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

Thursday 29 August 2013

Waking up in Wisconsin

And, like that, poof, we are in the United States. I am very good at sleeping on planes, in cars (and have a husband who allows me to do this) so it really does feel like "poof" to me.

 I have been fighting this trip tooth and nail because I am so behind on my PhD work, but I made a promise to SR we would do this and what am I if I can not keep promises? And when I take a step back and look at the big picture, there perhaps is nothing more important than solidarity of the family.

Back to the town I grew up in. In the early 80's it really was all farm lands and prairies. These days, prairie reserves like Nashota Park are among the few remaining holy places for the soul, and the rest is highways, Applebee Country and urban sprawl.

I could have spent all day running with SR here. But as a mom, those days of "all day doing what you want" are so preciously few if they even ever really do exist. Nothing to do but soak up the moments. And perhaps teach your kids to love what you love :o).
6:30 AM Nashota Park, WI
Yesterday morning, back in Denmark, there was a problem with the delivery of some Salomon things I had hoped to use at Superior Sawtooth 50 miler next Saturday. No big deal, right? Well, Kim S. from Salomon thought this was a big deal, so he drove from the Salomon headquarters out to SR's parents' house to deliver my things personally, plus included a bunch of extra goodies.

I don't like bragging. I don't like materialism. Rather, I admire people who respect and are grateful for what they have. The Salomon vest I just received is going to change the way I run ultras. I am so happy that someone out there had that "aha" moment and realized it would be more comfortable to carry liquid on the chest rather than the back. It absolutely is. 500 mL of fluid on each side in soft bottles that don't slosh and you don't even notice they are there. Plus lots of options for carrying food and necessities on the side and the back. A vest like this does not happen by accident.

I have considered carrying more than this 1 L of fluid for the Crosby-Manitou 9.4 mile wildly technical section at Superior. Anyone who has run this before have thoughts on that?

This is the view from the pier at my parents' house. After our run, I swam North Lake Minor (2.5km) while SR, my dad and the boys were out boating. I don't know, I wonder if I'll ever become a fan of swimming over lots of large fish that look hungry for toes. This deep lake (25 meters) makes for good fishing and troves of seaweed that like to envelop unsuspecting swimmers.

North Lake, WI, 8:00 AM

Saying good-bye to Næstved and Denmark is always hard, always makes me cry, even if it is just for a month.

Næstved Harbor, 17:00
Christian  (left) with other blondies.

The wonderful ophthalmology nurses who have helped so much with my PhD.

Storstrømsbro to Vordingborg
The couple of weeks before I left were so busy with work and, you know, baking cakes with Christian.

But I need to thank Kim from Salomon,  Søren from Næstved Rygcenter for seriously fixing my right hip with a combination of chiropractic and active release therapy, Lone for her massage therapy and my coach Ole for daring to make fun of how I run 800 meters and continually helping me learn to run correctly.

There is always so much more to say, but why not just leave it at this for now?

Running Songs of the Day:

Pass This On by The Knife

And an old favorite "Hjem til Aarhus" by På Slaget 12

Tuesday 20 August 2013

Winforce 100km: are women better at ultras?

Pia Joan Sørensen and Maibritt Skovgaard at Winforce 100km 2013. Photo by Martin Paldan

This weekend was the inaugural Winforce 100km trail race. The face of ultra running in Denmark is changing, with now two popular ultra trail races: Salomon Hammer Trail 100 mile, 50 mile and 50k and Winforce 100km.

As the leaders went out on their 4th and final 25 k loop, the crowd (including myself as race physician) was wondering, hoping (even though we love Per Egon) that Maibritt would win. Indeed it was close and Maibritt in her first trail 100k was only around 20 minutes behind Per Egon Rasmussen, taking second place overall!! (seriously, it was awesome to witness) And the talk began--- are women just made to run ultras? Granted there were only two women (pictured above) among the 38 starters. So one could say, only the super tough chickas were racing (it should be noted that Pia Joan Sørensen dropped with plantar fasciitis at 50k and we can only speculate over the possibility of her winning outright).

Then we got home and at a family party, the subject was broached again--- "but women ARE just better at ultras". Being the anal statistician that I can be, I looked into it. And the percent difference between men and women (mostly by world records) is as follows (bear in mind, I did these calculations in my head not wanting to use a huge amount of time, so yeah, if I am 0.1 or 0.2% off I apologize--- I'm busy).

Percent difference between male and female world record finish times by distance
(female time-male time)/average of the two

100 mile 17.7% (taken from 2013 Western States as I couldn't find the female WR)
24 hour    20.0%
100 k: 5.0%
50 k         29.5%
42.2 k 9.3%
21.1k 11.6%
1000m 11.7%
5000m 11.9%
1000m 12.8%
400m       9.7%
200m 10.6%

Interesting, isn't it? It actually appears that men are better and better the longer the race is. Of course, if we look at the AVERAGE man vs. the average woman, the numbers might change, but I am not sure. I kept feeling as I was doing the calculations that there is a gravitation towards that 11% difference and maybe as more ultras are run and more women run them, the 11% will also become the rule of ultra distances. 

SR also raced and his very humorous, humble report is here. This photo shows one of the many tough aspects of the course. It was after 50k here and he was reportedly feeling great. Photo by Martin Paldan.
Unfortunately, SR dropped out after 75km with severe nausea. Of note, nausea is the top listed reason for dropping out of ultras, I learned during my stint at Western States. How to prevent it is a hotly researched topic; one study at Javelina has pointed to the importance of a lower carbohydrate diet while racing. The study might be too biased to trust, though. Pam Smith raced Western States with Zofran in case she developed nausea but didn't. SR is asking me to write prescriptions for Zofran and have them along in my doctor bag. I have mixed feelings about this since it might simply cover up the symptoms of hyponatremia and put runners' lives a risk. 

My thoughts about getting SR to finish involve simply going slower. He ran through 75km well under 8 hours on a very hard course, which was a relative PR for him at this distance-- and then he was supposed to run 25k more... Running ultras is really about finding that perfect balance between speed and endurance (and believing it is of utmost importance that you finish (yes, it is crazy, but we don't allow ourselves to think this while we are out there, right?). Usually women lack speed and men lack endurance, in my experience (Piccola Pine Cone and Chris Scotch notable exceptions), and if you want to improve, you need to train at what you lack. I have started coaching two women and speed work, fun speed work, is the first thing we are focusing on. 

And what about my right hip/new bone?

Pacing SR the first 25 k at Winforce 100k. I had always wanted to try racing with my hair down :0). We had fun.
I went to our tri-club friend, Søren, who is an osteopath (the equivalent honestly does not exist in the US) and he did a very good job of convincing me that the problem was not the knot turned to bone in my calf, but my right hip. Basically the acetabulum in my right hip is inflamed and the ligaments around my hip very loose. When he heard I practiced yoga, he was very clear to state it was making my hip worse. Turns out I am hypermobile (OK I knew that and it is one of the reasons I love yoga, because I am naturally "good" at it) and I have loosed my right hip to such an extent that my hip strength can't hold the dang hip in place while I run and this causes pain and inflammation.

So I have a hip strengthening exercise to do for the next week and then he says he will loosen up the L3-L4 region of my left back and I should be on track again. If not, ultrasound-guided steroid injection into the acetabular space is what he recommends. 

Last night, Andreas and I held a Salomon trail running workshop for employees of Novo Nordisk. It was seriously a ton of fun watching people hop over roots and rocks and struggle up hills to greet fabulous views. Ha. Dream job. And they loved the Salomon shoes. Ok- they seriously DO make you feel more secure on technical trails. Photo Nynne Friling

Since I don't have a song of the day, I will offer my "word" of the day, which is "rigamarole". I found myself writing it to a friend today and had to stop up and think--- is this a word I made up? Anyone else use it? If yes, where are your from?

Wednesday 14 August 2013

New Bone, New Races

A little less than a year ago, I noticed a huge knot in my right calf. It hurt really badly, as did my right hip. I wasn't sure how the two things were related. Right hip pain, right calf knot. I was even less sure how I got it, but if you asked smart people, they would probably say it was from running. Like- duh, I know I didn't get it from sitting on the couch, but what was I doing wrong while running?

The answer eludes me.

What I do know is the knot, after many vigorous rounds of massage, bled, calcified and turned into a bone the size of a chick pea. Now I have an intergastrocnemial bone. It doesn't hurt, it's just there, always making my calf muscle a little shorter than it should be. I went to get a massage yesterday and my therapist told me I should get an x-ray "just in case". Luckily, I know enough about cancer to know that it doesn't start out as a huge knot and dwindle into a hard chick pea. SR, the cancer doctor, agreed. But still, I had to ask Olga, the physician AND massage therapist. Nope. Not cancer.

So what to do with my new bone? It may be the sole cause of my right hip pain and my inability to run on pavement since October. What I understand about massage is that, once you develop a bone, you really can't massage it out. Makes sense; you can't massage away your femur either. Then I read about shock-wave therapy. I found two studies saying it was effective for myositis ossificans (yes, that's the fancy name), but when you read the fine print, they never actually got rid of the bone, just the pain. The thing is, I have no pain there, just pain as a result of the stupid os (French for bone; of course they just pronounce that "o")-- in other places. For example, I have now developed a "sympathy knot" on the other side of the gastroc at the same height, which does hurt. Rats.

Any suggestions?

I have a feeling this bone may be with me until I am 93.
Tao Porchon-Lynch, age 93. Photo by Robert Shurman.

or 94

Tao Porchon-Lynch, 94.

She is a yoga instructor and ballroom dancer who has beaten the scourge of old age: stiffness (don't get it!)  Photo by Robert Shurman


This weekend is the Winforce 100k. I will be race physician and SR will be running. I predict a showdown among the men between SR and Per Egon Rasmussen. I think Pia Joan Sørensen will win the women's race, but Maibritt Skovgaard has a shot. It is supposed to rain all day. Should be interesting.

On Sunday is Salomon Trail Tour's Rebild 28k in northern Jutland. I had planned on going, but have now arranged a little Salomon outing closer to home with Dorte Dahl. If I lived closer, I'd definitely love to run in Rold Skov.

September 7th brings the much-anticipated Superior Sawtooth 50 Miler and I am now crossing my fingers SR will run it with me.

September 29th is the UROC 100k in Vail. Someone has to come in last, right? Well, if it's me, then I've gotten to spend the most time enjoying the mountains.

October 19th Wild Duluth. Not sure what distance...

November 9th Krølle Bølle Invitational 120km--- Run the circumference of Bornholm along the coast trail as fast as you can.

February 22nd: Birkie - skate ski 50k.

In hindsight, this new bone has really been good for me. I've rid my calendar of road races! Steve Q, if you want me to help you run the whole Superior Hiking Trail, I guess it had better be in October...??? 

Music Recs

There is not a small chance that I am Nik and Jay's biggest American fan (they're Danish). And now, for the first time, they have written a song in English. They are quasi rappers, so this was not an easy task as you will gather from the lyrics; as one radio host said "out of their comfort zone". The first time he says "blue" it sounds like he says the Danish "blå" oops. Anyway, the video is hilarious and it is good they wrote out the lyrics.. you'll see what I mean. The music is, as always, top notch.

Other greats on my runs: 

Sunday 11 August 2013

The fatalism of running, estrogen and rocks

I received these pictures from Mette today and felt like an idiot for being disappointed in once again not running a 10k PR (constant headwind on a point-to-point course; my excuse). Sometimes I love photographic proof of what we all really get out of running. .

Old lady goes to ground.

Note Mette's resemblance to Emelie Forsberg 
Billede: Thanks for cheering and thanks for believing in me and thanks for the encouragement you give! Just a big big thank you to all of the fantastic you!!
Emelie Forsberg in the Dolomites.
I have never beaten Mette and I have no clue what type of Herculean effort it would take on my part to achieve this, but I doubt Hercules himself could do it. I DO love the fight, though. I love how perfectly she runs and running behind her, dreaming that I will, at some point, run just like her. And the very fact that I believe this and keep trying means that I continue to run 10ks exactly 1 minute and 30 seconds slower than her. If I gave up, I probably wouldn't even be that much slower, but who doesn't love believing?

And then there was Thea. Last weekend, we ran a 5k together (the second weekend in a ro). I am 34, she is 17. Note the math. I have at this point been physically forced to sit down on the couch (by my husband) and watch womens' 5000 meter races at least 10 times. Probably 20. I know that if the goal is to win (and not PR), you don't start out fast, you start out smart. It was probably the hottest day of the year here. Already 85 degrees F an hour before the race. Thea ran the entire race about 20 meters behind me. I knew her plan was to speed up at the end, but what she didn't know, was I started out slowly so I could also speed up. And also I knew sprinting against a 17 year old wasn't going to be easy.

Thea has the right attitude about running, but I wonder how much time she loses by running with her phone. Photo: Jan K Madsen

Sprint to the finish- owww. Photo Jan K Madsen

. It was close. My time: 19:44, granted on dirt and in the heat, but only 2 seconds faster than my 3rd 5k in 2008! But I eaked out a 3 second win.

SR also won, in a super close race, in 17:18. He has always been a good tactical runner. 

SR knows exactly how to position himself before his sprint to the finish. Torben in front is apparently a 2:35 marathoner.

So we move, improve, lose or gain millimeters, seconds in these short races. Perhaps the only way for me to really improve would be to get pregnant again. I have thought a lot about why it is pregnant women runners improve so much post-partum and I think it may have something to do with the high level of estrogen during pregnancy. Since estrogen is the female equivalent of testosterone, it only stands to reason estrogen would create stronger muscles (heck, it also helps to ensure a baby grows strong). Has anyone else run across this theory? 

Or, maybe improving involves throwing yourself into entirely new experiences. Something I know I could improve at by working at it is technical trail running. SR, Andreas Carlsen (of the documentary Ultra fame) and I went to Kullaberg Sweden for a day trip last week. I love how over the course of one day you can let go of a lot of the fear of going downhill on steep slippery rocks. I wish I could run in Kullaberg every day with these two.

A mini Team Salomon outing

It is awesome to have a skill to focus on--- running on technical trails--- that also can take you places. You escape the feeling of being fated to run one particular time and you just run.

Went out for a 2k trail run with the boys  Who knows how much starting them early will decide their future talent and running "fate", or if they'll even care about running at all. At least we had fun.

I gotta thank Tony Krupicka for this one. I love it: