Thursday, December 19, 2013

An angst-ridden Christmas post

Hi all,

It's been a wild few months for our family.

I like my job; if not, something would have snapped a long time ago. Christian likes school, and El Guapo smiles when he sees his daycare in the morning. Christian has been able to keep his two languages apart, so he is now officially bilingual. El Guapo not so much. He shouts out commands in Danish, peppered with a few No's and Thank You's.

The Girl has been more away than home, so that's taking a toll on everyone. Going to interviews for residency is exciting, when you are a senior medical student. I think she is excited, sure, but mostly she wants the process over and her name in a great program.

Which brings me to the tragedy that is my life. The big kids only come up to visit every four weeks. I miss them terribly, especially Natali. I don't miss living in Denmark particularly. Well, no, I am actually surprised by how much I miss Denmark, but it's something I can live with. What I really miss is being with Natali. I miss cleaning the kitchen after the boys are asleep, while she plays her guitar for me. I miss her quirky opinions on everything.

She has really shut me out. Not that I would know for sure, but I think she is strugglng hard to find her place in cutthroat middle school. Her focus is on getting good grades, stayng skinny (too much focus on that) and becoming popular. Seeing me is is not a distraction from this life, as much as a setback. My ex wife is not making this easy, either, but she has her own stressors (again, not that I really know).

It just hurts to think about that just 6 months ago, I would wake her up in the morning, find her favorite clothes from the (usually clean) laundry, discuss her day and her problems until the moment she would fall asleep. It was probably the part of my life. I say probably, because I really have no idea. If I suddenly had to live without the Girl or one of the boys, it might be even worse.

The Girl applied to programs mainly in the midwest and then a few very prestigious programs on the coasts. Everyne does that, thinking "wow, what if I got an interview at Johns Hopkins". It looked like I was finally going to live close to the kids. Her programs included University of Wisconsin and Medical College of Wisconsin, her two alma maters.

But it wouldn't be my life, if things were that simple. These relatively "easy" programs have not offered her interviews. But all the "hey, let's appply there" programs on the coasts have invited her. Her list of interviews includes all the PM&R powerhouses. We are not sure why it''s so, but we imagine her research background is a bigger plus at the top programs. But only one that would bring the world's fastest hematologist closer to his kids. That one is University of Minnesota.

Her match is March 12th. We are very, very nervous about it. You have to go where the Match tells you.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

I'm racing again!

Life has been hectic, to say the least. The running has been great. We are still exploring Duluth's many trails.

The Girl ran (and won) the Superior Sawtooth 50 mile race. She will have a report up soon, I think. I had to work, unfortunately, but it sounds like a fun race. Alicia, who is an expert of extreme ultras, has her report here. She has the Arrowhead 135 Mile women's record and fastest known time on the entire 442 km Superior Hiking Trail (although I believe the trail was a little shorter when she set the record).

The Girl's win was a pleasant surprise, although not completely unexpected. She also set a PR of 18:49 at a 5K in Oconomowoc. In running, you can't compare the quality of two such efforts, but an 18:49 is quite an achievement. In this day and age, where longer always seems to be better, a lot of even semi-serious runners are not familar with quality times in the classic long distances. Well, 18:49 is fast. And I believe she will improve from there. She is running interval times indicating low 18s.

I ran a 16:11 at the same race, so I'm getting into decent shape. The race consisted of long, boring straights of asphalt with a few hills. Yes, boring.

Last Wednesday, I got to run a trail race in Lester Park. It's part of a trail series in and around Duluth that lasts all fall. There are races almost every week, actually. It's been a long time since I had so much fun racing. It's 3 loops of mildly technical trails with lots of ups and downs. Each loop goes mostly up for a mile and then back down for another mile.

The warm-up area teemed with fast-looking younger men. A few guys ran in spikes! Many ran shirtless, which is always certain to make me feel old. My hairy, pale torso is not and never will be acceptable for public display.

What a cool race. Up and down, twists and turns; never a dull moment. I felt ok on the climbs and had a hard time holding on on the downhills. That's always the case with me.

Coming through after lap 1:

That's Chris Rubesch, who is a top ultra runner. Chris played no tactical games and just ran his own race, leading out the pack the first mile. The eventual winner, Gage and Adam are up ahead.

After lap 2:

We had caught Adam. The three of us ran a lap together..

And at the finish: (not exactly a toe striker, eh?):

I was able to sneak away on the last long uphill. And by sneak away, I mean red-lining it, while my legs were simultaneously numb and burning with lactic acid. When I got to the top, I had maybe 20 seconds on Chris and Adam (and at this time Erik Elmstrand was catching them). The downhill was a crazy all-out sprint, hoping to stay on my feet. Thankfully, they didn't catch me. Results here. Did I mention it was a fun race? Tomorrow is the next race in the series. Since the Girl is still sore from her 50 miler, she will watch the kids and I get to run this one, too!

I should write about Christian starting school and Mattias saying "Mommy" for the first time, but that's another time and another post.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

July 2013 Running Log

Not sure of the first part.
8 Long run on trails
10 Hilly run in Willingen, Germany. Then a jog with my brother.
12 Gorgeous mountain run in Kappl. Maybe 20K
13 6K hill climb before hiking with the fam
14 Another mountain run, around 20K
15 10K downhill run mountain after getting lost hiking
Ran a lot of perimeter
Not sure of the rest. Mostly unstructured fartlek-type stuff on trails.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Winforce 100K - Race Report

The Girl was volunteering as race doctor, which got me in for free. Winforce 100 is a very hilly, but mostly non-technical trail race. A 50K on that course would fit me very well. Next year, Christian Madsen, the RD, may add a 50K option. This year, for me, it was running the race or watching the kids all day, so I figured I would run 2 or 3 laps.

The route is 4 gorgeous loops of 25K. They Girl ran the first loop with me, before tending to potential heart attacks and what not. The course starts out with a difficult 2K on the beach, through dunes, seaweed etc.

Then it opens up into a nice, albeit windy, 3K section along the ocean. It's a little sandy on this section but otherwise quite runnable. After this, one gets 5K of very runnable forest singletrack. Then a long section of "Scotland", ie. hills and more hills with sheep and ocean vistas. There are two short out-and-backs, which is really nice. It doesn't feel as lonely as some ultras.

Did we start out slowly? It's hard to say, as everyone ran severely positive splits. We ran the first 25K in 2:30, somewhere in the middle of the pack. That pace, ie. 10 hour pace, would easily have won the race, even though it felt desperately slow compared to the front runners. So I don't know; how does one race an ultra? Do you take walking breaks, even when your legs are fresh? Do you slow down to below comfortable cruising pace?

On the second loop, I started moving up through the  field. Or rather, people started coming back to me. I may have run a little faster on the second loop, but not much. By the end of the second loop (50K in a little less than 5 hours, I think), I felt really good.

I hadn't really expected that I would run the 100K but at the halfway point, I felt very good and was even considering my chances of finishing on the podium. The Girl was telling me how good I looked and seemed genuinely excited to see me do well. At 55K, I was in third place with music playing and emotions running high. I ran all the runnable stuff fairly fast.

Then things started to unravel. The sun had come out and it was getting really hot. I started to feel nauseated and dizzy. I thought seriously about trying to throw up, but I didn't want to lose the fluids, and I didn't think it would make me feel better. It seems like the stars of ultrarunning can throw up at will; maybe that's something I have to work on.

Anyway. I have never felt that miserable in a race. I have sucked at ultras many times, but it's always been my legs. I have gotten used to feeling relatively fresh until my legs suddenly cramp up. Kind of like relaxing in your car and suddenly you have a flat tire. Saturday was different. I felt so sick and miserable, whereas my legs felt fairly good. A few times, I had the wherewithal to ask of myself why exactly I couldn't just run faster (to get it it over with, I guess), and the answer was simply that I felt more sick, dizzy and disoriented every time I sped up. At 65K or so, I was passed by Maibritt, who would later win for the women. She told me she felt horrible, and I figured I could tag onto her for a while.

I would run an inner data analysis to figure out just why it felt so bad to run her pace. We were probably going 10 minute miles or slower, but I just couldn't hang on. Gawd, I felt bad.

At 70K, I asked Moses Lovstad, of Danish trail running fame, how to deal with nausea. His official answer was "Coke works for everything", but the way he looked at me, his real answer read more like "drop out and go sit in the shade for a while".

When I got in after the third lap, I still thought about continuing. I was in third place for the men and fourth place overall, and rumor had it there were decent prizes for top 3. The race doctor paid me some special attention and I drank maybe 2 liters of Coke. I didn't feel any better. I sat for a while contemplating my options, when the fourth place guy, Fabricio, came in. He looked very smooth and composed, and it felt like there was no way in the universe I could keep up with him.

So I dropped out. And good thing I did, because the next 3 hours were spent sitting miserably in the car, sometimes sleeping for a few minutes, sometimes debating whether I could open the door and lean out before throwing up.

What a miserable experience.

I don't know why I keep trying these ultras. I have promised myself that I won't run another ultra (50Ks don't count, of course) until Voyageur next year.

A big thanks to Christian Madsen for making a race like this happen. I would recommend this race to everyone. I was impressed at how he seemed to know exactly where the runners were on the course, especially after nightfall, when the field was so spread out. The course markings were excellent, especially considering the two potentially confusing out-and-backs.

Saturday, July 27, 2013

June Running Log

1-3 Something in Chicago
4 Checking out Duluth. 20K, some in Chester Park. Good stuff.
5: Two runs, maybe 8K total around Duluth
7: 6K with Andreas on bike trails
9: 1.5 hours in Hixon and HPT. Yes!
12: 2 hours on HPT. Yes!
13-17: Can't remember.
18: Two Suså loops. Felt tired.
20: Quick break from watching kids. 10 x pinetum in 20:40. Not bad at all, actually. I think 12 seconds off PR
22: 45 minutes with the boys and then 3x perimeter loop. Thanks, Natti!
23 Lots of running with the turds in the jogger. Maybe total 16K
25: 3 x perimeter loop fast.
Don't remember the rest

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

How do single parents do it?

I'm coming up on two weeks of being alone with the kids. Natali is 12 and is a great help, so she doesn't really count as a kid, but the boys are 1 and 5, so they almost count for three kids.

Oh. My. God. What gets me the most is that I am "on call" 24-7. When El Guapo wakes up and wanders around the apartment in the middle of the night; when he poops in the tub; when Christian pours a cup of sand onto the floor from his shoes; when they are thirsty, hungry, sad, tired. When they miss their mom.

My mom has come by a few times to help, and Natali is a great support. With them, it's a very unenviable life, and without them, barely feasible. I have worked with colleagues, doctors and otherwise, who are single parents, and they tend to have lots and lots of sick days. I fully understand why. There is just no respite from single parenthood.

At night, when it's all over and the kids are sleeping like little angels, I stand there for a while and congratulate myself on making it through another day. Then I cross off an imaginary day on the countown-to-the-Girl calendar. And then I sneak off to pick up the apartment, fill the dishwasher, fold laundry, write a few emails. When I get back to bed, the little slugs have rotated 1200 degrees around the bed. Picking them up is like lifting anti-matter. If I am able to push them apart, they slither back toward the center of the bed like heat-seeking missiles. I end up squeezing myself in between the two pink, mouth-breathing eels.

But it's not all bad. Christian has, surprisingly, stepped up to the situation. He gets up first thing in the morning; not after encouragement followed by orders, followed by screaming, followed by poking, followed by carrying a newly caught Alaskan salmon out of the bed. No, he gets up and walks into the bathroom to have his teeth brushed. It's like he knows I'm stressed out and that messing with me is not a good idea.

Then, he carries the two Nutella rolls down to the bike trailer and feeds one to Mattias. He even makes sure Mattias doesn't drop the roll. At night, he behaves really well and had helped me scold Mattias a few times. I am very impressed.

Meanwhile, Natali is going through emotional hell. It's her last week in school, so she is saying goodbye to her friends of four years. She is most likely never coming back here, and up until lately, she pretended to be fine with that. Then a few nights ago, she said that coming back here for 7th grade wouldn't be too bad. Of course she is nervous; she is starting middle school in La Crosse in two months, poor thing. She is saying goodbye to her entire life here. Her cavelike room, with her guitar, drawings and Beatles posters, is forever to be abandoned.

I struggle with this. Being around Natti every day speaks to me on such a deep primate level. Seeing the world through her eyes is such a privilege; I am 100% in denial of the fact that it's coming to an end.

Moving to Duluth is exciting, of course. Make no mistake. I found a good job there. Nay, a great job, that I can't wait to start. I have always loved Duluth and the thought of starting a life from scratch there is tantalizing.

Two more months and it's for real. For good and for bad.

May 2013 Running Log

1: Not sure
3: Not sure
5: Faxeløbet, 8.4K. First place.
7: Perimeter trail
8: Slow spin
9: 100K bike ride.
10: 10K running back and forth. 4 of those with Natti.
11: Half Ironman Mallorca. Another 8K jog, half with Natti.
12: Slow spin with the Girl. Water park fun.
13: 150K mountain ride. 4K with Natti.
14: 80K mountain ride. 4K with Natti.
16: 12K in woods. Heavy, weird feeling legs.
18: Long run in woods. Felt good.
19: 3K with Natti, Chooey and my dad.
20: 25K: 10K with the boys in the jogger. Then 2 perimeter loops and 5 hill loops. Great legs.
22: Horrible rain. 3 miles on the treadmill fast. Then 8K in the woods, moderate pace. Felt a little worn.
23: 5K with the boys in the jogger
24: 5K with the boys in the jogger
26: Intervals pacing the Girl through 5 x 1000m
27: 7K around North Lake
28: 12K slow Chicago Lakefront
30: 16K Chicago Lakefront

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

The Runner's Survival Guide to the Half Ironman (do as I say, not as I do)

This race report is very after-the-fact. But will I care when I look back at this in 5 years, will I care? No.

We raced the Thomas Cook Ironman 70.3 last weekend on Mallorca. I have done maybe 10 smaller triathlons and I felt they required annoyingly complicated check-in procedures: bike checks, helmet checks, setting up your transition area hours before race start, and then waiting forever in your wetsuit. This race had 3500 participants and we must have spent a total of 5 hours waiting in lines, listening to briefings, getting our chips, checking in bikes etc. I will admit that everything was very smooth once the race got going, but I don't think I will do a triathlon that big anytime soon.

The Swim

The dreaded swim... Everyone on our team knew how worried I was about the swim. They all swam in the ocean in the mornings and would come back with stories about the enormous size of the waves and Portuguese man-o-wars. My wetsuit is in the US, but luckily I was able to borrow a suit from our club chairwoman. She is a little shorter than me and, of course, more female than me. However, the wetsuit fit really well. Actually, it fit better than my own overpriced Orca wetsuit.

I would advise runners like myself to warm up. I have done this a few times in triathlons and it really helps avoid that feeling of panic. Well, I warmed up, waited for a half hour in a corral and the start went. I kept thinking, "don't panic, don't panic". I walked in slowly, hyperventilated a little and prepared for oceanic tranquility. 10 seconds later it felt like being inside a school of eels, all nibbling at my heels and stroking my back and hair. And I panicked. I sat up, treading water, waiting for almost everyone to swim past.

In the end, it wasn't so bad. I was able to crawl the majority of it. There were a few swimmers like myself, way off the back, some breaststroking it all the way, almost as fast as I could crawl. My time was 44 minutes; I was worried about making it under the cutoff of 70 minutes. So relax, runners. There is plenty of time to get the swim done.

Coming out of the water felt very, very good. At least I had made it that far. Several clubmates were cheering me along. On the way up to the bikes, I saw someone had dropped their swim cap. They are pretty cool-looking cap with Ironman logos etc. So I grabbed it, which many spectators found very amusing.

The Bike

This is how one should dress: Baggy running shorts and a SpongeBob cycling jersey. I had nothing else along, so that's what I wore. It was a very, very wise choice. Leaving the transition zone, the stern-looking guy, who makes sure you don't clip in until after the red line, pointed at me and screamed "Bob Esponza! Bob Esponza!" I must have gotted cheers from over 200 volunteers, racers, spectators and kids otherwise bored with watching people zip by on their $10,000 tri bikes.

I suddenly fancied myself very cool. Like I was doing a half Ironman but not really caring too much about it.

I am not a particularly strong biker on the flats and I was on a rented road bike without an aero bar. So I was slow. I got passed by tons of people from later start waves. Everyone wore their numbers on the backs, so I could see the name, country and age group of everyone who passed me.

I took it easy and waited for the big climb. Ah, how I love to climb on a bike! Runners, if you are new to triathlons, you will most likely feel slow on the flats but surprisingly fast on the climbs. Being lighter than your typical triathlete is part of it, but even the weight can't explain the phenomenon. There are people from my club who are such strong bikers that I can't even hold their wheels in a pace group. Yet I am able to drop them on the climbs. Ok, so I have done countless hill repeats up Granddad bluff in La Crosse, so climbing is something I have trained, as opposed to tempoing on the flats. Anyway, after feeling like Superman up the hill, I resumed feeling like Bob Esponza for the flat second part of the route.

Runners, please realize that no-draft triathlons are all about cheating! People draft, and no one cares. One French gentleman in his 50's named Yves had absolutely no body hair, or regard for the rules. He rode the entire way less than a foot away from the next rider. Except of course when he heard a motorcycle coming up, in which case he sat up and drank a bottle, making it appear that he had just been passed. Most other people drafted a little here and there. But think about it: If 3500 people are supposed to ride 10 meters away from the next rider, that's a 35K peloton. So that's not realistic. Trains of elites on expensive aero bikes blew by, obvisously having formed little pace groups.

Interestingly, it seemed like the Challenge people during Challenge Copenhagen that the Girl did were way more strict. There, one guy got thrown out of the race for public urination - 2K before the finish of an ironman!

Anyway, runners, please know that a little cheating is expected.

The Run.

Runners, even if you didn't draft, running with triathletes will feel like you're cheating. After feeling like a novice for hours, now it's your time to shine. I was lucky to have really good legs. Sometimes, it takes a few K to warm up, but I felt like I jumped straight into a good pace. The transition zone was half a mile long, though, so walking my bike for minutes may have warmed up my running legs a little; who knows? Oh my gawd, running was fun. I ran the half marathon in 1:22, feeling super smooth the whole way. I stopped to fuel often, as I worried about bonking, but the whole race felt almost easier than a normal half marathon.

Of course, all the faster triathletes were all off the course by the time I started running. But still. Most triathletes are very tired when they get to the run. I passed people continuously, the entire time. Not a single person passed me and only one single person tried to hold on for maybe 10 seconds. So, runner, you will feel superhuman during the run, and it makes the indignity of swimming and biking well worth it.  

The Girl had an awesome race, especially considering her 100 miler the week before. My time was 5:33 and hers was 5:53. That amounts to "relative chicking" or "relative wifing" in our lingo. Usually, relative chicking happens when I am less than one minute per mile faster than her, but it doesn't translate well to triathlons. Anyway, I was relatively chicked (and simply chicked, actually, by many, many women). I was even chicked on the run, as one woman ran it in 1:18. Whatever. Like Bob Esponza even cares.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Going Nuts "Watching" the Girl's 100 Mile Race

She should be done within an hour. I'm not saying that running would have been easier, but "watching" all the updates for over 24 hours has been crazy. I couldn't sleep last night, imagining all kinds of misfortune on the very technical trails around "the Hammer".

Scratch that. She is in:

She looks as good as after 20 hours.

I didn't think it was possible to just jump into a 100 miler and finish, so I am more than impressed. First and only woman. Only second woman to ever finish this notoriously difficult race. I am so proud!

I ran my own race today. In beautiful weather, the Firkløvermarathon was run here in Næstved, on our local trails. I was actually hoping for a fast time, loosely aiming for 1:16 to 1:18. The legs felt ok, but the time was 1:22. The course is known to be long, but it still doesn't translate to less than a 1:20. The second-place guy ran a 1:29 and was hoping for a 1:20, so maybe the course was tougher than we thought. There were constant turns and little, so one had to accelerate back up to speed very frequently.

A win is a win, and there were many friends there running and wathcing. Still, the time is disappointing.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Spring Peak or The Age of Homer Simpson

I always seem to get a little spring peak. Despite my hamstring tear this winter, I seem to have preserved enough base. Bring out the good weather, and suddenly I am feeling fast. Last week, I had one of those effortless runs, where everything clicks, and I know I am about as fast as I have ever been.

This Saturday, I ran Faxeløbet, barely beating Kenneth Kirkeby in a sprint finish up a steep hill. Kenneth is a little faster than me and would certainly beat me 9 out of 10 times in a time trial, but for some reason I have managed to end up slightly ahead of him a few times these last few years. Saturday, he felt faster on the flats, whereas I felt faster on the technical sections and up the last, steep hill.

The Girl is unsure of what she wants to do with her season. She went into the season thinking it would be all about speedwork, working toward a marathon PR. But she seems to excacerbate her mysterious injuries every time she runs long than a 10K on the roads. She did really well at Fyr to Fyr 60K. She was only 6 minutes behind Pia Joan Sørensen, who ran a 100K in 8:36. So she is in good shape, but without a focus.

In two weeks, we are both doing the Mallorca half Ironman. And by doing, I mean "hoping to survive". I don't have my usual wetsuit, so I am borrowing a female suit that's too small for me. The swim is half a mile into the deep, black, windy, shark-infested Mediterranean. Serisouly, I don't know if I can compose myself through something like that.


So. Do you know how old Homer Simpson is? I didn't until a few months ago, but I assumed he was older than me. He seems to have worked the same dead-end job for years. He is balding and overweight and his best days seem to be behind him. He just seems old, right?

Well, he is 38. When I turned 38 a few months ago, Natti was quick to point out that I was now as old as Homer Simpson. And why wouldn't I be as old as him? My kids are older than the Simpson kids. Moving between continents frantically doesn't stop the clock, apparently. I am sure Homer has more money saved up for retirement. His house is probably worth more than our entire savings, retirement and otherwise.

Sometimes, my gloominess can depress even myself. Like Natti once said, "yeah, dad, but it doesn't mean it was a good movie, because you cry at the end of every movie!". Natti is quietly watching our moving plans for this fall unfold. She is way too cool to come out and say that she wants us nearby, but I could tell that she didn't like it when we were talking about moving to Colorado. She is in such a self-conscious, insecure phase now. Her problems are mostly imaginary, but even the imaginary ones are beyond my control. I try to listen to her and offer my advice, which always go along the lines of either "everyone is insecure, especially pre-teens" or "relax and enjoy the ride. You'll be gone before you know it".

April 2013 Running Log

1: 14K in woods
3: Great workout on the treadmill. Ran 14 x 1K at pace escalating from 3:50 to 3:15
6: 60K Fyr til Fyr. 5:25. Felt ok, but cramped up at 55K.
7: 3K jog with the Girl. Actually felt quite good.
8: 3K with Natti
11: 14K in woods
13: Two perimeter loops. 3K with Natti.
14: Two perimeter loops. Left achilles hurt.
20: I'm back, baby! Speedy perimeter loops. Felt great.
21: Longish run.
23: Fartleks in the woods.
25: Long "picnic" run with the boys in the jogger. Probably 18K or so.
27: Faxeløbet. 8.2K, one big hill, 30:45. Won.
28: 7K with the boys in the jogger.
30: Long run with the boys, running Christian to soccer.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Another month has flown by

The running is getting better. I am still worried about running at all-out speeds, but my training is high quality. Compared to last year, I am a fat, old man, but at least there is no summer of 100 degree weather around the corner, so maybe I can find the summer peak I missed out on last year. Still, it's hard to imagine that I ran a 15:55 5K and won Chippewa just one year ago. I am at least 5 pounds overweight, to the point where Natali skillfully grabs my fat rolls to measure my progress.

This Thursday, we are racing Skærtorsdagsløbet here in Næstved. If it wasn't on our local trails, I wouldn't even consider running it. It has decent money prizes, but I don't even know if I can place in the top 3 in the 10K (which is the least competitive race). The Girl is on a crazy roll. Right now, she is probably setting her PR in a race up in Copenhagen. I imagine she will go sub-40 for the first time in a 10K. And that's coming off a 100K high-tempo week, without any taper. In fact, I don't think she has told her coach about this race.

Life is a uncertain as ever. Too uncertain to describe here, even.

We had a wonderful week skiing in Austria. Easily one of the best weeks of my life. Skiing is such a well-defined mini world, where kids progress so quickly. I was able to ski very challenging runs with Christian and Natali, feeling as a cohesive unit. The Girl's parents came all the way from Wisconsin to spend the week with us, my brother's family and my parents. Truly a unique experience. Both granddads are very able-bodied, strong skiers, so the inter-generational bonding was strong on the mountain. The grandmas took care of Mattias and his 3-year old cousin Ayla.

One day, we got stuck in some of the thickest fog that I have ever seen. There was no wind, so we could hear each other quite well, but visibility was only a few feet. The Girl's dad, Christian, Natali and I stuck ridiculously close together, progressing slowly down the mountain. We went off course into deep snow once, and had to walk back to the official run. It was scary and fun at the same time. A great team building experience.

The Beatles dominated the trip. Natali has gotten very good on the guitar, and she would entertain every night during our after-ski sessions. She is in a Beatles phase right now, just as I was 25 years ago. I remeber liking With The Beatles, Please Please Me and Help. Slowly, I accepted the weirder stuff on Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper's etc. Natali has gone through the same thing. Everything was a beatles reference, every other sentence being sung to a Beatles tune.

My favorite moment came when Christian was making it past a group of Germans, half jumping, half skating on his tiny skis, on a little flat section. Without thinking, he loudly exclaimed "Hey, Bungalow Bill!" at the top of his lungs. Across language and cultural barriers, a little boy on skis, singing Bungalow Bill will bring out smiles all around.

The trip back was bittersweet. I have grown so close to Natali that the thought of not living with her after this summer is unbearable. She loved skiing and whenever the conversation turned to "where are we going next year?", she grew quiet. It's almost unthinkable that last week will end up being the only one of its kind.

Months ago, I told her the medley on Abbey Road was the best music ever made. She didn't believe me, rolling her eyes and strumming "I Should Have Known Better" on her guitar. Well, she has come around. Coming back from Germany, Abbey Road was the album we had saved for the very last drive into Næstved, both of us singing along to the entire album (except I Want You (She is so Heavy), of course).

February 2013 Running Log

2: treadmill
3: 15K in snow
5: fast treadmill
7: Felt really good on the treadmill. Pulled hamstring again (as in December doing fast intervals uphill. Stupid.
9: 10K in snow. Pulled my hamstring again!
10: Alpe d'Huez
11: 3K jog + stairs
12: Alpe d'Huez PR
13: 3K jog and stairs in the hospital
14: Alpe d'Huez broke on the simulator. Did Col d'Aspin instead. 5K jog
15: 3K jog
16: 21K (11 with the Girl and 4 with Natti)
17: 8K + Col d'Aspin
18: 3K jog
19: 18K moderate pace. Felt good. Hamstring held up well.
21: 17K. 10K in various efforts on the treadmill. Afraid to go faster than 10 mph due to hamstring, but otherwise it feels ok.
22: 3K jog
23: 5K Parkfun, some with Natti, some alone. Felt like I was going around low 17s 5K pace, almost all out, and the hamstring held up.
24: 22K with the Girl. Hard hill repeats around Næstved. Good stuff.
Don't remember the rest

Sunday, February 24, 2013

World's Most Unemployed Hematologist

We are in a crisis. I am in a crisis.

We have no idea what we are doing after this summer. In the entire US, there are, at most, 10 hematology positions open. I have applied and gotten rejected - within minutes. I don't even get past the recruiter.

And what if I got a job? Cancer stresses me out so much that I feel myself aging by the hour. Within a span of minutes, I go from holding back tears for patients to resenting them for piling their problems on to me. Each individual story is terrible, and a new face comes through the door every 15 minutes. The Girl always quotes a mentor who told her "it gets easier once they break your spine", but somehow that hasn't happened yet. The getting easier part, at least.

And where are we moving? I have lived away from my son for 4 years, and now I may end up far away from both him and Natali. We are talking about Colorado, but that's a day's travel away from La Crosse. Where in the world did I go wrong? Natali is going to live with my Ex, starting in September, so this might be the last summer I get to live with her. I have been offered an okay job near La Crosse, but there is nothing there for the Girl to do.

It's so incredibly complicated. The Girl has to find a residency or post-doc, but she isn't sure what she wants to do or what she can get. It is virtually impossible that we are both able to find something good at the same time, in the same area.

And then on top of all this, I get injured. For the first time in 4 years, I get injured. One day, I am the fastest guy in town, running uphill intervals on the treadmill, and the next I am a guy who can barely walk. For over two months now, I have felt that same fiber bundle in my hamstring heal and tear.

It's all a sign of getting older. I am now 38 years old, unemployable and injury-prone. I have rarely been this depressed. Things have been confusing before, but never like this.

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

January 2013 Running Log

3 fast run on YMCA treadmills
6 fast run on YMCA treadmills
8 fast on YMCA treadmills
10 slow jog on Bandera course
11 Bandera 50K
17 10 in freezing Hartland
18 slow run in the woods
20 snow run
22 treadmill. 3x 2 miles @ up to 5% in 12:50, 12:35 and 11:49 (grade might be off on the last one.
24 treadmill: 2x 5k ("two peaks" up to 5%). 20:20 and 19:50.
26 Long run. Maybe 1 hour with Christian in the babyjogger and 1 hour alone.
27 5k slow with the Girl in the snow. 5K tempo. Good legs.
29 Treadmill: 2 miles @ up to 5% in 13:00 and 12:39. 3x800

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Andreas the Dane, or "Timothy Olson has my Junk on his Hand"

Somehow, Blogger seems not to work on my iPad. If it did, I would blog more often.

We just got back from Wisconsin and Texas. Wisconsin was the usual game of fitting work, kids and vacation into a few weeks. It's always the same pattern of trying to make enough money for child support for the next few months, while spending enough time with Andreas to feel like a decent parent - and then trying to go on a little mini trip, just the Girl and I.

Andreas has matured a lot and I enjoyed being around him. He didn't seem sad when we left this summer, but he was definitely happy to hang with us now.

I think the years of living with his mom's violent girlfriend have finally been erased from his memory. I see his current life as stable and peaceful. My ex-wife moved out to a small town with her husband and his two daughters. They live in a large, immaculate house. Andreas has a large room to himself, his Legos and his video games. Three large vehicles ferry the kids around town.

Two episodes almost brought tears to my eyes.

First, we were at the gift shop in a space museum. They had a map of the US; tacks indicated where visitors came from. The woman asked where we were from and Andreas says: "Denmark". The woman designed a little piece of paper to the way right of the map and wrote Denmark on it. Andreas proudly placed his tack there.

In the car, I decided to push my luck. Me: "Hey, do you want to come visit us this summer in Denmark? We're moving back in the fall, so it might be our last chance in a while". Him: "Um, no". Okay, then.

The second episode was more remarkable. The boys had such elaborate dinner demands that I took them to an Old Country Buffet one night (I could think of no other place that had pizza, macaroni and cheese and fries). I told Andreas that the first night we moved into our house in America, he was almost 2. We had spent all day moving and had no food in the house. We had just moved from Denmark and didn't know where anything was, so we went to Old Country Buffet to eat. I described how the kids spoke no English and everyone looked at us.

Andreas almost immediately yelled, "I could speak Danish?!?!" Speaking to Andreas, for me, is often very tedious. I ask him question upon question and he answers in single words or grunts, if he answers. This time, he wanted to make sure that he, indeed, has been able to speak another language. I told him that for a long time, he kept using Danish words, like "legeplads", but by the time he was 3 he had forgotten all of it. I told him that I thought it would be easy for him to learn it again, and he was obviously considering the implications of not being the only uni-lingual sibling.

On the last morning, I drove him back to his mom's house in time for school. I was tearing up a little, as I always do, and gave him a hug. I said I loved him and that I would see him soon. He snickered and ran out to the school bus without looking back.

We went to Texas to run the Bandera 100. The Girl would run the 100; I would run the 50. Joining us was Alicia, who had planned on running the 100, but had some knee pain from the Tuscobia Winter Ultra.

Alicia has always made it very clear that she accepts abnormality. This acceptance is key, when traveling with us. The Girl gets so nervous and intense before races that her behavior can be a little terrifying, but Alicia seems cool with it. Maybe that's how she gets before races.

Bandera is a cool little cowboy town in Texas Hill Country. I imagine it gets intolerably hot in summer, but in January it was 60s to 70s every day. The hills are rocky and technical and a few hundred feet tall. The race is held in Hill Country State Natural Area.

The thing about combining different ultra distances is that the shorter ultra always becomes the de facto fun run. One can spend the whole weekend apologizing for only running 50K on technical, hilly trails. But, sure, the 50K was not remotely as competitive as the 100K. Not even close.

Going to the briefing the night before was like an ultra Academy Awards. There was Karl Meltzer quietly smirking behind sunglasses drinking Red Bull. Sage Canaday was smirking a little more insecurely, like he didn't like the attention. Megan Arbogast had a friendly baby face and a body that looks like it's made out of steel. Dave Mackey looked huge.

I realized at the start of the 50K that Timothy Olson had switched from the 100 to the 50. He apologetically made his way to the very front of the pack, while quietly encouraging people to have a great race. Olga was yelling out instructions at the start and demanded "Where is Rahs-moose?". Pressure on both syllables; it almost sounded like "Race Moose", a giant wilderbeast waiting to gallop up hills. I raised a pale, hairy hand and 100 eyes looked me up and down. She yelled something about the course record and I made every possible gesture to show how ridiculous it was to yell Race Moose and mention the course record. She screamed: "just stay behind Timmy. Otherwise, you probably won't finish."

I should have met Olson's eyes with a "so you have won Western States and countless other ultras... But have you beaten a Race Moose? Huh?" Instead, I mumbled something and looked down.

At the gun, Olson sprinted into the muddy fog. I had thought about sticking with his pace for a while, just so I could say that I stuck with Tim Olson's pace for a while. But no, instead I got passed by one young athletic runner after another. We ran up steep, rocky inclines and jumped down dangerous ascents. I kept losing positions, until I was in a depressing 15th or so, feeling old and inferior.

The first aid station was manned by Olga, who yelled something to the effect of "just run your own race".

After 10 miles (that's 5 miles into the 100, btw), the trail flattened out and became very runnable. There was a lot of mud, but overall, it felt more like my kind of terrain. I started re-passing a lot of 50Kers, while also starting to pass more and more 100Kers.

I passed the Girl at about 16 miles (her 11 miles, I think), and she was motoring along, somewhat frustrated by the mud. I felt great and even had a little runner's high. With 10 miles to go, I fell painfully, causing both my legs and right ribs to cramp up. I took a little break and peed in the cacti, while trying to recompose.

Alicia was at the Cross Roads aid station with 5 miles to go and I still felt pretty good:

The last five miles were very hilly and apparently way too hard for me at the end of a 50K. I passed one 100K runner, only to seize up in violent cramps in both legs. It must have looked ridiculous; it hurt so bad I couldn't even get out of his way. The last few miles consisted of mainly walking and standing, while waiting for the cramps to subside. It always surprises me how fast and reckless everyone starts out, taking chances to gain a second here and a second there, when most ultras end up so very slow and painful.
Well, I got third, so all ended well.
Alicia wanted Timothy Olson's autograph so badly that she made me go ask for it. Or was it the other way around? In any case, he seems like a pretty approachable guy. I shook his hand, thanking him for his autograph, and then quickly realized that he probably preferred no contact with some random guy's greasy, sweaty, HammerGel-infested palm. To Alicia I lamented: "he was just about to eat, and now he has my junk on his hand". To which she answered: "and there is the post of your next blog post". Yes!

The poor Girl. What can I say? She is training for shorter distances, but thinks like an ultrarunner. But thoughts will only take her so far, and she dropped out at 70K. This year, she has PRed in everything up to the 50K (4:09, 33 minutes faster than my time at Bandera, btw!). She will PR big in the marathon this year; she will get her ultra moments in due time.

December 2012 Running Log

At some point, I got injured.

Missed almost two weeks.

Ran a 3:09 Skodsborg with a slow start but a serious second half.

November 2012 Running Log

3: Long run on trails.
5: 2 x (2 miles @ up to 5%) 12:21, 12:24
6: Long run with the Girl (Green Tunnel)
8: 3 x (2 miles @ up to 5%) 11:51, 11:49 (new PR?), 12:05.
10: Gorgeous fall run on the perimeter trail. Maybe 2 hours?
12: Treadmill. 2 miles @ up to 5% grade. 11:44 (new PR?). "4 x 800" 4K in 14:20. 2K@ up to 8% in 8:11.

Don't remember the rest