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 27 August 2011

Albertslundløbet ½ Marathon

I've been a bad blogger. I didn't announce ahead of time that we were going to run this half marathon. But, then again, it wasn't until 3 days ago that I landed a couple free entries for SR and myself to the inaguaral Albertslundløbet, courtesy of Løbeklubben på Facebook.

But the real reason I didn't announce the race was I didn't want to put pressure on myself. I had thought it would be the type of course we could PR on (not that I'm in that kind of shape); as SR said "road half marathons don't lie!".

The thing we didn't know was that the race would be held during the thunderstorm of the year and that half of it was on trails - that had turned into a muddy mess. (all of this was fine by me, though, because the pressure to PR was gone).

Race start: 10:00 AM
Course: basically a big, winding circle on trails - half asphalt, half mud, lots of turns, very little elevation change. Very clearly marked (I didn't even get lost). Some areas of minor flooding.
Distance: 21 km, DAF opmålt (the distance was accurate)
Participants: 93 (72 men, 21 women)
Weather: lightning, thunder, drenching rain, brisk wind

It must be SR that got me started doing this - but I love scoping out the females ahead of time, trying to determine, by their body & other more subtle cues, how fast of a runner they will be. It's a weird and not very attractive habit. And I probably shouldn't admit it...

Anyway, I immediately spotted Karina Hansen as someone who would likely be good competition. And there was no small prize on the line - 1500 kr. ($300) gift certificate to Kaiser Sport + running style analysis. It only made sense that some fast runners would show up.

As far as SR's competition, well, the most notable was the Kenyan living in Copenhagen, Anthony Gikandy. He looked very fast.

Here is the start line, right before the downpour:

SR started out super slow, so I was actually right behind him the entire way around the track. That was odd. He said afterwards he just didn't want to start out in the lead.

Right after we left the track, the rain came. Shortly thereafter, lightning struck so close to us that we heard the thunder simultaneously. Cool (as long as you don't get charred!). I ran the first 5k in 21 and still felt good, but pouring rain and hard winds can slow you down fast, I found out. an arduous wet t-shirt contest

Plus we had to keep running through standing water. And I thus rather quickly gave up any last thought of a PR and just wanted to keep an even pace.

I'm going to skip the blablabla and just get to the end.

I never saw Karina or any other woman behind me. My time slowed in the headwinds and on trails and my average time got gradually slower. My right quadriceps tendon has been bothering me all week and bothered me a lot the last 5-6 km. But I managed to rally and at least run the last mile in a sub 7 min pace.

My final time was 1:39:33, which I was pleased with in the conditions and with my leg. Plus I had just won the equivalent of $300 (though I would soon find out I could only spend it on shoes + running style test).

(if you want to see the absolute worst picture of me ever taken running across the finish line, see here :) )

And then Charley, one of the coolest race directors in Denmark, said "din mand vandt også". So I turned to SR he was smiling, having won in 1:19:18, 4 minutes ahead of the second place, Anthony Gikandy.

So, I don't know whether or not to be pleased or disappointed. On one hand, it was not the fast time I was hoping for. But, on the other hand, SR and I both ran 6 minutes slower than our PR, so the hard conditions got to us equally. Or, even if we are both equally out of shape, we did both win - so, we agree to not dwell on it too much and just be happy about it.

Male winners

Female winners

Great race, despite the weather.

result list

Edit: I have been really down on myself because I thought I had run a half marathon in 1:36 5 weeks post-partum with The Lorax, but it was 3 MONTHS post-partum. Ok, I don't feel so bad now. Relax....... ah. Is it any wonder my mom said yesterday "SLG, I'd been worried you had OCD since you were 9 and you wouldn't stop obsessing about your timed math tests."

Running song: øv. My iPod is non-functional again. I swear I will make up for this! (song I'm counting on being good: Hits Me Like a Rock by CSS)

Tuesday 23 August 2011

That's how I won a triathlon

Did you ever just take a step back and think to yourself "I can't believe I've become one of those people who wears a unitard triathlon suit?"

And then did you ever take an even bigger step back and think "I can't believe I'm talking about what I'm wearing instead of talking about the 4 week old baby in my arms?"

Well, along those lines, this is why I'm having so much trouble writing a blog post, when so much of my life and thoughts revolve around this little guy. But I always wonder how much a reader would get out of learning exactly how much Mattias' double chin grew in the last 24 hours.

So I'll write briefly about our triathlon on Sunday (hence the title). You see, if I were actually good, I would never mention the fact that I won (like mmmonyka, who won a big triathlon and hardly mentioned it! Congrats, mmmonyka!). But this was probably the one chance I'll have in my life to say it, so there it is, in the title. And now I will ever so briefly and smally mention the fact that there were only three female participants...

So our Herlufsholm Club Championship Tri was an interesting distance: 600 meter swim, 20 km bike and 6 km run.

SR and I both participated and my mom came along to watch us, Mattias and this guy...

The Lorax has developed a fascination with playing with toy eyes that has developed completely unrelated to my job as an ophthalmologist. It's a little weird.

That's SR with the Orca suit, which he repaired from me ripping it while pregnant with neoprene sealant (actually I wasn't pregnant with neoprene sealant, but with a baby. Sorry about the confusion). He's so thrifty. And he looks good in skin-tight foam neoprene.

That is actually me - the woman already in the water.
The swim went okay for me, though not super as I had gone on a long swim the day before. SR actually beat me - for once. So either he had a good swim or I had a bad one. Neither of us knew our swim times, unfortunately. I was the first woman out of the water, though!

My transistion was not without hindrance. I got to my bike and I was huffing and drying off and struggling to get the wetsuit off as my mom said, "SLG, can you help me find a nuk for Mattias?" Well, how can you say no?

Anyway, I found the nuk and got on my bike. It does appear that I'd lost some of my competitive drive at that point.I felt awesome on the bike and could see from my Garmin pace that I was booking it. I passed the one woman who had gotten ahead of me in the transition zone (our club captain, Anette) and then as I was ascending a hill in front of her, my chain fell off. Øv. Too much hyper-shifting on my part. But I put the chain back on and ascended the rest of the hill. After about 2-3 minutes, I repassed her. I love biking like a bat out of hell down big hills with sharp turns in traffic. This used to scare me, but these days I embrace it.

I saw all the men coming back after the turn around and figured I should turn soon, but missed the turn around and went over 1 km in the wrong direction. Øv. By that time I figured I had missed something. I biked back as fast as possible to maybe, maybe catch up to Anette again. And with 1km left of the bike, I passed her.

22 km + chain falling off in 44:45.

I don't wear bike shoes, so my transition to running is always fast.

The Lorax looked to be doing okay, driving an eye around on his police car.

And I was ready to run! That's my iPod I'm fumbling with.
I was happy with my running pace and felt good on a hilly route. I just wished I would have had a woman near me to push me a little bit. But as it was, I got a good 6km training run out of it in 26:50.

Here is SR, feeling great, and like all three disciplines went well for him, though he had not kept track of time during the race. He ended up taking 3rd for the men, which he was pleased with.

For those of you who don't regularly hang out with triathletes, our male club champion. Søren's bike is pictured below (plate wheel). It cost 65,000 kroner. That is about $12,000. I imagine it is a fast bike. And I also have to say he is a very cool guy and a talented triathlete. But new triathletes, don't be scared: I got my bike for $600 and I love it.

Afterwards the tri club grilled and ate a wonderful lunch. Even my mom said she had a really fun time, despite not understanding more than 1% of what was said the entire day. And I, well, I'll enjoy my little victory while I can. Thanks, HG Tri!

Thursday 18 August 2011

Intervals & cultural lessons in post-partum exercise

I guess when you have really low expectations, it's easy to be pleased. And I had tons of excuses I was prepared to use if my intervals didn't go well: "I'm 3 weeks post partum", "I haven't run intervals in over 9 months", etc. I really didn't know how early was too early to start interval training, but I "chanced it" (what I was chancing, I don't know) because it felt right.

4 mile warm up. Perfect temperature, almost no wind. 8:30 am.

Arrive at Herlufsholm's old dirt track. 6 x 1 mile intervals with exactly 2 minute breaks between.


You know that when you feel like doing more after you're done that you did not go hard enough. But maybe it was my legs that were my limiting factor today and not my heart and lungs?? (I don't know why that until today I had never though of going the opposite direction on the track on alternating miles - to sort of even out the effort of the legs)

Am I wrong in thinking this means I could run a 10k in under 42 minutes right now? Suddenly I'm excited by the idea of shorter races. Honestly, I never get a runner's high during long, slow training runs, but, intervals, well, I certainly had one today!

Now, let me just say a few words about post-partum exercise (granted this section doesn't apply to everyone, but I've gotta get it out of my system). I've just gotten tired of so much bad advice based on old-fashioned beliefs, especially here in Denmark.

Women are told here by physicians to wait 8 weeks before beginning any kind of exercise besides walking (happily, my midwife said I could start running whenever I felt ready as long as I stopped if I had an increase in bleeding).

According to the Danish pregnancy book given to me at my first prenatal visit: Graviditet, fødsel og den nye familie (2009) p. 125:

- "No matter what kind of shape you are in, you will not be able to run or hop for three months."
- "Maybe you dream of a flat stomach again, but you should avoid sit-ups."

Then again, if you consult The Mayo Clinic's patient guide from the US, they advise the following:

"In the past, health care providers often instructed women to wait at least six weeks after giving birth to begin exercising. The waiting game may be over, however. If you exercised during pregnancy and had an uncomplicated vaginal delivery, it's generally safe to begin exercising within days of delivery — or as soon as you feel ready."

Of course, I didn't need to look these two sources up. It was simply of cultural interest. I am not aware of any evidence that post-partum exercise quickly after birth gives an increased risk for any health problems down the road - or even at the time.

I very much believe that the more quickly you are able to start exercising again after giving birth, the more quickly you'll begin to feel like your old self again.

And I know I'm not alone in thinking this. Here is Joy (American, of course)

out for a run less than a week after having here baby boy, Zeke. Looking beautiful, Joy!

One risk I have heard is prolonged incontinence. Clearly right after you give birth you'll have problems leaking urine when you run or jump. But there is no evidence that you will have a prolonged recovery/incontinence down the road if you start running early post-partum. Here is a good review article that helps debunk that theory:

Jiang K, et al. Exercise and Urinary Continence in Women. Obstetrical & Gynecological Survey. October 2004 - Volume 59 - Issue 10 - pp 717-721.

(personally, I was over the incontinence problem after between 1 and 2 weeks when running and I totally forgot about doing Kegel exercises this pregnancy).

There has also been some discussion in the comments section of this blog about running or exercise affecting milk production. SR came up with a cow analogy that I like: "What would you rather have your milking cow do, roam around in a field all day or be penned up in a cage?" But if you prefer human evidence: exercise even seems to also be okay with concomitant weight loss during lactation. See this study for more: McCrory MA, Nommsen-Rivers LA, Mole PA, Lonnerdal B, Dewey KG. A randomized trial of the short-term effects of dieting vs dieting with aerobic exercise on lactation performance. Am J Clin Nutr.1999;69 :959– 967.

What other concerns do people have? For me, the biggest concerns would be eating disorders, osteopenia, stress fractures - but these are concerns for all exercising women, though maybe even more so in the post-partum period.

Now finding the opportunity to exercise as a new mom - THAT is another matter. Especially in Denmark where there is absolutely NO day care available until a child is 9 months. 9-12 month's maternity leave for a mother in Scandinavia sure sounds luxurious, but with no possibility for a break, it is way more than a full-time job.

Is it any wonder with the above factors that there were 1197 men finishers at Challenge Copenhagen ironman and only 169 women?! (it's not quite 50/50 at US ironmans, but it is much closer).

Interval running song of the day: Dance Floor by Apples in Stereo x 12 (why change it if it works??), cool down song by a Dane living in the US: We Turn it Up by Oh Land

Sunday 14 August 2011

I guess I'll be an "RD" soon

Ha ha. No. Not a registered dietician. A race director, of course.

And with that, two big dreams of mine might come true...

About a week ago I found out I was accepted to volunteer in Honduras with Unite for Sight (which a friend of mine, Jennifer Staple, started back as an undergrad student). This organization

provides sight-saving surgeries in very poor areas of the world without any cost to the patients and with very high quality. SR, The Lorax, Mattias (maybe Natti?) and I will thus all be going to Honduras this January!

(nope, that's not me)

And this race director thing? Well, part of the "deal" with volunteering with U f S is you need to raise $1700 to help fund their care. That, ya know, is a LOT of money. And the best way I could think of to round a sum like this up was to organize a run. (I simply cannot bring myself to send emails asking for money from friends and family - even for such a good cause - I just feel like people have to get something out of their donation other than self-righteousness/ "peace of mind"), but here is my fundraising page, since you're insisting.

For the past two years, I have talked about organizing a new trail run in our area of Denmark. My initial idea was that it would be a 50miler/80k race, but I don't think I'll get enough participants to raise the money. So the it will be 3 shorter distances. Here are the details:

What: Å til Ås* 5k, ½ marathon & marathon
When: September 25, 10:30 AM
Where: Mogenstrup to Gavnø and back again (start at Fladsåhallen)
Description: 50% on hilly forest trails, 50% on bike paths. Initial 5k loop and then out and back race for both the ½ and full marathon.
Supported by: Herlufsholm Triathlon Klub

Å: River
Ås: Esker (look it up!)

Soon I'll have a website with lots of picture and 3 course maps, but give me a little time! I know most of you who read this will have a pretty tough time getting to it, but I hope it's okay I mention it. And you're all invited, of course.

Here are just a few teaser pictures of the half marathon and marathon routes, which I have posted before:

(a lot of it is actually in the woods, but I just can't find those pictures right now)

But I also have a new one for you (bigger, better 8lb 13oz/4kg baby! draped in duckies):

My iPod broke in the rain this week (just fixed it today!), so I have no new running songs. Instead I'll give you an old favourite, simply because the lead singer's name is Mattias :) "We are there, you are out here" by Dúné.

News: Challenge Copenhagen ironman was held yesterday. Congrats to the two Aussies, Tim Berkel and Rebekah Keat, on their wins (8:11 and 8:52). Results here.

Sunday 7 August 2011

Avnø Fjord Marathon


1. I have a husband who was willing to watch a 2 week old baby and a 3 year old while I ran a marathon.

2. I had not run this far in 12 weeks and I had really missed it.

3. Morten and Susanne celebrated running their 100th marathon today. Susanne had the stipulation that she needed to run all 100 on different courses. That is how we ended up running in long, wet grass around an old airport on the Avnø Fjord!

Just a little summary of my own training. I had run 17.9 miles on Wednesday in 3 hours, so I figured this meant I could handle running a marathon in 4½ hours fairly comfortably. I thus started with the group who would be running a marathon in 4½ hours.

Granted 4½ sounds like an ok time to run a marathon, but I wish I were back where I used to be. I have to admit, I am not close to being "back" yet. This is in stark contrast to swimming and biking, where I have been beating time & distance records right and left since I gave birth. I have to figure the difference lies in the weight-bearing nature of running and the changes my body has gone through.

Back to today. When we arrived, we could barely open the car doors agains the wind and pelting rain. There is no place in the world where wind can whip up like an open fjord next to the ocean.

As you can see from the running route, there was only a very brief section (6) in the woods and the rest of the time we were battling swamp-like long grass and a wind that could take any anorexic down. On the other hand, there were no hills. And the rain stopped after around 6km. I should add that it's a good thing incontinence issues are behind me since there was really nowhere to hide!

I ran most of the first half marathon with Henriette and we were on pace to come in in about 10 minutes ahead of time. But, as I had feared, I hit that point where I simply got very tired, hungry and thirsty all at once (I remember this from my frist post-partum experience). I don't think it was a reflection of my pre-race fueling or my race fueling as I had eaten a lot leading up to the marathon and had drunk 1-2 cups of water/coke every 3km. My hips also started feeling tight. I get this almost immediately when I run on asphalt since I gave birth. Luckily there was very little asphalt today (I would not have run it otherwise). I told myself that as soon as a started feeling any pain, I would stop. The goal of the day was to build my endurance again - and avoid injury at all costs!

After 30km, SR, The Lorax and El Guapo (Mattias) arrived.

Photo: Tor Rønnow

Things were still going well and I was on pace to finish right around 4h30min as planned. About an hour earlier, I had gone into the Nature Center to get my backpack with my sports drink, Buff and iPod, which had helped pep me up. Right around 35km, however, my right hip started to hurt. I stopped and walked. I wanted to make it back to watch El Guapo while SR ran the children's race with The Lorax, but it wouldn't be. My hip would not cooperate. Here I am hobbling in after 36km (my Garmin said 22.9 miles).

not a good day to forget sunscreen

No point in battling through the last loop. It had been a good day - I was determined to go home uninjured.

The Lorax, ready to race.

And bringing it on.

Challenging, beautiful, humbling experience, with tons of awesome volunteers who made it happen. I sat down in the long grass and breastfed Mattias. Life is good.

Running Songs of the Day:

Maniac by Clap Your Hands Say Yeah (free download here)
Fight Test by The Flaming Lips