Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Saturday 17 December 2011

Skinny, lonely women and the Danish-American Transition

As we stood by the baggage carousel once again at Chicago O'Hare, I surveyed what remained in my life: 3 suitcases, two boys, a baby jogger. Rolls (and a little Brie) fom the plane. We were all tired and how would I wheel all of this out the door alone? And why had I said good-bye to my whole life once again?

Just the day before I had run Skodsborg Marathon.

A nice cool day, light breeze, no ice or snow. Here are Henriette and I right before the start. Would you believe my hands were too cold the whole race to turn on my music??Rasmus let me run since I'd be with the boys for two weeks without him. I ran the hilly trail marathon in a comfortable 3:32 (well, 3:29 when I came through 26.2 miles), taking second overall, first woman and, as far as I can see a female record on that course (!). I felt awesome. I guess for a lot of reasons. It's about running, it's about loving this area of the world, the people, the life that has become my own. Eating a lot at aid stations.

And then there was O'Hare Airport. I was glad to see my mom, but fell asleep on the way home, not knowing what life would bring. But happy I had some Diet A&W Root Beer at my side.

We've had a number of mornings in a row waking up early: 2:30, 1:45, 2:30, etc. then when the child care opens at the YMCA, I am there! And so are lots of other moms. They are thin, maybe a little hungry, maybe in a bad mood because of that. Or perhaps they're lonely and bored. Just like me. What am I doing in Oconomowoc? Maybe I could make some new friends. Maybe I should get my act together and contact my old friends...

SR has two weeks left of his fellowship. Then he will be joining us at our new rented house in La Crosse.

In the meantime it is the kids, me, my parents. I need to get adjusted. But even my work is over the computer via VPN to the hospital intranet in Denmark. I look at Danish peoples' eyes from the US. Wild. I'm just so glad it works.

At times like this, I never feel like focusing on getting fast. I just want to lose weight. It's sad but true. I am down to 113 lbs. I was between 118 and 120 just 2 months ago when we were in the US. It's a way to get control, of course. But when the woman at the Y saw me with Mattias and said "you are so skinny and you just had a baby!!??" I should have been happy, but I wasn't. Is my life about being thin and in shape? Or um.

This morning I woke up with the boys and there was snow outside. I was happy, too, because SR had read me a letter from Værn om Synet (Vision Protection) saying my PhD project had been awared 200,000 kroner! (like $40,000, though less now that the Euro is doing so poorly). My mom watched the boys while I went for a snowy trail run, 17.5 miles, watching the sun come up and life was more than okay. I got home and told my mom I was going to make a lot of food for Christmas this year for us and the relatives from California: æbelskiver, rød kål, sild, ris à l'amande. I can't just forget that life in Denmark (I just hope this does result in less work for my mom and not just weird, bad food. Anyone who really knows me knows I am not joking.).

And some running music:

Danish of course:
Church of the Real by I've Got You on Tape
Finnish with a Danish record company:
Ode to the Bouncer by Studio Killers

Thursday 8 December 2011

Bon hiver

Estoy de vuelta! I'm late wishing you all "bon hiver" since our first snow was a couple weeks ago, but who knows what it is like in your part of the world.

All is well here. And in just 4 days we're moving back to the US for nearly 8 months. So I figured I had better post some pictures before I don't have access to them anymore! Plus I got SR to babysit (this is the time I normally go to Spanish) while I blog. I never thought it would come to this, but with two kids, if one doesn't need something the other one does. And it wasn't doing a lot for my psyche to ignore them while writing a blog post.

I've missed a lot of you readers. Granted, I've heard from some of you via email and followed some of your lives on Facebook.

Just in case you were wondering, I have not been exercising less. It turns out Mattias loves the babyjogger and he loves going to exercise classes at our gym.

He also kind of likes sitting there in the kitchen while I cook.

Here is Thanksgiving.

And some sadly pastel Christmas cookies that The Lorax chooses to cover up with his piece of cinnamon roll.

Go figure, he also likes playing (not sure why this is sideways).

But Mattias HATES it when I sit down at the computer. This is his trigger to start crying. So every minute he is sleeping, I am working on my PhD project. And finally, I'm caught up!

As for running, I might as well not keep it a secret any longer: my new goal is to run the 100km Copenhagen Ultra in April (when back for work) in less than 9:30. If I do this, I can be an alternate on the Danish national team. And, if I switch my citizenship, I may be able to run the world 100k championships. Lots of if's here. I feel the need to mention that our big training race for this will be 3 days of Syllamo in the Ozark Moutains (150k over 3 days). And that will be a lot more fun than the flat 100k.

SR says that my setting ultra goals is an excuse to not get fast. The thing is, I am now certain I've never been faster. I just couldn't prove it until today.

We had run three races that were just odd. But two of them, I took second in overall!!

1. A cannonball marathon outside of Næstved up and down a hill, which I just ran as a training run. I ran it comfortably in 3:34 with a negative split, feeling I could maybe run it again.
I always forget to wear something to cover those nips. Oh well (that's yet another thing Mattias likes). SR had been going for a half marathon PR that day - on a tough route. He ended up with a time just over 1:16 - one should menion he got lost because he ran faster than the leadout bike. Thanks, Lasse, for the picture.

2. A half marathon on sand and seaweed (and road) (Falster Jagtmarathon). I had never thought of seaweed as a running surface but Jørgen showed us all differently. In fact, it felt like perhaps the most authentic Danish experience I have had. I ran the first and last 5k in 21 minutes, but the beach in the middle really got to me and I took a wrong turn at the end. Final time 1:40:07. This, somehow, got me second overall.

SR ran with the babyjogger, though took an alternate, non-weedy route.

3. A babyjogger mud 10k (Herlufsholm Serieløb). So I had no idea it would get so warm that the race would turn into a mud bath, but it did. I got stuck in mud going on an extreme uphill so that I needed to carry the babyjogger out, all the while slipping all over the place with Mattias in it and then the side wheel got stuck in the mud and fell off. But all of the while there were women fast and furiously trying to catch up with me so I had to sprint the runnable sections. His blanket of course was blown off at some point, too. Final time was 51 something. Nothing to write home about but my entire body hurt like never before after that race. I was strangely proud and the good people of our town learned how entirely nuts I am. And I took second for the women!

Here a picture from the home stretch of the race. You probably think you see my underwear there through my pants, but it's just my really white cheeks ;). And that track just to the left is where I run all of my intervals, just so you know.

So, SR was sick of me "frittering away (as Piccola Pinecone says) my speed" on these types of races. He was totally convinced that my every other day three hour runs on rest days were ruining my training. So, I got so fed up that today (after of course a 3 hour run yesterday) I suddenly decided to run a 5k on the treadmill. I had no particular plan as I'm still not used to km/hr so I just ran hard. Ha. And I ended up running a 5k PR! 19:33. (you may remember I had a previous PR of 19:20, but that was from a relay where the time was miscalculated (too fast) and I never corrected it). I just wish I had a race I could run to prove to the world that I am fast. But instead, I will work on"frittering away" my speed on Sunday, running a hilly trail marathon. And it will be great!

Lately I have been listening to Coffee Break Spanish when I run (have gotten through over 30 hours of lessons!), but today during my 5k I listened to "Vi to" by Medina. And that Maroon 5 song "Moves Like Jagger" is such a good song to run to provided you sing out loud and change the lyrics to "I've got to move my jacket!" Much funnier that way.

And if you want a song to simply curl up to in your warm house, appreciating your loved ones "Calgary" by Bon Iver (yeah "Bon hiver"), may be the way to go.

Monday 7 November 2011

Løberen Skovmarathon: The Human Plasma Lipidome

Certainly there is something mania-inducing about running a marathon hard (that is what we did yesterday). Why is it that after going to bed at 11:30, I wake up at 4:45am wide awake, looking at my two sons next to me, bursting with love and filled with energy wanting to write a blog post? Well, my sympathetic nervous system is still on overdrive, that's why. (Chemicals, don't strangle my pen! (reference, anyone?))

And maybe we shouldn't run so many marathons. It has been 4 weeks since my 50k trail PR at the Glacial Trail and 5 weeks since both of our marathon road PRs in Milwaukee.

The race du jour was Løberen Skovmarathon, a trail marathon outside of the city of Hillerød, in northern Sjælland (is anyone who reads this even interested in where in Denmark these races are run? How many people, I wonder, who read this blog have gotten so far as to look up where Denmark really is, like precisely? (personally, despite having lived for two years in France, I did not know exactly where Denmark was before meeting SR)).

There were just under 200 runners in the marathon, though 2659 participants in the 10k, half marathon and marathon all together. Big race!

We have not run this before and didn't know if it was hilly or technical or what. But we knew it was all on trails.

They have this ingenious set-up where

the trail is like spokes of a wheel and you keep running back to the center where there is an aid station with water, sports drink and bananas. (I have perhaps mentioned before how I get extreme low blood sugar from eating bananas while racing, so I had my large stash of chocolate in my belt like usual).
Then you run around some of the periphery back to the start, where you have completed a half marathon. And then you do it all again (this time hopefully faster :).

Here is my favorite place on the route (pic by Tor Ronnøw)

and it is very representative of the race and of Fall in Denmark.

As is usual for me, I ran after pulse/perceived exertion. This leads me to start out very slowly because right when I start, my pulse surges. When I get into my groove, I start passing people, pulse unchanged. Yesterday was no exception.

I came through the half marathon in 1:43 on the button.

Here was SR coming through the half marathon quite a bit earlier in 1:27:11.

And then I said to myself - now you can really start running and I allowed my pulse to rise a bit. I picked up the pace to sub 7:30 min/mile. It lasted quite a while. I had thought a PR might be possible, but the hills and dirt wore me down too much, I guess. With 4-5k left to go, I became extremely nauseated and almost needed to walk. I thought I would throw up but didn't. I don't really know what happened, but certainly it was related to my being so nervous before the race and having to run to bathrooms/woods with stomach problems many, many times before we started. Plus I think I just reached the point of exhaustion. Better it happened at mile 24 than at mile 16 where it always used to hit me (yes, it is all about not starting too fast. I have learned SOMETHING after nearly 30 marathons and ultras).

My final time was 3:27:35. A 35 second positive split.


Relief. Not overwhelmed or underwhelmed. Just whelmed.

Feeling like maybe the burst of speed that came from pregnancy isn't going to give me much faster times than my PR in Milwaukee. Time to integrate some regular speed work.
SR ran in 2:54:17 and had a few second negative split. He took 3rd place in a really tight and tough field. Here he is modeling the "comfy, cozy" fleece from the Glacial Trail 50k. And I am modeling Piccola Pinecone's super cool French Canadian racing shirt.

I took second to the amazing Margrethe Frydenborg, below, who killed the course in 3:08:57!
Here was the podium, 3rd place Maibritt Skovgaard, MIA.
Very fine prizes: 500 kroner gift certificate to Løberen for me plus organic make-up, which is now the only make-up I own! Maybe I should give it a try.

Congrats to Henriette Lisse and Rikke Skudbøl on completing 2 marathons in 2 days! Congrats to Daniel Ditlev and Lars Bergelius on awesome PR's.

(sorry, my odd sense of humor is entirely to blame for the subtitle; this post has, as far as I can tell, very little to do with The Human Plasma Lipidome, which was the title of a review article in this week's New England Journal)

Now I return to studying towards my certificate in Global Health online.

Sunday 30 October 2011

Naughty Thoughts

Now that we are back in Denmark and I no longer have the luxury of day care for Mattias or my mom to help, I have reverted to old ways of thinking:

"The easiest way to become a faster runner in the next 7 weeks may be simply to lose weight"

Running for two hours a day every day with a baby jogger at a slow pace is just not going to get me into better shape. So what about a crash diet?

As of this morning I'm 52.2 kg. I'm actually happy with that. If I go much lower, I'll be the annoying skinny woman who always has to wear a sweatshirt while working out slowly on the elliptical. Once you get to the point you can fit your thigh in an "ok" hand sign, you'll no longer be able to run an ultra (I guess I'm pretty far form that).

This weekend I was alone with the two kids. And I caved: I got a babysitter. I guess I have resolved that it's better to spend money and get an intense workout than to rely on anorexia to get faster. Here was the agenda for the morning:

-run to gym (1 mile)
-spinning for one hour (35 minutes over 80% max pulse. Hear me out: spinning in the US does not hold a candle to spinning in Denmark. You make yourself sick with exhaustion here simply because your pulse is being continually monitored and is on display in front of the room for everyone to see, so once you start lagging, everyone knows - and 35 minutes over 80%, at times over 90%, max pulse is NOT easy! I say this so you know how totally hard core I am.)

-I then attempted to simulate a sprint triathlon transition by changing my shoes and jumping on a treadmill (this WAS interrupted by cleaning my bike off). I ran a 1km warm-up (that was dumb in retrospect, if I were trying to simulate a triathlon) and then forced out a 5k in 22:14. Holy cow. It was great. I could hardly move. But I had a little time before
-CX works, so I hopped on the stair climber and then went to the class.

A killer wokout with 30 minutes of core afterwards. Much better than sitting around trying not to eat.

For those of you hoping for other sorts of naughty thoughts: don't worry, I have those, too.

Remember my love for Andy Schleck? Well, after seeing this picture, I felt a little, well, betrayed...

And Enrique Iglesias hasn't made any new songs lately.

So while I was running the 5k on the mill, I fell for a figure skater: Adam Rippon.

The fact that he missed a few landings at the ISU championships in Canada today made me like him all the more. (let's ignore the fact he must be half my age)

See SR, this is what your weekends on call do to me!

And it is a good thing I have a soft spot for boys who like girls. Yesterday, a woman came up to The Lorax, Mattias and me and said "what a cute baby! And that must be her older sister!" Oh, my. Where to begin? Nevermind the fact Mattias was in blue and The Lorax in Spiderman. The thing is, this is not the first but the 10th time it has happened and soon The Lorax will be embarrassed.

You judge for yourselves. They look like boys to me. (taken 10 minutes ago)

Okay, so maybe it is time to make an appointment for a haircut.

I've owed you a song for a long time. I have no new running songs. But I like this song (it's nice):
Diamond Heart by Active Child

Monday 24 October 2011

Treadmill PR

Sometimes I guess you need to kick energy and happiness back into yourself! I woke up with a cold and cough and am boarding a 9 hour transatlantic flight tonight with two little boys. I've had a workout routine this past week where I run 16.5 miles every other day in Lapham Peak segment of the Ice Age Trail and on the other days cross train, but also run a fast 5k on the treadmill at the YMCA. I didn't think I had it in me to run it fast today, but boy am I glad I did. After an hour run + CX works (great core class! wow.), I ran a 20:46 5k (3.1 miles) on the treadmill and basically fell over with exhaustion afterwards, but my cold is gone. Now I'm ready for the flight. (I guess I should specify - it's just a PR for the treadmill and not an overall PR, but maybe that was obvious).

I am really going to miss the luxury of having day care at the Y.

As an aside, I've decided this persona exists at every workout center worldwide: cachectic female who spends hours on end on elliptical/stair stepper, not working up a sweat but leafing through a magazine, wearing a heavy sweatshirt. Anyone else spotted her?

Question of the day: how is hegemony pronounced? I heard someone say it on the radio in a way that rhymed with rice a roni. I always thought it was heGEMmany

Here are some pictures I took yesterday of the aforementioned Lapham Peak section of the Ice Age Trail. I may just look back on these longingly from Denmark.

Sunday 23 October 2011

I'm too old for this

That is what SR said to me as he was about to board the SAS flight back to Copenhagen. I couldn't have said it better myself. Not that he was too old. But that we can't keep dividing our life between two continents.

I'm still in Wisconsin with the two boys. We're going back to Denmark on Tuesday. And then we'll all be returning to Wisconsin once again this winter.

Since I have been in the US I have had this at times overwhelming feeling of panic that, yes, I am getting old. When I left for Europe three years ago, I was the energetic, optimistic, new-baked 20-something mom and now I am a 30-something mother of two. Wisconsin is the same, basically (other than people are ever worse at "good" and "well" and I even heard the word "weller"), but we have changed.

When you are feeling like I am feeling, it is probably not a good idea to read a biography of the Brontë family. Five of the six children died before they reached my age: 32. Only Charlotte lived to 38. They died of "consumption" (tuberculosis, of course - which turns out wasn't very accurately named as it is not the mycobateria that consumed, but our body's response to them that does the damage). Granted, they lived in the first half of the 19th century and times were different. But by the time Emily died at age 30, she had already written Wuthering Heights. And what have I done?

So that was the other odd part about our trip back: what are we going to "do with our lives" if/when we did move permanently to the US? SR was not as enthralled with working in the ER as he had previously been and is hoping to get a job as a Hematologist. But since he did his fellowship in Denmark and not in the US, it may be more difficult than we thought for him to work in the US. This is because unless you do your fellowship here, you can't take the boards and if you can't take the boards, well, at least some hospitals don't accept this.

And then I was waxing poetic and saying that I wanted to be a sports medicine journalist on the side, whatever I did. This suddenly gave SR the idea "you should do a residency in Physical Medicine & Rehab in Wisconsin or Minnesota". And we pondered this on one of our three hour drives from La Crosse to Hartland.

Odd that the next morning I read that the University of Minnesota had just a week earlier posted they would soon have an open position in PM&R for a physician who had done a Transitional Residency. So basically, there couldn't be that many people who could apply, but this described me perfectly. I wrote to the program secretary asking about the start date, not having any idea how I would manage a PhD and residency plus two kids at once. Turns out the start date was January, which I could not manage, so residency will wait a little longer. But SR probably has a point that PM & R would be a good fit for me.

The truth is, a life in two countries is more taxing than we had ever imagined, and nothing sounds better at this point than a home with routines and all the other normal things we may have once tried to avoid. (but don't send me emails with houses you are trying to sell! - trust me we've gotten enough in the last couple of weeks).

Here I am singing with the boys. I think I've owed you all a picture for a long time.

Thursday 13 October 2011

Running a marathon pregnant: Is it safe??

(This is probably not what you expected to read...)

Amber Miller's completion of the Chicago Marathon 38 weeks and 5 days pregnant has changed the world of women's running. Now runners and non runners alike know it is possible for a pregnant woman to run a marathon.

Was her doctor right to let her do it? Well, there has thus far been no evidence that running a marathon pregnant is dangerous for the mother or baby. The evidence is only anecdotal, though. There is however a lot of evidence that "moderate" running is both safe and healthy (and may even produce calmer, healthier, more coordinated and smarter kids... but Klapp's studies were small).

I ran 6 marathons during my most recent pregnancy. Almost every reader here probably thinks I am a biased proponent of running marathons and am going to try to convince you that there are no dangers. But that is actually not the case.

The fact that Amber's marathon appeared to induce her labor brings up a lot of concerns. Had she run the marathon at, say, 34 weeks, would it also have induced labor? Is there enough anecdotal evidence to say no?

She was already far enough along in her pregnancy that the baby could be born without any of the risks of prematurity. But what if she hadn't been so far along?

The last marathon I ran while pregnant was at 30 weeks and was the Copenhagen Marathon. I ran it in 4:54, which didn't seem that fast at the time, but in retrospect was probably too fast and more than my body could tolerate. I felt fine the night after, but the following week, I felt unwell, extremely fatigued and merely walking was enough to induce Braxton Hicks. Two weeks after, I was better again. But WAS I close to inducing premature labor? Was my water close to breaking? I do not know. There is simply not enough evidence.

The 5 pregnant marathons I had run prior to this did not take nearly the same toll on me. Perhaps not unimportantly, they were all run in very small races.

What would my advice as a physician be to women who want to run a marathon pregnant? Well, if they feel they are up to it, I would say it is safe, if their pregnancy was uncomplicated and they were healthy, experienced runners. HOWEVER, I would strongly encourage women who are beyond 26 or 27 weeks to avoid large city marathons and simply run the marathon in a small group or with friends. I find that in large city marathons people push themselves beyond what may be healthy for their body, simply due to the excitement and cheering crowds. If a woman gets too caught up in this, she may start ignoring warning signals that might otherwise stop her from continuing.

It is only a theoretical risk, but until there is more evidence, that would be my recommendation.

But where is that evidence going to come from? Well, I got an idea today. I am going to start a database of pregnant marathons. If you have run a pregnant marathon (or ultramarathon), you are more than welcome to contribute. You send me an email at and I send you a rather extensive questionnaire about the race/s you ran, your time, your previous running experience, how far along you were, how you felt short-term afterwards and of course the pregnancy outcome (also be prepared to answer questions about your medical and obstetrical history). It is biased, sloppy reserach. But it is likely the only kind of research one can do about pregnant marathoning and it is better than nothing. The database will be found at a website, which I don't have a link to yet. Here women who are interested in running a marathon or half marathon pregnant can see what other womens' experiences have been and then contribute their own. Ultimately, women will get connected to it, not through this blog, but through the new website.

As of now, I'm open to any sort of suggestions you have as this project will take a while to implement if it is going to be a good resource.

Monday 10 October 2011

Glacial Trail 50k

Waking up at 4 am, hurryingly breast feeding El Guapo, and trying to pump what little milk I had left to a mom who was, for some reason oblidged once again to watch the boys the entire morning, I probably should have asked myself "Why am I running this race?". Plus my left foot still hurt from the marathon last weekend. I couldn't get the internet to work, so I didn't have the exact address for the start. Despite the start of the race being only an hour north from my parents' house, I had never been to the area of Greenbush, WI before and relied solely on a Garmin device to get me to the approximate place of the start.

SR was in the midst of his 60 hour weekend ER shift and it felt so odd without him there. We have never run an ultra without each other before. Even if we haven't both run, we've at least both been there. So I ventured out alone at 5 am, in the pitch black, listening to the fuzzy fm waves of WUWM.

You have probably heard it is back luck to cross the path of a black cat. What about hitting a tabby cat with your burgundy 2001 Ford Windstar minivan going 65 on a highway? (though to be honest, my first thought was "thank God, I didn't get hurt" and my second "Thank God it wasn't a dog". But someone, somewhere might have loved that cat and I have felt bad since.

I made it to the Fire Station start and the first person I saw was Helen Lavin. Wow! She was visiting from California to watch her man, Chris Scotch run the 50k. Too bad she wouldn't be running; she was tapering for Hellgate. I love seeing this couple. They sort of epitomize the ultra community in the Midwest for me and I am so happy to know them. Plus Helen and I got to talk yoga and I laughed over the fact we ran in the exact same trail shoes. Yep, the minimal New Balance trail shoes.

This race, like the other two Wisconsin trail races I know, is run on a section of the Ice Age Trail, which winds its way over much of the state. The other two races are the Chippewa 50k and the Ice Age Trail 50k/50 mile. They are all the exact opposite of Danish ultra experiences. Rather than being run on a repeated flat asphalt loop, they are out and back, technical, hilly, single track trails in gorgeous varied terrain (and as you can guess, I far and away prefer the Wisconsin version of ultras - DON'T take these races for granted, Americans!!!).

What a long lead in basically to say, despite the odd, lonely mood of the morning, I ran the ultra of my life thus far.

As in Skovloeberen, I power-walked all the hills, ran my own race starting very slowly. I passed and passed people from mile 9 on. I ran almost an exactly even split and may have had a negative split if it hadn't gotten so warm and I run out of sports drink in my bottle in one of the 7 mile stretches between aid stations. Plus, I had three falls over rocks or roots on the way back. I even landed on my shoulder after one (I hope someone took a picutre I can post later).

Suddenly, Helen Lavin announces to me with a mere 5 miles to go that I am in second for the women!!! Wow. And I felt awesome. I was on track to run in just around 5 hours, but didn't know if my legs would hold to it. But through to the end, I was able to run the flat stretches in under 8 minutes a mile (and had this moment where I thought - this must be what it feels likes to be Devon Crosby Helms - of course, she would have won, though and run much faster...).

I came in in 5:02:46. 2nd/36 female (though it would have actually been good enough for the win the last two years - this time a girl named Cassie Scallon was there who ran it in either 4:50 or 4:15 - it is embarrassing that on the way home I thought to myself I might have misheard and the results aren't up yet. Cassie was a real nice girl and a local Wisconsinite. Edit: she ran it in 4:15 and won the whole race --- yes, for men and women!!). I was handed a personalized hand-made mug as a prize, which broke within 10 minutes. At which point, it was reinforced - there is no such thing as luck, there is only putting your mug in the wrong place :).)

Though I am tempted to go on and on about how awesome this race went for me, it is perhaps a bit too self-indulgent, even for me. But what an awesome day on the trails. I honestly don't think running the PR marathon the weekend before ended up being a hindrance and may have even helped. Had the Glacial Trail been a road race, though, I wouldn't have even finished it due to leg and foot problems, plus it would have been very inaptly named.

Here is their website . I give the race 5 out of 5 stars. Racing rarely gets better than this!

P.S. I peed in a bush yesterday and not in my shorts. Sorry.

Other tidbits of potential interest:

1. Throughout the race, I ingested the following:
6 electrolyte tabs
1 gu
1 medium sized special dark chocolate Hershey bar
6 peanut butter m & m's
Little Debbie Swiss Roll (ahhh... nothing reminds me more of Switzerland (he he))
4 bottles of Heed
4 cups of Heed
2 cups of Mountain Dew
1 cup ginger ale?
big handful of salt

After I crossed the finish line, I drank two cans of diet soda. I then rushed home and, despite all of this, I was still 4 lbs down on my fluid! It is amazingly hard to keep up with fluid losses and had it not been for the electrolyte tabs holding the fluid intravascular, I probably would have hit the wall.

2. At some point I stepped down REALLY hard on a rock with my left heel and I am willing to bet big money that there is a hairline fracure there which could be seen on MRI or bonescan, but would I ever get it checked? No way, not unless it starts hurting worse. Happily, it feels better today.

3. Finally, thanks to the comment by anon, here is a link to the story about the woman who gave birth following the Chicago Marathon (way to go, Amber!) ---this brings up a fascinating question: Did she induce labor or was it simply, coincidentally "the right time" (39 weeks)? Current dogma in Obstetrics is, of course, you can't induce labor on your own; you need prostaglandin medication at high doses to achieve that. Brings up a lot of questions...

Wednesday 5 October 2011

What really happened at The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon

Somehow being back in La Crosse, WI, I'm reminded why I started blogging in the first place. I had time on my hands and felt like I needed to write. Life was good and I didn't want to forget it.

Lining up at the Milwaukee Marathon, I was reminded that, above all places, Wisconsin is my home. And I have missed it. The theme of the marathon was "be thankful because you can run a marathon today. You might not be able to tomorrow." It was cheesy, but this s the cheese state and I got tears in my eyes.

Even Bart Yasso was there and I thought of my Yasso 500 runs and was embarrassed that I had no idea he was the Editor of Runner's World or that he was even still alive.

I didn't know where to line up. My plan was with the 3:30 group, but the weather was perfect and there was going to be a little tail wind. So I moved up to the 3:25 pacing group. Between mile 1 and 2 I started talking with a guy from Chicago. He was struck by the beautiful farm landscape. If he thought THAT was beautiful, he should start running on trails. But I didn't say it because I needed to get my mind off the trails and onto the road. And before I could say anything, something pulled in my groin around my pubic symphysis and radiated to the right. I screamed a little scream and had to stop running. "No!!!!!" I pleaded. I drank Gatorade from the aid station and started walking and then sort of prancing on my toes, trying to shake out the pain. And after about 5 minutes of quasi running, the pain was much less and I started thinking I might actually run this whole marathon after all.

I was of course behind the 3:25 pacing group at this time, but resolved above to run my own race and just enjoy it. I didn't take long before I caught up with them again and the sort-of forced enthusiasm of the people running with the pacer irritated me. Though the pacer himself was very entertaining and would in two weeks be going for the world record marathon time dressed up like a cartoon character (Charlie Brown was his choice). At some point, one of the women in the group said to her husband "you better not expect me to respond to ANYTHING you say today". Ouch. I was not enjoying this negative energy and sort of let myself slip behind after an aid station. I drank and walked at every aid station and ate a little from my chocolate stash. They were every two miles, so it was easy to get behind.

I was having an unispired day. What can I say? But then around the half marathon, I heard someone yell: "Go Sea Legs Girl!" Not my first name, but my blog name and I was so incredibly struck by this. Someone had recognized me. And that's around the point I asked myself - what am I doing in this race if NOT going for a PR? I simply couldn't run this race and come in just behind my current PR. That would be pathetic. So, with my ultra marathon mentality, I said to myself "12 miles left is nothing! Go for it!" and so I did.

Edit (race pictures are now available)This was taken right around the time I got my burst of energy. (this is the only picture I have seen of me running where I have good running form)

Perhaps it was the entire bar of dark Hershey's chocolate or the already six cups of gatorade or all of the fans or the girl who yelled Sea Legs Girl - but suddenly it was fun and I was bursting with energy.

I just have to mention - I didn't stop to pee once. How -after downing coffee prerace was this possible, you ask? Controlled, continuous urination. I mean, if a person can sweat buckets, it should also be okay to simply pee a very little bit continuously throughout the race, right? I did this at Skovloeberen, too, and as far I can tell, it is unnoticeable to people around me (I do wear black shorts).

So back to the race - the second half was simply a ton of fun where I passed lots of people including the 3:25 pacing group. The only thing that seemed to slow me down at the end was the stupid decision to drink water at the aid station with 3 miles to go. I got so light-headed! Would it be a bad idea to actually ban water at marathons and only have sports drink?? Would that be taking things too far? (Here ( an article I just ran across in the NY Times that irks me. The authors repeats "don't drink too much" while running a marathon. But she misses the key word: "don't drink too much water". As long as you are drinking isotonic sports drink, you will never get hyponatremic, assuming it has been mixed correctly. So drink up! But avoid water.)

Anyway, you all know my final time by now: 3:24:05. I was pleased, but this time seemed to be a long time coming. And, to be honest, I never really felt like I was pushing it. And I find myself wondering what my limiting factor is. Certainly the last mile, my joints felt so sore that I could not have run much further, but I still had a bunch of surplus energy. Weird. Though starting out faster than I did has killed me three times in the past.

In other news, we found the house we are going to rent in La Crosse from now through July 31st. It is actually the lower level of a house. I was not at all excited about the idea of renting yet another crappy, small apartment, adding it to the every-growing list of crappy, small apartments I/we have lived in, so finding this part of a house for rent on Craigslist in a nice neighborhood with three bedrooms and partially furnished seems so far to be a God send!

Sunday 2 October 2011

New marathon PR

Yep, I couldn't leave you hanging. I could write a really long, detailed race report, but you'd be liable to scroll through it just find the time anyway.

It was a perfect day for running a marathon and The Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon is a fast course. I had no excuses, nothing went wrong, I ran a 1:40 negative split and felt comfortable the whole way until the last mile. I ran on the shoulder of the road in the gravel the whole first half of the marathon to save my joints and muscles. (I ran in my minimalist trail shoes :)).

The final time was 3:24:05, so an over 3 minute PR. I even ran without a garmin and without music!

SR also thinks he ran a PR by a few seconds in 2:49 - something. (I'll have to update his time when the results are up).

What an awesome day! Now we're off to La Crosse, WI to see the step kids.

Friday 30 September 2011

The Inaugural Å til Åsen

When I left you two weeks ago I had just gotten my body out of the shape of a capital gamma symbol after intervals. If you had heard that I subsequently have been laying on cold, cement floor in the dark, unable to get out of the gamma position, I can reassure you that this rumor wasn't true.

Nope, the truth is that I got myself into an even more precarious position, and that was one of race director. It is probably not the best time to debut as a race director when you have a two month old. In fact I had NO CLUE how much time an event like this would require. (an event like this= 5k, half marathon and marathon on an out and back trail).

The race appeared in our local paper, Sjaellandske, a couple weeks before it was run and it suddenly turned from what I like to consider a "cannonball" run (low-key and arranged at the last minute) to Naestved's new trail race for charity. And with that, I needed to step it up. It needed to run flawlessly. I needed to get official permission of all of the land owners the trails went through (and for this I needed to personally walk up to the door of some enormous estate owners and beg and plead). I needed to seek local sponsorship for things like energy drink and prizes. I ended up getting Sportmaster, Maxim and Spar Nord (the latter is a bank that even donated $400 to Unite for Sight because they like sponsoring local events). And suddenly I had created this giant and I nearly cracked under the pressure. It also drove SR nuts. But when it came down to it, he was out setting up race markings, aid stations, etc. with me from sun up to sun down the day before the race.

Since Unite for Sight fund raising events require that I personally spend no money on fund raising, I also needed to get the blessing of our local athletic club to use their signs, their plastic ribbons and arrow maker, their cups and water canisters and chairs and tables, etc., etc.

And it was amazing how people offered to help - even some people at the last minute. Some people helped the entire day and even on days leading up to it (yes, Stig, Anette, Morten, Mathilde, Hoeg family, mom, I am talking about you!)

Oh my gosh - now I am boring you- but seriously, the night before the race I vowed repeatedly "I will never do this again" and SR was happy to chime in: "no, you WILL never do this again".

But then at 9:30 am the day of the race, the runners came. They had smiles on their faces and were nervous. They were charming and enthusiastic. They had dressed in their best race clothing and had taken money along and food to share at the aid stations. And the volunteers came and were also smiling and willing to help out. And suddenly organizing a race was wonderful.

And it was fun to try to keep things organized.

And Anette from our tri club was watching Mattias.

And The Lorax was watching his little cousin, Ayla.

SR and I held a rather flighty, only potentially helpful race briefing. And the runners started to line up.

Even I ran the 5k, hoping to keep runners from getting off course in the beginning. Having run nearly 180 km (109 miles) in the last 8 days, I wasn't going to set a PR, especially not on a hilly course. 21:17 was what I managed and that was fine.

How did the race go for everyone else?

Well, you can read Daniel's report here (in English). Or you can try to translate this section of a two page article from our local newspaper. Luckily, we had perfect weather and runners who seemed to love the challenging route.

Even Kim seemed to enjoy the half marathon route with a baby and jogger! The above newspaper article actually followed Kim through the route (the reporter was on his mountain bike). Just in case you were confused, Kim is a guy's name in Denmark.

Here are the results .

And suddenly, both SR and I found ourselves saying "of course we'll do it next year".

Plus, we raised $1481 for Unite for Sight.

And businesses have approached me about sponsoring next year. And I find myself unable to say no. Å til Åsen may just become a Næstved tradition.

Just have to add that I am writing this from the US - and in just two days we'll be running The Milwaukee Marathon. Goal: qualify for Boston and don't get injured before the Glacial Trail 50k next weekend. I am not good at road marathons (even my PR was set in a marathon half on trails). SR, on the other hand, is going for a PR and I think he will do it.

I have so many mixed feelings about being back in the US, but that will all come out in another post.

Running song of the day: Vi Lægger Ingenting I Dage by Tue West

Thursday 15 September 2011

This can't be normal

Abnormality. We hate it. But we also love it. Perhaps that is why you are here. Or you are here because you are steadfast. Or a bot.

Regardless of the reason, you get a story.

Have you ever heard of interval-induced capital gamma symbol?

Well, I haven't either. Nonetheless, it happened to me today.

I had the plan of running intervals around the Herlufsholm dirt track again. This time I was foraging new territory: I would run 7 x 1 mile instead of 6 x 1 mile. Wow.

I had a 3.5 mile warm-up at between 11 and 12 minute pace. (when I'm not trying to run fast, I astound myself with how slowly I run)

After arriving at the track, putting my music on and getting into interval mode, it felt strangely effortless to run at suddenly nearly twice the speed.

First mile in 6:32

And then I bent over to get my water bottle, and squatted to pee. And my body locked. I could not straighten out my lower back and I was hanging there in, yes the shape of a capital gamma symbol. It hurt so bad that I started yelling. I couldn't straighten out no matter what I did. Nothing remotely close to this has ever happened to me before. Immediately I thought - so THIS is my "punishment" for starting intervals so quickly post-partum. I was contemplating whether I should go to the ER or a chiropractor (whilst looking at my watch, thinking I'll never be able to start my next mile with only a two minute pause!). My lower back would not stop quivering. Ow ow ow ow. Think calf cramp, but in your lower back that doesn't go away. And then I stood up, but as soon as I stood up, I was forced back into the gamma. OWWWW!!!! What on EARTH? So I started running, still in gamma shape. It made so little sense that it might just work. And it did. My back felt better. I regrouped in 20 seconds, lower back still shaking, to make it to the start line with just a 3 minute pause total (not ideal, but I'd take it). Running felt fine - but the whole mile I thought- will it come back?And then will I be eternally stuck??

To make a long story short, after every mile, it DID come back, but always to a lesser degree. Who knew that the only prescription for interval-induced gamma symbol was MORE intervals??? The proof is that I am sitting here writing about it.

My question is: has this happened to any of you before????? It was WILD. (in all honesty, I don't think it was entirelydue to my body changing post partum, I think it is because I have been sleeping in a weird position due to a cough and a bed on the floor (long story), which has been giving me upper back problems).

So you want to know how my 7 x 1 mile intervals went? Sure...

6:32 (3 minute pause, due to Γ position)
6:19 (2 min pause)
6:26 (2 min..)
6:28 (2..)
6:29 (2..
6:37 (feeling queasy, 2 min...)

These are, actually by far, my fastest mile intervals ever, with 6:19 being a mile interval PR! (I actually looked back at all of my old interval posts) and they don't feel like as much work as they did last year. And I did one extra. I'm struggling to explain this but thinking I should find a short race sometime soon (maybe a 10k?). Maybe part of the explanation is my weight is two pounds below my pre-pregnancy weight??

This week in pictures

Sometimes it doesn't pay to be fast.

Even not in profile, SR looks right sexy...

This picture was taken just before his 4k run-20k bike-2k run (duathlon) last Sunday in Sorø. He ran the first 4k, on a reportedly beautiful route in 11 minutes. He then transitioned on to his bike and was back from a 20k ride after what I had clocked as 10 minutes --- what? He then finished the final 2k run in a total time of 27.30 and ... he admitted that someone had given him incorrect directions on the bike route. He was otherwise far in the lead, and got out there so quickly that there was no one there yet who knew the route.

But Erik, the awesome race director from Sorø Tri, was so nice to give us a toy for each kid as compensation.

Despite having a "rough day", Amy Sproston
ran the 100k world championships in The Netherlands in 8:10, thus beating all four of the Danish men there, and taking 11th woman overall!!! Meghan Arbogast set a world record for women over 50 with a time of 7:51. Unreal.

This woman biked to the hospital in Copenhagen while having contractions.

And things turned out well.

(thanks, Emily Pease, for telling me about this!)

You're probably thinking she's Danish - but foreigners are the only ones doing weird things here and blogging about it. She and her husband are from Montreal :).

A Danish woman might instead ride to the hospital having contractions with her other kid in the bike seat on the back and never tell anyone.

Here is a picture of a tired mom, who took second place in our region's Scientific poster competition. Whoohoo!

And a little guy who, despite an unfortunate resemblance to his mother, is become less newbornish and more photogenic.

Running song of the week has been Steve Q's recommendation:Tecnho Fan by The Wombats (partly because it brings me closer to SR, who has been in London all week, but also because it's an awesome song)

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Skovløberen Marathon 2011

Let's see if I can write a train of thought post on a train. Just parenthetically, it feels so cool to be able to get on a German train from Copenhagen to Hamburg on a normal work day and just get off at my stop at Næstved. Also, sitting on the carpeted floor of the train, feels like a hip thing to do. This is what excites Americans like me. Why am I alone on a train? Today I was at day #2 og 3 of a Stata statistics program course at The University of Copenhagen.

After the Skovløberen marathon Sunday, I was dying to write a race report. I have never really been good at running a race tactically and successfully - that was until two days ago. I just haven't had time to write about it, well, because of the obvious fact that I have a baby and a three year old, but also because I was attacked by fever, nausea and vomiting. The Lorax had it two days earlier and SR in the middle of the night last night.

Then it dawned on me: there probably aren't many of you who want my advice on running a marathon. Plus most of you will look at my finishing time: 3:49 and think "that's not fast at all!" But this was a tough trail marathon (!); the way a marathon should be. Trails mean no injuries. Trails mean you can run the next day without pain.

But let's get to the race (take the advice if you like):

Skovløberen (The Forest Runner) is a unique experience in Danish marathoning. Aptly named, it is almost exclusively in a forest. It even goes over the highest peak on Sjælland (Steve Q will particularly appreciate that). Some of the trails are single track, some technical. None of it is repeated except the first and last 2 km, which are the only parts on roads. The scenery is gorgeous. It is in my favorite place in Denmark to run: Hvalsø Kirke (whale lake church), which I have discussed multiple times before. Finally, there are hundreds of spectators lining the route, 8 aid staions and an astounding amount of helpers. If you are going to run one marathon in Denmark, this is the one to do.

I started out slowly. I didn't eye up women. It was weird. I just wanted to run a smart race at a constant effort the whole way. It was a new kind of challenge. It was simply going to be a fun run - I didn't feel I could expect much more out of my first post-partum marathon and no tapering. I wanted to avoid looking a my Garmin. No music. Just me and the trails (and all of those other people). I was so tired from the week before - lots of hard training sessions (thanks to my mom!) and very little sleep. I was in such a daze before we got started that I didn't even realize my start number was my birth year: 79. Perhaps a good sign?

I was also trying to make sure everything was set up right for my mom with The Lorax and Mattias. Fortunately, SR had 2 hours before his half marathon started - and he would be a huge help to my mom.

It was fun to line up with so many friends: Birgitte, Anders, Britta, Jesper, Lasse, and Daniel (who actually sometimes comments here :)).

Once I was on the trails, my mind was clear. I realized that in order to maintain a constant effort, I needed to speed walk all the hills like I had seen the day before in the Race Walking world championship 50k in Daegu. Always have two feet on the ground, but go fast. Everyone seemed amazed by the fact that I could walk and actually pass people running up the hills. And it really protected my right hip, which was still giving me trouble. Beyond that, I didn't get out of breath going up hill. People have told me to do this many times, but I never really "got it" before.

At every aid station, I had chocolates wrapped in an American flag waiting for me (a very cool system they have of delivering personalized snacks out to the aid stations). I didn't rush the aid stations. I thus never dealt with lack of calories or dehydration.

As I neared the half marathon, one of the helpers pointed out to me that I was right behind the second and third place woman. This amazed me. This is, after all, the biggest trail marathon in Denmark (1100 participants in the quarter, half and whole marathon this year, though only 130 marathoners) - or maybe it's not the biggest; I just can't think of a bigger one. I came though the half marathon in 1:53. My finishing time on this course the year before was 3:54, but I had come through the half marathon MUCH faster - around 1:43. This time I felt like I could run the second half faster than the first. Why haven't I run all marathons like this??

I played it cool and hung behind the second and third place women until I couldn't hold out any longer and I passed (one of them was a good friend, Britta K and the other I didn't know). Then we joined the half marathoners, who had started 2 hours after us. This is where the race gets hectic and my new challenge was to try to figure out how to pass people politely. Continuing my tactic of powerwalking all hills made this easier.

Here is one of the few places out of the shade of the forest.

I was second woman and no women behind me as far as the eye could see. I passed and passed people, feeling as though I was running a faster and faster pace all the while. I passed a lot of men who had started the marathon too fast (wow - what a feeling to actually not be in their situation!). And suddenly - at the last aid station- I passed a woman with a yellow marathon number on. I was in first! She looked to be struggling and I didn't see her making an attempt to keep up. The last 5 km are wonderful because they are basically all down hill. I ran with all I could and made it to the finish line in 3:49 something. And as I crossed the finish line - nothing happened. Well, there were tons of spectators but no one cheered for first woman and most of all, SR, my mom, The Lorax, Mattias and SR's mom were nowhere to be seen. Weird. I had just won ... and... oh well.

Then they announced that the top three women were in and called my name for third place. Wha???

I then saw SR and he was like "what are you done??!! Already? Someone just fainted! I gotta help out! Did you get third?"

I asked how his race went and he said he got third in the half marathon and then he was off to play doctor. I probably should have helped, but they had just called me to the podium. Plus, SR handles those type of situations well.

To make a long story short, the woman who I had passed near the end with the marathon number on was not running the marathon and must have switched to running the half marathon at the last minute. Naughty!

The first place woman, Anne-Marie Lyngbye, was far ahead of me the entire race and finished in 3:34. She is a Hvalsø local. She had run the first 32km in 2:40, but then had stomach issues and ended up with a slower time than anticipated. But what an awesome performance on that course. She was actually 10th overall.

The second place woman - well, they never found "her" and only later Sunday night did I learn that the "woman" was a guy with the name Joan. And that confused everyone.

Long story short, I may have run the best marathon of my life thus far and it was all about concentrating on a constant effort and utilizing power walking on the hills and not getting behind on energy. It was the most fun I have had at a marathon with the exception of Copenhagen Marathon 30 weeks pregnant, which may never be surpassed. I beat my time from last year of 3:54, despite probably being in worse shape, simply because I ran smart.

SR ran the half in 1:24, which as stated got him a third place, in a much bigger race than mine. He, however, appeared to be enjoying it slightly less...

(actually I'm not sure whether he was having fun or feeling nauseated here)

but he's definitely coming back next year (and says he'll do the whole marathon instead).

Here are a couple of pics my mom took at the finish.

Now, the dowside of taking a train is we have been stuck on the tracks for 20 minutes without moving because the train in front of us stopped working...