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

Friday 31 December 2010

First official pregnant marathon (now with pictures)

Maybe it seems weird that I write so much about running in pregnancy and yet have actually never run a marathon pregnant. But in my first pregnancy, I just didn't feel it was necessary. I ran so much on a daily basis simply because I loved it and believed it was healthy. But now racing has become such an important part of our social life that it was time.

Okay, I did run a 50 miler 6 weeks pregnant, but then miscarried two days later only to realize I had actually not had a living baby in me for 3 weeks - so did that really count? Then I ran a marathon when I was 3 weeks pregnant this time - but does that count? Anyway, it doesn't really matter.

What matters is I have this overwhelming feeling of happiness now. I am sure there are many of you reading this who feel the same when you return from running a long race.

I woke up to a text message from Henriette that it was "mirror slippery" out and that she wouldn't run the marathon, but would run the half marathon instead. (just as an aside: "mirror slippery" is a Danish expression for really slippery - I'm trying to think of an American expression. I really like "slippery as an eel", so we'll just say that. Anyhow, I have run on many surfaces, though never a mirror. I imagine running on a mirror wouldn't actually be that slippery.) I was now both bummed about Henriette and worried about the run. But I looked out at the thermometer and it was already over freezing, so I figured we were good to go.

A couple of miles after the start and the sidewalks are okay.

Today's "race" was another social marathon, cleverly called "Socialmarathon", where one simply runs in a group with a specific time goal. SR and I ran with the 4:30 group. Up until a few days ago, I was worried I could make it through, but I felt good today. Plus I have gotten so much inspiration (and entertainment) from Chris McDougall's book, Born to Run; all that talk about ultras and one feels like a wimp complaining about a marathon.

The big attraction with this run, as I have mentioned before, is you get to run twice through the airport in Copenhagen. Well, if this seemed too good to be true, it's because it was. At least this year. There was too much of a fear of terrorism. Runners being well-known terrorists and all. But we did get to run on the side walk IN FRONT of the airport...

Other than that, it was 13 miles one way and then turn around and run it again, mostly on roads on the island of Amager, though a little on trails through sand. That part on sand turned out to be the only slippery part since the sand was covered in snow, which had melted and then frozen.

Here is a guy facing another kind of challenge. Thanks Lars Bergelius for the pic.

But, as in my first social marathon, it was simply great fun. I got so wrapped up in conversation with the author of the new book "Elsk at løbe", Tor Rønnow, that it wasn't until SR ran back and said something that I realized we were WAY behind the rest of the group. This was at about mile 17. Oh, crap.

Alone with SR at the social marathon, now trying to catch up. And THIS is Denmark in the winter...

This is the only time a social marathon gets hard: when you get far behind and you suddenly have to run really fast to catch up - or risk never finding the group again. Luckily, SR had memorized the route on the way out, so I just followed his instructions and we eventually caught up again.

We made it in with the 4:30 group, a bit late, at 4:37. And I only peed four times :).

It almost makes me worried to say it - but it wasn't hard! And I didn't feel sick at all. But this has been the case all along: I feel sick almost all the time, except for when I run.

I have to give this run my highest recommendation. Everyone was in good humor and the aid stations were awesome: plenty of brownies, cake, candy bars, coke and hot chocolate (has Denmark leaned/learnt a thing or two from the US??).

Thanks again, Lars, for the photo.

What an awesome way to finish the year. But the chance I will still be awake at midnight tonight is 0.1%.

Edit: I DIDN'T make it to midnight! But we had a great party, nonetheless. Happy New Year og Godt Nytår!

Wednesday 29 December 2010

A brief lesson in weather and climate

I witnessed something new today. At least, I'm not aware of seeing it before. I drove out to Mogenstrup for a run followed by a swim. The temperature in the car at one point read -13 C (8 F). I had never seen it that cold in Denmark. The sun was out, but you could hardly see a thing. There was an incredibly thick fog over everything. It wasn't until I started running that I realized what was going on. It was an ice fog. If one looked carefully at the trees and branches, every single water droplet, it seemed, had turned into ice. And this applied to the air as well. It was absolutely gorgeous and I am so angry I didn't have a camera along.

I returned to the pool hall and every strand of my hair, my hat, face, eye lashes, shirt was covered in a delicate, bright white frost.

Why did this happen? Well, I have never had any sort of formal weather education (when I got back and told SR about the "ice fog", he raised an eyebrow in doubt), but here is my understanding: being a coastal area, the climate here is very humid, even in the winter. When the clouds disappeared and the sun came out, there was a simultaneous large drop in temperature and large rise in pressure. The water droplets in the air simply froze. (For people who love chemistry, this is the opposite of sublimation and I can't remember what the opposite is called). For about an hour, there was absolutely no wind. It may be the one and only time I experience no wind in Denmark.

Something strange is going on this year in Denmark. It is the coldest December in recorded history. And, in fact, the entire year has been cold. If one looks at the temperature patterns over the last year, the warming effect of the Gulf Stream on this part of Europe has nearly disappeared. Maybe one could chalk it up to yearly variation, but it concerns me. If the Gulf Stream disappears, a huge change has happened on the planet. I just don't know enough to talk about it intelligently. And maybe it is altogether meaningless and simply random. It also sucks, because it is so much colder to run this year than the past two years.

To give you a little bit more detail, Copenhagen is at the latitude of Juneau, Alaska, but generally has the temperature of Seattle. This is because of the warm Gulf Stream air. That is also why Spain is warmer than Illinois. But this year, we have a lot more in common with Alaska. And when the temperature here is low, it is REALLY cold because it is so humid.

Perhaps I'm saying all of this as an excuse since I don't know if I will even make it through the social marathon we're signed up for on Friday. One highlight, though, is we'll get to run twice through Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen.

Running song of the day: Flyvere i natten by Kim Larsen

Sunday 26 December 2010

Jul - a different kind of Christmas

So, despite living in Denmark for just over two years now, this was the first time I experienced the real Danish jul. (just as an aside - nothing is capitalized in Danish, not even Christmas. I always figured this was sort of an act of autonomy against Germany, where every fricking noun is capitalized). I should explain that two years ago, we held Christmas in Austria and I was on call last year, in a different city than SR, Natali and The Lorax (quite sad - don't ever try it).

Part of me was really looking forward to Christmas. I was most looking forward to The Lorax's reactions. Ever since we had decorated our Christmas tree, he would stand next to it every night, after we had lit the lights, and sing a medley of Christmas songs he had made up, some about the tree itself, some about train stations, etc. Then he would park a chair in front of the tree for an hour or so and look up at me and say "looking at the Christmas tree now" and smile.

But there was another part of me that was really worried about Christmas. It is a little hard for me to write about, because it seems kind of unbelievable, but I have been suffering from violent anxiety attacks on and off at night since I was about 5 weeks pregnant. I get this combined feeling of fatigue, low blood sugar and fear and start yelling. It has really frightened the kids. Heck, it has frightened me, too. Immediately after I am done with the screaming, I enormously regret my outburst.

In the couple of days before Christmas, it was at its absolute worst. I had been alone with the kids for about 4 days, working full time and trying to get everything ready for Christmas. I not once, but twice, screamed at The Lorax in public, so loudly that people looked at me and he began crying. At one point, when I was changing The Lorax, he hit me and I got so extremely close to hitting him back. I called SR and his parents and told them I needed someone else to watch them for a while. Thank God I did. I so badly needed a little time to relax. Being pregnant is one thing. But being pregnant with two kids and a full time job and for multiple days without help is a totally different ball of wax. Perhaps that alone is the explanation for all of my additional nausea this this pregnancy.

Christmas arrived (it's celebrated the 24th here) and I felt good again. Our Christmas was held at SR's mother's sister's house by The Lakes in Copenhagen (which I've written about running around before). From the moment we arrived until the moment we left, there was one tradition after another that needed to be fulfilled. And these are not traditions exclusively within SR's family, as far as I understand it, they are simply Danish traditions.

Some of the best food, in my mind, was the sweet pickled cabbage and the sweet pickled potatoes.

Then everyone eats a supposedly French dish called "ris a l'amande", which is sweet rice with cream and almonds. The lucky person who gets a whole almond in their dish receives a gift. The gift this year was Peter Høeg's latest novel.

We moved on to Santa Claus arriving and giving all the kids a gift. Then we lit the candles on the Christmas tree, held hands, sang carols and really danced around the tree. After this, we opened presents. And then we got to feast on fine liquor and marzipan bread. Do I even need to mention I threw up (no I didn't drink the fine liquor).

So there you have it - the Danish Christmas, jul. No one got tired or cried - not even the two babies there. Not even me. It really was a magical night.

But almost better was the next day: the 25th. Nothing is open, no one does anything. Well, there were a few other people running when I was out on mine. But other than that, we (SR's parents, Natali, The Lorax & I) sat around and, talked, read or watched tv. It was just what I needed. And probably just what we all needed. I just wish SR had been there to relax, too. But finally, after tomorrow, he's got 6 days off.

I hope you all had a Merry Christmas!

Tuesday 21 December 2010

1st Prenatal Visit

Or, well, I guess that is what you could call it. I met with a nurse and she didn't exactly touch me or look at my body (in that way), but we met about the pregnancy.

I ran the 20 minutes to the clinic in my sweatpants, gangsteresque winter hat, sweatshirt, backpack. I own the only two pairs of sweatpants in Denmark, so I invariably get looks. But yesterday was a little different because there is now SO MUCH SNOW here that it's nearly impossible to drive and truly impossible to bike, unless you are Jill Homer riding on a bike called Pugsley. So you get cred for arriving anywhere - in any apparel.

First order of business was last menstrual period. Well, I had forgotten about that, since I had been so focused on the day I ovulated. "Well, I can tell you my due date based on the day I ovulated", I offered. She could not have cared less about the day I ovulated. I finally came up with the real first day of LMP - Oct. 22nd. This pushes my due date back 4 days to July 29 (the real due date is, of course, August 2nd). The best thing about having the wrong due date on my record is a get an extra 4 days off of work! "WHAT?" you Americans say. Yes, I get a full 8 weeks paid maternity leave BEFORE the baby is born. So my last day of work will be June 2nd!! (wrapping my arms around Denmark in a big hug) SR just about shit his pants when he heard this. "You get 8 weeks to run and workout while I have to work!" (He just pointed out to me he said "work out" and not "workout"). In all honesty, it will only be 7 weeks since women who run while pregnant tend have 39 week pregnancies instead of 40 (hey, but actually 7 weeks and 4 days!).

Then I learned my height in centimeters (but subsequently forgot it again). It is hard to convince a nurse that you are a physician when you don't know your own height. I just can't get used to metric for length! Anyway, I got weighed with clothing at 54 kg. So I have MAYBE gained a half a kg or 1 lb in the first 8 weeks - and she told me I was a little underweight. Well, I have been working on that, I ate an entire quiche from the frozen section at the grocery store last night (I didn't eat it frozen - I'm not THAT lazy). I have found the more protein and fat and the less carbs, the less likely I will puke.

Finally, she said one of the blood tests that would be drawn was to test for Down Syndrome. Well, I said no. There was a moment of confusion and she tried to regain her composure... but how could I not want it? I started thinking of all the things I don't agree with in Danish life. In my mind, they force everyone (in that "everyone does it" way) to be tested for babies with Down Syndrome so the Society doesn't have to pay for their costly lives. It's all about creating a country where everyone is equally productive. I had to repeat about 20 times for her that I didn't want it and state why almost as many. So here's why: Being 31, my chance of having a baby with Down Syndrome is about 1/900. What is the chance that the test tells me I have a risk for a baby with it, but actually don't? - probably higher. So then I have to deal with the stress of "maybe I have an abnormal baby" and deal with making the decision about what to do. The thing is, for me, the decision is simple: do nothing and just have the baby. For SR the decision is equally simple: if the test says Down syndrome, get an abortion. Well, I am no Pro-Life advocate, but I strongly believe that no non-harmful natural process should be interrupted (there is also risk in having an abortion). Anyway, SR and I had a long discussion about it - and from his point of view, I made the absolute wrong decision. And now, since I said no to the blood test, he says I won't be offered an ultrasound either - because that is simply part of the triple test for Down Syndrome. Kind of sucks to not even get to know if I am going to have twins or not! I may have to go back to the eye department and try to get better at abdominal ultrasounds with a tiny probe. Gosh, with a 1/900 chance of having a Down Syndrome baby, you'd think they could find a better test to do on young women - like "Cri du chat", or something (okay, if anyone besides SR knows what that is, I'll be impressed - NO LOOKING IT UP AND PRETENDING YOU KNEW, PEOPLE!).

Running songs of the day: I Don't Want Anybody that Wants Me by Make Out
and American Mourning by Bikini

Sunday 19 December 2010

A day out on the town

During the first song of Händel's Messiah, I had one of those moments. I could not believe the three ladies I was sitting with, how lucky I was to be friends with them, how beautiful the orchestra was. I sat there overcome and then, of course, thought to myself I had better blog about it.

I had a ladies' day out with May-Britt, Helle and Henriette, whom I could say I met through running, but in reality, I met them through blogging - and then running.

We went out to a little restaurant in a basement in Copenhagen called Restaurant Puk. It is one of those places a foreigner, such as myself, dreams of. We enjoyed a 4 hour long real Danish Julfrokost (Christmas lunch) with lots of a delicacy called smørrebrød. This means butter bread, but is actually any sort of topping, well mostly fish and some meat, with a really fatty, tasty sauce, along with other accessories, which you spread on very dark, heavy rye bread and eat with a knife and fork. I am not sure if it is because I am American or because I am who I am, but I can not figure out how to use a knife. I grew up exclusively using a fork, except for spreading things on bread. I don't acutally know how to use both utensils at the same time. Danes, without exception, stare at me when I eat.

We had very lively conversation since the three ladies had had their share of beer and Schnapps. It didn't take much to get the table laughing. Much of the conversation centered around either running or how they all feel about being single. By the time we left, I had to run to the toilet and, unfortunately didn't make it and threw up all over the walls and floor and a little landed in the toilet. I still took it as a good sign and cleaned it up with a smile on my face.

We then walked to see Händel's Messiah in Holmen's Kirke: a beautiful place with perfect accoustics. It was hard not to sit there and think "This is my life, it is mine for the taking - I am happy." The soprano's voice was absolutely perfect as was the blending of the choir. And that is what music and friends can do - remind you that life is good - if you want it to be.

Thursday 16 December 2010

Ginger Spice and another (more important) topic

I haven't written in few days because I have been busy with things like not puking. Thank God. I have not been talking on the big white telephone, for the Danes reading this :).

After I wrote the last post, I started taking ginger 600 mg 3 x a day. I had prescribed this to many a nauseated pregnant woman in urgent care, but in the throes of my nausea, I forgot it even existed, that is until SR mentioned it (I was surprised that none of my informed readers mentioned it!). I actually took the first two pills while we were shopping (on an empty stomach) and then as we got to the register, I fell down to the growd in front of all of the check out lines and started horking. I thought I might actually die right there. SR calmly loaded the groceries into bags and paid, glancing up nonchalantly from time to time, as a crowd of concerned shoppers and workers garthered around me.

But after that, I stopped puking. My nausea hasn't entirely disappeared. And I still can't look at chocolate. But at least I have been able to work. Oh - and run! And you don't need to ask which is most important to me, because you all know.

----Natali's weight-----

Yes, the other topic. SR and I were called to a last-minute parent teacher conference. SR had arranged the time and assumed I could come, but that was my one day every two weeks I have patients during the day in clinic, so I couldn't. But I was sure the subject would be what a bad step mother I was.

But the reason her teachers called the meeting was they think she is overweight. I was shocked. She has been doing well with her weight since she moved here. But her teachers said we need to do something. They said she eats too much and doesn't exercise enough. (Let me just clarify that she bikes to a from school every day, has an hour of gym - where the often run for the whole hour once a week - swimming lessons once a week, and running for an hour with us every Saturday. But this -by Danish standards (and who am I kidding, also mine)- isn't enough).

SR called Natty from work to tell her what the teachers had said. She took it really, really hard. I fact she screamed and screamed, saying she would never go to school again. I was so worried. The last thing I want is for her to end up with an eating disorder because of this. I talked with her for an hour about how the most important thing is finding balance in eating: eating enough, but not too much. Eating healthy. And also taking care of her body by exercising. And guess what - she bought it - and so did I. Maybe I understood it for the first time in my life.

And maybe something good has come out of it. She went to an hour and a half of youth training at Scala (the gym I go to) today, where kids her age all run together (10 km on a treadmill) and then lift weights. And she loved it!

The truth is, she would already be considered healthy, maybe even thin, and getting plenty of exercise in the US. And no teacher would have ever said anything to her or us. And I told her that and it is our secret joke. You know, that Danes are crazy. But if I can convince her that taking care of her body and being aware of what she eats is cool and fun, then everyone wins.

Here's the part that I probably shouldn't write, but will. WHY does she have trouble keeping weight off compared to her friends? Why is she pudgy? Why does she think about eating so much? Well, it is really complex, of course. Genes contribute, but intrauterine environment is also very important in programming of kids future weight. It is so important for women to not gain too much weight or be overweight when pregnant - and to exercise. Studies have really just begun to show this in the last 5, maybe 10 years. But kids of moms who don't gain much weight and exercise will NOT have to deal with obesity or being overweight as a child.

Natty has been overweight since I met her at 4 and was overweight as a toddler, too. She will struggle with her weight all her life.

But, as I said to Natty, we all have things we are born with that we have to deal with. And this is hers. But if she gets control of it now (without getting an eating disorder) things will be much easier for her in adulthood.

Running songs of the day:
Where is My Mind by the Pixies
Fading like a Flower by Roxette
(being pregnant apparently makes me like 80's music)

Monday 13 December 2010

Sky High hCG

I am just assuming my hCG is extremely high at this moment. I have thrown up about 50 times today. I was supposed to get a cavity drilled at the dentist at 1:30 pm - but the thought of a drill - or gloves - or anything - in my mouth was unbearable. I rode my bike there - and when I started puking on my bike, I decided I had better call and cancel.

Even as I sit here writing - I can smell the most horrible scent in the world - can anyone guess?


Who would have guessed it would come to this? Me hating chocolate. Well, ANYTHING for a healthy baby. And I can only assume that all of this nausea is, well, a good sign.

And I just read that the higher the hCG level, the more likely it's a girl. Would make sense since I don't remember anything like this with The Lorax. Or maybe it's twins.

How is the exercising going? Hmmmm....

Well, actually yesterday I ran for three hours in frigid temps and icy snow with SR, slowly, but no puking. But this morning I went to a pulse/core class and as we were lifting a bar over our head repeatedly, the room started spinning and I had to take a break. I took a quick run a the treadmill - which went horribly - but got to watch a clip of the Metrodome's roof in Minnesota collapsing under the weight of all of the snow. Yes, folks, it even made the national news in Denmark. It's incredible footage, if you haven't seen it.

In a last-ditch exercise effort, I tried to go for a swim. 30 laps in 50 minutes. That is a new record in pathetic. I felt like I was swimming through mud. One thing is for sure - I could NEVER run an ultramarathon right now. I should have suspected something was up last time around.

Tomorrow I am scheduled to see patients all day. It sounds impossible. If you don't hear from me for a while, it's because I'm spending time with my toilet.

Sunday 12 December 2010

My stepson

I have been a little bit avoiding talking about our trip to Disney World because, well, it wasn't exactly the perfect vacation we had been hoping for. You may be thinking - well, SLG, it doesn't really matter what you thought of it as long as the kids had fun. Well, I was driving home with Natali tonight and she confessed that she would have much rather stayed at home in Denmark than have been in Disney World. Maybe that was true, but maybe she'll also have memories that will stick with her a long time.

And my parents got to spend time with all of them, which made everyone happy.

And when I say "all" of them, yes, my step-son, Andreas was there, too. And, while I love seeing him, we all seem to have trouble understanding how to relate to him. And the truth is, none of us really knows him anymore. We all expected it to flow naturally, but it didn't really. You can actually see in all of the pictures, that he has placed himself a bit to the side, as if he always felt a bit outcast. And it makes me sad in retrospect.

Things started out strangely when he called SR "Jeff" (SR's real name is not Jeff, btw) multiple times and then called him "grandpa". For SR, who had been with Andreas day in and day out from when he was born until he was five, this was very surreal.

And Andreas has perfected ambivalence torwards adults. It didn't matter how many times any of us asked him to do something, he would just pretend he wasn't listening or loudly say "No!". And who can blame him, I guess? Who were we to suddenly step in his life and tell him what to do? But it was to the point where he wouldn't dress himself and pretended he didn't know how to put on his velcro shoes (he is 7, by the way). And when we finally got to the park, he refused to go on bascially any ride - even The People Mover. And this lasted all four days we were at the theme parks.

At some point, I started to feel I was being too hands off with Andreas and allowing SR and my dad to do all of the reprimanding. After a couple of days of him only eating junk food between meals, I told him at noon he could eat nothing until he had a piece of fruit or some veggies. I didn't think it was possible, but he actually ate nothing the rest of the day.

When I said good-bye to Andreas the last day, I was again yelling at him because he refused to put on his shoes. And now he's gone from our lives for another few months. And he doesn't really understand who I, SR or my parents are.

(But if you asked Andreas for his version of me, he would say that I fell asleep early every night instead of taking him to the pool and was running while they were eating breakfast.)

Let me just say this: being a parent in a family with a happy marriage is easy. Okay, not easy, but so natural and the kids grow up with a sense that the loving people in their lives will always be there. And they become happy and trusting (and thus easy to parent).

Being a parent of a kid from a broken marriage, who you hardly get to see, is really difficult. Not because you don't want to love them. I was going to say it is harder being the step-parent, but actually, it is harder for SR. And you know what: it's worst for the kid.

But what can we do?

One person, who has no trouble deciding what to do is The Lorax, who worships the ground "Big Guy" (Andreas) walks on. He talks about his older brother on a daily basis, though he only sees him a couple times a year. It is actually kind of incredible the way they get along. He they are, leaving me behind in the jaws of death.
And one other thing: if there are enough bubbles involved and SLG has a beard, everyone will be at least slightly amused.

And there were times when Andreas was really fun. He had this game of going on It's a Small World again and again with The Lorax. And taught The Lorax how to draw robots. And he conquered the biggest waterslide at Old Key West, showing everyone how fun waterparks can be. I have to imagine that this side of him would come out more often if we had a chance to get to know him well again.

Friday 10 December 2010

The most notable studies on running in pregnancy

In light of Steph's question about studies on distance running in pregnancy, I thought I'd make a list of all the studies that came to mind, which I have read over the past few years, that deal with health and safety of running/exercising in pregnancy. For those of you who have been reading for years, this isn't the first time I've mentioned most them.

Bear in mind that this list is no substitute for good clinical judgement and there ARE contraindications to running while pregnancy (but great debate exists around what exactly those contraindications should be).

Clapp 1989 - women running 19-88 km/week or aerobics three or more times a week.

Spontaneous abortion (miscarriage)
controls: 25%
aerobic dancers: 16.5%
runners: 16%

Hall & Kauffman 1987

Strength training and c-section rate
control: 28%
low intensity: 24%
medium intensity: 19%
high intensity: 6%
(I know. It's not running - but wow - ALMOST as good as running [see below]!)

Clapp 1990

running 14-68 km/week and/or aerobics 3-11 times per week (case control study; controls were equal in education and age, etc)

c-section rate

controls: 30%
runners: 5%

length of labor

controls: 390 minutes
runners: 260 minutes

meconium (sign of baby distress) when water breaks

controls 25%
runners: 14%

abnormal heart rhythm in baby during labor

controls: 25%
runners: 14%

Long-term baby outcomes (baby now 5 years old; same running women and controls)

-children of runners significantly leaner and more active
-children of runners significantly "much" higher IQ and oral language skills

Sørensen et al 2003

Pre-ecclampsia rates

controls - control rate
physically active: 35% relative risk reduction
physically active more than 6 hours per week: 69% relative risk reduction

Juhl 2007 Danish National birth cohort:

20% reduced chance of preterm birth among women who exercise > 5 hours per week

This last study is the one I am applying to get permission to analyze specifically for women who run more than 5 hours a week.

P.S. Steph - I'm not trying to give you specific advice, but you mentioned wanting to see studies, so I hope this might be some of what you're looking for.

In other news, The Lorax has chickenpox. He seems completely unbothered by it. I don't think they itch him at all. Happily I've had it, otherwise I'd have yet another pregnancy worry to dwell on.

Speaking of which, I gave myself an ultrasound in the ophthalmology dept. today, just to make sure my pregnancy was intrauterine. The tiny eye probe went just deep enough so I could identify the anterior side of the uterus. I found what might be the gestational sac on the left, but it might have been bowel. There is a reason people go to ultrasonographers, I guess. In Denmark, you have to wait until week 12 to get an ultrasound, so I've got a while - but I'll probably know if it's ectopic before then anyway.

Tuesday 7 December 2010

A tempered OUC half marathon - or why running fast while pregnant might be dangerous

It's a bit overwhelming to write a race report and a Disney vacation report. So I've decided to talk about the race in this post and then take on Disney next.

Saturday, which now seems like ages ago, was an ideal day for a race. A cloudless sky with temperatures that would later reach the 60's. I had snuck out of Disney World's confines: a magical place for kids, but a nightmare for anyone attempting to go on a run (think half mile sidewalks that end abruptly and don't begin again). I spoke French with the Haitian cab driver for the half an hour drive to downtown Orlando (there is no shortage of Haitian immigrants in Florida these days - it is hard not to be saddened by this). It was still dark when we arrived at 6:30 for the 7 am start.

(I should add that SR was at the ASH [American Society for Hematology] conference outside of Orlando and didn't want to miss any of it for the race - it was hard not to be a little down about that).

There were nearly 3000 runners signed up (officially 2309 finishers: 1156 women, 1153 men) The line was too long for the port-o-potty, so I enjoyed a pee by the shore of Lake Eola, in the heart of the pretty downtown. There was a tiny sliver moon: my new favorite moon phase.

It was time to line up and I really didn't have a strategy at all. I was actually a little scared. I knew I could near a PR if I really pushed it, or get in the low 1:30's (It's a perfectly flat course with relatively few turns). But I was hesitant to run fast for two reasons (for those joining the blog now, I'm 6 weeks pregnant today):

1. When I look back on my miscarriage 4 months ago, I can't forget the day I was running a tempo run and got severe pain in my left pelvis, which corresponded approximately with the time the fetus might have died. Considering my pregnancy tests were always weakly positive, there was likely something wrong from the beginning (the urge to blame oneself is so strong!)...

2. I finally read James Clapp's book: "Exercising Through your Pregnancy". He is a cheerleader for exercising, especially running, pregnantinas (excuse my neologism for pregnant women) and reinforced what always made sense to me biologically and evolutionarily: exercising while pregnant is not dangerous; it is healthy. BUT there was this one study he did that bothered me. He actually showed there were signs of decreased blood flow to the baby while the mother ran. This exact fact makes for a bigger placenta and a more resilient baby in many ways - over time. But this also pointed out to me that if a mother is exercising at max pulse for a considerable amount of time, that blood flow may, at some point, be inadequate. Cigarettes, alcohol and hypercoaguable disorders, all proven causes of miscarriage, negatively impact bloodflow to the baby. It is hard to believe that something so natural and healthy as exercise could be harmful - but at an intense enough level, if the bloodflow is decreased enough, theoretically it could. Deep down, I doubt this is true, but I certainly wish there were more research on the subject...

So I lined up with the 8 min/mile group. And I actually ran the first few miles slower than this because I had a weird pain in my pelvis (on the left, as always). I thought about stopping, but it was such a beautiful day and I felt so good otherwise. Eventually the pain migrated up to a side-stitch. I was relieved. I began running at about 7:45 pace. My goal at that point was to finish under 1:44. I felt so in control and energetic. It was a beautiful route (if you like road running) half on pavement, half on cobblestones and with no shortage of palm trees. There were cheering crowds everywhere, sporadic music playing and announcers attempting jokes at various points. The more I ran, the more struggling young people I passed. I felt so old and wise! Starting out slowly sure is fun. I picked up the pace even more for the last couple of miles and came in at 1:43:30, 90th female, 7:54 pace. I think this pregnancy may teach me how to run a race as a training run. It was fun and I wasn't even sore the next day.

The first female came in in 1:14:07 and was 4th overall! Damn! Her name is Erin Nehus Vergara and she's from Indiana and was attempting to qualify for the Olympic trials. Sad thing is I don't even know if she did - though I imagine she did.

Above is the scene after the race. Perhaps the woman in the pink compression stockings catches your eye. I did beat her, but who's keeping track? ;)

Same old race outfit as always, this time with an Orlando flowerbed backdrop.

Lake Eola in downtown Orlando and right next to the race start. This is the exact spot I had peed right before the race.

I didn't even listen to my iPod during the race, so no running song today - sorry!

Sunday 5 December 2010

Stuck in Chicago

It's the kind of thing you see on the news: 2 kids and a mom stuck sleeping in the airport due to cancelled flight. Well, okay, actually only The Lorax fell asleep in one of our large bags of luggage. We flew in from Orlando to Chicago last night and learned our flight was cancelled, with first opening on another flight in two days. And I had no phone. I thought about posting something on Facebook or this blog, like, come pick us up, someone!!

But SAS ended up giving us a hotel: The Hyatt O'Hare, where I finally moved all the kids and baggage to by midnight. For a pregnant woman, the stress of a half marathon, which I ran earlier in the day, was nothing compared to moving six bags and two kids up and down multiple flights of stairs. I got to the hotel and just started barfing. I then got ahold of my dad, who is picking us up today. Luckily they are just an hour and a half from Chicago. SR continues to enjoy sunny Orlando at a conference :).

Here are some pics from our great trip, though:

There are many more, but the kids are up now, so gotta get going!

Sunday 28 November 2010

Best of Ultrarunning 2010

The year is coming to a close and, for the first time, I thought I'd hold a little awards ceremony. I am, of course, the only judge, so there is always that off chance I missed a thing or two. (By the way, is ultrarunning seriously one word? - DON'T question my qualifications for holding an awards ceremony, now.)

1. Unexpected/Inspiring performance

Ronda Sundermeier runs Javelina 100 miler in 19:53. Race report here.
2. Best picture

This is Joy from at mile 80 of her first 100 mile, Tahoe Rim Trail 100. Right before this picture, she admitted she said to her husband: "I'm quitting! You're such an asshole. Why won't you let me sleep?" She then went on to finish in style, refreshed from the nap and from putting her husband in his place.

Honorable mention -

The rock structure which kept Olga entertained every 7.5 miles at Texas' Palo Duro.

3. Best Performance I witnessed

Kenneth Munk runs 100 km in 6:57, setting a new Danish record at the Copenhagen Ultra.

4. Best new ultrarunner

The story goes something like this: Chris Scotch actually started running in 2009 (he had previously been a mountain biker) and by 2010, he was running ultras all over the country, including the Voyageur 50 mile, which we ran together. He then took 3rd overall at Voyageur Quest. And he runs to raise money for charity. See more at

5. Best graph

The effect of pregnancy on running pace by Katie:

(Yeah, yeah. I admit it: this one has very little to do with ultra running.)

6. Best blog post: Meghan Hicks looks inside herself and questions why she is a runner in "Indurare: the 2010 marathon des sables".

7. Best Interview

Geoff Roes, nearing 100 miles at Western States, poised for the win, is asked "How do you feel, man?" Pregnant, nearly eternal pause, still running, appears to be dying: "I feel great." I only wish I could find the video now.

8. Best Running Songs

Spring: Dance Floor by Apples in Stereo

Summer: Skisser för sommaren by Kent

Fall: Hang with Me by Robyn

9. Best legal doping form

Pocket Coffee - Italian chocolate with a liquid espresso center (thanks, Piccola Pinecone )

10. Pregnancy performer of the year
Stefanie Schocke runs a PR half marathon in 1:35 18 weeks pregnant, then runs PR marathon in 3:31 22 weeks pregnant. Thanks for showing us it's possible, Stefanie! (BTW, she is still pregnant and doing well. Though she's finally slowing down ever so slightly. It's just enough to make me believe she actually is pregnant.)

11. Best book idea - "Running Routes of the World" (oh, that was mine).

12. Longest race completed by person I know

May-Britt Hansen finishes Grand Union Canal Race. That's 145 miles, folks.

13. Best finish - Helen Lavin runs the last mile of Hellgate 100 km in 6:30 and takes first for the ladies.

It only required a little Red Bull and a bloody nose.

Nobody had better tell me that best finish was actually from December of 2009.

The next time you hear from me, I will bore you with pictures of Disney World, and maybe a half marathon race report.

Friday 26 November 2010

Near disaster

So the following story is explicit even for me. I apologize in advance; but not really.

So I have alluded to the fact that I suffer from obsessive-compulsive disorder. And this time it lead me to one frightening situation.

So the last few days I have been so afraid of finding blood the toilet paper after I wipe that I sit there for minutes analyzing every square of paper for even a hint of blood. I happen to work at a place with recycled paper and so every so often there would be a little speck of red. I then would have to wipe over and over again to convince myself I wasn't actually bleeding. (I'm pregnant, by the way, for those just joining in now). So this went on for a few days and then I got really sore. I joked that I would actually make myself bleed. Though I didn't think I would actually take it that far.

Anyway, last night I had a horrifying dream that I started bleeding (which I referred to in my comment to Olga on the previous post).

This morning, before SR left for a weekend shift at the ER, we had a little hanky panky and "ouch" might be an adequate description. I told SR I thought I had a yeast infection. Or maybe all the wiping (how many trees have I used, I wonder. Oh, wait; a lot of the paper was recycled.).

My parents watched The Lorax for the morning and I went to the local gym (Westwood). I went for a 40 lap swim (felt awesome) and ran a 5k in a comfortable 24 minutes on the treadmill. I went into the bathroom - and when I least expected it - blood on the toilet paper!

My heart rate shot up and I just kept repeating "no!" in my head and a little bit out loud. I got angry at the bloody paper and said in my head "But you don't understand. The pregnancy test was so positive. Finnbjørn is a survivor." I wanted to cry. But then again, there was something weird. I turned back into a doctor for a moment. The blood was a streak. And it hurt when I wiped. I spent about ten minutes and almost an entire roll of toilet paper localizing the area of open skin - and I found it. I was 95% convinced it was not uterine bleeding. But I was still in panic mode - and did the only logical thing - exercised more to calm myself down. Rowing machine - return to the bathroom - stair stepper - return to the bathroom - step class - return to the bathroom two times during the class. Somewhere in there the bleeding stopped and all of my vaginal secretions continued to look their familiar whitish color. Life was good. I thought I had been thankful on Thanksgiving, but I found myself more thankful than I've been in a long time when I realized all was still well in the uterus.

I got home and checked my underwear again and, as I turned around, I saw The Lorax standing there. "Ulækker", he said ("disgusting").

Wednesday 24 November 2010


We are on the train on the way to Kastrup Airport in Copenhagen - to fly into Chicago. Stefanie asked for an update since my expected period was yesterday. I took this picture this morning of the latest test, taken last night.

This test was more positive than any were in my last (unsuccessful) pregnancy. Some may ask why I needed to buy another test, but knowing the beta hcg was multiplying as expected was really reassuring.

SR and I immediately agreed on the name Finnbjørn, if it is a boy. Perhaps it's too early to think of names, but it sure is fun. We had The Lorax's name (Christian) picked out before he was even conceived. Finnbjørn is an old Scandinavian name meaning bear from the most northern part of Scandinavia. Seems like the name of a survivor. Perhaps you all think I'm joking. Anyway.

Here are the names we're considering for a girl: Pascale, Annika, Beate.

Oh, yeah, yeah, I know it's a bit early - but you are welcome chime in with your thoughts. The next time I write we'll be in the US. Happy Thanksgiving to the Americans :).

Sunday 21 November 2010

Signs and Symptoms

I started writing this a week ago and I am really, really glad I get to post it. I had wanted to post what had been going on a lot earlier, but...

1. The mind is quite good at producing symptoms when there is no disease/condition.
2. A lot of things can go wrong between fertilization and a positive pregnancy test.

But here is the chronicle of events:

1. Fri 22 Oct - 1st day of LMP
2. Sat 30th Oct - 6 hour race
3. Tues 9th of November - suspected day of ovulation based on vaginal secretions (sexy, I know)
4. Friday the 12th - fainted when grocery shopping. I bent down to look at cars with The Lorax and when I stood back up, all went black, and I fell to my knees. Thought this was quite odd, and suspected it was a sign of already expanding blood volume. Resting pulse was also increased approx 10 bpm.
5. Sat 13th of November - for the first time in spinning class, I achieved over 90% max pulse, without much effort, in the warm up. The instructor told me I should hold back while we were warming up, but I wasn't even starting to sweat. I previously have had trouble getting over 90% when I push the absolute hardest I can. Max pulse set at 185.
6. Sun 14th of November - unable to run marathon at relatively slow tempo due to nausea and fatigue. Take preg test (way early, I know) - negative. But I was already convinced.
7. Wed 17th of November - Had to cut tempo run short after 2.5 miles due to general feeling of unwellness (mostly unrelated to the man running 1 foot behind me trying to grab my mammary glands - unrelated breast tenderness begins same day :)). Take preg. test #2 - neg.
8. Thur and Fri - very uninspired runs & stair running (up the stairs at Rigshospital) with noticeable shortness of breath.
9. Fri night - after dehydration with running, zumba and a train ride, faintly positive pregnancy test, drink lots of water, negative test two hours later.
10. Sat. morning - faintly positive preg. test. Bear in mind, both of these faint positives came after 15 minutes.
11. Sun- spinning again. Instructor has to increase my max pulse (which I had again at 185) since I came up to 95% max during the warm up and he could see I looked like I wasn't even working. After the change, I couldn't come over 90% again - I tried to explain to him that I was pregnant and my max pulse wasn't higher, I just got close to my max pulse easier. He sort of bought it. (A lot of time people think because I'm young and have an accent that I am full of bs. And maybe I am.). Come home from spinning - positive pregnancy test and after about 6 minutes, it was quite clear.
12. FUTURE: This coming Tues: day of expected period.

Needless to say, I am extremely grateful to get to write this post. And I have to thank Piccola Pinecone for providing me with 5 Canadian $1 pregnancy tests. I then bought the 6th pregnancy test here in Denmark today for $8.

Here are pregnancy tests 2-6 (the results, I don't think, are easy to see, but trust me):

Take note of our beautiful Italian marble counter top (actually, it's Danish plastic). I know the lines are faint, but #3, #5 and #6 are the positives.

What did I learn?

One can fairly easily tell if one is pregnant before positive pregnancy tests if one is aware of their exercise norms. Resting pulse is also reliable. I have been told that one does not have sympomts before the test is positive, but this is far from true!

Running a 6 hour race as hard as possible did not adversely affect my fertility. And, honestly, I didn't think it would, otherwise I wouldn't have done it!

Finally, I am adjusting my goal for the half marathon in Florida in two weeks. I don't think I can run a PR with this shortness of breath. I'll just see how it goes, though I wouldn't be surprised if I could run it in under 1:40.

Running Song of the Day: Block After Block by Matt & Kim

Wednesday 17 November 2010

Let me get my hands on your mammary glands

The title is not something I have ever said to a woman.

I was at a course today in Copenhagen and wore my running clothing (which is always met with complete amazement by the other students) so I could run over lunch around "The Lakes". For those who don't live in Denmark, these are lakes in the center of the city right next to Rigshospital, where I spent my day. I had planned a 9 mile tempo run. I knew I would make it back late to the course (on diabetes, by the way), but who cares? It was also a habit of mine in med school to come to half of the classes. One needs time to run, right?

Anyway, warm up and then I began the tempo, feeling okay. Then, after a mile, I was all-out racing with a guy. Perhaps he was wondering why I was wearing a skin-tight green turtleneck while running (I also had to look somewhat normal at the course -wait... is a skin-tight green tutleneck normal under any circumstances? One of those items of clothing I have had for so long that I no longer question it's appropriateness). I don't know why he was less than 1 foot behind me for 2 miles, but he was. We were going at a nice 6:30 min per mile pace. After 2 miles of that, he gave up. And then, as I continued running, he yelled: "let me get my hands on your mammary glands!" Okay, so he didn't actually say that. This is Denmark, people. I just wanted to call the blog post that.

I continued, feeling okay, but about a half a mile later, I was overwhelmed with nausea. Everything inside of my body except my brain said - stop running fast! Or maybe it was ONLY my brain? The thing is, I am scared of messing something up if I am pregnant, so now if I get the slightest sense of "this does not feel right" I give up. But the whole point of intervals is they are supposed to, at least partially, not feel right, right? They are supposed to be hard. So, I will not be getting faster any time soon. I don't know what else to say. Is it a failure if I don't? Honestly, I don't think anyone reading this blog would think I was a failure if I took it easier on my hard runs for a little while.

Even SR suggested I not run the Rudersdal marathon on Sunday (and that's when I decided to switch to the 4:30 group). And when he mentioned to his dad that I did (and that I felt nauseated) there was great unrest in the family (ie. they think I am bat shit crazy). There is no evidence that hard training is bad when one is trying to get pregnant, or pregnant for that matter, but women and families everywhere will go on believing it nonetheless.

Thanks, Morrissey, for the title.

Sunday 14 November 2010

Rudersdal Social Marathon – I thought it would be easy

Rudersdal Social Marathon is clearly a favorite training run of the Danish ultra community. There are many reasons it is one of their darlings:

-1 large loop through gorgeous terrain, mostly on trails, with views of multiple lakes and the ocean

- awesome swag bag (t-shirt, water bottle, Coke, Twix, two energy bars, raisins, a personalized Buff and a finisher's medal)

- pacers who can keep pace

- good company

So, before I get to the run, I have to mention Bente Karlund Pedersen, who wrote the wonderul book I have referred to a few times, Exercise and Pregnancy (Motion og graviditet). She gave a little talk before the race, where she discussed why running is healthy,that our muscles are actually glands that positively affect our metabolism, heart, pancreas, liver and brain among other things. Anyway, I wasn't going to have her standing 10 feet from me and not go up and talk to her and at least thank her for her book. When I told her how much I liked her book on exercise in pregnancy, she got a huge smile on her face - hearkening back, it seemed, to a really good period in her life. (loose translation from Danish) "I loved writing that book. I wrote it while pregnant with my girl and it was such a joy. But then she indicated it wasn't a subject she would write about more -"the research in that area is just not very good. One has to be careful what one writes with poor quality research. [James] Clapp was a bit more of a cheerleader than I was." I told her she should have her book translated to English - and she said that women who spoke English could simply read Clapp, as if she didn't want to steal her friend, Clapp's market. Well, I planted the seed and now she can think about it. (But God, she hit the nail on the head with the bad research. I read so many poorly designed, poorly reported studies last week on fertility and exercise that my head was about to explode.)

On to the run.

There were 3 groups to choose between 4, 4.5 or 5 hours. Because it is a challenging route on trails and I just wanted a nice training run out of it, I ran with the 4.5 hour group. (Had SR been there, he certainly would have run with the 4 hour group, but due to lack of babysitting, he took his long training run yesterday and I took mine today (as usual, he was the gentleman. Thank you, SR - I love you!).

There is really no excitement in a social marathon race report. We all ran together for 4.5 hours. Then I pulled ahead for the win. Actually, I didn't pull ahead at all. The first 18 miles or so, I felt like we were running too slowly, but then, amazingly, I hit the wall. Even eating didn't help. What the hell? So like, it doesn't actually matter how fast I run? To be honest, I was feeling kind of crappy the whole run: nauseated and tired. I try not to let my mind get carried away with thoughts of pregnancy. Or use it as an excuse. I'm not even late for a period yet. But after 18 miles, it was all I could do to stay with the group. I actually I got a little behind with my new friend, Jørgen, among others, when we got caught up at a stop light. But I survived and made it back to the start with absolutely no desire to run another step. It was over and all I can say is maybe it was just an unenergetic day. Maybe it was the cold rain. Maybe I shouldn't have run 17 miles 3 days earlier. I don't know.

I met, in particular, two people I really enjoyed talking with, the above Jørgen and Rikke Skuldbøl. Their company, and that of others helped make it a fun experience. I am at the point I can express myself naturally in Danish and can understand what is being said - and it is SO nice. I like having friends and it is really hard to make friends unless you can communicate like a native. I'm not quite to the point of being able to interpret the finest of poetry. But maybe some day I will walk into the library and not be afraid of the literature and poetry section (as of now, I go straight for non-fiction). That was a bit of an aside - sorry.

I highly recommend Rudersdal Soocial Marathon - a beautiful route with good company, minus the stress of a race. It was a good day.

Ha - no songs. Did I just survive a marathon without an iPod?

Thursday 11 November 2010

I threw away our scale!

Actually, I didn't throw away our scale (don't worry, SR). It is a good start for the title of the blog post to be a lie. But what I mean is, I just don't use it anymore. A few months ago Amy made the comment that I should just throw my scale away. Being an obsessive-compulsive lover of numbers and previous sufferer of an eating disorder, this really scared me. But then I thought about it: my scale never helps me and, in fact, only hurts me:

1. My running times don't correlate to what I weigh
2. With a more intense training regimen, including weight lifting, I am going to gain muscle
3. I look and feel better now than I did two years ago, when I weighed 2 kilos less
4. Knowing that I am going to get up and weigh myself makes me do unhealthy things like skip dinner, eat less vegetables (because they weigh more) and drink less water.
5. I have had no trouble fitting into the same pants despite weighing more and that's a better indicator of how things are going than a scale
6. With all of this training (see below), I would seriously have to eat a tofu cow a day anyway to become overweight.
7. Living in energy deficit causes too many health problems - I don't want to lose my period again. Period. Well, I do want to lose it, actually, for nine months...

(BTW, I just read yesterday in the Danish medical journal Ugeskrift for læger, much to my dismay, that the bone density you lose while amenorrheic doesn't ...ever come back)

What a liberating feeling to not even think about the scale! Thanks, Amy.

In other news, I am having such fun designing the optimal training regimen. Take a look at this week:

Sun: Run 30k
Mon: Swim tempo: 35 laps, Cycle 1 hour 15 minutes
Tues: 2 mile warm up, 8 mile tempo run (7:06 min/mile), 1 mile limp home
Wed: 55 min. Body Pump (weight lifting for all major muscle groups to music), 45 min stair climb, 50 min. yoga
Thurs: 16.5 mile run divided into 10.5 miles, 2 hour break for work and lunch (with study friends including a guy who just identified a new retro virus in humans - which he thinks is the origin of some prostate cancer), 6 miles (Tried to do all 16.5 in 9 min/mile pace - which happened the first 14 miles, but then my stomach started bothering me and I got lazy)
---- the above has already happened-----
Fri: Swim intervals, step/core class
Sat: 1 hour spinning
Sun: 26 miles training run (Rudersdal social marathon) - I have decided to switch to the 4.5 hour group since it is on trails and this is just distance training, not a race. Plus I want to enjoy the pretty ruote.

Total running miles planned over 8 days: 26 + 16.5+ 10 + 18: 68.5 miles
What a jam-packed week. Is it too much? Will it work? Only time will tell.

Running songs of the day:

These are both great for running and are Danish, so a lot of you haven't heard them -

Maybellene i Hofteholder by Volbeat (it is in English, despite the title)
Selvmord på Dansegulvet by Thomas Holm

Tuesday 9 November 2010

Exercise and Fertility

I am writing this in response to Cynthia's comment:

"Not sure that hiring a coach is entirely consistent with your desire to get pregnant again."

Which is along the lines of what I was hoping someone would write. Because it is an important topic, often misunderstood and the above statement is, under most circumstances, not true.

Exercise/training does not decrease a woman's fertility. Loss of menstruation, however, obviously does. But these are two different things. Many elite athletes train beyond what they feed themselves. This is especially true for young elite athletes. They train hard, are thin, don't eat right and become amenorrheic. Think female athlete triad. BUT there is no evidence that training hard or for many hours negatively affects a woman's fertility, assuming she is still menstruating.

Bente Klarlund Pedersen, in her book "Motion og Graviditet" has an entire chapter on this subject in which she discusses and provides evidence that exercise does not negatively affect fertility. The one exception to this she cites is intense exercise on the day of implantation makes implantation less likely. Let's call this the exception that proves the rule. Beyond this, exercise also significantly decreases the chance of miscarriage. (Have to point out that I have a chance to meet Bente this coming Sunday at the Rudersdal Social Marathon. I'm actually hoping to ask her for permission to translate her book into English).

But since the above book is still only in Danish (and I had to return it to the library, so I don't have any citations), I will also refer to a large Norwegian study of almost 4000 women from the journal Human Reproduction from 2009 (Gudmondsdottir, et al).

They found that women who exercise greater than 60 minutes at a time had a decreased odds ratio of infertility compared to those who did not exercise. 0.6 adjusted OR (0.3-1.5 CI) - which was not significant, but at least did not show an increased odds compared to controls. Also those with a high level of perceived exertion did not have significantly significant increased odds of infertility.

However, there were two subgoups with slightly increased odds of infertility, those who exercise daily and those who exercise to the point of "exhaustion". The problem with these two groups is they are both likely to have more women with a lower than normal BMI and/or amenorrhea, which they did not control for. Interestingly, the women in these groups who had children, actually had MORE children than women who didn't exercise - so it points to a dichotomy: there is a group of normal, menstruating women who are fertile and a group of non- menstuating women who are not fertile.

Another study looked at eumenorrheic women and found no correlation between increased intensity of training or endurance training and abnormalities in levels of various reproductive hormones, though I can only read the abstract (Rogol, et al. 1992 Appl. Journal of Physiology).

There has not to this date been any evidence I am aware of that strenuous exercise in itself negatively affects fertility. It can sometimes cause irregular periods. But if you time things right, and are aware of when you ovulate (think fertility awareness method; FAM) you can have the same chance of getting pregnant as a woman with a clockwork cycle. The big problems happen when exercise combined with inadequate nutrition creates amenorrhea. And that is a different ball of wax - and not a ball you want to be stuck in - that is if you are interested in getting pregnant or in having bones that don't break easily.

I know I am an n of 1, but I got pregnant after trying for 2 months with The Lorax while running between 80 and 90 miles a week. I then got pregnant, with the subsequent miscarriage, while training for an Ironman after only 4 months of trying (and 1 month after a 50 mile race).

I personally have no evidence that strenuous exercise affects fertility and I have not seen any convincing evidence to back up the theory either. Though any opposition to this is welcome...

In other news, I have had two AWESOME days of training (and am still hoping for a pregnancy btw)

Monday: swim training record! - 35 laps in 41 minutes! Yes!
Tuesday (today): 8 mile tempo run in 56:48 (only 28 seconds slower than my fastest 8 mile tempo time ever last March) and with a negative split. The time from today is also nearly 6 minutes faster than my 8 mile tempo time from last November. Yipee!

Running Songs of the day:

I have mentioned this song before, but it is just so good for running fast, that I have to post the video:

"Come with me" by CEO

CEO Come With Me.
Uploaded by divisionparis. - Music videos, artist interviews, concerts and more.

And this is a good one for running or walknig or whatever
"Winter Weeds" by Liam Singer (not a bad last name for him)

Sunday 7 November 2010

Should I hire a coach?

It's been in the back of my mind for a while now. I know I would benefit from a structured training plan. And if I had a specific plan for every day, over an entire month, I think I would stick with it.

As many of you know, my husband, SR, has been my coach. But there were 3 simple problems with this: the training seemed very good for getting faster at 5ks to half marathons. But I personally want to improve at marathons and ultra marathons. 2. I want a coach who can train me up to a good Ironman and SR doesn't have experience with this. 3. I need a detailed plan, including what I should do on the days I'm not training as hard, and this takes a lot of time. SR is not going to spend the time to make this training plan if he doesn't think I will follow it (for the two above reasons).

So I was suddenly excited when I learned from May-Britt's blog that Ole Stougaard, who won the 6 hour race with over 80km, and former winner of the Norseman Ironman, was a coach. I mean, how often can find one find coaches who are both successful ultra runners and triathletes?

So I wrote to him, explaining what I was looking for. I should mention that the company, Multicoach, which he owns, has pretty expensive fees for coaching (about $150 per month). I very quickly received a very nice and informative email from him about what he would recommend, but he said he had too many athletes at the moment to take on more. He then recommended another guy he works with. Well, I googled this guy and could only find one race result from a short triathlon and already knew I needed to say no. I really don't want to pay for a coach who doesn't have experience with ultras and ironmans(men?). Because then I would doubt the training plan and not follow it. But I'll write back to Ole and get more info on the other coach.

So I googled training plans for ultras and an Ironman and really couldn't find anything helpful. But then I ran across Lisa Smith Batchen as a coach, who seemed absolutely perfect. I was sold, until I saw that she charges $325 per month(!) if you want tri training included ($275 for just ultra training). That would be like renting an extra apartment. Wow. As step-daughter, Natali, might say "it's not like it's rocket surgery." Or is it?

As of now, my solution is to take an Ironman training plan from the internet, but make the long training runs longer. I will probably make other modifications so I don't peak for a specific race. But another part of me is averse to following any plan at all and simply doing what I want to do and what I can make time for on that particular day. Anyway, I'm open to suggestions.

Little update

I'm feeling much better after my total ultra breakdown. I got scared when, the day after I wrote the last post, I had such frequent palpitations that I had to stop on my bike ride multiple times to wait for my heart to beat normally again. It occurred to me that my potassium was low, so I started eating bananas. I haven't had any palpitations since and, now in spinning/pulse training, I have no trouble getting my pulse to rise and fall. I have to wonder if the potassium helped. It just seems to weird, though, that the solution was so simple.

30k run

In the week after the race, I ran a total of 2 miles, so today I was ready for something big. I had considered the local 10k race, but opted for a nice, easy 30k instead. It's kind of rare I stop and take pictures, but today I did - and what a beautiful fall day!

After 7.5 miles, I arrive in Appenæs.

And finally get to enjoy the bayside trails. It's difficult to tell, but this is salt water connected to the nearby ocean.

Here I am on my way home, along Slagelsevej in Næstved. (This is also where I run my intervals.)

12:24 pm - and look at the length of the shadows (I subsequently spent way too long trying to figure out when exactly the sun's zenith was and had to give up). This is the forest in our backyard. I'm almost home.

Time to watch the New York City Marathon. I'm rooting for Christelle Daunay of France.

Running songs of the day:

Can you tell by Ra Ra Riot (thanks, Steve Q, for introducing me to this band)

Drain You by Horse Feathers (beautiful remake of the Nirvana song)

Wednesday 3 November 2010

Total ultra breakdown

It couldn't sound any worse than that, could it?

But seriously now, running 64 km in 6 hours can't really be healthy, can it? Perhaps it was when I was sitting in the sandbox with my doctor (there are also positives to having my doctor be my neighbor) that I realized how absolutely insane the race sounded. "You did what? SR did it, too?" He was definitely more shocked by the fact that SR also ran, as SR is generally considered the "normal" one between the two of us.

But SR hasn't looked back. He went running yesterday - pain free.

I, on the other hand, went through the following:

(PUD = post ultra day)

- PUD 1 (5:45 am) - wake up early with insatiable desire to do math equations - begin to feel nauseated if not constantly doing math; distract myself by writing blog post
- PUD 1 (10 am) - ask SR to pull over the car so I can vomit on the side of the road (meanwhile, I pick out fancy stones for the Lorax without vomit on)
- PUD 1 (2 pm) - invited over to doctor neighbor's house (by his wife), but can't calm down. Must work and/or do something at every moment. Agonizing sense of urgency lasts all day, yet unable to accomplish anything. Refuse sitting down for hot chocolate as I have "things" I need to do.
-PUD 1 - (8pm) SR puts on a movie and I start crying, fearing it won't be good, then realize I can't pay attention enough to understand what is being said anyway.
- PUD 2 (7am) - wake up after 9 hours of sleep, but, again, math equations - they won't stop.
- PUD 2 - acne breakout all over my face (I am not normally an acne sufferer), small bleeding sores develop around my lips
-PUD 3 - return to "relative" normalcy

Not that long ago, I wrote a post about how ultras were not necessarily unhealthy. But let's be honest, does anyone run ultras to do the body good? Or am I the only one who feels like a wacked out woman on Prednisone after running an ultra (sidenote: is wacked really spelled "whacked"? - why do I find that so funny? whhhhhacked)? Perhaps it's because I want to get pregnant that I am extra in-tune with what is happening in my body. Or maybe it doesn't take much to tip me over the edge...

No, no, I haven't been running yet. So no songs.

Sunday 31 October 2010

Copenhagen 6 Hour Race

After the race, as I was hugging the toilet and throwing up over and over, it was hard not to have one of those "why do I do this to myself?" moments.

6 hours of straight running. It wasn't like a trail ultra, where one has an excuse to walk up steep hills. There were just little breaks at the aid station and then back at it again. And the competition was so tight. The only thing I could do was to ignore the placement of the other women as much as possible to remain sane.

The pre-race was, perhaps, the best part. SR dislikes showing up early because it simply means more time to be nervous and do nothing. I have started to love showing up early because it is the only chance to see my wacky friends who also run races like this. Actually Henriette is far too sensible, relaxed and type B to fit the mold of ultrarunners and, perhaps, that's why we get along so well. And then in walked May-Britt, Denmark's ultra star, who has battled a shoulder injury for many months now. I have a sort of child-like fascination with her and her dedication to running. She didn't hold back about the fact she was worried I would beat her. Her honesty is quite charming (um, especially when it is a compliment to me :)).

This is a pre-race picture, which doesn't exactly prove that I am social before races (hint: blue sweat pants)

Thanks to Ulrik Torp Pedersen for the picture.

I felt really good. I had slept well. I had had 2 runs (albeit both hard) since Brocken Marathon 3 weeks earlier. Otherwise I had been swimming, biking, stair stepping, pulse training, core training (you name it)... even tried zumba once (!) to occupy myself.

But back to the race. We ran it last year. I ran 61.4 km in 6 hours then and ran a pretty poor race, in that I started way too fast and cracked. Let me add, it is really, really challenging not to crack when you have to run a 2.2 km loop over and over.

But, the scenery and weather weren't half bad.

This year would be different. I planned to run a 9 min/mile pace the whole way. AND run the entire first 2 hours on the grass next to the asphalt. I also started out with a hydration pack (kind of weird considering we were back to the aid station every 2.2 km).

Here I am after the second or third loop, still with hydration pack. I am not running like I am going to fall over backwards because it is heavy. That is simply how I run.

Picture courtesy of Løbeklubben på Facebook

I ran a nice, easy marathon in 3:50, hoping that meant I had a lot of saved energy to unleash in the remaining 2 hours. The interesting thing was that even with a relatively slow marathon, I thought I was the first place woman after the 42.2. km (though I wasn't sure where May-Britt was). There were twice as many participants as last year and also a marathon at the same time. But I could see that only one of Denmark's top ultra running females had decided to run the marathon (Britta Karlsson, who has been injured).

As last year, after we had run a marathon, the real race began for the women. I was, after 1-2 laps, passed by two women running around 8 minutes per mile. I didn't know who they were. But when I attempted to bring out the speed and energy I had been hiding, I found I had nothing extra. So I just kept going at the same pace. I knew I was still ahead of last year's winner, Kirsten Dau Nielsen, and still wasn't sure where May-Britt was. SR told me he hadn't seen her at all, so we figured she must have dropped. While it should have relieved me, it actually made me feel kind of crappy, since I was hoping her shoulder injury was getting better.

I ran the 50k in just under 4:40 (8 minutes faster than my previous 50k PR, and time from last year). But even more importantly, I felt I had a lot more energy and was much more mentally sound, with just a little over an hour to go.

I could not at all keep track of the men's race. But SR seemed energetic and was running fast every time he passed me. I told him at some point, as politely as I could, that he was not allowed to run with me. He has the same effect on me that a mother has on her little child - I start feeling a strong need for comfort when I am with him - and this far from helps when success is entirely dependent on remaining mentally tough.

I had turned on my music with 2 hours to go. Once again, my crappy i-pod headphones stopped working and I couldn't change the volume or song. Luckily the volume was okay and all the songs were good. How fortunate that I have such good taste in music :).

All was actually lovely running between hours 4 and 5. I kept an even pace and was so happy to see Helle and Lene and Jesper cheering each time I came to the aid station.

Re the aid station. I should have mentioned I brought my own weakly-mixed sports drink, homemade cookies and hot choclate. But I will also add that they had, in contrast to last year, the most well-stocked aid station of any Danish race I have been to. Take a peek:
Again, thanks to Ulrik Torp Pedersen for the picture.

I had also ditched my hydration pack after 2 hours, having drunk nearly all of it and, wow, did that feel good.

One oddity of the race was that I drank my entire hydration pack, plus drank every 2.2 km and STILL didn't pee the entire race or the hour post race or the entire hour drive home. It is amazing what stress hormones can do.

With about 50 minutes left, I really, really wanted to drop. I started questioning why on earth I ran races like this. I felt so nauseated. Every fiber in my body wanted me to stop, except for those few neurons that make me crazy, which told me I had to run further than last year. Why is it those few insane neurons always win?

I kept a good even pace, though was on the edge of tears and close to vomiting. As is so typical for ultras, I passed almost every man on the course - they were all walking now. Not that I had run further than them, but men just tend to really burn out at the end of ultras. The women on the other hand seemed to speed up. On the second to last lap, there was May-Britt out of the blue. Had she been hiding in the bushes this whole time? Anyway, I had no energy to try to keep up, plus I wasn't sure if she was on the same lap as me or a lap ahead.

I was so excited when I pushed beyond the point I thought I had run last year, which turned out to be over a lap beyond where I ended last year. There was never a more pleasant sound than the horn that ended the race.

63.7 km and 4th place for the women. I am pleased in retrospect, but felt like absolute crap at the time. Turned out I was just 100 meters behind May-Britt, who took 3rd. And there was another woman, Tina Vikke, just 60 meters behind me, who I didn't notice until they had blown the horn. What a tight race.

I had actually miscalculated how far I had run because my Garmin was in miles and I thought 32 miles was 50k and not 31 (almost too embarrassing to admit), so the whole time I was almost 2 km ahead of where I thought. It actually helped push me even more because I knew I had a better race in me than last year. Needless to say, I was happy to do the conversion when I got home and realize I had run over 63 km. And that I had a 9 minute 50k PR at the same time.

Congrats to Birgitte Nielsen and Rikke Thestrup, who were first and second women with 65.6 and 64.0 km, respectively. As far as I understand, 2 of the top 3 women have at some point been on the Danish National ultra team (I, of course, mention this, so I appear close to elite level :) - sorry).

SR ran an awesome race. His total distance was just over 73 km. It is absolutely amazing he could do this considering he ran 66 km last year. He was really, really happy and ended up in 5th place in a large, competitive and international men's field.

Here are the results.

What's next? Well, I am going to take a relatively long period without racing (um, 5 weeks). I need to train more and race less. The next race I will run is the Orlando half marathon on December 4th.

Running song of the day: The Ghost Inside by Broken Bells

Saturday 23 October 2010

Seeking medical advice

I've gotta admit it: I'm completely baffled. And I hate it when my body confuses me (if you are hoping this will be about a sports injury and won't be "gross", you might as well stop reading now).

So, it's now been three months since I had a miscarriage (I know, I said I wouldn't write about it again. But I didn't think I would need to). Generally I feel healthy. I am eating better, getting probably more than enough sleep and have been in no way under the weather since July.

But now, I have just had a 2 ½ week menstrual cycle. This means that I actually ovulated while I was still having my last period. I have a decent imagination and would never underestimate what the human body can do, but THIS seems impossible. Anyone who has studied the estrogen and progesterone cycles knows the impossibility of this.

Since my miscarriage, I have had a 38 day cycle, a 34 day cycle and now, a 19 day cycle. I will also point out that the second period was very light. The other two have been such that I am afraid to go to bed at night because I am bleeding so much. (if the men haven't clicked away already, they are all gone now)

I did what I think was a very thorough literature search this morning and have only come up with two articles, which both indicate that return to normal ovulation, hormone levels and cycles should occur within two month after a miscarriage. But I can't get online access to the full articles through the U of Copenhagen, because they are too old.

1. Donnet ML, Howie PW, Marnie M, Cooper W, Lewis M. Return of ovarian function following spontaneous abortion. Clin Endocrinol (Oxf) 1990;33:13–20.

2. Elkas JC, Cunningham DS. Effect of 1st-trimester loss on restoration of the hypothalamic-pituitary-ovarian axis. Gynecol Obstet Invest 1995;40:257–260.

However, if you simply do a google search, there are women from all over the world, with no medical background, who simply say "of course menstrual cycles are abnormal after a miscarriage - sometimes for many months".

So what gives? What is "normal"? When should I start to worry (by the way, I started a long time ago)? And can someone please explain to me how you can ovulate while you are having a period?

Before there is a stampede of people writing "go to your doctor", I will explain this: I have an equal amount of general medical training as most of the general practitioners in Denmark and I think they will likely also be baffled and simply send me on to more tests, without knowing they are looking for. Second, my doctor is also our next door neighbor and the father of The Lorax's best friend. 3rd: you can't make an appointment with an OB-Gyn without a referral from your GP, who again, is our neighbor. 4th: I generally find going to the doctor to be a waste of time (with certain, though limited, exceptions).

Update from the last post: the sex shop from the last post just closed yesterday out of the blue.

Running songs of the day:

I Want the World to Stop by Belle & Sebastian
Licenses to Hide by the Posies