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 N├Žstved, 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

Summary:

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.