Sunday, October 28, 2007

Grand Rapids Marathon, Michigan

Whooee! Another state falls under the running shoes. We three all finished the Grand Rapids (MI) Marathon today in good enough times. Three happy runners. That’s my 27th marathon and 16th state, and my sweeties’ 12th marathon and 11th state.

My time was 4:04:32 and my sweeties finished in 7:00:31. That’s 28 minutes over my PR from TCM last year, but only about five minutes over my sweeties’ PRs at NYC last year. They did very well indeed. Now we're languishing in cozy comfort, enjoying good food and our runners’ highs. Nothing hurts!

We met some wonderful people yesterday and today, especially Vickie, a Grand Rapids running blogger friend. She’s a very interesting person, and she helped us at LOT in getting around GR. She ran the half today.

More about the Grand Rapids Marathon in a day or two. Now I lay me down to sleep.

Salad on the road
Salad on the road: Organic romaine, avocado, organic walnuts, giant stuffed olives, organic plum, blue cheese, raspberry vinegar.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Nice Easy Three Miles

What a lovely run, with the huge full moon hanging over the lake, giving
way to the sun rising on the beautiful red-leafed oaks. Jim drove over
and we ran it together. Perfect last taper run. New race shoes worked
fine again.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Fall Color 5

It doesn’t get much better than this, running with a friend on a crisp, colorful fall morning. I had 5 miles on my taper schedule, and friend Jim was available, so we ran the quiet suburban streets in his neighborhood. Total distance 5.26 miles in 43:35, pace 8:17. Plenty fast enough for a final-week taper day. No pains of any kind, just the runner’s high afterward. I’m a happy runner.

As I did Monday, I used my brand new Brooks Burn shoes with Ron’s custom running orthotics inserted. The shoes seem just fine; I’ll use them in the marathon. This is my 15th pair of Brooks Burns. They’re light and lively (like me? :-)); I love ‘em.

It's been a really good day - take a look-see at my test results on Myeloma Hope.

Recent breakfast
Recent breakfast: Organic oatmeal, organic nonfat milk, banana, organic pear, organic strawberries, Dove dark chocolate.

Recent lunch
Recent lunch: Free-range hormone- and antibiotic-free chicken, organic broccoli, organic gelatin with organic apples and other stuff.

Yesterday's dinner
Yesterday's dinner: Wild caught Alaskan salmon with yogurt and herbs, pineapple, organic beets, organic chard with pistachios and cranberries.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Two lovely runs

Monday, Oct 22:

I do love running on the dirt road along the railroad tracks. 55 degrees, slight NW breeze, sunny with the oaks in full color. What an excellent run! Seven miles in 1:00:00, pace 8:34, which is fine considering the sand/gravel road for over half of the distance. I did find myself walk/running after the turnaround for some reason; evidently I was pushing harder than I could actually run; breathing was three footfalls per full breath, which is a race pace. But now it feels so good. Chatted briefly with Gauss and Patty on the way back, so the time is an estimate but very close. No pains! It's a masterpiece.

Five miles on Wednesday, and also I get my latest myeloma test results back that day - a very big day. Then three miles Friday morning.

Saturday, Oct 22:

St Croix Valley Runners, beautiful and colorful fall day. For various reasons, the faster guys weren’t going fast today, and I wanted to hit it hard because of an upcoming marathon, so I went out ahead and waited for them at the end. Five miles in 40:30, pace 8:06, not blazing fast but as good as I could do in my current state of training. I’m happy with my effort. Best of all, no pains!

Sunday's breakfast
Sunday's breakfast: Organic oatmeal, organic nonfat milk, blackberries, organic seedless grapes, banana, organic plum, Dove dark chocolate.

Monday's lunch
Today's lunch: Organic spaghetti squash, organic spaghetti sauce, rbst-free parmesan cheese, organic tart gelatin with apple and cranberries, kiwi.

Saturday's dinner
Saturday dinner: Organic rice and beans, organic yellow beets (baked), local rutabaga, organic peas, organic sweet potato, organic rice, peas, and artichoke hearts, parsnips, and organic catsup.

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Providian Bank and Questionable Bill Collection Tactics

Once in a while this blog deviates from the subject of running.

In the past week or so we have received several calls from a company called Elite Recovery Services, a bill collection agency. They claim to be authorized to collect a bad debt owed by someone with the same name as mine, on behalf of Providian Bank, a VISA credit card company. Providian Bank's web site says that they are now known as Washington Mutual Card Services. Apparently Providian Bank was bought by Washington Mutual bank (WAMU) headquartered in Seattle. Whatever.

Providian Bank has the right to collect its debts, but the problem is that their agent, Elite Recovery Services, does not seem to operate in an ethical and legal manner. In fact I can't be certain they actually do represent Providian Bank, because they rarely tell the truth. I have never had a card from Providian, nor have I ever stiffed a creditor, but these people don't accept that answer. Here are a few of the things they have done that I believe may be illegal or unethical:

  • They have called repeatedly, which may be harassment under the law;
  • I have asked them to send the federally-required "validation notice," and they actually refused to do so ("you ain't gettin' no letter!");
  • On three occasions I have asked them for their mailing address so that I could send them my request for validation, and they refused to give me their address!;
  • On one occasion they told me that they had sent me many letters, and even recited my own address back to me, but I have never received any mailings, so that was a lie and perhaps a "deceptive practice" under federal law;
  • Today they called with a recorded message, which I believe is against Minnesota law.
This has actually happened to me before; my name is fairly common. I get the feeling that these scumbags look up several people with the same name as the debtor and harass them all, hoping that one will be the correct one. It's not a problem for the long term, but it's certainly an irritation right now. They have a job to do, but they don't have to be unethical.

I'm sending letters to Elite Recovery Services, Providian Bank, and Washington Mutual at the addresses I have found on the internet. We'll see what happens.

Four Good Miles

What a nice four-mile run between the rain showers, 33 minutes, pace 8:15, somewhat hilly. Not a race exactly, but fast enough for a marathon taper week. I can hardly believe it, but I’ve run 30 miles this week with no pain at all. That’s a masterpiece!

Tuesday, October 16, 2007


Tuesday, Oct 16:

Round and round we go on the North St Paul Community Center indoor track, 13.5 loops per mile for 14 miles. You do the math. I’d rather be on the Gateway Trail, but the rainy weather recommended otherwise. Time 2:03:42, overall pace 8:50, absolutely no pains, plantar-fasciitis or otherwise.

I use my watch to count the laps, and it’s my firm opinion that I never miss or gain a lap. If I’m running a pace of 9:00 min/mi, then the first lap should be at 40 seconds, the second at 1:20, the third at 2:00, and so forth. If I’m going a little faster, as today, then I’ll gradually get a little bit ahead of that schedule. If I slow for water, as today, then I’ll fall behind it a little. At the one-mile point (13.5 laps), I click the watch and start over. That way the watch keeps track of miles AND the current lap within the current mile. It’s a good system, works perfectly. I could just run for two hours and forget about pacing myself, but that’s not me. Yet.

This was my “long” run before my next upcoming marathon, unless the Chicago Marathon a week ago was my long run. I walked quite a bit of that one, partly because they ordered us to walk. Today I took water every even mile, gels at 4 and 8. Breathing was four footfalls per full breath almost all of the way, faster in the last mile. Splits 8:58, 8:40, 9:01, 8:48, 9:09, 8:46, 9:00, 8:44, 9:02 8:47, 8:57, 8:45, 8:49, 8:17. I’m cheered by the fact that there was still enough left to speed up some in the last mile. Good run! I feel great.

Sunday, Oct 14:

Challenge Aging is a new race in the Charities Challenge series of races. Like most of the others, it’s a 5k, twice around Como Lake in St Paul, a nice flat course. My time was 23:38, more than a minute quicker than Saturday, for a pace of 7:37. I tried pretty hard; this was about as fast as I could run in my current state of fitness. It’s more than two minutes slower than my 5k PR from last year. But a week after a marathon and a day after running 8+ miles it’s OK with me. No pains of any kind. A feel-good day, actually.

Today's breakfast
This morning's breakfast: Organic oatmeal, organic nonfat milk, organic nectarine, organic strawberries, organic plum, organic yogurt, organic dark chocolate. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 7.

Tonight's salad
Tonight's salad: Organic romaine, organic local fennel, organic candied ginger, dried dragon fruit, blue cheese, raspberry vinegar. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 3.

Last Thursday's dinner
Last Thursday's dinner: Wild-caught orange roughy, kiwi, organic broccoli, organic pickled beets. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 4.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Nine Wonderful Miles

St Croix Valley Runners:

What a pleasure to be running with the St Croix Valley Runners once again. I’ve missed that. Five miles in 41:30, pace 8:18. Good enough for today. I intended to run a little slower, but ended up in front with Doug and Al. 45 degrees with no wind, a rising sun, and good company. It doesn’t get much better than this. No problem with the plantar fasciitis; I did wear my orthotics of course.

Race for a Safe Place 5k:

This is a sweet little race in Stillwater hosted by the Stillwater Fitness Club to benefit the Tubman Family Alliance, which provides safe havens for women and children, and other services.

The race starts at an elementary school (read: no porta-potties needed) and winds through a sleepy neighborhood, then returns on a superb paved trail along a picturesque lake. There is even a wooden bridge, not to mention exquisite fall color. The sun was bright, and welcome in the 50-degree temperatures. Very low humidity - what a contrast with last weekend.

I ran 24:53, for a pace of 8:02, good enough for second place in 60-69, and satisfactory to me considering my current state of training and the earlier five miles today. Then I jogged back to bring in my sweeties, for a total of about 9 miles on the morning. There is a little pain in the right hamstring, that nagging problem, but not bad. Right now I’m still enjoying the runner’s high - aren’t endorphins wonderful?

This morning's breakfast
Today's breakfast after the runs: Organic oatmeal, organic nonfat milk, organic plum, organic nectarine, organic grapes, roasted & salted cashews. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 7. The leaves on the picnic table are from a white oak and a red oak - can you tell which is which? Click the picture to enlarge it if you like.

Yesterday's salad
Friday night's salad: Organic romaine, home-roasted organic filberts, blue cheese, organic nectarine, with a dash of olive oil and raspberry vinegar. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 4.

Yesterday's lunch
Friday's lunch: Organic swiss chard with almonds and onions (probably more good stuff; I can't ask Sunshine right now because she's out doing a 20-miler!), cantaloupe, pineapple. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 4.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Three Wonderful Miles

Back in the saddle again! The superheated Chicago Marathon is in the past, and I not only survived it but finished it. Today’s three-mile run shows that I am recovering from it in a normal way. It felt wonderful, especially in this morning's 48-degree temperature. Time 25:39, average pace 8:33. Splits 8:54, 8:36, and 8:09. Wahoo!

The plantar fasciitis pain is gone. The only pain today is in the right hamstring, a problem which has recurred several times over several years, and for which I don’t yet seem to have a good solution. I hope that cross-training will help. Further, I have no marathon in view at the moment (first time in a LONG time) and can afford to ramp back up to good running condition fairly carefully.

Tuesday night's dinner
Tuesday night's dinner: Wild caught salmon with pistachios and organic nonfat yogurt, organic peas (two kinds), pineapple. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 9.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

Chicaga Saga

Chicago Marathon, the Good and the Bad:

Actually the good (or marginally interesting?) is here, and the bad (whining) is at the end of this post; you can just skip it.

Testicles: Someone ran in a bulky suit that looked rather like a huge pair of testicles, with legs on the bottom, but (happily) no other appurtenances. Apparently the runner opposes testicular cancer, a sentiment with which must of us can agree, especially us guys. Runners passing by were split as to whether they wished they were carrying a camera. In the 85-plus-degree temperature I doubt this runner got very far. I trust s/he found another, better way to “raise awareness.”

Elvises: Inevitable in large marathons, they struggled and sweated in their white suits and blue suede shoes. I jogged past several. Could any of them have survived the cutoff (the race was cancelled for all who had not reached mile 18 by 3:35 on the time clock)? I doubt it.

Impeach Cheny: One man with a ponytail ran along loudly yelling “Impeach Cheny!” and other sentiments supporting that notion. Though I heartily agree with the general proposition, I ran ahead a little to escape the strident voice. I hope he was able to keep it up throughout the race.

Don: In most marathons I wear my name on my shirt. This time I forgot to bring the pin-on name, and really missed the personal encouragement. But every time someone yelled a word that sounded like “Don” I looked, just to see if by some odd chance the spectator actually knew me. No such luck. We never saw a soul that we knew in Chicago.

High-fives: I enjoy high-fiving the little kids, the ones that are just old enough to get the idea. If I run along with my hand out, sometimes a little kid will hold his hand out too, smiling shyly, or a mom or dad will hold their child’s hand out to meet mine. Everyone enjoys it. But one time I was crusing the sideline like that and a man was unaccountably standing out into the stream of runners by a couple of feet. I saw him and kept coming, meaning to go around him if he didn’t step back, but at exactly the wrong instant another spectator stepped out and blocked my alternate path. I ran into the man rather hard. I didn’t look back, but I can’t imagine that he stayed on his feet. Though it was his fault, I hope he wasn’t hurt; I stopped high-fiving for a while.

Clothing: Not much. If I were the kind of guy who enjoyed seeing the shape of a fit woman’s body (ahem), this would have been the perfect race to run. Nevertheless a few addle-brained souls, besides Elvis, wore long pants or sleeves. One guy wore gloves. How could they not have known? We received a special handout at the expo, warning of the predicted dangerously-high temperatures. Lots of people had written on their cotton shirts with felt-tip pens - personal, important things, such as the name of the person they were honoring, but often their sweat made the ink run so that the message was nearly lost.

Shade: Fortunately there was shade some of the way, from trees or, usually, from buildings along the side of the street. Often only one side of the street was shaded, however, so those who wanted it had to make a point to be on that side of the road. I’ll never understand those who DIDN’T try take advantage of it. In some places, though, the streets were highly cambered and the shade was only along one edge, so we had to choose between running in the shade or running on a flat road. My ankles were doing fine, so I usually chose shade.

Pacers: Chicago has a bazillion pace runners, with several runners at each pace, and paces at intervals of 15 minutes or less (finish time) up to 5:45. It’s not a paying job, but a pacer does get a nice running outfit, singlet and shorts. I happened to run alongside the 4:15 team briefly before dropping back. Later, though, I caught up to a pacer walking without his group and asked him what happened. He replied that he had started to get overheated and decided to back off, running in the shade and walking in the sun. Smart man. Later I passed three more walking together; one woman had turned her singlet (do women wear singlets?) inside out, so it said “recaP” in backward letters. I said “go pacers!” as I chugged past, and they grinned and waved.

Heads Up: For once I did water, gels, salt, and caffeine correctly! It’s always hard to keep track; I take five ounces of water every two miles (more in this marathon!), a gel every four miles, salt every hour, and caffeine about every eight miles or so, often in a gel. Perhaps because of the slower pace, I got it all right this time, especially the water and salt, which are the most critical.

Organic Apples: One of the race partners is Whole Foods, and at the finish we were treated with organic Jonagold apples and organic fig bars. So many races hand out junk food; this was very nice. Kudos to Chicago Marathon and Whole Foods.

Once in a lifetime experience: This was. I'm a happy runner. But I don't need to do it again.


Weather: It doesn’t get much worse than this. I'd rather have sleet. See my previous post. Nobody’s fault, unless you feel like blaming God. Be my guest, but then you have to give God credit for the good things too.

Cancellation: I can’t fault the race organizers for halting the race. It’s an awfully tough decision to make, but people were dropping like flies; we who were still upright could see them alongside the road. The only fault I can offer is that everyone including the volunteers were terribly confused about what was happening next. Should we keep going? Eventually they said
yes, but WALK. Would we get a time, or even get credit for finishing? Maybe they didn’t WANT us to know, so that we wouldn’t hurry. Whatever; I did get a recorded finish and a time, 5:07:09. Thanks, I’ll take it.

Ageism, Sexism: Regardless of the reason for stopping a race midway or enforcing a time limit, it works to the disadvantage of older people and women. Always. This may not be the intent, but it is the effect. So when Chicago allows some runners to continue while others are turned back because they didn’t reach an arbitrary milestone in time, or when Twin Cities Marathon enforces a hard 6-hour cutoff, women and old people are most likely to get the short end of the stick.

Water: Race organizers have been highly criticized in the media for running short of water. I should say that I took water at every aid station and never had to wait for it; if I went to the very last table there was always water, already poured, in cups, ready to go. Other runners evidently had worse experiences, however. The race director, in a TV interview, actually had the balls to blame the runners for the shortage, exclaiming with surprise that runners poured water over their heads to cool themselves. What a sorry excuse from the director of a huge marathon. Perhaps he himself has never run a marathon, but this is what runners DO! Every good marathon training guide instructs us to pour water on our heads when we’re hot. Further, the heat was predicted days in advance, giving race organizers abundant time to prepare. There is no excuse for running out of water or cups for water. None.

”Seeded Runner” Corrals: Not that it matters now, but the information available to runners before the start was very skimpy indeed. I was assigned to Corral C, because I had recently run a 3:36 marathon, but I could not figure out how to get there. The pre-race booklet was confusing at best, and unspecific. There were NO signs to direct seeded runners anywhere in the start area. I asked volunteers manning “information” stations and was twice misdirected and then eventually denied access and sent to the back, costing so much time that I ended up starting with my sweeties near the back of the pack, 10 minutes after the gun. I was pissed off at the time, and I still think that New York, for example, does a much better job of organizing the start area. I don’t know how you could do much worse; Chicago is bedlam.

Cost: OUCH! Is there a city anywhere in America that charges so much for hotel rooms and parking? I think we got by cheaper in New York City. We paid over $100 in just TAXES for two nights of hotel. The Chicago Marathon may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience, but if you want to be able to walk to the start line you sure do get hosed for it. The spaghetti dinner was $25; where else does a plate of spaghetti cost so much? We had excellent jambalyah at the Redfish for a little over half that, and pasta would have cost no more.

Bottom line: If you want the "experience" of one of the largest marathons in the world, Chicago is certainly one of those. But if you just want to collect the state of Illinois, there must be better choices. I wanted both, and I got them. My sweeties, however, got the experience but not the state. For another view of the marathon, catch Sunshine's blog here and here.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Chicago: Marathon from Hades

After a record-high overnight low, the temperature was 75 degrees at the start, soaring to a record 88, with the dewpoint in the mid-sixties throughout, real-feel temperature above 90 much of the time. Race organizers cancelled the race at the 3:35 time mark, sending anyone not yet at the 18-mile point (our guess) back to the start/finish area. My sweeties got caught in that dragnet and were unable to finish the race, though they did get medals. Given the conditions, they have mixed feelings about it, as it might have been difficult to finish within the marathon time limit anyway.

I was ahead of the cutoff, at about mile 20.5 when we got the news. First we heard that the race had been cancelled, so we could stop running. No one did. Then we were instructed to walk to the next water stop and wait for busses to take us to the start/finish. No one believed that for a second - we kept running and walking. Finally we were told to keep going, but ordered to WALK to the finish. We heard that order over and over again as we walked and jogged the last few miles. Apparently the organizers were tired of sending out ambulances; one 35-year-old man actually died, and over 300 were sent to local hospitals.

MY good news is NO PLANTAR FASCIITIS PAIN. Holy smoke - 26 miles and no pain. I thought I felt it at mile 14, but it went away. YAY YAY! It’s a double yay day. I’m not (quite) silly enough to think it’s gone for good, but I’m extremely happy with my newest custom orthotics from Ron at the Brace Place at St Croix Orthopedics in Stillwater. He made them specifically for running, and today they ran. My time was quite unspectacular at 5:07:09, but I’m happy with it considering (1) the extreme conditions, (2) my lack of marathon training, and (3) the orders to walk the final four or five miles.

I got Illinois, my 15th state and 26th marathon. Uff-da. It's a masterpiece! More tomorrow, crash now.

Salad on the road:
Salad on the road
Organic romaine, pickled beets, stuffed olives, organic walnuts, avocado, blue cheese, organic olive oil, raspberry vinegar. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 4. In Tupperware :-)

Wednesday, October 03, 2007

Eight Miles and Ten Miles

Wednesday October 3:

Another “long” run, this time 10 miles, mostly on my favorite trail alongside the railroad tracks, made of deep, coarse sand and some gravel. No pain at all in the plantar-fasciitis foot during the run, though it aches just a little now as I write this. I’m applying ice, as a precaution, and later in the day will switch back to warmth. Time was 1:34:06, for a pace of 9:24. Good enough for this soft trail, this distance, and my iffy state of training. This was again the longest non-stop run since May, counting 23 miles already since Saturday, what a contrast with the recent past. Wahoo!

What a wonderful, beautiful, solitary run, in the rising sun, on a trail with trees and fall color much of the way. As if to make my day, a train hooted and clattered by near the end of the run. The engineer waved. I love trains. Happy runner; the day is already a masterpiece.

Monday, October 1:

Excellent! Eight miles at the community center, four on the dreadmill and four on the steel, unforgiving indoor track. No pain in the left plantar-fasciitis heel. At all. I used my newest shoes (the ones I use for racing) with the brand-new orthotics from the Brace Place at St Croix Orthopaedics. All fine. Time was 1:11:02, for a pace of 8:52. That’s just dandy for my state of training. Longest continuous run since May.

Today's breakfast
This morning's recovery breakfast: Organic oatmeal, organic nonfat milk, organic nectarine, banana, organic plum, pistachios, kiwi, organic pomegranite juice. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 8. Picture taken on the sidewalk in the 9:00 am sun.

Tuesday Dinner
Last night's dinner: Organic snap peas, wild caught Alaska salmon with organic nonfat yogurt, crushed pistachios, spices. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 6.

Monday's salad
Monday night's salad: Organic romaine, organic cashews, organic (hydroponic?) cucumbers, organic plum, blue cheese, raspberry vinegar. Estimated Weight Watcher points = 3.