Monday, July 4, 2016

Let Freedom Ring

The 9/11 terrorist attacks, which took place almost 15 years ago, left an indelible mark on my life, and had a direct effect on the person I have become. Before 9/11, my wife and I weren't sure if we ever wanted to have kids, as we seemed perfectly happy living life by ourselves; but the attacks made us rethink some of our priorities, especially the importance of family. It was in the weeks that followed that terrible day, that we decided it was time to start our own family.

What I did today would not have been the same without that rethinking of priorities -- I ran Molalla's Freedom 5K run with my 13-year-old son. This was our first time running an actual race together, and it was one of my most satisfying moments as a father, even if he did smoke me in the last quarter mile. I hope that he is able to use his natural running gifts and talents in the years to come; whether it's on some kind of track team, or just running to stay in shape.

Running on Independence Day seems appropriate to me, as it is one activity where I truly feel free when I am out doing it. There aren't many experiences that can give you the same sense of "freedom".

This race was especially fun because it took place right before Molalla's big parade, so the streets were lined with lots of friends shouting out words of encouragement along the way. Here's an action shot from one of our friends:

My son's performance was better than two minutes under the pace we trained at, and the race-day adrenaline seemed to really give him a boost. We were together right up until the end, when he wanted to kick it into another gear and finish strong -- he finished 23 seconds ahead of me. We hope to make it an annual tradition, but next year I'm going to try and beat him! ;-) But realistically, unless they turn it into half marathon race, I really don't think I stand a chance against his young legs.

To top it all off, my wife and daughter got up extra early and helped with registration before the raced started; and then we all watched the parade together as a family after the race. This sounds like a great family tradition to me.

Happy Independence Day from The Glutton Free Diet! I hope you got to celebrate your freedom in a way that was meaningful for you.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

Product Review: Engo Blister Prevention Patches

The following is a review I posted on Amazon for the Engo Blister Prevention Patches -- $15 for (4) large and (2) small oval patches.

As a runner who routinely covers distances up to 13.1 miles, any extra friction on my feet can lead to nasty blisters in short order. Even buying the exact same brand, model, and size of running shoe every time does not guarantee a perfect, friction-free fit; even if the four pairs you bought before gave you no problems. This was the case with my latest pair of Brooks Beasts.

Usually the Beasts fit me perfectly right out of the box, but this pair started talking to my left instep within the first 5 miles of my first training run (in mid-March of this year). Trying to power through with the typical runner attitude was not the best move, as after I had finished the 10 mile run, I had a full fledged blister. During the next week, as I let the blister heal, I ordered the Endo blister prevention patches after doing some online searching.

When the package first arrived, my initial thought was, "Did I really just pay $15 for this?". But then I gave them a try...

I followed the instructions on the package, adhering one large oval patch over the offending area, which happened to be right where the shoe's insole met the side wall of the she -- and my arch would catch on the built-up hard rubber base of the shoe. I smoothed out the patch as I applied it to the shoe, and followed it up with 20-30 seconds of blow dryer heat; and then I wore the shoes to help with the adhesion. That was 240 miles ago, and just today I finally had to replace that original patch -- I could feel that burning feeling after today's 9 mile jaunt, and after further investigation, discovered it had finally worn through along the insole / side-wall junction. For my running shoes, 240 miles is well over half the life of the shoe. I would consider that to be some excellent performance, considering what these shoes have been through in that time.

I can't say enough good things about these patches. The slick surface allows your foot to glide right down where it's supposed to go, instead of getting hung up on any edges. During those 240 miles, the patch never came loose at all, and I still have two more large patches left after the one I installed today (as well as all of the small patches). I highly recommend them.

Sunday, May 29, 2016

Race Review: The Oregon Spring Half Marathon

Yesterday morning, I completed my third half marathon race in a 49 day time-frame, a feat which qualified me to be an official "Half Fanatic".

My phone says, "I just qualified for Half Fanatics".

The Oregon Spring Half is part of the Überthons race series which consists of a race for every season. As I had been checking out potential races to run, the Spring event attracted my attention because the course is very flat, with the exception of one 75-ft hill leading into the town of St. Paul. It looked to me like a PR (personal record) kind of course, and once I realized it would qualify me for HF, I knew I had to do it.

One of my running friends (Kim) and I carpooled together, and arrived at Heirloom Roses, the start/finish point of the race, right around 6:30; in plenty of time to prepare for the early 7:30 start time. The 48-degree morning air felt a tad cool at first, but that cool temp, combined with a mix of broken overcast, made for nearly ideal racing weather. Kim knew a lot of the Uberthon & Half Fanatic regulars, so we met up near the start line for a quick greeting and photo op.

The Half Fanatics contingent.
This was my first race where the organizers had "pacing groups" set at various intervals, and I have to say that it was really quite helpful for ensuring a smooth start. Runners could line up at the start according to their expected finish time, and not have to worry too much about being surround by a bunch of faster runners passing right away, or getting stuck behind a wall of 4-wide runners going a lot slower than you. It also helped during the race, as I was able to keep the 2:00:00 pace group in sight at the beginning and know that I was in the right spot (I also had my watch, of course).

The course started with a short out-and-back to the right, before looping back and heading south towards the town of St. Paul, where it looped around and headed back to Heirloom Roses. The setting was gorgeous, and exactly my kind of course -- back roads meandering through farmland. As promised, the course was very flat, except for the hill. Thanks to my continued training on hills, combined with this hill's placement at 6-miles in, it was really no challenge at all; and after we looped around St. Paul and came back the other way, it was the perfect boost at mile 10 to get you pumped up for the last 5K of the race.

I had taken my energy chews at 8.5 miles into the race, which I had done during the Goat Mountain Gallop, and the result was great, once again. I had good running mojo all the way to the finish, and most importantly, I never had a nauseous feeling at any time during the waning moments of the race. In fact, the last mile was my fastest of the race -- that is the first time this has ever happened! 

The finish line was at the end of a beautiful rose tunnel, but to be honest, I didn't have time to stop and smell the roses at that point, or even look at them; I just wanted to be done! The end result was that I crushed my old PR by more than 3 minutes. New PR for 13.1 miles: 2:03:21

Rose tunnel and finish line.
After crossing the finish line, I collected my participation medal and a bottle of water, and cooled off, stretched, etc. The medal was nice and hefty, with a nice image of Crater Lake on it, and produced in the form of a belt buckle, as those who complete all four seasonal Oregon Half's will get a belt to put them on. As I was walking around to cool off, I ran into some people from the HF group whom I'd met before the race, and it was nice to be able to congratulate each other at the end.

Oregon Spring Half Swag
Once Kim and I had checked our race results and taken a few post-race photos, we headed for the food. I love it when races have generous portions of food available for racers, because running 13.1 miles makes you a little hungry! For this event, the food was catered by Qdoba Mexican Grill, and it was excellent -- lots of grilled chicken, beans, rice, tortillas, veggies, and sauces; and all with great flavor. Definitely the most satisfying post-race food I've had.

This was my first Überthons race, but I can guarantee that it won't be my last. This was the best supported race event that I've been to -- even better than the RunWithPaula events I've done. The course was well marked, and the volunteers along the course were always cheerful and supportive. I really want to do the Oregon Fall Half, as it runs right through the back-country neighborhood where I grew up, but I may have to try and work the Summer Half in there, too -- this event was just that good.

That concludes one of the better days I've had in a long time. I crushed a PR, qualified for Half Fanatics, and ran my very first Überthons race -- and I met some good people in the process. #alldaylong #specialkindofcrazy #22kmbefore10am

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

Volcano Valley Action Shots

Gordon with GCC Photography is the official photographer for many of, if not all of, the Run With Paula race events; and I have to say that his quality is the best of all the race photographers I have encountered thus far. His photos aren't free, but he does offer an inexpensive, lower resolution, download option. 

So here are this years photos... I actually saw him this year and was able to smile! The one at mile 12 is a faked smile...

About 3.5 miles in and still feeling good.
Mile 12 -- barely keeping one foot in front of the other, but looking
 better than last year's photo!

Monday, May 2, 2016

Volcano Valley Half Marathon: Be Careful What You Wish For

In my last post, I talked about the value of taking on challenges. Well, be careful what you wish for. 

Yesterday I ran my second half marathon in three weeks, the Volcano Valley, as part of my plan to run a total of three within a two month span, which will qualify me to be a Half Fanatic. The Volcano was supposed to be the easiest of the three, with very little elevation change and half of the course meandering through shaded overgrowth, but I had to go and talk about wanting a good challenge.

Ten days before the Volcano, my 10 year old daughter tested positive for strep throat; and the next day, my wife started to get a sore throat. Two days later, as I was out on my last long run before the race, I got a dry, scratchy feeling in my throat as the run progressed. This was not good.

During the following week, my scratchy throat evolved into full blown upper respiratory congestion, and by Thursday I was wondering if I would even be able to run the race at all. I quickly consulted with all of my different running circles, and the common theme was essentially, "If it's in your chest, you need to rest". The race director even offered to switch me to the 10K or 5K event if needed, but I was only going there if absolutely necessary.

Things felt somewhat better by Friday afternoon, with all of the nasty stuff leaving my lungs and taking up residence in my sinuses. I decided to go out for a slow-paced 3.3-mile test run Saturday morning, and was pleased to find that, while my sinuses burned like jalapeno in the eye, my lungs were fully capable of handling a run. I didn't know what kind of mileage they were good for, but I felt I could at least finish the 13.1 if I just took it easy.

I'm not so good with selfies.
The end result? I finished the Volcano Valley half marathon, turning in my second best time of the five races I've done at this distance. I felt marginally better Sunday morning, with less burning in my nasal passages, which was a good sign. Before I left for the race, I kissed my wife "good-bye", and she said, "Go get your PR". From then on, I couldn't get that out of my head. I kept telling myself, "You're still sick. Just be happy to finish. You don't need to PR".

The weather was perfect for a road race -- about 49 degrees as I set out at 6:15 AM, with clear skies and a projected high right around 80 degrees. During the hour or so that I waited at Willamette Mission State Park for the race to start, that phrase kept popping into my head, "go get your PR"; and it never left my head, even as the race started. 

I started out following my original plan of taking it easy, finishing the first mile at about 30 seconds per mile behind my normal half marathon pace. I had planned to try and keep "negative splits" throughout the race, so with each successive mile, I gradually picked up my pace. After completing one full lap of the double-loop course, my RunKeeper app updated in my ear with a cumulative pace that seemed to be within reach of my record, but I would need to kick it into another gear; and at that time, I was feeling good. I blew my nose one more time, popped an energy supplement, and stepped up the pace.

All went well along the back stretch as I encountered a short downhill section, and my fastest one-mile pace came from mile 9 to 10, and the next mile wasn't too far off, but right about 11.5 miles in, I hit the wall. My fingertips were starting to tingle, a sure sign that my oxygen supply wasn't keeping up with my pace; and I started to feel nauseous, possibly because I took the energy block too early. But mostly because my body was still recovering from the illness, and was pushing back. I had wanted a strong finish, but it just wasn't going to happen. I need to be happy with knowing that despite my upper respiratory ailments, I was still able to finish with my second fastest race time ever. 

Despite the course change, it was technically my first repeat race.

I definitely didn't ask for this challenge, and really don't want to have to face it again, but it is good to know that the mind is stronger than the body... even if the body does give some resistance of its own. Next challenge on the list: The Oregon Spring Half Marathon.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Conquering The Grimm Reaper

One of the cruel realities of life is that in order to truly grow in any area, you must first overcome challenges to accomplish whatever goals you have laid out before you.

Last year, as we neared spring, some friends of mine told me they had signed up for the Volcano Half Marathon, and wondered if I wanted to join them. At the time, I had just conquered the 6-7 mile range, and felt 13.1 miles was just too far for me; so I declined. But in the weeks that followed, I was inspired by their determination to train for the race, so I continued to mull it over. In early March, after a brief rest from running, I went back at it full bore, and quickly pushed myself into the 10-11 mile range. With that, and the encouragement of my running friends, I accepted the challenge to run my first half marathon, and the end result was what I consider to be a life changing experience.

Fast forward to spring of 2016, and I was still running religiously every week, but I really didn't foresee any challenge to get motivated for. I signed up for the upcoming Volcano half (now called Volcano Valley) because of my great experience last year, but after running two other half marathons at the end of last year, I didn't really consider running a flat course to be much of a challenge.

Then, one week in late February, I decided to join the Molalla Running Club for a group run. Part of the group ran a route with hills as part of their training for the Goat Mountain Gallop, a race that I didn't want any part of because I had heard of how grueling the uphills and downhills were. But after running with the MRC gang, I again found myself inspired by this group of runners dedicated to training for a race, so I accepted the challenge -- not really knowing what I had gotten myself into. 

One of the many undulations of the Goat Mountain course.
One of the things that lured me in was the Run Molalla Series, which included three races -- Goat Mountain, Freedom 5K (4th of July), and Molalla River Trail Race -- all for $89 (I'm doing a 10K for the trail race, since I've never done a trail race before). I am a big fan of local races, and I knew that these were all put on by good people, and that much of the proceeds would go to good causes (Goat Mountain benefits the Molalla HS track team). Not only did I have a roller coaster half on my schedule, but also my first trail race! 

After signing up for Goat Mountain, I had the bright idea of driving the course from Colton to Molalla -- NOT a good idea! The drive started out rather mundane, but after the first turn, the road quickly began to undulate like a roller coaster track -- some of the dips were so large that you couldn't see the bottom as you approached, and the ascent on the other side seemed to extend forever... and then we got to the Grimm Reaper, a mile-long steep uphill section of Grimm Road that climbs close to 300 feet in one shot. What had I gotten myself into?!

Molalla Running Club at the start line for Goat Mountain Gallop

Well, thanks to a month of hill training in Silverton, I was able to conquer Goat Mountain and the Grimm Reaper this past Saturday. It was a grueling course, but luckily the majority of the bad hills are done by mile 6, and then it's mostly downhill from there. The one exception is the last hill on Feyrer Park Road, just coming up out of Molalla River basin toward the Coleman ranch -- a hill which I have dubbed, "Coleman Hell". Coleman Hell only rises 100 feet above the bridge below, but the accent is steep, and the hill's placement at mile 11 makes it especially difficult. Through it all, I had a great experience, and hope to run this race again next year. The feeling of accomplishment from meeting a big challenge is really hard to describe with words.

This was my first race where I was actually part of a running "club", and I have to say that I rather enjoyed the experience. It was nice having others there that you knew, both at the start when we were all nervous, and at the end when we could congratulate each other for finishing the race.

Technically speaking, I was very pleased with my time. I knew coming in that this was not a course to expect a PR (personal record) on, so my goal was to at least stay under 10 min/mile pace, and I finished at 9:50 per mile. In comparison, my previous best pace for this distance was a training run completed two weeks prior, which was done at 9:37 per mile -- not too far off. My best in-race half was last September's Oktoberfest run in Mt. Angel, and I completed that at 9:40 per mile -- and as you can see below, there is a big difference in the elevation profiles of the two courses.

Goat Mountain Gallop
Oktoberfest Road Race
Based on that, it's not hard to see why the Goat Mountain Gallop has remained such a small race despite this being its 33rd year. Many runners prefer flatter courses and bigger races -- races which offer more fun stuff at the end like beer, big fancy medals, and after parties; which is truly a shame, because with the natural beauty of the Goat Mountain course, combined with the challenging hills, I would think it would draw more of a running following. I was thrilled to get a nice tech shirt, a small medal, and a pancake feed at the end. I will be back next year. I'll be up for a good challenge by then, I'm sure.