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

Tuesday 29 December 2009

Bra stuffing and other things female runners (might) do to seem normal

Am I the only long-distance runner out there who is barraged every holiday season by relatives with accusations of being insane/unhealthy/crazy?

Well, this year I was prepared. Despite only sleeping 3 hours because of hospital call and The Lorax not being able to sleep, I was all ready to appear "normal" for the Christmas dinner SR's mom's family held on the 27th of December.

(I had, of course, taken time to run for a couple hours that morning, most of which with The Lorax in the baby jogger).

I took a shower and shaved the pits smooth. Yes, I've had a change of heart. I used nicely scented soap that SR had picked up at a hotel. I might have even used deodorant if I owned any. I had a slinky red top, tight black pants and my strapless bra lying out to wear. I shortly realized the bra was a bit too big. But that was easily solved by stuffing a small pair of socks in it. Just because I prefer being thin, doesn't mean I don't appreciate the beauty of curves.

Painting of Luisa O’Murphy by François Boucher, 1752

I did my hair in a beautiful braided style and put on my 50 cent beaded bracelet from Guatemala. SR and I even remembered to bring two vegetarian dishes to pass for the dinner. And the kids looked great. It could only be a success...

The dinner itself was wonderful. I just love herring, dark ale, marzipan and chocolates. Plus the vegetarian taco dish SR made was amazing. SR and I both won gifts in an old Danish phrase and climate quiz respectively. It was a really fun party. And I was starting to feel way too full from all of the food.

And then the interrogation started. "Why don't you just allow yourself to eat? Why don't you allow yourself to have fun? Why don't you gain weight? Why won't you let yourself be happy? Why do you run so much?"

It all seemed a little surreal. I am just a happy person by nature. And I sure do love to eat. I even said I wished I were 1-2 kgs lighter, because I thought I would feel just a little better and be a bit faster of a runner. If only I could get myself to eat a little less! But everyone stared at me with concern. Okay, people, I'm not crazy. I'd much rather stuff my bra and be running marathons at 85 than have a voluptuous body now and diabetes and heart disease in 20 years. But I'd never go up to another person and say they had better lose weight or start excercising.

Then poor SR became the center of attention and was accused of being "særlig". This is somewhere between special and weird and where exactly between them it lies is up to interpretation. Part of me felt bad for him, but part of me felt proud. Why shouldn't we just be happy to be "særlige" together? After all, we at least think our life is good and that we and the kids are happy and healthy. We have always done what we believed was right for us and our family and have never just followed trends or the crowd.

Hey and I at least know that neither of us is schizophrenic because neither of us smokes :). But we lay in bed last night discussing whether or not we really do have psychiatric disorders. We ended up deciding on obsessive compulsive personality disorder for me (no surprise there!) and social phobia for SR. Ha ha. At least we have each other. And I wouldn't change a thing.

Note on the cds: It's NOT too late for you to receive the running song cd's from me (best Danish running songs of 2009 and best running songs ever). Just send your address to

Wednesday 23 December 2009

A Christmas gift for you

I might really regret this, but I am offering you all a Christmas present.

I have compiled a cd of my top 10 Danish running songs of 2009. I will send it to you for free along with a song list. Just send an email to with your name and address.

If I get too many requests or if it gets too expensive, I'll have to stop sending them :).

Merry Christmas!!

Oh, and wish me luck. I'm sitting at the hospital, one of the 3 ophthalmolgists on call for the entire country today. And SR, The Lorax and Step-daughter are taking a bath in another city getting ready for present opening, Christmas dinner and dancing around the candle-lit tree.


I have already had a number of cd requests and have decided that since I am going to be sending one cd, I might as well also send a cd of my all-time favorite running songs (non-Danish).

Here is a picture of the Christmas Tree my parents decorated at their house in Wisconsin.

Sadly, none of their kids gets to see it in person since I'm, well, across the Atlantic, and my sister and her husband got caught in snow and never made it out of the Twin Cities.

Friday 18 December 2009

Updated race schedule and other news

In the last few days, we have gotten about 4 inches of snow. This just never happens in Denmark and must be giving the global warming skeptics visiting Copenhagen some ammunition.

I am amazed by how much trail running shoes help in the snow. I ran a 7 mile tempo across snow drifts next to farm fields and had such fun. Those of you who have snow all winter should really treat yourself to a pair if you don't have one.

Change of 2010 race schedule

Since Chippewa 50k has been cancelled and SR needs to go back to the US at the beginning of April, we are going to run Hells Hills 50 miler outside of Austin, TX on April 3rd. This means getting to meet Olga and Larry. I am so extremely excited this trip. My body just aches to run another 50 miler on trails. SR, on the other hand, is going to run the 50k and his thoughts are "if I don't win the 50k, I'm never running an ultra again". (But I can repect that. If he told me to run the 14 flights of stairs at the hospital every night like he did last night, I might also say "never again" at some point.)

European Ultra

For those of you looking for an ultra in Europe around the same time, Helen Lavin told me about the Connemarathon, a 39.3 mile race April 11th in Galoway,Ireland. Looks beautiful (but also sold-out. Maybe next year).

Fancy Family

Here are some pictures we had taken by our friend, Steen. I had helped him out a couple months ago, so he offered to take some professional pictures of the family for free! We got to visit his house and studio which are part of a farm from the 1700's.

Running song of the day: All Come Down by Steve Mason

Saturday 12 December 2009

A beautiful, beautiful place... to take off all your clothes

No, don't worry. What is about to follow could not be a chapter in a dirty romance novel.

I had started to think there weren't too many interesting places to run in Denmark. But when we drove out to the farm country around Maglesø (south of Holbæk) we saw the most amazing scenery I have seen here. Striking and steep forest-lined hills around a lake with no signs of civlilzation, but a little cabin, where all of the runners gathered before our second "cross" race.

The sun was out today and it was about 2 degrees celcius (the coldest day of the year here so far). As we warmed up, the already setting sun felt good and was almost blindingly bright.

It was about an 8.5 km race. We never found out what the real distance was. The race directors said 8.2 but Mette's garmin said 8.6. Here is SR before the race.

We warmed up for a good half an hour. Man, did I realize the importance of that on such a cold day. There were lots of crazy Danes there. And more women this time. I was excited for some good competition.

The gun went off and I just held onto Mette as usual. Happily, I didn't have as much trouble doing that today. I felt great. We went over muddy trails and up unrunnably steep hills, bounded down again and then next to the lake. Definitely the best race trails we have been on in Denmark. We ran the same loop three times. Mette pulled away, but I stayed with the same group of three guys. I felt really good the entire race, but got really winded on the last huge hill before the finish line.

Here is the finish line and I am trying to outsprint the guys I had run with the entire race.
But here I am coming in alone after being handily beaten by all of them.

I finished in around 43 minutes, 2nd woman, a minute and a half after Mette and about a minute before the next women. And I hope Mette forgives me for including this one of us at the finish line.

SR came in 3rd and had a really good race.

And then, at 3:00 pm (17 minutes later) we had the 3k race. Same route, just one loop. And we needed to get it in quickly before it was completely dark. Tons of younger participants joined in for this one. After the gun went off, everyone below 20 raced ahead with lightning speed. But no worries. I passed them all after less than a half a km when they realized it wasn't a 50 yard (or meter) dash. I felt completely renewed; much better than I had felt on the last lap of the 8.5k. I held close behind Mette the whole time, but there was a 17 year old girl who beat us both.

I came in 3rd and SR took 4th for the men. Our 18 year old friend, Peter, took 2nd.

Now it was getting cold and we all, of course, had sweaty clothes on. I looked around the cabin deck to see a woman changing into a transparent lace-bra and then another woman with her shirt just off. Sometimes it is very clear I am not in Wisconsin anymore. I was somewhat excited to join in the fun, but I have to admit my sports bra stayed on.

On the way to the car, SR and I enjoyed the cookies Mette had baked and then ran into a guy we had raced the Copenhagen 6 hour race with. I stopped and talked with him for a second while SR loaded up the car. He started telling me about a 24 hour race in June. As he was talking, he casually started to pull down his pants, and was then just standing there in his underwear pontificating about ultras and adjusting his glasses from time to time. Nothing strange here.

Running song of the day: none (didn't bring the headphones today), but if you really want to hear a good Celine Dion song, my favorite is "Pour que tu m'aimes encore"

Tuesday 8 December 2009

I am the fastest female runner in the world

Or something like that. Okay, perhpas Devon Crosby-Helms or Helen Lavin could still beat me in an ultra (sometimes I like name dropping with the ultra stars to make my blog seem important).

BUT what a weekend. And I had such a busy week, that I haven't had a moment to write about it.

First a run next to Bagsværd Sø on Saturday. It's an 8.2 k race, or just over 5 miles. SR and I ran this one together last year and got some nice money prizes. This year they decided not to give prizes to the winners. And I told myself to use it just as a training run since I was going to race a bigger race the next day. With quite a bit less effort than last year, I ran just 16 seconds slower and had a time of 35.15. And won! SR also won with a time of 30.07.

The next day was the local Herlufsholmløbet 10k. SR didn't run this one, but offered to watch the kids. I had run the exact same race and route a month ago, so I was excited to see if the interval and tempo training had payed off. After the first 1k, I could tell it was much easier to maintain a fast tempo. I ran the first 5k in 20:30 and finished with a time of 42:44. This was over a minute faster than last month!! Good enough for 1st female and 14th best female time since the race was started in 1989. Of couse, had Mette been there, I would have gotten second. But I couldn't help basking in my glory and being encouraged by how good it felt and how much fun it was.

Here are some pics from the sidelines on Sunday.

And SR quickly gets into position to snap this one:

Since then I have had an extremely stressful week of little sleep trying to get the Phd organized. Oh and I had that big oral test on Wednesday in Danish Social Medicine, which I happily passed. But based on the amount of Celine Dion songs I downloaded yesterday, one almost has to deduce that I have gone insane.

But the best running songs from the weekend were some classics: Adam by Viro and I thought you were my boyfriend by The Magnetic Fields

Thursday 3 December 2009

And so this is Denmark

Sometimes I feel like I am stranded on a cold, gray island at the top of the world. I then I realize I am.

At 1:45 pm today I looked out the window and saw I had better start my run because it was getting dark. Yes, that what happens at 55 degrees latitude.

My run was rainy, cold, windy and muddy like usual. But... it was great.

Here are my times over the last three weeks on what I call the muddy 8 miles to Ladby. It is quite the challenging course.

2 weeks ago: 67:00
1 week ago: 62:33
today: 59:53

(This is the one store in Ladby and then there are a few farms. The store is always very busy.)

Yes, exact same path and with a garmin on. Exactly 8 miles. I know I'm European now since I had to look up how many km that is (12.9) to make sense of it. I have to conclude all of the interval and tempo training I have been doing is paying off.

This morning, The Lorax and I took the train to Copenhagen because the lady who watches him has a 2 day vacation. SR's mom kindly offered to take care him while I work. You know how dark it has been here by how The Lorax looked at the sun coming up with amazement and said "The moon!" (in Danish månen).

The return of dark times marks the 1 year anniversary of our move to Denmark. I ask myself daily "are we doing the right thing living here?" but now that it has officially been a year, the question is more poignant in some way. There are so many ways to look at our experience and, in all honesty, we are quite happy here, especially because step-daughter and The Lorax seem to be doing so well.

But there are some things that make me wonder.

So I work in ophthalmology. And that in itself is great. I love using lenses and fun equipment and I love having patients I care about. But having to use loads of extra hand sanitizer because a patient is afraid I am from the Faroe Islands can get to me. Or when patients refuse to be treated by a doctor who might be from Poland, I get sad. They rarely ask me where I am actually from. If I had a American accent, I doubt this would be a problem. At least that is what everyone tells me. But why would should I be glad I am not from Poland or, God forbid, the Faroe Islands? Of course if my skin or hair were any darker, I'd be dealing with a whole other set of problems. Call it xenophobia or nationalism, it is rampant here. If your children are not named Predbjørn, Solveig, Rigmor or Nikolaj, you had better think twice about moving here.

One man told step-daughter and I that he thought people from Asia and the Middle East should be allowed to visit, but shouldn't live here because they don't share his understanding of life. And he wouldn't want to grow old with them. He said he was so proud that he was born in the best country in the world with the best education and the best social system. When we got into the car, I wasn't sure if I should laugh or hang my head in foreign shame. And then step-daughter piped up, "Boy, I'm glad I was born in Denmark."

Perhaps I am just bitter because I just found out I have to take 3 huge tests to get permanent authorisation to work as a doctor. Doctors from Europe are of course exempt from these tests; they are really meant to weed out the unwanted foreign doctors. I am reading this enormous book tonight about the Danish Social System for a test on Wednesday.

But we've two exciting races coming up this weekend. An 8.4 k on Saturday and a 10 k on Sunday.

Thanks if you actually read that whole post, or even if you just read this sentence.

Running Song of the Day: Portions for Foxes by Rilo Kiley (thanks, Kathleen!!)