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

Monday 21 October 2013

5k PR's and the 10 Golden Rules

It is a huge privilege to coach someone. When I started with my coach Ole, for some reason I didn't look at it this way. Honestly, I felt bad for him that he had to deal with someone like me. I still do. But that aside, ever-inspired by my experiences with what does and does not work in training, but also inspired by my own coach's plans, the foundations SR taught me about speed training, my obsessive reading on the subject and, most of all, the need to spread my passion for the sport, I was thrilled to start coaching Cindee.

Already, when she contacted me, I knew she was golden because whe wanted to improve. She contacted me after all. I would never ask an athlete if they wanted a coach. It has to be something they want and something they believe in, otherwise it won't work.

To get to the point, today Cindee took 3 min and 10 second off of her previous PR after just under 2 months of training with me and ran a 24:48 today. Congrats, Cindee!!!! You have made me proud.
Cindee and daughter at 5k start this afternoon

Cindee had the interesting training plan of 3 miles a day always at about the same pace. This was something I could relate to. Years ago, in medical school, I ran 10 miles a day, always at the same pace. I burned calories and felt good generally, but never got better and never got stronger. I just maintained. I figured this was "good enough". Then I broke my hip (!) and couldn't run for 6 months, learned to cross train and started to look further into proper training.

Also, with the time I was spending, I could do a heck of a lot better, not only in terms of racing times, but general health and strength.

Training plans need to be tailored very specifically to each athlete, the time they can committ and exactly what they are training for (though this last one can also be vague, if desired).That being said, I was going to give you my long-winded take on generally how to improve (which involves variety, strength-training, rest, avoidance of overtraining, speedwork, technique work and most importantly belief in yourself) when I ran across this excellent compilation of rules by Alberto Salazar (sometimes you read something and you think "I could not have said it better"... well, with no further ado):

Alberto Salazar's 10 Golden Rules from Outside Magainze. (my extra comments in pink)

1. BE CONSISTENT Find a training plan that you can stick to long-term. 
4. STAY ON THE TRAIL Pavement damages joints, tendons, ligaments, and muscles. (Kilian Jornet just dropped out of a race for the first time- too much pavement!)
5. RUN FASTER It's hard to race faster than you train. 
6. STRENGTHEN YOUR WHOLE BODY ... Stay away from machine weights and stick to Pilates, climbing, and dynamic flexibility work like yoga (yes!!!!).
8. PERFECT YOUR FORM Every motion your body makes should propel you directly forward. (Pose technique is probably the easiest form to find online training for that will do just this, but it is much better to learn from a certified instructor)
9. TACKLE DOUBT HEAD-ON ...Never think you are mentally weak. Don't doubt what you can do.
10. EMBRACE TECHNOLOGY I like this, but I would add, don't rely on it and DON'T pace your races with a gps. Be in tune with your body's signals and respect the length of race you are going into!! (this is the only rule that I agree with only 50%)
Now some photos from the weekend:
Christian's second 5k. (He seriously begs daily to find races)
Sprint finish at Cooper Elementary in Superior yesterday. He just barely beat the girl in green! :0). He ran over a 7 minute PR of 38:10. I am gosh darn proud of him. He wanted to do it again today so we ran to the grocery store, but he got really tired after 4k. See AS rule #2! (I can't help but noticing that is 9k over two days and that SHOULD be normal for a 5 year old; it just isn't, except in Kenya. If they produced any good runners, we might take them seriously.).

The day's other awesome performance was Nanna's (our wonderful nanny from Denmark, who already feels like part of the family) who won the womens' 5k race. Here she is accepting her gift certificate to Play it Again Sports.

Mattias on the "pumpkin train" in Duluth.

Michael Koppy and Andy Holak allowed me to mark the Wild Duluth 50/100k with them. 

The day we had for marking was much more beautiful than the day of the race.... but at least you get a good impression of the course from my pictures

Chris Rubesch after winning the Wild Duluth 100k in 11:01 next to Eric Nordgren (volunteered ALL day) and RD, Andy Holak, to the left (er, your right, their left... this is what happens when you think anatomically)
Here we are at the Highland Aid Station at Wild Duluth last night. We made a family event out of it and even Mattias was there. He was very good at eating the Goldfish and Three Musketeers. Christian was actually a huge help. We were pretty much freezing in this picture.

Tuesday 15 October 2013

Glacial Trail 50 Mile

I have these vivid memories of running ultras 5 or 6 years ago, where I would see the lead woman (Helen Lavin (now Scotch) at Voyageur, Meghan Hicks at Chippewa come to mind) returning on an out and back course and thinking to myself how extremely easy the race looked for them. They appeared so poised, beautiful, radiant, as if an ultramarathon were an effortless, yet fully satisfying walk in the park. ("One day I will get there!" I assured myself triumphantly!)

Fast forward to two days ago. I'm running the Glacial Trail 50 Miler and see Michael Borst after the turnaround, leading for the men, making it look absolutely easy. I didn’t know, but he had run the first 25 miles is 3:06 (edit:it was actually 3:15). On that course, that either means you are insane (and you will go down) or insanely good (luckily for him it was the latter). He was named second place young ultrarunner of the year last year, so it was honestly quite an honor to watch him in action (Did I get that right? I’m pretty sure I read that in Ultrarunner Magazine’s Year in Review. And wasn’t Jake Hegge, also of La Crosse, fourth?).

Back to the race... After the 25 mile turnaround, I was the lead woman. And let me tell you… I WAS SUFFERING! Everything hurt. I had only slept two hours because of stomach problems that kept me awake (I kept thinking that all of my headstands caused me to get extra air in my colon--- you know, the very logical things that cross your head as you are half asleep). During the race, the thought of pretty much any food nauseated me, so I once again survived on soda and potatoes (honestly, that was the plan anyway) and my right hip was bothering me. I thought, if there is any woman close to me after I turn at 25 miles, I am going to drop. Then, four minutes after I had turned around, there was the next woman. Too close for comfort, but suddenly, I looked in my bag of tricks and I gave her the biggest, warmest, most confident smile I have ever conjured and she… looked like she was suffering. BAG OF TRICKS, folks.

But let's rewind to the start of the race.

I have gotten slightly smarter about this stuff. Or rather, my life revolves even more fully around ultras. I have a suitcase packed and ready to go at all times with all of my essential ultra running gear. It sits there in my closet.

What I wasn't prepared for was a cold race. Local forecast predicted 37 F in Greenbush at race start (6AM) so I cut up a pair of my mom's unmatched socks (I got permission)
I didn't actually use these because I found thinner ones, but this shows you what I did (highly complex art form, I know)
SR got up with me at 3:40 AM to drive to Greenbush. His race started an hour later, but he acted chipper and was encouraging as always.
The sock-sleeves added just the warmth I needed and were super easy to take off and slip into my backpack (much better than a long-sleeved shirt!)
Note the headlamp as well. It is a Petzl Nao. If you want credibility, walk into any trail outfitter store and ask for a Petzl Nao. When I asked for one at Trail Fitters in Duluth, SR had never seen anyone take me so seriously -ever. This headlamp creates so much light that when the sun actually is up, you will be longing to put your headlamp back on-- no joke. It's that good. SO good that I had two guys following me (very closely) just to suck off my light. This is one way you can attract men if you are single. Also, they can't see you (good for me since I more often than not have chocolate/mud all over my face), they can only see you are fast at running in the dark. I should add that it is also super light and you hardly notice you are wearing it. No, Petzl doesn't sponsor me (trust me, you would know); I just know I would like to know about it if I were looking for a headlamp for running!

As the sun came up, the woods illuminated and it was magical. There is no time or place on earth like the Northern Kettle Morrain in mid-October. It is stunningly beautiful with the hills, fallen leaves, million and one fall colors and sparkling sunlight falling in an ever-changing way, creating shadows and illuminations that will remind you how alive you are and how fantastic this life is.

Here is the route from my Garmin:

The Glacial Trail 50Mi/50k is run on the Northern Kettle Moraine Ice Age Trail. The Ice Age Trail Ultra is run on the southern Terminal Moraine and Chippewa is run on the more northern Terminal Moraine. These three Wisconsin ultras on the Ice Age Trail can be confusing, but you can't go wrong! They are all fantastic!

Back to the race...
I was caught up in it and let myself run fast with two new friends, nice men I never exchanged names with. One got ahead, one fell behind, but we had shared that magical morning.

I made it to the 50k turn-around (25k- I live to help the mathematically challenged ;o)) in 2:23. This was under Cassie Scallon's course record pace (in brief, too fast). Her course record was not a tenable goal. My goals were the following:

1. 50 mile PR (below 8:49)
2. Beat the second fastest female time on the course (Christine Crawford's 8:58) (edit: Christine's was the 4th fastest female time)
3. Win

I made it to the 25 mile turnaround in 4 hours flat. Things were looking ok, but I felt, well "dicey" seems like the right word. If a person can be described as dicey, that is exactly what I was.

You wouldn't think that getting lost would help matters. I did indeed get lost, and lost maybe 2-3 minutes, but this happening sure upped my adrenaline and suddenly I was flying again. It was just the pick-me-up I needed.

There is a section on the course, were you go through a large, open prairie over long grass with big hills and it is just a killer. It seems easy, but I was wiped after I ran it and downed all of my fluid (1.3 L to be exact: 2 500 mL soft bottles in front and one reserve 300mL soft in back). Just as I ran out of fluid, I ran over a road where SR had parked to meet me! He let me know he had won the 50k in an awesome 3:56!! If you look at these pictures, though, I am NOT happy. I am telling him I am out of fluid and 3 miles to the next aid station. He documented my suffering (there are so many reasons I love him). And he said he'd grab me a drink out of the car. Well, before you get your undies in a bundle, I refused the drink. I know you can't accept outside help in any athletic event, so why would I be an exception? (SR seemed quite amazed by my refusal)

Here I am refusing to accept the extra fluid from SR. I recall this as a major low in the race.
But low points are only temporary.
 I did survive (no one dies of dehydration in one day let alone a half an hour) to the aid station and filled up my soft bottles with half soda half sports drink. 

By the way the mud was from a fall when I was reaching to give a fellow runner a high five. You have to pay attention at every second during this race--- there are rocks and roots everywhere!

Ok, seven miles to go. I wonder how far behind the next woman is! I look at my Garmin, calculating the pace. I may not run a PR if I keep going the same pace or slower.
2 miles later, a blond, kind-hearted guy pops out from behind a tree and tells me the 2nd place woman is only 3 minutes behind me and looks strong. (this guy was SR of course). "No way!" I had not expected that, but I started to run like my life depended on it and I was doing sub 9 minute miles again. What a huge advantage to have SR there as my spy!

2 miles later, SR is back!! He reports the second place woman is now 5 minutes behind. I am figuring this must be Sarah Willis (Edit: turns out Sarah Willis was in 3rd and it was Wendy Lilly who was gaining on me, who recently took 2nd at the North Face Endurance Challenge in Madison). I had seen her name on the entrant list and knew she had been in the elite field at Run Rabbit Run and beat Jennifer Benna.

SR took the time to snap some pictures. It is hard to get an idea of how absolutely lovely the route was, but these pictures are a fairly nice representation.

At this point, with just two miles to go, I was pretty confident I had the win and the PR.
The last half mile is on asphalt through the town of Greenbush and the finish was actually really exciting. SR made it back to snap some pictures and I was immediately greeted by Rob Wehner, the outstanding race director and a good friend, who SR and I got to know well during Three Days of Syllamo. What an honor to win his classic, beautiful, challenging Glacial Trail race.

And for SR to win the 50k the same day. It felt like a fairy tale and we have lived in a happy bubble the last 48 hours. And the whole time we raced, the boys were happy and safe with my parents.

Yes, SLG, you can be happy now.
11 minute PR. (and look, I'm running at 1:25 min/mile: your typical shake out run while snapping photo)
A huge congrats to Michael Borst, who set a new course record in the 50 miler of 6:40, besting Jarrow Wahman's previous CR of 7:11 (gosh, Jarrow has been mentioned a lot on this blog over the last month!)

I have to say a huge thank you to all of the smiling, humorous, life-loving, supportive volunteers who spent their Sundays making this race possible.

There are A LOT of elements that come together to make running 50 miles on the Ice Age Trail possible: the volunteers, my parents, my husband, Rob Wehner, my coach Ole (who has helped me get stronger and stay uninjured!), the awesome support I get from Salomon Denmark AND you guys. Isn't it amazing the inspiration we can derive from other bloggers and runners?

And in summary: it hurt, it hurt just as badly as my first 50 miler and I had crises and they were bad. I guess even when you take first, these things don't go away. But this IS part of the fun. The uncharted territory of running ultramarthons in challenging terrain- as fast as you can. Pushing to your limits, learning how to keep improving, racing smarter, staying confident. I feel like I'm improving and gradually expanding my boundaries. It is an awesome feeling. The things I have learned from Ole have made me consider pursuing coaching myself. There really is a fascinating science to improvement and it is fun to see results.

Speaking of results, it has also been marvelous watching my mom's progress as a painter. SR and I are basically offering to pay my mom all the money we have saved to buy this painting she did of Christian and Mattias at Park Point beach in Duluth. She has really been focusing on the techniques involved in painting light. Oh, I just love it! She's not selling it, though.

It is fun to come home from a race with goodies and prizes, too. I love all of this stuff; I treasure it. I am not a lover of things, but these things I love, because I worked so hard to earn them.

One final thought. I was just reading some guidelines about what to post on Facebook. It basically revolved around never brag and only write things that are interesting. I was thinking that if my friends never "bragged" about the things they were doing, the joy in their lives, their achievements, their happiness, Facebook, the blogging world and the world in general would just be a lot less interesting; so much of the color and wonder would disappear. I LOVE reading about peoples' achievements. I guess I just want to say --- take pride in what you do! Love what you do and tell people about it and the world really will be a better place. Or that's what I think :o).

I really regret that I didn't get any pictures of SR (especially considering he took such an incredible number of pictures of me!). I felt pretty terrible at the finish again, but didn't faint. I got something to eat and drink right away and put my feet up. Disaster averted. But SR had an awesome race, a lot of fun and no cramping. He started out slowly and gradually took the lead. I don't want to give too much away. I'm sure he'll be on that story soon.

I didn't listen to any music while racing, but I'll be back with more songs in a few days. 

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Pictures, ideas, jokes, songs

Gathering and a touching speech about living with Lupus before the Lupus Foundation of Minnesota's 5k. (on the windiest day of the year)

Christian didn't question the weather. It was his chance to run a race with Mom. He wanted to win.

After 45 minutes, he crossed the finish line. The next morning, he asked if we could run it again. I love him.

But the next morning, I Nanna (an angel from Denmark) watched the kids as I ran on the Superior Hiking Trail. Heaven is yellow pine needled paths.

And subtle hues. I am spoiled to be here! Some of the Northern Minnesota Running Club runners were out, though I really only knew Chris Rubesch.
I started to take off my shoe. Then I decided to take a picture of our entryway (and me) following the wonderful 16 miles.
This is also what it looks like here (a picture I wish I would have taken by unknown photographer)

10 years of yoga and I can finally do a headstand. Me and the couch. Thanks for the inspiration, Angie Bee!

Christian did it on the first try, of course, being a young pup. That very evening he spent a half an hour watching yoga videos on youtube and practicing. He might be more into it than I am.

Christian felt Mattias should also make inversion part of his practice.

View on my bike ride back from dropping off Mattias. Lakewalk, Duluth. Sigh.
Below you can see what I was listening to. Great biking music!

Idea: I'm considering applying to do the 24 hour race in Tempe Arizona, Desert Solstice invitational. Basically, I want to see Pam Smith (again), but I'm also curious what I could manage to run at a race like this. 24 hours- on a track. Sounds actually really tempting! Looking at the past results, I see that Maibritt Skovgaard's 133.1 miles a month ago in Grenaa really was an incredible performance and would have been the womens' record at Desert Solstice.

Maibritt Skovgaard. 133.1 miles in 24 hours, Grenaa, Denmark.Sept. 2103! Photo courtesy of Sparta Athletic Club

Jokes: I am not the type of person who has a repertoire of jokes handy at any given moment. Nothing really wrong with this except at physician job interviews, a classic questinon is "tell me a good joke". I need some new material. Anyone?


Friday 4 October 2013

NMTC: How (not) to run a race

There is a grand tradition in the US of high school and college track and cross-country. I was not part of this by any stretch of the imagination, too busy playing indie rock music, reading James Joyce and other things that are too pretentious or naugthy to write on this blog.

I missed out on the track & field experience and now, running races with the Northern Minnesota Track Club, I am desperately attempting to make up for lost time, speed training and, not least of all, racing smarts.

Last night, I ran with a girl, fresh out of college, who could run 5,000s in 17 minutes flat. If I could just figure out what her name is... (I'll get back to this)

Around the time of the Supreior 50 mile, I was talking with Jarrow, who co-founded the Northern Minnesota Track Club in 1981 and owns Austin Jarrow running store.

Bill, Jarrow & Steve. 1981. Chester Bowl, Duluth, MN. 

These guys started, among many other races, The Voyageur 50 miler, made famous in Scott Jurek's Eat &Run and now Jarrow organizes a series of Wednesday night runs which he says are "more competitive than Grandma's Marathon"

Jarrow asked me, before I had actually run any of the track club races, if I wanted to be part of their team. This would mean a super nice sponsored race outfit, hat, long-sleeved shirt plus a discount at their store. These things make my head grow (for no reason other I need self-confidence boosters on a regular basis; thanks, Jarrow).

How to not run a race

10 days post Superior 50 miler, I showed up for a NMTC 6k on an unknown route (turned out to be on super technical Superior Hiking Trail trails and then a wicked ascent and descent on Spirit Mountain). I started out (super fast...) with a  good lead, and finished 6th female, had to sprint to not be 7th and went home wondering what on earth had just hit me. SR, who had been 8th the week before, took 2nd the week of this picture.

"Rolling Stones" start. Photo by Eve Grave.

After the race, everyone stood around, beautiful, young, in shape. SR and I hurried to the car to pick up the kids from the 2 hours of YMCA care. "What just happened?" I figured I will just still tired from the 50 miler.

Fast forward one week. It is Wednesday night again. Again, I start out in the lead, hoping fresh legs and a less techincal course will mean a win for me. SR also took the lead. Same guy as last week says "Oh, f*, we're starting fast again" (yes, you can thank my husband for that). It is super hilly. Not rolling hills. Hills that are like constant mud walls. Or I guess I could show a picture (but much less technical than the previous week).

This is shortly after I lost the lead. Don't I look happy? Photo by Eve Grave.

That girl in the lead is none other than Kari Higden from Columbia University Track & Field Team. I didn't know that at the time, but now I do!

Not only did I lose the lead, but I got passed by two more gals. I felt like I was going to throw up. I wanted to dart off into the woods, puke, quietly and slowly find my way back to the start (as I had hoped to the week before, too) - but as in everything else in life - don't give up. Every time life is hard, you are glad you have perservered and regret it if you don't.

But back to the race, these girls are just way better than me and I was simply killing myself by starting out in the lead. 

Girl number 5 (turned out to be Molly) suddenly was gaining on me at the end and SR told me I had better sprint up the last hill.
Last hills sprint. Race #2. Photo by SR

You have got to be kidding me. This was only supposed to be a tempo run.
 I love female competition. If you look up the origins of the verb "to compete", you would find it comes from the Latin competere: to strive in common. (isn't that beautiful?). One of the things I will take away from Duluth is these people love to "strive in common" and they are gosh darn good at it. It is a privilege and I must admit, in racing one of the most important techniques is losing your big head.

Yet I was still worried: Am I suddenly really out of shape? I was talking with Molly Pennings after this race (she was the 5th place woman), and found out her half marathon PR was just run at 1:28:13. Ok, so I'm edging out girls with faster half marathon PR's than me, so that is a good sign. But I can run these better, I know it.

How to run a race (right)

Wednesday night (yesterday) NMTC race #3: "Rock Hill" 6k

This time I came prepared. I did a bit of research on exactly how to pace yourself in a race. Apparently all 5k to Marathon world records have been achieved with negative splits. 5k perfect plan: start out first 1km slightly faster than avg. pace. km 2-4, nice, even, slightly below avg. pace, last km- fastest pace.

Nanna from Denmark (of elite handball playing fame) ready for her first trail race!
I'm not sure why it always rains Wednesday night, but the fall colours were gorgeous.

To make a long story short, I ran as planned. The trails around Bagley Nature Area are exceptionally lovely (and steep). Even pace, came in with a 23 something 6k (still waiting for official time to be posted) and a solid 3rd place female. Yes, I will take it!

I talked with mystery 17 minute 5,000 meter woman (who took first) for a while after the race.  She described the circumstances of her college training and about how her life 100% revolved around her team and her training. There is an awful lot of respect out there for women running ultramarathons, but if you ask me, running a 17 minute 5k as a woman should garnish more respect than an ultra win. If you can do that, you truly know how to run and race and, if you can put in the miles, you will be able to win every ultra marathon you set foot on.

I told her I had not run in high school or college, and to her, my running a sub 19 5k at 34 sounded like moving a mountain and that is kind of what it has felt like to me. We all have different backgrounds, yet we "strive together" in awe and respect and hoping to learn and make friendships. It is truly a privilege to be part of the Northern Minnesota Track Club, however long it lasts.

Leslie Semler (ultra super star) and Molly Pennings. Photo: SLG
The culture in Duluth is to start running early (perhaps that explains all of the talent here!). I bought Christian a new pair of running shoes and we went to try them out on Sunday. I had to measure the route afterwards, along the Lakewalk, but he ran 6km!! So, that means I am signing him up for a 5k race this Saturday, which we will run together. Can't wait to see what kind of a time he can run!

SR and I signed up for the now sold-out Glacial Trail Ultra on Oct. 13th on the Ice Age Trail. I have run the 50k before and Rob Wehner does such a fantastic job as a race director.  I will be running the 50 miler and SR the 50k. Cassie Scallon has the overall course record for the 50k, so it will be interesting to see if SR can beat that :o). My hopes are high for him!

Ok- song of the day (I have been going to Jessie Hetland's yoga class at Evolve-- she is a former professional dancer and combines hot yoga vinyasa with dance and music. It is incredible!) Here was one of the better tracks we did: I haven't tried running to it, though I think it will be good. It's actually pretty annoying for just sitting and listening to (enjoy!).

I have mentioned before that the boys and I love watching the Belgian Barbapapa. We have found another favourite French cartoon and that is Didou. (since we are trying very hard to have Danish at home and English in school, it is challenging to keep up on French, but I have found cartoons have provided a good platform).