Monthly Archives: October 2008

Columbia River Power Marathon and Tri-Cities Marathon race report

When I heard the Autumn Leaves 50 mile was going to be rescheduled to a weekend my mother in-law was going to visit I was a little bit disappointed. But hey, these things happen and I immediately looked into what else I could do the weekend of October 25th. Lo and behold… The Columbia River Power Marathon and the Tri-Cities Marathon. Both about a 30 minute drive apart. So I planned on doing my first double. I had no idea what to expect. I’ve done a 50k in May and a 30 mile trail run the week before so I had some experience with ultramarathon distance. But 50+ miles over two days?

The Columbia River Power Marathon was on Saturday. Roger picked me up at 4 am in the morning so we could make the 3 hour drive to Umatilla by 7 am for a 8 am start. We made it right on schedule at 7 am and decided to check in and keep warm at the McNary Elementary School where the starting line was. The volunteers were great and they told us about the baked potato bar that was planned for the post-race food. Mmm… baked potatoes. I told one of the ladies that I run because of the food. And that’s not an exaggeration. The thought of baked potatoes kept me going all 26 miles.

Speaking of food… I drank a small can of tomato juice 30 minutes before the start. I thought it was a good idea at the time. But I would soon regret it as I was feeling the effects of the acid in my esophagus an hour into the race.

We planned on a 4-hour race, i.e. a 9:00/mile pace. Roger and I stayed pretty much on target the whole time, running together. The scenery was good and it was pretty neat to run over the McNary Dam. And the volunteers were great. There was a gravel and sand portion of the course between miles 13-18. It didn’t slow us down any but it did zap me of some energy. It didn’t help that the gravel+sand trail didn’t seem to end. Plus the tomato juice kept wanting the come back up. When the trail did end, the course put us on the highway. The drivers were good about giving the runners extra room. But it’s always a bit uneasy running on a highway.

At the mile 24 aid station the tomato juice was really affecting me. So I told Roger to go ahead since I didn’t want to hold him back. I was still on a 4-hour pace so I figured I could afford a minute or two to let my GI tract settle down. When it finally did I was back on a 9:00/mile pace and crossed the finish line at just under 3:58. I ran a very conservative pace thinking about the next day. I didn’t break much of a sweat and hardly used any of the gel I packed, probably the equivalent of 2 packets (I’ve been carrying a gel flask for these fall marathons).

But let me tell you about the best part of the marathon… the baked potatoes. Oh man. They were so good, so fluffy, I got seconds. Piled with chili, butter, sour cream, cheese… Oh man. So good. Best post-race food ever.

We hung out with a bunch of other Marathon Maniacs at the school cafeteria eating our potatoes and talking marathon talk, such as doubles, triples, fat ass, dumb ass, 100 marathons, 50 states, triathlons, etc. Fun stuff. After the potatoes, Roger and I made the short drive over to the Tri-Cities area.

The Tri-Cities Marathon was day two. Roger and I checked into the Shilo Inn where the marathon start was. Real convenient. We were both feeling remarkably good but still apprehensive about running #2 the next day. The baked potatoes were great but we were feeling hungry for dinner early and went out for Mexican food at the mall. Mexican food the night before a marathon? Not sure if that would be a good idea but what the hey, I love Mexican food. After dinner we went back to the hotel and watched a lot of TV before going to bed early.

The next morning started out a bit chilly but I had a feeling it was going to warm up. Since the starting line was the hotel parking lot we stayed in the room to keep warm right up until the start. It was a bigger field than yesterday so I lost Roger right at the start. Shortly after mile 1 someone asked how fast we were going. I replied “8:14”. He didn’t see a mile marker and I said there wasn’t one, I was going off my Garmin. Then Van said there was a mile marker and it was the dead cat. She’s kidding, right? I ended up going out much too fast for my 4-hour goal time, running about 8:30/mile for the first 13 miles. I caught up to the guy running in a Starfleet uniform and asked if he was the real Will Riker or his evil twin from the transporter accident, then he made it so and left me in his tachyon field. The course was nice, following the Columbia River most of the way. Running over the Cable Bridge was pretty cool. I kept looking up at the suspension cables and the clear blue sky thinking I should have lugged my camera. I also got in some birding (American Widgeon, Bufflehead, either a Clark’s or Western Grebe, Mallards, Coots, and some other stuff I’m forgetting). By mile 18 I figured I had my goal time of 4 hours in the bag barring a disaster, which is not out of the realm of possibility but I didn’t want to pressure myself into injury so I eased back into 9- and 10-minute/mile paces. The headwind helped me slow down and I took my time at the aid stations. Then it was back over the I-182 bridge and into the home stretch. I hit mile marker 25 and there it was, the dead cat Van was talking about. She wasn’t kidding! Poor kitty. With a quarter mile to go Andy caught me walking and pushed me to get up and go (I’m not sure if that’s what he was yelling about but I got the picture). So I did and crossed the finish line at just under 3:55.

Not bad for my first double. 52.4 miles over 2 days in a grand total of under 8 hours. I hit my goal and the only effect is a sore left Achilles due to lack of stretching.

Things I learned:

  • It’s probably a good idea to stretch
  • Don’t drink tomato juice right before a long run
  • Doubles aren’t so scary


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David Goggins (ultrarunner) interview

Here’s a really nicely done video interview with David Goggins. The guy is amazing. Here’s what was written about him on Competitor Radio:

David Goggins is an amazing athlete. At a chiseled 6’1″ 195 pounds, this Navy Seal does not look like your typical endurance athlete. His first triathlon? The three day UltraMan in Kona which he did on a borrowed bike. To get ready for the race he took that borrowed bike and rode 300 miles per week for three weeks with absolutely no cycling background. He finished second.

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Sisters Poker Run race report

The Sisters Poker Run is a small, really laid back, trail ultramarathon through the Sisters Trail network. The course changes every year according to the whims of Gene, a.k.a “Fatboy”, the organizer. It’s not really a race at all but a 34 mile poker hand. You pick up cards at each of the 5 aid stations with prizes going out to the best hand drawn and the worst.

That said, I really had no business being out there. My last long run previous to yesterday was the Light at the End of the Tunnel Marathon 2 months ago. I had a couple of 15 mile runs after that but they hardly count. Both where on flat terrain and about 6 weeks prior. Looking at my training log, I see a lot of blank space in the 3 weeks leading up to yesterday. I didn’t do any running while on my trip to Europe. That wouldn’t have been so bad if I did some core strengthening workouts, which I could have easily done in the hotel rooms. But I didn’t, so that’s why I suck.

After passing aid station #2 somewhere between miles 11-12 it was a long, hard, slog up hill. For me at least. The elevation gain wasn’t steep at all. If I was in better shape it would have been fine. But I wasn’t and I did a lot of walking. Then I started cramping in my quads. Not good. It was at about mile 15 when I decided to turn around and bag the whole thing. I got a crappy picture of the Three Sisters volcanoes on my cell phone camera which doesn’t do the view justice so I was reasonably happy.

Three Sisters

The course is designed to be around 34 miles so I was 2 miles short of the turn around point. At the slow as molasses pace I was going I expected to be passed by the lead pack on the back portion of this out-and-back section of the trail. But no. That made me suspicious that the turnaround point wasn’t just around the corner. Turning around at mile 15 ended up being a good move for me because the course ended up being long at 37-ish miles. There’s no way I would have made that distance in the shape I was in. By the time I made it back to the finish area I ran/walked 29.5 miles in nearly 7 hours and ended up with a 3-of-a-kind of nines (which wasn’t a winning hand).

Things I learned…

  • Don’t underestimate caloric intake at these distances, erring on the side of eating more has a better downside than running out of gas
  • I lose fitness fast; this seems to be related to why I don’t taper well. I thought all the 40-50 miles per week weeks over the summer would have carried me through but they didn’t. Three weeks of absolutely no running really took a toll on my fitness. This was the first time I’ve cramped up this year and I don’t think it had anything to do with an electrolyte imbalance. It was simply lack of fitness and training.

All in all, it was a really fun event. I love central Oregon.

UPDATE: Results are posted. I can’t believe I beat Sean Meissner and Krissy Moehl. Only time that would ever happen!

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Chicago Marathon race report – DNS

I was supposed to run the Chicago Marathon today. Supposed to.

The Chicago Marathon has special significance to me. The first (and still only) time I ran it in 2006 was when I met the person who I would later fall in love with and marry not so long thereafter. It was also the final marathon I needed to earn a 4-star rating as a Marathon Maniac. So back in February I got on the ball and signed up to run this October marathon because it sells out it’s ~40,000 slots fast. I even booked a room at the hostel. I was good to go. All I had to do was show up.

Then I had the opportunity to attend the Cochrane Colloquium. What that is exactly is besides the point. What does matter is that attending it would mean flying back from Germany to Chicago 2 days before the marathon. Attending wasn’t exactly mandatory but it’s a big conference in my field of systematic reviews and all the big names go there so it’s a great place to show off your work if you have a poster (which I did) and network (which I did a little). Plus, how could I pass up an expenses paid trip to Freiburg, Germany?

Well… it turned out not so well for my Chicago Marathon experience. The whole trip to Europe was great. We spent a few days before the conference zipping across Switzerland. A day in Luzern, and day in Ballenberg, a night in Zurich, a morning in Chur. Then we headed to Freiburg, where the conference was located. We checked in to our mostly-paid-for hotel, checked out the old town a little bit, then the next morning rode the rails to Strasbourg, France. Strasbourg turned out to be our favorite city on this trip. We only had a day to spend here but decided to spend one of our free days after the conference going back. Next there was 4 days of conference stuff which I won’t bore you with. It was good, but there’s probably only a couple dozen people in the world who would be interested in hearing about it. Then it was back to Strasbourg and from Strasbourg to Frankfurt. And from Frankfurt to Detroit and then to Chicago.

It was that last part that was the problem. The night before our flight out of Frankfurt I had to use the bathroom in the middle of the night. Oh boy. It wasn’t the good kind of bathroom break. Okay. No big deal, right? It’s only one-time food poisoning. Then I couldn’t sleep the rest of the night. The alarm goes off and we gather are stuff, check out of the hotel, and walk over the catch a taxi to the airport. I already know I’m not feeling too well but it’s all pretty mild, right? As we’re navigating the airport, checking in, finding our gate, I’m feeling quite ill. And it’s not a good kind of ill, if there is a good kind. As time goes on I’m feeling worse and worse. This is going to be a miserable flight. And it turned out I was right about that one. It was the most agonizing 8.5 hours I’ve ever spent. I couldn’t sleep or get comfortable. I was either too hot or too cold and too weak to adjust my blanket or take off my jacket. It was bad. Then there was the waiting in lines, plural, to pass through customs in Detroit. Then there was the extremely uncomfortable waiting lounge in the Detroit airport for our 3 hour layover. Then there was the 1 hour flight from Detroit to Chicago. Then there was the grueling drive from O’Hare to my mother-in-law’s house during rush hour. Oh. Boy.

So that was my Friday. I was hoping that if I felt better by Saturday morning I would at least make it to downtown to the marathon expo. I had already told myself if I miraculously felt better it was probably still a bad idea to run the marathon on Sunday since I was already dehydrated from the diarrhea. And it was predicted to be a little on the warm side so little chance of a PR even if I was 100%. Fine. The marathon is bagged but I could at least hope for is picking up a bunch of schwag to make up for it. No go. Saturday I felt just as miserable as Friday. So no schwag either. Damn. And Chicago has a really great expo.

So yup, a big fat nothing for me in Chicago.

Pictures of the trip are here, not all of them yet, but they’ll all get up there soon. No pictures from the sicky part of the trip.

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