Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Skodsborg Marathon marks 14 weeks of pregnancy

There is really only one adjective which can be used to describe the Skodsborg Marathon and that is the Danish word, hyggelig. It is a small, enjoyable run in a friendly environment. Yes, all of that can be said in one word!

Anyway, here are all of the runners just before the start. Actually Jerk, who is the race director (that's pronounced "Yerk", folks), took the photo but would also run. A few of these people ran the half marathon, though most ran the marathon.

The girl to the far right, Teresa Petersen, turned out to be a woman who I under no imaginable circumstances could have beaten. She ran a minute faster than my PR on a hilly, windy, cold route. In fact, she actually started running the race with SR.

What was my goal? Well, I thought I would like to run in less than 4 hours. But, I didn't know the route would be so hilly. The route consisted of 3.4 miles of asfalt around a woods and through a neighborhood repeated 8 times with a little shortcut on the last repitition.

Jerk said something very ominous at the beginning: "No one has ever gotten lost". I knew immediately this meant disaster for me. And halfway into the second loop, I took a wrong turn, sprinting down a hill, but luckily eventually heard Jerk himself yelling after me. It was not an ideal start. I did what I always do - started sprinting to make up for lost time. That, of course, came back to haunt me later.

When one runs a marathon essentially alone, there is a lot of time to think. Especially when one isn't running terribly fast and there is no specific competition. I thought a lot about comments that have been written on this blog. I thought in particular about the pregnancy sentiment "I'm just not taking any chances". I wonder - what exactly is that chance/s people are referring to? What is the physiological mechanism behind what people fear? There is so little known about exercise in pregnancy - but why is it that being passive is always seen as safer than active? Beyond that, why is going on a light run safer than running a PR marathon? Let me put it an entirely different way - we don't go into uterine failure when we run as fast or as hard as we can, so how is it we are going to do damage to this organ, which is suddenly even more protected than ever while pregnant, by simply running hard? I don't claim to know everything - obviously no one does- I simply claim to have researched this subject to the extreme. I would specifically really like to take a look at peoples' fears and see how legitmate they are and whether they make physiological sense.

There are only two sports-related scenarios that makes sense to me to fear: 1. is a hard blow to the uterus (as in getting kicked by a horse, etc) 2. is running a 100 mile race in extreme heat, for example, not drinking enough and going into kidney failure. Bear in mind this has only been reported in men, but if it happened in a pregnant woman, toxins could certainly build up, some of which might cross over the placenta. Okay, so those are the two extremes that make sense to me to fear. Other than that, I am at a loss. Oh yeah - don't dope! Ha - that will definitely increase your chances of a miscarriage.

Anyway, despite not being scared of hurting the baby yesterday, I really didn't feel like going for a PR. Nor could I have run a PR, considering I have had one speedwork session in the past 14 weeks. And that was 4 days prior.

At the halfway point, Karen, Jerk's wife, who had just run the half marathon, took these pictures of me. Thank you, Karen!

I ran the first half marathon in just under 2 hours, knowing getting under 4 hours for the entire distance was really unlikely. At about this time, SR lapped me, Morten and Rune. He didn't waste much time with us, that's for sure. He ran the first half very slowly - with Teresa as mentioned above - and then decided to go all out for the second half marathon. The next time I saw SR, he was doubling over, saying he was sorry he couldn't run with me. He had just taken first and set a new course record of 3:09.

I was struggling at this point. My left knee was really bothering me and I considered dropping. I was running my first marathon in minimalist shoes (Ecco Bioms) and had to wonder if that was what was bothering my knee. But I honestly think it was my lingering plantar faciitis (from my old thick-soled shoes) that was making me run a little funny.

But then I turned on my i-pod. And I was pushed along by a Swede, Lennart Skoog. We kept passing each other back and forth. Every time we passed each other, he said something to me in Swedish. I had a heck of a time understanding him. The fundamental problem was, he assumed I was Danish and no Danes have trouble understanding Swedish.

We sprinted to the finish together, him passing me at the last second, and me ending up with a time of 4:19:59. This was about 15 minutes faster than my 9 week pregnant marathon and on a tougher route. So I wasn't too disappointed.

Thanks to Jerk and Morten for fun morning.

Running Song of the Day: Senegal Fast Food by Amadou & Miriam with Manu Chao (an old favorite was just what I needed).


cherelli said...

nice work!!
I guess for some of us who aren't doctors and haven't looked at all the studies "not taking chances in pregnancy" means not stressing systems we don't know anything about. I would imagine most of us enter pregnancy not really understanding how healthy our organs are etc, and high exertion exercise does place certain stresses on a body already forming another life... (actually regardless of creating another life, high exertion exercise does "stress" the body). However, as you refer to, if one's body is CONDITIONED to a certain level of exercise then the stress would not be unexpected. Love what your doing though to show the masses - very glad I stumbled across your blog well over a year ago now!!

Unknown said...

I ran during my pregnany 2 years ago. I didn't do anything really intense. My runs would range from 4 to 8 miles. I stopped at 7 months when I started my summer job because I ran out of time/energy. I started again in my last couple weeks of pregnancy because my job ended. I remember running 3 miles at 41 weeks- I was slow and it hurt (in a good way).

The only thing my doctor told me to worry about was overheating or getting my heart rate too high. She said that might compromise the pregnancy and ever since she told me that I was super worried abotu getting my internal temp. up too high. That makes sense to me, the same way they advise against going in a hot tub when you are pregnant.

Are you going to post about your weight gain this pregnancy? I was amazed at your last pregnancy weight gain and would be interested if you can keep it that low this time around (inspiring).

SteveQ said...

Had to go through a lot of words before: SR set a course record!

(hey, you've been pregnant before, but this is his first CR - I think)

Stefanie Schocke said...

I love reading about your races/marathons because they are so different than the road races I do. I know the US has ultras, trails, etc...but I do not participate so it's so interesting to read about your races- a world I am not familiar with.

Congrats on pregnancy marathon #2!

sea legs girl said...

Cherelli - I am so glad you stumbled across my blog, too, because I have really enjoyed your commentary and getting to know you.


Yeah, overheating is mentioned a lot and I think it gets way too much attention considering even fever and sauna sitting at least in European studies have been shown to not be dangerous. Animal studies have shown otherwise and American studies have yet to show anything conclusive in humans. But regardless, core body temperature is so extremely rarely raised significantly abover normal while exercising. Obviously one wants to avoid heat stroke, but that really goes without saying, I think :).

As for heartrate, to the best of my knowledge there have been no studies demonstrating danger to babies when a mother's heart rate increases. It is simply a precaution mentioned by doctors based on no evidence.

sea legs girl said...


So sorry about all of those words you had to suffer through ;D. If I had a magazine that part about SR would have been in a big pink box in large font so one could more easily skip the boring stuff.

Actually, I just thought he'd tell the whole story on his blog.

sea legs girl said...

Thanks Stefanie - as long as it distracts you from the injury :).

PiccolaPineCone said...

i should probably wait until I am less tired and more informed to comment again but since that confluence of conditions is unlikely to occur in the near future... i'll just fire away. In my mind there are two separate discussions regarding temperature: 1. trying to conceive 2. elevated temperature in pregnancy.

Obviously #1 is what I am concerned about in my recent post (thanks for your comment on my blog btw). You mentioned (in your comment) studies on the fertility rates of sauna loving people. Ok understood, but in vitro observations have clearly shown that sperm motility is affected above 38.8 deg C. I guess I would feel better about a study that had women hanging out in saunas immediately after having had intercourse on the day they ovulated... volunteers for that study anyone :) . It just seems intutive to me that if sperm motility is decreased as has been shown in vitro, it would affect fertility. You mentioned in your comment on my blog that I am only seeing a small increase in temperature while exercising.. I really disagree - my temp goes up by 1.5 - 2 deg C, given the very narrow band of temperature the human body can tolerate (about 7 deg C??) it seems to me that 1.5 to 2 deg C is a pretty important increase.

Regarding #2, Clapp has a number of things to say on this. First, he does point out that pregnancy actually improves heat dissapation by lowering the body's setpoint and also due to hormonal changes that increase blood flow to the skin. Second he does say that weight bearingexercise during early pregnancy does not increase the incidence of malformations above baseline population levels (2-3%) and suggests that the pregnant woman's increased capacity to dissapate heat is an important adaptation that allows pregnant women to safely exercise.

Here is what he does say that was the basis for my self-monitoring when I was pregnant:

"The upper limit for what is okay for thermal response is not known. Based on our experience however it seems that an upwards rise of 1.6 deg C or a peak temperature of 38.9 deg C is not associated with an abnormal outcome. However if the athlete exceeds or is consistently at these levels, the wisest course is to alter the thermal characteristics of the training environment."

[Editorial comment - I observed through my own temperature monitoring that i can easily exceed 39 deg C even when running outside in the winter, it is really not hard to get up to these temperatures.]

He goes on to say:

"The competitive athlete should check her temperature regularly and anytime she feels hotter than she thinks she should. To date we've only identified one high risk situation and that occurs when the athlete does extremely intense interval sets in the usual health club or gym environment. If they perform exercises that use extensive muscle mass, core temperature climbs rapidly and can exceed 38.9 degC if they continue the activity for more than 15-20 minutes."

So, from my reading of this, Clapp is NOT saying that he found abnormal outcomes in women whose temperatures exceeded 38.9 deg C. Rather he is offering this as a guideline drawn from his years of researching highly competitive pregnant women. So, they are guidelines, not definitive results from studies to be sure. On the other hand, because Clapp is so liberal compared to almost all other guidelines re: exercising during pregnancy that I personally am inclined to follow his guidelines.

PiccolaPineCone said...

So... to briefly (ha! too late!) summarize my view on exercising during pregnancy, I think it is a wonderful and healthy thing. I ran over 3000 km during my last pregancy. I have not found studies that definitively show that elevated core temperatures cause harm to the fetus (though I haven't looked, Clapp is the full extent of my research) however given the research Clapp has done and his experience, I was inclined to follow his guidelines.

I really look forward to your post on this.

Finally (finally!) Congratulations on your marathon. Sounds like it was a great experience.

sea legs girl said...


Thanks for the additional info. I think I really need to see a study which shows that increased core temperature affects a female's fertility. If I saw a well-designed study, I would be inclined to buy it, but I don't believe it simply based on the somewhat unrelated studies I referred to and my understanding of physiology. And I'm talking the relatively little increases one gets from hard exercise. But I know I could be wrong! Certainly when a man's testicles increase in temperature their fertility goes down. Though I bet there is a wide range of temeprature in both men and women where everything continues to function normally.

As to the second part, increased body temperature, even long term fevers, in newly pregnant women have never been shown to negatively affect the baby in humans. The studies all of the fear is based on are from animals, who are subjected to artificial conditions where they can't escape the heat even when they feel it is absolutely necessary. Plus humans ARE different than rats. Not that you suggested otherwise :).

I would love it if you could refer me to further studies, which refute what I am saying.

Kirsten said...

Lovely little tummy and well done!

I geuss that if you are allowed to work out on an exercise bike where you probably get the pulse and the body heat up - then you can run too? I don't know but remember being told that exercising in pregnancy is healthy.

Just not in Turkey where the doctor prefered me not to move for 9 months and did his best to talk me in to a cesarian just beacuse my first birth was a cesarian (breech position). But I gave birth to my second child naturally and of course didn't want to have cesarian just out of convenience to the doctor, but they have a horrible habit in private hospitals in Turkey. But what I wanted to say: I think you should go with the feeling and continue. The Chinese women 150 years ago didn't rest in pregnancy and just went over to the side of the field to give birth and continued the work afterwards. Read Pearl S. Buck: The good earth! Of course a few of them didn't survive, but according to the population rate quite a few did......

Olga said...

Love the attitude. Congrats to SR for doubling over and making one of his goals on the resolution list.

CP said...

Thanks for the info re: heartate and increased temp. Maybe all my worry during my first pregnancy was not necessary. So I've been TTC again since's very frustrating because I believe our timing is spot on and nothing is happening. With our first kid, we got pregnant on our first try. So I started to think about what is different about me now versus then. I weigh the same. I eat better. I's say I have the same amount of stress (in law school back then, practicing law now). Same amount of sleep.

The only difference is that I haven't been running regularly lately. In fact, when I got pregnant the first time, I was running 5-8 miles a day. Now I'm not running AT ALL. So, I'm going to start running regularly again and see if that helps. I wonder if running regularly can regulate hormone levels or assist in fertility. I've never been "regular" whether running regularly or not. I'm curious if running is the missing link (or I may just be getting desperate and going crazy)! I'll let you know!

CP said...

that last poster is me- I'm the same as "Cee" who posted earlier.

sea legs girl said...

Hi again Cee/WNW Litigator! I have read a good number of studies about running in pregnancy and if one excludes women who have lost their period due running on inadequate diet, running at least dosn't appear to negatively affect fertility. So if it is something you enjoy, there is no reason NOT to do it- and definitely if it relaxes you and makes you happy, it might help :). I wish you luck with it!

SteveQ said...

I said before that I couldn't think of many February songs. I just heard Drive-By Truckers singing "Feb. 14" and realized: there's a ton of Valentine's Day songs!

Marathon Mom said...

Great job! Running a marathon while pregnant is so much different then nonpregnany races. I think it was one of thebest things I did for my running, it taught me to listen to my body and have fun while "racing".

I just glanced through the other comments but it is really interesting how everyone has different thoughts on exercise/body heat/heartrate during pregnany. My OB was not worried about heartrate, but toldme to watch overheating when I ran.

heather said...

Wow, great job. And fascinating question, why is passivity considered the best course of action? Just on an intuitive level, it doesn't make logical sense to me that it would be *that* easy to make a fetus or embryo kaputt. Have you ever read historical accounts of medical treatment of/medical advice to women? I recently read Gail Collins' book on American Women, which contains some chilling descriptions of 18th and 19th century medical procedures which are admittedly not relevant right now; more relevant is the medical advice to women - pregnant or not - to not exert themselves in any way, stay out of the sun, perhaps go for a short, slow walk if it won't exhaust you too much; and the way all of this connects with notions of class and desirability...Anyway, so I'm developing a theory (ok, actually I just thought of this two minutes ago while reading your blog) that all this "you must rest during pregnancy, you poor delicate reproductive blob" ties into so many other antiquated notions of femininity and the supposed weakness of the female body that still plague us today, 100+ years totally without scientific evidence and so emotionalized (sorry if that sounded in any way raving or loony, I swear I am not wearing a tinfoil hat...I just think this is a fascinating discussion from so many angles)

14 weeks pregnant said...

I used to work out regularly but I haven't for almost a year. Hmmm, I can do exercice eventually but running is not safe for my bebe...Well, your body would be telling you that it needs the energy to grow your baby and you shouldn't beat yourself.