The Anna Maria Island Sun Newspaper

Vol. 11 No. 8 - November 24, 2010


A marathon runner's diary

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Ellen Jaffe Jones trains at the Manatee High School track.

Editors note: Ellen Jaffe Jones is an Anna Maria resident and 5K runner, as well as an in-home personal trainer, who is training for her first marathon race. Over the next several weeks, she will chronicle her run-up to the Dec. 5 race for The Sun. She also can be reached for questions or comments at or

Why do you run a marathon? As I touched on last week, I may have the worst genes in America with a mom, aunt and both sisters devastated by breast cancer. That is only the beginning of a legacy of diseases that had me growing up at bedsides witnessing chemotherapy, Alzheimer’s, diabetic disasters and every heart procedure imaginable. The real reason I’m running 26.2 miles is to show my three daughters that genes do not have to be destiny. The reality is that between us four ladies, one or more of us has an appointment with cancer and other diseases in the gene cesspool. One of my relatives who got breast cancer used to say, “I always thought it was a matter of when, not if, I would get breast cancer.” I refuse to go there. I have no time for that or any other disease. If mind works over matter, sign me up.

How do you train for a marathon? A plethora of plans are out there. I am using two that are similar. One is an on-line plan from which is the main website that coordinates on-line registration for most large road races in America. The other plan is from my fave running coach, Rae Ann Darling Reed, at She is also my boss as the Manatee High School Cross Country and Track Girls’ track coach. I’m her assistant coach. Although I’m certified as a running coach through the Road Runners Club of America, Rae Ann is a coach’s coach. She’s run the legendary Boston Marathon several times and is doing it again this year. Runners tend to be an inquisitive lot, looking for answers about everything from the blister cures to the best shoes. So it is no surprise that in addition to my own knowledge, I would get two more outside opinions on how to train for the big one.

With the online plan, you can enter the date of your race and then buy a training plan that “backtimes” from race day. So I bought a 12-week plan that began in August. But the reality is, I started training a year before that. I began working out in earnest in August 2010. Rae Ann opened a two-week running camp to the public at GT Bray Park. She mainly wanted to get the high school cross country team in shape before the meets began, which occur soon after school opens. She also made the camp open to adults. When it looked like I would be the only adult, she still made me feel comfortable. I brought and talked about healthy foods, and a wonderful partnership began. She invited me to continue running with the girls during the school year, which I did. My times in 5K (3.1miles) races started improving, and then in almost every race, I started attaining personal records or PR’s as they’re known by runners.

Up until I bought a Garmin GPS watch that automatically tracks how far and how fast you run, I wrote down my times and distance on a paper log. The Garmin is my second favorite device behind my iPod. To know your pace or how far you’ve run at any moment is crucial to staying injury free. There are purists who try to get others to dump all the electronics and run like the old days. It frees you they say. Having had a stress fracture, I respectfully disagree. I stress fractured when I ran the long Saturday and Sunday runs with the club and got so involved in the wonderful camaraderie, I lost track of time and distance. The big no-no in training for any event is never to increase your mileage by more than 10 percent each week. At least for me, I have to keep track of how far I run each day, and each week, to know when I go overboard. This, along with Rae Ann’s dynamic warm-up routine, core exercises and post-run stretching I believe, has kept me injury free.

Runner’s log, Nov. 13

Weather all week: beyond perfect, ideal for runners, a crisp early-morning 60 degrees, low humidity.

On Saturdays, members of the Bradenton Runners Club meet at 8 a.m. at the south end of Coquina Beach and run about 6 miles the length of the park, over the Cortez Bridge and through the Cortez fishing village. I’m there at 7 a.m. I really need to get in a 20-mile run before the marathon. That is the longest distance most plans want you to do. The idea is not to burn yourself out before you get to the start line. I am supposed to have done 20 miles by now.

I did a mediocre 20 miles about a month ago at Bayfront Park. Since I’ve fractured, I’m a stickler for soft surfaces instead of concrete or asphalt on these long runs. So yeah, I’m that crazy lady you might see running back and forth on the parking lot with its crushed shell and sand surface. But during those five hours of 20 miles, I stopped at my car, got a drink, electrolyte-loaded gummy bears, changed shoes, changed orthotics and added more anti-pain gel to my knee and ankle. In my mind, those 20 miles didn’t count. So now at Coquina, could I pack it all in today? I do three miles before the first runners arrive. I run another six miles with them. I’m done. My knee is saying, “if you run one more mile on me, I will boycott your marathon.”

Runner's log, Nov. 20

I run the 5K Harvest Hustle in Bradenton. This is only a training race for the marathon, not a really competitive one. This is my last race before the big one. I arrive an hour early, slather on my anti-pain gels and warm-up, including a one-mile jog with Rae Ann. We do our lunges, hopping and skipping in the parking lot in the vacant handicapped spaces. The race is fun and fast. Rae Ann finished first among all females running the course in just over 20 minutes. Not missing a beat, she turns right around and comes back to pace me in shouting quick phrases of encouragement along the way. She is by far, one of the most unselfish, giving, energetic people I have ever met! I PR again and improve my time from last year’s race by about 4 minutes. My official time was 27:50 – a new PR by almost a minute. Pretty unusual at my age when some women are dropping out of competing or running altogether.

My Garmin watch shows I actually ran 30 seconds faster than the official time. That is because it takes 20 to 30 seconds for the back of the pack runners to actually make their way up to the start line once the gun goes off. I hung back at the start allowing the faster runners to begin right at the start line. That is good race etiquette, but I think I’m going to be less polite next time. The woman who got first place in my age group did it by only a few seconds. So being too polite can make a difference. Here’s a new reality – I am the faster runner. Oh well, it’s only a race. More importantly, another race finished without injury. Two weeks to go until the marathon.

Turkey talk

Anna Maria Island Sun News Story

Cooking the perfect turkey is easy if you follow a few guidelines.

I was born and raised in Canada. Thanksgiving was really just OK. A chilling Monday in October. A little football on the tube. Three downs.

My brother calls every year from Nova Scotia.

“Why do you Americans make such a big deal about Thanksgiving?”

“Because we have more to be thankful for.”

Turkey dinner was not a guarantee, but when it showed up it was a welcome reprieve from mom’s Irish cooking. Mom was a religious adherent to the basic tenet of Irish cookery: “Take everything that crawls, swims, walks or flies across the face of the earth and boil the living bejeezuz out of it.”

Turkey was the exception. Put it in the oven. Bake the bejeezuz out of it. Make gravy from the juices. Ladle it over the top.

Truth be told – a lot of people subscribe to mom’s turkey technique. As older folk, our fondest Thanksgiving memories are more about the turkey gravy than the turkey. Pass the gravy. Put it on the mashed potatoes. Keep the turkey for soup.

This week every food writer in the country is writing novelettes on the perfect turkey. Oyster stuffing, chestnut stuffing, basting, brining, cook it in a bag…blah, blah, blah.

Let’s be honest. It’s just a big chicken. If the Indians and Pilgrims could have had steak, things would be different.

I’ll keep my turkey tips short.

Go to “Joy of Cooking.” Do what it tells you.

Except – cook it for at least an hour less. The bird is going to sit around forever while Aunt Alice reheats her green bean casserole.

Your oven gauge is lying to you. All of our oven gauges are off by at least 25 degrees. A professional chef has his/her oven calibrations checked at least once every six months. Go to the True Value and drop 10 bucks on an oven thermometer. Think of it as insurance. You’re sinking at least a 100 bucks in the dinner.

Cook it upside down. The juices are going to go run down through the bird as you cook. Let them go into the breast. Spray the rack so the skin doesn’t stick. Flip it breast up for the last half hour, bang it with butter, dust it with flour through a fine strainer, and brown it up nice for the finish.

If you are sick of turkey talk, and spending two days in the kitchen preparing turkey dinner, then call Euphemia Haye and make a reservation for Thanksgiving Dinner.

Chef “Uncle Ray”Arpke is one of the best chefs anywhere. He cooks legendary duck and is offering roast goose again this year.

Sit back with a chilled glass of buttery chardonnay and toast all those poor crazies basting their lives away. Come home to a kitchen that is not piled high with encrusted casserole dishes, almost all of Aunt Alice’s green beans, and dirty roasting pans way bigger than your sink.

Be thankful that you live in the greatest country on earth and that you didn't have to cook another damn turkey.

AMISUN ~ The Island's Award-Winning Newspaper