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

Tuesday 24 July 2012

Inducing falling from treadmill, bone marrow, heat and ice (cream)

Intervals (running) were on my schedule today. Perfect since there was a thunderstorm this morning. I jogged the 2.5 miles from the Three Rivers Waldorf School to the YMCA. 

Each treadmill interval is set up like this:

Grade 1% incline. Walk .1 miles, run .27 miles at 10 min/mile pace, run .625 miles (1km) fast, repeat 7 times.

1 km times
1. 3:55
2. 3:55
3. 3:55 (it is easy to control pace on a treadmill!)
4. 3:55 (guy next to me notes my pace and turns up his treadmill speed to be slightly faster than mine. After about 1 minute he FELL OFF THE TREADMILL!! and the support staff at the Y rushed over but he was laughing in embarrassment. This has to be my crowning achievement in interval running!)
5. 3:57 (oops, was thinking about the mishap and forgot to turn up my speed at the right time)
6. 3:55
7. 3:55 (I am considering lowering the incline to 0.5%, but I fight it)
8. 3:52 (YES!!!) My last .1 mile was at 10.5 mph!

Afterwards a guy walked up to me and asked me if I was on the UW La Crosse track team. I laughed and said I was a 33 year old who loved to run. He said I was his inspiration. That made me happy.

Bone Marrow & The Paleo Diet

There has been some continuing discussion on my previous "achieving orthorexia" post about eating meat in the Paleo/Primal diet vs. going vegetarian or pesco-vegetarian (I adhere to the latter). 

There is certainly evidence that a diet higher in protein and lower in carbohydrates is better for weight loss (multiple studies in JAMA have shown this). And in myself I can see that since probably doubling my protein intake, my body looks more like a real athlete than Homer Simpson (skinny arms, big belly replaced by skinnier waste and more muscular arms). Plus I have more energy. BUT, BUT, BUT. There is no evidence that humans have evolved eating lots of meat. Followers of the paleo diet get over 55% of their daily caloric intake from animal products. This is VERY high, especially if we consider our ancient ancestors, the apes, ate essentially no meat (a cute lizard now and then, maybe) - thanks for the article, Maria!

In all of my reading about the stone age up to the days of modern agriculture, the evidence seems to suggest eating animal meat (other than fish in certain areas of the world) was a rare treat. I recently told two physicians about the Paleo diet (they had not heard of it!) and they were shocked to hear it was high in meat if it was supposed to mimic the Paleolithic era. Certainly when our ancient ancestors (rarely) ate meat they ate EVERTHING that was edible in the aninmal: heart, brain, spinal cord, tongue and bone marrow to name a few. Further evidence, meat did not come along that often. So my feeling on this subject is- if you are going to eat a paleo diet, do it right and do not waste resources. Eat and use the whole dang animal every time. 

We can not afford to cut down more rain forests to raise cattle. Period. If you eat meat, eat everything and buy from a farmer you know and trust. Pay the price that animal is worth and make it a very special treat. If you do all this, I will allow you to follow the (modified) paleo diet :).

Heat vs. Ice

I just read an article in Running Times about why ice can be "harmful" for athletes. Here is all you need to know about ice vs. heat (they make it way too complicated!):

Ice - slows normal biological processes
Heat - hastens normal biological processes

If you get injured, ice it to STOP inflammation. Ankle twisted? Ice right away. Also, ice after very vigorous exercise (for example ultras) because you have injured your muscles and will benefit from stopping the inflammation.
Heat promotes healing, msucle growth and flexibility. Use heat when you are recovering or building muscle, doing yoga or training normally. 

Ice Cream

If I actually did eat ice cream, I would have to go back to taking my acid blocking PPI meds, unfortunately, but a friend of mine suggested we go out for ice cream for Mattias' birthday. Funny thing is, he didn't like the ice cream either. He just wanted to feed it to me. Christian loved it, though.

Happy first birthday, Mattias. Thank you for filling my year with sunshine and sweetness - and for looking like a surfer when you stand and imitating my African clicking noises.

Monday 23 July 2012

Living Proof

It is hard to convince people that La Crosse, WI is one of the best places in the world to live. I have lived for shorter or longer periods of time in Milwaukee, Paris, Madison, Toulouse, Lectoure, London, Boston, Santiago de Atitlan and Copenhagen and the only place that perhaps compares to La Crosse is Næstved, Denmark. But rather than explain it, it was easier to simply SHOW our weekend guests (and accomplished ultra runners), Alicia and Divesh, what we love.
Divesh, Alicia and me taking in a view of the Mississippi

Me, Alicia, Divesh and SR at Brady's Bluff (photo by college guy). Despite my forced-looking smile, we were having an awesome night.

Me, Alicia and Divesh going down "the darkside" trail in La Crosse's Human Powered Trails this morning.
(proof that we do run with others, have friends)
Alicia at the floor of Hixon Forest, two hours into our run.
This woman was not afraid of our forests. She is from Duluth, clearly.
Blurry photo of Divi, Ali and me on the Bicentennial Trail
We ran for nearly 5 hours and Alicia and Divesh showed me how real trail runners get things done. I was dead. Though how does one keep up with a lawyer and budding salt expert who ran her first marathon at age 12 and a chemical engineer who has finished Badwater and climbed an ice mountain in a battle to "win" Alicia? I learned all too quickly I couldn't compete with them! I do hope they forgive me for all of my colorful language today. I owe them for a hard work out and we all thank SR for being our "capitain de la route".

Taken two days prior while I was standing on a picnic table near the Human Powered Trails. 

I had gone on a 4 hour run two days ago and completely "bonked". It had been ages since this had happened but I had to walk about four miles home. I had taken two Clif bars with me, but I can't keep up with my calories these days of intense ironman training. The day before that was my 2.4 mile swim and the day before that a 60 mile fast bike ride.

"BOB" trail

The Prairie Loop
One can run the above forests comfortably at 105 degrees F, but as soon as you get out onto the Prairie (above photo), the heat is unforgiving.

A view of La Crescent, MN from the Human Powered Trails in La Crosse. 

This guy turns one tomorrow. He loves berries and saying "Nooni" and smiling for pictures. That is why we still call him "El Guapo"

Shandy, Dana, Ivy and Rachel. Four ladies of my sponsored women's cycling team taking a break at the Coon Valley Kwik Trip. 
Yes, so Ivy above is my new best friend in La Crosse and she invited me to be part of the River Valley Cycling Club, sponsored by Brone's Bikes, after we met at a sprint finish at a local bike race. I have been trying for years to get a running sponsor, but with a lack of serious women cyclists in the US, it turns out getting sponsored as a female cyclist is a lot easier. Too bad we're moving to Denmark in just under two weeks!

Here are some pictures from bike rides.
Taken from Hamburg Ridge

Chaseburg, organic farming town

Artistic children Natti, Christian, Andreas and Cora (the latter my step kids' step sister)
Basically, I don't want to leave La Crosse. I have been crying a lot. Tears of both happiness that we have been so blessed and sadness that this time is coming to an end. Work is taking our family once again to Denmark. But we'll be back to La Crosse in one year.

Running song of the day: Ruin by Cat Power

 Despite your greatest efforts, you will like this song. I am sure I am not the first to compare Chan Marshall to Sinead O'Connor, but never has she sounded more like her than in this song. Gorgeous!!

Tuesday 17 July 2012

On achieving orthorexia

Most people who are a casual friend to me probably assume I am a healthy eater. I guess it tends to go with the territory of an underweight ultra runner. Not to mention that any good OCD sufferer should care a lot about their diet. The catch is I did care about my diet. I cared a heck of a lot about not eating more calories than I burned and I kept painful track of every calorie that went into my body, making sure it never exceeded what I perceived I had or would burn for that day. The easiest way to do this was to eat basically the same thing every day. And I care a lot about not eating meat because I believe it drains the earth or resources.

But it was a running joke on SR's side of the family that I didn't take care of myself, after my 6 year old niece, Rebecca said this to me while I was rolling around on the ground in pain from my heart burn. She was right.

All of this is in the past tense, though, because something happened. And my approach to eating has taken almost a 180 degree turn. (Granted I had flirted with quite healthy eating while pregnant, I inevitably fell back to my old habits when unpregnant)

So what happened? Well, the first thing was my astounding realisation that eating a chocolate bar for breakfast every morning left me tired during my workouts. One day I just said "enough!" and I bought gluten free granola and Hemp milk and ate that for breakfast instead. IT WAS AMAZING the difference in energy I experienced! Around the same time (two months ago) I decided to give up my proton pump inhibitor (Lansoprazole) prescription antacid mediation, hoping it would decrease the stomach bloating/pregnant-looking stomach I was experiencing. While it didn't take the bloating away, it made me more careful about what I ate. When I read the article about diet soda (presumably artificial sweeteners) causing stomach bloating, I was in just the right mind frame to give up those 5-7 cans a day. Initially I replaced the diet soda with Zevia (sweetened with Stevia, a plant which has been used as a sweetener for hundreds of years in South America),but since I read it may lower blood pressure, I also drink La Croix and just plain water since my BP is like most other ultra runners. My waist has shrunk 3½ inches.

All this opened the flood gates. I gave up all artificial sweeteners (not only did this include that pack a day of gum, but those yucky sugar free chocolates I ate on a daily basis). I joked at dinner the other night that I don't even want articial sweeteners touching my skin, but it actually wasn't a joke. I started eating fresh fish with my vegetables almost every night. Instead of eating chocolate on my runs, I eat Clif Builders bars which consist of mostly soy protein isolate and beet juice, all natural ingredients and most organic. I have so much energy and feel so much more stable in my mood that I feel as though I truly have found the holy grail.

This past week following Afton I had two 3 hour runs and one 4½ hour run on trails, my fastest 8 x 1km interval session, 3 x 40+ mile bike rides, two with my new Team Velotek North girlfriends and one actually holding on to SR the entire distance as he went his hardest. Add to this long swims, core and yoga. And I don't have a speck of pain in my body. I feel as if I have been born again. And I basically never think about calories but only about the health benefits of what I eat- and of course my weight is the same or slightly less. And yet all I want is to have strength for my workouts.

And the acid reflux I used to have?? Well I do take probiotics daily now, but it is gone! It is better than it was when I was throwing the PPI at it every day. I have come to realise how effective diet is in controlling your body- and when I was observing in family medicine clinic the other day, I was extremely saddened by doctors still doing so much pill pushing for lifestyle illnesses, which SHOULD be treated with diet and exercise. This is 2012! Drugs are so passé.

 The bad part of this is I have become (even more) annoying and I am judging people. I tease SR that he lives the "80's American dream" with all of his soda and candy (this is so ironic, though, since he has had a healthier diet than me (I?) up until two months ago). And we have a friend visiting from Denmark now who tonight wanted to go buy Fruit Loops and diet soda - and I felt I needed to stop her "but what do you get out of eating like that??" (yet that was just like me coming from Denmark in December-- "wow!! Look at all of this cheap, yummy low-cal food!").

Edit: (I need to add this info so the above post makes slightly more sense!): This is a very complicated topic for me to explain. I love eating healthy and I know it makes me feel better and I have known that for as long as I can remember. But this odd belief that I need to eat exactly the same thing every day and limit my calories to a certain amount (otherwise aliens will kill me???) has trumped every ounce of good sense in the past. Interestingly, adding artificial sweetened things to my diet was the biggest health setback I have experienced.

 Running song of the day (for long trail runs or a cool down): With Just One Glance by Nicolas Jaar

(like a series of abstract paintings in deep, bright colours)

Tuesday 10 July 2012

Afton 50k 2012

The Driftless area of MN, IA, IL & WI
The Afton State Park in Minnesota is an unusual and astoundingly beautiful place to run. This is because it lies on the border of "the driftless area" (shaded above), which glaciers missed in the Ice Age. It thus has all of the large, steep hills (bluffs) of the driftless area along with morraines, kettles, eskers and other fun formations from the edge of glaciation. Add to this majestic lookouts over the St. Croix River and you have a varied, technical and gorgeous place for a trail run.

Races like this are what convert road runners to trail runners. A gateway drug of sorts. Your body is challenged in so many ways and you are constantly in awe of the ever-changing surroundings. And, this year it attracted some of the best road racers in the region, including Olympic trials participants (Josh Moen, Nichole Porath, others??).

Also, John Storkamp knows how to organize a race flawlessly. And with so much land to mark and so many participants (600 this year in the 50k and 25k together), I can hardly imagine a tougher job!!

My main "concerns" entering the race were Eve Rukavina, who has been first female in every race she has been in since 2005 (I have blogged about her before because she is one of those thin ultra runners I find so extremely fascinating) and Rebecca George, who has been the first female in every ultra she has been in in the last year and was first overall at the Zumbro 50 miler this year. She is only 29 and an up and coming star.

Yes, you have seen this picture before: Eve accepting her 2010 Afton Prize
Rebecca George winning Chester Woods 50k 2011

Plus there would be April Cole and Valeria de la Rosa to contend with, who have both beaten me at Voyageur. And there could always be female unknowns.

So I had no shot at first or second place and this was not an "A race" for me, but it wasn't simply a training race either. It was a race I wanted to run hard and enjoy, but not risk injury. Okay, let's be honest- I wanted, coveted, NEEDED that third place.

Steve Q, at dinner the night before, was kind enough to remind both SR and I to start conservatively since it is such a challenging course, plus it would be hot (if not as hot as 105 the day before, still hot). He had predicted on his blog that SR would come in fifth for the men and I third for the women. This was a big expectation for me to live up to- but I seemed to think that if I went out slowly enough and had enough fluid in my body that I might be able to pull it off.

At the start, I spotted Eve Rukavina and I stood right behind her as she tucked her long black braid into the strap of her sportsbra. She really is amazingly thin and strong looking at the same time. A fascinating woodland creature. I was right behind her and in front of Becky George (who, as you can see above, is amazingly strong and looks even stronger now) the entire first downhill, but then they both pulled away and Emi Yasaka (a friendly gal from Minneapolis, whose accent sounded Japanese, who was the 2010 winner of Surf the Murph) ran with me for quite a while.

By the time I got to the end of the first 25k loop, Emi was about 2 minutes behind me. I had stayed very hydrated with my Camelbak and had already peed 3 times. After I had refilled it and taken off, running down the big first downhill, I realized the valve to the mouth piece had become detached!!!! PANIC. Yet, don't panic.You can't drink from a Camelbak without this valve, I quickly learned. But, YES! What were the chances that back at the turnaround I would have prepared a belt with a water bottle in it at my drop bag, just in case??? Not high, but I had. I ran back up the hill and got my back-up water bottle and belt! I lost about 5 minutes according to my watch in all this, but I felt revived, knowing I had planned ahead well. Heck, I got a slightly longer race out of it; there's nothing wrong with that! And I had ice-cold gatorade in my bottle from my cooler. The time as I left the halfway point was 2:25 something.

I had saved my "extra gear" for the second loop of 25k (by this I mean I felt I was bursting with energy). I passed Emi while doing 6:30 min/mile pace downhill and felt like I could do the second loop twice as fast. Of course, when you feel like this, you can usually just barely manage an even split. Steve Q, volunteering, was kind enough to let me know I didn't have a shot at catching Eve and mysteriously didn't  mention Rebecca.

The second loop is so much more fun, because you know exactly what to expect and it is all so beautiful and fun that you don't mind doing it all again. During the entire race, I speedwalked all the hills as usual - which is my hybrid walk run that I have learned from hours of watching the sport of speedwalking. This allows me to pass lots of runners on the uphills without tiring my legs.

I was in heaven. With eight miles to go, I was aiming to get under 5 hours, though I knew it would be tough. Yet, I began to realize I am not the runner I used to be. I can keep a good pace at the end of an ultra now. I came across the finish in 4:51 and took third for the females (it is in bold, people, just in case this is all the info you wanted). I had an almost exactly even split, which I was proud of. But the kind of stupid part is I had lots of energy left at the end. Oh, well. Shorter recovery I guess.

Our camera did not work on the trip. We just keep getting this message on it that says "change battery pack". Trust me when I say we've tried to change the battery pack (rather we had just charged it and took put in back in in various ways!

But here is one picture of me by Zach Pierce (it's at about mile three and yes, I was in pain, but it got a lot better):

At the finish, Eve and I discussed the terrors of tapering: "I'm so afraid I will get fat", she said. Sadly, this taper, she actually did get fat and had a big ghetto booty (just like  Jill Homer's  self-proclaimed ghetto booty, which of course she doesn't have either :)).  No, actually, she wasn't fat at all and she ran in an amazing 4:21 something. Rebecca George ended up in second with a time of 4:33. Emi and April ended up finishing just over 10 minutes behind me. And Valeria was a few minutes behind them.

Ok, so SR's race went well- and he did better than Steve Q had predicted. But you need to read his blog for his story and a bit about the men's race.

But one of the best parts about visiting the Twin Cities was
My mom and Pensive Mattias
My sister and Wild Gap Tooth Boy
The following is a poem written about The Afton River in Scotland, which Afton State Park is named after. (and no, "amang" below is not a typo)

Sweet Afton 

by Robert Burns, 1791

Flow gently, sweet Afton! amang thy green braes, 
Flow gently, I'll sing thee a song in thy praise; 
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, 
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream. 

Thou stockdove whose echo resounds thro' the glen, 
Ye wild whistling blackbirds in yon thorny den, 
Thou green-crested lapwing thy screaming forbear, 
I charge you, disturb not my slumbering Fair. 

How lofty, sweet Afton, thy neighbouring hills, 
Far mark'd with the courses of clear, winding rills; 
There daily I wander as noon rises high, 
My flocks and my Mary's sweet cot in my eye. 

How pleasant thy banks and green valleys below, 
Where, wild in the woodlands, the primroses blow; 
There oft, as mild Ev'ning weeps over the lea, 
The sweet-scented birk shades my Mary and me. 

Thy crystal stream, Afton, how lovely it glides, 
And winds by the cot where my Mary resides; 
How wanton thy waters her snowy feet lave, 
As, gathering sweet flowerets, she stems thy clear wave. 

Flow gently, sweet Afton, amang thy green braes, 
Flow gently, sweet river, the theme of my lays; 
My Mary's asleep by thy murmuring stream, 
Flow gently, sweet Afton, disturb not her dream.