Set Higher Standards by Ravi

Ramblings from a 30-something ultra-marathoning yogi with a day job.

Posts Tagged ‘Portland Marathon

Portland Marathon 2011 Race Report

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My face says it all....

For almost every race I have ever done, I had a good time during the race even if my time totally stunk. I can’t say that about the Portland Marathon yesterday. I finished it, but it was very painful and just not fun at all.

The one redeeming quality was that I saw how much work I need to do to get my lower legs healthy, as I am suffering from a bad case of Plantar Fasciiitis that hasn’t gone away since April. It has been bearable through my entire summer of racing Ironman, another 50 miler and a few other tris….and even seemed to be getting better of late – but it is far from gone. During this race my feet ended up hurting so bad that one point I thought I wouldn’t finish. Eventually I did but it was a miserable experience.

Here is the play-by-play:

Goal: I planned to treat this as a training run. Last year I ran 3:54 with little training after just getting back into running after many years away. This year I wanted to run 3:30, holding a steady 8 min/mile pace. It seemed totally doable based on my training runs and past races.

  • Mile 0:  I started in the first “wave”. They had something like 6 waves, with the first being the fastest. I looked around and saw about 1500 people in my wave (there were 12,000 in the marathon and 3,000 in the half marathon that started in the same time). Looking around I saw a 3:10 pace sign and then a 3:15 pace sign….I realized quickly that the people around me would going far faster than me! I made a conscious effort to not get caught up in the hysteria of the race start and stick to a conservative pace.
  • Miles 1-6.2 (10K): 49 minutes…right on pace. Felt a little flat, but my feet didn’t hurt and was enjoying the run. The weather was cool (50 degrees) and it was threatening to rain.
  • Miles 6.2-10: Light rain started. Glad I wore my rain jacket. Taking splits I saw I was running a few 7:40 miles…slowed down a little to stick to 8min pace.My feet were still hurting a bit. I was waiting for this pain to go away, as normally it does on my longer runs.

Coming through 10K, feeling pretty good and practicing my finish line pose!

  • Miles 10-13.1 (half-marathon) : Came through the half-marathon 13.1 miles…with a time of 1:44 flat. Perfect pacing. However, my feet were not getting better….instead they were getting worse. I started to think this run would be more challenging than I thought.
  • Miles 13.1 – 17: My feet got progressively worse….and at mile 16 hit the toughest part of the course…a 3/4 mile hill. My feet started to hurt so bad I thought they were going to explode. I stopped cold and stretched a little….which helped. The rain picked up and it got cold. Not having fun!
  • Miles 17-20: I walked 30 seconds and ran 4 minutes….and repeated that routine. My pace slowed to 9:30 miles. My feet were going numb and were very painful. My ankles started to hurt. I thought I might be doing real damage to my feet at this point (Note: I didn’t do any permanent damage after all)
  • Miles 20-25: I slowed even more…walking more and running less. Often I would just stop and not move at all…bending over and stretching my hamstrings and calves…hoping to take some pressure off my feet. I walked a bunch on the downhills and that hurts my feet more than flat running. My hamstrings were constantly threatening to cramp…something that never happens to me. My stride was totally messed up…as I was trying to land in different parts of my feet to take pressure off them. This was probably the cause for the cramping trouble.
  • The Finish: Looking at my watch I realized that I needed to run a sub 10 minute mile to break four hours….it took everything I had to run that sub 10 minute mile….my hamstrings were cramping like crazy….I finished in 3:59:something. Once finished I could barely walk for about 20 minutes. My feet hurt so bad, like they were broken (they weren’t). I couldn’t believe that running this marathon could feel so much worse than running 50 miles in July (at White River).

Post race....trying to get some feeling back into my feet.

There you have it. Some races go well. Others don’t but are still fun. Some – like this one – just stink but I’m sure at some point I’ll appreciate having run it. Being cold and raining the entire time didn’t help. Now my goal is to figure out how to get my feet healthy. At the finish I wasn’t super thirsty or hungry…or even tired aside from my lower legs hurting so badly. I know that my fitness is great and my nutrition/hydration strategy was right on, once my injury is healed I think I’ll be ready to run a fast race.

Written by Ravi Raman

October 10, 2011 at 10:45 pm

26 Reasons Why You Should Start Running Now

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Driving to Portland this morning, with Mt. Ranier in the background. My second Portland Marathon is tomorrow!

I’m sitting here relaxing before the Portland Marathon tomorrow. Walking through the race expo, it occurred to me just how much I love running, and how lucky I am to have discovered that. Many of the 12,000 other runners tomorrow will be doing their first marathon. Many is seems didn’t discover running until later in life.

I really stumbled upon running in high school and kept at it ever since with a few years break. I don’t think there is any bad time to start, even if you think you are getting too old. I can’t imagine going my whole life without having  run – though this is the case for most humans nowadays.

If you aren’t a runner….or have taken a break from running….here are some of the reasons why I think you should start running now. Not next month or next year, but right now.

I’ll keep the list at 26, one for each mile I’ll be running tomorrow.

  1. Our bodies were truly born to run
  2. It feels good
  3. Running produces more beta-endorphines (natural pain killers) than any other activity
  4. You will lose weight
  5. Running (with proper form) has been shown to strengthen joints (not break them down!)
  6. Its cheap transportation
  7. It’s social (find a running buddy or club!)
  8. Races are fun (start with a 5K…and build from there)
  9. You don’t need any new gear (the old sneakers in your closet will work fine, or go barefoot in a park)
  10. You’ll get more vitamin D by being outdoors in natural light
  11. You can listen to audio-books or music while doing it (I prefer to just run quietly though)
  12. Exploring trails is a fun thing to do on the weekends
  13. You get to expand your wardrobe with all kinds of new clothing and gear!
  14. Enjoy your desserts guilt-free (you’ll earn those cookies!)
  15. Keep track of progress, set goals, and beat them! (race time, miles in a week, etc.)
  16. You’ll have a whole new appreciation for track and field athletes during next year’s summer Olympics!
  17. If you have a dog, he or she will get more exercise!
  18. Use a social network like Runkeeper or Nike+ to share and challenge friends to runs and stay motivated
  19. You’ll be better at any other sport you do
  20. It’s moving meditation, and meditation is a powerful daily habit
  21. You’ll accumulate all kinds of cool schwag from races you’ll compete in over the years
  22. Your legs will get wicked strong (run hills!)
  23. Stuck fluid and toxins will get filtered out of your body more rapidly – leaving you clean on the inside
  24. Sweating often is healthy, it cleanses the skin, your body’s largest organ
  25. It’s better than coffee at waking you up in the morning
  26. A wise man once said “there is no better time than the present”…you should trust wise men!

Written by Ravi Raman

October 8, 2011 at 8:35 pm

How to Eliminate Confusion

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Confusion arises from not following wants, needs and the resulting emotions to their logical conclusion.

The multi-billion dollar cosmetic industry implies that many people want to live forever and look young but would that really be enjoyable? Wouldn’t you eventually be bored living like that?

People want friends to never get angry and co-workers to always get along. Wouldn’t that make your day an incredible bore? If no one pushed on you and challenged your ideas in the workplace would you really be able to bring out your best?

When you carry out wants and needs to their logical end, you’ll find that any confusion will dissolve and little things that upset you during the day become less irritating and instead  become quite enjoyable.

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Heading out to Portland, OR today to run the Portland Marathon tomorrow! My goal is to hold 8-minute miles which would yield a 3 hour 30 minute finish. Last year I ran 3 hours 54 minutes, with just a couple of months of training.

An elephant is in the room! This big boy is hanging out in one of our Microsoft office buildings. He's from a Cirque d Soleil show.

Written by Ravi Raman

October 8, 2011 at 8:01 am

How to Run 50 Miles: Part III – Muscular Strength

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Read Part I and Part II first.

The second principle I mentioned in my first post is that aerobic fitness is rarely the limiter of speed. Again, I’m not a scientist but just stating what I learn through my own experience. If you happen to know of scientific evidence for anything I’m talking about (refuting or confirming) make note in the comments. Aerobic fitness does matter, it is just isn’t the be all end all.

In the past few months I’ve run the Portland Marathon (flat and on paved roads) and two 50K ultra-marathons (hilly and mostly off road). In these three outings, despite running them after just a few months of training after a long hiatus from running, I was never out of breath. There were a few times during the 50K’s when I was breathing super hard during steep climbs, but those were just a few isolated incidents. The majority of the time my lungs were not the limiter in any way. I was breathing fine, but still my perceived exertion was very high.

In the case of my Portland Marathon experience, after about 16 miles my legs just stopped working normally. I wasn’t aerobically fatigued in any way, but it felt like I just finished a billion reps of squats and my leg muscles just wouldn’t fire. During my 50K’s, I had a similar experience. My muscles were just exhausted, as if I finished a really demanding weight workout, but my cardiovascular system and lungs seemed fine. During The North Face 50K, there were plenty of long climbs on single-track trails. They took a lot of power to muscle up.

I wish I had worn a heart rate monitor during my races to prove this point. I bet my heart rate was right around 140 or so. Not super high. What also happened later in the races was that my form went to hell. I would slouch over and everything would just sag. My core and low back would tire. This would affect my stride and breathing.

My take away from these events is that muscular strength (across the whole body, not just legs) plays a massive part in endurance events. When I say strength I really mean power/weight ratio. Strength with a fairly lean overall mass. Strong core and strong back to support proper form over long distances. Strong posterior chain (calves, hamstrings, glutes, low-back) to support overall running form and power. Once a reasonable aerobic base is developed, it makes intuitive sense that working the other energetic and power-building pathways in the body is a smart thing to do.

Written by Ravi Raman

January 25, 2011 at 10:22 pm

2011 Race Calendar

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This year I am getting back in racing. It’s been a number of years (since 2003 in fact!) since I’ve trained with any kind of regularity and raced while caring about place/time. It’s motivating to have clear goals again, and I’m looking forward to learning from many years of mistakes (I guess we call that experience?) and making this a fun and productive year training-wise and racing-wise.

Here are the primary events I have in the plan for 2011. IMCDA and the Portland Marathon are the major races. Aside from these events I might jump into a few Olympic distance triathlons or some 5K to half-marathon races as part of training efforts.

3/6 Copper Canyon 50 Mile Ultra Marathon (Goal = finish!)
4/30 Wildflower Half-Ironman Triathlon (Goal = finish and test race strategy for IMCDA, <6hours time)
6/26 Ironman Coeur d Alene MAJOR RACE (Goal =  <11 hrs = <1:05 swim <5:45 bike <4:00 run)
7/30 White River 50 Mile Endurance Run (Goal = finish in top half of the field, <10 hours)
9/24 Black Diamond Half Ironman (Goal = top 5 in age group, <5:20 time would be nice!)
10/6 Portland Marathon MAJOR RACE (Goal = <3 hours and qualify for Boston Marathon)
11/5 Ron Herzog 50K (Goal = top 10 finish, <5:30 time)
12/3 The North Face Endurance Challenge 50 Miler (Goal = finish in top half of field, <10 hours)

I know many of you who read my blog also race…I’m interested to hear what you have on tap! Leave a note in the comments with your plans for 2011.

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I’m super slow in sorting through all the wonderful pics and vids from my trip to the Galapagos and Ecuador. Hope to get a post up before the end of the year with a recap :) .

Starting to do more strength training and speed-work; on the track, on the bike trainer and in the gym. It feels good! In my longer runs last fall (the Portland Marathon and both 50K races) it was clearly muscular strength holding me back not aerobic fitness, so I hope the heavy squats, deadlifts and track repeats will eliminate the bottleneck.

Written by Ravi Raman

January 13, 2011 at 7:01 pm

The North Face Endurance 50K @ SanFran Race Report

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Mission Accomplished! Finished The North Face Endurance Challenge 50K in San Francisco (Marin Headlands)

The race description lived up to it’s billing as a ridiculously challenging but beautiful course. I didn’t wear my GPS, but roughly plotted the course on runkeeper. You won’t find more incredible terrain than the Marin Headlands, site for The North Face Endurance Challenge. They had a 50 mile, 50K, Marathon, 1/2 Marathon, 10k and 5k race. I did the 50K event. Having just done a 50K last month, and the Portland Marathon the month prior, I was a little tired from training and racing but decided it would be a good day of training and a chance to see the Headlands and visit my brother who lives nearby.

In short, I totally crashed and burned. I had similar issues as my previous two races. I bonked hardcore. I went out too fast. I wasn’t wearing the proper gear. All rookie mistakes but that is sort of why I wanted to do this race, to figure out what works and what doesn’t.

At the same time I’ve learned first-hand through the past few races that training is also only part of the story. Mental focus and toughness is at least 50% (and maybe closer to 80%) of the game. All kinds of people were passing me after I bonked (after about 16 miles of running). Older women. Young men. People who looked super fit and people who looked like they just started running. People wearing highly technical gear and people wearing shorts and a t-shirt.

Being able to just tough it out and not let your mind get the best of you is a big part of these races.

I arrived at the Headlands on Friday afternoon, and quickly checked into a Hostel, which is conveniently situated within the Headlands. This was an awesome place to stay. $20 a night. It was literally 200 yards from the race start and full of athletes (including a bunch of pro/elite runners)! It was super clean and comfortable. I am already thinking of going back and staying for a few days to explore the Headlands some more. After checking into the place, I headed down to Sausalito to eat dinner. This is a cool little town with very expensive homes and some nice places to eat and epic views of San Fran and the Golden Gate Bridge. I gorged on Indian food and then headed back to the Hostel.

Dinner the night before the race in Sausalito. Indian food!

At the Hostel I spent some time in the living room talking with other runners. Most folks were running the 50 miler, including a few young girls who were just planning to “power hike” the whole 50 miles! I don’t think they had even done a marathon before! Whoa.

I hit the sack fairly early, and proceeded to wake up every 20 minutes throughout the night, looking at my clock and wondering if it was time to get up! The 50 milers started at 5am and 50k racers started at 7am. Around 4am I started to hear some sounds as other runners got up and ready for a 50mile start in the cold and pitch black! These runners spend the first few hours running with headlamps on. Luckily, by the time the 50k started the sun had started to rise so there was no problem seeing the course. Check out the video further below for an idea of what this crazy course is like.

Start/finish area - after the race.

I made my way to the race start area and met up with a few friends from Seattle that were also running. We traded some notes on what gear everyone was going to wear. Was it going to rain? How many layers do we need? I decided to run with a standard pair of running shorts, regular road running shoes, a lululemon running shirt, a The North Face gore-tex running jacket and a hat. I carried a 20 oz water bottle the whole way, and kept 1 Hammer Gel in my jacket pocket. This last part turned out to be a big mistake. I was way short on fuel and aid stations were further apart (time-wise, not distance-wise) than I thought given how long it took to travel a few miles given all the hills.

With 2 minutes to start I gathered towards the front and got ready to go. I had no specific time goal, but thought it would be nice to run faster than my last 50k a month ago – which took me about 6 hours 44 minutes after bonking very bad and having some other issues (the course was long too!). I thought a sub 6-hour time was totally reasonable.

Here is how the race went down:

Mile 1: People went out very fast. This always amazes me for long races! I settled into an easy rhythm and went along the flat course following a paved road and then onto a dirt path. Every minute I would pass someone as they slowed down and I kept my steady pace.

Miles 2-4: The dirt single-track path led to a dirt road that went up a very large climb. This serious climb really woke me up given how early in the morning it was! A bunch of runners who started out too fast started to drop back at this point. I kept running even.

Miles 4-16: The race proceeded through a variety of single-track routes, with some epic views of the Pacific Ocean while running along some high bluffs and plenty of light rain in the cool air. We climbed up and down some pretty large hills. At one point running tight switchbacks along a mud-soaked trail. There were also some up and downhill sections along steps build into the trails. I felt good the whole time, and didn’t stop to walk one bit. There were aid stations roughly every 4-5 miles and I would refill my water bottle and grab an energy gel stuff some banana in my mouth (and some boiled potato with salt).

Miles 16-18: Around mile 16 we hit an aid station, I refueled and kept running. I then started to proceed down a several mile trail downhill. The trail was really twisty and through the woods. It was pretty tough running since I was not super used to running trails like this…I normally just hike them! I was having a hard time maintaining a good pace and people started passing me. At some point I just felt too tired to run and stopped. I was bonking hardcore!

Miles 18-25: All I can say is bonking sucks. I clearly didn’t eat enough early in the race. I walked about 80% of the time between miles 18-25 or so. Sometimes even walking was tough. The climbs were super ridiculous. Long sweeping climbs along muddy and slick trails. I just did my best and kept moving forward. I started drinking coke at each aid station and filling my entire water bottle with coke as well. Coke is amazing when you are late in an endurance race. The thing is, once you start drinking coke, you need to keep it up – or your blood sugar will crash again.

Miles 25-29: I started to feel a little better. There were a few long hills prior to the finish (each climb was a few miles long followed by a long downhill). I run/walked the uphills and ran the downhills. The climbs were super muddy and at one point just getting enough traction on the trail to walk it took a supreme effort.

Miles 29-31: The last few miles were downhill and flat. By this time I actually felt OK and approaching the finish felt quite good.

Finish time = 7:14:28

50 feet from the finish line!

Here is a great video of the course (it follows elite runners doing the 50 miler)

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I learned a ton from the race. It was not at all the finish I expected. I expected to run most of it. I expected to run about 1.5 hours faster than I did. I did not expect to bonk. I also didn’t expect it to be so mentally tough to finish, given that I have just run a 50K and a Marathon in the past few months! I also learned that preparation matters a lot. Nutrition strategy (carry more water and gels than you think you need!) and the proper gear (footwear with traction for a muddy course and proper breathable rain gear).

I’m already looking forward to training again – and getting in more super long runs. I need more 4-5 hour running efforts to get my body used to dealing with that level of stress. I’ll be looking to run another 50K in late January or early February (not sure where yet) and have already signed up for the Copper Canyon 50 Mile Ultra-marathon on March 6th, 2011. Just a few months to get ready for it!

Men's 50 Mile Champions! Miguel Heras (1st), Geoff Roes (2nd), Dave Mackey (3rd)

Women's 50 Mile Champions! Anna Frost (1st), Lizzy Hawker (2nd), Kami Semick (3rd)

Written by Ravi Raman

December 9, 2010 at 11:16 pm

Ron Herzog 50K Race Report

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Where it all went down at Masonic Park outside Granite Falls, WA

Yesterday I did my longest and toughest run ever, the Ron Herzog 50K (which ended up being around 32 miles, a little more than 50K). I stumbled upon it a week ago while looking for trail runs online and decided to give it a shot. This is a small race and when I showed up it seemed like a lot of the participants knew each other. I think around 50 people were there. The race FREE….with  suggested $25 donation to support the ALS association in honor of Ron Herzog, an ultra runner who died of the disease.

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Written by Ravi Raman

November 8, 2010 at 5:13 am

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