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, 30 April 2012

Chippewa 50k 2012

I stripped down, in my normal clod-like stripper fashion, into my sports bra and shorts, and stood up on a grassy noll in front of the starters of yesterday's Chippewa 50k. What should I wear? Or rather, "you have three minutes to decides, SLG, are you going to run this race fast or slow?" Alicia Hudelson nuzzled her way into the starting pack bare shouldered and my question was answered. I was going to get rid of the long-sleeved shirt and go for it.

Alicia, who we had shared fine chocolates and jokes with in our Edgewater Motel room the night before, had created an algorithm of the women's finishing times based on a very complex set of factors. SR and I found it extremely entertaining. As much as I adored the spreasheet, I refused to tell her if I was going to attempt to run fast. When she had mentioned on my blog that she had to add another fudge factor into the Chippewa equation after Syllamo, I thought she was joking.

I have been injured since the Mad City 50k 4 weeks ago and since 3 Days of Syllamo 3 weeks before that. I haven't been able to run more than a few miles without tightness in my ITB. The problem stems from a serious tear in my left quadriceps. I hadn't run for 6 days, though, prior to yesterday... and I am an optimist by nature. Yet, I knew it was stupid to race. But when we were two miles in and I felt nothing except a growing inner warmth and the feeling of flight up down and around the twists of the trails, I was transported - to my version of heaven. My speed and happiness increased. By 10k, I was on track to running around 4:35, which would have been good enough for a course record. If my left quad could take it, I had no doubt the rest of my body could hold the pace. I was close to passing the first female, Christine Crawford.

 But then my left foot started to go lame. I tripped twice over things I would normally be able to step over. And then the pain came in my left knee and gluteal insertions. By mile 9, I had to walk. I walked to the mile 10 aid station where Helen "roll it out" Lavin and Karen Schoenrock awaited. One could never ask for more at an aid station than these two smiling faces (and some snacks). Helen was prepared for me with a foam roller. What does she not think of? Oh and a long-sleeved shirt. "Roll it out, put this on, and get going!" Despite the fact that I look up to Helen in every way, this was not good advice. I rolled that mangled mess of a muscle out and, heck, it felt better - for a mile - and then I started crying. It KILLED. I turned around, greeted the runners who were behind me. I was happy to see Maria, who I had met the night before, fellow lover of Sonic Youth and NB minimalist trail shoes, and to finally meet Julie Treder. It is hard not to keep smiling, when people who have no real reason to - pull for you, care about you.

Rice is great when you're hungry and you want 2,000 of something. - Mitch Hedberg

Then I was wrapped up in my own misery. "I will never run again because I have a sarcoma (or maybe a metastasis) in my left thigh and to make matters even worse, I ate about 10,000 calories last night of Indian food to get ready for 31 miles - and I've only made it 10. Plus I'm cold. This sucks." I made it back to Helen and Karen at just about the time SR flew through on the way back, in first place, way ahead of pace for a course record. He had no time to talk. There were four fast men in running jerseys and stockings on their arms ready to pass if he were to flounder or even slow.

 "Why don't you ride with me back to the start?" says a mysterious 60 something man. I would soon learn this was Tony Ovesen, who just ran Zumbro 50 miler on a broken foot. I hope I am like him when I am 65. He laughed when I said that and said he was so bored with life that he was going to move to Germany. He really must be bored... And he was wearing these Hokas (as were Alicia H and Chris Scotch!)
Back at the start/finish, I hung with the supporters and volunteers. God, some of these people are incredibly cool. Following their loved ones hither and thither. And volunteers who love the sport enough to cook for the participants. This is what makes the world of ultra running a wonderful world unto its own. Randy Fulton, the race director, was ecstatic at the prospect of course records. The two of us went out to a spot 3 miles from the finish to wait for SR. I mentioned en passant that SR was probably cramping. "WHAT'S his name?" "Raymond?" "Brad?" "Raisin"? It was beyond hilarity. I said SR's name 5 times or more and Randy just could not believe anyone would have a name like that.

"Oh, he's coming!" I shouted. "Here comes... The Dane!" announces Randy. SR had tears in his eyes and was wincing and gasping in pain. He was cramping. I started screaming - shouting him on- "You have the course record - by 15 minutes - you HAVE to keep going" he kept going, though very slowly for him. We gathered at the finish and I ran out to run with him. I wanted to push him on the rear up the hill because he was in so much pain. He was easily on track for the course record. I just kept screaming in excitment. This was almost more fun than racing myself! He had tears in his eyes again, I would later learn, because I was there to do it with him." He crossed the finish line in 3:51:27. 8 minutes faster than Brian Peterson's record from last year.

Here is what Randy wrote on Facebook:

1. Rasmussen Goes - CHAMPION - 3:51:27! Running in road shoes and a 79cent water bottle from a Walmart. Go figure.

(okay, so I actually changed the name to what Randy tweeted, but he did get it right on Facebook :)

Then four guys came in shortly after him, all beating Brian's time from last year. The third place guy, Jake Hegge, is a 20 year old from UW La Crosse who just dropped out of the track team to have more time to run long on trails. One should mention, the conditions were perfect for trail running yesterday. In the women's race, Christine Crawford won with a course record of 4:35 something despite a sprained ankle from mile 8! Alicia Hudelson
Above Alicia with a tank top that proclaims she is bringing it and the accomplished ultra runner fiancé, Divesh, there to hold back the competition.


took second and beat her own carefully-calculated expectations with an awesome time of 4:58 and beating the 3rd place woman by mere seconds. I was so proud of her. Seriously, to know this woman is to love her.

SR is in the shape of his life and it was such a chance opportunity that I got to witness the best running performance of his life to date. On the drive home, we both got tears in our eyes, talking about the magic that just happened, the magic that can continue to happen when we are in it together and there to support each other.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Manipulating the Nether Lands Worked!

Couldn't help the title (partly) after noticing that a young guy: Butter, Michael Butter, from Holland took 7th in The Boston Marathon today. You know he is an unknown when I do a Google search for his picture and George Clooney comes up. Now why is it that The Boston Marathon is run on a Monday again?

The other reason for the title is I found the cure to my ITB! Or so it seems. I ran 10km pain free today. Okay, a little twinge in my right hamstring and a tightness over the left knee at the end, but I felt awesome!! Should I admit I got tears in my eyes, I was so happy?

What did I do?

I manipulated my leg and butt on the left - for hours. I watched two videos on youtube over and over: one about deep tissue massage for the ITB and the other on Active Release technique and performed them on myself while watching. Oh and I concentrated a lot more on the gluteal insertions than they do in these videos. And it hurt! But eventually, last night, I felt something give and I, for the first time since the Mad City 50k, went to bed without pain in my leg.

This morning I ran in the sun on trails and YIPPEE!!

Tonight I went for another massage with Lone (she seemed amazed by the amount of change in just 3 days) and tomorrow - no running.

Whoever says conservative treatments for running injuries (specifically ITB) don't work needs to keep their mouth shut. I got so sickened by the amout of people trying to sell crap on YouTube claiming that this and that conservative treatment doesn't work. Sure, maybe they don't all work for everyone. But there is no reason not to start with RIC (okay, so the E: elevation is pointless unless you are actively bleeding) and, by the way, don't ever take ibuprofen; that stuff does not help healing. It takes pain away and makes you run when you shouldn't. Besides RIC, other effective conservative measures: massage, stretching and (as Jill Homer mentioned, and which should never be neglected is) cross training. The great thing about cross training is it not only prevents future injury but keeps your blood flowing, loosens up ligaments just keeps you feeling good. I have found my hip adductors to be particularly important in cross training with ITB. But one must avoid doing more injury! Don't do it if it hurts!!!!

But, as pointed out earlier, ITB syndrome is a manifold condition. What works for me may not work for others. The number of iterations of and reasons for IT band inflammation approaches infinity - but I am only saying, if you catch it early enough and rest and manipulate, it might just work.

Now, onto responding to a comment from my good friend, anonymous, from my last post:

One thing: get a gait analysis. One thing that strikes me whenever you post race pictures, especially towards the end of your races, is that you've got pretty ugly form: hunched over, bent from the waist...

I will try for a brief moment to not focus on the word "ugly" and ask: is it my gait or my posture I need to fix? I do realize it is hard from looking at the pictures, but I lean back so much when I run that everyone thinks it is some kind of a joke. It used to give me hip issues, but since I started running in minimalist shoes, those have disappeared. I still run leaning back, but my hips are at least spared since I'm not jamming my heels. What kind of help does one get from a gait analysis? To me "gait analysis" always meant "method by which shoe company/store tries to get you to buy unneeded shoe product." Am I wrong?

you may be right that this episode is stemming from compensation due to your quad issue, but I can't help but believe your form is contributing to your issues.

It was not compensation due to quad problems. The vastus lateralis actually bled and the inflamation around the bleeding made the muscle stick to the the iliotibial tract. This is what I could tell short of opening up my leg and looking.


Also, runner's knee is different than ITBS -- not a Danish translation issue. The "official" name in the literature for runner's knee is "chrondromalacia patella" although I have likely spelled that wrong.

The Danish "løberknæ" - literal translation: "runner's knee" is Iliotibial band syndrome, or in Danish "tractus iliotibialis friktions syndrom". Look it up if you don't believe me. I had never heard the term "runner's knee" in English, but I looked it up and I guess it refers to Patellofemoral Pain syndrome. So in fact, it is a Danish translation issue. Runner's knee in one country is apprently not the same as runner's knee in another. You learn something every day!

I'll post pictures now to make me happy.

Da Vinci paints Henriette in Albertslund before the CPH ultra.




My mom sent these from her iPhone.




I can't believe El Guapo got his first tooth without me there. But I am so happy there is Skype- yet poor El Guapo must think I have turned into a boobless screen.


Okay, and sorry about all the songs, for those of you who dislike music, ehem, but they make me feel less lonely. And if anyone out there is as much of a music lunatic as I am, perhpas you'll like them, too.

The song I was listening to when I started crying during my run:

It is the Miike Snow (Swedish) remix of Amadou & Mariam's (Malian) Sabali (don't be fooled by the low-fi start).






Want more Miike Snow?







And the most beautiful Beach House song yet?



Saturday, 14 April 2012

Playmate to Jesus (& The Copenhagen Ultra)

For the hundreds of thousands of you wondering how I did in the Copenhagen Ultra 100k, I thought I had better update my blog. I didn't run it. But I actually didn't sign up either. I've learned through experience to not sign up for races that don't sell out until the very last minute.

When I arrived back in the little country of many islands: Denmark, everything bascially looked the same, though everything was as different from the US as it had ever been. The most obvious difference is you feel like you're entering a miniature doll house when you get outside. The cars, roads, carts at the aiport. Everything is tiny.

Beyond that, the air is damp and the sky is more white than blue. The wind is always blowing cooly. The little white anemone flowers are covering the forest floors like a blanket. They always bloom in mid-April.


Everything in Denmark is groomed and small. There are no plants, animals, bugs or tornadoes that could kill you. Denmark may in fact encompass the tamest parcels of land on earth.

Arriving on Easter Sunday, without the rest of my family, I had lunch with SR's parents and his brother's family. Then, though I knew I shouldn't, I went for a run. Easter lasts 5 days here, so going out on a run on one or any of the five is not only tolerated, but expected. I told myself it would be brief. For the entire first mile, my left knee was in near-excruciating pain. I hand't run since the Mad City 50k a week before. Then I had a terrible shock of pain down my left hamstring and I stopped. But only for a few seconds. I pushed on and had a pretty good run, about 10 miles, though I had to walk up and down all of the hills because of the pain in my knee.

I haven't run a step since. In fact, I can't walk without pain. Life is in bloom, the sun is out and, yes, today was the Copenhagen Ultramarathon 100k, which I was hoping to run in under 9 hours to make the Danish national team, but alas... maybe next year. yeah, and I'm not Danish either, I know.

I am, instead, nursing myself back to health. Mattias isn't here to nurse, so I have to nurse something and that is me for once. (although, I am nursing the breast pump, though it is just a dumb piece of plastic.).

The reason I can't run, most simply put: iliotibial band "syndrome"

Danes call it "runner's knee".

Since one of my pet peeves is running blogs with anatomical pictures (ha,even I am guilty of it), I will just assume we all know what it is.

Ok, ok, ok. I can't help it. Anything to get your attention/gross you out. It is actually an amazing looking structure that band. And I mean it has an important job.



Yum.


Yes, but the real problem is getting my head right. My life since Mattias was born has been a constant push, push, push. I don't know why. I have been back in Denmark a week now and I can't shake this post-ictal feeling. Like as if I had a major seizure and I am starting to come out of it into a big haze. I mean, what on earth has been going on? Even while here, every night, I wake up screaming in a panic that I am dying of some terrible thing and find myself so soaked in sweat that I have to change my clothing and the blanket.

I am, if you couldn't guess, back here for work and the people who my study employs were, they told me eventually, shocked to see how I looked. As I've said before, in the US, it is cool to "pull off" being thin, basically because you have beat all the odds. But in Denmark, I appear ill, though in all honesty am I not weak. I told them about my psychiatric, er, adventures, while I was in the US, about not sleeping, not eating, running in the middle of the night, etc.. They could hardly believe it. It also surprised me when they indicated that to them, I had always been a model of good health, in all senses of the word, and now I had come out with this. And they are employed by me. Granted, they seemed happy I was so honest with them; trust me, I have never witnessed such a captive audience when telling a story.

While here, I of course can't get myself to not exercise. And I know the key to recovering from IT band problems is not NOT exercising. Here is what I am doing:

massage, stretching, strengthening all my muscles but avoiding using the darn left quadriceps

Today I feel less pain. Last night I had a massage and then this morning I went to 1 hour "stomach, butt, thighs", 1 hour yoga+pilates, 1 hour spinning at very low resistance, high cadence and then 30 minutes CX Worx Core. Awesome! It wasn't quite like running 100km, but I wish I had time to do this every day. Then for sure my leg would be ready for Chippewa.

But what happened today in The Copenhagen Ultra? Well, the Danish record in the 50k was broken by Jesper Noer in 3:16:57. Okay, so it is a great time, but just two weeks ago three guys at the Mad City 50k ran faster than that! Wisconsin does have higher standards than Denmark when it comes to ultra running. I honestly think anything with the word "ultra" attached to it does not appeal to the Danish psyche. Maybe that is why there are all of these Danes who have run over 100 marathons, but have never even considered an "ultra".

Perhaps that is the reason that, as far as I can tell, I have the Danish Record in the 50km for women. That would however require me to be Danish, I guess. Today at the Copenhagen Ultra, Rikke Heinessen, did get close in a time of 4:12:56. But this is a flat route. Though who is keeping track? I am, because I'm grumpy since I can't run.

So I'll eat a flødebol instead.




The women's 100km race was very exciting, though unfortunately no one broke the 9:30 needed to be an alternate on the 100k national team. The 2nd-5th place women were less than 10 minutes apart and there were only 8 women finishers!

Here is Helle coming in in 10:04, in 5th place, looking strong.

And my good friend, Henriette, came in not long after.

Now, since Danni will ask, the title is a song by the Danish-Norwegian band Aqua (think "Barbie Girl"). It just makes me laugh because it is played so much on the radio here and I just can't imagine a song like that ever making it in the US. The US sure is a pious place. And Aqua was sure deluding themselves if they thought it would be big overseas.

Finally, has anyone else been following the Marathon des Sables? Meghan Hicks is in 5th for the women! Last stage is today but results aren't in.

Sunday, 1 April 2012

Mad City 50k


Where to start? How about with this?

You can say what you like - it is all a matter or who shows up or any other truism that makes this win the actual small deal it is - but winning a plaque like this, to me, was a huge deal. I am so proud to become state champion of a sport that I love and am passionate about in the state I was born and raised in the city of UW Madison, my alma mater. What an unbelievable day.

But, the truth is, had all the best female 50k runners in Wisconsin showed up, I wouldn't have had a shot. I can't help thinking of my dad winning the national championship in lawn bowling. Sometimes you are just in the right place at the right time.

The race I am talking about was the Mad City 50k, put on by one of the more enjoyable characters in Wisconsin ultra running, Timo Yanacheck. Here's a photo from the start

There is also a 50k relay at the same time, so that may help explain why people are falling over themselves at the gun.

It is a series of 5 loops of 10k run through Vilas Park and The Arboretum around Lake Wingra in Madision. It is run on mostly streets and paved trails, though there are some opportunities to run on the dirt shoulder. There are two rather formidable hills, or at least they seemed formidable by the last lap, though I hardly noticed them the first.

For both the leading men and women, this was a close, exciting race. From near the beginning, I ran a little less than 8 min per mile pace with Rachel Arthur of Birmingham England, currently living in Memphis, TN. She was great company, and is a fellow science researcher, but when she told me her marathon PR was 3:05, I knew she wouldn't be company for long. And as I stopped to pee at 8km, she pulled ahead. Then at the 10k aid station, two other women passed me.

I am happy to say, I played it smart. I just ran the same pace all along, feeling comfortable, making a conscious effort to never work up a sweat (it was a cool day, in the lower 40's F). I was in such a good mood and actually enjoyed the company of various relay runners.

My 10k splits:
50:06
48:52
49:26
49:35
51:07

I pretty quickly repassed the two women who had just passed me. And suddenly, on the fourth lap, Rachel Arthur came back into view up ahead and I was getting closer and closer. As I told the relay runner, I was running with "who wins this race is entirely dependent on how much Rachel slows down". My new running friend happened to be from Wisconsin, so she became a huge source of encouragement for me on that lap, as I eventually pulled ahead to first place. Thank you, woman whose name I forgot!

On the last lap, my garmin said about 3:26 as I came through 26.2 miles. Just half a year ago, this would have been a PR! Shortly after this, my knee started bothering me, but Rachel was nowhere in sight now. I felt bad that Rachel seemed to be having a rough day- she is really a nice woman- or was it simply that a 50k is a really different animal than a marathon?

Until the end, I was afraid of another woman catching up since my left knee was making me run slower and slower, but when I rounded the corner, saw Vilas Park and then my wonderful husband, SR, I got tears in my eyes. "There is no one behind you, My Lady", he said and ran along side of me to snap some pictures, while all four kids and my mom waited in the car (too bad it was such a cold day!).

For those of you who haven't figured out my real first name yet...

I finished in 4:09:08. This was a 31 minute PR! (granted my previous PR was from a 6 hour race). After the finish, I told some joke that I thought was really funny. I was still laughing at my own joke here.
And here was perhaps the most awesome unexpected prize: being interviewed for Silent Sports magazine. (they have for years been one of my favorite sports publications and I could tell the reporter, Tom Held, and I shared a similar outlook on life. What day.)



The men's winner, Zach Bitter, set at course record of 3:03:10. Once again I am thankful I'm not a man.


So now my questions:

1. I keep discussing my weight, but how low will it need to go before I start getting slower instead of faster? I'm 105 lbs now, 5'6" (BMI 16.9) which in everybody's text book is considered unhealthy. But why do I feel like a flying wood nymph when I run? And if I am undernourished, how did I make it through a fast 50k? I feel a third confused, a third amazed and a third justified.

2. I just read in Runner's World that salt tabs are dangerous because they cause rapid fluid shifts. Is this common knowledge among ultra runners in the know? I am starting to think they may be partially to blame for my fainting in the shower incident at Syllamo. I only had one salt tab today and relied on mega amounts of heed (and my personal fave gatorade, which I supply myself). I think Heed tastes like weak liquid jello.

3. Can we all just agree that CCU is fully acceptable when running a fast, long race? I lost over a minute stopping to urinate on the first loop. I then did all my urination in the controlled, continuous fashion that avoids full or even crescent mooning.