Monthly Archives: May 2008

Passed!

I’m not sure how or why, but I passed my Praxis II mathematics subject exams. There were two tests I took a little over a month ago, the mathematics content knowledge exam and the mathematics proofs, models, and problems exam. The former was a multiple choice exam, kind of like the math sections of the SAT or Praxis I, only it covered algebra, trigonometry, geometry, statistics and data analysis, and calculus. The latter was what you would call “essay problems”, only for math.

I scored high enough on the content knowledge exam that they gave me a “recognition of excellence” certificate. Yes, they even gave me a chintzy certificate suitable for framing. Supposedly, I scored within the top 15% of the previous years’ test takers.

I’m not sure how I passed the proofs, models, and problems exam. I only completed one out of four problems, got halfway or less through two others, and didn’t get to the fourth. And I scored less than half of the total amount of points available. It’s a standardized test so the scores are scaled to how difficult the problems are. Those problems were difficult, but they were supposed to be. I’m actually toying with the idea of taking the proofs, models, and problems exam again because I know I can do better. That’s pride talking. My rational side is thinking I have better things to do with an hour of my time on the weekends.

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Forest Park Trail Run

This was probably the hardest thing I’ve ever done in my life, my first ultra-marathon. And it was pretty mild at 50K, or 31 miles. I had a feeling it was going to be tough. There were thunderstorms the night before here in Portland and it’s been lightly raining most of the week. So it was going to be soggy and muddy in Forest Park for the Forest Park Trail Run. But that was fine. I didn’t have a real time goal. My first priority was to not get injured. Second, was to finish. Third, was to finish in under 5 hours. Goal #3 turned out to be quite overly unrealistic. I finished at 6:43. Really slow. It was a great experience all around even though I couldn’t see during the first half of the race (my glasses kept fogging up in the humidity, not so cool). Tough, but a great experience.

For the first 8-9 miles or so I ran with someone I just met because I happened to be behind him and he was running at a good pace for me, Dan Harshburger, from central Oregon. We had a good conversation about all sorts of things. I got the feeling that this wasn’t his first ultra so naturally I asked how many of these things he’s done. “200” he says. Holy Jesus H. Christ! 200?!?! He’s been doing ultras since 1982. Amazing! I’m such a Johnny-come-lately. Dan introduces me to Olga, who writes the Run More Talk Less blog, and who happens to work in the same place I do but in a different department. She was doing the walk-the-uphills strategy, which I would later adopt, only it wasn’t so much of a strategy for me as it was a necessity. But when she ran the downhills, she really flew. It was a great privilege to be able to spend part of the day with these folks. The camaraderie among ultrarunners is legendary and deservedly so.

At about mile 26 or 27 my mind started wandering. I was feeling pretty good especially since I knew after the last aid station the trail was going to be either flat or downhill. My mind started thinking about how running my first ultra was going to be a really spiritual experience. Somehow I was going to transcend something. What that would be was something that I was going to sort through for days or weeks, or even years. So then I come down the trail and what I recognize as Leif Erikson trail. What the hell? I’m not supposed to be on Leif Erikson trail! Uh oh. I made a wrong turn somewhere. It wouldn’t have been so bad if I made a wrong turn at, oh say, sooner than mile 27. It occurs to me that I could keep going down Leif Erikson and make it back to the finish line where I’m supposed to meet my wife. But then I remember about the spiritual transcendence and how I just ran 27 miles and I wasn’t going to let a wrong turn nullify those previous 27 miles I worked for. I was going to finish this race, dammit, and finish it the right way. So I trudge back uphill the half mile or so at the intersection where I chose unwisely. The spiritual experience turned into a death march. And I also knew that walking uphill was going to take a lot out of me and my slow time was going to become even slower. I figure I lost 15 minutes just backtracking. But I’d lose even more from the energy expended.

So how muddy was it? Here’s what happened to my shoes. And I totally destroyed a pair of socks.
IMGP1821_flickr

So, what did I learn? I learned that running my first ultra was not such a great idea to cap off another 4 marathons in 22 days feat. I’m sure I’ll reconsider this by tomorrow and look for another ultra to sign up for. But since all the area ultras this summer are filled up I’ll have to wait until next year. Until then, I’ll have to settle for Chicago in October. I also learned that I seem to only tweak my pinkies. When I was in high school I jammed my right pinkie playing basketball. Today, I jammed my left pinkie grabbing a tree to brake myself as I was sliding down a steep part of the trail. I finally ended up on my ass at the bottom of the slope.

Update: pictures from Glenn Tachiyama

Clean Dirty

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Capital City Marathon

Today was the 3rd marathon in as many weekends this month. Oh man. It was a hot one. After what has got to be the hottest couple of days in the Pacific Northwest with 90 degree weather, today was supposed to start a cooling trend back to normal. I was a bit worried when I was on I-5 driving into Olympia around 6:00am and the sun was out with no cloud cover in sight. It was going to get warm out today.

This was my first Capital City Marathon so I didn’t know what to expect. I read it was hilly but the elevation map didn’t look too scary. I was standing in line for the port-o-potties and the guy in front of me noticed my Marathon Maniac singlet and asked what number I was, as in what’s my Maniac number. “#369, what’s yours” I replied. “#660, my name’s Andy”. It was his 5th Capital City Marathon. So naturally, I hit him up for tips. He tells me to save something for the big hill at mile 22. Oh man.

Then I run into Dave, who I met last week at the Tacoma City Marathon. We chat a bit. He’s planning on going fast and I was planning on taking it easy so we wouldn’t be running in the same pack.

So was Capital City hilly? Yeah, it sure was. The first half of the course had a good deal of shade along tree-lined country roads. But then the second half… oh man, nothing but sun beating down on asphalt. No good. The upside was the neighborhood folks along the residential parts of the course who set up sprinklers or their garden hoses just for us marathoners. That was awesome!

I think the sun was a bigger factor in my fairly slow pace today (3:47 finish), more so that the hills. The Tacoma City Marathon was pretty hilly. My Garmin Forerunner GPS says the total elevation gains for both courses are comparable at about 3000 ft. I also just felt better before Tacoma. I had trouble getting the cobwebs out of my head on the drive up and felt a bit mentally exhausted before the start, probably feeling drained from the heat of the prior few days. Under better weather conditions I would probably do this marathon again. I liked being on the country roads and the race organization and volunteers were great.

Oh, and during the first half mile of the course I ran behind an elderly Asian woman no bigger than my mom, who’s 4’10”, and probably not much younger either. She was wearing a shirt which had “Go Grandma Lee” printed on the back. I think I’ve seen her before, so this wouldn’t be her first marathon. In fact, I may have seen her last week at the Tacoma City Marathon. Pretty amazing, I think to myself, a woman no different from my mom running marathons, and running them on back-to-back weekends. Then I overhear someone talking to her. He says to her, “I saw your picture in the paper, congratulations on your 100th marathon.” What. The. Hell? 100?!?! Here’s the story. Every time I read a story like this or get passed on the race course by someone at least 20 years older than me, I’m reminded about how much we can achieve through shear force of will. Grandma Lee is one amazing woman.

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Voices of a People’s History of the United States

Last night, we went to a reading/performance from Howard Zinn’s Voices of a People’s History of the United States, an anthology of speeches, lectures, songs, and poems by history makers who often get left out of the history books. The event was sponsored by Illahee, a group that puts on some really interesting events. The day earlier I read in the Willamette Week that actor and activist Viggo Mortensen, who’s filming in Oregon, was going to do a reading at the event. Pretty cool, eh.

We walked to the First Baptist Church in downtown and got our tickets a few minutes before the event started. Luckily, we got a couple of seats in a pew in the third row from the stage despite a packed house. Anthony Arnove, the editor of Voices of a People’s History of the United States, started things off with explaining Zinn’s original People’s History of the United States and how that work spawned Voices of a People’s History of the United States. Originally, Zinn’s publishers wanted to celebrate People’s History’s 25th anniversary by gathering academics and intellectuals to discuss the work. Arnove related Zinn’s reply, “I’d rather be shot!”. Then Arnove introduced the readers/performers, none of whom I’ve heard of. Finally he introduces the final performer to everyone’s surprise… Eddie Vedder. Dang! I’ve never been a Pearl Jam fan but I have to admit I was a bit star-struck.

The readings were inspiring, notably, Staceyann Chin’s reading, performance really, of Cindy Sheehan’s speech right before her vigil at Crawford, Texas. I was reminded of my past activist days during college and graduate school. Tomorrow, Barack Obama is in town for a rally. If I get back from Olympia in time I’ll try to get out there.

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Tacoma City Marathon

I pretty much broke all kinds of conventional wisdom with this marathon. First, it’s advised one shouldn’t do more than 2 marathons in a single year. Second, you’re supposed to get plenty of rest the night before a marathon. Third… well, okay, maybe there isn’t a third.

After running the Eugene Marathon 6 days earlier, I made the 2-hour-and-change drive up to Tacoma early in the morning after 4 hours of sleep. I had trouble getting to sleep the night before. The plan was to get in bed by 9pm so I could get at least 5 hours, but we had a late dinner and I ended up getting into bed a little after 10. I set my alarm for 3am thinking it would take me 30-40 minutes to eat a bowl of oatmeal, change, and gather my things. But I ended up waking up a bit after 2am, went to the bathroom, then back to bed. After a few minutes of trying to get more sleep I got out of bed a second and last time by 2:30.

I got to Tacoma with plenty of time to check in, pick up my number and timing gizmo, stretch, and use the port-o-potty. I decided to stick with the 3:30 pace group, being paced by David “Marathon Diet” Spooner, one of the many Marathon Maniacs running today. He told me he’s lost 125 lbs since picking up running as a sport. That’s just amazing! 3:30 would have been a new PR, just days after PR’ing in Eugene. I know, ambitious, especially with the rumored hills on this course. I stuck with the 3:30 group up until mile 13 and felt pretty good. But I had to pull over and fix my shoe. I laced my left foot tight and the tongue was digging into the top of my foot. Since I use the lace-lock method, it took some time to undo them. And even then, it didn’t entirely alleviate the problem. I would have to fiddle with my laces again at mile 20, and by then, I calculated I wasn’t going to PR today so I was just trying to finish faster than 3:40. I did not want to get passed by the next pace group.

One thing I tried that was new for me was to fill a 500 ml bottle with Accelerade, which I used during training. The plan was to get my calories in liquid form for the first 15-16 miles, then switch to gels. At Eugene, I took 3 gels and all 3 made me just a little nauseous. So I wanted to limit my gel intake today. It seemed to work because I didn’t get nauseous at all.

All in all I did pretty well considering. And I met a couple of other Marathon Maniacs, Guy Yogi (who I met at the Portland Marathon last year and who asked if I was a hapa, which I get quite often) and “The Prez” Steven Yee ( I was amazed that he knew me by name).

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Eugene Marathon

I ran the Eugene Marathon on Sunday and finished at 3:32:08, a bit slower than I had hoped but still 3+ minutes faster than my previous PR. It was a good day weather-wise. The sun peeked out a bit more than I would have liked but the breezes and shade along the course kept things cool. The course was nice, flat, and mostly scenic. I’ll definitely keep this marathon on the calendar in the future.

I was hoping for a sub-3:30 time and to average sub-8:00/mile pace throughout the race, but I ran out of gas around mile 23. Up until then everything was fine, if not great. I was even thinking of hitting 3:20-3:25. I took all 3 of my planned gels (Clif Shots). I guess I just need more fuel during a marathon. But I don’t know, I just can’t stomach those things. I’m not sure what’s worse, losing my legs, so to speak, or running with that I’m-going-to-barf feeling in your gut. At the expo the day before we listened to Dathan Ritzenhein (a.k.a. “Ritz”) speak about training, racing, and making the US Olympic marathon team at the US Olympic trials earlier this year. He said he took in 7 gels that day. Holy cow! So that’s what it takes to 2:11.

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