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

Sunday 30 January 2011

Skodsborg Marathon marks 14 weeks of pregnancy

There is really only one adjective which can be used to describe the Skodsborg Marathon and that is the Danish word, hyggelig. It is a small, enjoyable run in a friendly environment. Yes, all of that can be said in one word!

Anyway, here are all of the runners just before the start. Actually Jerk, who is the race director (that's pronounced "Yerk", folks), took the photo but would also run. A few of these people ran the half marathon, though most ran the marathon.

The girl to the far right, Teresa Petersen, turned out to be a woman who I under no imaginable circumstances could have beaten. She ran a minute faster than my PR on a hilly, windy, cold route. In fact, she actually started running the race with SR.

What was my goal? Well, I thought I would like to run in less than 4 hours. But, I didn't know the route would be so hilly. The route consisted of 3.4 miles of asfalt around a woods and through a neighborhood repeated 8 times with a little shortcut on the last repitition.

Jerk said something very ominous at the beginning: "No one has ever gotten lost". I knew immediately this meant disaster for me. And halfway into the second loop, I took a wrong turn, sprinting down a hill, but luckily eventually heard Jerk himself yelling after me. It was not an ideal start. I did what I always do - started sprinting to make up for lost time. That, of course, came back to haunt me later.

When one runs a marathon essentially alone, there is a lot of time to think. Especially when one isn't running terribly fast and there is no specific competition. I thought a lot about comments that have been written on this blog. I thought in particular about the pregnancy sentiment "I'm just not taking any chances". I wonder - what exactly is that chance/s people are referring to? What is the physiological mechanism behind what people fear? There is so little known about exercise in pregnancy - but why is it that being passive is always seen as safer than active? Beyond that, why is going on a light run safer than running a PR marathon? Let me put it an entirely different way - we don't go into uterine failure when we run as fast or as hard as we can, so how is it we are going to do damage to this organ, which is suddenly even more protected than ever while pregnant, by simply running hard? I don't claim to know everything - obviously no one does- I simply claim to have researched this subject to the extreme. I would specifically really like to take a look at peoples' fears and see how legitmate they are and whether they make physiological sense.

There are only two sports-related scenarios that makes sense to me to fear: 1. is a hard blow to the uterus (as in getting kicked by a horse, etc) 2. is running a 100 mile race in extreme heat, for example, not drinking enough and going into kidney failure. Bear in mind this has only been reported in men, but if it happened in a pregnant woman, toxins could certainly build up, some of which might cross over the placenta. Okay, so those are the two extremes that make sense to me to fear. Other than that, I am at a loss. Oh yeah - don't dope! Ha - that will definitely increase your chances of a miscarriage.

Anyway, despite not being scared of hurting the baby yesterday, I really didn't feel like going for a PR. Nor could I have run a PR, considering I have had one speedwork session in the past 14 weeks. And that was 4 days prior.

At the halfway point, Karen, Jerk's wife, who had just run the half marathon, took these pictures of me. Thank you, Karen!

I ran the first half marathon in just under 2 hours, knowing getting under 4 hours for the entire distance was really unlikely. At about this time, SR lapped me, Morten and Rune. He didn't waste much time with us, that's for sure. He ran the first half very slowly - with Teresa as mentioned above - and then decided to go all out for the second half marathon. The next time I saw SR, he was doubling over, saying he was sorry he couldn't run with me. He had just taken first and set a new course record of 3:09.

I was struggling at this point. My left knee was really bothering me and I considered dropping. I was running my first marathon in minimalist shoes (Ecco Bioms) and had to wonder if that was what was bothering my knee. But I honestly think it was my lingering plantar faciitis (from my old thick-soled shoes) that was making me run a little funny.

But then I turned on my i-pod. And I was pushed along by a Swede, Lennart Skoog. We kept passing each other back and forth. Every time we passed each other, he said something to me in Swedish. I had a heck of a time understanding him. The fundamental problem was, he assumed I was Danish and no Danes have trouble understanding Swedish.

We sprinted to the finish together, him passing me at the last second, and me ending up with a time of 4:19:59. This was about 15 minutes faster than my 9 week pregnant marathon and on a tougher route. So I wasn't too disappointed.

Thanks to Jerk and Morten for fun morning.

Running Song of the Day: Senegal Fast Food by Amadou & Miriam with Manu Chao (an old favorite was just what I needed).

Tuesday 25 January 2011

I had no idea I could do that!

Many of you have been kind enough to ask how I'm feeling and how my pregnancy symptoms are. I think the best way I can answer this is by saying I really felt like running fast today. I have never tried speedwork while pregnant. I never considered it during my first pregnancy (because I had never considered it UNpregnant) and this pregnancy, I have felt like such crap all along that regular running at a slow pace was enough. But I finally feel different.

I have also had three one hour spinning sessions with my heart rate at or around 90% max, so I thought, if I can do it while spinning, why can't I raise my pulse the same way, doing what I love most?

I decided to a do an 8 mile tempo run - with the goal of simply staying under 8 min. per mile pace. It seemed reasonable, but thought it might be tough since that is the pace I had run the OUC Half Marathon at just 6 weeks pregnant. Well, after about 2 miles, I realized that goal would not be difficult to achieve at all. I kept dipping below 7 min/mile pace and seriously had to hold myself back. I felt awesome! After 4 miles, I had to take a pee break and noticed my pelvic area was bothering me. But it was that same gas feeling I often get. It was hard to not get a little worried, but I have also had stomach issues the last couple of days and have them basically every time I run fast when not pregnant. And I felt so great otherwise, that I couldn't stop.

I ended up running the whole 8 miles in 60:40. That is just over a 7:30 pace! I had absolutely no idea I still had it in me. That is 12.9 km at 4:40 min/km.

I fear that some women will read this and think I am simply bragging. But let's be honest, it's not really that fast. I simply mention it because I am no longer scared. I have thought a lot about Stefanie's blog and Kate's blog. They documented so well all of their fast training sessions and their healthy pregnancies and I am really indebted to them. I don't think I would have run so fast today had it not been for them. I only hope that I can help to put some other pregnant runners at ease when they are worried about racing or training with a little speedwork while pregnant.

Now all of you women out there who think I am crazy and Stefanie is crazy and Kate is crazy, I want to hear from you. I want to hear why! I don't want to exist in a bubble of "confirmation bias" as one anonymous reader put it. I want the truth about running in pregancy to come out - I have exhaused every nook and cranny I have found. If ANYONE has evidence that speedwork in pregnancy is dangerous, speak up. (you are also allowed to speak up if you don't think it's dangerous)

And since you are oh, so tempted not to believe me, here is a runner's proof:

And, if you take a look at my current reading material, you'll understand why I get so excited by talking about running - "Complement Factor H Polymorphism p.Tyr402His and Cuticular Drusen".(if anyone finds this blog by searching for that, I do apologize, but send me an email - because we must be researching the same thing!)

Running song of the day (should I really admit it?): In my Head by Jason Derulo - when it comes to running fast, it's all about whatever works!

Sunday 23 January 2011

i-phone message sent from Target

Like so many other things, it drips into your heart - through a pinhole. I didn’t truly realize it until I got an email from my mom’s new i-phone. She was shopping at Target and wrote she was so relieved about the ultrasound.

I was suddenly transported to this happy, safe place: Target with my mom. I don’t even like Target, or shopping for that matter (I do like my mom). That is why it is so strange. It has taken me over two years to realize how much I miss the US. Not only this, but I have allowed myself to admit it.

I think when you move by choice to a new country, you inevitably go through a honeymoon phase where things in general are just better and more exciting than in your native land. But lately I have been overcome with nostalgia and an almost childlike excitement when I read about races in the US, places I would like to travel or … shopping trips to Target.

Maybe, as I said to SR earlier today, adults are not evolutionarily made to live in a country where life doesn’t intuitively make sense. No, there is nothing rotten in Denmark. There are just so many things that I can't understand about life here that Danes take for granted. I, for example, will never dress correctly. And I will never be able to say the right things at the right times. In fact, I am the same way in the US. But, in the US, somehow this is ever-so-slightly cool and part of my individuality. But there is nothing cool about it here. There are just certain things one has to do to show that one “gets it” here and if you don’t do them, you are simply a little less respected. Or people just think you’re odd.

Then there is this issue of food. I am partially defined by the fact that I am a vegetarian and in Denmark, it is a lifestyle that doesn’t make sense. Meat is viewed by most Danes as the healthiest thing one can eat. And they really care for their livestock, raise them properly and prepare them properly. This is something Danes are really proud of. And it makes me feel like turd for being a vegetarian. But, when all is said and done, I will go to the expensive, organic store to buy bagels and hummus rather than putting liver paté on rye bread like everyone else. Am I just too old to change? Maybe I've simply realized I don't have to keep suppressing it.

Why is it I'm not suppressing it anymore? Well, because we're going to be spending most of my year of maternity leave in the US. And I'm looking forward to it so much more than I expected.

Since we've moved here, I've wanted to appear as Danish as possible, just to avoid people's xenophobic stares, but I find myself becoming fanatic about things that make me more American: my cheap, ugly running clothing, my ultra running obsession, my desire to gain as little weight as possible while pregnant, veggie burgers, barefoot running, yoga, vegetarianism. I have even signed up for piano lessons to make me feel more like I'm back "home". I know that not all of these things are obviously American, but they feel American to me and that is what matters. I NEVER would have guessed I would write that last sentence a year ago. Last year, I would have felt like a failure writing it.

On my run today, I posed some questions: Denmark, what is it you want from me? What am I actually doing here? (we are, after all, going to be moving back here for at least two years after my maternity leave). More than three hours and no answer. I guess I didn't want an answer anyway.

Running Song of the Day: Empire by Jukebox the Ghost

Piano performace of the Day: Schubert's Impromptu in G flat major D899 No.3 peformed by Horowitz in Vienna (

Tuesday 18 January 2011

I saw our child for the first time

It's totally incredible. One moment I'm sitting in a waiting room filled with nervous couples. Judging by the size of the bellies around me, everyone was there for their 12 week scan. They call it the neck fold scan for Down Syndrome. I figured it was by some mistake they had called me in for a scan - but what I wouldn't do to see a beating heart - or two. Not that I wanted a child with two hearts. I was thinking more along the line of twins.

I, as usual, stuck out among everyone there since I was in running attire, for one, and since I was alone. This is generally a thing couples do together, but SR had to miss it due to work. I felt bad for him - I know he wanted to be there. But things like this simply must be more important to moms. Or am I wrong? To me, this was the single most important event of the last, oh, six months perhaps. Or, I thought it would be. But what if they just found a big bladder and a bunch of fat tissue? That would suck.

They called me back for the scan and asked if I wanted to be tested for Down Syndrome. I just sat there, kind of quite and uncomfortable. "If I say no do I still get the scan?" The ultrasound tech looked relieved. Of course you do. And for someone as young as you, I wouldn't recommend the measurement for Downs anyway - you have such a little chance and the measurement isn't very precise. Well, that was a relief.

And then I'm laying on a table with wet goo all over me and a probe on my belly. And suddenly, there is our child.

The most amazing thing is, up on that big screen, you just can't tell the difference between a 12 week 5 cm baby and a real newborn. It was moving around and had a beating heart and every part a baby has. Or so it appeared. Here's a picture, but of course, it could never do the event justice.

(Plus I can't figure out how to crop since I'm on a computer I don't normally use.)

I went home a new person, having seen our child for the first time. I wanted so badly to share it with SR, but he was with patients and couldn't answer the phone.

I went on a run, feeling so warm and happy. I even put on black underwear - as a symbol to myself that I wasn't afraid of bleeding from a miscarriage anymore. I had just seen our child move and it was doing ok! Maybe I could even do some speedwork - naaaah.

To most people in the town of Næstved, it seemed like an unremarkable day. But today was the first day one could run on trails again without slipping all over ice. And there was short green grass everywhere, trampled and beaten by the winter. This is completely amazing to someone used to winters in the Midwest. It reminded me of pictures I've seen of Ireland with short green grass and green moss over everything. Was January 18th the first day of spring? I ran for three hours. I couldn't help it. It was nearly effortless. I would have run longer had I not had a meeting to get to.

It feels like the beginning of something good.

Running song of the Day: River by Akron/Family

Friday 14 January 2011

How it began

I am in a really happy place these days. I guess it's a bunch of things happening at once:1. I'm at that point in pregnancy (12 weeks) where miscarriage isn't such a risk anymore. 2. I found the cure for my plantar faciitis - switching shoes to my Ecco Bioms and going barefoot to my step classes at the gym (we all knew rest wasn't the answer!) 3. I'm over the fever and cough I had earlier in the week. 4. Things are not too busy, yet things are going well with my PhD project.

Here's how this week in training looked:

Sat: step class, 1.5 hours running with baby jogger
Sun: 3 hour run
Mon: pulse-step-core class, 1 hour swim, 20 minute run (had to stop when I started feeling febrile), fever mon night
Tues: 2 hour run, 1 hour yoga
Wed: 2 hour run
Thurs: Pulse-step-core class, 1.5 hour run
Fri: 3 hour run

I am also happy now that we have the goal of the Chippewa 50k to train for. And we're adding a trail marathon to the calendar in light of Chippewa. It's the Skodsborg Marathonthe 29th of January.

Speaking of training for something, I was contacted by one of my dear friends from grade school today asking for advice for training for the Chicago Marathon this coming fall. First of all, I am so excited with the idea of helping her. The biggest challenge I can see so far is that she does all of her training on a treadmill. I have to admit that if I only ran on a treadmill, I never would have worked up to being able to run a marathon. I lived for many, many years in Wisconsin running every single day of the winter outside - that's how much I hate treadmills. I just worry that when she gets to the part of running long runs that it will be too much of a chore that she'll give up. Good thing the weather will get nice again (I'm guessing she'll run outside then).

It got me thinking about how it was I started running in the first place. You know, not jogs up and down the block to stay in shape, not training with the soccer or basketball team, but A Runner. I clearly remember living on Spaight Street in Madison and going out for my first hour-long run. It was, as I recall, one of the most exciting moments in my life. I stopped by two friends' work place to say "I just ran an hour in a row!!!" And then, a few months later, I ran 16 miles around Lake Menona. I then went over to a friend's apartment and drank a cream soda. I realized I had never actually deserved a cream soda before. It felt awesome.

But it is also hard to look back on that time, because it didn't take long before running became an obsession, along with the weight loss that had suddenly come with it. It was such an easy way to gain control over life. And I found I didn't have TIME to stop by and spend time with those friends anymore. I made excuses to not go out. And I lost touch - with a lot - so I could find time to work, study and RUN. What I am saying simply can't be foreign to other ultra runners or otherwise serious runners out there. But at some point, we get good at molding our lives around our obsession. Our friends are runners, maybe even our spouses (that is if we're lucky). But then again, most of you are probably thinking you would never let your running get out of hand. Or is it actually okay to let it get out of hand?

Well, it will take a while before my friend, Becky, training for her first marathon, gets to the point of the guy in this video (and honestly, I doubt she ever would take it this far!). Anyway, thanks for this link May-Britt. Enjoy...

Running song of the day: Hello by Martin Solveig and Dragonette (for those who enjoy getting hypnotized - but be warned: you might start having strange dreams about Martin Solveig!)

Sunday 9 January 2011

Could I run Copenhagen Marathon 7 months pregnant in these?

It started as a joke. I was looking up minimalist running shoes and ran across this picture. I had to show Step Daughter. She appreciates good humor. Could one really run in these? Are they made for a pool or what?

Here's the deal. I've talked about barefoot running here before. And a little bit made fun of it, despite the fact that I like how it feels. But while barefoot running has some downsides, the running shoes I have purchased throughout my life have a lot more. My biggest problem as a runner has been my left hip. I am now fairly certain that there is, in fact, nothing "wrong" with my left hip. There is, however, something wrong with me wearing super-cushioned shoes all of the time for long-distance running. I've never had a running style analysis. I've just always assumed that the thicker, the more comfortable (with the only downside being that you sacrifice speed). But I am now convinced humans are not made for running on shoes with such super support. Plus the fact that we can't "grip" the ground with our feet makes our feet weak. Now I know I'm boring most of you. But here's the bottom line:

I need to change my shoe choice before my hip prevents me from running once again during pregnancy. The pregnant pelvis is extremely susceptible to coming out of alignment. The ligaments loosen there for an obvious reason. And if I've got a shoe that's pushing things out of place, I am certain to deal with the same hip pain and very little running the last three months (or more!) of pregnancy.

So I actually wrote to Marketing at Inov8 and asked if I could try the Evoskins (above) to review. They're not for sale yet. It will be exciting to see way the say in response. And more exciting to try them if they say yes.

If they say no, I may buy the Vibram 5 Fingers. There is just no geekier feeling than being the last person to hop on the bandwagon, is there? But if they prevent injury, I'll take geekdom. (Just as an aside, the Danish for "hopping on the bandwagon" is "hopping on the gluestick".)

The English "Hopping on the bandwagon" has a slightly better connotation than the Danish "hopping on the gluestick". The "gluestick" used to be a form of bird entrapment in Denmark. It's illegal now, but is still practiced some places, apparently.

Why not run barefoot all the time? Well, I am not really excited about learning to run barefoot on ice and snow. Plus I have this worry: is running on pavement barefoot seriously superior to running with cushioned shoes? It's a confusing question for me since humans didn't evolve running on pavement either. So what is the best shoe option for a road marathon?


Now onto another question...

In the pregnancy world, my nausea is actually starting to wane. I don't take as much ginger and chocolate doesn't taste quite as bad anymore. I have had two really nice 28 km runs in the last 4 days and I find myself getting really hungry halfway through. What I want to know is - What is your favorite snack to take along on a long run. Please nothing that has a fancy running marketing name (even if it can be purchased here, it will be as expensive as hell)!

Running songs of the day (two for January) : January Wedding by The Avett Brothers (thanks again, Steve) and January Hymn by The Decemberists

Friday 7 January 2011

The worst part is the day after (2011 Race Schedule)

Let's not mince words. None of you would like to be married to me. Ok, well, there is one of you. That is, at least SR has gotten very good at pretending.

I'm neurotic, I obsess about things, I spend way too much time running and way too little time cleaning and cooking. But we've talked about all this before. The thing is, now that I'm pregnant, it's gotten even worse. I worry about things that make absolutely no sense - and guess what - it's starting to affect my running.

These words have now slipped out of my mouth twice: (imagine a crying, desperate voice) "I did it. I've killed another baby. I'm so stupid!"

The last time I said this was the day after the New Year's Eve Social Marathon. Every little pain I had post-race was somehow interpreted by me as evidence of the murder. I kept thinking over and over about what happened two days after Voyageur, telling myself that if I just made it 48 hours, I could stop worrying. But guess what, me? Voyageur had nothing to do with my miscarriage! But why can't I get that through my thick skull on a subconscious level?

The first time I said these words was two days after the Orlando Half Marathon, when I was suddenly convinced all of my signs of pregnancy had disappeared. I was up the entire night - and actually called SR in the middle of the night to tell him the bad news - that there would be no baby.

What on earth has gotten into me? I am 100% aware that my thought process is insane and founded on nothing. And yet, it continues. One of my favorite pass times: racing, is now absolutely tearing me up. And guess whose fault it is! ... my own.

In light of that, I've started to create the race schedule for 2011 (maybe you were wondering what was taking so long). The thing is, I know there is nothing dangerous here. And I will love running the races. It's just a question of getting through the two days after the race, for both SR and myself.

Anyway, here are the initial sketches of a fun year to come:

Cross Marathon over 2 days on the Island of Bornholm - March 19th-20th
Chippewa 50k in New Auburn, WI - April 23rd
Biking Trip with Tri Club & Family to Mallorca May 1st- May 8th
Copenhagen Marathon (need to finish this time!...with large belly) - May 22nd --Summer is still yet to be decided---
Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon Oct. 2nd (the comeback marathon!)

Wednesday 5 January 2011

Best music of 2010 that wasn't overplayed on the radio

Last year, as many of you probably recall, I offered two cds of my favorite songs. It was a sort of belated Christmas gift to anyone who was interested.

This year, I have compiled a list of songs, which you can download if you so choose.

If you don't know how to convert a YouTube video to an MP3, simply send an email to me at and I will explain.

I will start with the song title and artist, then you will find either a video or link below that. Yep, some of them weren't even on YouTube. SR asked me if I had received my cool badge in the mail for finding such unknown songs. The answer is "no"; I have not received a cool badge yet.

Now, it's time to get started.

First, a trip to Iceland.

1. Par Avion by FM Belfast (a good running song for moderate speeds)

And a song for running fast...

2. Good Morning by Rogue Wave

3. Belly of June by Horse Feathers

Maybe the best song of the year, from a band from Athens, GA.

4. Dance Floor by Apples in Stereo (good for running fast or moderate)

A story about a guy named Lewis, which is perfect of a long run.

5. Lewis Takes off his Shirt by Owen Pallett

This next song is included because one just can't help running fast when it's playing. And A+ for the lyrics.

6. Collector by Here We Go Magic

A song from Sweden in Swedish

7. Skisser för sommaren by Kent

A song from Sweden in English
(If you don't understand what the lyrics mean, you are not alone. But I will add that when Swedes sing in Swedish it tends to make a lot more sense. I'm not sure what conclusion to draw from that.)

8. Meet a Bear by Britta Persson

Beautiful song by a Danish woman. In English.

9. Riverside by Agnes Obél

From the smallest state in the US:

10. 20 Miles by Deer Tick

And this is a sweet song, that is not crap, because... it's Scottish.

11. Baby Lee by Teenage Fanclub

And now, the first you can't find on YouTube:

12. Rebecca St. Claire by Modern Skirts. (I think they're from Athens, GA, too).

Hear it here!

And now, from the most obscure to, perhaps, the most popular (on this list). All the way from the city of Piccola Pinecone: Arcade Fire from Montreal. One could chose any song from their album; I chose this because it's fun watching them live. But for the purposes of running, I always avoid live recordings.

13. Ready to Start by Arcade Fire

Had enough yet?

14. Ivy & Gold by Bombay Bicycle Club

Whoops, actually this guy is probably the most obscure: Jon Lindsay - and check out how young he is (no music video yet).

15. Frequent Flyer by Jon Lindsay

16. Driving to LA by Household Names

Another great song without a video, from Larry & Olga's Austin, TX.

Now, this is not only a great song, but is played nearly flawlessly live here:

17. Ghost Inside by Broken Bells

(but if you get your hands on the recorded version, it's a little better).

18. Buttercups by Fran Healy

19. My Heart is a Drummer by Allo Darlin´

20. Famine Affair by Of Montreal (no, they're not from Montreal. They're also from Athens, GA.) - thanks, Steve Q for the song recommendation.

I received a few requests to make this list, but I'm not sure how many people will listen to ANY of these. Let me know!