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 31 August 2012

No!!! Whoever heard of a short track?

Before I started delving into the possible explanations of my sudden amazing runner status, I just HAD to measure the track I ran my PR 5000 on. Well garmin said .23 miles for one lap. Shouldn't it be .2485 for 400 meters? I measured again - same. I am just exactly this anal: I went to another track. This one was being used the day I ran my 5000. It measured .24 per lap, just two small steps under .25. So we have a good track in town and a bad one.

Why would anyone create a high school track that is just a liiiittle too short? Or is the Garmin signal weak because it is surrounded by woods? I don't know. But this is aggravating. And I am a wife and mother of three kids (right now) and I really should just let this go! Haha. But I won't.

 In better news, the day after the 5000, I took 2:40 off of my Villa Gallina trail 10k/9.5k race time from two years ago. I ran it in 40:06. This is a very hilly course in Hesede woods. I got 1st woman and 4th overall out of 138 participants. It is amazing what the confidence of the 5000 the day before did for me! I came through 5k in 20:10 and then because it is a short course, it looked like I had a negative split. And it is short, though longer than 9.5k according to my garmin from 2 years ago.

 So when does one believe a garmin? When does one believe a track? Of course it's not as important as the fact that I know I'm improving. It's just too bad I'm injured now after another marathon on Tuesday and intervals yesterday (right gluteal strain).

And finally, to end on a really good note: step daughter Natti is running intervals now, too! And she loves it. Not only that, but she can almost beat me at a 25 meter sprint in the pool. I think she has real potential as a junior triathlete. I remember the old days of this blog when I said she was my best friend. Well, I often feel the old days are back.

 Currently reading: The Hours by Michael Cunningham. It is giving me nightmares!

 Good luck to Amy Sproston and Jill Homer at UTMB! Check out irunfar's live twitter feed  here.  Ok, I'm at the Glumsø train stop which means I am almost home :).

Saturday 25 August 2012

The sub 18:30 5k

It was a stressful morning. SR and I had planned on running a 5k relay in Ringsted this afternoon, but Natti, understandably, said she didn't want to babysit two kids at a race. I was tired, had a headache and my decision making capacity was limited. Probably no mom likes the idea of forcing their kids into coming to a race just to watch. Maybe we'd just hang out with the kids at the house and get some cleaning done???

I soon realized I was so mentally prepared to run a 5k that could not physically take sitting around and doing nothing. Especially after having tapered yesterday.

Then SR had an idea: "I'll pace you to a 5k PR on the track". At first I was hesitant because I didn't know if I had it in me to run a PR without competition. Then again, my PR was so weak (19:46) compared to my recent interval times, that I almost felt I could run a PR in my sleep. Natti was willing to babysit for the hour or so that it might take with the warmup and everything, so we set out: 1 mile through the woods to the track.

At the track, SR had me doing all sorts of weird stuff: strides, run fast, run slow, shuffle, jump up and down and squat, hand springs, etc.. I honestly have no idea what these moves are called nor what their purpose is ... and trust me I was questioning why he was making me look like an idiot with all of this. Even he couldn't help laughing at my clumsiness. But I do agree with him that a long warm up for an old woman like me is essential! I knew I needed to do at least two miles at close to race pace just to get up to my potential fast speed. The plan was for him to run the 12 ½ laps at exactly 19.30 speed and then I would attempt to pull out ahead of him at the end for a PR.

After the first two laps, we could both tell the pace was too slow, so he very gradually just kept speeding up in front of me and I simply followed him. He would shout out the splits after every lap. My mile splits ended up being 6:03, 5:55 and 5:47. Plus the 0.1 miles of course adds up to 18:28!

I fell over apparently very dramatically at the finish - so happy I had done it. I had no idea I had it in me. I figured maybe a sub 19 - but a sub 18:30??? SR had shouted to me with two laps to go: "this is the fastest you will ever run a 5k in your life - so GO FOR IT!!!" I had asked him for no positive or negative feedback the whole run - just "empirical evidence" as I had said. But a little encouragement did help.

The secrets of the fast time:
-the track is very shielded from wind
-the temperature was just around 50 F
- I "drafted" off of SR almost the whole way
- We didn't start out too fast
- I have been religiously doing interval training
- SR knows how to pace; he would speed up and slow down based simply on subtleties in my breathing pattern.

Thank you to my husband. I love you!

Ok. I'm glad I got that 5k out of my system. But does this explain why when I am lying in bed at night I feel like my heart stops - and I awake from a half sleep? Is it just a sign of being in good cardiovascular shape? Does this ever happen to you guys? My favorite chapter in "Once a Runner" is a sort of inner monologue with Quentin Cassidy where he is laying in bed and afraid of the way he heart is beating. "This is what it feels like to be in 4 minute mile shape" he thinks. Of course I'm far from that, but is this what is going on?

After an effort like that cleaning and playing soccer with the kids sure feels great! I love it that both Natti and Christian are so into soccer and both have teams the enjoy practicing with.

---- 2 marathons in 3 days----

Earlier this week, on Sunday and Tuesday, I ran a marathon with my friend Anette Fredskov Jensen and others. Anette lives right here in Næstved and has MS. She realized that running long distances seemed to make her symptoms disappear. She eventually decided to go for the world record in number of marathons run in a year: 366. She has now run 41 marathons in the last 41 days.

Fredskov Marathon - Sunday Aug 19th. This one I ran in 3:44 with the company of  Nicolas (light blue, upper left)

Fredskov Marathon - Tuesday Aug 21st. My time was 3:55. Annette is of course the one in red. 

The Fredskov Marathon is a nice route with a mixture of trails, roads, flats and hills. Here is Annette's website. What she is doing is incredible - and she says she has never felt better. Her times are getting faster, too. Yesterday she ran in 4:32. Thanks to her parents for opening up their house for these races! What a luxury to have a real toilet at the aid station!

---- "Clif" Bars ---

In other news, I getting closer to perfecting my imitation of the Clif Builder's Bar - chocolate flavor. We calculated that if I ordered them from, they would cost over $5 a bar. Wuhoow. (okay, I just like the thought of you all trying to pronounce that). The only hard part was drying out tofu since they don't sell soy powder here. Any thoughts?

Thursday 16 August 2012

Challenge Copenhagen ironman and our Move to Denmark

A life in flux.
An American Dane and a Danish American.
Young mom ironman woman.
Tired and manic.
Desperate but happy.
Two homes rather than none.

We have been back in Denmark almost two weeks now. And everyone is actually doing well. Strange how we all seemed to dread coming back to Denmark, but love it now that we are here. I keep telling myself- it is ok to have two homes and two nationalities, despite it not being legal. No governing body can tell me where my heart is. It is good to have a husband who knows exactly how I feel. Christian, Natti and Mattias will always have a home both places, though.
I competed in Challenge Copenhagen ironman distance triathlon on Sunday and God, I adore this country. The swim, bike and run were all gorgeous. I wish everyone who loved triathlon could experience this event. And in perfect weather. Skønt as the Danes say. But more on that in a moment.

Today, in my new training mindset: no running if it is not killer, I ran intervals. Better to rest than stay the same. Better to go swimming in the murk of the Suså river with friends (instead of showering) than to waste my running legs on a blah slow run.

Today, 4 days post ironman, was intervals because I felt like it. 6 x 1 mile on the dirt track. (I'm still hesitant about getting a running coach because there is not enough room for the "I felt like it",)

Mile 1: 6:29 (uh oh - run to the woods with stomach...- body not happy with me - wake up! I say to body!)
Mile 2: 6:26 (run to woods - again!)
Mile 3: 6:31 (run to woods #3)
Mile 4: 6:34 50 second rest
- uh oh high school kids from Herlufshom boarding school are coming to the track for gym class. Rather than leaving, I decide to compete with the boys)
Mile 5: 6:18 -ok now we're talking. (Thanks for the inspiration 14 year old boys!) At this point one boy asks me to take off my clothes and put on his uniform. "Ellers tak" was my best Danish response "Otherwise thanks" :). 1:30 break
Mile 6: (started behind one boy who looked to be in decent shape) raced the boy for the whole 4 laps -- time 5:52!!! Woohoo. Fastest mile interval ever. Thank you young boy! Nothing like a spontaneous race. I then walked very carefully to the woods with stomach problems, without getting to thank him.

Challenge Copenhagen

In some ways my frustrations, fears and concerns about raising kids into such a chaotic life could be sublimated, if you will, by turning into an ironman athlete. Especially since I feel like I will never succeed as an iron mom. And that's exactly the type of mom they need at this moment.

 The boring race details...
Swim 3.8km - as planned 1:37
Bike 180 km - far from as planned. The biggest problem was the bike clip falling off of my shoe after 20 miles!! I got it repaired 25 miles later but by that time my left leg was really hurting from biking so strangely. Time was something over 6 hours. 6:13 I think.
 Run 42.2 km - just enjoyed it and hoped to get under 4 hours, which I did: 3:52

I finished in 12:13, which was almost an hour slower than I had predicted in January! But I was so grateful to be able to complete it after the shoe affair.


Christian and I spent the day at Amager Strand the day before the triathlon. Tapering days are fun when you have kids.

This is where the Challenge Copenhagen swim would be held the next day. Christian was contemplating sand castles.
Race Day:

Since I am so fortunate to have a great photographer husband, Rasmus, and friend, Martin Paldan, who took pictures of the entire triathlon, I will simply narrate their photos.

When the morning of the race arrives, 99% of the work is done both for the participants and the families. Photo: Martin Paldan.

At 7:05 AM I'm pretty sure my dive into the water looked something like this. Photo by Martin Paldan.

My transitions were not fast. Okay, in all honesty, this was before the swim.. Photo: Martin Paldan

My bike mount was brontosaurusoid. I was about to ride 70km further than I'd ever ridden on a bike I had finally gotten to fit me 3 days earlier (tri stems are magic!).

The beginning of the bike ride was awesome. 31 km/hour average. This is the speed I had planned on for the entire distance... Photo: Martin Paldan
My shoe clip had already fallen off here, but I was still having fun. Photo: Martin Paldan
Twice during the bike we rode over wicked cobblestone streets. I'm sure they were really nice in the days of  Søren Kirkegaard- but during a tri??? Photo: Martin Paldan
Here is my spinning instructor, Anders Ploug. Grab or toss? Photo: Martin Paldan

Finally, a discomfort I am comfortable with. Photo: Martin Paldan
The best moments of the race were giving Christian hugs and high fives during the run. He was so excited that we went out to buy new (real) running shoes for him the next morning. Photo: Rasmus

I wish I could write a blog post that would do this experience justice. But more importantly I wish I could convey to my family how much I appreciate their help, tolerance and love which allowed me to train and compete in Challenge Copenhagen. I just hope I can support them in whatever kind of "ironman" they choose to be passionate about.
Christian eating a vegan, organic, gluten free atomic slime slushee with cousins, Kristine and Kristoffer.