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Race Weekend!

25 May 2018

I’ve been at my new job for three months now. I really like it. I’m happy, I’m productive, and I like my team. We’re doing great work and moving fast on a bunch of fronts. It’s an exciting opportunity and I’m thrilled to see everything coming together. My boss is already talking about a promotion and additional responsibility for me. But I want to keep my head in the now.

My ultramarathon training has been coming along nicely too. May was my second 100+ mile month, consecutive with April. I have four more running days in May, over which I expect to do about 30 miles. I’ll have averaged about 32 miles per week, though my elevation gain has dropped a bit from April. That’s fine. Plenty of time to get the vertical miles in.

I’ve been training on long slow grades to try to improve my ability to run up hills. In the past two weeks I’ve run the mile from the lake up to my house at least eight times. It’s a 240′ climb in a tiny bit less than a mile. That’s about a 5.5% grade. Steep enough to be a challenge, but shallow enough that it’s reasonable to run it, not hike it. I’ve been able to average about a 10:15 pace coming up the hill. That feels really good to me.

This weekend, BB and I will be in Coeur d’Alene to run the half-marathon. It’s a flat, scenic road race. I feel like if everything comes together and we feel good, there’s a good shot that we can set new personal records. We’re both in really good condition at the moment. BB set a HUGE PR at her last 10km race, a full minute and a half faster than my PR at that distance from two years ago.

Yesterday I ran a tempo 10km in 54:39. It was really hard work. But it was also 68 degrees and I was a bit dehydrated. I’m hoping the race, which is expected to start at 50 degrees – and for which I will manage my hydration better – will be an easier effort at roughly the same pace. If it isn’t, it isn’t. Coeur d’Alene is also up at 2500′ of altitude. I don’t know how that will affect a sea-level runner like me. Maybe a lot. Maybe not at all.

I’m hoping for a PR because I feel fit and strong. But everything has to go really well to get a PR. I have to manage my hydration in a way that lets me run strong but not have to stop to pee. I have to sleep well. I have to fuel right both the day before and the morning of. And BB has to have the same good fortunes, because we run together. And that’s more important.

But I can run almost 20 seconds per mile slower than yesterday, and still PR the race, if I can keep it up a little more than twice as long. I think I have a chance. Here’s to fine fortune and strong legs.

A Season of Grief.

21 May 2018

It has been nearly two months since my father died, and his funeral and memorial are now over. The memorial was lovely, and we saw family in from all over the country. Several cousins I haven’t seen since childhood attended and it was good to see everyone. I’m finally ready for this to be over though, and return to my regular life. My father is gone. I don’t know what it’s going to be like, and what sudden paroxysms of grief and guilt and loss and sadness are likely to arise. But I know they will come.

I was afforded the honor of giving the eulogy. I thought about it for weeks, and jotted down notes from time to time. In the end I didn’t know what to say and just spoke. I told stories, and focused on the things my father did well. Teaching me to play chess. To swim. To take time for pleasure in life.

I am doing well and my life is good. I have had little to say here recently. Perhaps I’m done.

A Few Trail Pictures.

4 May 2018

Our trail running has been wonderful the past few weekends. The views cannot be captured in pictures, but I’ve tried anyway. The last few weeks have taken us to Wallace Lake, Rattlesnake Ridge, and Poo Poo Point. The views around the Pacific Northwest mountains are staggering, and we’ve only just touched the low and close places. As summer wears on, we’ll be able to get to more remote places and see more amazing things in deeper wilderness.

Here are some panoramas I’ve taken recently:

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The above two are from Rattlesnake Ridge, and the one below was from the Chirico Trail, also known as Poo Poo Point, on Tiger Mountain.

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There are some truly amazing places we’re still planning. And I’m sure there are a bunch we’ll just discover as time goes by by accident. Sunday we’re planning 12 miles and 2700′ of gain up Granite Lakes trail. I’m excited even if there’s expected to still be a bit of snow on the ground. It’s been warm the past week so I’m hopeful a lot will be melted.

But we’ll get there regardless. 12 road miles Saturday, a new tattoo, dinner with new friends, and then a hard trail run to a remote lake Sunday. It’s shaping up to be a good weekend.

A New Standard.

23 April 2018

This weekend was a good one for fitness. Saturday, I took my niece out for her first ever race. She’s 14, and a natural athlete. She hadn’t trained assiduously, but she was determined and dogged. I was impressed with how much grit she showed. We ran 10km around Lake Union, in Seattle, in the Oiselle Tenacious Ten. We ran step for step, and she WON her age group. I was so proud of her.

I was also super proud of BB, who set a new PR, under 52 minutes. So she’s now beaten my PR at that distance by 1:10. She’s been training hard, as have I, and it’s exciting to see it all pay off. I ran a 55:14, which makes me quite happy. It’s not near my PR, but it was an 8:53 pace, which is a really stellar performance as far as I’m concerned. I was moving hard the whole way while talking to my niece and encouraging her.

Then, Sunday, we did something rather stupid. We went out for a 10.7 mile hike/run on Tiger Mountain with more than 4200′ of gain. There was one 2.4 mile stretch where the MEAN incline was like 16.5%. It took us a long time. It was painful, especially after the hard run the day before. And it was beyond anything we’d done before by 2000′.

In the not-quite-a-month since I signed up for the ultramarathon, I’ve run 108 miles with 15,000′ of gain. That’s halfway up Mt. Everest. The actual race itself is 31.1 miles and 7,500′. I’ve run 87 miles in April and hope to make it 100. Though I have a trip next week that may make that a touch more challenging.

Trails are without doubt an entirely different world from road running. Slower, harder. More of a run/hike combo than actually running. The vertical distance we are doing is a genuine challenge that’s changing my body and my fitness dramatically. I have discovered little muscles in my butt and legs that I never knew I had. Everything hurts. But this is going to be a massive accomplishment and I’m excited to take it on.

My goal is to finish a Mount Everest (29,029′) by the end of June, which right now feels very, very doable. I’m getting there. Eventually, I’m getting there.

Blood Don’t Lie.

19 April 2018

Lots of athletes use the phrase “blood don’t lie” to mean we may be feeling good or bad, but blood tests will tell you the truth about where your health is, and how you are improving or falling backward. Yesterday I visited my new primary care clinic, and had a history and physical, along with a bunch of blood tests.

As many of my longtime readers know, my number one fitness goal, the one that casts the long shadow over all the others, is “Don’t Get Diabetes”. I have the insulin resistance. I’ve had some troubling A1c scores in the past. And the only reason I’m not diabetic is that I fundamentally treat myself like I’m diabetic.

I also wanted to ask the provider about my lingering knee issues, a lump on my thumb, and a new issue with my foot. But mostly, I wanted those blood tests to see where I am with my metabolic control. I work like a dog at it, and I want to make sure that I’m seeing the results.

So the results: my A1c, which measures long-term blood glucose control over about a three month period, was 5.3. That’s stellar. Not even prediabetic. The number I was terrified of was my post-prandial blood glucose. That’s just my current blood sugar after a meal. It was 118. Again, stellar. Based on my glucose results, I am controlling and managing my risk of developing diabetes very well.

My cholesterol was 197, with an LDL of 121. Both normal. HDL of 53. Good. Blood Pressure is great. My diastolic was a little high for me, at 80, which is the top of the normal range, but I’ve had repeated measures in the high 60s recently so I’m not worried. BP varies rapidly. My resting pulse was down in the mid 40s.

So, the work I’ve been doing – and I know I’ve been writing less, but I haven’t been working less, has been paying off. I feel strong. I feel capable. And blood don’t lie: I’m in great health. Now if only that knee would ease up.

A Good Training Week.

16 April 2018

This week was definitely a step in the right direction. After two months (December and January) where I did essentially nothing, I was not in a good place, fitness-wise. I’d put on about 10 pounds, and found running even 3.5 miles at a 12 minute pace to be incredibly challenging. Painful, and exhausting. I was concerned that my fitness had fallen to the point that getting back to major racing distance would be a very long and difficult project indeed.

And I have been working very hard. Running four times a week, this week I made it up above 30 miles. I ran a fast 10km on Tuesday, turning in a 56:24. Fastest in a couple of years, I think. Then I did a hill run Thursday up and over Phinney Ridge, which anyone from Seattle will find impressive. That was good for about five miles. The weekend was a ten mile loop of Lake Union with a side-jaunt over Queen Anne Hill. Another of Seattle’s famous bastards. And then a trail run up to Wallace Lake in Snohomish County.

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I truly love the Pacific Northwest. It’s unlike anything else anywhere. The beauty and climate and culture and everything. It’s home, and it’s like living in my favorite destination city.

Other than Tuesday, my paces were on the unremarkable-to-slow side. But I also got a total of about 3900 feet of elevation gain in. It’s all about building. It’s slow and it’s a lot of work and a lot of time (my runs this week took a total of about six hours). I also did two hours at the gym, but less time on my bike due to the rain. This week should be better for that.

It’s still a long time until my big goal race in late October. But I’m getting myself to where I need to be.

Gone.

2 April 2018

Well, my father is gone. After about four days in hospice, kept comfortable but without food, water, or medicines to do other than relieve pain, my father died at about 5pm Friday, March 30th, 2018. He was born August 30th, 1941. He lived 27,971 days. He was 76 years old when he died. He was a dad, a Veteran, a chess player. He cared a great deal about the people he loved, and he was kind to everyone, even when he was furious.

He was my father and I loved him.

The weekend was surprisingly good, considering. I was strangely asked to speak at my AA meeting Saturday morning, to fill in for someone who couldn’t make it. It ended up being a messy, difficult talk, in which I misstated my own sobriety date by three months. But it was good to get to do.

BB and I did a long run on Saturday of 8.3 miles, and a trail run on Sunday of 5.6 miles, and then we went to be with my family on Easter. I saw my sisters, which was good, and my brother. I missed everyone, and I’m glad I saw them.

And so soon I’ll be heading down to Tucson to inter my father, and then we’ll have a memorial in Seattle. And that will be his life. And I’ll be grateful for all of that. And sad.