Scouting new bike commute route

Since I got offered a job at Union High School out in Camas, WA, I’ve been resigned to having to drive out there to commute come September. This would be the first real job where I’ve had to drive to work. All my other jobs I’ve been fortunate enough to be able to walk, take public transit, bike, or run to. Not this one.

However, since bike commuting 20-24 miles round-trip from home to Scappoose High School for my student teaching gig, I’ve been toying with the idea of maybe bike commuting out to Union one day a week. So today, I figured I’d see what it takes to get out there by bike. Here are the details on Garmin Connect (be sure to click the “play” button).

It was a bit tough going over the ascent on the I-205 bridge, but at least that was early on in the route. Another rough ascent was going up Ellensburg Rd in Vancouver, though, again, it was early on. Going back down those descents was fun, though.

Here was the ultimate destination… the 400 Building at Union HS, the Visual and Performing Arts building.
400 Building
I’ll be in Room 424. It took 1:15 to go the 16-ish miles from home to here. I could probably cut it down by 5 minutes after accounting for a slight detour to a friend’s house, making a couple of wrong turns, and not being exactly sure where I needed to go. On the way back I decided to take the more scenic route on Marine Dr. Not such a grand idea since I ended up riding a few miles into a headwind. Thinking about lunch kept me going.

Grand total: 34.55 miles in 2:36:50, all powered by one Accelerade gel. A completely do-able ride, maybe not 5 days a week do-able, more like 1-2 days a week do-able.

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Lack of training

Only 73 miles of running for the month of May. And this on only 3 runs (2 50K races and 1 11 mile training run). Not so good. On the upside, I biked 404 miles this month. Can’t wait for this bike commuting thing to end.

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Forest Park 50K

Yesterday I ran PCTR’s Forest Park Trail Run 50K, my local ultramarathon. Conventional wisdom says trail running is better on your feet and legs than road running because dirt is softer than concrete and asphalt. I beg to differ.

Most of this 50K was on the Wildwood trail in Forest Park, with small sections on Saltzman Road, Firelane 5, and a 10K loop around a section of Forest Park I didn’t know. Wildwood trail is a great trail. I love running it. I especially love running it the day after it’s rained or even while it’s raining. The trail gets mushy and I get muddy. It’s great. But in the week leading up to this 50K it hadn’t rained in Portland all week. Wildwood got downright hard as concrete. Factor in the uneven terrain and the course beat me up pretty good.

Going into the race my strategy was to take it easy and enjoy the day. I haven’t been training as much as I like due to bike commuting. So I set my goal time for 6 hours. I was trailing Van most of the first 20K of the run which made me a little cocky. If I can keep up with her I’m doing okay. But that usually mean she’ll drop me later on. At about the 21K mark I flew past her and a group of 3 others taking the downhill on Firelane 5 way too aggressively, which sent me into the 10K loop section feeling really good. I hit the halfway mark at about 2:35. I knew I wasn’t going to be able to keep up with this pace so I revised my goal time for 5:30, leaving me with a little less than 3 hours to finish the second half. I was able to keep up with a very strong female runner for most of this section up until we hit the uphill parts. My weakness is ascents, which I learned at Mac that I need to work on. Going back up Firelane 5, Van and others caught up with me and proceeding to leave me in the dust. By the time I got back to Wildwood, my left knee and right foot were bothering me enough that I resorted to doing the running-then-walking form of ultramarathoning. Even with the foot and knee problems I felt like this was a pretty successful run. Usually with any run there’s a point where I’m questioning why I do this to myself. I always end up with the same answer, but there’s always the question. Not today. No doubts at all. I just kept motoring along enjoying the day, the trails, and taking a few seconds to try to spot the Pileated Woodpecker I heard.

Going past Stone House meant I was about a mile to go to the finish. Physically I was feeling beat up the mentally I was feeling good. I cross the finish line at 5:23:56 to beat my revised goal time.

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McDonald Forest 50K

This year I decided I was going to try to get in as many Oregon Trail Series races as I could. Yesterday’s McDonald Forest 50K was the second of three I’ve signed up for. I registered months ago thinking I had plenty of time to train and prepare. But student teaching, bike commuting 10 miles each way, and dealing with a foot problem related to bike commuting seriously cut into my free time allotted to training. The foot problem was especially frustrating since the injury occurred because I couldn’t get my foot out of the pedal clips fast enough before I fell over. I twisted my foot which tweaked the top of my foot right above the arch. The result of that incredibly stupid mistake was to make any run more than a few miles painful. So for the 6 weeks leading up to Mac I ran ~52 miles, 34 of them at the Peterson Ridge Rumble exactly 6 weeks earlier. I should have been running about 50 miles/week. The one good thing about bike commuting, though, was that during that time I logged about 500 miles on the bike. So I wasn’t quite sure what to expect at Mac.

I woke up at 4am planning on hitting the road a 5:15 to make it to Corvallis by 7. The schedule went according to plan. However, I realized as I was leaving Portland on I-5 that I forgot my handheld water bottle even though I remembered to fill it with water before heading out the door. D’oh! Then I remembered there was an empty 16-ounce bottle that has been living in the car somewhere for months. That would have to do.

I got to Peavy Arboretum right on schedule, checked-in, said “hi” to a few runners I knew from other races, and got my gear ready to go. At the start I was a bit nervous and excited. Nervous because I had no idea how my foot would hold up. My plan was to evaluate at every aid station. I tend not to push myself to injury, I’m a conservative runner, so I decided if it got painful I would DNF. I was also excited since I haven’t been running much at all and was eager to get out on the trails and enjoy the fabulous day.

Word was this race can be challenging. The elevation gain is 6700 feet with a lot of climbs, descents, and more climbs. And the rain a few days before meant muddy trails. The first half of the race felt great. It was absolutely great to be back running. The foot felt fine. I got to aid station 1 and didn’t even think about DNF’ing. Between aid stations 1 and 2 I started to wonder what all the fuss was about Mac being a challenging course. By the time I hit aid station 2 I was still feeling great. Then at about mile 15 I started to enter a world of pain. At that point I figured I was at the halfway point and mentally I decided to slog though it.

I heard from another runner that aid station 3 at Dimple Hill had a Big Lebowski theme. I’ve never seen the movie so I didn’t know what to expect. So I roll into aid station 3, this guy in a purple satiny leisure suit asks if I need my bottle filled with water or HEED, then another guy ask me if I need a white Russian. I ask “you’re kidding, right?” The woman behind the table says “no” then hands me a sub-Dixie cup concoction that looks like a white Russian. I down it to verify, and yes, it was indeed a white Russian. I down some chips and Oreos and head out. Then I wonder if the white Russian was a good idea over the course of the next mile. I conclude that at least it wasn’t as bad of an idea as running a 50K on a questionable foot and little preparation.

The last third of the race actually becomes enjoyable, which is typical of the range of emotions that goes through my mind during these races. I have a nice conversation with Mehmet, who’s run this race a number of times and gives me some veteran advice (save some gas for later, there’s more uphills towards the end). I tell him I’m targeting 6:30 and he tells me I should have it easily. We get to aid station 4 together but he leaves me behind while I’m downing M&M’s and Oreos. I’ll catch him before hitting aid station 5, by which time I’m feeling great. Legs and feet hurt but I’m edging toward euphoria. The folks at aid station 5 tell me it’s a little over a mile uphill, then all downhill after that. Nice! I’ve got Cheri Redwine up ahead of me who I’m targeting. But she must be feeling a little bit better than I am because she’s charging ahead faster than I am. At this point I figure I have 6:30 as long as nothing disastrous happens. Luckily, nothing does, and I roll into the finish at 6:28:51. Sweet!

It’s the day after and I’m as sore as I felt after my first marathon. I’m having trouble going up and down stairs, getting up from sitting, and sitting down. Mac really was a challenging course. But I’m feeling really good about my time and my effort, especially since I thought I was in terrible shape for an ultra. Actually, I think I was in okay shape, but the lack of training resulted in a lack of confidence in tackling the uphills and more importantly, taking on the descents a lot more conservatively than I could have. Experience and training, especially hill training, isn’t just about training muscles, tendons, and ligaments. There’s that psychological training taking place as well. I really need to get outside more.

Next up… Forest Park 50K in two weeks!

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First lessons

Today was my first day of giving lessons. It was supposed to be an easy day. My cooperating teacher asked me to jump right in giving 3 lessons (2 preps) to get my feet wet on my 3rd day at my 6-week practicum. Wednesday was scheduled to be a review day since the 3 classes either had an exam or a quiz coming up. Each class is split up into 2 X 40-minute periods and Wednesday was also the day where each class spent one 40-minute period in the computer lab. So I really only needed to prep 2 40-minute lessons. No problem, right? All I needed to do was prepare a couple warmups, some review material for direct instruction, and some worksheets for in-class practice, you know, the drill-and-kill kind. It’s math and skill building, so there isn’t a whole lot of critical thinking involved, the fun stuff. Strangely, the day went pretty much how my marathons go.

The first class seemed to go relatively smoothly despite the fact that my cooperating teacher wasn’t in the room. She had a training session to attend for the first 2 classes, so I was paired with a substitute teacher, an experienced one who taught in the same school and, in fact, the same room. Before class, we chatted a bit and I said to him to feel free to jump in he sees that things are going wrong. He told me not to worry, that I’ll be fine, and all sorts of reassuring words. On the bus ride to school I played out in my head how each class was going to go down. I had this mental checklist of things to do and I visualized myself going through each of the items on that checklist. Then the bell rang and class started. And the checklist went out the window, nowhere to be seen again. Just. Like. My. Marathons. No matter what kind of pace I’m shooting for, things happen (mostly I happen) and the plan gets ditched. Today, by the time I realized I wasn’t going through the items in my mental checklist, it was too late to go back and get on track, so I went with the flow. Luckily enough, that worked for the first class. But that was luck. By the end of that class I was feeling okay about the day. Apprehensive, but okay; the kind of feeling I get during the first 13 miles of my marathons.

The second class. Oh man. Miles 13-20, the middle miles, are the toughest miles for me during a marathon. They are the miles where I begin to think “why am I doing this?” or “this is going to be the last one” or “this is completely stupid”. The second class was miles 13-20. Due to scheduling, we began that class in the computer lab, which isn’t a catalyst for structure. Once the kids get into socializing mode it’s had to reel them back in. So once we got back into the classroom, I’d already lost them and the next 40 minutes were pretty grueling. During the direct instruction, one of the kids asked why they had to take notes on something they already took notes on a previous day. Geez Louise, man, I said this was a review lesson! (I didn’t really say “geez louise”) Later on when the kids were working on a problem set, the same kid couldn’t solve the same kind of problems he balked at taking notes on. Dude, I know you’ve taken notes on the rules for arithmetic with exponents 3 times already, but if you still don’t know the rules, then maybe writing the rules a 4th time might help. That made me realize people are really good at recognizing when they’ve seen something, but not so good at realizing they don’t understand it. And again, everything on that mental checklist went out the window.

The third class is probably the easiest of the three to manage. It’s full of motivated kids taking a high school level class in the 8th grade. They’re motivated, but they’re still kids. And by the time I got them I was mentally exhausted. Two cell phones taken away, both much better than mine. Yup, they were miles 20-26. I’m exhausted, but slogging through it.

At the end of the day, my cooperating teacher and I came up with a plan for my next day of giving lessons. We figured that I need to concentrate on one aspect of teaching, and for me, that first thing is going to be organization. So I’m going to try not to worry too much about management, behavior, etc., and only worry about organization; i.e. making checklists, to-do lists, key points I want to hit, etc. I think that’s a good plan since it’ll help me not to ad lib too much.

The really strange thing about the day was that just like my marathons, I felt kind of exhausted, but energized. Maybe it’s the slight cold I’m getting over? Maybe the jitters of figuring out a new daily routine is subsiding? Maybe I’m getting over the fatigue of that 6-hour ultra? Usually, immediately after a marathon I wonder why I’m doing these things. By the evening, I’m looking at the race calendar and dreaming about the next one and how that one is going to be the Greatest. One. Ever. I’m sort of feeling that way tonight about teaching. Weird.

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Pier Park 6-hour race report

Oh man. What was I thinking? A couple of months ago I saw that there was going to be a 6-hour run not too far from my house. The run was to consist of a 1-mile loop. Runners run as many loops as they can in a 6-hour span. I’ve never done one of these runs before. Plus, I’ll seriously consider doing any distance run in Portland. So I signed up for it, fully realizing that it was going to be 6 days after I’d finish a week of 3 marathons.

The run was at Pier Park, in the far corner of St Johns. Now, St Johns is in the far corner of Portland and Pier Park is in the far corner of St Johns. So this park was way the heck out there. I woke up at 6, got my stuf together. By 7 I hopped on the #72 bus then transferred onto the #44. I got to the park 45 minutes later and headed over to the staging area which was located in a covered picnic area in a wooded part of the park. Nice. I checked in, chatted with the co-race director, Olga, shed some clothes, and a couple minutes later, off we went.

Now, reading about someone running 1-mile repeats is way more boring than running them yourself, so there’s not much to say. I kept mental note of my mileage approximately every hour: 7, 13, 19, 25, 31, and 36. I might have gotten one more in if I hadn’t stopped halfway through to make a phone call and dawdle at the staging area every other mile to chat and snack. But I hit my goal of 10:00/mile. All in all, it was a nice training run but I’m feeling a little more beat up than normal.

Next up: nothing until April, then Peterson Ridge Rumble.

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Me at Diamond Valley Lake Marathon




One of many Maniacs at the race

Originally uploaded by jakerome.

jakerome was out there taking pictures of runners. Here’s his shot of me.

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