Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

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

Friday 29 June 2012

Speed work at 90 F? Vitamin E?

For the Europeans here: 90 F is indeed 32 C

I have been dragging my feet so to speak about doing any sort of speed work since Grandma's Marathon. But that was 12 days ago now. I'm not sore or injured and yesterday was an easy day. So the time was now.

My excuses:
1. the track is too hot in the sun
2. the treadmill is too boring and injurious

So I settled for yet another long run... until the guy shows up. What was he thinking? Nobody passes me in Hixon (except SR and Jake Hegge, okay, okay - I'm kidding -sort of). So I ran as fast as I could to drop him for about a mile up a large hill and doubled over, dripping in sweat. And after I took a large drink of water I realized it was fun. So for the next three hours I did intervals in the shade of the forest up to "look out point" which has a view of the entire city of La Crosse, The Mississippi and La Crescent, MN. Hill repeats, I guess, or bluff repeats more specifically. It was badass and awesome. And the only way I got myself to do it was the promise that I could write about it afterwards. Plus my heart will thank me for this when I'm 60 if I keep it up.


This could potentially be about SR's current trip to Minneapolis, but it is actually about sugar free gum. It is the next thing I need to give up. My stomach does not do well with it. Please give me convincing reasons to stop chewing a whole pack a day!! I know it is not healthy, but now that my belly has shrunk, I'm getting lazy.

Speaking of which, I saw a guy buying lots of packs of A&W Diet Root Beer today at the grocery store and trust me, I took note of his belly - I couldn't help but speculate. Who knows if it was the diet soda in his case. I just wonder how many people deal with the same problem I had and don't know it.

Vitamin E

I was looking at little finger food snacks for Mattias at this same store (Woodman's) and they sell little banana cookies for infants fortified with Vitamin E!!!! What on earth are they thinking? Vitamin E supplementation is good for nothing and has been associated with increased mortality in so many population studies. WHY would they put this in infant food? Does anyone know of a single reason a person should take Vitamin E??? I can't think of one. This then led me to realize there is also Vitamin E in my prenatal/lactating mom vits, which I should throw in the trash. I now understand why so many people who live in the US are freaks about looking at ingredients. I am certainly becoming one. I keep telling SR I want to get a small community of houses and people together where we all grow our own food and make our own clothing (and running shoes -which would be tough!) and only use the energy we make - anyone in? :)

New Book

I just picked up a used copy of Minnesotan, Scott Jurek's book "Eat & Run". I love autobiographies. I can already tell it will be a good read. And there is a whole chapter about Voyageur! Speaking of which the Half Voyageur is now on and it is looking good for the full Voyageur (at least in some form).

Thursday 28 June 2012

Job Interview

First, I need to apologize if you found my blog looking for information on the flood in Duluth. I don't think I am the best source of news you can find on that topic, but you are welcome to stay-  I will be discussing the future of Voyageur 50 Mile Run in this post.

Well, what the heck? Why not start with Voyageur first?
Munger Trail after the Duluth Flood by Ryan Zimny
The 50 mile race, which is scheduled for July 28th, just south of Duluth, takes place in Jay Cooke State Park where there has been so much damage that the entire park is closed until futher notice. There is talk of finding alternate routes. Some runners are discussing helping to fix the trails on the date of the race. But I must admit, despite sure doing a lot of running on trails, I don't know the first, second or third thing about fixing them. But if there is a leader who can delegate responsibilities that will help us improve the park, then I am in. The Voyageur race will always have a special place in my heart and I am so saddened by the damage in Jay Cooke State Park.

See incredible photos here:

Job Interview
Ok, so it turns out The Mayo Clinic has a certain rural residency program (with the initials of frequency modulation radio --- I just don't want anyone looking for the program being forced to read this blog) that is a 10 minute bike ride from our current house. I biked over yesterday to meet with the residency director. I became extremely nervous describing the situation under which I left a residency (across the country from SR) when I found out I was pregnant and then moved to Europe wit him. Of course, the decision makes sense to me, but medicine is like politics and you need a perfectly clean slate if you want to be accepted into a new residency. The truth is, I am not guilty of anything, but now I need to convince other people of that, too. Why do this? I want to be able to practice clinical medicine and you need to have a board certification to do this. I want to learn how to care for an entire person and not just their eyes. I am interested in the health of an entire community. And I want the option of doing sports medicine.

The interview went well, but I want to explore the best options out there. Though living here, near the step kids would be perfect.


I'm always developing something, but this time it is a study to compare pregnancy outcomes and childhood health in swimmers vs. runners. The reason for this is swimming is very established as healthy for pregnant women and they are actually a perfect control group for runners because they tend to have the same sort of healthy lifestyle. I am hoping to use the data from the Danish National Birth Cohort.

Hot Yoga

It is changing my life! Core strength, injury prevention and treatment of tightened muscles. I have practiced yoga for 10 years now but never knew how different yoga in a heated room would be. Of course, it is the simplest laws of physics at work in the human body. If you are in our town, Root Down Yoga is the place to go!

Blog Transformation

I've been working on making this blog something I can attach my real name to. My dad and mother-in-law have been instrumental in letting me know this needs to happen! I am going to also create links to the research posts I've written. Basically because I know nothing different, I will write the same tone and honesty that I always have.

Afton 50k
This race is on our schedule for July 7th and I am accepting recommendations of places we should stay in The Twin Cities. I can hardly wait for the first ultra of the summer.

I can't believe I just had time to write such a long blog post!

My dad and my son at Brady's Bluff

Monday 25 June 2012

Kickapoo. The toughest 100k in the Midwest

What if I told you that for my birthday, I wanted to do a bike race? Would you like me less? Would you give up on my blog? Does it mean I'm less committed to running?

I have a confession to make: I love cycling and The Kickapoo Kicker was one of the best racing experiences of my life!

SR and I took off with one of the many start waves from the Viroqua, WI high school and we actually cycled the beginning together (and took a major wrong turn together). It was so fun to be in a race where I could keep up with SR at the start. He eventually pulled away in a faster group, but I found another group to ride with. I met people from Illinois, Iowa and Wisconsin and it is amazing how easy it is to hold a conversation in a bike race (as  compared to running). Not surprising, though.

Here is the altitude profile from fellow cyclist, Greg Padden. Sorry the scale is missing.
The reason this is called the toughest bike ride in the Midwest is in the 71 miles (which they call "100 km") there is 6,230 feet of elevation change- and these are seriously steep hills, on which half of the field was clicking out of their pedals and walking their bikes. There are also some sections over loose gravel- and this can be scary on a thin-tired road bike. I walked one of these loose gravel sections because it was also a steep downhill. It was gorgeous country- basically a large swath of land that is almost exlusively organic farms in the southwest corner of Wisconsin: "the driftless area" that the glaciers missed. Here Wisconsin is incredibly bucolic and picturesque (and of course I have no pictures).

I raced without a Garmin or watch and took my time at the three very well-stocked aid stations, really enjoyed myself, but also really pushed myself. I began to realize the competitive side of it, though, when a couple riding together would not allow me to draft behind them, even briefly! The final stretch was brutal- a 24% grade hill!!  When I reached the finish, I learned that I had actually beaten the female course record from last year!! I had no clue what time it was or what place I was in because of all of the different waves starting at different times. I guess I finished in just over 5 hours. I still don't know the final results of this year since they haven't been posted yet.

We didn't stick around long. We were both so excited and happy on the way home. What a way to see such incredible scenery! What fun!

That evening we went hiking at Perrot State Park with my parents, Natti, her step-sister Cora, Christian and Mattias. It was a gorgeous night to see the Mississippi River. No clouds and no wind. There was such a jovial mood. We ate dinner at the Trempealeau Hotel. At one point, after downing an entire glass of New Glarus Fat Squirrel beer (on tap), I lay in the grass playing with Mattias, watching the river with the bluffs in the background, listening to a talented live singer and guitarist playing Gram Parsons covers and suddenly it occurred to me: this was the best birthday I could remember. I am so incredibly blessed.

Tuesday 19 June 2012

Grandma's Marathon & The Doping Effects of Pregnancy

Courtesy of Grandma's Marathon- The Aerial Lift Bridge on the horizon marks the finish
About a month ago, I convinced SR to let me run Grandma's Marathon in Duluth. Since January, I had suspected I could run a PR marathon. But then my ITB injury left me unable to train for 16 weeks. Common wisdom would say this much time off would ruin my chances of a PR, but I wasn't so sure.

Mid June is also a bad time to try to run a fast marathon in the US. But, Alaska aside, Duluth may be the coolest option.

 This marathon is a huge deal for the city of Duluth. In fact, two years ago when we were staying at a bed and breakfast there (when I had my miscarriage), the owner said Grandma's Marathon was the biggest event of the year in the city.

And just to give you an idea of how big and competitive it is, the women's marathon was won by Everlyne Lagat of Kenya in 2:33:14 and the half marathon by Kara Goucher in 1:09:46 (It should be noted that Duluth is Kara's hometown). In order for me to have placed in the top 10 in my age group, I would have had to run in under 2:52.

Truth be told, the running conditions were nearly perfect. Slight tail wind, predicted high of 69 F. The humidity was nearly 100%, but the runners wouldn't realize until the end how important this was, when many were vomiting due to dehydration (it was quite lovely, actually).

I was not exactly feeling perfect to begin with. I fell asleep at about 2am and had to wake up at 4am to take the train with Divesh, Alicia Hudelson's husband, to the start. The train took 1 hour and 15 minutes to go the approximately 24 miles. Granted, it is a beautiful 24 miles along Lake Superior. There was no driving to the start allowed. The other thing that was not allowed at the start was urination. The lines were eternal for the port-a-pottys, which is expected, but there were also men on ATV's patrolling the bushes! So I started the race having to pee (good thing my shorts were black, as usual).

I lined up with Divesh, Alicia Hudelson's husband, and another friend Tom, just behind the 3:15 pacing group. The last time I started out at a sub 3:20 pace was The Copenhagen Marathon 2 years ago. At that time, I had trained exactly according to the book (intervals, tempos and long runs with rest days in between for over 6 months). But I "hit the wall" at mile 16 of that race. Now in 2012, all of my training had been "wrong". I was taking a big chance starting out this fast. Yet I suspected it wasn't too fast. And I knew something this time that I didn't know then: EAT AND DRINK CONSTANTLY WHILE RUNNING A FAST MARATHON. And this is what I did. I never felt great, but I felt okay. The whole thing felt a little too much like a productive day at the office (with gorgeous views).

 I ran the first half marathon in 1:38:46.

Nearing the finish. Both feet off the ground and no belly!
When I saw SR at 22 miles with Christian and Mattias, running along side me in the baby jogger, I got a bit of a boost, but I was so nauseated that when Christian started yelling he was hungry, I had to ask to run alone (which I felt awful about later - it's amazing how terrible you can feel while doing what you love!).

 My pace slowed slightly and I finished in 3:18:38, just under a 6 minute PR.

So, why, desipte just being injured for 16 weeks, was I able to run a sub 3:20 marathon yesterday when I couldn't two years ago when I had trained exactly "right"?? (I should also note, I only had a two day taper this time, but didn't run for 8 days prior to the Copenhagen Marathon)  

I have three theories: 

 1. Fuel: again, I ate constantly during the race yesterday, well, 2 gels and 6 large pieces of chocolate. Every time I ate, my energy returned almost fully. I also stopped at every single aid station to drink and they were every two miles. Finally, I ate a ton the two days leading up to the race, and healthy food. 

 2. Knowledge of The Marathon: I simply am more familiar with what it is like to run a marathon (this can't be the only explanation considering lots of people slow down despite running many). 

 3. The Doping Effect of Pregnancy: 

 Most of you are probably already thinking it's too late for this, but let me explain. In the small amount of literature written about the doping effect of pregnancy, young women athletes in Eastern Germany during the 1970's are mentioned ("abortion doping"). Supposedly these women got pregnant simply to induce red blood cell production and then would abort the baby and get a boost in their training similar to what one would get with epo (imagine training in an environment like this!). This effect should not last more than 3 months, given the life of a red blood cell. 

But time and again, I have witnessed and heard of women who have gone on to set personal records in running of all sorts of distances after (an entire) pregnancy, though not within the first three months post-partum. So there must be a more long-lasting form of "doping" and I think the answer must lie in muscle memory. The body simply adjusts to all of that extra weight and when that weight is suddenly gone, the mother's body is much more efficient at running. I do not know how long this lasts, but suspect it is between 1 and 2 years and is likely more pronounced the more you run while pregnant. And of course, if you continue to train, you can extend the benefits out for many years. 

 Or, 4. as Danni mentioned to me earlier today, maybe I ran a PR because I gave up diet soda :).

I am glad I got the PR out of the way so I can enjoy the fun trail races, bike races and triathlons of the summer. 

Four days later and the city of Duluth is under water: the worst flood it has exerienced in 40 years.

This is the corner SR, Christian and Mattias cheered me on from during the race. Now you need a Sundolphin to access it.
I don't mean to make light of this: but does this guy think he's going shopping?

Friday 15 June 2012

Diet soda experiment conclusion & Got Energy? Tri

Every time I try to sit down to write a blog post, things like an entire set of drawers topple over on top of El Guapo (yes, Mom, that just happened and he is relatively unscathed; they were the plastic ones). How is it that moms with two kids have time to blog, again? I promised a graph of the effect of giving up diet soda on my belly and waist size. Let's just say I stopped the measuring early because I looked so much better (less pregnant) that I didn't feel the need to keep measuring, though I am not going back to diet soda! Especially now that I have found a diet soda substitute called Zevia, which is carbonated water sweetened with stevia plant extract and natural flavors. I have been drinking the Zevia since the day after I gave up the diet root beer, so clearly it's not just the carbonation that made the difference.  I didn't measure on Saturday because I was helping set up for the Got Energy Triathlon and forgot.
Each measurement should be marked as a point and not with a continuous line (since I wasn't continuously measuring myself, but I used the kid program Make a Graph, which doesn't have that option :)).

 Speaking of that triathlon, I got an over 14 minute PR in the Olympic distance with a 2:38:17. The distances are 1.5 km swim (plus run up a large hill barefoot), 40k bike ride and 10k run. Unfortunately I have had bad bursitis in my left shoulder from carrying Mattias, so my swim didn't improve much. Plus some guy kept swimming into me. See if you can find me (my initials are the first two letters of "the") Times are swim, transition, bike, transition, run, total and places in each are listed before the times. Miles per hour is listed after the times for swim, bike and run. Confused?
A few photos from the triathlon taken by my dad. SR did really well, by the way, but that story will perhaps one day be found on his blog. Outfit of the race: Bob's.   I don't think he swam in these- and considering the lack of bikes on the racks, it took him a while to change (the belt might have slowed him down ever so slightly)

Saturday 2 June 2012

Chester Woods USATF 10 miler and An Experiment

After age 28, it is harder and harder to get faster at short distances. This is at least my understanding of the biology of aging. For this very reason, I need to force myself to keep running tempos and intervals so I can improve at and continue to enjoy longer races.

In terms of heart health, it is the short, hard bursts of exercise that really improve the hearts of those with ischemic heart disease, and this is perhaps a lesson we could all learn from. So, I ran a tempo run at a race today. It was a training run, in that no tapering was involved, no Garmin and I didn't want to go so hard that my running would be affected in two days.

I drove to Eyota, MN this morning, an hour from our house, and if that town doesn't sound small, what town does? They have a 50k, 10 mile, and 5k with staggered starts in the gorgeous Chester Woods. The 10 mile race is part of the USATF Minnesotal trail and ultra series. Here is the Chester Woods Trail Run website.

The race started out very deceivingly on a road followed by a short stint on a bike path, but then turned into mostly dirt & grass and some sand trails, at times techincal and the hills just kept coming, each one seeming to be steeper than the last.

There were about 200 runners and the runner in second place after the first mile was a woman. I could not imagine she didn't start too fast. I was the next woman after her, though there were about 10 men between us or more. There were also at least two women right behind me, but by mile 5, after it had started getting more technical, I dropped the women and passed a few guys. It was grueling - but the guy I ran the last 4 miles with did it barefoot! I gave him kudos, but turns out it wasn't on purpose "I intended to wear my Vibrams (he pronounced them VEEbrums), but I brought two left shoes. Literally ouch. He really slowed on the patches of gravel but managed to beat me.

I finished second female out of ??? in 1:13:20. It was an age group course record, so I get on the website! The first place female ran apparently in 1:08 something, shattering the old course record of 1:11:38. I guess her name was Jenny somehting, but I am eagerly awaiting the results to learn more. Isn't this a nice hat that all participants got? (that's a lake behind me down that hill in Chester Woods (CW)).

The Belly Mystery Solved (?)

My ophthalmologist friend, Andrew Doane, posted a link on Facebook today about diet soda and one thing I learned about in the  article  was "The Diet Soda Belly", that compared to controls, people who drank diet soda had a 70% increase in waist circumference (this is a study from the University of Texas Health Science Center where they monitored 475 adults for 10 years and it was presented at the 2011 ADA meeting) . For a woman who must (but hates to) admit she drinks 2-7 cans of diet soda a day, I have to suspect this may be contributing to my belly. I have officially given up diet soda- for two weeks.

In the name of science, I am going to buy a tape measure today and then begin recording my waist circumference, hip circumference and weight each day (the latter two as controls) to see if eliminating diet soda helps my problem and how much. At the end, you can expect a pretty graph (if not a pretty belly). 

Here is Christian, with his best friend, Soren, on the last day of school at the Three Rivers Waldorf School. (We love that place!)

Visit to the Ob-Gyn

At least I've gotten over that whole leaned back running style.

Ha ha. Just kidding, of course. No wonder my neck hurt at the end of the 13.1 miles last weekend.

And you wouldn't understand from this photo why I went to visit the Ob-Gyn on Tuesday.

My chief complaint: enlarged abdomen

As I have mentioned before, about every other day, someone asks me how far I am along or says that I look so cute pregnant. Thus, I becamse worried I had ovarian cancer causing bloating, or some sort of elarged uterus. Diastasis recti has aslo been mentioned here as a possible explantion. He examined my abdomen and laughed at my self-diagnosis of diastasis recti. "No way that's the explantion" he said confidently.

Move onto the internal exam and he says my ovaries were like two little walnuts (doctors love food analogies). Then he made a small cup with one hand and said my uterus could fit in it. I imagined my uterus being the size of a little, curled up mouse. So, I left with no explanation, but most importantly the reassurance that nothing was terribly wrong.

The next morning, the pilates instructor greeted me with "your belly is growing so nicely!" Can you blame me for not wanting to go out in public again? ...

 Well, so much for that thought. There is a race tomorrow that will be run by the author of this blog and you will have to check back to find out what it is.