Tuesday, November 29, 2011

CNN Story

While I was in Washington DC a month ago, CNN interviewed me for their "Human Factor" segment - a guy running marathons with cancer. The story aired Tuesday morning, Nov 29, on their American Morning show.

It is available on CNN's blog pages: http://thechart.blogs.cnn.com/category/human-factor/, along with a short written story.

The video is also available without the text here: http://www.cnn.com/video/#/video/health/2011/11/29/hf-don-wright-marathon.cnn.

It will probably air again at least once on Headline News, sometime during the week. Finally, it is likely to be included in the Dr. Sanjay Gupta MD show, which airs at 6:30 am CST on Saturday and Sunday.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Seattle Marathon

It rained every drop of the way. After all, this is Seattle in November! I asked one person who had been involved in a decision to keep it in November, and he said that the Board of Directors wanted it that way. Personally, I think it’s part of the Seattle mystique: This is Seattle and you get the weather that you are dealt, even if it IS usually rain.

Actually, though, it wasn’t so bad. The temperature was within a degree or two of 50 throughout my race, actually dropping slightly, the rain was never more than moderate (with less than 1/4 inch total accumulation during my race), and there was no need for sun screen! The only fly in the ointment was the wind, 10-15 mph SSW gusting to more than 20. In a few places this mattered a lot, making a flat run seem like uphill and a lovely downhill seem flat. But that can happen in any city and any weather.

My Race:

  • Finish 5:26:23, roughly a half hour faster than the most-recent two marathons, making me second of three in my 70-74 age group. Marathon number 60 since diagnosis, and Washington is state number 41, a total success. Nine states left - I can easily tick them off on my fingers now. Vermont, New Hampshire, Delaware, Maryland, West Virginia, Mississippi, New Mexico, Alaska, and Hawaii.
  • No pains worth bitching about, isn’t that nice? Sometimes my speed is limited by a pain somewhere, but today it was just muscle fatigue, which happens in any marathon.
  • According to the published results my second half was three minutes slower than the first half, which is about right. I don’t believe in negative splits any more - small positive splits give the best time.
  • I shot for a 5:30 finish. I wonder if I could have gone a little faster if I had aimed a little higher (lower?). Hard to know.
  • I wore shorts, a technical (wicking) LS t-shirt, a runner’s wind jacket, ear cover, and gloves. Perfect. I was never cold until after the finish.
  • There were lots and lots of Team in Training (TNT) runners to thank. TNT raises money for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society, which funds research on blood cancers like mine. I like to tell thm how much I appreciate it.
  • I ran with (sort of) the 5:30 pace team, which must have finished on time. Near the end I went out ahead by a minute or two, and now regret that I didn’t hang around for a couple of minutes to thank the pace team leader and tell her how important she was in helping me pace my race. She was a TNT runner, and I’m going to try to get a message to TNT.
  • As usual I ran for Team Continuum, which was started by a guy with myeloma and supports families overwhelmed by the costs of cancer.
  • As I passed one old Marathon Maniacs runner, I asked him if this was his second marathon of the weekend. He said that it was his fourth! After a bit more conversation I didn’t understand him and didn’t believe him, so I scooted on ahead.
  • Later in the race I came upon a young woman with a sign on her back (actually her butt) which explained the FOUR marathons in Seattle this weekend, starting on Thanksgiving day. She was taking it easy at that point, but in the last two miles she roared past me and finished in style.
  • Six Clif Shot Mocha gels, an equal number of Thermotab salt tablets.
The Seattle Marathon:
  • It’s a pretty good one, according to me. I definitely recommend it. To heck with the weather - runners can dress for it.
  • The course has its ups and downs, in both senses. There are plenty of hills, and there are a few places where it isn’t fun to run, but all in all the course is OK.
  • Part of the marathon course (not the half) goes across the I-90 floating bridge from Seattle to Mercer Island, using the express lanes, which are closed to traffic and well-separated from the regular lanes by a tall NJ median. The problem is noise from vehicles on the regular lanes. Apparently Washington State allows the use of studded tires, and those make a LOT of noise. Lots of people use them, even the cab we rode in yesterday. One runner from Wisconsin was quite upset and a more than a little grumpy about it. I scooted ahead. After all, that portion was only 3 ½ miles of a 26-mile race, and in my mind the noise was compensated by the uniqueness of running down the middle of a huge freeway which was floating on the water. I liked it, and besides, I wasn't wearing my hearing aids.
  • In several places only one lane of a small road was closed to traffic, though traffic was usually light and it never became a problem. Noise from nearby I-5 was a problem, but those segments were short.
  • Much of the course was simply delightful. We circled Seward Park, an island/peninsula in Lake Washington, on a paved trail totally closed to vehicle traffic. It smelled like pine or juniper, and the area was mostly inhabited by mallards who paid very little attention to us. We passed other parks as well. For at least 11 miles we traveled on a mostly-closed residential road along Lake Washington. Later we ran on a closed road, Interlaken Blvd, which afforded us views from high above the city. Never mind how we got up there! Finally, we finished in Memorial Stadium. Nice.
  • Police were perfect. no grumps.
  • Volunteers were perfect and abundant.
  • We saw more spectators than I expected in 50-degree rain.
  • We all noticed a lot of officials, on bikes and otherwise, checking to make sure that we were OK.
  • There seemed to be lots of porta-potties, but mostly these were singles - one porta-potty. I never saw long lines, but single porta-potties are not convenient for people who are running with a partner.
  • The expo was large and comprehensive, and there seemed to be another one at the finish area.
  • The finish area was in a nice, heated building.
  • Results were posted almost immediately. In fact, we got an email from the marathon right after my finish congratulating us and telling us how to access the results. Cool.
Splits: 12:12, 12:49, 11:32, 12:42, 24:20 (2 mi), 25:04 (2 mi), 24:12 (2 mi), 12:20, 12:04, 12:20, 38:39 (3 mi), 11:31, 12:20, 12:09, 13:18, 13:28, 13:15, 12:14, 12:16, 12:28, 15:07 (1.22 mi), total 5:26:23, pace 12:27. Mostly I ran 30 seconds and walked about 50 to 60.

Thursday, November 24, 2011

St. Croix Valley Runners

Saturday, November 19, 2011:

I hadn’t run for a week, doing yard word instead, but this morning the weather was fine for running, cool but pleasant, so I joined the SCV Runners on the weekly 5-mile jaunt. The abdominal wall strain (“sports hernia”) made itself known for perhaps 50 or 100 paces, as usual, and then quieted down, as usual. No problem.

Nice run, actually. I walked only a little, up a couple of short hills, and otherwise just kept jogging, finishing the five miles in 46 or 47 minutes (no watch), for a 9+ pace. It felt good. One week to the Seattle marathon.

Traveling to Seattle by way of Portland, Lookout Pass at the Montana-Idaho border was the trickiest driving. Slush on the road, but, happily, not a lot of traffic. We had chains along, but didn't have to use them:

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Good Run

I had a weary run last Wednesday, but felt a lot stronger today. The cold is still hanging on, so maybe that wasn’t the problem Wednesday - most likely that was just muscle tiredness from two marathons.

Today was a good day. I felt stronger at the end than at the start, always a good sign. 4.8 miles in 53 minutes, for a pace of about 11 minutes/mile, good enough on that hilly dirt & grass trail, better than Wednesday for sure.

The “sports hernia” (abdominal wall strain) hurt a little for the first 100 paces or so, then wasn’t heard from again. All of my recent runs have been like that, including the last three marathons; abdominal pain for just a short time at the start. I’m hoping it will eventually just go away entirely.

I had a nice little run with a 6-year-old yesterday, 1.5 miles around Lake Como, lots of spurts and stops, but we both enjoyed it.

Organic chicken with two cheeses, organic veggies, organic sweet potatoes, organic black grapes:

Wednesday, November 09, 2011

Pooped Out

We three went for a recovery run in the park this afternoon, but maybe I should have taken a nap instead.

The run started OK, but I soon discovered that I was very tired. Not just my legs, but everywhere, just fatigued. I walked up all hills, down most, and sometimes even on the flat. 3.7 miles in 45 minutes, probably OK for a recovery run three days after the marathon. But why so tired? (1) Marathons three days ago and ten days ago; and (2) A head & chest cold that is sidetracking a lot of energy right now. Those are the only reasons I can think of, and happily those will (hopefully) cure themselves with the passage of time.

Despite the fatigue, I did enjoy the time in the park. Fall color is gone, but the park is still beautiful, serene, and inviting. It calls to me, and I am so glad when I can answer it.

This is a TV broadcast before the start of the NYC Marathon, as I stand behind the broadcasters holding up a Team Continuum sign.

Sunday, November 06, 2011

New York City Marathon

I finished in the dark! Well almost - I finished while it was still light, but spent a half hour or more collecting my race bag and then it was totally dark.

Anyway, the New York City marathon was the spectacular event that we all know it to be. When people ask me about my three favorite marathons, I always include NYC. Nowhere else have I experienced the crowd support and the incredible number and quality of volunteers. If you like bands, there are plenty of those too. There’s nothing quite like it.

Here are some more good points:

  • Roads are entirely closed to traffic, all 26.22 miles.
  • The entire event is totally organized: From the Expo to the finish line, nothing is left to chance.
  • The Expo was huge and, at least when we went on Thursday, there were no lines.
  • I’ve never seen so many police along a marathon route. I like ‘em!
  • The only places without spectators were the bridges, where pedestrians are not allowed.
  • It’s not really very hilly. In NYC, the hills are the bridges.
  • There WERE ENOUGH portable toilets at the start. I’ve rarely seen that before. I stood in line for maybe three minutes, and then when our corral was called we went past dozens of empty ones that I could also have used with no line.
  • The weather could hardly have been better, clear and cool.
They could fix this
  • The first few groups of portable toilets had only four or five in the group, and a huge line of needers. What the ...!? Everyone (EVERYONE) knows that many hapless runners will screw up and need a toilet in the first few miles (experienced runners plan to use one no more than 30 minutes before the start). Later in the race there were as many as ten toilets in a group, maybe more, and no line at all.
  • The huge crowd at the end, after the finish, is an embarrassment to the NYRR. Here you finish in your best possible time, and then you spend the next half hour or more standing in line to get your race bag. Arrrgh! That’s unconscionable. FIX IT!
They won’t. The NYC Marathon is what it is, take it or leave it. Most of us take it. If I ever do this one again I’ll arrange not to need a race bag (had a valuable jacket in it), and I’ll bug out right after getting the medal.

My race:
  • Wonderful! All in all, I had a very enjoyable race and a good enough finish time.
  • Time 5:51:58, pace 13:27, four minutes faster than a week ago, number 92 of 157 in my 70-74 age group, marathon number 59. I have completed a marathon in 40 states so far in the eight years since myeloma diagnosis, ten to go. I got faster toward the end, which is a very good sign - I was passing everyone. I really love that!
  • I was part of a group selected for enthusiasm (who knew?) as a cheering section behind pre-race TV interviews. This was fun, but it meant that, except for the bus ride to the start, I was on my feet from 3:30 am to 5+ pm. I was concerned about starting the race already tired, but I was OK. My back got tired standing, but was fine when I got going running.
  • Also, I had run a marathon one week before, three weeks before, five weeks before, and seven weeks before, so I was concerned about the toll from those escapades.
  • At bottom, though, I have no idea whether any of those significantly increased my time. Probably they all contributed. But who cares? I finished, and now have three weeks to rest up for the next marathon, in Seattle. Maybe I can go a little faster.
  • This was the long run for that next marathon, right? I’ll jog a little Wednesday, maybe again Thursday or Friday, and then run with my regular group of friends on Saturday. Take it easy on me you guys. After that it’s taper time already! I hope the trails in the park are still good.
  • Nothing hurts. I escaped injury, as far as I know. The “sports hernia” (not a real hernia) spoke up a little bit, but was never a limiting factor. The only limiting factor, actually, was muscle fatigue. That’s NORMAL. Yay!
  • I feel quite fatigued as I write this. That’s sort of normal too, but I am starting to catch a cold and that may contribute.
  • This morning I woke up with a scratchy throat, and the race didn’t make it better. I will take good care of it tonight, with plenty of sleep, warmth, zinc lozenges, and vitamin C. We don’t have access to chicken soup and liniment (for the chest) now, but we will tomorrow night.
  • My sweeties didn’t get to run this marathon, but they did meet me at mile 16 and again at mile 26. I love that. Turns out there were other friends at mile 26 too, but I was so focused on my sweeties that I missed them!
  • I did get cold. I tossed a long-sleeved shirt at about mile 5, as the temperature warmed, but could have used it again later as the sun dropped low in the west. My mistake - I could have tied it around my waist. But a hot shower at the hotel corrected the problem!
  • I met some new people who are important to me and the E-Race Cancer campaign and Team Continuum. Good people. I like them.
  • There may be a CNN piece about my marathons on their American Morning show, Tuesday, November 15. But maybe not. I’ll try to keep an update here.
That’s enough. Have a good night. I will.

Splits: 13:43 (up the Verrazano Bridge) , 12:17 (back down), 13:31, 24:35 (2 mi), 12:45, 12:14, 26:19 (2 mi), 17:22 (1 mi plus bathroom), 12:48, 12:41, 13:38, 27:37 (2 mi),, 13:03, 18:39 (1 mi plus video retakes), 12:45, 14:29, 26:08 (2 mi), 12:32, 27:35 (2 mi), 12:03, 12:57, 2:35 (0.22 mi), total 5:51:58, pace 13:25. S’OK.

At mile 16, coming off the Queensferry Bridge, spotting my sweeties in the crowd: