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

Wednesday 5 November 2014

How to best improve your aerobic fitness- a project with Phil Maffetone

Just a quick prologue to the post: I want to thank everyone for their comments and questions on my last post. I learn so much by writing this blog. I hope I come off as someone who is seeking answers and not someone who thinks they have all the answers.

Perhaps the most unexpected person to contact me after my last post about the Maffetone Method and LCHF diets was Phil Maffetone. When I saw his name in my inbox, I thought perhaps it was a hoax but, as I read his email, I realized it was not. After a number of lengthy email exchanges, I asked him if he had any of his data published in a peer-reviewed journal. I could not find his name on PubMed. He didnn't. It didn't take long before we agreed to work on an article together. I feel like this is perfect timing with my PhD finishing and the Ultra Eye Study being accepted for publication.

Two nights ago, we spent an hour and a half on Skype and divised a plan which I am very excited about (plus we laughed a lot and covered everything from Descartes to urine sodium... science and freindships are fun). I promise to let you all know about the article (the publishing process isn't always fast!) and if you don't feel like checking the blog, you can follow me on Twitter or Facebook.

The art of staying aerobic (and not going anaerobic)

It seems like there has never been such widespread misunderstanding about how to best achieve aerobic fitness (and I was one of the people who had sorely misunderstood). I didn't realize that going "all out" on my intervals and tempos was in fact working against me: it was too anaerobic and caused an accumulation of stress (more details in the publication!). I talked about my plantar fasciitis, but not as much the depression and fatigue I had over the summer.

In coach Ole's defence, he told me to run my intervals and tempos slower. I didn't understand why. I still believed in the "no pain, no gain" mentality.

Over the last year, one athlete after another was referred to me for overtraining (this is so prevalent in ultra-running, especially, it seems, among females). One explanation could certainly be that athletes spend too much time at a heart rate above their max aerobic threshold - and it builds up- and suddenly it is way too much. Diet is certainly involved as well: too much reliance on carbohydrates as a fuel seems to be detrimental (and favors anaerobic processes in the body, not to mention insulin resistance). Phil Maffetone says the reason the Kenyans have gone under 2 hours in the marathon is their high reliance on carbs. On the flip side low carb intake which is not accompanied by a very high fat intake will leave an athlete without enough energy.

An aside: Here is a fascinating self-experiment done by a keto-adapted physician athlete showing maintainance of blood sugar during exercise (I'm glad he did this experiment because I'm not about to down a bottle of oil before my swims!).

The data

They are coming (I think). It is actually amazing that after years of working with American and world record holders that Dr. Maffetone's data have not been published in a peer-reviewed journal, but I have a lot of respect for him for being willing to go through the process now-- and he seems motivated by the fact that anyone can use his principles to train with. I should mention, he has published multiple books, but I also think it will be great that (soon?) the medical and scientific world will also be exposed to this method and, perhaps, give it the credit at least I think it deserves.

A couple confusing points from my last post, which I would just like to clear up:

My diet: I am not trying to achieve less than 10% carbs, but am happy with 30-40% carbs (as percentage of calorie intake). My aim right now is to eliminate added sugar and all refined carbs.

Max pulse vs. aerobic max pluse: So max pulse is the fastest your heart can beat regularly (220-age approximately) and Max aerobic pulse is the highest pulse you can obtain before your exercise becomes anaerobic (180-age approximately). So my race last week was at "max pulse"

Quick question about VO2 max

So, my Garmin watch nearly daily tells me it detects a new VO2 max. I just imagine it is set for a 70kg male (that is usually the default). Does anyone know how I adjust for my age and weight? And does one adjust for sex? (yes, the correct term is "sex" and not "gender"!)... I was reading on a "private" forum yesterday the conversation of some stay at home wives, who happened to be making fun of my blog. One of the things they said, besides the fact that I was "pear shaped" (???), was that I had such a strange way of writing (and ergo could not be American)-- whatevs. Should I take it as an insult I don't write like an American ;o)??

My boy, the runner, pre and just finishing 3.6 km. There are no words in any language to describe how much I love him.

... he just told me tonight he is reconsidering his love for his current girlfriend because she laughs to much at his jokes.(it is fun to get a boy's perspective on girls!)

The same song, different versions (one for running, one for alpha waves)

Tuesday 28 October 2014

Maffetone training, Mærk Næstved, more LCHF and other news

What pace do you train at and why? I guess every runner should think about this. I have to admit, though, that when I learned about "Maffetone" training through Larisa Dannis, it opened up a whole new way of thinking about training for me. I started out by listening to the the Ulltraruner podcast with Larisa (at Olga's recommendation) and then  the Trail Runner Nation podcast with "Dr." Maffetone himself (the quotes since I can't figure out what his educational background is by googling him...I do know he is a is a self-proclaimed musician with a lot of experience in exercise physiology).

Edit: I just received an email from Dr. Phil Maffetone himself and he is a chiropractor who then pursued an interest in exercise physiology.

The idea is simple: find the pulse that represents the upper edge of your aerobic zone and train almost exclusively at that pace. You can learn how to estimate it here. I usually ends up approximately being 180-age.

Why would you do this, you ask? So the claim is you can develop your aerobic system without going anaerobic, without stressing the body (through cortisol, lactic acid, etc) and with less injury risk. What athletes (Mark Allen, Larisa Dannis plus other anonymous that I have read about) and Maffetone claim is that over weeks and months, you run faster and faster within this pulse range. This is very thought provoking.

In my first few runs, I was surprised how hard it was for me to run this pace. It is faster than I do my long runs yet slower than a tempo. I think coach Ole was a bit surprised that a 150 pulse for me started out as 5.53/km on mixture of trails and streets and just over the last week, I have watched the pace go up for the same pulse every single time I run this route (I am running the very same route -more or less -since I know it is an experiment). Today my pace was 5.15/km. I had not expected to see results in a week, so I wonder if there are other factors coming into play.

Either way, Larisa has certainly had success with it. Not only did she come from a non-runner background to running a 2.44 Boston Marathon and take 2nd female at Western States, but two days ago she just run the fastest 50 miler/80.5km run by an American female in the last 20 years: 5:59 (and on a hilly course in Wisconsin). She kept her pulse "aerobic" the entire time (generally 147-152). She didn't know what her mile splits had been until she got home, but she was very consistent at just around 7 minutes/mile. You can follow her runs on Strava.

Larisa Dannis at the Door Country Fall 50, courtesy of INKnBRURN. Note the foot strike :-).
As stated earlier, I have dealt with plantar fasciitis for a number of months, but am back to training now (minus intervals and tempos). I have some tips for getting over PF, which you can write me an email about if interested.

I decided to run a 12k race this past weekend. It is a cool event we have run before called "Mærk Næstved Løb" put on by our local athletic club, HGATM. SR had run the Trailman 50k last weekend so offered to watch the kids and even cheer along the route. There are not a lot of money races where I have a chance of winning, but I do keep trying.

I am wearing shoes, which I would like to refer to as my PF rehab shoes. They are heavy and awkward, but support the arch very, very well. Salomon has recently notified me that they also have shoes with this type of arch support--- I am trying those starting tomorrow and am looking forward to less awkward shoes. P.S. Do you see any correlation between foot-strike pattern and happiness?
Before the race SR suggested I run 4.05/km pace. This seemed fair on a windy, hilly yet non-technical route. I ran a pretty even pace, but started a bit fast coming through 10k in 40.20, but the race ends with a wicked uphill so I slowed. I was happy I didn't start too fast because this meant passing the first female after 3km and winning 1.000 kr. (thank you, Sydbank!) and won a personal training program + free training at Fysium for setting the female course record.

What probably interested me about this race was my pulse (by the way, my pulse strap was so tight around my thorax that I had trouble breathing!! Looser and I feel it will fall down-- tips?). My max pulse is "supposed to be" 220-35: 185" which means I was pretty much maxing it out all the way after 5km (see below). What is the deal? I mean, yeah, it felt super hard, but I can only come to the conclusion that my max pulse is quite a bit higher. This is a long time to run at max pulse. No wonder I was wiped out the last km...

If interested, you can follow almost all of my runs on Endomondo.

More on the LCHF diet

One of the foundations of improving aerobic performance is the ability to oxidize fat for energy. Runners on a high carb diet may not have much success with the Maffetone method (says the good doctor himself). SR, who has just recently gone super low carb, had me calculate my actual percentage of calories from carbs on a daily basis and we found out it was somewhere between 30 and 40%. The "sad" thing is this is about half of what it used to be. So it was only relatively low carb. In Phinney and Volek's study, "low carb" was defined as "less than 10% of daily calories" The good thing is, most of my carbs come from vegetables. Except for those two darn Clif Builder's bars in the morning and the glass of wine at night. Tomorrow, for the first time, I am replacing the bars with eggs. Wish me luck.

The change in my diet so far has been mostly positive (and I have been on this diet since February). I love that I can last long runs and many hours without getting that hungry. That old feeling of hunger I knew (headaches, fatigue) is gone. I don't need to worry about my weight anymore. It just stays in one place. I have also been surprised that despite being at the same weight on the scale, the lingering cellulite on my thighs just disappeared.

Dr. Phinney had claimed that in order for the LCHF diet to work you had to be "ketotic" which he believed required less than 10% of calories from carbs. See my post here. I however am nowhere near this and feel I am experiencing a lot of the same benefits as athletes who are techincally low carb. There simply must be a gray zone.

One down side is I feel like I have a lot more body odor (just female hormones??). Food is also more expensive and requires more preparation.

Then again, if I do end up living a long life, the fact that I will be less likely to develop insulin resistance (since I am producing less insulin than if I were on a typical Western Diet) is nice, too. As I look back over the last  year, I have gained endurance and speed, but that may be due to my training plan.

I keep hearing all of these positive things from athletes on the LCHF diet, for example Joe Uhan and Zach Bitter (weight loss, improved cholesterol, more energy, faster race times, etc). I would be interested in hearing if any readers have had a negative experience with a similar diet.

P.S. The 32Gi  energy products are NOT part of a LCHF diet. They are made of a type of sugar. They are not healthy to train with on a daily basis and do not improve fat burning. And these products do not make sense for marathons either because they have the same glycemic index (GI) as milk (which is 32). This may mean you feel you are lacking that boost of energy you can get from high GI sugars, which again I feel should be reserved for races.

Edit: I can see now that I shouldn't have made such a bold statement about 32Gi. One could potentially use them as part of a LCHF diet, but they are made out of a type of sugar. When I said they were not healthy, I meant compared to a healthy diet, but they do induce less of an insulin response than most other energy products. Basically, I believe all energy products should be reserved for races and preferably not part of daily training.

Oh and yes, you see I am sponsored by Vitargo, which for me is perfect for races, because it is easier on the stomach and gives a nice burst of energy. But I do not use their products for every day training


In other news, I just got permanent residency in Denmark and I am studying to take the Danish citizenship test December 2nd. This was really great news for our family. Up to this point (the last six years) I have been required to have full-time work at all times, plus document all of my work plans, rental contratracts and keep reapplying to maintain residency. Now, I don't need to worry about being allowed to stay og traveling back and forth from the US. The whole thing was a very difficult process, but I am enormously grateful it worked out.

Running songs of the day (Maffetone (musician that he is) says you should not listen to music while running in order to keep your pulse down.... hmmm... I'm not buying into that one just yet)

Edit: Ok, Dr. M cleared this one up for me, too. He says he prefers athletes listen to their bodies rather than music while running. He said he did an observational with runners who were and weren't listening to music on a treadmill and found those with music had a decreased running economy. My note: I am not sure if this difference was statistically significant.

Running song of the day
The first song I was going to put was Taylor Swift's "Out of the Woods". She is such an underrated overrated pop star. That video is not available on Youtube yet. This one is from the Icelandic Elliphant and the Danish Mø.

Monday 29 September 2014

A nubbinz with nubbins

If that title doesn't keep you away, what will? I keep trying to write a grand summary of what has happened since I stopped blogging on May 20th. It seems the mere fact that I have not been blogging has left me incapable of putting it into words. Oh well.

Life is good again now.

On Wednesday SR returned from Duluth, MN. We have spent the last year living on two different continents. I am also having trouble finding the words to describe how wonderful it is to have him back.

It was kind of a rough summer finishing my PhD alone with the two kids, working another job (to retain my Danish residency), learning my American driver's license wasn't valid in Denmark, getting plantar fasciitits from using the babyjogger for most transportation, etc.

SR had a rough summer living in a hotel and missed us. We're all happy now and discussing our next adventures.

Frisco, CO

After I finished my PhD we took a trip to Frisco, Colorado. I can't say enough good things about this town and we are thinking of moving there for three months in the spring before our big move to California. We would normally just move right to California, but I have been contacted by a friend who, due to illness in the family, would like to switch residency positions with me. Due to the American residency match rules we are not allowed to find out if this will happen until we have both done 45 days at the program we "matched" to. The real problem is SR doesn't know yet where he should apply for a job. So why not move to Frisco in the mean time? Or Flagstaff, AZ?


SR had a great race. He came in second after Matt Flaherty in the 50k. He loved the trails. I really like mountain running, too. Honestly, my favorite running is with steep uphillls and downhills. I also love training at altitude and I think because I had been in Lake Tahoe over the summer (for the Western States Endurance Conference -- writing for iRunFar here) and taking iron all the while, by the time we got to Frisco, the altitude didn't come as too much of a shock.

My mom, on the other hand, got blue hands the last day we were in Frisco. Had it been the 3rd or 4th day, I would have driven her to Denver. She and my sister have always had problems with altitude and I wonder what genetic condition this is. Had we not gone to the Rockies every year since I was a kid, we would have never known about it.

P.S. I ran the ½ marathon at UROC


I think I'm going to ease into writing about running again. I have to admit, I am a bit fatiguée, as they say, of a society that values individual accompishment so much (ie. marathon PR, ironman, straight A's, etc etc). Well, it gets old. Sometimes I would look back at my old blog posts over the summer and wonder who I had become. I have to point out that my favorite runner at the moment, Sylvia Kiberenge, is the most modest person I know.

Anyway, I love running more than ever- especially after a long injury, it is awesome to be back. 

Yesterday, in Holte, the last Salomon Trail Tour race (held in Rude Skov) was one of the highlights of the year. It was a 16k of very technical, hilly trails and ended up being one of the most tactical races I have been in. All the females started together and we eventually learned that we had to keep running in a pack (the lead group was a pack of four) because otherwise the woman in the lead would get lost and look back to the others for help. Anyway, we had a blast and the women's race ended with a sprint finish on the track.

SR had fun, but got very lost, so not quite the placement he had hoped for. 

Here was a shot of the top 3 women and men from yesterday.

Charlotte Löjdqvist, Tracy Høeg, Kristine Villum, Claus Hallingdal Bloch, Marcus Rønn & Christian Madsen. Photo by Anne-Mette Lindgaard
I have a lot more to say, but why not set the bar low for the next post? Of course you have heard these. But if not, why not take a listen?

Tuesday 20 May 2014

7 year bloggiversary, motherhood and different versions of reality

7 years ago, when I started this blog, it was part of my attempt to press the reset button and start my life anew. I was 26. There were a lot of things I wanted to forget or not face up to, but more importantly, there were so many things I wanted to do. I wanted to live my dream life and wanted to be happy, and no one but myself was going to make this happen.

That was also when I met SR and left my husband (who SR will always refer to as "Saint Paul"). Suddenly the version of reality that mattered was the version SR and I created.

For us, writing our blogs, was akin to creating the story of our lives. I am not saying we lied or made things up, but the stories we told are what we remember as the truth. Anyone who has been a writer knows the magic of the written word: you can change the world and make yourself believe in an entirely different reality than people around you.

Over the years, my blog as the grand tableau of my life, has been challenged again and again. It started with people figuring out my identity. When people could look up my race results, my job, details about my past, not even minor alterations in the truth were allowed. At times, it seemed, despite me thinking or writing otherwise, I was nothing more or less than I was - to the readers. And there have been a lot of instances where readers have hated me.

I started writing about the safety of running during pregnancy. Just because I was a doctor didn't mean I could write statements about health and safety without references. My blog became more challenging to maintain, but I learned a lot about what it means to be a scientist - and the importance of accountability.

As I began to race more, my version of what happened during my workouts became so insignificant compared to the clocks at races. I could cut a workout on the track short and claim to have run faster, but if the goal is to get faster, accountability and accurate assessments of my abilities helped me improve and race smarter.

Yesterday, I was at Target with the two boys. I walked down the shoe aisle and took my eyes off Mattias, who was sitting in the large compartment of the cart (the kids' carts were all taken). I eyed some size 12 shoes for Christian and out of the corner of my right eye, I saw my 2 year old teetering on the brink of the top of the cart and then launching off, jumping as high as he could, temporarily growing small angel wings before he landed a perfect 10 landing on flat feet on the cream speckled Target floor - lifting his arms proudly over his head for the clapping crowd. Amazing. Every bone in my body was proud of my wild specimen.

Yet, everyone else there surely saw something else: a boy desperate not to be left alone or ignored by his mom, hopping dangerously out of the cart and almost breaking his ankle. Had my mom been there, she would have blown a gasket.

In truth, no one saw him but me. And I may have made up the part about the wings.

I like to think that my eating has gotten a lot healthier. I am not too thin. I eat a variety of foods. But if my step daughter sees my eating as restrictive and wants to be thin, she may very well become anorexic in attempt to emulate me. And suddenly, as a mom and step-mom, my version of reality is a lot less important than that of my kids.

Yesterday, as we lined up to start the Color Dash 5k, everyone was smiling, but there was a big wait to start even after the race had begun. I looked down at Christian with love, so proud he was going to run, but he looked up at me with fear. He said, carefully, in Danish "Mom, please don't start screaming because we have to wait to start". My heart broke and my smile got strange. In my version of reality, I only scream or cry if I am really upset or desperate. In his version, I am unpredictable. And suddenly, the only version of reality that mattered was his.

I could go on using this blog to tell my story, but it changes nothing of importance when my story is not the one that matters. Maybe that is why I rarely make time to blog. In fact, is this why mothers so seldom write?

Steve Q pointed out to me today that no one under 30 has a blog anymore. This made me sad because using writing to understand our feelings and to help others understand their own is undervalued in the Facebook era.

And I thought again about our trip to Target yesterday, Christian and Mattias sitting in the red cart, repeating in unison the word "tissemand" (Danish for "penis") and laughing. They were like two little crickets singing their joyful tissemand duet and no one could understand them - and this is what seemed to make them happiest - except their mother, who couldn't stop laughing. Every fiber in my body loved those two boys, and I smiled knowing, for at least that moment, my version of reality really was the one that mattered.

Running song of the Day:

Horseshoe by Withered Hand

We can kid our friends. Tell me was it easy to pretend? Like nobody is dead. Nobody in love will ever die again.

Tuesday 13 May 2014

Ice Age Trail 50 Mile 2014 - Running with the Pixie Ninja, Ian Torrence and other Stars of Ultra Running on the Stomping Grounds of my Youth

 The sport of trail ultra running has been growing by approximately 66% a year and many athletes are concerned this growth could have a negative impact on the sport. This weekend in La Grange, WI, the only changes I saw were positive.

First of all, it was exciting and educational to read irunfar's preview before the race. That gave me a much better sense of just how competitive it would be. With multiple women who had qualified for the Olympic Trials (Larisa Dannis and Kaci Licktieg), Kate Pallardy with a recent 1:17 Half Marathon PR, Gina Lucrezi the NCAA Div 2 National 1500 meter champion (sponsored by Pepsi!), Alisha Damrow with a recent 6:40 50 miler on roads and Maddy Hribar with an 18 hour 100 miler at Pine Creek. It seemed impossible and comedic that Meghan Hicks added my name to the race preview!! These ladies - and others I have failed to mention - are phenomenal runners!

Here we are in our bus-boose with both boys on the long drive from Duluth, MN to Hartland, WI. SR and I of course filled the hours with talk of ultras: drama and strategy and what would the next day bring? I also have a vague memory of going to McDonald's.

For those of you who read Danish, I wrote a little about my preparation for the race on Team Salomon's website.

7 AM race start, I said hello to Ben Trok, Chris Rubesch, Zach Bitter, Roy Pirrung and Ann Heaslett. Great to see so many familiar faces. As I mentioned in the blog title, I grew up just over a half an hour's drive from the race start. It was fun to see all the locals in awe of the stars. And heck, some of the locals have become stars, too. It is simply fun to see excitement growing around the sport of ultra trail running.

And right from the start, the air was electric. There were photographers and fans everywhere along the first Nordic Loop. It's just over 15 km of cross country ski trails with some steep rolling hills.
This was around mile 2. Females from left to right Kaci (aka The Pixie Ninja) behind me, Kate Pallardy, Gina Lucrezi, Larisa Dannis and Maddy Hribar.

We ran the first 10k together in 48:06. This was a nice start and good way to get to know all these gals, who had all travelled long distances to race. It was fun to hear their stories and discuss our shared passion. Larisa had just run a 2:44 at Boston and was pretty excited about that! Kaci, the Pixie Ninja, was remarkably humble and had a positive energy about her. We all had to compliment her on her awesome performances at Rocky Racoon and Lake Sonoma. 

Nicholas Wied was exactly right when he wrote in his race recap for irunfar that this year the race was about speed. I was a few minutes behind these ladies when I came through a half marathon (after the beautiful and technical single track had begun) in 1:42. I can't emphasize enough how important speed training is for ultras. I could not come close to competing with world class ladies like these if I were not doing regular speed work. A half marathon on hilly trails in 1:42 had to feel comfortable and it did. I kept feeling like I was holding back and getting ready to unleash the beast. 

Awesome shot of my legs taken by Ali Engin, who was crouching down on the ground by Rice Lake.

The trails get more and more technical and the hills steeper the further you get into the race. The first Nordic loop the easiest, the middle out and back harder and the last out and back the most challenging. Yet - and I mean this - it was all so much fun! 

But with increasing difficulty in mind, Kaci Lickteig still managed to run a negative split. And that is evidence for me that- like every other running distance- just about every single record is set with a negative split. It is the best way to run a race. Ultras, as we are learning, are not exceptions to the classic rules of long-distance running.

I, however, did not run a negative split. I managed to keep my tempo reasonable with a 6 min/kilometer average, though the first 44.5 km in four hours.

I came through the marathon distance in 3:47 - and at the 26 mile aid station, there was Timo Yanacheck (director of the Mad City 100k), smiling and cheering. He's a great guy and that was sure uplifting! 

Following that aid station, I reverted to my old trail running habit of CCU (controlled continuous urination) thinking there was no one behind me (glad I was diuresing). Well, my hearing has been damaged by too many years of loud rock music and suddenly a rather good looking fellow was indeed right behind me, my compression shorts still dripping. I don't know if he saw it, but anyway, we ran the next 5 or so miles together, over the now hot and sunny prairie, switching off taking the lead. When I saw SR for the first time, he said, did you see who you were running with? I was clueless. That was Ian Torrence! Ha. Sorry, Ian.

I had one energy low at around the point of this picture - between 35 and 40 miles - I didn't realize this was a big net uphill section until I turned around. It helped immensely that SR was out there constantly popping out from behind trees and cheering me on. He gave me the impression all day that I was solidly in 5th place - both 4th and 6th females a significant distance away. 

Photo by SR. This is about when the temps reached 80F (27C) and I was in a serious meditative state: concentrating on keeping calm with a low heart rate and constant focus on short, fast steps. 
The race strategy SR and I had laid out was- run your own race and there will be carnage among the top females who start too fast. Well, I held up my end of the deal, but there was no carnage at the top.

I felt great the last 15k. I thought I was just cruising, but it turn out ran it in 1:40. Ha. Well, good enough. It is strange what feels like a fast pace at the end of an ultra.

I think I almost tripped here and was quite glad SR captured my clumsiness - although, I didn't fall once the whole race. I should probably note that SR fell getting out of the way for a runner and ended up with a bloody knee. 
Chris Rubesch, running in for 10th guy, looking cat-like as always.

Kaci going for her win and course record. She always looks so relaxed, yet she ran these last 10 miles in 72 minutes. That is the same pace Matt Flaherty (Salomon), who took second, ran the last 10 miles.

To add a twist, with just 1.5 k to go, I spotted a woman right ahead of me. She was walking. What?! Is this my chance at a WS entry spot and sudden fame? I passed her and she did not put up a fight...??!! I really wasn't sure if it was Gina Lucrezi, but it looked like her hair and tank top. Anyway, I ran the last kilometer in 4:48 and was happy to realize I still had a lot of energy, though it helps a lot to know it is almost over!

Finish time was 8:01:00. A 38 minute trail 50 mile PR. I ran the race I knew I could. Turns out the woman who I passed was running the 50k. One place away from a Western States ticket (!), but I could not be happier with my race.

About to pass out waiting to thank race director Jeff Mallach for this absolutely fantastic experience.

Pure bliss. With my calves up, the nausea and light-headedness disappeared within 10 minutes. Finally- I could soak it up- FINALLY an ultra without hip problems or right leg pain. And thanks to Nic Giebler for letting me use his cooler to put my feet on - you are not only a great chiropractor Nic, but you save poor souls from the sequelae of exercise associated postural hypotension.

When I was out on a training run before Worlds with Ben Nephew he said "be smart and run races that play to your strengths". I didn't realize how wise those words were, but Ice Age Trail was exactly that kind of race - lots of hills on single tracks with no asphalt. It is thrilling to make such a big improvement and I consider this a better performance that Fyr til Fyr 60k in 5:14 because there I got lost and my right leg cramped up at the end. At Ice Age Trail, it all went right. Yet, I feel there is a ton of room for improvement: my technique still needs work and my speed work continues to make me faster.

We probably all stand to learn a lot from a gal like Kaci. She lowered Cassie Scallon's old course record by 5 minutes and Cassie had lowered Ann Trason's by 18 minutes. 

Kaci is a physical therapist who has taken ultra running by storm this year and, when I asked her a bit about her background, she replied with the following:

"I was a walk on for a D2 school (University of Nebraska-Kearney) and ran cross country and track for 2 years before going to grad school. I was a "long" distance runner. So, for track the 5K-10K. I am not an elite marathoner. I did qualify for the Olympic trials for 2012. I ran a 2:44:14 at CIM. One thing for me is that I have never been "blessed" with pure talent. I have had to work my butt of to be where I am. Running is such a passion of mine and I am a very driven Type A person. I always want to better myself and keep achieving goals I set."

Kaci seems very down to earth and honest. I have to note, though, that all the girls I was competing against ran track in college. I have a bit of an inferiority complex because of this and wonder if I still have a chance to get that speed they developed in their teens and twenties. It is an interesting experiment and I am glad I have coach Ole to help me with this. My sense is starting to tell me it is not too late to go back and train my legs (and more importantly brain) to run fast in my thirties after all.


I had 2 Clif Bars and 1 Vitargo Energi Kakan bar before the race. They seemed to sit well. I drank half all-natural tropical juice and half water out of my bladder and bottles and refilled my Salomon soft flasks with gingerale or coke at 3 aid stations after the 50k. It was hot and I was thirsty. I only ended up eating half of a Vitargo protein bar and that seemed to sit well in my stomach. Again, I prefer my energy from liquid and am pretty amazed by the low amount of calories needed to keep my energy up. I think the low carb diet, not eating on or after my runs and loading up on energy pre-race all helped.

Top 10 results

  1. Max King (Montrail) – 5:41:07 (course record)
  2. Matt Flaherty (Salomon) – 5:49:13
  3. Brian Condon - 5:58:24
  4. Michael Owen - 5:59:56
  5. Matt Laye - 6:14:43
  6. Zach Bitter (Altra) - 6:19:52
  7. Ian Ridgeway - 6:36:18
  8. Jason Wolfe (AdiUltra) - 6:41:14
  9. Kevin Grabowski (Lapham Peak Trail Runners) - 6:49:51
  10. Chris Rubesch - 6:54:14
  1. Kaci Lickteig (Pearl Izumi) – 6:41:39 (course record)
  2. Kate Pallardy - 7:04:16
  3. Larisa Dannis (Altra) – 7:15:39
  4. Gina Lucrezi (PepsiCo) – 7:37:30
  5. Tracy Hoeg (Salomon) – 8:01:00
  6. Jessica Garcia – 8:14:48
  7. Maddy Hribar – 8:17:42
  8. Alisha Damrow – 8:34:33
  9. Erin Lumbard – 8:44:13
  10. Kristin Frey – 8:49:33

Congrats to Max King on beating the 27 year old course record and ALSO running a negative split. Matt Flaherty (Salomon) also came under the old recorn in 5:49
Congrats to Jeff Mallach on such a wonderful running event, which seemed to go flawlessly. The course was beautiful and the markings easy to follow.
Here I was shaking Jeff's hand at the awards, feeling giddy. Can you sense the love from the guy behind this camera? :-)

Thank you to the volunteers who smiled and cheered and pampered us runners all day. You have all done Wisconsin proud! Beautiful people, beautiful terrain - yes, this sport is cool.

Thank you most of all to my husband, SR, who crewed me all day and made me feel like a superstar. I could not have run this race nearly as well without him. It means the world that we share this passion - and I only hope one day I can support him as much in a race as much as he supported me on Saturday. 

Wednesday 7 May 2014

Ice Age Trail Preview, Help me Design an Energy Bar & Running Fast vs. Long

This morning, I woke to this, as Christian, Mattias and SR slept peacefully. This is our back "yard" for the next five weeks- the ice-covered Lake Superior border between the US and Canada. It seems like good place to finish the writing of my dissertation and perhaps go for a run or two.
I could write many blog posts about returning once again from Denmark to the US. Psychologically, it is always hard for me and I know it is harder on the kids, yet they don't ever show immediate signs of disquietude.

That being said, change is also always exciting and healthy. And most of all, it is wonderful to be back together with SR. He took this picture of me on the still snowy trails of Minnesota Point this morning.

Before he took this picture, SR was saying in disbelief that they (irunfar) had "forgotten" to add my name to the list of favorites for the Ice Age Trail 50. Let me put it this way- I would much rather run a great race than be listed on the potential favorites and not run well (as I finish off this post, I was sent an apology from Meghan Hicks about omitting my name from the list- She is so classy and sweet and one of the reasons irunfar is so successful - whether or not I belong on that list). The name that really sticks out to me as being hard to beat is Kaci Lickteig

From Omaha, NE, Kaci has a 99.0% rating (has run 10 races) on ultra signup of. Beating her would require her car breaking down on the way to the race or something similar. Yet, knowing me, I will start out trying to keep up with her.
After Kaci, there is a longish list of other women who can easily run 50 miles faster than I can: Larisa Dannis, Stephanie Weigel, Maddie Hrybar and Alisha Damrow to name a few.

In the mens' race I am hoping the podium will include the following: Zach Bitter, Mike Borst and Chris Rubesch since they are local favorites, strong runners and good guys!

It will be really fun for me to run in such a competitive ultra. It is not something I have much experience with. And honestly, I do not know what time to aim for. It seems I have continued to get faster all spring. A 5:14 60k on tough trails makes me think I should aim for a sub 7:30, but that sounds unrealistic. Let's call that "the ultimate, everything goes perfectly" goal. Goal number 2 would be sub 8. Goal number 3 is PR. I feel like if I do none of these that I am injured or puking because IAT is an easier course than Glacial Trail where I ran my 8:38 - as long as it doesn't get too muddy. And the truth is, all trail ultras necessitate you obeying the conditions and just running the best time you can that day.

overlooking la grange lake atop one ridge on the west out and back. one of the most beautiful views on the course.
The Ice Age Trail has lovely views and is 100% off asphalt :-). This photos is overlooking La Grange Lake, by Amy Courts.
Course map.

The course is a loop and two out and backs. In essence

A Pippi Longstocking-shaped route

I ran a bit of the Lapham Peak section of the Ice Age Trail while I was visiting my parents and there were really good running conditions. Slightly muddy, but not bad. I think I will wear my Salomon Sense and not the Sense SG.

 I have to thank SR for offering to crew me at IAT. It means a lot to me. I really like it when we have shared projects and he is really, really good at crewing. He has an uncanny sense of where I am and when I will arrive at certain points. Somehow he also seems to like assuming the role of the obedient servant; for those who haven't spent time with us, you should know he never calls me "Tracy" but always "My Lady", which initially I imagined was because Tracy is such an awkward name to say with a Danish accent, but it has just stuck. If I call him "My Lord" in Danish, it sounds like I am calling him excrement, so I just go on mispronouncing his first name and everything is jackanory.

So, I am well aware that what has slowed me down at the end of all my ultras over the last two years has been my "hip". That stupid pain in my entire right leg - often going up to my right shoulder and down to my foot.

My pain started to get worse again after the long flight and the 6k race on Saturday (see below), until I went to Holistic Path in Duluth and got a 90 minute full body massage. The amazing thing was- she noticed my IT band was adhered like glue to my knotty vastus lateralis (where I had indicated the problem was coming from) and suddenly I realized my problem was very, very close to classic ITB syndrome (in Danish "løberknæ") except rather than pain in my knee, it was pulling on my gluteus medius and creating pain above the IT band. This also fits with stair climbing making the problem worse.

I think you can see how form this picture how the vastus lateralis adhering to the IT band could pull down on the gluteus medius.
 But I found this article fascinating, describing how an inflexible ankle or anterior pelvic tilt (I have both of these) can cause the IT band and piriformis muscle to tighten. It is very, very complex, which is why physical therapists and physiatrists have cool jobs! Figuring out what came first is a challenging puzzle, which has now taken me 2 years to try to solve and I still don't have the full answer.

But that didn't stop me from feeling awesome after the masssage.
When my hair gets really curly, it usually means I am happy.
And the lake and sky sure looked beautiful on my completely pain-free run afterwards.

Otherwise, the timing of this taper week falls perfectly with maximum adventure time with the boys.
Goal of finding all the penny pincher designs in Duluth. Location: Grandma's Bar and Grill.

Christian at the Duluth Aquarium (cool floor, huh?)

Yay! 1 degree celcius.

Spongebob at Sunrise

I also ran a quick race the morning after I arrived- a 6k to raise money for clean water in Ethiopia. This was organized by ComeUnity.
I actually won for the men and women in 22:31 for 6k. That must have been around a 18:45 5k and then 1 more km! Felt great to run a 5k PR and keep going, though no official splits of course; just for fun.

The people of Duluth are just really nice! The second and third place women came right up to me after the race and started chatting away. And why am I so tan? Very nice that I inherited my dad's pigment which causes me to look jaundiced after I have been in the sun. I also inhereted my dad's arm length since I compared my arm span to my mom's -- she is over 4 inches taller than me and my arm span is 3 inches longer than hers! Woah!? How fortunate I am so ape-like.
Now - two questions:

1. If you could design an energy bar, which ingredients would you want and what percentages carbs, fat and protein? I have been offered the opportunity by coach Ole and 32gi to help come up with a couple recipes for myself (and others?). Right now my ideas are - all natural, gluten free; one for long runs and racing which is higher in carbs and one for maintanance which is very low in carbs. I am looking at lärabars and clif builders bars for inspiration right now. I have great luck with Clif Builders and they use soy protein isolate, flax sed as well as beet juice, so why not go with it?

unsweetened chocolate, nuts, coconut, raisins, and dates, sesame seeds and oil come to mind. which are probably other good options. Kind of a fun project!

2. When should a runner start training for a marathon? I have been asked this question by an athlete who has recently started to run 6-8 miles once per week and also does regular speed sessions. My inclination now is running is like playing the piano or any other skill- learn the basics first and work up through 5k, 10k and ½ marathon races first. Why slug through Rachmoninoff when you can't play a little etude? I personally jumped right into a marathon as my very first race in 2004 - ran it is 3:42 - after never once trying to run fast - and about 25 different tendons in my body were injured afterwards for 2+ months and I could not run and I was miserable! Ha! Would love your opinions since I think it is an interesting question and if one is able to run the marathon slowly enough, one probably could run a marathon a lot sooner. I personally wished I had focused on speed and technique before distance. I have to go back and learn the basics now, which is seems a lot harder.

Sunday 27 April 2014

Danish 10,000 meter championships

Most of my Danish blog readers are probably surprised to see me not adding one more zero in my title. After all, yesterday was the Danish 100km championships as well. Pia Joan Sørensen was the women's champion in 8:19 on a warm and windy day - IMPRESSIVE!

Lovely, winner photo of Pia Joan Sørensen by Niels Høg Henrikson in front of Tueholm Sø.  100km Danish championships.

Most of my day yesterday was spent at the Dansh Orthoptics Annual Meeting at Roskile Hospital. I gave a lecture there about the association between the advent of systematic 4 year old vision screening and the prevalence of amblyopia in Denmark since WWII as well as the most common causes. Sometimes I am amazed that my profession has essentially become teaching and speaking in a foreign language. Especially because every time I say "population study" it sounds like I am saying "fertility study". But learning to speak without an accent as an adult is like teaching an amblyopic eye to see! (Unless I sing og speak with a Jylland accent)

Anyway, I loved spending the day with people dedicated to helping save and improve the vision of children. I felt like this was a sufficient excuse to not run 100km around a 1.5 km asphalt loop. Plus, I have the Ice Age Trail 50 miler in just 2 weeks now, so that would have been a bad idea!

What I didn't know, until last weekend, when I was invited to the 10,000 meter Danish Track Championships is that I actually was eligible to run and get a title of "Danish Champion" and still be American. The truth is, you just have to have lived in Denmark (legally) for 2 years and be a member of an athletic club.

Yesterday was hot and no one here has ever heard of air conditioners in cars so I was sweating buckets on my long drive from Roskilde to Korsør in the afternoon bake fest. I kept drinking water all the while knowing I wouldn't be able to start the race tanked up, especially considering a wickedly competitive Bikram class the night before (I love competing with ballet dancers).

I was tired by the time I arrived at the stadium but changing clothing and going for a warmup run with Rikke Due Andersen on a lovely grass field really pepped me up.

There was an electric feel at Korsør Stadium. Video cameras and a largish crowd. Athletic clubs from all over the country. Erling from Køge brought along his African crew - muslims, christians, atheists - they are all living at his house, as he humorously described, demanding things lot hot milk never microwaved, but they are super sweet and humble. (And one of the guys living with Erling, William Morwabe, ran BT half marathon this morning in 1:03!)

Being a new member of Køge Atletik, I shared a jersey with a 13 year old boy, Emil Holm, who can run a 3,000 meter in around 8 minutes. He didn't yesterday and ran in 8:47. My understanding is none or few PR's were set yesterday. Not being any sort of afficionado at track races, I did not know how much the strong wind would mean for our times.

As Rikke and I warmed up, she talked about trying to run sub 36. I talked about sub 39. Erling had given me an expected finish of under 39 based on my half marathon (1:26) on a hilly route and 10k (39.59) also on a hilly route. I felt like I had "good legs". And I mean, come on, this was flat, of course I would run a PR...

Gathering at the start line, the 20 women sure looked professional and confident. They were not sporting the gold jewelry or drawing crucifixes on their chest, but they knew how to do dynamic warmups that didn't look like they were at a high school dance (like yours truly).

We had to line up at two separate start points and I was the furthest to the left (middle of the track) in the start group about 10 meters ahead of ladies pictured below
Faster half of womens' 10,000 field. Rikke 4th from right. Simone furthest right. Photo courtesy of DAF.
. Oh my, all eyes and cameras were on us and it was fun! The gun went and I took off faster than ... anyone else. And unintentionally, I was in the lead when the two groups came together after the cones. I led the first three laps- as in I was ahead of the 10,000 m star Simone Glad (coolest name in Danish track, who has recently run a 33:58). Really smart running for the first km right? I could hear the announcers talk about the top runners, not even acknowledging me because they had seen this stupidity before and why point out that I was going to go down in flames?

Meanwhile, I entertained the thought "What if I win? What if I beat a girl who can run under 34 minutes?" I can only assume this was due to lack of oxygen to my brain. Coach Erling was yelling at me "Slow down, Tracy!!" Well, I listened, eventually. I made it though 5k in 19:30, but at that point I had killed myself with the first 1.5 km and the 12.5 laps to the end were sheer torture. Of course I wanted to drop out and cast myself onto the ground like a starfish, but I was invited there and my team was cheering me on. I could hear Sylvia yelling "Go Tracy!!" in that fantastic Kenyan accent every time I came past the start. Yes, you DO notice these things out there.

The thing about the wind on a track is it feels like it is against you 95% of the time and then there is this precious moment every round where you get a little push from behind.

Who would have believed I could run so much slower than predicted (except everyone who does and doesn't know me)? 40.32 ØV. (cast myself down on the grass like a starfish - that was allowed now)

Simone did end up winning in 35:34. Rikke had a really strong run and took 4th in 37:00. As my back and abdomen were spasming, I told the team as I laughed that it "was not fun in the least". And then Rikke pointed out- well, you can always say you ran 1,000 meters faster than Simone Glad :-D. Oh and I won my age group- so I guess that makes me "age group Danish champion" of the 10,000 meters. I hear there is a gold medal on the way in the mail.

So all in all, a fun experience except the actual running after the first 1,500 meters.

I am glad I stuck around to watch the mens' 10,000 meters.
Mens' 10,000 metere lead group. Photo courtesy of DAF.

 It is things like this that make you really appreciate the sport of long-distance running. Watching Sondre Moen, Abdi Ulaud, Jesper Frarschou and Henrik Them absolutely sprint around the track 25 times was astounding. It looked unreal that they could keep up a pace most people can't get up to when sprinting to avoid getting hit by a train. The all finished in around 30 minutes.

In other news, The Chippewa trail 50k was run yesterday in New Auburn, WI and SR ran. It sounded like slower conditions, so his course record of 3:51 did not fall! I know he says he had a crisis at the end and I can't find the results, so you will have to wait for his version, but Jordan Hanlon won for the men in 5:59 and Christi Novak took the womens' title. Of note Jake Hegge didn't run due to injury.

On Wednesday Mattias and I leave for Duluth for 6 weeks. We are getting good at spending all the money we don't have in order to have our family on the same continent! Thankfully this is only temporary.

Running songs of the day:

Kom Nu by Jacobløberhjemmefra

Superlove by Charli XCX

(absolutely genious song!)"I think your hair looks much better pushed over to one side. How do you feel about me?" :-)

Friday 18 April 2014

Skærtorsdagsløb 10k PR

"As soon as you stop wanting something, you get it." - Andy Warhol

It's fun. My life is otherwise pretty boring without SR and Christian here, so having a great race and seeing friends at the same time means a lot to me. I probably should have told my coach I was going to run it, but at the same time I have the need for small secrets.

I do 90% of my running training on either the trails or the track of Skærtorsdagsløb (Maundy Thursday Run) - right here in Næstved. And almost every time I am on these trails, I think of Skærtorsdagsløb. I think of the "mud wall" you have to run up and the shock I got the first time I ran the race and realized we needed to run up that thing. Now it's just a normal part of my training. It is really, really fun to get better at something. And to get better at running without needing to get pregnant again to do it, well, it fascinates me.

In the 1.1 km from my house to the track, it is hard not to notice the forest floor. The white and yellow flowers are anemone both in Danish and English though I had never heard of them before moving here.
Anette was my cycling friend when I was pregnant and during two trips to Mallorca. We have had long wonderful conversations and she was the time keeper yesterday.
Allan is the new head of HGATM and Maria is a rather famous cross triathlete and the last couple of months I have been her running coach, so we have gotten to be close. They both kept track of runners as they crossed the finish line.
Up to the race

My interval times the last 5-6 weeks have indicated to me that I can run a 10k in around 39 if given a flat, easy course. My goal for YEARS has been to run a 10k under 40 minutes and for YEARS I did not move one bit closer to that goal. Yesterday, I did not have that as a goal because this course is quite tough and last year, feeling I was in great shape, I ran it in 42:06. And I had run a 60k race 11 days earlier.

But a few major things have happened since last year:

1. My hip doesn't hurt during shorter races. Last Thursday, I went to see Søren Raunholt, my osteopath in Næstved, and he did some ART on my hip and reminded me- just as coach Ole does - proper running technique (shorter steps, avoiding heal landing) is going to be my saving grace.

I have a significant leg length discrepancy (pain in the hip of the longer leg) and I have known about this for years now. I have always walked with a limp. As a teenager, I really got made fun of for this because people thought I was trying to "walk like a gangster" :-) ... one time the mom of a kid with a neurologic disability came up to me and told me to stop imitating her son, who walked with a limp. Ha! As if I would make fun of someone with a limp?! That is just how I walked. At the time I didn't understand why I walked like that). Anyway, Søren said if I walked all day, he would give me an insert for my left shoe. I have been given these before. But he said that since what I do most is run that I can make up for the discrepancy by landing on my mid foot rather than my heal when I am running. We really all are "born to run" and not "born to walk".

2. I went to Bikram Yoga the day before the race and that always helps me run faster. Remember when you slightly stretch a muscle it gets stronger.

3. I weigh 49 kgs. That is a lot less than the 52 I weighed at the race last year. Anyone who says this makes no difference is wrong. I am not saying the weight is my healthiest weight, but it may be my fastest.

4. I have been training with Ole for a year and a half now and am really starting to see the results of consistent effort and continually mixing up my training.

5. Eating a healthy diet is the final element I needed to make my training effective and to decrease recovery time. I don't want to be known as the crazy diet woman, but added sugar really serves no purpose and I have also started slowly removing it from Mattias' diet, though I am trying to keep a level head and don't want any eating disorders in my family!

The race

It was just really solid. SR told me to run it as a tempo and for placement. There were no females anywhere near me, so I just kept an even, hard pace. I always go after perceived heartrate, so the hills were obviously slower. The race is half on asphalt and half on trails. It is quite hilly for a Danish race. I came through the 5k in 19:54 and honestly DOVE across the finish line to get this time, though it took me a second (or decisecond, I guess) to stop my garmin. Then they announced over the loudspeakers I was the first female in 39:59 :-). Whooohaa!

Maria was there to congratulate me and was kind of shocked, as it seemed others were, with my improvement.

The next part is kind of sad because, even in the time we have lived in Næstved, this race has gotten smaller and smaller. Herlufsholm (the namesake of the athletic club HGATM) is an old and prestigious boarding school in our small town. The track club is also old and prestigious, with this race being the oldest in Denmark; it was run for the 79th time yesterday. But there were only 340 participants in the 3, 5 and 10k put together and none of my old rivals was there. Mette Bøgard, the sub 3 marathoner ran it in 40:23 last year and I wish she would have been there to give me a good fight. But everything and everyone is moving out of the small towns and into the big cities or finding newer, fancier races. Even I have switched to running with Køge Atletik, though I didn't have the heart to tell anyone this yesterday. (It was just too hard to say no to the trip to Kenya they offered me!)
Awards for the top 3 females: jo, Heidi Fjellerad (blondina to the right) and Dorte Haslund in blue.

300 kr gift certificate prize

Right after I took this picture I was playing really wild with Mattias. Our usual games and he fell on his face with his nuk in his mouth and there was blood everywhere. Suddenly I hated the fact I had run the race and was more tired than I knew. I am quite used to emergencies, thank God and just controlled the bleeding. I thought he was going to lose a tooth, but the force of the nuk just made his gums bleed like crazy. Disaster averted. I think I will avoid wild play after races from now on. And it may be time to lose the nuk, though honestly he may have broken a tooth had it not been there.
Time for a bike ride to the beach with this guy! Enjoy your Easter weekend. Looking for some more running songs? Check out Jill's Iditarod playlist.