Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Never Again

At least I stuck with the plan. Came through the half in 1:21.10, so just on track. Came through 30K in 56:50ish, which meant I was starting to slow but still had a sub-39 10K average. Up until this point, I felt inappropriately smug, drafting well, eating well, feeling well. At 30K, had you asked me, I would have said I was ready to speed up.

The slowdown came at 32K. At first, it was stomach cramps, which I have never had before. I was running with a guy, actually leading in the headwind. I had to slow down and told the guy that I was having a crisis and asked if I could sit behind him for a while. There were little ups and downs over the last 10K but, overall, I slowly came apart and got passed by some 20 runners.

Dead man (very close to) walking:

My time was low 2:49, so just a measly 90 seconds faster than my training marathon 4 weeks ago, where I started slowly and ran very negative splits. I kept imagining the ghost of 4 weeks ago, running behind me in that last 10K, passing people while enjoying a huge runner's high. Honestly, had the ghost known about me, he would have caught me.

Where did I go wrong?

1. Started out too fast. I'm probably just not in shape for a 2:42. It sure felt easy but I guess that's no guarantee. Maybe if I had started out running a 1:23 half marathon, I wouldn't have imploded. Too late, I've vowed never to set a goal time in a big city marathon. If a low 2:40s is in my future, it will come off a slowish start and deeply negative splits.

2. New gels. We bought a new kind of gel (Multi-Karbo?) at the expo before the race. BOth flavors (orange and cola) tasted like overly concentrated melted popsicle. The new kind of gel may explain the stomach cramps but not the whole deroute.

3. Weight loss? I lost quite a bit of weight leading up to the race, from stress and lack of time to cook. It surprised me how easy it came off.

4. Training on trails. I haven't run on roads, barely, this whole winter and spring. I love training on trails, but perhaps the pounding of pavement for 2 hours was too much for my spoiled lower extremeties.

The Girl's race has been well-documented on her own blog. I think the pressure got to her, as it got to me. People have been guessing finishing times that were unrealistically low, and she went for such a time. She is fine and is already looking at other races. We will probably do a trail marathon in 4 weeks.

Friday, May 21, 2010

Copenhagen Marathon Preview

Oh boy. The marathon is getting close. Before most races, I am nervous but also excited. Before this one, I'm nervous and just want to get it over with.

I have raced three marathons in my life and all three have been miserable experiences. I ran the Copenhagen Marathon when I was 22 and 23 in 3:08 and 3:09, as I recall. Both times, I did what young guys often do: started out fast and finished slowly and in pain. The first time wasn't 100% bad, mainly because I didn't know what to expect and that seemed to make the race go by faster. The second time, I remember cramping up in my legs and abdominal muscles after the race, while throwing up. I vowed never to run a marathon again but did, anyway, the same summer. This time, it was the Paavo Nurmi Marathon in Ironwood, MI. Same thing: cramps and vomiting and a promise never to do it again.

Fast forward ten years, and I have run a few ultras with mixed success. This winter/spring, I have even run (but not raced) two marathons, in which I have started out slowly and sped up at the end. This last one was in 2:50.

If only there was another big race after Copenhagen, so I could sandbag this one under the guise of using it as a training run. But this is, unfortunately, the target race and there will be no starting out slowly. I may as well state my goal: 2:42 (ie. Steve Quick's PR. He has PRs in all the shorter distances that I will never beat but his marathon PR is weak, comparably). Some might say that cutting 8 minutes off a 2:50 "training" marathon shouldn't be too hard, but when I look closer, I start to worry. I'll be going for a 6:08 per mile pace, which amounts to 38:20 per 10K. Now, I don't think I can count on running negative splits on Sunday, so I actually have to start out running the first 10K in 38:20 - or less. See, that seems pretty fast to me and it makes me realize that I am risking a complete collapse in the second half of the race. In fact, I could end up running slower than the 2:50.

So, yes, I have been toying with running without a watch and simply going by feel. It sure would make for amore enjoyable experience.

There are other worries. I seek out small races where I have a chance of winning; and this to the point of now having been in a race for years, where I couldn't line up in the front of the pack. I can't do that on Sunday; the fast people (including women; I will get chicked on Sunday!) will look at me and wonder who the old, fat man is. There are 12,000 runners all starting at once. There are probably going to be fences and corrals and guards and a fair amount of agoraphobic activity on my part. I should rightfully be able to line up near the start, say close enough to see the front. But I'm not even sure I can find the front with all the people there. I worry a lot more about this than I should.

I have even devised a cop-out plan if I get stuck somewhere in the middle of the hoard of runners: just start out slowly and enjoy the day. What a thought, huh?

The Girl has tapered by running the least this last week I have ever seen her run since she was pregnant and injured. Instead, she has biked with the triathlon club and swum several miles. She is ready to rock and will easily PR. She won't break 3:20but it will be close.

My claim to fame during the Copenhagen Marathon will be my friend Justin Stakston, who is coming over to run - and win - the race. Justin has a PR of 2:27, so winning might be a tall order. He could podium, though, which in itself is huge in such a big race. I know the course snakes around the city, so I am hoping to see the front group a couple of times. I should mention that the Copenhagen Marathon is one of the few big city marathons in Europe that doesn't offer money prizes, which means there is no group of second-tier East Africans showing up to lay claim to the top 10. It's usually won in low 2:20s by an elite (but non-pro) foreigner or by a fast Dane, especially when the marathon doubles as Danish Nationals (it doesn't this year).

Finally, there is an issue with my right foot. It goes back to this winter, when I ran obsessively on snowy trails in heavy trail shoes. A point on the outside of my right foot, which I think may be the insertion point of the short peroneal muscle, has been aching. Just aching but not enough to stop me from running or racing. It warms up and goes away during longer runs and races but comes back afterwards. I thought it would disappear for good during my marathon taper, but instead it has come back even worse. I don't think I will feel it during the marathon but I fear that it might turn into a real injury afterwards.

Report follows.

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Setting all kinds of PRs

In the last two months I have run a 50K and a marathon; both of them PRs, although I haven't really raced at those distances before. It's been hard to gauge what kind of shape I am in, based on these races.

Then last weekend came a PR on a course I have run since I was just a kid.

I grew up near Bagsværd Lake and have run around it, I imagine, about a thousand times. My first race was a race around the lake. The race, the Bristol Race, ceased existing maybe ten years ago. It was sponsored by a local sporting good store called Bristol Sports. Nowadays, there are just a few big sporting good chains in Denmark. But I digress.

Growing up, the Bristol Race was the race of the year. I thought the people running up front were so fast they could surely run in the Olympics. I was a little kid, happy to run in the middle of the pack.

Then came high school. In Denmark, high school usually marks the nadir of athleticism for most people and this was the case for me as well. The exact opposite is true in America, which is a topic I have pondered often and which deserves its own post. I played on a club soccer team with some kids from school, but it was hardly competitive. I drank and partied as kids did - and forgot all about running.

Then came the move to America, marriage to my first wife, and later the kids. I must have been in my early twenties when I ran the Bristol Race again. This time, I had run competitivey in college in the US and had, I think, just joined a track club. Nah, track came later in med school, but I was certainly training and racing hard. It was fun coming back to this little dinky race. I didn't win it, but I took second or third, impressing people who, like me, had grown up running this race every year.

Now that the official race is gone, we still run on that course. My dad, my brother, and sometimes my uncle and cousins, run tempo runs around the lake. The distance is much debated but is probably a little less than 4.5 miles. But the distance doesn't really matter; the time does. Last year, I ran two loops in 47:56, a PR, probably in the best shape of all of last year. Last weekend, I ran 47:40. Now that's a PR!

The Copenhagen Marathon is in 10 days and we are staring to taper a little. I have a sore ankle that I am trying to nurse back to health as well. Goal is 2:40 to 2:45. We shall see.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Odd life

She was 73 when she was diagnosed with Mantle cell lymphoma, a blood cancer. It filled up her whole abdomen. She had problems with alcoholism and it wasn't felt that she could tolerate the kind of chemo that would cure her. At a tumor meeting, we decided we would try a milder kind of chemo and see how she fared.

After one cycle of chemo, she stopped eating and almost didn't get out of bed. It worked on the cancer, so we gave her one more cycle. Saturday, her family called twice to the doctor on call, telling us she had pain and nausea. My colleague told them to give her some more pain meds and keep her at home. I had the pager Sunday and they called in the morning, telling me she couldn't keep her pills down but her pain was better. It told them to keep at it at home with the pills for pain and nausea.

Later that day, I admitted her. She was in complete renal failure and was dialyzed. This evening, she started vomiting and pooping blood. Her three kids and husband were there, as she was starting to lose consciousness from the blood loss. The surgeons took her down for a gastroscopy but she couldn't breathe properly and she was put on a breathing machine.

We decided enough was enough and pulled her breathing tube out. That was two hours ago and she is still in there with a beating heart. She will almost certainly die tonight, in no pain and with her family there. The truth is we killed her with our chemo, but with the fate that awaited her, had we let the lymphoma grow, perhaps it was for the better.

So here I sit at 2:30 am, with my bed waiting in the call room, blogging. Whenever I have had to guide a family through the dying process, it's been an emotional experience. I think I have gotten good at it by now. I still find myself close to tears when the family members start crying, but I suspect even the most senior doctors do.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

Editing links to other blogs

Today, I took upon myself the task of editing my links to other blogs. Having a link from the blog of the world's fastest hematologist is, of course, a great honor. Never mind the fact that no one ever reads this.

Out went:

Wynn Davis. Simply because the link was dead. I looked everywhere but couldn't find Wynn's writings anywhere. He seemed like a cool guy when I met him at Chippewa in 2008 and I thought his race reports (from his own and other races) were excellent. But, alas, the link was dead.

Julie Berg. I was on the fence about this one, as I have read Julie's blog for years. It was one of the first blogs I started following. But she doesn't seem to run that many races anymore and she is getting into bodybuilding and fanatic diets. Ah hell, it's still pretty interesting. I should add her back in.

Matt Hart. Used to have some good race reports, but no longer. Seems to be focusing on coaching and is trying to sell stuff.

In came:

Mike Wardian. What a stud, winning races left and right, and his race reports are interesting.

Ian Dobson and Julia Lucas. They are both elite runners battling injury. Ian seems like a normal guy and Julia seems like a good mix of OCD and honesty. I think people read her blog for the same reason they read the Girl's blog.

Piccolapinecone. There is something about slightly obsessed OCD women that fascinates me, I guess. This blog is delightfully analytical, sometimes overly so. And I love the race reports.

Sealegsgirl. My own OCD wife and her beloved, hated, debated blog.

Staying on the list:

Steve Quick. Obviously.

Sean Meissner. I don't know anything about him, but he has almost exactly my running abilities and runs cool races in cool places and blogs about them. One could call me jealous of him.

Olga Varlamova. I have followed Olga's blog for a long time. She is not as prolific as she used to be. Also, I miss her old aggresive race reports. Sometimes, I can't help thinking "okay, so you bonded with numerous people, cried with them, passed out for five minutes and almost died but, damn it, what place did you get?".

Anton Krupicka. The Girl wants me to wear little running shorts to bed, which is within reason. But when she wants me to pack eight gels into them, wear a wig and answer to the name Tony, it gets weird. But, still, one has to admit that he has an interesting blog.

Scott Dunlap. His blog is great, no matter how you look at it. I tend to get annoyed by people like him, but I met him in real life and he impressed me. He took second at Angel Island behind a guy, who got lost and ran some of the course in the opposite direction. The guy probably should have been disqualified, but it seemed like Scott devised a plan with the RD to get him back on track, not caring about his own place.

iRunfar. Hmm. I've been annoyed by this website lately and thought about taking the link down. It's getting too fragmented and too commercial for me. Still, it has occasional interesting stuff.