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 28 November 2013

Tough Turkey

I really should know better than to write a blog post when I am feeling so rueful. Especially on Thanksgiving. Sometimes I wonder about this holiday with its diffuse "thankfulness" that is used as an excuse to stuff ourselves with generally unhealthy food. I don't want to say we shouldn't appreciate life, but maybe that we should think more about who we are thanking more than exactly how great our lives are. 

I was sitting in the sauna yesterday with two women with notably darker skin than myself and when they asked me what my favorite holiday was, I said, almost feeling guilty, Martin Luther King Jr. day. I like holidays that make us think about history (especially civil rights) and how the world could be better and how we as humans can make that change.

For months I have had the Tough Turkey 1 miler and Gobble Gallop 5k on our family running schedule. The plan was, I was going to run the 1 miler while Nanna watched the boys, then we would all run the 5k, me with the boys and she would go for a placing (and a pie).

The race is put on by Duluth Running Company. This store has held a very special place in the hearts of SR and myself ever since we deposited my unborn fetus in the trashcan outside of their store after my miscarriage between the two boys. We will always look at that trashcan and think of "Freja" in there. 

Ok, so the race. We ran with the babyjogger 1.5 miles in the deep snow and, with both boys in it, and a strong headwind, it took ages. My race was in just 20 minutes, so I went out to warm up and in the meantime, the boys and Nanna got colder. I knew this was happening so I encouraged Christian to run the 1/4 mile kids race as a warmup. That didn't go great and he gave up because it was too cold. I really felt I had dressed them well, but all of us had freezing toes syndrome. despite wool socks.

So 5 minutes to the 1 mile start and I hadn't really warmed up. It was so cold that the startline balloon deflated and fell on those of us closest to the front. I could not make these things up. So we froze while the balloon was emergently reinflated.

Ready -go! Of course there were 50 guys ahead of me at the start, but after about 400 meters, I took the lead for the men and women! It was such a weird experience to be behind the lead bike! I felt good until we were supposed to turn around and my legs were so frozen that I felt like I was stuck in place around the cone. Well, I got my momentum up again and was in the lead on the home stretch (super cool feeling!)

Tough Turkey 1 mile, in the lead (!), photo by Nanna Olesen.
 Gradually my feet became more and more numb until it felt like I was running on peg legs. (I always had trouble with my circulation playing piano where I would have to stop in the winter and warm up my fingers on the heater to keep going --- I am sad this same problem is affecting my running... silly me to think wool socks would help!)

With 200 meters to go, I slowed a bit and about 4 guys passed me at once. I crossed the finish right after them in unknown time.

By the time I found Nanna with the boys before the 5k, both boys were both screaming and crying at the top of their lungs. We retreated to the Duluth Running Company. None of them wanted to run the 5k.
I may appear here to be a decent mom, but shouldn't I have been baking a turkey or something rather than forcing my kids into the cold? Mattias looks exasperated and will one day need thousands of dollars of orthodontic work because I force him into these situations and give him a nuk to calm him.
After the 5k was done, we ran into friends and life was good and I knew I had won a pie for winning the 1 miler, but when they called up the top 5 women, they didn't even say my name. Ok, I was leading the whole way until the last couple hundred meters and they didn't even notice me? Darn chip timing system! Seriously, this is why I like small races and ultras because if you win, people aren't inclined to believe an electronic timer over their own eyes. Anyway, I went up in utter abashment, and said I was actually the winner. They got it all straightened out and Christian got to pick out our pie (apple).

Christian and I ran home. I had run to get the car for Nanna and Mattias while we were waiting for the awards.
 And I started thinking. All the goodness in life revolves around people. And today (and she does read this blog) I want to thank this amazing woman who has worked her way into my heart and the heart of my family and has made our life of constant change manageable. Maybe we as humans underestimate our powers, how much good we can do. Well, Nanna, you are a superhuman with constant positive energy and we are so, so fortunate to have met you.

I'll leave you all with a couple pictures.

Storm and cold coming from the north over Lake Superior.

Reunited after 4 weeks in Lester Park. I don't want to say "I am thankful" because to me it sounds like I am bragging about having a good life. Instead I will say, I love you, SR.

Friday 22 November 2013

The Wasatch Mountains

"The Mormon looked toward Heaven, but his Heaven was a Heaven on Earth and he would inherit bliss in the flesh"

´- Wallace Stegner, Mormon Country

The first thing I should probably clear up is I am not a Mormon. I don't think anyone who has been reading this blog for longer than 20 seconds thought I was, but now there is no lingering uncertainty.

When you see the Wasatch Mountains from Salt Lake City, though, it makes sense that many Mormons believe the celestial kingdom will one day be on Earth. (The celestial is better than terrestrial and telestrial, by the way. Telestial is only for whoremongers)

Even more so when you are running in these mountians- in the middle of the night- you might even believe heaven IS a place on earth, or rather a place inside of you, you have accessed in the mountains.

 Ok, so let's rewind... WHAT am I doing in SLC when...
these boys are in Duluth? (picture from this morning from SR)
I am on the interview trail. I am applying for training that can't be found in Denmark: it is Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation and will allow me to apply for a Sports Medicine Fellowship and then I can practice this medicine and do research in this field anywhere in the world. It is exciting! This training program, whichever university I match to, will start in July of 2015.

I arrived at the University Guest House last night, right next to the hopsital and the Skaggs (relation??) pharmacy buidling and - there was the trail- there were the mountains, a 5 minute jog away, and a 30 second jog from the hospital door. I'm trying to see a downside to this. It's strange, it's like I'm incapable of being negative these days. I feel so happy and in love-- or ready to fall in love-- with humanity, with life, with the beauty of the earth. It is like all of the vitamins and minerals in my body are at the right level (or maybe it's because I have slept the last 3 weeks without warm little boy bodies next to me? )  I am ready to enshroud my boys with love and kisses on Saturday when I get back.

So 4 AM, I charge up the Wasatch Mountains, alone with my headlamp, shoes and maybe some clothing. 

It is rare to find a more beautiful phrase on a sign than "interpretive mountain trail"

The greatest thing about Salomon Sense is they don't collect mud on their soles ;-)
 But conditions in the mountains change by the meter. And soon I was just running again,out of the mud, in the wind-still darkness, feeling the contours of the mountains in very much the same way you feel emotions. It is almost not an analogy; it is just true. The rocky sloping and diving and delicate snow become symmetric with your soul. Don't believe me? Just try it.

Here I sat down and took a break, at my turnaround, looking over the valley.
And it looked like this. Not in reality, because everything was covered with fog, but I could feel that it looked like this. And now I can't even find where I got this picture, but it is exactly where I was running.

 On the way back, I got into trouble. One section got super slippery and I was crawling on my hands and knees, digging my fingers in the mud so I wouldn't tumble down the ridge. I was scared and SR called at that very moment. It is weird to be in the throes of nature, fighting for your life, and your i phone rings.
Baptized in mud.

Not about to waste a free day in my hotel room, I headed down to Salt Lake Power Yoga for some hot yoga with a view of the mountains.

Here I was anxiously awaiting the moment we would do mountain pose--- and we did. And you should have seen the smile spread across my face when she said "now do the inversion of your choice" and I inverted into my headstand!! Who knew inversion in Salt Lake City could be a good thing?
 At this yoga class, I met not one, but two runners who had had surgery done for Femoacetabular Impingement (FAI). It didn't sound like either of them was doing that much better after the surgery. I couldn't help thinking--- if only they had learned to run correctly! Well, no one is touching my acetabulum with anything! Below is a nice intro video to pose running Ole posted today. I really looking forward to getting certified as a pose instructor this March!

How do you define "Running"? from POSEtv on Vimeo.

But back to SLC..
Free bikes - or $5 for 24 hours (just like in Copenhagen!). I got one to bike back up the foothills to the hotel.

I don't just have a bad aim when taking pictures of myself. I have learned that if I only include half of my face, I am less likely to look asymmetric.

Running song of the day:

Closer by Tegan and Sara (okay, the entire heartthrob album is awesome, except "Now I'm all messed up") and this song totally reminds me of Taylor Swift in a cute way.

Now it is out to dinner with the PM&R residents and a day-long interview tomorrow. I'm ready with my photon joke! :-)

Sunday 17 November 2013

Grenaa 6 Hour Run

Yesterday's 6 hour run was definitely one for the books. Not just the race itself, but the entire experience of travelling from Næstved to Grenaa, staying at a lovely home in Sangstrup and being part of the Grenaa 6 hour weekend. Honestly, had it not been this particular 6 hour race and the timing of it, I may have never run a 6 hour race again. I had this voice in my head that said I could never again run on such an unvaried surface for so long without getting problems with my hip. This was my chance to tackle my fear with a new running technique and new training plan.

At the start line (yes, you can see me in the white compression socks), I couldn't help thinking of being in the exact same place last year... and dropping out after running 42 km in 4 hours with severe hip pain. I had a much better feeling yesterday. For one, I felt energetic and ready to race.

The start was really interesting. Almost immediately I noticed I had forgotten to change my Garmin from miles to kilometers and staying on pace for running 70k was going to be a constant challenge of my math skills.

Shortly after that, a woman passed me. I entertained the notion of holding on to her, but she was going 6:30 min/mile pace. I did not recognize her and I doubted a woman out here could run 80 km in 6 hours, so I figured it was smartest to let her go.

Just before the marathon, I passed her and felt very good in my skin.

There were really no lows yesterday. I just enjoyed running. The joy of constantly lapping people doesn't get old. I had also forgotten that about 80% of the course is on forest trails and only 20% on asphalt, so really an ideal surface for someone like me to run a 6 hour race on. Not to mention all of the people cheering at the aid station and really all along the course. This is a big advantage of a compact route.

It was, to be exact, a 3.13 km loop, which had two really sharp turns that really irritated my right hip. And that hip was killing me between miles 10 and 20, but I had also experienced this at Superior and Glacial Trail and it went away. The same thing happened yesterday. The more I live with my dysfunctional hip, the more I realize, the femoral head is simply not attached to the acetabulum correctly. It probably never will be. As I run, the problem gets worse, but then my muscles tighten and get inflamed and the actual hip pain goes away. And, in all honestly, the length and severity of the problem keeps becoming less, so maybe it will actually go away.

I did run with a back pack, despite an aid station every 3 km. I am the picture of someone who should develop hyponatremia. I drank constantly. But I was also constantly thirsty. I have to say, I think I know my body's signals well enough and the principals of exercise-associated hyponatremia that I know how to avoid it.

The drink of choice was an all natural tropical punch (yum). Food staple was potatoes with or without salt (in little pink bowl). In the red bag were 4 extra pairs of shoes. Just in case. I guess I am one of those runners who feels you can never be too prepared. It's almost too much, though, isn't it?
I'm posting this picture to remind myself NOT to tuck in my shirt next time. Good Lord. It never ceases to amaze me how despite not actually having a pot belly, I always look like I have one. It's like the opposite of a corset. So cool. But both my feet ARE off the ground. Photo by Ib Stokkebye.

According to my Garmin:
 marathon in 3:30
50 k in 4:12
60 k in 5:08

Ok, but what was 70k?? I kept saying to myself it was 43 miles, but it's actually 43.5 miles! (this is where Garmins in the right units come in handy. Or the ability to do math in your head while running an ultra. It alwasy seems so easy to do this math once I am done!).

Then, with a half an hour to go, things took an unexpected twist. "You're in second" said the race director Ove. "What?!" I told him I thought I was in first. All day, people kept saying I was in first and suddenly I get this information!? On my next and final trip through the aid station, I learned that she was slowing down and "5 minutes ahead". What was the chance I could make up 5 minutes in 15 minutes?! I held onto the hope she was walking and SPRINTED the last 15 minutes, like my life depended on it. I passed woman after woman, but what did she look like? I had passed the woman who started ahead of me... (I thought!).

The horn blew. The six hours were up. I did not know if I was in first or second or how much I had run. My Garmin said 43.03 miles and I thought that was 70 km. Whatever happened I was satisfied! It was actually fun! I could not walk off of the course to save my life, but it WAS fun.

I know this is going to be confusing since I said my Garmin was in miles, but Endomondo automatically reads in kilometers, so above was the final reading.

How I managed to run almost an extra kilometer that was not part of the course, I am not sure, but next time I should not run off into the woods with the first guy I meet named Svendrik. This will be my number one strategy for improvement next year.

Below are the laps times for myself and the first woman, Gitte Sørensen, who ran over 4km longer than she ran at Grenaa last year, so that is awesome!

This is what lap times look like when you FEEL like you are running an even pace :.-) I should point out, I think the 22nd lap, though I didn't quite complete it, was faster than the first. The end result was still almost a 5km 6 hour PR.

Edit - Ok, this post would not be complete without a shot of this guy, Poul Petersern (sponsored by Asics), who won for the men, running 79.1 km (6 km ahead of the 2nd place Krisitan Birk). This shot, again by Ib Stokkebye, captures his essence. Notice how he calmly yet totally effectively has just tossed his cup into the trash WHILE both feet are off the ground and no pot belly. Throwing away a plastic cup - like a boss. :-) (honestly, it was fun to watch him run; he is good).

While we were waiting for the final results, awesome times with good friends. The open, interesting conversations you have after a race are unparallelled in life. Everyone was so relaxedand humorous.  Pictured are Alice Kristensen,  "kisser" Claus Christensen, Anne-Dorte Mahato and a fascinting guy from the German border (who was Danish, but LOVED Germans!)
Finally getting a good look at the woman I apparently ran right behind all day! How I wish SR had been there to give me information on her whereabouts (and existence). I thrive on competition and it just didn't happen!!

Here are the 500 kr. I won which covered all of my travel expenses, so that was awesome. Of course, I didn't know I would forget all of my swimming stuff in the locker room.  But then again, I didn't know that today at our local pool, "pool master" Carl would give me an awesome pink Speedo swimsuit since he felt bad for me (provided a did a dance in it on the way out to the pool.. small price to pay) Edit: it was of course only AFTER I was at the bank I realized the check was made out to Gitte Sørensen. I wonder if she has mine?! Thisis all very confusing since 2nd place prize was 500 kr.
In Summary:

1. I am now going to speak with a Jutland accent all of the time because it is much easier and people can almost not hear I am an American import.

2. When I got home I read the standard for getting on the Danish 100k national team was 70km in six hours. Bøøøøø. So close! But until Denmark allows double citizenship, it doesn't affect me. I just think... wouldn't it be better to have MORE women to choose from on the team so that every time Denmark goes to worlds they have more than 2 or 3 going?! There should ALWAYS be a full team and if there are women on the edge who are fresh and ready to go, they will do better than an injured woman who has previously met the standards and is only luke-warm about going. Just my thoughts. Bring back the alternates!

3. The way into the heart of a Dane is through running. This study was no surprise to me to read ( that a country with one of the worst reputations in the world for accepting foreigners, is much more open to foreigners who run races (competere: striving together). Perhaps that helps explain why this clumsy American bookworm has been disguising herself as an athlete :-). Well, no regrets. I am having the time of my life and have never felt so at home in Denmark or so in shape.

It's been a fantastic 3 weeks filled with work, running, time with friends, lectures, but my family is in the US (!) and Tuesday I head back to the states. January, we'll all be back.

I have SO many songs to recommend. Where to begin? Well, I took a 30k bike ride today, windless, sunny, in the 50's
Næstelsø in the background, fantastic photochromic glasses sponsored by Ryders, helmet that ... does the job.

and listened to - on repeat- too many times to admit--

"Ways to Go" by Grouplove. Nothing more than a kick-ass love song.

And I want to say thank you to all of the friends and family members out cheering in Grenaa, Ove Kvist and the many volunteers for a fantastic race, my coach Ole for a training plan that is working, makes me energetic and happy and to Team Salomon Denmark for always supporting me, even off the trails (I LOVE that vest!).