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 29 May 2011

It almost ruined me

The fact that I am about to complain must be proof that normally my life is pretty good. I had a crappy week. Monday was okay because I was riding the high of having run the marathon the day before. But Monday-Thursday consisted of 10-12 hour work days (if you count transportation time and the two cancelled trains) in Copenhagen. And it wasn't even really work. It was a course in sports medicine that I finagled my way into as credit toward my PhD. It was an outstanding course, yet I felt horrible and trapped.

On Monday night, I had time for a swim, which felt glorious. But the rest of the week would consist of my trying to sneak in short runs here and there and realizing I absolutely couldn't run anymore (this meant I actually ate during our luch breaks - yikes!). Normally I can run again without too much trouble two days after a marathon. But most of the marathons I run are on trails, so maybe this was an explanation for why my recovery wasn't going so well. But it was as if I had started some processes in my body; I figured my days of running pregnant were over.

My "runs" were like this:
- start running
- after 2 minutes the first contraction would come
- shortly after the first contraction, my bowels would send me an urgent message, sending me behind dumpsters, trees, you name it, 3-4 times on a 20 minute "run", which was in reality 10 minutes of walking, 5 minutes of hiding and 5 minutes of running.

By Wednesday, I decided there was no point in pushing it and I analyzed my legs, which were huge and swollen with fluid. I finally admitted to myself that it was even uncomfortable to walk. My legs were so heavy. Is this what pregnancy feels like for women who don't exercise, I wondered. Or is this simply my own fault because I ran a marathon so late in pregnancy?

The scale was not my friend either and told me I had gained almost 1.5 kgs since the marathon! Depression. AND our poor kids! Neither SR nor I made it home for dinner any of the nights last week and I had to drop of Christian every day at day care so early that he was still sleeping.

I started drinking diet soda to induce premature labor. Okay, not really. But I started thinking - I can't make it to 40 weeks!!!

To make matters worse, the pocket of cellulite on my right upper thigh, which I monitor at least once daily had returned (it had disappeared after our trip to Mallorca).

But the week of terrors came to an end. It was another longish day Friday, but then I went to a pulse/core class Saturday morning while The Lorax played with cars and hand weights beside me and I felt so fresh and happy. And then SR and I ran for another two hours with The Lorax in the baby jogger. And I could run again! And the swelling was almost gone.

Today I did a bike, swim, run and felt amazing. What a relief! I'm not fast at anything, but I am happy again. And the 1.5 extra kgs are gone. And, as odd as it sounds, the pocket of cellulite is gone again, too. And now just one week until maternity leave begins (which I've chosen to work part time during due to pressures with my PhD - but life will at least be more manageable for a while!). Imagine that SR deals with those kind of hours with his transportation every week! As do perhaps some of the readers of this blog - I feel for you!!!

Sorry if this post sounds trite and superficial - but you do want honesty, right??

Running song of the day: Circuital by My Morning Jacket
Biking song of the day: Desert Island by Architecture in Helsinki
Music I like imagining The Lorax will write some day: Stay the Night by James Blunt (doesn't every mom want their son to grow up and write brilliant, happy melodies?). I can't help loving JB despite kinda lame lyrics.

Monday 23 May 2011

I Love the Copenhagen Marathon

Yesterday felt like my five minutes, or rather five hours, of fame. When I decided to have SR write "Loeb, Baby" on my big belly, I figured it would make a few people laugh.
I had NO idea what kind of reaction I would get. All along the course of the Copenhagen Marathon, you run through pockets of huge crowds of people. When I would approach one of these crowds, someone would announce the big pregnant woman and the crowd would erupt in cheering - for me. It was totally unreal. Throughout the race, people would hang out of windows to shout I had good style, follow me on bikes to take pictures, yell "viking baby!", offer me watermelon and give me hugs. What a response to a pregnant woman, which everyone is now telling me The Copenhagen Marathon has never seen before - at least not so far along. Well, I by no means started this phenomenon of pregnant marathoning, and of course personally regard it as a "normal" thing to do, so had NO clue it would get such a reaction and such a positive one.

And how did the race go? Well, as an experience, it could never be matched. It may be the most fun I have ever had at a race. As a race, well, I was slow and had stomach issues the entire way until the last 5km when I finally opened up and ran, baby. The one down side of everyone taking note of me was it was really hard to hide when I got sick to my stomach (five times, I think). I mentioned I had mastered the art of peeing without taking my shorts down - and that went great - but the other, well... you get the picture. :)

When you're running with the 5 hour marathoners the whole way, you experience an entirely different race. This is a very diverse group of people. And they don't stare you down wondering if who can run fastest. These people are there 1. just to complete it or 2. just to enjoy the experience. I was in the happy position to be there for both reasons. And I soaked in the street corners and parks and buildings with new, optimistic eyes. And I also suffered with those around me - 5 hours is a long time to be out there.

So was it hard to run a marathon 30 weeks pregnant? Well, after my stomach problems developed, I started getting contractions, and this was only at 18 km (not even to the half marathon) and I started wondering if finishing was realistic. But I walked a bit, drank a lot of sports drink and just took it easy. By 30 km the contractions were gone. Weird, but good. I was also lucky I had eaten and drunk a lot the two days before because I could not stomach food at all and drank only small sips at a time. But the actual running part was not hard. In fact, it was very fun. With 5km to go, I had plenty of reserve and ran a 9 min per mile pace to the end. That gave me an even split on the course and a time of 4:54. I was pleased.

Is running a marathon 30 weeks pregnant healthy? Absolutely. My body and soul tell me so. Is it healthy for YOU? Well, that depends. If you think it is healthy for you, it is. And if you are in the shape to run a mararthon, you have given your baby a very healthy environment to grow in, whether or not you actually complete one - at whatever stage of pregnancy.

Yesterday sure felt like it was all about me, but it was about 9000+ people having a magical day, sappy as that sounds. There were some truly amazing people out there, not least of all the people who get so much joy simply out of cheering others on. And then there were three women. One is my athletic club teammate and good friend, Mette, who I have mentioned numerous times. She finished in an incredible 4th place for the women in a time of 2:57. And this was on a windy day. This is a woman I should be and could be as fast as, but I'm not and never will be. What is her secret? She is focused, sticks to a plan and she eats bananas constantly. (trust me, I'm working on the banana thing: it's much easier than the other elements). Then there was Scout Bassett, who ran with a prosthetic leg. She unfortunately got such bad blisters that she had to drop, but what an inspiration. And finally, the only woman who has run every single Copenhagen Marathon, Ruth Hedegaard, turned 70 this year and decided NOT to run. Well, no one should feel they HAVE to run a marathon, but this still mad me sad. There is no reason 70 year olds should not be able to run a marathon if that is what they really want - and I don't know the whole story, but I sure hope she is back next year if that is what she wants.

What do I want? To run another marathon in 2 weeks - with my husband (who sadly had to work yesterday).

Wednesday 18 May 2011

The pregnancy competition

The title is misleading. I don't look at my pregnancy as a sort of competition with other women. But the idea of doing everything right is so attractive. Just as it is in any sort of race, of course. But if my last pregnancy was like a marathon, I basically had to drop out at mile 18 due to pelvic injury. But the analogy of course doesn't quite work because, despite that, I certainly didn't end up a loser and, instead, gave birth to the wonderful Lorax.

Today, I had my 30 week appointment with my midwife and I couldn't help feeling - "I am not only still running this marathon, but I am in the lead." (personality disorder? perhaps) I am, of course aware, it is uncharming to compare oneself to other pregnant women. And, truth be told, I wish everyone felt as good as I do. But I can't pretend for a second I believe that the fact that I feel a lot better than most women at 30 weeks is due to luck. But is the fact that nearly all of my measurements and vitals are on the verge of normal or abnormal possibly dangerous for the baby?

First in the exercise dept:

- in no part of my body do I feel injured or have pain
- still able to do a back bend, can hold myself in a plank for about 2 minutes
- have recently gotten close to cycling times comparable to prepregnancy times on the same routes
- feeling ready for the marathon on Sunday

- blood pressure was 99/48? (I always forget the diastolic), but the systolic has continuously dropped throughout pregnancy
- Pulse 68
- Baby's pulse around 110. (This had me worried for a second when we listened to the doppler and I thought the baby was me) But this is just barely within "normal" (nl. 110-160 bpm) and actually makes me think the baby has a very strong and healthy heart that it's pulse can dip so slow when he's sleeping. A very reliable sign of a healthy heart at any age is pulse variability. Plus the baby's heart rate should be just a little under double the mother's.
-Weight gain 13 lbs (just below current recommendations for normal weight women)
- Fundus measurement 24 cm (just below normal, but my midwife fudged on the sheet and called me 25 cm at 29 weeks to make it fit into the pretty "normal" gray bow)

So my weight gain, fundus measurement and baby's pulse are outside of the range of 95% of pregnant women. But despite this, neither I nor the midwife in any way got the impression that anything was wrong. But should we be worried? There is a lot that is unknown. But, then again... does it need to be known? Can the fact that I am otherwise healthy be the only reassuring factor needed? Well, threre is almost always a point at which things become dangerous. For example, one recent study from 2011 (a small study of 95 patients by William To in the Australian and New Zealand Journal of Obstetrics and Gynecology) showed low weight gain in pregnancy to be associated with not returning to prepregnancy bone mass two years later (regardless of whether or not one breastfeeds). That can definitely be a concern, for athletes in particular, and is one reason I am NOT complaining or worried about being a bit ahead of my weight gain this pregnancy compared to last.

At the end of my visit, my midwife, however, asked the very poignant question: "Will you be able to get yourself to calm down enough for the birth?" Ha. "Calming down" has never been my forté and it didn't take her long to figure that one out. I guess the plan is to try giving birth in water (I tried it last time, but it didn't work out) and she's trained in acupuncture for pain control, so that will probably also come in handy. But yeah, getting an epidural and falling asleep seemed to be what it took last time, but it sure would be nice to experience labor naturally.

In other news, I have mastered the art of peeing with shorts on and not getting wet. Now that I pee approximately every 9 minutes during my first hour of running, this will be extremely practical at the Copenhagen Marathon (where there is a sad paucity of bushes and trees!).

Running song of the day: Naked Kids by Group Love (a nice summer song)

But an even better sound is Natali reading to The Lorax right next to me. These are happy days...

Saturday 14 May 2011

Copenhagen Marathon

I probably shouldn't have. And even if it is a good idea, I probably shouldn't tell you all about. But here goes: I signed up for the Copenhagen Marathon next weekend.

I am, however, breaking one of my cardinal rules of running in prenancy. Yes, whether or not you want to know, I am going to tell you what those rules are:

1. Cross train
2. Do intense core exercises 2-3 times a week, focussing on back and thighs
3. Run almost exclusively on trails (roads serve only as access to trails)
4. Run in minimalist trail shoes

So yeah, running a marathon on exclusively hard surfaces is not the brightest idea if I want to make it through this pregnancy uninjured. BUT:

1. The excitement of a big city marathon is hard to resist (plus it is kind of my city)
2. It is a flat, easy route
3. I can sign up for half price because I am a student at the University of Copenhagen
4. SR's parents offered to watch the kids
5. I will be in Copenhagen anyway the night before with SR, who is on call over the weekend
6. I went on a pain-free, wonderful 3 hour run today, making me think the marathon distance is still manageable at this point in pregnancy
7. I will be at a sports medicine course all next week so (ironically enough) I'll barely have time to exercise
8. It's a chance to see friends
9. I love the idea of people smiling at the big belly (yes, I admit it)

All of these stars aligning made me realize I couldn't NOT run it. Plus, if anything hurts, I'll just stop (right?).

And most importantly, I have to remind myself over and over: One should never run to prove anything. Well, other people can; sure, that's up to them. But I think the only healthy way of looking at it is - One should run because one loves to run. And if I look at it that way, I am simply excited for next Sunday.

Tuesday 10 May 2011

Mega-Llorca: All of the training, none of the guilt

I recently read an aritcle in Politiken, which discussed a woman who loved running marathons and how her guilt made her "see the light", give up running and return to doing things on weekends that normal women do: watching the kids and tending to the house.

Of course this article would never have been written about a man and that pissed me off.

But I DO sometimes feel guilty about training a lot - and the guilt stems from SR not being there with me. Having kids has out of necessity led us to a schedule where SR and I almost never can run, bike or swim together because one of us has to watch the kids. And when I'm out there longer than him, I feel bad (well a little).

But on the island of Mallorca, everything was suddenly different. We had a full time live-in babysitter along for the week (AND she's interested in being an Au Pair for us in the future!). So SR and I had a large part of the day together to train with our triathlon club and then the second half of the day was spent with the kids. What a dream!

And guess what - the kids loved it, too!

Just to give a little background, Mallorca/Majorca/Mega Llorca (the third being The Lorax's name for it) is a large island off of the east coast of Spain, where Catalan is the official language, but Majorquis is the local dialect. It is an island of extremely diverse geography and is filled with tourists from all over Europe, though the Brits were the ones who made their presence most obvious.

Anyhow, you know it wasn't Americans who wanted "mushy peas". Must be the Atlantic that divides us because SR thought they sounded good and Natali and I were both like - "um, gross!"

So our training schedule looked like this (some of this was on my own or just with SR and/or Anette):

Day 1: 80km cycle in Formentor mountains

Day 2: 3 hour barefoot run on the beach

Day 3: 72 km cycle flat

Day 4: Half marathon on sand and in Albufuera trails

Day 5: 101 km mountain cycle (and there's proof just below that I did it - the longest ride I've ever been on and SR's second longest)

Day 6: 4 hour barefoot run on sand (yep, I was alone - SR left with Natali one day early)

(what a difference from my last pregnancy where I coulnd't run a step bewteen weeks 26 and 36 due to SI joint problems)

Here are SR and Anette on our 101 km ride.

Here is SR on that same ride.

The heights on our mountain rides scared the shit out of me, to put it mildly. I thus used my brakes way too much on the downhills, but it got better with time.

Here I am in the Formentor Mountains. I had adjusted my handles so I sat more upright and biking was no longer uncomfortable.

And training wasn't all we did.

Okay, I just have to say one thing about the above picture - I must be one of the only women in the world who looks better in a bikini 28 weeks pregnant than I do non-pregnant. I guess I better enjoy it for the very short time it lasts.

Just in case you couldn't tell, The Lorax really is eating an apple naked in the ocean with sandals on.

I can't recommend Mallorca enough, despite it being very touristy. Please feel free to contact me if you want advice on a trip to this gorgeous island.

I got so sick of my running songs while I was there. But on my run today, I really got into a new song by Architecture in Helsinki called "Contact High".

Sunday 1 May 2011

Red Front Marathon

YES!! I could run a marathon 27 weeks pregnant!!

Now, pay attention: this post is in reverse chronological order.

Here was my Garmin, displaying the time and distance from today's Skodsborg Red Front Marathon.

Yes, the distance is important, because I was 1 mile short of 26.2; I got a bit off course - but when everyone is waiting for you to finish after nearly 5 hours, you don't really feel like asking to run one extra mile.

(okay, this post really needn't be in the second person)

Here is my happy family afterwards ejoying the beautiful woods in Skodsborg. Yes, SR ran too, but he had time to drive home, shower and pick up the kids between the time he finished and I finished.

The Lorax cops a feel after I come across the finish line. "Mor! Du har løbet mange gange!" ("Mom! You have run many times!"), he exclaimed gleefully.

I was still running by the time I crossed the finish line. There was actually very little walking and only up the hills. I had Braxton Hicks, but really not that bad.

Here I am (picture à la Tor Ronnow)

walking up one of those hills. Natali, looking beautiful, waiting patiently for her step-mom.

Lots of friends tooday:

May-Britt, Søren & Jerk

Henriette and ??

Jakob and Lars

And pretty scenes repeated 7 times - almost 100% on dirt trails.

Thanks, Karen, for this photo!

Full-body shot at the halfway point. Yes, I am as fat as I look. 59.4 kg of voluptuous pregnant woman (that's a 5.4 extra kilos of love, folks)

SR runs with power by an old black truck. Sexy.

Great pic again, Karen

Here is the start. We are all in red because on May 1st, Danes celebrate Socialism or, as Jerk said, "the idealism of their youth".

Here is SR, who is probably not thinking about socialism. If he was thinking strategy, he didn't really use it since he ran almost two laps with me and finished in 3:45, which actually was not too far behind the winner - it's a tough course, come to think of it.

Sorry about the short post - but we are off to Mallorca for a week tomorrow, so we have to get ready!

Running song of the day: The Past is a Grotesque Animal by Of Montreal (A stunning - and long - song, by a psychiatrically disturbed man, who invites you to join him in his bizarre world. From one of the best albums ever made.)