Why You Should Run The Vancouver USA Half or Full Marathon

Vancouver USA Half Marathon

The Vancouver USA Marathon was voted top 10 New Marathons by Runners World. It’s a great small town marathon and among other claims, it’s the only marathon with a Summer Brewfest and it enjoys a relatively inexpensive under $100 registration fee. I ran the half marathon slightly over a month ago, but I wanted to provide a race recap and discuss some of my training leading up to the race.

I last ran this race at it’s initial running in 2011. My time back then was 1:28:18, which placed me 6th among Masters (40+) and 29th of 1,427 overall runners. In 2016, there were not as many participants and I didn’t run as fast, finishing in 1:31:29 which was good enough for 10th overall males and 14th of 1,161 total runners. Although, I’m 5 years older, I was hoping for a better time (especially because I ran 1:27:59 earlier this year). The course is USATF certified and has a lot of uphills. Start and finish are at the same location, so it’s a net 0 incline, but the last hill at mile 12 really gets your legs. I can’t imagine what it feels like for those completing the marathon (which finishes alongside ½ marathoners for the last 11 miles).

I usually post my splits, but I’m having problems with my Garmin Forerunner GPS watch (it won’t sync up to the Garmin Connect site). I observed that at most miles I was running 6:55 to 7:05 pace, which is right inline with my finishing time.

Unfortunately, I came down with a bad cold at the beginning of the week. My frequent business travel finally caught up to me. Although I rested most of the week and ingested about 5 times the recommended daily allowance of Vitamin C per day all week, I don’t think my body was fully recovered by race day.

Enough with the excuses….the Vancouver USA half and full marathon are great races. Bart Yasso from Runner’s World attends every year and helps to promote the event with pre-race shakeout runs and talks. Race day weather this year was perfect (sunny and low 60s). There’s many helpful volunteers throughout providing water, Gatorade and even energy gels. The course is well marked and there’s plenty of spectators cheering racers on. The mid June timing of the race fits well for anyone training for a Fall marathon. I also enjoy how close the race is to where I live and the fact that I can park about 3 blocks from the start (so I don’t have to stand in a line and check a bag).

The organizers are strongly considering moving the race to September. They’ve taken some surveys and observed slightly declining registration over the years. The concern is that the race interferes with Father’s Day and graduation activities. Personally, I think that with the race finishing in the morning (as most do), conflicts shouldn’t be an issue, but that’s my biased opinion and evidently not how others feel.

Training Notes:

This was the first race that I incorporated a 9 day cycle into my training. You can read about this concept in a post I wrote a few months ago.  Because I view this race as more of a training run near the beginning of my marathon training, I didn’t start my longer (10+ miles) runs until about 45 days out from race day (beginning of May). I completed 2 x 10 milers, 1 x 11 mile and 1 x 12 mile run. I also completed 3 tempos of 6-10 miles (each with 1 mile warm-up and 1 mile cool down). My track work consisted of 3 sessions where I completed a combination of 200m, 400m, 600m and 800m ladder style workouts to improve my speed. A week before the race (just when I was starting to feel like a cold was coming on), I completed a track workout where I ran 2 x 2 miles at 12:50 and then 12:38. I completed strength work in the gym once per week and plyometrics/body weight exercises another time each week. Overall, I was pleased with my workouts and conditioning. I think that I was simply worn down from all my travel and my illness.

Lessons learned:
1) Get more sleep in the weeks leading up the race.
2) Run more tempo/lactate threshold runs at ½ marathon pace, which will help my marathon pace

Vancouver USA Half

I hope this race doesn’t move to September, but if it does, it may be reason for me to run the marathon instead of the half. I enjoy training for Fall marathons (primarily because the weather makes it easier and the long days give me more flexibility to run early in the morning or later in the evening). Regardless of when the 2017 will be held, I strongly recommend you consider adding the Vancouver USA Half or Full Marathon to your schedule. Registration fees are low and value is high.

Let me know if you’re going to be in town to run this race, I would love to link up and complete a pre-race run a day or 2 before.

Sam’s Run For St Baldricks

St Baldrick's FoundationThere are certain people you encounter who leave an everlasting impression on your life. These people are typically relatives, good friends or someone professionally who has helped you.  Think of someone who has positively influenced you.  Sam Marx was one of those people for many in Vancouver, WA.  Sam was a young scholar, athlete, Eagle Scout, and talented musician.  He was valedictorian at his high school and known as a kid who made the most of everything.  During Sam’s senior year of high school, he was diagnosed with a rare cancer (desmoplastic small round cell tumors). His disease required experimental treatments, some of which were made possible through funding from the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. His courage, strength, and love were magnified as he helped raise funds for pediatric cancer research through St. Baldrick’s events in the Portland, OR area during his treatments.  Unfortunately, Sam didn’t survive his fight with cancer, but his memory lives on.

A few weeks ago, my family and I participated in the 5th Annual Sam’s Run/Walk to benefit childhood cancer research through the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. The event’s proceeds were included with the “Team Sam I Am” shavee donation to a Vancouver, WA St. Baldrick’s event, also held last month. The St. Baldrick’s Foundation is a volunteer powered charity that directs every possible dollar to carefully selected research grants, with the goal to find cures for childhood cancers. Most typically it’s through their head shaving events, but also numerous small community events like our Sam’s Run/Walk. In 2015, St Baldrick’s raised $37M.  YTD 2016, events have raised $32M.  Besides raising money to support cancer research, St. Baldrick’s is an event that brings people together for hope and support during difficult times.  Donations give hope to infants, children, teens and young adults fighting childhood cancers.

My family has been friends with the Marx family for many years and we have participated in all 5 Sam’s Run events.  My wife raised $1k+ and bravely had her head shaved 5 years ago, so we’re committed to the cause.

St Baldrick Foundation

This year’s run was on a recent overcast Saturday morning along the Heritage Trail in Camas, WA. It was actually perfect conditions for approximately 50 people ranging in age from little kids to seniors. For a nominal donation of $20+, participants received a colorful, “Team Sam I Am” t-shirt. After a few words of encouragement and thanks from the Marx family and some lighthearted jokes from host/emcee, Dave Griffin, the event was started with a horn. No clock is used, so finishing is purely for fun and exercise. Everyone cheers on each other as they complete their way through the 5k. With coffee, juice and bagels waiting at the end, it’s a perfect way to get your exercise in on a Saturday morning, while contributing to a good cause. My wife ran with a friend. My youngest son finished first and then proceeded to run an additional 5 miles to get his planned 8 miler in for the day. He’s an over achiever….lol.  This run was a nice, easy and a fun break.  Each one of my workouts is not always about marathon training.  On this day it was great to spend time with old friends.


St Baldrick Foundation

I encourage you to click on the link to find out more and even consider a donation to the St. Baldrick’s Foundation. If there’s an event in your area, consider supporting it. Get really brave and commit to getting your head shaved. Considering all the kids with cancer who lose their hair during treatment, it’s not that big of a sacrifice for such a worthy cause.

Wet, Cold and Ugly…..2016 Portland Shamrock Run

2016 Portland Shamrock RunLast Sunday’s Shamrock Run was probably the ugliest in recent memory.  The race itself is run flawlessly by the organizers.  I’m talking about both the weather and my performance that were so ugly.  This was the wettest Shamrock in many years.  Rain doesn’t usually bother me, but this time it caused my clothes to stick to my body, which was uncomfortable the last few miles.  Over the last 6 years (since I’ve been paying attention), Portland Oregon’s most popular race event, with approx. 30,000 people registered for 1 of 5 different races, has been run in the rain. I could blame the poor conditions for my lackluster (for me) performance, but my 1:06:46 is much more the result of lack of recent speed and hill work.

Since the Vancouver Lake ½ marathon at the end of January, my weekly mileage is approx. 25 miles and has consisted of a lot of 5-6 mile runs.  I could blame my lack of training on inclement weather and a lot of business travel, but reality is I have trained with these same obstacles for many years. The fact is, I really haven’t put in much intense work, the last 45 days.  So without much intensity, it’s obvious to me why I’m not at 1:02 like I was in 2014.

Middle Age Marathoner Shamrock Run

My workouts have consisted of a few 8 milers and 4-5 mile runs on the (hotel) treadmill.  The only track work I completed the last 30 days was 100m strides two times.  Other intense work include a 6 mile tempo run and a hill workout 9 days before the race.

For comparison, I have included my splits for the last 3 Shamrock Runs.  As you can see, my times have gotten progressively slower.  In 2014, I was training for Boston, so I was clearly in much better shape.  My time last year was only slightly better than this year’s time.

2016 Shamrock Run – 15k

2015 Shamrock Run – 15k

2014 Shamrock Run – 15k

Lesson’s Learned…Game Plan for rest of 2016

If I want to run faster times, I need to practice what I preach and plan and run some hard workouts.  I’m only 50 and I’m not injured, so I think I still have plenty of fast races left in me.  I need to identify a local 10k or ½ marathon for late May/June towards which I can train.   The Vancouver USA ½ Marathon is in mid June and will probably fit into my schedule.  I can get in some base mileage over the next 30 days and then start an 8 week plan.  If I run a 1:25 half marathon in mid June, I will be on track for a low 3:00 hour or possibly sub 3:00 hour marathon this Fall.

2016 Vancouver Lake Half Marathon

Half Marathon Training









I just completed the 2016 Vancouver Lake Half Marathon.  My time was 1:27:59.  My good friend Derek shattered 1:30 with his PR time of 1:28:35.  Right before the race, Derek told me he would be happy with 1:35, so I have to assume he’s ecstatic with his time.

This was my first race in the 50 – 54 age bracket.  I came in 2nd place.  Unfortunately, I forgot to pick up my award (a monogrammed pint glass).  Oh well, wonder if they’ll save it for me for next year:-)   Below I provide some race details, my splits and some details of my training leading up to the race.

The Lake Vancouver Half Marathon is run near the end of January every year.  On a totally flat course.  Conditions can be horrible (windy, raining, sleet, etc) or not bad. The race is a favorite for locals here in Southwest WA and the Portland, OR area.  It’s limited to 500 runners.  Sign-ups open on November 1st and the race is typically full with a week to 10 days.

This year’s race was almost perfect conditions.  At the 1000am start (no need to get up at the crack of dawn for this one) the sky was mostly overcast.  No wind and temps in the mid 40s.  Some people were dressed up for cold weather, but as you can see above, I wore a t-shirt under my racing singlet.   I started the race with gloves, but handed them to my youngest son at mile 3.

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon


Chris Platano (age 27) won the race in 1:09:21 (that’s a 5:18 pace)







As with last year’s race, I didn’t complete much track and speed work training in preparation for the race.  December was an extremely wet month (nearly 20″ of rain) and I was out for almost a week with a head cold.  Fortunately by the end of December I was able to get in a number of 8 – 9 mile runs.  I also continued to complete weight and circuit training at the gym during the holidays, so I am strong.

My long runs in January were 2 x 10.5 miles at 7:30 pace.  I completed one of the runs on the course the first week of January and another 10 miler while in Dallas about 12 days before the race.

My track or speed work consisted of:

A ladder workout about 3.5 weeks before the race – 1 x 200m, 1 x 400, 1 x 600, 1 x 800, 1 x 600, 1 x 400, 1 x 200m

2 other track days where I completed 100m strides, high knees and butt kicks

I complete 1 x tempo run the week before the race.  This run was on a local (Heritage) running trail where I did 1 mile warm-up and then 6 miles at 6:40 pace, followed by 1 mile cool down. Prior to this run, my confidence was fairly low that I would be able to break 1:30 for the 1/2 marathon.  After this run, I felt like I may have a shot.

One of my key strategies before the race was to fully hydrate starting a few days before the race.  I also really watched my diet the week before.  I laid off processed carbohydrates and saturated fats.  The night before, I had pasta primavera (chicken with roasted veggies) and a dinner salad.   The morning of the race I ate a bowl of oatmeal and continued to drink a lot of water. I also had a piece of toast with cut up banana and some yogurt.

I knew that I was well hydrated because of frequency of my bathroom breaks before the race.  I consumed 1 energy gel about 10 minutes before the race and had another at about mile 8.  This second gel really gave me a boost the last 4.5 miles as my legs were starting to get tired.

Following are my race splits.  As you see, they were pretty even.  Mile 13 was one of my fastest.  Overall, I’m pleased.  Breaking 1:28 at age 50 and not doing a lot of training for this race is pretty good.

Next race is Portland’s Shamrock run on March 13th.  I’m running the 15k.  Maybe if I train I can run near 60 minutes 😉

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon Training and Race Recap

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon Training and Race Recap

Half Marathon TrainingI completed the Vancouver Lake ½ Marathon last week. I finished in 1:28, 7th place for my 45-49 age group (top 6 receive commemorative pint glasses). This is a small race (about 525) on a flat course adjacent to Vancouver Lake and the Columbia River in Southwest Washington. Race time weather conditions were perfect. Temperatures were in upper 40s/low 50s, with no wind or rain and a slight fog. In past years, racers have experienced freezing rain and wind. Although I didn’t train specifically for this race, I’m still happy with the time. 6:45/mile pace isn’t bad considering I haven’t done much speed or tempo work.

My specific mile splits are captured below. Right now my sights are set on the Vancouver USA Marathon in mid June, so I view this race as just a 13 mile tempo that I ran 17 weeks prior to the Newport Marathon. Following are my splits for the race:

Vancouver Lake Half Marathon Splits
Below I outline my training for this event. I think it’s a good template for half marathon training at the beginning of a race season. I mostly relied on my running base (typically 25-35 miles/week during the offseason, plus cross-fit conditioning workouts twice a week). Although this may seem like low mileage, at my age, I don’t want to breakdown during my marathon training. Read my post on building an offseason mileage base for more information.
I also recently completed the Runners World 36 day challenge (running every day from Thanksgiving to New Year’s). I completed medium to long runs (8-12 miles) at a relatively easy pace and I finished 4 track/interval sessions. The rest of training was balanced around my busy work/travel schedule and consisted of workouts in hotel gyms. As discussed in my marathon training tips for busy professionals, the goal of these gym workouts was to maintain my level of fitness. My 6 week half marathon training plan included:
1.  At least one long run per week – 3 (total) x 8 milers, 2 x 10 milers, 2 x 11/12 mile runs at 7:30/mi pace.
2. Weeks prior to the race, 11 mile run at 7:15-7:30/mile pace in the vicinity of the course
3. Approximately half the long runs included hills.
4. Interval/track workouts. I completed 1 (each) of the following workouts, starting 5+ weeks prior the half marathon.  These were not super strenuous, but each was run at 5k pace. I honestly haven’t felt too motivated to run a hard/long track workout. All of these started with 1.5mile warm-up, stretching & 8 x 100m strides

Week 1 – 4 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest between each
Week 2
– 2 x 200m, 1 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
Week 3
– 4 x 200m, 2 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest
Week 4
– 2 x 200m, 3 x 400m, 2 x 200m with 60 seconds of rest

5. Other workouts included either 4 miles on hotel treadmills with assorted plyometric exercises or 2-3 mile warm-up runs followed by 30 minute cross-fit/Universal Combat Conditioning (completed as group at Universal Jiu-Jitsu  in Camas, WA).

Badwater Ultramarathon & FKT’s


I have a hard time understanding how anyone can run for more than 40 miles in a day.  How do you have the time to train for ultramarathons?  I have a hard enough time training for marathons when I’m due for my long runs.  Running 30+ mile training runs would take most of my day when you factor in pre run prep and post run recovery.  Having kids’ and family activities all weekend, I wouldn’t have the time.

Following guest article talks about the infamous Death Valley to Mt. Whitney run.  The weather channel just ran a piece on this race.  It’s brutal.  Especially because it’s run in July with temps in the 120 degree range.

I enjoy reading about these “ultra” adventure runs, but I have no desire to participate.

Enjoy this article & click through the links.

Solos and FKT’s

by Patrick Reed

If my count is correct, this upcoming Monday, July 15th, 2013, marks the start of the 37th running of what is dubbed “The Toughest Footrace on Earth.” It is the Badwater Ultramarathon, affectionately called the ‘Badwater 135′ by those in the know. And as you probably know, this brutal running race begins at 282 feet below sea level (-86 meters) – the lowest point in the United States – and boils its way across and up to the Whitney Portal, gateway to the highest elevation in the USA’s ‘lower 48.’ The portal stands at 8,360 feet of elevation (2,550 meters). The 135 mile trek is run at the hottest time of the year, in order to most maximally test the 99 entrants who are either fortunate enough to be a part of the field or foolish enough to toe the line. FYI, the men’s course record holder for this epic feat is Valmir Nunes, 43, Brazil, who in 2007 ran 22:51:29. The USA’s Jamie Donaldson, 35, set the women’s mark of 26:16:12 in 2010.

Held up as indeed one of the world’s greatest ultramarathon challenges, the Badwater 135 is not alone in its insanely brutal course profile, weather challenges and distance. Nevertheless, many list the race as tops on their bucket lists…

But there are other memo’s I’d encourage you to be writing down as you explore the feats which beckon you from your marathon slumber. One such challenge is the ‘Solo’ effort. Another limitless set of self-tests are FKT’s — or “Fastest Known Times.”

First to the Solo’s. I pulled this synopsis off of Wikipedia:

Through the years, runners of all abilities have completed individual Badwater to Mt. Whitney crossings in the spirit of the early crossings, usually aided by crew. In 2005, Hugh Murphy initiated an informal gathering known as the Badwater Solo Ultra 135/146. Runners could finish at Whitney Portal (135 mi.), but were encouraged to continue to the summit of Mt. Whitney (146 mi.) Finishers of either distance were presented with a bronze belt buckle. In 2007, the informal group start was dissolved due to National Park Service permitting regulations. Solo runners continue to complete the course on an individual basis during the months of July and August. The word “solo” is used to designate runners who are not part of the official race. These Solos should not be confused with the unassisted crossings of Ulrich or Weber. In compliance with National Park and Forest Service permitting rules, the Badwater Solo is not a competitive race or an organized event of any kind. In general there are three types of recognized “solos”. “Solo badwater” where the runner has a crew. “Solo self supported” or “Solo Oasis to oasis”, where the runner does not have a crew but can use/buy/stash water and food. “Solo self contained” where the runner cannot get help and has to carry all food and water ( see exact rules established by Marshall Ulrich). Since 2007, Marcia Rasmussen has attempted to verify each Solo crossing and continue the tradition of awarding a buckle to each finish. “Badwater” Ben Jones maintains a “Master List” of all Badwater-to-Whitney crossings, including finishers of the official Badwater Ultramarathon and the Badwater Solo. As of spring 2013, all 146mi crossings will be tracked and documented at -> http://badwater146.info and will be discussed and approved by the community. (source: en.wikipedia.org)

And then there are the FKT’s. Fastest Known Times are efforts where runners test themselves over a course or challenge of their own making. Documenting and recording their times, they share them with the world. Hence, a limitless set of gauntlets are thrown down for runners across the world to match or better. These FKT’s do not need to be seen as threatening marks established for the world to race after; and ultra marathon culture – with its still somewhat innocent infatuation with the simple joy and bliss of the run – would keep this less competitive vibe. Still, FKT’s – just by the mere fact that they are recorded and shared – are lines in the sand, replete with ambition, glory and just a touch of bravado;) Which begs the question: why do we share our exploits? But that is a memo for another day.

Today, I ask you: what is your next solo? What first frontier will you strive to conquer as a FKT? Will you share it with the world? Or is it enough for you to hold your personal achievements close?

Something in us seems to want to shine — which means to strive and share.

Keep shining!