Friday, 30 December 2011

A 2011 retro-/ introspective

2011 started with an injury and continued along the same lines until its conclusion. I've been injured the whole year: plantar fasciitis, a strained thigh muscle, and the mysterious pain in my foot that comes and goes, but never goes completely. One or all of them have accompanied me every single day of the past year.

It was the year where a black cloud came into my life and firmly established itself over my head. I've managed to ignore it for the best part of the year. I don't have to look up, after all. But it's there. Oh, it's there. It's casting a shadow and blocking out the sun. I wish I could say that it hadn't affected me, but it has, and it will continue to do so in the months to come. The work situation didn't help, either; stress has been a constant issue, especially last autumn.

But it was also the year where new milestones were reached. New personal records were set. New boundaries were crossed and new goals suddenly became realistic. I ran two half-marathons in the spring, on a still-injured foot, after having spent the entire winter with ”long runs” of 12-15 km. The first one was run on an empty stomach – now that was an experience I wouldn't recommend to anyone. In the summer, I had a taste of trail running in the mountains and fell head over heels in love with it. I built endurance and perseverance by running a few 30 km- runs solo. Last August, I covered a distance of over 60 km on foot, 51 while running. In the autumn, I ran my first marathon race. And, finally, last November I tested my limits and came out on the other side unscathed: the Ultra Intervals, 8x10km in one day, and one of the most bizarre and most wonderful experiences of my life.

Races, group runs, mud, mountains and many, many kilometres...this year had them all

It was the year I ran over 2200 km, which is 800 km more than last year and an average of approximately 185 km per month and 6 km per day. Despite all my injuries. Or maybe my injuries were a result of these 2200 km? Last New Year's Eve, as I was saying goodbye to my dream of running Stockholm marathon because of my raging plantar fasciitis, one of my resolutions was to listen to my body more. I think that I have done that, despite the obvious evidence to the contrary. I have gotten better at telling when that pain I'm feeling is just a passing one and I can keep running, and when it's the kind that can lead to injury. Better; not great. I'm still learning. I've also gotten better at prehab, building up strength in my body so that it can cope with what I put it through. Let's hope that it pays off in 2012 and that I can spend the year injury free.

Thanks for the memories, 2011. You've been a nasty piece of excrement at times. But I kind of loved you anyway.

Thursday, 29 December 2011

Don't dream it, be it

If I let a little tornado stop me from running, I'd never go running here in Gothenburg. So despite the fact that the Apocalypse seemed to be taking place outside our flat this morning, I still braved the elements and ran the 10 km to work. It wasn't as bad as it looked from the inside of the flat, and, for most of it, the sudden gusts of strong wind hit me on the back. It almost never is as bad as it looks. Except as I'm writing these lines. It is exactly as bad as it looks, and I think I saw a Russian submarine fly past our balcony just a minute ago.

While I ran in this morning's relatively tame hurricane (relatively by current standards), my thoughts drifted to more pleasant things. To different weather conditions and other geographical coordinates. I dreamt of mosquitoes, and moose, and wilderness, and running many, many kilometres under the warm light of the midnight sun. Was it just a dream, or will it become reality one day?

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Running blind

I made a compromise with myself this morning. I didn't feel like running the 20-odd kilometres that seemed so appealing last night. In fact, I didn't feel like doing anything. The prospect of sitting on my butt all day staring at the wall seemed like the best idea in the world.

I didn't even want to leave my bed. It was cold, I had a headache, and my mouth was so dry that I was certain I had caught a cold. I wasn't exactly in a great mood, either. A few weeks ago I applied for a very exciting distance course in Sports Psychology; yesterday I found out that I was on the waiting list. Number 30. What are the chances of 30 applicants dropping out? Not that great. I was really disappointed. But really, what did I expect, applying for a course almost two months after the deadline?

I know for a fact that sitting on my butt all day staring at the wall doesn't make me feel better. So the deal I made with myself was that I'd put on my running clothes and I'd head outside for a shorter run. The goal was 10 km. Once I set my mind on it, it wasn't difficult to leave the flat. The sun had hardly shed any light on this part of the world. It still hasn't. A light drizzle accompanied me all the way, irritatingly fogging up my glasses and distorting my view into a kaleidoscope of greys. I ran blind.


After the first couple of rounds, my previously inexplicably tired legs woke up and started doing their thing. You know, moving willingly and propelling me forward. I pushed myself to run a little more, a little further. And when I reached 10 km, I set a new goal. I'd run 15 km. So I did. It felt great, and it felt even better once I got out of the rain, into the flat and into some warm clothes. Now I kind of wish I'd gone for the 20-odd kilometres.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Priorities

This ”work” concept is seriously flawed. I mean, what if you have better things to do? Like go for a run? Or finish your book? Or clean the toilet? Or emigrate to North Korea? What if aliens invade the earth but you miss it because you're at work? WHAT IF?!

Outside the streets are empty, everyone probably asleep, still trying to digest Saturday's meal. A long weekend is not enough for me to refill my drained batteries. When your mind is occupied by almost nothing but work-related thoughts for months, it's hard to empty it and reset it in just 3 days. Still, I have to work today. In a most likely misguided attempt to save my precious few leave days for later, I didn't take any time off. I wish I had; I'm dying to find out whodunit in Pratchett's book.

Monday, 26 December 2011

I am the walrus

Letting my legs decide how far, how fast and in which direction I'd run this morning led me to my usual half marathon round, past horses and sheep and one very surprised pheasant standing in the middle of a field. I had promised J that we'd go climbing later, so I tried finding a balance between running fast enough to get home in time and running slow enough to preserve my energy for later. It was lovely; mild temperatures and a light breeze on my back, like a friendly hand helping me along.



My plan must have worked, because not only did I have time for a quick shower and lunch, I also had enough energy left later to climb that 6B+ that I'd had my eye on. A 6B+ is the hardest I've climbed, and I did it after running a half marathon. I guess it goes to show. But what it shows, I don't know. That sometimes you climb better when you're tired? That sometimes, if you climb fast enough, your puny little skeletal arms don't have to work so hard and you make it to the top despite your lack of technique and strength? I could of course brag about how I run half marathons as a warm up but these kind of bold claims have to be put to the test and I doubt I'd be able to repeat my performance.

That's not to say that it was pretty. I wrote yesterday that I spent the day on the sofa lying motionless like a walrus. Imagine a walrus climbing up a wall. It's loud. It's cringe worthy. Someone always ends up getting hurt and it's not always the walrus (make sure not to stand under a walrus while he/she's climbing). Thankfully the only injury I inflicted on anyone was on myself, and a light one at that: strained muscles and shaky hands.  And a small swelling in the vicinity of the chest area, but that might be just pride.

Sunday, 25 December 2011

Non, je ne regrette rien

It wasn't without jealousy I read how friends and complete strangers bragged about their Christmas day runs on jogg.se. After imbibing one too many alcoholic beverages last night, I have spent the best part of my day on the sofa making like a walrus and lying there motionlessly, entombed in a thick layer of Christmas food induced fat. Finding myself, yet again – as is always the case on the rare occasion I find myself in this situation – wondering why I don't just give up pretending I like drinking and its side effects, and become a teetotaller. I'm practically one anyway. I mean, what a waste of a beautiful, sunny morning. I couldn't even be bothered to go for a walk.

Wine. That's why I'm not a teetotaller.

In case you hadn't already deduced it from the above, last night a great time was had by all. It was Christmas just the way I wanted it (although, like I said, in hindsight I should have stopped after the first bucket of wine and contended myself with the first 10 portions of food, if only to have been able to do something constructive with my day today - overindulgence does not agree with me). This day wasn't completely wasted, though, despite my reluctance towards doing anything more physically strenuous than using the keyboard on my computer. I had started on Terry Pratchett's “Snuff” a few days ago, and it wasn't until today I really got into it. The initial disappointment I'd felt after the first few pages turned into love. A good book should really be read in one sitting to be fully appreciated; reading a couple of pages every night before my eyelids get too heavy and the words stop making sense is not doing any books justice. A full review of the book will of course be coming early in 2012, as part of the Cannonball Read.

Tomorrow we resume our regularly scheduled programme. I'm only 45 or so kilometres away from reaching 2200 km this year and, as you know, I'm a complete geek for even numbers. With less than a week to go before this year's end, it's time to get cracking.

Friday, 23 December 2011

Run on Christmas Eve?

I see this question on running forums, and I wonder: why do they ask? Doesn't everyone run on Christmas Eve? What would they do otherwise that is more important?!

I love how silent it is in the woods on Christmas Eve. So, yes, just try and stop me from running tomorrow morning. And when all the running is done, the Christmas festivities can commence. Cooking food, drinking glögg, eating food, opening presents (that I got despite the fact that I had been dropping hints, or, rather, saying outright for weeks that I didn't want any) and finally relaxing with a glass of wine, in the best company a girl could ask for.

Now if only I could find my Santa hat...

Wednesday, 21 December 2011

A simple kind of life

It didn't start very well. I suppose I should get used to it; if I want to go running on tarmac during rush hour then I should be prepared for the sound of traffic drowning out the music I'm trying to listen to. It really doesn't help chanting ”shut up, shut up, SHUT UP” under my breath, nor does it help flipping the bird at the idiotic drivers that don't stop at pedestrian crossings. But it does make me wonder sometimes. I cannot possibly be the only one in the world who thinks that this lifestyle, sitting in a car in an endless queue on the way to work, alone while buses drive back and forth empty, is making us sick as a society? This constant stress that takes over our lives to such a degree that we can't sacrifice two seconds of our precious time to let a pedestrian cross the road? It is the law, after all...

But as soon as I left the traffic and city behind, my mood improved. The slush turned to a thin layer of snow, birds perched on tree branches and I could listen to my music undisturbed. The sun was slowly climbing up in the sky, but it was nowhere to be seen. Everything was grey, but a colour that is so ugly in an urban environment is so beautiful in nature. In nature it's not just a boring, uniform grey; it's all shades between grey and blue. 


Someone had been running where I now was, leaving their traces on the snow. That person wasn't the only living thing leaving traces. I saw hare tracks, dog tracks, and what I suspect was deer tracks. And a lot of horse dung. I was, of course, running near the stables. The horses were nowhere to be seen though.


I concluded my Wednesday long run with a visit to the bakery. On my way home I walked past a school. A little boy stood behind the building crying, all alone. The shouts of the other children in the school yard made it impossible for the teachers to hear this boy. I hurried over to him, as he cradled his right hand in his left and sobbed hysterically. He had slipped on a patch of ice and his hand was bleeding, but the cut didn't seem too deep. He was just scared. I tried to calm him down and walked with him to the front of the school to find a teacher.

The fact that I was there to help this little boy when no one else was around, along with two wonderful hours of easy, effortless running, completely turned my mood around. I almost regret my rude gesture towards the inconsiderate driver earlier. Almost.

Sunday, 18 December 2011

I climb too. Kind of.

Has anyone seen my climbing muscles? No? What do you mean, I never had any? Ok, maybe I never had any strong climbing muscles, but I had the potential for them. Now I don't even have that.

Whereas some months ago I was at 6B-level, boldly testing even some 6C and hanging from great heights without the slightest hint of fear of heights, I suddenly find myself confined to 5+. For those of you that have never climbed, a 5+ is for beginners. 6C is the boundary beyond which lies climbing greatness.



Not only do I find it really hard to climb anything more advanced than beginner stuff nowadays, I have also developed an unhealthy fear that I might fall. I'm not worried that I'll fall to the ground. Safety gear is as good as fail proof. No. My fear is that I'll swing horizontally and collide with the wall. This fear and lack of confidence is particularly strong when I'm climbing an overhang or a difficult route. Anything harder than a 5+ in other words. Where, if I pause my ascend for even a second, doubt and tiredness creep into my brain.

The wall has beaten me, thanks to way too many missed climbing sessions. I haven't been so motivated to climb the last few months, J has been injured, pick your excuse. But today I saw this marvellous, beautiful, strong girl climb up that 6B so easily that she might as well have been climbing a ladder. I wanted to be that confident little spider at that moment; to have strong arm muscles and a lean figure that doesn't waste too much energy. I've been feeling heavy, like I've been carrying an extra 100 kg up the wall. No elegance, no style. She, she could have been stuffed with feathers and helium.

So after the Christmas gluttony is over, I'm starting over. Running is great, but the well-shaped shoulders and "pincers" that can grab onto a tiny grip and not start shaking after one second can only be formed by climbing. No more excuses. I'll get back to 6B. Soon.

Saturday, 17 December 2011

30 km solo

The trail – among other things- seduced some of my running buddies to cover 38 probably very muddy kilometres. I felt too weak for such a challenge, and worried that my foot would get worse.

So I jumped on the commute train to Kungsbacka for a solo run on asphalt instead. It was eerie at the Liseberg train station this morning. I was almost alone. I had never been there before. It looked like an Underground station.
 


What followed once I got to Kungsbacka and started running surprised me. I held a steady, easy pace, listening to music, lost in my own thoughts and enjoying the wintry scenery – especially the grey sea. Winter is such a bittersweet time of the year. The bare limbs of the trees swayed gently in the wind. Yeah, it was a bit windy (it's Gothenburg after all) and, of course, it was headwind. Luckily it wasn't that strong.

Sorry about the bad quality. Not easy to run and take a picture with your mobile phone at the same time

I arrived at Nordgården, a bakery that is so cosy that you just can't resist buying something that will make your teeth rot and fall out. I loaded my already stuffed rugsack with a loaf of walnut bread, a muffin and a brownie, and started running again.


It was so easy. Except for the ache in my foot and the chronic, whiplash-induced pain in my left shoulder, I felt great, both physically and psychologically. When I was one kilometre from home, having run 29 already, I toyed with the idea of taking a detour and pushing for 35, but I decided to be smart. No need to push my foot to its limits.

A bit stiff, with my breath turning into small clouds as soon as it left my mouth, I got home. Where I shall now celebrate an easy 30 km with a brownie.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

My babies are here

Every time I receive a package from the online bookstore, it's like Christmas morning. I open the package carefully, full of anticipation. Although I know exactly what it contains, it always makes me smile to see the actual books there in front of me. The way they smell. Leafing through them. Deciding which one I'll read first.


This particular package contained 8 books. Different genres. All of which I chose carefully for the upcoming Cannonball Read. Some of them were obvious, because I've been reading the author's work for years, others were an effort to try something different:

1. Terry Pratchett, Snuff. I love Pratchett and his sense of humour. He's a prolific writer, but how many books will he have time to write before Alzheimer's disease claims his brain?
2. Stephen King, 11.22.63. I like the way he writes, but his stories can go either way. I've loved some and hated some.
3. Suzanne Collins, Catching Fire. This is the second book in a trilogy (?). It's youth literature, but I found the first book well written.
4. Jeffrey Eugenides, The Marriage Plot. His ”Middlesex” novel is one of my favourites. A great mixture of comedy and drama.
5. Tim Jackson, Prosperity without Growth. This was a bold choice on my part. I prefer my politics and economics in documentary form, because fact books are often very dry. Ok, they're often plain boring. But the subject he writes about is very interesting and I hope that alone will keep me awake.
6. Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead. Probably my favourite TV-show right now. I had to pick up the graphic novel.
7. Stephen Hawking, Grand Design. As with economics, I prefer my science in documentary form, but I find science a lot more fascinating to read about.
8. Jonathan Franzen, The Corrections. A book a lot of people were talking about a year or so ago.

So there they are. The newest members in the growing pile of books I'll be reading for Cannonball Read. I've already started on the first one I'll be reviewing: ”In defence of food” by Michael Pollan.

In training related news, another round of Ultra Intervals will be taking place on the 11th of February. Should I or shouldn't I? The jury is still out on that one.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Windy morning

You know how they say that Eskimos have 50 different words for snow? People in Gothenburg have 50 different words for wind. It's been windy since September.

I sought the stillness of the forest. My headlamp cast a weak light in the darkness, catching what looked like tiny whirling snowflakes in its beam. The ground was saturated by water, even at places where it's usually dry, protected by the tree canopy above. I was completely alone. 


My foot did not disturb me at all. My thigh muscle, that I had forgotten about when my foot started complaining, apparently felt neglected and started aching again. I have been abusing it a bit; I have been doing some demanding thigh exercises that it didn't like. I ignored it and got home after 10 km. The sun was just starting to rise over the horizon. But of course you wouldn't know it, because it hasn't just been windy. It's been cloudy as well. I just love Gothenburg in the winter.

Monday, 12 December 2011

Heavy legs and good news

December darkness makes me want to sleep much longer than my customary 7 hours. After having slept for more than 8 hours this morning, I grudgingly got up, still tired, just after 5 o'clock. I ate my breakfast in the early-hours silence, then got ready to run to work.

My legs were heavy and every step was a struggle. Still, I somehow managed to cover the 10 km to work and at a decent pace at that. They say that you never regret going out for a run, but you do regret not doing it. I was pretty close to disproving that saying, because it wasn't a fun run. I had to fight for every single metre and I arrived at work exhausted instead of energised. Yet 10 km is a respectable distance to run and I'm glad I did it.

When I got home in the afternoon, I received some good news. I've been wanting to study a sports-related course in the spring and I found one that was really, really interesting. Because of work I can only study distance learning courses. Unfortunately this one was in Malmö and had a few obligatory attendances, which would make it almost impossible for me to take this course. I thought I'd send an email anyway, and ask on which dates these attendances were. Just in case the cosmic deities threw me a bone and they were all on a Wednesday.

As it turns out, the cosmic deities did throw me a bone, although it was a different one than the one I expected. These obligatory attendances are no longer obligatory. So I applied for the course and I'm crossing all fingers and toes that I get accepted. It was a late application, and my only chance to get in is either if the course isn't full, or if an applicant drops out. Wish me luck!

Saturday, 10 December 2011

He's brought down the rain and the indian summer is through

A new personal best on the half marathon distance was the result of my efforts this morning. I started off at what I thought was a comfortable pace, increased about midway when I felt that I had strength left, and then finished strong.

That's sea water among the trees
The storm that hit Gothenburg yesterday let up a little this morning, long enough for me to get in these fast 21 km, and before the heavy rain returns this afternoon. The aftermath was evident everywhere: fallen branches, garbage that the sea water had carried to shore, flooded ditches. The wind still came at me from the sea, very strong from time to time, causing me to run leaning to the left to counteract its force. I was almost thrown off the path a couple of times, but thankfully these were just gusts of wind and not the persistent headwind that I've faced before and which wears you out very quickly.

The sea had completely covered some of the walkways
I liked this weather, despite the frustration I felt when I couldn't seem to move forward. A lot of the songs that accompanied me on this run were about summer, and I dreamed of running on dry, sun scorched earth, among hay fields, enveloped by warmth and the scent of pine trees. But it didn't last long. Despite the fact that summer is my favourite season, I'm not sick of this winter yet, although it has done its best to piss me off, what with the constant winds and rain. 

Wild beauty
I was surprised that I got such a good time, as I wasn't really trying to run fast, but rather let my body find its own right speed. Maybe this old body has more strength in it than I think. Or maybe I just had a really good day.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Cannonball read

I don't just run in my free time. I've been known to read books from time to time. Curling up on the sofa with a good book and a cup of tea goes against the essence of an active lifestyle that running provides. But running activates your body; reading activates your mind.

I've been neglecting this pastime for various reasons, none of which are good. They are more like excuses, really. Something needed to be done about that. So I signed up for Cannonball read, a race of sorts, to read and review 52 books within a year. It is organised by Pajiba, film review site extraordinaire, and it starts in January. You can read more about it here.

There is no conceivable way for me to read and review so many books within a year, hold a job and train as much as I do at the same time, so I signed up for the half version. 26 books in a year mean an average of two books per month. That I can handle. I'm looking forward to expanding my literary horizons and picking up some books that I otherwise might not even have glanced at. I've already placed an order for some books that I've been wanting to read for a while.

This is still a running website. Just don't be surprised if a book review pops up from time to time. I might even go completely nuts and review a running related book! Watch this space...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Making do with what I have

I left my brain at home this morning. I woke up at 4.30, packed all my running gear in my backpack, planning on running home in the afternoon, and then put my old, worn-out Saucony on instead of my Dorothies. Why? You ask, perhaps incredulously. Because they were the ones lying in front of me? Because I was only half awake? Is that an acceptable answer or are you already dialling the men in the white coats to come and give me my medication?

I only noticed this as I was stepping on the bus. Cancelling the run was not an option. I mean, I had to get home somehow. I left work wearing the Saucony a few hours later. Was this safe? These shoes were, like, 3 years old! The cushioning is gone! My knees might break! And I'm so terribly out of fashion! My first tentative steps were light and I was so happy to be outside, breathing the cold air. The weather was decent enough (except for the wind. How is it possible that I always have headwind?) I felt the pebbles under my feet. I wouldn't be exaggerating (much) if I said that my shoes almost felt minimalistic. But they worked. They worked for 10 km and took me past cow pastures, sleepy summer cabins and beaches covered in whatever the sea had spat out the night before.


I would be lying if I said that it was a trouble-free run. Just how worn out the shoes were became more and more evident with every shock-induced ache I got in my legs. I don't run like that in my VFF, and I don't get such aches in them. I land a lot more lightly in them. More correctly, even.

I didn't exactly keep to the plan, did I? Last week I wrote that I'd take an easy month, with shorter and less frequent runs. The runs did get less frequent, but instead of getting shorter, they got longer. My last three sessions were at 10 km each and my foot feels fine. That's also a plan! Don't judge me! At least I get a proper day's rest in between runs!

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Triumph in the face of adversity

I said snow. I'd like some SNOW. Not ice. Not hail. Snow.

I looked out the window this morning at what I thought were isolated patches of snow, tied my running shoe laces and headed out into the darkness for an extended 10 km run to work. As soon as I stepped out, I saw that it wasn't going to be easy. The ground had turned into an ice rink and what I thought was snow was crystallised ice. I started running carefully but the crystallised ice was easy to run on, because they provided enough friction for my shoes.


But it wasn't like that everywhere. Large areas of the pavement were covered in mirror like, polished ice, and my poor Dorothies found no purchase. Still, I kept my balance, even if my speed was not that great. A teenage girl trying to cross the road on her bicycle wasn't as lucky; the bike skidded across the ice and she fell on her face, and lay there motionless. I ran to her and asked her how she was, hoping that my reflective vest was visible enough for any oncoming cars to see us there in the middle of the road. She slowly got up, obviously shocked but with no signs of injury. She said her leg hurt, but otherwise she was ok. I asked her if she could walk, and she said yes. She thanked me and was on her way. It could have been much, much worse. I ran a little more carefully after that.

I was worried that my speed was so low that I wouldn't make it to work on time. I shouldn't have worried about that, because soon enough I'd have bigger fish to fry. The second half of my run was accompanied by headwind and hailstones pouring down from the sky, whipping my cheeks and fogging up my glasses. At the same time, the street lights went out, although it was still dark. I couldn't see a thing. But strangest thing: I enjoyed every second of it. No, strike that. I loved it.

What's even stranger, but oh so wonderful, was that my foot did not bother me. Not even once.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

No more lazy days

Four days of resting and being lazy had exactly zero positive effect on my strained foot. After an 11 km run this morning, my foot was back to where it was the last time I ran, last Tuesday. So what's the point of resting? I might as well keep running as usual.

It didn't build up to it either. It felt strained as soon as I started running, and no matter how relaxed I tried to run, it didn't seem to make much of a difference. At least the rest of my body got up to the task immediately. It was obvious that it had missed running. I'm telling you, so much rest is bad for you! Before I went running, my legs were stiff, my back was aching and I was getting cabin fever. After the run, I was like a new person, full of energy and with all the complaints in my body gone. Well, except for the complaints in my foot.


Strangely enough, I loved the weird weather today. I had strong headwind for the first half of my round, then as soon as I reached the sea and turned towards home I had it on my back. The sea was grey and angry, frothing at the shores. Some lonely rain drops fell from the sky. I thought about the group's ultra session a year ago - Alingsås to Gothenburg. We had snow under our feet then, and -15 degrees on our bare faces.What a difference to today's weather.

A great day, a year ago

I also managed to fit in some vacuum cleaning, washing, shopping and muffin baking in my Sunday. My lazy days are over. Good riddance!


Saturday, 3 December 2011

The planets aligned

Sometimes the planets align to create the perfect conditions for running. One day, for example, when you're well-rested, injure-free and full of energy, the sun also happens to be shining. Today was such an occasion. Only the opposite of what I just described. The planets aligned to create the perfect stay-at-home conditions.

I took several days' rest to let my strained foot tendon heal properly. I didn't know how it would feel this morning and if I would go for a run, but just looking out my window when I woke up and at the truly horrible weather outside quickly dissolved any thoughts of leaving the flat. My foot needed the rest and the weather provided an extra reason to resist temptation. And the truth is, I'm completely ok with my decision to have a few lazy days. See how well I deal with restlessness when I don't have a choice?

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Disaffection blues

What a week it's been so far. Work has been crazy, with long days and not even having time to go to the loo. And then, just as I was busy pulling my hair out because there is NO WAY I can effectively do all the things I have to do within the workday, a lorry pulled outside our building and dumped a ton of new responsibilities on my lap along with a fancy new title to go under my job description. Will I get extra money for it? You're kidding, right? I will be paid in headaches and sleepless nights instead.

I was this close to bursting into tears of frustration. Then I got angry instead, for all the good that it did me. In this line of work, if a tree falls in the forest and everyone's around to hear it, no one gives a damn anyway. The whole forest could be mowed down by a multinational cooperation to make way for cow pastures and it still wouldn't make a sound.

When the amount of responsibilities in a job surpasses the monetary benefits derived from it, there'd better be some other satisfaction you get from it to make up for it. If there isn't, well, that particular job sucks. Frankly, I'd rather make less money and be happy with what I do, than get lots of money and dread going to work every day.

Running to and from work did not work its therapeutic magic, either. My foot doesn't hurt, but it's not ok. My legs felt heavy, even though I'd had a day's rest. Something was wrong. I felt that it was too warm, my pulse was too high and I couldn't get into a flow. I felt like I was getting ill. At some point during my morning run I passed 2000 km for this year, which had been my goal, and I didn't even notice. What did go through my head was that I maybe needed a longer period of rest. Maybe an easier month, with shorter and less frequent runs, and more alternative training. I still have my swimming card. But I'm worried that I would lose too much strength and stamina. Yet my body needs to heal, so that I can find the energy to set new goals for next year. Like maybe get a new job.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Berit, eat my shorts

Pandemonium. News headlines about how the end of the world is nigh. The rain whipping our windows mercilessly. A cow flying past outside. A two-glasses-of-wine hangover (yes, I'm lightweight). None of that was enough to stop J and me from going for a run. Berit, as this particular storm is called, lovingly yet inexplicably sporting a female name, was not enough to stop us.


The fact that I had just hung both my jackets AND both my winter tights to dry after washing them almost was enough. Almost. I put on some warm training trousers, a long sleeved functional top and a vest. I looked like my picture should be in the dictionary, under the definition for ”jogger”.

True to my appearance, I started off easy, while J was warming up. In the woods, the wind didn't seem so dangerous; in fact, we could hardly feel it. Except by the lake, where the sparsity of trees meant I was suddenly hit by such a gale force wind, I was almost thrown into the bushes.

I took a detour on the way home to make my round a bit longer, and let my feet pick up speed. I ran at a controlled, yet fast pace. So, what if it was downhill? It still counts. But then I was met with a wall. With no trees around to protect me, I was struck by a headwind so strong that my eyes watered. My leg muscles were working hard to move me forward, but I wasn't getting anywhere. Luckily those sudden bursts of wind usually stop seconds after they hit you, and I was able to run the last few hundred metres without incident, bringing the week total to a nice, even 60 km. Satisfied.

Grinch

4 weeks left to Christmas, and any efforts to repress that fact have been futile. Everywhere you look, a thousand little lights warming up the cold Swedish night. Shop windows dressed in gold, red and green. People walking around wrapped in their winter coats, smiling lovingly at each other and taking in the wonderful atmosphere. And Christmas songs accompany them on their walk through the city.

Lovely picture. Shame it's not exactly true. Yes, people have already decorated their balconies with Christmas lights, that are going to stay on – in some cases – until March (it's true. I have that kind of neighbours). Shop windows are indeed dressed in glorious colours, to lure you in to buy junk. People aren't smiling, however. They're stressed because they have so many presents to buy. And those Christmas songs? The 1238924th time I hear ”Let it Snow” I'm going to murder someone with some gift wrapping ribbon and the CD player's electrical cord.

I'm going to get less training oriented and more political here for a second. Unless you're a child, you can most likely afford the things you need (and what do we really need, if we have a roof over our heads and food in our bellies?). Unless you're a child, this whole present exchange tradition has you driving around like an agitated maniac, running over pedestrians and trying to find a gift for your great aunt Esmeralda. Who, by the way, doesn't even know it's Christmas. She thinks the Germans are about to invade.

It's stressful. Most importantly, it's meaningless. In most cases, we buy presents because we feel we have to, otherwise people are going to think we don't care about them. Because nothing says ”I love you” like plastic crap that's made in China or cheap clothes that are made by child labourers in Taiwan. We rush into shops to buy yet another pair of socks for Grampa and all this time, fat cats around the world are sitting in their mansions rubbing their hands together and laughing diabolically, because the greatest trick they ever pulled was to convince people that Christmas is about consuming. Consuming worthless, needless stuff. Consuming enormous amounts of mass-produced chocolate and alcohol. Consuming greedily with our wallets and with our bellies, while our misguided hearts go hungry. They created a picture of how the perfect Christmas should be, only they left out the most important ingredients: warmth and meaning. Without them, Christmas is an empty shell. Beautiful on the surface, but empty. While landfill sites are getting filled to the brim with our waste.

http://www.adbusters.org/

I tried to remember what presents I got for Christmas as a child and I can't remember a single one. Well, except for that rad electric guitar I got when I was 16. It's not because I didn't get any presents, it's because I appreciated other things more (yes, even as a child. Especially as a child). I remember the big family gatherings and breaking bread together. Sitting by our fireplace. The cold outside and building a snowman with my brother, on a good year when we got white Christmas. The house slowly getting filled with the scent of baked goods that my dad had prepared. The taste of my mom's special mayo salad. That's what the essence of Christmas is for me. Being with my family. I can't remember a single present but I remember this.

So buy less this Christmas. There's nothing wrong with giving; on the contrary, it's a wonderful gesture. But make your own gifts. Bake cookies, make a scarf, give a special photo you've taken, write a poem if you're so inclined, or help to paint someone's house if you're not. Give away something that you have lying around, that someone else might need. Promise that person that you'll do them a favour, should they need one. Spend time with your kids, because that's what they need the most, not video games – play a board game, listen to them, go for a walk with them. And if you absolutely MUST buy something, consider buying second-hand, a book (feeds your mind, at least) or lottery tickets from charity. Here in Sweden there's, for example, Cancerfonden, that has such winnings in the pot as vacations, food for a year and more – and if that lottery ticket you bought isn't the winning one, your money has gone to a very good cause: fighting cancer.

Saturday, 26 November 2011

The grand tour of central Gothenburg

So, you know that little problem with my foot? It seems to have disappeared, or else it's lying dormant under the surface. Because this morning I was able to join the group (well, all two of them that braved the stormy weather) for a long run.

We ran over the two main bridges in Gothenburg. The first one almost killed me, and it wasn't just because it's several hundred kilometres long. Like M said, apparently having witnessed how the wind almost threw me over the edge of the bridge, ”Good thing there is a fence there”. And good thing I ate that extra sandwich before I left this morning. Because my own body weight was obviously not enough to keep me from flying. But then we were on the Hisingen side of the city, and we had the wind on our backs, and everything was right with the world.


After the grand tour of the city centre we were back where we started, but no run can be called long unless it's at least 20 kilometres. Not in our group anyway. So off we ran through the Botanical Gardens, up an evil hill through Rhododendrons and other unpronounceable flora, and towards Änggårdsbergen. In a surreal, serendipitous moment, we ran past some runners with bibs on, heading in the opposite direction. I still don't know who those people were, despite having spent hours googling races. 


Änggårdsbergen was muddy but beautiful in its late autumn colours, because, although the wind was howling, the sun was shining. The guys and I headed off in different directions at a crossroads, me towards home, happy that my foot had made it unscathed so far but having no strength to speak of left in my legs. There were one hill too many on this round.


Leaving Änggårdsbergen behind, I was struck immediately by the contrast between the serenity of the woods and the hectic, stressful Christmas shopping that seems to have started in earnest today. Unfortunately, running back to the woods and hiding was no option. I arrived home after 23 km, carefully planning my route to avoid the worst of traffic. Not bad for my little ”injured” troll foot, that nevertheless punished me for it anyway. I got a blister.

Lovely single track

Friday, 25 November 2011

Growing pains

Those tired feet from last weekend? They're not just tired anymore.

The destructive downward spiral started by my plantar fasciitis a year ago (almost to the day!) has claimed its latest victim. I can remind you of my theory, that the PF in my left foot led to stiffness in the back right thigh muscle by way of overcompensation, which in turn led to a strained front left thigh muscle. The injury that is only starting to fade away now, almost three months after I got it.

Which brings us to today. The aforementioned left thigh injury caused me to overcompensate by landing on my right foot too heavily. Which is now aching whenever I put any weight on it. I am a human see-saw.

Left-right-left-right. Photo by birdman dave
I have been treating my foot with Diclofenac since yesterday and already it's getting better. But the worst thing is that I knew, I've felt for days that the stiffness in the foot was on the verge of becoming something more serious. But sometimes you can run through aches and pains, and then they mysteriously disappear (case in point: my knees). Truth be told, my guess was that my foot was just tense and needed to loosen up. I thought my shoes were too tight. Put on a thicker pair of socks and they were a bit too snug. Yet, they're the same size and model as my old ones.

My feet are a constant source of amusement. I've had the infamous blue nails. Fun things like blood blisters. Hilariously excruciating pain whenever I tried to squeeze them into my climbing shoes. Strange sores on my toes of unknown origin. And, of course, the barrel of laughs PF and now this ache on the top of the foot.

I'm starting to suspect that my feet are growing, at the ripe old age of 30-something. Using VFF and doing foot-strengthening exercises must have contributed to my feet getting bigger. They certainly don't like getting constricted in tight shoes.

Wednesday, 23 November 2011

Flow

Wednesdays are a big improvement on the whole weekday concept, compared to Mondays. They're closer to Friday, for one thing. And I have the day off. As some of you might remember, I have been trying to get another long run in on Wednesdays, not quite as long a run as Saturdays', but enough to get in some more kilometres during the week and to get my legs to be comfortable with the distance. To move my safe point a little further, so to speak.

I've had doubts whether my body would like the thought or not, but it keeps surprising me. As it turned out, not only do I survive two long runs per week, I also seem to thrive on them. Because I run relatively slowly, my body recovers quite quickly from them. And my Saturday long runs don't leave me incapacitated any more.

Did I say I run slowly? Today's run wasn't exactly slow. Even though it was slow by other people's standards, it was fast by mine. Faster than I run some tempo runs. But I couldn't help myself. The flow was there, my legs were eager and the weather conditions were just right. I didn't even look at my Garmin. Instead, I let my body fall into a natural rhythm and run at what felt like a very comfortable, easy pace. I was surprised to find out later that I had covered 18 km in under 1:40.

The highlight of my run was definitely the swarm of 30-40 blackbirds (or was it crows?) flying low over my head against a grey sky, just as I was leaving the suburbs and seeing the sea stretching out in front of me. And not getting pooped on.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

In search of a world where Mondays don't exist

Mondays should be banned and replaced with Fridays. Who's with me?

The week started with a really long, stressful day. Lots to do and lots of negativity among my colleagues. What didn't make things easier was that I already felt completely psychologically drained. Despite our cancelled plans on Saturday, I had a great weekend. I just wanted more weekend and less weekdays. Less work and more play. I feel so alone with these twisted feelings. I bet everyone else in the world looks forward to going to work on Monday.

Or at least those who have job descriptions like ”chocolate taster”.

I ran both to and from work, in an attempt to find some much needed energy, on a pair of legs that hadn't completely recovered from Torrekulla. As I'd suspected, my legs got better afterwards, but it wasn't particularly enjoyable having to struggle to move them up a hill. The energy I got from my morning run unfortunately only lasted about 30 seconds after I walked through the door.

Some days not even a run will help. And today I get to do it all over again. Tuesdays are not much better than Mondays, it seems, not in my line of work anyway. Anyone looking for a chocolate taster?

Sunday, 20 November 2011

The glamorous life of a long distance runner

Our plans last night got cancelled, because one of our friends got sick, and because J has been knocked out by lumbago since yesterday. Sore muscles and tired feet made me take an extra rest day today. Nothing wrong with my energy levels, however. It's a beautiful day outside. What better way to spend it than by cleaning the flat?

I've changed the sand in the litter box. I've vacuum cleaned, mopped the floor and scrubbed the tub. I've cleaned the counter and tidied up the living room. I've recycled the enormous amounts of junk that has been piling up on our balcony (yep, today I'm ashamed to be a human. Just look at how much resources two people can waste). It's taken me 3 hours. But I'm far from done. Oh no; I have the Closet to take care of.

My running related clothes and gear are scattered in the hallway, in the bathroom and in the aforementioned Closet. There is no order to this chaos, no system that has been carefully devised to keep track of everything. My hats are in a box in the hallway. My Camelbak is hanging upside down in the bathroom. My rucksack is in the Closet. And the crap in the Closet is taking up so much space that I don't dare go in any more. I'm afraid I might get swallowed up and not be found until future archaeologists excavate this site and see my skeleton curled up in a ball, sucking its thumb. I bet they're going to scratch their heads at all the strange running paraphernalia.

Saturday, 19 November 2011

Muddy, to say the least

7 runners met up to run the Torrekulla trail this morning. No one seemed to be deterred by my threats that it would be hilly, muddy and slippery. It was fun to show others my local trail and to see them wade through mud. Misery loves company.

Everyone wanted to buy this house by the trail and become a farmer
I lost count of how many times we slipped and almost fell on those wet planks and stones. I might even have let out a terrifying scream that scared away any wildlife that, until now, called this nature reserve home. Still, we managed to run the whole trail unscathed, except H that unfortunately sprained a muscle and had to let us go. An extra lap around the parking lot at the end brought the total to just over 21 km for me. A demanding, yet really enjoyable session. 

I don't know what colour the others' shoes were originally, but after Torrekulla they were all a uniform brown.
Not to mention a learning experience. The dangers encountered on the trail are many: wet leaves. Stones. Roots. Bears. Jaguars. Sharks. But did you know that death by pine needles is one of them? I almost bled to death when one of the sneaky little buggers found its way into my mouth and pierced my tongue while I tried to drink some water out of my bottle.

Exaggerate? Me? Never.

Onwards to new adventures tonight. Dinner with friends at a fancy restaurant. Well, maybe not so adventurous, but definitely fun.

Friday, 18 November 2011

I can't be good at everything!

Climbing has been a bit of a hit and miss lately. We haven't been going regularly, like we used to, and as a result our arms and fingers have become as strong as overcooked spaghetti.

On the plus side, our hands have been as soft as a baby's bottom. I had to do something about that yesterday. I got to the wall early and spent an hour bouldering, while waiting for J to get off from work. The skin on my hands quickly turned an angry red and a blister established itself on my middle finger (coincidence? I think not. The boulders were definitely telling me to go and engage in an intimate activity with myself).

Swapping running shoes for climbing shoes: a bad idea?
By the time J arrived, I had no skin left. The futile attempts at climbing anything harder than a 5 only resulted in me smearing the wall with blood and bits of my skin. Well, at least that's how it felt. Or like my hands were on fire. Washing them with cold water later was as pure a joy as the one felt by children at the first snowflakes of winter.

Tomorrow: Torrekullaleden with the gang. The muddy pits of despair! The shoe swallower! The slippery stones of doom! Can't wait.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Hallelujah

I couldn't find my Lungplus this morning. I had put it in that big backpack that I took with me to Skatås last weekend, then unpacked it and proceeded to completely forget where I put it.

Of course, now that I'm writing these lines, hours after my morning run, I know exactly where it is.

But there was a little moment of irritation right then, because there are so many things I want and have to do on my ”free” day, and wasting time looking for missing things is not one of them. My throat doesn't like the wintry conditions that have befallen Gothenburg the last few days and I wanted to spare it the minus degrees Celsius this morning.

Predictably, I didn't let the absence of breathing aids stop me from heading out in the cold. I took my mp3 player with me. As my legs slowly warmed up, the sun was slowly climbing the horizon and painting it in pastel colours. Jeff Buckley came on with Hallelujah. And I was out running, the cold's sting turning my cheeks red, and I was happy and thankful that I could, so soon after the intervals. My eyes might even have welled up. But don't tell anyone.


It is amazing, really, this almost religious experience that is the runner's high. You know the feeling? When spring is in the air, all the beautiful people shed their winter clothes and walk around in summer dresses and t-shirts and you just fall in love, even if it's not a specific person you're in love with but life itself?

The brain is a funny thing.

Monday, 14 November 2011

Surprise, surprise

I expected not to be able to walk for a week. Instead, I had to run to catch the bus, and not only did I make it, but it didn't even hurt! Ok, maybe it hurt a bit. On my left hip. But otherwise it didn't hurt. At all!

Seriously, I am surprised at how little Saturday's adventure has affected my body. I am tired, as in I haven't made up for the hours of sleep I've lost, but there is no stiffness or strained muscles to speak of. My injured thigh muscle stopped complaining after the fourth interval and I haven't heard from it since.

Oh. And running for the bus gave me a thrill. At that moment, I wanted to go for a run so badly.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Ultra Intervals - the story


Let's have a look at some numbers:

People in Sweden that have completed all 8 intervals: 38 (and another 7 in the open class)
People from the Skatås Seven that completed all 8: 5. The winner of the intervals was one of us.
Injuries: none (just some scares)
Calories burned: 5084
Calories consumed: A gazillion. In chocolate, peanuts, pasta, cola, raisins etc.
Weight lost: 1 kg.
Hours of sleep from 4.30 Friday morning to midnight Saturday night: 1

And...
8 of 8 ultra intervals. 80 kilometres. 22 hours.

80 kilometres. It's a number that's hard to wrap your head around. You might think that dividing it in 8 intervals would make it easier, but no. Now, I haven't done a 50-miles ultra so that I can compare it to this, but I can compare how I felt after just 4 of the intervals to a marathon. Marathon is much easier. What is supposed to be time to rest between intervals is just an opportunity for your legs to lock up and for your mood to drop.

I would never have managed to do all 8 if I hadn't shared a cabin in Skatås with my running buddies. Without the cheerful banter and the laughs in between intervals. Without the whole adventure of renting a cosy cabin and embarking on something crazy together. There is no chance the 3 o'clock interval would be reason enough for me to leave my bed. Luckily, even though I'm sure none of us really wanted to leave their warm sleeping bags and head out in the darkness and freezing cold (despite D's absurdly enthusiastic claims that "this is fun!"), together we somehow managed to scrape together the courage and head out to what was, for me, the most difficult interval of all. The second one. The one that really made me question my sanity.

Dark, dark, dark. And cold.
But then the sun was up for the fourth one, and the fifth one, and the sixth one. And each one of them felt just like any training session, like I hadn't already collected tens of kilometres in my legs. Especially the fifth one – I was flying. Or at least trying to, zigzagging among the pensioners, joggers, prams that were outside on this beautiful, sunny yet crispy late autumn day. 

Sun. A mood enhancer.
The sixth interval was run in moderate pace. We were all getting tired, knees and feet and hips were aching. And then it was time for 2 team mates to throw in the towel. One of them had made other plans for the evening, and one was experiencing some knee trouble. Both of them had crushed their previous distance records, running 60 km. Amazing.

But it felt a bit empty in the cabin afterwards. Knowing that the intervals were over for some made it less motivating to continue. Maybe they were the smart ones? It was dark outside again, and all the sunshine revellers had gone home. The only people around in the forest was us. No one was talking. Everyone was concentrating on their private struggle. I played some music, but I was too tired to even listen to it. 

I was more horizontally inclined between intervals.
Resting between intervals 7 and 8 was easy. I slept for maybe 40 minutes, the most sleep I had gotten since Friday morning. Before I knew it, it was time to go again. I ran alone, wanting to choose my own route, tired of running the exact same path in the exact same order, mentally exhausted of seeing the same rock, the same tree, the same parking lot. Not a very good strategy in the end. Trying to find enough kilometres to run on at 9 o'clock in the evening, while having run 70 already on a brain full of mush was taxing enough. I could have skipped that challenge.

Throughout the last interval, there was never a doubt that I would manage it, despite the psychological and physical strain. I was running on determination. And then it was over. 80 kilometres. Too tired to celebrate. Too tired to manage anything but a smile. Too late in the night to care.

But today, having achieved something so marvellous, there will be time for reflection. And to make a solemn promise to myself to never, NEVER do anything like this again.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Eighth interval - the last one

I did it. I DID IT. 80 km run in 22 hours. The last interval was dull, but I knew I could do it.

I'm going to write a more detailed report about the whole day tomorrow, when I've had a chance to recover and can form coherent sentences again. For now, goodnight. I'm soon off to get some well deserved sleep.

Seventh interval - the challenging one

Darkness has fallen once again, and the last two intervals are run by the light of the street lamps. It's taxing. The body starts thinking again that it's time to go to bed. We have also "lost" two of the Skatås Seven who had to bow out because of various reasons. It's also challenging to see two friends leave. It feels empty in here somehow, although we're still 5 crazy runners left that are going strong. Still, a favourite song on my mp-3 player made me run the seventh interval in under one hour. I have now completed 70 km and it's 19 hours since we started. Only one interval left.

Sixth interval

I managed to get 15-20 minutes of sleep and I woke up a different, probably better person. When it was time for the sixth interval, we settled for an easy 6 min/km pace and got in with strength left. Only two intervals to go and the mood is great.

Fifth interval - the "fast" one

I was determined to run more slowly on the fifth interval, as the last one felt tough. Instead, I put on my earphones and suddenly my feet were flying. The fifth interval was over before I knew it. Where that energy came from, I don't know. Maybe the pasta I ate a couple of hours ago. Maybe the music.

The sun is shining over Skatås, warming up the seemingly millions of people exercising here.

Fourth interval - halfway there

40 kilometres over and done with. 40 kilometres left. It's tough, and it's slow. But mood is great. It's time to start counting down.

Second and third interval

A couple of questions that popped into my mind at 3 in the morning when I crawled out of my sleeping bag and into my running clothes were "Why?" and "Where is my mommy?". I hadn't gotten any sleep, and, given that I had woken up at 4.30 the previous morning, it meant that almost 24 hours had passed without sleeping. I drifted in and out of a strange trance, the kind that can only be caused by sleep deprivation.

But I had my mind set on doing this. It wasn't easy. I hadn't stretched and it was a struggle to move my legs forward. I started worrying if I'd even get through 4 of the intervals, which I had kind of decided would be the minimum acceptable amount. Then it was over.

I didn't get any sleep between 4 and the next interval at 6, either. Somehow, though, waking up at 5.30 to get ready felt natural. I had done it; I had tricked my body into believing that it had already rested and that it was a new day. The 3rd interval was much easier than the second, despite some protests from my thigh muscle. When we got back to the cabin, the sun was just starting to cast some light over the horizon.

It remains to be seen, of course, how much longer I can keep tricking my body.

One down...

...7 to go. With such nice company you don't even notice that you're running up and down the same stretch of cycle path.

Friday, 11 November 2011

T minus 4 hours...


I can't sleep. I rushed to town after work to pick up the keys to the cabin and then rushed home to try and get a couple of hours' sleep before tonight's intervals. It's no use. No matter what I do, whether I lie in bed or on the sofa with the tv on (a sure fire trick that has always sent me to the land of dreams before), I just can't relax. My mind can't switch itself off. It's been working overtime for days now, trying to make sure all the puzzle pieces fall into place, with work, with the cabin, with menial things like doing the laundry and packing and buying food to take with me. It's usually so scattered that it's an effort just trying to remember to put some clothes on before I leave the flat in the morning. And now it has to remember important things, like the key to the cabin?! A daunting task.

So the result of the last few days' frenetic activity is a really heavy backpack that I'll have to carry up the hill to Skatås and a mind on amphetamines. Impossible to go to sleep. But hey, if you can't beat them, join them. Who needs sleep anyway? I'm drinking coffee instead and hoping to stay awake through the first interval at midnight. In a little more than 4 hours.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Countdown to Ultra Intervals


We're two days away from what could be the highlight of the year for many runners. Friday, at midnight, marks the beginning of the Ultra Intervals, a 24-hour period of testing limits and pushing boundaries.

Running internet forum jogg.se is responsible for this crazy idea. The gist of it is this: you have to run 8 intervals of 10 km each, spread out evenly over the course of a day. So, the first interval starts at midnight, the second at 3 o'clock, the third at 6 and so on. Until the last one, Saturday night at 9. It's almost like a 24-hour ultra race, but with mandatory rest periods.

Bad news is, the slower you are, the less time you get to spend resting between intervals.

You can choose to enter the competition class (if you intend to run all 8) or the open class. Open class has looser rules. For example, you don't have to be so punctual. You can even start a day early. I thought I'd aim for the competition class and see what happens. Worst case scenario, if I can't run all 8, is that I get ”demoted” to open class. No big deal.

As you can imagine, apart from the colossal physical effort of trying to run 80 km within a day, there is an important psychological factor that needs to be overcome. Namely boredom. Imagine running around a 10 km path, 8 times within a day. Or even worse, imagine not having a 10 km path to run around and having to do with a much shorter one, like a 1 km path. Times 80.


Add to that the fatigue from not getting enough sleep and rest between intervals and the reluctance to go out in the middle of the night when your nice, warm bed is calling you, and you begin to understand the enormity of this project. Still, many people around the country are going to give it their best shot. And, luckily, some of them are in my running group. In order to better deal with the psychological factors that might otherwise force us to throw in the towel, some of us decided to run these intervals together. So we rented one of the cabins in Skatås, where we will be spending the time between intervals resting, eating and socialising. We're stronger together.


I have no idea if I can run all 8. I'd be happy with 6. Although, to be honest, this is completely unknown territory for me. Common sense says I should be able to manage more than 5, since I get to rest for a couple of hours between intervals – but maybe that's just what's going to be tough. Getting up again after you've been resting for two hours.

Hopefully, I am going to be able to update the blog during the day (and night). Feel free to follow me on this adventure and to leave comments such as ”You can do it!, ”Go get' em tiger!” and ”Move your fat arse!”. I'm going to need all the encouragement (and, failing that, bullying) I can get.

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Who needs races when there's a trail in my back yard


I didn't run Finalloppet. I decided to boycott races for a while; I haven't felt like doing any, and besides, I've run four so far this year, including my first marathon. Maybe I have race fatigue and my muscles twitch involuntarily at the mere mention of the word.


Instead, J and I hit the Torrekulla trail. It was muddier than usual. Strange thing, it was also steeper than usual. Not wanting to flood my thigh muscles with lactic acid, I walked up a couple of hills. The mud sucked the juice out of my legs. It was a struggle to find runnable terrain sometimes. A canoe might have been easier to steer than my legs in these conditions. Still, I managed to gather about 10 km of single track, 8 of park path and a couple of tarmac ones. All in all, I think this was a far more useful trail session than Finalloppet would have been.

Mysteriously, my shoes got less muddy than last time
Autumn is in its dying throes. The forest that, only a week ago, looked as if it were on fire with its vivid colours, is now as grey as ashes. A few leaves are still hanging on to the trees for dear life, but even they have turned brown. And the trees? The trees dressed up as skeletons for Halloween and forgot to take off their costumes. 


Except this stubborn baby.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Star crossed lovers


After a brief self-pitying session last Wednesday, I pulled myself together, did some yoga and later headed for a scout run with a couple of running buddies from the group, in preparation for the Ultra Intervals next weekend. That took care of any existential issues that were lingering in my mind:

Slightly neurotic Shaman: Who am I, if I don't run ultra races? Can I call myself an ultra runner, even if I never enter a race?
Tough love, pragmatic Shaman: No one f!%#& cares.

My biggest fear was, of course, losing my passion. I somehow got it all mixed up in my tired brain that running equals races, and that not jumping up and down with excitement at all the possible ultras that are coming up this spring means I must be on the road to giving up on running altogether.

It's not such an irrational fear. Losing running would be very bad. There are very few things in my life that I've felt so passionate about, few things that have lasted so long. Sure, I have (and have had) other interests: dancing, reading, climbing. But those are just flings. This, this is pure love. Few things have felt purer, more unadulterated, more constant. Running and I are star crossed lovers.

So my fear was that this pure love had turned into the late stages of a failed marriage. The disillusionment. The disappointment. The resentment. The indifference. At the same time, the insecurities: the fear of looking at oneself in the mirror and not through someone else's eyes, and not recognising oneself any more. The fear of letting go of something so familiar. Because what's out there is scary. And I've been scared of letting running go, because what else is there that I could possibly fall so madly in love with? What else could possibly define me so perfectly as a person?

Of course, these were the ramblings of a temporarily insane person, as I realised as soon as I put my running shoes on. This is not a failed marriage. On the contrary; this is the kind of marriage where the couple grows old together, always walking down the street hand in hand, even at 90. The kind of marriage that might go through some tough times, but without losing the love and respect for one another. The kind that will always be there for you to comfort you when you need it.


Running and I are growing old together. I hope J sticks around, too. Having been together for over 13 years, I still kinda like him.