Tuesday, July 2, 2013

The Portland Rock & Roll Half Marathon

Here I sit, on Saturday, the evening before the Portland Rock and Roll Half Marathon thinking about all of the training I've been doing in my bid to improve on my Boston Qualifying time so I will have a better chance of getting into the 2014 race but wait!.........ooh......................... sorry I got distracted by a super crappy movie that Jen has playing on Netflix. OMG, this is the worst movie ever.............OK, there is some girl who's uber hotness get's her the attention of rich, powerful men, men who have either hidden bad intentions or hearts of gold but she has no long range contingency plan in case they should meet with an early demise and then damn! Either they turn psycho or are suddenly dead. Wow, didn't see that coming a mile away, nope......... Damn it! Why do I even try to write blog posts? My apologies and I am moving away from the TV sound radius and............OK, back to the blog.
  Boston 2014 is my goal and with my measly 35 seconds under the BQ time, I need to improve and improvement is what I've worked towards for lo these last cold, wet 6 months.

Tomorrow is the Portland Rock n Roll Half. The question is how to run it? In my training plan I'm scheduled to run a 17 mile long run so after reading internet stuff in which I found a very scant amount of advice for this situation I have decided to run it at marathon heart-rate for the first 9 or so miles and then turn on the after burners to the finish followed by an additional 4 miles at recovery pace. Let's see how this goes.

Race Report:

For any of you that have read my blog before you'll be surprised to know that I did not arrive late which always leads to a desperate round of pin the number on in the start corral. Nope, I in fact arrived at about the right time to get into my corral and even chat with a couple of other people. Mostly about my lack of shoes which, though I deny it is the reason I run. BTW, If you are lonely it's a great way to start a lot of conversations. So I was talking to a guy about my age but a bit faster than me (currently :-/ ) so I of course had to stay with him for the first couple of miles thinking that I would be sure and keep it easy so as to "not leave my race on the training run." which I considered this to be. Well the sad truth is that I started out running about 20 seconds per mile faster than I had intended and it wasn't until 3 miles in that I finally slowed down but what harm was there in that I ask you? A measly 3 miles and the whole rest of the race to slow down and have fun. Well that's just  sorta what I did. I mean I did have fun and high fived everyone that looked high five-able then ran fast to the next group of high fivers. It was great and I even ran an extra four or five blocks; once to get a photo with my niece and once to alert Portland P.D. that there was a runner down just out of sight two blocks away. All in all a great time. I do think I may have over done it but not way too much. Hopefully I don 't pay the price in my A race in two weeks.

I came in at 1:40:00 which was a good bit faster than I thought I would before I started and I know I could have run this race faster....maybe five minutes, I'm not really sure but definitely faster. I did learn a few things that I previously didn't know never having run a half before;

  1) You can really run hard in a half marathon. It's gives you a much shorter window to use all of your muscle glycogen which means a lot more intensity can be utilized. If this sounds like a good thing to you then you are a jerk! Well, that may be a bit harsh, what I mean is I think you're a jerk. I have a loathing for speed work and that translates into a self loathing as I believe that I need speed work the most but just can't make myself do it so I loathe all who do it, especially those that hate it as well but make themselves do it. You people make me sick and no, I don't admire you. Call me petty but unless/until I conquer speedwork I will just not like you very much.

  2) If you are running for fun instead of a time it is still satisfying but only if you have an A race staring you in the eye so that you have an excuse not to run too hard. This is true only for me and people like me but it is something I learned. I know for a fact that if I ran this the same way and hadn't had the Newport Marathon just ahead to give me an excuse to go slower than my best I would have been bummed at the finish. I was very nearly there as it was. Perspective, perspective; got to work on that.
 2 3) The finish of the half marathons look pretty much the same as the finish of the marathons. I mean, people are coming in looking just as tired and worn out or racing to get that last couple of seconds off your time. It was really exciting to see. Oh, and I was also surprised to see how much the 1:40 finishers and the 2:30 finishers looked alike. I'm not an elitist by any means. I love the fact that you can run against yourself and feel the same accomplishment that the winner does (but without prize money) and so respect all runners who are out there. It's what makes running a great sport in my eyes but I really expected to be able to see a general physical difference between the faster and slower groups. I didn't. Keep in mind that I wasn't seeing the sub 1:30's. Maybe they all look like super humans but they were gone by the time I got there.

Equipment for this run was my trusty Garmin Forerunner 305, my Reebock shorts, (they were the first ones in the drawer), I chose to wear the Mountain Hardware short sleeve that I got in the Hagg Lake Mud Run 25k and it was awesome as usual. I love Mountain Hardware stuff. For shoes I wore nothing and at the pace I was running on the very rough Downtown Portland streets 13.1 miles was just about the farthest I would want to go. Nothing too worn but my second toes got blood blisters on the toe pads on races. This is easily stopped by using Moleskin just around the toes but I didn't today; not that big a deal.

The finish and after race activities were a cup of Stanford's Chowder witch was a very small cup but still good. All of the Muscle Milk you can grab, Gatorade or something like it and snacks. There was a live band at the end featuring some new age easy listening guy that I think they thought would appeal to the old and young but I found boring in the extreme. This is the Rock & Roll Half guys.......Rock & Roll! How's 'bout some..... you know.....Rock & Roll!!! I'm 51 and can say that the music I grew up with makes me impervious to "easily offended" and we're in Portland Fucking Oregon. (Trying not to rant here as it's off topic and really unimportant but c'mon!) There are so many deserving musicians in this city alone and I'd think if you are calling an event Rock & Roll anything, rock & roll music should be the music being featured especially for the headliner. Excuse me for a minute; I need to go play some Melvins to right the ship.

Conclusion: Melvins are a soothing balm. All in all I had a great time and will likely do this again in-spite of the exorbitant price. The after race stuff was pretty decent though not as good as the Portland Marathon and definitely not as good as the Hagg Lake Mud Run by which I now measure all other after race stuff. The course was slightly hilly but nothing too terrible and it was nice and scenic running through neighborhoods and Downtown. I did get stopped by a train for over a half of a minute and there was no time correction for that. I think that is something they should have been more aware of. I did write to ask if they accounted for that and they said no so keep that in mind if you're going for a time in this race. The crowd support was decent though again not as many as the Portland Marathon however this is only their second year in Portland. the organization was really good and I felt that everything went smooth with plenty of port-a-pots to go around. Thanks for reading!


Sunday, May 5, 2013

Barefoot Running? Yeah, I do that.

Even my front walk is pebble embedded cement!
People are fascinated to learn that I run barefoot. Well, either that or incredulous or mystified or instantly bored and couldn't care less. It usually starts with something like this:
Person: You run barefoot? Doesn't that hurt?!
Me: No, well yes, on gravel but mostly no.
Person: (pause) Aren't you afraid of stepping on a hypodermic needle?
Me: I watch where I'm going to avoid things and I've never seen a hypodermic needle lying on the ground when I've been running. Are they a big problem where you run? (OK, that's a smart -ass response I'll admit but I have another one that I suppress that I heard in a YouTube video by Christopher McDougal..... I'll share it here; "I use these high tech gadgets called eyes." Not very nice but really people this should not come as a surprise.
Person: What about at night?
Me: Shoes.
Person:  Oh so you're not really a barefoot runner all of the time!
Me: OK, I guess you're right. I am not a barefoot runner all of the time in fact I carry some sort of shoes with me on my long runs in case I need them and the purists think that is a crutch and is not cool.
But still, running barefoot feels awesome most of the time and I prefer it most of the time but I am not doing it as any kind of statement or for attention. I feel a bit self conscious about it but ignore the looks and run. I just like it. Another plus is that because of the gross factor I am now more aware of stepping on worms and I think that many worms lives have been spared since I've switched over to barefoot. (This may be a Pacific NW thing as it rains a lot here and when it rains the worms try to migrate over pavement.......Oh c'mon! I know I can't be the only one out there who's seen a worm in dire straights and just thought, "You are the luckiest son of a bitchin'est worm in the world as you pick it up ...with a stick or a leaf, and place it somewhere safe. Kind of makes you feel god like.) I also have to say that when it does feel good running barefoot is the best, even minimalist shoes feel constrictive, hot and heavy after just a little time without anything on your feet. It also changes the way you run.
My foot at my corner...scary huh?
The big myth (in my opinion) is that you are barefoot running if you are in minimalist shoes. Don't kid yourself, I have yet to wear anything that doesn't allow me to cheat in my form. Even my Moc 3's which are far and away the  closest to wearing nothing that I've worn will allow me to fudge on my foot falls. There, I said it! I'd like to hear back from other barefooters out there about what they think. I belong to a barefoot runner group here in Portland, Oregon (geek alert!) and they are all over the place on what they wear or don't and where they'll run and won't and what they can or can't stand to run on. For me, I can't stand running for very long on gravel. I've tried and tried over that past three years and just can't develop the soles to tough it out. I'd be curious to know if there are others out there who've figured out how to get there and how they did it. (I really hate the gravel a lot and often dream about being impervious!) I dream of being able to run over gravel and rocks and shit, well not shit. (I would definitely avoid shit) Just floating along like a person wearing shoes but freer without the foot coffins....did I just write that? Damn, I'm a zealot! What next; fanatic!? Then follows extremist and the next thing you know I'm sketching out plans for a violent overthrow of Nike or Adidas or something. Why God WHY!?!

 But I digress......... where was I? Oh yeah; how do those of you who can, do what you do? Give it up my brothers and/or sisters. Clue me and the rest of the barefoot cool cats in on your secrets.

My other street, yes I live in the city limits.
Part 2: ( Oh yeah, I forgot that the last part was Part 1)

I prefer running barefoot on pavement by far over most trails and I take a lot of shit for this preference from my local barefooter buddies but it's true. For me pavement is so much friendlier than are trails. Likely it's because all of the local park trails around here are maintained with a healthy dose of gravel every other year or so and you already know how much I hates me some gravel. I think another possible reason is that I am in training for marathons and I feel that when running barefoot I can run faster when I'm not in pain and dancing around big rocks and sticks and stuff or doing the "deep knee bend shuffle" to get over the gravel.

Ironic that the street I live on is the worst pavement I run on
This is my street, yes it is that rough.
Also have you ever noticed that the nerve endings in the bottoms of your feet have their own idea of how long and what type of surface you can tolerate and that it's different on any given day? I can run on some shitty road surfaces for a decent amount of time and finish the run just hunky dory but then on a different day it's more than I can stand to do 100 feet on so so asphalt (tarmac for the British, Kiwi's and I think Aussies) and the thought of going for miles seems impossible. At these moments I grab my Soft Stars and head out because though I've tried to endure it thinking that the nerves and soles will eventually yield to my force of will, they don't. Maybe I just need to practice breath work.......(guffaw) who am I kidding? The breath work thing may work but I am nowhere disciplined enough to find out.

Person: "But Todd, surely you must wear shoes in the winter?"

Me:  Sometimes.........usually.

As stated before, I live in Portland, Oregon and it does not get crazy cold here very often but too cold for comfortable barefoot running; yes. I have a limit and that limit is 50 degrees wet and 45 degrees dry. I find that below those temperatures in those conditions I loose feeling in my feet and therefore am able to do harm to myself without really knowing it until the thaw happens. That has happened to me a couple of times and it was not pleasant. I mean consider that I am a slow learner and it still only took me twice to not do it again and you know it must have been very uncool. 

 The last thing here is this; Chics dig barefoot runners. Oh sure they all may give you the, "You are crazy and a weirdo!" look but deep down you know they are completely impressed with your uber coolness; I know I would be. I have to admit the attention is probably the main reason I run sans shoes. Well that and all of the "feeling at one with the Earth" stuff that I'm supposed to be aware of. (Confession; all I've ever felt is pavement, or dirt or mud or pain/gravel, fyi)
That's right, chics dig the barefeet

 If you have thought about running barefoot or know someone who is thinking about it here is a list of reasons why you can't from various shod runners I've spoken to.......completely informed I'm sure......... I personally think it all boils down to number fifteen.

 Well I can't run barefoot because I have_____________.
The list:
1) high arches
2) flat feet
3) bad knees
4) bad hips
5) arch supports
6) shin splints
7) feet are way too sensitive
8) one leg is shorter than the other
9) bad back
10) wide feet
11) narrow feet
                                                    12) over pronator
                                                    13) under pronator
                                                    14) the flu (OK, this one is legit but only for a limited time!)
                                                    15) I am adverse to trying new things and prefer the comfort of the same old, same old regardless of whether it works or not.

Let's face it, if you are running barefoot you are very likely a person who is open to trying new things and to that I say you are my kind of weirdo.

I'm just a sole who's intentions are good, Oh Lord, please don't let me be misunderstood,


Friday, April 5, 2013

Part 2 of "A Show and a Race" THE RACE

Extra! Extra! Read All about It! 
[Barefoot/Minimalist Running Declared a Conspiracy!]

Conspiracy, you say! How so? Well, my friends, let me begin by stating that our booth at the Portland Shamrock Run was a resounding success in that we got to talk to many people about minimalist shoes and all things barefoot. I am not a shy person and so had a great time talking to people about Soft Star Shoes and barefoot things as well as running in general and of course (duh, duh, duh, duuuuuuuh!) the race! Which leads me to  (duh, duh, duh, duuuuuuuh!) the race!

Oh, I had big plans for this one: you see my marathon training had me scheduled for a 20-miler and so I figured that I'd run down (I live at a higher elevation so it is literally down) to the race, run the 15K race, and run back home, thus making it a 20-mile day. But then...I woke up a bit late, most likely due to late-night karaoke at the Old Barn with my wife and a bunch of hard-core Hipsters whose studied disaffection decreased as their level of inebriation increased, until by midnight they were downright friendly and even (dare I say it?) having fun. It's so sweet to see the endless parade of "Where's Waldo?" look-a-likes here in Portland, and with just a little alcohol their inner selves shine through and they're just like the rest of us. God bless America and God bless demon rum!

So since I was late...like usual, I made a new plan and parked a mile away from the start, which in my estimation was just far enough away to avoid major parking headaches (which it was) and give me a good pre-race warm-up (which it did) and with that I was at the start and feeling warm but not spent as I climbed the barricade to my corral AKA, the 7-to-8-mile-per-minute people. One observation about large races and the starts: it was pretty cold out at 39ยบ but when you're packed in with thousands of others, bumper-to-bumper, as it were, it's actually warm-ish. I was downright cozy warm as the first wave started out, following a fine Irish, Danny Boyesque  rendition of our National Anthem. For a minute, it even looked like my group would slip throughbut alas, no. We were held for the next wave release. 

Three, two, onego! and we were off. I was in the second line of people in the second wave and for the first 200 yards was shocked at how many people I had to weave through. Where did they come from? I mean, they weren't there when I started, and nothing stood between me and the open road but a lone guy with dreads and yellow shorts. Now he was nowhere in sight and in his place were people clumped together and moving as a herd of slow-moving things. I, on the other hand, was flying like a single fast-moving thing and as I wove/weaved (?) through the herd, I even had a moment of foresight and wondered how this pace would feel at mile two and beyond but then it left and I just kept weaving and looking like an asshole with an annoyed expression on my face. Now the funny thing, at least for me, is that a short mile down the road I begin thinking about my go-to Plan B for when a run gets too tough: (1) Faking injury and (2) slowing down and enjoying the sights, and then the combo, (3) faking injury so I can slow down and enjoy the sights while getting attention for being brave. For the record: I have yet to fake an injury or slow down in a race and "enjoy the sights" and though I know this doesn't make me any kind of hero, I'm not sure what it does make me. A masochist maybe?

Play-by-play time: So there I was bobbing and weaving like a punch-drunk fighter at the end of the 4th round, determination figuratively etched on my face. The deceptively steep climb up Broadway was forcing people to downshift into hill-climbing cadence all around me. I was determined not to let my extra winter weight get the best of me and pushed even closer to my heart-rate redline at the start of the steep section, just after the gas station. We experienced Westsiders who run Terwilliger regularly know this run: know how it climbs and curves and where it will let up and where it will fool you into thinking you have a break coming only to beat you into a crawl after having taken the bait and blowing up with yet another satanic climb before you. This course is all that and a bag of Dorritos Flamas! I will tell you right here and now that there is no tougher or more formidable 400-foot-by-3-mile ascent than this in all of Southwest Portland. As people dug in and grim became the mood, all I could think about was maintaining pace and to not be fooled yet again by the false summit that is the curve just before the Chart House Restaurant, which has broken me many a time in the past. Despite my smuggery, I'll be damned if it didn't fool me this year. To make it worse, I had to open my mouth and tell someone next to me that I wasn't falling for the false summit this year, just as we came around the curve to see the Chart House Restaurant like a big sign saying "Dumb-Ass" to any who had heard me.

So down, down, I went, just as fast as my 180-step cadence could carry me, passing people left and right, until at last the street leveled out and the last couple of milesAKA, the home stretchwas before me/us. I was moving pretty fast (for me) and had not been passed by anyone for a whilethat is until some gal had the audacity to "pass-the-Dutchie-on-the-left-hand-side" me (runner's tech talk for passing late in a race, which I just invented, FYI) and as she went by I realized I had nothing more in the tank to give and so watched her slowly pull away into the distance. Damn, damn, damn! But then I got distracted by a guy who seemed to be pacing along side of me and then we started talking, AKA gasping quick quips about nothing that I can remember today, and as we closed on the last two blocks we just sort of kept pace and finished side by side, neither of us wanting to be an asshole and race for it. (I must say, I like that.) I came in 729th out of the 7,600 people running the 15K course and 35th in my age group. Yes, I know what you're saying, and I agree, I do rock and am doing even more training so I can rock even harder next year.

Gear wrap up: My fashion choice was inspired by function with the one exception of double layering my shirts with the green, long sleeve 2012 Shamrock Run shirt (it was the only green thing I had and I figured with 25 - 30 thousand runners out there it would be a pinch fest extraordinaire without something green on) under the yellow short sleeve shirt with the Soft Star Logo as I was representing them at this event. My shorts were my current favorite Brooks 7" (no green there) and my shoes were my current favorite road shoe, bright red Soft Star RunAmoc Moc 3's.  The garments worked great! Other than having to roll up my sleeves going up the hills I was very comfortable. The Moc 3's are just awesome. There is just not much to them but the bare necessities. They have no support using a 2mm Vibram® sole which translates into great flexibility and ground feel and the soft-perforated-leather upper forms around the contours of your foot like no other shoe. I feel that they help me run with a proper barefoot form more so than any other shoe I've tried and are for serious minimalists when running although they are perfect as a minimalist casual wear as you build up your feet and lower legs during your transition. In my opinion, they are even less shoe than my Vibram KSO's. They're super light at 5 oz., slip off and on and are very compactable for easy carrying for those barefooters that like to go completely bare but bring back-up just in case of worn soles. (on your feet) The Breathe-O-Prene® liner allows me to go sock free as well as blister free. The fit is loose and may feel a bit weird at first but quickly feels normal and has not caused any problems even on steep technical trails. Something else that I have mentioned before, for those Vibram® wearers, this shoe doesn't smell. I've worn mine for over 400 miles and still no stink. Try that with other shoes.....and remember, that's with no socks! Last point; all parts of this shoe are sourced in the U.S. including the Vibram® soles and the leathers are formaldehyde free.

Conclusion and post race wrap-up: It all comes down to this, my friends. I chose to suffer by running right at the edge of blowing up for pretty much the whole race and in the end it gave me back a sense of relief that the race was over and no lines to the free post-race snacks, drinks, and very small cup of Stanford's clam chowder. Oh, and they hadn't run out of 15K-finisher's medals yet, so I've got the groovy medal that doubles as a bottle opener...that apparently breaks when people actually use it. Then off I went to run my next 10 miles of the day as this was a 20 mile long run day according to my marathon training schedule.......it was a nice slllllloooooooooooowwwww run and I don't think I broke a zone 2 hear trate the whole ten miles neither.




Friday, March 15, 2013

A Show and a Race - The Portland Shamrock Run

Extra! Extra! Read All about It! 
[Running Blogger Slips in a Post to Shamelessly Promote Shoe Co. He Works for as Bloggosphere Frowns.]

In my defense Your Honors, I have stated that I rep for Soft Star shoes (see what I did there? I just created a hyper-link to their website and I'm gonna keep right on doing it too!) before and that I really do love their shoes above and beyond all other shoes when I wear shoes and so I have to take this opportunity to let my legions of followers know that I, Todd W. Mros, am manning a booth for Soft Star at the Portland Shamrock Run Fitness Expo this weekend!

Why should you care? Well, because
   1) These babies are made right here in the good old US of A, by good old US of A'ers
   2) You might learn something interesting.
   b) You never know what kind of shit is gonna fly out of my fingers.
   3) This is a two-parter and you wouldn't want to miss the first part of a two-parter would you?
   ?) I had Taco Bell for lunch and that makes me dangerous and edgy, as evidenced by my unpredictable numbering system!    

Look, I'm gonna level with you all, I've never done something like this before and so I'm a little nervous as well as excited. I mean, to be entrusted with Soft Star's image. To be the face, as it were, of Soft Star to the public is huge as well as humbling. It will be my job to show runners out there why their current shoe choice may in fact lead to total uncoolness and that the only way to regain total coolness (that is, if it's not too late) is to immediately purchase a pair or two of Soft Star shoes.

Sound like oversell? I say nay! I say that all structures are supported by foundations, and that your feet are that foundation and that what you place said "feet" in has a gravitas that is not sufficiently acknowledged in our society. "What evidence do you have to support your audacious claims?" you ask. It is here, in Merriam-Webster's dictionary, where it states:  

GRAVITAS: high seriousness (as in a person's bearing or in the treatment of a subject) 

See! I'm not making this up. It's right there in 1's and 0's that gravitas has to do with a person's bearing and everyone knows that your feet are the parts what "bear" you along and hence Soft Star, which we all now know is inexhaustible in their concern for all and the health of everyone's bearings i.e., feet. Your Honors, I rest my case and... you're welcome. With all of these hard facts to back me you'd think that I would just breeze in and enjoy the ride...but you'd be wrong for Soft Star has entrusted me to spread the word and, I quote, "Have a good time, we're all proud and excited for you." Really? I can only handle so much pressure and this definitely did not help. How am I supposed to have a good time knowing what I know about feet and shoes and footish things that most people don't even care about. Well, at least not until it's almost too late and they come crawling over for help. OK, no one has actually come crawling yet but I have plush carpet down for when someone does. 

As for the second part to this blog post, well, I'm running this race and that means a race report but, of course, until I actually run........

What I can tell you about is that up until this point I have been in training. I'm loosely following the Pete Pfitzinger training method partially because I like it and partially because anyone who's name has a silent "p" and finishes with the word "zinger" has got to know something good about speed. I will have a full race report following my run to put the "ROCK" in Shamrock and avoid the "Sham in Shamrock" as that would be less than optimal, especially while wearing my official Soft Star representative's guise.

Blogs to you,