Portland Marathon Training: The Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon and the Hood to Coast

A Shift in Training

After completing the Colorado Trail in mid July, I had initially planned on competing in the Colorado Trail Race, and had trained all spring to get in shape for it.  After completing the trail once, however, I decided that doing it all over again in a race format was a little much, and decided to simply follow the race online versus on the trail.

That being said, I was pretty fit after finishing the trail, was acclimated to 10,000 feet, and probably had the highest VO2 max of my life (if you’re into looking at that kind of stuff, which I kind of am).

Question: What’s a guy to do with all this fitness and no outlet to apply it to?

Answer: Find something to apply it to of course!

My application of said fitness was an all-out training 180 aimed at running my first ever marathon.  My sister, who hails from Maryland, is flying out in October to run the Portland Marathon and had initially tried to convince me to start training immediately after the CTR.  At the time of our conversation (in early July), I was convinced that I wouldn’t have enough training time to prepare (about 8 weeks) – plus, I anticipated that the last thing I’d want to do after racing my bike through the Rockies for 5 or 6 days was find another endurance event to start training for right away.

However, seeing as how I didn’t actually race the Colorado Trail, I immediately started reconsidering the Portland Marathon and, after a few experimental long runs immediately after finishing the trail with Andy, I decided that the Portland Marathon should and would be my way of salvaging my spring and summer fitness preparation.

The Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon

My first fitness benchmark for the marathon was to race a half marathon, which I did on a drizzly August day in Cascade Locks.  The Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon is a relatively challenging 13.1 mile run that includes over 1,000 feet of elevation (pretty atypical for a half-marathon), multiple switchbacks along the course, and even a long section of stairs which racers traverse up around mile 4 and then back down around mile 9, a real downer for anyone aiming for consistency in their miles splits.

I wasn’t sure where I was with my conditioning to be honest, as I had just started seriously training three weeks prior to the race, but my bike riding all summer paid off, and I actually got my first half marathon win with an official time of 1:21.08 (my Garmin recorded a slightly faster time, but I’ll go with the official results I guess).

VERY excited after finishing the race.

What made the race even sweeter was that my wife Trish won the 5k race as well.  Trish has only recently been able to run again because of some chronic knee pain she has dealt with over the last year.  It was pretty special for her to not only race the 5k pain free, but to actually be the fastest female finisher for the race.  Handrich family for the win!

Trish’s Instagram montage after we both placed first in our respective races.

The Hood to Coast

A couple weeks after the Bridge of the Gods Half Marathon, I was signed up to run the Hood to Coast, which I do with some of my old high school friends every year.  The Hood to Coast is a 200 mile run from the top of Mount Hood to  the coastal town of Seaside.  Each team participating has 2 vans of 6 people each, who take turns running different legs of the race all the way to Seaside.

Two weeks prior to the race, one of our teammates regretfully informed us he couldn’t make it.  He and his wife just had a baby and the demands of fatherhood trumped the demands of running with our team.  All of our van members tried to find an additional member to join us, but I guess none of our friends wanted to sit in a car with 5 other dudes for 26 hours running nonstop with no sleep, no showers, and a diet consisting almost solely of chips and Gatorade.

Long story short, I agreed to run two legs of each section instead of just one, as it would be good training for me.  I ended up running 34 miles throughout our 26 hour race, averaging 6:11 on my first leg (11 miles), 6:15 on my second leg (11 miles), and then 6:33 on my final leg (12 miles).  My slow final leg may have been the result of my diet between legs two and three, which consisted of barbecue chips and a Gatorade, or it may have simply been the result of tired legs and no sleep, but overall I felt great about the run and even greater about the time I had to catch up with some great friends who I hadn’t seen since the last Hood to Coast.

The team photo shortly after finishing the race.

Final Preparation

Leading up to the October 8th race day, I plan on running three 20+ mile runs over the next three weekends and then tapering the last two weekends leading up to the race.  Having never done a marathon before, I’m basing my training around internet hearsay and my sister’s advice, who has run multiple Boston qualifying times for marathons and has A LOT more running experience than me.

While I enjoy ‘bike’ training more than ‘run’ training, I’ve had a great time preparing for the Portland Marathon not only because I get to run it with my sister, but because I hope to run the Boston Marathon with her after we both qualify (fingers crossed).  We’ll see what happens in October!