Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Chippewa Moraine 50K -report

The ending is really exciting, so keep reading...

After my scarlet fever and subsequent antibiotic treatment, my plan for the race was to start easy and see how I felt. I didn't really think I could win, and when Brian Peterson showed up to register, it was no longer an option.

Before the race, I was recognized by many as the husband of "that crazy pregnant doctor with the blog". At least that's what I took their double-takes to mean.

We started off in a pack of 6, with Brian Peterson already running way out in front. The pack included John Storkamp and Joe Ziegenfuss, with whom I have raced (or have seen race) a few times. A young guy from Duluth, Craig Hertz, looked really strong. Jonas Ryttie was yo-yo'ing a little ahead and behind the pack, whereas Rob Semelroth followed the pace.

I didn't feel good and was noticably more out of breath than the others. At maybe 8 miles, I was spit out the back of the group with Joe Ziegenfuss and then Jonas Ryttie. The front group seemed long gone. Before the turn-around, I got lost going up a hill to a house, and didn't realize that I was off course until I was running over a buried septic tank. I Ran back down the hill to see the front group (including Brian Peterson) coming back from the turn-around.

On the way back, the two-way traffic made the trail a little crowded. On the other hand, it was fun to see how close the women's race was. The Girl was near the back, going a steady pace, still without contractions. We talked for a little while, during which Joans Ryttie, whom I had run with since the turn-around, got out of sight.

The course is so undulating that it's hard to spot other runners. Even if you see other runners, the trail twists so much that they could be ten seconds or two minutes ahead. I settled into a content pace for the next ten miles, during which I didn't see another runner. I was starting to feel pretty good and felt a little runner's high. On the one hand, it seemed like I was in for a typical strong finish, but on the other hand, it seemed like it was going to be a very lonely fast finish.

And now it gets exciting. With a few miles to go, I passed John Storkamp, and then saw two spectators, who shouted "there are a couple of runners up there you can probably catch!". Interesting. Suddenly it felt like I was in a race again, and I sped up. Almost immediately, Rob Semelroth came into view. When I passed him, I saw that both Craig Hertz and Jonas Ryttie were up ahead in the distance. The former was being passed by the latter. I figured I could catch them, if I dug deep and started surging ahead.

The last mile is a long sweep around the perimeter of the field below the park headquarters. I could see that I was getting closer, and for a moment it seemed like I would get up to Craig and Jonas, but then they started surging up the hill, starting a long sprint. They were halfway up the last long hill when I got to the bottom, and a large part of me was quietly happy I didn't quite catch them. The two of them were forced to sprint/powerhike up the steep wall leading to the finish line. It was crazy to watch. Craig used long classic-ski style steps, whereas Jonas hiked with choppy, fast, short steps. Craig pulled ahead to take second and seconds later they were both rolling on the ground deep in oxygen-debt.

I thought the hill was terrible at an easy no-pressure power-hike and I can only imagine what if would be like to have to sprint against someone else in front of 50 or so spectators on a hill that steep.

I got fourth with a time of 4:15. All in all, a decent race. I've been regretting not speeding up earlier; I had a lot left at the end, and would have loved it if they turned it into a 60K. It's that feeling of "running out of trail to catch people". Maybe if I hadn't gotten lost, if I hadn't chatted with the Girl or if someone had shouted "you're about to catch a couple runners" a mile or two earlier...

Oh well, excuses and retrospections are always aplenty, and it's possible the other guys got more lost than me (after all, one little detour in a 50K is pretty good for me).

The Girl's very sensible DNF is well-described on her blog, of course. She had a good time, all things considered. We will definitely be back next year.

Results here

Sunday, April 17, 2011

10 vacation stories

1. Plane fever.

Rigors, high fever set in while waiting for the plane. About an hour into it, I am shaking and feeling like I could pass out if I moved my head too quickly. Natali watches the Lorax for two hours and I'm able to take max amounts of tylenol and ibuprofen and take a nap. I feel a little better after that and don't have another attack until we roll into the driveway at the Girl's parents house. Scary.

2. Madison Rendezvous.

The Lorax rus over to give Andreas a big hug. Andreas looks embarrassed, and he doesn't feel like hugging me either. I have lunch with the Ex, our two shared kids, their new step-sisters and the Lorax. It it pleasant, although disagreements are always breewing under the surface.

3. Is my son retarded?

Andreas is 7 and can't zip up his jacket (he can zip up everything else, but the jacket is apparently very challenging. He doesn't hear anything I tell him, stops mid-sentence, stops mid-putting on socks, mid-everything. When I bring anywhere public, he bumps into everything and everyone.

4. In the onions.

We're at the children's museum in Madison. The power-moms, who are done feeding their kids organic snacks, eye us sceptically as I let Andreas into the kiddie-area. It looked so appealing, and both he and the Lorax wanted in. I figure I can pretend we are both playing with the Lorax. Two minutes later, Andreas is hiding in a mud hut, banging fake fruits and breads together. With me 104 degree fever spiking at this moment, I feel unable to get in through the opening to yank him out of the hut (and the kiddie area). Instead, out steps Andreas, holding a some rubber fruit (a large plum?), which he proceeds to hurl at me.

It hits me square in the nut-sack.

I point at him, letting him know that he'd better follow orders, or there will be hell. He ducks into the hut, re-emerges with another fruit (this time a yam?) and hurls it at me.

You guessed it; direct shot to the onions.

He runs away, onto some swinging bridge, where I finally catch up to him. I grab him so hard, he starts crying. and pulled him out of the kiddie area. I get him into the back area and gave him a scolding he won't soon forget.

Of course I realize that this is all my fault. How did my life end up like this?

5. So Many Kisses

I am buying some shirts for Andreas at Dick's sporting goods. The Lorax is tired and getting ill, too. He keeps begging for stuff, as he sits on my shoulders, resting his snotty face on my head. I speak English to Andreas in front of the guy at the register but then the Lorax yells that he wants to ride in the bus outside the store. I say "only if I get a kiss". He bends down precariously to give me a snotty kiss and murmurs "dad, I give you so many kisses today". The register guy looks at us with a bewildered look.

6. Is my son a genius?

Jeebus. We are playing chess and Andreas knows how to play! Not just that; he concentrates, and he is good. I play without my queen, and with that handicap we have an even game until he makes a couple of mistakes. We rewind some moves so he can see how he can better defend himself, and he learns from his mistakes. Hmm?

He draws and writes stories. He focuses on robots and monsters with an excessive amount of weapons and powers, but there are intricate details in each drawing and his stories are good. One year ago, he couldn't even read, and now he writes full stories about heroes and dragons. Not hmm. Wow.

7. I Narrowly Miss Sarah Palin.

We almost got stuck in the protests around the Capitol, which have been simmering all week, We are on our way to see Rango, so this political stuff is inconsequential. Turns out Sarah Palin was there speaking to the Tea Partiers of Wisconsin.

8. My trail in La Crosse.

The Lorax got picked up by my mother-in-law, whereas the two other kids were at my Ex's house. My illness had been retreating for the last few days, and I go out for my first run in 6 days. Whew, the first few miles are rusty, then the legs get golden. The trail is the same; I run it without thinking. My feet know all the roots and rocks. One section washed away, but that has happened several times in the last few years.

9. I am in Love.

I miss the Girl more than I had expected. A vacation just isn't the same without her. We Skype and she flashed me. I feel ten years younger.

10. The Doctor Gets Ill part Deux.

I get back from my run, and prepare to shower. I have vaguely been aware of a rash on my forearms all day. My arms are all freckles and moles and hair, so a rash doesn't stand out like it does on, say, other humans. I take off my shirt and - BOOM! - I see a massive maculo-papular rash on my arms, chest, neck and back. And face, I realize! Shit, a rash like this a short week after getting a sore throat! Add to this the fact that Natali was diagnosed with strep throat the day before and this screams... Scarlet fever!

Jeebus. I called in some amoxicillin for myself three minutes later.

As always, my vacations are never boring. And I should add that the last 48 hours with Andreas have been the best we have had in years.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Preview of Chippewa 50K and Life in General

First, my running. I am impressively out of shape. My training reminds me out my intern year, the other year in recent memory, when I have been this undertrained. I can't remember another time, other than intern year, when I have been this un-injured and permanently feeling fresh. Every workout is a treat to be savored.

That's the positive spin on it. The negative is that I am 5 pounds overweight and 10-15 minutes slower over 50K than I should, or could, be. I can feel in my workouts that the typical spring "pep in my step" hasn't come. I can hold a decent pace for a decent amount of time, but it's not better or worse than it has been the whole winter.

Chippewa is my big spring goal race. Let there be no mistake about it. I am no ultrarunning hipster; and I won't pretend that it's just a fun run or a training race. But, on the other hand, my current form dictates that I will have to run my own race and get whatever place falls into my lap. Ironically, Chippewa in 2008 continues to be the race where I have most severely bonked, and the 2011 version could surpass that, if I started out too fast. Besides, Joe Ziegenfuss, who probably runs a 50K on par with a very in-shape me, has signed up, so there is no realistic chance of winning.

But, again I have to be honest, one can always dream, a la Jim Carrey's "so there IS a chance!". Who knows what kind of shape this Ziegenfuss fellow is in, and who knows if he will even show up. And as people think "but there are so many other people, who could beat you", I remind you all that I do not read minds. There is a chance of winning ,however small it might be. And as I always tell people, the fun races and the ones where I have a decent chance of winning, placing, finishing in the money, or getting a PR.

Hmm, the bravado is getting me excited. Too bad it's too late to train. Maybe I could drop a pound or two?

Now, to life in general. Denmark is enjoying the first few days of spring, and the effects are everywhere. Nurses are flirting with paramedics, stroke patients are learning how to wink with their good eye, and my recently divorced friend and future hematologist started dating one of the nurses on the leukemia floor.

And yours truly is feeling it, too. Reader(s?) will know that I tend to get melancholy when I think of the uncertainties of the future. Last week, we hit a low in that regard. The Girl suggested that we move close to La Corsse, so Natali live with her mom (my Ex), which suddenly meant that our, admittedly tentative and perhaps realistic, plans for moving to Oregon or Alaska had to be cancelled. From one moment to the next, we had quasi-settled on four possible locales: Madison, Twin Cities, Rochester and Iowa City (in that order of preference). The cities with med schools, that is.

I had looked forward to living with Natali and exchanging her for Andreas (who was always going to live with my Ex, anyway) duting school breaks. But our new plan will work, too, although I was depressed for a few days after this new decision. Not because of the plan, just because something so basic to my happiness can change so rapidly, beyond my control. Natali would prefer living with both her parents within a few hours drive0
, too, so she and the Girl are actually agreeing for once.

So once we had our new plans settled, and a fair amount of pointing at the Girl going "you're not going to change your mind again, are you, because 15% of my brain is constantly is constantly thinking about this!" had occured, things started getting good. The weather happened upon us, as we ran an almost-marathon in a beautiful forest on Sunday.

It's almost to the point where I feel optimistic about life.

Work is okay.
We found a name for the baby: Mattias.
Natali is doing well.
Andreas is doing well.
Christian is speaking fluently now, and is making slow progress in his potty training.
Mattias is healthy, as far as we know.
The Girl's research is going well.
Our plans for next year are solidifying.
Our plans for life are solidifying.

And in ten minutes the Girl will bring back the Lorax from music class. I will bike with him to pick up Natali at the gym, where she is currently in her "young fitness" program. We'll have a few minutes before the emerges from the gym, and to pass the time, the Tallest Slide in N├Žstved awaits us; he shrieks as he slides down, his long blond hair flying behind him. He knows that I, on occasion, will have a few gummi bears in my pocket to reward him for particularly spectacular descends, and he looks up optimistically the moment his feet hit the sand.

Life is all right.