Monthly Archives: February 2009

matt carpenter – pushing his limits at 44

Ran across an article in the New York Times a short while ago.  The headline caught my eye.  It was “At 44, a Running Career Again in Ascent”.  My first thought was, “how did they find out about me?” :).

It’s definitely a good read.  Matt Carpenter is an amazing physical specimen, essentially a giant lung, capable of running high speed, at high altitude.  He lives in the shadow of Pike’s Peak, but has a VO2 max that is the highest measured for a runner.  Ever.  That means his body is capable of delivering more oxygen to his muscles that anyone else.  By the way, his VO2 max is about 12% higher than Lance Armstrong’s.

His storyline is interesting, because it seems genuine.  Had some family challenges growing up, and like to run up mountains to tell his late mom that he’s still thinking about her.  He ran successfully for years, rattling off victories and setting records when running at altitude.  He lost his sponsorship and got married early in this decade.  Now he’s trying to prove to himself and others that being 44 isn’t too old to run fast.  As he says in the accompanying short film, “there’s nothing like beating a 20 year old guy”. 

I hope to find out what that’s like someday.

climbing a mountain

… both literally and figuratively. 

This morning I ran up Tiger Mountain.  The easternmost of the “Issaquah Alps”, this is a modest 2000 foot ascent along a 2.5 mile trail.  It’s also the first time in quite a while that I’ve done a run like this.

From time to time before my accident, I’d do one of these to test myself.  It’s not always fun, and not always a rousing success.  I always learn something about myself doing this though.  I learn what kind of shape I’m in, and I learn a bit about my mindset too. 

On this run, I learned that I’m bouncing back nicely, but that I still have a ways to go.  My strength is coming back, but I need to keep running up hills to deepen my reserves and grow my muscles.

I’ve noticed something interesting about how I coach myself through the tougher parts of a run.  Recently, I’ve felt a patience I don’t remember feeling before.  I guess there’s something about working through a serious injury that helps one develop a sense of perspective.  This is very useful when your heart rate is through the roof, and when your muscles are screaming at you.

It wasn’t a flawless effort.  I missed a turn along the way, giving myself a nice mile-long break from the climb, by running along a railroad grade (those generally aren’t more than a couple of percentage points, so it was much easier).  I’m not entirely sure how this happened – the turn was obvious.  My mind was obviously elsewhere.

It is nice to know that I can still run mountains.  I’ll need to try to run up Mount Si sometime over the next couple of months.

hill work is making me stronger

I’ve kept my weekly mileage pretty steady, just north of 35 miles.  About four weeks back, I figured it was time to introduce some “quality workouts” into the week as well. 

The first time out, I simply did about five minute-long accelerations.  That felt okay.  Not great, just okay.  The following week, I tried some five minute-long speed intervals.  These felt pretty lousy.  The whole time I was running fast I felt I couldn’t get enough air, and my legs felt wobbly too.

Based on my weak response to speed intervals, I figured it was a good time to do hill repeats.  Hopefully these would build my strength, and give me a good basis for running faster.  The first time out, Ben and I managed four trips up a nice hill.  I briefly entertained the possibility of doing negative splits, but that went out the window after the second one.  After this, I felt so tired, the rest of the run was a real struggle.

Last week, I did five trips up a nice long stairwell.  Each trip was faster than the last, starting with about 1:35, going down to about 1:15.  This was more like it.  The rest of the run was sloooow, but finally I was feeling like I was getting a little stronger.  Then, this week I did three trips up a .45 mile hill.  Again, each faster than the previous.  By the third trip, I was wondering whether I was going to make it up at all.  And on the run back to work, I struggled to keep going.  Still, I felt pretty good when it was over.

I’ll take this as a good sign.  It will be some time before I can translate this into actual speed, but I felt good about my efforts, and great about the negative splitting.

Piece by piece, I’m getting back to where I was last June.  It won’t happen overnight, but if I keep plugging, I’ll get there.

letter to the editor – printed

A couple of weeks ago, I read an article in the Kirkland Reporter, written the day after my accident.  In it I expressed disappointment about the way they’d written about the situation – almost as if it were an unavoidable accident.  Obviously it was avoidable.  I posted about the article and my letter the night I read it.  You can read it here :!D77595673F9A635C!1614

Imagine my surprise when I got email from my mom this evening, telling me that she’d read the letter in this week’s paper.  It’s here :

I’m aware that you can probably count on one hand the total number of people who read the letters to the editor in this local weekly.  I expect that a number of readers scratched their heads and wondered why anyone would bother writing a letter about a seven and a half month old article like that.  However, I’m happy they printed it, because there’s a chance that someone might be more aware of cyclists when out on the road. 

piecing together the day of the accident

One thing I’ve always been hazy about is exactly how my family was notified about my accident.  I was carrying ID, so I figured it would have been straightforward for the police to figure out where I live, and then call the house.  Apparently this wasn’t the case.

One way or another, the police got my name at the scene.  It is possible that I gave them my name and place of employment, as I was apparently conscious for a short time.  It’s also possible that they found my small running wallet with my ID, which I had tucked into the waistband of my bike shorts. 

Armed with my name, Harborview Hospital tried to locate my family, to notify them about what had happened. 

We think they may have done an online white pages search on me, and somehow gotten my parent’s number.  Which is odd, since it had been a long time since I lived with my parents, and never in Washington state.  In any case, they reached my mother, and told her that a Paul David had been involved in a bicycle accident, and asked her whether or not she could describe my wedding ring.  This was apparently the only thing I was wearing by that time (my clothes had been cut away either at the scene, or in the ambulance).  Mom suggested that they call my wife, as she was the most appropriate point of contact.  They did this – Kris was easily able to describe my ring, because hers is identical.  Kris picked my Mom and Dad up, and they headed to the hospital.

Presumably at the same time, another call was placed to Microsoft, also trying to get contact information for me.  They must have said something about me being involved in an accident.  The operator would not give them the contact information, but contacted our group administrator, who immediately spoke with Gilman, my manager.  Gilman immediately contacted my friend Landy to tell him I’d been involved in an accident.  Landy and Ben apparently arrived at Harborview within minutes of Kris, Mom and Dad.  In order to get in to see me, Landy told them he was my brother :).

One of these days, I might try to contact the Harborview social worker who contacted my mother and Kris, to find out how this may have happened from her perspective.  I assume she wouldn’t remember me specifically, but it would help me to know how they typically find the family in a case like mine.

And one of these days, I should try to piece together the whole first week on paper.  See – that was the exciting part.  Things got quite a bit more routine once I came out of the induced coma.

an ‘easy’ eighteen

My plan this weekend was to run eighteen miles.  Initially I’d planned to extend the Green River Marathon “warmup” run.  This would have meant doing another 2 miles, before or after.  The course wasn’t captivating to me, but a bunch of friends were doing the run, so I wanted to run with them.  At the last minute, Kris asked about riding with her good friend this morning.  It seemed fair, because I’d been able to do a bunch of group runs recently, while Kris has had to solo most of the time.  So then I figured I’d run the 18 in the Redmond Watershed during the afternoon instead. 

As the day progressed, I simply felt lazy about driving out to run.  So I decided to run from home, and head out for the watershed.  Most of the route is on trails too.  The downside is that much of the return trip ends up being uphill.  Then Kris suggested meeting them down in Redmond, where Rachel would be at a birthday party.  Score!

So I ran a counter-clockwise partial loop around Bridle Trails State Park.  Then I headed down the Bridlecrest Trail, and picked up the Sammamish River Trail.  About two and a quarter miles down the river trail, I veered off to the right and picked up the Powerline Trail to go over Education Hill.  There was a slight side trip in there (the trail behind Redmond High School), but eventually I crossed over Avondale, passed Farrel-McWhirter Park, and ran up surface streets a little way. 

Then the plan was to run the six miles back to meet Kris and Kayla before picking Rachel up.  But on the way up the Powerline Trail, just past Avondale, I ran into my friend Devon, who I used to run with back at Cal Poly.  I’d not seen Devon for a couple of years, and we spent a good while talking about all that’s been going on in our lives.

I really enjoyed our visit.  Devon is really nice, and also very thoughtful.  There’s also a lot going on for both of our families right now, so we traded stories.  We ended our run together sitting enjoying juice and water, waiting for our spouses to pick us up.

There’s something about losing yourself in conversation like this.  I could have run another few miles, and not noticed the time.  Losing myself while doing something I love makes the time well-spent.

days like these

I slogged through a tougher workout this morning in the pool.  I felt reasonably good for about half the workout, but from there things got hard.

I started out nicely.  The warmup was longer than usual (650 yards instead of 500), and included some drills and kicking.  Easy enough.  Then we were to do ten 100 yard repeats at 10 seconds (per 100) over our fastest pace.  Sounds easy enough too.  The trouble was I got tired after only four repeats.

The woman in the next lane over from me is usually about my pace.  Well, she started leaving me about a quarter pool length behind after about six repeats.  This got frustrating, because I’ve always prided myself on finishing strong.  I’m still figuring out how to pace myself well though, and this morning negative splits weren’t going to happen.

During my eighth repeat, I swam into the rope, nearly hooking my arm over it.  My breathing was off too.  No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t settle into a steady pace, even one that was slower.  That’s odd, because I knew I needed to slow down.  But something inside just made me want to push through it, even though I knew it wasn’t particularly smart.

Oh well.  On paper it was a good workout.  It didn’t feel good though, mostly because I was wasted about halfway through.  I ended up getting out of the pool before pulling the final 300 yards.  That’s pretty uncharacteristic for me – usually I’ll work through the tough spots however I can.  I simply felt too frustrated to go farther, so figured it was time to get out.  I did put in about 2050 yards, which is not bad.  But I didn’t like the way it all felt.  One of those days.

On Saturday, I ran about twelve miles out in the Redmond Watershed Preserve.  It was a pretty good run.  After doing about 3.5 miles, I did a practice 5k (give or take a little).  That was hard, and I didn’t feel particularly good doing it.  Whenever I try to pick the pace up, I feel my lungs exploding, and my legs getting weak.  All the more reason to keep trying!

The run felt pretty good overall.  I was solo, and enjoyed the "think time".  When I finished I was stretching by my car, when who runs past, but the woman who swam one lane over from me today.  We exchanged hellos, and they headed towards their cars.  I took the opportunity to wrap a towel around my waist to change into some dry clothes.  You know – like you’re having to change at the beach, right?  Well then imagine my embarrassment (and haste!) when the woman and her friends headed back by me, towards the trailhead.  I clumsily hoisted my sweats up, and tried to act nonchalant, as though I hadn’t just accidentally mooned them.

Come to think of it, maybe that’s why she was swimming so fast this morning. 

a story of courage : matty long

I just read an article in Runner’s World magazine that really grabbed my attention for a while.  It was about Matthew Long, a New York City firefighter who was struck by a charter bus while riding his bicycle in Manhattan in December of 2005.

He was pulled under the bus, which ran over him as he became entangled in the frame of his bike.  His injuries were so severe that he was initially given about a 5-10% chance of survival.  His handlebars speared him, opening a fissure from his bellybutton to his rectum.

Against the odds, Long survived.  The difficult part for him was living though.  He endured lots of physical challenges, pain, coming to terms with being "disabled".  One leg is now two inches shorter than the other.  He really struggled emotionally for a long time as well. 

Prior to the accident, he’d been a very good athlete.  He’d completed an Ironman Triathlon in Lake Placid in just over 11 hours (including a 3:44 marathon).  About a month before the accident, he’d qualified for the Boston Marathon by running a 3:13 in New York.  Preparing for his Boston qualifying run, he’d taken to doing 12 mile runs, largely at a 6:15/mile clip with 18 milers consisting of 8 miles at a 6:00/mile clip.  Intense.  And very driven.

Matty struggled to come to terms with his physical limitations, and to become emotionally settled with himself.  It wasn’t until he started training again that this seemed to happen for him.  Before that he was searching for the reasons behind his survival, and for his own identity too.

I remember reading a New York Times article about Matty Long last October, when I was going through my own emotional roller coaster about my accident.  He was training to run the New York City Marathon a week later.  Being distraught myself, I read the words describing his ordeal, but didn’t internalize hope from the fact that Matty was again doing what he loved to do.  Instead I remember reading about how much pain he was still in, how slowly he was going, and how angry he still was about the factors contributing to the accident (a transit strike, and the negligence of the driver of the charter bus). 

I identified with his emotional pain and frustration.  At the time I wasn’t back to work, couldn’t drive, and couldn’t run.  Despite feeling better physically, I did not feel independent.  I definitely wasn’t happy.  And the way I read the article, Matty Long wasn’t very happy either.

Just over three months later, things feel very different for me.  Being able to do ‘normal’ things (working, driving) was the first big step back for me.  And about six weeks ago, I was able to begin running again, something I love.

I’m still angry about the accident.  What happened to me wasn’t ‘fair’.  I feel frustrated about not seeing out of my left eye, and about not being able to move or feel parts of my face.  As a family, we’re still living with some of the emotional effects the accident had on all of us.

But things are feeling much better now than before.  Being able to do things I love, be an active parent, and live life more independently are important steps in my recovery.  And the tone of the Runner’s World piece leads me to believe that the same is true for Matty Long too.

We still have a ways to go, and still feel the emotional pain from our accidents.  But we also feel hope from doing the things we care about, and that we love.

Incidentally, Matty Long completed the New York City Marathon last November in 7:21.  In a New York Times article written afterwards he tells us :

“It’s a great feeling. I did it to show the power of the human spirit, … I’m an athlete again".


It’d be interesting to meet and talk to Matty someday.  And I can honestly tell him that he’s taught me some important things too.

a letter to the editor

While out last Friday evening, a friend mentioned to me that she’d read an article about my bicycle accident in the Kirkland Reporter.  This piqued my interest, so I looked around a bit.  After a few minutes, I found it :

Kirkland cyclist in stable condition after getting hit by truck

Jul 02 2008

A 43-year-old Kirkland man who was hit by a pick-up truck while riding his bicycle was in stable condition at Harborview Medical Center after the accident in Redmond around 8:30 a.m. July 2.

The driver, a 48-year-old man whose name was not released, was not injured and there was no indication that drugs or alcohol were factors.

No criminal charges will be filed for the driver because “there was no ill intent on his part,” said Redmond Police Department spokesperson Jim Bove.

Both the driver and cyclist were traveling eastbound on the 144th block of Old Redmond Way when the truck took a right turn and collided with the bike. The bicyclist was wearing a helmet and traveling in the bike lane. He was in stable condition last Wednesday after suffering a punctured lung, head trauma and eye trauma. The injuries were believed to be non-life threatening.

“With serious head injuries like this, it is a constant reminder to wear a bike helmet at all times. It very well may have saved his life,” Bove said. “Whether you are driving a vehicle or riding a bike, it’s important to be aware of your surroundings, especially this time of the year when there are more bicycles on the road.”

Reading this story was a bit disappointing to me.  I don’t expect Pulitzer Prize work, but I would expect that the article reflects what really happened (the driver’s poor driving judgment caused my injuries, and he carried no insurance to help to pay for his mistake).  Perhaps as an exercise in futility, I wrote a letter to the editor about this seven-month-old article (see below). 

I read this story from last July with great interest, as I was the cyclist who was hit.  I am frankly a bit disappointed that neither the Redmond Police spokesperson, nor the reporter noted that the driver was negligent in making his turn.  Worth noting is that according to the police report, the driver saw me prior to making his turn, directly in front of me.  According to the police report, I had less than a second to respond, not enough nearly time to avoid the truck.  His poor judgment put me in the hospital for a month, and subjected my family and I to a difficult and lengthy recovery process.  Additionally, the driver in this case was not insured.

With a great deal of determination and inspiring support from friends and family I have come a long way back.

The quote from the spokesman focuses on wearing a helmet (good), and on "being aware of your surroundings".  As an experienced cyclist, I am indeed aware of my surroundings, and really wish that more motorists were as aware of their surroundings.

Your newspaper missed an opportunity to remind motorists how important it is to be very aware of cyclists, and to exercise good judgment.  The tone of the article seems to gloss over the motorist’s responsibility as they pilot vehicles that have such power to alter and take lives.

paul c. david

Every little bit of understanding we can build translates into saved lives and fewer people injured.

a good strong fifteen

Yesterday morning I ran about 15 1/2 miles in the Redmond Watershed.  Although I was tired at the end, I could have done another couple of miles pretty easily.  Feels like good progress.

Last week I felt conflicted about whether to increase my distance, or whether it was time to up the quality of my runs.  That means doing hill workouts and some speed intervals.  For now, I’ve decided to try to do both :).

This means I’ll try to do one or two ‘quality’ runs (hills or speed) during the week, and then scale my long run distance based on how I’m feeling.  My first taste of this was last Tuesday and Wednesday.  On Tuesday, I did three five minute accelerations in the course of a 4 mile run.  It felt really hard.  I was probably not going much faster than a 7:30 to 8 min/mile pace.  That’s 60 to 90 seconds per mile slower than I would have done a similar group before the accident, which can feel a bit discouraging.  On the other hand, the only way to get faster is to try.  And I know it will take a while to recover my strength and speed.

The day after the speed workout was interesting.  I’d done a long early-morning swim workout, including timed 100 yard intervals.  I’d made plans to run with my friend Ben afterwards, but I felt really tired.  I guzzled down 20 oz of Gatorade, hoping that the electrolytes would replenish some energy.  And they did – slowly.  The run was a 5 1/2 miler, at recovery pace (probably 9-10 min/mile), and it was difficult going.  And the following day started out slowly too, although I was able to include some short hills on that run.

With that in mind, I had no idea what to expect yesterday, setting out to run 15.  Ben and I went pretty slowly (I definitely slowed him down).  We ran most of the way at just shy of a 10 min/mile pace.  The thing I need to remember is that this is exactly the way training is supposed to work.  Mixing in quality workouts during the week is part of the plan.  And so is slowing your pace way down, when you increase the distance.

It’s hard to develop the patience and restraint to do things this way.  But it’s definitely on plan.  I don’t know how I’ll feel this week when I try to mix in some hills or speed, but we’ll see. 

Don’t know what this means for my training ramp, or when I’ll be ready to do 26.2.  I do know that this is the way to build to a race effort of reasonable quality though.