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.