Sunday, March 30, 2014

Ann Arbor Marathon Review

The Ann Arbor (MI) forecasts had resolutely predicted unusually low temperatures for today's Marathon, and indeed we three have never started a marathon at a lower temperature, 26 degrees, with a wind of 9 mph.  Happily, though, the sun shone brilliantly for the next six hours, contributing greatly to our comfort, and the temperature rose to 45 by the time I finished.  All three of us finished within the allowed time window.

This was my 80th marathon and my 53rd since starting the drug trial that is saving my life, completed in a net time of 5:53:46, fourth of six in the age group of 70+.  They gave me an age group award, a nice beer glass, but I'm not sure why, because the fourth person in a road race rarely gets anything beyond the time of day.  Nevertheless I'm keeping it!  It's an inscribed glass, and if they want it, they'll have to come to Minnesota and get it.  :-)

My Race:

We parked the car near a high school football stadium that had warm, indoor restrooms, watched the sun come up, and walked to the start about three blocks away.  I wore four layers above, topped by a wind jacket, and running pants (& briefs) below, with a visor, ear cover, gloves, and my usual running shoes and usual thin Wrightsocks.  Around my waist was a fuel belt carrying six Clif Shot gels and, eventually, also carrying one of the shirts that I had started with.  This ensemble worked just fine.

This is how a marathon trouble
table should look

I started with the 5:30 pace group, and easily stayed with them for six or eight miles, actually pulling ahead a bit, but lost touch when I needed two nature stops in rapid succession.  I tried to keep a pace that would catch me back up, but couldn't do it.  Such is life.  No matter, I really only needed to finish within the marathon's six-hour time limit.  That was not in doubt until the final three miles, which included a wet, muddy, road and a plenty big hill.  I lost track of the mile markers (a few were missing) and got a little worried, but then mile 25 showed up and I was sure that I would make it.

For most of the last ten miles or so I ran with a young (younger) man from West Virginia, a sweet man, a gentleman.  He had the habit of thanking every volunteer and police officer, which I do too but may forget when I am very tired at the end of a race.  We chatted most of the time, talking about marathons and running and more.  I enjoyed this, and he seemed to as well.  He even adopted my strange run 60 / walk 120 pace, but when we got down to the muddy road and the big hill leading out of it, I could see that he was stronger than I was, and encouraged him to run ahead if he wanted to.  He did, and though I tried to keep up, I was no match.  I'm sure that he finished several minutes before I did.  He waited at the finish, though, where we congratulated each other.

The race director met me at the finish too, and took very good care of me.  I was a little wobbly at first, so she was a little concerned, but of course I was actually fine and she took me to the "awards table" where I picked up my finisher's medal and age-group award.  Bless her heart, she really didn't let me out of her sight until she could see that I was safely on the way to the shuttle bus back to our car, where my girls were waiting.

Finisher Don with surprise age-
group award.  I supplied the
Whining:  After 18 or 19 miles, when walking, I found myself dreading the next little run, and realized that it was because of pain from a wart in the ball of my right foot.  I need to fix that.  There is a whole internet full of ideas for curing warts, but if you have one that you have actually tried and it actually worked, I'd like to hear it.  In exchange, I'll give you this:  Instead of using sharp instruments to get through the callous that forms over the wart, so that a treatment can be applied, I use 3M Drywall Sandpaper, the kind that is a mesh with lots of holes for the sanded material to flow through.  This cuts the callous without cutting the softer skin around it.  I should have sanded the callous down before this race but didn't, and I paid the price.

More whining:  Toward the end of the race, especially after climbing the big hill, I had problems with cramping.  This is not unusual for me, but this time the cramps were not in the calves, but in various other muscles in the front of the lower legs and even in the hamstrings.  These slowed me a little, sometimes forcing a walk when I would have run, but in the last two mostly-downhill miles I was back up to speed.

The Ann Arbor Marathon:

This race is very well organized.  Almost any issue that I had with it traces back to the unusual weather.  For example, I didn't like the wet, muddy road or the extra hill that came with it, but I understand that this course change was required, to avoid ice on the normal course.  Stuff happens.  It is a hilly race even without the change in course, but we knew that when we registered.

Stuff I did like:

  • It's a modest-size, friendly marathon.
  • It started on time, and we were not impeded by the staging of corrals as we have been in larger races.
  • It was thoroughly organized, including a shuttle bus to take fatigued runners back to their cars at the start.  See the photo of the trouble table.
  • The expo was small but had everything that a runner might need and more.  We three helped staff a booth on behalf of the International Myeloma Foundation, though the real work was done by three other volunteers from local myeloma support groups.
  • Although we picked up our race numbers on Saturday, runners could do that on Sunday morning as well.
  • My girls heard robins, redwing blackbirds, swans, geese, ducks, and more.  Spring will come to Ann Arbor.
  • The race went through some of the best parts of Ann Arbor, including the downtown, the University of Michigan campus, several nice residential areas, and lovely trails along the Huron River.  No part of the course was boring.
  • The full marathon was mostly two passes through the half marathon course.  I actually like that.  
  • We ran past many buildings with
    this early style of architecture
  • In many places the course was on roads that were coned down the center, with the other half open to traffic.  This is not my favorite situation, but speeds were slow, traffic was light, and I never felt uncomfortable.

I liked the race, and would do it again without reservation.

I ran this race in honor of sweet Caroline, dear to me, who is also doing battle with cancer.

And of course, I ran this second marathon of this month on behalf of the International Myeloma Foundation (IMF) ( to call attention to Myeloma Awareness Month, and to the IMF's Black Swan Research Initiative to find a cure for myeloma.

Splits: None.  My stopwatch stopped sometime after the half marathon point, so I ran on dead reckoning from there.  I must have unintentionally bumped a button. I was shooting for a 5:30 finish and was already about six minutes off that  time at the half.  But finishing is the goal, and it's all right.  Marathon number 80 is in the bank.  On to 81.

Friday, March 28, 2014

YMCA Again

Thursday, March 27, 2014:

The weather rendered the outdoor trails unrunnable today, so we ran inside.  Three miles, running one lap and walking two.  No problems.

I live with three ladies.
This is the fuzziest one.

Splits: 11:40, 11:26, 11:34, total 34:40, pace 11:33.  Last tapering run.

Tuesday, March 25:

We ran in the park again, temperature about 20, some wind, lots of clothes including the knee protectors.  I went out for about 19 minutes, then returned in 18 minutes, total 37.  I was running 60 paces for every 90 paces of walking, which works out to a pace of about 11:30, so I'm sure that I went at least 3 miles.

Whining: Zip.  Knee was OK. Tapering now.

Saturday, March 22, 2014

Another Cold Run

I ran in the park, the same route as yesterday and the day before, 4.84 miles. The temperature was 19 degrees, wind 13 mph gusting to 17, bright sun, but a windchill of 5.

Knee protection
Gear: Normal running shoes, short thin sox, McDavid knee protectors, running pants & briefs, LS undershirt, a SS technical shirt over an LS one, and a wind jacket, plus wind-resistant mittens, heavy ear covers, and a visor. This ensemble worked perfectly for these conditions - I had to unzip the jacket part way when running with the wind, and keep it tightly closed running into the wind. Nothing got cold, including feet or ankles. I had a full-face balaclava with me, but my face got accustomed to the cold and I didn't have to use it.

I have used the knee protectors before, especially in cold conditions. I knew that they would keep my knees warmer, and wanted to see if that warmth or the added knee support would improve the PFS. It may have - the right-knee PFS showed up a little today, but not nearly as much as yesterday, even though today was colder. The knee protector chafes a little on the back of the knee if I use it for 26 miles, but I've done it before and may decide to do it again.

I didn't feel quite as strong today as yesterday, legs a little weaker going up hills, but I nevertheless finished the route as quickly as yesterday, in fact 13 seconds faster. The pace was run 2, walk 3, same as yesterday.

Splits: 27:53, 26:43, total 54:36. Distance 4.84 miles, pace 11:17.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Cool Runs in the Park

Friday, March 21, 2014

Again we ran in the park, preparing for a cold marathon next weekend.  Today's temperature was about 39, only slightly colder than yesterday, but the day was heavily overcast with winds at 18 mph gusting to 28.  It felt much colder!

I wore running pants with short sox below, normal shoes, and my feet and ankles were fine, though my knees may have been a little cold.  Up top I wore the Under Armor LS undershirt and a wind shell over that, plus ear cover and gloves, of course.   The shirt and jacket were almost enough, but not quite - I would have been more comfortable with one more SS tech shirt.

I felt strong again, and increased my pace a bit over yesterday, both to run a little warmer and to finish a little sooner. The pace ratio was run 2, walk 3.

Whining: Yesterday's PFS in the right knee came back strong, unfortunately.  I might have actually slowed for it once or twice, don't remember.  It came and went, and was mostly gone by the end of the run, but it's a little concerning.  I have knee supports which would keep my knees much warmer - perhaps I'll try those.

Splits: 27:41 out, 27:02 back., total 54:49.  Distance was 4.84 miles, pace 11:19 minutes per mile.

Thursday, March 20:

We ran on the park's paved trails today, between the snowbanks.  The temperature was 41 with a light breeze from the south and a strong sun.  I wore shorts and long sox below, an Under Armor heavy LS shirt and a SS tech shirt over that, plus ear cover and light gloves. Plenty warm - I took off the SS shirt for some of the run.  Though I ran at marathon pace, run/walk ratio of 1 to 2, I felt very strong.

Whining: Unfortunately the PFS in the right knee raised some complaint, though not enough to limit the speed.

Distance was 4.84 miles, time 58:07, pace 12:00 minutes per mile.

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Still Snowing

We went to the YMCA again this afternoon and I put in five miles at marathon pace, run one lap and walk two (fast).  That went well.  I felt a slight pain from PFS in the right knee, but it wasn’t enough to slow me down.  The calf-cramp that showed up yesterday did not appear today.

Splits: 11:51, 11:40, 11:45, 11:42, 11:44, total 58:42, pace 11:44.  I tried to speed up a little in the last mile, and I'm sure I went faster in the running laps, but I must have slowed a bit in the walking laps because the time was the same.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Back to the YMCA

Just as we were about to go run in the park, the snow started. We may need to run in the snow in the upcoming marathon, but there is no need taking any risks before then, so we went to the nice, warm YMCA to run on the track.

Whining: None during the run, but afterward my left calf felt like it wanted to cramp up. Hmmm.

Splits: 11:46, 11:32, 11:29, total 34:48, pace 11:36, running 1 lap & walking two.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Colder Run in the Park

Twelve degrees, little wind, bright sun, we wanted to see how this would feel if we encountered it in a marathon.  From the top: Visor and heavy ear covers, athletic undershirt, long-sleeved tech shirt, short-sleeved tech shirt, unlined wind jacket, windproof mittens, briefs, running pants, long Wrightsox, usual running shoes.

I ran almost five miles on the park's paved trails, with only my face getting a little cold.  The body accommodates, though, and after a couple of miles my face was warm enough.  Nothing else got cold - in fact, I had to open my wind jacket a bit for some of the run.  In a marathon I should probably add a scarf, in case of more wind.  I can carry it around my waist when it's not in use.

Whining: The right knee with patellofemoral syndrome (PFS) did complain a little, but not enough to limit my speed.  I don't know if it was caused in part by the cold, but a little more cold running would be good training.

Splits: 29:12 out, 28:13 back, total 57:25, distance 4.72 mi, pace 12:10.   That's a good pace for the next marathon.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

First Run in the Park

Still plenty of snow left
Friday, March 14, 2014:

Spring will get here eventually.  We three went for the year's first run in the park.  The grass trails are still buried under snow and ice, but the park people have done a good job of clearing almost two miles of paved trail, so we parked the car at one end and went out and back.  I ran for 18 minutes and turned around, probably doing about a 12-minute pace for about three miles.

The temperature was almost 40, but the wind was 25 mph and gusting higher, so it was a good test for the upcoming cold-weather marathon.   Two shirts and a wind jacket above, running pants and long sox below.

Whining: None.  Good run.  No problems.

Friday, March 14, 2014

Third Day in the Dome

We went to the Stillwater Dome once again today.  I wanted to try a 1 to 2 run/walk, marathon pace, to see if it felt the same in the cold soccer dome as it does in the warm YMCA.  Yep, it does.  As it turns out, after a little cut-and-try, 60 paces running and 120 walking gets me half way around the soccer field, and after 5 laps plus a short side (one mile) the time was very close to 12 minutes, twice.  I messed up my watch and didn’t time the third mile, but I did the laps at about the same pace.

This is still a fairly energetic pace, and I would finish a marathon in 5:15 if there were no nature breaks.  I don’t know if it’s sustainable for 26 miles, but in the worst case I’ll just slow down.  Whining:  None.

Splits: 11:52, 11:56, 12:00 (estimate), total 35:48.

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

More Dome

We’re preparing for a cold marathon in a couple of weeks, so we went to the Stillwater soccer dome again.  They heat that place a little, so it’s always above freezing, maybe even up to 40 degrees, but nothing like the room-temperature YMCA where we usually run.  The marathon may actually be much colder, possibly well below freezing, but I'm not quite ready to train outdoors in the slop quite yet.

Yesterday I ran five miles doing fartleks in the form of sprints along one side of the soccer field, jogging the other long side, and walking all of each short side.  Today I ran a more normal speed, probably 8.5 or 9 minutes per mile on the long sides and part of each short side.  Today was faster overall, and I found myself breathing harder as well, three footfalls per full breath most of the time.  That's a race pace.

Whining: None.  Great run - it's a masterpiece.

Splits: 10:45, 10:32, 9:42, 10:02, 9:40, total 50:21, overall pace 10:04.

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Stillwater Dome

This is the first run in Minnesota that was NOT in the YMCA, in months.  Did I say that clearly?  Sounds OK when I read it back.

We went to the Stillwater Soccer Dome, and I ran five miles doing fartleks.  We run and walk around the edges of a nice-sized indoor soccer field, a little over five loops per mile.  Mostly, I walked a short side fast, then jogged a long side, then walked the other short side fast, then sprinted the remaining long side.  That sprint is what makes it fartleks.  If you don't believe me, ask a Swede.

This was a fun run - I do like sprints.  I looked forward to those, most of the time.

Whining: The right-knee PFS spoke up early, then settled down.  The right-knee ITB from two days ago was silent, though.  A little ligament or muscle at the very top of the left hamstrings, inside, started to complain toward the end.  I think I stressed it with the sprinting, which is sort of expected.  I'll run more easily tomorrow and see.  It won't be a problem.

Splits: 10:31, 10:35, 10:08, 10:34, 10:10, total 51:58, average pace 10:24.  I have run this distance here before, without the sprints but with a better time, but I then walked less of the distance and probably ran a bit faster during the jogging part.  Too soon to tell, but I think the fartleks might do me some good.  They feel good.

Sunday, March 09, 2014


Sunday, March 9, 2014:

Wind sprints, intervals, tempo running, anaerobic running.  Call it what you want, but I like the Swedish word fartlek, so that’s what I must have done today.  I ran and walked five miles on the YMCA’s square track, 13 laps per mile, run one lap and walk two.  For most of the running laps I ran almost as fast as these old legs would go, sprinting on the short straight parts, cruising through the banked corners, and slowing a little when necessary to pass others safely.  The idea of this fartlek running is to build both endurance and muscle mass at the same time, while taking advantage of the training benefit of last Sunday's marathon.

Ice was inches thick the
 morning after the marathon

I believe I am fully recovered now, from the pneumonia and from last week’s marathon.  This run felt very good today - sprinting is so exhilarating.

Whining:  There is a little pain on the very outside of the right knee, especially now that I’m done.  I suspect the ITB, and I know that I have not been doing the ITB stretches that I should do every day, or at least after every run.  Fixable.

Splits: 11:32, 11:12, 11:11, 11:22, 11:18, total 56:36, average pace 11:19.

Friday, March 7:

Recovery run # 2, second run since the Little Rock Marathon.  Three more miles on the YMCA track, again (as Wednesday) taking 34:58.  No problems.

Splits: 11:46, 11:44, 11:28, 34:58, pace 11:39.

Wednesday, March 5:

Recovery run # 1, first run since the Little Rock Marathon.  Three miles on the YMCA track in 34:58, run/walk 1 to 2.  No problems.

Splits: 11:44, 11:37, 11:37, total 34:58, pace 11:39.

Sunday, March 02, 2014

Little Rock Marathon Review

Whooee - I made it!  This is a great marathon, but the weather was not our friend today.  54 degrees at the start, dropping to 40 at the finish, with on-and-off  rain, sometimes heavy, and gusty winds.  The race organizers were so concerned about thunder and lightning that they rerouted and shortened the course at some point, happily after I had passed by.  I ran every single soggy mile.

My Race:

We ran by the Arkansas Capitol
I was slow, intentionally because of recent pneumonia, finishing my 79th marathon in 6:08:14, about eight minutes later than I was shooting for, third of seven in age group 70-74. I was prepared for the weather, and was never cold, wearing pants below and  two shirts above, with gloves and ear cover.  I carried my running jacket around my waist, and at about mile 13 the temperature had dropped enough and I put it on  for the rest of the race, using the zipper to adjust for wind and temperature.

In the last five miles or so I had one muscle in the right calf that was cramping up.  Not the big calf muscle, but a smaller one high up and toward the inside.  I just had to walk.  If it bothers again I'll look at a map of the calf and figure out which muscle it is, but for now it's enough to know that it was the limiting factor today.  I had intended to stay with the 6:00 early-start pace team, and did so up to at least mile 21.  I'm sure I could have finished in 6 hours, except for that calf.  I don't really care, though, because I did finish and apparently a lot of runners were not able to do so.

I had fun, and now I feel great.  Tired for sure, but not the overwhelming muscle-weariness that I feel when I run a faster marathon.  I chatted with lots of runners, especially one guy from Fayetteville, and the two 6-hour pace team leaders.  I saw lots of runners in odd costumes, Elvis (of course), Santa Claus in too-tight tights, Batman, and many more, some of them undescribable.  I saw a pretty young woman wearing a shirt that said "I go all the way!" on the back.  I assume that the front said 26.2 or the equivalent.  I thanked a zillion volunteers and police officers, and high-fived a few kids, especially one shy little girl who grinned from ear to ear afterward.

Whining: Except for that naughty calf muscle, NONE!

This is Myeloma Awareness Month.  I ran this race in support of the International Myeloma Foundation ( and Team Continuum (  Both organizations support cancer patients and their families.  And, I ran it in memory of a sweet woman, long-time member of our local support group, who died of myeloma and whose funeral was today.  I'm sorry we had to miss it.  Further, I ran it in honor of another woman, close to our family, who is doing battle with ovarian cancer.

The Little Rock Marathon:
We ran by the Governor's Mansion

I'm happy with this marathon, but my sweeties are not so much.  They registered for the half, and therefore were not eligible for the early start.  They were assigned to corral M, the 13th (and last) corral, and weren't able to cross the start line for 50 minutes after the first corral started.  Because they were at the start in plenty of time, they were actually standing in the cold and wind for well over an hour.  I doubt that the 50-minute delay itself was weather-related, but in the meantime they were getting colder and wetter, and when they did cross the line they were shaking with cold and decided not to risk running the race.  They turned in their timing chips and found warmth.

As it turned out that may have been a good decision for another reason: The half marathon was also rerouted, and my sweeties probably wouldn't have been able to finish anyway.

Further, if I had not elected the early start (which requires that you promise to finish NO SOONER than six hours), I would also have been in Corral M, and would also have been upset at a 50-minute wait to start.  Further, I would certainly have been in the group of runners whose race was rerouted and shortened, so I would not have completed the marathon.

Otherwise I love this marathon:
  • It is very well organized, with lots of years of experience,
  • The start and finish areas are very nice indeed, and they are close together.  No bussing!
  • There are lots of hotels, and lots of parking, right at the start/finish.
  • The roads were mostly closed to traffic - I never felt like I needed to be ready to dodge cars whizzing by.
  • The expo was great - lots of booths and a great variety.
  • The marathon finishers' medal is 8 ½ inches in diameter and about 1/4 inch thick.
  • The medal is easily the biggest (and heaviest) in my 79 marathons - I suppose that's a plus.
  • The weather is definitely not their fault.  We had a lovely race here eight years ago.
The weather isn't our fault either, but we do have a saying in our family - "Don't invite us to your marathon!"  Stuff happens at marathons that we go to.  One was cancelled before starting, two more after starting, and now two were shortened to a non-marathon distance.  A couple of others probably should have been cancelled.  And I may have forgotten some.

Splits: 13:38, 11:29, 26:28 (2 mi), 13:20, 13:07, 13:58, 59:46 (4 mi & nature break), 13:05, 12:33, 27:59 (2 mi), 26:06 (2 mi), 13:51, 13:34, 14:23, 15:33, 14:13, 14:56, 17:31 (photography delay), 29:24 (2 mi), 3:21 (0.22 mi), total 6:08:14, pace 14:03.