Monday, April 30, 2007

Great Morning to Run

A beautiful, joyful romp in the park with friend Jim, on shaded, grass-covered, hilly trails. We chatted throughout, enjoying the sunny sky Bloodroot in our own gardenand 60-ish spring temperatures. Distance is not measured, but we ran about 49 minutes at an energy level that would be about 8:00 to 8:15 on level pavement, so I’m writing 6 miles in the log. Perfect.

Running doesn’t get much better than this. If racing is the frosting, then this is the cherry-chocolate bundt cake under it.

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Grumpy Racer

I am. After finishing the Get In Gear 10k race yesterday I was happy, even though I knew at least three guys in my age group had finished ahead of me. I thought I had missed my last-year’s time by 18 seconds. Turns out, though, I missed it by 2:18, and would have finished first in my age group this year if I had run as fast as last year. 2:18 is a LOT of time to lose from one year to the next. So now I have to whine and over-analyze in order to put it all behind me.

I prepared for the race as if it were important, even tapered for it, carbed and hydrated, warmed up, the works. At the start I felt great, ready to beat the world, trying to go out at the perfect, sustainable pace. Alas, the pace was sustainable for only a mile, and I slowed some every mile thereafter. First mile 7:02, overall pace 7:33. Tsk. Here are some possible reasons for the slowdown:

  1. Temperature: This year the temp was 68 degrees at 9:53 am, which is 20 degrees warmer than last year. This does make some difference. In the spirit of over-analysis, I looked at the times of 10 top runners in my age group and nearby, four women and six men. On average, their times were 1:18 slower this year than last. Most of that can be attributed to race temperature I believe, perhaps some to aging. It may account for one of the two minutes.

  2. Age: I’m a year older than last year. OK, that could account for some difference, but not two minutes. In fact, last year I broke my PR at every distance I ran, and I was a year older then too. I’ve only just finished my fifth year of running and could well continue to get faster for another year or two; a sharp decline is not likely.

  3. Motivation: Last year I was in a head-to-head competition with Lee for the Minnesota Grand Prix, and did have him in view most of the way in the Get In Gear race, only passing him in the last half mile. That could make the difference; rabbits are good.

  4. Trail Mix: I ran a tough 25k trail race a week ago, and no one in my age group who finished Get In Gear ahead of me ran that race last week. Might make a little difference. Am I a little arrogant to think that I could recover from that in a week?

  5. Thalidomide: I’ve been off it for a week and a half now, but it could still make a difference. In particular, I read (somewhere) that thalidomide causes a loss of muscle mass. I don’t know the truth of that, particularly for a runner who trains regularly, and my weight has not changed. If it is true, however, then some amount of muscle has been replaced by fat which does not contribute to speed or endurance.
Enough analysis. Add that stuff all up to get 2:18. I’m thinking that 1 and 3 are the big players here. Not much I can do about number 1, but I suppose I should work on number 3. I don’t know how to do that. Run fewer races, so that I really do care about the ones I do run? Food for thought.

The good news is, no pains, no problems; I felt wonderful afterward and still do the day after. Shorts and a sleeveless shirt; definitely should have brought a singlet instead; I thought it would be about 10 degrees cooler. It was a beautiful day. Splits: 7:02, 7:14, 7:30, 25:11 (last 3.2 mi pace 7:52 average).

Thursday, April 26, 2007

The Wind Came Up

Hyacinths... as I ran. Not a breath at the start, nice and breezy 30 minutes later. No pains, hilly, sunny, 60 degrees. Lovely. Ready for the Get In Gear 10k this Saturday. 4.2 miles, 34:07, pace 8:12. Good enough.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007



Fifty degrees, sunny, slight north breeze. Easy four-mile jog in 34:33, pace 8:39. Purpose: Stay loose during the taper. Slight pain in right knee at the start, went away. Calves are tight; have been since Sunday’s “recovery” run. Taper will fix that if I don’t forget my stretches, EVERY DAY whether I run or not. Note to self.


Peeing in a bottle today; I will get blood drawn tomorrow and see the doctor next week. Anticipation builds ...

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Post-Race Recovery Run


Breezy, hilly, 68 degrees, six miles in 52:30, pace 8:45, plenty fast for a recovery run. My sweeties and I ran the same route, consisting of an out-leg, then five loops, and then back. But we did the loops in opposite directions, so we greeted each other frequently during the run. Slight pain in the right knee at the start, smack in front below the kneecap, probably the meniscus. But it faded.

Now I’m tired, thirsty, hungry, and badly in need of a shower. Otherwise I feel wonderful! Really. That’s what it’s like to be a runner. Someone should write a song about it.

Chunky smoothieHoneydew, cantaloupe, apple, blueberries, yogurt, asiago cheese. It's a picnic!


Thalidomide was discontinued after last Tuesday evening, so the side effects are fading now, although my waking heart rate was just 38 this morning. That’s low even for me; normal is about 48. The rash seems a little better already, and experience says that the heart rate will come back up to normal within a week or two. Urine collection and then blood tests Tuesday and Wednesday this week. Results a week later.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

Trail Mix 25k Race

Trail mix is a TOUGH race, but if you could select the perfect weather, it wouldn’t be much different from today. The often-muddy trails were Three old Lake Woebegone runners, plus Chad & Scottdry, temperature 61 and mostly cloudy, with a dry breeze that actually felt pretty good most of the time in these woods. I wore a technical T-shirt and shorts, but could easily have worn a singlet or gone without any shirt, as many did.

Lots of birds, all kinds of birds: owls, ducks, geese, cardinals, hawks, and many that I don’t know, many that I only heard. Hyland is a beautiful park, and we ran a beautiful trail through it, mostly grass and wood chips, very hilly. I walked up a LOT of hills, sometimes looking over my shoulder for Ed and Harvey, my age group mates. I didn’t see them after the start, but they did finish right behind me.Age groups 60-64 and 65-69

Pace was 9:13. Ouch, that’s slow! But the pace just indicates how hard this course is; I ran hard enough to make 8:00 or 8:15 miles on flat pavement, I think. Breathing was three footfalls per full breath most of the way; that signals a very hard race pace. After a race I ask myself if I did the best that I could, and today I can say Yes. Some pain in the right knee afterward, hopefully temporary. Glucosamine will help.St Croix Valley 50k running team First loop was 1:08:29, second loop 1:14:25.

My sweeties took pictures, and we three waited after the race for the four SCV runners who ran the 50k team event, where my sweeties took more pictures. Here is a slide show of a few of those photos.

Thursday, April 19, 2007


Just in the last few days
Purpose of today’s short run: Retain fitness, keep loose for Saturday's Trail Mix, work on running form. Watching the Boston Marathon, every runner seemed to use his or her arms in the same manner. Elbows were bent at 90 degrees, apparently quite loose, and out from the side of the body, not straight down. I have a tendency to bend my elbows more than that, bring them down, and hold them tight, which causes my shoulders to move more than they do when I take on the “Boston” upper-body form. It will take a long time for the Boston form to become natural; I go back to the old form when I’m not thinking about it, but today was a day to work on it a little.

Fifty-two degrees this morning with a little breeze; two thin shirts were one too many when running with the wind, but just right going into it. Shorts and thin gloves. I wish I knew more bird songs; lots of different species were calling for mates and claiming their territory today.

Four miles in 34:03, pace 8:31, a little faster than intended but so what? Off thalidomide now, but I nevertheless felt a little right-foot neuropathy. Breathing was a little more rapid than expected, probably because I had just finished breakfast. Calf pain from Tuesday is gone, thankfully a false alarm.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Eight Miles, Calf Pain

Hilly, breezy, 50 degrees. A good run, 8.2 mi in 1:09:48, pace 8:31. In contrast with yesterday’s 8-miler which was faster than it seemed, this one seemed faster than it was. I’m such a poor judge of speed. It was enjoyable nonetheless, and as always I feel wonderful afterward. I heard the songs of Canada geese, mallards, robins, cardinals, red-winged blackbirds, and several other songs that I don’t know. I saw lots of little birds in weed fields, but don’t recognize the species. A single-engine airplane roared down the runway and took flight as I ran past the airport, it’s oily exhaust fumes briefly floating by on the breeze.

One minor problem: I woke this morning with a little pain in the right calf, very localized. I was unable to massage it out, and it came and went and returned again during the run, though not made worse by the run. It’s still there. Could be: (1) Just a minor cramp from all the running (36 miles in 4 days), or (2) A minor blood clot, called a thrombosis, caused by the thalidomide. If it’s a cramp, which is most likely, then I’m not at all concerned; it will go away as I taper for the upcoming marathon. But just in case it’s a clot, I took an extra aspirin and have been eating ginger. More important in the long run, I took my last thalidomide capsule last night, so the cause will soon be gone. Another reason to be glad that the thalidomide is done.

Monday, April 16, 2007

Mad Dogs and Englishmen

... go out in the midday sun. I’m half English, so “Let’s GO!” A happy midday run on my favorite rock & gravel service road along the railroad tracks. 66 degrees and sunny, dry with a stiff south breeze. 8.1 miles in 1:07:30, for a pace of 8:20 in what was intended to be a recovery run from Saturday’s 20-miler. Faster than a recovery run, but I felt good throughout. Funny - after watching the Boston Marathon I felt like I was just shuffling along at an old man’s jogging pace, and was surprised to find that it was a little more sprightly than that, and on soft gravel besides. I’d be delighted to run my next marathon at this pace.
Twenty of the 600 or so cotton race shirts we three have collected in five years of racingA slight initial pain in the left knee went away. A slight post-run pain in the right knee went away too. Cranky old knees, but there is arthritis in my family, so I’m lucky to have so little knee and hip trouble.

I have a training plan that looks ahead one or two marathons, covering a three to four month period. The current plan goes through Grandma’s Marathon. I can move things around on the schedule, but the per-week mileage goals and the long runs are always completed unless I’m injured. No exceptions. This week the 20-mile run was initially scheduled for Tuesday (tomorrow), but for various reasons it got moved to Sunday (yesterday). Then I moved it up one more day to Saturday so that I could run part of it with my running group. Saturday is the first day of my training week, and this week is entirely shifted around now but will still see 40 miles of running.


I’m supposed to take thalidomide for eight more days, but I’ve decided to stop it after tonight, because: (1) The right-leg neuropathy seems to be getting worse (though I did not feel it today); (2) The rash on my back is definitely getting worse; (3) Thalidomide slows my heart rate and my race times; (4) I have a blood draw in a little over a week and would like to see what happens to some of the numbers if I’m off thalidomide for a week first; and finally (5) There is no evidence that the thalidomide is doing any good now anyway.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

It's Dark at 6:00 am

The St Croix Runners meet every Saturday morning, 7:00 am, at the Northland Tennis Courts on west Myrtle, and run five miles together. More or less together. There is a route from my house to NorthlandSunset over Lake Woebegone last night.  Somehow the color seemed even richer to the eye that is 7.6 miles long. So this morning I started in the 6:00 am darkness, ran through the sunrise to Northland, ran with the group, and ran home again. 20.2 miles total. Best of all, friend Jim joined in at about mile 2.5 and peeled off again at 17.5, so we ran together most of the way.

Beautiful morning, 30-35 degrees with a bright red sunrise and then a warming sun. Tights, one LS shirt, and a wind jacket. Wind was not an issue, though. On return Lake Woebegone was still a mirror, with the upside-down trees just as clear as the right-side-up ones on the opposite shore. Ducks, geese, wild turkeys, deer, and lots of bunnies.

Time 3:08:45, for a 9:21 pace overall. But I stopped several times, each for two or three minutes, and didn’t stop the watch, so I think our pace was easily better than 9:00 whenever we were running. The last mile was somewhat faster at 8:13, and I think there was more where that came from. At least I hope so, because this was the last long run before the upcoming marathon, which I will try to run at an overall pace of about 8:35. Slight pain in the left knee for the first three miles, but it subsided when I moved to the right side of the road for a while. It won’t be a problem. Some numbness in the right foot. Three gels enroute, and about 40 oz water.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

Nice Five-Miler

Nice run at the club, five miles on the indoor track in 41:05, pace 8:13. No pains, no problems. Breathing was mostly four footfalls per full breath, which is about normal for the pace. I’ll breathe a little easier when the thalidomide ends for good in 12 days. Literally and figuratively. Splits: 8:42, 8:23, 8:12, 8:10, 7:39.

Now it’s SO lovely outside, I almost wish I’d waited for afternoon. Almost.

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Such a Pleasurable Run

I will never stop running as long as it can be this enjoyable. I ran medium-long on my favorite trail along the railroad that goes through the town of Lake Woebegone, mostly quiet and solitary, cool and a little breezy. I saw a covey of eight wild turkeys on the trail, ambling into the woods as I approached, the big tom lagging behind to protect the hens. Lots of deer tracks, and bird calls of all sorts, especially the red-winged blackbirds trying to keep warm in the half-frozen marshes. An owl flew silently out of a tree near the tracks. I had to cross a few roads, but didn't have to run along them. I ran farther west than I have gone before, and, to my surprise, actually found the end of the service road that is “my” trail. There the single track splits into two parallel tracks, apparently ending the need for a service road.

At one point I passed a railroad guy, working on the signals. He glared. On the way back I stopped, out of curiosity, to peek inside the signal equipment boxes that he had open (lots of big batteries). “Can I help you?” he challenged. I said that I loved this road along the railroad track and was disappointed to find the end of it. “You know,” he grumped, “the railroad frowns on people being on their property. Trains can’t stop quick.” I considered several responses. “Thank you for the warning,” I smiled. His face softened. “You’re welcome,” he said. We understood each other. He had done his job, and I turned and kept on chugging. Of course he’s right, but if the railroad was particularly concerned about this service road there would be “No Trespassing” signs at strategic points. There are none anywhere.

The best part: on the way home two freight trains came toward me, only a mile or so apart, each quite long with three engines, whistling at each crossroad and finally thundering past. I love that, diesel fumes and all. The engineers waved.

Run: 13.7 miles in 2:13:31, pace 9:45. Ouch, not very fast. But I did take time off here and there, once with the RR guy and also for a major potty break, and I never stopped my watch. Furthermore, this trail is mostly soft and therefore demands a little extra time. More important, I don’t care how fast it was; the slower pace is doubtless part of what made this run so pleasurable. Breathing was mostly four footfalls per full breath, so I was working hard enough.

Monday, April 09, 2007

Three miles

Easy three miles in the NSP community center, 25:04, pace 8:21. No pains or problems. Purpose: Keep the muscles working in preparation for tomorrow’s 14-miler. I kind of hope it snows; I’d love to run the railroad trail while it’s snowing. Splits: 8:31, 8:17, 8:17.

Saturday, April 07, 2007

Cluck Cluck Cluck

Chickened out again :-) Seventeen degrees with a strong NW wind, we three showed up for race shirts at the Challenge Obesity 5k and then went to the club to run. This actually worked out better for me than the race would have, because I ran eight miles instead of just the 5k race. It’s a cut-back week, only 30 miles, but tomorrow (Easter) will be a busy day and, looking ahead at the rest of the week, it will be handy to have eight miles racked up.

Today’s time was 1:07:17, overall pace 8:25. Did I feel some neuropathy in the right foot (heel)? I’m not sure. I don’t feel it now after the run. No pains. LOTS of other runners on the track today. Splits: 8:35, 8:20, 8:25, 8:25, 8:28, 8:26, 8:25, 8:13. Pretty uniform.

Look in the recent (May) issue of Running Times magazine, page 8, for a story on January's running of the Zoom! Yah! Yah! Indoor Marathon. We ran this and enjoyed it, see here and here. Where else can you get these:

  • Up to 600 aid stations with your own specific choice of fluids and foods
  • 150 split times
  • See your buddies frequently regardless of differences in speed
  • Zero hills
  • Meet every other runner in the race
  • Perfect, consistent temperature with no weather issues
  • Potty stop any time you need it
  • No dogs, cars, bikes, strollers, potholes, storm grates, or manhole covers
They plan to run this marathon again next January, but I suspect it will fill quickly.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Thalidomide Isn't Working Any More

That seems to be the bottom line; my myeloma is no longer responding to thalidomide 50 mg daily. As the table shows, three of the four important markers were up on March 28, not down. None of them are down substantially since December, despite the use of thalidomide during that time.

Results of four tests, December 2006 through March 2007

Beta-2 Microglobulin is one of two markers used in the new International Myeloma Staging System to determine the stage (severity) of a person's cancer. It is a protein that can be high because of kidney disease, perhaps caused by the cancer. But most likely in a myeloma patient it will be high because it is shed by the cancer cells themselves. I'm concerned because it has risen steadily, if slowly, since December. However, it may also be shed in greater quantities right now because the thalidomide is still killing some cancer cells, causing beta-2 microglobulin to be released by each dying cell. We will see when the thalidomide treatment ends. Let's hope it goes back down to normal.

For now, the plan is to continue thalidomide for one more three-week period, then have more tests and see the doctor. Assuming that those results don't show a dramatic improvement, we will then be able to conclude that thalidomide at 50 mg, as a single agent, is no longer a useful treatment for me.

Then what? The doctor has suggested Revlimid, a new analog of thalidomide which is more powerful and less apt to cause side effects. It's unimaginably expensive ($6000 per month I hear); thank Heaven we have good insurance.

I have also read about curcumin, and discussed it with people who have taken it, with good results. Curcumin is an extract of the spice turmeric, and does not seem to cause side effects even in large amounts. Its anti-cancer effect appears to be modest, not dramatic, but that may be appropriate for me since my myeloma is still in an early stage (technically still MGUS). It is actually being studied in clinical trials for treatment of multiple myeloma and other diseases. Here is an informative blog by one person convinced of its value: Margaret's Corner.

In early May I will probably go to see the doctor armed with information about curcumin and see if I can talk him into ordering the tests while I take curcumin.

Forty-mile Week

Another run on the indoor track. Four miles in 34:15, pace 8:34. This completed the goal of 40 miles for the week, which goes Saturday through Friday, but this week Friday is a day off. I felt sluggish today, running heavily and breathing rapidly. Last night I forgot to take my thalidomide until 2:30 am, so it was still near maximum blood concentration during this morning’s run. That may have caused the sluggish feelings. Splits 8:51, 8:35, 8:27, 8:21. No pains.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007


Rather cold and windy out today, so we ran indoors at the club. Five miles, 41:07, pace 8:13. No pains worth noting. I spent most of the run mulling over the latest cancer lab results, next post. Splits: 8:24, 8:16, 8:16, 8:19, 7:52.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Wonderful Six Miler

What a beautiful, enjoyable run! This morning I was near Knoxville, TN, and ran on the Alcoa-Maryville Greenway Trail. It’s a pedestrian & bike trail nine miles long, mostly through the woods along a happy babblingSpring Flowers in Tennessee brook called Pistol Creek. It’s lighted every 75 feet with a street lamp, and the locals say that bad things don’t happen there. I ran the six miles before sunrise and never wished I had a headlamp. I’ve said it before; I love this trail.

Time 50:54, pace 8:29. Not a hot pace, but I don’t care. Bird calls, bunnies, a full moon, fruit trees in bloom, and the beginning of light from the coming sun, all flavored the run. I saw a drake Mallard chasing after a hen. She was having none of that feller, but there was another drake nearby who seemed to have a satisfied smile on his face.

Sunday, April 01, 2007

Twenty Cool Miles

Cool, breezy run, rain threatened but didn’t materialize. Because of the questionable weather, I ran five different four-mile routes, each startingAbout 3/4 inch of rain the night before this runand ending at our mailbox. It’s less interesting than a cross-country jaunt, but allows for easy acess to water and fuel without having to lug those with me or drive around planting them along the route. Just as important, it allows for a way out if the weather becomes unacceptable. Thankfully it didn’t, and in fact it was pretty good weather for running.

Temperature was 43 degrees with a stiff southeast breeze. I wore gloves, but nevertheless had trouble opening the Clif Shot gel packets on the run because my hands were too cold to get a good grip. Teeth were required, and both hands, without gloves. Otherwise I was warm enough in shorts and two shirts. My pace should have been a bit faster though, considering the breathing rate. I know that cold can slow a runner down; perhaps I should have worn tights.

Speedy friend Jim joined in for the last eight miles. That was nice. My pace improved significantly at that point, no surprise. He’s good for me. My sweeties were also running part of the same route, so we passed each other once. They’re good for me too.Eagle Momma and Sweet Pea coming in for water and fuel

Pace for the 4-mile segments: 8:53, 9:00, 9:01, 8:27, 8:09. Because I mis-remembered the detail of one of the segments, the actual total distance was slightly short at 19.7 miles, in 2:51:37, overall pace 8:43. Water and Clif Shot every 4 miles. Breathing was four footfalls per full breath until Jim joined me, then mostly three footfalls.

One more 20-miler in two weeks, and then taper for the Avenue of the Giants Marathon in early May. Eagle Momma and I will run that marathon, with Sweet Pea, two days after our 44th wedding anniversary. That’s a nice gift to each other.