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?” :).

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/02/24/sports/othersports/24runner.html?_r=1

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.

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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 :

http://pcdbigfoot.spaces.live.com/default.aspx?_c01_BlogPart=blogentry&_c=BlogPart&handle=cns!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 :

http://www.pnwlocalnews.com/east_king/kir/opinion/letters/39701184.html

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.