Tuesday, December 29, 2009

2009 in Review

What a strange year it has been. My life now is unrecognizable from a few years ago, in so many ways. I may write about this later.

This is my 2009 Running Review.

The winter and spring saw me do the first focused training I have done in years. I basically found my old routine from medical school, of running hard several nights a week. It paid off generously, with fast legs in late spring. The highlight was a 16:15 5K on a rainy, windy track. I had the legs to go under 16, but didn't hit the right race.

Then I think I pushed it a little too much and crammed in some long hard runs to prepare for a half marathon PR (1:13.54). I did a training run the week before the race, indicating that I was right on PR pace. On race day, I found myself alone in front, facing a stiff headwind. It turned out to be a disappointing 1:16.xx.

Then it was time for some fun. We did a triathlon in June and Voyageur 50 miles in July.

Late summer and fall lacked focused training. I ran a lot, and ran hard. I think the highlights would be a 16:30 5K and a win in a fairly big cross country race in October.

These last two months of 2009 have been good. I am running on the same plan as last year. Goals for 2010:

5K 16:00 flat (under 16 would be too much pressure)
Age group national champion in the 5000
10K Under-34
Half Under 1:15
Win an ultra

Friday, December 18, 2009

My Coaching Frustrations

I coach one single athlete, and she is frustrating the hell out of me.

Her stats are pretty good: 5'6, 114 pounds, long legs. You could not ask for a better build for a top runner.

She suffers from what would be called an unspecified eating disorder. This has led her to run long, slow runs for years, without much purpose other than to lose weight. Over the last two years, she has gotten increasingly interested in getting fast. Her motivation to work hard is impeccable.

Her personal bests are good, but not great. Her best times have come in the 5K and 10K, where her times are approximately 20 and 41 minutes. These are decent times that allow her to win about half her races, but they are hardly elite. I am sure I could get her much faster, if only I could get her to train right.

Problem is, she is an idiot.

I tell her: "Do three hard sessions a week, preferably one interval, one tempo and one long run. Do this all winter and you will be fast as hell in the spring". I tell her to use the other days as recovery days, although, at one point, she may be allowed to run two long runs on the weekend, a la SQUITRAP. But getting up to four hard sessions is tough and won't happen for a while.

Repeatedly, she runs too long on easy days, leading to subpar hard days. It's her main mistake. She even sneaks in extra running on the easy days, without telling me. I repeat, "easy on easy days, hard on hard days. You're supposed to feel better after a recovery run than before it. It's not supposed to serve an actual training purpose." She pouts and says, "but I feel better after running three hours. Why can't I run three hours on my recovery days." I use profanity and tell her she is not Anton Krupicka.

Then when she does her hard days, I tell her to measure out a route, say 6x1 mile or an 8 mile tempo. I tell her to make it reproducible, so she can do it over and over again. Instead, she runs with her Garmin, telling me that it was weird: "I ran what felt like an even pace, but my actual pace went from 8:30 miles to 5:30 miles on the Garmin." I tell her not to use the Garmin for pace, only for measuring out the course. Then, instead of running all six intervals, she tries to run the first 3 extra hard "to beat her record". She then has to miss the last two, because her legs get too tired.

Then my athlete doesn't trust me. She says, "how do you know 4 intervals don't work better than 6? Maybe it's better". I say, she has to trust me. I have never coached anyone, but I have had good coaches, myself, and I enjoy reading fast people's training plans. I tell her to trust me, but then she says "maybe I'll be fast, but I will be fat, too. I have to run long every day, or I will gain weight."

We keep at it. She wants to drop the whole plan and go back to jogging exactly 2 hours every day. If she comes back after 1:59.34, she runs circles in the parking lot to get the full 2:00.00 in. It frustrates me to no end.

My main psychologic tool is to casually mention how some top runners use speed in their training. My athlete thinks that to run a marathon fast, she should run long runs as often as possible. Preferable a marathon 3 times a week. I tell her that Kara Goucher and Paula Radcliffe do tons of speed work and probably rarely, if ever, run farther than a marathon in pratice. Mentioning Paula Radcliffe always helps a little, because she is the only woman in the world, who ran more than my athlete during pregnancy. Actually, Paula ran harder, and my athlere ran longer. But still.

I generalize: "every fast runner in the world does speed work. If they don't, they either do it anyway, but don't call it speed work; or they could get much faster by doing it." This rarely works. She just doesn't trust me and tells me some tale about Helen Lavin only running long runs and doing naked heat yoga.

Sometimes I bring up cute training concepts, like Yassos, basically to disguise my plans to get her to run intervals. Slyly, I tell her that she is one of one tenth of one percent of the world's population who can use the word "fartlek" in their native language. And it works. Sometimes. The other day, I ordered her to run fartleks: "go do three street lights hard, two easy. Keep doing it until you get sore". She came back, having misunderstood my instructions. She thought I meant stoplights and went over 4 miles fast before stopping! The idiot. The next time I sent her out in subzero temperatures, braless, just so she could learn to obey her coach.

Once in a while, I make the mistake of using myself as an example: "look at me, I have no time to train. I run only 20 miles a week; I run only 3 days a week and yet I am able to call myself the fastest guy in town." Then she wails something about me being lucky there are no fast guys in town, and that she has a gazelle for her teammate (Mette) that she will never be able to beat.

I tell her to trust me: "keep doing what I am telling you and you will get fast". Again, she doesn't trust me. I tell her she is only using me for sex and I am done being her coach.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

DGI Cross Round 2 - report

This race was humbling.

I have felt great in practice, running increasingly faster intervals and losing weight fairly easily. I'll admit I thought I would be able to challenge for the win in the long course (8.5K).

When we showed up to the race, we were prompty informed by teammates Mette, Rasmus and Peter that last month's route was nothing compared to this one. We jogged most of the 3K loop and found two lung-busting climbs tracked arbitrarily into the hills. There were corresponding downhills, one of which ended in a sharp right-hand turn and a field of deep mud.

The course proved too technical for me, unfortunately. The guys around me, most of whom were young and fearless, bombed down these hills, gapping me by 30 yards each time. There were a few strethes that resembled runnable trails and on those I was able to benefit from the speed I have built up over the last two months.

In the long course race, I finished third, with top two out of sight. The eventual fourth and fifth place finishers started out yo-yo'ing around me. The younger of the two, Lasse, got the aforementioned 30 yards on me on three downhills per loop. What was worse was that the uphills were very slippery and I was the only top runner without spikes. So even though a non-technical guy like me ought to do well on the uphills, I ended up dreading especially one very muddy hill.

On the short course, a lot of juniors shot out in front. A lot of them hadn't run the long course, so they had fresh legs. I was in tenth spot after the first half mile, despite sprinting to get to the front. The trail was so muddy that everyone wanted to be in front, but I had to give in to these young speedster. Thankfully, they all lost steam and I was able to fight my way up to third, with Lasse, the monster dowhhiller behind me. On a steep downhill, he passed me and got a good gap. With a half mile to go, I caught back up, considering the horrible possibility of a sprint up the last 50 meter hill. He had spikes and I didn't, I kept telling myself, and I was willing to just let him stay ahead. Then, of course, on the hill with all the spectators screaming at us, we started sprinting. I was able to pull even but he responded with a wild dash over the last 10 yards.

All in all, a fun race but I didn't perform quite like I was hoping for.

With all the hills, especially downhills, I feared for how the Girl would fare. She must have learned a thing or two from Transalpine, where the downhills killed us, because she did really well yesterday. It's hard to compare races, because there are very few fast women running cross country. She took second last month and she took second yesterday. Compared to Mette, our teammate and fastest woman in Southern Zealand, the gap was much less than in their last two races. I think she was fairly satisfied with everything.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

8.2K trail race - report

We did this same little race last year, because it's close to where I grew up and - sadly - because there was a tiny bit of money awarded to the winners. And I mean a tiny bit. I think the sign-up fee was $10 and the first prize was either $20 or $30.

The route is really cool, however, with lots of steep hills so we decided to run it at 90% as a tempo run. I had told myself repeatedly that no matter what happened, I would stay with other runners. I have told myself this same thing multiple times before but it never works. 200 meters into the race, I took the lead gingerly, trying not to gap the 2nd place guy. He passed me on a muddy, technical downhill and I caught him shortly afterwards.

For some reason, I accelerated a little and gapped him and because we were in a headwind, I convinced myself that I shouldn't let him get back "on my wheel" so I accelerated some more. The problem was that this guy was going almost my pace, so he stayed maybe 50 yards back for much of the race. I ran scared and completely blew the 90% effort plan. While it wasn't exactly all out, I went way above 90%. Hopefully, this won't ruin tomorrow's planned long run.

I am on a roll, though. My intervals are faster than this time last year. I am significantly lighter (weighing in at 65.2kg Friday morning) and - knock wood - completely uninjured. Or at least as uninjured as one can be when doing 2 fast interval sessions, a tempo and a long run a week.

My time was 30:06, 11 seconds faster than last year, which was also a near-100% effort.

Next weekend brings the second race in the cross country series. Should be fun.

The Girl won the women's race without much competition. Her time was a few seconds slower than last year, but she has been training really hard and didn't taper at all. She is on her third intense week; she has done an interval and a tempo every week - in addition to her multiple "anorexic long runs" and 3-4 miles of swimming a week.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The beauty of building up form - a 2010 season preview

Last night, I did my first set of intervals of the season. I run them on the same course as last year, so it's very easy to compare times. I'm about a minute faster over 6 x 1 mile than this time last year, but almost two minutes slower than I was in May, at my peak.

Until February, I do two speed sessions a week. Two interval days, if my legs hold up; one interval and one fartlek day, if the legs are tired or near-injured. On the weekend, I do one or two long runs, a la Steve Quick's Training/Racing Plan (The SQUITRAP; can't find the Amazon link). I will race every third weekend. The races mess up the schedule but serve as great motivation.

I love the predictable progression towards faster intervals. I usually shave off time in small increments thoughout the winter. Occasionally, a day can be slower than the previous session, but overall the trend is usually clear.

In March, maybe late March, I will start cutting down one of the interval days to 8 x 800 on the track. I will keep doing the 6x1 mile, mostly to keep checking the progress.

Then the racing begins for real. This year, I will keep doing the intervals through the spring, evetually doing 400s. I haven't done speed like that in years, and it will be interesting to see if the legs hold up. This year, I did my 16:15 5000 after which I bailed out and started doing triathlons and ultras.

Not in 2010, and I will tell you why. I am turning 35 next year and, as such, am suddenly a national age-group player. I will have to look into it, but I think I would be able to win or medal at several distances. Of course, some very fast runners are over 35 but they still run in the open races. I have never won an individual medal at the national level and ,who knows, maybe it's too late in a few years.

It's exciting to think about. I still have mixed feelings about being in Denmark. I miss my son and the way medicine is practiced in the US. But the running scene is just so much better here, for traditional long distance races, anyway. The masters track and cross country races this year have been so much fun. When it comes to trail ultras in Denmark, though, there is really not much going on. And, come to think of it, maybe I would prefer beautiful trail ultras to track meets.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

DGI Cross Round 1 Report

What a fun race! It's been a long time since I ran a course like this one. Or, at least, a long time since I ran such a course fast. At the gun, a young guy went out in front and I settled into a group of four. The other three seemed pretty young and I assumed that they would burn out. The first mile or so was on a regular trail, so it I tried to concentrate on running as easily as possible. Then we turned onto some pretty technical terrain. On a steep downhill, our little group broke up. One of the guys really knew how to run the downhills and must have gapped me by 20-30 yards.

It seemed like the race was suddenly on. For a short while, three of us got back together before we hit the first of two big hills. On the first one, I felt like I was a little stronger than the others, but didn't push the pace, mostly because of the downhill on the other side. The last hill on the loop was long and steep and I figured this was my chance to take off. The two guys, who were teammates, stayed just 50 yards behind me for a long time, which was unnerving but, finally, they fell back. The last two miles, I was all on my own, with only the front guy ahead. It turned out that he was starting to fade a little, too. I wasn't close enough to catch him, although he looked back nervously several times.

The course was what made this race cool. A few sections were completely off-trail with just some white banners showing the way through the woods. There was even a pile of fallen logs we had to jump/climb over. On the first lap (of two), the trails were okay but on the second lap, the mud was getting deep. It was the kind that could easily have sucked off a shoe. Speaking of shoes, most of the front guys wore spikes, but I opted for my Salomon shoes I bought in the Alps this summer. They were probably a little heavy but had decent traction.

My second place gave me 6 points toward the overall series. There are three more races in the series, followed by the season finale, which is actually held on trails not too far from where we live. All the races are within an hours drive. It's definitely something to look forward to this winter.

The Girl's race was less than perfect. Her first loop, she was close to the eventual women's winner, our teammate Mette. But then her GI virus acted up and she had to produce some quick diarrhea. Twice. She still took second but wasn't happy with the race. There were very few women running, maybe because the women tended to run the short course. Her last three races have been disappointing and her training isn't going well. I think it's the stress of that PhD project, and I think she would agree.

The race was followed by showers and a dinner at a decent Indian restaurant in Copenhagen. The dinner was followed by more diarrhea, but that's another story.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Cross Country Race Preview

Another week is over. Time seems to move quickly; the days are busy. The Girl is under a lot of stress, trying to set up her PhD project. It seems weird to blog about it, but if it takes off, it will be the largest ophthalmologic population study ever. It's very common here for junior doctors to undertake some similar major project during their specialization. In the US, docs typically specialize first and then start working on the projects that define their careers.

This project is a lot bigger than anything the Girl had ever wanted to get involved in. She needs to raise a little more than $1,000,000 to buy equipment and hire nurses. At this moment, on a Friday night, she is working on two applications, each one asking for a couple of hundred thousand from some, I believe, private foundations.

In other news, I rolled my ankle very badly last weekend. I have rolled both ankles countless times but this time may have been the worst. I was going fast down a hill on what seemed like flat ground. Suddenly, the left ankle rolled outward so far the lateral malleolus may have touched the ground (the bone on the outside of the ankle). I was actually able to run back to the car with some pain and I didn't think it was going to be that bad. However, that same night, the whole foot was swollen and, more ominously, there were signs of bleeding several places around the forefoot.

Over the week, it has gotten better but not perfect. It has certainly robbed me of some days of training. Also, tomorrow we are running the first race in a cross country series over the winter. I had been looking forward to this for a long time. several years ago, I ran several cross country races and always had fun. Back then, I ran in the top national division and, at best, finished in the middle of the pack. But tomorrow is a less competitive league where I assume I will place well. With the ankle, we shall see, of course.

Cross country in Europe is different than in the US, by the way. My one year of college cross country in the US was great for a number of reasons, but the courses were exceedingly boring. Most of the races were held on golf courses. Here, cross country is held in forests and the courses follow muddy, twisty steep trails, of they follow trails at all. The rule is that you fall down at least a couple of times. Most people run in spikes for better traction and I used to do the same. Should I do this, with a left foot that is still blue from all the internal bleeding from 5 days ago? Probably not. On the other hand, it's been raining for a couple of days so there will likely be mud everywhere.

The format is a little weird. It's a 9K followed by a 3K. Most people run both but only take one of them seriously. I will take the 9K seriously and hobble around during the 3K, I imagine.

The Girl has been sick with the flu for a few days. Not the swine flu, but that generic word for flu that isn't really influenza.

Yeah, the H1N1 flu strain is now coming to Denmark. If it's going to sweep across the country, like some people predict, the vaccine has hit the shelves too late. Only a few percnt of my patients have gotten it so far. Ad far as planning for the flu, we are not changing any chemo plans for anyone. No one knows if the shot "takes" if you get it right after chemo, actually. It hit Norway over the last two weeks and killed 125 people, which has scared people here. It will be interesting to see what happens here.

Friday, November 6, 2009


A stomach bug is ruining my Friday. Shortly after midnight, the Lorax produced a small lake of puke onto his sheets and onto the floor. He had to stay home from day care, of course. Daughter came home from school, reporting abdominal pain. We had fajitas for dinner; her choice and her favorite, and yet she ate almost none of it.

Surprisingly, the Girl started throwing up first. She came back from swimming, just as dinner was getting done on the stove. The wind and rain still in her hair, it looked like we would settle in for a cozy family evening. Instead, she curled up in a fetal position and threw up some liquid stomach contents. A little later, up came enough oatmeal to fill the Tupperware container she always eats out of.

The Girl went to bed and Daughter and I were watching a movie. She went quiet for a while before she started vomiting, too. Over a mattress and onto the floor. Then she went to bed.

The Lorax has been feverish and crabby all day, so I was relieved when he finally fell asleep in my arms. At this point, I had cleaned floors, mattresses and clothes, set up buckets and held back hair for a few hours. I snuck out to the kitchen and filled a little cup with some new type of Reese's balls that look like M&Ms. My Ex sent them over to Daughter for Halloween and I figured this was a good time to steal them. Life was good.

Suddenly the Girl walks in, looking like she is sleep-walking. She proceeds to sit down on the couch, crushing the sleeping Lorax's leg and waking him up. He starts screaming and the Girl then decided to throw up another bulldog-sized quantity of oatmeal! How much oatmeal can a tiny woman like the Girl hold?

So I am sitting here, watching the BFD, as we call, him mess up our apartment. BFD? Yeah, Baby-Faced Destroyer. Named after Tirunesh Dibaba, but I am the only who knows that. Everyone in our extended family calls him that when he goes on a baby rampage and I have never told them it alludes to an Ethiopian with a strong kick.

Daughter just threw up for the 5th time and is now lying behind me watching a movie. I rate my own chances of getting the same syndrome at about 50/50.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Copenhagen 6 hour race report

The Girl and I joined 60 other crazy runners for a 6 hour run around Tueholm Sø near Copenhagen yesterday. This was the frist time they have held this race, and I must admit I figured it would be only mildly competitive. As it turned out, it was quite competetive and the male winner set a new Danish Racord for the 6 hour run 82.5K (just shy of 52 miles).

My strategy was to run with the Girl for 60 to 90 minutes and then speed up. What would happen after that was uncertain, but I had a vague idea that I would run with her for a while every time I lapped her.

The Girl started out fast and settled in the top third of the field as first woman. Another woman was trying to keep up but fell back. The guys quickly spread out over the whole loop, but several women stayed close to each other. This certainly made the Girl go a little faster than usual. I probably didn't do a good job of holding her back. I was getting a little restless, seeing the top men drift away, and probably even encouraged her to go a little faster than she should have.

After 6 loops I took off. I handed my wind breaker to a guy at the aid station and turned my music on. The next hour and a half was great. The top two guys had already lapped us at this point and my goal was to run de-lap them as quickly as possible and maybe stick with the top guy (one lap behind him, of course). But the legs were so damn good I had a hard time holding back and blew right through the pack. I didn't know who was where in the race, except the top two, who had just lapped us, so it was a little confusing. I assume most of the top runners thought I was lapping them, when in fact I was just passing them.

When I got up to the top guy, I considered running with him, but I was going considerably faster than him at the time and ran past him. In retrospect, it was probably a little unsportsmanlike to pass a guy who was on his way to setting a national record and not tell him that he had already lapped me. I had taken off my warm-up pants and windbreaker and was in no way recognizable. On the other hand, it may have motivated him a little to have someone to chase.

As this point, I had lapped the Girl twice and had figured I would take it easy for a while with her and base my plan around how the top 2 guys were running. When I lapped her, she has a large gap on Maibritt and I actually thought she was starting to pull away for good. She wasn't in the mood to talk and told me to run on. This was probably a mistake, but I pressed on. I ran on, passing people going at various speeds, lapping some people and, probably, passing some people for the first time. After a while, I lapped the Girl again, and this time I was in need of slowing down. Again, she didn't want company.

So I devised a bonehead plan. I had a sense that I was about to catch the second-place guy and a sense that he was slowing down. This was not true; he was slowing down a little, compared to the top guy, but not compared to anyone else. I caught him, feeling pretty dead. This was at three hours. Only halfway!

We talked for a while. He was a nice guy; I immediately told him that I had dead legs and he told me that he felt the same way. Then again, he had just run a quadruple marathon the week before. What?!? Over a 100 miles, and he was doing this well? This sort of told me that he was not the kind of man to slow down dramatically over the next three hours. We ran together for maybe 20 minutes, chatting a little about the race. He basically told me I could draft as much as I pleased, which I did.

At 3.5 hours, I thought it wholly unrealistic to stick with the second-place guy. I really didn't know what to do. I stopped at the aid station and ate and drank as much as I could. Running on was not very appealing, not knowing who was coming from behind to catch me. If I had known how safe my third place was at the time - and I imagine I was over a lap ahead of the next guy - I may have pushed on.

Looking back, I think I had mentally dropped out of the race. I saw the Girl coming up towards me and walked backwards toward her. Remembering now how I felt when I walked against the current of the runners, ready to drop out, I am surprised at how good the rest of the run went.

My luck was that the Girl was also crashing. We ran together for a while; she was still in first place. At the aid station, she stopped and informed me that she was miserable and couldn't go on. We walked for a while and then jogged for a while and the 15-minute break this process offered me gave me a second wind. We ran together from then on. It felt like the Transalpine, with me encouraging her along. Only this time, it was "Come on, just 50 more minutes!" and not "come on, you can see the village down there!".

The last 10 minutes, she set me free and I ran the last bit surprisingly fast. Who knew I could have legs like that after almost 6 hours of running! I think I was going at sub-6 minute miles the last 2K.

At the end, my race was good enough for 66K and 7th place. What a strange race it was. If I had run the last, say, 90 minutes on my own, I could probably have gotten up to around 70K but not knowing where I was in the race made running alone very unappealing. Also, to be honest, running with the Girl was such a nice martyr-like copout.

The Girl ended in fourth. As is usually the case in ultras, the women all ran well in the end. The Girl even got passed by some of the lower-placed women, even though she ran almost the whole time. The truth is she started out way too fast. Her half-marathon was 1:45, ie. well below her marathon PR pace. Her marathon was around 3:43, close to her PR. She is not in peak shape, either, so the pace was way too optimistic.

All in all, the level was much higher than I had imagined. That the Girl could finish outside the top 3 in a race with just 13 women hadn't even crossed my mind. I had imagined a top 5, possibly top 3, for myself.

The Girl hated the race but I may want to race it next year. If I had been running with the leaders in the beginning, knowing who the top 5 was, I think I would have run the race very differently.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

How do I run a 6 hour race?

We have the Copenhagen 6H Race coming up on Saturday.

I have never raced a timed race, of course. The route is a mostly paved, flat 2.2K loop around a lake. How do I race? My two 50 milers took over 7 and 9 hours, respectively, but I started out jogging for the first two hours and walked for the last bit in both races. If I do it just right, I imagine I can do the first hour to 90 minutes at a relaxed pace and then run decently until the finish.

I'm considering simply running with the Girl for the first, say, 90 minutes. I don't know if she would be okay with that, as she plans to run an even pace and may not want to talk to me.

Another crazy thought is starting out fairly slowly, wait to get lapped by the leaders and then run with them. Denmark is a windy place and drafting a little may be a wise idea.

In short, I don't have a clue how to race this one. I don't know how competitve the race is or how far I am supposed to run. I am loosely thinking 65K to 70K. I believe my six hour split at North Country 50 was around 70K, but I was in better shape then. then again, this route is flat.

We shall see.

The Girl is running to win. I know she has aspirations of making the Danish national team, although I wonder if she would be eligible. There is woman there, Maibritt, who is one of the faster ladies on the Danish ultra team. The Girl will probably try to stay close to this woman, although it's a bit of a tall order. Maibritt has a 67K 6H PR, which may be a bit much for the Girl. Come to think of it, it may be a bit much for me...

Sunday, October 11, 2009

My first-born son

I'm sitting in a hotel room with my son. Not the Lorax, but my son from my first marriage. I have spent 48 a couplf of days with him and won't see him again for at least a couple of months.

I never imagined it would come to this when I saw him as a little baby 6 years ago. On his first night, I looked over into the little incubator and thought he looked like he was dead. So I got up and looked closer; suddenly, he startled with a huge moro reflex. I remember feeling so happy that he was alive.

Six years later, I know him peripherally. I webcam him frequently but I don't know his day-to-day worries and joys. When I see him, I spoil him, hoping that he will like me and think of me when I am gone. I don't know what he thinks of me; I doubt he misses me.

I don't know what will happen over time. I hope he can spend a year with us one day (in whatever country we live in then). Right now, I hope we can find a way for him to come visit us in Denmark. He hasn't been there since he was 3, so he has no memory of Denmark. He vaguely knows that he has ties to some foreign place, mostly because his sister lives there now, but I don't have a good feeling for how sees the situation. He speaks only a few words of Danish, even though he was fluent when he was a toddler. My parents have made a point of coming to see him a few times a year and he absolutely loves them. He hears them speak Danish; I wonder what he thinks of it all.

I miss him every day. And, perhaps more so, I feel infinitely guilty for leaving him. I tell myself I had no choice. Or rather, there was a choice, but I had to choose to leave. One daym when he is old enough, I will have to explain everything. It's not ideal, that's for sure.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Full circles

Patients die almost every day in our inpatient unit. Some of them have been my patients but, up until these last few weeks, they have been patients handed down from the previous fellow or one of the attendings. Suddenly, two of my "full circles" just died; patients I had known from their diagnoses till their deaths.

One lady had breast cancer and didn't want conventional chemotherapy. I don't know what to say about her choice. Hopefully, it wouldn't have made a difference. When I first saw her, she didn't look sick, except a big belly from cancerous fluid. She had 4 very good months and two not so good. She wanted to go to hospice but died before we could get that far. When she died, it struck me how much more striking the death of a "full circle" patient is.

The other one was an old man who I only saw a few times. He had a lymphoma that killed him surprisingly fast. I was telling him one week that he looked strong and that he would probably do okay with the chemo and would, perhaps, be cured. He didn't and wasn't. He changed so much from the time of diagnosis until before his death that it was hard to imagine it was the same person.

Speaking of full circles, we have been here almost a year. The long days are long gone. A few months ago, our long runs in the woods would finish in daylight at 11. Now, it's getting dark at 7. In a few months, it will get dark at 3.

My running season is almost over and it's time to build a base for next year. I came out of Transalpine in great shape but there is no time to start building up to a big race or a PR attempt. I actually look forward to getting into a training rhythm, hopefully as good as last winter.

I had a good season. My 16:15 5000m in the rain and wind was probably the high point. I know I could have PRd if I had had competition and no wind. I won a lot of races but got no PRs, despite hitting some very good form in the spring. The summer and fall were dedicated to "for fun" races, most notably Voyageur and Transalpine. I wasn't really injured all year. If next year is as good, I'll be more than happy.

We are planning the race schedule for next year.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Transalpine Race Report

It's over. And would I ever do it again? To every single regular reader (all 10 of you) and every person who stumbles upon this blog through googling "Transalpine", let me say that I would - and will - definitely do it again.

I almost only run races where I have some chance of winning, or placing or getting a PR. But this one, this most beautiful race in the world, I would - and will - do again. Maybe just to sit at the pasta party listening to German techno with 500 cool runners, or listening to 10 different languages as you stand on the top of a mountain after climbing 6000 feet. What a wonderful race it is. What a wonderful, terrible race.

We came as, perhaps, the most naive runners of all. Dangerously used to winning almost every small race we enter, we thought of this as a competition. Training and racing in Denmark and the Midwest, where trails are soft, more interesting variants of roads, we had no idea what to expect. Day One was a great example of this; we were doing well, running just behind the mixed team that would take third for the day. And then, the real climbing began. We did tolerably on the uphills, only impeded by our lack of poles. Most - though, interestingly, not all - of the runners had poles, and the most experienced would move as though they had four legs. It was the downhills that killed us. We would watch a scary passage, as some might watch a rattle snake, while people simply jumped right through it. There were places that took us several minutes; others did it in 20 seconds. This isn't quite like running on the track:

After day One, we walked like we had just run a race, whereas others looked like they were still just warming up.

One day Two, it became fun. We had reached our zenith of the day, near the sponsored teams, when we had to cross our third "fixed rope" section, which caused a full-blown panic attack in the Girl. Thankfully, Kimberley Gimenez was there to talk some sense into the Girl and get her onto a safe ledge. And then, as the teams all passed us, we decided to just have fun with the race and try to enjoy the experience. The very best day, in my mind, was day Three, when we were very close to being dead last, coming down from a long, technical descent. It was warm and we were getting tired and dehydrated. We made it up to the top of the next mountain, both thinking we would get pulled out of the race. Instead "Wolfie", the RD, smiled and said "no, you are still in!". I pulled the girl with my poles as often as the trail would allow it and together we made it in, in almost 9 hours.

The Girl got injured and we missed stages 4 and 6. Stage 5 was a mountain sprint, which we did as a train, ie. me towing the hell out of the Girl. It was a time trial, with the slow teams starting first. As we were third from last, and we were decidedly pushing it all the way up, we were able to set a strong early time. It lasted almost for the rest of the race, until the leaders all came in and killed our time. I don't think the words "Team Lorax is still in the lead followed by..." has ever been uttered so many times (if it ever has).

There was a guy there, who had taken third at the European Mountain Running Championships. I don't know if he was actually part of a team (if he was, he must have had a slow partner). He may have just shown up for the stage. But anyway, that guy crawled up those hills like a bug with his poles; he was impressively fast.

I would love to get good at using poles. We bought some after day One, which made it a lot more fun. If you are reading this, and you are unsure whether you should buy poles before the Transalpine, do get some, and practice with them before you go. THe last two stages weren't technical enough for poles, probably, but just having them along made it more fun. Some store them outside their packs until the technical sections, some run with them in their hands from the start. Some put rubber tips on for the road sections, some don't. It's a science I know nothing about. I didn't even know how long they were supposed to be so I just went with somewhere between downhill and cross country poles.

We are back home. I feel great, having gotten in a week of awesome training runs. The Girl has an ankle that is about twice as thick as it should be, from a combination of stupidity and guts. Speaking of, if I were medical director of this race, I would have pulled several runners out. Like the Austrian guy who sounded like he was going to pass out every time he stepped down on his severely injured knee. The medical tent put a heavy-duty knee brace on him and let him run on.

The Competition

There are some strong runners there. The very top runners are full-time pros, the most notable being Angela Mudge, who is probably the best mountain runner in the world. Even the middle of the pack are serious, competitive runners, who probably win everything they enter in their local races. People are much more competitive than in US races. Not everyone will step off the trail to let you pass, and this did cause some scenes out there. At one long bottle-neck section, where everyone had to go single file, a German woman squeezed past me, in between me and the Girl, interrupting our conversation. Everyone was walking, obviously just waiting out the congestion, but this woman just wanted to get ahead. She pushed on, annoying people several pairs ahead of us. A pair of Finnish ladies were particularly annoying, always seeming to take short cuts and cut in front of people. So, yeah, it's a very competitive spirit, even in the middle third of the field. In the back, of course, everyone is very laidback.

I did not like this competitive feel. If I had been in a guy-guy team, really pushing it, I would have been freaked out by some people's attitude. Of course, I can't speak for the really fast teams, as I never saw them race. The camaraderie may have been better up there.

Speaking of camaraderie, we mostly hung out with the American and Danes. It felt good having two groups of "our people". The Danes included a guy named Lars, who obviously knew what he was doing. I asked whether he was the Lars I had heard so much about, alluding to a Lars, who took second at the Spartathlon in 2008 and was in second place for most of 24 Hour Worlds. He said that, yes, it was probably him that I had heard of. I was a little star struck, but it turned out that it was actually a different Lars. This one has raced some crazy adventure races but is not as accomplshed as the other Lars. Three teams of younger Danes came as a big, fun partying group. They were fun to meet, even though they made me feel old. One of the teams had a Norwegian girl, who got admitted to the hospital for presumed cellulitis, and we went to visit her in the Swiss hospital.

The American group had some cool people, all of whom were there to enjoy the trek. Especially the aforementioned Gimenez is a fountain of ultra knowledge and helpfullness. A pretty loud un-PC fountain, but that's cool.

It will take a while to get back to normal life after a trip like that.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

A Super Taper

The last few weeks have been hectic. Daughter has started school with mixed success; She is learning Danish at a decent pace and has made friends in school. The way she was born here but grew up in America makes her a little exotic, which helps. I have instructed the girls to tell her to speak Danish, whenever she uses English words. When I pick her up in the afternoon, two or three girls come up to tell me how much English she has spoken.

On the flip side, she fell off a slide and broke her front tooth. Stupidly, I forgot to pack her gym clothes last week; I had forgotten how even second graders take showers here. That was just one of maybe ten little things that showed her that we are not super-parents.

This weekend, we had two races. Saturday, we had a 4x5K relay. We have been running much less than normally this last month. I didn't know what to expect, but fared quite well. I got low 16s and the Girl got high 18s. The race was a little short, though. I got to run the first leg and probably took it a little too easy. I was way in front and cruising when I saw the 4K sign and realized it was almost over.

Our team got beaten by ten seconds! The winning team opened with one of their slower runners but slowly caught back up. The Girl, running the third leg, got passed 200 yards before the finish by their third guy. It turned out he handed off to a woman, which meant that not only had we lost our overall lead; we had lost the lead in the mixed division. There were nice money prizes, so this was a little depressing. Our fourth guy caught the woman, passed her, and she hung on. She ended up leaving him with a few K to go. Oh well, we had a good time. Maybe next year.

Then today, we ran a 14K trail race. It was probably the most beautiful course I have ever run on. I ran in a group of 4, holding back a little bit as I didn't know how the back-to-back races would treat me. The legs got really good with 5 miles to go and I decided to go it alone. I got 52 minutes, which I am happy with on that course.

The Girl got beaten pretty badly, however. There was one other woman there, who looked like she could remotely beat her and it turned out she was very fast. She ran it in 55 minutes, beating the Girl by 4 minutes. Still, the Girl's time was good, especially after the race yesterday, where she solidly PRd, even taking into account the short course.

We are looking good for Transalpine. Once in a while, the delusion that we can compete for the win enters my mind. The Girl is in great shape and, of course, she is the key factor. But I feel pretty good, too, and I will be the one pushing her, encouraging her, running ahead to fill up bottles etc. It definitely will be fun.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Goods and Bads of being back home

The Girl has been hinting that some of her excitement over being here is waning. We have almost daily discussions about going moving back to the US. I would certainly have burned every bridge back to a career in Denmark if I drop out of this fellowship; the Girl would have to apply all over again for residency in the US, probably unsure of which specialty to choose. So moving back is not ideal, either.

We have talked about working in Greenland or Norway, followed by a stint of international medicine. As of now, the Girl is starting in ophthalmology, something she used to be excited about. Now, she seems to talk more about OBGYN, a far cry from looking at old people with cataracts, which she will be doing all day tomorrow.

All in all, work isn't very exciting for either of us right now.

We've been back a week now, which, after two weeks vacation in Wisconsin, is always a shocker.

GOOOD: Daughter is here. She now essentially understands all Danish but she refuses to speak it. Tomorrow is her first day of school, so I expect her Danish to take off from there. She had a great couple of days with my parents. Yesterday, we hiked in the woods and told stories. She pretended to be too cool for it but, at the end, she asked if we could do that every Saturday. Today, we are playing tennis and going biking.

BAD: A guy with his daughter passed Daughter and me. I said hi and he looked at me with surprise and suspicion. I forgot we are back in Denmark, where one does not greet strangers spontaneously.

GOOD: One of the receptionists told me that a lot of patients had been disappointed that I was gone and had been leery of seeing one of the attendings instead of me.

BAD: I got paid for my ER moonlighting here. One can't help compare my moonlighting here to moonlighting in the US. Here, it's a very busy ER, where I work almost non-stop. There, it's a slow ER, where I have ample time to chat with nurses, watch movies and eat Hot Pockets. The pay, after taxes, is almost twice as high in the US.

GOOD: My legs are back on. I ran last night, through the dusky woods, and felt very fast. There are still pains here and there but, overall, I feel fine. The motivation is there to train for something, say a fast half marathon in October.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Getting my ass kicked at Voyageur 50 Miles

As the Girl and I started running out of Carlton, the morning seemed surreal, to say the least. We had woken up 26 minutes earlier, arrived 20 minutes late to the start and were discussing things, like "hey, did you grab my wallet?". Running a race with the Girl turned out to be fun; the firs few miles of the course were gorgeous and we were able to look at the absurdity of our morning.

The Girl seemed to start out too fast. I probably started out where I wanted, taking several walking breaks on the hills but she was a little panicky, trying to catch up to people. She was a little more aggresive in passing the trains but, overall, we kept up the same pace. People quickly figured out that we had started late and thought that was pretty funny. One woman told the Girl that she would surely have won, had she started with everyone else. That woman probably changed her mind, though, when she saw Helen Lavin coming back on her way to a new course record. In fact, now that I am on that topic, I was amazed by how fast the front runners were all going.

I yo-yo'ed around the wife, always walking and eating more that her, but finally bid her adieu at the power lines. The Power Lines. They seemed so easy on the way out, maybe because I was still having to go the pace of whoever was ahead of me. After the power lines, I turned on the iPod and started running fast. Boy, did that feel good.

Suddenly, appearing like Jesus, or Bob from Twin Peaks, was none other than Steve Quick. I was passing him, saw him, and almost fell into a creek while saying hi to him. One may expect Steve Quick to be cynical, wry and prone to call me something like a Scandihoovian (he is Minnesotan, afterall). He is well-known for being an angry man on the trail, especially when he is tired, it's hot and the power lines are muddy.

But no. I would describe him more like a gentle Michael Jackson, only with a better tan and worse moves. I assumed he wanted peace, but was hoping to talk to him after the race (which, unfortunately, didn't happen) and ran on. The girl did talk to him longer than me and found him to be as funny and smart as he is in electronic life.

At the turn-around, I had the usual naive feeling of greatness. On the way back, I kept passing people steadily, until the power lines. At first, it seemed like a good time to take a break, hiking up the hills, but those things are steep. My legs started to cramp and the sun was making me woozy. On one of the last hills, I was 10 feet from the top and cramped simultaneously in both legs. I stood there, almost able to look over the crest, for a good 30 seconds before moving on.

From there, life began to suck. I got a little speed back in me and passed a few more people (nearly all of whom would eventually pass me back). I ran with Chris Hanson for a while; he seemed like a nice guy and would eventually pull away from me by almost a half hour over the last 8 miles. The last 5 miles were complete torture. I walked most of it, but even fast walking induced violent cramps. I got passed left and right, of course. It sucked; I vowed never to run a 50 miler ever again.

After the finish, I cramped up some more and then some more.

The Girl was only 13 minutes behind. She probably started out a little too fast and had a hard time over the last few miles. If you subtract her 20 minute late start, she was running in third place for most of the race and, probably, in second place for some of it. But over those last miles, she faded to fifth (her eventual place, with or without the 20 minutes). She was too panicky in the beginning, but who can blame her?

Personally, I didn't train enough miles this year. I was faster this spring than I have been in years, and close to the fastest I have ever been. But fast won't cut it at ultras, unfortunately. Up next is the TransAlpine race and then we'll see whether I'll start training for something long or something short. Picking a middle-of-the-road distance, like a trail marathon or 50K may be a good idea.

The Girl, on the other hand, is looking up how to get into the Western States lottery as I am writing this. If she got in, I sure would love to crew for her.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Thinking about Voyageur 50 miles

We had our last long run this Saturday. A little more then 4 hours, which I think meant just above a marathon for me. The legs felt good; I had a good snack in the middle of it and ran really well in that third hour. Towards the end, I was getting stiff and tired.

All in all, I think I have four good hours in me at Voyageur. I hear the course is rough, so 4 hours may translate into something like 25 miles. The rest of the course will be mere survival.

I plan to go out exceptionally slowly, enjoy the scenery and talk to other runners. I am sure I will see a bunch of people, whose blogs I have followed over the last few years. I may even meet my former brother-in-law, who took up ultras about the time I left the family. I think he is racing, but I am not sure.

I'll go slow for two hours. I don't know how far two slow hours will carry me; maybe 12 miles? That would be a 10-minute mile, which sounds slow, but of course I will walk every hill. So let's say 12 miles.

Then I will turn on the iPod and start cruising. I hope to run those middle four hours fast, passing as much of the field as I can. Of course, it's an out-and-back course, which will give me a sense of who is up ahead. In my only other 50 miler, I went from 50th to 3rd based on this strategy.

The problem is the last bit. The other 50 miler was plenty hilly, but not very technical. In that race, I only had an hour's worth of slowing down on painfully dead quads before it was over. This time, whatever comes after the "4 good hours" may be two or three hours, or even more. The thought scares me. In the other 50 miler, the field was so spread out that I didn't get passed by anyone in the last hour, despite walking most of it. I don't think I can walk/waddle at the end of Voyageur and not get passed by several people.

I have gained a little weight over the last few weeks but I am still light. I have trained too much speed and too little distance over the spring and summer. But, overall, I feel ready to do this.

The Girl is a similar story. Speed-wise she is faster than ever but, compared to me, she has loads of natural endurance. She has, probably, 10 "good hours" in her; the truth is, she has never maxed out her amount of good hours. At the end of her 50 miler, she felt like she could have kept going (so she said, maybe to make me feel bad). I know she is thinking about going out somewhat hard, which would be interesting to see. If that happens, she may actually start faster than me, or we could even run together for a while. She needs to remind herself to eat enough, and I will be sure to tell her a million times to eat, eat, eat.

Thinking about this race is a nice distraction; what is really on my mind is Daughter moving here. I feel the weight and responsibility of parenthood settling on me. My ex-wife told me that Daughter is starting to "freak out". I didn't know that was the case; every time I talk to her, she seems excited to move. It's only natural that she is nervous about this. She speaks Danish only haltingly and, really, she has no idea what to expect here.

What I do know is that she loves me. She is very grown up for her 8 years. Almost to the point of being able to bluff people with her tough attitude. We were talking on the phone and she told me, in so many words, that it wasn't a big deal that I was coming. But then she caved and showed her true colors: "Dad, you're still coming on the 15th, right? I just wanted to say that when you pick me up at day care, you should park at the back parking lot. You know, over by the playground, because that's where the school agers are playing. So I'll see you faster that way..." It almost made me cry.

Everything in my life, I think of in light of how she will look at it. I look at our apartment with her eyes, at our town, at the stores and the library. I look at the different spices in the kitchen and imagine what she will say when we are cooking together.

It sounds so simple; that I have endured six months away from the kids and now I get Daughter. I should be thrilled, but I am mostly scared. I will have to step up and be the main parent. The Girl is a great step-mom, but she is Daughter's friend first of all. I just hope I can do it, because, as it is, I feel stressed out about everything. Every day, there is some patient to worry about or some scan I forgot to call someone about. And there are small laughable things, like buying a present for someone or paying the rent on time. Normal life stuff that still has a way of burdening me more that it should. All the things that are now my main worries in life will have to become minor, secondary considerations when Daughter moves here.

I remember when she was born, though. I felt like there was no way I could continue with medical school and running competitively and be a good dad. But it worked out. My grades became stellar and I became faster than ever. It was like I found an extra gear in life. I'm hoping she will have the same effect on me this time. Maybe starting with Voyageur?

Sunday, July 5, 2009

Triathlon race report

This was my (our) third triathlon. I am beginning to learn about the different distances, especially how well suited to runners each distance is. Our first triathlon was at a sprint distance, which means comparatively little swimming comåared to running. And not only that, the bike route in that triathlon was very hilly, which tends to suit most runners. After two minutes in the swim, I thought I was about to drown and I was in second-to-last place. I breast-stroked the whole way. But then on the bike, I began catching people and on the run I really began cathcing people. I took 6th overall and the Girl did pretty well, too, as I recall.

Today's distance was the Olympic distance. The swimming is 1500m, almost 4 times that of a sprint tri. The running is only a 10K, compared to a 5K in the sprint tri. To compare, the swimming in a half ironman is only marginally longer but the running is a half marathon. So obviously the Olympic distance is rough on runners.

There were 70 people signed up, mostly from serious triathlon clubs. It was a little intimidating to see all the expensive time trial bikes with aero bars and plate wheels. The swimming is in the harbor of Næstved, where the river sort of widens before it flows into the ocean a few miles downstream. We got our wetsuits on and warmed up a little; the water was very nice and warm. It didn't taste salty so far upstream so no extra bouyancy to be had there.

The start went and people took off like orca whales. The Girl and I were near the very back of the field. After 30 seconds, I got a small panic attack. The suit felt too tight and I didn't feel like I could move my arms or breathe properly. I treaded water for a few seconds and got my act together. The first half of the swim went very well. I worked my way up the field slowly, passing a few people. Rounding the halfway buoy felt good. The next guy up was wearing a white swim cap and I figured I would pass him on the right, as I breathe to the left. I don't know what happened next but I must have lost my focus for a few minutes. The swimming felt good, my body was rhythmically rolling back and forth - until suddenly my hand slammed into concrete. I was 50 meters off course, looking up at a rusty steel and concrete dock. There was an aging Lithuanian vessel docked maybe 50 yards away. Boy, did I feel small. 50 meters away, the race was going on with its safety in numbers but where I was at felt like an insane place to be out for a swim.

Well, I started working my way back to white cap guy. Believe it or not, I was hit by the trance again; this time, I didn't hit the dock but "felt" it towering over me. After this, I started "spotting", which is something stronger swimmers do when they take stock of the race situation. For me, it meant a few seconds of doggy paddle every minute or so. I eventually caught wtite cap guy and used him as my guide.

Back on land, I was so incredibly dizzy. It took me over a minute to get my wet suit off and I almost fell down twice. On the bike, I started off by eating a Twix bar. Got onto the tri bar and into a nice rhythm. Most of the field today was elite or sub-elite, so they biked faster than me. There was no drafting allowed, of course. The winner, Rasmus Petraeus, who is on the national team, blew by be at a pace I couldn't hold for more than ten seconds. This was when he lapped me, of course. I wouls say I got passed (lapped) by 20 people and passed 5. At my first triathlon, the numbers were probably 2 and 40, which says more about the field today than my biking.

And then, the run. Ah, the run. Even the triathlete studs, who had ridden $5000 bikes, were getting passed on the run by me. Of course, the speedsters that I passed were a full 5K ahead of me, but it was still fun to pass (or de-lap) them. I don't know yet where I finished in the pack but it was probably somewhere in the middle.

The Girl did really well on the bike. the course was multiple out-and-backs so I saw her almost ten times. She did very well on the run, too, almost catching the woman who had been slightly ahead of her all day. Her form was good, coming in:

Up next must be a half ironman. We are never going to be good enough swimmers to do well at an Olympic distance tri. I kept imagining, during the run, how many people I would have caught, had I had another 11 kilometers to work with. Of course, the bike is longer, too, but I feel like I could get much better on the bike if I worked on it.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Half marathon race report

We woke up to find out there was a strong wind coming from the west. The dreaded "Return of the Westerlies". We looked at the route to figure out which part would go into the wind. The route is shaped like a big circle, with two twisty diverticula going into the circle; like Mickey Mouse's outline, except the ears point inward. The wind would be in our faces going up to the top of Mickey's head and in our backs in the way back.

My advice for the Girl was solid: find a group of guys and draft like your life depends on it. The last 5 miles, if you have any energy left, should be super fast.

The start went and a little group formed in the front. First, we were five, then four, then two. The other guy was leading into the wind, and I pulled up and told him we should try to work together. We did for a few kilometers, but every time I was drafting, it felt too slow, and every time I would lead, he hd a hard time holding on. Then he dropped off, and it was me and the lead-out bike.

The first K was 3:26 in the headwind. That's a 5:29 mile, so faster than PR pace. It felt very easy. The next few Ks were just around 3:30, right on pace for a PR. 5K in 17:36, just 6 seconds off PR pace. At this point, I was convinced I was heading for a big PR. The legs felt great, and the backwind was still ahead.

Then, the legs started getting a little heavy. The next kilometers included Mickey's ear. One K was pure backwind and yet the split was over 3:30. I tried to accelerate to get the legs to turn over faster, but they didn't oblige. I went through 10K in 35:35, ie. 35 seconds off PR pace. I still felt a PR was possible, if I had the legs on tat last windy stretch. Then came Mickey's second ear with lots of turns, including some near-180 degree turns. My legs were getting stiff; it wasn't fun anymore and I was slowing down noticably.

I came through 15K in 54:20 (or thereabout), ie. almost two full minutes above PR pace. I was so tired I thought about walking up a couple of the small hills (of which there were very few). At this point, I had the strong wind in my back and was beginning to pass the back of the 10Kers. What I had told the Girl was terribly true; a strong backwind is only worth-while if you have the legs for it. I couldn't make mine turn over nearly fast enough. It felt like running downhill with stiff legs. I came in in 1:16:xx (xx meaning something high but I am not sure how high).

Look at me here; it's hard to tell that I have lost weight lately. The legs look chunky. My form is crap; the shoulders are slouching. The photo was taken with 4 miles left. I did win, though, which was a big plus. I even won a 200 dollar gift certificate to an upscale running shoe store.

Then came what I enjoy the most at these races. I jogged to the car and got into some warmer clothes; got the Girl's stuff ready and found the camera. Drank water and ate some energy bars from the tables.while waiting for her. The first woman came in 1:28 and the next 10 seconds later. The Girl got third and a PR with a 1:33:40. Not quite what she was hoping for, but everyone agreed that the wind had made the race very hard.

She had started out with the eventual winner, going through 5K in 20:30 (!!) and 10K in 42:20. So her race was a lot like mine; she started out too fast in the headwind. This is her with 4 miles to go, looking tired but stronger than her husband.

Here is a priceless facial expression:

All in all, it was a fun race and good ending to the "fast" part of our season. Now it's time for a triathlon, a 50 mile race and the Transalpine in the fall. Maybe we can squeeze in a few shorter runs here and there.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Half marathon tomorrow

I've been riding a wave of good shape over the last month, and the race tomorrow will be the last fast race of that wave. After the race, we have an olympic distance triathlon and then we are off to America for vacation and Voyageur 50 Miles. The triathlon will be fun. My swimming is going from drowning dog to being able to crawl for a mile very slowly, especially with my wet suit on. The 50 mile race I will run like I ran my only other 50 mile race: from the back. I plan to be in 50th spot after 10 miles and then see how far up the field I can get. Both races are unknown quantities, of course.

The half marathon tomorrow is flat and fast and there will be competition running around my pace. I have thought about a possible PR, if the stars align. My speed is a little above what it was two years ago, when I set my PR, but I haven't been doing as many long runs.

I plan on going out in 35 minutes for the first 10K, which will put on pace exactly for a PR. Then we will see what happens. It's also a money race, where I will probably end up somewhere 2nd to 4th (top 3 gets money).

The Girl will be sorely disappointed if she doesn't PR. She will go out in 4:15 per K pace, which leads to a 1:28 finish time. I am guessing she will get somewhere around 1:27. The Girl's running is interesting in that she sees herself as a slow-twitch ultra runner type. I essentially agree with her, and I think her greatest races will come in marathons and above. However, she has never had that breakthrough in a long race. Her 19:41 for a 5K is very impressive, more than her 41:45 10K and much more than her 1:34 half marathon PR (which, in turn, is better than her 3:39 marathon PR). She has 8:49 for 50 miles, which I can't really compare to other times.

And the thing is, she has been running long slow runs forever and only recently started doing speed work. That will definitely help her shorter races more. Who knows, maybe I have a track queen on my hands.

Conversely, my half marathon PR of 1:13:54 is my strongest PR and I consider myself quite fast-twitch. I don't have a marathon time in recent years (3:08, when I was 21, doesn't count). Who knows where I will end up running my fastest (age group) races?

Wow, I love being married to a runner.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Ran 800s with the Girl today. 8x800m with 2.5 minutes rest. My times were slower than last week, in the range of 1:22 to 1:28. The 5000m from Thursday was still in the legs.

The track that we run on is not at the club we recently joined. Rather, there is an old boarding school near our apartment that dates back to the 12th century. The grounds are beautiful; everything exudes old charm and style. In the back, there is a sports complex that looks like it's close to 100 years old. One can see the track, paritally, on the right side of this photograph.

Here is the Girl getting ready for her 3rd 800 today (there is no finish line, so I set up a cone instead):

The surface is black dirt and it's shaped like a square with soft corners. I had to use my Garmin to make sure it's 400 meters. That's where we run our intervals. We warm up until the Lorax falls asleep in the baby jogger and then park him up against an old thatched-roof shack. I love it.

Also on the grounds today, we saw a baby swan. A prospective student and his father were being shown around and a weel-dressed employee from the school told us that it was likely born in the last 24 hours. We took pictures of the swan (aka the cygnet or swanling) but they didn't turn out well. However, here is one of the Girl, the wanting-out Lorax and the aforementioned prospective student, his well-heeled father and the school official.

There are times it's not so bad to live here. It's no Wisconsin, but it's not all bad either.

Friday, June 12, 2009

"Relative" PR

I haven't felt this way in a few years. I mean, there are people out there who would find a 16-minute 5K miserably slow, and some who couldn't ever dream of running so fast. Time is relative to who you are and what sort of talent you have.

I have been in 16-minute 5K shape three or four times in my life, which is the best shape I have ever been in. I have had that feeling for a few weeks now; like the legs turn over faster. Like I breathe fast but never feel winded.

Last nights track meet was cold, windy and wet. I felt great warming up. The back stretch was a fierce headwind and I was hoping there would be someone to run with. Alas, lining up I thought it unlikely, and I did end up running the whole thing by myself. It wasn't bad, though. My new and, more importantly, old track clubs were there. The people I ran with 5 years ago were suddenly there, cheering me on, every time I came down the home stretch. The announcer even called out my splits every kilometer. (He also said "Runningdoctor has a huge lead but he is born in 1975... That means he is only 33, ehr, maybe 34, so he may not get as many points as some of the older runners out there." I didn't know whether to smile or wave or something; I have never have someone discuss my running over stadium speakers. I swear at some point he said I didn't look tired yet.

My kilometer splits were approximately:


Maybe the last one was faster and some of the others were slower. The time was, I think, just under 16:15. My PR is 15:57 but it was run in perfect conditions in a race where I was behind a guy the whole time, until I slyly outkicked him with 100 yards to go. I think my effort last night was stronger, and so I am calling it a "relative" PR.

The Girl was supposed to run the 1500 but it was so cold and wet that we couldn't stand waiting for all the shot putters and pole vaulters to do to their thing.

Next up is a half marathon next weekend. With these legs, I am thinking sub 1:15 with a slight possibility of a PR (1:13:54). This should give me a top three, which means I should have people to pace off. The Girl is thinking about winning, as it has been won in about 1:30 for two years straight. I will have to impress on her to draft for the first half and then use that Yasso speed to bring it home.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

This job is a little surreal. Where else do you get to say this to a complete stranger:

"Yeah, hi, my name is Runningdoctor; we met briefly up on the floor before your discharge...

Okay, I know you met so many of us, so it's no surprise you don't remember me. I was the last one to see you up there. Remember how we ordered that MRI of your head? The results are back and it looks bad. It looks like the cancer spread to your brain...

No, it's not good. It's probably why you have been feeling so confused and haven't been able to talk...

I have talked to the radiation oncologist and he'll call you in for a talk about radiation, probably Monday next week...

You can't really do much, other than wait. I wish I didn't have to tell you over the phone, but this couldn't wait. Have a good day."

I don't remember anything about this guy. I met him for five minutes last week and now he'll remember the day I called him for the rest of his short life. I imagine him standing there with the phone in his hand, facing a Wednesday afternoon of knowing he has brain mets.

I think a lot of about death these days. It seems so obvious, but we all really have to die at some point. We only get one shor life and that's it. I have gotten a pretty solid version of "the talk" down, ie. when I have to tell people they are dying. For some reason, I have become the guy up on the floor who gets to tell people they are dying.

There was a big guy with tattoos, who scared the nurses and everyone else. He was so mad at the world for having gotten lung cancer that people avoided him. He had a kind of cancer called small cell lung cancer, which is typically very bad. One day I told him I thought we should discharge him, and that there were some tests we could do as an outpatient. He made it clear that he didn't want to leave, until we knew "what was going on". He had mets everywhere and was dying but apparently didn't know it. So I thought, hell, let's see what happens if I tell how bad it looks.

So I told him, and the room came unglued. But in a good way. No one had told the guy that when you have cancer everywhere, you generally die very fast. He was scared out of his mind of what was next. More chemo? More radiation? More of being 52 and walking around in your underwear in the hospital? More pointless rectal temperatures?

I told him nothing was next. That he should go home and enjoy it while he could. He cried for a long time; I think he was relieved more than anything. Okay, I cried a little, too.

But about "the talk". People always never get the fact that they are dying. So I tell them something like this:

"It's terrible. There is nothing we can do (then I explain the details of their disease). It wasn't your fault that you got this; you just got unlucky. It's like being run over by a truck, only your running over involved chemotherapy, and it took longer. I think you have fought against this long enough. You are losing the fight."

It's a strange job.

I have thought about mortality a lot. What if I died right now? What would my regrets be? My spinal reflex answer is always "I can't believe I lived the last half year of my life without my kids". On the other hand, little gripes mean absolutely nothing.

My running is good, thanks. I have lost weight; saw 64.3kg on the scale the other morning, which is a modern-day record. Been doing some speed work in preparation for a race tomorrow. It's the regional masters championship; I'm running the 5000 (the Girl is running the 1500). I have to get under 16:30 or this would be a complete disaster. 16:20 would make me happy. 16:15 would make me thrilled. I feel fast; if someone goes out in 16 minute pace, I will stick to him like glue and see what happens. I can't wait.

Monday, June 1, 2009

New Apartment

We just moved into our new apartment. It's "physician housing", which sounds more impressive than it is. But it's cheap, the neighbors seem nice and it's 50 feet from miles of excellent trails. I have never lived in a place where the running is better. Many bad things can be said about living here, and I say them often, but the running sure is good.

I was running tonight through one forest and then on a bike trail connecting to another forest. A young girl, not much older than Daughter, was riding her bike. She swerved from side to side and tried to grab as many leaves off the trees beside the trail as she could. It was such a beautful night and she looked so happy. Daughter will like it here. Not all is bad about this place.

I usually get very nostalgic when I move. It reminds me of growing older; of another phase of life having passed. Not this time, though. Living here, away from the kids, has caused me so much anguish. I have looked at this time, since we moved, as a countdown until Daughter moves here.

Okay, I got a little nostalgic, when we were cleaning up the place today and talking about what it was like living there. Truth is, the new place is just a better home.

I promised I would post a picture of the Girl in the starting blocks before her quarter mile sprint. She ran an 89 second quarter mile, which is only slightly faster than the pace she usually runs her 5Ks. She looks poised here, though:

I tried to teach the Lorax about the transition zones in relay races:

I am getting in good shape. I am hoping for a low 16 in the 5000 next week, when we have the regional "masters running" championships. The Girl has a 10K this weekend, where I will babysit. I think she will be shooting for a low 41.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

5,000m race report (and a 1,500)

This was my first masters track meet. "Masters"? Yup, masters running or "veteran running" starts at 30 here. In fact, the Girl xould run because she is born in 1979 and will turn 30 this year.

I was going for a 16:40, which is exactly a 5:20 mile. At the gun, I tried to find my favorite spot in any track race (second place). That lasted about half a lap, after which I went to the front. The first half mile was run in 2:44, so 4 seconds slow. I pushed the pace and one guy hung on. Maybe we could work together, I thought. One of his teammates shouted at him "you're on perfect pace. Just stay there. Don't do any work." With that, I started to try to shake him off. There was a pretty stiff wind down the backstrecth. Three times in a row, I would accelerate off the curve onto the backstretch, so he had to close a little gap in the headwind. The third time, he fell off the back.

The whole race, my time was hovering around 16:40. With half a mile to go, I realized I needed a 2:35, which was doable. My time was 16:38. I am satisfied but not thrilled. The upward curve is still looking like faster times are ahead.

The 1500m was just fun. One guy, who supposedly medaled at the masters world championships took off like a rocket. The rest of us stuck in a pack. I was, seriously, in second place (in that pack) for the first three laps. Then I found my old kick and got 50 yards on the third place guy. A cheap, but fun, way to run a race.

Then I ran a 300m leg in a 1000m relay (100 + 200 + 300 + 400). It wasn't pretty.

Will post some pictures later, including one of the Girl in the starting blocks before her quarter mile debut. She won't want me to post a report from that race but I might anyway.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

10,000m race report

25 laps is a lot, which is probably why this distance isn't used all too often. I had never raced one before. Knowing I would likely run by myself, I had brought music and had a mental pace chart prepared.

I planned on doing the first 5K in 17:30 and then speeding up, with whatever speed I had left. It went pretty well; got through the first 5K in 17:25 and did the second 5K in 17:13, for a total time of 34:38.

It felt pretty good and I definitely could have gone a bit faster, especially had I had someone to run with.

The Girl lost count of the lap she was on and lost some focus. There was also only one other woman, and she turned out to be five minutes slower than the Girl. Her time was 42:11, which really isn't too bad. She as run three 10Ks around that time now and, in my opinion, is ready to get close to 41 minutes.

This weekend, we took a trip to Sweden. Ran the trails of Söderåsen National Park three days in a row. A great trip but, boy, was I exhausted on Monday. This last month, I have been losing weight and Thursday to Sunday were all hard days. I was almost to the point of being a little depressed Monday.

I have come to enjoy the "running vacation" almost as much as a "race vacation". When you go somewhere simply to train, it seems like there is less stress and more time to enjoy the trails. Of course, running a race has its own charm.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

First 10,000 ... Ever

So these last three weeks have been spent in intense training and dieting. I can't remember the last time I had three weeks like those. Sunday, I ran the best training session of the year in the nearby woods. I has such intense runner's high that I kept getting tears in my eyes for absolutely no reason. And I wisely concluded that the reason why Tom Petty is so unfairly excluded from the musical canon is that he had a cameo part in The Postman.

So it's not his hair or the fact that he didn't know when to retire. It's Kevin Costner rubbing off.

We've been talking a lot about moving back to the US. I don't like it here; I'm not sure why but I don't. It's a stupid subjective sense of not being anything special here. I am just like everyone else. I went to the same medical school, get paid the same, drive the same car and watch the same TV shows as everyone else. These is no way to fail or excel here. No one cares if I do my job right. It's almost impossible to get fired but it's equally impossible to advance in pay or status by working hard.

So last night the Girl suggested that we move back. I got excited. We wouldn't move back now, of course, but after our programs in hematology and ophthalmology are complete. It's out there as a prospect now.

I run my first 10,000 on Thursday. After failing so terribly at the first two races this year, I want a good time. I expect to be running all alone, with music, keeping track of pace. Modest goal is 35 mins. Anything under 34:30 would make me happy. We shall see.

The Girl is running, too. She is hoping to break 41 but I am quietl thinking that she could come close to 40. There is a group of guys, who will all be shooting for 40, so she'll have plenty of pacers.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Running Track Again

Last week, we went to check out the local track club. It's been five years since I ran actual "track". Those days, I trained with a group of guys at roughly my level. We pushed each other and all got faster. We ran track races, road and cross country races.

I have missed the "track club" feeling ever since. Our present home town has a track club with a nice club house and a really nice track. Walking in, I noticed kids doing intervals and testing out starting blocks. However, five minutes later we learned that the adult track team is almost extinct. There is a group of maybe 100 runners of varying abilities who train together, usually running on trails in the many forests and hills around town.

It turns out there are a few fast people. A 45 year old man, who won the national M45 title in the 800m in 2:15 and an 18-year old who runs a 1:56 800. I tried my best to keep up with the national champion on a few 300m intervals; just running around instantly reminded me of training on my old track. The national champion, of course, kicked my ass.

We officially joined the club now and have been on a few runs with them. The Girl went on a tempo with the fast guys. I guess they started out 20 people, people evetually got dropped one by one and at the end there were three men and the Girl left.

In two weeks, there is a 10,000m club championship. Should be fun to see if some fast people will emerge. If not, I guess I will end up as 10,000 champion of a club I joined last week.

In my old club, the club championship would be awarded to the one who posted the fastest time at the "regular" distances through the calendar year. I never won anything there, as that meant a 29 minute 10K, 14 minute 5K etc.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Another Bad Race

This was a 5K on the trails I run every week. I won this race a number of years ago and had thought I would at least get a top 3 this year.

The race started with a loop around the track (always a fun way to start a race) and then 1K of a strong headwind. For some reason, I let the front group go. I probably could have held on, and should have considered doing it in the wind. So 3 guys got ahead by working together, while I ran behind a guy who seemed like he was working way too hard.

Then we turned right and the wind was in our backs. I tried half-heartedly to bridge the gap up to the top three. With 2K left, one of the guys up ahead fell off the back of his group and it looked like he might come back. He didn't and I finished fourth.

In short, I felt fat, old and out of shape. Everything was clicking a couple of months ago. Then came our vacation and two races that got in the way of focused training. I have gained weight during all this. I gotta get back in shape; next target race is a half-marathon in June.

The Girl ran a great race, setting a strong PR. For someone who runs for fun, she is getting very fast.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


Had a very disappointing race this weekend. Leading up to it, I thought I was a little off PR pace, but not much. I had gained a couple of pounds in America but didn't think it mattered too much.

This was a half marathon. We started out running two loops around a track, which was cool. I found myself in a front group of three, with me in the back (as is my weasly nature). At 2K, one of the two guys fell off the back, leaving me with a man in his late 20s, who wore a "save Tibet" shirt and long compression-type socks. Needless to say, I thought I had this one in the bag. My parents had come to watch the Lorax during the race, and I figured they would think it was cool to see their son win a big(ish) race like this.

Then at 5K, I had half a cup of some Gatorade-like drink. It didn't sit well in my stomach. I had fallen behind the guy at the aid stating but caught back up almost immediately. I was planning my attack, when the legs started getting increasingly heavy. Then it was holding on for dear life for a couple of Ks and I finally let go at 7K.

At 12K, the stomach cleared up and I ran OK the rest of the way. As I was finishing, I thought I had run a low 1:15, which would be a little worse than expected. However, my real time was low 1:17 (don't know the exact time as the timing system required me to walk through the shute and then back to the finish line to scan my chip).

The Girl came in in PR time (again, not sure of the exact time), in around 1.34.30. She outsprinted another woman to take third place. We both got a small cash prize (so far we are making money off the races here in Denmark).

I don't know what happened. I have to get back to the drawing board. I have to lose some weight. More miles; keep up the intervals.


On a side note, I was out of town for a few days to a hematology meeting. The Girl came with me for the first couple of days. It was in Odense, the birth place of Hans Christian Andersen. The hotel room must have had some fairy tale dusy left over from his day, because I had the two most vivid dreams I have had in a while.

Dream # 1 had me back in medical school. I have always said I never want to be the Guinea pig in any study involving brain imaging, because I would be afraid of what they would find. Nevertheless, in this dream I was rolling through the CT scanner and when the scan got to my brain, my whole medical school class, which included the Girl (and a childhood friend named Anders, whom I haven't seen in years), screamed in horror. Or was it more like amusement? I tried to ask what they had seen, but suddenly someone was reading the CT real time from the neck down. Everything was normal and I forgot about the yelling.

The class ended. The other students evaded the topid of the CT scan and, finally, the radiologist called me into a room to tell me that I had had a huge stroke. I protested, saying I didn't have any symptoms to which he said "then it's probably a tumor". In the dream, I looked at the scan and decided it was inoperable and went about my life. Other dreams came and through all of them I had the horrible knowledge of the inoperable brain tumore growing inside my skull. It felt great to wake up.

Dream # 2 was almost worse. We were in a cabin in the country, again with my childhood friend Anders and some other people. The Girl's ex-husband was there and we were all getting along well. I woke up in the middle of the night to find the Girl gone. As fate would have it, she entered the room, stating that she had slept with her ex-husband the last three nights. I don't think I said anything, but she went on to volunteer that she had simply slept in his bed these three nights. In the dream, I remember wondering where the Lorax had slept , figuring that if she was going to cheat on me, at least she could bring the little midnight cartwheel with her. Then she told me that she had gone to second base with her ex-husband, and I remember wondering what exactly that meant.

Next scene, the Girl and I had made up (turns out I could live with second base). Her ex-husband left, carrying a brown leather bag stylishly over his shoulder.

I know the origins of everything in those dreams:

1. Lately, I have asked myself almost daily: "if you suddenly had cancer and had 6 months left, how would you feel?". I see these people every day and I wonder what it is like. That must explain the brain tumor.

2. My brother saw my old friend last weekend.

3. There was a hematologist, who looked suspiciously like the Girl's Ex.

4. We talked about Daughter growing up so fast and discussed kids making out (including the baseball terminology).

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Being stalked

About 6 months ago a lady in a minivan ran over the front wheel of our baby jogger. Our son, 8 months old at the time, was unharmed but it was a scary experience.

She came out from a parking lot, wanting to turn right. Did the usual long look to the left, while advancing onto the road. When she started looking right, she saw us and slammed on the brakes. I have seen this happen hundreds of times and have been the embarrassed driver on a few of those occasions.

Well, we made our eye contact and I even remember her giving us a sheepish smile. We started going. And so did she. Then things happened pretty quickly; The stroller was toppling over while I was holding on to it. The front of her van har missed it but the back wheel caught it as she was turning. The girl started pounding on the van and I kicked it while still holding on to the baby jogger. She drove on slowly, like she didn't know whether to stop and the sped up. The Girl grabbed the baby jogger and I ran after the van - and actually got the license number.

We called the police and an officer came to take a statement. He said since there was damage to property and she didn't stop, he would charge it as a hit-and-run.

I called a couple of days later to find out what was going on. They still hadn't found her, a guy said; it was probably not the right license plate number I had given them.

Then two months later, it turns out that the police did find her. She claimed to not know about the baby jogger being run over. As she puts it "I would have known if I had run over something, since I live in the country". Okay. The charges were lowered to inattentive driving, which probably just means a small ticket. Oh well.

But now it got weird. This lady had written to our hospital and to the state medical licensing board about being attacked by two doctors while driving peacefully in her car. Suddenly, we had to defend ourselves. Her letters were bizarre and she neglected to mention that the police already looked at the case (and that we were the ones to call the police). She talked about how I must have been on steroids at the time, since she had googled my name and found out that I was a runner.

Oh well, right? We decided not to contact her (ie. touch her with a ten-foot pole) to ge the stroller paid for. We figured she got what she wanted: a diminished penalty and not having to replace the stroller.

But no. We just got a letter from our boss at the hospital that she wrote another letter full of what he calls "confidential information" about us. She even writes that she knows that we were visiting town last week! And she is from another town, by the way, so it's not like she saw us.

So we have a stalker on our hands, apparently. These days, it's pretty easy to ruin someone's reputation, especially a physician's.

We regret reporting the traffic incident, since she got our names off the police report. We are worried about how she knows all this "confidential" information about us and how she knew we were in town. We worry about the kids, who have my unusual last name, and whom she could easily find.

We don't know if we should call the police and report her for harassment or what to do. The hospital is letting us know - in so many words - that the lady seems crazy, but they are still treating this as a patient complaint of sorts (big of sorts, as she was never a patient of either of us). Unfortunately, she is a patient at the hospital, so they do have to regard her letters with some seriousness.

Crazy stuff.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

It's off to America

It's off to America to see the kids. I can't wait to surrpise them after school tomorrow. Daughter knows we are coming, but not Son. It's been 4 months (almost) since he saw me, so I am a little worried about how he is going to react. Hopefully, it'll be just like where we left off.

We are lucky enough to have a non-stop flight from Copenhagen to Chicago. The Lorax is still a lap child so we are hoping for an open seat next to us. We'll practice Danish "History and Physicals" for as long as we can stomach it. The Girl will sleep, whereas I won't be able to. I'll watch three half movies and read the flight magazine a few times.

I hear Wisconsin is beautiful this time of year. Not. In fact, March is probably the worst month in Wisconsin; the skiing is gone but the trails aren't ready for running. And forget about biking. Hopefully, we'll get a few runs in on the old trails. The Girl's knee is getting better every day. It's not quite normal but she is back to running her usual amounts.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Goals for 2009

I ran a smooth 22 miles yesterday; felt stronger than ever during such a long run. The last five miles were at 6 to 6:15 minute miles. This is when I should be setting goals for the year.

There was a time in my 20s when I would say "I want to PR in everything", and some years this came true. Those days are over, but I still think there is a PR or two in me this year.

First off, my half-marathon PR is something I have an eye on. It's 1:13.54 and actually one of my stronger PRs, if not the strongest. On the other hand, it's probably the distance I am most comfortable with right now. And while it was set on a day (almost two years ago) when everything clicked, there was a headwind and it was cold.

I don't really have a marathon PR so if I run one, I guess it's a PR. But that's a little cheap, so I won't make it an official goal. If I end up running an official marathon, my goal will be sub 2:40, though.

My 10k PR, I think, is 33:32. I never felt like that PR was as fast as I could go. There were a few years when I ran tons of 5Ks and 5000s but just a few 10Ks (and never a 10,000, actually). To get that PR, though, I would need to do a little more speedwork. We'll see.

I don't think my 5K of 15:59 or 5000 of 15:57 are in danger. I'm too old; the speed is gone.

To keep myself honest, here are the official 2009 goals:

Half marathon 1:14.30
Marathon 2:40
10K 33:45
5K 16:20

What about ultras? Currently, there are non on the agenda (other than Trans-alpine, where the goal for me is to enjoy my honeymoon). If one pops up, we'll see.