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 30 October 2012

5k experiment

Recovery after Sydkyst Marathon was slower than I had hoped. But with a knot the size of a lemon in my right calf, I couldn't expect it to disappear in a day or two, even without running. I ran 2km in two weeks. That is not exactly high mileage for me.

But daily massage from SR on my calf and three sessions with my favorite massage therapist at Meridian Centret and the knot was crushed to near non-existance. Can I just ask - how many running injuries are actually caused by knots that people simply fail to identify? It was just lucky my massage therapist found mine because my pain has always been in my hip!

Knot nearly gone - what could I do other than sign up for a race?

I had no clue if I even could manage 2km in a row, so I decided to run the 5k rather than the 12k. It was a race in Næstved with over 1800 participants - the largest race outside of Copenhagen on our island - ever! It was called Mærk Næstved. It was run on a newly-built highway, before the cars get to drive on it. (I have to say supporting the destruction of beautiful nature to build a road was not exactly my favorite race premise, but proceeds apparently went to local athletic clubs).

SR and I had a good 30 minute warm-up. He would be running the 12k, so he agreed to warm up with me.

I lined up near the front, next to my good swimming friend. I had no idea she ran, too, and asked what her goal time was. She said around 24 minutes. I was a little surprised she lined up near the front, but what do I know about Næstved races?

The weather was perfect. About 45 degrees F, sunny and nearly windless.

The race was started and after about 1 minute, I passed the one woman ahead of me and ran the first km in 3:41! Garmins all beeped so it must have been correctly measured. I felt great. I was trying to forget the 2lb weight gain I've had in the last two weeks. I slowed the next km, but then kept the pace pretty even.

I was first female and 8th overall with a 2 second PR: 19:34.

The calf never felt perfect and my whole body seemed to be in shock about suddenly running so fast after two weeks of nothing. I was happy to run a PR, but I still think a sub 19 is lingering inside of me - somewhere.

The local tv station got a clip of the men's winner and me at the finish.

Click here and fast forward to about 5:30. Enjoy a little Danish news.

SR's race went really well. He ran the 12k in 42:07 and came in second after this guy (Frank Løvedahl Rasmussen)
Frank about to win the 12k

SR with ½ km to go. I am not good at catching runners in the middle of the field.

SR catching up to the last 5k runners in the neon green race shirts.

top 3 men at the finish

Here I'm receiving a 500 kr. gift certificate from Næstved's mayor (in green)!

I still can't get over that a 19:34 is good enough for first place in a 5k with nearly 500 women. I feel like half the women reading this now could beat that. And beyond that, the second place woman was over 2 minutes behind me. I am not saying this to say - hey look at me - I'm so fast. It's more like - why do women here not want to run fast? It's almost as if it is stigmatizing. Anyway.

I honestly enjoyed my two week break from running. I needed it. And I'm still going to take it easy for a while. I've been reading a ton lately, and I met a group of women in Copenhagen who I will be doing research on Bikram yoga with. One is a post-doc and one is a medical student.

The book "Swim Speed Secrets for Swimmers and Triathletes" by Sheila Taormino has taken 4:30 seconds off of my 2k tempo swims! If you swim and haven't read it, you absolutely need to!

Today I went for a nice slow run with Annette and Jerk. It was a gorgeous day and I loved running with these two. Having close friends - in real life - and not just on a blog, is invaluable.

They both are encouraging me to start that training camp in Colorado so they too can partake.

Annette and me today.
Halloween preparations with the Icelandic girls

Oh yeah - check out Alicia Hudelson's blog if you have a chance! Inspired by my 3:16:20 marathon PR, she just ran a 3:16:19 in Grand Rapids!

Friday 19 October 2012

The simple math of flexibility and strength

As SR left for work this morning and I was sitting on the floor with two whaling children he asked "what are your plans today?"

"I plan to spend the first hour of my day bending over backwards as far as I can."

That's me: the woman in the front in black. Exactly how I stood for one hour.

This illicited no comment from SR other than perhaps a smirk.

In reality, I spent today writing a research article for our hospital's yearly report.

There is, in my house, and I believe many places in the world, the misconception that becoming more flexible makes you weaker or is otherwise dangerous.

I remember doing a physiology lab where we discussed the different factors that can contribute to muscle strength and... the longer the muscle, the more strength potential you have. I'm not saying that just because you have long muscles that they are strong, but the longer muscle is capable of becoming stronger than the shorter one. (please tell me if my logic is flawed!) It thus of course follows that if the weight carried is the same, speed will increase!

And the hotter the tendons and muscles - the more you can stretch them.

This is why Bikram Yoga works for improving running times. Or at least, this is my preception of it.

Runners (and cyclists) spend way too much time all cramped up in a ball. If they could stretch out their muscles more, they could unlock their potential.

I was swimming yesterday and had a neuromuscular epiphany. After hours the previous days of stretching my arms above my head and other arm stretching activities in yoga, I was finally able to REACH my arm WAY out in front of me, just as I have been told repeatedly to do. I didn't consciously try to do it. It just happened and my lap times improved dramatically. I think my body just did it because my shoulders and upper arms were no longer cramped like usual.

Don't believe this will also work for running? Fair enough.

But here is the website of Lene Hjelmsø, a Danish woman who just represented Denmark in the half marathon World Championships. She has a recently set a half marathon PR of 1:16:52. She was the fastest female Dane at the World Championships. And what does she practice regularly other than Bikram Yoga?

N of 1? Perhaps.

In other news, would you believe I haven't run since the marathon? I feel like someone is sticking a knife into my right calf. No running - none - until that knot is gone.

This is apparently not an injury I can "run through". But I honestly don't think any running overuse injuries can be run through.

And now, a Mattias Montage from our bike ride around Næstved this evening.

Tuesday 16 October 2012

Sydkyst Marathon: Afteryear on the Danish Coast

When you say "no matter what happens, I'll get a marathon PR" your imagination simply can not stretch far enough to imagine all of the things that could go wrong. I knew that when I said it, but still figured I was above the fray and the problems of the uninitiated.

The Tuesday before the race, I ran Yasso 800's. They predicted a 3:08 marathon time and it was on a terribly windy day, with actual barricades that had been blown on to the track that were too heavy for me to move as I sprinted past.

Thursday, I went on a hill run for nearly two hours with SR. When we returned my calf and right hip were killing me. This meant I needed two things: at least one class of Bikram yoga and a wicked massage on the knot in my right calf. I managed to find time for both on Friday. I am so happy to have found a talented sports massage therapist in Næstved - who not only dug really deep, but also used acupuncture needles to loosen the knot in my leg. Her quote "I have never seen a knot that big - in a leg!" I told her that SR and I had been worried the knot was an extra bone. She wasn't sure if I was joking. Neither was I.

 The day of the race, SR still didn't know if he was going to go for a PR or run slow and pace me.
SR in cold, wet, beachy parking lot, almost ready for race start.
The Sydkyst Marathon is a medium-sized Danish Marathon in the costal town of Greve, just south of Copenhagen. It seems impossible that with just over 120 marathon runners, that this is medium-sized, but nonetheless. Remember, Annette Fredskov holds a marathon every day, usually with only three participants.

It felt like we knew almost everyone there, that is until all of the runners of the half marathon, quarter marathon, 5k and kids race started showing up. Well over 500 runners in all.

A good friend of ours from Næstved, Morten Pihlsbech, said he was planning on running at 3:10 pace and wanted to pace me. He said his friend Mikkel wanted to help. Our plan was to run at 4.:35 min/mile all the way. Great! This was exactly what I needed on this terribly windy day.

At the startline, another woman, Louise, asked if she could run with us. I asked what her goal time was. She said 3:26. I've never been one to feign well, anything, so I simpy said we'd be running at 3:10 pace and she was welcome to run along.

Soon we were off into the head wind and I hid the whole of my existence in the small of Morten's back. Louise on the other hand did not seem much for the drafting idea. Right around 1km she dropped back. I was carefully eyeing my watch and we were doing 4:15 min per km. It felt okay, but then again, this was breakneck speed for an entire marathon. I couldn't do this, even if it meant saying good bye to my pacers after only 3km. I let go as soon as we were out of the headwind. At this point, SR was still right ahead of me and I simply imagined he was starting out easy, taking time to devise a plan. I do wish he'd start out fast from the start! It makes me so nervous when he does that!

The rest of my race went basically like this: (the route is 1 quarter marathon run 4 times)
Loop 1: 46:40
Loop 2 (half marathon): 1:34:06 (figured I was right on track for a 3:10 marathon here)
Loop 3: oh my lord, let the rain come down - and the wind!! How can there be so much rain and wind at once?! (this is the Danish Afteryear in it's full glory - afteryear/efterår does mean Fall or course). There was not a soul I could draft off of and there was still a woman (not Louise) just minutes behind me. Can't remember my time on this loop...
Loop 4: I'm not sure if it was pain in my right leg that was holding me back or just extreme stiffness. My pace was slowing. I think I am pretty good at ignoring those pain signals from my leg, but it was like the legt just wasn't working right.

Then - with 3km left to go - I TOOK A WRONG TURN. This was the 4th time I had run the route and yet I still took a wrong turn. I pretty quickly realized, but knew that what had looked to be a huge PR was now a PR in jeopardy! I could not afford to make any more mistakes now.

Finish Line Phenomenon

I am sure a lot of you have heard of the phenonmenon of athletes seeing the finish line and then collapsing before crossing it. (this famously happened to Brian Morrisson who was about to win Western States but collapsed on the track). I was rounding the corner to the finish with ½km to go and I lost control of the muscles in my neck. My head whipped back and I blacked out. I propped my head up with my hands and I could see light again. I was terrified, yet I knew I could not fall over now. I held my head up with my hands all the way across the finish line. And my time was 3:16:20. What a weird way to set a PR.

I still had the wherewithall to try to take my hand away from my neck for the camera as I neared the finish line.

Here I am with Tanja from Germany (2nd) and Louise (3rd). I won a 600 kr. gift certificate to Ski&Run! 
SR. He ran a good, smart race and managed a 15 second PR in tough conditions with a time of 2:48:06. He took third for the men in a really close race. The winner Vix Steen ran in 2:45 and also set a PR.

All in all, a wonderful morning. We were among friends and had a chance to run a race together, which we always really enjoy.


In other news, we are as ever attempting to plan our future. SR got this in an email yesterday and I had to share.

The above is apparently the ideal life of a Hospitalist physician. In Illinois. Okay - has Dr. Dad seriously spent so much time in scrubs that he does not realize his t-shirt is three sizes too big? And what about their bikes? They are all going to end up with knee problems because their seats are so low!!! And he's a DOCTOR:

Is this our future?

I have such a negative view of the medical world right now. "They are all pawns in the hands of big drug companies" is something I can be found saying at least daily about other physicians. And yet living with me is a physician and my husband who saves peoples' lives from cancer on a daily basis.

And yet - I am drawn to the idea of being a Bikram yoga teacher. I am simply amazed by the healing power it seems to have. In fact, I am so addicted to it that I wonder if somehow I am being brainwashed. I would love to do research on the efficacy of it for healing in sports injuries and many other muskuloskeletal conditions come to mind that I am certain it would help with. I looked in to prior research related to Bikram yoga - and I found one group of researchers - in Fort Collins, CO. I couldn't help but seeing this as some sort of sign that - yes - we are supposed to move there. Ane I know SR is interested - as long as he can find a good job there. 

Thursday 11 October 2012

Gluten intolerance is actually not a fad

Amitting I am wrong and doing nothing are two things I should practice more often.

Gluten intolerance. I was wrong about it. I thought it was a feel-good, fad diagnosis. I thought there were kids who had true wheat allergy  (celiac sprue) and really didn't grow if they ate wheat. I was thrown by the fact that so many of the blogs I link to are written by women who are gluten intolerant. The non-randomness of this made me think it was a condition that was being overdiagnosed, just so physicians could tell their patients something.

But it is a very real and serious condition that plagues at least 1% of the population (2-3x more common in women) and most people who have it don't know it. It's serious because it doesn't just cause stomach problems and loss of energy, but there is a two-three fold increase in mortality when untreated, due to, among other things, a high risk of lymphoma! It can also be a trigger or seizures. This is all news to me. I read it in a Lancet seminar by Antonio di Sabatino from 2007. Great review. I can send the full text to those who are interested.

This topic became truly interesting to me as I attempted to go gluten free. This happened shortly before we moved back to Denmark. I have experienced an incredible increase in energy and decrease in stomach problems (accidents on tracks aside!). Plus a terrible rash around my eyes (that I had for nearly two years) has disappeared! I hadn't been entirely gluten free, so I doubted diet was the explanation. But apparently you don't have to be totally gluten free to reap the benefits. 10mg a day of gluten is okay, whereas 50mg is not (in terms of causing intestinal damage).

When I was in medical school, I was hospitalized with a life-threatning infection with clostridium dificile (spore-forming bacteria are best when avoided!). During this hospitalization, it was revealed that I had severe iron deficiency anemia and osteopenia (even a little osteoporosis). This coupled with a lifetime of irritable bowel and acid reflux brought up the diagnosis of celiac sprue (gluten intolerance). They asked if they could test me for it and I refused, saying I was not short so of course I didn't have it. Oh, how silly I was! When I think about it, I am a lot shorter than my mom and that probably is a little weird.

I have a doctor's appointment on the 16th, at which point I'll ask for the gluten antibody lab tests, but by that time, I will have been gluten free for so long that the antibodies probably won't be positive. But it's not important because I am not taking the chance of going back to my old diet. I wonder if my entire family will embrace my expensive, time-consuming diet?

Now maybe we also have an explanation for my improved running times?

Ok, as if we needed a reason to eat more chocolate. But now it also causes nobel prizes! Remember, Swedish chocolate is the most potent. (This is from this week's New England Journal of Medicine)

Sunday 7 October 2012

Skodsborg 100, secret of calorie consumption and a diagnosis

How many of you thought I had just run a 100 miler on a whim? I can just imagine SR's reaction to my phone call: "Honey, I just started a 100 miler. Could you watch the kids for the next day or so?" I would never. Call him "Honey", that is. And the real pronunciation of his first name always makes me laugh, so I call him  "Hey".

No, that was just a ploy to get you to start reading. What really happened yesterday was I showed up for a bit of the 100th Skodsborg Marathon (by "showed up", I mean Annette F and her husband, Ullrich, gave me a ride - thank you!). Skodsborg epitomizes all that is great about the Danish marathon. It is held all the time (not just once a year!) So if you feel like a Skodsborg, there's always one coming soon. You can run any distance and still graze off of the finest aid station this side of the Atlantic.

Good morning, slik! I must admit I brought my own snack in the form of peanut butter in a corn tortilla.
It is the Danish marathon that has been held the most. And this was celebrated with an enormous amount of hygge yesterday, by the largest starting field in the event's history.

A panorama! of starters, about to run whatever distance they choose.
 All below photos by Karen Lyager-Hovre.
Perhaps the reason Skodsborg Marathon is so popular is summed up here.
I just took it easy yesterday, caught up with friends I hadn't seen in nearly a year. At one point I was passed by some half marathon men who had gotten lost, so I ran a 6k tempo with them. Yes! Gazelles in the woods. After this, I got a "niggle" in my right leg. "Niggle" is a Chrissie Wellington word. Maybe it is British?

Take note of the woman in pink who appears to be standing still.

95% of the route is on dirt. And there are plenty of hills. Cotton t-shirts are acceptable attire for Americans.

Anders runs his 535th ??? marthon! He always looks exactly this comfortable!

From the back: race director, Jerk, Marianne (broke her back 20 years ago and RUNS with a cane!) and Annette F - now on marathon 84 over the last 84 days!!
With grace and dignity, Henriette falls in her sprint to the finish. Jerk, RD, MD, treats the wound.
A fine day I must say! I stopped after a pretty relaxed 20 miles in 2:43. I was so glad to have been a part of this event. Now some tapering will be involved this week as SR and I hope for a PR marathon next weekend at Sydkyst Marathon!

The Secret of Calorie Consumption

I had an interesting chat with Annette Fredskov on the way to the race. As mentioned, she has run a marathon every day for the past 84 days.

Here is part of the conversation:

"Have your eating habits changed?", I asked.

"Everyone thinks I must eat like a horse, running as much as I do. But I don't. I probably eat a few extra handfulls of nuts per day." replied Annette.

"She burns about 2,200 calories per marathon according to standard calculations using sex, weight, distance and time, but doesn't eat nearly that much extra." added her husband.

And she then said she hasn't lost any weight. So how can this huge increase in activity not be accompanied by a huge increase in calorie consumption? Well, it sounds like in the beginning it was. But now her body has simply gotten used to running a marathon every day. Not as much muscle break down, or stress or change in heart rate. Amazing how the body can adapt to a new normal!

I, on the other hand, have had the opposite experience. Now that I am alternating hard days with rest days, my metabolism has shot up and I have trouble keeping weight on again. It is as if my body is not sure whether the rest or the activity is "normal". So I burn more calories now running less miles. This must also be because I run those miles hard. Any thoughts?

A Diagnosis

I have had this weird hip injury for about a month now, so I went in to get a massage. It is so helpful to just have someone feel your body sometimes when you are injured because she located the source of the problem: a huge, hard knot in my right calf. It was so strange that all the pain was in my hip, and none was in the calf, but last night I had SR work on that calf for about a half an hour and then I worked on it for a long time today and the hip pain has all but disappeared. It is great to know what has been going on - however unexpected it may be!

Marathons Today

Lots of marathons today! Good luck to Jen at the Twin Cities Marathon, good luck to Stefanie at Milwaukee Lakefront Marathon! And congrats to Joy's husband, Mike on a 2:51 yesterday!! We'll be thinking of you as we clean!

Simple weekend goodness.