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!