Wednesday, October 26, 2011

It's going to be a long, dark winter...

And it's not even winter yet! We are only 1/3 of the way through autumn, and I am already bemoaning the short, cold, wet days to come.

Before I continue with my whining...I know that I have nothing to complain about compared to the winter weather that will be endured in much of the rest of the country. I know that the worst weather we endure will probably be balmy compared to Chicago, North Dakota, Michigan, and even the east coast. I know that. I know that.

Still. I fear that fall and winter weather will put a serious crimp in my running style. Oh, I will be running. I will be getting in the miles. I will maintain the quantity of my running (pretty much, anyway). But the quality? Oh, I fear that will suffer.

I see it already. It's hard enough to get up and outside in the darkness that I have been starting way too late in the morning most days, meaning that even the quantity of mileage is slightly compromised. But I am also sluggish, and nervous of tripping in the semi-dark (there are streetlights, but it's dim and shadowy), and my easy pace is taking a real hit. My string of "no runs over a 10-minute average pace" has ended just like that. Many of my individual miles have been hovering around 10-minutes (which isn't horrible), but when you average that with my molasses slow warm-up miles it is quite likely that I won't end up with an overall pace under ten.

(And don't even ask about the quality of my speedwork. Ugh.)

This is bothersome because I believe that my marathon pace tends to end up just a little bit faster than my easy pace. If my easy pace gets slower, my marathon pace probably will too.

Now, I'm not to concerned about how this will affect the Tucson Marathon. Tucson's gonna happen, and while I'm trying to train for a strong performance, I don't think I am going to change the outcome drastically at this point. Maybe I'll do a little worse than Portland, maybe the same, maybe even a little better.

My real concern is that training for Eugene is going to start in January, during the darkest, coldest, wettest months of the year. Fun! Hopefully I'll have some New Year's mojo going for me at that time....

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Portland Marathon Photos (and a time!)

Last week the Portland Marathon website finally posted my finish time, which was a net time of 4:15:33. To prove that I actually did run and finish the race, there are numerous race photos of me on St. John's Bridge (about mile 17) and at the finish. Of course, combining that with the few recorded splits I have (start, 10K, and about 8.6 miles), there is an undocumented window of time...when I was on a bus? NO! I plugged through all 26.45 miles, I promise.

Here are a whole bunch of race pictures that I forked over good money for!

Never mind the time on the clock, obviously that was taken long before I approached the finish line!

Saturday, October 22, 2011

What I'm thinking right now

1. I don't ever really want to be a Marathon Maniac. I know I could do the minimum it takes to qualify (two marathons in 16 days is the easiest), but I don't have the Maniac mindset. A marathon every weekend? Two in one weekend? Um, no thanks. I like my body and want it to like me back. I also want to be able to use it for ordinary things, like walking, without hurting all.the.time.

2. On the same tack, I'm not sure what I think of this "two marathons in two months" thing I have scheduled. Conceptually I still like it (have something similar in mind next year), but it is a lot harder to get back on track than I thought it would be. It is still a challenge to run my former "easy pace."

3. I'm not setting any goals for Tucson just yet. I have to see how things develop into November. But at the moment I am not thinking any bigger than getting back to where my Portland goals are still realistic for Tucson.

4. I miss summer. Yes, even our sucky summer of 2011 (with only a few weeks of sunshine in August or September, as far as I can remember). The best things about summer? Early sunrise and late sunset. I do not love running in the dark. At all.

5. I have to force myself to get up earlier on these dark, wet mornings if I want to do more than 6-7 miles in my weekday runs. 6:00 isn't any worse than 6:30, right?

6. Do I really need to run more than 6-7 miles in my weekday runs?

7. Eugene is going to be my goal marathon for 2012. I want to train for a possible PR there, or at least a great race. I need to think about what I need to do (training-wise) to make that happen.

8. But for now, I'm sticking with the status quo training plan through Tucson.

9. I am so pleased I didn't get a cold after Portland. I almost always end up with a cold after a marathon. I've read that is very common, perhaps because your immune system is compromised when you put it through the stress of a marathon. Unfortunately that doesn't mean I couldn't still get a cold. At any time.

10. The one special thing I have done with my Tucson training plan is include as much downhill running as I can manage (based on availability of routes). That also includes some uphills, as I don't have any point to point runs planned. So far in my downhill training I include the Portland Marathon (lots of downhill), the Poulsbo Half Marathon (largely downhills for the first six miles), today's run to Badger Mountain in Waterville (rolling hills and uphills on the way out, downhills and mostly downhill grade on the way back). I also regularly run up and down hills in my weekday runs. I want to be able to take advantage of the downhill Tucson course without killing my quads. (I accept that my quads will be toast after the marathon, I just want to keep them working throughout the 26.2 miles.)

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Getting my legs back

After my pretty rough run on Friday, and the Poulsbo Half Marathon on Sunday--which went well at a pace that was at least a minute per mile slower than my "easy half marathon pace"--today I finally felt like I might be regaining a tiny bit of running ability. Not a lot, yet, but enough to keep me optimistic. I did seven miles at about 9:50 average pace. I still felt a little herky-jerky--but that may be because I watched the video my mom took of me sprinting around the track at the end of the half marathon. Not exactly smooth and flowing!

Now I think I can write out my training plan for the remaining seven weeks until the Tucson Marathon. I was really reluctant to do that until I was sure I could run again!

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Sunday, October 16, 2011

THE Portland Marathon Race Report - Part 2

And then it was morning. The alarm(s) went off at 4:45 and by 5 a.m. I rolled out of bed and smeared a whole wheat English muffin (NOT "double fiber"!) with almond butter and strawberry jam. I took this back to bed with my coffee and a banana and ate breakfast while lounging. I wanted to eat two hours before the race but didn't need to get up so early for any other reason.

I was a little confused about how to get to my starting corral--the maps made it look like I may need to walk way south and then double back, over a mile--so I planned to leave around 6 a.m. to allow plenty of time. The race started at 7:00.

I dressed in my previously pictured race outfit. A Nuu Muu running dress, Nike capris, my brand new Nathan Speed 2 fuel belt (I bought the new one in blue to go with my outfit), a black running hat and a throwaway jacket from Goodwill (which looked a whole lot like other black jackets I own). I also had my brand new Garmin--no more duct tape! (Although I'm keeping the old one, obviously, there may be some circumstances when I need two, right?)

I made as many bathroom visits as I could manage but worried a little that I wasn't purging my insides as thoroughly as I would like. Perhaps my reduction in fiber over the last couple days played a part...I was also worried that I hadn't been hydrating well enough because I didn't seem to be peeing as voluminously as I am accustomed to.

Let me say a little something about nerves. Of course I was nervous, I always am before a race. But the nature of my nervousness is a little different before a marathon than any other race. It's kind of crazy how tense and worried I can be bfore a 5K or 10K or whatever shorter race. That's pretty much based on my fear of not being able to run as fast as I want to. That worry alone will turn my stomach into knots. In a marathon, it's different. Nobody ever worries about not being able to finish a 5K, right? But in a marathon, not finishing is really the only fear.* Oh sure, there are time goals and PR dreams (more important to some people than to me), but the biggest and really only failure would be not getting through the 26.2 miles. It's still absolutely amazing to me that I can really do this.

Okay, then. I walked out of the door at a little past 6:00 and joined the group of people walking the same direction as me. It turns out that we were able to turn into the corral area sooner than I had feared, so I probably only walked a half to three quarters mile distance. I passed by Corral C and went into Corral D. There were lots of people already but they were milling about and going to the potties, not gathering to start yet. There was still probably 40 minutes to wait.

I got into a port a potty line and got in pretty quickly. then I walked over to the pacers' signs. Four-hour was at the front of the corral and I decided not to bother with him. If I was capable of running a four hour marathon I would see that in my splits pretty early on. I went to 4:10 and and asked him what pace he planned on running, 9:30? He said 9:32. Someone else asked him how many marathons he's run. He said three. That kind of made me wonder whether he had the ability to keep his pace down to a 9:30-ish level. (I am assuming his personal marathons have been much faster.) But I decided to go out near his sign and see what happened.

I went back to a potty line and passed some more time there. I really didn't have anything left to squeeze out, though. In a shorter race I always do a warm-up run and that makes me really pee right before the start. I hoped that the first few miles of the marathon would not have the same effect.

Then, as we all clustered toward the starting line of our corral, it was 7 a.m. and the race was starting somewhere ahead of us. Each wave would start a few minutes after the one before, walking up toward the "real" starting line. I believe my wave (or me, anyway, crossed the start at 7:09).

As we started running over the timing mats, we were still hampered a little by the closeness of the crowd and it was hard to set a pace. I really wanted to stick with the 4:10 pacer for at least a few miles, so I followed him as he took off once the crowd opened up a little. I think he was trying to make up the pace from a slow start, plus the first mile was a little downhill. I felt like our effort was a little hard for 9:30 pace, and I wondered if I would be able to keep this up. But it turns out we were running a little fast. Mile 1 - 9:13.

We slowed down a bit in the next couple miles (a little slower than goal pace, but it would average with the first mile). The pacer guy may have been trying to even things out, or maybe it was because we were going uphill gently in these two miles. I stayed right in the pacer's vicinity here. Mile 2 - 9:37. Mile 3 - 9:47.

At that point we got to turn and go back down the other side of the uphill! I picked up my pace easily and decided to let myself pull ahead of the pacer. I was happy to get a little bit ahead of pace because I knew I would lose some time with a bathroom stop eventually. Mile 4 - 9:09. Mile 5 - 9:13 (this 9:13 felt much more natural than the first one!). As we started down the hill a guy told me to enjoy this downhill! Yes, indeed.

The next seven miles were perfectly on pace. I believe that these miles were pretty much flat. I'm sure there were slight inclines and declines in the road elevation, but nothing to interfere with a comfortable pace. This section was a long out and back along N.W. Front Street. We turned around just before the 9-mile marker. There was a band playing along the way and lots of spectators. I'm not someone who really cares that much about spectators--I'm fine with or without them--so I can't remember well what sections had lots and which had none, or few. There was one older guy, though, who I kept seeing pop up throughout the course. (I think it was the same guy.) He had a bike so it was quite possible. It was just a little weird!

I ate a Gu at about mile 8. My fueling plan was one Gu at miles 8, 13.1, 18, and 23. I almost followed it. Up until the end.

On both the out and the back it was fun to see the other runners going the other directions. The runners coming back were the fast ones, of course, and they didn't care about us. When we were on the return side I hope we were more encouraging to those still plugging "out"!

I saw the 4:10 pacer after I turned around and I think I was probably about 30 seconds or a minute ahead of him there. Miles 6-12 - 9:27, 9:27, 9:32, 9:32, 9:26, 9:35.

Just before the Mile 11 marker we split off from the half marathoners and they headed toward their finish while we headed onward. I was actually quite happy to let the half marathoners go on their way and not even envious that they were almost done. Even though we weren't halfway yet, I felt like this was a significant point in the race, where it really became a marathon. We were also well on the way to our own 13.1 point.

I had started thinking about a bathroom. I wasn't desperate but I did need to go. I didn't feel that it was realistic to get through the entire race without a stop, but I only wanted to stop once. I decided that I would stop at a port a potty after the halfway point if it seemed practical. I don't know if it was in anticipation of losing time in a stop or what, but I whipped through mile 13 in 9:14.

Just past the 13.1 mark there was a row of port a potties with plenty of open stalls. I zipped into one to do my thing. It was a good stop. I managed to squeeze out everything I had been hanging onto. I kept an eye on my watch because I didn't want to spend much more than a minute, but I also wanted to make sure I did everything I needed to. My split for mile 14 reflected my stop - 10:42. Given that I had been running 9:30s or faster, I am guessing I was in there about 1:15.

The 4:10 pacer passed me while I was in the potty. I figured he would. I could see the sign ahead in the distance after I started up again. I did a good job with mile 15 at 9:33, but I was never fast enough again to actually make up the difference and catch up to the pacer. I did have my second Gu in mile 14 after my bathroom stop. I also noticed at some point there that one of the water bottles had fallen out of my new fuel belt, maybe at the bathroom stop when I was fiddling with my clothes. For half a second I thought about turning back to find it but quickly realized that was crazy, and impossible. I saw someone else's dropped bottle along the way so it wasn't just me. Mile 16 - 9:38.

In Mile 17 we climbed the most significant hill in the marathon as we approached crossing St. John's Bridge. This hill was at least a mile long on the road, plus a little bit more going up onto the bridge as well. I just plugged up the hill at a steady pace. Mile 17 - 10:23. I'm actually quite pleased that my time was not even slower. I certainly felt slower.

St. John's Bridge was a big deal on the marathon course. On the approach there were many signs warning that only runners could go on the bridge, and apparently there was a "checkpoint Charlie" where they were checking for race numbers and D-tags. It's an amazing, beautiful structure and running across was a joy. I wish I could post a picture...maybe I'll go back later and put one in.

Edited to add this borrowed pic:

St. John's Bridge took us to the east side of the river where we would run most of the remaining miles before the finish. I had no sense of geography and only know this from looking at the map later. We ran the next number of miles on Willamette Boulevard.

There was a lot of downhill in the eight miles or so after the bridge. In fact, except for one short hill and the approach to Broadway Bridge near the end, I would say this last segment was mostly downhill or flat. Given that, my one doubt about my performance was whether I could have pushed harder on the downhills. Some of my splits seem a lot slower than they could have been. They're fine, but if I was ever going to catch the 4:10 pacer, I might have made up some time here. But I'll admit, I pretty much wrote off catching him after the hill before the bridge.

Part of this is also my marathon slump section. I'll admit, miles 16-20 (approximately) seem to be my hardest miles. Maybe even harder than the last 10K. I think the ten miles to go seems so far...but 10K is not so bad.

I have been writing as if this was all so easy breezy and not hard. That's not true. Marathons are hard, no matter what. I'll admit that I have pretty much wiped out any memory of stress in the first half...I do remember that as going pretty easy, at least once we got past mile 3.

I did go through mental gyrations throughout the race, trying to break up the distance without getting too overwhelmed by the total! My basic breakup of a 20 mile distance is, the first five are warmup, the second five are easy (you are warmed up but not yet tired), the third five are quality (maintaining a pace while you are starting to get tired), and the fourth five are endurance. But I needed to break it down even further. From 13.1 the next mental checkpoint was 15. Then 16, then every two miles to 20 (and two mile segments to the finish).

In the miles after the bridge, I was slumping a little bit and I could feel the downhill stress in my quads. I forgot to take a Gu in mile 18 but took it in mile 19. Mile 18-21 - 9:51, 9:41, 9:46, 9:53.

Then there were just five (or so) miles left! I think I got a second wind. I didn't bother to take any more Gu...I kind of wonder if it would have given me a bigger finish kick if I had taken the last one. I had already sped up a little in the final miles and I didn't feel like I was losing energy or anything. Mile 22 - 9:29. Mile 23 - 9:37. In mile 24 we had to go up a little hill onto Broadway Bridge...maybe I could attribute my slowing again to that? Mile 24 - 10:07.

Then, the craziest thing happened. We were back over the river and I was all prepared to make a final push to the finish. I had calculated that I had a good chance of finishing in 4:12. Then, just before the Mile 25 marker we saw ahead of us flashing lights and heard train bells and whistles and the track arm came down and we had to stop for a train. It was the Amtrak train and luckily not too long. I calculate that we stopped about a minute or a little more based on my split for that mile. Mile 25 - 10:45.

We headed out and I felt a little stiff and awkward after the stop (though I can't say I didn't enjoy the stopping while I was forced to) but managed to pick up my pace decently. If you can believe it the bells were clanging again at another crossing but I and those around me were able to cross before the arm came down. Mile 26 - 9:25.

Then another factor came into play that had a major effect on my final time. I had noticed that my watch splits were a little off the mile markers, but I wasn't too concerned because that often evens out. I am also aware that the final distance is always more than 26.2 but I completely failed to account for that in my calculations.

So after the 26 mile marker my sprint to the finish was not .2 mile, but in fact it was .45 mile. A full quarter mile extra. I am estimating that added two minutes that I hadn't planned on! Mile 26.2 - 4:12 for .45 miles at 9:16 pace.

When I stopped my watch after the finish line it read 4:15:39. I think I started it a bit early and I know I waited to stop it till after the finish line photo, so probably I can take a few seconds off that.

Since 4:15 was my secondary goal, I was really happy with my finish. The time I was pretty happy with, but the overall race was great! Other than maybe going a little harder on the later downhills, I think I did everything I should have done to have a successful marathon. I was happier at the end of this marathon than I have been since CIM.

I did feel just lightly woozy in the final mile (maybe I should have had that last Gu), and right after the finish. But I was fine by the time I posed for my "medal" photo.

I called my mom to tell her I was done and said I'd call her again when I was on my way to our meeting point at Starbucks. I worked my way through the post-race area, collecting my trinkets (commemorative coin and charm) and finisher's shirt. I drank a little cup of pomegranate juice (delicious) and had a couple of orange wedges.

Walking was just a little bit difficult. And slow. Luckily there were a number of people leaving, so I was able to wind my way out of the finish area and back toward Starbucks without adding any unnecessary blocks. I arrived and claimed a table right by the door just before my mother got there.

I ordered us mochas with a couple of my free drink cards and got a spinach and feta wrap for us to share. After we ate we walked slowly back to the hotel. It's only a few blocks....

I had planned and was determined to have an ice bath back at the hotel. Luckily our room was really close to the ice machine, so I emptied the ice chest and used it to transport ice. I hopped in the tub in my clothes (with a fleece top), started filling the tub with cold water, then got my mom to dump in the ice. I stayed in for about 15 minutes. Then I put on a hotel robe and laid on the bed to warm up before going back into the shower. I couldn't dilly dally too long as housekeeping hadn't made up the room yet and we wanted to go down to the lobby and give them the chance. (Unfortunately they didn't make it up until about 4:00 which was a little bit of a pain.)

Down in the lobby we ate maple cinnamon rolls that I had brought along. Later (finally back in the room) we noshed on pretzels to ward off hunger until dinner. We never really had a chance to eat lunch, but the cinnamon roll and pretzels did nicely.

The only remaining negative about this race that has not been resolved is that my chip failed and I don't yet have a recorded finishing time. My mother was quite disturbed when I seemed to drop off race tracking after the second split! I didn't know about that until after the end. I have sent in an email for a correction and hopefully it will all turn out okay. There should be a picture of me crossing the finish line and hopefully that will prove my claim that I actually ran the race! Should proof be needed.

We ordered dinner from room service and had a quiet evening. In the morning I went out at 7:30 and picked up drinks and breakfast from Starbucks. Then I had a 9 a.m. massage using another Living Social voucher. Very good timing on that offer!

After that I picked up sandwiches (and cookies) for our lunch at Bridge City Cafe, and we left Portland a little before noon.

So that is the end of my Portland Marathon story. Well, almost the end. I am still waiting on the race pictures and my recorded finishing time!

*Well, that and not pooping my pants. But that's a fear at any distance.

- Posted using BlogPress from my iPad

Friday, October 14, 2011

Well, that wasn't pretty

We interrupt my series of Portland Marathon race reports to announce that this morning I went out for my first run post-marathon. All I can say is...ugh.

Five days ago I ran 26.45 miles at an average pace of 9:40 (including stops), and today I managed 6.25 at an average 10:20. And half of that was on a downhill grade. I don't know if any single mile was even under ten minutes.

I had thought that the soreness in my quads was pretty much gone (I can walk down stairs!), but two or three miles along it was right back. Nothing was terribly painful but it was all so sluggish.

After three miles I was contemplating cutting the run short. I didn't, I stuck it out for 10K, but I never got to that breakthrough point where a difficult run gets easy. (That happens, right?)

I sort of felt like I was in the last 6.2 miles in a marathon...except slower. Much slower.

You spend months training for a marathon and working on some speed and lots of endurance and then it's like the marathon uses it all up, leaving you an empty shell of runner. A very slow, empty shell.

I hope that's not really true because I have a lot of running to do in the next eight weeks before the Tucson Marathon.

Not to mention I'm doing a half marathon this Sunday.

Oh yeah, in some sort of bonehead enthusiasm earlier this fall I signed up for the Pouslbo Half Marathon one week after Portland. I thought it would be a good way to kick start Tucson training!

I have thrown out all ideas of running it with any kind of speed at all. I had intended to run it easy in any case, but my perception of what "easy" looks like has changed drastically as of this morning. I am not setting any goals except to not die.

It can only get better from here, right? RIGHT???

Thursday, October 13, 2011

THE Portland Marathon Race Report - Part 1

I have slacked off on race reports for so many races...Bellingham Bay, Fairhaven, umm, Boston Marathon...because I have been waiting to get pictures and then time passes, and I just don't seem to get around to it. Maybe I'll still get back to those! But for now I am starting on Portland right away, while the memories are fresh, and I'll add pictures when I get them, assuming I do get them.

I've already written twice about Portland, so it's obvious that it was a great race for me. Yes, I said great. My time was good, but my experience was great.

Since I live north of Seattle, this was a destination race for me, and my mom and I drove down to Portland to make a long weekend of it. I had to work for a while on Friday morning, so we left around noon. Almost the first half of our drive was occupied with looking for a Starbucks off the freeway so we could get lunch! I was kind of obsessed with having a Starbucks breakfast wrap for lunch. They were having a special promotion for a few days in which you could buy a wrap for $2 if you bought a beverage as well. Yes, that's only 99 cents off (less than the cost of the drink), but considering that I would buy a drink anyway, it seemed like a good deal. And I really like their breakfast sandwiches.

I didn't want to drive off the freeway into Seattle, so by the time we located a convenient Starbucks (and it wasn't all that convenient), we were in south Tacoma. We each got a spinach, egg white, and feta wrap. And I bought us a pumpkin scone to share...all in the name of carb loading, of course.

We got to Portland around 4:30 and there was no rush hour traffic, so it was a quick and smooth arrival at the Benson Hotel. We got to our room and proceed to lay around for a couple hours until it was time for dinner. I had bought a Groupon for the London Grill (fancy hotel restaurant) for two prix fixe dinners, and that was our Friday night dinner. I'm not sure how good a deal the Groupon was (it was quite expensive), but I assume that the London Grill was not trying to rip us off, so that we did get a legitimate deal on the dinner.

Our dinner included a little salmon tartare appetizer (really an amuse bouche) with a glass of sparkling wine, a starting course of sweet onion soup, a main course of grilled flank steak with wild mushroom bread pudding and Hasselback potato, and dessert of caramel creme brulee. It was a little diversion from the strict "carb" type of dinner I would have otherwise have chosen...but we had a Groupon! We supplemented the carbs by eating two baskets of bread.

I had a good night's sleep and woke up without an alarm on Saturday. This was great because who knew how well I would sleep Saturday night!

Saturday morning the weather was partly cloudy, partly sunny...exactly what one would hope for on marathon day (Sunday). The weather forecast still showed a chance of rain on Sunday, but at least we had good weather to traipse to the expo! Last year it was raining already on Saturday. And everyone knows what happened on Sunday!

After a cup of tea, I headed out and picked up our breakfast at Starbucks...beverages and breakfast sandwiches (today we opted for the turkey bacon and egg wheat on whole wheat English muffin option). Before leaving, I regretted that I hadn't brought some ketchup along (this sandwich is really good with ketchup). However, I had an idea...I scanned the hallway for abandoned room service tray and happened to see one with a sealed, untouched ketchup still on the tray! I whisked it back to our room.

Later in the morning we headed south on Broadway to the packet pick-up and race expo at the Hilton Hotel. I quickly obtained my packet and then the fun began...the shopping. I really enjoy the Portland Expo. For some reason, it is one expo where I always find lots to buy! As I did this year. In addition to some body glide and Gu (I was down to one flavor so I got a few supplemental packets), I got a couple of official Portland Marathon items, plus a few other shirts from local running stores. I walked away with a big bag.

I also ran across the display for the race pace leaders. I was thinking about running with, or near, either the 4:00 or 4:10 pace groups (depending on how I felt). I asked which corral they would be in, and both pace groups were starting in D. I was assigned to C (because of my always optimistic time estimate of 3:55). I eventually (not at that moment but later) decided to move back a corral and start in D so I could be near my goal paces. It's not like I had "earned" my place in C other than by thinking highly enough of myself to give a rather unrealistic estimated time. (Of course I still put 3:55 on my Eugene registration form....Hope never dies!)

The other thing I did at the expo was register for the Eugene marathon next spring! In early October I got my rejection for the London Marathon (which is on April 22). I had already made a back-up plan, however, which was the Eugene Marathon on April 29. By the time I made this decision, the earliest registration period had ended. At the Portland Marathon expo, however, they were offering the same pre-October rate. So I went ahead and signed up. Eugene is on the books!

I found my mother in the hotel lobby and we headed off to get lunch. This time I had a Living Social voucher, for two combo lunches (sandwich, chips, cookie, drink) at the Bridge City Cafe. We finally found the cafe in the food court at Pioneer Place. What a great place! Super sandwiches and amazing cookies. We got one turkey and cranberry sandwich and one veggie sandwich and split both. For our cookies we got a chocolate chip and coconut cookie (I want coconut in all my choc chip cookies!) and a lemon cookie. They also put two regular chocolate chip cookies in the bag with our sandwiches. Every sandwich comes with a cookie and I don't think the kitchen knew that we had already ordered ours. (Extra cookies! Yea!)

We carried our lunch back to the hotel and ate while lounging in the room. Have I mentioned the heavenly Tempurpedic mattresses? I am in a dilemma whether I like those mattresses or the Davenport Hotel pillowtop mattresses the best!

Later we forced ourselves out of the room and walked to Nordstrom so I could try to spend my Nordstrom Notes. I was hoping to buy my favorite Lancome moisturizer but wouldn't you know, it's been discontinued. I liked the substitute they suggested but when I learned it was double the price I just couldn't stomach that and I decided to pass and keep using some stuff I already had at home. I then thought about buying a purse but even in their "regular" "not designer" handbags they were selling lines like Coach, and again, I didn't want to spend that much money.

I finally ended up buying a pair of sunglasses with reader inserts (yeah, like bifocals) so I could wear sunglasses and read at the same time when I had my contacts in. My eyes have fully succumbed to presbyopia and I really need some kind of reading glasses to see small print. I can adjust if I am wearing glasses (by taking off the glasses), but with contacts I am completely stuck. These kind of sunglasses are a little hard to find so I was happy to buy a rather glamorous Kate Spade pair at Nordstrom!

Then it was back to the hotel for more lounging before dinner. (Hey, I was resting my legs for the marathon!)

We had dinner reservations at Pazzo Ristorante in the Vintage Plaza Hotel across the street. Shortly before dinner time I realized that I hadn't secured my coffee for the morning! I could make coffee with the in-room coffeemaker but I preferred to advance purchase an Americano at Starbucks, add my cream, and drink it cold in the morning. I just walked to Starbucks first then met my mother at the restaurant.

Pazzo Ristorante was really busy the night before the marathon. We got seated right away (I had a reservation) but the whole dining process took a long time. Luckily there was bread....

We started with a salad that had dates and roquefort cheese on it. Really tasty. I think dates are good pre-race fuel! My mother gave me some of her dates as well.

We munched on bread while we waited a long time for our pasta to arrive. We both had butternut squash ravioli. I couldn't possibly consider anything else! I also ordered a side of braised kale. It was so good...I could have eaten twice as much. Although possibly that would not have been a good idea.

It was probably close to 9:00 by the time we got back to our room. The rest of the evening was pre-race prep. I took a shower (and soaked in the tub a bit to loosen up my legs), and laid out my clothes and race gear.

I modeled my bib and fuel belt.

I gathered up my stuff. I forgot the capris in this picture.
I put my D-tag on my can see it in the above picture.

I set three alarms for 4:45 (my phone, the room clock, and a wake-up call) and did a little reading before trying to sleep.

I didn't really want to go to sleep because that meant morning would be here soon and I would have to run a marathon.

**************This has been so long that I am going to stop here and move on to the race in another post!

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

It's all relative

Over the last few days I've read at least three race recaps from the Portland Marathon, and it is interesting to compare the different perspectives on the race itself and especially, each runner's performance.

One woman finished in just over three hours, and was crushed because she didn't meet her goal of breaking three hours. Another finished in just over four hours, and was okay with that because she ran an easy, fun race--but also couldn't help but note that this was a "personal worst" and the first time she had run a marathon in over four hours. A third took more than six hours to finish, but was happy with the experience.

And then there was me, who finished in 4:15, only my third fastest (or fourth slowest) marathon, but I was almost as happy with this marathon as I was with CIM, my sub-four, Boston Qualifying marathon. (Almost as happy, but nothing will ever beat that CIM in 2009.) And I was far happier than after Newport, which I did in 4:10 but was quite disappointed because I had hoped to beat four hours.

Each one of us ran the same race course on Sunday, but very different races. Each one of us has far different abilities and different goals, and view ourselves through our own personal lenses. A mediocre time to one would be a huge victory or even a miracle to others...a crushing "failure" to one would be a time undreamt of by any of us others. My 4:15 was "good" to me, would be "great" to many others, but would be a humiliating failure to someone who expected to be a lot faster.

My perspective on Portland and marathons in general is shaped by my experience of running now six marathons, with a wide spectrum of finish times and experiences. My CIM experience was amazing and wonderful, but it set a standard and expectations that proved impossible to live up to over the last two years. After some disappointments of my own, and some hard marathons, I went into Portland with a viewpoint molded by my past races.

I had a goal of 4:10 (not even a PR goal), and I didn't meet it. Am I heartbroken? Not at all. After two marathons in which I didn't even beat 4:30, I can see that 4:15 is a good time for someone of my abilities. I could do better (under some circumstances), but I could also do worse. I ran a smart, steady race, most of my splits were between 9:20-9:40, and but for a few flukes (which I am sure I will spell out in my future race report), I would have been very close to that goal time and an average pace of 9:30. I felt pretty good throughout (considering that I was running a marathon and all), and when I relieve sections of the race in my mind (which I do frequently), it is with enjoyment, not regrets.

I have on many occasions expressed disappointment over race times, paces, performances in general. I know that other runners out there run faster than me, and slower than me. If I say that a 25-minute 5K is a failure (well, I wouldn't do that, but I might say a 27-minute 5K is a failure), I mean that only relative to myself. I am not trying to set a standard for someone who would be excited to beat 30 minutes, or 35 minutes, nor am I expecting to compare myself to someone who is trying to break 20 minutes. I don't mean to disparage others when I suggest that running a marathon over 4:30 would be a disappointment to me. It would, but that doesn't mean that I am "disappointed in" others who run slower. I can't even say that I won't ever run a 4:30+ marathon myself again. (I can hope that I won't, but if I plan on continuing to run marathons over the years, it's probably inevitable.)

My next marathon is the Tucson Marathon in early December. I can't predict what I expect to happen there. I need to get in a few weeks of resumed training before I start building plans for Tucson. (I am waiting to run again until Friday.) While my Portland time is a building block for my expectations, there are so many other factors that will come into play by December. For now, one day at a time is good enough.

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Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Portland Marathon!

*Note: I have been trying to post this since Sunday night...hoping this time's the charm!

Just a quick mini-recap...time 4:15 and change (about 30 seconds I think). Obviously that's about five minutes off my goal time but I'm happy with it. There is no way my legs were going to run anywhere near a four hour marathon today, although in the first half I thought around 4:05-4:08 was a possibility.

I didn't fall apart as much as that sounds like in the second half. A few things contributed to my slowing time, though...
*I took a bathroom stop after the halfway point. I think it was about a minute, but it may have been a little more.
*There was a long, steep hill up to St. John's Bridge. I absolutely slowed down on that hill. There was no choice.
*I was feeling tired after 16 miles...not too surprising.
*While there were a lot of great downhill portions in the last eight miles, my legs and quads were tired enough that I didn't take as great advantage of that as I would in a half marathon.
*Just before the 25 mile point we had to stop for a train. (Then a little bit later there was another train crossing but some of us crossed despite flashing was clear the train wasn't going to hit us. Bad form, though.)
*I ran 26.45 miles. An extra quarter mile. So that definitely added two minutes to my time.

I was actually quite relieved to still see 4:15 on my watch when I crossed the finish line. I arranged to meet my mom at Starbucks after I crawled out of there (crawling figuratively, of course, due to my legs crashing and the convoluted, crowded route away from the race area. I think I actually did a better job getting out than I did from the half last year, though!

At Starbucks....

Then an ice bath at the hotel!

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Thursday, October 6, 2011

One last run before Portland

Wearing last year's Half Marathon finishers' shirt and a hat from Boston...

And carrying my Starbucks Americano and a $2 spinach, feta and egg white wrap (hopefully the whole wheat tortilla satisfies my breakfast carb needs).

I'm not sure why I felt that wearing the Portland and Boston gear was apropos today...neither of those races turned out quite how I wanted. I certainly don't want a repeat of last year's Portland weather (downpour), and I'd prefer a little faster time than I got in Boston. But still, memories.

This week's mileage has been just shy of the 18 miles I expected. Mostly due to my complete inability to get out of bed in a timely fashion! I have compensated by just running as much as I can squeeze in before I absolutely, positively have to get to work.

Monday - 6.2 slow miles. Average pace 10:02. This was the first time in months that I haven't averaged under ten-minute pace running on the roads. If I'd had time for seven miles, I would have pulled it off. My legs were so heavy, and the first two miles pulled my average way down.

Wednesday - 6.56 miles, with 4.3 warm-up, four quarter mile repeats at the track, plus another mile at too-fast-for-marathon pace. My 400s started out as slow as I've ever done them, I'm afraid. The first one was 7:59 pace, the second 8:00 pace (ouch). But then my legs woke up and the two others were 7:37 and 7:38 pace. I intended to do the last full mile at around 9:00 pace, but apparently slowing by a minute per mile was enough for me, and that mile was 8:35 (oops).

Finally today, Thursday. Getting up today was the hardest of all. I didn't even start running until 7:02 a.m. I couldn't just blow it off, though...for obvious reasons but also because this morning was the test run for my new Garmin. I finally got it charged up and set up, but wanted to make sure everything was a go.

Good thing, because the one thing I hadn't changed was the lap speed display. It was set to show average speed or pace for the lap, as opposed to the current pace. That might be good in some cases but I'm used to seeing the dramatic changes when I speed up or slow down. It was too stressful not knowing what I was doing when I pushed myself, only seeing the pace change by a second or two.

I ended up doing 5.03 miles and I probably wouldn't even have been late to work if I hadn't fooled around on the porch taking pictures. My laps were 10:12, 9:44, 9:21, 9:10, and 9:26. I think I probably pushed too hard because of the uncertainty with the Garmin. (I've changed that setting now.)

My primary anxiety about Sunday is relating to the weather and what I should wear. The forecast persists in showing rain (40% chance). I'm afraid of dressing either too warmly or not enough. I guess I'll have to see what develops.

I am ready to run! (After two days of rest on Friday and Saturday, of course.)

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Sunday, October 2, 2011

Good article on tapering and carbo-loading

Here is a good article from Run the Planet about tapering and carbo-loading. I reread it before every marathon. The tapering mileage is a little more than I intend to do (no way am I running even two miles the day before the marathon) (although perhaps I will do a short elliptical session on Friday after all). However, I am going to follow the carbo-loading advice. I particularly like the suggestion to eat a big pancake or waffle breakfast on Thursday. Haha. And a pasta dinner Thursday night...bring it on!

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The final countdown

Well, here we are, one week out from the Portland Marathon. I would say my training is done! I still have three more short runs this week, but they're really just to maintain fitness and keep my head in the game. I'm not changing anything now.

Actually I'm sure I've heard various experts say things to the effect that you can't make things any better at this point, but you can absolutely make them worse. So in the interest of avoiding injury and tired legs, I am resisting my impulse to over-exercise and just keeping it light. I've even (pretty much) convinced myself to take two full rest days before the marathon, instead of sneaking off to the Y on Friday morning for a final shot at the elliptical. I think. Okay, I'm not completely firm on that but I am leaning toward not going. I'll probably be doing my last minute packing then anyway.

I need to make a list of things to do before I go. Some are non-running, like paying bills and house tasks (and um, work stuff!). But here's some of the race and trip related things on my list...

Make sure I have printed everything I need from the computer, e.g.:
~Groupons/vouchers for Friday dinner, Monday massage (that one's actually in my purse already!
~Hotel and race details, directions

Go to thrift store and get throwaway jacket for race day. Plus extras for future races. Wash and dry them.

Locate pieces of race day outfit, plus back-up pieces.

Charge up new Garmin and set it up as needed. (Let's not be looking at this for the first time on Saturday, okay?) It's the same as my old one, so this shouldn't be too difficult, right?

Update iPod. I rearranged my playlist but haven't transferred it yet.

Gather and pack all non-clothing gear, including Garmin, iPod, Gu's, nuun, fuel belt, etc. Don't forget plenty of charging cords.

Acquire and pack travel food--snacks, etc, ice chest.

Pack non-running clothes. Try to remember I don't need too much of these.

Locate Nordstrom notes and a gift card I should still have so I can spend them in tax-free Oregon. Don't forget the empty moisturizer bottle I want to replace.

Also pack a couple SBUX free drink cards for mochas after the marathon. (Planning!)

I can't really think of anything else right now.

Taper is in full swing! I considered that taper began after my 22 mile run on September 16. That was my last week with mileage over 40 miles. I think that I have executed a pretty successful taper. I have reduced mileage but maintained intensity.

The week of September 19 I ran 33.73 miles total, including a strong shorter tempo run, a few 400s , and the Bellingham Bay Half Marathon.

The week of September 26 I ran 35.16 miles including ten 800s (half mile repeats), all but one under four minutes, 8.25 miles with six at <9:15 pace, and my last double digit run today, 11.11 miles with two warm-up, eight around 9:30 at a comfortable effort, and one sub-9, just for kicks.

This upcoming week I'm expecting about 18 miles, plus 26.2.

This weekend I have been stalking blogs to hear how folks did on their marathons! So exciting to read about people meeting and exceeding their goals! Including Lisa, who ran St. George in about 3:50, giving her a BQ for 2013! Big congratulations to all!

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