Ridge Run

I’ve lived here on the edge of the Ramsey County wetlands for the last seventeen years. Most of that land is swampy and not conducive to play. Out in the middle of the wetland is a ridge with tall pines that I’ve always longed to explore. I once snowshoed most of the way out to the ridge during winter, but the swamp was thawing and I kept breaking through slushy ice. My snowshoes kept getting tangled in the long marsh grasses. I didn’t make it all of the way to the ridge. It is invariably too wet and buggy in the summer to attempt it. So I’ve just viewed it from afar for all of these years.

img_20200417_192821-1I’ve lived here on the edge of the Ramsey County wetlands for the last seventeen years. Most of that land is swampy and not conducive to play. Out in the middle of the wetland is a ridge in the middle of the Turtle Creek Open Space with tall pines that I’ve always longed to explore. I once snowshoed most of the way out to the ridge during winter, but the swamp was thawing and I kept breaking through slushy ice. My snowshoes kept getting tangled in the long marsh grasses. I didn’t make it all of the way to the ridge. It is invariably too wet and buggy in the summer to attempt it. So I’ve stuck mostly to the paved bike paths and just viewed the ridge from afar for all of these years.

In these pandemic times, I’m exploring more of the neighborhood on my runs.

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While running down a dead-end street tonight, I found a trail-head that led off towards the back side of the ridge. There was only one section of mud to transverse, but I was able to make it to my goal. I found my way onto the ridge.

The woods and prairie above the wetland elevation were not really runnable for long stretches. I had to bushwhack through invasive buck-thorn and prickly brush in much of the woods. I’m glad I wore running pants and a jacket or I would have left some blood behind on the thorns. The adjacent grassland was all moguls of dead grasses with lots of ankle twisting dips. I only fell once when a thorny vine (the bastard!) reached up and grabbed my ankle. I sprung a young buck and watched his bright white hindquarters bounce away from me. I also found old abandoned farm equipment and the rusted chassis of an old car.

With the fading day I wasn’t able to spend as much time as I would have liked, but I now know the secret passage to the ridge. I’ll be back.

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Adieu 2019. End of a year, end of a decade. Like most years, 2019 had ups and downs, but I’m happy to have enjoyed the peaks and valleys of the roller coaster. I spent much more time cresting the summits … Continue reading

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Hope You Find Your Way Home

I made a bargain with Anne today. I agreed to accompany her to the bra store across town if she would help facilitate my planned long run. It led to an adventuresome day. I mostly kept my end of the deal in that I did drive across town to the Title Nine Store in Edina so she could do her shopping. Neither Rocky nor I were in need of similar apparel, so while Anne shopped, I took him for a walk along 50th Street over to the historic Edina Mill. From the historic documentation at the site I learned that the mill was named Edina Mill by a Scotsman who immigrated here from Scotland in the 1860’s. Edina was a nickname for Edinburgh. The name Edina was his homage to his beloved homeland. As the surrounding community grew in the area, it became known as Edina. The suburb is still so named.

Rocky enjoying the smells of spring and the sound of rushing water at Edina Mill.

After meeting Anne back at the store, we drove to Boom Island Park, just north of downtown Minneapolis. Anne dropped me off and let me know if I managed to find my way home, she might (just might) cook dinner for me. Having lived a few places in Northeast Minneapolis and in Fridley, I had a rough route sketched out in my head to run the distance to home in Shoreview. The short plan was to follow the Mississippi River north for about eight miles and turn right. Run east for about another 12 miles until I reached our neighborhood. I set off with visions of cornbread tamale pie dancing in my head.

Boom Island launch point.

Residential and industrial development break up the sections where you can run close alongside the mighty river. I had fun revisiting the little city parks with which I was familiar and discovering new surprises as I zig-zagged my way north.

Zoran Mosjilov’s outdoor studio and sculpture park.









Sheridan Veterans Memorial Park

When did they put a ferris wheel in Northeast Minneapolis?

New (somewhat) Lowry Avenue Bridge over the Mississippi.






No shortage of railroads criss-crossing the route.








As I made my through the northern border of Minneapolis I saw the first real signs of spring. Highway construction is upon us.

The scenery disintegrated into a bit of industrial slag. Although beauty IS in the eye of the beholder. A little distance beyond the bridge in the photo below was the FMC Corporation Superfund site. The first Superfund site on my run today.






As I ran past the massive Minneapolis Waterworks fortresses, I noticed a large bird on the ground. When it saw me the red-tailed hawk flew up to a nearby branch to investigate whether I looked edible. After posing for a minute or so, it moved on in search of more appropriate prey.











The rest of the journey lent to some pretty scenery, although having a third of today’s distance cutting through the city of Fridley in Anoka county, I realized how lucky I am to have winter paths well cleared in Ramsey and Hennepin Counties. Much snow, slush and ice made for slow going. Probably why we pay higher taxes in the other counties.


I found the tunnel under Highway 65 was a great way to avoid the heavy road traffic, but wish I had brought my ice skates.

Ice from one end of the tunnel to the other end.


More pretty scenery along Rice Creek and in Long Lake Park.

Old Railroad Station in New Brighton.

After crossing over the I35W bridge, I made it to the second Superfund site of the run. The Twin Cities Army Ammunitions Plant (or TCAAP) was another glow in the dark property. Only recently has it been declared safe for development.

Finally making it through TCAAP and into the Rice Creek Trail Corridor, I hit the home stretch. Anne and Rocky met me just outside our local off-leash dog park and so I took a walking break to make a circuit of the park with them. Then I ambled my way home after parting ways.

Somehow I found my way home, even without a new bra. The best part of the twenty-one mile run was making it home to dinner! From Anne’s long titled heirloom family cookbook, (“The Thick Thigh Cookbook, Or Masticating With The Musselmans For Those That Prefer Eating To Sex”), cornbread tamale pie lived up to expectations!



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Memory Links

Took a trip down memory lane today. Or maybe I should say down memory links. Anne and I played Hiawatha Golf Course, one of the Minneapolis Park System golf courses. The Park Board recently voted to close this course due to excessive ground water pumping, which is done to keep the course from reverting to the wetland it once was. Current pumping levels are seven times the allowable limits. (The course will remain open through the 2019 golfing season.) There are some neighborhood efforts to save the golf course, but it doesn’t look promising.






This course holds a special place in my heart as I grew up a mile west of the course. It was where I first caddied at the age of ten for my father when he played in his Honeywell employee golf league. I took up the game and began playing regularly there at the age of fourteen when I joined the Central High School golf team. It was our home course, which meant we could practice there for free after school Monday through Friday in the spring and fall. I could play the course in the dark (and did a time or two – “That felt like a slice. I think I’ll walk down the right side of the fairway and hope I trip over my ball.”). The coach once had us play nine holes with the club of our choice. Only one club. I used my five iron for all shots.

When I separated from my first wife in 1983, I moved back into my parent’s house for two months. During that time I played golf with my aging father every week. I learned he actually had quite a vocabulary of cuss words that I never knew he possessed. Apparently he felt free to swear in front of me after I became an adult. I finally started beating him at the game once he reached his mid 70’s. I was able to play many more rounds with him over the next half-dozen years. My father had to give up the game due to heart problems at the age of 82. He died in the year 2000 just short of 92 years of age.

Playing the course today brought back many fond memories. I will miss it after it closes, but it will forever occupy treasured acreage in my heart.

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Today marks one year since my mother died. I miss her, but think I also appreciate her more with each passing day. My wife Anne mentioned last week that my mother had lived her life with incredible grace. Never short on generosity and caring for strangers or people she loved. Always with humility and trying to give credit to others. She was a teacher to many, including teaching braille to blind students and later teaching illiterate adults how to read. Her lessons were many. She kept her subtle sense of humor by her side and her mental faculties until close to the end. I aspire to live the lessons she shared with me. I hope to be graceful to those around me in the days to come.

Just after she died a year ago, I left the nursing home and went over to nearby Como Zoo and had a lupine experience. I wrote most of a blog post during the wee hours of the night a few hours later to capture some of my feelings.  (https://ishouldgetarealhobby.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/waves/)

To commemorate the anniversary of her loss this evening, I again stopped by the timber wolf pens at Como Zoo after work. I was happy to see both wolves, Denali and Shy-Anne, in their pen. The skies had just opened up with a thunderstorm but the two wolves seemed to appreciate my company. As I stood in the rain, Denali came up to the fence and looked at me with doleful eyes. He soon laid down, no more than ten feet away from me. His sister Shy-Anne was pacing and seemed upset by the storm. She eventually paced out of eyesight into the dark. Although getting drenched by the downpour, I found some grace in the calm demeanor and company of Denali. I hope he too felt some comfort from my voice as I spoke to him through the storm.

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Gandy Dancer and Maple Syrup

I had the fun of running the Gandy Dancer Trail Marathon this weekend. A dear friend, Christine, invited runners from our run club to partake in this small town event. She offered free lodging and some food. I was sold.

Christine and Katie ran the half marathon and I ran the full. Christine’s boyfriend Paul and Katie’s husband Michael constituted the moral support crew. We arrived early for the race. Paul drove over in one of his restored historic military vehicles. This is a Mighty Mite, a smaller version of the Jeeps made famous in WWII. The Mighty Mites were first prototyped in 1946.


The marathon consisted of two half-marathon out and back distances along the Gandy Dancer Trail. The first one went southbound 6.5 miles and then returned to the start area. The second half of the marathon did the same thing beginning by heading north. The half marathon started an hour after the full and just did the out and back to the north. The weather was comfortable with heavy cloud cover, strong southerly winds and a constant temperature in the upper 50’s. The threatened rain never materialized.


The trail is made of dirt, gravel and occasional stretches of moss. Most of this section of the trail is tree-lined through rural Polk County. It passes through the towns of Milltown, Luck and Frederick. While the thick cloud cover masked the effect, the fall colors were peaking this weekend and provided a beautiful canvas of eye-candy scenery as we made our way up and down the trail. I reconnected with several friends including Jim Wilson, Mary Erb, brothers Craig and Michael Swanson and race director Eric Olson. Good to share a few words and/or steps along the trail with them. If you added up the marathons and ultra marathons completed between Jim, Craig, Michael and Eric, you would have a number close to 500. Eric shared a comment with me before the race. He said when asked why he runs so many marathons, he said “It’s the slowest way to die. And maybe the most expensive.” (He didn’t claim to originate the quote, but liked it.)

img_20161015_121048456   My race went well for the first twenty miles or so and I stayed ahead of my pace for the Twin Cities Marathon last week, but my legs fatigued a bit too much in the final stretch and my walking breaks helped me to finish thirteen minutes slower than last week (4:56 vs 4:43). I was happy to get another completion and remain injury free. Christine and Katie had good races and we all made it over the finish line.

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Finisher shirt, medal and beer glass.


After the race we returned to Christine’s house for lunch and a special treat. Christine recently moved back to her roots to re-join the family business, Anderson’s Maple Syrup. Her grandparents began a maple syrup side business on their farm in the 1920’s. The business grew to the point where her grand parents gave up farming and went full-time into the syrup business in the 1940’s. Christine’s parents assumed the reins until her brother took over the business in the late 1990’s. The business has grown from the early years into a large scale operation. Before heading home yesterday, Christine took us on a tour of the family business.


Anderson’s Maple Syrup has sponsored Nascar Teams and Leukemia Team in Training.

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After the tour we said our goodbyes and headed on our way.

After arriving home, I called Anne, who was away visiting friends this weekend. After describing my weekend to her, she asked if I had brought home some pure maple syrup. I knew I forgot something! Why am I fighting a serious craving for pancakes today?

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Grass Lake Running Adventures

It has been an inconvenient year of running for me. I’ve fought off some injuries and battled back with physical therapy to the point where I was starting to feel stronger than I have in a couple of years. Then I bounced off some rocks and roots on a little trail race a week and a half ago. I listened to my body for a change and took it easy for eights days with no runs over four miles. I noticed during my two-mile run yesterday that it no longer hurt my ribs to take deep breaths. Must mean it’s time to ramp up my training miles!

So after work tonight I decided to try an eight to ten-mile loop run. This loop runs in a rough oval from my house in northern Shoreview to the southern part of the suburb. I left home about an hour before sunset, so I did think to bring a headlamp for the late miles. I thought of a route that would give me about nine and a half miles, but was feeling good when I reached the point where I’d need to turn to make that loop. I knew the next major cross street could add a couple of miles to the loop, so I continued. Of course when I got to that intersection, I realized I could extend it another mile and a half while running around beautiful Grass Lake. Grass Lake is so named because it has some grassy islands that are not well anchored to the lake floor. When the water and winds are high, they sometimes drift part way across the lake surface before settling in a different spot with the next low water.


Twilight at Grass Lake.

I stopped on the east side of the lake and took a photo of the dim dusky light over the Lake (it wasn’t really as dark as the photo suggests). About a half mile further I crested a hill only to notice the paved pedestrian / bike trail had some standing water covering it. I knew there was a tunnel under a roadway ahead that would necessitate climbing the embankment next to the tunnel to cross over the top of the elevated road and then make my way back to trail on the other side of the road. I’ve had to wade through thigh-high water on other runs after storm drains clogged from heavy rains. This didn’t look too deep.

The path was a little damp.

The path was a little damp.

So I started running into the water with much splashing. I flushed a paddling of ducks. Once knee-high I slowed to a walk. I noticed minnows swimming under my feet. I kept going till it was thigh high. At this point I could see around the corner of the path and the tunnel under the roadway in the distance. The seven or eight foot ceiling had about a foot of air space at the top. There was no access to the embankment to climb to the roadway. I knew if the water was that high, the path on the other side would be hard to reach. I didn’t want to have to back-track to go back the way I had come or that would add more miles than I wanted to run.

Considering my options I knew the path forked here and I could head west instead of north to finish the circuit of the lake. Since my cell phone was in my hip-pack and I thought the water might get even a little deeper, I fastened the hip pack around my neck. I forged on. I knew that asphalt path zigged and zagged, but if I could feel that hard surface of the path under my feet I could keep from sinking deeper off the sloped sides. The water kept creeping up until it was armpit high. More and more of my steps were not hitting underwater asphalt. At this point I realized I would have to start swimming soon. I couldn’t see the point at which the path emerged from the expanded lake around the curves in front of me. My recollection was that there were more high and low spots to the trail ahead and it veered farther from the roadway. Since I wasn’t sure I could keep my cell phone dry, I cut my losses and turned around. Here I had my second avian encounter and scared up a gaggle of 20 geese who didn’t appreciate my company.

Once I extracted myself from the submerged path, I had to remove my shoes and the swampy flotsam accumulated in them. Once put back together, I donned the my headlamp and headed back around the lake in the reverse direction. So I trudged back home with wet clothes and squishy shoes. My mid-range run of eight to ten miles ended up at fifteen. No time like the present to train for my fall races.

Although pretty dark by the time I left the lake, I’m pretty sure the grass islands were floating tonight.

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DSC_0084 In the collage of life’s seasons I feel I’m enjoying the robust days of late summer. I know the transition to fall and slumber of winter lay ahead of me some day, but today is not that day. My own mortality comes to mind as it has been a year of loss and too many funerals. After losing my mother in March, my oldest daughter Kate lost her father-in-law in April. Last month we lost a friend.

My wife Anne and I just attended a memorial service for her uncle. Lynn was a retired physician and professor of family practice medicine living in Madison, WI. Lynn’s surviving wife Sally is the younger sister of Anne’s dad George. Anne and her siblings spent much time frolicking with her cousins while growing up. The cousins remain close to this day.

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Uncle Lynn


George and Sally








You learn much about a person at a memorial service. Lynn was another member of the vanishing “Greatest Generation”. His was a life of service. Through his career in medicine, his community service, his love of family and strangers, he gave to others. He was a renaissance man who excelled in music and shared that love with many.

PianoI didn’t know Lynn well, but was honored to attend many family gatherings with him over the 27 years that I’ve been married to Anne. I did have the privilege of participating in one of his passions. He accompanied several of us to a Great America theme park so he could ride several wild rides. In learning about his life-long adventures, I think he took on life as a thrill ride in many ways.


One Lynn’s daughters, Katie, lamented about the example our parent’s generation set for us. It is a high bar to match their achievements. They survived growing up during the depression, the war years and the stresses of rapidly changing times, yet persevered and built successful lives. Not only for themselves, but for their communities. How do we match up to those achievements? I’ve often felt same feeling of inadequacy with the passing of my parents, their siblings and spouses.


DSC_0104On the way home from Wisconsin today, Anne and I stopped at the Great River Bluffs State Park near Winona, MN. While traversing the pathways and overlooks of the Mississippi River valley I thought about perspective. About the paths we’ve traveled and those yet to explore. We can’t be our parents, but we can set our own example of weathering the storms of loss and getting back up when we trip over the roots of stress. We need to strive to be kind to others while never forgetting to live our own thrill rides. We should relish the changes in the colors from all of our seasonal vantage points.


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Acronym Run

I’ve been away from the office for five days. Like many of us, my work world is ripe with acronyms for many of our work conversations. I must be going through some acronym withdrawal as I started thinking of some as I ran yesterday. I thought I’d share a few.

LSD – Long Slow Distance. This term was coined by famed New Zealand track coach Arthur Lydiard. He was a former Olympic Marathoner who gained more fame in coaching and writing. He steered his distance runners to build their base mileage by running long slow miles and save their speed for shorter workouts and competitions. I think I ingested some LSD as my run today was over the hills and dales of the Lake Michigan sand dunes. Those miles were definitely LSD miles. Of course in my advancing years pretty much all of my miles are slow. Even the shorter runs (SSD?).

TSS – Toddler Sand Shovels. Otherwise known as my shoes. I wore gaiters which prevented some of the sand from gaining entry into my shoes, but still had to stop seven or eight times to dump sand out of my shoes and socks.

OTF – Only Two Faceplants. I only bit the dust twice in during my run today, so I’m calling that a win. Or maybe I wasn’t trying hard enough.

LRSGM – Longest Run Since Grandma’s Marathon. I’ve been fighting off a running injury for the past two and a half months. I took some time off, worked on some physical therapy and only recently began to increase my mileage. I ran 17 miles today, or 7.5 miles further than any  run since Grandma’s Marathon on June 18.


Map of North Ottawa Dunes trails.

BMB – Butt Muscle Better. My injury was to my piriformis muscle. The ruckus in my rumpus impaired my running in that my runs would get more painful the more miles I ran. Using my butt-head, I still ran two derriere deficient marathons before taking a break. Happily my rear was in a better gear today and seemed to almost feel better the farther I traveled. Not quite as broken as a couple of months ago.


This is what my rear felt like a couple of months ago.

SZ – Safety Zone. I’m glad I didn’t get shot in the five miles I ran before reaching this part of the trail.


Warning signs.

MUL – Mouse Under Leaves. This fellow ran across the trail in front of me. He then hid his head under I leaf so I wouldn’t see him. Brilliant! (Unlike to quality of the photo.)


RHD – Red Hawk Down. This bird swooped down in front of me. He must have been looking for some MUL.


Red Tailed Hawk

TRN – Trail Running Nirvana. The sand dunes that run for several hundred miles along the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. Since they were formed 4,000 years ago they are mostly covered with mature forests. This worked out well for me as my run was about 99% shade covered on a warm day.  The paths run along dune ridge tops and in the valleys between the dunes. The curves and vertical changes make it seem like a roller coaster in many places.

ACS – Acronym Craving Satisfied. Now I can get back to vacation for the next five days.


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Fortunes of Traverse Bay

I suffered an injury to my piriformis muscle a couple of weeks ago and had to give up my daily running streak on Tuesday to let my body rest.

I took four days off (zero running) and procured a professional message this week. I rediscovered the benefits of anti-inflamatories for sore muscles. Started to feel better. I thought I night attempt to ease back into running on the fifth day.

Unfortunately I was actually registered to run the Bayshore Marathon in Traverse City, MI on Saturday, the fifth day since I stopped my streak. Prior to my injury I had committed to running with my wife’s niece (Anne Santa Maria) for her first marathon. Probably not the best way to ease back into running. I thought I could at least begin the race and see what would happen. Here is the pre-race picture:


I felt okay at start and ran with Anne and one of her running club friends, Stephie, for the first eight miles. They were maintaining a great pace for those eight miles. Unfortunately my butt shark bit me at eight miles. I was slowed to a painful walk. I let them know they would do fine as they were running well and told them I was dropping back. Had I seen a sag wagon, I would have dropped out at this point of the race. I took some ibuprofen and walked for a mile. My rump relented a bit, so I was able to resume running at a much slower pace. I overheard a runner behind me commenting on the top half marathon runners racing toward the finish line (our race was an out & back 13 miles, the half marathon runners only had the “back”.) The runner behind me told her friend “Wow! That woman is really ripped. Me, I’m just torn”. I could really identify with her sentiment. I started telling myself that pain is just wimp leaving the body. I hoped I would have an ample supply of the latter for this race. Offsetting the physical pain was the beauty of the course. The race goes out Mission Peninsula which separates the two lobes of Traverse Bay. For just about the entire race you have the beauty of Lake Michigan waters keeping you company.

About this time another marathon runner caught up to me. I could see he was ailing a bit too with a couple of knee bands. I realized it was none other than Marathon Don. Don Kern is the race director of the Grand Rapids Marathon and a few other races. He has completed the 50 state circuit 3x and the seven continents 5x. He held the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest completion of marathons on the seven continents (since bested by another runner). He turned 60 the day before this race and planned on celebrating by running his 300th marathon or longer race at the Bayshore Marathon. I’ve run both his Grand Rapids Marathon (2009) and his Ground Hog Day Marathon (2016). I read his book “And the Adventure Continues” this year. It’s a fun read that I highly recommend.


Don is well-known in many places, but especially in his home state. He continually received shout-outs of birthday wishes and congratulations on his 300th marathon all along the course. We ran together for a couple of miles until I felt my pace picking up a bit and pulled ahead of him.

Shortly after the half-way turnaround I saw Don was just a bit behind me. I slowed enough for him to catch up and decided I’d run at his pace for a while. It turned out we would run just about the entire second half of the race together. We shared a few running stories and I was able to enjoy the music selection playing from his cell phone. The temperatures rose to what would normally be pretty uncomfortable, but a consistent cloud cover and a strengthening wind off of the water helped keep it tolerable. Don and I stopped briefly at the “official beer stop” of the marathon at mile 23.8. Not sure it was really official, but I toasted his 300th marathon accomplishment with a few sips of beer. Well almost beer as it was only Bud Light. It it obvious that Don loves running. What was also apparent to me was the care that he shows for other runners. Every time we passed a runner that was moving on fumes of despair, Don recognized the signs and offered words of encouragement and motivation to them. There was one woman walking who looked to be close to tears late in the race and Don seemed to say just the right words to her. Before I closed in on the finish line she came running past me with an air of determination. It was great to see.

Even with my sore rear end, I was able to match Don’s pace by employing a very fast power walk or a slow run. Right around mile 25, Don said “it’s party time!” and pulled a gear out of somewhere and I couldn’t match his surge. He had an entourage of supporters waiting at the finish line to celebrate with him. I came in a couple of minutes behind his finish.

I caught up to Don after the finish and got this picture with him. I thought a better sign would have been 398 combined marathon finishes, but then again, it was his day and he has most of them.


More importantly Anne had persevered through her first marathon in fine form. She of course said she’d wouldn’t do another one. A friend of Anne’s (Liz) and her friend’s mother (Judy) had run the half marathon and were celebrating our finishes with us. I leaned over to the mother and said “Give it a few days. She’ll be talking about the next one.” I was wrong. It only took about three hours. Here is the after picture.

IMG_20160528_132332390The race had a 6 hour cut-off time. I came in at 5:58 which is the slowest road marathon I have ever completed (I have run a couple of slower trail marathons). This is my 98th race of marathon distance or longer completed. While a lousy finishing time, I am actually pretty happy to have the good fortune of a finish considering that I was ready to drop at 8 miles. I’m glad I had enough wimp in me to overcome the pain. Now I think I’ll take some more days off from running.








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