Sunday, October 11, 2015

Tahoe report

Our (almost) annual pilgrimage to Lake Tahoe was hugely successful for two members of our party this year. For me, not so much...

Our friend Carolyn first. She ran the Triple Marathon for her fifth time this year, and broke her previous bests by enormous margins. 4:51, 4:47 and 5:00. A total of 14:38, over 40 minutes quicker than her previous PR of 15:20. She ran splendidly throughout, up and over those long Tahoe hills. I'll put it down to a few things: great preparation, improved nutrition, experience of 3-day races, and most importantly a huge amount of determination to improve. I take great but undeserved pride in her success, having introduced her to this multi-day folly in the first place six years ago. Her improvement since her first attempt to conquer the 3-marathon-in-3-days challenge has been nothing short of remarkable.

Next, Claire. Having scanned back through the results of previous editions of the Triple, I cannot find a single faster performance by any woman over sixty. 5:01, 5:03 and 5:01. This is less than 2% slower than her previous completion in 2009, 6 long years ago. Always nervous pre-race, Claire always manages to perform brilliantly as soon as things get underway. Running three 5-hour marathons on a hilly course is commendable for any runner. She's super-strong and healthy at present, and I couldn't be prouder of her grit and determination over these three days.

Lastly, me. Things were looking pretty tenuous in the week before I was due to set out on my epic 72-mile overnight tour of the lake. I'd prepared well, and managed a couple of great weeks of final training in Austin. But then suddenly shin pain had started in my weaker right leg. Taping, icing and compression helped to ease the shin problem, but seemed to drive the varicose veins in my calf crazy. Two days before the start, the three of us went to Spooner Lake for our traditional pre-race shakeout jog. I could barely hobble the 2-mile trail around the lake. Flexing my foot was agony. Not good, and quite worrying. Then two days of crewing for Claire and Carolyn (just standing around and driving with my right foot) made the pain and swelling worse. I knew it was a lost cause for me.

At an aid station yesterday, I ran into a couple of friendly medics who were there to support the Triplers. As we waited for runners to pass by, I showed my bulging veins to the doctor, who advised me to go to get my leg scanned straight away at the local Emergency Room, in case of serious clot issues, especially before flying home again next week. He ran into me again at the finish line, and cornered me while I was with Claire and Carolyn, re-emphasising the need to get seen. It turns out that this was none other than Dr Orr, a well-respected orthopaedic surgeon who works with the US ski team.

When I reached the local hospital, I was warmly greeted by very friendly nurses and doctors; Dr Orr had kindly called ahead to advise them of my impending arrival. An ultrasound revealed thrombophlebitis - "the greater saphenous vein in the right mid to distal calf is thickwalled and only partially compressible in the area of pain, but no evidence of deep vein thrombosis (DVT)". So, in English, painful but not serious or life-threatening, and so after presenting me with an aspirin and an eye-wateringly large bill, I was discharged. Thank goodness for medical insurance.

Hopefully things will settle down in my leg now. I have an enforced period of rest for a few weeks as my next hernia repair is scheduled in 9 days' time. Getting old and falling apart isn't really fun, but - as they say - it does seriously beat the alternative. And there are many worse places in the world to idle away a few days than along the shores of Lake Tahoe, waiting for your tired but happy and successful athlete friends.

Friday, October 02, 2015

One week until Lake Tahoe midnight ultra

Running destination appropriate carbo loading is now under way:

and the weather forecast is perfect:
The last two weeks of daily Austin running (75 and 50 miles) had gone really well. I was feeling comfortable running slow, up and over lots of hills. Perfect Tahoe simulation. But now my right shin/ankle has finally and irritatingly decided to start complaining. Sheeesh. "Tapering" before an event is never fun; popping ibuprofens and lying on the couch with a bag of ice on my gimpy leg certainly doesn't enhance the experience. The next seven days without much running will be a true test of patience. It's a shame I don't have that much.

Friday, September 04, 2015

Lake Tahoe - 5 weeks to go

It's now five weeks until our races in Lake Tahoe. Claire and our Austin friend Carolyn are running the venerable Tahoe Triple - three beautiful marathons in three days all around the edge of the lake, partly in California, the rest in Nevada. I'm crewing for them for the first two marathons on Friday and Saturday, then setting off on the Midnight Ultra to run the lake in one go - 72 miles - starting at 9pm on Saturday night. Claire and Carolyn will start their third and final marathon 11 hours later at 8am. If things go according to plan, we'll all finish at the South Lake Tahoe waterfront at roughly the same time on Sunday. What are the chances?!

We ran short but daily on some beautiful country trails while camping in France this summer, and since then the English summer has been a great one for running - cool and quite dry. We've managed to get our weekly mileage up into the 60-80 miles range without getting (a) injured, (b) ill or (c) bored. In England, we've found a new "hilly" route which takes us over some good inclines through pretty Lea Valley farmland. Seven miles from our base - our boat Purple Haze - is a public toilet with water, so we are able to adjust our fluids at a convenient spot during each run.

Claire's injury problems have gradually subsided, and her sciatic hamstring is bothering her less and less each week. My only misadventure occurred two weeks ago; I managed to trip on a boat's mooring pin and landed squarely on my ribcage on top of the water bottle I was carrying. Since then, sneezing has not been any fun. But that's it for the doctor's report - all systems go for Tahoe.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Getting ready for Tahoe

Twelve weeks from now, we head to Lake Tahoe for our fourth visit/running pilgrimage. When I ran the Triple Marathon back in 2003, it was my first attempt at stage racing. It proved to me that I could actually run long distances "back to back", and taught me to start conservatively. Tahoe is a spectacular place to run, a beautiful deep blue lake right on the California/Nevada border, and the series of races has a very fine, laid back vibe.

This year for the second time, I'll be taking part in the Midnight Express Ultra 72, which starts at 9pm and finishes 72 miles later at the same point on the edge of the lake. It is surreal running through a cold, inky black, starry night all alone, and then finishing the last 26.2 hilly miles of the race with 2,000 other Lake Tahoe Marathon runners. I am chronically slow these days, but today's longest yet training run resulted in no aches or pains. Sixty years old now, and still shuffling forward.

Claire is taking on the Tahoe Triple Marathon again for the third time this year, and will be joined by our Austin Rogue Running friend Carolyn. I will crew for them for their first two marathons, before putting on my Hokas and heading off into the night.

For me, running mojo comes and goes. Sometimes I can take it or leave it. Right now, I'm really, really enjoying it. Nice weather is important for me; I'm not much interested in suffering these days. But I'm also inspired and driven by the prospect of running across France once more in 2016, just as I did in 2005. When the Tour de France is on TV (as it is now), I catch odd glimpses of some of the villages and towns we have - and will - run through. It's a wonderful motivator, and I really can't wait to do it again.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Inspired by my Ironwife...

Much of this year so far has been devoted to my brief political career, with meetings, emails and leafleting ad nauseum. I enjoyed it greatly, but now the general election is past and sadly lost, it is time to move on, and hit the athletic reboot button.

I spent 15 hours this Saturday in Houston, Texas, watching Claire swim, bike and run through the 140.6-mile Ironman distance. It was great supporting her tremendous efforts, but it really made me want to get back out and do something too. Being a spectator is way too stressful for my liking. So we have lined up a few events to get the mojo working again. Training started today with a slow, gentle 5-mile run in Austin. I loved it, and can't wait for tomorrow's run...always a good sign.