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

"It's better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love's indifference." - The Lumineers

Monday, 20 February 2012

Exercise in health and dishealth



Here are some statements from Captain Obvious (me):

1. Just because you exercise, does not mean you are healthy
2. Though I may be in relatively good shape physically, no one reading this blog should look at me as a model of good psychiatric health.

The other day, I received an email from a Russian woman living in Israel who thanked me for the inspiration to keep running while pregnant. She had what sounded like a healthy and happy pregnancy experience followed by a home birth of her beautiful baby boy. The boy's name means "lion of God" in Hebrew. Anyone know what that name is? I hope other women in Israel have been inspired by her. And if anyone reading this blog wants a good resource for how to use your mind to overcome the pain of childbirth, I can put you in touch with her.

I have been happy to be able to reassure women that exercise in pregnancy is healthy. And that women have better pregnancies and babies have better outcomes because of it. But I also owe it to the readers of this blog to point out that, heck, I am not someone who is to be modelled when it comes to exercise habits! I exercise to stay sane and thus exercise way too much, when I have the time, and rarely train right. But yeah, you can run 6 marathons while pregnant, enjoy it and know it isn't dangerous.

I'm getting to the point. Don't worry. I have shown this post to SR and my sister already and it is a big deal for me to come out with this.

I have many times alluded to my Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and that is something I am comfortable with because I have come to terms with it and actually have greatly improved my symptoms simply by becoming educated about the condition. And the fact that I have battled with anorexia has also come up often. It is an enemy I know well and will most likely fight it my entire life (my current BMI of 17.3 does not speak to my condition being under control).

But during approximately the entire month of January, I was even further from normal. It seems many of you could detect it despite my not writing about it directly. I didn't know how to write about it, because I didn't know what it was. Though, looking back, the words "crazy", "depressed" "lonely" and "manic" all came up.

It has happened four times now. A period of about a month where I can't sleep; I am restless, short-tempered, obnoxious to be around and riddled with anxiety and guilt which cycle viciously inside of me. I had told SR when we started dating now 5 years ago that I had just had a manic episode (that one worked out well because I was on trauma surgery and when I walked home from work I could sit in SR's back yard and dream about knocking on his door in the middle of the night). But I hadn't had one since. And I didn't even know that's what it was until it was over (despite being confronted by more than one immediate family member about getting psychiatric help - and I wanted it desperately). And then sometime around last Thursday (10 days ago), it started to end. And I was somehow breathing more normally and thinking clearly.

It is such a gift to be calm again. I am ashamed to go into details about our trip to Mammoth Lakes and that is why I didn't write much about it at the time. As my sister, who was along, described, the dark circles under my eyes just kept getting darker. I would wake up hours before everyone and sit there with my coffee, shaking and with tears in my crazy eyes waiting for everyone to wake up, for someone to say they would watch the kids while I went for a run. I only got myself to ski one run (skiing was just too relaxing for me, I guess). I was so focused on running every available minute of babysitting time. I even stayed up nearly all night one night while SR watched the kids and I ran on icy mountain trails in the moonlight. I didn't want the rest of my family knowing that I needed to run nearly a marathon the same night that I had run a marathon during the day...

And what on earth? I have no idea now how I ran a 3:14 marathon on the treadmill two days after running a 20 mile PR on the treadmill and then two days later running a 20 mile tempo again. I would lay awake in bed envisioning running an actual marathon and I thought if someone simply showed me a starting line, I could finish in less than 3 hours. As of today, I have absolutely no clue how I could have thought that. Many of you probably thought I was lying about those running times, but I wasn't.

And the shear stupidity of buying plane tickets to run a marathon in New Orleans without my family! What was I thinking? I remember not being able to tell SR that I bought them, feeling like a thief in the night. Well, I'm not going. I wasted a ton of money and I regret it enormously. (We are now running a 5k together that weekend in La Crosse to raise money for the Special Olympics). How could I forget my love of trails, local races and running with my husband?

Ok. I could easily write a novel about the now four manic and two or three depressed episodes (the depressed episodes are not as clearly delineated for me as the manic ones) I have had, but I think you all know enough to get my point.

I do realize that writing this is not a great strategic career move. And it doesn't make me appear to have things under control. But I am okay with that. I often wonder if the mental health of ultra runners is a bit of a neglected topic. Rather than going into tons of details right now, I would just like to open things up for discussion. Whatever comes into your head is okay.

I am in such a good mood these days that I can take any sort of accusations. Bring them on. Just having my "old self" back again is something that makes me incredibly thankful. I can't help thinking of the meaning of the name Mattias, "gift of God".

No, I am not saying I am suddenly "normal", I am only saying, I feel good in my skin once again.

After taking two days of running just 1 mile. Not 1 times 10, just 1, I was ready for some good running again. Here I am after a 21 miler, modeling my new compression tubes fron Compressport, which I am testing for Ultrarun.com. I really like them. (sorry, but I don't think I look like a woman with a BMI of 17.3 Or do I also have body dysmorphic disorder?). Oh, and now you know our address. Or at least the number :).

The running song of the day was inspired by my favorite moment at the Grammy awards (I really knew I wasn't manic anymore when I sat down and watched almost the entire thing with Christian and El Guapo):

The Beach Boys, clearly older than they used to be, walk out on stage and begin playing "Good Vibrations", the cameras almost seems to avoid Brian Wilson but then focus in on his empty, sort of stone-crazy, eyes. Everyone at home must have shifted uncomforably. But out of him comes the most beautiful "I. I love the colorful clothes you wear.." and the world breathed a happy sigh of relief.

Here is an HD recording from the early days:


There are so many things I could say about this amazing song, but I'll keep it to
1. electro-theremin
2. perfect bridge
3. fun running song

Monday, 13 February 2012

Love report

Last night we held a party for Christian's fourth birthday. And it was fun. And the unspoken decision was made by both SR and myself that life should be more like THIS and less like a frozen 5k into a headwind. We slept in, had breakfast with my parents and the boys and didn't go to the half marathon as planned.

Good thing, as it turns out. Rumor has it on Facebook that the leaders were stopped for over two minutes by a train in the middle of the race. The leaders must have been like "well, isn't that nice..." as the whole field caught up.

The race was to raise money for breast cancer research, though, which is a good cause. But SR and I often discuss how research money raised for some more forgotten diseases where larger strides could be made might be a better idea. Don't get me wrong, though, anything is better than money going to big businesses.

And that is kind of how we spent our morning. Just discussing, talking, arguing a little. But mostly we discussed future plans as we went on a 20+ mile run, much of which was spent on the opposite side of the river from La Crosse (in Pettibone Park), sort of literally looking at our lives from afar.

And today I had the energy and wherewithall to truly listen to SR. Lately I have been living in a constant state of sleep and calorie deprivation. And if that combination does not spell out charm to you, who knows what does.

SR needs to develop a better relationship with his son, Andreas, and we both know that, though he never says it, our plans need to somehow be conducive to just that. I can dream all I want of being a physician in France who grows melons and lavender, but it is not in our life trajectory and I need to get practical. And I did (though I'm not giving anything away here just yet).

When I woke up this morning and read that Whitney Houston had died, I became extremely sad. Think of how a bad relationship (along with a touch of fame, of course) can ruin a life. I need to love my husband. I need to NOT be a crazy bitch wife. I need to help him be the person he wants to be.

If you have a moment, watch this video of Whitney Houston when she was young and beautiful - and what a voice. Then imagine her at 49, looking 10 years older, dying, addicted to drugs on some hotel bed in the afternoon, out of love. Sad.




Ladies, treat your man right. Guys, adore your woman.

(I am, of course, really only saying this to myself, though I'm not a man)

At some points in my life, this song seems like the perfect love song, and this is one of those moments. (you have to read the lyrics while listening)


Which makes me think of this. Who can name this artist?

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Heart Throb 5k

There are two distinct tactics to running a 5k. One is "just for fun" and the other is "running so fast that every fiber of your being is in pain at every moment". Most people chose to say they are doing number one and then end up running at some pace in between, just to run faster than they expected and to avoid pressure.

5 years ago, SR and I ran this YMCA's Heart Throb 5k together. It was the first race we had run together. I was still married, but was nonetheless in the predicament of being in love with this guy: SR, who won every single La Crosse YMCA 5k. It seemed so odd to me for a 30 something guy to get into running so much. Did he think he was still in high school or what? No, he was just Danish - or - just himself. And I was fascinated.

As today, the weather that day was in the single digits F. To be exact, it was 9 F (-14C) today with 18 mph wind from the northwest.

5 years ago, I had never attempted to run a 5k fast, but I figured I had better try to impress SR. So, I went out somewhat hard, though pretended I was just in it for fun (and actually, I was). I ran it in just over 23 minutes. I was really happy. That day it was good enough for second female overall.

Today, I ran the first mile in 5:52. I felt good. I was 5th woman at the time and about 13th overall. I thought I might have a shot at under 19 minutes. Between mile 1 and 2 my pace slowed a bit, but I passed 2 women and 2 men and was still on pace for a PR. And then the headwind struck and I felt absolutely terrible. I could not get my pace under 7 minutes per mile. I could not feel my legs. My entire body was experiencing an icecream headache. I wanted to just stop, but it was too cold to just walk after all. IT WAS TERRIBLE. I lurched across the finish line, just ahead of a 15 year old girl (the daughter of a physician I used to work with) in 20:27. I dry heaved for a while, felt so nauseated that I had to hobble to the bathroom to vomit.

SR won in 17:04. The wild part is 3rd for the women was good enough for 11th overall (193 total runners, 118 of them women, 75 men). It is interesting how in the US women seem to be nearly as fast as men. Is it just not cool for men to be in good shape here? SR explained on the way home- women here are stay at home moms and think running makes them beautiful. Men just don't really get into it. The truth is, I'm quite sure the young women who finished ahead of me weren't moms.

So what has changed in 5 years? Well, our location on earth is the same. I've taught myself to embrace suffering, I guess. But more importantly, I got the man of my dreams (somehow) and there are two new little boys in the world - who maybe one day will make the world a better place. Somehow a 2-3 minute improvement in 5k running time seems to be of very little consequence.

Tomorrow: half marathon in Rochester, MN. In the meantime, skiing with SR and The Lorax!

Friday, 3 February 2012

Newsworthy: crazy women and normal children

But first, I need to vent for a second. I heard a show on Minnesota Public Radio today (and of course anything that comes out of Minnesota is haute couture according to Steve Q) where two "editors" and the host could not figure out when and when not to use good vs. well.

My guideline is to think about whether it is an adjective, adverb or noun.

What you can say in response to "how are you?":
"I am doing well"
"I am good"(ok, technically incorrect unless you're trying to say I'm a good little girl, but it's better than the next two)

What irritates me:
"I am well" (to me this implies you are not ill, like you just got over an illness that had you in the hospital. For most people, this is not what they mean - right?)
"I'm doing good" (this implies you are working for Amnesty International or that you are a redneck from Iowa)

To avoid all the confusion, I just say "I'm fine". Because I am a damn fine woman.

Now that we have that out of the way, let's congruatulate Alicia H who was the first woman runner finisher in the Arrowhead 135 mile race in Superior National Forrest in northern Minnesota. She ran it in 55 hours and 56 minutes. Awesome. And crossed the finish line with a Spaniard.


Here she is while actually running the entire Superior Hiking trail, which took 4 days, 17 hours and 35 minutes.



And, oh my gosh, a woman from Næstved, and friend of ours, Annette, is going to run 366 marathons in 365 days. The current world record for number of marathons run in a calendar year by a female is 106
. The craziEST part: she has kids and a husband. Good luck, Annette! I can't wait to follow along.

Now, I'm actually not very newsworthy, but I am crazy. Plus if I didn't talk about myself, I'd just be a boring journalist.

My training has been going well lately.

Last Thursday I ran a 3:14:01 marathon on the treadmill. It was at 0.5% elevation. I did not count the bathroom breaks. This was two days after a 20 mile tempo.
Fri: 10 miles easy, total body conditioning + swimming intervals
Sat: 20 miles outside 8:45 pace
Sun: 15 miles outside + swimming intervals
Mon: 20 miles on treadmill, slow
Tues: 3 miles easy, 1 x 6 mile intervals on hilly route outside in 6:32, 6:28, 6:26, 6:26, 6:25, 6:35, then 5 mile cooldown. Swimming intervals.
Wed: 13 miles slow, stairclimber + modern nordic track + spinning class + yogalates

So - given my treadmill "marathon" time, I have (with SR's okay) signed up for the New Orleans Marathon March 4th to go for a PR. After that is out of the way, I can enjoy a spring and summer of ultras and triathons. :)

Oh, I forgot. I was in the news in some way - here is a page from the most recent Løbemagasinet in Denmark, informing women that continuing to train during pregnancy will improve their condition.




Crazy women. Yes. Now: read carefully the top regrets of dying people, collected by a palliative care nurse in Australia:

1. I wish I'd had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2. I wish I hadn't worked so hard.

3. I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.

4. I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.

5. I wish that I had let myself be happier.

Yes, ladies, we could all learn from women like Alicia and Annette who let themselves do what makes them happy.

What makes you happy? Training makes me happy. Running makes me happy. But what really makes me happy? Those little moments with my family.

Touching Mattias chest, so soft over a paper thin breast bone and watching him coo and giggle.



The Lorax has been telling me about his best friend, "Santa" at school for days now. I was so happy he had made such a close friend. He told me about all of the things they did together. How Santa took a nap right next to him. How Santa played with him on the playground. I figured the boy's name was Xander. I asked tonight at his parent teacher conference who Santa was. And they had all assumed Santa was a friend at home because there were no boys there with a name close to that. We looked at each other. We looked at Christian who was playing with rocks in a sand case. Santa was not real, not to us at least. Santa is is friend he needs during this transition to a new life. I looked at my baby, Christian, still in many ways as fragile as Mattias.

And Natali announced tonight she thinks she might have a boyfriend. He is the most popular boy at school. His name is Quentin and I don't think she's making him up. They have told each other they like each other, but what the next step is, well, she suggested they eat lollipops and go for a walk on the bike path.


These are good days. And well days.





Running songs of the day:
The Fall by Gary Numan (thanks, World Café)
Wrecking Ball by Mother Mother (th