Wednesday, April 23, 2014

From treadmill to Chippewa 50K

Saturday is Chippewa. Our very first ultra back in 2007, when Christian was a tiny baby. We both ran it in 2011 and then again in 2012. In 2012, the spring had been so warm that late April felt like the middle of summer. The trails were very fast. 

This year, It looks like there will be some mud and snow, although not as much as I would have thought two months ago. 

All my training has been on a treadmill. All of it; okay, except for two weeks in Denmark in March. How 50K on the trails will go down, I have no clue. I know I'll be wearing my clunky Inov8 Mudrocks (Mudrox?), which I don't really like. All my other shoes are racing flats. No, the Girl has not been able to hook me up with a pair of Salomons.

I looked at the list of entrants and found plenty of competition. 

Jake Hegge would normally be the favorite, but he ran the Zumbro 50 Miles. I have trained some with Hegge, and I know he recovers fast. I still remember how he outsprinted John Storkamp up the last hill in 2012. Jake was on the UW La Crosse track team, but chose to focus on trails. If I am with him near the end, I need to drop him before the last hill. Most likely, I will be far behind him, and if not, I don't see myself dropping him anyway.

At least Mike Borst is not on the list. When Jake and Mike, the two wise men of La Crosse, show up, they usually place 1-2.

Jordan Hanlon is faster than me for sure. I beat him at Afton a few years ago, only because he started out with the leaders, while I was weaseling away at my own pace. I think he has a 2:35 marathon, which may be faster than Hegge (although Hegge has a sub-15 5K as I recall).

Chris Rubesch could kill me at 50 miles. 50K is a little short for him, but in any case, he is peaking for Ice Age, so he may just use this as a training run.

John Storkamp is always running in the front group, chatting away and cracking jokes. Like Rubesch, he is a pure ultra guy, and 50K may be a little short for him. Maybe the mud benefits him? 

I may have missed some names on the list, and obviously some fast folks from outside the group of usual suspects may show up. 

The women, you ask? I honestly think the Girl would win this one, but in her absence, I did see Christine Crawford on the list. I did not see the Scotches (nee Lavin) on there. Alicia Hudelson is injured and far away. I did not see the fast Duluthians, like Christi Nowak or Leslie Semler. But, honestly, there are so many women excelling at ultras that someone whose name I don't recognize could show up and chick me. 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

March 2014 Running Log

1 Some jetlagged run around Næstved.
3. Long run around Møns Klint. Almost 30K?
5. Some great run around Næstved
6. Bike and swim with the Girl
7. Some great run around Næstved
9. Long run with ultra group in Fruens Plantage. 26K?
11 Ecstatic long run around Næstved. 
13 Ecstatic long run around Næstved. 
16 quick run (not much time) on YMCA treadmill. 2M@5% 12:03. PR, but untrustworthy treadmill, as it felt too easy.
17 Long run on treadmill @8%. Made it to 12 miles (ie. Total of 14 miles). PR. We are going to Irvine!
19 Something fast on treadmill
21 5K@8% 20:38. 2M@5% 12:12 (PR)
23 5K@8% 21:00. "4x800" 15:37
25 Long run on treadmill @8%. Made it to 15 miles. Felt good. Probably better pacing than previously
26 2 hours of skiing on Spirit Mountain
27 2x5K@8%. I forget the times. Weird neuropathic pain in left toes. 
29 Ran with Christian on bike - Lakefront trail.
30 1 hour of skiing on Spirit Mountain (very warm; slow snow). Ran an hour with Christian on the bike - gorgeous day on the Lakefront trail. 
31 4x800 15:54, 4x800 15:53

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

A Lofty Running Goal and "Crying Like a P*ssy"

This is the story of how a scene from a movie is close to ruining my life.

Imagine your way back to suburban Copenhagen in the late 1980's. Life was good; my brother and I, along with our two best friends, Anders and Thomas, were inseparable. Anders and I had one teacher, who was a gay socialist and another who preached capitalism. One cheered for the Warsaw Pact and another for NATO. It was a simple time of riding bicycles, playing soccer and playing video games on our Commodore 16. It was a great time. 

Our family had a color TV and a VCR. This was a big deal, since we only had one Danish and two Swedish TV channels and half the time, there was nothing but "intermission fish" on. Seriously, between shows, there were hour-long airings of fish swimming around. We had, perhaps, 15 VHS tapes (yes, thankfully our family skirted the dangers or buying a Betamax or Video 8). These 15 tapes were guarded like the family jewels. Recording a movie was a huge deal, because it meant erasing another movie. And some movies were too sacred to even consider erasing. These included the Peter Sellers Pink Panther movies and anything with the French comedian Louis de Funes. 

But the movie was Trading Places with Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd. It was the rainy-day movie. The default movie we played, if we didn't feel like watching of any of the other 14 movies (the 240 minute VHS tapes were too fancy for our family, so generally one tape held one movie). I bet we watched that movie 500 times.

We were just starting to learn English in school, so the accents of Peters Sellers and Eddie Murphy had an inordinate effect on us. As did the expressions of certain characters; and this leads me to my potential downfall in life. In this one scene, Billy Ray Valentine (the character played by Eddie Murphy) is in jail. He is talking up a big game about how he was arrested, when another inmate says the following:

"When they brought you in and booked you, you was cryin' like a pussy!"

Here is the scene:

Just like a an Ironman finisher is an open window to infections, so were our little, innocent minds open to make any cool-sounding expression "ours". And, that we did. It got to a point, where one could not simply cry or weep. In our circle of friends one could only "cry like a pussy". I think we thought it meant something like "cry like a wimp". Inexplicably, I can't actually remember if we knew what it meant. 

So now, many years later as a somewhat normal adult, I still can't say "cry" without biting my lip and repeating in my mind "don't say pussy", "don't say pussy". I also can't say "right over there" without tapping an imaginary car window and sounding like Eddie Murphy, but it's just not nearly as inflammatory a problem for me.

And my brother and dad have the same problem.

So do we ever slip up, you ask? As in :

[hands someone a box of Kleenex], says "just let it out, ifit feels good. go ahead and cry like a pussy".

(Ok, that never happened)

[my father, the CEO of Copenhagen's finest museum, speaks at our wedding, in English so the Girl's family can understand him], saying "I know I won't get through is speech without crying like a pussy". [Followed by a lot of hushed "what did he say"s]

(That did happen)

[consoling Natali after one of her tearful goodbyes to my ex wife], saying "cheer up. This will be fun. You will see her in no time. 6 months will fly by; you will be so busy. Don't cry like a pussy"

(I don't know if it happened, but Natti has heard us say it so many times, she just rolls her eyes)

See? It's fascinating how swearing or using dirty words can seem so innocent, if you're doing it in a foreing language. 

Well, today on my run, I did, indeed, cry like a pussy. I have had some great runs lately, and this one was a perfect mix of great legs, spring weather, great trails, well-timed caffeine and good music. It's well-known to my family that I cry a lot. Whatevs, real men cry at credit card commercials. But it's become a bit of joke - and the joke is on me. Just when some corny moment happens in a movie, Natali's little devilish tear-dar turns on, and she turns to look at me, "dad, are you crying?" I usually am.

For me, it also means, if a long run does not include a good dose of shivers and tears, it hasn't been perfect.

All right. What's the lofty running goal? Well, the goal is to make the first Danish trail ultra national team. The next IAU trail ultra worlds will be held in 2015 and it sounds like Denmark will send a team. The qualifying race may end up being Hammer Trail 50 miles next spring. 

It feels like I have been under-trained for years now, and still faking it up to 50K. Maybe it's time to fake it up to 50 miles. As I sit here, revelling in my glorious post-run high, I feel motivated to put in the necessary miles. And pretty much no matter where the Girl matches, I will have access to great trails. So there it is.

Now that I am over-sharing, let me tell you that I have become scarily buff and ripped. After a winter of skiing and strength training, I look like someone who could be the lead male in "Albino Baywatch". I mean, I am comparatively huge. I don't know if it will slow down my top-end speed. Time will tell. I think the old "track me" would feel self-conscious in a track singlet with shoulders and arms like mine, but there are definitely some ulra runners out there who are way more jacked than I am, and many who can run circles around me. 

By now, you're probably thinking "wtf", if you are young enough to think in alphabetisms. If you are older than the texting generation, you may be thinking words that I would not repeat, on a reputable blog like this. And, yes, as always I am prone to exaggeration, if not outright lies. And after a run like mine today, on a day like this, that tendency may more pronounced. 

Did I mention that I had a good run today? 

Picture a high-on-caffeine hairy, pinkish-white hulk blasting down a trail, crying like a pussy. 

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

Duluth, Denmark, Dungeons and Dragons

We are back in Denmark. It's warm and sunny and feels like, maybe not spring, but definitely like normal March. We are running on trails in woods that are just few days away from erupting into green. The kids are outside on playgrounds; Christian begs to bike around Susåen.

Duluth, a place far South of here, is still locked in Actic air.

I cannot believe how cold the Winter has been in Duluth. Duluthians love bragging about their cold winters, and we certainly heard plenty horror stories when we moved in last summer. But the relentless cold and wind have still been shocking and overwhelming. Too much, almost. From November until now, biking or going to a playground with the kids has been realistically impossible. It has not been a winter I care to live through again.

When we moved to Duluth last summer, we weren't sure what kind of move it was. Was it for good? Was it just a place to stay while the Girl applied for residency? Maybe something in between?

Six months later, it seems like Duluth will end up being a short-term home. The Girl finalized her match list last week and Duluth Family Medicine was not on there. Despite living there and me working at the hospital (and even sometimes teaching the residents), she didn't even get an interview. She may have been "over-qualified", but I think she would have considered taking a position, if one had been offered to her. It certainly would have made a lot of things easier in our lives.

Minneapolis is the closest thing on the list to "home", which by now is an ill-defined area beween La Crosse, Duluth and Milwaukee. But it sits very low on the list; so low that matching there seems very unlikely.

So where are we going, and when? Well, we don't know, but an educated guess would be either Utah or California. Both are pretty cool places, of course. We'll know on March 21st where we are going (and when; it could be this summer or the next). Being from flat, civilized, parcelled-out Denmark, I would be lying if I said I wasm't excited about moving to the mountains. Just imagine: home will be next to the Wasatch, Sierra Nevadas or California's coastal range mountains.

The only problem is that these mountains are not exactly close to the kids in La Crosse. That part sucks, but there is no way around it; we'll just have to make the best of it. At least the kids will visit us in a cool place. I did try to convince Natali to come with us to California (if that's where we end up), but she wasn't buying it.

She has gone through a major change since moving to America last summer. School in Denmark was 6 hours a day. There was maybe half an hour of homework at night, abd the rest was soccer, tv, friends, playing the guitar and whatever else she felt like. Now, she catches the school bus before 7 and is home at 4. She worries about papers and tests and grades; much more than is reasonable, in my opinion. She gets straight A's, so she is doing something right. It's just so all-consuming.

I spent three days with Natali and Andreas. The boys were with the Girl in Denmark, so it was just me and the big kids. Andreas was excited about the weekend plans: Lego movie, Star Wars trilogy, pizza and board games. Natali looked like some angry princess of darkness and made it very clear that everything in her life would suck until Sunday afternoon arrived and she would be done spending time with me. Well, alrighty then.

Thursday night, we went to the mall. Natali cheered up a little, even though she would not admit it. The mall is place the cool girls go to. It seems kind of old-fashioned to go to a mall to hang, but maybe the kids have gone full circle on that. She showed me her favorite books at Barnes and Noble. And that's when it happened: Andreas brought up Dungeons and Dragons and Natali seemed at least slightly interested in it. They had heard about the game but never played. I let it be known that I had been quite the dungeon master back in the day, and that we could certainly play a game if they wanted to.

So we bought a rules and monsters encyclopedia and bought the special dice. We ordered pizza and started playing. Natali was a female wizard and Andreas was a young warrior. They teamed up with a master thief named Snake Plisken, they fought alongside a dwarf named Rufus, who was eventually petrified by an Obelisk. Andreas hired a young squire named Natali who, in an interesting twist, was a moody teenager like real-life Natali, but who fell deeply in love with Andreas' character.

We played and we played, for two straight days. People came and went. Some died. Andreas briefly turned on Natali (with the help of Natali, his squire) and they were screaming at each other. Some rules were made up by me as we went along. On Sunday, they were both begging to stay with me for a few more hours and wailed over the fact that they would not see me in weeks.

D&D: my secret weapon. Who knew?

Sunday, February 23, 2014

February 2014 Running Log

1-12 Ran every other day. Basically three workouts:
- 2M@5%: starting @1%, increaing 0.5% every 200m. Running 1600-2000m @5%, the decreasing 0.5% per 100m (though running 200 for both 1% and 0.5%)
- 5K@8%: same as above, except only running  2800-3000@8% before decreasing. 1% and 0.5% each for 300m.
- "Progressive long run". Each mile faster than 7:30 mins. Starting at 2%, increasing 1% every 200m, then after 1200m, slow down to 6.2 MPH for 0.01M X number of miles (ie. losing more time every mile). Next 200m (what's left of it) at 1% and last 200 @ 0.5%. The run ends when I fail to hit 7:30 per mile.

13 2x5K 22:30
14 Skied Spirit Mountain
15 long run
16 long ski in Hixon and on Gold course
18 skied 7 loops in Hixon + Golf course in La Crosse. Fast.
19 Long run @8%. Break at 6.2 MPH speed, increasing. Made it to 11 miles.
20 skied 3 loops in Lester (fast as hell; fun as hell)
21 2 x 2M@5% 12:21 and 12:15 (PR)
22 no skiing - trails were ungroomed (very disappointed)
23 5K@8% 22:02, 5 min break, 2M@5% 12:38

Monday, January 6, 2014

My 2013 year of running in review

When I look back at this year, I realize how little I race these days. The exception was the fall trail series, here in Duluth, but we will get to that.

March: Fyr til Fyr 60K. Lots of asphalt. Did ok until 5K to go, when the cramps came and I had to walk it in.

May: Mallorca Half Ironman. Terrifying swim. Fun race. Half marathon in 1:21. We think it was a little short.

All summer: I was in ok shape, but DID NOT RUN A SINGLE RACE! Not sure why. It was just a busy time. The Girl raced a lot and I was watching the kids a lot. No, I did run a slow, tactical 5K in Fælledparken (in mid 17s, I think). Three old guys surging and drafting and then finally sprinting, in a tiny 5K. It doesn't get better than that.

And then there was Winforce 100K. Finally a straight up tough trail race in Denmark. Not run at night or up and down a rock face on Bornholm. An actual "runner's" trail ultra in Denmark. 100K is not my distance but I thought if I started really slowly, then just maybe... But no. I started slowly, started feeling good, sped up maybe a little too much, and then foundered. Interestingly, my downfall was nausea. The Girl, a budding authority in ultra medicine, informs me that nausea is the most common cause of ultra dropouts. Who knew?

Then we moved to Duluth and we discovered the Minnesota Track Club Fall Trail Series. I had a slowly declining fitness curve over the fall and went from second place to barely top 10 over the course of the series. Goal for the spring: a win.

In October, we ran the Glacial Trails 50 (kilometers for me; miles for the Girl). Surprisingly, I won in 3:56 without having any leg issues at all. That came in the middle of declining form in the trail series, so it really came as a surprise.

I am not sure what this year will bring. My 7on/7off schedule makes it easy to run a lot of miles - every other week. By default, I will be forced to run every other week short and fast; there's not much I can do about it. I have always liked intense workouts anyway.

We will both run Chippewa this spring. If this weather continues, I will not have run a single step on the trails before Chippewa but, again, there's not really anything I can do about it. Beyond that, I have no specific goals. I will certainly do a lot of the short trail races in Duluth and then once again I will try (and once again suck at) Voyageur in July.

But come on. We don't even know if we are going to be in Duluth, Baltimore, California or Salt Lake City this fall. There are plenty of trail races to choose from out there.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An angst-ridden Christmas post

Hi all,

It's been a wild few months for our family.

I like my job; if not, something would have snapped a long time ago. Christian likes school, and El Guapo smiles when he sees his daycare in the morning. Christian has been able to keep his two languages apart, so he is now officially bilingual. El Guapo not so much. He shouts out commands in Danish, peppered with a few No's and Thank You's.

The Girl has been more away than home, so that's taking a toll on everyone. Going to interviews for residency is exciting, when you are a senior medical student. I think she is excited, sure, but mostly she wants the process over and her name in a great program.

Which brings me to the tragedy that is my life. The big kids only come up to visit every four weeks. I miss them terribly, especially Natali. I don't miss living in Denmark particularly. Well, no, I am actually surprised by how much I miss Denmark, but it's something I can live with. What I really miss is being with Natali. I miss cleaning the kitchen after the boys are asleep, while she plays her guitar for me. I miss her quirky opinions on everything.

She has really shut me out. Not that I would know for sure, but I think she is strugglng hard to find her place in cutthroat middle school. Her focus is on getting good grades, stayng skinny (too much focus on that) and becoming popular. Seeing me is is not a distraction from this life, as much as a setback. My ex wife is not making this easy, either, but she has her own stressors (again, not that I really know).

It just hurts to think about that just 6 months ago, I would wake her up in the morning, find her favorite clothes from the (usually clean) laundry, discuss her day and her problems until the moment she would fall asleep. It was probably the part of my life. I say probably, because I really have no idea. If I suddenly had to live without the Girl or one of the boys, it might be even worse.

The Girl applied to programs mainly in the midwest and then a few very prestigious programs on the coasts. Everyne does that, thinking "wow, what if I got an interview at Johns Hopkins". It looked like I was finally going to live close to the kids. Her programs included University of Wisconsin and Medical College of Wisconsin, her two alma maters.

But it wouldn't be my life, if things were that simple. These relatively "easy" programs have not offered her interviews. But all the "hey, let's appply there" programs on the coasts have invited her. Her list of interviews includes all the PM&R powerhouses. We are not sure why it''s so, but we imagine her research background is a bigger plus at the top programs. But only one that would bring the world's fastest hematologist closer to his kids. That one is University of Minnesota.

Her match is March 12th. We are very, very nervous about it. You have to go where the Match tells you.