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

Saturday 22 June 2013

The Gift of Desolation

It's been 7 hours and 15 days. Actually it has been way longer than that. What is my identity these days? I have seen my husband and my eldest son for 6 hours of the last 3 weeks and there are two more weeks to go. I have trouble remembering what Christian's face really looks like. As a mother and a wife, I am desolate.

Was it a coincidence I ended up here in Desolation Wilderness on my day off? And that it was this I wanted to give myself as a birthday gift? After all, neat, tidy packages of desolation are OK.
Lake Aloha, 8400 feet. Sure, steal the photo. I don't really care.
 Since you've been gone I can do whatever I want.

One of my favourite things - it's looking at maps. How about you? I looked at a map and said- Echo Lakes, this is where I want to go. Most tourists would probably head right for Lake Tahoe, but I stopped just southwest of it and headed for desolation.
And I got lost- at least five times. I even asked for help from a Swiss man. Never ask a Swiss guy if he is German. Lesson learned.
The thing is, this map looking. This is a passion I share with SR. Where was he to help me find my way?

Should I admit that I would love to go for the Fastest Known Female Time on the Tahoe Rim Trail? I even bet I could do it - you know- all 50 hours or whatever it requires - without sleeping. Then I just read that Candice Burt is going for it this July. Well, whatever her time is, that will be my goal. I just need more time to train out here so I don't get lost. Or maybe SR would do it with me. Then it would be supported, but then it would also be more fun.

So what on earth am I doing here, you ask? I'm trying on my old white coat.

(it doesn't fit, but I am hoping I only mean that in the literal sense)

Being able to care for a patient as a physician is an enormous privilege. Never take it for granted.

Was heard being said at my graduation from internship in 2007. I got tears in my eyes, though I didn't even know my privilege would be threatened - very soon.

I am here in California to work in the Department of Physical Medicine and Rehab, both on research and in learning about the specialty. In brief, the specialty is perfect for me. Fitting handicapped kids with ankle foot orthotics, being a sports team physician, acupuncture, proliferative therapy, concussions, hyponatremia. You name it - the interesting stuff is in this specialty :0). So I am sold. I needed to come here to get a letter so I can apply for this specialty. There is just that minor detail that for a few years, the kids will have to have an au pair; I will hardly see them. I will give up my running ambitions. All this is a lot to digest. So I needed a day in the wilderness. But guess what? I didn't think about it at all.

And suddenly, though I had heard I wouldn't see it, at the end up my run, there was a view of the one and only Lake Tahoe. And a guy standing right there to take my picture. Isn't it incredible how sometimes, things in life just work out?

Stay tuned for more details about all of the research at Western States this year. Tomorrow I'm going to out set up cameras for a study of foot striking patterns.

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Salomon Trail Tour Svanninge Bakker ½ Marathon

Where do you come alive? These days I come alive on trail runs. Maybe it is some lame excuse for not running as fast as I would like on pavement, but I don’t think so. Once you experience true, gritty, gorgeous and wild trail racing, road racing just seems like boring work.

Now I am part of two trail racing teams: Team USA and Team Salomon Denmark. Maybe my days of proving something on the road are over. I read in Bryon Powell’s book that Tony Krupicka’s 5k PR was somewhere just under 17 minutes. And that is a great example of the fact that you don't need to have a super fast 5k to be an outstanding ultra runner. (I think people have gone a bit overboard thinking the opposite) If Anton's PR were 15, would he be that much better at running a mountain 100k? Probably not. (I actually think he’d get worse if he focused his training on a 5k). I often think weird things like SR would be even better at marathons and ultras is he weren't so dang fast at short distances.

I remember having what I though was a great first 50 miler at the North Country Trail run where I came in 3rd among tough competition- and soon thereafter went on to take absolute LAST in the 400 meter at a track meet. I’d never even tried to run 400 meters before – and why should I? My arms went completely numb and I almost threw up and I was like- why on earth do people do that??

I’ll tell you why- because regular interval training gives you 1. better running technique and 2. makes all the long stuff feel easier.

So you’ll see me at the track, but don’t expect me to show up at too many road races. (until that one day in the future when I secretly show up at a road marathon and NAIL that sub 3 hour goal)

Sunday. What an awesome day. I drove with Dorte Dahl and Anne-Mette Lindgaard to Faaborg on the island of Fyn. This my coach’s island. Lots of people around here have their island. Anyway, in the south of this island are what Dorte affectionately calls “The Danish Alps”. They are better and worse than the Alps. They are nowhere near as steep as the Alps, but they have continuous views of the ocean and the green, bucolic countryside. They are called Svanninge Bakker.

Hello- might look like normal American terrain, but this race would be killer!

Awaiting the start: Anne-Mette, Dorte, Anne-Marie and Nina (Nina had won the Hammer Trail 50k and I suddenly realized I had competition for 2nd!)

Dorte, Dorte, Dorte. Previous Danish Orienteering champion in these very hills. Ole told med to hold onto her as long as I could. This woman is the WORLD masters champion of mountain running 2012. She comes to win.

And in breaking news - Dorte will be visiting the US to run UROC with me! Watch out - I am predicting a money prize for her. After spending all day with her on Sunday and a large part of the day on Saturday, I know her secrets, now I just need to figure out how to use them to my advantage.

So the race starts and I hang on to Dorte and Nina hangs on to me and we are going at an absolute breakneck pace. I feel more breathless than at the start of a 5k. Branches, long grass, steep hills up and down. My whole body hurts in the very best way and Nina drops back. Phew. Dorte is a machine, but after 4km I am still right on her tail, along with two other guys. At some point the three of us drop back and Dorte pulls ahead. Here were some pictures from the tamest part of the race, near then end - a beautiful pine needle covered forest.

Thanks to Salomon for all of the gorgeous and free race pictures!!
I ran with Peter the entire way- until the very end when somehow I pulled away. It was honestly great to have his company. Especially when at some point he asked "Um- is your name Tracy? The one on Team USA? Hahaha. OMG I am famous! Among like 100 people... anyway!

What can I say other than that I absolutely loved this race? When we weren't going uphill or leaping over stairs and ladders – or wading through waist deep mud and water – I kept it at just over 4 min/km pace. I didn’t get tired. I didn’t slow down. This is what an ultra runner does- this is not what a 5km runner does. And it is interesting because though I felt Dorte had gotten real far ahead of me, she started to slow at the end. I really think this reflects the training she does, which seems to be to peak around 10km.
Dorte came in in 1.36.54 and I came in in 1.39.57. Think that I can come in 3 minutes behind a 1.20 road half marathoner!!! I could have never done this on the road, of course. But I was in my element and if your spirit is in the right place, never underestimate what your body can do.

Here are the results. Whatever it was that happened out there for me, I want to bottle it up and use it again in Wales. Even Ole seemed a bit shocked with my race and has lightened up my training schedule a bit before July 6th. I agree that it is not a bad idea to start the taper now. The worst thing that could happen would be for me to get injured now. So I am thinking a la Amy Sproston with DVT and PE before the 100km worlds that I will get the most out of laying low.

I won a pair of Salomon mountain running shoes, which Kim at Salomon allowed me to switch to the S-Lab Sense Ultra. There is a great review on irunfar and I am thrilled to get to own a pair. The S-Lab Sense are continuing to work well for me on the technical terrain of the Salomon races. They give you such a feeling of power on the trails. I guess you could run on roads with them, but why?

I had time to change clothing after the race- look at my awesome new jacket!! (I was given a whole bag of new clothing at the finish line- thank you! The jacket is so light. (the shoes are my post-race relaxers- I didn't run in NB ;-))

Nina is such a sweet person despite her very confusing Jylland, Odense, Roskilde accent. It is too much fun hanging out with these ladies.

more goodness

And here were the top 3 men at the finish.

1. Claus (from Team Salomon), 3. Anton  and 2.  Jonas

Time for bed. What a crazy time in our lives right now! Tomorrow SR and Christian get home from the US. The next day I leave for California. Wow. Life flies by you. Remember –always- make the most of it.

Runing song of the day: was surprised to hear an old favourite on SR's walkman- Summer Song by The Decemberists

Saturday 8 June 2013

Double 5k PR & IAU World Championships

Here we are in Allerød. Natti and I decided to fit a 5k race into our trip to Copenhagen and it ended up being in support of the Allerød Athletic Club - and Super Best (the grocery store). Some races raise money to fight devastating diseases or children in the 3rd world- others, a grocery store. Yippee!
Pavement, flat, cool, protected from the wind. This course had all of the elements to make this PR thing happen for both of us. What if I could get under that elusive 19 minute mark? What if Natti could break 30?

As I was warming up by running the course, who do I SEE running with her almost 12 year old daughter, but Dorte Dahl. Oh my gosh, we are absolutely destined to run together. She was running the 10k, though.

Ok- so let's just cut to the chase, right? I line up with Dorte at the start and she points out the woman who is going to beat me. Thank you, Dorte. And then my Garmin goes dead. Oh, well. Who needs it anyways? They time these things, right? (are you good at detecting foreshadowing?)

And do not ask me to remember what time we started at (minutes or seconds) because I have number dyslexia and if I don't write a number down- even if I do, I write it backwards, but it is all hopeless and getting worse with age (which honestly is no joke, since I work with statistics on a daily basis and need to quadruple check everything I do). Anyway. Why did I not start my stop watch?

Off we go and I run with Dorte and this gal Karina (turns out she is an ex professional cyclist turned runner at 30) for the first 2.5km. Ok, I'm thinking we are going super fast, but have no clue what kind of pace it is. Then it feels like Karina and Dorte suddenly start running even faster, but of course I am the one slowing.

I felt OK until the last 1km where the right sided stomach cramps return (pavement, I love you!) and cross the finish line at unknown time.

I ask- do you know my time? Blank stares. Woman looks at timer in her hand - says 19:19, but won't say if that was my time or the time at the moment.  Sometimes chip timers suck and sometimes they are really nice. Am I obsessive?

I talked to Karina who came in not too far ahead of me. "What was your time?" She looks at her Garmin - 18:40. And it seemed like I was right behind her. So what was my time? Somewhere between 18:40 and 19:19. So there is a range. And of course 19:19 needs to be considered the PR because Í have no proof it was faster; I have just been running intervals that would predict around a 19 minute 5k.

I run to the car - honestly with tears in my eyes because I am so freaking stupid - grab a drink and then run back out on the route to finish with Natti. And in seriously no time, there she is, about to win for the girls and finish in (what they say was) 27:48. Anyway- a nearly 3 minute PR for her - and after a very little sleep slumber party. I am so happy for her and proud of her. All of her running and her dad's genes are working to her advantage. Soon she will beat me.

Here is Dorte with her loot from the 10k win
Tomorrow Dorte and I and Anne-Mette head to Fyn to run some trails in what Dorte calls "The Danish Alps" as part of the Salomon Trail Tour. (you can still sign up tomorrow!)

IAU World Championships

I have not been able to find the words or the time to write about this yet. When something so out of proportion to your talent and ability happens, - and it is so wonderful - well...

So, I mentioned earlier the IAU Championships in Ultra Trail running because there had been discussion about sending a Danish team and maybe Denmark would send Dorte, Pia, me, among other women. Then it was pointed out I was American. Well, I have really wanted to be on a national ultra running team and I guess, who wouldn't right? I never in my WILDEST dreams thought I would make it onto the American team, but a highly unusual alignment of the stars happened when Michele Yates (this woman is an amazingly talented runner, folks, and has a shot at winning the individual womens' category) was looking for a couple women to fill in for two women who had dropped off of the team. I had some recommendation help from Olga and sent in a racing resume (I had luckily made an "athlete bio" just one week prior) and poof! I was on the team.

So I am going from my Western States research in California- to a brief stop home in Næstved  to Wales for the July 6th race. 75 km of trails in Gwydyr Forest, Snowdonia Wales.

Is there anything not to like about this?
It is such a huge honor to represent the United States in the sport of trail ultra marathoning, which is- beyond the loved ones in my life, what I am most passionate about - and as my family and friends in the US congratulate me, I am truly overwhelmed by this opportunity. It is no more and no less than it is. It is awesome.

Here is an article about the championships and the team from by Nancy Hobbs in The Examiner (take a look at who the elder stateswoman is on the team! Yikes!)

Song of the day (only because I am dying to know if it is as popular in the US as it is in Denmark) Get Lucky by Daft Punk (seriously, are they German? They actually write GOOD music! hehehehe)

Sunday 2 June 2013

A perfectly-executed race at Farum Lake

Sounds pretty cocky, doesn't it? Perfectly-executed. But that is what kept going through my head as I ran. Beautiful trails, up and down winding through the forest, the kilometers just kept ticking away and I didn't slow down.

You learn so much about your body and your mind by racing and that is one of the reasons I race so often. I'm glad that I have found that as long as I stick to shorter races on trails, I don't get injured (well, not yet).

I woke up feeling completely crappy. I had been up multiple times in the middle of the night with stomach issues. I hate it when I am kept awake by myself and not by my little charges. I thought about dropping the race. But I had no other way to get babysitting for a tempo run, so we loaded up the car to Farum. An hour's drive with a busy-bodied, busy-minded troll is not easy.

Here I am waiting very patiently for the very nice babysitter at Farum Sø Løb to allow me to drop off Mattias 27 minutes before the start (not that I was keeping track). What a great service to offer! Thank you!

 I warmed up and felt like a sack of warm potatoes. Have you ever felt like that? It is not a good feeling before a race. I could not get up any speed without my stomach hurting. Should I just leave? But I was completely clad in in matching Salomon clothing and looked like someone who had better rock this race. Someone who would never have an excuse or a bad day.

I guess there were 311 runners for the 14.38k.  Looking at past results, I would need to run in under an hour to win for the females. That seemed pretty wild. I didn't really know what the trails were like, but it says on the website something about "very hilly and shifty". Under an hour seemed kind of unrealistic, bur Dorte Dahl wasn't there, so who knew what would be required to win. And winning wasn't the nr. 1 goal.

At 10:07, in the middle of Farum Stadium, we were off- just me and the men. I didn't see any other women the rest of the race. I ran most of the race with two guys. Not drafting off them, just with them and around them. The description of "very hilly" was good, though nothing seemed "shifty" as the trails were very nice and there was nothing technical. In other words, the kind of race I do best at.

5k 20:01
10k; 40:22
14.38 59:15 (there are two really big uphills to finish of the race, so this is when it started to hurt)
(4:07 min/km; 6:37 min/mile)

It felt magical. I never got tired, never stopped having fun. Seriously. I smiled and smiled and swiped a drink at both aid stations and still ran probably the best quality race of my life to date. So, my pre-race blahs meant nothing during the race. Very interesting.  And the two interval sessions over the past week had not sat in my legs. I am really starting to think my coach knows what he is doing.

And I won. 1/109 women. And I was 10th overall. I know this is going to sound petty now, but I sprinted over the finish line for 10th with a guy and I just barely beat him, but they have him registered as coming in before me. And that is all I'll say about that. (edit: just figured out that there were two mats and I stopped after the first one and walked and was registered as finishing two seconds later - real time 59:13!).

As I crossed the finish line I hear "Tracy Høeg fra Salomon og HGATM første kvinde!" and that was all it took for me to raise my arms in joy and get tears in my eyes. 

And then Mattias was nowhere to be found! I guess I arrived too quickly! So I went to the awards
3rd (Ulla), 1st and 2nd (Sofie) place ladies.
 The guy who graciously took these photos had apparently not gotten the impression he should take a picture when we were actually given our awards and waved to the other cameras. Results here, by the way.
So I know I'm supposed to be modeling the Salomon clothing, so it is wee bit unfortunate I look so bloated - I told you my stomach had been bothering me! I love Mr. Number 68. Would you like to dance?
I won a 500 kr. gift card from SSports which I gave Natti to use on the running clothing of her choice at the online store. She was thrilled. If our family keeps winning clothing and gear at races, we'll have to find a group of runners in the 3rd world (I keep thinking about the logistics of something like that - anyone know of an organization?)
reunited with the troll
Post Run Song of the Day: Rape Me by Nirvana (classic)

Saturday 1 June 2013

Triathlon with Toddler

Today. SR is gone with Christian. Natti was on a camping and canoe trip along the Suså. It was the day of all days to spoil Mattias. What better way than to get out and enjoy the sunshine together?

But first, he was served his favorite breakfast: pancake with blueberries and Ribena. 


We fogged up the camera lens with our love.

And I included proof that he wears a helmet. And uses a pink nuk.  Moving along.

At this point, we had ridden 12km, stopped at a yard sale and bought him a riding tractor (which is in the bike trailer) and he was given a free green bear. I'm otherwise not much for buying small green bears. He would drop it on the way home anyway.

We arrived at the Enø Strand beach and picnicked.

And I realized he needs a haircut, but he kind of looks like Damon Albarn from Blur, so there is no real rush, I guess.
Total resemblance.

Okay, so it wasn't technically a triathlon since we didn't swim. We just waded, threw stones, played soccer and did yoga. Just like Christian, he loves yoga. He just copies what I do until he falls over and can't stop laughing. There is no better place for it than on the beach. It is the only place I can hold crow pose for a decent amount of time. I couldn't convince Mattias to take a picture of it.

Not me, but this is crow pose. 
And this is crow pose. Again, not me.

We looked at potential summer houses.
 We biked back, again 12km and either he read my mind or he loves the baby jogger because he hopped right in when we got off the bike. On to the 5k run...
How did that nice shoe get in there?

Suså river trail

Finish line!

Now what to wear tomorrow to the Farum Sø Løb? (look at all of this awesome stuff from Salomon!)
Yeah so tomrrow is a 14.38 km trail race around Farum lake. How could I ever say no to a race with free babysitting? (I'm attempting to again use it as a training/tempo run and not race it, but we'll see how that goes. Probably after two sets of intervals this week, I won't be able to run it as a race anyway).

Now back to the Duluth furnished housing search. (By the way, you should see the houses the people at Essentia Health are saying we should buy- talk about extravagance! I said we just want a modest place near the downtown in a nice neighborhood- and of course that is way harder to find than a horrid McMansion, unfortunately).

Running song of the Day: Gigantic by the Pixies (in my old band I used to play this song on the base and sing it and it just rocks (heard it on Portland's KEXP last night), but I guess it is an oldie now)