Any guess what I’m thankful for this year?
And, of course, our all-veg Thanksgiving feast:
When my friend Nicole and I dragged our groggy selves out in the pre-dawn cold to drive to Eugene today, we decided our feat of waking up on time for the trip was accomplishment enough. The fact that we also had to run in a 10K once we got to Tracktown USA was basically an afterthought. So imagine our surprise when we both snagged PRs at the EWEB Run to Stay Warm. I love when my legs surprise me.
The small race was exactly what I needed to regain some running confidence after my injury setback from last month. I’ve only ever run a few 10Ks (two on trails and one on a muggy D.C. day), so I guess a PR shouldn’t have been so surprising. It’s just nice to know that my lame foot can handle a little speed again. My unofficial finish time was 52:45, for an 8:30/mile pace.
Extra perk: Epic piles of cream cheese on the post-race munchies table.
Meanwhile, across the country, my boyfriend just pushed through his fifth finish at the JFK 50-Mile race. Yay, Dave!
First in a series featuring photo-worthy hikes around Portland that don’t require a car.
I moved to Portland in August with big dreams of mountain-climbing majesty. That is, until reality smacked me in the face and reminded me that Portland is, well, a city — and though the mountains around here are beautiful and abundant, they certainly don’t lie within city limits. So, what’s a car-free summit-seeker to do? Tackle the mini-mountains.
Mini-mountain #1: Council Crest
What you’ll see: Stunning panoramic views of Mount Hood, Mount Adams, Mount St. Helens and maybe even Mount Rainier, plus a beautiful cityscape and miles of the Willamette and Columbia rivers.
Why you should go: Umm, please see the above description and photo. Here’s another, featuring Mount St. Helens and Mount Adams, if you need an extra push.
How to get there: This is the fun part, obviously. There are many ways to get to Council Crest without a car, but I’ll give you an easy hike option that starts with the Max:
This hike is incredibly short. Roundtrip from the zoo, you can knock it out at a leisurely pace in an hour. For a little more sweat, you can easily tack on mileage by continuing on the Marquam Trail after Council Crest. Or, you can start your hike anywhere on the Wildwood Trail in Forest Park. The Wildwood Trail meets the Marquam Trail near the zoo.
PS — Here’s that crazy trail access point by Highway 26. Be safe!
*The 4T is a recommended loop for urban explorers to take the train to the zoo, take the Marquam Trail through SW Portland to OHSU, take the aerial tram down the hill to the South Waterfront, and then take the streetcar (trolley) downtown. (Did you catch those four Ts?)
Good news, Internet friends: I can still run! I’ve been trying to play it cool here on the blog, but privately I’ve been having internal panic attacks wondering if I’ll ever be able to run again.
Though my experience at the Portland Marathon in early October was phenomenal (PR!), I did tweak my foot toward the end of the race, and I’ve been dealing with it ever since. I’ve tried to run about once a week since then but have been met with pain each time. My problem is in my peroneal tendon, which is this band that stretches down your lower leg, behind your ankle and hooks the side of your foot. It’s a stupid, tricky injury to have, and I know I’m not totally out of the woods yet. Still, a pain-free four miles with Portland Running Company tonight was a blissful development. Bonus: I got some tips on a different shoe in the Brooks Pure line that may be a better fit for me. PureCadence, let’s see what you’re all about.
And, of course, I celebrated with a drink. Proof:
It’s strange moving from D.C. spin classes to the sort you find in Portland, Ore.
In the District, indoor cycling classes sell out, waitlists fill up, instructors are local celebrities, and active types happily pass up outdoor workouts, happy hour or even — gasp – brunch to sit in a dark box, listen to a playlist that could be found on a teenage girl’s iPod and get sweaty.
In the cycling mecca of Portland, the spin bikes are little lonelier. Of the many classes I’ve tried at three local studios, only two sessions were full, and those were free community rides.
Of course, there are reasons D.C. is such a spin-friendly city: an abundance of Type A personalities eager to check off the daily workout box, and repressively swampy summers sending many workout junkies inside, to name a couple. Portlanders, on the other hand, live in an outdoor recreation wonderland and — just a hypothesis here — are perhaps more likely to value scenic, good-for-the-soul workouts over the more efficient variety hawked by spin studios. Sure, it rains a lot, but they don’t seem to care.
In keeping with my affinity for both locales, I like the option of splendor and the option of efficiency. You’ve seen plenty of my posts about the trails, the rivers and the vistas around Portland. But I do love my quickie indoor workouts (like these), especially spin classes. Here’s what you should know about three indoor cycling studios in the Pearl District:
1218 NW Marshall St.
What I liked:
-Revocycle has unique Cycle Ops 300 Pro bikes that use a freewheel instead of the flywheel sported by most spin bikes. That means your ride relies on your own strength, not any momentum the wheel has collected from your pedaling. I love this approach — in theory. But more on that below.
-Your first two classes are Revocycle are free! A hundred bonus points in my book.
-Studio mastermind Michael Hosking knows his stuff and will go out of his way to teach you how to handle the bikes.
-Revocycle has the best playlist of any cycling studio I’ve ever visited. Yeah Yeah Yeahs and Tegan & Sara blared during one of my workouts there. And the studio regularly hosts vinyl rides, during which Hosking busts out turntables and a classic album for riders to rock out to.
Not so much:
-My only reservation about Revocycle is the bikes. While I love the idea of the freewheel pedaling, I just didn’t get the hang of it during my two classes. Everything we did while seated was fine, but once we moved into standing climbs, the looseness of the ride was rocky and uncomfortable. Still, I’m holding out hope. I ran into Michael last week, and he promises that a lesson in proper posture on the bike will solve the problems I was having. I’ll take him up on that soon and report back!
910 NW 10th Ave.
What I liked:
-Burncycle is the only studio I’ve tried in Portland that uses bikes I recognize! With the freewheel bikes at Revocycle and the swaying bikes at Firebrand (which I’ll discuss below), I was pleased to find a studio with familiar Schwinn bikes.
-The changing area and shower rooms at Burncycle are incredible.
-The staff at Burncycle seems like a little family and really made me feel welcome.
Not so much:
-The two instructors I sampled at Burncycle had us doing some things on the bike that soured the experience for me. Chief among them: push-ups on the bike. In an effort to promote indoor cycling as a full-body workout, many studios are adding arm workouts and other nonsense while pedaling. Burncycle is one of them, and that was a big disappointment for me. Lifting some light weights while pedaling slowly on a bike doesn’t bother me too much; I think that can still be done with good form. But push-ups annoy me for two reasons: 1. Push-ups on a spin bike have to be the least efficient way possible to tone one’s arms, and that’s not why I’m at spin class. 2. Push-ups on a spin bike are typically done dangerously fast and with poor form.
-One other complaint for Burncycle is the sorority vibe my classes had. Don’t know what I mean? Kind of like this.
500 NW 14th Ave.
What I liked:
-Cycling instructor Kirsten Romney has got to be among the best in town. She takes an athlete’s approach to indoor cycling, which I really appreciate. I loved that Kirsten introduced our class to some new drills on the bike and none of them felt like party-spin-bullshit.
-Firebrand’s RealRyder bikes are crazy cool. The bikes lean side to side as you’re riding, just like a real bike would, so you get a tougher core workout and sharpen some skills you can apply to the road.
-Firebrand just announced a series of free classes for the month of November. Amazingly, they’re offering a free class every weekday of the month (MWF 9:30 a.m.; TTH noon). Full disclosure: I’m supposed to be at one of those classes right now, but I had to cancel due to thrashed muscles from my first offroad experiences on my nifty new mountain bike. More on that in a future post.
Not so much:
-Every instructor at Firebrand teaches a little differently, of course, and I wasn’t crazy about the other instructors I tried. One even had us doing — gahhhh — push-ups on the bike.
It’s been more than three weeks since my last real run. You remember, that was when I had a kickass morning in the Portland Marathon. I tweaked my foot at the very end of that race, though, and I’ve been having trouble with it ever since. It appears to be the same problem I had in the summer: some sort of strain or inflammation of the peroneal tendon.
My light attempts at running since then have ended in pain, so I thought I’d better sit out yesterday’s Marine Corps Marathon. I’m feeling great about that decision. Since I ran Portland rather unexpectedly, I didn’t feel that my training season was a waste at all. Plus, I got to have a stress-free visit to the folks back in D.C. and a beautiful Sunday for MCM spectating.
Here’s to speedy healing!
Activewear stores are the worst. They taunt you with their surprisingly flattering spandex, their eye-popping neon collection, their nylon and their mesh. And then they smack you in the face with price tags that rival those of your regular clothes — you know, the ones you don’t plan on dragging through the mud, drenching with sweat and maybe splattering with a little blood. If you see me at a formal event wearing my compression running pants and strappy singlet, it’s probably because I’m trying to get my money’s worth.
So, why are activewear stores my new best friend? Because they’re offering up free workouts! (Yes, you can buy my love.)
Clothing stores and other fitness retailers are increasingly pairing with local fitness studios or hosting their own workouts to give sticker-shocked customers a chance to get their sweat on, gratis. This week on my agenda: a Barre3 class hosted by Athleta and a Pyrolates class at Firebrand Sports, sponsored by lucy Activewear.
Tuesday evening’s barre class was taught by Barre3′s Bonney and hosted by Athleta after hours in the Pearl District store’s upstairs retail section. I wasn’t sure what to expect from a barre class that lacked, well, a bar. But Barre3 delivered. We did an intense sequence working our arms, legs and core — some of it standing and some of it on the yoga mats we were asked to bring. Bonney also brought barre balls we incorporated into some of the exercises.
Barre is all about those small movements that work to tone and strengthen often-neglected muscles. It had been months since my last class, so I knew my hibernating muscles were in for a rude awakening. In all, the class was worthwhile. We worked all major muscle groups, ogled some pretty Athleta threads and didn’t pay a penny for it.
Interested? Looks like Athleta has barre on the schedule again in a couple weeks and many other classes in between. Check out the store’s calendar here.
Since my muscles were very much awake after Tuesday night’s barre class, I decided to subject them to a little more pain on Wednesday afternoon.* This burn came in the form of Firebrand Sports’ “Pyrolates” class, sponsored by lucy Activewear. (Big thanks to Agatha over at pdXercise for the heads up.)
Pyrolates is similar to a Pilates workout, but with the pace and soundtrack of your average spin class on a contraption called a “Megaformer” — which amazingly succeeds at looking even more intimidating than a Pilates reformer. The machine includes front and back platforms, a middle “carriage” platform that is springloaded and slides back and forth, and a bunch of straps and handles that will probably baffle you.
In class, you are constantly moving. Sliding your foot here, shifting your weight there. 20 more seconds. 10 more seconds. Hold. And if your muscles aren’t trembling, you’re probably doing it wrong.
Pyrolates was, without a doubt, the most intense strength/toning workout I’ve done in a fitness class. One word of warning, though: Many of the movements in the class are based in high plank or other positions that put a lot of weight on your wrists. If you have problematic wrists like mine, this might not be the workout for you. But for the rest of you healthy-wristed folk in search of sweat and muscle definition, Pyrolates is your guy.
Interested? Buy a class at Firebrand Sports in the Pearl District or follow the studio on Facebook for updates about future promotions.
*Normally, I’d wait at least a day between strength training workouts to allow for muscle recovery, but Wednesday’s free class was too good an opportunity to pass up.
What do you do when you have a 20-mile training run scheduled the same day as your own city’s highly acclaimed marathon? Duh, you run it.
I intended to treat Sunday’s Portland Marathon as a training run — ya know, one with a little extra crowd support and a few thousand more runners sharing my route. It ended up being a momentous race for me.
I opted to run by feel, rather than tracking my pace, so I could make sure I relaxed and took it easy. The Marine Corps Marathon (which I’ve actually been training for) is in three weeks, giving me enough time to rest my legs for a full effort there. Not surprisingly, my approach had the opposite effect.
With surging adrenaline and no watch or phone to keep me in check, I went out way too fast and kept going a bit too fast through the entire first half of the race. I felt great but knew it wasn’t sustainable, so I eventually fell in with a 4:10 pace group (which would land me with a sub-4:10 because they started a corral before me). I stayed with the pacers until mile 23, when I had to pull back. At that point, my stride had devolved to a pretty tedious plod, and I even had to walk a little in the final mile (ugh!) because of a tweak in my foot.
But, totally worth it because: NEW PR!
I’ve officially whittled my first and fastest marathon time of 4:15:50 in Richmond last year to Sunday’s showing of 4:08:07.
What’s to thank for that? Well, I guess I’ve improved my endurance a little. In Richmond, I coasted for the first 18 miles, then died a little bit for a few before pulling myself back together. This time, my wall was at least a little later. I also have a better handle on nutrition these days. I hate the chaos of water stations, so using the 18-oz. Fuel Belt handheld water bottle and drinking whenever I wanted was a big improvement. I fueled with Nuun and Honey Stingers and didn’t have any stomach issues or energy drains during the run.
But other major factors this year were definitely the perfect 50-some-degree weather and a beautiful course. The route took us through downtown and Chinatown before dipping south into some slight hills and back up along Naito Parkway and the Willamette River. We ran right past my apartment, which was pretty cool. Then an out-and-back through part of Portland’s industrial district, where I finally spotted Dockside Saloon, a little divey bar I’ve been meaning to check out. We cut across the part of the NW Portland neighborhoods and then ran along Highway 30, with Forest Park to our left, and, well, a bunch of ugly trains and passing semi-trucks to our right. It was worth the eyesores, though, because by our 17th mile, we were scaling the hill that leads to the beautiful St. Johns Bridge. It was the obvious highlight of the run. Check out this short video made by the documentary project What Moves You?
Finally, we hustled through North Portland and past the pretty bluffs that overlook the city. That’s where I saw my amazing friend Nicole, who was kind enough to come cheer for me and celebrate with me afterward. A few more miles down the city’s east side, and we crossed the Broadway Bridge for a final mile through Chinatown and downtown toward the finish line. My boyfriend Dave didn’t care for the course when he ran the race last year, but I think having a familiarly with Portland really enhanced the experience for me.
Great race, Portland. Let’s do this again.
I first titled this article “Good things,” but decided all the good things were worthy of being upgraded.
1. Friday’s 20-miler - This run was scheduled for last Tuesday but was delayed after super stress problems threatened to eat me alive. I proceeded to build up the run in my head as some insurmountable task, despite the fact that I’ve covered that distance many times. Friday came around and put my anxiety to rest. The run went off without a hitch.
I fueled with my usual Honey Stingers and tried Nuun for the first time. In DC, I rarely ran with water because I was able to strategically map my routes to hit up multiple fountains around the Mall, the Capitol and Roosevelt Island. I don’t have that luxury in Portland, so I invested in this guy, which I love. Having that handheld water bottle is what prompted me to finally try Nuun (tri-berry) and see what all the fuss was about. I get it now. Electrolytes, flavor and minimal sweetness? Perfect hydration.
So, water bottle in hand and pressure systems building in the sky, I set out along the Willamette River and onto the Springwater Corridor trail. I remained anxious about the run all the way up until I hit my 10-mile turnaround point, when I finally allowed myself to believe the run was going smoothly. In the end, I clocked in with a 9:32 average pace and a real sense of surprise that nothing went wrong.
2. Vegan Chinese food - My disbelief followed me into dinner tonight in Chinatown as I sat down at a restaurant and realized I could eat everything on the menu. (Blog friends: If you didn’t know, I’m a pescatarian.) Of course, I should have known going in, seeing that the place was called Vegetarian House. In fact, the entire menu was vegan and offered veg versions of every standard Chinese dish you’d expect. So, instead of getting tofu slathered in sweet and sour sauce, I was able to get good old General Tso’s (faux) chicken. Yay for imitation meat. (Also, yay for the TV blaring the Chinese equivalent of “The Voice,” a show that I’m convinced is much more entertaining in Chinese than in English.)
3. Feedback - I complained last week about an article in the Wall Street Journal that lamented my generation’s supposed lack of competitive spirit, as evidenced the slower median marathon finishing times and poorer American performance in the Olympics. Outside magazine published this great response — different from my own perspective (what can I say, I dig long-distance road running) but also totally on the mark. Here’s a great quote writer Melanie Wong includes from mountain bike racer Jake Wells:
“It’s a smaller world now,” he said. “The Olympics have their place, but now you can compete against the world on any given weekend. Counting medals is like counting the number of people that have a savings account based on how often they write a check. Who writes checks anymore? It’s a little antiquated.”
Did y’all read this article in the Wall Street Journal last week? The gist of it is that younger generations of race participants are caring less about their finishing times, and that this characteristic spells doom for the future of America’s competitive spirit and global position.
Let me just repeat what I told someone over on Facebook: The obvious missing piece of this article is that growing apathy toward finishing times likely correlates to growing accessibility of running and other fitness events to non-athletes who previously believed racing was only for the elite. In all, I’d wager that the associated health benefits of more Americans working out greatly outweigh any loss of competitive spirit.
To the runners who welcome the masses into the sport they love: Thank you. To those who are elitist and looking for an excuse to rag on millennials: Get a grip, get to the front of your corral, and stop whining.