Tag Archives: Running

Diamond Valley Lake and Carlsbad Marathons

When I started this whole marathon running hobby (or obsession) I quickly learned that I I could use running marathons as an excuse to travel. Or as a corollary, I could use traveling as an excuse to run marathons. Have to go to Sacramento, California for a work meeting? Run CIM. Want to go visit a friend in Columbus, Ohio? Schedule the trip for the same weekend as the Columbus Marathon. And while you just happen to be in the Midwest, why not run the Chicago Marathon the next week?

So when I knew I was going through a transition in late January and early February, end my job and starting student teaching, I wanted to make sure to take some time off in between and I knew I needed to run a marathon during that transition. Now, I don’t like to travel during the holidays to visit my family in Southern California so a trip to Southern California seemed in order. Naturally, I looked into what marathons were on the calendar in Southern California during this transition. Hmm… the Surf City Marathon is February 1. I’ve read good things about that one, flat course, run along the beach. But wait… the Carlsbad Marathon is January 25. How to decide which one to do? Well, why not do both? So that was the plan a few months ago. But when it was time to book flights I discovered the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon in Hemet, California the day before Carlsbad. Hemet is about an 80 minute drive from my parents house. Hmm… why not run Diamond Valley Lake also. I mean, it’s reasonably close, fairly flat, on groomed trails, along a lake. Lot’s of things in the positive column. So that was the new plan.

Fast forward to yesterday when I ran the Diamond Valley Lake Marathon. I got to Hemet about 45 minutes before the 8am start time and parked right in front of a carload of Dudes. Not “dudes” in the generic sense meaning guys or men, but “Dudes”. These guys threw around phrases like “that’s what I’m talkin’ about” and “bring it” at least a few times a day. For example, Dude #1: “Did you bring it?”, Dude #2: “Hell yeah I’m bringin’ it”, Dude #1: “That’s what I’m talkin’ about!”. They also played their music from the car stereo loud enough so you can hear 10 meters away. And they played stuff that sounded like it was entrance music for wrestlers. I secretly hoped they didn’t hear about nipple chafing. I seriously wanted to see these Dudes at the finish with two red streaks down the fronts of their shirts.

Okay, back to DVLM… as usual, I started out too aggressive and ran a faster pace than I really planned to. I was going for a sub-4:00. After all, this was supposed to be just a training run for Surf City, which is the fastest course, on paper, of the three marathons I was running). I forgot to charge my Garmin so I was without my GPS and had to run by feel. That worked out okay. It’s just that I felt like I was running fast.

DVLM is a small marathon, I think maybe 100-200 runners, so you don’t see very many people. I did met a few other Marathon Maniacs (Guillermo, another from Utah whose name I didn’t catch, and another from San Diego whose name I already forgot). Amazingly enough for a small marathon, the aid station support was great. There wasn’t a lot of aid stations. They were spaced maybe 3-4 miles apart. But the volunteers were always great and helpful.

The course started with a 2.5 mile out-and-back followed by a single clockwise loop around Diamond Valley Lake. It was a nice, pretty course. The signs for what to do when you encounter a mountain lion kind of concerned me though. But I think I was more afraid of wandering off the top of the 3-mile long dams while taking in the views and falling a hundred feet or so into either the lake or even farther on the dry side than I was about mountain lions.

I managed to get in a pretty decent 20 mile training run but then things started to fall apart. The next 4.5 miles involved a bit of walking. But my internal clock thought I was still in sub-4:00 territory. I ask another runner what time she had and confirmed my feeling. I started feeling good for the last 1.5 miles and ran almost all of it and got into the finish line at 3:48:50. BTW, I didn’t see if the Dudes had bloody nipples because I didn’t see them. Their car was still there when I left. I guess they didn’t bring enough of it.

Amazingly enough, I felt great afterward. No soreness, no cramping, no blisters, no chafing, nothing. I did have my usual GI issues, namely an acid reflex-ish kind of feeling. Not sure why, but I get that way when I run faster than I should. I only took in 3 gels (Hammerhead) so it wasn’t gel overdose. But I felt optimistic about Carlsbad the next day.

Let me start off by saying that Carlsbad has got to have the greatest expo I’ve ever been to. Okay, maybe Chicago, with it’s shear enormity is the greatest. But more isn’t always better. More is just more. Carlsbad on the other hand, well, at Carlsbad they give out free loaves of bread. That’s right, not a few slices, but entire loaves. Weird, huh? And that’s why it has the best expo. Do I remember what I got at any of the other expos I’ve been to? Okay, I do remember the cowbells at Chicago. But I’ll never forget the bread.

Now, because of the bread I had a good feeling about Carlsbad (I know, weird), despite the 6am start, which meant I would have to leave my sister’s house (she’s closer to Carlsbad than my parents are) at 4am. Of course, at that early of an hour there was no traffic and I got there a bit sooner than I expected so I managed to take a 15 minute nap in the car after landing a nice parking spot near the exit of the mall where the start/finish line was. After the nap, I got my shoes and race belt on, shed my warm layers to reveal my Obama ’08 singlet I got but never wore for the Chicago Marathon and headed to the start line. There I found Julie, rather she found me, a friend from Portland who decided to run Carlsbad also because her boyfriend’s sister lives in the area. She told me she drove the course the day before and realized how hilly it was. I thought it was supposed to be flat? Hmm.

We start the 6am race in the dark. I lose Julie in the crowd of 1000+ marathoners (there’s a half marathon that starts later in the morning). Then the sun starts to rise about 3 miles in and I realize that we’re running on the Pacific Coast Highway along the beach. Nice! Julie finds me again now that the crowd has thinned out and we run together with the 4:00 pace group. Then, for some reason, the 4:00 pacers dial it up and run noticeably faster than needed for a 4 hour finish. Man, these guys suck. I don’t feel bad about myself since this is another training run for me. I feel bad about the first-timers or folks with hard goals they want to hit who trained specifically for a 4 hour finish and might bonk because they started out too fast. Oh well, it’s not my battle to fight.

Julie and I run together just slightly faster than a 4:00 pace (the 4:00 pace group is so far ahead of us we can’t even see them). Her boyfriend, Brian, is on his folding/travel/clown bike, riding the entire course and meeting up with us every couple of miles (well, mostly Julie since I’m just tagging along) taking pictures and offering support. Chatting almost the entire time helped pass the time. By mile 19 I think Julie senses I’m running fine and she’s starting to fade and tells me she won’t mind if I drop her. I give it another mile to make sure I’m feeling strong and at mile 20 I pick up the pace. We merge with the half marathoners for a second time soon after. This time it’s the 2:30-ish halfers so a slower group than the first time the marathoners and halfers merged. So I’m having fun picking off halfers, the only downside is weaving between them. But I’ll never doubt the psychological boost of passing people (and conversely, getting passed). Amazingly enough, the GI problems I fought the day before aren’t happening today. I take in a gel at mile 23 and another at mile 25. At this point I pass the 4:00 pace group. Feels good since I know the pacers badly managed their pacing. I feel so good by the time I hit the mile 26 marker with 0.2 miles left, I start into a full-on sprint. I totally could have finished a few seconds faster but I slow down 30 meters from the finish because a full marathoner realized she was about to cross the half marathon finish line and crossed over to the full marathon side right in front of me. Kind of annoying, but she seemed more enthusiastic about getting a good marathon finish photo than I was so I was okay about that. After all, this was just a training run for me. I still managed to get in a 3:53:53 finish (chip time). A little slower than the day before but a smarter race.

So my second double averaged faster than my first. I think I’m getting better at this. I’m also less sore today than I was right after my first double. Now I just need to rest up before Surf City.

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WTH? Birds don’t sing at 2 am

That’s what I was thinking when I woke up this morning. The plan was to wake up at 2 am, change and gather my stuff, then drive the 3+ hours to Sunriver to run the Pacific Crest Marathon. I made sure to have everything ready the night before: 6 gel packs, 2 500ml bottles of Powerade (not my favorite but whatever), my brand spanking new Obama singlet I had made, and a bunch of other stuff. I even made sure to clip my toenails. Then I realized that birds don’t sing at 2 am. So I looked at my phone, which is also my alarm clock, to see how much more sleep I had left… well, I got an extra 2.5 hours. It was 4:30. And way too late to get in the car, drive to Sunriver, pick up my bib, and make the 7:30 start time.

Oh well. That’s $75 wasted because I forgot that my alarm is set to only go off on the weekdays. But looking at the bright side… I would have spent more than that on gas. And I probably would have been miserable out there in the heat of central Oregon. And I would have been exhausted from the driving, the running, and the driving back. And it wasn’t like I was trying for a marathon streak of some sort (this is the only race I have planned until October). And it’s not like I need another race shirt or medal. So did I go back to bed? Nope. I went out and ran from my house to the Leif Erikson trail in Forest Park, 20.5 miles in all. I was supposed to do 26, but it was hot and I was getting dehydrated so I cut it short and rode the bus home. I’ll probably do another medium or long run tomorrow to make up for that.

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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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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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Peterson Ridge Rumble

Sunday I ran the 30K race of the Peterson Ridge Rumble out in Sisters, Oregon. We drove down to Sisters the night before and camped out at Cold Springs campground a few miles outside of town. Since it was still too early for camping we almost had the entire campground to ourselves. No surprise since there was still some snow and ice on the ground and the overnight temperature dipped down into the low 30s.

The race itself was great. Central Oregon had been pretty dry the week leading up to the race so the trail wasn’t muddy or wet. In fact, it was almost too dusty. Not what I’m used to in Forest Park. Two miles into the race I strike up a conversation with Juan from Eugene who’s run this race a few times. He warns me that it’s not quite 30K (18.5 miles). It’s a little long, more like 20 miles. And I ask him about the elevation since I live in Portland I train at mostly sea-level. Sisters is up around ~3200 feet and the trail we’re running climbs about 1000. Oh man. At least we would be treated to some great views of the central Oregon mountains.

Despite the cold temperatures in the morning, it warmed up really fast out on the trail, which was open and exposed to the morning sun. I started out wearing a long-sleeved top and a short-sleeved top over it and a pair of shorts. By the time I got to the first aid station at around mile 5 I had to shed the long-sleeved layer. The folks at the aid station were kind enough to take it from me and bring it back to the finish line so I wouldn’t have to carry it. Speaking of the aid stations. They were well stocked. Very well stocked. So well, in fact, that I lost so much time dawdling at the four of them munching on bananas, PB&J, pretzels, rice crispy treats, filling up my hand-held water bottle, and drinking Nuun. I also lost some time trying to get my wedding ring off after I noticed my fingers swelling up. Not exactly sure why that was happening or even if it was just my imagination.

My Garmin Forerunner clocked me in at 2:52:48 covering a distance of 19.4 miles, an 8:54/mile pace, with a total ascent/descent of a 1919/1924 feet. My official gun time was 3:01:48, 59th out of 154 30K runners (38th percentile) which is about where I hoped to be (mid-pack and under 3 hours) and I’m reasonably happy with my time considering the elevation, heat, and inexperience with trail racing. This was a fun trail run and both the runners and volunteers were great. Sisters is a nice town to spend the weekend. I’m certain I’ll do this race again next year.

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