Friday, October 31, 2008

Is it supposed to be feel like this?

I'm back to running regularly but so far I've been keeping the distances pretty low. In part, this is because I haven't been feeling totally comfortable while running and it's been tougher than it should be to run for such a short time. I haven't been able to get into the zone that I'm used to after warming up.

I'm going to keep plugging away at it but I hope the pure joy of running returns soon.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Short track speed skating

I haven't been doing much running lately because I've been busy volunteering at the Samsung ISU World Cup Short Track speed skating event here in Vancouver. It's the first of a series of pre-Olympics events being staffed by VANOC (Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games). In one sense, it's a set of trial runs for VANOC in the Olympic venues.

I'm hoping that by volunteering for these events I'll have a better chance of being chosen as a Games time volunteer.

I'm on the Technology team in radio distribution. It's not the most glamorous or challenging of positions but I have had the chance to work with some great people. And, since it's not busy during long portions of the shifts, there's time to check out the FOP (field of play) from great vantage points (especially during practice). My camera's shutter speed wasn't fast enough to get a good picture...

It was pretty interesting to see the building transformed from a hockey arena into the configuration for speed skating. Unfortunately, I didn't do before, during and after pictures.

I've watched speed skating on TV before but like many sports, you get a much better appreciation of things watching it live. I don't really know any of the skaters except Apolo Anton Ohno of the US. Some of you may know him best from Dancing with the Stars which he won.

I'm putting in long hours and the 6:00 am shifts are a bit early for my liking but it's been fun. The actual event takes place over the weekend.

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Running again...

I ran for the first time today since the marathon. I had intended to run earlier but never found the time. I only ran a couple of miles but it felt good to run again.

I realized that I never published my splits from the Portland Marathon so here they are. The first mile is an approximation since I forgot to start my watch. The last column is the split time I "should" have run in order to reach my 4:15 goal time. The splits are based on running at an even effort level and account for hills, etc.

Mile     Actual       Goal
1           9:30         9:33
2           9:35         9:45
3         10:04       10:08
4           8:20         9:40
5           9:35         9:30
6           9:33         9:36
7           9:35         9:42
8           9:07         9:42
9           9:28         9:42
10         9:28         9:42
11         9:31         9:42
12       10:15         9:45
13         9:18         9:42
14         9:38         9:42
15         9:37         9:42
16       10:00         9:42
17       11:10       10:03
18       10:09         9:51
19       10:23         9:42
20       11:05         9:42
21       13:03         9:42
22       15:41         9:42
23       10:45         9:25
24       11:15         9:59
25       10:35         9:31
26       10:07         9:42
26.2     2:17         2:03

You can see where I started pushing things too hard in Mile 4, where things fell apart in Mile 20, and where I got going again in Mile 23.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Beyond the finish line

As I crossed the finish line at the Portland Marathon, it wasn't with a sense of euphoria. It wasn't satisfaction either. Relief is probably the closest emotion that I can think of. The thing I remember focusing on the most was trying not to fall down as I received my medal and space blanket. I was pretty wobbly as I watched a lady in front of me nearly collapse before she was caught by two volunteers. I told myself to keep moving.

There was plenty of food. Since Portland is the "City of Roses", each finisher gets a rose. A volunteer offered me one but I declined, telling her "It's too heavy." She laughed. You also get a pin, a finisher's shirt and a tree seedling which I also declined.

I went to look for my wife, struggling through the crowd. I think my first words to her were "I need to stretch." and "I want to sit down." I told her about how I was disappointed that I had been reduced to walking for a couple of miles. But she didn't care; she was so proud of me. I finished and that was what mattered.

It took a few days but I had more time to reflect on things. I now can look back and not focus on the negatives. No, I didn't reach my goal time and I wasn't mentally strong enough to keep running but I could have packed it in. I gutted it out and finished strongly.

It was hard, really hard. For days after the race, my legs weren't just stiff, the joints hurt. But, it was all worth it. I faced a challenge that I've been dreaming about for years and got the job done.

On to the next challenge... whatever that may be.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

Portland Marathon race report

I'm back after hobbling around the Oregon Coast the last few days so it's time to write this epic. Simply saying "I completed a marathon in 4:29:00" doesn't do justice to how things really unfolded.

Course map
Course elevation
The day started out well. I had a good night's sleep for the first time in days and the weather looked good. It was cloudy but dry.

We got lost on the drive to the start area and arrived later than planned. The lineups for the porta potties were incredible and I worried that I wouldn't make it to the start line in time.

In fact, I didn't make it to the starting corral before the gun went off but because it was a wave start I reached the 4:15 group just before we were ready to go.

I guess I was a bit flustered since I forgot to start my stopwatch and I didn't put on my knee strap which was still around my ankle. I noticed both about 2 minutes into the race.

I had decided that my goal time was going to be 4:15 and that I would stick with the 4:15 pace bunny. That plan lasted 4 miles. The 4th and 5th miles are downhill and I found the pace too slow. I felt that I was expending energy to slow down on the hill so I decided to break away from the pack and run at a comfortable pace (for me).

I thereby broke Marathons for Dummies rule #1: don't go out too fast (can you sense the foreshadowing?).

Anyway, I felt good as I ran past my wife as she cheered and took photos around the 5 mile mark. By this time I was feeling quite warm and, looking at the skies, it didn't look like it was going to rain (there's that foreshadowing thing again) so I gave her my hat as I passed her.

I soon decided to turn on my iPod. The course entertainment was fine (some really good) but I decided to take advantage of any edge I could.

Miles 7 through 11 are an out and back so on miles 7 to 9 you can see the leaders as they come back from the turnaround. I saw the 4:00 pace group coming back and I was about 8 minutes behind them. That surprised me a bit. I had had brief fantasies about catching up to them. I missed seeing the 4:15 group as I ran back so I had no idea how far ahead of them I was.

I took my first gel at 7 miles. Up until that point I had taken Ultima, Gleukos and water from the aid stations. Portland is a bit funny in that they serve an electrolyte replenisher (Ultima) which is distinct from their carb drink (Gleukos). Gleukos wasn't available at every aid station.

They also distributed gummy bears on course and I grabbed some. They were sticky so I stuffed all 5 into my mouth. It didn't take long for me to decide that this wasn't a great idea while trying to breathe normally. I decided I didn't like sucking on them and since I had just taken the gel I figured I had enough carbs for the moment so I started spitting them out. At the next aid station, I used more water to wash my hands than I drank.

Around this time it started to sprinkle. My decision to toss my hat was going to come back to haunt me. The rain progressively got worse over the next few miles but it wasn't too, too bad, perhaps even refreshing.

I passed the half marathon mark at 2:04:37. I was slightly ahead of a 4:15 pace and feeling good. Half way to the finish is a significant milestone in the mental game.

I planned to take my second gel at 14 miles. I ripped open the package just shy of 14 since I thought there was an aid station coming up (you have to drink water with a gel to avoid stomach problems). I ended up carrying the gel pack for almost 2 miles before I encountered the next water station.

Miles 16 and 17 are uphill leading to the peak of the St. Johns Bridge. That's a cruel place to put the steepest part of the course.

After mile 17, most of the rest of the course is downhill. I tried to think of this to keep my spirits up but I could feel myself noticeably slowing down.

Shortly past the 19 mile mark I was passed by the 4:15 pacer and his group. They didn't just pass me; they blew by me. This was very discouraging to say the least.

I reached the 20 mile mark and told myself that there was only 10K to go. However, I was feeling drained and rather than feeling good about that, I felt discouraged. Up until then, I had only taken short walk breaks at aid stations as I drank fluids. But, shortly after 20 miles, I took what turned into an extended walk. I tried a couple of times to start running again but I only lasted a few seconds.

I decided that I was done and figured I would walk the rest of the race. I even thought about the emergency money in my pocket and briefly considered finding a taxi ;-)

I took my last gel at mile 21 and also drank more Ultima to try and get in more electrolytes to ease the cramping. By this time my calves were killing me and I stopped to stretch them a couple of times.

The course goes more steeply downhill after mile 22 so I sucked it up and decided to try running again. I figured the downhill run would stress different muscles. I felt better and decided that running was less painful than walking. For the rest of the race, I only stopped at one more aid station before deciding I was done with walking.

With 5K to go I decided that 4:30 was still possible so I kicked it up a notch (as much of a surge as possible at that stage) and started passing people.

As we crossed the Broadway Bridge back into downtown Portland I continued to press forward. I was passing runners with many reduced to walking (much like me just a couple miles back) despite knowing that my running form must have been pretty bad.

I finished relatively strongly with the last mile being my fastest mile split of the last 10. I waved as my wife cheered me as I turned the corner down the finishing chute. I heard my name announced (amused as he struggled to pronounce my last name) as I crossed the finish line.

26.2 miles. 42.2 km. 4 hours and 29 minutes.

It wasn't pretty but I finished. I am a marathoner.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

I am a marathoner!

I'll do a full race report later but here are some of the stats:

Gun time: 4:35:06
Chip time: 4:29:00
Result in entire field: 3483 out of 7488
Result in gender (male): 2253 out of 3587
Result in division (M4549): 287 out of 423

Thursday, October 2, 2008

Week 18 - Ready to race

Over the last 18 weeks, I've been following Hal Higdon's Novice 1 marathon training program. I have run over 66 hours, covering 367.5 miles (591 km). Today I ran just two easy miles and that's it. I have completed my last training run in preparation for the marathon on Sunday. There's nothing left to do except just do it.

She Who Makes Waves added a few items to my marathon checklist including inner strength, determination and a positive attitude. I think that I've got those checked off but I guess we'll find out on Sunday. I have to admit that I'm starting to feel a bit nervous and I'm not sleeping as well as I'd like. It's difficult not to think about all the stories I've heard about how hard the last 6 miles are and of hitting the wall (the point where you've utilized all glycogen stores in your muscles and your body starts burning fat. This causes you to suddenly feel very weak. Without proper carbohydrate intake, many runners will hit the wall around the 20 mile mark).

Anyway, I've put in the training miles. I have a re-fueling plan. I have a realistic pacing plan. I am ready.

I'd like to thank everybody for their support along this journey. I'm off to Portland!