Sunday, June 28, 2009

What a Beautiful Day

Sunday, June 28, 2009:

These are the days that we cherish in Minnesota. Cool 63 degrees with a brisk, dry, refreshing west wind. Jim and I went for a 6.9-mile run/walk in a nearby park, enjoying every minute of it. The grass trail is hilly, but the benefit is some excellent panoramic views of the park itself, and indeed even nearby towns. Wildflowers are in full bloom, especially the zany thistles that pop up their magenta heads in all directions. What a day.

I set the pace, because Jim is much faster, and I found myself to be a bit worn out. Three marathons plus a tempo run yesterday must have taken their toll. 6.9 miles in 1:14:00 is a pace of only 10:43, and four minutes slower than I did this route a couple of times in May. I think I’ll take a nap.

Saturday, June 27:

St Croix Valley Runners, 5.5 miles in 50:37, pace 9:12. Better than I expected. We tried a new route which doesn’t run on any major roads or cross any, but today was a very poor one to show it off. About halfway through we were caught in a drenching downpour which took away some of the beauty of the route. Furthermore, I was "leading" the group and looking at a map which was WRONG, and therefore took a wrong turn which added about a half mile to the usual 5-mile distance. Tsk. Better luck next time.

Breakfast: Organic oatmeal, organic strawberries, organic nectarine, blueberries, mango, organic walnuts, organic nonfat milk, Dove dark chocolate.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Recovery Run

First run after Grandma’s Marathon. 89 degrees with a dewpoint of 61. Plenty warm. For the fun of it I tried out a long-sleeved shirt by Under Armor, called a "heat gear" garment, a Christmas gift that’s suddenly become relevant in the past few weeks. It’s very tight-fitting, stretchy, thin, and made of technical fiber so it’s supposed to cool as well as skin does and offer sun protection as well. I only ran 2.5 miles in it today, but I think I’ll do my hot-weather running in a singlet instead, for two reasons: (1) I felt a little cooler when I took it off, and (2) the form-fitting aspect shows me exactly as I am. Hmmm.

The run went fine. I walked up a few of the hills, or parts of them, stuck to the shade where possible, and finished in 23:49, for a pace of 9:32. Faster than I thought I was going, especially with the walking. No pains, no problems. Feet are slightly numb here and there because of the medications, but that doesn’t cause any problems with walking or running yet.

Longer runs coming up. We’re thinking about running a 50k, my first-ever ultramarathon, in a few weeks. Maybe. If it’s too hot, I think I’ll pass.

Salad as dinner
Salad as dinner: Jim's wonderful lettuces (under there somewhere), no-nitrite ham, jicama, organic grapes, pineapple, organic cottage cheese, organic pecans, organic red wine vinegar.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Grandma's Marathon 2009

My slowest marathon ever. I started out running three minutes and walking two, which produces an overall pace of about 11 minutes per mile, for a projected finish between 4:50 and 5:00. But I didn’t feel strong, and the heat got to me, and pretty soon it was walk three and run two, and so on, until at about mile 18 I thought I might be looking at heat exhaustion and stopped running altogether. Soon after, I couldn’t run anyway, because my calves cramped up when I did. At the finish, a time/temp clock on a nearby building said 93 degrees. I finished in 5:44:11, 40th of 52 in my age group. Ugh. But I finished.

According to the Duluth paper, some 577 runners needed medical attention, and I could see others who just quit and got on the pickup bus. Another hot black-flag Grandma’s Marathon, over 70 at the start line. This is what happens when they choose a date that is as close as possible to the longest day of the year. Duluth’s weather can vary - they tell stories about starting in a snowstorm or a strong nor’easter, but I’d much rather have that than what we had Saturday.

Some other runners, though, had much less trouble than I. Like those 39 in my age group who finished ahead of me, including Jared Mondry, age 67, who finished in 3:07:22, ahead of all runners over the age of 55. So what was my problem?

(1) This was my third marathon in three weeks. And I have a cold. I felt OK at the start, but not really strong.

(2) Weight: I’m carrying a few more pounds than I should. The DEX has made it harder to keep weight off, and I have cut my weekly miles back from 40 to 30. I need to make adjustments. I’m in Weight Watchers - I can do that.

(3) Dehydration: I’m convinced now that I became quite dehydrated, because I wasn’t thinking clearly. I normally take a 5-ounce cup of water every two miles, which in most marathons is every two miles. I calculated that out as the proper hydration years ago, and it has worked very well. But it’s not really based on miles, it’s based on time - 5 ounces every 16 to 18 minutes. Except that I’ve slowed dramatically in the last 16 months, so I need to increase the hydration. I didn’t, because I know that hyponatremia (too much water) can occur with slow runners, so I poured the water over my head and held to the old formula, ignoring my thirst and forgetting that I was only drinking half as often. The heat and unrelenting sun just baked us dry.

(4) Beer: At about mile 13 my son brought me a wonderful, cool beer. A full 12-ounce bottle, ice cold. I know that alcohol is very bad for performance athletics, but I must say that I’ve never enjoyed a beer more than that one. Did it cause some of my symptoms? There is a theory that beer causes the kidneys to work overtime, resulting in dehydration, but since I didn’t pee all that day from morning until well after suppertime, I discount that theory in full. The alcohol might have had other bad effects, but hey you only live once.

Other stuff:


  • People cooking BBQ along the way. That smelled good at first, but not later when I was a little nauseous.
  • Restaurants cooking. Mostly hot oil, yesterday’s or last week’s, not the least appetizing.
  • Other runners. Sweaty, but not obnoxious because you can simply move over a little and avoid the smell.
  • Tarmack. Hot blacktop. The old road surface was so hot that in some places it smelled like it was being repaired, though it was not.
  • A woman’s perfume. Imagine so much perfume that people can smell it halfway out into the road.
  • Vomit, here and there, from runners who were in worse shape than I, though that smell didn’t help my own nausea!
  • Flowers. Can’t tell you what kinds, but they smelled fine.
  • Best darn aid stations of any marathon anywhere. Lots and lots of water, even on this hottest of days. And usually the water was cold - thats a big plus.
  • Beer: Runners get a ticket for one free beer at the finish. That’s one better than most marathons.
  • Spectators: This is my seventh Grandmas, and I swear there were more spectators this year than before.
  • Transportation to the start: The North Shore Scenic Railroad train. How cool is that. Coach is free, first class costs extra.
  • Bumper Sticker: "Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities."
  • Weather: Five of the last seven of these have been too hot, the other two just OK. At least two of them have been black-flagged, and none have been the "Duluth dream," a cool easterly breeze off the lake. One problem is the sun - the Grandma’s route offers (my guess) less than 10% shade. There’s noplace to hide.
  • Traffic control before the race: They close I-35 WAY too early (4:55 am), forcing runners to meander through the downtown construction on their way to the DECC.
  • Hotel rip-offs: Unconscionable. I recommend Grandmas Marathon only for people who live in Duluth or know someone who does.
Splits: 9:56, 10:28, 11:17, 11:08, 11:14, 11:13, 34:25 (3 mi), 11:55, 11:31, 11:44, 25:12, 12:19, 13:12, 13:48, 14:20, 44:51 (3 mi), 15:24, 16:21, 32:53 (2 mi), 17:44, total 5:44:11.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Two Taper Runs

Thursday, June 18:

A last jog before the next marathon. Same short local route as Tuesday, a minute faster, but not nearly as easy. I felt full of breakfast still, and very VERY warm, even though the temperature was only in the low 70's. The dew point was in the high 60's - that was the problem.

Thunderstorms tonight I bet. If not here, somewhere nearby for sure. I just checked the generator - it still works.

I ran the 2.5 miles in 21:55, for a pace of 8:46. When I got back my shirt was completely soaked. After the stretches and some additional time, a total of 25 minutes, I was still dripping and red in the face. I suppose there’s some heat-conditioning that has to take place every spring, and this was the beginning of it. Anyway all is well and I hope to be able to run the marathon in about 4:45 or thereabouts. Looking forward to it. Hope it's cool for a change.

Tuesday, June 16:

Nice jog in a local neighborhood, 2.5 miles in about 23 minutes for a pace of about 9:12. This run felt good at the start and got better right to the end.

Salad lunch
Salad Lunch: Jim's wonderful lettuces, organic chicken, organic strawberries, organic cottage cheese, organic cashews, organic bread-and-butter pickles, organic red wine vinegar. Yum.

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Headphones Are Dangerous

And we saw the evidence today. Picture a runner with headphones running on the right shoulder, his back to oncoming traffic, when the shoulder disappears to become a right-turn lane. The runner goes straight ahead down the middle of that traffic lane, and a VERY patient driver follows perhaps ten feet behind, waiting for the oblivious runner to pass the intersection, out of his way. We watched this happen.

What's wrong with this picture? (1) The runner was on the wrong side of the road; (2) Headphones prevented him from hearing a car approaching; and (3) The runner appeared to enter the traffic lane without realizing it, or maybe without caring. All of these were the runner's fault and easily correctible.

No harm was done, but this runner left everything to chance and was lucky that the right-turning driver was competent and sober. Sunshine's dad always said "stay at least two slips from the edge." This runner was only one slip away.

Saturday, June 13:

St Croix Valley runners, 5 miles in 48 minutes, pace 9:36. We had a big group today, including a new runner. I didn’t feel quite up to par but managed to keep up with some of the runners. The cold is taking away some of my strength - I’m trying my four remedies: (1) Extra sleep; (2) Chicken soup; (3) Warmth, especially chest and throat; and (4) Liniment on my upper chest.

Wednesday, June 10:

Nice, easy run with friend Rich and the Woodbury Runners. 5.2 miles in almost exactly one hour, for a pace of 11:32. Slow but probably good enough for the first run after the second of two marathons. I’m catching a cold.


Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon, # 2

More about the Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon:

  • Sign on a horse fence along the trail: "Please Do Not Feed Fingers To The Horses".
  • Bridges: Dozens of them, all wooden, all in excellent condition. I felt totally safe at all times.
  • Trail width: Enough for two to run and a third to pass easily. I had been concerned that passing and being passed would be an issue, but it wasn’t. The trail was also mostly flat from side to side, so no one has to run on a slope.
  • Flowers: Along the trail. Spring wildflowers like wild irises and many other species that I’m only able to appreciate but not smart enough to recognize.
  • Rural: One local told me that the trail is out in the sticks even to people who live out in the sticks.Finisher's shirt, technical short-sleeved
  • Ruins: In places one can see remnants of the mining industry which necessitated the narrow-gauge railroad bed upon which the trail is now built.
  • Race Profile: The one on the website is a little misleading (i.e. wrong). And I was wrong about the altitude in the previous post, reckoning it 1000 feet lower than it is. The race starts at about 5200 feet, goes up to about 6200, and back down to about 4600. But the highest point is not at mile 12 as the profile indicates, it’s between 13 and 14, and there is a very significant mile-long uphill, in the middle of the downhill, which is not shown on the profile. Be ready for it.
  • Shirt: Technical (wicking) fabric, nice enough design. I’ll wear this one.
  • Caledonia Cabins: In Lead, about four miles from the bus loading area. We stayed there because they have a full kitchen. Great place, clean and complete. We had trouble with the WIFI at first, but eventually had excellent internet service.
  • Speed limit: On I-90 in South Dakota is 75 mph. We put the cruise on 80 and were clocked at that speed at least twice by the Highway Patrol. 80 mph apparently is not enough to interest them. Maybe 90 would.

Sunday, June 07, 2009

Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon 2009

Sunday, June 7, 2009:

I’m whipped! I don’t recall feeling any more beat up after a marathon than this one. But so far (barring a late-reporting injury) that’s the only bad news. Except that Sunshine and Sweet Pea decided not to try the half, because of injury and weather, so they didn’t get a half marathon in South Dakota. That’s bad news too, especially for them. But I did finish the marathon. Everything is sore, especially the right hip flexors and both calves, but getting better already.

I loved this marathon! Organization was faultless, volunteers were superb, and the venue was without peer. There is also a half marathon and a marathon relay.

The Deadwood Mickelson Trail Marathon runs on almost 26 miles of the incredibly beautiful 100+ mile Mickelson Trail. The trail surface is mostly packed limestone, almost as firm as blacktop when dry, if not quite so today. For people who need a little extra cushion, it would be perfect. It also gives up a lot of little rocks, though, and my shoes collected quite a few. Pebbles poured from my shoes afterward.  The whistle is normal size. See the photo. That biggest rock appeared at my toes (how did it get all the way up there?) at about mile 18 or so, and it hurt, so I considered stopping at a bench to take off the shoe and remove it, as I had done once before. But my calves were saying they might cramp up if I did that, so I motored on and the rock eventually found an out-of-the-way place to stay. I talked to one guy who had some very light and colorful gaiters over his shoes, from Dirty Girl Gaiters he said. When she gets back from fishing (!), I’m going to check out that web site again. I knew that rocks would be a problem, but I forgot that I wouldn’t be able to stop and shake out the shoes without other consequences. I have heavier gaiters for snowshoeing, but never even thought of using them to keep out rocks instead of snow. Duh.

Within a couple of miles of the start in Rochford, the trail goes uphill at about a 2% steady grade, eventually climbing almost 1000 feet before topping over and heading downhill again at about mile 14. It’s an old narrow-gauge railway right-of-way. The descent is a bit steeper, a lot steeper in a few places, taking us down about 1700 feet to Deadwood. I had anticipated going slowly up to the top and then faster on the way down. But the second part didn’t happen - I was so wrecked from the climb that I really couldn’t take advantage of the downhill.

Eventually I finished in 5:10:00, 302 of 367 overall, second of six in my age group, almost an hour after the first in my age group. Age group award He could have showered and been sipping a cup of tea by the time I stumbled across the line. The award is a cute railroad spike. They charge $5.00 if they have to mail the award, and now I know why. It's a real iron spike.

Weather was an issue. The forecast said low 40's for the whole distance, moderate crosswind, and rain likely, perhaps even lightning. 40 degrees doesn’t bother a Minnesota runner, in fact that’s a lovely temperature for running. But a hard rain can quickly turn it from nice to miserable, even dangerous. Happily, it rained right before the race and after I was done, but it never rained on me! Just a little mist and occasional fog. I carried a jacket around my waist, just in case, but never needed it. The trail was wet though. Most of the way that was no problem, because the packed limestone had absorbed the rain nicely. But for two or three miles the limestone was in poor shape and we ran on a thin layer of mud, maybe a quarter to a half inch, enough to make me choose my footing carefully to avoid a slip. The temperature varied too - in a couple of places along the trail I noticed frost on runners’ caps or shoulders - frozen sweat. My shoulders were like that too. But only my feet ever felt cold.

The Mickelson Trail is scrumptious. The waterfall in the photo is not actually on the trail (I didn’t carry a camera), but it is typical of scenes we saw on the way. Most of the trail is away from all signs of civilization, often traveling along and Waterfall near Deadwood, SD above an ancient brook or small river. The grade tends to be steady, but the trail winds a lot. Forests, fields, spring wildflowers, interesting rock formations, even caves. We ran on wooden bridges and even through a tunnel. The trail parallels a road here and there, but never a major highway, and it occasionally passes by a rural (VERY rural) home or ranch. It goes through the ruins of the mines that once gave purpose to the original railroad. I’d love to bike the whole 100+ mile trail. In the entire 26 miles we saw only four parties on bikes who were not obviously connected to the race; perhaps they were doing that. Be sure to bring a fat-wheel bike :-)

I don’t need an excuse for running so slowly, but if I did, what would it be? (1) I ran a marathon 7 days before, (2) The trail surface is slightly soft and absorbs a little extra energy from each step, (3) I carried a little more stuff (jacket, gloves, knee warmers...) than usual, (4) The race included more than 1000 feet altitude change, up first, and (5) Altitude reached about 5200 feet (a mile high), and that’s enough. Definitely a masterpiece.

I am SO impressed by Mr Dan Kuch, from Arizona, who finished this tough race in 2:46:33. Whooee.

Splits: 9:21, 9:17, 11:09, 12:04, 11:46, 13:08, 11:36, 17:19 (porta-potty & emptying shoes), 11:36, 11:23, 11:50, 11:46, 12:12, 11:30, 10:04, 10:48, 11:04, 13:06, 13:18, 15:02 (porta-potty), 12:43, 10:35, 11:34, 11:10, 11:22, 13:20 (1.2 mi), total 5:10:00, average pace 11:49. I’ll take it. My 36th marathon, 22nd state.

Tuesday, June 2, 2009:

NSPCC. I ran a mile, felt some pain in the left ankle, and stopped. The elliptical machine felt fine so I used that for a while.