Monday, November 17, 2014

MEC Vancouver Marathon Review

Sunday, November 16, 2014:

This is a low-budget marathon where everything is easy.  Register online for $25 CAD, show up, and run.  Marathon number 85 since my myeloma diagnosis, in 5:46:44, about eight minutes faster than the most recent marathon in Ottawa.

This was my second race in Canada, again supporting Nelson Wiebe, an Edmonton college student who is running five marathons this year in honor of his aunt, diagnosed with myeloma in 2010, to increase awareness of myeloma in Canada and to raise money for Myeloma Canada (  He passed me three times in the race, greeted me at the finish, and we did a little press interview together after the finish.  He's my hero.

The Marathon:


  • It's entirely on a trail atop a dike (dyke in Canadian) along the shore of the Strait of Georgia and whatever river goes east past the airport from that strait.  It's a lovely venue; 
  • Runners never EVER competed with vehicle traffic and no police were required or in evidence; 
  • The race included at least 3 aid stations (maybe four?), which marathoners encountered four times during the race.  These were kept open for the very last runner (which happened to be me); 
  • Everyone was happy, cheerful, helpful, and supportive, just as you would expect Canadians to be;
  • The half marathon was an out-and-back on the dike, while the full marathon was two of those.  That's fine with me when it means we don't compete with vehicle traffic.
  • The dike trail is about as flat as a race can get.
Possible improvement for next year (this was the first year for the marathon distance):  Charge a little more for the race and give finishers a medal.  After 26 miles we deserve one.  Actually, I have no complaint here - I got a medal for some reason, perhaps because I'm old, or the last finisher.  I'm happy.

I would do this marathon again in a heartbeat.

My Race:
  • The chilly weather was a concern, as the temperature at the start was about 28 degrees.  I wore running pants, though, and four layers above, so I was quite comfortable once underway.
  • As the temperature rose into the low 40's and the rising sun provided additional warmth, I shed one layer after another, ending up with just a long-sleeved technical shirt.
  • During the race I took five gels, six or seven salt tablets, and plenty of water.  I also needed quite a few nature breaks, which seems to be an issue in recent marathons.  I bet I spent 12 - 15 minutes in the porta-potties. The water may exacerbate that problem, but without it I would probably cramp up more.
  • Cramping in my calves is often a problem, but less so today - it appeared only in the last mile or so.  I did have a little pain in the middle of both knees, which I attribute to the chilly weather.  Further, my feet got a little sore on the bottom, probably caused by the crushed-gravel trail surface.  The worst problem, though, was a pain on the outside of the left knee, probably the ITB, caused by the constant slight slope of the trail.  It wasn't a stopper, and I can work on that - there are stretches that I should do. 
  • In the previous race I felt a pain in the right tibia, a little down from the knee and to the medial side.  I did see my sports doctor about this a few weeks ago, and he is convinced that the pain is not actually in the tibia but in a spot on the tibia where three ligaments meet.  It's not an uncommon problem, and he basically said that I can keep running without any specific treatment for as long as I can handle the pain.  This pain did not appear today.  Yay.
Splits in km: 7:49, 7:33, 8:14, 7:26, 7:49, 10:20 (natural break), 7:25, 7:48, 7:20, 10:45 (natural break), 17:03 (2 km), 7:14, 7:25, 7:27, 10:22 (natural break), 7:54, 7:23, 8:32, 7:38, 16:33 (2 km), 7:46, 8:24, 15:52 (2 km), 8:14, 7:56, 8:18, 7:52, 8:10, 18:03 (2 km & natural break), 7:51, 7:53, 8:03, 8:35, 8:44, 8:41, 8:38, 8:46, 8:55, total 5:46:44, overall pace 8:13 min/km.

Sunday, November 16, 2014

Ottawa Fall Colours Marathon Review

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Oops - I wrote this on the plane trip back from Ottawa and then forgot to post it.  In fact, it's been so long since I posted anything that I've almost forgotten how.

This marathon lives up to its name.  We lucked out with the weather too, cool and sunny all day, so the trees were at their most spectacular.  I got a few cell-phone shots.

I finished my 84th marathon since the diagnosis of myeloma, in 5 hours, 54 minutes, and 37 seconds, about 12 minutes faster than my 83rd marathon, last week.  I was first in my age group, but also alone in my age group.  I figure that I beat all of the old guys who sat in their easy chairs watching football, eating chips, and drinking beer.  Actually I drank beer too, afterward, but I earned it the old fashioned way.

This was my first race in Canada, and I was here in support of Nelson Wiebe, an Edmonton college student who is running marathons this year in honor of his aunt, diagnosed with myeloma in 2010, to increase awareness of myeloma in Canada and to raise money for Myeloma Canada (  We had met the day before, in a photo shoot for the Ottawa Sun newspaper, and he passed me twice in the race, once in each direction, and also greeted me at the finish.

Sixteen marathons remain in the quest for 100 marathons with myeloma.  Also, this was my first province.  There are ten, plus three territories.  Hmmm.  Travel to and from Canada is not quite as easy as within the U.S., with all of the immigration and customs, but what if we tried to collect a few more provinces?

The Marathon:

I can't recommend this one highly enough.  It's a very small marathon, just 75 finishers this year, but the half marathon is larger, and the whole race is organized as well as any of the big ones.  It's simply a no-hassle event:

  • The fall color was simply exquisite.  Scrumptious.  I stopped several times to take cell-phone photos.
  • The time limit is 5 hours, but they provided a timed 1-hour early start for runners like me.
  • Even though I took the early start, aid stations were manned when I got there, and there were plenty of them.
  • Organization of the race was flawless.
Canadians are known to be polite (mostly true, it seemed) but I was also impressed at how friendly and caring they were in this race.  In the USA it's fairly common for runners meeting each other to give a little encouragement, but here it was the rule.  The race was out-and-back, so we met every other runner at least once, and there was always a nod, or thumbs up, or salute, or grin, or "Doin' great," "Keep it up," "Nice job."

My Race:

I ran a marathon in Portland just a week ago, and that caught up to me in two ways in this race: (1) I experienced a lot of cramping in the last miles (kilometers), and (2) after about halfway, I began to feel a pain in the upper right tibia, slightly toward the medial side and perhaps an inch and a half down from the knee joint.

Cramps are a recurring problem.  This time I brought a magnesium capsule, 125 mg, and took that when the cramps started to slow me down, but that didn't help.  I took plenty of salt - maybe too much?  I was thirsty some of the time, despite the cool weather and an abundance of aid stations, so maybe there is such a thing as too much salt.

The bone pain may be shin splints, or less likely, something more serious.  I do have a cancer that attacks bones.  Shin splints often show up when an athlete increases stress on the legs significantly in a short time - I think two marathons in a week might qualify.  I need to find out, so I will start with my sports doctor and go from there.

Except for those little problems, I had a lovely time out there, cool throughout, starting with three shirts and ending up with just one short-sleeved shirt.  The others I left in the car at the halfway point.

Normally I would put my splits here, but the Canadian race was measured in KM rather than miles, making it 42 KM, and I forgot that my watch would only log 30 splits, so it didn't retain the last 12 KM or so.  Maybe I need a new watch.  (See the next post.)