Friday, December 12, 2008

Strange days

The stress continues here. The millions of phone calls to get started in Denmark continue. Everything here is so interdependent and automated. It's probably great for when you are already living here but, for us, nothing seems easy. I must have heard variations of the sentence "let me just look up your information from your previous county...". I am impressed with how much they know about me, though. In America, it seems like you can wait for hours while asking about some service, like cable or internet. You tell different people your number, alway having to start over. I was calling a bank the other day and the computer asked me to type in my social security number while I waited for the operator. Two minutes later, the conversation was over and the lady told me that she would send the cards out the same day. Didn't she want my address, I wondered? She had gotten that off my social security number! She even knew I was a doctor. I guess that means no more spelling my street address every time I call anyone.

We are slowly getting settleb. But, boy, do I miss the kids. I tear up several times a day, thinking about something they may say or do. Daughter is coming for a brief visit in less than two months. I am counting the days already. There is a bit of tension between the Girl and me. It can all be boiled down to the fact that I am a hundred times less excited about being here than her. I keep thinking about the first time she asked me about moving to Denmark. "Can't we go there?", she asked. We were trying to fgure out where to go with our careers, both having dropped out of residency. I could have said "No, I can't live that far away from the kids" and it would not have been a topic. A year later, they are pictures on the wall, their inanimate eyes looking at me. I miss them so much I can't bear to think about it.

We were not sure what to do back then. The Girl just had her intern year and I had my internal medicine residency. It would have been impossible for both of us to do what we wanted and stay together. Looking back, I wonder if I should have dropped my own specialty ambitions and let the Girl do her surgical residency. I would not have been 100% happy working in small ERs for the rest of my life but I would have been 95% happy and I would have been closer to the kids.

Well, what's done is done. There are so many things to be excited about and, let's not forget, Daughter is coming to live here, starting this summer. The Girl and I signed up for some races this summer, most importantly the Trans Alpine Race, which sounds insanely cool. The format of runners having to run in pairs makes the race a little less of a peak race for me, as I will be running the whole thing with the Girl. On the other hand, I will be helping her and, probably, push her a lot of the way. We will have to practice running like that.

We also have a cool, new apartment. I am starting a great job. I am currently running injury free. There are several smaller races coming up, including a marathon in 4 weeks. Life is good, if not for that piece of my heart I left behind in Wisconsin.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

8.2 K race report

This was a small race, which most likely has the same people running it over and over again. It's run the first Saturday of every month with points being tallied up every 6 months. This was the Christmas edition so there were prizes.

I had the gall to ask the race director about the race route. He looked me over and told me just to follow someone else only it came out sounding like: "Well, I don't know how fast you are...". He didn't want to insult me, that is. Very Danish. I replied that I was pretty fast, which was also very Danish for "I actually expect to win so I do need directions". Of course, the Girl broke in with her American carpet bombing mentality and stated (in her beautiful accent) that I would easily win.

A small faux pas on her part. The race director then turned around and asked, with some amusement, how fast she was. To which the little vixen replied (with an accent that would make any man melt): "I am not fast at all".

Of course this had ired some of the Danish chicas, who were all eyeing her up. There she was, with uncombed hair, cotton pants, wearing too much clothing, with (gasp) ear phones in her ears. If the sexy accent was not enough, her over-all "I don't give a damn"-attitude probably annoyed the spandex clad ladies.

I figured I had it won hands down and that the Girl would take third.

We both won, though. I had a pretty easy race and only got lost once. It was near the beginning so waiting for the second place guy was not a big deal. The route was very hilly with a monster hill on the last lap. The Girl came in with a group of guys. We each won 100 Danish Kroner, which is almost 20 dollars. I guess we are pros now.

After the race, we talked to people a bit. It seemed a little bit like we had crashed a party but everyone was very friendly. We ran home. I was getting a little dizzy, while I believe the Girl actually had to stop and soil the Danish land with a little poop.

Good times. Next up is a marathon in a month. That's if we can put in the miles before then. I plan on sandbagging it the first hour, as usual, of course.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

The Old Country

It's been stressful to set up shop here. Every day, it's a million phone calls to get myself and the Girl situated into Danish life. We found an apartment, bought a car. The Girl found a good language course for foreign doctors.

At times, I am excited. Mostly, I think about the kids. As I am typing, I keep glancing over at their pictures on the wall. I talk to Daughter every night on the phone and picture where she is in her room, whether she is sitting or standing. I wonder what it would be like to lift her up and touch her. Leaving them like this is a potent mixture of longing and guilt that often brings tears to my eyes.

I have a recurring fantasy about surprising them after school one day. It's torture, because it won't happen; but I think about the looks on their faces and the night that would ensue. We used to have nights together that I took for granted; trips to the YMCA, books in bed.

It will take some time for me to come to terms with living away from them. Daughter, of course, comes over to live here this summer. I can't wait for that moment when she moves here. Son is still too young to talk to on the phone and I am not sure he understands that we moved away. Towards the end, he would break my heart sometimes with his naive ways. A month or so before the move, we were running together, doing something I can't remember. He stopped and looked up at me and said "I'm a fast runner like you, Papa, because you are my Papa". Near the end, I would pull him close to tell him that it wasn't his fault that I was moving and that I would think about his every day. I told him it was the stupid doctor world, which made us do it. He didn't understand at all.

The Girl seems to be adjusting just fine. It's an adventure for her, of course. She is picking up Danish impressively quickly to the point where she can carry a slow conversation and watch Danish TV. It's a bit of an issue between us, that I would prefer to be in the US with the kids, while she would prefer to be here. I try to be as excited as I can for her sake and, at times, I am truly happy about being here. At the same time, it's brewing under the surface. I feel like if we hit some major setback here I would want to bail immediately, whereas she would want to stay here.

As you can see, it's hard. I think things will be fine in a couple of months.

Running-wise, we are both running lots of slow miles. We have an 8.2K race on Saturday, which looks to be fairly uncompetitive. Someone fast could always show up but I doubt it. There are "Christmas Prizes" so it will be interesting to see what the family brings home. Will post a report.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Leaving two kids behind

This is the hardest thing I have ever done. The countdown is on. The kids have slept here for the last time; the places where we used to read books together are gone. Their toys are in boxes at their mom's house, or getting ready to be shipped across the ocean.

Daugther knows it's coming; when we talk on the phone she doesn't want to hang up, regardless of which TV shows are on. When she is over by us, she hangs on me, hugging me. She knows she is moving over this summer and has mixed feelings about it. I am sure she just wants her old life to continue but knows it won't happen.

Son doesn't now what's going on. I bet next time I see him, he will still wonder whether I live in the same house (and just stopped having him over). He doesn't think in terms of months or years. He has the same name for Wal-mart and Denmark.

I am leaving two kids behind and it's clouding my mind. I try to be as excited as I can be, for the Girl's sake. I can see why it has to be exciting for her to move to a new country and I want to be excited with her.

We seem to be leading a charmed life. Why are we leaving?


Leaving two kids behind.
Living on the good end of unfair in America (ie. making x amount of money more than the CNA who has been there 20 years longer than me and works just as hard). I could never get used to that and just felt so damn guilty all the time.


Medical training without the suicide hours. Heme is the cream.
The Lorax will grow up in Denmark.
Daughter will (eventually) re-connect with her Danish side.
The crisp summers. The ocean. The trails for running and biking. The long summer nights.
Traveling to America. A great place to be a tourist.
Being close to my Danish family.

Monday, November 3, 2008

End of my season

I'm injured. Right-sided tibial periostitis. Shin splint. Tried to run through it but the pain got worse. Took a few days off, ran a 5K tempo in a disappointing time (despite the forced taper) and the shin still hurts. Now, we we're going to Disney World with the kids and I am taking a week off from running.

This season was fun. Off the top of my head:

Started with a YMCA 5K this winter just below 17 minutes. That looked like it would be a good season.

Then came Chippewa Morraine 50, which didn't go well. Deep snow, cramps. Going from great to sucky in course of one mile. Looking back, I know exactly what I did wrong: I didn't eat or drink enough. When I should have run my own race, I stuck right behind the lead group until the halfway point. Maybe next year?

Then the St. Clare's half marathon. My time was 1.16, I think. I won, outsprinting a college runner, who was coming up behind me fast. This was with the 50K in my legs so it was a tough one but, boy, did it feel good. The time was bad, but the feel was good.

Then I am not sure what I ran.

In July, I won the Angel Island race in San Francisco. Very cool race. I ran the 25K and almost got the course record but got lost. That was probably the time I was in the best shape.

I wish I had run the 50K, though.

I ran an 18-minute 5K with the baby jogger, yielding many strange looks, later in July.

Then I ran (and won) two smaller 5Ks, both around 16:40, in August.

In September, I tried a 50-miler (North Country Trail Run) and started out very, very slowly. It worked, and I ended up passing a lot of people. Amazingly, this landed me the only money prize of the year ($50!!). That race was fun; I can't wait for my next ultra.

A few weeks ago, I ran a 10K in 34:45. Won it pretty easily. Without hills and with competition, I could have gone a lot faster. I thought that race showed that I could keep up the season a little longer but then I got injured.

So there you have it. A week off and building up to next year.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

10K race report

This was a race in Madison, WI. We were there meeting my parents, who had flown in from Europe to visit for a week.

It was a cold, foggy morning. The warm-up was labored but I got through it decently, with some good strides. At the start line, there were a few guys who looked like they may be competition and, indeed, one of those took off very fast.

I tried holding on but had to let go after maybe 200 yards. I looked back and the next guy back was too far back to wait for. Alas, a race all by myself, I thought. But I was wrong. There was a big hill after a quarter mile and the guy ahead of me really charged up the hill. At this point, I didn't think I would catch back up at all. But on the way down, he was suddenly started shaking his arms and slowing down, basically looking like he had stiffened up completely coming up the hill. I caught back up and we ran together for about a mile.

Then another big hill came and he charged ahead of me again. I just couldn't hold on. But at the top, the same thing happened. He slowed down dramatically and I caught back up even before the downhill came. Once it came, I leaned forward a little and pulled away from him.

That's when the fog was starting to lift. It was just me and the lead-out bike and I turned on my iPod. Suddenly, the legs felt great. I didn't even look back for a few miles.

It was probably a negative split, mostly because the first half was hillier than the first but also because I felt great at the end. Overall, the race was relaxed and I feel I could have gone harder had there been closer competition. I ended up winning by almost two minutes in 34:45. I am very happy with the time. I haven't been training as much as I have wanted; while that is not beneficial in itself, it has certainly left me with fresh legs.

The Girl ran well. She won easily, finishing over two minutes ahead of second place so she ran it a little slower that she had expected. Her time was 42:05, which is very good but a little below the shape she is in right now. I think her taper was a little weak as well. Besides being the fastest, she also had the best legs at the race:

This is her accepting the, somewhat large, award, Lorax in arm.

The best part of this race was actually the kids race. Both the older kids entered the mile race. Daughter took my advice and started out slowly and ended up doing really well. She won a certificate for Culver's so she was pretty happy.

Son did a lot of standing and jogging in place but once in a while he would sprint in the right direction for a while.

My dad ran it in 58 minutes and won the 60+ age group. He is running injury free at 62 so I'm hoping I have his leg genes.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

My Neighborhood

Ran to the Y yesterday through a depressed, poor part of town. The legs were sore and stiff; I wasn't feeling great. Saw a couple of interesting things in those 2 miles.

A young man, probably early 20s, morbidly obese with shiny red lips and an empty stare, wearing a Packer jersey that had seen better days. He was pulling an ancient computer around in a children's Radio Flyer Wagon. He was going around the house, like he was taking the computer for a walk. He looked up at me and seemed 10% embarrassed about the situation.

Realistically, he was a retarded young man having a good time. Alternatively, he was just a fat guy cleaning out his attic.

Then I ran by a number of churches. The poorer the neighborhood, the more churches; more opium to the people, you know. But there is one church I hate. It's a Baptist church; the reverend there once stated in the local newspaper that the war in Iraq is God's will, and that Man should not care about the environment, since Rapture is just around the corner. That guy is everything that's wrong with the world, and yet he is allowed to preach hatred in there, in his tax-free haven.

Then more of the same. A bumper sticker said "I vote pro-life". Which is fine. I guess. But somewhere a Republican strategist is thinking "sucker!". Unless the driver was an excentric Purveyor of Fine 1996 Rusty Pontiac Grand Ams, he probably didn't make $250K a year, or $25K a year for that matter.

Then the kicker. A group of people holding giant posters with dead fetuses. Nasty stuff; one baby looked like it was almost full term with a crushed head. They had come in a big van and looked like absolutely normal people, preaching an absolutely hateful message. I don't know if they were legal but I saw the same group later that day in another part of town and had to tell my kids to look away. They had come in from the hills to show the city people how it was, in a big van with a dead fetus on it. It had the words "Obamanation" all over the side.

I think stiff like this has the same effect as when Obama pals around with gay peace activists: it frightens the moderates. I, for one, sure was freaked out. Such hatred.

Where do I lean, you ask? Socially, I am left of San Francisco. I am for complete social freedom, which is typical of a European-American halfsie such as myself. No surprise there.

Financially, I am torn. America is extremely unfair. Extremely unfair. Most Americans, espeically poor Americans, do not realize just how unfair life is. Too many Americans are caught by society in lives they cannot escape. There is not enough money; there is no escape. The other day, I saw a 25-year old guy with stumps for teeth. Had no health insurance; came in for back pain but didn't want his job to know about it. Told me he was spending all his money on his two kids. Seemed like a really nice guy. Most of these people, who exist around the poverty line, are good people for whom things just didn't work out for a while. It doesn't take too many missteps, and they are stuck.

But the thing is, I can live with the unfairness because I am on the good end of unfair. Most people who have travelled outside America, who have seen the extreme unfairness of edveloping countries or the stiffling fairness of Europe, are on the good side of unfair. They can live with it, too. I know that, realistically, it's not right that a doctor makes 10 times more than a school teacher but yet I live with it.

A teacher of mine in elementary school, John, was a great guy. He was a gay socialist to the bone. He made us sing socialist fighting songs, but he also taught a really decent Religion class. A student once asked him (you'll be able to tell this was not in America): "if you win the lottery, will you still vote for the Socialists?". John thought about this for a long time, and we were all waiting to hear his answer. He finally said "I would still vote for them, but I would hope the Conservatives won".

I know exactly what he meant.

I guess I should write about running, too. I have put in some decent speed workouts but they tell me that I am not in the best of shape. I am running a 10K on Saturday and I think, realistically, I am aiming for a sub-35. More importantly, I am going for the win, and wouldn't mind running tactically.

The Girl is faster and faster. She has started to do speed work once or twice a week. Usually runs 800s in 5:50 pace. I think she will probably run just below 40 minutes on Saturday.

We are talking about running the trans-rockies race next summer as a mix team. It's a strange race, in the sense that the couple has to run together, making the woman the important part of the team. However, the Girl is slowly becoming the (relatively) faster of the two of us so that's probably a good thing. If "pushing" is allowed, it would be fun to run it competitively.

Actually, back up. What's better, a man's 35-minute 10K or a woman's 40-minute 10K? Anyone? I guess my gut tells me the womans 40-minute 10K but I am curious to hear what other people think.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Eight days out from the 50 miler, I am starting to feel almost normal. But only almost. We ran for three hours today, which meant around 16 miles for me. Toward the end, the quads were getting very tired. Interestingly, I was doing some speedwork on the treadmill over the weekend and my speed seems almost unaffected. It actually felt better to run fast than to jog.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

My first 50 mile race

This was the North Country Trail 50 near Manistee, Michigan. There is a marathon as well, so the course is two loops of 25 miles (the marathoners add on a little loop to make it 26.2).

In my previous post, I described how I finally arrived at a strategy of starting out very slowly. I didn't warm up for one single second; I walked slowly around the start area, packed some chocolate into the pockets in my shirt, filled my water bottle (handheld) and walked gingerly to the start line.

I had tapered aggressively, mostly out of necessity; there hadn't been time to run. The Girl said it best: "I haven't run hard all week; I can't wait to start the race". Of course, I was pumped when the race began, but I had told myself to go very, very slowly the first hour and a half.

And I can honestly say I was a good boy for the first hour and a half. The first half hour, I just jogged slowly and walked a lot. I basically, stuck with the pace of the group I happened to be in at first. I ate and drank, and tried to stay relaxed. At one point, maybe after a half hour, I saw the Girl not too far back. Slowly, my pace started to increase just because I was warming up. I began passing a lot of people but this was still a very relaxed pace. I talked to a bunch of people as I was passing them; at the first two aid stations, I took plenty of time to eat and drink. It didn't feel like the race had started yet.

I had told myself I would give myself an hour and a half before I could start going fast but once I got there, I somehow convinced myself to go slowly for another 15 minutes. And then when the 15 minutes were up, I figured I could get to the 4th aid station (the half marathon) before I started gong fast. All this built up this explosive energy in me; I was just waiting so impatiently to turn on myiPod and fly down the trail.

After the 13 mile mark, I ran for a little while with the eventual women's winner. She looked very solid; her husband was there at every aid station, running with her to fill up her bottle so she didn't have to stop. I thought about just sticking with her instead of this stupid plan of speeding up. We talked for a while; turns out she has been in Wisconsin for a lot of the races we have here (Ice Age, Kettle Morraine).

But I felt too good to run conservatively so I told her "I"m sure I will see you again, but my legs feel so good I have to let them loose".

And off I went. The legs were warm by now and I was moving comfortably at 6-6:30 pace. It never felt like I was pushing it. I walked a lot of hills so I could eat and drink; really, it was just two gears:crusing pace and walking.

With this, I passed a lot of people. The section from 13 to 25 miles was great. I got into a rhythm where I would surge for a while until I saw someone in front of me. Then I would catch up, but instead of passing them, I would take a bit of a breather, typically walk and drink/eat and let that person get ahead a little bit. That way I could "use" each person I passed twice for motivation. Some of the people I passed were the top marathoners (the marathon was definitely the fun run of the day), who didn't walk the hills. One guy in particular, would pass me on the hills and I would pass him on the downhills or flats. We had a fun time with that and it probably made our respective races easier.

At 25 miles, I still felt strong but the legs were starting to give out. I came through in 3:35. This was after going fast for a long time and passing a lot of people so I was curious to know where I was in the race. I was told 5th place, which was a lot higher than I had thought (and it was actually 6th place) but it also scared me a little to know that I was done catching people constantly.

The legs were really starting to hurt and I had a marathon to go. The next section was really flat and I figured I may as well go out in style. So I kept up running the 6-6:30 miles. The legs complained but the pace felt very manageable. The next two sections, despite keeping up the pace, I didn't see a single person. At the aid station, two ladies told me that all four people ahead of me looked really strong and were going as fast me, except for the guy in second place, who looked tired. What?!? This just about killed me. If these runners, who, as opposed to me, probably knew what they were doing out here, were cranking out a pace like I was, I didn't stand a chance... I mean, my legs were starting to get really stiff and painful. I thought about my options, including taking a long break at the aid station and waiting for some people behind me to pick me up a little.

It turned out these ladies didn't know what they were talking about. I decided to burn off the legs while I still could and passed two runners before the 38 mile mark. These guys were looking a lot worse than me. This time, I planned out the pass so I would fly by going a 6:30 mile. I talked to both of the guys but really didn't want any company.

And now I was hurting. With a half marathon to go, every step was a hot poker in my quads. The last 10 miles on this course are cruel. It's on a typical ski trail; steep up, steep down, steep up, steep down. Maybe a little flat section here and there. The first time around, the steep uphills were great natural breaks to drink and eat and the downhills were places to build up speed. The second time around, the uphills were still ok but the downhills were horrible. I screamed down the hills, literally, as every step hurt.

I was definitely falling apart and just wanted it to be over with. I still had a good crusing pace that I could rely on on the flats, probably going close to 7 minute miles (probably a little slower) but I walked even the slightest uphills and painfully waddled down the downhills. Once in a while I forgot whether I was going up or down and would cramp up because my body was suddenly trying to "cruise" up a hill. It wasn't pretty. With about 5 miles to go, I passed another guy, who looked pretty strong. He had obviously done a few of these before. Again, I locked into the cruising pace, and flew by him. I told him this sucked and that I was falling apart. He told me "everyone is falling apart; you're looking good". He was a nice guy.

I waddled scared the last five miles. I think I knew that all the top guys that I had passed would have a hard time coming back but, on the other hand, a fresh person coming from behind would have a field day eating us all up. At this point, I thought I was in second place and I had been told repeatedly that the winner, Zach Miller, would be absolutely untouchable (which he was). So I didn't even think of who was ahead. I later learned that I was in third place and that one of the guys ahead of me had been interpreted by the aid stations as a bandit because he wasn't showing his number.

Anyway, I kept looking behind me to see if someone was coming. My legs hurt so badly. The cruising gear was gone; the legs were stiff. The downhills were terrible. I just wanted to finish.

At the end, with 100 yards to go, I passed a marathoner, and we both cramped up and walked for a bit. I tried to convince her to do a mock sprint and lean in for a photo finish but she didn't want to.

My time was 7:27. 3rd place. Much better than I had hoped for.

It felt like I could not have run one more mile. After 60 seconds, I was so stiff in my legs I could barely walk. There was a nice lunch buffet, from which I had a hot dog and a couple of brownies. My stomach had held up decently during the race but once the race was over I didn't get the food cravings I had anticipated.

I won't spoil the Girl's race report, in case someone reads this before hers.

Her parents had watched the Lorax and had been in a few spots around on the course. Everyone thinks it's so cool that the Girl is doing all this stuff just a few months after giving birth, but it's really only possible because of her parents. They had a long day, too, out on the trails, cheering us on and watching the Lorax.

So what are my thoughts? Did I have fun? Yes, but not in the last 10 miles. Could I have raced any smarter? I don't think I could have done much better. Physiologically, it probably doesn't make sense to suddenly turn on an iPod and start running at a much faster pace; but it made psychological sense to me and gave me a boost.

Yes, I sandbagged it like no one else... But it worked. From mile 5, probably being in 50th spot, I only passed people the rest of the day. Mentally, you can't beat that.

I ate and drank well. I had even brought a litttle plastic bag for chips and M&Ms to carry with me. I would stop all the time to munch. I drank close to a botttle of Gatorade per aid station (every 3-4 miles) and drank de-fizzed coke or water at the actual aid stations.

The North Country Trail Run? In my opinion, a great race. It's a tough course, no doubt, but in a sense the hills make it easier because you get an excuse to walk. The downhills are bad at the end, though, but I think 10 flat miles at the end would have hurt even more, just because I would feel like I had to run it all. The aid stations were plentiful and nicely stocked. I love candy and had hoped for Jelly Beans and Mike and Ikes etc. but there was only M&Ms, chips, GU, PBJs, etc. A couple of aid stations had Sports Beans but they looked too clinical and gray for me to try. I basically ate M&Ms and chips the entire second loop. I tried a few GUs, which were nasty (but may have worked).

In short, I would recommend the race to any beginner. The marathon they have at the same time is very low-key, and it's pretty easy to make out who is in the marathon and who is in the 50 miler. Having the marathoners around in the first loop is nice so there are more people to talk to.

What a day...

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Final 50 mile thoughts

I'm not sure about this race; I don't know how to race it.

Part of me wants to start out at a decent pace, stay in contention, and see what I have left at the end. I feel great; I am almost certainly going to be the "fastest" guy there. Meaning I will be able to run, say, a 6:30 mile with the least effort. Of course, that doesn't matter at all once we are past 30 miles.

This option could result in an extremely shitty race so I don't think I will start out fast. I remember Chippewa 50, my only ultra so far; how I got passed by what seemed like 50 people in the last miles (in reality, I think it was 7 or 8 people but it felt like a lot more). One thing is bonking but another is bonking at the front of the race and become that guy everyone gets a boost out of passing.

The other race option is to start embarrasingly slowly. Walk a lot, talk to people, have a good time etc. Then at 10 miles, once I am warmed up, I go into cruising pace (again, those 6:30 miles) and start passing people. It would be a low-pressure race. At worst, I bonk and finish in the middle of the pack. At best, I could be hunting down the leaders from behind.

I tried running with the handheld water bottles today. They didn't feel good. My stride was off. I think I will run the first 25 miles with the bottle and then drop it for the second lap. Unless, by that time, I have gotten used to it.

The Girl is in great shape. She never did the really long training runs and her taper has been a little anorexoid (meaning she refuses to seriously taper, for fear of gaining weight). But she is ready to bust out a big one. I wouldn't be surprised if she gets a top 3 on Saturday.

And then what?

That's the end of the season for us. There is a 10K in a month we will both do but we have no more long run plans. I am still hoping to PR at the 10K (my PR is 33:29 dating back to August of 2001) but it still doesn't seem like a "target race". We'll see what else we can squeeze in before it gets cold.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008


I have a lot to be thankful for.

After my 80-hour shift, I went out to run and met the Girl, who was just done with yoga. We had a nice, relaxed evening, just the three of us. It's probably the first time in a few weeks that has happened.

Things are just clicking right now. It looks like the Girl will get her green card; we have both been worried about that, since we really don't have a back-up plan if we can't move. Also, she just got a research paper accepted for publication. I have gotten into exactly the fellowship I wanted (hematology at University of Copenhagen) starting exactly when I want (January 1st).

Non-runners won't understand it, but my running shape determines a lot of my happiness, sometimes more than the big-picture developments. And I am in decent shape these days. As a 33-year old, I am still kicking. While not as fast as my younger days, I am finding more and more endurance and expanding my repertoire.

I have won all the races I entered this year; except for Chippewa 50 and two triathlons, races that have been outside my usual comfort zone. It's been so much fun; I have a lot to be thankful for.

And I am married to the Girl. We work a little too much right now, but whenever we have time off together it seems like we are able to live some unforgettable experience. I am still so in love with her, as corny as it sounds.

My kids are healthy and cool. They will do great in life and they will be my pillars until I die.

It's all clicking.

But I am writing for another reason. I just ran into a nurse practitioner, whom I have always liked. We said hi and exchanged the usual pleasantries of acquaintances, while walking across the parking lot. She asked my=a about biking and I said I ride all the time these days. Then she looked at me and said "Don't forget to wear your helmet; my husband was hit by a car and has been in the ICU with a spinal cord injury for two weeks now".

What do you say to that? All the positive things in my life are great, but if I was in the ICU fighting for my life, they wouldn't matter much. That poor man and that poor woman. It's hard to imagine what they are going through.

And all the peripheral stuff just shouldn't get to me. It's just not important. It's that old piece of advice that so many every dying patient have offered me: enjoy life; it goes so fast. Smell the roses. Love and be loved. And be thankful for what you have.

Monday, September 8, 2008

September running log

Sep 2 14 miles with the Girl
Sep 6 13 miles
Sep 8 13 miles
Sep 11 miles
Sep 13 10
Sep 14 9
sep 15 8
Sep 18 5
Sep 20 50 miles
Sep 25 5 miles
Sep 26 10
Sep 29 5

Total 142

10-hour triathlon

The Girl and I did a relay-type endurance triathlon this weekend. Basivally, we would alternate sprint tris for 10 hours. Together, we came up just short of a collective Ironman.

And, wow, what a fun experience it was.

Swimming was a major break-through for me. I ended up swimming 600m four times. The first time was horrible, very much like my first triathlon. I got flustered, kicked in the head (okay, maybe the shoulder) and lost all composure. I had to stop and tread water for a long time to get back into the groove. I did 50% breast stroke and 50% crawl on that one.

But then the next three times, everything just flowed. I got into a good rhythm, arms wind-milling along, body tilting from side to side. There is a trance-like feel to rolling along in the brown, murky waters. Once, I almost "fell asleep" and actually got pretty far off course.

I passed several swimmers during those legs and only got passed once so my swimming has definitely come along well.

The biking... Well, the biking is make-or-break in triathlons. It takes three times more time than the swim and twice as long as the run. I am decent at biking but after my fourth bike leg, I was getting sore in strange places. Leaning over a tri-bar made me stiffen up more than I thought it would. The route was very flat and fast, which certainly worked against me. I am a "dancer", in that I like to stand up and pedal (most runners feel that way) so this flat, grinding course made me a little stale.

Also, on flat courses, the specialized tri bikes become more important. There were a few plate wheels and aero helmets spotted, even.

Running was great. It was all on trails so lots of changing directions and running up and down. I ended up running about a half-marathon but stayed fresh the whole time. Lots of people were breaking apart on the run. At times it felt almost like cheating, being able to practice my "specialty" during a triathlon. I was definitely the fastest runner out there but, as usual, there wasn't enough trail to catch everyone.

We got fourth in the mixed relay division. It was a close race with the third place team. All day, I was a little faster than the guy on that team and the Girl was a little slower then the woman. I would pass him on the run every time and the Girl would be passed on the bike every time. They slowly gained on us, though, and ended up beating us overall by 4 minutes. They definitely looked like triathletes more than us so we didn't feel too bad.

The Girl had as much fun as me. Like me, she held up decently on the swim. And, like me, she gave up too much time on the bike to faster people on faster bikes. Of course, she was the fastest female runner but, again, the just wasn't enough trail to make up for all the water and the road.

The most fun was probably had off the course. We had a tent set up for all our stuff and to have base to relax in between legs.

We had the Lorax and my daughter along. She was a big help, never getting whiny and always helping out with the practicalities and, most importantly, helping with the Lorax. She actually had a good time, making a lot of friends among the other kids there.

This is one crazy rainbow.

We have both been a little depressed after the race. This is common after endurance events; it doesn't help that I have 8 days of straight work, starting tomorrow, including a whopping 80-hour ER shift (seriously).

In two weeks, we do the North Country 50 mile race. In a larger perspective, I am curious to see how that race compares with the triathlon. Hopefully, it will be as much fun.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

5K race report

We ran a 5K this morning in one of the neighboring towns. Didn't really know what to expect. The flier had 20 sponsors listed so we thought it was going to be a pretty big race.

Driving up to the start area, we quickly realized that it was actually a pretty small race. I didn't wear my race singlet as I thought that would be a bit over the top for such a small race. There seemed to be some fast-looking women but no fast guys.

For once we had some decent time to warm up. I had run for 20 minutes before we left home and had time for a good jog and some accelerations before the start. Suddenly, before the start, a couple of fast runners appeared. Matt Howard was there; he is an ultramarathon stud who can also go fast in the shorter races. A triathlete I think I have seen around the area was there as well.

I was hoping to go clear from the beginning but Matt and the triathlete stuck with me. The first mile we swapped the lead a few times. I felt good; I put in a few accelerations to go clear but, every time, the triathlete and Matt would claw their way back onto my wheel.

This reminded me of my early days of racing where I was such a head case. I never liked to race in the front back then. It was either break clear or suck wheel. Today I tried three of four times to break clear unsuccesfully. We came through mile 1 in 5:20.

A little after mile 1, I surged again and Matt dropped off. The triathlete couldn't quite get back on but was only 5 yards back. I decided to keep pushing and evenetually built a lead of 20 seconds at the finish. He was tough, though, and never really gave up. I looked up his name and it seems like he is a very fast triathlete, winning all the events I could find online.

It puts things in perspective that I can only just barely beat the best triathletes in running. He would crush me in the swim and the bike legs, of course.

The Girl opened up with a 6:09 mile. When I saw here after the turnaround, she was in first place. The second-place woman was 10 yards or so back and, honestly, looked like she was gaining on her. However, at the finish, the Girl won by almost a minute. Official time was 19:46! That's a 32-second PR. That's basically off just minimal speed work and learning to take it easy every other day. She is pretty damn fit just 6 months after gaving birth to the Lorax.

Friday, August 29, 2008


I knew nothing about Sarah Palin until this morning. Reading through a couple of articles, I really only cared about one thing.

And there it was, in the first paragraph. She is a Christian conservative...

So there you have it. More Rove-type angry politics. More talk about talking snakes, rapture, the biblical role of the Middle East. Less talk about stuff that actually matters.

More than 50% of people who voted for Bush believed there should be less science and more biblical teaching in schools. These are the poor, undereduacated, rural Americans who really should vote for Obama; but now they won't. Most, if not all, other democracies, have a representative democracy where a far-right party usually eats up that slice of the population. It is so unfair that the Republicans, a party whose real-life, tangible politics hurt the poor, rural population, so easily can rely on their support.

Of course, the religiosity of Palin could scare off some people. The old-school fiscal conservatives, the every-man-for-himself conservatives, a group I respect and often consider myself a member of, are usually diametrical opposites of Kansas evangelicals who believe in talking snakes and think the dinosaurs are made up to make them look bad.

In running, we have a 5K tomorrow. I ran hard yesterday and biked hard today, mostly thinking about the triathlon next weekend. I didn't tell the Girl this. She has a huge PR coming up, like under 20 minutes. I did have to pretend I was tapering just so she would take it a little easy yesterday. That meant 10 miles at 7-minute miles with three half miles at 6-minute miles (an 18:45 5K pace!)

A report will follow.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

The Girl and the Man

The other day, the Girl got into some trouble with the Man.

Let me just backtrack a little. We had a whole day off together and that day happened to be a recovery day for both of us. That happens quite rarely. We decided to go to the pool; this was after day care hours so we had to bring the Lorax into the pool area. We have done that once before; one of uf swims a couple of laps, while the other one wathces the Lorax. Then we switch off and keep switching off until we have each swum about a mile.

Now, the other day, the Lorax was in a good, docile mood. He just sat there, marveling at the ceiling and babbling to himself. It felt like overkill to have to sit and watch him. The Girl then had to go to the bathroom while I was swimming. She told me that she was going but was just going to leave the Lorax behind. We discussed it a little bit and off she went.

When she came back, the lifeguard was over by the Lorax, waiting for her. I hadn't noticed until then. She was arguing loudly with the lifeguard about leaving the Lorax behind. I did one more lap and then joined the conversation, which was getting heated. The lifeguard basically felt it was unsafe to have a kid in the pool area, period. He had opened up by saying that all the noise and the hot air was bad for babies. Probably not a smart move for an 18-year old boy in front of a young mom, who happens to be a doctor who reads every medical study on childrens' health she can find. So things got a little ugly.

But the case was such that, without argument, the Girl had left the Lorax behind, which is not allowed at the YMCA.

I finally had to enter the discussion, apologizing for our mistake, promising it would never happen again. It was a nice good cop/bad cop move that worked well. The lifeguard backed off and let us keep swimming.

Thankfully, I had told the Girl to bring the Lorax along with her, and actually offered to watch him while she was gone, so I left the encounter looking like a rock star. Also, I have to admit it's exciting to see her get into tussles like these.


Running is great. We ran long together on Saturday. I ran 27 miles, the last 15 of which were run around 6:45 pace. The last 5 were closer to 6:15 pace. I was tired at the end; very tired. But it felt like there was a little left in the tank.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Too light?

This diet has really worked. I'm not sure what I am doing that's so effective; I work a lot, run a lot and think about not eating too much. I'm down to 64.2 kg this morning, which is even lower than when I had braces put on.

I look a little emaciated, I guess, but not too bad.

But... The Girl and I went for a long run yesterday and I just didn't feel good. Had to quit after 18 miles. Sure, it was hot and humid but I just felt weaker than I should have. In the absence of any formal testing, I think I can conclude that I am a little too light, at least for the long runs, right now.

Tomorrow I'm taking the Boards... I'm a little nervous about that one.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Another 5K

Worked all weekend in the ER. Friday night wasn't too busy but I got almost no sleep as there was a constant trickle of something to be dealt with. I had set the alarm for 7:30 and, against better judgment, got up to get ready for the race.

This was a classic small-town race. The local high school kids were there as were a few fit middle-aged adults, like myself. I did not have a chance to really warm up and didn't feel good at all. On the other hand, I wanted to test out the legs since I have been feeling so good lately.

The answer was indeterminate. Not a great race but not a disaster, either.

A young guy took off like lightning. I should know better, but I went after him to get some shelter from the headwind. The first half mile has huge hill; he charged up so fast I had to give him a few feet. But, of course, as these high schoolers always do, he completely blew up and didn't even try to hold on when I passed him. The rest of the race was uneventful. THe legs felt heavy and the course was hilly.

My time was 16:44. I gotta feel good about runnning that fast on a hilly course without a warmup. But, then again, the legs weren't as zippy as I had expected.

Next race is in two weeks. Another 5K. Goal is less than 16:20.

Friday, August 15, 2008

The Lorax is mine!

We had to go to court yesterday to get my name on his birth certificate. It took less than a minute and suddenly I was legally his dad.

Running keeps being good. Ran 13 miles Wednesday with intervals at the end. The intervals were faster than ever. Tomorrow brings a 5K but it falls during my work hours. I could leave the ER and run it if there is nothing serious going on. We'll see how that goes.

My older son had his birthday this week. He is 5. It's crazy how time flies; I remember when he was a little, wet boy on the changing table. I am not as close to him as I am to my daughter. With her, it seems like we think the same way. She begs and complains like all kids, but I can tell her when enough is enough. She knows when I am joking and when I am serious.

With my son, it's different. I just can't seem to get through to him. I have always felt there was an element of "second child"-type behavior but it's more than that.

Whenever the kids sleep over here, he cries for an hour, saying he misses his mom. I don't know what to do when he acts that way. Also, he does these weird little spiteful things. The other day when I was brushing his teeth, I told him to spit. Instead of spitting like he normally would, he just opened up his mouth and let all the spit and toothpaste run down his chin and shirt.

And he looks at me in a strange way, like he is telling me he knows he is the forgotten middle kid. Like he knows how his life got derailed when his mom and I got a divorce. I don't know what to do about it. Once in a while, when I spend time exclusively with him, he glows, but other times he seems disinterested in hanging out with me. In day care, he is a popular, cute kid. I don't think he has any real behavioral problems.

I found out this week that my ex-wife will let our daughter live with the Girl and me when we move to Europe. Not right away, but once we get settled in. That was obviously very good news. She is still partly bilingual so I assume her Danish will pick back up right away. My ex-wife's decision has lifted a ton of stress off my shoulders. I am so excited about seeing a "new" country through my daughter's eyes; I know she will thrive over there.

Our son, then, I will only be able to see on vacations, a few weeks here and there, maybe more over the summer months. Logistically, he will be on the opposite continent of his sister a lot of the time. For now, my ex-wife won't allow me to have both kids out of the country at the same time. It's heart-breaking to think about.

I remember that time, maybe two and a half years ago, when we first started talking about the divorce. It felt like jumping off a cliff into darkness. It felt so exhilirating to think of being free of the constant arguments. We were two best friends living together, trying to suppress our urges to live the lives we really wanted. As it happened, she was the one who called it quits and I was the one who fought for months to get back together, mostly so I could be with the kids. I hated coming back to the house with their rooms empty and dark. At the time, we both knew the kids would be the ones to hurt from the divorce but the specifics were hard to imagine.

So many emotions and such big decisions are involved in this. One fine day, twenty years from now, we will all be able to look back and think about what we should have done. For now, we can just try to do our best for the their sake and ours.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Inner dialogue

Went for a run yesterday and felt great. Ran 15 miles at 6-7 minute pace. Did some intervals on my typical loop at the end and ran those faster than I have ever.

This morning, I weighed in at 64.7, which is the lowest in many years, except right after I got braces and couldn't chew.

I don't know why I am in this kind of shape but I'm not complaining. Problem is, I have no real goal race or even a goal distance. While running, or while not running, I often go through an inner dialogue much like this:

"Wow, I am so fast. I could PR at anything longer than 5 miles right now. I feel great, I am light. I am so ready to bust one out".

"Hold up now, bust one out where? You got two 5Ks lined up where you will definitely be running by yourself. Are you going to run 15:50 all by yourself? I don't think so."

"Okay, but I could probably PR in the 5 miles or 10K"

"Sure, but you don't have any of those coming up, now do you? In fact, your next big races are a triathlon and a 50 miler. You can't swim, except for the dead-man's float, and you have never run 50 miles."

"True about the 50 miles but I think I'm gonna go hard in that one. I ran 25 miles and still felt good. I'm going to try to win it."

"Just shut up. If you go out hard with the leaders, you are going to crash and burn so bad you might not even finish. Do you remember Chippewa? That was 50K and you still sucked at it. No one cares about speed in those races."

"I don't know. If I tell myself to walk all the hills but cruise the flat sections at 6:30 or 7 minute miles, I should still be in contention. I will eat a ton at the aif stations. I'll be the fastest guy there, for sure, and that has to count for something. And Chippewa was different because of the snow"

"You'd better start out easy or you are going to blow up. You don't even know what an "S-Cap" looks like. You're a rube, man. Don't warm up, start out slow. Just get through it."

"I think I'm going to go hard. It's more honest that way."

"You're gonna die."

Bascially, I keep lamenting the fact that I don't have a big, competitive race coming up. Add to that my uncertainty about the 50-miler. I just don't know what to do with these wheels.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

August Running Log

This is purely from memory

August 3 27 miles (2 in the AM and 25 with the Girl, who ran 20)
August 6 5 miles
August 9 8 miles
August 10 10 miles (some speed around the ER)
August 11 15 miles
August 13 13 miles
August 16 4 miles (5K in 16:44)
August 19 10 miles
August 21 6 miles
August 23 10 miles (5K in 16:40)
August 24 Biked long with the Girl

I don't remember much more

Total: 150?

Had another small breakthrough in my running in the last couple of days. Ran long with the Girl Sunday; the usual type of running where we hand off the Lorax in the baby jogger. I ended up running 25 miles; I was tired, sure, but didn't get the stiff, dead legs I have had in the past. My "alone time" was spent on really steep trails, some of which I had to hike. I basically walked whenever it got super-steep, which probably made me stay fresh for longer. The last mile, I ran in 5:35, which bodes well for a future marathon.

Then yesterday, I decided to run my usual 5K tempo on the treadmill. Immediately, I felt great and ended up running a 16:42. I hesitate to compare to a "road time"; usually a 1% incline is felt to compensate for the lack of wind resistance, but at this pace it may be easier to run on the treadmill.

But one can't argue with improvement, of course. I am really looking forward to my next race, which will be a 5K in a few weeks. I am starting to toy with the thought of dipping below 16, especially if I can do some track speed over the next few weeks.

I weighed in at 65.2 this morning after 5 days of not really dieting but not pigging out either. Being light seems to mean a lot for my running pace.

Work is super busy. I have, honestly, bitten over more than I can chew. I essentially have 3 part-time jobs, which is one too many. There is such a shortage of docs in this area that I am being pressured to work more from all sides. Tomorrow, I go into work in the morning. When I get off at night, I will drive to another job where I work all weekend. Then I am back at the first job, Monday morning.

Saturday, August 2, 2008


Wow, this diet really works! I have lost all the weight I wanted to in 4 days.

On the three days I have counted calories, I have eaten around 2100 a day. Of course, that's way too low (which is why I am losing weight). They have been pretty intense training days, too. Today, I feel a little weak and plan to eat a big dinner tonight and big breakfast before our planned long run tomorrow.

A few lessons I have learned in my few days of calorie counting: you can't eat candy, cookies, pastries etc. Ten Haribo gummi bears, which I can't live without, comprise 75 calories and they have very little filling effect. Other things, like cooking oil, butter, peanut butter (or just peanuts) surprised me by being so calorie dense. I mean, I know they are, essentially, 100% fat but it still blows me away how many calories are packed into so little space.

I use a scale for everything, like if I am pouring cereal I do this: first I zero the scale with the bowl on the scale. I pour in the cereal, noting the weight and calories; then I pour in the other kind of cereal (I have to mix cereals), note the data, pour the milk and then little chocolate sprinkles etc. It's fun, believe it or not.

Things that aren't as bad as I thought (and that I have eaten a lot more of lately) include:

Bread (damn Atkins people had me biased on that one) - especially European Rye
Eggs (Just 70 calories and it's filling)
Chocolate (relatively speaking)
Milk (actually isn't too bad)
Water (I drink so much I worry about hyponatremia but it makes me feel full)

Something strange is happening to our computer. It won't let us load blogspot pages anymore. I can post, obviously, but can't check (some) pages on blogspot. Maybe some virus? We're hoping it will go away.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Gotta lose some weight

I weight about 67 kilos and would like to weight about three pounds less.

In the past, I have used a pretty simple diet: eat whatever I want during the day; then run at night and don't eat afterwards. This always works, probably because most of my bad snacking happens at night.

These days, though, the Girl works almost every night, leaving me to watch the Lorax. He usually is in a bad mood in the evening so running with the baby jogger is unreliable.

My new plan: calorie counting. I have done this once before, for about three days; Then I went nuts and stopped counting. I like the scientific feel to knowing what I put in my body. It might be fun, actually. I'll aim at 2500-3000 calories a day, which will hopefully yield a slow weight loss.

Of course, the Girl will offer her input in this matter as well. If I am her running coach, she can be my dietician. The way I have slowly gotten her to take an easy day here and there, she has taught me the term "sugar cereal".

Sunday, July 27, 2008

5K with the Girl

We ran a fun, fast 5K yesterday here in town.

We figured that I was nowhere near PR shape (and probably never will be), whereas the Girl was set to PR. Hence, I took the baby jogger.

Unfortunately, the Girl had been working all day and got home just an hour and a half before the start of the race. She suddenly had to eat, dress, get reday, feed the Lorax etc in a hurry. See her Turtlehead story for some of the consequences of hurrying too much.

Anyway. I lined up in the back, smugly wearing this shirt:

Believe it or not, this was fully in the spirit of the race.

The Girl started up closer to the front. The gun went and everyone took off. Thankfully, the road was very wide, so I was able to find plenty of room for the jogger. After a quarter or so mile I caught up to the Girl, who was going very, very fast. Once things thinned out, I got close enough to talk to her. "You're going too fast. Just slow down a little; find someone to pace off. There's a long way to go".

She completely ignored me; didn't even acknowledge I was there. I did some more pep-talking like "this is going to be a huge PR; save some for the end".

Again, she completely ignored me, seeming so focused on her race that she wouldn't waste energy looking over at me.

Then we took a turn into a stiff headwind. She was in a little pack and I told her to get right behind someone to draft or offered her to draft behind me. She immediately passed the little group and started closing the gap, accelerating into the headwind.

People looked at us like "why the fuck are they displaying their marital problems out here?!?"

So we got to mile 1 in 6:12. Way too fast for the Girl in my opinion. I was hoping for 6:20s. I told her I thought it was too fast and that she should slow down.

"What?", she screamed, pulling out an earphone. She hadn't heard me this whole time... Well, isn't that nice?

With that, I asked meekly whether I could take off, since I felt a little underappreciated at this time. And took off I did. I ran the next two miles in 11 minutes, definitely yielding some "what the fuck?"-looks from the spectators. You get tons of goodwill from racing with a jogging stroller, of course, and that was fun.

The Girl came through the second mile in 6:30 and finished in 20:18, a PR by over a minute. She definitely has a sub-20 in her and could go much faster if she trained a little more focused.

Two fast old people in front of 100 fit college kids:

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Research associate

I have found myself in a job that is incredibly boring. I look through charts to learn about how we have treated people without white blood cells over the last several years.

I can only do this for a half hour at a time before I have to take a break (this being one).

I do learn from this. Once in a while, it can be fascinating to follow someone's battle with cancer in the chart. One woman, whom I met in the hospital two or three years ago, stood out. This was the patient that made me want to go into hematology; at least that's what I tell people. She was a young woman with kids who got leukemia and eventually died. I took care of her several times, during her induction chemo and during her complications. I remember blogging about her on my old, outrageous blog, hoping I wouldn't get in trouble.

Then I remember hearing that she had died. I got teary-eyed, while reading the obituary that was posted on the wall in the ICU. But at that time, having gotten a stem cell transplant at another hospital, she was no longer getting her care at our hospital.

Her tale is written in a chart that measures almost a foot in height. She got her transplant but relapsed quickly thereafter. Because she was so young, she enrolled in a trial with experimental chemo that, once again, wiped out her bone marrow. The marrow grew back but it was still leukemic. Her chromosome analysis was insanely abnormal, beyond any hope for cure.

She died at home with her family, seemingly at peace. But the last notes talk about her struggle with insurance problems and her continued will to fight, despite the lack of chemo options.

What I most strongly remember about her is one night when I was about to go home. I don't want to reveal anything that would identify her (I just deleted a big paragraph). I was called by the nurse that night with a new problem and I remember entering her room, which felt more like someone's living room. It was late evening and her husband and daughter were there, sleeping on cots. She felt like such an important patient at that moment.



The running is okay these days. The next big goal is a marathon in September. I guess the goal is somewhere around 2:40, which may be a little optimistic, but doable if I stay healthy and put in the miles.

My next race is a 5K on Saturday, which I have absolutely no chance of winning. I haven't run a race in years where I haven't thought I could, reasonably, win. Not that I'm that fast; I just don't think it's fun to run if there's absolutely no chance of winning. This 5K is sort of a fun run in that it's very low-key. It just so happens that all the runners and alumni from the local national championship college program come to run it. Last year, 10 people went below 16 minutes. The winner usually runs it in less than 15 minutes.

I plan to go out in a low-pressure group and step it up toward the end. I hesitate to state a goal; I'm in good long-run shape but I don't have the speed to run a good 5K. If I have to be honest, anything about 17 minutes would suck and anything less than 16:20 would make me very happy. In that 40 second interval, it's a spectrum.

Of course, the temperature is going to be really important. If it's 90 degrees and humid, 17 minutes may be all I get.

The Girl should be running a huge PR (after all, she is up against a triathlon split) but plans on running with the baby jogger. We'll see what she does.

July Running Log

July 1 - 14 miles from Spooner Lake almost to Snow Vally Peak
July 2 - Hiked almost to Snow Valley Peak
July 3 - Swam some with the Girl - about 1 mile.
July 5 - 22 miles. Raced 15 miles (first place in Angel Island 25K). 2 mile warm-up and cool-down. 5 miles with the Girl.

July 7 - 8 miles of bad running around the Sierra Buttes.
July 8 - 15 miles up and down the Pacific Crest Trail toward the Sierra Buttes.
July 9 - 5 miles with the Girl. Ankle hurt from sprain the day before.
July 10 - 16 miles at Golden Gate Park
July 12 - 14 miles by Merced Lake in San Francisco
July 14 - 7 miles. 5K tempo on the treadmill in 17:04. Was on track for new PR but got tired in the last mile.
July 16 - 10 miles - some half-mile efforts toward the end.
July 19 - 6 miles - quit running to bike instead. Too hot.
July 20 - 17 miles on bike trail in 90 weather - almsot passed out from heat!
July 22 - 6 miles. Tried track intervals with the Lorax in tow. Bad idea. 800m in 2.46, 2.37, 2.37. 400m in 1.14, 1.15, 1.16, 1.16. Pretty pathetic but, then again, running track work-outs alone is difficult.

July 24 - 8 miles with the baby jogger. Felt good.

July 25 - Biked one hour

July 26 - Shithouse 5K. 18:20 with the baby jogger. Last two miles at 5:30. Felt really good.

July 27 - 21 miles. LONG RUN. Felt OK. No issues. Ate one powerbar. Very hot out.

July 28 - 3 miles. Swam for one half hour.

July 29 - 4 miles. Swam 1 mile

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Back from honeymoon

It would take too long to describe our two weeks in California in any kind of detail. It was a great trip that I think will sink in slowly over the next few months. Here are some moments I will never forget.

Our first day staying in a little cabin by Spooner Lake on the East side of Lake Tahoe. The Girl came back from a run on the Rim Trail and told me excitedly that it was beautiful up there.

I started running up the Rim Trail and felt great. I basically ran from Spooner Lake almost to Snow Valley Peak, which has got to be some of the most beautiful running in the world. The trail is never so steep that you have to walk up or try to hold back on the way down. It really goes on "the rim" so you alternate between views of the Nevada desert and Lake Tahoe.

The next day, we hiked up along the same slopes with the Lorax in the Deuter. At first, he liked sitting in there, cooing and blowing raspberries:

But once we made it above the timberline into the wind and sun, he got a little bothered by the whole thing. We are not sure whether he was feeling the altitude. Of course, it could be that sitting in a tight baby pack was enough to make him mad. A little mom time made him better but we did have to turn around.

The Angel Island race was a high point for me as well. I was coming out of the first stair section, far in the lead, running through the fog. Suddenly, the fog lifted and there was the most pristine view of the bay and San Francisco. Coming around the first loop, all by myself, was a confidence booster as well. I could stand there picking between jelly beans and Mike and Ike's while everyone looked at me like I was a Kenyan.

Watching the Girl's race was unlike anything I had ever done before. I have seen her come in at the end of races and heard the tales afterward but I have never seen her race like this. She made all the classic mistakes and paid dearly. She ate maybe 100 calories in the first 25K. I think she forgot about how long the race was and got a little cocky. Every time she came through, I could see the eventual winner, Juliet Morgan, come closer to her. The Girl had maybe 5-8 minutes on her after the first 25K but only 2-3 minutes at 33K. I'm sure Juliet got info on the Girl throughout the race and knew she was closing in. Meanwhile, the Girl definitely thought she had the race wrapped up.

At 33K, I told her there was a woman who was not too far behind. Unfortunately, that's when her low calorie intake caught up with her. On the next loop, she "ran sideways", as she would later say. I ran backwards to see her come in. She looked dead but toughed it out for the last loop - and allowed me to run with her. Watching her struggle, seeing her climb the mountain for the sixth time, was close to a religious experience. By the time she finally got some calories into her system, she actually passed 3 or 4 people near the end, which was a good ending to an epic race.

Another cool thing about this race was that the winners got hats with "first place finisher" on them instead of trophies.

Another unexpected high point for me on the trip was visiting the Girl's aunt in Reno. She is a young retiree there, living in a golden and gated senior community with her husband. While I had expected the worst from a place like that, it was actually nice. Of course, every house looks the same and our dirty camping gear stuck out like a sore thumb in their driveway. But the community was full of cool middle-aged hippies that were into hiking and cycling. There was a nice lodge with a pool and a fitness center. A bike lane snaked it way up the mountains. And the views were to die for.

Large parts of California were burning during our honeymoon there. We spent a few days in Sierra City, running and hiking, and really noticed the smoke there. The Pacific Crest Trail, which has always been a mythical trail to me, was not good for running where we were. The air was not the best from all the smoke. But, still, the hiking was great.

We found a gorgeous little mountain lake where we swam and threw the Lorax around.

Look at the smoke in this picture

This was our honeymoon and, although not spent at a beach resort in the Caribbean, was full of love. It's glorious to travel with a soulmate who looks at new places much the same way I do. We are closer than ever now; we speak a language few would understand. Even if she doesn't know how to eat string cheese.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Angel Island 25K race report

Today, the Girl and I ran the Angel Island trail races. I ran the 25K while she ran the 50.

You start by taking the ferry from Tiburon, which is a little cumbersome. We were staying in downtown San Francisco and would have preferred to take the ferry from there straight to the island but the packet pick-up was in Tiburon, some 20 miles away from where we stayed.

Lining up, I was trying to spot the competition. Lo and behold, one of my favorite blog authors, the famous Scott Dunlap, was there. As usual, the trail types look so fit and rugged that I wasn't sure what to make of them. Warming up, I felt absolutely great. I am in really good shape right now. I knew this was going to be a fun race.

The start went; I had planned not to take the lead and just feel out the other runners. But, man, these trail runners do not like running fast. I am not exaggerating when I say that despite every ounce of patience in me, I had a 10-yard lead when we got to the first hill, maybe a quarter mile into the race. I had kind of a goofy plan before this race. I would walk every hill and then run my usual road race pace the rest of the time. I am not very good at running uphill but am okay at power-walking, I guess.

Despite walking the entire first staircase, no one felt like coming around to take the lead. At this point, we got to a long road section and I figured I might as well just run away from the pack.

I felt great. The legs were smooth and nothing hurt or held me back. I probably ran 5:50s most of that first loop but always walking up the steep hills. I looked back several times and never saw anyone back there.

The first two laps went by quickly. I had a huge lead and the legs were golden. I got lost twice but got back on course almost immediately.

On the third lap, the steep one, I ran most of the hills. Coming down from the top, I missed a crucial turn and got way off course. A few other runners from the 16K had done the same and knew a way back to the trail. I was panicking as time seemed to pass by quickly as we were standing there debating what to do. I finally found the trail and, to my disappointment, passed a guy I had already passed, maybe 10 minutes earlier. He was running quite slowly (probably doing the 8K) and passing him like that, I estimated that I had lost about 5 minutes. This could easily mean the someone had passed me, of course.

The last couple of miles, I basically sprinted all out. It turned out I won by a few minutes anyway. I had had an eye on the course record but that was obviously not to be and, honestly, would not have happened even without the detour.

The Girl's race was even more exciting. She lead the race when I first saw her at 25K. She told me that she felt great. The next time around, at 33K, she looked a little more tired and another woman was just a few minutes behind her. Waiting for her at 42K, I saw how all the men she had been running with and that one woman were coming through but not the Girl. She had bonked spectacularly, a la myself at Chippewa earlier this year. She tried to eat as much as she could at 42K and actually had a decent last loop. She passed a few men but got passed by one more woman. Still, third was great. She has the speed to win these races; now she needs to learn to eat better and maybe pace herself a little.

There for a while, it looked like two wins for the famimly. The Lorax was along in the stroller with mother-in-law watching him. He was a good baby all day. Everyone still is in awe when they learn that such a little baby has a mom who runs ultra-marathons, competitively no less.

Friday, June 27, 2008

No more residency

This afternoon, I did my usual late rounds in the hospital, tucking in my patients. Talked to a couple of the nurses about some small things, going from unit to unit. I tried not to think about the fact that I would probably never set foot inside those buildings or see those nurses ever again.

Being done is such a strange feeling. In two days, we will be checking in to our hotel in San Francisco with two weeks of honeymoon ahead of us. It's the first time in three years, I have had more than 5 workdays off in a row. I am wired in a strange way that only allows me to enjoy something if I feel like I have worked for it. Lots of people are probably like that but years and years of school and, now, residency, have made me a particular glutton for punishment. I need to smell the roses these next two weeks because after that it's probably going to be a fall full of busy work.

Running-wise, the legs are smooth in a way I have not felt since my track days. I went out running the other night and did some 800m intervals that felt great. I made the decision to run the 25K race next weekend. I realize it's probably more of a fun run distance for that particular event and there probably won't be a lot of competition. But I just feel so fast now and I don't want to blow it with a 50K now. I may be unrealistic but I am eyeing up a couple of PRs this summer (5 miles, 10K). Also, the Girl is running the 50 and I will have fun watching her running. She will kick ass that day.

Oh well, the Olympic trials are on.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

So I "graduated" Friday, although I still have to pay back my paternity leave for one more week. And then what? I don't have a job lined up; I thought I did but I learned last week that I would not get approved for it. So instead of the joy of being done with residency, I get unemployed.

It's scary as hell. I have a few leads but nothing really great. Our hospital is the overwhelming forci in this area and I it has been made clear to me that I will be damaged goods for at least a few years. There is a smaller hospital in town; they have a job that wouldn't be too bad but it's a job that I already turned down once when I was first applying some months ago. I don't know how much that counts against me. The only other job within driving distance is actually a job in an Indian Health clinic; that one would be boring but would look good on a CV.

I guess for now, I'll be hired on as a research associate at my hospital for a month or so while I find something else. At least that's something.

Running has been strong. Last four days have seen 14, 8, 15 and 11 miles, a lot of them fast. Today, I ran over to the YMCA to run a tempo on the treadmill. It's so hot out I felt like running inside. The 5K tempo was run in 16:54, which is 10 seconds faster than my previous fastest 5K tempo this year. I am very excited about it; it probably means I am in low-16s 5K race shape.

The 50K is two weeks away now. I'm still worried about the distance after what happened at Chippewa. There is a 25K there also; I thought about swithcing to that. I woundn't have to worry about bonking and I could watch the Girl run the last part of the 50K. I think she will win, looking at last year's times.

The Girl is slowly but surely starting to train with a purpose. She is taking easy days now and runs some days harder than in the past. The way she set a 5K at the end of a triathlon tells me she is ready for a strong summer. With all races, winning depends on who else shows up, but I think she will win either the 50K or the fall marathon we are signing up for. My guess is she will dip below 20 in a 5K we are doing in July. I am slipping into kind of a coaching role; it's a lot of fun. If she trained exactly like I wanted her to (and didn't get injured), she would become wicked fast in no time.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

ER weekend

Had my first 48-hour shift in the ER this last weekend. The weekend began with an easy day on urology. I basically just pick the patients I want to see with the different attendings. If I sneak off to write some email or work on some reearch, no one cares.

48 hours is a long time of being locked away in a job but, overall, it was a sweet weekend. Friday night, I slept almost all night. Saturday night, it was slow and I could get out for a run around the hospital. I like the feeling of not being looked at like a resident. In residency, we seem to play this game where nurses etc. aren't allowed to tell us what to do. Only if we are about to kill a patient will a nurse say something like "sometimes, we give this drug and they do really well". In the real-life ER, the nurse tells you what she thinks it is and it's up to me to agree or disagree.

One little girl came in with some pretty non-specific symptoms but she smelled a little like appendicitis. I think she would have got a CT scan at a bigger ER in a second. But in a tiny ER, where you have to wake up someone to come in from home to fire up the scanner, you think twice before scanning everyone. I talked it over with the nurse. Could she come back in the morning (this was 2 am)? Should we scan now? Well, we scanned her and it was appendicitis and the nurse and I high-fived, happy about having made the right choice.

Monday, June 9, 2008

My first triathlon

As usual, we got out of the house too late. A huge storm was blowing through the area and we had laid all night listening to the thunder. I didn't think the would run the event.

Well, my event was held but the Girl's Olympic distance event was cancelled or, rather, reduced to a sprint. However, it was still held as two separate events, which felt a little odd. I think they felt they had bought all the awards so they may as well use they, plus they were probably worried that some people would get mad.

The evening before, the organizers had talked about doing a run-bike-run if there was any lightning. I was semi-hoping that would be the case, as I imagined I would probably be in a good position to win the race. On the other hand, it wouldn't have been a triathlon; it would have been a duathlon, which is a whole other ball of wax.

Getting ready for a tri is not easy. I get flustered before road races, not knowing where to stash my warm-up clothes etc. Yesterday, we suddenly had to worry about what went into the transition area, while quickly getting dressed for the swim. For me, that was essentially putting on my running shorts, swim cap, goggles and ear plugs). The Girl had to get into her wet suit in less than five minutes. She howled and screamed while doing jumping jacks to get into the suit and finally made it:

But what's wrong with this picture? The wet suit was inside out. Now, the Girl had to scramble to get ready and both myself and mother-in-law (who was there watching the Lorax) had to help her get into the suit. The Girl was in the second wave and had to make her way through all the later waves down to the beach. It was a little comedic but also quite stressful.

The Girl was off and there I was, in the next wave. My wave consisted of the "young male" age groups, probably all the way up tp 35 years. The water had been cold the other day when we practiced but it felt warm yesterday. I suspect I was simply so pumped I didn't feel how cold it was.

Most of the other guys were wearing wet suits. I was the only person in running shorts, which was a little embarrasing. Everyone warmed up a little; I did a few stroked and felt good, like I probably could manage a crawl the whole way. I found a spot near the back before the gun went. I probably managed less than 50 yards before I found myself gasping for breath in a panic. I switched to breast stroke, which felt ok. At this point, I was in last place. The guy right on front of me was morbidly obese and seemed to know the people from the local tri club. I got the distinct feeling that he was a guy who was in the process of changing his life around, probably wrestling with his first endurance event of many to come. But my nearest competition he was and he also quickly converted to breast stroke. We looked each other in the eye as I was passing him, like "what the heck are we doing out here?". I later saw him finist last during the award ceremony under a hearty applause.

I would crawl a little, then get overwhelmed and go back to breast stroke. A guy in a kayak was sitting there quietly, looking at me struggle to move forward in the water. I could tell that he felt that I may be someone in need of help, based on my quick shifting between strokes and my running shorts. I moved by him, inch by inch. Just after I passed the halfway point, the fast swimmers from the following wave started passing me. They must have felt pretty good in their skin, effortlessly gliding past us strugglers. And I say "us", because at this point I was actually gaining on a few people from my wave. One guy was breast stroking and one was side stroking; both looked more than a little overwhelmed. I would gain on them every time I did a crawl effort and eventually passed both of them.

But there, ahead of me, was the boat landing where I would go from being a drowning cat to a competitive athlete. Closer and closer it came and, finally, I was out of the water. I got the 107th fastest swim time out of 180. I am amazed that so many people were slower than me but this includes, of course, men and woman all age groups.

Oh, how it felt great to be out of the water. One guy who had just passed me from the other wave was walking up to the transition zone as were several people from my wave. I started sprinting up the hill into the transition zone. Got into my cycling shoes as fast as I could. I couldn't get my shirt on because I was wet so I just pulled it over my head and slipped it on as I was on the bike. My transition time was the fourth fastest of the entire field! Of course, a lot of people had wetsuits on, which slowed them down.

The first part of the bike course had some good tight turns. I decided to go all out and took the turns with my hands in the drops, leaning in. I think I passed 20 people in the tight turns alone. Biking felt really cool. It was raining hard; I would lean deep into the tribar, head between my arms. I had started to pass some of the women in the Girl's wave, so I figured she wouldn't be far ahead. And there she was, looking strong. We talked a little before I took off. Overall, the bike section was the most fun. I passed people continuously for 17 miles straight, feeling great. Two guys passed me. They must have been from waves behind me and, I suspect, battling for the win. One guy had a plate wheel on the back; he looked very cool.

I got 8th on the bike. I had thought it would be a little higher but 8th it was. Some of those tri people can bike, I guess.

Then it was off to running. Ahh, my specialty! But no, the legs felt like think logs. I waddled out of the transition area and quickly noticed that I was not the only one with a waddle. The run went by so quickly I don't remember much from it. At about half way, the legs woke up and felt really good. I passed people throughout the run. There was an out-and-back section, where I saw a couple of guys who ended up placing in the top three. I knew that the course was too short for me to catch them. Oh well. The last half mile, I sprinted like a maniac and got some good wows from the spectators. Thankfully, I got the fastest run out of the field at 17:50. Weirdly, it felt much slower, especially in the beginning.

I jogged back to see the Girl come in. She was running like a dervish, passing people left and right. Her run and bike had gone okay but the run was her territory. She, unbelievably, PRd in the 5K with a 21:35. A lot of the top men would have been happy with that time. My lady is fast as hell these days. She is probably ready to get way below 20 minutes for the 5K.

Overall, I took 6th and won my age group. But, ok, 3 of the 5 guys in front of me were in older age groups. 5th place was three minutes ahead of me.

The Girl took 11th and 2nd in her age group.

If we want to do better, we have to learn how to swim better. Well, actually, the Girl swam okay. She beat my time by over 30 seconds but it still wasn't fast enough to be competitive. But the swim isn't enough. We both need to bike faster, too. I would only have taken third, even without the swim part. The winner beat my bike time by 6 minutes and I only beat his running time by one minute. So even in a run-bike-run I would only have gotten second.

Triathlons are a lot of fun. We have both gotten the bug pretty badly and are talking about joining a tri club. Yesterday, I thought about the half marathon I won a month ago. I didn't have any fun that day. It hurt like hell to beat that college kid in a sprint and I couldn't walk the next day. Today, I feel great. This triathlon will definitely not be my last.

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Sicko type day

Once in a while the medical insurance system gets so inhumane it drives me nuts.

I saw a guy in the hospital in October. He was, essentially, dying of lung cancer. I remember him well, which isn't true for very many patient from 6 months ago. But I was the one who had to tell the poor man what was going on in his lungs. I have only had to do that a few times, at least in this type of situation where I had to take a deep breath outside his room before going in.

So he went home on hospice a few days after his diagnosis. His one lung had collapsed so he went home with an oxygen tank. He died not long thereafter (which I didn't know till today, when I looked him up).

So yesterday, I receive a fax from his insurance company stating that their documentation stated that he had had 89% oxygen in his blood when he was discharged and that, according to their policies, they would only pay for patients sick enough to have less than 88%. I'm not kidding here.

I spent half an hour looking up what was in the electronic records and, to my joy, the latest recorded oxygen saturation was, actually, 88%. So I dictated a long letter and filled out the paperwork. My nurse faxed it in and, seriously, the company wrote back complaining that on this document we had not evaluated the "estimated time of treatment". The man died 6 months ago, shortly after discharge, and he used less than one tank of oxygen and they are trying to charge the widow for his oxygen.

In other news, we went to practice on the triathlon course. It turns out that I'm definitely not going to be able to crawl the whole quarter mile. I got panicky swimming in the freezing brown water and swallowed too much water. I will be the only one without a wetsuit, I bet. Here is the Girl, emerging from the waters like some whale-skinned nymph.

One other thing. For the odd male who likes to see semi-nude gorgeous women writhe and contort while getting out of their wetsuits, triathlon transition zones may not be so bad. But then again, most men are probably above stuff like that.

Here is some guy, who happens to be balding, pale and hairy; but please look beyond those characteristics. Slyly, he is wearing running shorts for a tri swim practice, his goggles cost 2 dollars in play-it-again sports and he has no clue how to use wax ear plugs.

Oh, it will feel awesome to get on my bike.

Today, I went for an awesome run. It felt just shy of 20 miles and throughout I felt strong and race-ready. That 50K is in a month and I feel good.