Monday, November 12, 2012

November thoughts

Say. You know how you are awoken by something that will not go away if you ignore it?

On that spectrum is, perhaps, a room that got too cold because of an open window. You get up and close it, right? Maybe Christian is crying, because he rotated in bed so many times that he ended up with his head hanging over the edge. You pull him back up and cover him with a blanket.

Mattias may cry and you have to find a pacifier or maybe even sing a few bars while stroking his fat face and covering his eyes with the corner of a blanket.

Maybe you are in a tent and you didn't put the rain fly on. It rains; you have to get up and fix it.

Forget all of the above. I was deep into some dream last night, when I was awoken by the sound of someone gagging, followed by... vomit hitting me in the face!

There is Christian, stricken by the evil stomach bug that has tormented the family of late. He sits up, spews his contents on the pillow right next to my head and I am awoken by the lukewarm spray of last night's dinner.

For that, one has to get up quick and tend to his final hurling efforts. One has to strip the bed down, find new sheets and new covers for pillows and duvets. You scrub the floor half-heartedly, thinking you will do it right in the morning. Then you have to comfort Christian and get him to sleep, while telling him about the beaches of Florida and Mallorca.

I tell him the sharks are only in the deep water, and that he needn't worry about them. Finally he falls asleep.

He wakes up at 4:45 am, completely rejuvenated after a day of being sick. He pulls my face to make sure I understand that crocodiles also live in deep water, and that they don't bite people on the beach. I have to get up, fix him breakfast and put a movie on the DVD.

Damn kids. And yet I feel desperate, when I think about how fast they are growing. It's a realization that life may never get better than this; that a million things could go wrong and, even if they don't, things will slip away by default.


I'm getting into running again. After a few slow uninspired weeks, I rediscovered the treadmill. The machines at our gym are not as smooth as the ones at the La Crosse YMCA, but just getting back on the belt has motivated me. At this point, I am doing long intervals, say 3 x 2 miles. The 2 miles are run basically all out, but I vary the grade from 0% to 5% and back down. Even at the end of a session, I am amazed at how fast I feel when the grade comes back down.

These types of workouts were my training backbone last winter (and spring, until the trails opened up). I PRd three times this year (5K, marathon and 50K), so I'm following the same formula. My achilles heel is mileage. I run such a pitiful number of miles a week (maybe 25?) that upping my mileage is a logical step. But somehow I can't, especially not in winter, when it's dark out. I don't have a group, or even a single running partner (except for the Girl, and she reliably hates me after an hour of running).

The Girl runs 80 miles a week, often with 2 slow marathons. She needs speed, I need mileage.

A few years back, I tried running LSD with spanish lessons on the iPod. Maybe I will try that again.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Another Bubka-esque PR - and a Lance commentary

Sydkyst Marathon. Cold, windy and rainy described the day. 4 flat laps in a low-pressure environment. If it didn't work out, I could just drop after 3 laps.

I have two ways of burning up in marathons and ultras. It seems like in flat, fast marathons, I get more and more fatigued. It's hard to put a finger on it. My legs feel tired, although not really sore; I get a little disoriented and care less and less about the race. In ultras, or hilly trail marathons, I simply cramp up. My body and mind are fine, because I have been running slowly, but my legs cramp up.

Neither happened today. I clicked off 4 laps at almost equal pace (3:57, 3:56, 3:57 and 3:59 per K, respectively). My time was 2:48.06, which is a PR by 15 seconds. The first lap included 3K of warming up and 7.5K of catching up on lost time. Maybe I could have started out a little faster.

But hey, I ran a PR in cold rain, and it felt like there was a headwind the whole way. Vix Steen won in 2:45, his new PR. I have beaten Vix twice by latching on to him and then speeding up at the end, but today he took off right at the gun. I honestly thought he would come back to us, but he ran a great race.


Why didn't he admit it years ago, like so many other past stars? Fans of the sport have known that 99% of the peloton doped; people would have shrugged and moved on. Now, the dirty laundry is out for all to see.

I want to see it all, of course. I hope the report includes the medical details. I read an excerpt that described how they were able to not get caught with synthetic epo in their blood. Someone suggested that they slept in hypoxic tents, not to make more blood, but to obscure the endogenous:synthetic epo ratio. Fascinating. And the blood transfusions were apparently very small. In mainstream medicine, many physicians always transfuse 2 units of red cells (which is a little more than half a liter of blood), but they apparently transfused something like 100 to 200 cc's at a time.

It's almost too late for Lance to come clean. It would seem like too much of a defeat. If he had done it a few years ago, when the decision was his to make, he would have seemed like a true champion. Of all the dopers, British David Millar and American Jonathan Vaughters will be remembered as the ones who emerged as victors. Millar got caught and Vaughters voluntarily admitted that he had doped, but both were able to turn their past into an advantage.

What about the ones who never doped? They were stuck in the French and Italian equivalents of Cat 1 and now work as carpenters and TV salesmen. Who knows where Lance would have ended up, if he had refused to dope? Even today, knowing the final outcome of his decision, I think he would choose the ill-gotten millions and fame over a job working at Dick's Sporting Goods.

Monday, October 8, 2012

Where to start...

So, it's been a while...

Life is hectic. The patients don't have broken legs and coughs now; they are all dying of cancer. It wears on me.

I notice the defense mechanisms of the oncologists. Everyone must somehow build up a persona at work, so they themselves don't become overwhelmed. My persona is dysfunctional and may have faulty chromosomes. He doesn't protect me; he just sits there and watches me flounder.

It's always the last patient before lunch, and I've always run hard the day before, so my blood sugar is 2. Pick your units, it's 2. The last patient before lunch is never easy, and I often feel like postponing to postprandial times.

The pre-lunch patient comes in to hear the results of his latest scan and to discuss the next step.

But the scan is often bad. I look at the scan before calling the patient in. I open the report on the screen and scroll to the conclusion. New lesions in the liver and bones, say. The primary grew, as well. Despite 4 rounds of chemo. Blood sugar hovers at 2 as I call the patient in. If just the patient gets up, it's hard. If the patient brings 3 family members, it's harder. Husband and wife is doable.

If they are nervous, I can't look at their faces. If they are young and know exactly what is going on, all they care about is what the scan shows. They have waited 2 days at home to hear the results. So I tell them. I hate seeing their faces, when even the most poised patients reveal a moment of panic.

I try to comfort them and tell them about the next line of chemo. If all lines are spent, I tell them they are done with our poisons, which didn't work anyway.

"Who would want a job like this?", I often think. Who would you have to become to like a job like this?

Enough whining. Life is good in other ways. Colleagues are good; there is no call. Natali plays soccer and runs. Christian is riding his bike; I run behind him. Mattias is close to walking. The Girl is a little manic right now. She is fast; for the first time, she is definitely faster for a woman than I am for a man. Her eye study is rolling along. Lots of minor injuries, but nothing that seems dangerous.

I run fartleks 3 or 4 times a week. It's all I do. It's fun and life is too hectic for anything else. It keeps me at 90%. 100% can wait until better times.

Hey! Hey, did you notice that Jake Hegge won Voyageur? Jake Hegge is 20 (maybe 21 now) and he won Voyageur in 7:35 (on the hard, revised course, that is). Scott Jurek was, like, 24 when he won Voyageur in his 3rd attempt. I have written about him before, and I will repeat that he could be big, if he keeps it up. I trained with him this summer in La Crosse and basically tapered before each session to be able to keep up. He has a blog at although it looks less than oft-updated.

September Running Log

2: Skovløberen (trail marathon). 2:58. 2nd place. Halfway in 1:26, 4th place, felt easy. Smug as hell. Made a move at 25 and had a 2 minute lead at 30k. Cramps at 25K and got passed with 2 K to go! Argh. Girl ran a 3:22 trail marathon without a taper!
Ran 4K with Natti that same night.
3: 2K with Natti
5: Permiteter trails. Almost recovered
7: 10 Hills 21:18. PR?
12: 10 hills. 21:01. PR
14: 7 x 800. Weird workout, as the track was used by a kids' track meet. Ran 3 laps around 2:37 to 2:40 on the real track and 4 laps on the short HG track.
16: 5K 18:57 with the boys in the BOB. Beat the Girl, who PR'd in 19:31.
18: Very fast fartleks in the woods.
20: Some with Natti.
21: 2 perimeter trails. Tired legs. Rainy.
22: 3K with Natti
23: 10 hills. 20:28. Huge PR. Very surprising.
I forget the rest. Some perimeter trails and such. Busy. Not enough time to train.

August Running Log

I don't remember the specifics.

First half was kind of an "off season" with only a few hard runs.

I got some good runs in toward the end of the month. Almost all on trails.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

Moving on

Hello all.

We're moving back to Denmark in 10 days. Soon, our house will be a confused mess of boxes. Our belongings will go back to the storage space and we'll be gone from here. There are so many things we will miss, but there are things to look forward to as well. Tomorrow, we will run sweet trails in 95 degree weather. In 11 days, we'll be running on the very acceptable trails around Naestved; it will be 60 degrees.

I got close to my oldest son. I could have gotten closer, and hopefully I will next year. Now, he has seen that I keep coming back. At one point in the future, he may live with us and my ex will get Natali. Maybe we will switch for a year. Christian will miss him more than anyone.

The Girl says we are coming back in a year. Back to the US, yes. La Crosse; we're not sure. The Girl has many conflicting career plans, only one of which brings us back here. The truth is that we don't know what the future holds right now, but the one avenue that leads us back to La Crosse is a good one.

I'm about to start a new job that will be very unlike my current one. In the last 20 hours, I have seen broken bones, irregular beartbeats and two miscarriages. Soon, every single patient will have cancer. They tend to be very worried and they bring their children and friends. In Denmark, many patients are paranoid that they are not getting the best care available. In general, that's not true, but the media can be very critical of doctors, so patiens tend to be a little sceptical. I have had problems with this in the past; I stress out easily.

I've thought about starting a fast training group in Naestved. We'll see how that goes. The runners are there, but it will take some energy and initiative to get a critical mass going. The Girl has made it clear she wants to part of it, but if a few fast women show up, she may show up too.

My next races are two trail marathons (Skovloeberen and Skovmaren). I am in shape and am hoping for top 3 in both races like last year. I have thought about running the Nordvest 100K, which is a new 100K trail race. It may be the only 100K trail race in Denmark, actually. I don't know if I am ready for a 100K, but it would be fun to try. We'll see.

But honestly, this is what I really look forward to: for life to get into a rhythm. Natali in school, the boys in day care. The Girl's study humming along. The Dark Danish winter approaching. Friday nights at the FladsaaHallen pool. Intervals on the treadmill and on the Herlufsholm loop. Getting a new winning streak going.

Friday, July 13, 2012

Afton 50K

I was feeling really unmotivated going into the race. I felt so good this winter and spring, with my 11-win streak and all. Once it got hot, I just started feeling lazy. I'm not just running less, I hardly do any core work and swim much less. I was at work last night; it was slow in the ER, and I realized that a few months ago I would be doing push-ups and planks forever. Last night, I was eating gummi bears and watching the Tour.

Anyway, I met Aaron Drevlow before the race. Aaron, with whom I was battling at Chippewa. I told him my spring fitness was gone and he said something like, "fitness doesn't go away in a few months", and I thought maybe I could eek out a good race, after all. Aaron looked friggin' strong, by the way.

Apart from Aaron, I recognized Craig Hertz from Duluth. Other than those two, the top guys were all unknown to me. We took off slowly, but then it strung out going up the first hill. I let go of the front group coming down to the first aid station. I thought it prudent to start slowly, but although it felt slow, it did not feel easy.

I ran that whole first loop by myself, kind of getting into a zone. I started feeling a little better on the snowshoe loop right before the end of lap one. No runner's high per se, but a couple of sections of effortless joy. I have written about this before: if it's a good high, it feels lile I am about to cry. There were no tears, though.

Steve Quick appeared in the warm mist, like the soft-spoken wiseman that he is. I yelled something like "I haven't seen anyone is 2 hours. How far up is the next person?" He took what seemed like 30 seconds to think it over and then uttered the single word "minutes", as if that was supposed to help me. The Girl is certain that he was messing with us, to ensure that I would finish 5th and she would finish 3rd, just as he had predicted.

Shortly aften the halfway point, I passed the early leader (Tim Scanlon). He had dropped out, from the looks of it. Maybe at mile 20, a walking Aaron Drevlow suddenly appeared. He looked dead, but to his credit he was able to shift gears and jog it in, while encouraging other runners.

I passed Jordan Hanlon with 5 miles to go, and was able to push a steady pace until the finish. I got 4:06, 4th place. The race was won by Forrest Tracy in 3:55. Dang. I'm far from that level. I'm ok with the time and the way the race progressed. I'm a man of the far north, and even high 70's is way too much for me. After a few miles, I looked like I had just emerged from a lake; I was that sweaty. For the first time ever, I took salt tablets and, amazingly, I didn't cramp ip at all. I always thought salt caps were mainly placebo, as I have never seen low sodium in any young, healthy person. Maybe it was coincidental, but I am taking them at my next race, too.

The Girl. The Girl. She is a klutz, for sure. Some kind of abnormality always happens to her, so there is an actual, official finishing time and a if-the-sasquatch-had-not-tripped-me finishing time. At Afton, she lost part of her CamelBak tube and had to run back to get a belt instead. She did well, though, and finished 3rd in 4:49. She is in killer shape now; Afton isn't really her type of course. If she doesn't get injured, she will set all kinds of PRs this fall in Denmark. She was very proud of "relatively chicking" me, ie. finishing higher among the women than me among the men. Pretty soon she will actually chicking me, I think. And all joking aside: I'm very proud of her.

She is a little manic right now, not taking rest days and wanting to sign up for different races every day. The big question is whether she is doing Challenge Copenhagen on August 12. I am trying to talk her out of it, just because her running is going so well.

July 2012 running log

3: Last HPT before Afton.
7: Afton 50K. 4:06, 4th place. See report.
10: 30K on the bike. The Girl could hold my wheel on the flats. Holy crap!
11: an hour on HPT. Wasn't really sore, but both achilles tendons were hurting, the right more than left. After a while, it felt more like an injury and I had to stop.
12: Feeling injured. Freaking out.
13: feeling a little better. Still very spooked.
16: Intervals on the treadmill. 11x 600, escalating from 10 mph to 11 mph. Achilles felt tight but then stopped hurting afterwards.
18: Intervals on the treadmill. I forget the times.
20: Quick litte 8 or so miles in Hixon. A little Achilles tightness. I have decided to run through it.
22: "Almost a marathon" with the Girl, Alicia and Divesh. Hot!

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

St. Paul Trip

Natali, Andreas, Cora (their step-sister), Christian and I went to St. Paul last week for 3 days of big city vacation. We stayed downtown and only once got into our car (to go to the zoo). We got lost in the skywalks but were able to navigate around the city on foot.

We saw the science museum, which was fun. My dad runs the science museum in Copenhagen and I worked there for several years, so it's always fun to compare one museum to another. I like the Minnesota science museum. We caught an I-Max movie that thrilled the girls and scared the boys. The giant cuttle fish gave Andreas nightmares.

The zoo was hot but fun. The dolphin show was a highlight as was the monorail, which essentially shows you the whole zoo in 20 minutes.

On day three, we saw the historical museum and the Capitol. The Capitol building is not as cool as the Madison one, I will say. In Madison, we always walk up to the top balcony, even in mid-winter. That did not seem to be possible in St. Paul, although there was some construction going on.

Here are some very artsy photos (we thought), taken during our many walks around town or by the river.

The heat was bad, although this week got even worse than last week. There were times when my insisting on walking almost caused a mutiny:

Or when Christian and his 4-year old personality became too much for the older kids:

This weekend, we go back to the Tiwn Cities for Afton.

I don't know. I tried running in 100 degree weather today and almost passed out. I mean, it's like standing next to a fire, except the fire is everywhere around you. I get short of breath just standing still when it's this hot. It's supposed to cool down a little on Saturday, but I don't do well with heat, so I am going to have a low threshold for dropping out. Danes really should not be out in this kind of weather; we only function in the 50-70 degree ribbon.

Steve Q linked to the website, where I am apparently the favorite to win. It does look like the big hitters of previous years are staying away (Pat Russell, Brian Peterson, Wynn Davis, Chris Lundstrom etc, who would be soaking in the St. Croix by the time I made it in). If it's not insanely hot, I will start out and see how it goes.

Spectating might be more fun that running, as the Girl is also doing the 50K. After being injured for most of the spring (but still PRing and winning races, mind you), she is back in business. The very fast Eve Rembleski is running, so the Girl won't win, but as readers will know, she is tough (aka a little stupid) and actually likes running in heat. She says she will start out slow, and with the way her training is going, I think she will be doing nothing but passing people throughout her race.

And to make it perfectly clear, if there is any chance that I am about to get "wifed", I am dropping out ("due to heat", of course) immediately.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Flashes From A Wild Few Months

Hi all.

I have not written much in the last weeks.

Life is good. This break-from-real-life period in La Crosse is coming to an end. It has been a wonderful time that I will always remember, but we are starting to look forward to going back to Denmark.

Perhaps the best thing has been seeing my two oldest sons, Christians and Andreas, bond. 4-year old Christian worships 8-year old Andreas, or "Big Buy" as he calls him. From the moment Andreas enters the house, Christian is never more than a foot away from him. Except when Andreas hides, in which case Christian looks like he is about to have a stroke and desperately pleads for help in finding his brother. Andreas is a gentle boy and is quite patient. He makes up complicated games and will play Legos, build forts etc. for hours. Watching thoese two develop a healthy relationship has been the highlight of these last 6 months.

Andreas used to be really ill-behaved and spiteful. I used to dread spending time with him. I would ask him to do something and he would blatantly ignore me. He hated coming over and often made a point of asking what time it was, so he knew exactly how many more minutes he had to spend with us. But all that has melted away. I realized last month that I really enjoyed having him over. It just sort of snuck up on me.

In a month or so, his dad will disappear once again. I hope the good vibes continue and can tide us over until we are back (for good) in a year.

Christian is my favorite child right now. He is 4, but still, miraculously, has not developed any privacy filter. He is so easily excited, and he tells me everything. This weekend, I ran along Lake Superior in Duluth, the night before Grandma's, with Christian in the babyjogger. We talked about every little detail we saw. He is such a happy boy; a boy who has never seen any kind of misfortune. 

We are so close. I put him to sleep every night singing the "Superman Song" by Crash Test Dummies. He is so tired from being outside all day at the Waldorf school that he starts to snore long before the bridge. The other night, we were talking about who he liked best, mommy or daddy. He said daddy. How many 4-year old boys do that? He said mommy the next day (looking at me with a mischievous smile) but I'll take my one victory.

I frustrate the Girl by going to Walmart. And I shouldn't go; but that's another topic for another day. There is a shopping cart, which has two plastic seats made for kids. He loves that cart, and finding it (there are 3 total, but he thinks there is only one) is a major objective to him every time we go. He sees the bright lights of Walmart (which he calls "biblotikken", a baby Danish word that is a mix of store and library). He starts to moan and gyrate, thinking about the shopping cart that he will locate and board. He looks and cranes. He speaks only English now, but I speak Danish to him, so certain concepts have no English translation. The "special cart", which he pronounces "becialler vogn", is one of them.

We enter Walmart and his little green eyes scan the cart area. When he sees the cart, he yelps, jumps a foot into the air and scream "daddy, I found the becialler vogn!" He has no sense of all the people smiling at him. He is a little happy blond boy, and he makes people smile wherever he goes. It's amazing.

Natali and I have grown apart a little. She spends a lot of time with her older step-sisters and her friends, That's OK; I will get her back in a month or so, when we go back to Denmark. We are still best buds, even if we don't spend every night together like last year. I was eating lunch the other day (after a long run in the hills, of course). Suddenly Natali biked into the back yard with her step-sister. They stopped by to visit, just because they were in the neighbourhood. We talked for a while and they left on their bikes. She is only 11 but acts like a teenager already.     

My running is strange. I have been putting in almost nothing but long runs, and it seems like I am in OK shape. We were talking about doing a 10K this weekend, and I was thinking of PR'ing. That's a 33:20, so I wanted to see where my speed was at. I went to the YMCA and did one of the speed workout that I did this winter. Turns out I am much slower now! Like almost a minute over a 15 minute session. I repeated the same thing yesterday and it got a little better, but I am still very far from this winter.

Maybe I am naive, but I didn't think I would be this slow. I run fast on the trails, sometimes "bombing" the long downhills. So I didn't think I would lose that much sharpness. Of course, the next two races are Afton 50K and the Half Voyageur, so speed is not all that important. Nevertheless, I think I will do one speed session on the track or treadmill (if it's really hot) every week from now on.

June 2012 running log

June 2012 Running Log

1-12: Lots of HPTs.
13: HPTs
15: 5 miles on the lakeshore bike trail in Duluth with Christian. Beautiful.
16: Ran some next to the Girl at Grandma's
17: Speed. 2 x 2 miles at grades (to 5%) in 12:20s and 12:50s. "4K intervals" in 15:20 or so. Much slower than just a few months ago! Ran at the Y due to the heat. Shocked at how slow things went. 
18: Hot. Oak trail to HPT and one long BDT lop.

20: Speed. 2 x 2 miles at grades (to 5%) in 12:25 and 12:50. "4K intervals" in 14:56
21: 3x GDB and 2 Ebner Coulees on the bike
22: I forget the details, but my right shin and calf were getting tight. Took a few days off and then ran a 2 x 2 miles at grades (to 5%). Felt good with no pain. Fastest was at 12:15.

May 2012 Running Log

1-2: Some Chippewa recovery. Can't remember
3: 2.5 hours in the hills. Felt a little stiff but generally ok.
6: Some with the babyjogger
7: 15K with the baby jogger to and from the conference.
8: Long run around Fort Lauderdale. 30K?
9: A little jogging with Christian
11: Tempo work at Nashotah Park. That's actually a really nice place to run.
12: Left knee hurts a little after playing some soccer with the kids.
13: Glorious Hixon and HPT run.
14: Ran, swam and biked a little
15-26: Not sure. Nothing but long runs on HPTs
27: Med City Half Marathon. Strong headwinds. 1:18
28-: Not sure

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Med City Marathon Race Report

I don't really like races with difficult logistics, especially when you have to shuttle to the start. We waited a half hour for a bus at 6 in the morning; when we finally got on one, we had to fit three people per seat, which meant sitting in an awkward position for another 20 minutes. Talk about a bad warmup. The number of runners probably grew a lot in the last few days, due to other races being cancelled, and they didn't get enough shuttle busses. Not cool, Med City Marathon!

There was a fierce headwind. I ended up in the front group with the eventual men's marathon winner, Pete Gilman, and the guy who would go on to win the half marathon (yes, the streak ended today...). The winner, whose name I think was Brad, said he had been aiming to beat his PR of 1:12 flat, so I immediately knew I was outgunned. The three of us ran together until maybe 5 miles when Pete Gilman sped up a little and letf Brad and me behind. I was having a really hard time holding on, especially on the uphills, but the next group was far behind and I didn't want to end up alone in the wind. I was able to hold on until 6 miles or so.

After letting go, I took a little time at an aid station. I had a GU and a couple of drinks and settled into my own rhythm. Near the end, there were a few stretches with a strong tailwind, which felt good. i had a teeny tiny runner's high. The volunteers were wonderful and lots of people had set up lawn chairs to see the runners come by. Very cool. Course markings were excellent.

My time was 1:18.20, two minutes behind the winner and 3 minutes ahead of 3rd place. For such a big race, it felt crazy that I didn't see another funner for the last 5 miles! The Girl did really well, running a 1:35 for fourth place. That's only 2 minutes off her PR, so with the wind in mind, it was probably a PR effort. Except for the women's winner, who was far ahead, the women's race was very close and I think she was within a minute of 2nd place (maybe a little more; the results aren't up yet). We had to get back to the kids, so we never got our awards. I don't really care about some plaque, but I worry that we missed out on some cool clothing or other swag. They had the awards more than 2 hours after we came in, which I expect few people were willing to wait for, and they don't mail awards out. Not cool, Med City Marathon!

Overall, we had a good time and would probably do it again (hoping for a tailwind next time). I don't mean to be too negative; apart form the shuttle and award situation, everything was perfectly fine. The best thing was the Girl's race. She is 90% over her injury now, and has been able to train essentially at full bore for two weeks. Her base is so strong. If I could just make her do hard and easy days, she would improve so much (and stay healthy, too). Yes, the Girl, you are reading this, abd you are stupid for doing back-to-back long runs and intervals (and then another long run the next day).

Next week, we are running a little 5K here in town and then we have a triathlon the following weekend.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Half marathon on Sunday

We are running the Med City Half Marathon on Sunday. It looks like a big race and a fast course.

I'm not as sharp as I have been this year. I have gained a few pounds, focusing on lower-intensity long runs in the hills. That's ok, as I had planned this summer to be mostly about ultras.

My half marathon PR is 1:13.54. It's within reach, if conditions are perfect and there is a good pack to pull me along. The winning time has fluctuated from a 1:11 to a 1:19, so I could be way behind or way out front, depending on who shows up.

Why do races like this have to start at 7 am? I know it's potentially hot, but still. They could start the marathon at 7 and the half at 9.

In other news, I finished Once a Runner. I had heard a little about it, and had seen and heard quotes that I never realized came from that book. The Girl won a copy of the book in one of her races and it had been lying around. She had gotten to page 108 and then abandoned it.

I have read quite a few books in the last few years, because of my commute and so on. A lot of John Irving and a bunch of easy reads. Once a Runner is not exactly well-written. It jumps all over the place, sometimes going into annoying detail and at other times just ending a sub-plot abruptly. Had it been about NASCAR, I don't think I would have finished it, but it happens to be about running, with lots of cool historical references. The reader sort of knows that Cassidy will end up winning some big race, but the how is a big unknown.

It may be to running what "House of God" is to medicine: few people have actually read the book, but everyone knows the good quotes.

But seriously:

- What happened to Mizer? How can he describe him in such detail and then never re-introduce him in the plot?
- And Nubbins? In any normal book, we would at least have followed his running progression.
- And O'Gorg or whatever his name is. We hear a brief narrative from him, describing Cassidy. Then he is in a race with Cassidy later in the book, but is just mentioned briefly. why introduce him and never use him again.

I'm such a girl. My favorite part of Once a Runner was the love story. Andrea is frustrated with Cassidy's singlemindedness but it's almost like she understands it better than he does. The love story sub-plot is so understated that their breakup is never even described. In the big race, she is the first to recognize him, despite his long hair and beard. When she screams his name at the end is the book's best moment. And you never find out if they get back together or even meet again. Great stuff.

Monday, April 30, 2012

Chippewa revenge

Due to a combination of a babysitter and the Girl's mom (who drove all the way from Milwaukee, no less), we were able to sneak away from parenthood for a glorious 24 hours to run the Chippewa Morraine 50K.

We stayed at a little motel on the Chippewa River, where we met up with Alicia and Divesh for chatting and chocolates. Alicia and I were giddy and nervous; Divesh was cool as a cucumber, and the Girl was still trying to decide whether she was running or not. She isn't injured enough to completly stop running, but she she starts to hurt when she runs hard.

The Chippewa Morraine Visitor Center was buzzing with smiles and hugs. Chippewa serves as the season opener for many ultra runners from Wisconsin and Minnesota, so the mood tends to be very elated. The parking lot is full of Subarus with ultra-related stickers and the odd (ironic, most likely) "13.1" or even "5K" decal.

I am, invariably, known as the husband of "that crazy blogger", but it has gotten to the point where I feel lile I know a decent number of the runners.

I decided to lead out the first mile, just to stretch out the field and avoid the sometimes overly social bunching up of the front group. It is decidedly uncool to display any kind of competitive spirit at the start of an ultra, of course, so I was hoping that someone would soon pass me.

That someone was Chris Rubesch from Duluth, who led most of the way to the turnaround. A group of 6 formed at the front, and things stayed that way all the way to the turnaround. I weaseled my way to the back of that group. The back of a group is where I like to be. I love to walk the hills, while eating and drinking, and then catch back up on the flats. I am not, and will never be, a strong downhiller, though.

We were going at a good clip. Chris later told me that his coach had instructed him to start out fast (as part of his training plan). His pace (and our willingness to stick with it) would set us all up for big positive splits. The group contained John Storkamp, who must have the highest social IQ of anyone I have met. By making introductions across the group, and sharing tall tales from the ultra world, he was able to create a cool, friendly atmosphere. I remember him from my first Chippewa in 2008; when I was bonking hard, he passed me and actually stopped to share a few tips on how to rebound. A cool guy; he should go into politics or something.

The group also contained Jake Hegge from right here in La Crosse. He is 20 and a sophomore at UW-L. He ran for the team last year, clocking 25 minute 5 milers in cross country, so he is a guy with more speed than practically anyone in the ultra world. Of course, when a 20-year old guy is running his first 50K and, as Jake did, runs without any hydration, I imagine I was not the only one who thought he would implode later on in the race.

Aaron Svedlow looked like a guy who was biding his time. A few times when Chris slowed down, he looked like he might sling shot into the lead.

At the turnaround, the group splintered. I was last out, having taken the time to eat a GU and drink a Red Bull. I got the expected huge high that I tend to get at this point in races. I passed everyone to get into the lead. To say that I "felt good" would be an understatement. Aaron and I passed each other a few times, both obviously hoping to run our own race out front.

I had just passed Aaron for the third time, and was trying to surge, when the Grl was suddenly standing by the trail. She had dropped out, not wanting to chance having her muscle tear up again. She screamed some kind of encouragement, which helped me to run even faster for a while.

Thankfully, Aaron was slowing down. I have since googled him and found that he is a much faster runner than me; he is coming back from injury and doesn't have the miles in him yet. I kept floating up and down the hills until 5 miles to go, when I started cramping up. I walked most of the last hills and couldn't use my top gear for fear of the cramps acting up. With 2 miles to go, the Girl and some other spectators were waiting. The Girl screamed at me to go faster; she seemed genuinely excited, which made me a little emotional. The tears were kept to a very private minimum.

So I won Chippewa! At this point, with my particular amount of skill and talent, at my age and place in life, winning a race like Chippewa is probably the highest point I can realistically hope to reach. I am not going to crank up my training to "take it to the next level". Honestly, I am perfectly happy at this level.

The fact that I now hold the CR is solely due to this year's fast conditions. Last year, it was very muddy (and Brian Peterson got lost last year. He would have run in 3:30 or faster this year).

Eric Nordgren from Duluth took second. Maybe he had talked to Chris Rubesch beforehand about the apparent suicide pace Chris was setting, because Eric ran a smart race from behind. Had the race been 5 miles longer, Eric would have easily passed me.

Jake Hegge was third, beating John Storkamp in a sprint up the last hill. That kid could be big! With his amount of speed, and showing he can keep it together in his first 50K, he could become very fast over the long distances. Let's be honest, anyone who can make the UW-L team tends to look at trail ultras as way beneath them. I have since met him on the local trails, and he seems to have the fire.

What's next? Some race, I guess. The main thing is that the Girl needs to get healthy. We are running Afton and Voyageur and we will see what else.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Chippewa 50K Preview

Chippewa 50K is coming up Saturday. It was our first ultra back in 2008; that year, the course was covered in snow, so the race was a little different. I did horribly and have always wanted to come back and do better. We ran it last year; I did all right, but had been sick with scarlet fever the week before. Race reports here:

2011 and 2008

I am definitely in good shape right now, but as always with ultra running, the times a hard to compare. Last year, I ran in 4:15 or so, which I should be able to beat easily, but then it was muddy last year and I got lost for a few minutes, so even from year to year, comparisons are hard.

Someone could show up and beat me by a half hour, but it will be fun if I am able to stick with the front group. I tend to start ultras very slowly, for fear of blowing up late in the race. But this year, I feel like I am in such good shape that I plan on sticking with the front, unless it's a ridiculously fast pace.

The Girl is recovering from injury, but will run the race for fun. I know she was looking forward to running with Alicia Hudelson, but she does not want to risk it. I think she needs to gain weight, as she is about as thin as I have ever seen her. She is nothing but ribs and spine and it worries us both. First step is me cooking up tuna in a fatty coconut sauce this evening. She is under a lot of sress from her eye study, unfortunately, and that will continue into the fall. If she is able to run the whole thing (slowly) on Saturday, I think she can resume her regular running, which will help a lot with her stress level. For a lot of us, being injured is almost like being depressed

Sunday, April 22, 2012

10 in a row!

Today was a hill-climb type 5K. It went up into and dead-end coulee (small valley between bluffs) and back down. Two young guns hung on until mile 1, but the legs were strong and I ended up winning in 16:57.

At 37, it feels like I could get injured at any moment. I could twist an ankle in 15 minutes while playing soccer witht the kids. That could lead to a knee injury and a break from running. I am very aware of how this is a crazy time in my life, working less until I start a "real job" in the fall. The legs feel so good; the bluffs and trails are minutes from my front door. It will never be this good again; I will never be this fast. I need to savor every moment and be thankful for this blessed life.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Great example of terrible execution

I felt good this morning. I jogged the course and was planning on doing some strides. I had been vaguely aware of being a little behind schedule and then I spent too long trying to find a bathroom. Suddenly there was only time for two strides before they started singing the national anthem. I topped off my poor preparation by drinking a whole can of Red Bull less than 5 minutes before the gun.

The race was not as competitive as I had expected and I got a big lead almost right away. The Red Bull was not really agreeing with me and I briefly slowed down to give my lower esophageal sphincter time to release a loud belch. The whole thing seemed pretty pathetic, but the worst was yet to come. A cop was directing traffic in one of the intersections and pointed to the left. I assumed that meant I was to turn left and I did. Something did not feel right and, as already described, I had jogged the route beforehand. Apparently, he had yelled at me thqt I was going the wrong way, but I was running with music and did not hear him.

I had gone less than a 100 yards off course, by the time I realized my mistake and turned around, which does not seem like much in ultra-terms, but even in this slow 5K it was enough to set me back to fourth place.

So apart from a bad warm-up, gastric distension and getting off course, my PR attempt was faring pretty well. I did claw my way back to 1st place and finished in 16:57. I even got a ridiculously nice award. There is one more 5K next week, before the ultra season begins with Chippewa on the 28th. The winning streak is now at 9 races, which has got to be a personal record (and world record for extreme sandbagging). It may get to 10 next week but that's probably as far at it will go.

Friday, April 13, 2012

5K preview

It looks like the weather will be good tomorrow. I'm in a 5K that should be more competitive than the last many races I have done. At least there are so many signs around town to advertise this race that it seems likely that some fast people will show up.

My training has been going really well. I have started doing long trail runs to get in shape for the ultra season, so my speed may not be perfectly tuned, but that's my priorities now. Still, a PR is not completely out of the question tomorrow, I think. I ran the course yesterday and unfortunately there are some hills, but if someone fast is there to pull me along, a PR is not unrealistic.

If there is one thing I am world-class at, it's choosing small races to run. Counting back, I am undefeated in the last 8 races! But, to be honest, I really want a fast time, so I am hoping for some competition. La Crosse is a very fit and outdoorsy town but there is a lack of really fast runners. The college has a strong D3 team that has won nationals in both cross country and track. In fact, when I ran my one D3 year almost 20 years ago, the La Crosse team was looked at as these very serious uber-elites that we could not even dream of beating.

But after college, there is not much in town. There is no specialty running store, either. My friend Justin, who I met as a pharmacist at the hospital, is by far the fastest non-collegiate runner in town with a 2:27 marathon and the next-fastest is probably me. And since Justin is just coming back from injury (and generally looks at small 5Ks as way beneath him), I have to pin my hopes on someone coming in from outside La Crosse or on a slow college runner or fast high schooler. In fact, a fast high schooler may be my best bet. I don't know if there is any high school kid who can run a sub-16 5K right now in town, but there is probably someone who can run a 5-minute first mile into the headwind before faltering. In fact, that would be a perfect scenario!

Wish me luck!

Monday, April 9, 2012

March 2012 Running Log

Not Sure
5: 5K on treadmill in 16:14. Standing start. 1% grade. Last 800 in 0.5% and 0%.
7: Not sure
9: 50K 3 days of Syllamo. 4:12. First place.
11: 14 miles at 3 days of Syllamo. 1:50. First place.
13: 3K with Laksen in baby jogger
14: 10 miles on trails
Not Sure
18: Speed work on track with J. 1600, 1200, 800, 400.
21: 15 miles hard on trails
23: 5K in 15:55. PR!. Total of 12 miles
25: Hill speed with J. 1-2-3-4-5-4-3-2-1
Not Sure
29: 20 miles of hills (Hixon, TNT, HPT, Conservancy)
31: 10K in the morning before Mad City 50K (The Girl won!)

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Whoa! (or was it short?)

Ran a small 5k this morning, put on by UW La Crosse. Perfect conditions and, as it turned out, competition.

I led out the first half mile or so and was then passed by a young, tall runner. I later learned his name is Nathaniel and he is 19. Those young bucks are always full of energy; sometimes they are a little low on strategy. Nathaniel let me draft off him until around two miles. I did put in little surges to let him know that I wouldn't mind leading for a while, but he sped up with me, so we would run shoulder to shoulder for a little while. This often happens with younger runners, so I was happy just drafting off him.

At 2 miles, i put in a couple of surges and got a little gap. I decided to go for it, and the gap increased to about 15 seconds by the finish.

My time? 15::55! A 4-second PR.

But I have to be honest. Three weeks ago, I felt like I was peaking, and I am sure I ran around PR pace on a course that was long. This time, I have trained hard and ran 20 hilly miles Thursday, so by no means did I expect to PR today. I felt good, but not smoking fast, while warming up. I do think this course was a little short, unfortunately.

The good news is that a friend of mine will try ot get me into a couple of open track races. Maybe I could hit a perfect 15:45 5000 pack.

The Girl has had a million aches and pains since Syllamo. I don't know if it was her race itself that did it, or the 100+ mile weeks leading up to it, but her body needed a break. She has been biking and swimming a lot and is starting to feel better, so my sense is that she will bounce back soon.

Thursday, March 22, 2012

A Day in This Blessed Life

Sometimes, one has to focus on how full the glass is. Ours is not half full; it's at least 90% full. Like many, I'm wired to obsess about the last 10%: where is the Girl going to do residency? Will it be far away from the kids in La Crosse? What will I do? Can I find a job?

But the 90%... Honestly, we are living the dream right now.

Today, I woke up a little after 8. The Girl had alreadt left to take Christian to school. I work tonight, so she let me sleep in.

I had the whole morning to enjoy a long run in the woods. We live a few blocks off Main St, which leads up to Granddad Bluff. You can see it in the distance, hovering over the city.

The road that leads up there, Bliss Road, has washed out several times, but this time it seems like they have put in some really strong supports. It's a great cycling hill, but today was about running. One of the trailheads to the Hixon Forest trails sits at the first turn coming up Bliss Road. Not many people use that trailhead. This is the bottom of Bliss Road:

Hixon Forest and the surrounding Nature Conservancy serve one purpose: giving people accest to beautiful scenery and trails. There are no logging roads; there is no entry fee. It's just there for people to enjoy. From almost anywhere in La Crosse, one can see the bluffs. They are mostly empty of any buildings, so they sit like a huge green bulge that spans the entire length of the city. Another way of looking at it is that La Crosse is a long, slim town squeezed in between the Mississippi and the Bluffs. Did I mention that I like Hixon Forest, the Nature Conservancy and the bluffs?

The trails are mostly singletrack. Running in Hixon and beyond typically looks like this: the trail follows the hillside, going into a couleee. There is often an option of a lower trail that hugs the hillside at the bottom of the coulee and a steeper trail that leads up to the next bluff. This is looking from one trail over to the other side of the coulee:

15 minutes of hard running later, I'm on top of one of the bluffs. They all have names, and I regret that I don't know them all. Look at this view of the city, the river, Minnesota on the other side, and even Iowa in the distance. The bluff in the picture is Granddad Bluff.

This is looking north, to the next big bluff.

An hour later, taking the long way there, I am on that very bluff. The view to the south still holds Granddad Bluff, the river, the city etc.

Hixon and the Conservancy (and the so-called Human Powered Trails) have an untold amount of trails. I have probably run most of them at one point, but it would be very difficult to run them all in, say, a week. A few years ago, this trail was open to bikes, but not any more. The trails are expanding and the scope of their use changes with time.

Then it's back down to town to pick up El Guapo. The Girl has an hour or so left of exercise, and the Y care is closing. It's about a mile from the trails to the YMCA. I pass Weigent Park, which in my mind is the epicenter of desirable location in La Crosse. In this picture, one can see the free tennis courts, some of the playground, the big lawn and the nice victorian houses lining the park.
This is "the castle on Cass St", which was just sold.

It had been on the market for an eternity for about $1 million. It sits a kitty corner across from Weigent Park. I wonder if the new owner will make it into a bed and breakfast. It's a few blocks from downtown.

At the YMCA, I am met by this. Yes, the glass is full.

And jogging home, with a body full of endorphins, I look up. And there they are: the bluffs, the woods, the trails, waiting for our next adventure up there

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

3 Days of Syllamo

We had a fun trip. I had insisted on driving down to Arkansas, as flying with little kids stresses me out. We packed 5 people and too much junk into our aging minivan (the "busboos") and drove south.

Arkansas is beautiful! Who knew? I guess I knew about the Ozarks, but still. Coming from brown Wisocnsin to green Arkansas in March is definitely cool. We drove up to the race headquarters at Blanchard Springs on Thursday night to check in. The campground is surrounded by little mountains in all directions and trails shoot off in all directions.

Since most people come here via the Girl's blog, they know that I ran the 50K and the 20K and did come in first in both. Now, there were plenty people signed up to run just those two races (ie. skip the middle 50 miler) but they tended to be the less serious runners.

The 50K was fun. I ran the first half with Nick Lewis, the eventual overall winner and Brad Bishop, who ended up taking 5th overall (I think; the results are not up yet). Every time I run an ultra, I am surprised by how everyone has a similar frame of reference. Only first names are spoken, and you are expected to know who they are talking about (as in, "Hal really shouldn't have sold Tony those short-shorts in a women's small"). It turned out Nick Lewis had taken second at Leadville (that race probably has a real name, but one should never call it anything else than Leadville in ultra circles). He more or less floated both up and down hills, making me feel old and stiff.

After halfway, Nick slowed down a little and told me to go ahead. I did, and essentially spent the next two hours worried about getting lost. The course markings were so sparse that I ran miles without seeing any ribbons. I wouldn't say the course was not well-marked, because each intersection was marked adequately. But I am the type who needs to see a ribbon at least every half mile or so. If not, I start playing head games, and several times I did turn around to wait for Nick to show up in the distance. I ran the 50K in 4:13.

The Girl ran the 50K in some good time I can't remember. She took second, which was surprising to both of us.

I got to watch the 50 miler from the sidelies, which was fun. The Girl dug very deep, as she got passed at the end and tried to keep up. Everyone now knows how she passed out in the shower. She lay in bed for an hour and was so sick that I had to keep it a secret from her mom. Her mom would have called 911 immediately, had she seen how pale the Girl looked. I was really worried: not about the Girl, but since we have no health insurance, I was freaking out about the ambulance bill.

Amazingly, she bounced back and took second among the overall contenders on day 3.

Having "only" run a 50K on Friday, I was able to win the 20K. A few days ago, I would consider that to be some serious recovery, but everything is relative.

Of course, I felt pretty good in my skin. My training has been going well, and things are clicking. Next up is a 5K in two weeks and then maybe the Mad City 50K.

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

No PR - off to Syllamo

I really wanted that PR. I tried running on the local track and kept PR pace for the first kilometer, but it was really windy and I didn't feel good. Instead, I ran to the YMCA and the more predictable treadmill. A 16:18 (standing start, 1% grade) will mark the end of this training period and, at least, provide some measure of comparison for the future.

Syllamo will be fun. The Girl's parents are coming. Since I'll be skipping the 50 miler, it feels like I will be running two fun runs. Sure, I would like to do well, but the times will mean nothing and I have no control of whether someone faster than me shows up, so all I can do is enjoy the races. The Girl is semi-injured but will do the whole race (as of now).

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Good and bad

This turned out to be a very low-key race. Like, no-one-warmed-except-me low-key.

Strangely, the local TV station was there. The camera man sat in the back of the lead-out ATV. Talk about an awkward moment; after a half mile, he said something to the driver (like, "I didn't come here to shoot some old albino in tights"). The driver slowed down and he jumped off the ATV and probably started to film the more photogenic mid-packers. He even gave me an apologetic look, which conveyed something like, "I'm sure you understand, buddy, but you ain't making the evening news".

I felt great and had a hunch that I was on my way to a PR. The weather wasn't as bad as advertised and the legs were absolutely golden. I was hoping for a sub-5 mile split, but as I looked down, my watch said... 5:38!

I was hoping that mile was just long and the course as a whole was accurate, but my finishing time was 16:40. There was a general consensus that the course was long, which was disappointing. It felt so fast that I may go back with my Garmin just to see, but of course that won't really mean anything.

So on the plus side, I feel like I am ready to bust out a really fast race (I may even have done that today). There is a 5K in three weeks put on by UW-La Crosse, so most likely some fast guys will show up. OTOH, we are running 3 Days of Syllamo next weekend, which may take a little pep out of my step. Syllamo is 100 miles over 3 days, but I'll skip the middle day (the 50 miler). I just feel in such good "fast shape" that I don't want to chance it with a 50 miler. As if a 50K and a half marathon in three days isn't enough...

Part of me wants to head over to the local track and just run a quick 5000. That's actually not a bad idea; maybe I'll do that Tuesday.

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

I'll whisper it: PR on Saturday?

We're running a small 5k this Saturday. It's flat, I'm in shape, and I'm going for it.

For over a month now, I've been running well. My bread-and-butter workout has been 3 2-mile grade pyramids. My times have gotten faster abd faster and, perhaps more importantly, I've lost weight. I'm down to 64-65kg, which is low for me.

I'm going for a PR that, at 10 years, is almost as old as my daughter, Natali. My 5K PR of 15:57 was set in the spring of 2001 at the opening track meet of the season. I was in decent shape and was lucky enough to find myself in a race with a guy, who was a little stronger than me. back then, I had a very good kick and basically always raced the same way: draft, draft, draft, kick. That early spring night, the 5000 was the last race of the night, and we raced under the lights, which was the first time for me.

I don't remember anything about the other runners, but this one guy ran just slightly faster than me. There was a fairly strong headwind down the home straight, so I was able to tuck in behind him and relax a little. But on every back straight, it was a battle to hold on, as the advantage of drafting disappeared. I drafted off him until one lap to go and then kicked on the last lap. That night was far from the fastest I have ever felt, but I have never been in such a favorable race and been in good shape at the same time since.

I remember thinking that if I could run sub-16 in March, I should be able to run mid-15s in June. But then came med school finals and a long summer of brats and burges in Northern Wisconsin and subsequent weight gain.

In 2007, I ran low-16s in a race with good competition, but didn't have the speed.

In 2008, I ran two 16:20s in small road races without competition.

In 2009, I ran 16:09 on a night that should have been a PR, but a big storm came in and ruined it.

Now it's 2012 and I'm in shape. I'm fired up, I know the route and have been visualizing the race all week. I'm so used to running marathons and ultras, i've gotten used to running without pain. Well, there's definitely pain in ultras, but it's a different kind of pain; a more predictable, less scary kind of pain. Hopefully, on Saturday, I'll be able to start out fast. Hopefully with a 5-minute mile. I'll expect the feeling of lactic acid building up in my legs and arms. I used to know that feeling well, but it's been a while now. At this point, I'm unable to speed up or slow down much. I lose my sense of how fast I am going and I tend to lose interest in the race. I look forward to being done and stop caring about the time. Surprisingly, those second, heavy-limbed miles are not as slow as they feel and typically I am able to wake up a little and speed up toward the end.

Wow, it's been a while since I was this excited about a race. If only this big storm everyone is talking about drops rain and not snow...

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Big and small differences

I love the topic of how Denmark and the US are different. I don't know where I feel more at home. Sometimes, the glass is half full and sometimes it's half empty. Here's a list of differences the reader may or may not be aware of.

Some obvious ones are:

Equality vs Inequality. That's the biggest difference; the one I will never get used to. In Denmark, the entire middle 95% have essentially the same quality of life. Success isn't rewarded like it is here, and yet this doesn't really bother Danes. Surprisingly, the "poor" (who make more money than the median US household income, mind you) still bitch and moan about how the "system" is out to get them. And boy, I would never even be able to say something like this in Denmark without getting funny looks. So it sounds like I would prefer the US system, but I don't. The inequality is everywhere. Unfairness is everywhere, every day in the ER.

Religion. Americans don't realize this. Scandinavians notice it immediately.

Politics. Just two parties and nasty us-versus-them partisanism. It seems like Danes love discussing politics, whereas Americans get tight sphincters if you ask them who they voted for. Probably a product of the two-party system in America, which few people seem to question.

But here are some smaller differences.

Amateur sports. Open the locan paper in Næstved, Denmark, and the sports pages will be about the local adult amateur teams. Some of these teams are semi-pro, sure, most mostly it's regular working folk playing national level handball (olympic handball to you North Americans), soccer, tennis or badminton or what have you. Open the same size local paper here and there are almost identical articles about kids' sports. Danes are unable to comprehend how big kids' sports are here. If a local kids' team is excelling nationally in Denmark, it leads to some coverage in the paper or local TV news, but you can't compare it to the focus on kids' sports here. You could take any of the local high school track teams in La Crosse and they would probably be able to beat every single junior track team in Denmark (except maybe two or three). But then kids graduate from high school and college and it just drops off. A top Division 3 college sprinter can go from being, essentially, a full time athlete to an old man after outdoor nationals his senior year. This topic could fill 10 blog posts, so I'll leave it there.

Pro sports. Wisconsin has the Packers, Bucks, Brewers and... I dono't know, maybe a female basketball team,? There used to be semi-pro basketball league. In the summer there is minor league baseball in maybe 10 cities. Let's say around 10 pro sports teams. Denmark has, what, 200 pro teams in a number of sports. I don't get it. One could argue that college sports fill that role in Wisconsin, but it's still interesting. I should mention that both Wisconsin and Denmark have populations of about 6 million.

Public radio. I love public radio here as do most people I talk to. Wisconsin has Wisconsin Public Radio, whose programs are partly produced by NPR. Denmark has 5 public radio stations and at least two of those are far from popular. What gives?

The price of food. Not a subtle difference, but still. It blows my mind that I drive to work and my dinner is a 99 cent burrito from Taco Bell. 99 cents! And I get full from this burrito.

Hmm, there are more but the Girl is home...

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

February 2012 Running Log

1: 3x2 miles on treadmill. Felt good, forgot times.
2: Spinning with the Girl, then swimming.
3: Ran 1.5 hours with the Girl. Then proceded to run 3x2 miles with PR on the second one at 11:35.
5: 1 hour after work, slowly around town.
6: Three Rivers Trail to the Y. Surprisingly tired. Wanted to run 3x2 miles, but overheated and had to drop the last one. The second 2 miler quite fast at 11:38.
8-22nd: can't remember exactly. A lot of tempos on the treadmill, typically 3x2 miles as either easy or hard pyramids. A few longer (3 hours) with the Girl. Most tempo days, I ran an hour or so on the way to the Y.
24. Ran an hour with the Girl and then did three 2 milers on the treadmill.
27. Gpt off of work and went to the north Y. Ran 4x800m with half laps at 6.2 mph. Total 4 K in 14:50. Low pyramid 2 miles in 11:2x. Steep pyramid 2 miles in 12:12. All three were PRs. I'm in shape. PR on Saturday?
28: Swimminh and core stuff.
29: confusing day. Overslept and had to rush to the Y to pick up El Guapo. However, the Girl was kind enough to let me run on the treadmill. Two steep pyramids (2 miles) in 11:52 and 11:50, both big PRs.

January running log


Not enough miles but lots of quality runs.

A week of altitude in Mammoth, where I ate too much and ran too little. Two decent runs Up to Twin Lakes and one amazing run from Olmsted Point towards th Yosemite Valley.

Luts of running on the treadmill. The two main workouts were 2x(4x800). Rest 200m@ 6.2 mph. Last 800 is actually a 1000, where the last 500 is at 0%. I believe the fastest time was 14:55.

The other workout is 3x2 miles with 4 minutes rest. The 2 miles are run at a "pyramid grade", where the grade is increased until 1.5 yards and then rapidly decreased (down to 0% the last half lap). Fastest times around 11:40.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Settling in La Crosse

Life is good here.

We sit in our breakfast nook and look out on the snowmen that I built with Christian this week. There are six of them, one for each member of the family. He was very particular with how tall he wanted each of them. I ended up shorter than the Snow Girl, but I have a bigger and rounder head. We put boobs on the Snow Girl, so people could tell who was who.

Little Snow Guapo is less than a foot tall and has tiny rocks for eyes. They fall out every time the sun shines. Sometimes Snow Guapo has to sit on the Girl's hip, because he is so small. Christian is overcome with jealousy when he sees Snow Guapo on the Snow Girl's hip. He won't run over to knock the little snowman down, because he likes the game too much, but he is very adament that Snow Guapo stands alone at night.

He goes to the Waldorf school in La Crosse. It's a lesson in not being quite cool enough for all of us. We have spent hours searching for SmartWool socks that fit a 3-year old and go up over his knees. He wears his Thomas the Train shirt at home, but any sign of pop culture is strictly banned at his school. The parents and teachers make we nervous when they approach me wearing homespun hemp. Then speak slowly and with righteous conviction. They never break eye contact; they drive Subarus or Volvos and are never in a hurry. They shop at the co-op and are probably 100% organic at home.

Yesterday, I got a few points for picking up Christian on my bike. I had temporarily forgotten just how unusual it is for someone to ride a bike in January in La Crosse. Drivers are so nice here that it feels like I slowed down hundreds of drivers. But the weather was nice and it was worth it to see the elites at the Waldorf stare jealously at my muddy pants. Yes, muddy pants trump "eat local" bumper stickers.

Christian and I like to run or bike to the La Crosse River. We throw ice and snow into the river, whether the river is ice or water. Ice floes break loose from upstream and yesterday a floe larger than a minivan sailed past us. We go skiing at Mount La Crosse; when I am more than an inch behind him, he screams "I fastern you, dad!". When I am more than an inch ahead of him, he screams "vent for me, far!". He rides over the jumps on the edge of the run, oblivious to the glares from teenagers he cuts off.

The Girl is in a crazy exercise phase. Like most of the people who read this, she is addicted to exercise. Suddenly she has time to exercise as much as she wants, for the first time since her intern year. She runs/bikes/swims/yogas/etc from 9 to 1 and then she is done for the day. It's a strange relief from the tears and frustrations of life in Denmark, where she was never able to exercise as much as she wanted. Here, She comes home tired from all her exercise, works for a few hours (10 hours a week, officially), and we have a normal afternoon/evening with the kids. Yesterday, the car broke down and we had to spend over an hour to get it jumped and then get it to the shop. It was almost fun. In Denmark, the Girl would have had a full-blown panic attack because her days were so insanely parcelled out that any interruption would topple the exercise apple cart. Last night, there were jokes and laughs.

And of course, she is in great shape. She is taking easy days every other day (ie. she only runs 10 miles and then cross trains for 3 hours). On hard days, she runs quality workouts. If I ran like her, I would be injured immediately. She runs over 100 miles a week. 100K for me is about as high as I can go, and even that is pushing it. She needs to run more intense stuff, which has always been her weakness, but even that is coming around. She is doing 1 mile intervals right now (I wasn't allowed to join her, unfortunately). We have a half marathon next weekend. Depending on how cold it is, I think she has a huge PR in her, maybe high 1:20s.

The chances of me getting "wifed" at Three Days of Syllamo are very, very real.

(An earlier version of this post had an exaggerated description of the Girl's eating habits and singlemindedness during a heavy training phase. I thought it was funny; the Girl less so).

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


The weather in the Sierra Nevadas has been unusually warm and dry, so the Yosemite east entrance (going over Tioga Pass) was open. The highlight of the trip, at least runningwise, was running from Olmsted Point almost to the valley. All by ourselves. We didn't meet single person all day. There was only a tiny bit of snow. In January. When is that ever going to happen again?

Half Dome in the background.

Closer to half dome (switchbacking down to the valley)

Skiing-wise, the story of the week was this:
That's my brother-in-law. He was fine.

This is the whole gang on the life. They had made enough snow to make it a ski trip, but everything was green or brown outside the open runs.

Christian liked skiing. Perhaps that was the absolute high point.

Everyone on the back porch of the wonderful house we stayed in.