Tag: running

Shamrock Run 2019

It’s Been Too Long

Somehow, it has been four years since I last did the Shamrock Run.

The Portland Shamrock Run was the first organised run I participated in, all the way back in 2002. I’d done several bike events in Britain, and a few different walks around Portland, but that was the first run I did: 5K, very slowly. I’ve run around ten of these races, at four distances (5K, 8K, 15K, half marathon — 15K is my favourite).

I’ve always enjoyed Shamrock because it’s so well organised. There are tens of thousands of participants in the different races: multiple distances, sometimes multiple paces for very over-subscribed distances, and yet the whole thing works. There is the traditional beer afterwards (although I don’t like to drink that early myself), and the medals being handed out, all with a feeling of great good humour from the crowds and the organisers.

There are reasons to dislike the Shamrock: it’s often cold and wet in the middle of March, and since the spring time change was pulled forward this run is darker than it used to be. Also, I’m not Irish so my participation is in the event rather than the party. Call me a curmudgeon if you like; it’s certainly the right word.

But the energy is great, and they keep innovating around how to organise the event. The last time I ran was their first half marathon, and the routes and start management have continued to improve.

I was keen to run this year just because I am fitter than I have been in a long time, and this has always felt like a good race to set out your stall for the year (not that I have plans yet for races over the summer). The new route was interesting to me too. And honestly I wanted to see what I could do in a race now.

One of the things I liked a lot about this year’s race was the more humane start time. The 15K start was 08:55, easily an hour later than I have seen before, and a very pleasant time to run. This later start mitigates the time change issue very nicely. Conditions could not have been better, either: it was bright and clear, a bit chilly in the shade but a glorious spring day.

Portland is a runner-friendly city, and many events kick off in Tom McCall Waterfront Park, a block-wide grassy area that stretches for a mile between the road and the river. From the park, there are options to cross the river (such as for the Bridge Pedal/Run), to wind through downtown streets, head north alongside the river into the industrial area, or to go south into the hills. Shamrock heads into the hills, for the most part, and the routes I have run in previous years took in many blocks of city streets before launching up Broadway towards the Terwilliger hill and returning to the waterfront via Barbur Boulevard.

The new routes go the other direction, following Barbur before turning and climbing up to Terwilliger. These changes also mean that there is much less time spent poddling around downtown: most routes start heading south, but those distances that head north stick to waterfront roads. Races not using downtown roads also meant that I could park close to the race start and be able to get out again afterwards!

The Race

Shamrock is still a very well-organised race with clear announcements and a well-designed timetable. I also like the way they do the gapped race start. They have a few hundred runners go then hold for a minute, then a few hundred more and hold again. It helps to prevent congestion on the course, and your official time is from when you cross the start line rather than when the gun goes off so you are not losing anything from this slight delay.

They also have pace groups within the start lanes. I picked the 8-9 minute pace group this year based on my training times, which put me closer to the front than I have ever been: I crossed the start line only half a minute after the race began. Early running was clogged, as it always is in these things, but I quickly found space to hit a comfortable pace. I cleared my first mile in 8m27, which I felt was a good beginning.

In fact, all of my first four miles went pretty exactly on plan. My lovely family came out to cheer me on* and they waited for me at the four mile mark (by The Chart House, a restaurant overlooking south Portland) and I saw them almost exactly when I said I would — it is always satisfying when these predictions are borne out! Then it was the long trundle back down the hill.

Terwilliger, however, is not a steady gradient. There’s a downhill for half a mile then up again before the last crest just up from the VA hospital. On one of my usual running routes I would then follow Broadway to downtown, but this 15K route carried us back down to Barbur past the Duniway Park track then south to rejoin Naito Parkway.

For some reason, that gentle slope on Barbur from Duniway Park back up to the Naito junction just killed my legs. Up to that point I had been able to keep a respectable turn over to maintain my pace, but on that section my push muscles decided they were done. I managed a tiny tiny spurt of speed over the last two or three blocks to the finish, but my last couple of miles were pretty slow.

The Outcome

My watch told me I ran at 9m01 pace, but the official race time gave 8m58. I’ll take that.

It compares favourably with my ten miler a few weeks ago (which was 8m52 pace, but over a well understood route), and although I could probably go faster with better preparation, my over-tapered run-up to race day meant that I lost some of the pace I should have had. There again, I was also less injured than I would have been if I had pushed harder; I think I made the right trade-off.

One reason I know this is because although my muscles are sore, they are not as sore as they were after previous races and (critically) only my muscles are sore: there is no new joint pain, and stretching after my run today showed that my tendons are significantly less inflamed (eg IT band stretch didn’t hurt).

I’m not sure I will do the Shamrock again, but this is a very exciting return to form so I will joyfully do more races in the future.

[*] and they bought me baked goods for later, which was a delicious way to refuel!

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Running On Empty, Thinking You’re Full

One of the hardest things about running is making yourself go out when you’re tired, or when you need to push yourself to a longer distance during training — running when you don’t feel like it, in other words.

What’s even harder is when you want to run but you can’t: your body won’t let you.

I came down with a cold on Sunday. It wasn’t an especially bad one, but the early stages made me feel tired and light-headed which is always a sign to me that I need to rest. I had been planning on doing a seven miler and I had been ready for it the day before, but even as I was stumbling around before breakfast on Sunday I could tell that my body was telling me it was a bad idea. I took Monday off too, because I still felt weak.

Yesterday I needed a run. I was getting twitchy at my desk, and although I was still feeling a bit coldy, it wasn’t affecting me mentally so I figured I would be fine. The problem was time: I was looking at my meeting schedule wondering how I was going to fit in a run.

Then I realised that I was looking at the wrong calendar, and all my meetings had actually been cancelled for the day.

So I picked up my bag and went out.

I’d been running for about two minutes when the doubts I’d been supressing my fitness became unavoidable: this was a bad idea, my body was telling me. I felt completely boneless.

Is there a lesson here?

If there is, it’s one I haven’t learned yet.

There are lots of things that cut into my running: injury, illness, other commitments. I can work around the other commitments and I can manage injury, but illness is hard because it not only weakens my body, but confuses my already poorly calibrated sense of what my body can do at any given time. I mean, there are times when it is really obvious that I’m not going out, but there are other times on the shoulders of illness or when I’m only a little bit sick that I try to do things I can’t actually do.

At least I still try. I should probably worry when I stop trying.

But for now, I think I will try and run on Friday, hoping that the cold has buggered off by then.

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Hood to Coast

This is the second year that I have been on the day job team for Hood To Coast (aka HTC), although I had to drop out last year because of illness*. This year I am… nervous, but excited about the opportunity, and ready enough that I should be able to finish in good order.

But what is Hood To Coast, why would anyone want to do it, and what is it about running races in general that makes people travel long distances to participate?

The Legend

Hood To Coast is a race from Timberline up on Mount Hood to the beach at Seaside, OR. It is a relay race, rather than an individual event, so you run as part of a team. Each team is of twelve runners split between two vans. The legs are arranged so that every runner will run three legs, the team covering a total of 195 miles over the duration of the race.

I’ve been told that the best way to approach the race is to just accept that you will get no sleep.

The thing is that with six runners in each van, there might be twelve hours between each runner’s leg (assuming each leg takes about an hour) but there will only be six hours between each van’s legs, and not much of that time will be stationary.

Why would anyone want to do this awful thing, then? Teams travel from across the world to participate in this event – why?

Well, the general truth here is that HTC is a destination race akin to the Boston Marathon or the London Marathon: a race that is unique**, a race that you do in order to say you’ve done it, and to savour the experience. It’s a race that generates stories. And that really covers the general question of why anyone would travel hundreds or even thousands of miles to run in a race.

The specific truth for me is that as an Oregonian runner, HTC is something I have to do given the opportunity. I am looking forward to running this remarkable event as an individual and with my team, but HTC is a thing that really has to be done if you can. I was very sad I couldn’t run last year, and delighted both that there was going to be a team this year and that I am able to take part.

And the other thing is that running is largely a solitary activity. Being able to participate in a team race is novel and exciting.

The Reality

As I said, there are twelve runners in a team and three legs per team member. With the varying distances of the legs and paces of the runners, it usually seems to work out that a leg will take about an hour to run, so after your first leg you’re running again every twelve hours.

For me, this means I am running about noon, then about midnight, then about noon again.

The training I have been doing for this race specifically has been heat training and closely-spaced runs. So, I have been running at lunchtime and early afternoon even in the heat wave, and I’ve been running home in the evening only to run back in to the office the following morning. I’m also still doing longer runs and hills.

The result is that, despite the niggling upper body injuries, my legs feel about as strong as they have in some time: I’m able to go up and down stairs without wincing the day after a long run, and that’s an improvement.

I am as ready as I am going to get, I think.

The Support

A team is not just its runners: there are drivers, volunteers, organisers, and of course our families supporting us all in this bizarre endeavour.

Thank you to all who make Hood To Coast possible.

And that is what I am doing for the next couple of days. I will try to write a race report to post on Monday, but I may well be too wrecked to put one word in front of the other.

So, I will be back when I can.

[*] the stomach flu of great stomach flu-ness, a rare example of being literally gutted.

[**] or at least one of the first of its kind.

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Injurious Thoughts

One of my goals this year is to run the Hood to Coast, and part of that goal is to remain uninjured. Whenever I think about injury, I am always most worried about my ankles and my back.

Whenever I think about injury… that was the problem right there.

Yesterday I was riding home from the day job, reaching the top of the first big hill on my route. Terwilliger Boulevard is a magnificent route for running and cycling, and it’s much easier to deal with the traffic on that road than the other options I have for getting home (which, it has to be said, are not numerous).

I was thinking idly about how I had managed to avoid being injured this year, when I lost focus for a moment and rode into the kerb.

This was a really good example of object fixation: that phenomenon where you go where you are looking but what you are looking at is something you are not really supposed to be going towards. Hence in my top-of-hill slowness I scuffed the kerb and fell over, landing pretty heavily on the grass with the bike on top of me.

Well, I leapt back to my feet immediately, and started to do the necessary inventory: no blood, no apparently broken bones, bike still in one piece. I had to straighten up the lock mount and put the chain back onto its sprockets, but there was no apparent damage. My right hand felt a bit weak, though, which was not encouraging.

I was very pleased to find that several people stopped to check on me, drivers and cyclists alike. Portland is a friendly town and I’m glad to be riding here.

Setting off again I found that my right hand was indeed protesting if I pulled on it: standing on the pedals going up the next hill was uncomfortable because of the stress on my hand, but braking was normal thank goodness. By the time I got home the adrenaline had worn off and my hand was definitely hurting.

The good news is that ice and ibuprofen have helped a lot. The bad news is that I seem to have bumped a rib as well as my wrist. I’m glad I fell so that I landed on my elbow and hip rather than putting my hand out, but still: things are a bit tender.

Today is a non-cycling day for other reasons, but I probably would have taken a day away from the bike just to give my body time to stabilise. I will try running on Thursday, most likely.

So, that portion of my goals has been blown, but hopefully I will still be able to get the running going. It’s really time to be working on that.

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Shamrock Run, 2015

The Race

Portland has had bizarre weather this winter. While the eastern US has suffered intense snow storms, Portland has been having spring since January, it seems: only a week of actual cold back in December, and almost no rain.

Except for Shamrock weekend, of course. It was pouring it down Saturday and early Sunday.

The temperatures were still very mild, however, so for the second year in a row I ran Shamrock in just shorts and T-shirt. This time I wore gloves too, and that made all the difference between my being cold at the start and shivering like a shaken blancmange*.

It is always impressive to join the crowd at the start of a Shamrock run. They had over thirty five thousand registered participants, and two and a half thousand of them were doing the half marathon – the first year that there was a half marathon route available. I signed up for it in a fit of enthusiasm when a bunch of us at work went in as a team, and the race sold out pretty fast.

Shamrock is an exceptionally well-organised race. Everything from packet pickup to the finish line is smooth, but then this race has been run for more than thirty years so you would hope they’d have it sorted out by now! I found my spot in the start chute by the 9-10 minute pace board, and tried to calm the nerves.

My race plan was pretty simple: run the first half gently and then put more into the second half. This reflected the course structure, which was flat at the beginning and then started its climb after the half way point. The last three miles were down hill.

I actually did a decent job of running a controlled pace in the first half, too. My usual problem on Shamrock (more than other races, curiously) is to kick out too fast: overtaken by the energy of the event, I’ll hurry along the streets, passing other runners left and right. This year that was not my problem: I maintained a steady pace, and I didn’t sprint past any other runners.

The problem was the rain. My feet got wet and heavy. It felt more like a steeplechase than a road race, there were so many puddles to jump and obstacles to avoid. The rain had largely abated by the halfway point, but feet were already soaked through by that point, heavy and cold.

This year was also novel in that I had left my gear at the day job office, and the halfway point was right by there. Running past the building I couldn’t help but thinking: “I could stop now. I have dry clothes inside…”

And I knew what was coming.

I am well acquainted with the back half of this half marathon route, partly from my four times running the 15K race, but mostly from running up and down Terwilliger on training runs. I am perhaps more accustomed to trundling up the hills on the pedestrian paths than the road, but I know the slopes. As I started up the Broadway hill I thought my legs felt reminiscent of when I run my seven miler after a few days of standing at my desk**.

Well, I got up the hill in reasonable order. My plan was to speed up compared to the first half, aiming for a negative split: I’ve done the Terwilliger seven in 9:25 minute miles before, and I thought I might manage that since my legs felt about right. However, I was wrong: all I can say is that I didn’t slow down much. I crested the hill at about an eleven minute pace, slow enough to know I wasn’t going to beat my last half marathon time by much but also fast enough to see my family at the top before they got bored of standing in the rain.

Coming down the other side is supposed to be this glorious descent, but running downhill for three miles when you’ve already got worn legs is fraught. As it happens, I was walking through the eleven mile marker. I just couldn’t keep running any more at that point, and when I started up again I found that one leg was sore – the IT band on my right leg was twanging something chronic.

In the end, I closed out the race with an official time of 2:29:04 – half an hour slower than I really wanted, but this is apparently my pace now.

This is my second half marathon in six months, and although the time was no different I did finish in better shape. I was a wreck after Beat the Blerch: my legs were painful, and I was very low on blood sugar (what is called “bonking” in the cycling community) – I couldn’t think, or indeed taste any food. Things were better this time by some margin, and so I can only conclude that I was conditioned more thoroughly this time.

And I have my medal cum bottle opener, and I have my commemorative towel.

Lessons Learned

I admitted to myself quite some time ago that I was unlikely to do a marathon again, because the training is just too time consuming.

That admission appears to have commuted down to the half marathon distance, although for a subtly different reason: I can make the time to train for the race, but the training I have time for is not sufficient to achieve my goals. Beat the Blerch was still in the shadow of the stomach flu of last June but even with fairly consistent training and distance building in the lead-up for this race it still felt like there was nothing there when I called on my legs to push.

Also, I’ve decided I don’t care for this half marathon course. I still like the Shamrock 15K and I will continue to plan on running it in future years, but I won’t be doing this half again. That long jag north into the industrial zone is just no fun at all.

Well, onto the next thing. I think it’s time to get back on the bike for the spring.

[*] a French word meaning “white eat”, but it’s usually pink.

[**] I have a standing desk at the office. It’s really great. I heartily recommend it.

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Shamrock Countdown

Shamrock is in less than two weeks now.

Generally the training for this race has gone fine, but I had to abandon my last long run yesterday.

My usual last long run before a half marathon is a loop that goes down the side of the valley then up the other to run along the crest of the opposite ridge. It’s long and steep, and I got that run done last year before the aborted Helvetia Half.

The route also follows some narrow roads with no good running paths, which works for an early morning run in late May but not so much at the beginning of March.

So, I mapped out another route down to Portland, along the water front a little way, and then back up the hill to home. Not quite as hilly as my usual, but actually a shade longer.

Unfortunately, when I actually put on my shoes and started to run it just wasn’t happening. I tried to make it work: I got about a mile down the road before I admitted to myself that my lead legs were not just sleepiness, and my gasping breath was not just my kicking out too fast. It was early and Saturday was gruelling, but I think there was a lurking infection that knocked me out. Later that day I had an extreme digestive event* and I think the build-up to that may have weakened me.

I’m pretty big on pushing through tiredness and discomfort, but this is one of those lessons in recognising when pushing is going to do harm rather than good.

I still think I am going to be fine for the Shamrock itself. The taper I would usually do is likely to be less sharp – I’m going to do a couple of sevens this week, for sure – but I felt ready for the half on Saturday. All (!) I need to do is to avoid any more grinding misery before the Shamrock itself and it’ll be fine.

It’s very doubtful that I’ll be doing much in the way of races next year, though. I don’t like to use age as an excuse, but I am well past forty and my body is not recovering as fast as it used to. Long runs take too much out of me to carry on much longer.

But: Shamrock in two weeks will be fun, and I am still looking forward to Hood To Coast in August.

[*] there’s a band name for you.

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The Shamrock Plan

I noted in my 2015 fitness plan that I was signed up for the half marathon distance in this year’s Shamrock.

As this is published, it is 30-Jan-2015. The Shamrock Run is on 15-Mar-2015. I have about six weeks to prepare.

I need a plan.

Truth to tell, I’ve already been following a plan of sorts: upping the distance, upping the hill frequency. However, I need to be more precise in calibrating my training runs over the next few weeks.

My current state is that I have run several hilly fives, and I did a hilly seven on Monday this week*. I should be pretty well situated, honestly.

My usual training for a half marathon puts my last long run before the event at two weeks prior. That run should be a twelve for preference, and me being me I will do a hill run. Leading up to that, I will have ramped up the distance – I’ve done adds of a mile a week in the past, but I’ve found doing a long run followed by a less demanding week gives me more time to recover (and as I age recovery becomes more important). Given the time scale here, I expect I will be adding two miles every other week.

So, let’s fill in some dates and work back from the event date to fill in when I want to be doing the remaining distances.

The dates below are Saturday dates. I may run on Sundays, depending.

  • 31-Jan-2015 – eight miler
  • 07-Feb-2015 – nine miler
  • 14-Feb-2015 – ten miler
  • 21-Feb-2015 – rest, or at least something less crushing
  • 28-Feb-2015 – twelve miler
  • 07-Mar-2015 – begin taper
  • 14-Mar-2015 – Shamrock weekend

Well, this was the right time to write this plan down! That fits in much better than I had feared.

In point of fact, that eight miler this very weekend will probably not happen since I have other commitments which are going to preclude it, which is why I have put a nine miler on the schedule the following weekend.

Now all I have to do is remain uninjured. This will happen.

[*] and I had something left at the end of it, which is huge in itself.

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Run and Games

I was waiting to complete this planning post until I saw if I managed to get my arse out the door for a run yesterday, because I have been having trouble actually exercising this last week or two. But, that said…

Just like last year, this is a significant year for my running since I have a spot on my day job’s Hood To Coast team.

My race schedule leading up to Hood To Coast is a bit this this year. I have a big race lined up early in the season – the Shamrock Run this year has a half marathon distance – but I don’t have any other races lined up yet. I’m going to focus instead on variety in my training.

Having a significant early season race is something I can only do having managed to retain most of my fitness base during November’s literary frenzy. I am not yet ready to run thirteen miles (I arguably wasn’t ready for that in September, either) but I am ready when not suffering some debilitating illness to run five or seven hilly miles. I could not have said that in January two years ago – at least not with a straight face.

Unfortunately, I have been suffering from mild but debilitating illnesses: I’ve contracted a series of colds and similar ailments*: I had a crushing cold over Christmas which took weeks to dissipate, and now I’m stumbling my way through some kind of sore throat thing which is making me miserable and undermining my will and ability to exercise.

But: I did exercise yesterday, and I’ve stuck to my 10k steps per day goal, so all is not lost.

The plan for this year is:

  • Shamrock Half Marathon, 15-Mar-2015 – eight weeks from now I need to run thirteen miles. The Shamrock half marathon is tough, because – like the 15K route – it has a long and steep hill in the second half of the race. Fortunately, it’s Terwilliger, and I like Terwilliger: I run it all the time, so I know its curves and the timing of its slopes very well indeed.
    Still – time to ramp up for this.
  • weight – I am still carrying something north of twenty pounds more lard than I would like to be. Curiously enough, it is now nine years since I started Weightwatchers as a necessary reaction to my being the heaviest I have ever been. I am still well down from that peak weight, but losing even another ten pounds will help my running and my joints.
  • speed – I used to have two main fitness goals: to maintain a level of fitness where I would be able to cycle fifty miles without planning it; and to run eight minute miles as a matter of course. Neither of those goals is in sight at the moment, but running nine minute miles as my baseline is in reach.
  • Hood to Coast, 28-Aug-2015 – still more than seven months away. I will start training for this once I’ve recovered from the Shamrock.

This the last of my series of planning posts. My writing goal is simple enough that a structured plan does not seem necessary.

[*] when I was a kid, I would basically have a cold for the entire winter. I don’t get that any more, but colds really knock me flat.

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Beating the Blerch

One of my goals for this last period* was to train for and participate in the Beat the Blerch half marathon on 21st September, which was this Sunday just gone.

Why This Race

This was supposed to be a big race year for me, mostly built around running Hood To Coast. The timing of the Beat the Blerch run was perfect as a post-HTC run to close the season.

More to the point, my brother-in-law lives pretty close to Carnation, WA where BtB was being run, so it ended up being a nice family weekend with a trip up the Space Needle in Seattle and a delicious brunch high in the sky. It was all very civilised.

Getting There

number on shirt

number on shirt

Another very civilised thing about this weekend was the timing of the race. Most races that I’ve run have begun at eight in the morning or earlier, but the BtB start was 9:30 for the half marathon. This lulled me into a slightly false sense of security around getting to Carnation on time, but I was well set when I left: fully hydrated, properly fed, and generally in a good place.

going the right way

going the right way

I landed lucky when I got to the venue, too – I snagged one of the last parking spaces at Tolt Middle School which was only a short walk from the start.

This was all good, but I was still very nervous. The training that I usually do for a half had been truncated because it took me so long to recover from June’s stomach flu: the longest run I had done in training was only a little more than ten miles – hilly to be sure, but still shorter than I usually aim for. And I was tired. My taper for the race had only really started a few days earlier and I had continued to cycle through it. I was really quite worried going in as to how well I would manage to run the distance.

lots of happy people

lots of happy people

Fortunately, the atmosphere at the race start was very soothing. There were two thousand people registered to race for that day, and it was a joyous collection of people. I had my Blerch technical T on but that was more or less a baseline outfit: there were Bob Cats, and Blerches, and cake fairies, and one particularly excellent outfit where the runner had a cupcake on a stick fixed to his head, and the words “the cake is a lie” written on his shirt.

The weather could not have been more cooperative. There had been some early morning mist further up the valley but that had entirely cleared and the sun was warming the air.

So, yeah. A great place to be.

The Oatmeal in his amazing suit

The Oatmeal in his amazing suit

time to take a load off

time to take a load off

where the race began

where the race began

Racing

ready to race

ready to race

Two thousand people might sound like a lot of racers, but it’s much smaller than most of the runs I’ve done. The Portland Shamrock, for instance, has 35,000 runners taking part in several different events. Splitting that couple of thousand BtB racers fairly sloppily across three distances gives something like 700 runners in each. Still, small trails meant they still did a staggered start for the half marathon.

When my cohort lurched across the start line my immediate thought was how sunny it was: I hadn’t put any sun screen on (because it had been misty when I left the house…) but the full sun didn’t last. Once you were past the paved section, the trail dived into woodland.

The route was a mostly flat out-and-back along the Snoqualmie Valley trail, an old railway bed that had been converted into a mixed use path. This was the first run I have done where the majority of the route was unpaved and it was a little difficult because of that. Paved roads are in some ways more tiring to run on, but they also return your energy more efficiently whereas the gravel just soaks up your footfalls. I also found that I had to stop three times to get stones out of my shoes.

It was beautiful, though – really calming to run along through this gorgeous woodland. And it was highly entertaining.

Let me tell you about the aid stations.

me, a yeti, and a Blerch, who had Netflix on her phone.

me, a yeti, and a Blerch, who had Netflix on her phone.

Usually, aid stations have water and some kind of electrolyte drink. Sometimes you’ll get gel shots or gummy bears**. Well, the BtB aid stations had water, and weird purple drink***, and gel shots. But they also had birthday cake, and Nutella sandwiches.

And they had sofas, and Blerches. And a yeti.

Blerches, Blerches everywhere!

Blerches, Blerches everywhere!

The actual running part went fairly well. Basically, I ran the whole of the first ten miles, chatting with some of the other runners and trying to be witty in between gasps. I especially enjoyed the runner in the bunch of grapes costume. I eschewed the blandishments of the aid stations since I was carrying my own water and some salt capsules****, but that last aid station is where I had a bit of a sit down, and a nutella sandwich.

Gosh, that is a delicious thing to eat after ten miles of running.

After that it took me a while to get running again, and at the eleven mile mark I was pretty sure I was done. I texted my wife to let her know that I was probably walking the last two miles and while I did in fact get up to something close to running speed at some points along the last section I was pretty much wrecked by the time I got to the finish.

But I did get to the finish.

Final time: 2h30m24 – about 25 minutes slower than my fastest half marathon two years ago.

I look about as desperate as I felt

I look about as desperate as I felt

the medal, in less sweaty surroundings

the medal, in less sweaty surroundings

A Very Sad Closing Note

In the last half mile I saw where someone had collapsed by the side of the trail and was being assisted by about half a dozen people, other runners and volunteers alike. I didn’t stop because I would just have been in the way at that point, but I do remember hoping that he would be all right. I overheard someone else say that there was a doctor in the race who had stopped to help.

I heard this morning that the poor fellow died. He was only 28.

Very, very sad, and a sobering reminder that these races are not risk-free no matter how experienced a runner you are.

There is a fundraiser to help his family.

[*] and I really do need to find a more suitable term for this. The reporting dates are sabbats, so intersabbat perhaps?

[**] the section of road after the gummy aid station in the Portland Marathon was so sticky, it really slowed you down. It was a gummy apocalypse.

[***] as described at the end of the fifth section of The Wonderful and Terrible Reasons Why I Run Long Distances.

[****] I need electrolytes during a race, but I cannot stomach electrolyte drinks after more than about an hour of running. Salt capsules get me through.

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Virtuous Cycles

I’ve been cycling to the day job a bit the last few weeks. The goal was to try and build up my cardio after the gross insult of stomach flu in June since I have a half marathon to run in less than three weeks – the Beat the Blerch run up near Seattle.

The good news is that it appears to have made a difference. I’ve been running further (when I take the time to rest my legs the day before) and faster (especially over short, flat routes), and my cardio fitness genuinely seems to be improved.

The bad news is that I’ve done an absolutely terrible job of carving out writing time since I started cycling to the office. I’ve been keeping up on the blog with my early morning writing, but with no bus ride to write on it’s been really hard to slice out any time during the day to spend on non-running pursuits: if I’m at my desk, I seem to struggle to switch attention away from the software problem at hand. It’s one thing to reopen the word mines (and they are open, oh yes) but quite another if you never heft the pick.

There is also an irony in that I have cycled to work in August, but will be cutting down on the commute ride in September… just when the Bicycle Transport Alliance‘s event the Bike Commute Challenge is going on*. Last year I had a 100% record; this year I will be surprised if I hit a 50% rate of commute rides.

Still, my distance ramp before the Seattle run is off kilter but functional: eight miles last weekend, eleven or so this next weekend, then a light weekend followed by a proper taper and the race itself. Should be a fun one. I look forward especially to the Nutella.

[*] and my day job employer is challenging another local startup.

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