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

Saturday 27 September 2008

Little Updates

It feels nice to just write about little things sometimes.

I have had a really nice recovery from the 50 miler. I have been out running every day beginning Tuesday. Just slow jogs. I am amazed how much faster my recovery from a 50 miler on trails has been than my road 26.2 miler 4 years ago. If only we lived in a country where all running were on trails... oh, wait, I guess we will in two months.

Speaking of that, we had to find a way to deposit $10,000 in a Danish bank account as "security" for my residency permit. We'll get it back in 7 years assuming I find employment and don't end up in jail.

The Lorax jumped vigorously in the jumperoo yesterday for almost 20 minutes. He was smiling and laughing the whole time. Could he be addicted to endorphins after all of the running I did while pregnant?

He also is surprisingly enthusiastic about joining us on our bike rides.

Running Song of The Day: Keep Yourself Warm by Frightened Rabbit

Monday 22 September 2008

50 Mile Race Report

Saturday SR and I ran our first 50 mile race. It was near Manistee, MI, in the Manistee National Forest. Driving through the beautiful, heavily wooded area of northern Michigan, we knew we were in for a treat.

We had taken the Milwaukee, WI to Muskeegon, MI ferry with my parents and The Bois. It was a couple hours from the ferry to our little cabin at Pine Creek Lodge, just four miles from the race start. It seemed like the closest lodging to the race.

We eventually found a bar for dinner, called Jackie's in Irons, MI, where pickup trucks lined the parking lot. And almost all the patrons donned cowboy hats.
There was plenty of dancing and karaoke. The Bois was as mesmerized as we were. The food was really good, but I for one was really nervous about the race. I started to feel nauseated.

Back at the cabin we tried to get to bed quickly. And we actually did. But it was so warm and the little Lorax was kicking and moving right next to me in our little bed. I kept thinking about how I just wanted to start the race. I was so antsy to run. I finally fell asleep around 2 am. Normally I would be bothered by this, but I rarely get much sleep before races and it actually doesn't seem to affect how I feel the next day.

We woke up at 6:15 to a beautiful, cool morning. I kept imaging the dark woods and winding trails. I drank lots of coffee and think I managed to eat about 1000 calories worth of chocolate chip coconut brownie bars before the start.

I wore a water belt around my waist with water in it. And I had my ipod. I regret immensely that I didn't bring my camera. I made two trips to the outhouse and, happily, I managed to avoid bowel problems the rest of the day.

This race has a marathon and a 50 miler. Both start at once. There is one loop for the half marathon and the 50 milers do that loop twice. There were about 300 participants there.

It had been a week since my last good run. My entire body was aching to start. I was walking back from saying good luck to SR when the gun went off. For the first mile or so, I went way too fast, just until I could let all of the people at the front pass me. One man was kind enough to tell me that if I was running the 50 miler, I was going too fast :). Strangely, I was a bit hurt by that, but I, of course, slowed down.

At around mile 5, I heard a pack coming up behind me. They were shouting out their pace and seemed to know what they were doing. I latched on to them. Initially, everyone made fun of my accent, which according to my parents has become the same strange mix of a Upper Midwestern-Danish accent that SR has. I was surprised it stood out so much among Michiganites.

I would stay with two of those girls from the pack for the next 3/4 of the race. Their names were Mandy and Rachel. Both from around Ann Arbor, they knew each other from a running club and a running store that Rachel ran. Mandy had a garmin-type device and we were aiming for around a 9 minute pace when we weren't walking hills or stopping at aid stations. Our stops at aid stations were brief. And they convinced me to replace my water with Gatorade to get more calories, which I did.

It sounded like both Rachel and Mandy had had experience winning 50k races in the area (I began thinking I'd do anything just to hang on to them). This was Mandy's first 50 miler and Rachel's second. They did a great job keeping an even pace. After a while we switched off taking the lead. We had such a wonderful time talking about famous ultra runners, enjoying the scenery and sharing bits and pieces about our lives. I would love to run with them more often.

I ate 1 or 2 peanut butter sandwich squares at each aid station and had a cup or two of water or Gatorade.

The second half of the first loop (starting around mile 12) was quite hilly. We walked all of the hills. By the end of the first half, I felt great. I wasn't sore anywhere. This was despite having already taken two tumbles. We did the first 25 miles in 4:15 and found out we were in 3rd, 4th and 5th for the women.

At this point, my parents told me SR was in fifth for the men. The Lorax was looking at his toy fish and wouldn't give me the time of day.

After a brief refueling, the three girls were off again. It was staring to get a bit warmer, but luckily 95% of the course is in the shade of the enormous and amazingly varied trees of the forest. At the start of the first loop, we walked a very gradual incline and I considered pulling ahead. But I knew I had 25 miles to go, so I held back. Then we picked up Jeff (also from Michigan). I knew he would be a lot of fun when he said half of the people he knows call him Tim because of a misunderstanding he never bothered to correct.

At mile 30, Rachel began to feel ill and dropped back. Mandy, Jeff and I made it to the 50k mark at just over 5 hours. I couldn't believe I was ahead of my 50k PR time. I entertained the idea of trying a gu at the aid station, but Mandy warned me not to try anything new on race day.

At around mile 37, I got a big second wind. I took off ahead of Mandy and Jeff. I even thought I might catch SR if I went fast enough. I saw my dad at the next aid station and he said that SR was 1 hour and 20 minutes ahead of me. Wow. I was so proud of him.

I reached a sign that said 3.9 miles to go. I couldn't believe how quickly time had gone! Wow. I put on my music for the first time and mustered up a sprint, knowing I had just over a 5k left. I then reached another aid station at the point I thought would be the finish and they said there were 5 miles to go. There's no crying in baseball, though. (The last sign must have said 3.9 miles to the next aid station)

I told myself over and over "It's just a fun run in the woods." I tried to convince myself I hadn't run at all yet. I listened to music and kept my spirits up. Over and over I heard the crowd at the finish line, but when I took off my headphones, I would realize it was my ears playing tricks. I passed one guy, who served as reassurance that I hadn't gotten off path. He asked me when I dropped the girls. Apparently he was one of the 19 members of their Ann Arbor running club there that day.

The trails were soft dirt winding through one mini ecosystem after another. All of the hills I walked the first time around I ran. I didn't walk at all the last 9 miles, with the exception of one very steep hill. I was a bit sore from my accidental 5k sprint, but not too bad. I finally saw the sign saying there were 0.9 miles left. This last stretch was eternal.

As I saw the finish line, I turned around to see a woman in a white T-shirt and black spandex pants right behind me. My heart nearly jumped out of my chest. I turned back again and she had disappeared. Wow. A real hallucination. As I crossed the finish line, the announcer said "Here's Sealegsgirl... the mom of that cute baby!"

And I was done. It took 8 hours and 49 minutes. I hugged SR. He had finished 3rd for the men and I had finished 3rd for the women. Spectators commented on the dirt covering every inch of my body. It was from the 5 tumbles, most of which were cushioned by my lactating boobs.

Then my parents came up to us with The Lorax. He was smiling and yelling and holding out his arms to me when he saw me. It was a moment I may remember for the rest of my life.

One of the race directors came up to me to congratulate me and handed me a $50 check! And I received a sweatshirt for first in my age group. On top of that, every finisher receives a really nice mug.

I was so happy. It was a wonderfully organized event on a gorgeous course. And I made some friends. I wanted to stick around to see them finish, but after trying to stomach some food, I became quite ill and we all retreated to the Pine Creek Lodge.

What did I learn? Running 4 miles a day for the 6 days before the race is enough tapering. Drinking Gatorade during the race is a great way to get calories. You don't need gu to do well. Walking the hills during the first 30 miles is probably essential to prevent getting sore. Running with a group is great incentive to keep going at a good, even pace.

Thanks Rachel, Mandy and Jeff if you guys are reading this! A huge thanks to my parents for watching The Lorax. And, of course, I couldn't have done this without SR, my running partner and the love of my life.

We would do this race again in a heartbeat and would recommend it to anyone looking for a 50 mile run.

Running song of the day (and my comic relief at mile 47): "Ladies of the World" by Flight of the Conchords

Thursday 18 September 2008

2 days until the 50 mile run

Tomorrow we leave for Manistee, MI for our first 50 miler. Perhaps it is best not to think about how long that really is. Perhaps it is best not to read training plans for a 50 miler two days before the race and realize you haven't done enough really long runs.

But, of course, it will be fun. Is there a better way to see Manistee National Forest? Probably not for two crazy runners like us.

Sealegs Mom and Sealegs Dad will be joining us. We'll be staying in a cabin near the forest. I'm so happy to spend time with them, all the while knowing we're leaving for Denmark in just two months.

And The Lorax gets to see us race again, though I'm sure his mind will be elsewhere.

I downloaded 14 songs today for the race, so I'm sure I'll have a good running song recommendation for you when we return.

Sunday 14 September 2008

24 Hours by Lake Calhoun

The weekend got off to a good start when I learned that my research is going to be published! It's a great journal, so I'm elated. I should be working on the revisions right now, but I've got all night for that...

Friday night, we took off for Minneapolis. Just me and the little lifted Lorax (SR was away at his 80 hour ER shift).

It was hard to tear the little guy away from his newspaper...

Note three generations of one running shoe (SR's) in the above photo.

We arrived at my sister's around 7:30 pm. She and her boyfriend, The Artist, just moved to an apartment 2 blocks from Lake Calhoun. The most exciting thing about Lake Calhoun (in my mind) is the 3.5 mile running trail around it. Back to that later.

That night, we went out to a "raw" vegan restaurant called Ecopolitan. I loved it. For someone who doesn't eat meat, hates high fructose corn syrup and can't stomach dairy, it is a rare treat to be able to order anything on the menu. I'm sure you're all familiar with what raw food is. But what fascinates me the most about it is how the philosophy of what food should be has changed in the United States in since the 1970's when Earl Butz was Secretary of Agriculture under Nixon and head of the USDA. He believed food should be cheap and mass produced so every American could afford it and spend their money on other things. A noble goal, but he is largely responsible for the rise of high fructose corn syrup and unhealthy corn-fed animals. Anyway, with raw food, the pendulum has swung as far as it can in the other direction. According to raw food lovers food should be healthy, make you feel good (hence the no cooking) and no animals should be involved (money and time are no object). It should probably be added to the list of things white people like (along with cloth diapers :)).

The Artist ordered Spicy Thai Noodles. The "noodles" are uncooked zucchini. Sorry about the small picture.

The Lorax had blended banana. Then he added "Kuh" to his armamentarium of words (comprised currently of "dadada" "mamama" and "yiyiyiyi"), thus contributing to the erudite conversation.

There is only one bed in my sister's apartment, so The Lorax and I went to a nearby hotel. To fight a small diaper rash, I let The Lorax just be The Lorax. In other words, he slept naked from the waist down. His little hiny got so cold that we didn't get a great night's sleep. We also both woke up pretty wet. Needless to say, the sheets were wet, too. But they hopefully change those after every guest, right?

The next day, Sealegs Sister (SLS) made mini crepes and tofu scrambler. Then she enjoyed being Auntie SLS.
I sat and watched The Artist (or the self-proclaimed "world's 22nd best 1/2 Filipino") make still frames for a Canadian hockey commercial. He is no doubt a talented guy and is starting to get lots of recognition for his work.

Then The Lorax and I went on our epic run: 4 loops around Lake Calhoun. It was intermittently raining, so he got quite wet. For some reason, it didn't seem to bother him. He is a little bothered by the pneumonia he has now, though (just kidding).

When I returned, I learned that The Artist had proposed to Sealegs Sister! I am so happy for them. I could not imagine my sister finding a better match in life.

Song of The Day: Melt Your Heart by Jenny Lewis & The Watson Twins

Monday 8 September 2008

10 hour triathlon

There is only one 10 hour triathlon in the world and that is the Burrito Union 10 Hour Tri in Superior, WI. The concept is fairly simple: complete as many sprint distance triathlons as you can in 10 hours.

Teams of 1, 2 and 3 are allowed. Teams of two must alternate doing entire tris, while teams of three can switch between each event.

SR and I were a team of two. Our support crew consisted of The Lorax and Step-Daughter.
We set up our tent, like most other teams, in Pattison State Park.

This is the second year the event has been in existence, and it's catching on. There were about twice as many participants this year.

SR went first, as he is obviously the faster of the two of us. He seemed really happy with his improvement on the swim. And, as expected, he kicked booty on the bike and the run.

He was so mad that this was the only picture I took of him.

But if he was mad at me for being a slow wife, he didn't let on.

Here I am getting some advice before the swim.

"When you get in the water, pretend you are a metallic wrapper," says The Lorax.

It was only about 50 degrees that morning, so I was dreading entering the water. But once I got moving, it was beautiful. The water was still and warm. And I loved my goggles. They are mirrored, so in the muddy water, I could see my google eyes reflected back at me. Scary but cool.

Here I am forgetting to start removing my wet suit as I run out of the water. Let's just say transitions aren't my forte.

And I'm finally off on the bike.

I learned the hard way that one cannot do well in the bike portion of a tri with the biking ability of an 11 year old boy. Yes, I have strength and enthusiasm, but no skill. Men and women alike sped by me. I lamented not having a tri bar like pretty much everyone else and lamented being so light (for the first time in my life). But in the end, what could I do but smile, pedal away and get as aerodynamic as possible? It's 7 miles out and 7 miles back down a straight, flat country highway (with, thankfully, a generous shoulder).
There were lots of smiles and well-wishes from other bikers on the route. People were really having fun. At the bike turn around, one guy came up behind me and said "Hey, nice job... and by the way, you have a nice body!" Ha! What could I do but say thanks? Only at an endurance sporting event could a guy get away with that.

Finally I reached the end of the bike and on to the 3.1 mile trail run.

It was such a beautiful trail! I was in heaven.

We passed off The Bois as our reverse baton and thus the event continued.

In my off time, I played with Step-Daughter, fed and changed The Bois and ate as much as seemed safe for the tummy. I also got to meet a lot of the triathletes and their families.

There was a downpour and then a rainbow that lasted less than one minute.

Step-daughter and I have become even closer now that we know she'll be moving permanently to Denmark with us starting next summer. Shortly after the rainbow, we got mother-daughter massages.

SR came in from the last triathlon 10 hours and 22 minutes after the start and we just barely lost to a team we'd been slowly catching up on since the beginning. We spent a while getting to know them after the finish, which was great fun.

We all, including step-daughter, would love to do it again next year. Sadly, there are certain things we'll be giving up by moving to Denmark.

But what is life about if not putting on your sea legs and finding new adventures?

Running song of the day was played at the Tri and, apparently, SR and I were both singing along loudly to it at different places in the park...

"I Touch Myself" by the Divinyls

Thursday 4 September 2008

A Closer Look at Palin

When I heard that John McCain had chosen a female running mate, I was excited. I love the idea of a strong, intelligent woman with a family being a political leader. I was ready to like her (I'll try to leave my political beliefs out of this).

Then I read a couple articles in the New York Times and I became very concerned. This woman does not believe in global warming. Now it is one thing to debate about how and where oil should be obtained from, but it is another to stare such abundant scientific evidence in the face and make the blanket statement that you don't believe it. What will the future of the planet be in the hands of someone who bases their decisions on belief rather than scientific evidence?

But what is scarier is her interest in banning books. At a Wasilla, AK city council meeting she mentioned a list of books that she was interested in banning. The head librarian said that she would resist any attempts at censorship and Palin had her fired. Please see for the full story.

I guess it is her single-mindedness that frightens me.

In other news, running has been going well. But I'm getting really nervous about our 10 hour triathlon relay on Saturday. I took the big plunge and bought goggles. I guess I'm getting serious.

Running Song of the Day: Id Engager by Of Montreal