Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"Don't ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go do that. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive." - Howard Thurman

Sunday, 31 August 2008

5k win!

So I just gave away the result but, of course, the story is more important.

The Lions Club in our town put on a 5k race this morning. We found a sitter for The Lorax, so we ran sans baby jogger.

As we warmed up, SR began scoping out the female competition. He didn't say this out loud, but I know him well.

And at the starting line, many females were giving me rueful glances. I thought to myself "If any of these women are fast, I'm going down." Of course I've always dreamed of winning races, but when it comes down to it, I will always lose in a sprint finish.

And SR was kind enough to instruct me in front of everyone at the starting line: "Don't start out too fast!" I laughed.

I ran the first mile in 6:09. I guess that's too fast, since that's a mile PR for me. I was in the lead for the women, but there was a woman right on my tail, who I figured would run much more intelligently than me.

It was so cool to see SR running with two other guys, one of whom I know fairly well, battling it out in the front.

I'm not sure what the second mile split was, but I'm guessing it was just slightly slower than the first. I couldn't believe I was keeping it up and was still in the lead!

Shortly after the two mile mark, I figured I had the win, but kept peering over my shoulder. And then there was that turtle head again. And, in fact, what came out can't be described as a head at all. I won't go into any more nasty details. But I finished in 19:46 (according to the official results), shaving 32 second off my PR, won my first race (!) and ran to the bathroom to wash out my shorts.

SR won, too, with a time of 16:40. He may win nearly every race he enters, but he certainly has not stopped amazing me.

On the way home, SR commented that most people would have stopped running rather than have an accident in their shorts. I asked incredulously if he thought I should have given up the win for that. To which he replied "Hell no!" Sometimes it is scary how similar we are.

I will say that one thing I'm sure helped me run faster was forcing myself to run 3 minute half miles on the treadmill two days before the race. That's probably obvious to most of you track people out there, but I'm a newbie.

Oh, and I got the great news from my dad this morning that my mom has started running at age 57!

Hope you all enjoy Labor Day weekend!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The irrational consumer

New moms are easy targets. They will go to any length to buy the best things for their babies. I thought by doing everything I could to be environmental and healthy, I wouldn't be the typical wanton consumer of a mom. Well...

I started out saying "I'll never buy stupid disposable diapers! They're terrible for the environment. The evil people that market disposable diapers can't fool me!"

So we didn't buy any disposable diapers. And then we brought The Lorax to daycare on Day #6. And the girls there were like "what is this rag on him?" And then we were in an airport with a yucky, poopy cloth in our carry-on. And I quickly forgot the charm of cloth diapers. Then when the young Bois got a peri-anal abscess (probably from all the moisture of the cloth diapers overnight), the reasons to switch to disposable were overwhelming.

And, honestly, when I get my period would I ever force myself to use cloths instead of tampons or maxipads? You can probably guess the answer to that.

So now we've got like 50 unused cloth diapers I received as gifts. We do still use cloth diapers at home during the day through a diaper service (they do the wash), but disposable diapers are our mainstay. Thus we didn't end up coming out on top environmentally or monetarily.

So, since I am going to give in and buy disposable diapers, I feel the need to buy the ones that are "Chlorine Free" and claim to release less dioxin into the environment in their production.


So I use the brown, environmental diapers and rest on the easy chair of my laurels. But are they really worth twice as much? I did some research into dioxin. Turns out it has never been proven to be carcinogenic or cause birth defects in humans, as it suggests on the package and says all over the web. I'm not trying to suggest that dioxin is a benign chemical. It is carcinogenic and teratogenic in rats at high enough concentrations. But it is a byproduct of all bleached paper products. And the levels that it is at now have not been definitively linked to any health problem. Furthermore, the amount of dioxin released from 1987 to 2000 decreased by 90% due to stricter environmental regulations. So does buying chlorine-free diapers make any difference if all diaper companies have to meet the strict regulations? Besides that, there are even stricter regulations for waste incineration...

As an aside, if you would really like to spare yourself and your baby from dioxins, don't eat meat.
This table shows our exposure to TEQ, a dioxin equivalent.

Although, in another study it was found that the benefits of fish consumption due to omega-3 exposure were notably higher than the potential dioxin cancer risk.
(Leino O. Tainio M. Tuomisto JT. Comparative risk analysis of dioxins in fish and fine particles from heavy-duty vehicles. [Journal Article. Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't] Risk Analysis. 28(1):127-40, 2008 Feb. )

And then there's baby food.

SR came home the other night from Wal-Mart (or, as we call it, The Temple) with some baby food. It was some vanilla apple concoction in plastic containers with like 25 ingredients in it. I freaked out and told him we couldn't give The Lorax THAT. The Lorax has subsequently eaten it and has not grown an extra arm or anything, but I've now made the rule that we either make our own baby food or buy organic food in glass containers. But am I being a bit unreasonable about it? Is there any evidence that processed Wal-Mart baby food is in any way a health threat? I don't know of any.

Finally is, of course, baby bottles. I went to great lengths to tell everyone who was coming to my baby shower that I wanted GLASS bottles (obviously that in itself is annoying). Of course, I didn't get any, because you just can't find them anywhere. So I went to even greater lengths to find the 5 glass bottles that existed in our state. And, in the end, the only effect of having glass will probably be that someone gets injured by the heavy bottle. But despite the FDA saying plastic bottles, even with Bisphenol A, are safe, I can't get myself to take any sort of "chances."

One thing I am very glad we have not done is buy new clothing. Get it used any way you can! The clothes will only fit for 3 months. And when there's a little "backwash" it won't be such a big deal.

What is the moral here? There is none. I just wanted to share the experience of a perhaps pointlessly idealistic mom.


Anyone have any running songs to suggest?

6 Months

6 months since The Lorax was born. Since I saw his little gray round face and dark understanding eyes.

I used to figure that having kids would mean my own life would come to a halt. I'd be too consumed by motherhood to find time for myself. My thighs would get fat from all of the chocolate I'd secretly eat in my depression. And would cry when I saw my mom jeans in the mirror. And suddenly I'd realize that I was the one with the screaming kid in the grocery store.

Other than the fact that the Lorax was screaming in the grocery store today, my worries were in vain.

I'm not trying to say that I didn't want to have The Lorax. And anyone who was reading SR's blog from the beginning knows how desperately we wanted to have a child together. And perhaps there is nothing better in life than having a child with someone you love, adopted or home grown.

And becoming a mother doesn't have to make you a mom.

I feel the happiest, most well-rounded and most physically fit that I have felt in my life. Since The Lorax was born, I've run my first ultramarathon and my second (took 3rd woman!), competed in my first triathlon, won my first race (albeit a relay with SR) and set mile and 5k PR's.

I'm summarizing all of this because I would have loved to know this was possible before I got pregnant. And maybe some mothers-to-be out there will be reassured by it. I would be remiss, though, if I didn't mention that it is SR who has made me see that I can be both the mother and the woman I want to be.

And leaving my residency program to moonlight part time also turned out to be the right choice. My mom says repeatedly now "I would have gone into medicine if I knew I could do what you're doing."

My biggest piece of advice is to do what you know is right for you. And live with a clear conscience (Olga has been writing this in her comments on my blog all along, of course). There are plenty of people out there who think they know what is right for pregnant mothers and new mothers. Don't ignore them, but follow your intuition.

As most of you know, I had many people on this very blog and on forums all over the web writing nasty things about how much I ran during pregnancy. There was more than one person who accused me of trying to kill my baby by exercising so much. But here it is, six months later, and I have a healthy, beautiful, happy son. We just had his six month check up and he's 25th percentile in all growth parameters (so less short than before!) and ahead in language and motor. And that little boy's mother is right where she wants to be in life.


Running Song of The Day: Rastløs by Jokeren

Tuesday, 12 August 2008

Why I love having my boobies sucked

By my six month old son, of course.

I am wondering why only 36% of American moms make it through a mere 6 months of breast feeding. I didn't know it was that low until I read this NY Times article: http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2008/08/11/most-moms-give-up-on-breast-feeding/?em

Anyway, this article has inspired me to talk about what breastfeeding has been like for me. Without really intending to, I came up with a list of 10 reasons to breastfeed. So if the American Academy of Pediatrics' statement that all women should breastfeed at least one year isn't enough for you, please allow me to assuage your fears and tell you why you, too, will love having your boobies sucked.

First of all, the experience.

I love being woken up in the early morning by the squeaking, panting Lorax moving all of his limbs to tell me he's hungry. I move him toward the boob and, with mouth snapping in the pitch black, he sniffs his way to his target. There is nothing in the world like the feeling of breastfeeding and, though few women admit it, it actually feels good. If I say any more, people will probably find it a bit too kinky. I fall asleep immediately after he starts eating, soothed by his little warm body next to mine.

Second of all, it won't make your undercarriage dry (at least not for that long).

Undercarriage is the word SR uses with the older lady patients. But that's an aside. So you may have heard that breastfeeding dries out your, well, undercarriage. This may be true, at first. But the longer you breastfeed, the more normal you will become. And by five months you will probably find you feel completely normal. So don't give up on the breastfeeding before that!

Third.

The Lorax just grabbed my tit with his little hand and twisted it as I was typing the above. It hurt but it was fun.


Fourth.

It costs nothing. Except for the extra food you will need to buy for yourself.


Fifth.

You get to eat more.


Sixth.

Humans have evolved to be fed breast milk and breast milk has evolved to feed humans. The proper development of every part of the human body depends on getting it. You are fooling yourself if you believe formula is a good substitute. Formula does not contain antibodies to protect babies from infection. And there are over 100 other ingredients in breast milk that cannot be duplicated in formula. Those that can be added to formula are not in the same form and are not as easily digested and cause constipation.
This means a lot for a baby's development. Let's take brain development as one example:

Here are average IQ's at age 27 years for increasing lengths of breastfeeding:

Breastfed ≤1 month: 99.4
Breastfed ≥1 to 3 months: 101.7
Breastfed 4 to 6 months: 102.3
Breastfed 7 to 9 months: 106.0
Breastfed greater than 10 years: 140.8 (just kidding about this last one)

You can see my old post for all of the health risks of not breastfeeding. But they include asthma, diabetes, heart disease, obesity, etc.

Seventh.

Breastfeeding won't make you too tired to exercise. I have basically had the same energy level as I did before I got pregnant. I do feel it a bit more quickly, though, if I'm not eating a balanced diet.

Eighth.

You don't need to remember to bring a bottle and formula with you everywhere.

Ninth.

Your boobs will be bigger. I guess this could be a positive or a negative. I'll just leave it at that.

Tenth.

As long as you exclusively breastfeed, you can say that all of the precious cells in his little body came from you.

So I guess The Lorax is now composed of me and chocolate cupcake. Running Song of the Day: Det snurrar i min skalle by Familjen. Sweden has the best pop music in the world. But this song is special because it's actually in Swedish and, if that's not enough, the Swedish in it sounds so cool.

Monday, 11 August 2008

The Ice Age

My life has changed in the last year and a half. This became clearer than ever as I visited my friend, Brye, this past weekend. She has been my closest friend since grade school and after many twists and turns in her own life, she finds herself the single mother of an 8 year old girl and a 5 year old boy. We laughed about the fact that, suddenly, I too am the step-mother of two kids who are the same ages. But now I also have The Lorax. This last fact is, above all, humorous to her and her family as I've historically never been able to take care of myself. But Brye put her finger on something when she said, "SR has done it all before so he can tell you what to worry about and what you need to do to take care of a baby." This, for sure, has made all the difference and certainly has resulted in The Bois being a calm, happy baby.

We ate the best bowl of pasta I've ever had, courtesy of Brye's dad, with a little red wine.

The next morning I scouted out a trail on a local map. It was part of The Ice Age Trail (famous in ultra circles because of the race with it's name), a thousand-mile footpath entirely within the state of Wisconsin. No bikes or horses allowed. It's absolutely astounding that such a thing exists, maintained cooperatively by local groups, and simply dedicated to the state's geological history. It seems like something that would be in Denmark, and not in The United States. And, to be sure, people are fighting feverishly against it, not wanting such a path to get in the way of their McMansions and gourmet Italian grocery store chains. The last part of my run was cut off by the building of new suburban things. Little do they know what they're destroying.

Up until that point, it was a glorious, spiritual run through fields and forests, over bridges, marshes and paths through overgrown long grass. (Should I mention all the poison ivy? I had a suspicion I didn't react to the stuff, but after falling into a plant of it, I'm happily convinced.) It was just me and my water bottle belt. I ran into no one else on the path except for the brief section when it goes through a park. I felt so strong and happy. As has become routine on long runs, I went through every possible emotion over the course of 3.5 hours, including bringing myself to tears.

By the end, I felt like a creature, just existing in the beautiful prairie land. But much like the Dire Wolf 12,000 years earlier, I wanted my mate. But SR was working in an ER far away. I knew once he heard about me finding a new trail, he'd feel as if I'd cheated on him. And that's exactly what he said.
I went to my parent's house to find them playing with The Bois. I went for a long swim in the nearby lake. I thought of how much I wanted SR to be there with me.

I sometimes still can't believe we've found each other. I used to say we fit together like puzzle pieces. And I still feel that way. Before I met SR, I thought I knew what love was, but I was wrong. All I can say is when you find it, you'll know.

Running Song of The Day: The Story by Brandi Carlile

Friday, 8 August 2008

Humiliated in the Pool

Maybe this post title conjures up images of a girl losing her bikini bottoms or an adolescent boy being made fun of for his man boobs. But this is about a 29 year old female who apparently can't swim.

I went swimming the other night, feeling good in my skin, thinking I'd try to swim fast. Things seemed to be going well until, about 3/4 of the way into my swim, a guy joined me in my lane. After a couple laps, he started laughing when I brought my head out the water and asked if anyone had ever showed me how to swim. I said "no" a bit surprised and worried. (I've basically taught myself over the last two years. I started out with this vague idea of a few different types of strokes. It took me about a year to get my head under water while I swam.) Had I been making a big fool out of myself this whole time?

"Why don't you kick when you swim?" He said. I figured that was a fair question. I'd always wanted swimming to improve my arm strength, so I had taught myself to swim without my legs. Now that I was training for a triathlon, I suddenly realized that didn't make too much sense. He continued: "Oh, and you never breath. Breathing more will help you turn your body as you swim, which you also don't do." I admitted I took breaths every 10 strokes and that I was pretty proud of that. Why was I proud of that again????

What had people been thinking all this time as they watched me swim???? Oh well, I wasn't going to let this advice pass me by. He went and got a kick board (which I had previously seen as a device designed for people who didn't know how to use their arms... Boy am I a RUBE!). I did two laps with just the kick board. Wow is that HARD! I thought being a runner would make that easy, but you use an almost completely different set of muscles. Then he had me kicking and rotating my body by breathing every two strokes and getting my hands up above my head. He said it was "like a dance underwater." This seemed hokey, but it has stuck with me. He swam along side of me and yelled things like "Keep kicking!" and I cut my time across the pool almost in half. It is amazing how much more efficient his suggestions made me!
I'm writing this in case there are any other rubes out there like me who don't know why they are not getting faster at swimming. For me it boiled down to three things:

1. Kicking
2. Breathing every two strokes
3. Rotating my body every stroke

Turns out the guy was a fellow doctor at the hospital I work at. I am so glad he had the guts to say something. I convinced SR we could benefit from signing up for a personal lesson or two.

As I write, The Bois (who turns six months tomorrow!) is crawling his way right across the floor. He's not quite as receptive to my advice that "crawling is a dance" but he's getting along alright.

Have a great weekend!

Running Song of the Day: Go Go by Alphabeat

Monday, 4 August 2008

Religious long runs

Sometimes I need to pinch myself. Yesterday SR spent hours running about 24 miles together in Devil's Head State Park in WI. All this after a romantic evening in Madison, WI. It was so wonderful to eat outside on State Street, speak Danish together, giggle with the Lorax. And well, there's more, but let me get back to the run...

We ran with the babyjogger and I explained the situation in my previous relationship: I never would have been allowed to run over 2 hours at a time. But with SR there is no clock. And yesterday our only plan was to run as long as we could.

I do know it is not the Lorax's idea of a great day to be stuck in a baby jogger. About half way through the run, he got SO MAD that his tears elicited "I'm going to call the police" looks from mother bystanders. I took him out to play with him and he had the usual telangiectatic marks all over his face from despondent crying. I waited for SR to meet us. SR had run 21 miles at this point, so he let me take off.

I was about 16 miles into my run then. And this seems to be the usual distance where running becomes a religious experience. I ran up and down a steep, rocky hill with gorgeous lake overlooks. There were plenty of hikers staring and pointing at the crazy running woman, but I was alone in my head. I couldn't remember anything in life that bothered me. Somehow during long, long runs, I shed all that. It's like my body is so consumed, that it can't deal with frivolous, worrisome thoughts. Every fiber of my body becomes focused on running and existence. And the rocks and trees, sky and landscape start to come alive, breathing and seemingly reflecting my memories and breaths and pounding heart.

I recently read about the 24 year-old ultramarathoner, Jenn Shelton, that during a 100 mile race she saw a little girl and started screaming. Apparently the person crewing her had to explain she was imagining it. What long distance running does to our minds and bodies is fascinating.

Honestly, I wanted badly to keep running at the end, but my boys were ready to go, especially this one...


I was surprised how easily 24 miles came out of me. I am a new person since the pregnancy. And part of it is doing 15-16 miles every other day during the week and really resting up on the in-between days. I'm more optimistic about the 50 miler coming up in Michigan.

For now, it's back to usual life, but I'm unburdened. It's incredible how you can shed pointless, negative thoughts on long runs. Or at least recognize them as being just that.

Running Song of The Day: Fading Like a Flower by Roxette