Sunday, October 30, 2011

It Doesn’t Hurt to Laugh

It hurts a little to cough, though. More about that below. The Marine Corps Marathon is a huge production, and well run, though this one may have been a bit unusual. A hard rain the day and night before the race, even snow, then temps below 32, made bridges treacherous both going to the race and early in the race itself. I slipped and nearly fell on an icy bridge in the pre-dawn darkness. I’m sure a few others were less lucky. The rain also turned lawns into 2-inch-deep mud, and some of the start-area essentials (porta-potties, charity tents) were on lawns. Nevertheless, the race committee and runners prevailed, and the race started on time and went well.

My Race:

  • I shot for 6:00 hours and finished in 5:55:56, 26th of 42 in the age group 70-74. Imagine 42 old farts out there! Actually, quite a few guys were even older, including a 90-year-old. That’s my dream, one of several. This was marathon number 58, state number 40 (Virginia, because the race starts and ends there).
  • I had a LOT of fun. This marathon was as much fun as the Hartford Marathon two weeks ago. Furthermore, I had energy left at the end. I didn’t try to spend too much of that, with another marathon next Sunday, but it felt great to be passing almost everyone in the last six miles. To do that, you really only have to keep a constant pace.
  • I walk/ran with a four to 1 ratio, changing that to 3 to 1 later in the race. 90 seconds walk, 30 seconds run.
  • I have never had the opportunity to thank so many Team in Training (TNT) runners, who raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS). Dozens. I also thanked one MMRF runner, but didn’t see any others.
  • In contrast to the pre-dawn weather, the race weather was beautiful. From about 35, I suppose, to at least 50 degrees. I started with three shirts and makeshift leggings pinned to my shorts, and jettisoned the leggings and a shirt at mile four. The second shirt went at mile 17, so then I was in a T-shirt and shorts. Perfect.
  • I took a lot of video again, and my sweeties did too. I met them twice along the course. Also, several times, I handed my video camera to a trustworthy-looking person, then went back a little and ran past again while they taped, and then back again for the camera. The reason will be explained in a future blog. Anyway it cost a little time.
  • I high-fived a LOT of people, especially kids. I love to see the grin on a short person’s face.

The MCM:
  • Lots and lots of enthusiastic volunteers.
  • Roads are all CLOSED to traffic. We never had to dodge cars. In fact, some of the people of Washington are not fans of the MCM because the road closures tie up the town. Tsk.
  • Marines are everywhere, of course. Many of them are young guys, fresh crewcuts, some of them could be my grandchildren. They called me “sir.”
  • It’s SO COOL running through the nation’s capital, over the tidal basin, past the Washington and Lincoln monuments, down the mall, past the capitol building and the reflecting pool, on and on. I did love that. Got the video, too! It’s surprising how quickly that part goes by.
  • The course is hilly in the beginning, but quite level later on. The finish is uphill, but happily quite short.
  • I have some suggestions for the race committee, but they’re trivial things in a race of this magnitude and I doubt they’ll call.
  • I was surprised how many runners were with me at my glacial pace. Lots! In fact, almost 2000 runners finished after I did.


  • The only significant pain was the “sports hernia,” abdominal strain. That’s what still hurts just a little.
  • During the race I heard from the left hamstrings left hip flexors, but those signals went away with the miles.
  • Every muscle is sore now, as always after a marathon. That’s a good thing.

Splits: 12:29, 13:39, 13:21, 13:09, 15:37, 12:43, 14:02, 13:08, 13:18, 26:35 (2 mi), 12:51, 12:46, 13:58, 13:15, 32:00 (2 mi w potty stop), 27:15 (2 mi), 13:27, 13:24, 13:02, 12:19, 13:34, 14:03, 16:11 (1.2 mi). Total 5:55:56, pace 13:34. OK for today.

Sunshine and Sweetpea’s home-cooked meatloaf, made tonight on the range in the hotel. Everything in the photo is organic:

Monday, October 24, 2011

Elijah Alexander and Tackle Cancer Foundation

Elijah Alfred Alexander III played linebacker for ten seasons in the NFL, starting in many of his 123 games, including 29 of his last 30. He retired in 2001.

He was diagnosed with Multiple Myeloma in 2005, and started the Tackle Myeloma Foundation in 2006. This soon became the Tackle Cancer Foundation, supporting families with children fighting cancer, and adults with multiple myeloma. I met him briefly at a meeting of the American Society of Hematology in December, 2009.

He died of myeloma March 24, 2010, leaving his wife Kimberly and two teen-age sons Elijah IV and Evan. Kimberly Alexander continues as Executive Director of the Tackle Cancer Foundation.

I'm going to dedicate my Marine Corps Marathon this Sunday to Elijah Alexander and his family.

The Park is Still Beautiful

It almost seemed that the fading color of fall returned to its full brilliance today. The trees were exquisitely beautiful. I took the 4.8-mile route and ran most of the way, walking only downhill and occasionally uphill.

What a great run! No pains to speak of, plenty of energy, just like it should feel six days before a marathon. I actually held back to avoid injury through exuberance. 52 minutes, pace about 10:50. Good enough.

All organic except the hot sauce on the sweet potatoes. Anyone know of an organic hot sauce?

Article in Minneapolis Star Tribune

Here's a nice article in the Minneapolis Star Tribune's East Metro Section about my marathons and Team Continuum, published yesterday. StarTribune story

Team Continuum helps families that are devastated by the costs and disruptions of cancer.

You can help, using someone else's money! If you have a Fecebook account and go to my E-Race Cancer Facebook Page and "like" it, a donation will be made to Team Continuum by a generous third party. We invite you to do that - there is no cost to you.

Of course you are certainly also welcome to go directly to my Team Continuum page and make a further contribution to the cause. It's deductible.

Thank you!

Sunday, October 23, 2011

St Croix Valley Runners

Saturday, October 22, 2011:

I ran the first mile and a half with four other runners, and then split off for a shorter run than they were doing. Dave took the same shortcut, and we ran much of the two miles together. Nice run, mostly running and just a little walking. 3.5 miles in 36:00, for a pace of 10:17. It’s fine, seven days after a marathon with another one eight days away. No pains! It’s a masterpiece.

Thursday, October 20:

Another run in the park. 3.7 miles along one of my favorite grass trails in the park. No rush, no problems, 42:30, pace about 11:30. Good enough for a recovery/taper run. A marathon five days ago, and another in ten days. No pains! It’s a masterpiece.

Sunshine & Sweetpea's incredible breadless all-organic meat loaf, with organic catchup, organic strawberries, organic dills, and organic squash with a little hot sauce:

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Recovery Run

Jim and I went for a lovely jog on the grass trails in the park Tuesday morning. The trail we took is 3.7 miles, but can easily and conveniently be extended to 4.8 miles, and we did that. I felt very good, with some tiredness in the legs from Saturday’s marathon, but no significant pain. The sports hernia is still there, but not much of a problem.

42 degrees with a little mist, the weather wasn’t perfect, but we enjoyed that park nonetheless. Jim walked when I needed to walk, mostly on the hills, and we had a good conversation. I don’t know how long we took, because my tired old Timex watch reset itself to January 1 at some point after I started it. It’s done that before in cold weather. Guess I need a new watch, probably a Garmin.

A little of the miles upon miles of fall color that we enjoyed driving to and from the Hartford Marathon last weekend. This could be Indiana, Ohio, or Pennsylvania - they were all beautiful:

Saturday, October 15, 2011

ING Hartford Marathon

The Hartford Marathon. Connecticut has a good thing going here. We all three LOVED this marathon and would recommend it highly. And all of us did well in it, too, which of course helps with the loving. The marathon time limit is six hours, so I was shooting for six and went out slowly, hoping not to aggravate a sports hernia injury. But the expected pain didn’t appear, and I finished in about 5:42. The girls actually ran their best time in three years. This is a great day.

The ING Hartford Marathon:

What can you say? This is a grown-up marathon for grown-ups. I can’t think of any suggestions for the marathon committee. It’s all good. They had problems with excessive rain in the weeks leading up to the event, even the night before the event, but they reacted and fixed the problems. Good points:

  • Going through one park, the mud alongside the paved trail was higher than the trail! I stopped to talk to the parks superintendent (still right there), who said that it had rained hard overnight and there had been two inches of mud over the trail, but his crews got out there at daybreak and pushed the mud to the side. He had feared that someone would slip and fall, but the trail was dry and almost clean. Huzza to the parks crew!
  • Volunteers were wonderful everywhere. Spectators too. In fact, people were wonderful throughout Hartford, whether associated with the marathon or not. I like Hartford.
  • The expo was fairly large and definitely worth a visit. Of course, as with all marathons, you have to go there anyway to pick up your running number and timing chip, but we enjoyed the expo too.
  • ROADS WERE CLOSED TO TRAFFIC. I never felt nervous about vehicle traffic. That’s important.
  • Hartford is halfway into fall color. I suppose it will be better in a week, but it was pretty good today!
  • The race committee can’t do much about the weather, but if they could, they would be hard pressed to improve on today’s. Temperature was in the 50's and low 60's throughout, with alternating sun and clouds, and with a southwest wind that was more enervating than troublesome.
  • When I finished the marathon at 5:41 there was still food left. Thank you Hartford!
  • Bands played everywhere. Some just played music at extravagant levels, but many were actual musicians performing for free. In fact I’m a sucker for bagpipers, and there were two. Somehow those don’t need amplification.
  • There actually were enough porta-potties along the race course.
  • Aid stations were plentiful and well-organized.
My Marathon:
  • The day before the marathon I was interviewed by the local FOX station, here.
  • The morning of the marathon I was interviewed by the local CBS station, but I can’t find a link. Maybe someone else will find it. Also, there may be a short blurb on that station in tonight’s news (after football is over for the night).
  • In recent marathons I had been concerned about a sports hernia (which is not a “real” hernia but is cured by the same surgery). With two more marathons coming up in the next three weeks, I planned to go slow, but no pains appeared and I was able to get ahead of schedule and stay ahead. There is just a hint of pain from that area now, after the race, but that’s all.
  • According to my watch I finished in 5:41:46, but the unofficial time according to the race committee was 5:39:49, two minutes less. I don’t know how that can happen, actually. I clicked my watch at the start line and again at the finish, so my watch should be right. They might find an error in their figures. If not, then I’ll take the extra two minutes!
  • I LOVED this marathon - every single minute. I think I enjoyed it more than I used to enjoy marathons when I finished in 3:45.
  • When I interviewed with Fox on Friday morning, a local 59-year-old woman named Maggie, running her 59th marathon (!), was interviewed right before me. She brought a fistful of Hartford Marathon medals to her interview. Today we met during the race, too, at the start and then briefly around mile 24. We finished just a couple of minutes apart.
  • I like to express my gratitude to other runners who are raising money to fund cancer research and support. I got a chance to thank a lot of TNT (Team in Training) runners today - they raise money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society (LLS) which supports research for myeloma too. Thank you TNT!
  • Several people asked about the new Team Continuum shirt (below), so I had a chance to spread the word a little.
  • Five Clif Shot gels with caffeine, maybe seven or eight salt tablets along the way. I took plenty of video again.
Splits: 12:31, 12:39, 12:23, 12:30, 25:08 (2 mi), 12:43, 13:58, 12:18, 12:25, 13:13, 25:22 (2 mi), 15:59 (porta potty), 13:07, 13:10, 13:13, 12:19, 12:47, 27:06 (2 mi), 12:48, 26:05, 14:16 (?), 13:25, 2:22 (0.22 mi), total 5:41:46 by my watch, pace 13:02 by my watch. Apparently I did slow down a little in the second half, but most of that happened when I stopped to talk to people, including especially the TNT runners. Some of them were going the other way (part of the race is an out-and-back), so I would turn around to run with them for a few seconds.

Breaking news. The chip times have been removed from the results (for now?), so everyone’s finish time is the same as their gun time. Mine is 5:46:04, up from 5:39:49. See I told ya - they goofed on my time by almost exactly 2 minutes (and maybe everyone else's), and now they’re working on it, trying to get it right. Maybe they will. It does now show that I’m third of four in my age group. Maybe.

Happy Don at about mile 22:

After the finish:

Tuesday, October 11, 2011


Hey, not bad. I ran 3.7 miles on the grass trails in the park, stopped several times to record some video, and still finished in 45 minutes. I mostly walked the downhills, took it easy on the uphills, and ran on the flat.

IT FEELS SO GOOD TO RUN! Wow. And the fall color is perfect. It’s a masterpiece.

For the record: The only pains were in the right knee (PFS) and the left hamstring. That one is new, and I hope it was a one-time thing. Neither pain amounted to much.

Unbelievably tasty gluten-free meat loaf, with no bread of any kind. Sunshine is a magician. All organic except the kiwi:

Saturday, October 08, 2011

Recovery Running

Saturday, Oct 8, 2011:

The St Croix Valley Runners celebrated marathons today. Many of the crew that assembled to run this morning had finished the Twin Cities Marathon last Sunday, and we three had finished the Maine Marathon or half marathon. Lots to talk about. Plus I wore my new Team Continuum shirt - more to talk about.

I didn’t want to run three days in a row - that would be taunting the sports hernia, daring it to reappear. But the limiting pain in the last two marathons has actually been in the adductors or the hip flexors - I don’t know which - but not the abdomen. So today we three walked FAST, as fast as I could, which requires the other two to run a little to keep up. I hope those long strides are good for the hip flexors. We went about 2.7 miles in 40:45, for a walking pace of 15:06. I felt good.

After that, two hours of lawn mowing / leaf mulching. There were a LOT of leaves already, and the oaks haven’t started to contribute yet. We have mostly oaks.

Friday, Oct 7:

This was another 3.7-mile run/walk on the grass trails in the park. It’s so beautiful right now that it’s hard to stay away, and when I get there it’s hard not to run! So I did. I also took the camcorder along and recorded some of the fall color. The sun was on and off, mostly off, but popped out for a few seconds just as I reached one of the most beautiful stretches of the trail. I have the video.

Time 50:30, pace about 13:39. I stopped several times to take pictures, so that’s a good enough time. Again no pains except the knee with PFS.

Thursday, Oct 6:

Running feels so good! This was a short recovery run on the grass trails in the park. What a treat. I ran on the flat and the uphills, walking on the downhills. I didn’t feel pain anywhere except in the right knee with PFS, and that wasn’t bad at all. I don’t know if this is the best way to get past the sports hernia, but it sure feels good to run. 3.7 miles in 48 minutes, about 13 min/mile. I thought I was going faster, actually, and perhaps I was - I used the cell phone for timing.

Normal breakfast, mostly organic. The black-looking berries are actually frozen organic blueberries. We recently switched to LED bulbs in the kitchen, which looks fine to the eye, but the camera doesn't do justice to the colors now:

Sunday, October 02, 2011

Maine Marathon, Portland ME

Ducky weather. We three all agree that the weather was for the birds. And, we have photographic evidence, see bottom.

My Marathon:

The goal was to complete a marathon in Maine without irritating any prior injuries or causing any new ones, because we have a heavy schedule ahead. Goal accomplished, I believe. Nothing hurts except the stuff that usually hurts. I'll know more tomorrow, after all of the endorphins have worn off. Details:

  • Time: 6:10:45. I was shooting for 6:15, so that's a fine time. But I was sixth of six in my age group, 819 of 897 overall. Ugh.
  • Nevertheless, there is joy in Mudville (Portland) today! We're all happy and I'm havin' a beer.
  • I used a walk/run ratio of five to one, running 30 seconds of each three minutes. Mostly. Toward the end I tried to run a little more, but often had to be satisfied with maintaining the pace.
  • I chipped a little bit of skin off my thumb when I opened the door latch to leave a porta-potty. My first-ever porta-potty injury! It bled a little, but a little bit of blood looks like a lot in the rain. Now cleaned up and Betadined.
  • Near the end, a woman who was walking and evidently done running, said that she was on her fifth round of the 50 states. I responded that I was only on my first round. "Well, take my advice," says she, "when you're done, don't get sucked into doing another round of 50!" Seems like she has ignored her own advice at least four times. Perhaps she was just feeling a little discouraged near the end of this marathon. Anyway, I'm already looking for other celebrations of life. Dancing with the Stars? Oops - you gotta be famous first. Marathon in all seven continents? I hear that Antarctica is really cool.
  • Gels along the way: seven. Salt/potassium tablets: seven.
  • Someone posted several signs of encouragement for "Pookie" along the way. Example: "Pookie - on a scale of 1 to 10 you are a 13.1." Clearly, Pookie ran the half marathon. I hope s/he did well.
  • I started with two shirts and a running jacket, eventually tying the jacket around my waist.

We three have run in much worse weather: (1) In St Charles, MO, the remnants of Hurricane Ike screeched sideways through the town as the race was starting, drenching the landscape with untold amounts of rain. Then the race, while under way, was adjusted to a 10-mile length because parts of the proper course were under water; (2) In Chicago, the race was stopped in progress because of heat - they ran out of ambulances. I did finish that one; (3) Two or three times I have finished Grandma's Marathon in temperatures above 85. I'd certainly rather run in this ducky weather than any of those. It rained most of the time but not all of the time, with temperatures in the high 50's, and a buffeting wind much of the way. I wore enough clothing and was never cold. No problem for a Minnesotan.

The rain in Maine falls plainly on my bean.

When we look back at this marathon we'll probably remember the weather more than anything else, but of course that's no fault of the people of Maine. It can happen anywhere. Every marathon has a surprise or two.

The Maine Marathon:

It's a good one, of course. Pluses:
  • This was well organized. They haven't done this 20 years in a row for nuthin'.
  • After 56 marathons I'm amazed how cheerful, encouraging, and all-out helpful the volunteers were. After all, it was raining hard on them too. Huzzah! to the volunteers. And to the cops too.
  • At one time on the return of the out-and-back course I couldn't see a single other runner anywhere, and I switched from the right side of the road to the left, though we were apparently expected to be on the right. A police vehicle came by, and the officer said "You wouldn't mind running on the other side, would you?" I replied that I actually preferred the left side because then I can see what's coming. "Well, if you're comfortable with that, then so am I," said he with a smile. Maine hospitality, police style.
  • They gave us a very fancy race bag filled with lots of goodies.
  • At the finish, there was plenty of good food, even for those (like me) who finished after six hours.
  • There was a bagpiper along the way, early in the race, playing in the drenching rain. I'm a sucker for bagpipes.
  • The shirts were nice, long-sleeved technical in women's and men's styles, and they let us try them on for size.
  • The course is quite picturesque, with views of the ocean (or the bay, whatever is out there).
  • They had finishers' blankets and they put them on for you. For once, I was glad to have one.
  • There was no doubt when the race started - they fired a cannon!
The other stuff:

  • The Route: As attractive and engaging as it was, for much of my 6-hour race the route was shared with plenty of vehicles going 35-45 MPH, and in a few places there was really no shoulder, or the gravel shoulder was six inches below the edge of the road surface. I really, really didn't like sharing the road with that many vehicles - I felt very vulnerable, running on the right with vehicles coming from behind. There were times when a vehicle had to pass within two feet, and I had a guardrail preventing me from moving over.
  • The out-and-back course had us on the right side almost all of the time, so any slant was always to the right, and there was often a slant. This has been a problem for me sometimes, resulting in bursa pains in knees or hips, though happily those problems didn't show up today.
  • The timing "chips" (strips) were attached to the runners' race numbers (bibs). They are supposed to be vertical, on the sides of the bibs, but someone had mistakenly attached them horizontally, along the bottom ant top, so we runners had to pin the bibs on at 90 degrees. That's a new one for me. Dopey.
  • The race allowed a runner to specify an address for an email to be sent automatically when the runner finished, but the finish times in the received emails were wrong. I don't know for sure, but both the race numbers and those emails could be the responsibility of the timing company, rather than the race committee. If so, I wonder if that timing company will be back.

For the Record (whining):
  • The right-side sports hernia barely showed up at all. Tomorrow may be a different story.
  • The hip flexors or adductors (I can't tell which) on both sides started to hurt around mile 10, and kept hurting. The right side was worst, and became a limiting pain. They got worse when I ran, and better when I walked, although they still hurt some when I walked.
  • Knees were cold but there was little pain.
  • The left glutes or hamstrings hurt a little but were not a limiting issue.
  • Nothing else hurt. Even with the rain, my feet are fine. Muscles are tired but not nearly as tired as they would be if I had gone faster.
Splits: 13:07, 13:22, 13:09, 26:36 (2 mi), 13:35, 13:38, 17:32 (porta potty), 12:49, 14:19, 13:14, 17:28 (porta potty and med station), 13:56, 13:59, 14:33, 14:18, 14:14, 13:03, 15:24, 13:09, 16:10 (porta potty), 13:00, 12:50, 15:03, 14:10, 18:10 (1.22 mi), total 6:10:45, average pace 14:08.

News Stories:
WCSH Channel 6, NBC
Portland Press Herald Newspaper

Ducky weather. These mallards are finding something to eat in the rainwater on a mowed lawn: