Race Report: 2012 Foot Traffic Flat Half Marathon

July 5, 2012

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.


A question from the internets: training for a first half-marathon

January 8, 2010

I was pleased to find that my incessant if sporadic blogging has finally gotten me the recognition as a running authority that I so deserve. (I’m totally kidding, OK?) I got a nice email from someone  today:

Hi, Scott – great blog (okay, I haven’t read the whole thing).

I’ll be at Eugene; my first 13.1 – in fact, my first race. Presently, I run 3 to 5 miles a few times a week. I’m still a neophyte as regards running, but in good health, overall. So, can you recommend a good four month training plan? There is a lot of information out there (or, I should say – as we are using the web to communicate – ‘in here’). So, let me know what you think.

With her permission, I thought I would share my response.


Thanks for the question. I thought about it a bit, and thought back on my own experiences, and though I’m by no means a coach, I guess I have some ideas on the matter.

First I’ll say four months is plenty of time to get ready for a half marathon and I’m sure you will finish it and enjoy the experience… as long as you avoid injury. That’s the trick for most runners at all
levels, and that’s what I think a beginner’s plan should mostly be focused on… very slow mileage increases, low overall mileage, and no speed-work.

(Lots of coaches will tell you speed-work is perfectly appropriate in a beginner’s program, and they are probably right in a way: it probably is OK if you have a coach supervising it so you don’t
actually run it too hard. I think most runners try to run too fast when they get on a track. I know I do. I still don’t do track-work as part of my regular training, though I do try to run some of my other
runs hard. Of course, that might be only because I hate the track almost as much as I hate treadmills ;-) )

So, when looking for a training program, I’d stay away from ones that have you regularly running more than 25 miles per week, and I’d stay far away from ones that incorporate speed-work. With a lower-mileage, lower-intensity program like I’m thinking of, you’re not going to run
the fastest time you possibly can, but you are going start and finish your first half-marathon uninjured.

(When I started running, the word “injury” always made me thing of fracturing an ankle or blowing out a knee. That’s not the way it works, usually. It’s little nagging things that get worse and worse, until you have to take six weeks off to let them heal.)

It’s not all that easy to find online plans that fit the bill. The group I first trained with, Portland Fit, had one, but their schedule isn’t online right now. You could look at my training log from April 1 2007 (http://www.runningahead.com/logs/7531474e38da42f287031dafaee47e8c/calendar/2007/4) to my first half marathon on June 9th to get a pretty good idea how that schedule went, though of course I didn’t always stick to it 100%.

Another good-looking schedule I found was in a Runner’s World article, http://www.runnersworld.com/article/0,7120,s6-238-244–13246-2-1X2X3X4X5X6-7,00.html. If you followed that, I wouldn’t hesitate to turn the cross-training days into full rest days.

Both those ideas are shorter than 16 weeks, but it’s pretty easy to either slowly build up to week one of a schedule, or go ahead and just keep repeating week one if you’re already there.

Good Luck!

Race Report: 2009 Run Portland Run Half Marathon

September 6, 2009

Hoo boy, was it raining cats and dogs this morning. Actually it seemed like it wouldn’t be too bad, driving downtown, at twenty after six, when it was mostly just drizzling. But shortly after I got to the race start area, it started to pour. Everybody huddled under the tents. Maybe running in that downpour wouldn’t be so bad, but standing around waiting to start with it coming down like that would be awful.

With 15 minutes left, it started to slack off. I took off to warm up a bit and stash my jacket in my car, parked just a couple blocks away. During my warm-up, it started pouring again. Sigh. I made it back to the starting area. Now it was getting light and the rain was turning into drizzle once more. One of my running-group friends, J, was doing the half marathon too, along with his sister-in law, in from out of town. It was her second half marathon. She asked me how many I had done. She could see me counting on fingers and toes, I guess, and changed the question to how many I’d done this year. Four? Too bad they don’t get easier.

With 30 seconds to go until the scheduled start time, a rumor started to go around that they were going to be nine minutes late. You want my opinion, that’s a pretty specific amount of time to be late by. Why not a nice round ten? Observations like this are why nobody wants my opinion, by the way. Anyway, the nine minutes gave the drizzle plenty of time to pick up into a light rain by the time we started. It would alternate between drizzle and rain for the rest of the run, with one torrential downpour thrown in for good measure.

rpr_routeThe route was an out-and back up over the Broadway Bridge then north on Interstate, Greely and Willamette to the University of Portland. The hills of note were the climb onto and over the bridge and then the long steep hill up Greely.

I took off pretty fast the first mile. If I was going to have a shot at my PR, I needed to average under seven minute miles, and I knew I’d be quite a bit slower uphill. Mile one was a 6:55; J had come off the line a bit slower than me and I wouldn’t spot him again until the turnaround at mile 6.5.

I held it together well up and over the Broadway Bridge. This was a pretty small race and we were well spread out already. The next mile was mostly flat and I returned to a seven-minute pace.

Then came the hill. In some ways, it wasn’t as bad as I feared. It felt nothing like that monster in the Helvetia Half, for instance. That one had me almost ready to throw up by the time I crested it. This one, I did my best to take it easy. I think I should have taken it a little easier than I did. I made it through that mile in 7:28, but I was still paying for it during the next mile, where, working really hard, I managed only 7:07.

Now we were up on the exposed bluff overlooking Swan Island and the North Portland industrial area. The wind became a factor in here. It was a strong wind. A couple times I nearly lost my hat. Running into, or even across, this wind was definitely more work than it would have been on a calm day.

What can one do? Plug ahead. Try to run the best lines. (People are amazingly bad at this. Curb huggers, cure thyselves!) Count steps and breath. At the turnaround, I saw that J was just a little bit behind me. A hundred feet? I said something about him being right there and he said something I can’t remember but with an inflection that made it sound like he wasn’t sure he was going to catch me. Or maybe he wasn’t sure he was going to survive another six and a half miles. I know I wasn’t.

The return trip on the bluff is a not-visible-to-the-naked eye gentle incline that gets the better of you as you wonder why you’re slowing down for no apparent reason. The last mile of it is the worst; I gasped through a 7:09 there. Then comes the tricky part. The run down Greely. Take it too slow, and you’re not grabbing back any of the time you lost on the way up. Too fast and you’re thrashing your legs and missing out on a valuable chance for some recovery. I pounded down at a 6:45 pace or so, which doesn’t sound too bad. The torrential, soaking, stinging, driving rainstorm hit as I was nearing the bottom of the hill. Just carrying that extra water weight around in my shirt had to hurt. And the wind! Oy. So reaching the flat, and then the uphill as Greely hits Interstate, was not so much fun, no. The mile after the hill sucked. At one point early into it I looked down at my Garmin and saw I was averaging about an 8:00 pace thus far into it. “Yikes,” I thought, “that’s slower than my marathon goal pace and here I am in a wee little half marathon, jogging that kind of speed?”  I picked it up after that but still covered the 11th mile in all of 7:22. I was pretty sure I wasn’t going to PR at that point.

Have I ever mentioned that in the two and a half years I’ve been running, every race I’ve entered has been a PR? It’s a stupid stat, but it’s mine. It was mine.

J passed by me right near mile marker 11, as we were heading up onto the Broadway Bridge. It would have been nice to rally and overtake him, but I didn’t have another gear in me. I kept him in sight through the last two miles, but he was steadily pulling away. J got a PR, finishing about 35 seconds ahead of me. My time, unofficially, was 1:32:38, a 7:05/mile pace. That’s less than a minute off my half marathon PR from two months ago on a much easier course in nicer weather. I think I did good today.

Elevations: The elevation chart doesn’t have the bridge elevations at miles 1.5 and 11.5 right — the elevation data that the chart is generated from thinks we were running at river level instead of on the bridge.


Mile splits: 6:55, 7:08, 7:00, 7:28, 7:07, 7:00, 7:01, 7:01, 7:09, 6:51, 7:22, 7:08, 7:00

Official Results: 1:32:37. 23rd/240 finishers, 19th/120 men, 2/22 in my age group.

Race Report: 2008 Race For The Roses half marathon

April 6, 2008

I got to the convention center around 6am and found some on-street parking two blocks away, then picked up my packet and went back to the car to stash the tee shirt and other race swag. It was 44 degrees and drizzling on and off. I wore shorts, a long-sleeve shirt, and gloves. I had half a bagel at home, a Clif Shot 20 minutes before, and Gleukos energy drink on the course.

The course for this half marathon seemed to, I dunno, lack a certain artistry. Rather than sweeping out in some grand design, it veered back and forth across the west side. It also covered a lot of the same territory that the Portland Marathon does. Starting at the convention center, the course goes across the Broadway Bridge, then south on Front until it terminates at Barbur, the last mile or so of that noticeably uphill. Back north then, first downhill on Barbur, then (after an uphill jog on Harrison) down Broadway. A zigzag through the Pearl and farther NW neighborhoods takes it out on the northern industrial section of Front, which it takes north for maybe a mile before a turnaround. Back south on front for several miles, until yet another turnaround, near the Hawthorne Bridge. Finally the course staggers back north, crosses the Steel Bridge (getting up onto it is the race’s steepest hill) and finishes where it started.

I’ve run almost every inch of this course at least one or two times before, so there wasn’t a lot of novelty. At the same time, that seemed to make the whole thing fly by quicker. Or maybe I just never really woke up. Why do they have to start these races so early? Anyway. I ran faster than I planned and it never seemed too difficult. The course was flat enough for the most part, which certainly helped. The most memorable leg of the race for me started as I approached the northern turnaround on Front Avenue and saw, having already rounded the turnaround, the pace runner holding the “1:50” sign. I spent the next three miles or so slowly catching up… looks like I was hitting sub-8:00 miles all through there. (After the race I happened to see the woman holding the pace sign. I told her she would have been a lot easier to catch up to if she’d just run slower.)

The starting corral was in a kind of urban canyon, with the convention center on one side and a raised road on the other. Because of this, my GPS unit couldn’t get a satellite lock until after the race was underway. So my data recording didn’t get started until a third of mile in.

Lap Time
1 7:55
2 8:08
3 8:23
4 8:31
5 8:07
6 8:00
7 8:12
8 8:06
9 7:51
10 7:58
11 7:54
12 8:02
13 6:27 (0.82 miles)

My official time was 1:46:14, for an 8:06/mile average pace. A new half-marathon PR! (Wait, this is only my second one.)

Race Report: The Helvetia Half Marathon

June 9, 2007

I had everything all laid out and ready this morning and had gotten to sleep around 10 last night, so getting up early to get out to Hillsboro Stadium well before the 8:00 am start was no big deal. M was running it too, and we were going to carpool from my house if he made it there in time, which he did. Traffic around the stadium was heavy, but all things considered, not too bad. I think we made it there by 7:20 or so.

The weather was cool and just beginning to sprinkle a little. The rain would pick up throughout the race, but it didn’t bother me at all during the run. I didn’t want to mess with the little paper cups of water or sports drink at the aid stations (and I like to drink when I like, not at set intervals) so I was carrying my own drinks. I went with a belt-and-suspenders approach, carrying my small Amphipod hand-held bottle and also wearing my CamelBak fanny pack. The bottle was to be my main supply, hopefully getting refilled along the course, and the CamelBak — not completely full, so it wouldn’t bounce as much — was the reserve supply in case something went wrong with the refill plan. The Camelbak had a “CamelBak Elixer” electrolyte tab dissolved in it; the bottle held plain water to start with, along with a couple Clif Shots in the handle.

M took the opposite approach, carrying nothing whatsoever. His other strategy was to take an Immodium before the race, which seemed to work out. We talked trash a little before the race, I think, but mostly (as far as possible with two hypercompetitive guys like us) were determined to run our own races and hoping to meet our own goals. We both wanted to break two hours. M had been having some trouble with his legs for a few week, which had him a bit nervous, I think.

We got into the enormous starting pack around the area marked for 9-minute milers. I saw a walker I knew from Portland Fit right by me — she didn’t know why her little group of walkers was lining up so far forward either — and talked to her a bit. She was wearing a two-liter hydration backpack, so we talked hydration equipment a bit. After some more standing around and trying to keep warm, we were off.

I wanted to go out slow and pick up steam only after the hills were done, which is around mile eight. M’s plan was to set his Garmin Forerunner to have him doing a 13.1-mile workout with a target time of two hours. This turned out to have a few flaws, we saw later, but it did mean that he was running consistent times — uphill, downhill, all about the same. I’m not sure that’s a good thing. (Maybe he did try to gain a little on the downhills and lose a little on the uphills — I’m not sure. But it seemed fairly consistent, from what I could see.)

The first few miles weren’t much fun; they never are for me. But at least they were pretty flat. Mile one was 9:10, about right or perhaps a little fast. Mile two, 8:56, again, too fast. Three, 9:11, about right. During this time I had M in front of me, pulling away a bit, but always in-sight in his distinctive green shirt.

The hills started at mile three and my times slowed down as they should. Miles four and five were 9:23 and 9:50. Mile six had an extended downhill section where I put on the afterburners (ok, where I ran faster than most people around me). I think this is where I caught M — he says he didn’t care for my “make way, coming through!” as I rolled past him on my way to an 8:43 mile. I slowed down a bit to recover and have a Clif Shot after that, and M managed to sneak past me again, without seeing me. I came up beside him and asked how his legs were doing. They were ok. He told me I should get a move on and not dawdle with him, so I could break two hours. I told him something about how the two hours would have to come naturally, not be forced, or somesuch, but shortly after I sped up a little and didn’t see him again until the finish line. (Oops, I gave away the ending of one sub-plot there: I did end up finishing before M. Here’s an extra-special “SMOKED YA” going out to my pal!)

One of these miles in here had considerable uphill, but I was feeling good and running well and it didn’t slow me much. I ran mile seven in 8:44, and that included a stop to refill my bottle with Gleukos sports drink. That was a little iffy. I show the guy my bottle, lid already off, and ask if I can get a refill. He tried to hand me a little cup. “No, can I refill this?” He points me to the big barrel of the stuff they’ve mixed up and tells me to help myself. There’s a pitcher floating in the barrel, for pouring. Well? I got my bottle refilled, but I’d be lying if I said I didn’t get some of my sweat into the remaining Gleukos too. Ick. Sorry.

It was somewhere during mile seven that I started to feel good. The hills were done, my stride and pace were in the good place that I only seem to get to when my legs have been running for a long while, and my heart rate was going down. This was interesting. Running faster splits in the (flat) last five miles of the race than I had in the (also flat) first three, I also had a considerably lower heart rate. Apparently my feeling that it takes me an hour of running to warm up sometimes isn’t just an illusion!

Miles eight through eleven were an uneventful 8:33, 8:32, 8:59, and 8:58. Getting past mile 10 felt good – with just a 5K left, I felt like I could throw away any worries about not finishing, or having to walk the rest of the way. Getting past mile 11 was another story: as soon as I ran past the 11-mile marker, I found myself thinking “every step I take now is the farthest I’ve ever run! What am I doing trying to run it fast?” I didn’t slow down, but the mental side got a lot more difficult. I ran mile twelve in 8:51.

As with my two previous races, the last mile was the hardest part. Thinking back to how I felt I could have finished the Bridge to Bridge 10K with a lot more left, I pushed my speed past my comfort level. I was huffing and puffing, but — huh? — my heart rate was still around 84% of my max, not the 88% it had been at the start of the race. Checking the time at mile 12, I knew I had plenty of time to finish and still break two hours, so that was good, and kept me going strong. Mile 13 went by in a very long-feeling 8:34.

The extra tenth of a mile takes place inside Hillsboro Stadium, on a springy track that just begs to be sprinted on. Sprint I did. I remembered to stop my watch, which was displaying 1:58. The “gun time” hadn’t passed two hours yet either, which made me feel pretty good. All in all, I felt elated. I recovered my breath waiting in the line to have my timing chip removed, than passed through the gauntlet, getting my finisher’s medal, shirt, and hamburger. Mmmmmhmmm hamburger. The shirt and burger were outside the stadium and some steps had to be climbed to get there: ouch! My hip flexors were tender! My calves, not too bad.

After I got my burger I started retracing my steps looking for M. I found him, looking a little dazed, but he said he was ok, and we went and got his shirt and hamburger. He knew he didn’t break two hours, and thought he got 2:02-something. But talking to him, it turns out that was the time shown on the gun-time clock when he crossed the finish line, not the tape-to-tape time that will be official. I asked if he had forgotten to stop his watch and he explained that when his 13.1 mile workout was done the Forerunner said he was done and stopped timing — and that was maybe 0.1 miles short of the actual finish. (Why? (a) The GPS isn’t perfectly accurate. (b) 13.1 miles is with a perfect line.) Workout mode? Maybe not the best for races. For a while he fretted that if he’d sprinted the finish, maybe he would have broken two hours, but then he remembered that the Forerunner said he had been running almost exactly two hours when it stopped. Next time, if he keeps using the workout mode like this, I’m sure he’ll add in some padding distance.

It was cold and the rain was really starting to come down. We had some trouble finding the car, and got even colder and wetter. Getting out of the parking lot took forever, then I got lost in Hillsboro a bit. But that’s pretty dull. The take-home message is this: run a half-marathon! It’s fun!

Here’s a graph. The top line is heart rate, the middle elevation, and the bottom pace. As I said, the heart rate is very interesting.

Quick update – Broke Two Hours, w00t!

June 9, 2007

I survived my first half-marathon! Unofficial time: 1:58:12. That’s an average 9:01 mile, and, more importantly, shattered my goal time of 2:00:00. No injuries, though my left hip flexor is pretty sore. I’ll write more later.

Lunchtime jog / two days until the half-marathon

June 7, 2007

A 30-minute run was scheduled today and I took it easy, perhaps easier than any other run since Portland Fit started up. I didn’t track my speed, but I’d guess 14-minute miles. I just wanted to stretch out my legs and remind my body that I haven’t stopped wanting to move. So where do I stand for the Helvetia Half-Marathon, Saturday morning? My legs are still feeling sore here and there from Sunday night’s ultimate Frisbee. Nothing bad, but it would be nice if after tomorrow’s rest day, they were doing better. I should be able to get full nights of sleep tonight and Friday, which should help. Other than that, I’m feeling good, energetic, and healthy.