Bunchgrasser’s World

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Posts Tagged ‘GU gel’

2010 Eugene Marathon = New PR for me!

Posted by bunchgrasser on May 4, 2010

I ran the Eugene Marathon this past Sunday and it was a blast. The mostly flat and scenic course helped me eke out a new marathon PR, besting my previous marathon time by about 9 minutes. Kirsten and I drove down to Eugene the night before and stayed in a hotel rather than attempt getting up really early to drive down the day of. It was really nice because the hotel was only a couple blocks from the start/finish line. Kirsten ran the half marathon and did really well.

The race started on Agate Street, right in front of Hayward Stadium and first took us on a 9 mile out and back. From there we headed east out to Springfield, then looped around and joined a trail system that followed along side the Willamette River for several miles. Finally, at around mile 20 we crossed back over the river and headed back toward Hayward Stadium.

I hadn’t banked a lot of miles prior to this race, and most of those miles were slow trail miles to boot. So, I wasn’t expecting a PR – but I did feel pretty good running my 9.5 minute pace for the first 12-14 miles. Based on that I kept the pedal down as long as I could, but as expected the wheels started to squeak around mile 18 (its always the evil mile 18).

I had some pretty bad pain coming from my right big toe. It always seems to cause me grief, so I taped it up pre-race thinking I might dodge a bullet. Nope! It became pretty clear that I had some serious blister action that wasn’t going away. Somewhere along the river I jumped off the path and sat down on a bench. I quickly shed my shoe and 2 layers of socks (Injinji toe socks, covered with a thin Coolmax sock). I fetched a tube of Lidocain creme out of my pocket and quickly daubed my blister. Within a minute I was back on the trail and hoping the pain would diminish. Nothing changed for about a mile, but before I knew it the excruciating throbbing had mostly subsided. I could definitely still feel my blister, but with more than 6 miles to go that stuff really saved me.

Around mile 22 I was really feeling out of gas. I had been pushing gel and salt caps every hour, along with both Gatorade and water at most every aid station. I was hoping to push that wall out an extra mile or two – but it didn’t seem to help much. The last 4 miles or so were mentally and physically challenging. I occasionally saw runners trying to stretch away cramps. I saw a young girl puking (for the 3rd or 4th time) and felt really bad for her. I was just pleased that my condition hadn’t degraded that far.  I did some walk/run alternating a few times but I hated knowing that my good finish time was slipping away. Soon thereafter I saw the top of Hayward Stadium looming off in the distance and knew it would soon be over.

As I turned up Agate Street and toward the stadium gate I could hear some cheering and cowbell (more cowbell). I shuffled through the gate and onto the track toward the finish. I had been looking forward to this part for more than 4 hours. Not only finishing – so that the pain would end, but also enjoying the privilege of running in the footsteps of some legendary athletes. As I rounded the last turn and heard my name called – I raised my arms briefly and crossed over the timing mats, ending my third full marathon with a new PR.

I was very pleased to realize that my legs felt pretty good post-race. In my previous 2 marathons (both in Portland), I was completely destroyed after crossing the finish. So, maybe this is progress and my body is finally getting conditioned for this type of torture. Swathed in a foil wrapper and feeling like a day-old Costco hot dog, I shuffled over to the food tables and began to nosh. The bag of Famous Amos cookies hit the spot, then I grabbed a plate of pancakes. On the way out I grabbed a couple of bananas as well. Luckily the hotel was close by so I managed to walk a few blocks and had time for a quick shower before the noon check out time.

All in all it was a great race. I think the RD, organizers and volunteers did a fabulous job. Barring any injuries I expect to be back next year with a fresh assault toward a new marathon PR. Congrats to Kirsten for completing her first ever “road” half (she ran the Timberline Trail Half last year). She got herself a nice PR and is look forward to Helvetia soon.

Marathon and Half Marathon results are posted here.

Gear used: Nike hat & shorts, Injinji socks, Zensah compression leg sleeves, Oakley glasses, Adidas Supernova Glide shoes (brand new – not broken in), GU gel, Saltstick caps, Zoot race belt, Amphipod Race Lite Go Pocket.

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22 Mile Trail Run = A Good Day

Posted by bunchgrasser on March 23, 2010

This past Saturday was a good day for me. It was one of those days where all things come together in a positive way that reeks of Karmic influence. Who knows, maybe I’ve been paying my dues on the trail (and treadmill) enough over the past few months to warrant the running gods tossing me a bone. Or, maybe I’ve just been persistent enough to get through yet another bad patch of illness and injury, both of which seem to come as a package deal with running for me. I’m not a spiritual guy by any measure – so I’ll leave that answer to the philosophers.

Saturday was clear, sunny and in the low 60’s – perfect for spending a few hours on the trail. I loaded up my gear and headed for Leif Erikson Drive, which is a scenic, 11 mile gravel/dirt/mud road spanning the entire length of Portland’s Forest Park. My objective for the day was to run the entire length of Leif Erikson Drive (out and back) for a total of 22 miles.

The first few miles served as a good warm-up, so I increased my pace a bit and settled into a nice rhythm. I stopped once to push a Hammer Gel and 2 salt caps. For hydration I simply took periodic hits from the bite valve on my hydration pack. The beautiful scenery and miles flew by and before I knew it I was standing at the trail head (and turn-around point) on the opposite end of Forest Park. There were plenty of runners, walkers & mountain bikers on the trail – and you could just see the happiness on their faces.

I took a few minutes to down another gel (GU – Espresso Love this time), 2 more salt caps, and a Bonk Breaker bar. A couple  hits of Nuun from my hydration pack to wash it all down and I was headed back up the trail for the return trip. On previous runs, my hamstrings and glutes usually cry mercy at about mile 15. This time, all systems felt pretty strong at that distance so I pushed on with a smile plastered across my face. I stopped once more at around mile 18 for a final energy boost (another gel and 2 more salt caps) and then cruised on to the finish. I arrived back at my car feeling pretty good and very satisfied with myself. All of my gear, shoes, clothing worked well, so (hopefully) no changes will be needed for my upcoming race (Peterson Ridge Rumble).

For those interested – below is a short list of gear & supplies that I’ve been using on longer runs:

Nathan HPL #20 Hydration Pack, Nuun tablets, SaltStick caps, Hammer gel, GU gel, Bonk Breaker bars, North Face Rucky Chucky shoes, Injinji toe socks, DryMax socks, Brave Soldier Friction Zone lube, Zensah compression calf sleeves.


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15 miles on Leif Erikson Trail

Posted by bunchgrasser on March 15, 2010

After getting only a couple of 6 milers in during this past week I was determined to get my long run in over the weekend. Saturday was booked up, so on Sunday I grabbed my gear and headed to Forest Park. At least the weather cooperated – with mid-50’s temp, overcast skies and no rain in sight it was close to perfect for a long trail run.

Unlike the very popular Wildwood Trail which is single-track heaven, Leif Erikson is essentially a wide rock/dirt road that spans the entire 11 mile length of Forest Park. It is mostly flat with a few moderate hills, and this time of year has a few shallow mud holes to make it interesting. More importantly, it is closed to all traffic other than runners, hikers, bikers and the occasional horse rider. It is quite popular on weekends, so runners should listen for approaching mountain bikers.

For this run I used my Ultimate Direction hydration belt with a single bottle, and also carried one Nathan hand-held bottle for backup. Both bottles contained Nuun. I also carried one GU gel, four Salt Stick caps and one Bonk Breaker for energy replacement. As it turned out, I could have used more liquid as I ran short the last few miles.

I started my out-and-back run at the Germantown Road trail head and continued until mile marker 3 which is exactly 8 miles. At the turn-around point I stopped long enough to eat my GU gel, another 2 SaltStick caps and Bonk Bar before heading back the other way. It took a few minutes to find my rhythm again but the peaceful scenery made it easy to find my “happy place”.

At around mile 12-13 I could feel my upper legs starting to complain. By mile 14 my hamstrings and glutes were hurting pretty bad. It actually surprised me how fast they went from mild soreness to obvious pain. Clearly I need to work on strengthening these muscles as there seems to be an imbalance. My lower legs and feet felt fine, as my North Face Rucky Chucky’s seemed to be doing a great job.

I ended up cutting my planned 16 miler short by walking the last mile. I’ve battled injuries consistently over the past few years so I try to ease up and listen to my body when it complains. Walking the last mile also gave me a nice cool-down period before jumping into the car. My lessons for the day were: take more liquid and energy food for a run that length. And, I need to spend some time strengthening my hamstrings and glutes to support longer runs.

Until next time…


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My 2009 Helvetia Half Marathon Race report

Posted by bunchgrasser on June 15, 2009

My second running of the Helvetia Half Marathon happened on Saturday. I wasn’t holding high hopes for a decent time because my training has been lagging over the past month or so. I normally do my long runs on the weekends, but I’ve been tied up at my kids’ soccer tournaments the past 5 weekends in a row. I don’t think I’ve completed a run longer than 6 miles for some time now.

I got up at 6:00am on Saturday morning. Had a small mug of coffee, a banana and toast with peanut butter. Not my usual pre-race food – but it was close enough. I grabbed my gear and headed for Hillsboro Stadium. I parked off-site this year, remembering the fiasco from last year’s Helvetia Half where I sat in the parking lot for almost an hour waiting to get out. I sensed that some improvements had been made this year – but I wasn’t taking any chances. The 5 minute walk from my car to the start line was a good warmup anyway.

After standing in line for a last-minute bathroom visit, then stuffing my long sleeve shirt under a bush for safekeeping, I stepped into the middle of the crowd and waited for the start horn. It rained a little on us prior to the start, but eventually tapered off and was a perfect cool, cloudy but dry morning – optimal for racing.

The horn sounded and the crowd began moving. As usual, I tried really hard to run the first couple of miles at my own pace rather than let myself follow “the flow”. Last year I went out a little too fast and ended up struggling badly the last couple of miles in the race. Around mile 2 or 3 on Helvetia Road I was settling into my rhythym pretty well. My Garmin Forerunner 205  showed my pace to be around 7:45 – 8:00 minutes per mile. I was able to hold that pace through most of the first half, although the rolling hills slowed me down quite a bit.

One of my strategies to improve my time this year was to limit my stops at the aid stations. I didn’t stop for water until around/after mile 4, and I skipped several other tables along the course as well. I don’t know that it saved me much time – but every little bit helped. I have a good idea about how much water I need for a race of this distance on a cool day.

After finishing the killer rolling hills on Helvetia Road, I made the turn onto Jackson Quarry Road for the winding out-and-back. I’ve decided that this is my favorite part of the race but I’m not sure why. Maybe because it is the only place on the course where you can see oncoming runners. It is interesting observing the “game-faces” coming at you in the oncoming lane. I also seem to have a burst of energy once I make the turn and start heading back, even though it is slightly uphill most of the way.

The last part of Jackson Quarry road has some merciful downhill stretches. Once I could see the aid station at the corner of West Union Road, I tore open a GU energy gel and attempted to get it down my throat. I now realize that lemon-lime flavor is not a good choice for a late-race snack. I stopped completely at that aid station because I needed 2 full cups of water to choke down the gel. A little time lost but no big deal.

After a short section on West Union Road, the course turns onto a gravel road and then onto a frontage road along Highway 26. This is where I started struggling last year, and sadly again this year. However, my new strategy was to block out the mental stimuli coming from my brain (yes, the loud, incessant warnings to stop running before I hurt myself). Aside from a few minor blisters, I knew that my feet and legs were in decent shape. My heartrate had been pretty stable througout the race, so in essence I believed there was no imminent danger. So, I kept running, albeit at a slightly slower pace and in spite of every urge to stop and walk for awhile. It worked and I believe to be a key factor that will help me improve my race times in the future.

I crossed the overpass and kept pushing forward. I knew that there were only about 2 miles left and I started seeing a few people walking. I refused to be a walker even though I was hurting everywhere. My lungs were screaming and my legs felt like rubber pegs. My pace had slowed considerably but I was still running (not jogging or shuffling). A quick look at my Garmin told me I was going to PR if I just kept the pace.

I passed the 12 mile marker, and with less than a mile left I knew it was going to happen for me. I got very excited and that last burst of energy came to me. I’m not sure if I actually ran any faster – but mentally it felt easier. I made the turn into the stadium parking lot, dodged a couple of orange cones and passed the gate onto that glorious green turf. Note to people: if you are going to walk the last 50 yards to the finish – please don’t walk 3 abreast and block the approach for runners. Duh!

Running down finisher’s lane, with the people cheering is exactly what I needed. Nevermind that no one actually knew who I was. I made the final turn and crossed over the finish line…exhausted and hurting. I accepted my medal and grabbed a frozen Jamba Juice (I wish all races had Jamba Juice at the finish line).

According to the 2009 Helvetia Half Marathon results, my official time was 1:51:21. A new half marathon PR for me (by more than 2 minutes – yay!) and an improvement of more than 5 minutes as compared to last year’s Helvetia Half. My time put me at 56/162 in my age group (age 40-44), 466/3135 overall, and 335/1064 for the mens group. Not bad for an old hack with little training.

As I stated last year, I think the Helvetia Half Marathon could be the best half marathon race in Oregon. The organizers did a great job again this year and I’m already looking forward to next year. I offer my gratitude and thanks to everyone involved.


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Portland Marathon – 4:33:53

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 6, 2008

Yeah baby! I’m a marathoner now…

After more than a year of training and several frustrating injuries, I finally completed my first marathon on Sunday. My 4:33:53 finishing time isn’t likely to impress anyone, but I’m savoring the accomplishment nonetheless. My average per-minute pace was 10:27 and I placed 3746 out of 7498. Not too bad for a first-timer with a knee injury.

My status was questionable right up until the night before due to my sore knee. As I’ve documented on this blog – I acquired my sore knee on an 18 mile benchmark run many weeks ago and it has been slow to heal. I was leery of running such a long distance with knee pain, but at the same time I would have been crushed to miss the Portland Marathon again this year.

So, I showed up at the start line at 6:30am on Sunday morning. I stood in a long line to take my turn in the portable john. It was still kind of dark and cool but not cold. I wore an old white long sleeve t-shirt over my black Dri-Fit short sleeve running shirt. I ended up tossing the sleeves in mile 2 after I warmed up a little. I stepped into the sea of runners somewhere in the 3rd or 4th wave and waited for the starting horn. I had 2 GU gels (Espresso Love – naturally) and my Ipod Nano with exactly 4 hours and 30 minutes of music designed to keep me in “the zone”. I also tucked a $20 bill and my cell phone into my Ipod armband just in case I needed to be rescued somewhere along the course.

The first 5 miles went fine with a short loop downtown and then up Front Avenue to Barbur Blvd and then back. From there the course took us out Front Avenue into the industrial sector with the turnaround point at mile 9. This area is not exactly “scenic” but there were lots of supporters along the course cheering and plenty of drink stations. As I recall, the first of several Gummi Bear stations was in this area as well. I’m normally not a big fan of Gummi Bears, but on this day I was tossing em’ down.

I have to say that putting my name ‘Danny” on my bib was a great idea. I lost count of how many times supporters yelled my name along with some encouraging words. I’m sure if you’ve ran a few marathons this type of support isn’t important – but I can tell you assuredly that it helped me. So, I smiled, waved and enjoyed the sites along the way. Aside from guys peeing behind trees and some girls peeing behind trucks, the scenery was interesting and kept my mind off my knee.

At around mile 11 we left Front Avenue for a short tour of NW Portland which eventually dropped us onto St. Helens Road around mile 13. Now all had been going well up to this point. My knee was sore and achy but not causing any serious problems. I don’t know when I noticed but it had started raining and my shoes were pretty soaked at this point. I knew the blisters would come – but I couldn’t afford to think about anything negative. I recall dodging puddles and cussing the strong headwind on the long slog toward the St. Johns Bridge. I had been warned that you can see the bridge from the distance, but it is deceptively far away.

By the time I passed mile 16 and saw the long, steep ramp that takes you up onto the St. Johns Bridge, my knee had definitely taken a turn for the worse and was really bothering me. I could see that the majority of people were walking up the ramp but I continued a slow jog until the last 100 feet where I started walking also. It saved my knee and gave me a minute to reflect on where I was on the course. I made the turn onto the bridge and focused on getting to mid-span. I knew that once I made it over that bridge I would finish the race. There would be no quitting and no turning back. I just knew it. Heading down the other side of the bridge was an amazing feeling. I got a serious mental lift and felt like I had energy to spare. I even had enough energy to pump my fist and yell something incoherent as I passed a videographer while making the turn onto Willamette Blvd. Yeehaw! I made it past the bridge and it would be smooth sailing from here on out. Little did I know what would come in the next mile…

You know, we’ve all heard the phrase “hitting the wall”, and honestly I’ve always wondered what that actually meant. Since this was my first marathon, I’ve never had the chance to experience this before. Well, all I can say is that it got ugly really quickly after passing the 18 mile point.

I don’t think I really noticed how badly I felt for awhile, but at some point my face became permanently affixed with a grimace of pain and I started having thoughts of quitting. I recall thinking that the remaining 8 miles might as well have been 28 miles because there was no way I could do it either way. Willamette Blvd just happens to have a number of wide, flat speed bumps and each time I went over one – a jarring bolt of pain went up my legs. My mind had me convinced that every patch of wet, muddy grass along side the street would be as comfortable as my bed at home. I really, really wanted to just lay down for a couple of minutes. I’m pretty sure that I would have done that except stepping up onto the curb would have required some serious thought and effort on my part. Luckily I chose to keep running.

I passed mile 19 and, although I was a complete zombie I kept plugging away. I still had enough sense to realize that if I just kept moving I would see another mile marker in 10-11 minutes. I also knew that the blisters on my feet were getting worse and there was nothing I could do about it. I applied lots of Body Glide and Vaseline before the race, but the wet shoes & socks eventually wore away my protection.

At mile 20 there was a view of Portland’s industrial sector off to the right. It wasn’t much to look at but the change in scenery did help a bit. From there we passed the University of Portland campus and began a long downhill section that couldn’t have come at a better time for me. Basically it was coasting for half a mile and man did it feel good for awhile.

Miles 22-23 took me under the freeway and then up an overpass before cruising by the Memorial Coliseum. A hard right turn put me on the Broadway bridge and I was headed back over the river. The course narrowed considerably on the bridge and for the first time since the start of the race – I was shoulder to shoulder with other runners. We circled around and headed south on Naito Pkwy toward the finish. At this point I was completely spent and beyond running on fumes – I was running on pure determination. I didn’t dare stop to walk as it would have been nearly impossible to start running again.

I grabbed another cup of Gleukos and slowed down to drink it before making the final push to the finish. There were lots of supporters along the street now and hearing the cheers helped a lot. I focused on the pavement ahead of me and finally looked up to see the Salmon Street sign. It was such an amazing feeling knowing that I was about 3 blocks from the finish.

When I crossed the finish line they put a space blanket over my shoulders and pointed me toward the medals table. And, I kid you not, the last song on my Ipod play list – Comfortably Numb by Pink Floyd was playing as they hung my medal around my neck. I was having trouble standing on my own and I think someone pushed me toward the tables of food. In 5 minutes I had downed some apple and orange slices, grapes, string cheese, several cookies, carton of yoghurt, bag of chips and a bottle of chocolate milk. I felt sick after that.

I found a chair to rest for awhile and then I managed to get through the t-shirt line and get my picture taken. As I stumbled through the crowd to the reunion area – a wave of emotion hit me. For the first time, I was able to focus on the accomplishment and not the pain. I just ran my very first marathon! Holy crap – I just ran 26.2 miles!

Yeah baby! I’m a marathoner now…

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18 miler turns into 16 miler

Posted by bunchgrasser on September 8, 2008

I postponed my 18 mile benchmark run until Sunday morning so that I could spend most of Saturday cleaning and staining the cedar deck in my back yard. The “honey-do” list has gotten quite large as the summer winds down and I needed to get a few projects completed, this being one of them. As it turns out, that was a colossal mistake on my part. Spending several hours on hands and knees the day before attempting your longest run is not advised. I now know that – duh!

In short, I wasn’t able to run the full 18 miles. I stopped after 16 because my right knee was hurting pretty bad. My hams and glutes were sore from the beginning of my run (my deck project was like doing squats for 5 hours). I still hit another personal DR as my previous record was 15 miles for a single run. I should be happy about the 16 mile DR – but I’m disappointed that I missed my goal of 18 miles. You know how it is with us stubborn, competitive people. I also got another blister (in a different place this time) and two of my toenails are destroyed. I may have to go up another half size in shoes.

On this run I carried my hydration belt with a 20 oz. bottle of Gatorade, one GU gel Espresso Love flavor (gotta love the 2x caffeine) that I consumed at mile 11, my Garmin GPS watch and my Ipod Nano. I also made a couple of quick stops at water fountains to supplement my Gatorade with H2O. Staying hydrated is not a problem on this particular course as I run by several parks.

Next weekend is the 21 mile benchmark – and it seems out of reach now. My knee is still sore and I’m worried that it won’t be 100% by Saturday. With a little over 3 weeks before the marathon – it too, seems an impossibility for me. Nevertheless – I’ll be back out on the pavement in a few days putting in more miles. Ever the optimist…

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