Sunday, February 26, 2012

Over the River And Through the Woods

Remember that time I said, "If you don't like the weather in Portland, wait 10 minutes?"

That couldn't have been more true on my long run.

I woke up to rain outside my window and thought to myself, "Oh joy!" But I got dressed anyway. For a pre-run breakfast, I made myself some oatmeal with almond butter, dried cranberries, a few almonds, and cinnamon, and had a glass of water on the side. Mmmm. I got through part of my warmup routine, but not the whole thing. (I didn't leave myself enough time.)

I met up with my friend Jeff and ran about 1.5 mi to meet up with our friend Peter. (Yes, believe it or not, I run with people sometimes.) It was raining and 39ºF when we left, and because we were planning on running through the Southwest Hills, I commented that because of the altitude change, it might be snowing up in the Hills. Jeff told me that it probably wasn't going to be that cold. Now because a 7 degree temperature difference in one city seems very unlikely, I left it alone.

We met Peter down at the Esplanade (along the water on the East Side), and Peter guided us along (he knew the route). We ran along the waterfront, across the river, and through Downtown before trekking up into the Hills. We got about a mile up Terwilliger Blvd., and what did we meet? SNOW. I couldn't resist saying some variation of "I told you so," and the response I got was, "It's not cold. It's just...snowy." (Since when is 32ºF warm? Or am I the only one north of SF who thinks that 32 is cold?)

A little while later, we escaped the snow and found SUN! (In case you couldn't tell from my other posts, the sun in Portland in the winter is a hot commodity -- pun intended.) We proceeded through the River View Cemetery, which is perched on a hill and, as the name suggests, offers a view of the Willamette River and the East Side. (Why do the dead people need a stunning view? I presume that they already have a better view than any of us have on Earth. At least, assuming that there is a Heaven and these people made it there.)

Once we left the cemetery, we crossed the Sellwood Bridge (Woo for running across a new bridge in Portland!), and ran along the Springwater Corridor for the last few miles of our run.

The path is lined by trees on one side and the river on the other. While this seems very peaceful, it also feels like being in the woods in the Middle of Nowhere. Eventually, we escaped and made it back to the Esplanade. I left them to head to the MAX, because I had a bunch of homework waiting for me at home, and after 16 miles of freezing (practically), mass transit sounded great (and it was). I did some lunges as a cooldown stretch while I waited, and consumed some of the water I brought with me on the run.

Once I got home, I got started on breakfast. Eggs and cheese (though I had them with polenta instead of on a sandwich), coffee (with some warmed chocolate almond milk -- in case anyone's wondering, it's a bomb combo), and a banana. (Three of five things off of the Friday Five -- not bad!)

Now it took my Garmin the entire run from my place to the Esplanade to locate the satellites, so I can't provide any stats on that. But as far as the rest of the run:

Distance: 14.78 mi
Time: 2:06
Pace: 8:31/mi

Faster than my last run of a comparable distance! And that route was flatter too. Improvement? I'd like to think so. I think running with people who run at my speed or a bit faster helped too. My knee only acted up a few times too.

PS Just a reminder that you can subscribe via email! Because who wouldn't love waking up to an email with my anecdotes? ;)

Friday, February 24, 2012

Friday Five, Part Deux!

This week has been so busy, I actually had no idea what day it was. I needed my computer calendar to confirm whether it was Monday or Tuesday. No joke. But now that Friday is here, I can give you another dose of Friday Five! This week's topic...

Favorite Things to Eat After a Run
(in no particular order)

1. Bananas!

Who are we kidding? I love bananas at any time. During my sophomore year of college, my roommate equally loved bananas, and we became notorious for taking some from the dining hall after we finished eating. At one point, we had about 8 bananas sitting on our microwave (and a couple apples -- needed a colorful pile now!). But I digress.

Bananas are easy to open, easy to eat, and as long as they're not too ripe, you can throw them in your bag without worrying about them getting smashed. And as we know, they're full of potassium, which your muscles need after any workout.

2. Egg and cheese sandwich


You have your protein and your carbohydrates in one sandwich. If you're like me, the last thing you want to do when you're starving after a run is complex cooking. But this is one of those things that will probably take you about 5 minutes to make. Or you can stop at your local bodega/corner store/whatever they call them in your neck of the woods and get one. But once you realize how easy it is to make, you may not want to ever buy the bodega version again.

3. Protein smoothie

(From my collection)

Essentially, you just throw fruit, liquid (and/or Greek yogurt), and protein powder into a blender and mix everything together. You can also add nuts or nut butter, spices, flaxseed, etc. They're so customizable that it's hard to get bored with them! You can prepare one ahead of time and leave it in the refrigerator until you're ready for it. Another great protein and carb (and healthy fats, if you choose to add nuts or flaxseed) combo.

4. Coffee

(From my collection)

This is on here for no other reason than that I love coffee (iced or hot; I don't discriminate). I will admit that this is probably one of the worst things to consume after a workout, because caffeine dehydrates you. So have some water/sports drink first. Now I need to concoct a good coffee protein smoothie.

5. Mimosas

After a good run, reward yourself. Have a drink with your breakfast, brunch, or drunch (whatever you choose to call it). Yes, the orange juice has carbs, but I'm sure the benefits of those carbs are negated by the alcohol. Be careful -- one can easily lead to two, and before you know it, you've lost count of how many you've actually had. (Not that I speak from experience or anything. *coughbirthdaydrunchcough*) But consume in moderation, and you'll be fine. (Note: alcohol, like coffee, dehydrates, so make sure you have water/sports drink beforehand.)

The Training
It's been a good week for training. Ran Tues, Wed, and Thurs, and also did some core work yesterday. After hearing so much about the benefits of a dynamic warmup, I finally decided to put it to the test on Tuesday. And I felt so limber during my run! The best part is that I haven't had as much knee pain while running. 

Rest day today, followed by a long run tomorrow. Now off to enjoy my day of rest! (And by enjoy, I mean tackle my to-do list and gear up for tomorrow.)

Monday, February 20, 2012

Week in Review

Workout stats:
Running: 25.42 miles
Yoga: X1

It was a light week on the training calendar, in that I didn't have any long runs penciled into it. It was also a busy week, as I'm in the midst of midterms. But I made some time for a run on Wildwood Trail!

My right knee still seems to be bothering me when I run. I need to be more diligent about doing the IT Band Rehab exercises.

Fortunately, my school considers President's Day to be a holiday. Thus, my classes were canceled and I had a day of much-needed catch-up. And by catch-up, I mean study and do other homework. And get distracted by everything the internet has to offer (including the chance to fill you in on the fact that I'm procrastinating).

I hadn't done any cross-training in a while (and I had it on my calendar), so I put in 30 minutes on the bike. I also used that as time to catch up on "Runner's World." I came across an article titled, "From Knee to You," which is a satirical letter that the author (J.R. Havlan) wrote from the point of view of his right knee. Needless to say, I started cracking up.

Alright, back to work I go!

Friday, February 17, 2012

Friday Five

Happy Friday, and welcome to the first ever Friday Five! The Friday Five is this: I take a topic (given the blog, the topic'll most likely be running-themed, though I welcome suggestions), and pick my five favorite things related to it. This week's topic is...

Running Routes!

5. The Riverwalk (San Antonio, TX)
From my collection
Yes, I know, it's one of the most touristy spots in San Antonio. But get out there before the shops and restaurants open, and you can easily get lost while checking out one of the city's most well-known spots. (Just ignore the green water. After all, you're going running, not swimming.) Plus, it'll spare you a ride on one of those tacky, guided boat tours.

4. Aliso Creek Trail (Orange County, CA)
I'm sure when I mention Orange County, the first thought that pops into your head is either money, surfers, beaches, or if you're like me, mail-order county. (Let's face it, the entire county looks prepackaged.) Regardless, probably one of the last things that you think of is a trail along a creek that eventually leads to canyons. The trail itself extends from Laguna Niguel to Rancho Santa Margarita, and is over 12 miles long. I've only run about a quarter of it, but because I haven't run it much, it's still novel and exciting. But it reminds me of the Southwest -- short shrubbery, (fairly) dry creek beds, and (typically) warm. After all, it is Southern California. 

3. Hudson River Greenway (New York, NY)
I bet you're wondering why I didn't choose Central Park, right? Don't get me wrong, Central Park is great, but I like running along the water. (After my tenure in NYC, I can probably come up with a separate Top 5 list of routes in NYC.) Running along the west side of Manhattan, the Greenway extends from Battery Park to Inwood (the northernmost neighborhood on the island). From end to end, this means over 10 miles of uninterrupted running! When I lived in NYC, I was fortunate enough to live close to the Greenway, so this was one of my go-to routes. Without the traffic and tourists, you can easily forget that you're in America's most populous city.

2. Wildwood Trail (Portland, OR)
Even though it's one trail, I never seem to run the same route twice. Which is understandable, given that the trail is 30 miles from end to end. The portion that I flock to most is nestled in Washington Park (because this is the portion that's closest to my house), which is also home to the Rose Garden, the Japanese Gardens, and Hoyt Arboretum. Between the trees, creeks, and lack of traffic, this is the one spot I can truly lose myself while running. Of course, I still have to pay attention, because parts of the trail are very narrow, and if it rains, they can be muddy. Fantastic hills as well!

1. Kelly Drive (Philadelphia, PA)
When I lived in Philly, this was my go-to route. As humored as I was by the locals yelling things like, "Don't stumble, 'cause it's a looooong way down!", I prefer to not be distracted. This 8.4 mile loop along the Schuylkill River takes you by such fine attractions as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, Boathouse Row, and the Canoe Club (which has seen better days, but I'm still partial to it because my college used it as its boathouse). Not to mention that the bridges spanning the river are incredible. You can also catch stunning glimpses of the Philadelphia skyline! A secluded, riverfront run with beautiful architecture and (possibly) seeing crew teams hard at work are my reasons for naming this my favorite running route.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Anniversary!

Happy Valentine's Day! If you know me, I'm not one to celebrate. But there is one anniversary that I have to acknowledge.

An anniversary with a running shoe? Yes. I realized that on Valentine's Day 2009, I went to Jack Rabbit with one of my best friends in NYC and discovered the Brooks Adrenaline 9. Three years later, the Brooks Adrenalines and I are still together. I currently run in the Adrenaline 12 (pictured above), but the 9s started my relationship with the company (and model).

(For some other cute stories involving love and running, check out this article from Runner's World!)

The Training
There's lots of catching up to do! So I'll just summarize.

Friday - 4.03 mi. easy run
Saturday - 9.7 mi. on the stationary bike
Sunday - 14.05 mi. long run
Monday - Vinyasa yoga

The long run could have been better. My knee started acting up around mile 10, but I was able to finish the run in one piece. Funny enough, the Fanconi Anemia 5K/8K/12K was happening at the same time and place as my long run. It didn't interfere with the run much, but I got to run across the finish line of the race! (I think the race officials understood that they were taking up prime running real estate.)

I think about a lot of things on my long runs, but after a certain point, I start thinking about what I'm going to eat when I'm done. On one of my 3 hour training runs for the NYC Marathon, I started craving a breakfast burrito. I ended that run at the Portland Farmer's Market, and upon seeing a burrito vendor, I was overjoyed. That burrito was so delicious. (True life: I have an inner fat kid.) On Sunday's run, I thought about eggs, oatmeal, and banana French toast, among other foods. When I got home, I opened my fridge, and was inspired by the smorgasbord of produce that I bought the day before. I ended up making an omelet with avocado, jalapeño pepper, spinach, and red pepper. I should've had some carbs with that too, but my mind was so focused on the omelet that I forgot about that part.

As far as my knee goes, I went to Vinyasa yoga yesterday. The combination of poses (pigeon included!) helped a bunch! I also started trying the IT Band Rehab routine I found on the Strength Running blog.

There's a 6M run in the forecast today, along with some stormy weather. Let's see how the knee and I hold up!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Three Things

Things I've realized over the last 24 hours:

If you look out the window and upon seeing that it's dreary and wet, say to yourself, "Ugh, I don't feel like going outside," just go. It's probably warmer than it looks.

I had this experience yesterday morning. Upon forcing myself out the front door for my run, my immediate reaction was, "Oh, it's not that bad."

If you look out the window and see that it's raining, just wait 15 minutes.

Okay, maybe I learned this one a while ago, but it came up again last night. I was at dinner with a few friends (all native Oregonians), and one of them said, "Ugh, it's raining." I immediately responded, "Just wait 15 minutes." Another friend commented, "Spoken like a true Oregonian."

(Note: This is typically, but not always, the case. One exemption is the 2010 Portland Marathon. I'm pretty sure it didn't stop raining for the entire day.)

Skechers makes running shoes.

Was anyone else aware of this? When did they decide to enter the running shoe market? A friend recently told me that he bought them, and also included a blogger's review of them. Because it's a brand I know next to nothing about, I was happy to be able to read a consumer review.

The shoe is thickest in the mid-foot area to force you to land on the ball of your foot. I have to admit, after reading Chris McDougall's "Born to Run," I'm a bit skeptical of over-engineered shoes (and these seem over-engineered). But that doesn't mean I'm not intrigued.

Another interesting component of these shoes is the non-removable sockliner (so you don't wear socks when you run). Personally, I'm a little grossed out by that concept (the fact that the liner is there and you can't remove it to wash it). But I'm also a little grossed out by not wearing socks with running shoes. (I'm pretty sure I get that one from my mom.) Not to mention the fact that I have Raynaud's (the condition that makes my fingers and toes turn white). Maybe these shoes aren't for me. But if anyone wants to send me a pair to try, I'm open to testing them.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Kaiser Half

I'd have posted this sooner, except things have been crazier than usual. And by that, I mean that I took a weekend adventure, and had to dive headfirst back into my life (or rather, classes). Where did I trek, you ask?

I had never been to SF, and now that I'm on the West Coast, it's so much easier to get there! I also have a couple of friends there, which is a big incentive to visiting. My perception: fun city, full of character, active residents, fantastic architecture, and few hipsters (I mention this fact because this is how I'm different from typical Portlanders). It's now on my list of favorite domestic cities!

As luck would have it, the Kaiser Permanente Half Marathon took place while I was there! My gracious host informed me that he signed up, and asked if I'd be interested in running it. He also added that it'd be a great way to see some of the popular spots in SF. More often that not, if you want to coerce me to race with you, you just need to tell me that you registered. If you tell me it's an awesome course, then I see that as a bonus.

The race started in Golden Gate Park, and headed eastward to the Panhandle. It goes around the Panhandle, and then back in the park to head westward. Around mile 7 is the turn onto Great Highway, which runs along the ocean. The views were incredible! There were dunes, and waves crashing into said dunes, and sunshine! The main downside is that it's a 6M loop (3M down, and 3M back up), so it became a bit boring. The toughest part of the course comes at the very end, in the form of a hill. Yes, there's a hill right before the finish line. (The rest of the course is either flat or downhill. Here's a course map.)

The beginning of the course had some major bottlenecking, which I think was because they also put on a 5K which started at the same time. (Seriously? A 5K can start 30 minutes after a half-marathon, and if I had to guess, I'd say that those runners would still be done before the half marathon runners begin to cross the finish line. But that's just me.) Still, the race itself went really well, in that I PRed (1:36:39, which is a 7:23 pace). I can't forget to mention the fantastic weather, especially since the last two half marathons I ran were in very hot conditions. And now I can cross CA off of the "States I've Raced In" list (the other states so far are OR, PA, NY, and CT).

Racing? Fun. Traveling? Fun. Seeing friends? Very fun. Racing with friends while traveling? AWESOME.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Overcoming Stress

Ever feel like this?

One of my friends/classmates and I were having a conversation about taking on 50 million duties (because they all sound like great opportunities), and then feeling anxious and stressed once it seems like too much. All of us get stressed. It's how we deal with it that's different. Some people draw or paint, while some people overeat. Me? I run.

In one episode of "The Simpsons," Homer proclaims, "To alcohol! The cause of, and solution to, all of life's problems."Perhaps you've seen and remember it, but if not, I have my good friend YouTube to help me out.

Remember now? Anyway, that's my attitude toward running.

Through all of the break-ups, moves, exams, and everything else, my running shoes have been there for me. I find that running helps me clear my head, because I'm not being distracted by meetings, classwork, emails, and phone calls (this is another reason why I don't bring my phone with me when I run). It's the one time of the day that I'm guaranteed to have me time (assuming that I choose to run by myself).

Of course, there have been some instances where running has caused issues. About a week before I was scheduled to run the 2010 Portland Marathon, I noticed a couple of tiny bumps on my right abdomen, and they were itchy. I thought they were bedbug bites (I was living in NY at the time, and there was a bedbug issue at the time), so I bought some cortisone cream. That didn't seem to help, as a couple more bumps appeared (same general area). I still figured it was something minor, but because I was leaving in a few days for a weeklong vacation, I decided to call my dermatologist. Fortunately, she had an opening that afternoon. After about two seconds of looking at the affected area, she said, "Oh, this is a classic case of shingles!" My reaction was something along the lines of, "Wait, what?! How did that happen? I'm supposed to run a marathon on Sunday!" My grandmother had shingles, and up to that moment, I thought it was incredibly rare for anyone under the age of 35 to develop.

The doctor informed me that shingles can develop as a result of stress, and asked if I had been stressed lately. Well...yeah. I was working full-time, applying to grad school, studying for the GREs, and training for a marathon. A couple months prior, I had to deal with moving and some other personal issues which I won't elaborate on right now. So in a way, my means of relieving stress caused it as well.

You ready for some more science??

When you're stressed, your adrenal glands (in the brain) produce excess cortisol. Prolonged periods of high cortisol levels slows down the production of prostaglandins. Prostaglandins support immune function, dilate blood vessels, and are anti-inflammatory. (Source)

Shingles is in the herpes simplex family of viruses. After you get chicken pox, the shingles virus lays dormant (inactive) in your body. Having a weakened immune system makes you more susceptible to an outbreak, hence why it's more common in people 50 and older.

See the correlation here?? Find effective ways to manage stress. Spend time with friends and loved ones. Because all work and no play makes Jack a dull boy. And life is too short to be anything but happy.

(Just to confirm, I did finish the marathon. I spent the whole time telling myself that I had to rise above everything that happened. And I did, by finishing in record time. I'll tell the story of that race another time.

Friday, February 3, 2012

Trekking Along

When you wake up to a sunrise like that, you know it's going to be a beautiful day!

What I was not expecting was being busy for about 12 hours. On the plus side, my very long day started with a run. For me, I find that if I go running in the morning, I feel more energized and revved up to tackle my to-do list. It certainly helped today!

I had a 6M interval workout on the books, so I opted to hit the treadmill before my appointments on-campus. The gym's on-campus, they have showers, and interval workouts seem better on a treadmill (to me). Here's the interval workout:

Distance (miles)
Speed (MPH)/Pace (m:ss)

(Plus a 5 min cool down)

I felt good after it. I covered the distance in under 45 minutes. Overall, this is definitely slower than my 10K pace (to do the math, 10K = 6.2M), but this training plan (the Smart Coach one) starts off with slower paces and then you build up your speed in the following weeks. You'll be sure to see my reaction to this plan in the following weeks! Regardless, my piriformis and IT band are feeling better than they had been.

And a nice treat to finishing the workout was seeing this view! If you look on the left side, the mountain with the blunted top is Mt. St. Helens. Such things are only visible on clear days.

Yesterday, I did a strength workout for the first time since I started training for Eugene. My strength training involves a combination of core work (sit-ups, push-ups, planks), upper-body work (dumbbell rows, dumbbell shrugs, curls, dumbbell chest press), and lower-body work (dumbbell squats and dumbbell lunges). If I could remember what weight(s) I used, I would share that too.

Here's hoping I sleep well tonight!

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Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Extra! Extra! Read All About It!

So if you (like most of my readers to date) follow my Facebook postings, you already know this. But it's so big that I'm sharing it twice!

For the first time, I will be running TWO marathons in a calendar year! Okay, I know people who have done more than that, but this is a first for me. But if you're not one of them, and/or are one of those people who think that running 26.2 miles is just crazy talk, you may be asking yourself, "How can he commit to two marathons in one year?" Well, one is scheduled for April 29, and the other is scheduled for October 7, which leaves 23 weeks to recover from the first and train for the second. Given that most marathon training programs are 16-20 weeks, this is impeccable timing!

Since I've told you when it is, you must be thinking, "Oh, the Portland Marathon's October 7; he registered for that!" Au contraire, my friends! I registered for the Chicago Marathon!

"But Austin, when there's a great marathon right in your backyard that day, why would you travel 2,000 miles and two time zones to run one?"For several reasons, friends:

  1. Chicago is among the five World Marathon Majors (the other four are Boston, London, Berlin, and New York). One of the items on my bucket list (which is seven pages long -- yes, I typed it out) is to run all five of these races. Since I ran New York in 2011, I'm already 20% of the way there
  2. I've already run the Portland Marathon (twice -- in 2009 and 2010).
  3. I love using running as an excuse to travel. I've run four marathons, three of which were over 1,000 miles from my home.
  4. One of my best friends (who we'll call Limpsy, Starbucks seems to think that's her name, even though it's actually Lindsay) is running it. 
  5. Limpsy's 26th birthday is the day after the marathon. And when one of your friends lives clear across the country from you, you can't turn down an opportunity to celebrate a birthday with them!

Oh, and bonus item #6: One of my friends is currently enrolled in grad school in Chicago, and I thought she'd be finishing up this year. While that part may be the case, I found out that she'll still be in Chicago until 2013!

Stay tuned! More surprises to come.