Friday, 31 December 2010

Sylvesterloppet 2010

This year, if I'm whole and healthy, I'm definitely running Sylvesterloppet.

The starting area

Warming up

It was a great day for running

The first runners

Happy 2011!

Bye bye 2010

Can't say that I'm tired as I'm writing these lines. I went to sleep on our sofa just after 8 last night and woke up in bed at 7.30 this morning, after 11 hours of sleep. I usually sleep 6-7 hours. Any more than that and I spend the day walking around like a zombie. A very tired zombie. But today I'm well-rested. I guess I needed the sleep.

Yesterday I went on a short run, wanting to practise everything I'd learned. I put on some sneakers instead of my Kayanos, in order to be able to feel the ground more. My sneakers are not completely flat of course, but their soles are half the size of the Kayanos'.

I tried to find a route that was relatively flat, so that I could get into a good rhythm. My pulse was high, maybe because my brain was working overtime, concentrating so hard. Or most likely because I'm in bad shape. I had some carefully chosen music in my ears to help me keep a high cadence, around 180-200bmp.

My initial plan was to only run 1-2 km, not wanting to overdo it, but I ended up running 4 km. It wasn't an easy run. I suspect that changing the way you run is quite demanding. However, even though my foot hurt before I started running, I couldn't feel a thing while I was out. That earned this running style some points.

In an hour or so we're going into town. It's Sylvesterloppet, the last race of the year, one that I had planned on entering, but you know what they say: Man plans, God laughs. So instead of running it, I'll be taking some photos and cheering on those who do get to run it.

Happy New Year!

Thursday, 30 December 2010

The importance of being humble

Ache-free? Did I really write that I was ache-free after my yoga session yesterday? And that swimming didn't hurt?

Well, that'll teach me to be cocky.

I woke up at 5, because my shoulders were screaming in agony. I made some futile attempts to go back to sleep, but no matter how I tossed and turned the pain remained. And not just in my shoulders; my abs and my back hurt too. Surprisingly NOT joining this choir of lovely misery: my foot, that feels better this morning than it has done for several days.

Last night I met up with my running buddy at a gym in town for some practical technique tips. He's participated in some Pose seminars and is an advocate for barefoot running, so I was really interested in finding out what he thought about my running style and how I could make it better. Not to mention that I wanted to find out more about barefoot running from a "real" person.

Predictably my style needed to get better. A video analysis showed my mistakes. My feet should land under my body, and I should try to lift my legs faster. I have to also try and increase my cadence, and lean forwards more. My "coach" showed me some great exercises for improving all that. After concentrating on and following his advice, I could already see some modest improvement in my running style. Of course, I need to practice, and then practice some more, until I can do all this without having to think about it and it just flows.

I left the gym with a head full of information and inspiration. I felt so confident afterwards. Everything he said made sense, and all the exercises he showed me felt natural. It was like a revelation to just lean forward and let gravity carry my body forward. So simple, yet I wouldn't have thought to try it, if it hadn't been shown to me. But what's more important, I felt more hopeful about my running future than I've done in months. Thanks, coach!

This week has been so amazingly packed with different athletic activities, and there is no reason to stop now I'm on a roll. Today husband and I are going climbing. I could get used to this life of working out and not working. Anyone willing to finance this lifestyle?

Wednesday, 29 December 2010

Running? What's that?

Yeah. Not a lot of running lately.

An hour of this left me surprisingly ache-free this morning:

I have a yoga DVD that I pop into the DVD-player from time to time, that in the past always felt challenging. I've heard good things about yoga, that it can really help runners and make you more flexible, so in lieu of other training, I did some yoga. It could be that this DVD is not a very good one, or that I've gotten stronger, but I'm disappointed. My muscles don't hurt one bit. I want it to hurt, dammit! No pain, no gain!

Yesterday's swimming was likewise ineffective in causing aching muscles. I am guessing, though, that it put my lungs to good use instead. Therefore, there will be more of it in my future. Yoga, on the other hand, not so much. Maybe I'm doing it wrong?

Something that excites me much more than yoga is the prospect of meeting up with one of my runner buddies tonight for some technique training. Technique can make or break a runner, and bad technique can lead to injuries. With so many injuries and close calls since I started running, I am suspecting that my running style leaves a lot to be desired. So, tonight, barefoot running and technique tips!

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Alternative training!

Lots of things happening training wise right now. Today I went from this:

To this:

Foot feels worse again, and all I did yesterday was walk to the store. My running buddies have advised me however to not make any rush decisions with regards to the marathon, and one of them has even offered to help me with technique tips, in order to avoid future injuries. I am so thankful and happy that you guys are in my life. You give me hope.

One running buddy recommended alternative training while I'm waiting for my foot to heal, so I convinced my mum to go swimming with me this morning. She didn't need much convincing.

Now, both my mum and I know how to swim. Growing up with the sea at your feet will do that. But this was serious business. This wasn't about floating idly on the surface, lazily kicking the water with your feet and splashing about. This was to be alternative TRAINING. So I jumped in the 50-metre pool and vigorously swam towards the other end.

I thought I was going to die. 50 meters is not much when you run, but swimming is a different matter. We had agreed that we'd stay in the pool for one hour, but I was ready to go home after one minute. Obviously, there is a part of me that's masochistic, because I was determined to at least swim the super sprint triathlon distance, that is 400 metres. Just to see if I could.

It took me half an hour. I took a short pause every 50 metres, so it doesn't take a mathematical genius to work out that I was really slow. It got slightly easier the longer I swam, which makes sense as it's the same when I go running - the first couple of kilometres until I'm warmed up are tough and then it gets easier. So I did 100 metres more, a grand total of five! hundred!! metres!!!

I liked swimming, even though it was hard work. So I am planning on going swimming once a week, at least until my foot gets better.

Monday, 27 December 2010

Decisions, decisions

I am considering dropping out of Stockholm Marathon.

The 6-km run two days ago left me very tired. While my foot felt ok directly after the run, this morning when I woke up it was stiff and ached.

It's only 5 months left to the Marathon. In order for me to train properly for it, I would have to be injury-free and in good shape. Right now I'm neither. It's possible that I'd be able to stumble through the marathon even without proper training, but that is only if I sort out the pain in my foot. It's doubtful however that I'll have it sorted out in time.

I have mixed feelings about this. On one hand, I am disappointed. It seems like such good fun to run in the Swedish capital, with an amazing public, great environment, relatively easy route. What better place for a marathon debut? On the other hand, I am relieved. Without the race looming over me, getting my foot working properly again is not as urgent any more. I know I can run the distance; I've done it before. But the big picture, being able to run for many years to come, is becoming more important than a medal.

The deadline for dropping out is the 8th of January. I'm still undecided.

Saturday, 25 December 2010

I just couldn't resist...

...a Christmas day jog.

A couple of days ago, my parents and I went to Liseberg, the local amusement park, to get into the Christmas mood. My foot bothered me, but the day after it felt fine. It's almost as if the blood circulation in the area when I walk or run reduces the inflammation. In any case, Liseberg was beautiful and Christmassy.

Photo by my dad.

The temperature this morning was -14 degrees, a freezing wind was blowing but the sun was shining on the frozen lake. The world was asleep, with bellies full of Christmas food. Perfect running conditions, in other words. I was itching for a run. So my parents and I drove to the lake and, while they strolled on the lake's frozen surface, I ran a couple of laps around it. My pulse was high, perhaps because of the cold, or maybe because I hadn't trained for a week and a half. It was all worth it, however, if only to see the frozen spit stalactites from my Lungplus all over my bloody jacket. Sexy.

Photo by my dad.

My foot hurt afterwards, but after I stretched it and massaged it with ice, it's back to how it felt before the run. I'm sorry, Internet. I know I said I'd be good and rest my foot until it got better. But I'm only human, and a weak one at that. I hope you can find it in your heart to forgive my moral fibre shortcomings.

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Happy holidays!

I'll be taking a break from blogging to spend time with my family and enjoy the holidays. I'll be back after the holidays, hopefully with a well-rested foot and some running stories to share. Until then, happy holidays!

Image by nuttakit

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

Pre-Christmas dip

There is a cacophony of distracting factors in my life just now, that make my motivation to write wean. Most of them good, like my parents' arrival tonight. Some of them not so good, like my foot not improving.

Through all this, through work troubles, relatives visiting and health worries, my desire to go running is undiminished. The last few days before Christmas and I am tired to my bones, and I can't help thinking that it's precisely because I haven't been out on a run lately that I feel so drained.

The usual demon inside me is whispering that a short run won't make it worse. Life is too short to wait for a minor injury to heal. Go out and have fun, it says. Foot doesn't hurt that much anyway. Imagine running in the woods, in the snow, when there's a full moon in the sky. Feel the freedom and the sense that time has stopped, breathe in the winter air, be at one with nature.

Thankfully, although the distracting factors can't take away my desire to run, they can help me not think about it so much. Don't get me wrong: I'm glad that I am still so passionate about running, while other people's motivation is going into hibernation. Like I wrote in my previous post, I am thankful for every healthy minute, every painless kilometre that I get to run, even if I have headwind, even if it's freezing out there, even if it's dark. I don't take my health for granted. I don't take my "easy" runs for granted.

I will rest at least one more week. In the meantime, family, good food, warmth, Christmas.

Sunday, 19 December 2010

How I started running, part 2

As I recounted in a blog post before, my running "career" was interrupted seconds after it was born. Any endurance sports were off limits, because they were dangerous to my health. Basketball was fine, especially if one considered how tragically bad I was at it. Shooting hoops with my friends once a week didn't make me very athletic. What put a stop to any sports for a long time was a visit to the doctor when I was 17.

I was there to get a check-up. My mom worked in a hospital, so it was common when I was growing up to go for a check-up. The doctor heard some heart murmur and prescribed a cardiogram. That showed I had mitral valve prolapse. It sounded very scary. The doctor told me that exercise was bad for people with this heart condition. Run a metre and I'd drop dead. Eat a piece of chocolate and I'd drop dead. Drink coffee and I'd drop dead. Anything that made my pulse increase would make me drop dead. I didn't want to drop dead. I wondered if we'd have to install an elevator in our house, so that I wouldn't have to walk up the flight of stairs to my room.

Unsurprisingly, we sought a second opinion. Heart matters are not to be messed with. The second doctor painted a slightly different picture. Exercise, chocolate and coffee were not off-limits, if done in moderation. This condition, he said, was a common one. In fact, one in four women have it, and most go through their lives without even noticing.

I breathed a sigh of relief. At that point in my life I wasn't very interested in sports, but it was still scary to think that I had a dangerous heart condition. I stayed away from sports, just in case.

Fast forward a few years later, and I was a university student in England, making new friends, getting introduced to new things. My good friend Maria and I got into wall climbing, and went jogging together a couple of times. She was however much better than me, and I struggled to keep up. So I soon gave up running, but not for long. A couple of years later I entered my first Race for Life, a charity fun run to raise money for cancer research. I carefully followed a training schedule, starting with 1 minute run, 1 minute walk and working up to a half-hour. It was hard work for my exercise-starved body.

I did a couple more fun runs over the next years, and got really hooked on exercise. Cycling, walking, dancing, gym...I tried many things over the years, and running took second place to everything else, mostly because it felt so difficult. When we moved to Sweden, I noticed how almost everyone here exercised. It was a way of life, to cycle to work or walk in the evenings, as natural as eating. I started running again, careful not to exert myself too much. My stamina had apparently improved, because suddenly I could enjoy running and manage 5 km without stopping!

A new heart test showed that my condition, had it ever truly existed, was no longer there. The new doctor, an expert cardiologist, told me that mitral valve prolapse was a much disputed condition, that science progress and recent research showed that MVP was more often than not a misdiagnosis. He said that my heart looked very healthy and gave me the all-clear to exercise. And boy did I. I felt like all these years I'd denied myself a vital life component. Like I'd been holding back, afraid to exert myself, afraid to let the endorphins rush through my body, afraid that I'd drop dead.

Now my body is back in its natural state. It gets to exercise. We're not meant to spend our lives in front of a computer or TV screen, or sitting in an office. Unless there is a serious medical condition, we're meant to be active. I am thankful for every healthy, injury-free minute I get to do it.

Today: wall climbing after a week's break.

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Some changes in the blog

I changed the banner to what I hope is a better one. I also added an "About me" page, for those who are curious about, well, me.

I should be tidying up the flat instead. My parents are coming on Tuesday. Strange how other things suddenly become important, when you have housework to do...

Friday, 17 December 2010

Some really good news

I talked to my boss today about the possibility of working part time (80%) and having Wednesdays off. Before our meeting, I had rehearsed all the good arguments for why this is a great idea and had been ready to put up a fight if she refused to let me. Imagine my surprise when she said that she was glad that I had decided to work part time.

I am so happy about this. It is something that I really need right now, a day off in the middle of the week to recharge my batteries, relax, take a breath and live life. Life has only been about work the last few months and I've felt unbalanced, unhappy, ready to throw in the towel. This will give me time to do things that I enjoy: run, bake, read, watch films, file my nails, navel-gaze, whatever. The possibilities are endless.

I feel like a warm summer day.

Despite my elation, my foot refuses to be happy. After my foot-strengthening exercises this morning, I massaged it by rolling it on an ice-filled can. This helped a great deal with the pain; it didn't resurface until many hours later. I finally got an email from my physiotherapist saying that she was fully booked until after the holidays, so I have to do the best I can until then. That means no running, even though I get a little jealous when I see others trotting down the pavement in their reflective vests, woolly hats on. I keep telling myself that I'll be able to join them soon. In the meantime, I'm trying to put together a better banner for the blog. Watch this space.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Santa threw up all over my kitchen

I went running yesterday. A whole 700 hundred meters. Then I walked the rest of the way home. 50 metres from the door I stepped on a nail. Or at least that's how it felt when my heel reminded me that I'm injured. A few seconds later the pain disappeared. I frantically tried to book an appointment with my physiotherapist, but she seems to be a busy woman.

My foot feels fine today. My mood, however, does not, mainly because I didn't get to meet my physiotherapist. I want to get rid of this problem as soon as possible.

I tried to cheer myself up by buying Christmas paraphernalia. I dressed my kitchen windows with red Christmas curtains. I lay the Christmas tablecloth on the table. I hanged the heart-pattern Christmas apron on the oven handle.

It worked. My Christmassy kitchen makes me happy. Red makes me feel warm inside.

I wish I could decorate our fake Christmas tree too, but we happen to be sharing the premises with two furry demons, who would surely eat the tree and then proceed to blow chunks all over the living room carpet.

Aren't they adorable?

Wednesday, 15 December 2010


During one of my running sessions last week I crossed an imaginary finish line. I didn't know it at the time, because sometime last January I forgot to log one or more of my runs on, so I thought that there were still some kilometres left. Garmin data imported in Sporttracks, however, shows that I have already crossed the 1400 km mark. That is almost 900 km more than last year. It's 1200 km more than in 2008. Had I realised how dramatically the kilometre amount increased this year, it might have put my current injury into perspective.

My Kayano 16's were bought last May. I got my 17's three weeks ago, after running almost 1000 km in my old ones. Let me repeat this: I've run almost a thousand kilometres since May. Modest by some runners' standards, a monstrous increase by mine. I was ambitious. I wanted to run an average of 200 km per month. That's what felt good, that's how much I thought I could run in order to see progress and not get injured.

My mistake was probably going for longer and longer long-distance sessions. My 10 km runs felt easy, yet long enough to give me a kick. Maybe I should have stuck with them until I had built my foot and leg strength. Well. Hindsight is 20/20.

Soon we're going for a walk in the forest. It will be an interesting test for my foot, that's been taped and stable all day today and yesterday.

Monday, 13 December 2010

Oh running, I'll never take you for granted again

My foot felt fine this morning. I had taped it the night before. There was no pain, just some stiffness. So I packed my running clothes in my bag and got a lift to work.

During the day, my foot sent me mixed signals. I thought I felt something a couple of times, but then I'd start walking and it'd feel OK. So I ran home after work, all the while listening for signals that my body might be sending me. 5,5 km later I got home having felt nothing but a mild ache right at the beginning of my run. I stretched with particular emphasis on my feet. Then I made the mistake of touching the arch of my foot, towards the heel. Verdict: sore.

It's not so painful as to not be able to walk, but there's definitely something there when I touch it. I understand that I might not be able to run any long runs in the coming weeks, but not even 5 km? This is bad...

I want to challenge myself a little bit everyday. But my foot won't let me.
Pretty illustration by Alex Noriega.

So how will I know when to ignore the pain (because it might only be in my head - I am kind of a hypochondriac when it comes to running) and when to listen to my body? Common sense says it's better to rest now, to ensure that I can keep running for many many years. But how will I balance that with the need to go running today?

Sunday, 12 December 2010


I made my way to the climbing wall in crutches. I thought I'd try and rest my foot as much as possible, since it's a couple of kilometres between the wall and where we park our car. It's tough using them. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if I woke up with pain in my arms and neck tomorrow.

We climbed for just over an hour and bouldered for 10-15 minutes. We both felt weak and tired, so we took it easy.

The structured wall where I managed to climb my first 6B.

I tried a repeat performance of last week's 6B but my body let me down. But, as the saying goes, the only bad training session is the one that you don't show up to. Right?

In other news, my foot feels better today. I did some heel exercises this morning that were painful, but I have nothing more to complain about currently than a diffuse irritation in the area. I bought some athletic tape that I am going to use to support the arch.

I am pretty tempted to try running home from work tomorrow, an easy 4 km, just to see how my foot responds. I'll have to wait and see how my foot feels tomorrow morning though, before I decide. If it gives any kind of indication that it might hurt, I'll take the bus instead. And then I'll book an appointment with my physiotherapist...

Saturday, 11 December 2010

&%"#!@ and other expletives

Looks like I'm injured.

After some internet research and a long discussion with my runner friends on Facebook, the consensus is Plantar Fasciitis. This means rest, rehab exercises, stretching, and crossing of fingers that it gets better real soon (preferably before I give up the will to live).

I've been turning a blind eye to this ailment the past 3-4 weeks. I figured that, since I was resting anyway because of my sore throat, it would just go away. I never thought this pain was serious for a second.

Yet last night at the concert, when I spent more than 3 hours on my feet in not-exactly-orthopaedic shoes, the pain was back with a vengeance and I realised just how serious it was, because I had to give up my first-row place to go and sit down.

As if my aching foot weren't enough, the concert was lukewarm. The opening band, called Avatar, came on stage on time and played some good songs. This was greatly appreciated, as it's such a buzz kill to have to wait for the main band while enduring a bad opening band.

Stratovarius then took the stage. They went through the motions, some band members more excited than others, some seemingly really really tired. The band that I was most looking forward to seeing was done with their set within what felt like ten minutes. The songs that I was looking forward to hearing felt rushed, mandatory, without soul.

Mr Kotipelto seemed very worn and tired.

Then it was time for Helloween, and we made our way to the seats. I haven't really listened to them that much, and during the first half of the show I was on the verge of falling asleep. But the second half rocked our world. They played some old classics and the crowd went wild.

The inflatable pumpkins were a nice touch. Mmmm, pumpkin pie...

We stumbled home around 00.30, overall satisfied, but with a sense of something missing. This song was playing in my head, before I finally went to bed, relieved to be able to rest my foot:

Thursday, 9 December 2010

The snow novelty is wearing off

Even though I knew it had snowed the night before, I ran to work this morning (wrong choice number one). I also decided to take the long way there (wrong choice number two). So while I struggled to stay upright and keep moving forward in 20 centimetres of unploughed snow for 40 minutes, I came up with this Christmas-appropriate little gem:

(Melody: Jingle Bells)

My feet hurt, breathing's rough
Snow is all around
Why did I decide to run
When the going is so tough

My legs ache, late for work
Should I take the bus?
Why did I decide to run?
I was such a dork.

Now it's stuck in your head, isn't it. You can thank me later.

A 6 km detour took me back to where I started from, at which point I knew I had to take the bus the rest of the way. Luckily the bus was on time, and a few minutes later I was able to run the last few hundred meters to work.

The run home was blissfully shorter and easier. The sky was clear, the moon crescent barely lighting my path. Another 4 km made the total distance run today 11 kilometres.

Tomorrow is a rest day. I am going to a concert to see these guys, whose music accompanied me in my run home today (and who are undoubtedly more gifted in the lyrics department than me):

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


8 km of running plus successfully climbing the 6B without cheating (told you I could do it!) makes me a very happy gal. More of this, please!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

The less glamorous side of running

As if there is a glamorous side.

After more than a week of rest, I felt healthy enough to run home from work. I left work in the dark looking like a Christmas tree, with my reflective vest and blinking lights on. Safety first.

I jogged at an easy pace, partly because I didn't know how icy the pavement was and partly because I didn't dare run faster so soon after my illness.

Even the ducks think it's slippery.

I drooled like a Pavlovian dog, not so much at the prospect of struggling through snow, but because I used Lungplus, a device you put in your mouth that's meant to turn cold air into nice, warm air. It's supposed to make it easier to breathe when it's cold in other words, and hopefully contribute to your throat and lungs' continued good health. Only downside is the aforementioned drooling.

It was 7 km of pure happiness.

Sunday, 5 December 2010

How I almost didn't cheat at climbing

I had so much fun yesterday, once the shopping was done and I and my friends had found a cosy café. We were there for hours, talking politics, films, training, over cups of coffee and hot chocolate. Outside darkness had fallen when we left the café, and the city's Christmas lights together with the snow that covered the pavement really got me into the holidays mood. The home baked gingerbread biscuits that I got as a present from my friends certainly helped.

Today's climbing went better than last week's fiasco. I decided to try a 6B, thinking it would probably be way too hard. First time I tried, I had to stop and rest 5-6 times. Second time I just flew up, not hesitating, just doing it. Husband lowered me down to the ground after I completed it, saw the self-satisfied grin on my face and said "Wow! Well done!". Then he said "But you cheated". The look I gave him would have turned milk sour.

He explained that, when I did a certain manoeuvre, I relied on the rope to pull it off, hence I cheated. After arguing in vain that, as long as my hands and feet were on the grips, I wasn't relying on the rope, I had to admit that it was cheating. My ego deflated, I nevertheless had to show I could manage without cheating. So I tried again. And again. And again. And I failed every time. My fingers ached, I scratched my arms, I bumped my knee. But nothing hurt as much as my wounded self-esteem. But next time? Next time I'll show him I can do it.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Gasp! Saturday morning without a long run!

Saturday mornings are usually reserved for long runs. I head out around 8-9 and run a couple of hours. Then I get home and rest a while. It takes the best part of the morning and still leaves me time to do other things in the evening.

Today is different, as there is no running planned. Instead, I am using this time to *shudder* do my Christmas shopping. I love Christmas but I hate shopping, especially the Christmas kind. Husband and I don't usually buy Christmas presents for each other. We either buy something together that we both want (like an espresso machine) or we just skip it. I suppose we're unusual. We're both very practical people and we don't like buying things just for the sake of it. If we need something, we buy it ourselves.

Don't get me wrong. Giving gifts can be an amazing gesture. Just yesterday I was given a small gift by a colleague, which maybe didn't cost much - but the thought behind it almost moved me to tears and made me a richer person. What I mean is that people often buy gifts because they have to, and not because they want to. It leads to the Christmas hysteria we witness every year, when people rush around like maniacs, stressed, because they believe that if they don't spend a lot of money on gifts, Christmas is going to suck. Not so my friends. Spend time with your friends and families instead. It's the best gift in the world.

So why am I going to town for shopping, on a Saturday, a couple of weeks before Christmas? Aren't I the hypocrite?

There are a few things I need to do there that I can't postpone, like paying the hairdresser, who forgot to charge me the full amount when I went in for a trim the other day. Then I have to buy a couple of presents for my parents, who are coming over for the holidays. We haven't spent Christmas together in over 10 years, other family obligations or studies always getting in the way, so this is something I am really looking forward to. I'm getting them some things that I know they will like.

Then, to recover from all the Christmas shopping, I'm meeting up with some friends for coffee. Something tells me that I won't miss my long run in their company!

Friday, 3 December 2010

I want adventure!

I wrote yesterday that I have accepted the fact that I need to rest until I get better. Problem is that there's nothing wrong with my brain (although I'm sure some people would disagree). It's been working full time reminding me how fun it is to run. Especially long. If I can't go running, at least I want to plan the next great adventure.

It doesn't help that Miranda has been writing about the long run that they have planned for this weekend. 45-50 km, from Jönköping to Visingsö, followed by dinner. It sounds like such an amazing adventure, I wish I could join them.

A lot of people do their running indoors on a treadmill during the winter months. It means that there are fewer people willing to brave the elements running for several hours. It's harder to find others to plan new adventures with. Most want to wait until spring. I agree that it's more fun to run when all the snow has thawed and nature is a festive green again...but I can't wait until then. I want to run long, to see new places, to cover new ground. I want to run on snow, to see the moose I missed last time, to smell the pines. I want to run through villages, to see some rivers. I want adventure!

PS. Mia has written about Saturday's adventure here. You can also find Johan B's account of it here.

Thursday, 2 December 2010

Time for reflection

Not only has my throat not gotten better, now I've also got a cold. People at work have been ill with stomach flu too. The way my immune system has been lately, it's just a matter of time until it's my turn.

I have reluctantly accepted the fact that I'm going through a low period health-wise, and that training is going to have to wait until I'm better. Besides, having 49 km as my distance record gives me a psychological boost, that I'm ahead of schedule and that I can relax. I don't feel stressed about missing training this time around, but I do wish I could go for a run. The lack of training does free up some time for other (less fun) activities, like cleaning out the storage room, buying Christmas gifts and doing laundry. Also, for reflection. I've had a lot to think about the last couple of months, and no time or energy to think about it. Now is a great chance to do that.

Wednesday, 1 December 2010

Stress and the immune system

Getting ill for the second time in a month, I started wondering what's going on with my body. Everybody gets sick sometimes, but twice in the same month is not normal.

I've been reading about cortisol, a hormone that our bodies produce in order to cope with stress (Wikipedia). I am not a doctor, so I just gathered some facts from the Internet.

Cortisol is necessary for our survival. However, when we undergo great amounts of stress, this same hormone can supress our immune system, because it prioritises dealing with whatever it considers to be a threat to us first (that is, the cause of stress). So if, for example, someone loses their job, their bodies will see this as a threat to survival and produce cortisol. If that same someone happens to get a cold virus at the same time, this gets second priority and is not dealt with until the primary threat is over. Simply put, our bodies are weakened when we're stressed, leaving us vulnerable to illness (

Exercise can help decrease the amount of cortisol ( Excessive exercise can however be stressful to the body, causing cortisol to increase (

Running 49 km in the snow might be a balsam for the mind, but it's not as kind to the body. It IS a stress factor, at least when you're not a weathered ultrarunner. Add that to a prolonged period of intense stress at work, and it's no wonder I'm sick yet again. It's pretty ironic that the thing that helps me cope with stress the most tipped the scales over, so that I got sick again.

Zen, man. Olympus, 2009.

What I need now is a long vacation in the sun, but that's not going to happen any time soon. So second best is rest and fun, relaxing things to do. I need to eat good, nutritious food. Go out with friends. Laugh. Play with the cats. Take up yoga. Go for a walk in the woods. Take care of my body, because it's the only one I've got.

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Work, work, work

No time to train today. Working 6.30-14 and 16.30-19.

What gives? I hear you ask. There's plenty of time to train between 14 and 16. Well, throat is complaining too much today. Not sure if the cold I had two weeks ago is back for an encore, or if this is a new variety of bad-enough-to-miss-training-but-not-bad-enough-to-miss-work cold. You know the kind. No other symptoms are present except irritation in my throat. No fever, spots or any other sign that this could cause a pandemic and would therefore force me to call in sick.

Shame, really. With the exception of my toe blisters, my body has recuperated and is ready for some easy runs. Seems like it will have to wait until at least Saturday.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is it Friday yet?

Starting the week on a Monday is a bad idea. Mondays suck. They should start with a Friday instead.

The day was going really well up until I left for work this morning. Which means, the good part of the day lasted about one hour. Then I waited for the bus for half an hour in the freezing cold at 6 am and it never showed up. I had to wake my husband to drive me to work, where I finally arrived late, stressed and in a bad mood.

Health-wise I wasn't doing much better. The irritation in my throat that started yesterday headed south to my stomach making me feel slightly nauseous. Nevertheless, I was set on going climbing after work today.

I should have gone home instead. I did not complete a single route. I just couldn't make my arms and legs do what I wanted them to. The grips were miles away from me, or too small, or too big. My feet hurt, squeezed in the tiny climbing shoes. The final straw was that I somehow managed to fall, half a meter from the ground, swing to the left and hit the corner of the wall with my shin with all the force carried by a falling body. My leg is now swollen and sports a lovely, colourful bruise. I shouldn't complain, really. The initial pain when my shin hit the wall was so intense, I thought I'd broken it. After that, I decided it was time to throw in the towel and go home.

I'm not surprised that climbing didn't go well, although I wasn't expecting such spectacular failure. I have not recovered from Saturday's Grand Adventure and I am kind of ill. It's ok. The running memories are still fresh enough in my mind to compensate for any climbing setback.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The day after

Yesterday I was in a bubble, from the time we entered the city limits until I went to bed. I was so emotionally drained and detached that I seemed to watch the world from a distance. This morning I woke up with memories of yesterday's event in my mind, wanting to look at all the photos again, reading what people have written about it, trying to absorb every little detail and make it real.

Sometimes time has this strange effect of glossing over the less glamorous bits. When I think about yesterday's run, I see magnificent, sun-drenched fields, I taste the hot chocolate and feel the sugar rush through my veins, I admire Jonsereds architecture and I smile at the wonderful people I run with. Only good memories remain; the less pleasant ones (for there were no bad ones) have been put in a box and hidden away in a dark corner of my mind.

Physically I feel much better than I expected. Sure, there are parts of my body that ache, but nothing too serious. In fact, it's only marginally worse than the day after I ran the Gothenburg half marathon.

Today is exactly 6 months left to Stockholm Marathon. Yesterday I ran past the marathon benchmark in 4 and a half hours, having taken some breaks to eat and to walk. There is a lot of room for improvement, but it's nice to have run the distance and know that my body can do it. But I'll let you in on a little secret: the ride is so much more fun than the destination.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Drumroll please...

I woke up nervous this morning. Yesterday's excitement had turned to what can almost be described as catatonia. Doubt started seeping in my mind. Who the hell did I think I was, believing I could run so far with so little experience? I was almost paralysed, unable to think or do anything. I hadn't even started packing until half an hour before I had to leave.

Somehow I pulled myself together. The World's Best Husband® drove me to the train station. I soon met up with Hans and Johan B. We were expecting a few more people to show up, but when the train started pulling out of the station and they hadn't come, we began to wonder what had happened. When we arrived in Alingsås, however, the head count was correct. The others sat on another train car. 7 eager runners prepared to start running.

I can honestly say that the first part of the run was my favourite. We ran in -7 degrees, through frozen fields, on snowy roads, the rays of the sun hardly warming up our faces but turning the snow into glitter.

Our first pit stop came after about 11 km. I had some water and a dextrose tablet and admired the view by the lake.

Our next stop was Floda train station just after we had passed the 20 km mark. We had run in the forest, on paths that were not ploughed, and I for one was thankful to stop and eat something more substantial than dextrose. I ate a "runekaka" that I'd modified by adding chocolate chips and ginger cake spices. It tasted amazing!

At this point, not knowing if there was more forest running in the cards, I started thinking that I'd be content if I managed to run more than my old distance record, even by a half kilometre (my record being just over 30 km). Our group had split in two, one faster that ran ahead, and one slower, that took it easy and even walked a bit of the way. I was in the second one, with Niklas and Johan B. Johan O. ran back to get us, and soon we joined up with the others in Stenkullen. The group then split again and I ended up running with Mia, Hans and Steve.

I was told that there were some hills just before Jonsered, which was to be our next pit stop. My body had started feeling like it was falling apart. My Achilles tendon complained, my toes had gone numb, and - what was worse- the evil cramp on my left foot was back with a vengeance. I doubted I could make it to Jonsered, which at that point was still 5-6 km away. I managed to pull through it, thanks to Hans who told me many interesting stories about local history, among other things. Time (and distance) flies when you're in good company.

Just before we arrived at Jonsered, our group split up in three. Mia and Steve ran ahead, Hans and I in the middle and the rest somewhere behind us. Hans and I left the main road to take a shortcut and met up with the first group in Jonsered. We stopped and waited for the others. I quickly munched on some more runekaka and washed it down with some water. The temperature made it impossible to take a long break. That's when we lost the others.

We met Johan B. at Jonsered's train station. Unfortunately some health problems were forcing him to take the train home. He informed us that the others were now ahead of us. We scratched our heads and wondered how we'd missed them.

The going was now tough. The wind seemed to have picked up, the surroundings were not as beautiful any more the closer to the city we got, and we were tired. The only thing keeping me going was the promise of hot chocolate near Partille, some 38 kilometers into the run. And of course the thought of being so close to completing the marathon distance, and Mia egging me on.

Meeting this man was like meeting a guardian angel. I don't take such acts of kindness for granted. I mean, he didn't have to make both coffee and hot chocolate, buy some gingerbread biscuits and stand in the cold waiting to meet us. It was the best hot chocolate I'd ever drunk. Thank you Stefan.

It was tough to start running again after this pause. I was frozen to the bone and exhausted. The marathon benchmark came and I raised my arms in the air in celebration, but I didn't feel it. I was emotionally numb, just so completely knackered that I could only concentrate on what was left of the run. The people I ran with kept me grounded and focused on the task, and talking to them helped me enormously through the last few kilometres. Yet, I never seriously considered stopping to take the train home, until we entered the city.

Darkness had started falling and we'd been running for approximately 5 hours, not counting the breaks. Traffic, high buildings, noise, people, roadworks and a sense of disorientation all contributed to my getting fed up. I just wanted to go home. Physically I could have perhaps run further, though it wouldn't have been wise. Emotionally however I was ready for a warm bath.

My husband picked me up at the train station and we drove to a pizzeria. I was so cold that even after I put on all the clothes I'd taken with me, I still shivered uncontrollably. I didn't really get warm until I'd eaten the pizza, drunk some beer and had a hot shower.

It still hasn't sunk in, what I did today. I'm not surprised; it was the same after I'd ran 30 km. Maybe it will and maybe it won't. I enjoyed every painful minute of it, mainly thanks to all the wonderful people I ran with, the nature and the fact that my legs managed the distance. All in all it went so much better than I thought it would.

Now, my body needs to rest. It hurts in both expected places (foot, knees) and unexpected (the underside of my arm?!). Today's run, not counting the breaks: Just over 49 km and a total running time of 5 hours 15 minutes. No matter how painful it is right now, or how numb I am, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I think I'm waiting until spring though.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Can't wait

Tomorrow, at 10:00, we're starting from Alingsås train station and running to Gothenburg.

I am counting the hours until then. I have been going over in my head what I need to take with me, what I need to prepare today, whether I need to get some spikes for my shoes. I made lists. I even made a train timetable to take with me, in case I need to stop and take the train back.

Note that I wrote "in case". Yes, I know I've "only" run 30 km in the past, and it's another half-marathon to 50 km. But I suppose there is some crazy little demon inside of me whispering that I just might be able to pull it off. I'm in as good a shape as I've ever been. I'll have my new Kayanos on my feet. We will be taking frequent pit stops. We'll have the wind on our backs. We'll even be served hot coffee by someone who could unfortunately not participate. Plus I'll be running with some experienced ultra-runners. What more do I need?

Whether I succeed tomorrow or not, I will not have lost anything. No matter how far I get, it counts. If I set out thinking I won't make it, then I won't. If I set out thinking I might, then I will without doubt come home a richer person; richer in experience, in training, in friends. I can't wait.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Run-free, but not training-free day

Oh how I wanted to run today. The air was chilly, there was a thin layer of new snow covering the grey ice, there was even a hint of sunshine. Unfortunately I didn't quite manage to wake up when the alarm went off at 04:40. My body did, and it got up and made some coffee, and got dressed and ready for work; my brain on the other hand was still deep asleep, unable to plan such complicated things as packing one change of clothes for running and another for climbing, and choosing what to wear to work. If I don't figure out such logistics the night before, it's near impossible to do it in the morning. So I prioritised my work and climbing clothes. Hence, no running.

I took the tram to town and went wall climbing instead. I managed a 6A+ that nearly killed my fingers and made me collapse into a heap with exhaustion when I landed. It was so worth it, however. The previous few sessions I'd felt I had stagnated, that I didn't dare take any chances. Tonight I was determined to climb that 6A+.

Tomorrow is a complete rest day. I might even take the car to work. Saturday's adventure is only two days away and I need to be in top form!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Saving my legs

Running 5 km on the way home from work left me wanting more. Some sessions are like that. It's as if you just got started when you get home. Some other sessions feel tough. It might be that you're running with headwind. Or you're running uphill in the freezing rain. Or you're doing speed work and your heart is trying to jump out of your mouth and leave you for someone who treats it more kindly; but once you get home and the endorphins finally hit you, you're so happy you went for a run.

I wanted to save my legs, partly because I'm thinking about run commuting to town tomorrow and then go climbing, and partly because of that little adventure on Saturday. So instead of a longer run, I came straight home and did some leg and abs exercises.

Current weather prognosis for Saturday: between -13 and -9 degrees, moderate breeze, cloudy.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The icy grip of winter

It's funny. Some months ago - some weeks ago even - I couldn't have imagined myself running two sessions in one day. I thought it was just for elite runners. Turns out it's just a matter of perspective. If you, an average amateur, do it, then it's not just for elite runners. If you see these two sessions as an alternative way to get to work and then home, it doesn't seem so advanced any more.

Some people cycle to work, some people walk, some people take their cars and some people use public transportation. Using your own two feet to get to places is really no weirder than any other way. Forget about the fact that you're putting in valuable kilometres in your training; on run commuting days, think of it only as transport, a way to get from A to B, and lower your expectations about your performance - save those quality sessions for some other day. Just run because you were meant to, and I promise it will make sense.

It wasn't quite so beautiful this morning, but almost
Picture taken near Vargfjället last year

I woke up to new snow and thought it was Ground hog day. Wasn't this the same picture I saw before me when I went out for a run last Saturday? I'd planned on running both to and from work. I didn't have to be at work until 9, so I headed out towards the local church, completely in the opposite direction than work, wanting to get in some extra kilometres. It was easy, it was fun. People were gathered at the bus stop, probably thinking I was crazy running in the snow. I on the other hand thought they seemed to be freezing their butts off, waiting for a bus that was obviously late.

When I turned to run back towards work, I was met with a freezing headwind. I picked a less trafficked route. I finally came to work after almost 11 kilometres, took a shower and then enjoyed a buzz of energy and absolute bliss. It was as if my cheeks were on fire; the contrast between the freezing wind and the indoor warmth was striking. This buzz lasted for the better part of my day.

The wind had picked up when it was time to go home. The plough had scooped away all the snow from the roads and pavements leaving a treacherous layer of grey ice. I land on my forefoot when I run, which is probably why I didn't end up on my butt several times on my way home. I ran straight home, adding a few more kilometres to the tally. Total kilometres run today: 15,5!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sleep deprived

I usually go to bed early, and fall asleep within seconds, especially in the winter. Sometimes I can fall asleep at 20:30 while watching TV on the sofa. If I'm really tired, I've been known to fall asleep as early as eight. If I had to describe my sleeping habits, I'd say I'm more narcoleptic than insomniac.

Last night was different.

A combination of having drunk a cup of coffee as late as 17 and stress meant that I couldn't go to sleep no matter what I did. I read, I tried the sofa-while-watching-TV-trick, I got up and surfed the Internet for a while, even listened to relaxing music, but nothing helped. My mind was hyperactive. What made matters worse was that I had to be up at 04:30. I just got more and more stressed as the minutes ticked by and I realised that there was no way I was going to get a decent night's sleep.

I finally resigned to the idea that I'd probably have to call in sick in the morning and managed to fall asleep at 2. My husband then woke me up at 5, unaware of my nocturnal troubles and certain I'd overslept. Thinking that I might as well go to work now that I was awake I quickly ate some breakfast and took the car to work.

I had plan to run home from work but after only managing 3 hours of sleep last night I'm skipping training. I can't imagine my body would thank me if I forced it to go running on so little sleep. Tomorrow is a new day; if I manage to get some sleep tonight, that is.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Dreaming of Saturday's great adventure

Less than a week left to my life's so far greatest running adventure and I couldn't be more excited about it!

Our group will be taking the train to Alingsås and then running back to Gothenburg, a distance of more or less 50 km. We'll be stopping now and then to eat, drink and relieve our bladders. Should someone get too tired, injured or sick, it's never too far to a train station. Hopefully it won't be needed.

I've done the chicken dance, sacrificed a baby goat, prayed to all the major and even some minor deities that I won't get sick or injured, that my Achilles tendon holds, and that the weather is good enough. Early weather forecasts predict snow for Saturday, but weather here is near impossible to predict accurately, especially so many days in advance. I'm hoping for a sunny yet chilly late autumn day.

I'll be making some Runekakor to take with me, along with water, some dextrose tablets and warm clothes. I'm crossing my fingers that the Kayanos 17 I ordered yesterday will arrive this week. Might come in handy to have fresh, cushioned shoes on my feet when I'm going for a new distance PB.

Great company, many kilometres under my feet, new places to see: can't get much better than this!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The world is dressed in white and all is forgotten

I woke up to a white landscape this morning. I felt like a little child who's never seen snow before and jumped into my running clothes for a long run. At 07:30 there are not many people about, so the snow on the pavement was untouched, just beautiful as it shimmered in the yellow light from the street lamps.

I set out with an easy, slow tempo. I didn't really have a choice. Running in new snow can be a struggle. I certainly didn't mind. In fact, I think I might have had a stupid smile on my face.

That smile morphed into a determined tight-lipped grin after 5 km, when I turned east and was met with headwind. Some snow flakes drifted lazily from the sky and landed on my glasses, making it hard to see. The surrounding horse pastures were so eerie and quiet though, that I completely forgot about the wind.

After 12 km I left the untrodden roads and pavements and turned homeward again. The second half of my run took me by a seaside cycle path, which is so breathtakingly beautiful in the summer and very popular with people in the area.

Unfortunately these same people thought it was great weather for a cosy walk. Many footsteps in the snow and 0 degrees equals slush. Slush equals cold water in my shoes. Well, at least they look cleaner now.

After some minor incidents including almost stumbling over a loose cocker spaniel and almost breaking my neck slipping on an ice patch, I was ready to call it quits. 20 km brought me home to see quite a different view than 2 hours earlier. The snow plough had been busy turning what once was a beautiful white landscape to stereotypical Gothenburg grey slush.

In the beginning of my run I was so stunned with how snow can turn even the ugliest of landscapes into a winter wonderland that I completely forgot about last winter's long lasting snow, and how it posed a serious problem for my running. Snow in itself is not a problem, even if it is tougher to run on. Ice on the other hand is a deal-breaker. Having to spend time walking in crutches might seriously impede my training for Stockholm Marathon.

That's why I won't be buying these beauties any time soon. But I think that Santa might be bringing me a pair of Icebugs this year instead...

Snow, I still love you.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Finally Friday

I kind of dreaded my run home after work. It was so nice and warm indoors, and it seemed so cold and windy outside. The weather forecast threatened with snow and 0 degrees, and I feared it would get dark before I got home. Gone are the days of running in glorious sunshine or on warm summer evenings.

A nice May photo to ward off the cold

I changed into my running clothes before heading out, and put on my new Craft base layer tights under my usual tights. I decided to run in my jacket, not brave enough to just wear a vest. I made my way home and my fears came true. Darkness started falling. Most of the way home is well-lit and well-trafficked, but there is a part that takes me through an isolated grove of trees. There are no street lamps there. Who knows what is there.

Needless to say, the impeding darkness made me run faster than I'd planned. I even incorporated some "fartlek" in my running (that is, some spontaneous speed increase - literally "speed play"). After 10 km I was finally home, happily tired and ready for some Friday evening relaxation. The wind had felt chilly on my cheeks after all, and our flat was so wonderfully warm.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The only good thing about Thursdays... that Friday is only one day away.

I woke up at 5 before the alarm went off, after 7,5 hours of deep sleep. My fingers were swollen thanks to yesterday's climbing, and I felt weak in my whole body. Usually this weakness wears off as soon as I've poured some coffee in me, but not today. I feel drained, exhausted, worn thin. Two factors have probably contributed to, if not outright caused, this fatigue: the fact that today will be the 4th day in a row when I come home no sooner than 18:30, and autumn darkness. Some days it's dark when I leave home, and it's dark when I get back. I need my vitamin D, dammit.

I'd planned to run to and from work today, but I think I'll just do some strength training exercises and take the bus in instead. And then I'll dream about Friday evening, when I can finally unwind in the warmth with a cup of tea, a good book and a purring cat on my lap.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Books and adventures

8 kilometres' worth of run commuting and 2 hours of wall climbing logged today. I even managed to climb a route that seemed impossible last time. Then when we came home, I saw that Runner's World had arrived in the post. It's been a good day.

Even if Runner's World tends to get a bit repetitive sometimes, it's always exciting to see that a new issue is out. To feed my addiction between runs, I also sometimes buy books about running. I'm not so interested in reading about how to improve my times and such; the most interesting books I've read are about adventure.

It's almost as fun to read about people's running adventures as to have one myself (almost). One of my favourite running books is "Born to run" by Christopher McDougall, another "Ultramarathon man" by Dean Karnazes. Both books sing praise to the amazing feats humans can achieve, whether they're a reclusive Indian tribe or a yuppie adrenaline junky.

Yesterday I received another eagerly-awaited package in the post. I'd ordered some new books, one of which was "Take a seat" by Dominic Gill. Gill recounts his adventure cycling on a tandem bike from Alaska to Patagonia, picking up strangers along the way to help him reach his goal. Gill also captured his adventure on film, which we saw about a month ago on BANFF film festival. It was really inspiring to watch a man set out on such a great adventure. Imagine all the amazing places he must have seen, all the kind and generous people he must have met! All the perils, all the hunger, tiredness and cold, all the uncertainty of reaching his goal, in short everything that made this trip special. Can't wait to read the book.

Now, I have no plans to do anything remotely similar. Yet there's something about pushing boundaries that speaks to my heart. Maybe it's the joy of discovery, seeing new places. Maybe it's the sense of achievement. Maybe it's both. Whatever it is, I have a feeling that one day it will take me further than a marathon.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Some much needed rest

Last Friday I was like a drug addict with withdrawal symptoms, who was suddenly let loose in a meth factory. I went on a spree, overjoyed that I could finally run again after almost two weeks of illness. I started running when I finished work and didn't stop until I came home last night.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit. But I have been out running 4 days in a row, apparently trying to make up for lost time. Today I had planned a day's rest, and here I am, resting. I feel really tired, though not because of training, but because of two long work days one after the other. I even -gasp!- took the car to work this morning. Here I was yesterday, on my way to work, laughing at all the losers stuck in their cars during rush hour, while I ran past them, elegantly yet vigorously. This morning I was the loser, scraping ice off the car windows and cursing because we still hadn't put the bloody winter tyres on.

Tomorrow it's back to run commuting, but with a twist. On schedule: run to husband's workplace (about 8 km) and then go climbing. Should be fun!

Monday, 15 November 2010

A nice start to the week

Today I ran both to work and then home after work. I'm so happy I can run again, that I do it twice per day now.

Well, not exactly. See, when I run home from work, I usually take a detour so that the total distance is 10 km. This morning I ran straight to work, and then in the evening straight home. So I only ran a total of 10 km anyway.

This is becoming a necessity in order to get my training to fit in with the rest of my life. Days are getting much shorter now, and it's not as easy to get out and run at 5.30 in the morning any more. Nor is it fun to finish work at 6, get home as soon as possible, eat something, wait an hour or two to digest it and then go for a run at 8. Some times I want to stay at home in the evenings, and, I don't know, be with my husband or something.

Thankfully, not all days are this long. On the days I finish work earlier, it's not a problem to take the long way home. But at 6, after a long day at work, I just want to get home and rest. Running home does not take much longer than cycling home. Not if you cycle as slowly as I do. In fact, I think that it only takes about 5 minutes longer. So there's really no reason to cycle (an activity I don't particularly enjoy just for commuting) when I can run.

Besides, if I cycled home, I wouldn't have had the joy of overtaking a cyclist who was struggling up a hill. Twice.

But it's not just necessity that pushes me to run commute. This morning, when I came to work and after I'd had a shower, I felt the endorphins rushing through my veins. I felt happier, more positive, more energetic. It's a perfect way to start your day.

In order for run commuting to go smoothly, it's of course necessary to prepare. Either have a good rucksack to carry a change of clothes in, or leave a change of clothes at work the day before. A great guide to run commuting can be found here (in swedish):

Sunday, 14 November 2010

How I started running

I wasn't a very active kid. My family was more academically inclined and the only sport we enjoyed was watching basketball on TV.

One day, when I was in 6th grade, we were told by our teachers that our school would participate in an athletics competition against other schools in town. No more details than that. What followed was a frenetic attempt to find who the best pupils were in a multitude of athletic events: long jump, shot put, long distance etc. How long the long distance was, I cannot remember. What I do remember is that we had to run around the school building once or twice, and that I was out of breath after running a hundred meters. I just wasn't long distance material.

Short distance, on the other hand, that's where I shone. Or almost shone. What follows is an embarrassing story about how I stole another girl's thunder.

Each class's pupils were to race against each other, to find out who the fastest boy and girl were. We were 4 classes in every grade, and the 4 best would form a relay team. When it was my class's turn, all the girls lined up to run a 50 meter course.

I knew I couldn't win. I had never thought of myself as athletic, let alone fast. The fastest girl in our class, in the whole school even, was a girl named Stephanie. Stephanie was 2 meters tall, or at least it felt that way. She had long, slim legs, that could probably cover half the school yard in one small leap. I didn't stand a chance.

Our teacher stood with a whistle in his hand. We kneeled down to starting position. The tension was palpable. Our anticipation grew with each passing second. Stephanie was next to me. I could hear her breathing, completely focused. Although I couldn't win next to such a gazelle, I didn't plan on coming in last either.

The teacher blew the whistle. What happened next was unfathomable. I shot forward towards the fence that served as the finish line. At the same time I caught a movement to my right, an event that seemed to unfold in slow motion. Stephanie, the school champion, had tripped over her long, slim legs, and fallen. I kept running. The fence seemed to be miles away.

I won. Not in the fairest way, but I won. I couldn't understand at that point what that entailed, but I was happy. Granted, my happiness was mixed with guilt. But I was going to run in a competition!

The competition day came. Our school had obviously not taken it very seriously, because we had hardly trained for any of these athletic events, and also: no one told me before we arrived at the stadium that I'd be representing our school in the 50-meter race. I just thought I'd be in the relay team. My dad offered some encouraging words. I saw some kids running up and down the stairs by the stands, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea at the time. It would probably make me super fast if I managed to run up all the stairs.

It didn't. I came in 5th out of 7 in our district. I wondered if Stephanie would have won.

Then it was time for the relay race, and I was to run the last leg. I saw how my classmates ran like the wind, and how by the time the baton was in my hand we had a comfortable lead. All I had to do was run the last 50 meters as fast as I could. And I did, and we won, and I was over the moon with happiness.

That was my short career in athletics. I wanted to continue running, but, as I said, my family wasn't much into sports, and my mom (who worked in a hospital) had many horror stories she'd gladly tell us about people who exercised, whose hearts stopped or got too big. Exerting yourself is bad for your health. That and a minor health scare some years later put a stop to running. I wasn't to return to it until 10 years later, as a grown-up, who could do her own research into how "dangerous" exercise is. But that story is for another time.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Autumn running

If I hadn't missed a week and a half's worth of training, I would be participating in an exciting event today: 8x10 km intervals, arranged by What that means is that one runs 10km every third hour, beginning at 6 in the morning and finishing some time in the early hours on Sunday. I was of course not counting on running all 8 intervals, but I was at least hoping I'd manage 4. Then I got sick.

This morning I felt well enough to head out for a 10km run. I wore my "Training for Stockholm Marathon" t-shirt for the first time. That gave me an extra kick.

It was windy outside, but luckily it didn't rain. I don't mind wind or rain. I do mind when it's windy and raining at the same time. Late autumn is a great time to be running in the woods, so even though I had planned on running an easy, flat route, I changed my mind at the last minute and headed for the lake. Someone had fired up their fireplace nearby and the air smelled of winter. Not a soul was in sight. In fact, it felt a lot like Christmas morning, when everyone is at home with their families enjoying a holiday breakfast and the world feels deserted. I loved the solitude.

My pulse started out a bit higher than it should and I was worried that I'd have to stop running. Thankfully it soon settled on its usual level. I jogged on rain soaked ground, hoping that my socks would stay dry. I drifted into a nice flow, the rhythm of my breathing and of my feet hitting the ground in harmony. 10 kilometres never felt so easy or so much fun. I even toyed with the idea of running another 10km later in the day and participate in the event anyway.

If my Kayanos could speak, they'd have some nasty stories to tell about how I've been treating them. Especially in comparison with my old Sauconys, that look like they've only been used for ballroom dancing. A couple of months ago I went running with some really nice people on a 18-km forest trail. Running is perhaps the wrong word. Wading through mud is a better description. When I came home, my Kayanos were black and I had mud up to my knees. My shoes never recovered from this abuse, even though I washed them. Now they're getting close to joining my Sauconys in retirement.

Running with other people is something I enjoy occasionally. I mostly prefer running shorter distances by myself, but my long runs feel so much easier and fun if I have company. Last summer a group of runners decided to join forces and run together now and then. I have loved every minute I've run with these people and I am really excited about our next adventure: Running from Alingsås to Gothenburg, a distance of around 50 km. I doubt I'll be able to run more than 35 km, but just participating gives me a great buzz.