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 28 July 2013

Zulu's Nat Marathon and Parkrun 5k

If there is something that will almost instantaneously make you a better runner, it is directing or volunteering at a race. There is such an enormous amount of work and care that goes into races- I will say trail races especially- that you, whether you know it or not, will forever stop taking the privilege of racing for granted. And actually probably enjoy it even more.

Anders, the son of a Bahamian (from the Bahamas??) woman I work out with and ex pro American football player, had this awesome think-outside-of-the-box idea, when he asked me to help him start a midnight trail race in Næstved. Anders is the type of guy everyone is friends with, so I had no doubt it would work out.

And it did! Here a picture from the start of Zulu's Nat Marathon.
There is SR in the back middle row in his Afton shirt. Picture by Anders Risager.

So these are some pretty tough cookies to show up at midnight when storms were predicted in record heat and they knew Anders and I had designed a very techinical forest route. In particular, I warned SR about Christian (front row in white) being someone he would have to work to hold on to. Christian just took 6th at the 10 Peaks 73 km race in the UK. I was thrilled when SR returned this morning at 4 am or so to tell me he had run the whole race with Christian and they had a smashing go of it and both finished in 3:36 to win jointly; Christian officially 1 second before, so now I owe him a prize... 

After my 5k race yesterday (see below), I set off to set up the course markings and then took them all down today with the help of the boys and the baby jogger. It only took 3 ½ hours :0).

Anything that gets the boys excited about running is worth the time and effort.

I had to take this shot of Mattias to remind him he started in 0mm drop shoes with very poor traction profile- and slipped and fell in the mud on his first trail run.

Wild raspberries lined the trails in the woods today and apparently all over Sjælland, I've heard from friends. Yum! I always wanted to be the kind of mom who gathered berries with her young.

... or gathered ice cream. Turned out they liked the idea of it better than the taste. Back to the raspberries after a hard day's work

I feel I have inculcated the sense in at least Christian that these races don't happen -poof- out of thin air.


Yesterday morning, like every Saturday morning, was the free Park Run 5k in Fælledparken. Here is the start. I love this picture because it captures the fact that I biked 15km to the start and was drenched in sweat AND hadn't washed my hair for 9 days. Waw! AND, more importantly, there is Jesper. He is one of those guys who is just cool. He is so modest and soft spoken, yet travels all over the world to take on courses like HURT and will be going to UTMB this year. Anyway, I had this crazy idea I could keep up with him- despite him runnig an 18:10 5k 4 weeks ago. 
Oh yeah- and here is the Team Salomon outfit. I lost the 4lbs I had gained in California, so I allowed myself to wear it in public. Photo Jan K. Madsen
I started out in the middle of the pack. Look- you can't even see me! But you can probably see Thea to the left... Photo: Jan K. Madsen
I was able to hold on to Jesper for about 300 meters and then he took off with 4 other men. Photo: Jan K Madsen
Shortly therafter one of the men fell back and I passed him. This is a new thing for me- passing people in 5ks. The heat and humidity were WICKED, so I knew if I started too fast I would fizzle. 
Photo: Jan K Madsen
What I didn't know is that Thea was right behind me. She is either 16 or 17 and I have been following her for months now because it seems every Park Run she runs, she takes 20 second off of her time and last time won in 19:44, so I knew she could give me trouble as this is a dirt path and slower than asphalt. 

Anyway, I was not able to keep the even pace I had hoped for. I wanted a 19:30, but got a 19:39. That is according to when I crossed the start line. The official time was 19:41. As I collapsed next to Jesper, who had run in 18:45, I was shocked to see Thea tumbling across the finish line right behind me in 19:46. I can only assume my outfit intimidated her :0). Honestly, I look forward to my next battle with Thea and she was very kind and gracious at the fininsh. What fun...

Good to laugh a jolly old belly laugh, isn't it? Or snicker like friend over left shoulder.

Just for the sake of completion, I need to mention I did a training Olympic Distance tri last weekend - the Storebælt Tri- which also was free- and I got a "Tri PR" in all disciplines. Swim: 30:15, bike 1:21 (despite a major wrong turn) and run 43:09 on gravel roads. I was thrilled as it was also blazing hot that day (and I was the only woman!) and speaking of blazing- I was burned by the famous jelly fish here - the fireman (brændman) during the swim. It actually didn't hurt too bad. I am now done with triathlons until I buy a real tri bike- the disadvantage of my bike is too overwhelming for it to be fun.

Running song of the day-

Can I just get this off of my chest? I can't stand Robbie Williams!

OK- much better to go with Nephew's "Gå med dig"

Wednesday 17 July 2013

Weight gain and intervals

Had you missed the old Sea Legs? The one who obsessed about her weight and was 100% convinced that the thinner she was, the faster she would be - at any distance - up to that critical point where bones started to thin and weight loss mania set in?

During my travels to California and Wales, I took sort of a new approach to life and eating: a "who cares, I will just eat more chocolate" approach. Plus I thought being well-fed would probably only help me in Wales. And then there was my favorite excuse: Renée Zellweger gained (a lot of) weight for Bridget Jone's Diary and then lost it again, just like that. So it can't be that hard to lose weight, right?!

Famous last words.

This week has been one long attack of hypoglycemia and what do I have to show for it? One pound lost.

But maybe, I should look at my athletic performance before I subject my family to 3 more weeks of Mom-on-edge. (insert bright light bulb and dinging sound)

Yesterday's intervals were 6 x 200 (following 50 min pulse class, 30 minutes strength training + jump rope, and 8km running working on technique) with 2 min breaks

All 36-38 seconds.

Today's 5 x 1000 (in warm temps) was avg. 3.49

Both of these are, if not the fastest, the second fastest, I have ever run. (I think I need to consult old blog posts)

Isn't it counterintuitive with a 4 lb weight gain + ultra marathon 11 days ago?

What was not surprising at all, is my swim 50 meter times went from 1:00 a couple months ago to 53 seconds today. A litte fat is a least good for swimming. But I knew that all along, though it was never incentive enough for me to gain.

Anyway, here I am.

And I have had a fantastic week (yes, despite the hunger) with the boys while SR and Natti have been in the Austrian Alps.

Christian and I started a new habit of running home 2km through the woods from daycare. He's so proud of it and is starting to value his running shoes.

And Annette Fredskov finished her project of running 366 official marathons in 365 days I and was there with the boys to join in the party. Can you seriously imagine doing this (never skipping a marathon despite feeling like crap, having two kids (she really does))? She is one strong woman. You would certainly not know she has MS. Coincidence or not, she didn't have one single attack the entire year. 

Annette Fredskov Jensen finishing 84.4 km to finish 366 marathons in 365 days. Congrats, to a kind, inspirational and always-positive woman and friend. Photo by: Christian Høeg

Here was her interview on CNN today (did anyone catch this?):

Isn't the Danish accent charming? And I TOLD you all she was wonderful!

 I will close with saying that I have promised myself I will not show any pictures of myself in our new Team Salomon uniform until I have lost all 4 pounds. Hmmm. This is better incentive for me than a wedding dress. But then I ask myself - is my goal to be fast or look good in white polka dots? Hmm, that is a tough one. The answer is- whatever makes me happy, because that is of course what makes us succeed in life.

Monday 8 July 2013

IAU Trail World Championships 2013 Race Report

Until this past weekend, I had not had the experience of running on a team. .And as soon as we had established a US team for Wales, Michele Yates made it clear "we are going for the gold". This mentality was foreign to me. The idea that my performance would affect my team mates in a negative or positive way was something I’d sort of left back in high school with the basketball team.

As we arrived one by one to the 2 star Ambassador Hotel on Llandudno Bay, Wales, we got to know each other and, over 2-3 days, formed a team. Everyone had different backgrounds, sponsors, personal goals, opinions of salt tabs and the USATF. But it was incredible how much we had in common. OK, not incredible. We are all pretty serious about this fringe sport of trail ultra running. Honestly, we had no trouble connecting.

Example: I think there were only 2 people out of the 10 on our team who didn't have a food allergy. a few with gluten, a few with lactose, and then there was the butter allergy. It seemed we had all brought enough food to make it through the entire trip in case the hotel didn't serve what we were used to having before races. The hotel restaurant wait staff was probably overwhelmed by us, but they acted like the absurdity made it fun for them.

Michele Yates was my roommate. When I walked into the room, it appeared she had food in separate baggies for every hour of every day on the trip. I like to think of myself as "suffering" from OCD, but when I met my teammates, I simply felt right at home. The moment she saw I had brought a little fan for white noise, we were best friends.

You met the team in the previous post.

But being part of a team is more like this:
David Riddle acted like he accidentally made this face.

I don't know if Ben explicitly gave me permission to post this photo, but this was right after he said "I always fold my race number. No one ever cares." 5 seconds later the guy in green and white shirt said he was the head official for the race and he cared. Good times. That’s my bottle of Chocovine.

 Some incredible British osteopaths and physical therapists taught us what type of treatment we should be demanding for our types of injuries and also did for us what they could. These are guys who specialize in competitve athletics. How refreshing. How informative. I spent hours there learning from them as they worked on different runners. As did Michele and Jason. Before the race, I got an incredible massage with a “butter knife” as they called in on my left calf for my left achilles. Then they put kinesio tape on it. I didn’t notice my achilles the whole race!

The bus ride to race start was early for European standards: 7AM! (for 9 am start)

But there was giddiness anyway. David has a knack for making funny faces in pictures. No effort involved. Time and again on this trip, I felt like I was back in high school.

Arrive at the start tent. Commence team Gliding.

 I had never used Body Glide. It is like thick, smooth, glidy Vaseline in the form of a deodorant bar. It worked. Not one blister and that is unheard of for me!! It also could have been my Salomon Sense Ultra Shoes (awesome).

Just before the start, a nice Canadian snapped this picture of Michele and me. We were honestly two peas in a pod the whole trip and remained that way in the race – more on that in a sec.

An unexpected and meaningful moment came as we proceeded to the race start and for some reason I was allowed to hold the flag.

It reminded me of Delacroix's La liberté guidant le peuple...

the main differences between the two pictures being that we weren't in the middle of the French Revolution and I had managed to keep my shirt on.

The start was nerve-wracking because there weren’t as many starters as there usually are in ultras --- and they were all fast. Never mind this, I started with the front women.

The course was a 1 km start,+ (15km loop x 5) + 1km finish in Gwydyr Forest.  The first 9km were uphill. Seriously uphill. There would actually be a combined 9,000 feet of elevation change.  By they time we were at the top, I was approaching the aid station as the lead woman (France's Nathalie Mauclair) was leaving and I wasn’t too far behind Michele who was in 4th. SR told me I was in 9th for the women at this point.  You could ask “what were you thinking SLG?”, but I actually thought I was closer to the middle of women than I was. I was going with the “this feels good” approach, but that didn’t last long. OK, the downhill went fine, but even there I was starting to get passed and my team mate Amy Rusiecki was one of the first to pass me. She was commenting on the view, happy, ladeeda and I was like ready to puke, feeling as though I had just finished a 10k race and should go home.

On the seond loop, I still felt OK but my legs just hurt and couldn’t help thinking of Amy Sproston’s famous quote about having “quad death” at Western States last year.  The only difference was I was generally having leg death. At the very end of this loop, I tripped over a stone and flew like a bat without wings and landed on my left knee so hard that I thought I had broken my knee cap (it's not broken, but there is a nasty bruise there now). I stood up and a race supporter asked if I was OK and I puked. The pain was too much. Rough start.

At this point, I ate my salty cashews (ever worried about hyponatremia) and that helped, but I was still feeling mentally and physically wiped and we weren’t even half way. I ascended again and made it through the marathon in 4:02 or something like that, feeling this was too slow, but I was already spent.

The 3rd, 4th and 5th loops can all be grouped together in what could aptly be called sufferfest, because I was suffering, but it was still a fest. I was having fun. My stomach was terrible (when David Riddle lapped me he saw me hiding in the bushes ---ooops!) and I was bleeding from every pointy part of my body.

By the way, at the beginning of loop 3, I passed Michele, who was limp-running with IT band problems. It looked very painful. She said “I’m not dropping until Stefanie passes me.” I was hoping for her that would be soon. (explanation - we needed 3 finishing women to score as a team, so both couldn't drop). I got to the third loop aid station and there was Stefanie – dropped out with back problems, saying she wouldn’t have made it under the 10 hour time limit. 

Rough day for Team USA – except Amy, who did awesome.

OK, so by the last loop, I had fallen 5 or 6 times, lost my water bottle in a ravine, thrown up and had D more times than I can count, but was still smiling and I gathered a lot of strength at the end, making it through the 5th and final loop faster than the 4th. It was really entertaining to have supporters from so many countries lining the course, who we saw multiple times. That was the biggest charm of the repeated loops. Every time I saw the French group, I came up with the most complicated French sentance I could think of about what was going on and they would all cheer. Too much fun. 

Slight backtrack:
Following loop 3, I was unsure if Team USA was still in it to score (we needed 3 finishers to place). It looked as if Michele would drop. I couldn't imagine her coming in under the cutoff in her state. But I could not slow down and let my team down if we were still in it.

And as it turned out, I had underestimated Michele. Never underestimate Michele. She kept going, committed to our team, not to herself- as she really was doing nothing but hurting herself by running on that injured leg. And she finished in just under 9 hours, well within the cutoff. You must realize she is this past year’s Bandera and Nueces winner, also going for the US record in the trail 100 mile this year at Rocky Raccoon. She performed far under her ability, further injuring herself, just so our USA team could score. You are certainly allowed your own opinion, but we as a team had nothing but respect for this woman. What a morale booster. I would be on a team with this woman anywhere, anytime.

My finish time was 8:28, 41st female, not the placement I dreamed of, yet, I had the best performance of my life at this distance on a challenging course in the heat. I have no right to be disappointed. I can only say that I started too fast and likely would have finished with I faster time had I taken that first 16k more slowly, but this is why experience is so important in ultras.

The team - the USA ladies came in 10th. Doesn't sound great, but I am dang proud of this and we ladies owe it to Michele, who pulled off a superhuman feet, essentially "running" on one leg.

The men, they did awesome. As a team, the took 4th, narrowly losing out on the bronze to Germany. Of note, David Riddle took 7th overall and Ben Nephew had the fastest last 7k of anyone. I witnessed as he lapped me that he runs as fast as he talks. 

I was enormously privileged to be part of this team. If I had the opportunity to run this event again, I would not miss it for the world. It ranks up there among the best experiences (certainly in running) of my life.

Dave James, Michel Yates and Amy Rusiecki leading out the team at the opening ceremonies.

Who knew that in Welsh that the USA is actually the UDA? And that Wales is not Wales or Whales, but Cymru (if you want to know how to say that, listen here.)

And Welsh music, you ask? Cerys Matthews, formerly of Catatonia, is my favorite Welsh singer. She has had a bunch of hits in Great Britain in English (including SR's favorite running song ever, Caught in the Middle). Here is a lesser-known traditional Welsh hymn.

Friday 5 July 2013

IAU World Championships- Tracy in Wonderland

Monday, I flew from San Francisco to Copenhagen. My flight to Chicago was delayed, so I actually got UPGRADED to a direct flight. Pretty rare that a flying experience works out better than expected.

I got off the train in Næstved to my 3 boys: SR, Laksen and Giaps. I just couldn't stop crying and hugging them. In many ways, it had been the longest two weeks of my life. They both seemed to remember me, but Christian had to ask why I absurdly was calling him "The Salmon" (Laksen, what I've always called him) in Danish. Two weeks ago it was normal, but how quickly everything changes in the life of little ones.
Mattias (Giaple) is of course still using a nook, so at least that hasn't changed. And he still loves shoes and helping his mother figure out which ones to wear.
 Mattias went from having a 10 word vocabulary to speaking in full sentances while I was away. How bizarre. Yet, in most ways, he seemed unchanged.
Within 24 hours, I was on my way to the Manchester airport, where I rented this.  What is wrong with this picture?? Sure the steering wheel is on the wong side, but much more importantly, the stick shift is on the left. It's akin to trying to speak Spanish when you only know French, but involves potential loss of lives. Not good.

But by the time I was outside of Conwy, Wales, however, I had figured out how to take pictures and drive at the same time. 

The next morning, we were out on the race course. From left to right: Dave James, Brian Rusiecki, Ben Nephew, Amy Rusciecki and me.

 Some views from the course in Gwydyr Forest:

 Today was the opening ceremony of the IAU Worlds in trail and here is Team USA in its entirety.
Michele Yates, Tracy Høeg, Dave James, Stefanie Bernosky, Brian Rusiecki, Amy Rusiecki,  Justin Ricks, Jason  Bryant, Ben Nephew and David Riddle.

Ahh, Michele. What an awesome roommate! We have had a lot of fun. She is in control of her body, this woman, and I love her good karma. 

David Riddle and I had to get a Team Salomon DK meets Team Salomon USA in our Nike outfits. But the shoes are  the windows to the soul.

Here is Team Greece kidnapping our Greek American, Dave. One of Greece's most outstanding runners, Argi, ran Western States last weekend, so couldn't make it. Funny how I had just become friends with him last weekend, to meet his buddies this weekend.

Here is Davi getting interviewed by a French website. He interviewed me next soley because I started speaking French with him. Being a polyglot can get you much further in this world than running talent :0)... 
Here is VO2's website. He seemed to like the fact I used to train in France. Boy, that was 13 years ago now!

My mind is a complete blank in terms of this race. I have no idea what time to expect or how much I should push myself. I have not run a 50 miler since before I was pregnant with Mattias. And after that pregnancy, everything has changed. 

It felt right when I learned that Alice had lived here and that Lewis Carroll had written her story here in Llandudno. None of this feels real and feels also very wonderful to meet runners from all over the world and to find truly good friends in my American teammates. It is typical of trail runners, I have learned, to be open, accepting, educated and goofy. I hope this doesn't change. I actually have to say, I feel the American team stands out in its laid back attitude and goofiness and, in this way, I feel right at home. And that is a good feeling.

Tomorrow I'm running. My lucky charms, SR, Christian, Mattias and Natali, will be in my heart - the whole way, or at least on the downshills, when I'm capable of thinking.

Here is Ben Nephew's race preview on Irunfar.

Here is a link to live athlete tracking: 

Monday 1 July 2013

Western States miracles through the eyes of a physician

At 10:30 AM, 29 hours into the Western States Endurace Run this morning, a finishing runner's quote is announced over the loud speakers: "The only help I ever got from a physician at Western States was from one who paced me". Awkward laughter and looks disperse around the medical tent.

Minutes later, a runner who is unable to speak and nearly completely unresponsive is brought by ambulance from the mile 89 checkpoint to the finish. Shortly after his arrival, he begins to have seizures. In a large part due to previous research at Western States, we know what the problem is immediately (do you??).

Now if you think you know what the problem is, what is the treatment? (think fast, we could very easily lose him). If you choose the wrong one, he'll get worse.

I'll tell you. But I'd like to know if you knew. When the body is under extreme physical stress, it retains urine (I think of it as an evolutionary mechanism to stay hydrated when there is not going to be access to water) and when there IS access to fluids and we drink them (even WITH salt tabs) 100 mile runners in races with extreme temperatures are at high risk for hyponatremia (low sodium). (think Susitna and Western States, for example).

The treatment is a bolus (100mL) of IV fluids with more sodium than is found in the blood (3% saline). When the runner received this, he stopped seizing and improved rapidly. Had he been sent to a local hospital, they most likely would have treated him for dehydration with regular isotonic saline (or even hypotonic) and could have sent him into a coma or killed him.

The medical team at Western States seems to have a bad reputation among the runners, so it was an interesting experience being on the "other side"
After all, technically my training is in medicine and not running. Western States started medical checkpoints because it was modelled after the 100 mile Tevas horse ride on the same trail- which gave Gordy the idea to run the route for the first time - and vets had to check the horses so why shouldn't humans get checked, too?
Gordy and me at packet pick-up

Well, after years of pulling racers from Western States due to a certain amount of weight change (or a certain blood pressure), it has been shown though research at the race that weight doesn't correlate well with blood levels of electrolytes or race outcomes. It turns out runners are a lot better off following their instinct (Okay, honestly, I had never liked the idea of pulling runners at WS, so I'm glad there is research to back this up). Trouble happens when runners are mistakenly encouraged to drink. Runners aren't held anymore or pulled. The medical team is now there to give advice and help when runners get into trouble. And of course, respond in an emergency.

And as I was stationed in the extreme heat at mile 39 and then the finish line, I witnessed what seemed to be something superhuman and even magical.

There were top runners who ran these 100 miles in over 100F in the unthinkable times of just over 15 hours. I could barely walk out into the sun to get runners' weights. And I got to be in the mindframe of that person who always asks me "how on earth do you run so long/so fast?", etc. Timothy Olson and Rob Krar achieved an absolutely astonishing feat yesterday. Honestly, did we know as humans and scientists that a time this fast in these temperatures was within the realm of possibility? What are the limits and are there consequences? (one of this year's research studies looks at the affects of ultra running on the heart, both immediate and long-term).

Rob Krar - 2nd in 15.22:05, Timothy Olson 1st in 15:17:27
 These two men are genuine, kind, caring and have achieved something I find incomprehensible. I would love to know their secrets. It is not merely a question of genetics, but advancements in training and knowledge, not to mention others to learn from and follow.

Even more incredible, perhaps, is Pam Smith's win. She had a pace card shooting for 18:30 which she made before she knew it would be so hot. She stuck to it basically all the way and finished in 18:37 and took 9th overall, even outrunning Yassine Diboun and Karl Melzer. Last year she ran in around 29 hours, suffered from hypothermia and was held for 3 hours at an aid station due to weight gain (no more holds, thank goodness, as I said). As far as I  know she didn't make it on any female top 10 lists, let alone for the men. She is just a woman from Oregon who lives in a town without trails and trains with men who love to run marathons on roads. And she works as a pathologist. How she did it, I do not know and she was completely calm and collected, even unfatigued afterwards. But one thing is certain, she had an extremely methodical training and race plan, sticks to it and believes in it 100% (my love and admiration go out to you Pam :0)).
Honestly over the last 48 hours, I have bared witness to miracles of knowledge, generosity, love and strength. As I said good-bye to Marty (research director) and thought about what I had experienced, I started to cry (a little :0)) - not tears of sadness or fatigue from sleeping just a couple hours in my car, but tears of joy, incredulous that I was allowed to be part of this. This life is amazing. Humans- working together, pushing each other, helping, inspiring each other. This is uncharted territory - athletically, medically - and not least of all, in terms of the love, support and effort that pacers, crews and volunteers provided to their athletes. I was there to see it and feel it. As I said this morning to Ve Loyce, the crazy, wonderful (painful!) race massage therapist: I am a sceptic in every way, but I believe in magic.