Monday, May 02, 2016

Orange County Marathon Review

Sunday, May 1, 2016:

Don waiting for the start.  Photo courtesy
Orange County Register, by Mindy Schauer
They don't get much better than this.  I can't remember when I have enjoyed a marathon more.  I finished my 95th marathon in 6:33:53, about 25 minutes faster than my next previous marathon three weeks ago.  More important, I had fun.  Can a marathon be fun?  Well, this one was - even some parts of the last six miles were enjoyable.  I recommend both the OC Marathon and the OC Half Marathon to all.  But see comments about the waiver contract, below.

My Race:

I finished 9th of 10 in my 75-99 age group, not so great, but only 11 minutes behind the man who finished in the middle, 5th of nine.  It's a rather unusual result, so many of us finishing almost together. Actually I'm quite impressed that ten of us old geezers ran the marathon and did reasonably well. I did finish ahead of 70 other runners out of the 1900-runner field, and I more than met my own finish-time expectations.

Don with Chris Yee, reporter
with the Orange County Register,
The back of my shirt showed my name above the words "I'm alive thanks to novel cancer medications," and in 95 marathons I have never had so much affirmation by runners going past.  "Good job Don," "Keep it up," and so much more.  One hairy, shirtless guy just patted me on the shoulder and ran past without words.  The message touched people.  Me too.

Plenty of Whining:

The back pain that I have dealt with in recent months, possibly caused by a myeloma lesion in a vertebra, did not appear until the very last mile, and then was only a dim reminder of times past.  Slight pains in the right hip and right ankle resolved themselves.

When the race was over, though, I discovered a significant blister on my left big toe, between that one and the second toe. That will require some care between now and the next marathon, just three weeks away.

On Monday, the day after the race, there is some pain near the outside of the right knee.  It's unfamiliar, and appears mostly when I bend the knee, not when I stand up straight and put weight on it.  It might be the ITB or a bursa, except that I can't make it hurt by pressing on the knee with my fingers.  The start of a knee problem, or gone in a day or two?  Time will tell.  Gone is most likely.

The OC Marathon:

What's not to like?
Beach at Newport Pier
  • Race directors would certainly control the weather if they could, but they couldn't have chosen better weather than we had.  About 55 degrees at the start, mostly cloudy with little wind, rising to maybe 65 at the finish with a little cooling wind.  Dry - I poured water on my head a couple of times, soaking my shirt, which soon dried off again. 
  • Roads were all closed to vehicle traffic, or coned off with police or explorer units at every significant corner.  I saw and greeted police from each of the cities we passed through, as well as the California Highway Patrol.  I never once felt at risk from vehicles.
  • Some of the course was quite beautiful, with great views of the ocean, valleys, and more.  It was interesting.  At one point I realized that I wasn't just plodding along, as in some marathons, but I was having fun! Some of the course was on trails made for pedestrians and bikes - lovely. 
  • Volunteers were wonderful, of course. 
  • The race instructions give time limits of 3.5 and 7.0 hours for the half and the full, but those limits simply mean that on-course support may disappear as a runner falls behind pace.  I rather doubt that anyone was denied a chance to finish and get a medal. 
  • Medals are quite attractive. 
  • The expo was a good one, big enough to be interesting.
Along the way

Suggestions for next year:
  • Do away with the gratuitous adhesion contract that every runner is forced to sign before picking up their bib.  I'm a lawyer and I'd love to tear that to shreds in court.  In 95 marathons, we have encountered this only once before.  It's lawyering gone overboard - mostly it just puts everyone in a bad mood as they enter the expo, having to write their personally-identifying information, including name, address, birth date, and email address, on a sheet of paper available to practically anyone including all of the volunteers. No runner reads it and no runner gets a copy of it.  Do the waiver during on-line registration before people have already spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on registration and travel - it might be valid if done that way.  The race committee is trying (unsuccessfully) to protect themselves, but they are certainly not protecting us or our information. Is that what the OC Marathon is all about?
  • Sign in Best Western Cafe
  • They ran out of men's shirts.  Really?  This is otherwise a classy marathon.  We arrived hours before the closing of the expo, but I had to sign up to have the shirt mailed.  Is it that hard to predict?  Did they screw up the order, or did they give give the shirts away to those who registered at the last minute, in preference to those who registered way ahead?
  • If there was a good map of the race course, good enough to follow most of it in a car, we didn't find it on line.  If there was a turn-by-turn description we didn't find that either.
Other stuff:
  • Some marathons have interesting signs for runners as we pass by.  I didn't see too many here, but there was one that said "Sweat is just fat going 'Woo Hoo'." 
  • Shirt:  Strip down / Run the race / Never quit. ~ Hebrews 12.  (Look it up)
  • We stayed at the Best Western Newport Mesa Inn, which was right across Hwy 55 from the Fair Grounds where the expo and the finish were located.  This allowed us to avoid cars and parking altogether, with a 15-minute easy walk to the expo, the busses to the start, and back from the finish.  The Best Western is a nice hotel, too.
Mile splits: 13:29, 39:39 (3 mi), 14:21, 13:53, 27:36 (2 mi), 15:05, 14:19, 42:25 (3 mi), 14:39, 32:12 (2 mi), 15:28, 15:52, 15:22, 16:47, 17:04, 15:05, 16:44, 17:15, 17:06, 16:01, 3:32, total 6:33:53, average pace 15:01.  I do seem to slow in the second half these days, even though it feels like I'm pushing just as hard.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Every Run Is an Adventure

Here are four of those.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016:

For some months now I have occasionally felt an uncomfortable pressure behind my sternum when I run.  It has always gone away when I eased up a little on the speed.  Today I started out running, not walking (despite the lesson learned just two days ago) and felt that discomfort more strongly than ever before.

What could this be? Possibilities: (1) Heart - I have no history of heart issues, but my dad and his dad did, and I'm 75; (2) Reaction to yesterday's anti-myeloma infusion treatment - a distinct possibility; or (3) Acid reflux (simple heartburn) stimulated by a delightful gluten-free pizza lunch a couple of hours earlier, on top of the morning's dexamethasone tablet, also part of the myeloma treatment.

This felt serious enough that I decided to reduce my speed to a moderate walk and shorten the course to a mile or so, but after reducing speed the discomfort abated, so I stayed on the original hilly 4-mile route.  I ran very little, only when crossing streets, and adjusted my walking speed to keep the discomfort to a minimum.  It was still there, though, lurking, and after a little run across an intersection the answer came up.  Literally, from my stomach into my mouth, no nausea, just reflux.

Actually that's the best answer, because it's something that I can manage:  Don't run or even speed-walk after eating a large meal (duh!), and talk to my doctor about when (and whether) to take that particular dose of dexamethasone.

Two-mile splits: 28:20, 29:02, total 57:22, pace 14:21.  Not too shabby anyway, considering.

Monday, April 18:

Fast Walk, No Run.  Still apprehensive about Thursday's injury to the left hamstrings, I took the same 4.04-mile route that I had taken on Thursday when they were injured, but speed-walked with no running at all.  Somewhat to my surprise, I did not feel any pain at all in the left thigh.  Further, the pace did not drop as much as I expected - I only needed about two more minutes to do the route.

I keep learning this lesson, maybe it wil sink in someday: The best marathon pace for me right now is a speed walk with no running at all.

Two-mile splits: 25:40, 26:52, total 52:30, distance 4.04, pace 13:00.

Saturday, April 16:

St Croix Valley Walkers.  This is originally a runners group, but we have become friends and as we have grown older and less speedy we have formed a walkers group too.  7:00 am at Browns Creek Park in Stillwater, we walk one way or the other on the new Browns Creek Trail for a half hour or so, then back.

Today we walked for about three miles in about 50 minutes, a nice walking pace that didn't bother my aching hamstring at all.

Thursday, April 14:

Pulled Hamstrings.  This was the first run after the Lake Lowell Marathon, and I felt very strong, so I ran more of the time than I probably should have. About halfway into the four-mile run I started to feel a little pull in the left hamstrings.  Often these things just go away, so I kept going.  Later, though, after the run, the hamstrings were still sore and remained so for a day or two.

Two-mile splits: 24:56, 25:18, total 50:15, distance 4.04, pace 12:26.

Sunday, April 10, 2016

Lake Lowell Marathon Review

My Race: 

Now showered with at least half of the tenacious Mayo Clinic sunscreen scrubbed off, swathed in soft, dry cotton clothes, nibbling on pizza, one beer down the hatch and a second on the way, I feel pretty good.  Marathon number 94 is finished, I was third in my age group (out of three) but not quite last in the race, it's a GOOD DAY!  Finish time was 6:57:51, not up to par but the best I could do today.
Back at the hotel

I did have some runner's issues during the race, a tender Achilles' tendon on the right and a sore bursa in the left hip, both of which caused me to slow down early.  I have felt the sore bursa before - it comes from running a long way on the same side of a crowned road.  It goes away in a day or two.  The Achilles' tendon issue is new, though, and a bit more of a concern.  Happily, although it showed up at about mile 10 or 11, it didn't get worse as long as I only walked and didn't run at all.  I might have been speeding up a bit at the end of the race.  I had been dreading the 100-foot climb just before the finish but it was a piece of cake.

I was concerned about the temperature, predicted to top out at 81 degrees, but I never felt too hot and only once dumped a little water on my head.  Very dry air and a little breeze made the difference.  At the finish the hip and Achilles' tendon were still tender but leg muscles were only weary (as they should be), not painful like they had been three weeks before in the cold wind at Virginia Beach.

The Lake Lowell Marathon:
The day before the race

The Dike, with Lake Lowell
on the right (my left).
Good stuff:

  • The people are wonderful.  I met the race director(s) and they were incredibly supportive of my journey. 
  • The time limit is a generous 8 hours, but the race director told me that the finish would actually stay open until the last runner (or walker) crossed, whenever that was.  
  • Volunteers were awesome!  In races over 6 hours the aid-station volunteers sometimes close up shop early, when they doubt that anyone else is coming, but in this race all aid stations were open when I needed them.  Two were unmanned, but still set up with water, Gatorade, and a little food.  
  • There were plenty of aid stations, with ice water if needed.  I carried water, just in case, but never needed it. 
  • Lake Lowell, more than 100 years old, is a man-made reservoir on the Boise River.  We only saw it for a few miles, but what we did see was very nice and included some lovely wildlife refuges.  
  • The course is out-and-back, which I actually do like because I get to see every other runner at some point. 
  • We like the shirts, with women's sizes for my sweeties.  
  • The medal is spectacular. 
  • Arriving an hour before the start, I got a great parking spot. 
  • Most of the course was on paved roads.  But see below.  
  • Many drivers were very thoughtful and courteous.  But see below. 

The Course: 

I hate to give a race a bad review, but in my opinion this race needs a whole new course.  Lovely people, but easily the worst course in all my 94 marathons.  According to the web site, roads would be open to traffic and we would be passed by an "occasional" car.  In the lowest-traffic portion of the course I counted an average of one vehicle per minute, which is not too bad I suppose, though there were many more trucks than cars.  As I crossed over the 1.4-mile Deer Flat Lower Embankment (the Dike) I counted 99 vehicles crossing with and passing me, and in a one-mile stretch of Orchard Avenue I counted 81 in 16 minutes, which is one every 12 seconds.  This was typical of most of the distance, not just a small part of it - these were trunk roads.  The Dike had no paved shoulder at all, just a rough-gravel shoulder, plenty wide but a little tough on the feet and with the potential to twist a foot or ankle.  Most other roads had a paved shoulder 12 to 15 inches wide, not as wide as a person and certainly not wide enough to feel comfortable with cars, pickups, SUVs, delivery trucks, even double-bottom tanker trucks passing barely an arms-length away at 50 mph.  I found myself stepping down off the pavement onto the rough gravel shoulder hundreds of times, often several times in a single minute.  A few Idaho drivers are not courteous and some did not even try to slow down or move over, especially when cars were coming from the opposite direction as well, which happened frequently.  Many of the drivers were on the phone, including the farmers in their pickups, and some were looking down as if texting.  Indeed one SUV came right across the white shoulder line directly toward me at highway speed, and if it had not corrected, I would have been human paste.  If that driver was pranking me, it was in exceptionally bad taste, even more if texting.  As the SUV passed I yelled through its open window in equally bad taste, though with far less lethal potential.  I think the driver was a woman and there may have been children in the car, but I do not regret my insulting language and I hope that Mommy truthfully admits to them the life lesson, if she learned it, though she probably just thinks I was a really nasty pedestrian.  From that point to the finish I carried throwing-sized rocks in my hands, angrily thinking that if someone pulled that again at least their vehicle wouldn't be the same afterward.  Actually, I felt angry about the traffic during much of the race and I'm angry again as I write this.  I would never have come all the way to Boise to run this disagreeable course if the web site had told the truth about it.
Our Great While Whale.  It was all
the rental car company had left late
on a Wednesday night.

There, now I've said it and I'm done.  Calm down, Don, you're an assertive old fart but anger doesn't suit you and it doesn't cure cancer.  Your normal upbeat and cheerful demeanor is much better.  You finished marathon # 94.  Life is good!

Assuming that all goes well with my myeloma treatment, the next race will be in southern California.

Splits:  39:58 (3 mi), 33:00 (2 mi & nature break), 14:44, 31:36 (2 mi), 14:30, 49:30 (3 mi), 17:00, 15:52, 16:09, 17:04, 16:31, 50:46 (3 mi), 15:52, 16:32, 15:43, 16:45, 16:39, 15:48, 3:55, total 6:57:55.

Tuesday, April 05, 2016

Hilly Run

Monday, April 4, 2016

This 4-mile route is the hilliest loop that I can find near our home, with a total excursion of more than 100 feet up and down.  It's kind of fun.

Even more fun today was the weather, in the upper 30's with only a little wind and with some snow!  I love to run in flying snow when there is no risk of it really getting underfoot.  I wore tights this time, under running shorts (for the pockets), with two shirts and a running jacket above.  By the end of the run the sun had come out, and I got a selfie of Don having a good time.

I'm writing this from Mayo Clinic and don't have my watch, but I remember it saying 52 minutes and some seconds, so my pace was between 13:00 and 13:30 minutes/mile.  I mostly walked, didn't run much, good enough for a taper run.  Marathon coming up!

Sunday, April 03, 2016

Up the Stairs

Today's run was fairly energetic, including a 55-foot climb on a woodsy combination of stairs and steep trails.  I never go down these stairs, for fear of falling, but I do like to go up them sometimes.  Some of the stairs are made of unforgiving granite, though, with very square edges, so I don't go too fast on the way up either.  The stairs make the run a little slower, but worth it because the stairs are good training.

Nice run, no problems.  I passed my sweeties going both directions.  Mostly walking but some running.

Two-mile splits: 25:53, 24:35, total 50:27, miles 4.05, average pace 12:27.

Thursday, March 31, 2016

Quick Four Miles

I'm tapering for the next marathon now, so the idea is to keep the muscles from forgetting last week's marathon.  To do that I don't do long runs, but I don't let up on intensity either.  I started out easy today but felt great and sped up a bit in the second two miles.

Splits: 24:12, 24:10, total 48:22, 4.0 miles, average pace 12:06 min/mi.

Tuesday, March 29, 2016:

Eight Miles.   Did I take four days off from running?  My last post was Friday, and I should have done a run on Easter Sunday, but don't have any record of one and don't remember one.  I did well today, though, starting out to do an easy 8-mile walk and ending up charging up hills.  This was the "day after DEX day," so I probably felt a little more energetic than I might otherwise have felt, who knows, but I did feel great.

Splits: 28:05, 29:09, 25:47, 25:59, total 1:49:00, 4.0 miles, average pace 13:37 min/mi.  First 4 miles 14:16, second 4 miles 13:01 despite the hills.

Friday, March 25, 2016

Beyond Recovery Run

Usually I try to get in a recovery run about three days after a marathon, but this time life intervened and today's run was five days after.  I felt great this afternoon, temperatures were in the mid-40's with sun and modest wind, so I had a great walk, running whenever I felt like it.

Splits: 24:30 (1.96 mi), 25:06 (2.04 mi), total 4.0 miles in 49:36, pace 12:34.  It'll do for today.

Life intervening: Wood Duck House

Male Wood Duck in tree.
Image courtesy Wikipedia
This is the time of year that the wood ducks show up in Minnesota.  They are arguably the most beautiful of all ducks, they roost in trees (yep), and they nest in a cavity in a tree created by some other creature, including and especially a "cavity" created for them by a human.  Mom wood duck manages to hatch all of her eggs at once, then stands on the ground and calls the chicks.  The fuzzy little newborns "fly" out of the nest, falling and bouncing unharmed to the ground one by one, and when she has collected them all she marches them off to a nearby lake or pond, where they will grow to adulthood.

Materials list available
upon request
Wood ducks were once endangered, almost extinct, but thanks to better hunting regulations and partly to thousands of artificial houses made by humans, they are now thriving.  It's a treat to have a wood duck family around, especially if you happen to be there to see the chicks come fluttering to the ground based on nothing but trust in their mother's call.  To persuade a mom to choose your nest box it has to be there in early spring, hence my urgency.

This morning I completed the construction of a nice new house within easy view of our living room.  Our neighborhood is a bit more urban than a wood duck might prefer, but maybe we'll get lucky and someone will like the nice new house anyway.  Not that she will care, but it's pretty much all cedar and stainless steel, so if there are no takers this year it will be there next year too.