Monday, May 23, 2016

Fargo Marathon Review

Saturday, May 21, 2016:

I doesn't get much better than this.  Fargo is a great marathon and I highly recommend it.  Despite the unseasonably warm weather I finished my 96th marathon in 6:40:44, ending up first in my 75-79 age group.  Alas I was also last in my age group of 1 runners, but I didn't finish last in the race, crossing the line ahead of 34 others. In fact, according to the official results, in the last six miles I passed 16 runners, walking as fast as I could, and was passed by just two.  This is the eleventh marathon in a row that I have finished between 6:00 and 7:00 hours, seven of them between 6:30 and 7:00.

The mighty Red River of the North

My Race: 

Most important, I had a great time in this marathon.  The weather was warmer than we would have liked, high 70's or low 80's toward the end, but with low humidity and a bit of wind I never felt as though I should slow down to avoid overheating.  I did carry my own water and was glad of it, especially toward the end of the race, refilling my bottle twice and taking at least 24 ounces from it during the race, in addition to water from cups at aid stations.  Also, in the second half of the race, I dumped a paper cup of water on my head at each aid station.
We ran through Concordia College
in Moorhead, Minnesota.  The bell
tower isn't leaning - the runner is.

During the race I took six Clif Shot gels and about that many salt tablets, plus a couple of capsules of magnesium taurate, 125 mg, to help avoid cramps.  Indeed there wes never a hint of a cramp during this marthon, quite unusual for me.

Whining:  The right knee started to complain at about mile seven. I took a naproxen sodium liquid gel at about mile nine, and another later in the race.  Those did seem to help - the knee did not slow me much.

The Fargo Marathon:

Just finished
This is the third time that we have come to Fargo to run this marathon.  We come back because it's so good, and it gets better each time.  Organization is excellent, and there really is a volunteer or a police officer at every intersection.  Several miles of the course are on paved bike trails along the mighty Red River of the North, some on the Minnesota side and some in North Dakota.  All of the rest of the race is on paved city streets, mostly under arching shade trees.  Most streets were completely closed to traffic, and those that were not closed to traffic simply had no traffic.  I never felt at risk from vehicles.

My girls finished the half marathon
It seemed as though the entire community of Fargo-Moorhead was involved in this marathon.  In the New York City marathon, spectators line the streets along the barriers.  Here, spectators sit in lawn chairs in the shade in their own yards, picnicking, partying, or just watching, children everywhere.  One little girl even brought her bunny out to watch.  I could have had as much iced tea as I wanted, just by asking, and I've probably never high-fived so many kids.  It really was fun.

This year the race started and ended in the FargoDome.  This worked perfectly, as far as I am concerned, offering excellent pre-race toilets (go upstairs for shorter lines), and a dry start if it had been raining.  The medal is impressive.  The expo was a nice-sized one.  Post-race food included ice-cold bottles of water, chocolate milk, and pizza.
Happy finisher

Signs along The Way:

  • "Turn around, it's a trap!" 
  • "Run faster - the Kenyans are drinking all the beer" 
  • "If Trump can run, so can you" 
  • "You run better than Congress" (this one is a continuing theme from many marathons ...)
  • "Runners will escape the Zombie Apocalypse" 
  • "GO random stranger, GO!"

The finishers, with friend Karin.
Photo by Josh
We passed literally dozens of bands sprinkled along the route, with a variety of music, a few  overamplified but most of them quite listenable.  At one point a Scottish musical group seemed to be preparing to play, so I stood facing them, hands on hips, until they did.  Then off, doing my best jig down the street.  I'm a Scot, after all.

Splits: 13:12, 13:40, 13:26, 14:03, 17:48 (nature break), 14:15, 15:31, 15:25, 15:13, 14:23, 15:49, 15:45, 14:15, 14:56, 31:46 (2 mi), 15:51, 15:01, 33:21 (2 mi), 15:54, 15:38, 15:21, 15:52, 15:45,  15:30, 3:08, total 6:40:44, pace 15:17.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Time Out

Monday, May 16, 2016:

Today’s four-mile run was cut short by complaints from the right knee, the right ankle, and the right quads.  None was enough to really slow me down, but any could be a problem in a marathon, and together they persuaded me to cut the run to two miles.

I mentioned this to Dr PK today, who said “you need to rest.”  That’s good advice, and that’s what I will do - I can’t hop a whole marathon on one leg.  No running or even fast walking until the marathon this weekend.  Maybe some cross training, upper body or core, but legs need to heal and my current myeloma regimen probably doesn’t help that because of the dexamethasone.

Splits: 14:02 out, 12:58 back (uphill / downhill).

Sunday, May 15, 2016

Four Miles No Problem

Today's route was just a little hilly, one of the usual Kwik Trip 2-mile out & back routes.  I felt a strange muscle pain in the middle of the right quads, but nothing in the right knee.  That's very good news.  Whatever is wrong with the quads will heal by next weekend - indeed it got better as I ran.

A knee can be a bit more of a problem, but the doc didn't find anything wrong with it and  today it felt fine.  Full speed ahead for the next marathon!

Two-mile splits: 27.24, 26.08, total 53:32, overall pace 13:27.  This is marathon pace.  Another 4 miles tomorrow.

Doctor Sees No Problem

Thursday, May 12, 2016:

The sports doctor examined my knee and had x-rays taken.  He remarked that the knee joints would be the envy of a man ten years younger.  He saw nothing wrong, with a meniscus of sufficient thickness.

Right Knee
X-rays don't show irritation or inflammation in the meniscus or another knee part, of course.  The doc seems to think that something was irritated in the last marathon and hasn't quite recovered yet, though we couldn't find a way to make it hurt today in his office.  Isn't that how it always goes?

I asked about taking a small amount of dexamethasone on the morning of the race, since DEX is a very potent anti-inflammatory and I take it anyway as part of the myeloma regimen.  He nixed that idea but said that an NSAID like ibuprofen might be OK if necessary.

The next day, Friday, we three went to the YMCA indoor track, as the weather was awful, and I stopped after two miles because the knee started to hurt just a little.  No sense annoying it with a marathon only a week away.

Mile splits: 12:45, 13:16, total 26:01, pace about 13 minutes/mile for two miles.

Wednesday, May 11:

Knee Pain Gone   Almost.  I ran (mostly walked) exactly the same hilly route that I had run on Monday, but this time very little pain.  Toward the end of the run I purposely ran downhill, rather than walking, to see if that would make it hurt.  It didn't.

Splits: 28:00, 29:00, total 57:00, pace 14:15.

Monday, May 9:

Oops - the right knee hurt after the first mile of this four-mile run, enough to slow me down. Switching to very long strides seemed to help a little, so I tried to do that toward the end.  But what about a 26 mile run?  Doctor appointment Thursday.

Time might be a little off, because I stopped at SMG for a nature break, and SMG is a little out of the way.

Splits: 27:12, 16:36, 13:41, total 57:31, pace 14:34

Saturday, May 07, 2016

Whining by the Numbers

Today I went to walk with the St Croix Valley Runners (& walkers) and found myself alone - plenty of runners but no other walkers.  So I took off at an 80% walking pace and went about 3.5 miles in 50 or 55 minutes.  No problems today except the right knee.  Here is the whole catalog of issues six days after the OC Marathon (this might be TMI - read at your own risk):

  1. Right knee: Pain appeared on the outside of the joint after the marathon, bothered for a few days and went away.  I felt it just slightly today but it went away after about 45 minutes. 
  2. Right ankle: Showed up at the foot after the marathon, bothered for a few days but only when walking fast, no problem today. R
  3. Right heel / Achilles' tendon: Bothered a little in the race, nothing since. 
  4. Blister on left big toe: Not much change.  It's between the two toes, and I don't understand what caused it - first time in 95 marathons.  It isn't healing fast (nothing does on my feet) but it's also not bothering at all.  Mostly I keep it covered with a blister patch wrapped around the toe, and I suppose I'll do that in the next marathon. 
  5. Left groin: For a few days after the race this felt like a sports hernia, but today when I do a situp it feels equally sore on both sides.  I don't know what it is, but it doesn't bother while walking fast, so it's probably not a problem.
Right now nothing in this list seems likely to interfere with running the Fargo Marathon in two weeks.

Friday, May 06, 2016

Recovery Walk

Wednesday, May 4, 2016:

Three days after the marathon I like to do a short recovery run, just to shake out the stiff muscles and lube up the joints.  When I tried that today, I walked at a modest pace with my girls but turned around in a half mile because of pain in the right ankle.  It wasn't too bad, but didn't feel like the walk was making it any better.  I doubt that the ankle issue is a big problem, but we'll wait for it to go away before testing it much more.

Right now the larger concern is a pain in the left groin, reminding me of a sports hernia on the right side that was surgically repaired a few years ago.  I didn't really notice this problem until after the marathon, but now I still can't do a situp or a pushup without pain.  I don't yet know if it is a sports hernia, and of course it is quite possible to race even if it is.  It didn't hurt during this short walk, though it certainly might in a marathon.  Time will tell.

Monday, May 02, 2016

Orange County Marathon Review

Sunday, May 1, 2016:

Don waiting for the start.  Photo courtesy
Orange County Register, by Mindy Schauer
They don't get much better than this.  I can't remember when I have enjoyed a marathon more.  I finished my 95th marathon in 6:33:53, about 25 minutes faster than my next previous marathon three weeks ago.  More important, I had fun.  Can a marathon be fun?  Well, this one was - even some parts of the last six miles were enjoyable.  I recommend both the OC Marathon and the OC Half Marathon to all.  But see comments about the waiver contract, below.

My Race:

I finished 9th of 10 in my 75-99 age group, not so great, but only 11 minutes behind the man who finished in the middle, 5th of nine.  It's a rather unusual result, so many of us finishing almost together. Actually I'm quite impressed that ten of us old geezers ran the marathon and did reasonably well. I did finish ahead of 70 other runners out of the 1900-runner field, and I more than met my own finish-time expectations.

Don with Chris Yee, reporter
with the Orange County Register,
The back of my shirt showed my name above the words "I'm alive thanks to novel cancer medications," and in 95 marathons I have never had so much affirmation by runners going past.  "Good job Don," "Keep it up," and so much more.  One hairy, shirtless guy just patted me on the shoulder and ran past without words.  The message touched people.  Me too.

Plenty of Whining:

The back pain that I have dealt with in recent months, possibly caused by a myeloma lesion in a vertebra, did not appear until the very last mile, and then was only a dim reminder of times past.  Slight pains in the right hip and right ankle resolved themselves.

When the race was over, though, I discovered a significant blister on my left big toe, between that one and the second toe. That will require some care between now and the next marathon, just three weeks away.

On Monday, the day after the race, there is some pain near the outside of the right knee.  It's unfamiliar, and appears mostly when I bend the knee, not when I stand up straight and put weight on it.  It might be the ITB or a bursa, except that I can't make it hurt by pressing on the knee with my fingers.  The start of a knee problem, or gone in a day or two?  Time will tell.  Gone is most likely.

The OC Marathon:

What's not to like?
Beach at Newport Pier
  • Race directors would certainly control the weather if they could, but they couldn't have chosen better weather than we had.  About 55 degrees at the start, mostly cloudy with little wind, rising to maybe 65 at the finish with a little cooling wind.  Dry - I poured water on my head a couple of times, soaking my shirt, which soon dried off again. 
  • Roads were all closed to vehicle traffic, or coned off with police or explorer units at every significant corner.  I saw and greeted police from each of the cities we passed through, as well as the California Highway Patrol.  I never once felt at risk from vehicles.
  • Some of the course was quite beautiful, with great views of the ocean, valleys, and more.  It was interesting.  At one point I realized that I wasn't just plodding along, as in some marathons, but I was having fun! Some of the course was on trails made for pedestrians and bikes - lovely. 
  • Volunteers were wonderful, of course. 
  • The race instructions give time limits of 3.5 and 7.0 hours for the half and the full, but those limits simply mean that on-course support may disappear as a runner falls behind pace.  I rather doubt that anyone was denied a chance to finish and get a medal. 
  • Medals are quite attractive. 
  • The expo was a good one, big enough to be interesting.
Along the way

Suggestions for next year:
  • Do away with the gratuitous adhesion contract that every runner is forced to sign before picking up their bib.  I'm a lawyer and I'd love to tear that to shreds in court.  In 95 marathons, we have encountered this only once before.  It's lawyering gone overboard - mostly it just puts everyone in a bad mood as they enter the expo, having to write their personally-identifying information, including name, address, birth date, and email address, on a sheet of paper available to practically anyone including all of the volunteers. No runner reads it and no runner gets a copy of it.  Do the waiver during on-line registration before people have already spent hundreds or thousands of dollars on registration and travel - it might be valid if done that way.  The race committee is trying (unsuccessfully) to protect themselves, but they are certainly not protecting us or our information. Is that what the OC Marathon is all about?
  • Sign in Best Western Cafe
  • They ran out of men's shirts.  Really?  This is otherwise a classy marathon.  We arrived hours before the closing of the expo, but I had to sign up to have the shirt mailed.  Is it that hard to predict?  Did they screw up the order, or did they give give the shirts away to those who registered at the last minute, in preference to those who registered way ahead?
  • If there was a good map of the race course, good enough to follow most of it in a car, we didn't find it on line.  If there was a turn-by-turn description we didn't find that either.
Other stuff:
  • Some marathons have interesting signs for runners as we pass by.  I didn't see too many here, but there was one that said "Sweat is just fat going 'Woo Hoo'." 
  • Shirt:  Strip down / Run the race / Never quit. ~ Hebrews 12.  (Look it up)
  • We stayed at the Best Western Newport Mesa Inn, which was right across Hwy 55 from the Fair Grounds where the expo and the finish were located.  This allowed us to avoid cars and parking altogether, with a 15-minute easy walk to the expo, the busses to the start, and back from the finish.  The Best Western is a nice hotel, too.
Mile splits: 13:29, 39:39 (3 mi), 14:21, 13:53, 27:36 (2 mi), 15:05, 14:19, 42:25 (3 mi), 14:39, 32:12 (2 mi), 15:28, 15:52, 15:22, 16:47, 17:04, 15:05, 16:44, 17:15, 17:06, 16:01, 3:32, total 6:33:53, average pace 15:01.  I do seem to slow in the second half these days, even though it feels like I'm pushing just as hard.