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.