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 30 September 2012

Half marathon PR, moving to Colorado and "going pro"

"This is a good start to your professional running career" said SR on the phone as I was driving home from this morning's half marathon. I laughed, so happy, also knowing he was partly joking.

But in all honesty, we have been talking a lot about what it takes to make a "career" out of running?  (OK OK - just hold back your urge to write "you're not fast enough!!") But more on that in a moment.

This morning did however feel ever so slightly like a day at the office. I set my alarm for 7:15 and left the house before SR and the kids were awake. He had agreed to watch them, partly because I was going to try to win a money prize. Partly because he is a great husband.

I drove about an hour and ten minutes north to Nærum
I love Sunday morning radio. There's nowhere you can be that isn't where you're meant to be. It's easy.
Finding myself at the Rundforbi Stadium in Nærum, taking one of the first parking spots, I had an hour and twenty minutes to warm up.

Last week when I said that all of my goal races were ultras, I lied. I just didn't know it at the time. I ran a half marathon tempo on Wednesday but took the next three days off of running. This is a HUGE taper in my world. I did it because my hip was still bothering me and I guess I can't get faster without that healing. You probably won't believe me, but I am starting to value rest as one of the most important parts of my training. Especially because it is an excuse to do yoga.

The race du jour was Griseløbet ("the pig run") half marathon. I needed to get in the top three in order to justify using my morning on this. I needed to bring home the bacon. Judging from last year's results, I would need to PR to pull this off. It is a sizeable half marathon with 138 women racing.

I estimated I could run a 1:30, if I was lucky, considering my previous PR was 1:33:10. Then again, I had also calculated I should be able to run two 41:30 10ks + 1.1k extra... if I had a really good day. That would give me about a 1:28. But that would require digging really deep. And my belly hurt and it was windy and I could find tons of excuses!!!

I saw May-Britt Hansen with Jesper Olsen (of World Run fame) and was glad to have some friends to talk to. Then I ran into a few people from our track club in Næstved.

When the gun went off, I ran immediately by the skinniest woman I have ever seen start right at the start line and took the lead for the females.

From the beginning, I located various packs of men I could run with. This would become critical on the headwind stretches.

The first 10k I managed in just under 41:30, so on schedule to get under 1:30. But it still felt too easy. I kept feeling like I could run faster but that my legs just wouldn't cooperate. I would have actually thought the course was short if it had not been measured by hand strictly by the DAF standards. Plus all of those runners around me with Garmins beeped whenever we hit the km markers.

There were some rolling hills and one pretty steep hill and it was fairly windy, but otherwise a fast and pretty route. Much to my happiness the last 1½ km were on trails and then onto the track. I had simply run a very sensible, consistent race and set a 5 minute PR with a time of 1:28:17. This was good enough for first place :).

I still look at that time and think --- where did that come from? And at the same time, I am getting way ahead of myself and wondering when a sub 3 hour marathon will be a reasonable goal. This half marathon time predicts a 3:06 marathon, or so SR just told me.

So what did I win? 800 kr. gift card to Løberen running store. With which I bought (on the spot) a running jacket, running pants, a sleaveless running top, winter running gloves for SR and me and Natti and then 125 kr. back in cash! Also a gift certificate for a hour's full body massage (can't wait)! And a nice water bottle & plaque. Wow. Danes have it all figured out when it comes to awarding athletes.

Moving to Colorado & "going pro"

We have all read it and believed it: find what you are passionate about and just do it! So earlier this week I said it. Maybe it was because I was reading Chrissie Wellington's (great) autobiography. "I want to run for a living". SR, amazingly, loved this idea. We talked about moving to Colorado and starting a a Haight-Ashbury of sorts for ultra runners, cross-country skiers, mountain and road bikers where we have a big house and people can come and stay for theme weeks. And of course we can write and blog all about it.

At the same time, we would train hard and try to get sponsors and try to win some money prizes (there are very few in trail running & triathlon) and live a bohemic, simple life. We even found the town: Fort Collins; CO. Why? They have a Family Med Residency program I like, a good hospital for SR, a Waldorf School for the kids, a Bikram Yoga studio (so there are back-up jobs if necessary! ;)), awesome mountain trails, tri and trail running clubs.

Now SR is telling me I have to write to Geoff Roes and try to get into the Ultra Race of Champions  UROC next year and try for a cash prize there. I know it's crazy and naive and unrealistic - and that's what I love most about it!

Sunday 23 September 2012

Friløbet 10k

I can't explain exactly why, but life is so good these days. I feel on top of the world and my family is happy. Certainly these two things go hand in hand. Christian learned to ride his bike this weekend. Natti scored the first goal of her soccer team's season. Ok - ok, Mattias still isn't so good at walking, but he is so gosh darn cute.

And  Kirsten's  wonderful comment on my blog was a perfect start to my day.

So let's see. In the last eight days, I have set 3 PRs plus ran a 23 mile run on Monday and a 25 mile run on Friday.

What is going on? Mania? No, I am sleeping normally and feel pretty peaceful.

I guess I attribute it to the following:

1. Eating right, with almost no gluten, no soda, no gum, no meat (except fish) and no dairy. Lots of no's here, so  I will say I eat a lot of vegetables, fruits, peanut butter, tofu, eggs and corn totillas (grrr... and chocolate). (but, yes! they finally sell peanut butter in Denmark!!)

2. Taking evey other day completely off from running

3. Bikram yoga. My right hip hurt so badly after my 25 miles on Friday that I could barely walk. I went to  Bikram Yoga in Copenhagen  yesterday, and today, I didn't even notice the hip. (I'm actually hoping to get certified in teaching Bikram Yoga so that I can start it in Næstved, but that is an entirely different story)

4. SR sleeping with Mattias every other night. I love my husband for so many reasons, but the fact that we can each get a good night sleep every other night is such a blessing.

So what happened today? I ran Nykredit Friløbet 10k in Copenhagen. With almost 6000 participants, there was plenty of competition. I had been assigned a start number at the very back of the pack, but after asking permission I was allowed to start up with the elites. I love the elite women. They are beautiful. Perfect hair and bodies. Their thighs are so far from rubbing together. They were all wearing club jersies. My thighs were probably touching and I was wearing a t-shirt with a woman serving cheese on a platter. I was too nervous to ask anyone how fast they would run. Short dance warmup (Danish tradition) and we were off.

I was scared shitless of shitting my pants...

We ran along the lakes in Copenhagen. A nice flat route through to HC Andersens Boulevard and into the world famous Tivoli amusement park. This park was the toughest part of the run with many twists, turns and little hills. I also think I counted 5 sets of stairs. Coming out of the park, it was incredibly windy. There were no km markers that I noticed, so I didn't catch my 5k split.

I must have run a pretty even pace since I only passed one woman and wasn't passed by any. Finally I saw balloons marking the 7k and 9k points and I knew I could manage a PR.

We finished up running around the Østerbro Stadium track and I sprinted in for a 40:07 (this is highlighted for mmmonyka who will scroll down to find the time), taking 41 seconds off of my PR from Wednesday. I was happy. This was only a training run. Had I not run 25 miles two days before, I imagine a sub 40 would have been in the cards. But imagining and doing are two different things.

I was 7th/2142 women. This meant getting my name announced on the loud speakers for the top ten women. Thrilling! I also have to note that I was 2nd in the 20-34 age group. This means that 5 of the top six women were older than me! There is much hope.

Here are the women's results. Just look for the American flag.

So am I ever going to run a goal race? Yes, but my goal races are ultras. I am, inspired by Steve Q, Piccola Pinecone and my husband, to concentrate on the basics. If I can get faster at middle distances, speed in marathons and ultras will follow, as long as I continue with my long runs. Or so I've been told.

Wednesday 19 September 2012

10k (+ a little something extra) on the track

I'm debating. Should I subject you to my description of the grossest thing that has ever "gone down" on a track? Or should I let you simply imagine? SR and I have debrided bed sores that go down to the bone and burred holes in crania - but this, well... we hadn't seen (or experienced) this.

SR and I both had this morning off. He had run hard yesterday, so I convinced him to pace me for a 10k on the track. The real track this time. The one with the bleachers surrounding it. Thou shalt not build bleachers around a short track. That and I've measured it with the Garmin and Google Earth.

We warmed up by running hills near our apartment. When we arrived at the track, it was empty and I was feeling good. Verly little toe pain. Very little hip pain.

I had written on my blog that my previous PR was 41:09, which was a split from a 15k. This was a time I had remembered from my own Garmin, so who knows how accurate it was. But before that, I had never run a 10k in under 42 minutes.

The vague goal of today was simply to improve on that theoretical PR and make it a real one.

After 3 km, I told SR I wanted to cut it short at 5 because I felt so crappy.

Just before 5km, I said we could do 8km.

Just before 8km, I decided to keep going for the whole 10k.

SR kept me up to date on the splits so I never had to look at my watch. Still on PR pace. Still on PR pace... I think everyone was right who told me I wasted energy looking at my Garmin. Only when you don't run with one, do you realize how liberating it is.

With 4 laps to go, something happened.

"If it starts to smell, It's because I ..."

SR turned his head, wondering why I was talking.

He kept trying to get me to speed up. I kept thinking "it weighs the same in my intestines as it does... ".

I did manage to run the last two km in under 4 min each for a final time of 40:48, but by that time, the PR was not the first thing on my mind.

I was happy. But(t).

The next 20 minutes involved the use of a hose and spraying myself with high pressure, while SR looked on, wondering if he would ever recover. Neither of us will ever recover, fully.

"Sometimes you should try and look at yourself from the outside, Tracy. Can you imagine seeing another 33 year old woman doing that?"

"Would you have stopped?" I asked.


Tuesday 18 September 2012

I've got a broken toe and the only prescription is more running

The title, perhaps, made you think of two things:

1. I've got a fever and the only prescription is more cowbell
2. Why does she do this to herself?

I was debating what I would say to a patient who had a broken third left toe who asked me if they could run a marathon two days after the break. If I said yes, I as a doctor would be like the fire department in the Steve Martin movie, Roxanne.

"You can't have people, if their houses are burning down, saying, 'Whatever you do, don't call the fire department!' That would be bad." - CD Bailes

But I ran 37 km yesterday with Annette Fredskov, Lene Brun and Preben Poulsen. Annette has now run 66 marathons over the past 66 days.

I was so excited Annette had painted a start line that I  insisted we use it
After the first 10k, my toe stopped hurting. I actually stopped short of a marathon because my right hip started bothering me. Completing the marathon was not my goal of the day anyway. I just wanted to get a long run in and anything over 20 miles qualifies in my book. I am just not into keeping track of the exact number of marathons I have run. There is a group here in Denmark called Klub 100.  They are all of the people who have run 100 marathons. I have a number of good friends in this group. But if I ever become eligible, I won't know.

Long story short, maybe my toe wasn't broken after all. It is still black and blue and swollen, though. But running didn't hurt it. I'm glad I experimented on myself.

In other news, our family has scheduled a visit to the US the first two weeks of January. The timing worked out perfectly for SR and I to run the Bandera 100k in Texas on January 12th. It is part of the Montrail Ultra Cup and the Men's Trail 100k national championship. Of course, you need to be a man and an American citizen to win this, so neither of us is eligible. But that doesn't mean it won't be amazing.

River going through the town of Bandera, Cowboy captial of the world.
Photo by Woody

From the course.
Photo by Woody.
This week - maybe a 10k PR attempt on the track tomorrow? Maybe a marathon PR attempt on Sunday.

Some recommendations:

I finished The Hours by Michael Cunningham and it was great. Not just for Virginia Woolf fans, though I am a big one.

The new Cat Power album Sun is my favorite album of 2012 so far.

Running songs of the day: Not Talking by AC Newman and Cherokee by Cat Power

Saturday 15 September 2012

A PR is a PR, no matter how crappy

I found a route, measured by hand by Danish national (DAF) and international standards, that was exactly 5000 meters. I even asked the race director - yes - he had been there when it was measured and it was a very tedious, precise process.

This is the 48th Saturday in a row Park Run has been held in Fælledpark in Copenhagen. These free races are being held every Saturday in cities all over Europe.

Our route was on a loop of gravel path next the the central hospital in Denmark, Riget (The Kingdom) (- aside: you absolutely have to rent the old Danish tv mini series about this hospital directed by Lars Von Trier - it is called Riget/The Kingdom and is my favorite tv mini series, next to Anne of Green Gables!).

The race, at 9am, was prefect timing on the way to a brunch at SR's cousin's house at 10 am.

So the race and route were perfect. But I wasn't. When we arrived (only 30 minutes to the start), Natti decided she didn't want to watch Christian and Mattias so SR and I had to debate who would run with the baby jogger. Since I was the one going for the PR, he granted me the fast run,

20 minutes to warm up. I could tell immediately it was not going to be "my day". I had no spring in my step. The wind seemed fierce. All in all, I felt fat. But, I am not all that convinced that how one is feeling that day has much of an influence on time in any distance under a marathon. I mean, either you have it or you don't. Or am I wrong? I knew I had it in me to run a PR, but I also knew it would be close given my 1500 times on Thursday.

So SR ran with the jogger. He started out in the back, then passed me and stayed ahead for the remainder of the race. There were no km markers and I was not wearing a Garmin, yet I had a good idea of my pace given it was 3 loops + a little extra at the end (I was wearing a watch - and it was digital!). I ran the last loop the fastest (a sign I hadn't warmed up enough?).

I ran an official "road" 5k PR of 19:36 and won for the women and got the third fastest female time ever on the route. But I was still disappointed.

But not as disappointed as I am right now after breaking my toe! Mattias just pushed an enormous glass jar of jam off of the counter and it landed right on my third left toe.

In summary: 1. be thankful for what you have and .2 I knew it wasn't going to be "my day"...

But it was instead our day

SR, Christian and Mattias collectively take 4th in 18:52.
I wish I could pretend running a 19:36 5k was easy

Thursday 6 September 2012

Skovløberen Marathon

"You're still young enough to get faster" says Nina, the female winner of Sunday's  marathon  to Teresa, the third place woman, standing next to me.

 At first, I was struck by the fact that she was essentially calling me old by not including me in the "young enough to get faster" category (and perhaps she simply wasn't talking to me). But then I thought about the idea that there was an age at which a female could no longer get faster (okay, this concept was not entirely new ;)). But in my case, despite being 33, I don't think I've gotten to that point. Or rather, I know I haven't. Three years ago, I ran this same very hilly trail marathon in 3:53, last year in 3:49 and this year in 3:22 (and I ran every step in pain from my hip injury this year)!! Either I am not too old to improve or I missed out on my earlier potential, only now am I tapping into it and will never know how fast I could have been.

Nina, on the other hand, has a marathon PR of 2:49 and ran Sunday's race in 3:14. I'm not sure whether or not her "slowing down" can be attributed to being 48 years old or whether it is the simple fact that one has to train perfectly and a lot to be in 2:49 marathon shape. Honestly Nina still looks to be in 2:49 marathon shape. What a dream to look like that at 48!

Nina, female winner, wasting no time at the aid station (does envying her arms make me a bad person?)

I also have to mention, Skovløberen is an awesome race. It is the only marathon I have run three times. I have previously called it my favorite Danish  marathon. And it still is and it is SR's, too. It is challenging and beautiful and almost exclusively on trails in the woods of Hejede Overdrev. It includes the highest point on Sjælland and basically when all of the ice caps have melted from global warming, this Overdrev will be all that is left of our island. This marathon would definitely be turned into an ultra in the USA because it just attracts the ultra runner types.

Daniel has been a very good friend through all of our moving back and forth. He has really developed into a strong runner and his New Balance Minimal trail shoes are my next shoe purchase...
SR in yellow - drafting nicely. He went on to take second place in an awesome 2:58. I'm thinking he is in PR marathon shape, too.
Hey look. That is me. Nike cotton t-shirt circa 1982. This is flat, so I must have been running. But I somehow always look like I'm walking. A natural pose runner? Naaah. Then I wouldn't get injured.

So yeah, I made the critical mistake of running a marathon on the Tuesday before Skovløberen and that is when my hip problems started. I KNEW it was idiotic! But thanks to hot yoga, I was able to run the whole distance.

 But injuries and short tracks aside, I can harldy believe the improvements in my running times when compared to my old times here in Denmark. I came through the half marathon in 1:37 and actually had to force myself to slow down because I didn't want to do more damage to my hip. I feel I could so easily run a PR on a flat marathon course, if only my hip would stop hurting (I need to take a rest!).

BUT getting faster will also require that I have time to train and - oh my gosh - with the responsibilities of work and three kids (and a husband), I am quickly finding myself swamped and if I weren't so addicted to exercise, I probably would have given up on it entirely by now. (tomorrow I am presenting three scientific posters ... )

 Maybe that's why there were over 90 men in the marathon on Sunday, but only 12 women!? But the story about how women who run long distances here are looked at as freaks is an entirely different story all together. Or is it?

Not just long distance runners, either. One of SR's colleagues saw me riding my bike with a yoga mat strapped to my backpack and said "isn't you wife too old to be running around doing things like that?". These two quotes about being "too old" have been reverberating in my head all week. Age has always been a meaningless concept to me -- and writing this has made me realize - that is how it should stay.

 Song I am guessing 1. you haven't heard and 2. you will like