bit sore around mile 13 — way too early for a great day. The last two Newton hills did a number on my overall energy levels, then the subsequent downhill issued the death warrant on my thighs. I lost 10 minutes in my walk/jog deathmarch over the last three excruciating miles.

Time: 3:27:45.

Safely in Boston

The trip here went really well. Everything was on time and the plane was in a pretty good mood, since at least half the people on it were bound for the marathon.  Everyone on the plane was so skinny! The airline probably saved a lot of money on fuel on that flight.

It was a bit of a hike to the baggage claim area and our one checked bag was already there waiting. Right next to that was a ticket machine for the T, and the bus stop we needed to get to the T station was right there too. The bus showed up in about a minute,  then one bus and two subway rides later and we were at our hotel. Hauling our bags around on the trains wasn’t bad – many others were doing it too.

And we’re off… (Bonus Live Tracking)

We’re getting on one of those new-fangled “aeroplane” contraptions tomorrow morning and flying to Boston. I won’t be blogging much, since writing on a phone, even a smart one, is a real chore for me. But! By way of special apology bonus! I offer you: Minute-by-minute live tracking of my position during the race! This is not a service that the Boston Marathon offers for every runner; no, this is something special I am doing just for you, my six loyal readers.

I will have a smartphone strapped to my arm. Via the magic of GPS, it will know where it is. Every 20 seconds or so it will attempt to talk over the cell phone data network to a server somewhere and tell that server where it is. That server in turn offers up web pages letting you see my position in Google Maps. It’s just like in Veronica Mars when she hides the little tracking devices on naughty people’s cars, only mine is a $450 cell phone that I wouldn’t want to just throw away in order to help one of my high school pals.


Boston Obsession: Boston Marathon Weather Forecast — five-day forecasts now included

Some sources are predicting things to be a little warmer than they did yesterday and some a little cooler. There’s still almost nobody predicting rain. Winds are still supposed to be from the west or southwest. Runners could hardly ask for better. It’s a little too perfect if you ask me — a vast conspiracy of meteorologists all having some fun at our expense, knowing full well it’s going to be sleet and 33 from six to ten in the morning, then the sun will come out and temperatures will soar to 91 by noon. Just sayin’.

WBZ – 66/38, partly cloudy with possible showers. That’s up five degrees from their guess yesterday and is inching into definitely-a-bit-too-warm territory. Then again, they no longer think Tuesday is going to be over 60, so the warming trend doesn’t seem to be a stable system.

WHDH – 54/36. “Mostly sunny start, then some afternoon clouds. Windy and comfortable. Highs in the mid 50s.” This is the one to root for, assuming they mean W or SW winds.

WCBV – 62/40. Partly cloudy. SW breeze.

AccuWeather – 58/31. Partly sunny W winds at 19mph, gusts to 44mph. That low temperature could make for a chilly wait in Hopkinton.

National Weather Service – “Mostly cloudy. Highs in the mid 60s. Lows in the upper 40s.”

Most other sources are in broad agreement with this sampling.



Boston Obsession: Boston Marathon Weather Forecast getting a little warmer?

All of the Boston Marathon weather forecasts seem to have moved the same way overnight: a little warmer, and maybe a little breezier. Those breezes are still supposed to be from the west or southwest though — tailwinds, in other words. Most of the predicted highs are in the low 60s now, which isn’t too bad, since most of  our running will be done before it gets that warm. Predicted lows range from 38 to 47. Almost nobody is predicting rain — the rain on Saturday or Sunday is supposed to blow out of the area by Monday.

Both WHDH and WBZ are predicting Tuesday to be seven degrees warmer than Monday, so keep an eye out for the patterns accelerating and leaving us running in the mid-60s, which would be bad.

WHDH: 60/41 mostly cloudy. “Becoming cloudy and mild with highs near 60. Stiff wind.”

WBZ: 61/38 partly cloudy. No new marathon weather blog post yet. Here is their detailed marathon forecast blog post. They are starting to sound kind of confident.

National Weather Service: Mostly sunny. Highs in the upper 50s.

MSN: 58/45 partly cloudy. Winds W 18 mph.

AccuWeather: 58/40 partial sunshine. Winds WSW 18 mph, gusts to 40.

ForeCa: 64/43. partly cloudy. Winds SW 15 mph.

IntelliCast (and Weather Channel):  64/47. “Few showers… plenty of sun.” Winds WSW 13 mph.

Boston Obsession: Boston Marathon Weather Forecasts — now with more guesses!

Monday, April 18th is now in-range for seven-day forecasts, so I was able to dig up more forecasts.

WHDH is the Boston NBC affiliate. Local stations can be a good source for forecasts, since they often have an actual human being involved, rather than just leaving it entirely to some computer model. I’m not saying that makes it any more accurate, but that homey human touch just adds a certain something, yeah? They predict: High 53, low 37, mostly cloudy.

WBZ is the CBS station. High 55, low 40, partly sunny. Update: Pete points out in the comments that the WBZ weatherperson has an in-depth blog post (one of a series) about the marathon-day weather. He says there’s a weekend storm system that will either be just passing or long gone by Monday, but either way it should be pretty dry, with either a WSW or NW wind. (WSW is ideal.)

The National Weather Service probably also has real people on the job, though a cadre of soulless bureaucratic meteorologists might not be your idea of  the homey human touch. Highs in the lower 50s, partly sunny.

WeatherBug chimes in with: High 55, partly sunny.

MSN says High 52, Low 32, showers.

AccuWeather? High 57, Low 42, clouds and sun. Winds 22 mph from the WSW, gusts to 40mph.

ForeCa: High 64, low 45, partly cloudy. Winds 11 mph from the W.

Intellicast: High 56, low 40, partly cloudy. Winds 13 MPH from the SW.

All in all, this would be pretty good marathon weather. These forecasts will probably still change though.

Training update

I’m deep in the middle of tapering for Boston but haven’t had much in the way of the usual tweaking yet. No mysterious sharp pains, no feeling completely exhausted and out of shape. I guess it’s a good thing.

Saturday’s long run was just 12 miles. Almost every step of the way was up or down a hill though, so some real effort went into it. The last stretch was a more-than-moderate downhill, and I went ahead and let my legs fly, clocking in somewhere near 6:45 for that mile.

Boston Obsession: Boston Marathon Forecast, one-week-to-go edition

Here are today’s forecasts for Boston’s weather on April 18. (Well, Wellesley’s weather, really.)

Intellicast (and the Weather Channel): High 54, Low 39. Partly cloudy. 10% chance of rain. Winds 13 mph from the west.

Foreca: High 54, Low 37. Partly cloudy. 5% chance of rain all day. Winds 11 mph from the west.

Accuweather: High 54, Low 35. Partly sunny. Winds 15 mph from the north, gusts to 40 mph.

MSN: High 51, Low 33. Partly cloudy. 0% chance of rain. Winds 17 mph from the west.

Looks like there’s a general consensus today that there will be nice marathon weather on Patriot’s Day. I believe those west winds would be perfect as well. But it’s still early and these forecasts will surely keep changing.



Boston Obsession: Weather Update — the 10-day forecasts are here! The 10-day forecasts are here!

Actually, as I look around the web, there aren’t as many sources making 10-day forecasts as I was expecting. Here are the ones I found for April 18th in Boston though. Actually, I’m looking at the forecasts in Wellesley now instead of the city of Boston. Wellseley is halfway along the marathon course and won’t be as influenced by the Atlantic.

Bing has a page where they show the 10-day forecasts from three different sources. From left to right here, the sources are Intellicast, Foreca, and AccuWeather.

These three sources are clearly colluding with each other to generate similar fake forecasts. My advice would be to continue to not believe a word of it.

MSN (where I found the link to that Bing page) has a different forecast entirely.

The Weather Channel’s  forecast is so similar to Intellicast’s that I’m thinking they might be using the same program to generate it. But why the one degree differences?

So there you have it. We still know nothing.

Boston Obsession: Weather forecast — 11 days to go

Looks like there is one more day until Monday April 18th starts falling into the “10 day forecast” that most of the weather sites have. (The way I count, that’s 10 days away right now, but I’m not counting today and they are.) So, one last time, we are stuck with just AccuWeather’s eerily random guesswork.

Sunny and 59! Sounds ideal. Remember, it’s a fiction. For real data, please check out the historical weather averages for the day.

Boston Obsession: AccuWeather is just messing with us now

Yes, it’s another daily spin of AccuWeather’s wheel-of-extended-forecast-fun! What’s today’s weather forecast for Boston on April 18th?

High of 50, low of 39, “bit of rain, snow”! That high is a full 21 degrees lower than yesterday’s! I’ll give this to AccuWeather: one of their last four forecasts will probably be pretty close to right.

Boston Obsession: More Marathon Weather Forecasting

Let’s review:

On Monday, AccuWeather said it was going to be 46 and sunny in Boston on April 18th.

On Tuesday, 55 and rainy.

Today? 71 and partly sunny.

Well, that’s only a 25 degree swing. I am entirely sure looking at this extended forecast is still totally worthwhile. Yup.

PS: 71 would be a bit too warm. Let’s tone it down, guys.