Friday, 31 December 2010
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'.
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.
Thursday, 30 December 2010
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
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
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
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
Thursday, 23 December 2010
Tuesday, 21 December 2010
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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...
Pretty illustration by Alex Noriega.
Sunday, 12 December 2010
We climbed for just over an hour and bouldered for 10-15 minutes. We both felt weak and tired, so we took it easy.
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
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.
Thursday, 9 December 2010
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.
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
Tuesday, 7 December 2010
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.
It was 7 km of pure happiness.
Sunday, 5 December 2010
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
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.
So why am I going to town for shopping, on a Saturday, a couple of weeks before Christmas? Aren't I the hypocrite?
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
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
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
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 (http://www.richardweinsteindc.com/disorders.htm).
Exercise can help decrease the amount of cortisol (About.com). Excessive exercise can however be stressful to the body, causing cortisol to increase (http://deepfitness.com/741/Cortisol-and-Overtraining.aspx).
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
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
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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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.
Great company, many kilometres under my feet, new places to see: can't get much better than this!
Saturday, 20 November 2010
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.
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.