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.