A post for a rainy day in late September

September 28, 2007

It feels like Autumn. What’s good about Autumn?

  • Making s’mores with Sweetie over the wood stove outside by the deck. Bonus: using Nutella instead of solid chocolate, for improved texture. Double-bonus: the firewood is the broken-up pieces of an old shipping palette that’s been taking up room in my garage for seven years. (Please don’t tell me I’m going to die from inhaling burning palette fumes. I don’t want to know.)
  • Only 8 days and 14 hours until the Portland Marathon! Sure, I’ve had most of these “taper tantrums” already, but overall I’m just excited.
  • Eating at Alba Osteria tonight, with MiPL. Yay! Yum! Yay!

Trail Run to Pittock Mansion

September 25, 2007

Instead of running from Portland Running Company’s Beaverton store as usual Monday evening, the little group met near the Portland Zoo and the start of the Wildwood Trail. Rather than taking the Wildwood’s long loop over toward the Japanese and Rose Gardens, we cut the loop off by taking the Magnolia Trail as a shortcut, then continued on the Wildwood up to Pittock Mansion and back. (See the map of the arboretum.) I’ve tried to run up to Pittock once before, and didn’t quite make it without walking, so I was interested to see if I could run all the way up this time. I did! On the way there, I stuck with the slower group in the back to save my energy until we reached the steep part, then when they slowed to a walk (one of the group had done very little hill work) I went on ahead and reached the top strong. How does my Oregon Trail Runs book describe this sort of thing? “Searing cardio workout”, I think — sounds about right. It was the kind of workout where you start to take notice of just how loudly you are breathing.

Coming back down, I decided to keep up with the faster runners. I’m still a complete maniac when it comes to running down a steep trail — I love the thrill. It’s like a roller-coaster ride. Without the safety systems. I caught up to Tim, our group’s ultra-marathoner, who can run circles around me in general. On this particular downhill, though, I could keep up pretty well. After the run, I got a big compliment from him: “I thought I ran crazy downhill. You run crazy downhill!” After the big initial downhill, there was an uphill bit (more searing), another nice downhill (whee!), a short but steep uphill on the Magnolia Trail shortcut (enough with the searing already!), and then a fairly easy slope down back to the start.

We waited for the slower group to finish up — we’d been promised snacks and freebies! They didn’t show up. After a few more minutes, they still didn’t show up. I asked Tim if he had his phone on him — the run leader, in the slower group, had mentioned that she would call Tim if there was trouble. He went and got it from his car: three missed calls from her! They had missed the shortcut turnoff and were making their way around the much longer Wildwood loop; they were still 3/4 of a mile out, picking their way through the rapidly falling darkness. But they didn’t need rescue. After another 10 minutes of starting-to-get-really-cold, they made it.

We all got Montrail T-shirts and some throw-away gloves, and three of us (including me) won some coupons to send away for a pair of Montrail running sandals: cool! The group leader decided to run the drawing for those by picking a number between one and thirty and having the six of us call out our guesses; the closest won. “Uh,” I said, “you do know that gives whoever goes last an advantage?”

“It does?” I seemed to be the only one who had studied any game theory, or had an intuitive grasp of these things in the group. Oh well. For the first round, I was going second. The first person picked 28, I think. Yeah, 28. I rolled my eyes (I couldn’t help it! But it was dark and maybe nobody noticed) and picked 15, which ended up winning.

Outrunning the shin splits

September 23, 2007

Saturday’s run was a mere seven miles, down to the waterfront and the east-side esplanade. I had planned on taking it easy since I was still having mild shin splints. Then coach JR started talking.

“During our taper, we can reduce our frequency, volume, or intensity. We can reduce our overall volume by 50% and maintain our fitness. But if we reduce our intensity, our fitness level plummets.”

Hmm. I did not know that. Maybe my plan to take it easy had its downsides. JR went on to say we should run the first mile slow, the next five at marathon pace, and the last as a cool-down.  So: marathon pace, 9:06.

During the first few minutes, my shins were tweaking quite a bit. But it felt like I was running really slowly. When I looked down at my watch, I was really surprised to find we were on a 9:30 pace or so for the first half mile. After the first mile was done, the coach leading the pack picked it up a little more, and my legs really stopped hurting.

I’ve heard other people say they sometimes have fewer shin splints if they run fast rather than slow. I’ve never experienced that myself, up until now, but I think that might have been what happened Saturday. I put in 9:15, 8:58, 8:30, and 8:15 miles and was feeling just fine. I finished up with something near 9:00, and a 9:45 cool-down.

Running hard had another benefit: I felt a lot better mentally the rest of the day. My legs have been fine since (I even spent an afternoon walking around IKEA). I keep telling Sweetie that I’m not going to be feeling Saturday’s run catch up to me until Monday, though. It’s probably true.

Leg Report

September 21, 2007

I’m feeling a bit better, leg-wise. I overdid it enough shortly after the 22-miler that I got some mild shin splints, but I’m pretty sure these are a-couple-of-days-rest type shin splints, not the two-weeks-off ones I’ve dealt with before. (Famous last words? Hope not. ) I’m not walking around with a limp, there’s no sharp pain, I can just feel it mildly. I should be taking more time to ice the legs; I’ve seen how much that can help.

Two weeks two days until the marathon! I’m going to have butterflies. I already am starting to have butterflies!

I need more rest

September 19, 2007

The three miles I ran during lunch today? Hurt. Painful calves. Time to take an extra day off — no more running until Saturday’s seven-miler.

Running after the last long run before the marathon

September 18, 2007

The first minute or two of running last night were painful — I’m still feeling Saturday’s 22-miler — but after that it felt pretty good. I ran 5.1 miles with the Portland Running Company group, all of them sub-10 minutes. I think there was an 8:40 and a 9:06 thrown in there too. Thinking about it now, I’d say my cardio felt really good; I don’t remember feeling out of breath at all. My legs, of course, were a little tired.

The marathon taper has begun. On Portland Fit’s schedule, that doesn’t much change our weekday running — it’s still about 30 minutes, three day a week — but our next two weekends only have runs of seven and five miles. I suppose (fingers crossed) that’ll be enough to keep me from going batty before October 7.

Twenty-two Miles

September 17, 2007

The coaching staff at Portland Fit very strongly emphasized that we should not try to run the 21-mile training run at our hoped-for marathon pace, but at a minute to two minutes slower per mile, or well into our aerobic zone, whatever that means. (OK, I kind of know what it means. I just don’t know exactly what heart rate it corresponds to for me, since I’ve been unwilling to pony up $100 for the VO2MAX testing it would take to find out.) Normally, I’d ignore this sort of well-intentioned advice, but they were really making it sound like you would be a lot better off for the marathon in three weeks if you didn’t kill yourself now, so I did my best. I kept my heart rate under 82% of my max the whole time, which meant I hardly felt like I was working at all, and ended up running miles between 9:30 and 11:15 or so. Although those 11+ minute miles also involved stopping at a lot of pedestrian crosswalks, so it’s not as bad as it sounds. My new shoes gave me a little foot trouble, especially in my left foot, where I was feeling a seam dig into my inner arch, which I think caused me to compensate and run a little funny on that foot, leading to a mild blister on my index toe (is that a real term?) and a bit of stiffness and pain in the ball of my foot. Other than that, the new shoes seemed to work well, so perhaps some strategic foot taping will do the trick.

Despite the mild discomfort, I did throw in an extra mile along the way. Boo-ya, I ran 22 miles, how you like me now? :-) Well, it’s pretty good for a guy who, nine months ago, had never ran more than a mile or so at a time.

Our route covered most of the actual Portland Marathon course, which is a good thing, since I’m utterly unfamiliar with the North Portland parts of it. Since we start in NW Portland, we skipped the first six or seven miles of the course and ran them at the end. And to shorten the route down to our training distance, we skipped a five-mile out-and-back along the north part of Naito Avenue. Rather, after a brief wiggle around the starting neighborhood in NW Portland, we headed out St. Helens Road toward the St. John’s Bridge. Then up the approach road (this moderate hill comes at mile 17 of the actual marathon, by which time I can see why it’s a bit more imposing) and across Portland’s lovely suspension bridge. Until this run, I don’t think I’ve ever been on the St. John’s — certainly not on foot, and I don’t think in a car, either.

After the bridge, the route returns to downtown via Willamette and Greely avenues, the first quite flat for quite a long time and the second nicely downhill. Some weaving around through the pedestrian-unfriendly north Rose Quarter parts of town, and we finally cross the Steel Bridge. We crossed on the lower deck, though the real marathon does not. I got a long rest there — just as I got to it, the lower deck was raised, waiting for a (slow) boat to go through. Rather than take a detour, I used the time to have a snack, fiddle with my shoes, and find something I wanted to listen to on my MP3 player. “It’s not a race, it’s a training run.”

Then we went south along the west side waterfront, up Harrison (a nasty little climb that actually comes toward the very start of the marathon), and out Barbur until its intersection with Front. That’s pretty much a 180° turn, heading back toward downtown again. Along the way we do one street crossing through this under-street tunnel. If you’ve ever spent time in the New York City subways, this tunnel brings back a flood of urine-soaked memories.

Back along the waterfront, then. As I approached the Steel Bridge, I decided I was going to do my extra mile, so instead of continuing up Front, I did an out-and-back across the lower bridge deck (no boat this time!) and along the east waterfront esplanade. Finally, we finished up the run along roads I’ve become very, very familiar with over the last six months.

Soreness: pretty severe at first. But I was walking ok later that day and never came close to wanting a pain pill, so that’s all right. I did — shudder — take my first-ever cold-water bath, after I got home. They say taking an ice bath (I wasn’t brave / sore enough to try it with real ice!) improves recovery a lot, by reducing swelling and increasing blood flow. I say it’s a practical joke they like to pull on the newbies! It was, of course, agony. Just because you’ve run a long way and are feeling sore, that doesn’t somehow make it any easier to sit in a frigid tub of water. But, moaning and chattering the whole time, I stayed in about 15 minutes. I have no idea if it helped.