Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Wood Ticks Galore

I ran in the park again, on the grass trails, in the morning this time. 65 degrees and clear, little wind, already a beautiful day.

Last Friday I came home from the grass trails with a dozen ticks in my shoes and a couple crawling on my legs; this morning not so many but at least three. I don’t think these are the tiny deer ticks that spread Lyme disease and babesiosis, but the larger American Dog ticks (wood ticks) familiar to most Minnesotans. They can spread Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and other infections, but mostly they are creepy and gross. Either way, no one wants them to latch on and feed so we do inspect ourselves. We often see these in the spring, but I don’t recall so many, or so late in the spring.

After each run I left my running shoes and socks outside on a wooden table for a while, where the ticks crawled out of the shoes and up onto the shoelaces, as if they were blades of grass, ready to latch onto the first passerby. Indeed, when I put my finger near a tick it quickly reached out two of its eight legs, glommed on, and crawled up my hand. Another of nature’s marvels. Yuck.

The run went OK or better until the very end. I was formulating the log post in my mind, something like “finally pain-free,” when the right knee suddenly howled, hurting even more when I finished the run and started walking. I’m not positive that this pain was the diagnosed patellofemoral syndrome, though, because it was at the lower right corner of the kneecap, whereas more recently the PFS had been more in the center of the kneecap.

Oh well, that “pain-free” headline will have to wait. I’ll keep doing the therapy, and running, and will put up with the pain as long as it’s manageable.

4.8 miles in about 52 minutes (I forgot my watch), pace about 10:50. It’s good enough - I stopped briefly a couple of times to take pictures, and didn’t stop my watch.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Coming Back

Sunday, June 26, 2011

We three ran on the Gateway Trail this morning, starting in the middle and running out and back both ways, so we could be near the car in case of a thunderstorm. No storm came, so we ran the planned distances. I went as far north as the new Manning Avenue Bridge (progress continues), and as far south as Mile 12.

The right knee hardly bothered at all. I ran without walking for the first five miles, or a little more, and then walked occasionally. Breathing was the test: One full breath in four footfalls is OK, one in three footfalls means walk a bit. I tried pretty hard to use my physical therapist’s suggested gait, shuffling along on the balls of my feet rather than landing midfoot. It results in less up/down bounce, and may have saved some energy.

I’m happy with the result, finishing 8.3 miles at a sub-10 pace, and I feel great afterward. It’s the strongest run in some time, and definitely a masterpiece.

Splits: 9:51, 8:40, 2:40 (0.3 mi), 8:48, 9:40, 9:06, 10:23, 10:15, 9:47, total 1:19:12, distance 8.3 mi, overall pace 9:33.

Friday, June 24, 2011:

Eight miles on the grass trails in the park. 78 degrees, humid, and the trails were wet - I had to run through water once, and mud more than once. At least a dozen ticks clung to my legs and shoes after the run. Nevertheless, I had a great time and pretty well wore myself out.

This was not a recovery run - I went about as fast as I could. Breathing is the measure: Four footfalls per breath is a sustainable pace, but when it goes to three footfalls per breath, I have to walk a bit to get back to four. That wasn’t necessary for the first four miles, but later I did walk up some hills and, because of the knee, down some too.

The knee hurt only a little, early on, but calmed down and was mostly silent after the first mile. 1:29:49, pace 11:08.

There really is oatmeal under there, and organic yogurt was added after the photo was shot:
Post-run Breakfast

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Recovery Run

Wednesday, June 22, 2011:

Raining this morning, so we three picked up Jim and ran for an hour at the Stillwater Bubble. In that time, Jim and I ran about six miles. He could have gone faster and farther, of course, but had run a speedy half marathon a few days before and seemed content with an easy recovery run with me today. We chatted a lot.

Patellofemoral syndrome, runner’s knee: The right knee hurt a bit at the start, but I ran anyway, and by golly after a while it felt better. Toward the end I didn’t think about it at all, though it did hurt a little when I stopped and walked. Man, I’m tired of bitching about that knee!

Except for the knee, I felt great after the run and had a good session later with the therapist who is trying to correct the underlying muscle weaknesses that presumably contribute to the runner’s knee.

Organic bison with onions and organic mustard, organic tomatoes, organic squash with a little pepper sauce:

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Perfect Weather for Grandma’s Marathon

For nine straight Grandma's I’ve wished for 55 degrees with a tailwind off the lake, and yesterday it happened. A few brief sprinkles got us all wondering if the 70% chance of rain would become 100%, but it didn’t. At Sky Harbor airport on Park Point, the temperature remained about 50 degrees with an east wind (tailwind) of about 20 mph the whole time. It doesn’t get much better than this. I carried a butt pack containing a poncho and gloves, in case of a downpour, and an extra shirt in case the temperature wasn’t as predicted. None of that was necessary - I felt great in a short-sleeved T-shirt.

Because I ran a marathon two weeks ago and have another scheduled a few weeks from now, I decided to run conservatively, and hooked up with the 5:30 pace team. Yes, there is one that slow! They would jog for five minutes or so, then take a 30-second walk break, and thus stayed on the necessary 12:30 pace. I did it differently, running for 30 seconds and then walking fast for 60 to 90 seconds until they caught up, which worked better for me. A couple of times I made a bathroom stop and then had to catch up, but that was no problem. I stayed with them to the top of Lemon Drop Hill, about mile 23, then started walking less and running more, and went out ahead to stay. Finish time 5:24:03, 12th of 17 in my age group of 70-74. Marathon number 53, still 35 states run with 15 to go.

The right knee hurt a little most of the way, but not enough to slow me down. It even hurt a bit when I walked, which is new. The worst problem, though, was the left hamstrings, which got sore by the half-marathon. The nerves controlling that leg felt strange, tingly, and I wondered if I would lose control of the leg. But the problem slowly subsided, and by the end of the race I could sprint to the finish without pain. Now I wish I had analyzed that pain a little more carefully, because I don’t know if it really was the hamstrings - it seems more likely that it was nerves in that area.

Calves, especially the left, gave notice that they might cramp up as they did two weeks ago, but they never cramped. Last night the right calf cramped in my sleep though. Ouch - it still feels bruised. I’ve heard that a tablespoon of pickle juice is helpful in preventing night leg cramps, but haven’t yet tried it. The vinegar? The salt? I assume they mean DILL pickles ...

Oddly, I have finished all of the last three marathons within two minutes of the same finish time, without trying, even though they were at widely different altitudes and temperatures, and had different race objectives. In this race, the objective was to simply take it easy, enjoy the perfect weather, and not get hurt, and I ran that way until the last three miles. Then I actually finished the last 10k of the race three minutes faster than the first 10k. Today I feel pretty good. It’s a masterpiece.

Splits: 11:42, 11:50, 12:59, 12:01, 25:02 (2 mi), 12:27, 12:26, 12:36, 12:34, 24:58 (2 mi), 28:32 (2 mi & bathroom stop), 35:45 (3 mi), 12:37, 12:21, 25:35 (2 mi & bathroom stop), 11:58, 12:01, 11:29, 11:36, 11:40, 1:54, total 5:24:03, pace 12:21.

I traded places with this Florida runner a dozen times in the race, and we finished together:

Monday, June 13, 2011

Timed Runs

Monday, June 13, 2011:

Tapering, 3.6 miles on the paved trails in the park. Because of the knee, I used a run/walk ratio of 30 seconds run, 60 walk. The knee still let me know that it was there, but it didn’t get worse.

45 minutes, pace 12:32. The calculated pace for this run/walk ratio is 12:35 - pretty close!

Saturday, June 11, 2011:

Five miles with the St Croix Valley Runners, who meet at Northland Tennis Courts in Stillwater every Saturday at 7:00 am SHARP. Well, not "with," exactly. I started with them but had to do my run/walk thing to keep the right knee happy, so I fell way behind and actually took a different five-mile route because I prefer it to the traditional route.

It worked. In fact the right knee was happy with 30 seconds running and 30 walking, so I soon switched to 60 running and 30 walking. I made a mistake at the finish, running for several minutes downhill because it felt so good, but then when I stopped it hurt to walk - pain toward the outside of the right kneecap. That went away, though, and perhaps no harm was done.

Five miles in about 53:00 minutes (I didn’t click my cranky old watch hard enough to record the actual time), pace 10:36. That compares well with the predicted (calculated) pace of 10:49 for 60 seconds running and 30 walking. It’s a masterpiece!

Organic chicken, roasted organic vegetables:

Friday, June 10, 2011

Good Recovery Run

Thursday, June 9, 2011:

This was the first successful run after last weekend’s marathon. I started out yesterday, but the knee hurt so I stopped. Today I ran on the grass trails in the park, going 4.8 miles in 52:50, no walking except down a few hills. The right knee barely spoke up at all - I wish I could run on grass all of the time!

This soon after the marathon I ran out of energy pretty quickly, so my pace was only 11:05, but it will certainly do. Good run, it’s a masterpiece.

Sunday, June 05, 2011

Casper Marathon 2011

If you're doing 50 states, and need Wyoming, I certainly do recommend the Casper Marathon. We three ran it today - I ran the full and my sweeties ran the half, and we're all pleased with it despite near-record heat and flooded trails. My 52nd marathon and 35th state.

My Race:

I started out very concerned with the patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner's knee) that I've battled in my right knee as recently as Thursday. Happily, that turned out to be the least of my problems. It was never more than a murmur at any point in the race.

My plan was to run 30 seconds and walk 60, which ends up with an average pace that should have produced a finish of 5:30. I felt really good, though, and the knee wasn't bothering at all, so I shortened the walks to 30 seconds, resulting in an actual pace in the 11 to 12 minute range, which could have brought me in just after 5 hours, all else being equal.

But nothing was equal. The marathon started at 5270 feet and went up a bit from there. The temperature at the start was 48, but it rose to 81 at my finish, with intense sun and a dewpoint of zilch. There were definitely times when my mouth was calling for water but the next aid station was a mile away. I had carried water on my back for the first few miles, then decided I didn't need it and dropped it at the car when the course wound back past our parking area, later regretting that decision.

I did take six Clif Shot gels along the way, and maybe nine or ten salt tablets, but my calves started to cramp up at about mile 22 anyway, and I was forced to walk in from Mile 23. I could have gone faster, other muscles were willing, but when I tried to run the calves said NO, and they really meant it.

What affects this? Training (not good lately), hydration, salt, hills (there are a few), speed (I started faster than intended), probably core strength. It's possible that the mile-high altitude has some effect as well. For a while I was 17 minutes ahead of the planned pace for a 5:30 finish, but most of that pad evaporated during the walks and I finished in 5:23:54 (my watch), just 6 minutes ahead of schedule. Third in my age group of 70 to 98, though I have no idea whether there were more than three of us musketeers. And I could swear that I passed the guy who finished second, never to see him again on the course. I'll be interested in the results when they're published.

An odd fact: My finish time for this race is within two minutes of the finish time for my last marathon, in Rhode Island, even though EVERYTHING was different, including the amount of hills, altitude, temperature, humidity, sunshine, aid stations, running surface, and my race plan. The girls had the same experience, finishing within a very few minutes of their last race. Our bodies are the only constant - perhaps that's what it's about after all.

The Casper Marathon

This year the organizers had to battle a flooded race course and near-record heat, so if I have any suggestions for the race directors I'll put those in a separate email, not here, and I doubt I'll be telling them anything they don't already know.

A standard joke in our house is "don't invite us to your marathon," because quite often something unusual happens at the marathons that we do run. Heat, floods, hurricane, rain and bluster, fire on the course, you name it, we've been there. This race definitely fits the pattern.

The marathon course follows a lovely paved trail along the North Platte River. Today, that river is well over its banks and flowing rapidly toward the Missouri, then the Mississippi, and finally New Orleans. From Casper, it drops a whole mile on its way to the sea, and right now it's in quite a hurry to get there. Despite that speed, the water was high enough to cover some of the paved trails, so the race directors had to redirect us on dirt trails in a few places. No problem here - I love dirt trails, have been quite happy with marathons that are ALL trails. They improvised well.

Other wonderful stuff: All of the volunteers; Pizza and other great food at the finish including fruit and beer (several different labels); Fruit and GU at every aid station; Excellent mile marking and course marking; A superb indoor facility at the start; Same at the finish; The Half Marathon was on the same course as the Full; The finish is 170 feet lower than the start; Great news coverage afterward on local TV.

It's definitely not flat, but probably shouldn't be called "challenging." If I can do it, you can. Might be good to sleep IN Casper for two nights before the race, to adjust to the altitude. I'd like to come back someday with normal weather and no floods.

Splits: 11:05, 11:21, 11:23, 10:59, 11:10, 10:59, 13:45 (major potty stop), 11:43, 11:43, 11:06, 11:25, 11:00, 11:40, 11:07, 12:48, 23:27 (2 miles), 13:33 (minor potty stop), 11:25, 12:43, 12:49, 13:20, 12:18, 14:38, 17:25, 15:21, 3:12 (0.2 mi), total 5:23:34 by my watch, overall pace 12:20. I was shooting for 5:30, so it'll do! My calves are sore, everything else is tired, and I'm happy. It's a masterpiece.

A sample of the yummy food at the finish line. There is much more, not pictured, including vegetables with dip, muffins and cookies, plus pizza:

Saturday, June 04, 2011


Thursday, June 2, 2011:

I ran “marathon pace” today, hoping and almost expecting to run pain-free on the paved trails by running 30 seconds and walking 60. Just 3.6 miles on the park’s paved trails, I was starting to feel almost smug about this temporary solution to the runner’s knee problem. Then, in the last two-tenths of a mile, a pain shot through the right kneecap, leaving me hopping on the left. I walked for a while, and then could run again briefly, but the pain was still there, skulking, threatening to pounce once more.

When the pain first hit, I was running on a trail which was slanted to the right. I’m assuming that the kneecap slid to the left on the knee, “popping” slightly out of its normal groove. That’s how patellofemoral pain syndrome (runner’s knee) works. I don’t know if the trail was slanted when this has happened before, but I do know I’ll do my best to limit right-slanted pavement on the next marathon.

Anyway, the idea was to run this pace to see how the time would actually come out. I don’t think that the pain episode issue changed things much, because it happened so close to the end of the run. Thus I ran 3.6 miles in 43:34, which comes to 12:06, quite a bit better than I had expected. My calculations, based on a presumed running pace of 9:30 min/mi and walking of 15:00, had predicted about 12:36 min/mi. 12:06 would be a 5:17 marathon, and 12:36 would be 5:30. I’d sure love to be running below five hours again, but that won’t happen until I get past the recent rash of minor injuries.

Breakfast after a longer run: Color is good. Most everything is organic. There is oatmeal under there somewhere. The yogurt is plain, organic: