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 20 January 2014

Salomon Hammer Trail Winter Edition - ½ Marathon & California

If you feel like you have landed on a deserted island when you arrive off of the ferry into the dark Scandinavian winter onto the island of Bornholm, it is not far from the truth. The island, heavily dependent on tourism, nearly shuts down over the winter months, and certainly not even all of the 40,000 people who technically live on Bornholm are there in the winter.

The fishermen and farmers remain; perhaps the watchmakers as well - and also Tine and her husband from Tines Gjesthûz. They were thrilled too, because of Salomon and Tejn's Hammer Trail Winter Edition, they sold out ALL of their rooms. It was unheard of in the winter.

Sometimes I marvel at the places I see and people I have met through running. This is one of the many reasons, I hope trail running is a life-long sport.

I took the ferry from Ystad, Sweden with Pia and Jesper. It was 4:30PM and completely dark already (especially strange since I was still on California time - 7:30 AM). The waves were wicked and Pia got very sea sick, then I did, too. The ride is short, though; it takes only 5 quarters (the faster Danish way of saying "an hour and 15 minutes").

Christian Madsen, director of the Winforce 100k, was there to pick us up and drive us to Jakob Vestergaard's (the co-director of the Hammer Trail races) summer house. In typical Danish style, the house was absolutely freezing when we arrived. Danes never leave anything on when they leave, heat included. We warmed ourselves by the burners with our jackets on.

Here Pia was saying something about Christian's plan to make pasta with meat sauce "That is something I make for my 9 year old son; it's not something adults eat"

Christian rationalized his meal selection. He was not quite willing to admit he normally eats Winforce gels for dinner.

I then delved into my bottomless carry-on and took out my emergency salad, frozen broccoli, gluten-free soy sauce, tuna and chocolate wine for everyone. I like to have a make-shift gourmet meal ready wherever I travel. Cheers.

Jesper very out of his element with alcohol in his hand. What would happen next?
 I'm not sure what happened next- after dinner that is- because I went to Tines Gjestehûz, my lovely Norwegian friend's across the street.

When I woke up, this is what I saw. One of my favorite views from the Fyr til Fyr course in Allinge. But where was the snow?

No worries, 3km later on my warm-up run, over to the western half of the island, the snow was piled high. Cool, huh? I love island microclimates!

Overview of the Salomon Hammer Trail course photo by Jakob Vestergaard
Ok- so, totally jetlagged and in every way discombobulated, I and 50+ others embarked on the half marathon run. I ran it because I knew it would be hard. Running this course fast, is wicked hard and dangerous, especially when slippery.

I saw Christian Madsen, just before we started; he had broken his finger about 35 km into the 50 mile run. I knew I had to be cautious on the downhills. As we lined up to start, people began to smirk at my shoes. The Bornholm natives knew I needed some more serious grip than I had on my Salomon Sense shoes. I honestly had no clue how muddy, icy and slippery it would be on Bornholm when I had packed two weeks earlier before our trip to California.  And the Salomon Sense shoes are great on - almost - every terrain.

Here is Pernille Munch Tygesen, who ended up being my rival throughout the race, demonstrating a better shoe choice for the slick, muddy terrain with the Salomon Fellrasier W's. She lives on Borhnhom and I have a feeling she had a good idea of what to expect on the course!
Anyway, Pernille and I were battling the entire race in 3rd and 4th place, with two men not actually too far ahead of us. We really pushed each other. We didn't know of each other in advance so it was a bit of a surprise for us both to come up against stiff competition. Every time we went downhill, Pernille sped ahead as I slid and fell (I pride myself on my falling ability, but I do wish I could fall a little less often), scrambling again to catch up with her. It was fun until we got to the "cow path" where I slid so violently in the mud off the course and down into a ravine. I had to crawl my way back to the course in the icy mud with my fingernails and knees. It was pretty great, but Glenn Alverus said I lost about 4 minutes bathing in the cold soup. Time well spent, if you are looking to get dirty. 

After the cow path and 2 mega sets of stairs, the course is fairly runnable and incredibly fun and beautiful. 
Photo property of Tejn IF, by Jakob Vestergaard.

Above is my favorite running of the whole course. Again, photo property of Tejn IF, by Jakob Vestergaard.
During the second half of the race, I did not know how far ahead of me Pernille was. I just gave it my all. I could tell I had really improved at technical trail running since running the Hammer Trail last May.

I am not just similing for the camera. That was awesome running!

Pernille finished in 2:13:24 and I came in in 2:15:55. It was survival of the fittest out there. I have to work on my downhills if I'm going to compete with Pernille in another race (and I hope I get a chance to). Salomon gives such great prizes at their races: Pernille won the backpack I am wearing and I won a Salomon belt with soft flasks, which SR is quite pleased with. We took 3rd and 4th place overall - 1st and 2nd female. Henrik Henrysson of Sweden won the men's race in 2:05. Photo courtesty of Salomon Denmark. 

In the 50 miler as well, 3rd place overall was taken by the one and only Pia Joan Sørensen, who ran the amazing time of 10:43:57, the only female finisher of that race. Jesper Halvorsen won the 50 miler in 9:44:21. All of the results can be seen here. Congrats to them and to everyone who took on this course! I have raced quite a lot of races and when Salomon and TIF get together to make a race, it pretty much doesn't get better. 

Happy Jesper crossing the finish line. He was also smiling just like this when I saw him a couple hours earlier.

The week before this was spent with SR in California. I had my last two PM&R interviews at UC Davis and Stanford. We managed to get in about 80 miles of trail running in 6 days. We also caught up with Jill Homer for dinner. Yep, she is just a cool as she seems.

Obligatory photo of fancy cute guy in front of the Apple Store in Palo Alto.

Cool, California. The city that is.

Near Robie's Point, North Fork of the American River, last few miles of the Western States course.

Dipsea Trail starting in Mill Valley, CA, going to Stinson Beach: the site of THE oldest American trail race.
(Religious-themed) Running Songs of the Day: Holy Branches by Radical Face & Dear God by XTC

Monday 6 January 2014

Johns Hopkins

Allow me to lash out for a second- against the culture of non-learning. Against the culture of social media, which values in your face half truths above teaching and learning.

I had an outstanding English teacher at UW-Madison who said “Every time you write something, ask yourself why you are writing it and what your audience will get from reading it”. That principle has stuck with me. Sometimes I forget it, but I probably think of it on average once a day.

Don’t get me wrong, you don’t need to explain the Pythagorean Theorem every time you write, or anything scientific, mathematical, tangible or practical. Maybe it is a feeling, way of thinking or explaining something in a way that most people don’t, because your viewpoint is different. Or maybe it just sounds really good.

Today, I interviewed at Johns Hopkins for a residency position. To a "young" physician, this just kind of seems like a big deal. Johns Hopkins is the biggest name in medicine in the United States and arguably in the world. Why? (and if they really are THAT great, why did they offer ME an interview?)

So Johns. You know who he is, right? Good old Johnny Johns Hopkins. Up until today, I had thought that there were two doctors: Dr. Johns and Dr. Hopkins. Nope. One guy: Mr. Johns Hopkins. Nice first name, isn't it? (embarrassing, I didn't know this, right?).

He was born in 1795.

He was the owner of (among many, many other things) the Baltimore and Ohio (B&O) Railroad (of Monopoly fame) and the game Monopoly may in fact be based on his life (this is at least my theory) - and this is Christian's favorite board game right now. He (Johns) won the game, you could say. And he was the quintessential self-made man. But what made Johnny Johns so special was he gave all of his money away to good causes. He was a Quaker and this was an important tenant of his faith. This other important part was he could not marry his cousin, even though she was the only woman he ever loved, so he never had kids (which of course may or may not have anythingto do with his faith). Anyway, the money he gave to start Johns Hopkins University and Hospital was "by all accounts, the largest philanthropic bequest ever made to an American education institution" (nice quote from Wikipedia, with no source).

But then there was this guy from Ontario named William Osler. And it is THIS guy who made  the Johns Hopkins School of Medicine so famous (or was it Harvey Cushing who wrote William's biography? - you know, the first guy to stick a knife into a living person's brain with the intent of curing them). Osler established what is the modern day "residency" training in medicine, where young physicians in training sleep at the hospital - "round" on patients (his term). Basically he had this revolutionary idea that one could learn what a patient's disease and diganosis were by talking to them and looking at them. My favorite quote of his is "listen to your patient, he is telling you the diagnosis". It seems so inane that this is my favorite quote of his when it is so freaking obvious- but guess what? Doctors don't do this anymore. 

And so, I felt today, in some way, that medicine is coming full circle. Where innovation is not necessarily about the amazing 128 slice CT scan, but learning to listen and examine so health care dollars can be saved and people can be saved of cancer-causing radiation, among other burdens of modern medicine.

Yeah, I was asked today how I thought health care costs could be cut. Being asked this question said a lot (of good things) about Johns Hopkins. I said two things 1. holistic medicine: diagnosis made though history and physical and treatments that are non-harmful, based on unbiased research (not funded by drug companies). For example, acupuncture can work better than opioids. It is the drug companies who manufacture opioids that have beendriving physicians and the public to believe otherwise.

2. Health comes through living in a healthy society. If America wants to cut health care costs, exercise needs to be a part of daily life (walking, biking to work), healthy food needs to be affordable for everyone and poverty needs to be reduced.

And that's why Johns Hopkins is STILL cool. Because they are leaders, wanting to initiate change that works. And they are affiliated with the National Institutes of Health- the best funding source for non-biased research in the US; where money comes from public funds. 

And why is it that Americans are so gosh darn opposed to giving tax money going to these public funds? To research, health care, reducing poverty, creating safe bike lanes, etc. etc?? 

But I am sugar-coating my experience for no apparent reason other than "it sounds good". The applicants: we are all dang tired. It is common knowledge among Physical Medicine and Rehab applicants that you need to interview with at least 10 programs to be guaranteed to "match" anywhere. It is crazy. The specialty has become super competitive in the last two years And we're all standing there thinking "just tell us how often we're on call, how hard our work will be and what the exact work hours will be and oh- if we'll like living in Baltimore". You know, we are all just humans of course.

And I hate travelling to all of these interviews even though I learn so much about the speciality of PM&R as well as medicine in the United States - and I want to make an educated choice about where I train. I miss being with the kids and SR. When SR encouraged me to apply to PM&R, I didn't know if I could do it- enter this world again, but I miss clinical medicine and the pursuit of knowledge, change and ideas - and mostly patient care- so much. It really suits me. The path to stay-at-home momness is paved in the US. It's practical and affordable. But I'm used to the Danish model by now where no familes can afford stay-at-home momness.

So why not stay Denmark, right? Well, if I get specialty training in the US, I will be able to work in both the US and Europe, but not vice versa. There is also no dedicated field of PM&R in Denmark.

Oh, by the way, I have a new job in Denmark in the Department of Clinical Biochemistry! That's why I'll be going back in two weeks. If Denmark offered double citizenship, life would be a lot easier and SR and I wouldn't need to live this double country life all the time just to meet the requirements of our residency permits-- get with the double-citizenship program, Denmark.

BTW - the above blog post is what happens when I am stuck waiting at BWI airport for a 3 hour delayed plane to Minneapolis.

But look at the design yourself salad I got at the said Baltimore airport!

and the salad's point of view.
The statue at the entrance to Johns Hopkins hospital. See, I thought it was Jesus because of the sandals, but I guess it is actually God. There was a teenager standing there writing a long message that started with "Dear God" in a large, guilded book as we applicants walked by.

Oh, if you are interested in follow-up from my last post about health issues in the endurance athlete, I am doing a podcast with Elevation Trail on Tuesday about the topic! I'll let you know when it is out. In the meantime, go to the link for some outstanding listening: (I highly recommend the episodes with Jill Homer and Rob Krar).

And I have never enjoyed winter so much. The cold is pristine and the running gorgeous.Thank you Leslie Semler for an "I will kick your ass, SeaLegsGirl" run at Hartley Park. SR and I have also been hitting the x-c ski trails basically every other day. Suddenly winter is my favorite season. Yay, Duluth.
Song for running in the cold: Harrison Ford by SSLYBY (Someone Still Loves You, Boris Yeltsin)

"Pretty eyes, you don't have to be good"