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.

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