Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Winter thoughts

I'm in a strange place in life right now; I have a constant sense of an impending change. I don't know what to call it; restlessness? Boredom? Mid-life crisis?

Like so many other people in the world, I am not really sure what I want out of life. Some days, we talk about buying a house and settling down; some days, we talk about signing up for Doctor Without Borders. Most days, we aren't sure where in the world we will be in a few years.

Something big happened the other day. Out of nowhere, my Ex-wife told me that we could have Natali for another year. I had been worried sick about what she would say, and suddenly she made up her mind. I should have been happier than I was. Natali getting a chance to experience Denmark, is the best thing about being here. I was happy, sure, but at the same time it represented the fact that we are staying here for, at least, another school year.

There is nothing wrong with staying here; we both have good, interesting jobs. The kids are thriving. The Lorax takes gymnastics and music classes, where all the parents arrive in their matching cars and dress their kids in expensive, organic clothes. Natali has friends over, who all think the same beautiful open-minded thoughts, while silently expressing "you better act like us, or else".

Life is uniformly safe and predictable. Denmark is a perfect, intensely boring paradise.

Don't think I haven't thought about why I am feeling this minor dysthymia. It's odd that I was an overworked resident, whose wife left him, and still felt okay. So many people were worried about me, but those days almost felt like an adventure. I had a glorious sense of no one has ever done this before. Which of course was nonsense, but that's what it felt like. On paper, that life sucked. I had no money; I worked all the time. I had zero wiggle room, even compared to now. So why am I feeling trapped now, in this life with plenty of money, lots of spare time, with a great wife and kids?

There are a few theories, that I would like to share:

1) Leaving my son. I don't think about him constantly, but there is an undeniable sense that my life isn't complete here without him. Sometimes, it feels like my present life is an interlude, and that I will soon get back to seeing him every day. Even as I am writing this, it is difficult for me to accept that there is no day in sight, when I will be living with him, or even near him, on a permanent basis.

2. Death all around me. Working with critically ill patients may be harder on me than I think. When I meet a patient for the first time, it usually involves me delivering bad news. It bothers me more and more how much pain and humiliation these people go through in the hospital. I think we give too much chemo and too little comfort. Every day, I think about the fact that I, the Girl, the kids or someone else, could get sick and transform into one of those poor unfortunate souls with cancer.

3. We have no 5-year plan. My whole life, I have lived by 5-year plans. Do this; get through this. Work hard, and it will all work out. The question now beckons, have I arrived? Good job? Check. Beautiful fantasy wife? Check. Economic safety? Check.

Satisfied? Not so sure.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Kalundborg Winter Marathon Report

The opening 10K or so went exactly accoding to plan. I went out painstakingly slowly, simply by sticking with a group of 3 other guys. My plan was to open up with a 22 minute 5K, and I actually ran the first 5K in 22:40. Came through 10K in about 45 minutes, feeling good.

At this point, the wind was very strong and I was feeling the itch to start racing. There was snow and ice on this part of the course, and the group I had run with started to disintegrate. I'm not sure when I started going "race pace" but it was somewhere around 12K. Drafting became really important in the wind, and I had fun leap-frogging from group to group. THe last 5K of the 13M loop had less wind and good traction and this is where I turned on the music and started going fast.

I wondered where in the field I was, coming into the stadium after the half marathon. By looking at the bib numbers, I knew I had passed several marathoners but didn't know what place I was in. Up ahead, I noticed Kim Hammerich; he took second place in the 6-hour race we did in October. He is on the 100K national team and has an 8:07 100K PR (!). In the 6-hour race, I briefly caught and passed him around halfway, only to crash and nearly drop out. Kim ended up running 76K that day, compared to my 66.

I caught Kim and we chatted a little bit. He told me that the marathon would cap off a 200K week for him. 200k! I have run 109K in a single week once, and it felt like I was going to die. Okay, that's not counting Transalpine, but we didn't really run all the time there, either. He is training for the next 100K World Cup race.

He told me he would try to hold on as long as he could, and I was fine with that. He flies through aid station, whereas I take my time to drink and eat. I also stopped to pee once, so over the next 5K I either caught back up to Kim, or had him draft off of me. Going through the half marathon, we were told that we were third and fourth.

Going over the hills, through the snow, in the wind, felt very lonely. Kim had let go and was nowhere to be seen. The next guy up was too far ahead to see. Or was he? Once in a while, I could see him on the next hilltop. Slowly, he got closer and closer. When we finally got out of the snowy section, he was maybe 60 seconds ahead of me and I figured I should be able to catch him. At the 32K aid station, I drank two big cups of coke and ate a GU. I wanted to run the last 10K in 40 minutes, so I planned to run right through the 36K aid station.

There is a section on the last bit of the course where it's a slight downhill, the wind was coming from the back. I had an extreme sense of runner's high. The music was good; the legs were turning over quickly, without any fatigue or pain. At 3 or 4K to go, I caught up to the guy in second place. This was Poul Petersen, who is another fast ultra-marathoner. I overheard him tell someone at the start that he ran 50 miles in recent 6-hour race. That's amazing; think about it: it's two marathons in 3:06, approximately. He may have been at the end of a long training week, too, or maybe he was having a bad day. Coming up on him, I had hoped he wouldn't latch on; I would hate to sprint at the end of a marathon. But as I got close, I could tell how much faster I was going and it turned out to be a "clean pass".

My time was 3:02. Not bad, given the conditions! I don't think the slow start cost me all that much in the end. I felt good and could have kept going for a while. All in all, it gives me confidence for the 50K at Hell's Hills in Texas in April. We are also planning on doing the Copenhagen Marathon in May where I think 2:40-ish is a realistic goal. In short, I am psyched for what's to come.

The Girl ran a 3:37 (2 minute PR). Again, in those conditions, it's a very good time. If she is healthy for Copenhagen, she should be able to run in less than 3:20. My training plan for her is paying off, almost moreso that I expected. Her weight is the same as last year, when she ran slower in much better conditions, so her theory of "ligther is faster" doesn't hold water anymore. Even her running form has changed over just a few months; it just looks more composed and fluent, because she is used to a fater pace in pratice.

Fewer women run competitively here, so she lacks competition. She enjoys running with the men, but doesn't really get fired up the same way she does when she races other women. I think it would be a good move to get her into some fast shorter races in the spring.

Next up: next round of the cross country series on February 6th.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Marathon Preview

We have a marathon coming up this Sunday. The Girl ran it last year, improving what must be her softest PR to 3:39. I ran the half marathon with the Lorax in the jogging stroller. I think my time was 1:26 and, by coincidence, I ran and chatted a little with the eventual men's marathon winner. I think his time was 2:57.

I'm using this solely as a long training run, or at least that's the plan. I don't recall ever using the race as training so I am not sure how it's going to pan out. I figure I can run the first half in 1:30 to 1:35 and then start racing. The route is hilly and there will likely be snow on the ground so these times are perhaps a little ambitious.

My marathon PR is actually 3:08, set when I was 22. Hopefully, I will get below that. Let's call sub-3 a loose goal, but it depends on the conditions. There is decent prize money so winning was a consideration. That is, until a 2:30 marathoner told me last week that he was running. He may just "jog" it, too, but his jogging will certainly be faster than mine.

I don't know if I can run the first half without "trying to keep up". I told myself that I wouldn't taper but, honestly, I have tapered plenty this week. We'll see.

As defending champion, the Girl wants to really race this one. Begrudingly, she agrees that she has gotten faster while following my training plan. I don't think she has a specific time in mind, although she wants to get under 3:39 (ie. her PR). Her other race PRs predict a 3:12 marathon (perfect conditions, perpect race, of course), so 3:39 is actually a pretty easy effort for her.