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.