Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Vancouver USA Marathon Review

June 19, 2016:

This marathon is in the USA!  It's a lovely marathon, and I would do it again without reservation.  I especially appreciated the 7-hour time limit for marathoners, and the five-hour limit for half-marathoners.

My race:

My 97th marathon is in the books!  I finished in 6:53:44, just six minutes under the time limit and fourth of four in my age group, but I'm a happy man.  It's also just 13 minutes over my time for the next-most-recent marathon in Fargo, and I have plenty of excuses for the difference.

First, I was concerned about my right knee after the Fargo Marathon, and saw the sports doc, who wasn't sure if it was a slight fracture of the tibia or a tear in the meniscus. Neither is good.   He suggested that I stop training for the three remaining weeks leading up to this marathon, and I did that.  So my muscles weren't quite as well-prepared as they otherwise might have been.

Second, the weather was a bit warmer than I like it.  I started pouring water on my head (at aid stations) somewhere around the half-marathon mark.  Our rental car showed a temperature in the 80's after my finish, though I think the real temperature was probably in the high 70's.

Third and more  important, I had pain in both hips that did actually slow me down.  More about that in the "Whining" section below.


Fourth, possibly most significant, I will call the "heart issue," also detailed under "Whining."

Sometimes in a marathon I find someone going just my speed who likes to talk.  Not so in this race.  Mostly it was a solitary event, with a few exuberant supporters along the way, but not too many.  There were always a few other runners in view, either ahead of me or behind, but none to talk to.  No fault of the race - it seemed like everyone but me was wearing headphones, which I take as a message that they don't want to talk.  I don't wear them - I like to say that I'm pretty good company for myself.


This is where I detail the pains and possible injuries, real or imagined, for my record.  This is my log - I don't have any other record, and sometimes I do look back to see what has happened in the past.  I invite you to skip this part if you like.
  • The "Heart Issue."  Three times along the way, starting early in the race, I felt a heaviness in the middle of my chest, accompanied by an ache going down both arms.  It happened only when going uphill, and it went away when I slowed down or reached the top.   In fact it seemed like a pretty clear message this I should slow down.  I have no idea if this really is a heart issue, but will see my primary doc next week.  The problem disappeared in the later miles, even though those miles were hillier.  I should have noted my heart rate when it happened, but didn't.
  • The right knee: I was disappointed to feel some complaint from the right knee at 5 ½ miles.  I took a naproxen sodium liquid gel right away, and the knee pain disappeared within a mile or two, never to reappear in this race.  Now I don't know what to think about it.  I will get back in to see the sports doc next week.  He talked about an MRI - maybe it's time.  We didn't learn much in this race.
  • The left hip started to complain somewhere around the halfway point.  Sometimes in the past I have irritated a bursa by turning my body part way around to look behind me, and I think that may have happened.  It doesn't recover during the run or race, and then takes a day or two to recover after stopping, so we'll see.  I'm writing this on the plane the day after the marathon, coming home from Vancouver, and it still hurts if I press on it.
  • The right hip, not to be outdone, began to holler too, somewhere around mile 18 I think.  I suspect BOTH a problem with the ITB (I haven't been regular with my stretches), and a bursa on that side.  This actually became the worst pain in the later miles, slowing me a little.  A second naproxen capsule didn't seem to help.  Today it still hurts a little if I press on it, just like the left.
  • Otherwise just the normal tired muscles.  I understand aching calves and thighs, but why do my upper arms feel overused today?  I didn't walk on my hands!  Oh well, it's all part of the experience of running a marathon.
The Vancouver USA Marathon:

I loved the outdoor "Expo," with booths selling stuff that we never see at race expos.  The Expo, the start, and the finish are all in the same park in downtown Vancouver, and there is a farmers market on the other side of that park as well.  It seemed almost as if the race expo was an extension of the farmers' market.  We enjoyed downtown Vancouver WA.

The race itself is organized well.  Most of the way we didn't have to be concerned about vehicles, though there was a stretch between miles 10 & 13 (I think) where we were on the shoulder facing 55 mph vehicle traffic.  Furthermore, for most of that way there Is a perfectly good trail along the highway, on the other side, which in my opinion should be used instead of the road even though it might involve runners going both directions on the trail.  It's a wide trail - it would work.

The marathon and half marathon routes both included plenty of views of the mighty Columbia River, with its sailboats and ocean-going vessels.  Moreover, there are several good views of Mount Hood along the way.  We enjoyed a trip through Fort Vancouver, with its meticulously-maintained buildings, and finally over the Land Bridge, an artful pedestrian connection between the river and the fort.
Taken from a trail on the race course

One slip-up was the aid station at mile 23. When I got there it was completely abandoned.  The table was there, but no people, no water, no Gatorade, no cups except abundant used ones littering the ground.  We runners just kept going and found the next aid station at about mile 24.

As mentioned the temperature was a bit high, no fault of the race organizers of course.  When we asked our daughter what she liked best about the race, she replied "the shade!"  She's right - the half marathon course, which is also the second half of the marathon, has plenty of shade.  I especially liked the trails through the forest and along the Columbia.

All in all, I would happily do this marathon again.

Splits: 13:23, 13:03, 17:58 (major nature break), 14:19, 14:25, 15:54, 14:56, 11:59, 14:41, 15:07, 14:32, 14:55, 16:28, 15:17, 16:44, 31:58 (2 mi), 16:52, 16:31, 17:26, 34:00 (2 mi), 16:40, 16:46, 15:50, 20:12, 3:48 (0.22 mi), total 6:53:44.

Sunday, June 05, 2016

Knee Needs Rest

Thursday, June 2, 2016:

Doc suggested that I wait at least a week before any more training runs, substituting the bike and perhaps the elliptical trainer instead.  Whatever doesn't hurt.  This is my second visit with him about the knee, the first visit ending in x-rays which showed nothing wrong.  He thinks that the pain is in the joint itself, and may be: (1) a tear in the meniscus; or (2) a crack in a bone, likely the tibia.  Neither is good,  Either could benefit from a little rest.

Doc thought that I could actually rest until the next marathon, now about two weeks away, and still complete the marathon.  I have never failed to complete one, and will make every effort to complete this one, but I will most definitely stop and get a ride to the finish if the moment comes that I believe that I might incur permanent injury by continuing.

After that next marathon we will reassess, and I may visit the doc again for an MRI of the knee.

Before the doctor visit this morning I walked two miles at a fairly brisk pace, and then walked another mile from home to the doctor's office.  Perhaps the steroids had worn off somewhat, because the knee did hurt a little in that last mile, just the right amount to help the doctor figure it out.

Splits: 14:34, 15:27, total 30:01, third mile not timed.

Wednesday, June 1:

Slow and slower.  With a doctor's appointment tomorrow, I wanted to try to make the knee hurt today, so that it might hurt tomorrow in the doc's office.  I went two miles at a fairly easy pace, and then another two at a more marathon-like pace.

The knee only just started to hurt a little toward the very end, on a downhill stretch.  I was loaded with dexamethasone and prednisone, however, from the infusion the day before.  Both of those are strong anti-inflammatories, and may have masked some of the pain.

Splits: 18:35, 18:36, 12:37, 13:37

Saturday, May 28:

Knee Trouble   I waited a full week after the Fargo Marathon to go out on a run.  The first two miles went fine, but then I started to feel the pain in the right knee, increasing as I walked, so I headed back.  Now what?  Make an appointment with the sports doc ASAP.

11:18, 11:56, 1:36, 7:48, 9:58, total 42:35

Monday, May 23, 2016

Fargo Marathon Review

Saturday, May 21, 2016:

I doesn't get much better than this.  Fargo is a great marathon and I highly recommend it.  Despite the unseasonably warm weather I finished my 96th marathon in 6:40:44, ending up first in my 75-79 age group.  Alas I was also last in my age group of 1 runners, but I didn't finish last in the race, crossing the line ahead of 34 others. In fact, according to the official results, in the last six miles I passed 16 runners, walking as fast as I could, and was passed by just two.  This is the eleventh marathon in a row that I have finished between 6:00 and 7:00 hours, seven of them between 6:30 and 7:00.

The mighty Red River of the North

My Race: 

Most important, I had a great time in this marathon.  The weather was warmer than we would have liked, high 70's or low 80's toward the end, but with low humidity and a bit of wind I never felt as though I should slow down to avoid overheating.  I did carry my own water and was glad of it, especially toward the end of the race, refilling my bottle twice and taking at least 24 ounces from it during the race, in addition to water from cups at aid stations.  Also, in the second half of the race, I dumped a paper cup of water on my head at each aid station.
We ran through Concordia College
in Moorhead, Minnesota.  The bell
tower isn't leaning - the runner is.

During the race I took six Clif Shot gels and about that many salt tablets, plus a couple of capsules of magnesium taurate, 125 mg, to help avoid cramps.  Indeed there wes never a hint of a cramp during this marthon, quite unusual for me.

Whining:  The right knee started to complain at about mile seven. I took a naproxen sodium liquid gel at about mile nine, and another later in the race.  Those did seem to help - the knee did not slow me much.

The Fargo Marathon:

Just finished
This is the third time that we have come to Fargo to run this marathon.  We come back because it's so good, and it gets better each time.  Organization is excellent, and there really is a volunteer or a police officer at every intersection.  Several miles of the course are on paved bike trails along the mighty Red River of the North, some on the Minnesota side and some in North Dakota.  All of the rest of the race is on paved city streets, mostly under arching shade trees.  Most streets were completely closed to traffic, and those that were not closed to traffic simply had no traffic.  I never felt at risk from vehicles.

My girls finished the half marathon
It seemed as though the entire community of Fargo-Moorhead was involved in this marathon.  In the New York City marathon, spectators line the streets along the barriers.  Here, spectators sit in lawn chairs in the shade in their own yards, picnicking, partying, or just watching, children everywhere.  One little girl even brought her bunny out to watch.  I could have had as much iced tea as I wanted, just by asking, and I've probably never high-fived so many kids.  It really was fun.

This year the race started and ended in the FargoDome.  This worked perfectly, as far as I am concerned, offering excellent pre-race toilets (go upstairs for shorter lines), and a dry start if it had been raining.  The medal is impressive.  The expo was a nice-sized one.  Post-race food included ice-cold bottles of water, chocolate milk, and pizza.
Happy finisher

Signs along The Way:

  • "Turn around, it's a trap!" 
  • "Run faster - the Kenyans are drinking all the beer" 
  • "If Trump can run, so can you" 
  • "You run better than Congress" (this one is a continuing theme from many marathons ...)
  • "Runners will escape the Zombie Apocalypse" 
  • "GO random stranger, GO!"

The finishers, with friend Karin.
Photo by Josh
We passed literally dozens of bands sprinkled along the route, with a variety of music, a few  overamplified but most of them quite listenable.  At one point a Scottish musical group seemed to be preparing to play, so I stood facing them, hands on hips, until they did.  Then off, doing my best jig down the street.  I'm a Scot, after all.

Splits: 13:12, 13:40, 13:26, 14:03, 17:48 (nature break), 14:15, 15:31, 15:25, 15:13, 14:23, 15:49, 15:45, 14:15, 14:56, 31:46 (2 mi), 15:51, 15:01, 33:21 (2 mi), 15:54, 15:38, 15:21, 15:52, 15:45,  15:30, 3:08, total 6:40:44, pace 15:17.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Time Out

Monday, May 16, 2016:

Today’s four-mile run was cut short by complaints from the right knee, the right ankle, and the right quads.  None was enough to really slow me down, but any could be a problem in a marathon, and together they persuaded me to cut the run to two miles.

I mentioned this to Dr PK today, who said “you need to rest.”  That’s good advice, and that’s what I will do - I can’t hop a whole marathon on one leg.  No running or even fast walking until the marathon this weekend.  Maybe some cross training, upper body or core, but legs need to heal and my current myeloma regimen probably doesn’t help that because of the dexamethasone.

Splits: 14:02 out, 12:58 back (uphill / downhill).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Four Miles No Problem

Today's route was just a little hilly, one of the usual Kwik Trip 2-mile out & back routes.  I felt a strange muscle pain in the middle of the right quads, but nothing in the right knee.  That's very good news.  Whatever is wrong with the quads will heal by next weekend - indeed it got better as I ran.

A knee can be a bit more of a problem, but the doc didn't find anything wrong with it and  today it felt fine.  Full speed ahead for the next marathon!

Two-mile splits: 27.24, 26.08, total 53:32, overall pace 13:27.  This is marathon pace.  Another 4 miles tomorrow.

Doctor Sees No Problem

Thursday, May 12, 2016:

The sports doctor examined my knee and had x-rays taken.  He remarked that the knee joints would be the envy of a man ten years younger.  He saw nothing wrong, with a meniscus of sufficient thickness.

Right Knee
X-rays don't show irritation or inflammation in the meniscus or another knee part, of course.  The doc seems to think that something was irritated in the last marathon and hasn't quite recovered yet, though we couldn't find a way to make it hurt today in his office.  Isn't that how it always goes?

I asked about taking a small amount of dexamethasone on the morning of the race, since DEX is a very potent anti-inflammatory and I take it anyway as part of the myeloma regimen.  He nixed that idea but said that an NSAID like ibuprofen might be OK if necessary.

The next day, Friday, we three went to the YMCA indoor track, as the weather was awful, and I stopped after two miles because the knee started to hurt just a little.  No sense annoying it with a marathon only a week away.

Mile splits: 12:45, 13:16, total 26:01, pace about 13 minutes/mile for two miles.

Wednesday, May 11:

Knee Pain Gone   Almost.  I ran (mostly walked) exactly the same hilly route that I had run on Monday, but this time very little pain.  Toward the end of the run I purposely ran downhill, rather than walking, to see if that would make it hurt.  It didn't.

Splits: 28:00, 29:00, total 57:00, pace 14:15.

Monday, May 9:

Oops - the right knee hurt after the first mile of this four-mile run, enough to slow me down. Switching to very long strides seemed to help a little, so I tried to do that toward the end.  But what about a 26 mile run?  Doctor appointment Thursday.

Time might be a little off, because I stopped at SMG for a nature break, and SMG is a little out of the way.

Splits: 27:12, 16:36, 13:41, total 57:31, pace 14:34

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Whining by the Numbers

Today I went to walk with the St Croix Valley Runners (& walkers) and found myself alone - plenty of runners but no other walkers.  So I took off at an 80% walking pace and went about 3.5 miles in 50 or 55 minutes.  No problems today except the right knee.  Here is the whole catalog of issues six days after the OC Marathon (this might be TMI - read at your own risk):

  1. Right knee: Pain appeared on the outside of the joint after the marathon, bothered for a few days and went away.  I felt it just slightly today but it went away after about 45 minutes. 
  2. Right ankle: Showed up at the foot after the marathon, bothered for a few days but only when walking fast, no problem today. R
  3. Right heel / Achilles' tendon: Bothered a little in the race, nothing since. 
  4. Blister on left big toe: Not much change.  It's between the two toes, and I don't understand what caused it - first time in 95 marathons.  It isn't healing fast (nothing does on my feet) but it's also not bothering at all.  Mostly I keep it covered with a blister patch wrapped around the toe, and I suppose I'll do that in the next marathon. 
  5. Left groin: For a few days after the race this felt like a sports hernia, but today when I do a situp it feels equally sore on both sides.  I don't know what it is, but it doesn't bother while walking fast, so it's probably not a problem.
Right now nothing in this list seems likely to interfere with running the Fargo Marathon in two weeks.