Bunchgrasser’s World

My unique filter on life

Posts Tagged ‘portland marathon’

Yes, I (kind of) ran the 2009 Portland Marathon

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 14, 2009

I’ve been avoiding this post for more than a week now. Not sure why – but most likely because there is little positive to say about it. The net-net is that after training for the Portland Marathon for many months I suffered a weird injury in my left calf muscle around the first week of July.

I’m still not certain if it was a calf muscle tear or an Achilles tendon problem. The actual spot was not right above my heel, but further up where the tendon spreads out and attaches to calf muscle. I’m equally perplexed as to how I got the injury in the first place. Although I did increase my mileage enough to warrant this type of response. I was also doing some trail running at the time which could have been the culprit.

Regardless of the cause, I was smart enough to stop all training in order to fully recover. It would be about 2.5 months later that I started easing back into a few miles here and there, which brings me back to the marathon. I had completely decided against running the marathon for obvious reasons (little/no training) during the 3 months prior to race day. Actually, I did run the Timberline Trail Half Marathon on September 14th as kind of a “test run”. That went ok, but it was clear that my body was not at all ready for 26 miles.

As fate would have it, my daughter’s soccer team volunteered at the Portland Marathon expo the day before the race, so I offered to drive her there for her “shift”. I figured that I would pick up my packet and browse through the expo for any cool running goodies or gadgets.

However, once I had my race bib in-hand, cruel forces began to conspire against me and my decision to sit this one out. I began to think how bummed I would be if I missed even one year of the Portland Marathon. I envisioned how much fun it would be running past the thousands of spectators, cheering and yelling my name…Go Danny! Looking good! And, finally I started rationalizing just how far 26.2 miles could possibly be. Heck, I could just run most of the race and then finish the remainder by walking! There’s no reason to skip this race at all! I mean, how bad could it possibly be???

Well, as you can probably surmise…I now know exactly how bad it could possibly be. And, yes it was that bad. For the record, I did finish the race in under 5 hours…but not by much. In fact, my splits were pretty good up until about mile 16-17. But crossing the St Johns bridge seemed to be a turning point for me, as both calf muscles started to cramp simultaneously. I pushed on a little further, but by the time I hit mile 19 the wheels fell completely off and my lower legs were in full-on mutiny. The calf cramps were severe which made running impossible and even walking seemed like too much to ask.

Needless to say, I found myself in a difficult situation with 7 miles left and no real ability to get there under my own power. I attempted to stretch out my calf muscles several times and continued to walk, hoping that eventually my condition would improve. Over the next 3-4 miles I tried running (slowly) a few times but couldn’t keep the cramping at bay. It felt so strange to be walking the course rather than running. I noticed things that I wouldn’t have necessarily noticed if I had been running. For example, I saw several groups of people along Willamette Blvd that were seriously partying. I’m not sure if they realized there was a marathon going on right next to them. I noted that people don’t cheer for the walkers much, other than an occasional, quietly-spoken “good job”. I also now realize that walkers aren’t a very exciting target for race photographers.

Well, not to belabor this any further…once I hit the long downhill section starting at the Adidas HQ I was able to manage a slow jog (mostly gravity I think). I eventually made it across the bridge and with an alternating run/walk strategy pushed myself up Naito Pkwy to the turn at Salmon and across the finish line.

I accepted my foil blanket and finishers medal, then stumbled through the food section – carefully avoiding the chocolate milk that didn’t sit well in my stomach last year. Bananas and fritos chips tasted good this year. I picked up my shirt, skipped the photo and did the zombie-walk through the cordoned-off section to the reunion area. Life would have been good had there been someone waiting to whisk me away to a hot shower and soft bed, however I spent the next 20 minutes walking the 6-8 blocks to where my car was parked in a garage. To make matters worse, I wasn’t quite certain where my car was and actually had to circle a few blocks before finally locating it.

I’m tempted to say…”let this be a lesson of what not to do”. But in reality even though it was ugly (well, actually very ugly), there was something that I truly enjoyed about the experience and I think it was pushing myself well past my “perceived” physical limit. It was ignoring the warning signals my brain was voicing loudly. It was venturing ever-so-slightly into that uncharted territory of the unknown, wondering just exactly what would happen if I just kept going. I think we could all benefit from pushing ourselves beyond our fears and our own limitations. It reminds me of a quote I jotted down some time ago:

“Few of us know what we are capable of doing… we have never pushed ourselves hard enough to find out.” -Alfred A Montepert


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Still on the bench…

Posted by bunchgrasser on August 18, 2009

I’m in my 4th week of R&R and I’m getting really, really anxious to run again. The first couple of weeks were the most difficult but I’m slightly more at ease with my current reality. Deep down I know it would be wrong to put the shoes back on before I’m completely healed up. That is the strategy I used to use and it never worked out very well for me. I’m somewhat impatient and its just that I don’t know how much longer the healing process will take. Come on already…!

I’m not entirely sure what my problem is because I haven’t seen a doctor about it. I’m pretty sure it is either achilles tendonitis, or possibly a bad muscle tear in my left calf muscle. I have some pain and stiffness (especially in the morning right when I get out of bed) about 2-4 inches above my heel. I also have extremely sore muscles going in a vertical line all the way up my calf almost to the back of my knee. The deeper I push with my thumb the more tender it is. I first thought I had multiple muscle tears, but it seems more logical that the upper muscle soreness is caused by those muscles attempting to cover for the injured muscle/tendon lower down.

At this point the soreness in in my upper calf has decreased and (I hope) is almost healed. However I still have a ways to go with the lower area pain. If it is an achilles tendon problem – I’m guessing it will be awhile longer before I can run on it. I’ve read that achilles tendon problems are notoriously slow to heal.

Meanwhile, I daydream about running my favorite trail in Forest park and look forward to restarting my training for the Portland Marathon, and hopefully my first 50K or 50 miler someday soon. I’ve been adding equipment to my garage gym and my latest acquisition was a nice bike trainer. I’ve been able to put in some nice 30-40 minute rides that don’t seem to bother my sore calf. I’ve also been hitting the weights and various other strengthening exercises (pullups, pushups, situps, air squats, etc).

With the Portland Marathon coming up on October 5th – I’m not certain of my status for that race. It is clear that I won’t be prepared to go for a PR, but the question of whether I’ll be suitably trained enough to run it at all is unclear. Bummer days…

Wish me luck…

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Ahhh, running barefoot…

Posted by bunchgrasser on July 13, 2009

Ok, when was the last time that you actually ran barefoot outside? For me, the answer is last week. However, prior to that I cannot recall the last time I ran barefoot because it was probably 20-30 years ago. For many of us adults, the idea of running barefoot never enters our mind. Most likely because it either seems unsafe (broken glass, rusty nail) or it seems unclean (probably is).

I’ve been very intrigued by this concept of a “barefoot movement” and the potential benefits to be gained by spending more time out of your shoes, thereby strengthening long-lost foot muscles. I’ve done quite a fair bit of reading on this topic and have been amazed by some of the success stories people have shared.

I recently purchased a couple of pairs of Nike Free 5.0’s and I have managed a few short runs (4-6 miles) in them. As I’ve mentioned before, the feeling was amazing and very different from all of my other running shoes. Actually feeling the surface underneath your feet changes something. I felt faster, lighter and more energetic when running in the Free’s.

Last week, while on my normal run (in my Free 5.0’s) I stopped off at a local soccer complex and spent some time on the soft artificial turf field running barefoot. I started with a few slow laps around to get a feel for the barefoot experience. After that I ran some midline sprints…well actually I’m not sure you could call them sprints – but I was running faster than my normal pace. The purpose wasn’t to injure myself, but to just see what it felt like. And, it felt GREAT! I went home with a feeling that I had accomplished something really cool. The next day I woke up with very sore muscles in places I’ve never experienced before. Predictable, I guess…

I’ve since healed up and I’ve been out running in my “standard” shoes (Asics) a few times, but the memory lingers. I’m not planning to switch over to the Free’s full time, or anything crazy like that. I’m constantly worried about injuring myself – so most likely I’ll try to grab a shorter run here and there in them. With the Portland Marathon coming up in early October – I’m very focused on a singular goal: to arrive on race day without any injuries.

I believe there is something very exciting, and potentially very beneficial here. I don’t think I’ll ever be running barefoot down a paved street, but if I can rehabilitate some of my foot muscles it will make me a stronger runner.

More info on barefoot running


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My 2009 running goals

Posted by bunchgrasser on January 3, 2009

Today is January 3rd, 2009 and I’ve decided to get an early start on my running goals for the year. The previous couple of years I kind of just did whatever felt right at the time but didn’t really set specific goals. My only true goal for last year was to train for, and complete my first marathon. I achieved this goal on October 5, 2008 when I finished the Portland Marathon in 4:33:53. Not a terribly impressive finish time – but I was thrilled to have my first marathon out of the way.

This year I plan to build on this achievement by running 2 marathons (one in the Spring and one in the Fall). My goals for 2009 are listed below:

  1. Remain injury free throughout 2009
  2. Break 1000 total miles for the 2009 calendar year
  3. Run the Eugene Marathon in under 4:10
  4. Run the Portland Marathon in under 4:00
  5. Run two Half Marathons (both under 2:00)
  6. Run at least two shorter races (5k-15k)

Well, there they are. Pretty simple when you look at them in print. I doubt I’ll feel the same when I’m nursing severe blisters and cramps in mile 19 – but that’s all part of the fun right?


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Post marathon update – 3 weeks later

Posted by bunchgrasser on November 1, 2008

Friday evening I rushed home from work, threw on my running gear and headed out the door for my first run since the marathon. Since we are losing Daylight Savings time this weekend, I knew it would be my last chance for a run in the daylight after work. Time to mentally prepare for several months of rain, cold and dark…ugh!

After the marathon, I committed to giving myself 2 full weeks of recovery time to help my sore knee heal up. It actually took 3 weeks. However, yesterday for the first time I noticed that my knee wasn’t feeling stiff and sore like usual. My blisters have healed. I still have 4 black toenails but they aren’t painful any longer.

I never imagined that I would say this, but not being able to run has been very tough on me. It’s a weird thing to say, but for whatever reason – running seems to get into your psyche and it becomes a part of you. When you deny yourself the product of your addiction it feels just like any other withdrawal symptom.

My run on Friday evening only ended up being 3 miles because I ran out of light. I was ok with that because my legs felt creaky and my cardio level has suffered these last 3 weeks. Still, it felt so good to be back on the pavement again.

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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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Another 5.5 mile run tonight

Posted by bunchgrasser on October 1, 2008

And…yes my knee is still a little sore, but it didn’t necessarily slow me down. Now I must decide whether to run the marathon on Sunday. I’m about 95% sure that I won’t be able to finish the race. It’s almost a given that my knee will start hurting long before the race is over. So, do I run and get some value from the $90 registration fee? Or do I cut my losses and look ahead to the next marathon? Having that “DNF” next to my name will be tough on my ego. I’m obviously torn – but I need to decide by Saturday evening. Wish me luck…

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Short run to check my knee status

Posted by bunchgrasser on September 29, 2008

I went for a short run last night to see how my knee felt. I managed to go 5.5 miles and experienced some weakness and residual soreness, although not as severe as it was last week. With one week left before the Portland Marathon, I’m pretty sure I won’t be running. Yes, I’m truly bummed about this (depressed actually) because I’ve been training for a long time for this (my first) marathon.

It is especially irritating since my fitness level is great and I don’t think the 26.2 miles would be a problem for me. Apparently my 42 year old body parts are the issue here and they are obviously rejecting the idea of running this distance. I don’t mind the $90 donation for my registration fee, but rather it is the significant amount of time and mental energy that I’ve invested over the past 12 months getting ready for this run that is depressing me.

At this point, I think there is little chance that my knee will improve enough to actually consider running on Sunday. But being the stubborn person that I am – I plan to run again on Wednesday to see how my knee feels. If I notice any subtle improvement then I reserve the right to join the masses on race day, fully understanding that I probably won’t finish the full 26.2 miles.

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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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10 miler – hurts so good!

Posted by bunchgrasser on August 21, 2008

Alright, I’m aware that I’ve been negligent in my posting duties. Life gets crazy…blah blah blah.

I went out for a run last night after work. It was the first time in awhile that my legs & feet actually felt good. I paced around my kitchen for 30 minutes or so waiting for the dark black rainclouds to disperse. I’ve been thinking a lot about the Portland Marathon lately (I registered a couple of weeks ago – so I’m committed, or at the very least $90 poorer now). I started counting the days left to train and I realized that…I’m screwed. It was vaguely similar to feelings that I had back in my college days. You know, realizing that you needed only a week to study for a test, but unfortunately the test was in 2 days… Anyone? Anyone?

Due to my various injuries and soreness, I’ve managed to miss a lot of training over the past few weeks, including both the 15 mile and 30k benchmark runs. My Portland Fit training group members will soon be doing their 21 miler and I’m not going to be ready for that either. What to do…

Anyway, back to my run. So knowing that I had less than 2 hours of daylight left, I quickly dressed myself in black shorts, black shirt, black hat and dark sunglasses. I slapped my Garmin on my wrist and headed out the door into a heavy rain shower. Did I mention that I was trying out some new arch support insoles (more on that later)?

I normally walk for the first 10 minutes so that my muscles warm up. Since it was raining pretty hard, I decided to just start running right away. I’m not sure why I did this actually. It certainly didn’t help me outrun the rain and my left calf muscle complained for awhile. I kept my pace slow (like 9-9.5 minute miles) and settled into an easy rhythm. I eventually got out from underneath the rain cloud and the glorious late evening sun bathed me in its warmth.

Two things that I normally carry with me on longer runs: an Ipod Nano (full of techno tunes) and a hydration belt with a water bottle were not with me today. My long run course does take me close to 2-3 parks, so I stopped off for a quick water break whenever I could. I will say that it was an interesting experience running without music. I’ve always relied heavily on the extended length, thumping bass beats of techno music to put me into “the zone”. This time I focused in on my own breathing rhythm and I was amazed to find a “parallel zone” of sorts.

After 5 miles or so, I was feeling good about my pace. My heart rate was stable and I had no soreness or pain anywhere. I was thinking “This is what running is supposed to feel like”. I wasn’t much further down the road when I started feeling a little heat and friction coming from the soles of my feet. Specifically my arches. I mentioned earlier that I was trying out some new replacement insoles which offered a little more midfoot support than the stock foam insoles that came with my Asics Gel Kayano’s. Well, it was clear that my feet weren’t used to that extra support, and after 6-7 miles they were letting me know. Yep, I probably should have tried those out on a shorter run. Another lesson learned.

As expected, my knees were the next body part to start complaining. It was a subtle complaint at first – I’ll give them that much. It was kind of like, “Excuse me, but we are ready to stop running now”.  A little later, somewhere between mile 8-9, the complaints were more like “If you don’t stop running now, we’re going to make your life hell for the next 24-48 hours”. I went back to my parallel zone and pressed on. By the time I cruised into my neighborhood at mile 10, I had a full on mutiny happening, with feet, ankles, knees and hips all conspiring to make me stop. It was pretty much dark at this point, so I limped into my house and collapsed into a chair.

I’m writing this post less than 24 hours later, and yes I’m still pretty sore. Getting out of bed this morning took a little longer than usual. I won’t be running again this evening, but I think I’ll be ready to hit it again by tomorrow evening. Maybe I’ll take my Ipod next time so that I can drown out the complaints.


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