Still Alive

May 12, 2008

Sorry about the password-protected image dump in the previous post… no time to edit the images down to those I’d want to show here. We’re in Valencia, Spain, after having visited Madrid. My biggest complaint about Spain? No street food whatsoever. What?! Why?! I’ve only gotten two runs in so far, Saturday and Sunday mornings, both about six miles in the Turia, Valencia’s long linear park, formerly a river.


So long, farewell, auf weidersehen, goodbye

May 6, 2008

I’ll be in Europe in a few hours. Blogging will be sporadic if anything.

My legs recovered amazingly well from the marathon. I ran three miles comfortably last night.

Race Report: 2008 Eugene Marathon

May 4, 2008

So here we go, Eugene Marathon 2008: marathon number two. (Yeah, I ran a 50K too… that was a little more laid back, in its own way, if possibly more terrifying.) The goal: keep running, don’t hit the wall, break four hours. The plan: Run 8:50 miles until at least 23.5 miles in, then keep up that pace or faster. Eat a bunch of fun-sized Milky Ways in the first eight miles.

I got up about six am and around 6:30 we drove the couple of miles over to the starting line. I waited in line to pee one last time (lesson learned from marathon #1!) and lined up just a little ahead of the nine minutes per mile spot. This was a lot smaller that the Portland Marathon (just 1741 finishers in the full marathon) so getting a spot in the starting group was a lot easier and once the gun went off, we were over the line pretty quickly.

The marathon course is pretty nice, going through the University and south Eugene for its first nine miles, then staying mostly to bike paths along the Willamette. The paths are pretty and just this side of dead flat. (Yes there are a few brief rollers.) But they do present two problems… a little crowding (which is going to get an awful lot worse if the field grows and they don’t change the course) and a lot of concrete. I’m a skeptic when it comes to the idea that running on concrete is more jarring than running on asphalt, but I know there are an awful lot of believers and it is definitely something to consider. One other issue I had is that either they didn’t try to close down the paths or they failed… there was definitely still some non-marathon bike and foot traffic trying to get through.

Back to my actual run. I was nervous during the first miles and focusing hard on conserving energy and not doing anything stupid. All the hills were in the first eight miles, though nothing was what you’d call a monster. Here’s an elevation profile of the path recorded by my Garmin Forerunner during my run:

Eugene Marathon Elevation Profile

I went through my collection of candy bars and drank either Gleukos sports drink or water at every aid station… I’m finally getting better at the pinch-the cup and suck-through-the-corner technique that can actually get the contents of a paper cup full of liquid down your throat while you run. (Though I did stop to walk at two of the aid stations early on, maybe miles six and seven.) During the first ten miles, I felt like I wasn’t putting much effort in, which I guess is how you need to feel if you are going to be feeling good enough to keep it up after mile 20. My mantra during the first 10 was “this mile doesn’t count… this mile doesn’t count”… I was going to run each early mile carefully enough and replace enough calories to start the second half of the race relatively fresh. And avoid the dread wall. I got a lift after the biggest hill when Sweetie and my Mom cheered me from the side of the road. High-five!

Miles 1-10 splits: 8:44 8:49 8:52 8:50 8:51 8:48 8:50 8:48 8:57 8:46. I used my Forerunner religiously to keep the even pace. I probably looked at it once a minute. The main data field I focus on is “Average Lap Pace” — my average pace (per mile) during the current mile. The 8:57 in mile nine happened because the aid station fell right at the end of it, and I got caught up in the aid station traffic.

As planned, I eased up on the eating in miles 10-20. Just as well, because keeping up the 8:50 pace no longer felt like child’s play; now it felt like a brisk training run. I got Gleukos at most of the aid stations to get at least a little carb input during this part, and also had a Cliff Shot. All in all, running still felt comfortable. Around mile 10 we got to see some of the lead marathoners go whizzing by, returning from the loop through Springfield. How do they do it? Around mile 16 I saw my two-person cheering crew again… they made up for their small numbers with enthusiasm! Splits for miles 11-20: 8:47 8:48 8:47 8:47 8:50 8:49 8:50 8:51 8:49 8:44. Looking back, I guess I was still having trouble really nailing 8:50… psychologically it’s very hard for me not to try to beat the goal, even if it’s only by a few seconds like that. Can a difference of a few seconds matter that much? I’m guessing probably not, at my level.

At mile 20, I still felt OK, although various leg muscles were making themselves quietly heard. Let’s see… the very fronts of my thighs hurt a bit, and during mile 19 I thought my left hip flexor might be in the early stages of cramping (though it never did). My feet, ankles and calves all felt OK. One more weird thing I noticed, that I’d actually been experiencing for a lot of the race — at times I felt asymmetric. It’s hard to describe. I felt like I was running asymmetrically (I probably do at least a bit) and I also felt like I couldn’t tell if I was leaning left or right or not at all. Then it would pass. Odd.

Miles 20 through 24 were all about hanging in there. At 23.5 I was giving myself permission to speed up a little if I could, but I didn’t speed up much at that point. I felt I had to save that for the final push and that wasn’t going to last more than a couple of miles. But the thing about maintaining your pace at the end of a marathon is that a lot of people running around you can’t, so you end up surging ahead quite a bit. I think it’s a psychological trick I don’t completely have the hang of to view passing so many people with excitement. Instead I’m tempted to feel bad for them or, worse, jealous that they are getting a rest! My splits here were 8:47 8:47 8:48 and 8:44.

So I made it to mile 24 and I could still run. Time to start gasping hard for air and seeing what I could do. In the grand scheme of things the seconds I gained might not have made much difference — I would have to have been hit by a truck to not have broken four hours at this point — but finishing as strong as I could was still important to me. Sucking air and ignoring the uncomfortable feeling that you get when running long distances that some people call “pain” even though it isn’t really pain but your body kind of just pleading with you to knock it off, I cruised through 25 and 26 in 8:39 and 8:23.

My cheering section was ready for me near the finish line, with 0.2 miles or less to go. Sweetie ran out and paced me and told me to sprint! I was almost there! Go go! My brain had of course shut down ages ago and I mumbled something about how she shouldn’t be on the course… which I know now was pretty silly. OK, OK, time to run. There was this one woman I had been pacing near to since at least mile 19, and earlier I think, who had re-passed me with about half a mile to go. I made it my business to catch up to her. We actually ran stride for stride for a while as we headed for the tape, but once I gave up on breathing and just ran without air I had a bit more left in my legs and edged her out. According to my GPS, my pace after mile 26 was 6:54/mile, but that should be taken with a grain of salt.

Immediately after, my legs were in plenty of pain (the feeling once you stop is definitely pure and simple “pain”) but not even in the same neighborhood as the pain after marathon #1. I walked around a bit trying to find my cheering section, which was probably good. A little while later, we got my traditional hamburger. I also got a Manhattan, which is a good drink because it is pretty much straight liquor with a Maraschino cherry in it.

Since then, my legs have recovered shockingly well. I walked around the mall this evening; stairs aren’t a big deal (yeah, I don’t look perfect going down them, ok), and I believe I could even jog a little. I’m happy!

The Big Numbers:

Total Time (official): 3:50:28 (PR by 19 minutes!) Average pace (official): 8:48.
First half/second half: 1:55:29/1:54:59 (30 second negative split!)

Flying to Europe? Boy, Will My Legs Be Tired!

May 2, 2008

This is one crazy weekend. Not only are we traveling the 100 miles to Eugene tomorrow, and running the marathon on Sunday, but then Tuesday we’re getting on a plane to Frankfurt for a vacation in Europe. That’s a full metric assload of planning and packing and driving and running and aching and flying! We’re headed to Spain first: a couple days in Madrid then a longer stay in Valencia.

I’ve been boring everybody I meet talking about the Spanish version of the beverage horchata, popular in Valencia, made from something called the chufa or “tiger nut”. It’s not a true nut but rather the underground tuber of Cyperus esculentus, or the tigernut sedge. I guess horchata is made in a similar manner as almond milk — here’s a recipe. Horchata is often accompanied by sweets called fartons… make your own third-grade joke.

Anyway, I wouldn’t be boring people talking about a little-known-here beverage if I weren’t getting quite excited about the trip. I haven’t traveled much lately. I haven’t so much as been on a plane since the year 2000. It wasn’t a 9/11 thing, it was an I-had-no-money thing. Getting over the feeling that travel was an unacceptable luxury that was a struggle; it’s taken me some time to accept that I can afford to do this kind of thing now. At this moment, though, my mind is pleasantly vacillating between looking forward to the marathon and looking forward to the vacation.

Eugene Marathon Weather

May 1, 2008

The weather forecast for Sunday in Eugene is starting to look a little warm… they are now saying mostly sunny with a high of 72. I know it won’t reach the high before afternoon, but with the sun out, it still might be hotter than we’d all like for a marathon. Warm temperatures slow you down every bit as much as hills, but they can be even worse psychologically, since a lot of runners don’t adjust their goal pace for the heat and try to just tough it out instead.

I did six miles at marathon pace yesterday, which seemed to take somewhat more effort than it should, except that I was also talking up a storm (droning on about the history of black pepper and related spices — yes, I’m exciting) so that was making me somewhat out of breath.

I’ll do one more little jog before Sunday’s Eugene Marathon, just two miles or so on Friday.