Wednesday, 29 February 2012

The bleeding hearts and artists make their stand

After all it's not easy 
banging your heart against some mad bugger's wall 
(The Wall – Pink Floyd)

It's survival of the cruellest out there, folks. If you, like me, care about anyone else but yourself, you are deemed irrational. A relic. You should be put in a museum for obsolete, quaint ideologies.

I was determined to have a difficult conversation with a person that I have no love for on my terms. I wasn't going to let this person get away with their injustices, not without saying what I had to say. And I cared little what the consequences were. So I poured my heart out, fought for what I believed in. And lost.

I spent yesterday afternoon seething with anger, but feeling powerless at the same time. You can't make a change in this world any more, not by protesting and not by defending those who can't defend themselves. When I feel so powerless, my first reaction is to give up. Quit. Find some undemanding job to do, maybe a desk job where I can mindlessly shuffle papers all day. But the sad thing is that there aren't many bleeding hearts left in this world any more. Soon there won't be anyone left to put up a fight. All that will be left will be robot-like bureaucratic psychopaths that quote laws and regulations and fail to see that it's a human being in front of them. And it makes me want to fight even more. It's just that I feel so alone sometimes.

I put all my anger into my running this morning. I averaged a 5:10min/km for the 5-odd km to the swimming pool. Once there, I swam 700 metres, and then I ran home again. It helps. For a while.

Tuesday, 28 February 2012

Better to burn out than to fade away

After finishing my 650-page long book, I picked up ”Relentless Forward Progress: A guide to running ultramarathons” by Bryon Powell and was relieved to be reading something different. Needless to say, my reading speed suddenly improved and I've already read a third of the book.

Among all the other interesting bits of information it contains, there was a section on FOMO: Fear Of Missing Out. It's the section right before the one on burning out and overtraining. D' ya think the author is trying to tell us something?

I am hereby making a public confession: I suffer from the above-mentioned condition. Although suffer is the wrong word. Enjoy is more like it; there's nothing negative about wanting to experience new things, wanting to absorb as much as possible and participate in exciting races (already my spring ”schedule” is full – I use quote marks because nothing is set in stone and I hate making long term plans, the fickle soul that I am). Except one thing: overtraining. Pushing yourself further than you should and causing an injury or burnout.

I think that most people who are serious about their running are very good at making sure they put in the mileage. The difficulty is in knowing when you should stay at home instead, and then letting go of this fear of missing out. Yes, that the world keeps turning even when you're at home sick or injured is a painful fact that we've all had to acknowledge at some point or another. We're not the centre of the universe. We're missing out all the time. But agonising about it is no good. Pushing ourselves even further is only bound to lead to prolonged illness, chronic injuries and being forced to miss out on even more. When it's time to rest, it's time to rest.

Well, doesn't that sound awfully preachy. In a minute I'll start my run commute to work on a foot that's been feeling tense the past few days. Take my own advice? Bah! That's for smart people.

Sunday, 26 February 2012

Cannonball Read #07: The Corrections by Jonathan Franzén

I started reading this monster of a book over a month ago. I read through it reluctantly, slowly, frequently casting lusty glances at the rest of books I'd bought for Cannonball Read. Easy books. Fun books. Books about my greatest passion, running, that I could probably read in one sitting.

My first impression, a page into ”The Corrections”, was that, yes! This is how you're supposed to write. Adjectives, metaphors, strong characters, Franzéns writing style is impeccable. But as I read on, my motivation to continue waned. The book felt more like a study in linguistics, self-conscious and extreme in its eloquence, and less like a novel. The plot jumped from one character to another, one awkward situation to the next, and I had difficulty keeping up. Where was this going? And did it always need to be so wordy? What had impressed me so much at first was becoming tiresome. Fast.

As secondary characters not only got introduced but got sub plots that spanned several pages, Franzén lost me for paragraphs at a time, and I glazed over these detailed descriptions that had made such a great first impression. It would be unfair to blame my lack of interest solely on the book; I was going through a period when my motivation to read was low. Or maybe it was the book itself that left me drained of inspiration. Yet I kept reading, a couple of pages at a time, resenting the book for being so long and myself for being too stubborn to give it up, until a few hours' reading marathon earlier today finally brought the book to a satisfying and unexpectedly exciting conclusion.

Would I have liked the book more if I'd been more in the mood for reading? Maybe. After all, there were plenty of interesting themes in it: Alfred's downward spiral, Denise's journey towards self-awareness, Gary's desperate attempts to gain control over something. But the book could have benefited from some aggressive editing that would have cut down the number of pages by, say, 200. Unfortunately, what will stay with me after having finished ”The Corrections” will not be the brilliant writing style. It will be how long it was.

The woods are calling

Sundays may be one of my least favourite days of the week. Having put Saturday behind me, with all the careless running fun that it entails, there's usually little to look forward to. Trying to fill the day with equally fun activities to forget the dreary fact that Monday is just around the corner feels stressful, forced, hurried, like checking a box to make sure you've Seized The Day. What can I say? I love my weekends. Workdays, eh...not so much.

This week is not one I'm looking forward to. Some less-pleasant things have been taking place at work the last few days. Meetings that will probably turn ugly and a high burden of things that need to get done make me want to abscond to a tropical country and spend the rest of my life sipping cocktails with my bare feet buried in the sand. Run away. Fast.

Though with my snail-like speed they'd catch me before I even left our building.

So it was even more important today to Seize The Day. We usually go climbing on Sundays, but with the sun shining and the ice all but gone, I longed for a run in the woods. To clear my thoughts and to distract myself, to turn this Sunday into one of my beloved Saturdays, to try and pretend that I don't have a care in the world, I made for the forest. 

I ran in my VFF, partly because I need to get used to them again and partly because I run even more slowly than usual in them, and that's what I needed to do on my fifth consecutive day running. Slow down. Take it easy. My legs were tired, so not even my good old VFF could help with my running technique; I had to make a conscious effort to quickly lift my legs from the frozen, hard ground, lean forwards, take light steps. But my mind just wasn't into it.

It looked as if the trees were dancing on an ice-rink

The solitude I was seeking in the woods was impossible to find. The path was littered with orienteerers and other Sunday excursionists. There were two teenagers walking with pop music coming out of the speakers of their telephone. This spring's first run in the woods was far from the idyllic revelation I had imagined and hoped it would be. It was like wading through the crowds at a mall during sale season.

Still, I ran on and my legs got lighter and lighter. I left the woods and headed home, leaning forward the way I was supposed to. 6,5 km later I was back. A different kind of distraction awaited me. The mammoth of a novel I started over a month ago is slowly creeping towards its final conclusion. Only a hundred pages left out of 650. Maybe I'll finish it before my hair turns grey after all.

Saturday, 25 February 2012

25,5 sunny kilometres

I'm in denial. Despite what the weather forecast says (snow on Monday, sub-zero temperatures tomorrow), spring IS here. The ice has melted in most places and soon I'll be able to run in the woods. My body could do with a change of surface.

Yesterday I failed to think like an intelligent person in possession of common sense and went for a 10 km run in my Mirage, the third run in 3 days. My calves were still aching from Wednesday's VFF excursion, but I paid them no mind. My stupidity strangely paid off. My knee didn't exactly complain, although it did seem slightly unhappy with the whole situation. It was kind enough to let me complete my run without collapsing. And no inflammation followed. Another unexpected benefit of this run was that my calves felt better afterwards.

So there was nothing to stop me from going for a long run with the group today. Certainly not the beautiful weather. I chose my Kayano for it, not wanting to push my luck by running so many kilometres in new shoes. There were 7 of us that met up in Skatås. It hasn't escaped my notice that once again I was the only girl. Where are all the female runners?!

We ran over the Götaälv bridge and down by the water on the Hisingen side. I really like that place. It's yuppie paradise there and I'm definitely no yuppie, but there's something about the pier by the water, a summery feeling that I can't resist. Well, maybe in the winter.

Älvsborgs bridge was much easier to run over, because we had the (strong) wind on our backs. When we reached the highest point and started descending on the other side, my knee started feeling like it was running a fever (ha! A pun. I crack myself up). It obviously didn't like downward slopes. We were running at a pretty fast pace, for a long run, and averaged a 5.15 min/km for 10 km. It was going too fast for me and I was getting tired, and as a result my technique was rapidly becoming horrendous.

We took a break by the Gothenburg Opera to stretch and I asked the guys to slow down a bit for the rest of the run. They obliged, because they're nice like that. My knee felt better now, and I could run the rest of the way back to Skatås. Still, I thought I'd spare my knee the agony of running up the final hill and walk instead.

It was really soothing to take a shower and then a dip in the outdoors pool afterwards. The temperature in the water was 9 degrees and I only lowered myself down to my stomach before I reminded myself that going into cardiac arrest was probably not the best outcome to this great day. I tried to stay in the water for a while to cool my legs off, but only managed a few seconds. Still, that was enough to make my legs feel much more refreshed. My knee probably appreciated the treatment too.

Afterwards we grabbed some coffee and something to eat, and talked about our plans. We have exciting races that we're planning on running together, at least some of us, and it was really fun talking about them. The combination of endorphins, coffee and good company was the perfect end to this run.

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Maiden voyage

Encouraged by yesterday's pain-free run, I took my new Saucony Mirage 2 out on a test drive. I ran home from work, carrying a backpack that might otherwise not feel so heavy, but which after a long and tiresome work day felt like a ton of bricks.

My legs felt equally heavy. Non-responsive. I struggled for breath. I listened for signals that my knee might be sending, but luckily it kept quiet. The shoes felt stiff, with little shock absorption, closer to my VFF but still heavy enough to feel like ”real” shoes. The major advantage was, of course, that the heel-to-toe drop is much lower (4mm) than in my Kayano, which helps with my landing technique. 

I don't think I did the shoes any justice by taking them out on their maiden voyage on tired legs. So I'm withholding judgement until I've had a proper run in them. But I can already tell that I'll never fall in love with a shoe as quickly as I did with my VFF.

Wednesday, 22 February 2012


One less-known beneficial aspect of running is that it turns you into a normal human being. It makes you nicer towards people. It should be made into a public service announcement: ”Running – it's not just good for you; it's good for others, too”.

Having worked almost 20 hours within two days, I was tired and cranky when I got home last night. I had forgotten to do things I was supposed to do and just walked around like a zombie, marinating in a blend of misery and misanthropy, and mumbling under my breath about all the injustices in the world. I couldn't attribute my tiredness to anything; after all, I hadn't run since Saturday. But I had reached this important insight while talking to colleagues: I had turned into Scrooge because I hadn't run in days.

I remembered how energised every run leaves me, even when my bones ache and my muscles refuse to bear my weight. My mind is sharp and my heart swells with happiness, and I'm willing to forgive people for all those tiny irritating flaws that otherwise grate on my nerves so much.

What can I say. It's hard being perfect in an imperfect world.

This morning I couldn't wait any longer. My knee has not complained since Sunday, and I had this crazy theory that if I ran in my VFF, then I'd be able to run pain-free. Outside it was windy and the skies were heavy with clouds, so I expected a downpour as soon as I stepped out the door. Still, I couldn't wait to go for a run. I was longing for it, missing it, loving it, warts and all, despite the weather, despite the patches of ice that were still clinging on to the pavement, despite the fact that I was only planning on running a ”short” 5km (oh, short distance, how I took you for granted).

VFF stands, of course, for Very F!#%ing Fantastic. It stands for Love. It stands for Light Steps. I floated a few centimetres above the ground, hips propelling me forward instead of my feet. Every muscle below the knees was as relaxed as a wet noodle. I was ecstatic and a little surprised that I could keep this good running posture and technique for so long. I didn't think I had the strength for it.

I'm still crossing my fingers that this is not just a fluke, and that my knee is ok now. Please hold, please please hold.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Knee update

I've been icing my knee and applying diclofenac gel on it. The usual daily movements leave it unaffected, and right now there is no pain or inflammation except perhaps a slight discomfort if I press it with my finger.

I don't let the absence of pain fool me, however. No running for a few days. I'm continuing this ”treatment” until Friday, when I'm planning a short run in my VFF to see how my knee feels. If all goes well then, I'm going for a long run with the group on Saturday. I'm keeping all fingers crossed that my knee heals quickly.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Finding hope

This day can be summarised as follows:
  1. Googling my injury and sinking further and further into despair.
  2. Googling Saucony's Mirage 2, believing a lighter shoe will help me run with better technique.

  3. Dragging myself out of this paralysing self-pity and driving down to the sports store.
  4. Trying to concentrate on how the Mirage 2 feel on my feet while I'm running on the store's treadmill.
  5. Failing to concentrate on how the Mirage 2 feel on my feet and to ignore the ever increasing pain in my knee.
  6. Getting off the treadmill after one minute, buying the shoes without much thought, just so that I can get home and rest my knee.
  7. Feeling stupid for impulse-buying.
  8. Wallowing in self-pity again.
  9. Watching a documentary about Danelle Ballengee, an American adventure runner who fell off an overhang while out running alone in a Utah canyon and broke her pelvis, having to spend 3 days trying to survive dehydration, freezing nights and internal bleeding. She not only survived the ordeal and the operation that followed, but was able to get back to running the trails 6 months later.
  10. Finding hope.

Seriously, what the f¤#%?

I don't know what past sins I'm paying for, what cosmic retribution this is, what I've done to piss off the universe.

You know that strange feeling I described yesterday, that the inside of my left knee felt swollen? As soon as I stopped running, it disappeared, so I hardly gave it any thought. A few hours later, however, it started feeling tender to the touch. And this morning I woke up because I couldn't turn in bed or bend it without it hurting.

Since last summer, when I enjoyed a couple of injury-free months (I still had plantar fasciitis but it was under control), I don't think I've had a single week where I either haven't been ill (I've been ill three times this year alone, and it's only February) or had a body part complain. The back of my thigh, the front of my thigh, my lower back, my shoulder/neck, my foot and now my knee have all bothered me at one time or another. I feel like I'm falling apart. I can't even begin to describe how incredibly frustrated and fed up with this constant onslaught of obstacles I am right now.

I realise I run a lot. But I can't imagine myself running shorter distances. Heading out for a long run, taking in the scenery, chatting with friends, exploring new places, that is such an integral part of the sport for me that, without it, I might as well stay at home. Running makes me happy. Quitting running is not an option. Sometimes it feels like these injuries are part of the deal, an initiation test if you like, a trial that's meant to sort out the men (and women) from the boys (and girls). Only the strongest survive. Maybe after a couple of years' suffering, Sisyphus-like, I will be rewarded by the deity of running. Maybe, if I survive this test, I can spend the rest of my life running without injuries. Or perhaps not everything happens for a reason and my body will continue to fall apart until I have to sit in a wheelchair.

The prospect of running 6H in Skövde on the 10th of March feels more and more distant, with less than three weeks left.

Saturday, 18 February 2012


This long-awaited comeback was so uninspiring that, no matter how long I stare at this empty document, the only words that I can find for it in my mind's dictionary quiver are dry descriptions of the wintry weather conditions. And that would make for a very boring blog entry. A route that is so beautiful in the summer was clad in a grey, tattered dress and framed by bare-branched trees, a Cinderella full of potential yet so cruelly oppressed by ice and rain.

A grey view from the bus

J had lent me his removable shoe studs and helped me screw them on in my old Kayanos. I ran down to the bus stop, while a light drizzle slowly worked its way through the fibres of my jacket. With almost 2 km in my legs already, I met the others at Kungsbacka train station 50 minutes later. There were 5 of us that had ignored the weather forecast that had predicted a downpour of rain. If we let such weather scare us, we'd never run in Gothenburg. What did almost make us reconsider was the fact that the cycle paths leaving Kungsbacka were covered in ice. The others didn't have spikes or studs on their shoes and glided down the slopes. The studs on my shoes provided enough traction but my body was still tense.

Love these

The strong wind that accompanied us was luckily mostly on our backs, like a helping hand. The conversation flowed freely, as it always does on these long runs with the group, and that was the redeeming highlight of the run. We talked races, shoes, life, and how hungry we all were to hit the trails as soon as the ice melts. We forged plans for future long runs in the forest. I forgot the weather conditions, dreamed of those long runs and had fun, despite the colourless stage this play was taking place in. The people I run with are an amazing source of inspiration and always help me find my inner strength to push my limits. Thank you.

The inside of my knee has been feeling somehow inflamed the last two times I've run. This, coupled with the fact that my pulse was higher than usual and I'd been sick (and also that I was soaked to my bones) made me abandon any vague ideas I'd had about following the others all the way to town and then taking the bus home, and I left them as we neared home. I was satisfied to have covered a total of 30km and to not have lost too much endurance or strength after my illness. Still, I long for the sunny summer days, the scent of flowers and the kaleidoscope of colours that the warmer months bring with them. This winter can kindly shove off now.

Friday, 17 February 2012


I've been planning my running comeback all week (or, at least, ever since my unintentional suicide attempt last Monday). I've been a good girl, sipping my hot peppermint-and-honey tea, gargling with salt water and not exerting myself too much, the only physical activity being a half-arsed crack at climbing last Wednesday. Only the ghost of my sore throat remains.

How shall I be rewarded for my superhuman patience and enormous self discipline? I hear you ask. Well, since you want to know, let me tell you! The weather forecast for tomorrow, the day of my planned comeback, promises such delights as a downpour of wet snow and strong winds, with temperatures staying just above zero, so that said snow can turn to slush (at best) or ice (most likely).

Good thing I'm tough as nails and not afraid of doomsday weather conditions or unimportant, minor, silly little injuries like broken bones.

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

To be a rock and not to roll

I'm not at all discouraged by the fact that I've only managed to gather 80 pitiful kilometres so far in February. I'm not at all tempted to go out today and run a half marathon just to round it up to the more respectable 100. I am a living, breathing pillar of self restraint, resolve and discipline. Rock hard. Not at all swayed by fickle number addictions and running obsessions.

I had a couple of anxious messages from my parents waiting for me when I got home yesterday, after a 12-hour long work day that involved no running whatsoever. They had read my blog the other day and wanted to know exactly when I'd lost my marbles. What caused this erratic behaviour? Hadn't they hugged me enough when I was a child? Was that why I was suicidal?!

Successfully reading your body signals takes practice. With time, you learn when that strange feeling in your knee will sort itself out after a couple of kilometres and when you have to stop running because it's about to get injured. When it comes to colds and the flu, it's more difficult. There are some rules of thumb (don't run if you have a fever) but mostly it's different for each person when it's ok to run and when it's better to take an extra day's rest. Some people don't run at all. Some people run if it's only a head cold and avoid it if it's in the throat and chest. Some people don't care even if they cough up blood, and run anyway. Predictably, many of the latter develop very serious health problems as a result.

But the truth is that only we know how we feel. How can you describe how you feel so the person you're telling understands? How can we even tell if this cough is different to the one before, the one the doctor said it was safe to run with? (True story: I had a cough the summer of '10 that just wouldn't get better. The doctor who examined me told me that my lungs were just trying to get rid of the remains of some old illness, and that it was safe to go running, because I wasn't ill any more. Go figure)

I made the decision to run last Monday morning based on the fact that I'd felt fine all day Sunday. Of course, as my mother pointed out, one day's rest is not nearly enough to get over a cold. On the other hand, I don't even know what it was I had last Saturday, except that I was under the weather and my throat was sore. What I'm trying to say is that I tried to read my body signals and missed the fine print. So now I'm punishing myself by staring at my month totals and fretting over how woefully unprepared I'm going to be in Skövde.

Today I am taking that extra day's rest (from running, that is. We're probably going climbing later). The most observant of you might have noticed that I haven't posted a book review for ages. I have been struggling to get through a mammoth of a book and it has held me up for weeks. I'm hoping to make progress today, because I'm not even halfway. That didn't stop me from buying more books, of course. I'm hoping that my reading motivation will come back soon.

I'm looking forward to reading these ugly-looking yet very promising ultra books

Tuesday, 14 February 2012

Any deeper blue and you'll be playing in your grave

I spent half of Sunday night coughing. There was this little bit of dust that had lodged itself in my throat that I was paradoxically trying to eject forcefully, yet very quietly as not to wake J. It didn't work. I had to get up and drink some water.

Despite my coughing fit, I wanted to test my health by running my completely normal, not at all stupid 10 km to work. I was going to take it ”easy”. A half moon was low behind the trees and the quietness of 6 o'clock enveloped me. My pulse shot up to 180 immediately. It usually does in the beginning of a run, only to settle to 150-155 later on. This time, it stayed at 180 for quite a while, but it did go down later. Breathing through my Lungplus was like a massage on my throat. The air felt warm and humid, and my throat was happy. My mp3 was playing some sad songs that were clashing with my high spirits. I was overjoyed that I was running, overjoyed that my mp3 player worked, overjoyed that the ice was almost gone.

I got at work less than an hour later, having taken it slightly less ”easy” than I'd planned. A hot shower later I was sipping on hot tea. My throat had apparently started swelling up and had reached the proportions of a ping-pong ball. During the day it grew and grew until I had to get past a beach ball in order to swallow.

Some terrible planning meant that I had left my bus card at home and had no other way of getting there except by walking. By then, big, heavy snowflakes had started descending from the sky, turning everything white again. I hadn't brought any warm clothes with me to work, no warm jacket as I wanted to run home as well, so I soldiered on in the cold headwind. I got home feeling feverish, and slowly started thawing.

This morning the only reminder of my ill health is a splitting headache. My throat is almost back to its usual dimensions. I got off easy this time. But I could have paid dearly for my eagerness to get back to running. Don't make rookie mistakes like I did, folks. Nothing is worth risking your health. Not even running.

Sunday, 12 February 2012

It's getting better every day

Aggressive treatment with tea, honey, orange juice and whiskey (bleh) meant an improvement of the throat situation. Today I feel better. Not well yet, but at least I don't feel like my head's on fire. I spent yesterday on, reading about the amazing feats performed by runners around the country that braved the Swedish winter and ran this edition of the Ultra Intervals. Otherwise, I was mostly lying on my back resting and reading my book.

My friends from the group, on the other hand, were performing an amazing feat of their own. Having to face freezing headwinds and getting lost, they still managed to cover 30-odd kilometres and get to Lerum, where they finally decided to throw in the towel and enjoy a hot cup of coffee while they waited for the train to come and take them home.

My illness did the trick. I can't wait to go running. My motivation is definitely back, freezing headwinds notwithstanding.

Saturday, 11 February 2012

Murphy's law

”Anything that can go wrong will go wrong”

I'm not usually a superstitious person. I can walk under ladders, pet black cats and celebrate Friday the 13th because, hey, it's Friday! But I've kept plans about really long runs quiet in the past, because I didn't want to jinx them.

And then I remembered that I'm not usually a superstitious person, and I announced today's ultra from Alingsås to Gothenburg on this very blog, even being cocky enough to suggest I'd run a couple of ultra intervals on top of that (I was only joking, but I obviously provoked the wrath of the universe and got a slap from Jante law anyway). And see what happened!

Sleeping terribly last night, with really strange dreams.
Sore throat.
37,3 (which is by no means a fever, but it is a higher temperature than my normal one – and it feels like it's about to get higher).

Lots of people have been sick with the flu at work, so it was really a question of time before I got sick. I mean, how long can you avoid it when you're floating in a cloud of snot particles for 8 hours every day? It's just that I had foolishly thought that I was done with all flu-related illnesses for this year, as I've pre-emptively already had a cold in January. Na-huh. Turns out you can pretty much have a new cold every month! Just like some people have new boyfriends! Oh the indulgence. You're spoiling me.

So, of course, there won't be any running for me today. Funny thing is that I've been saving my legs for this day, when I could have been training. No, wait, that's not funny. Not funny at all, missing two weeks of training with a race coming up in a month (did I just jinx that? Oh crap). What is funny (as in weird) is that rest has made my legs stiff, and all minor annoyances have suddenly become much more prominent. It's as if running has kept all this at bay, and now that I haven't been running for days I suddenly feel like a ship wreck.

Friday, 10 February 2012

The world is asleep

I woke up at 4.30 and couldn't go back to sleep. I've been getting up at the same time almost every day this week because I've had to be in at work early, but this morning I didn't have any reason to get up before 6. And still I did.

I'm suspecting that my body is in shock. With only 8 measly kilometres in this week's total so far, it's probably wondering what it's supposed to be doing with all that extra energy that's suddenly been piling up instead of running. I tried to use it up by going climbing yesterday, but that's hardly an endurance sport and I just destroyed my arm muscles.

The first time I ran from Alingsås to Gothenburg November 2010, the world was covered in snow

Tomorrow means ultra. Alingsås –Gothenburg, 50km, on roads and cycle paths that are probably still icy (but hopefully only at places. Can you imagine the frustration if we have to skate around for 50 km?). Tonight at midnight is also the kick-off for this edition of the Ultra Intervals. Right now, a funny conversation is taking place on Facebook between me and this ultra guy I know. He's not joining us, preferring to run the intervals, because ”they're longer”. True, I answered. But then again, if we start at 10 and run pretty fast, then we can cover the 50 km and be just in time to run the 6th interval at 15:00. Then we go home and rest, and finally run the last two intervals at 18:00 and 21:00 respectively. Done!

I'm kidding. I?

Tuesday, 7 February 2012


”How do I get my motivation back?” is a question that I often see come up on internet running forums. Helpful runners always reply with great suggestions, such as listen to some music while you're running, find a friend to run with, set up a new goal etc. Really good tips, and they've worked for me in the past. Not so much lately.

As I wrote the other day, I've been finding it hard to enjoy running on the icy pavements, and my motivation was waned as a result. No matter what the weather, if it's cold or not, if it's grey skies or glorious sunshine. My mp3 player doesn't seem to like the low temperatures and gives up after a couple of minutes. I have goals for this season, but they are vague and at times pretty daunting, so they tend to have a counter-effect on my motivation. And my friends just can't keep up with me.

Just kidding. But how easy is it to find someone to run all my runs with? "Hey, man, can you come by and pick me up after work and then we'll run to my place? Then you can bugger off"

I was going to post a photo update on my bruised knee, because I showed it to some people at work and boy was I ever proud to show off my medal of honour. Talk about being a bad ass who not only goes out running when it's -14, not only falls down, but promptly gets up and keeps running (I didn't mention my little..ahem...tantrum incident. I hope they're not reading my blog). If it's not motivating to see yourself as superhuman, and have others admire you for your stupidity bravery, then I don't know what is. Maybe I should use the same tactics on the blog? But then I took pity on you lot. It's ghastly. The bruise has turned the lower half of my knee black. I'll wear that bruise with pride. Quietly and in the privacy of my own home.

When my work day was over, I was faced with the prospect of running home. The sun was shining but I was certain it'd be cold outside. Seeing as I'm saving my legs for Saturday's ultra, I didn't have any specific amount of kilometres I wanted to run, although I usually run 10 on my way home. So I improvised. It was much warmer than I thought, and soon enough I was prancing along, soaking up the sun, actually enjoying my run for the first time in weeks. 

How can you not want to go out running when it looks like this?

It wasn't long before I hit a particularly difficult and long stretch of ice, though. It was almost as black as my knee. I felt how I started getting irritated again, and stopped myself. I didn't have to chase the perfect 10 today, so what difference did it make if I walked the hardest parts? It's not worth it breaking a leg, just so that I can run an even number of kilometres. Get a grip, kilometre junkie.

The sea surface

When I finally got home, 8,68 km later (take that, even-number addiction!), I was rewarded with the fantastic sensation that I wanted to keep going. I wasn't tired, but I had gotten just enough sunshine and endorphins to make me wish I had stayed outside a little bit longer. So, here's my tip to all you unmotivated runners out there: force yourself to run a shorter round than planned. It'll make you long for your next session. And, if all else fails, subscribe to Trail Runner. That always does it for me.

"Is a vegetarian diet optimal for runners?" Yep! It's great for vegetarian runners.

Sunday, 5 February 2012

Sometimes it just clicks

While I ran yesterday, and right before I fell, my thoughts revolved around the ambitious runner's bogeyman: over-training. Lacking motivation, feeling that I was about to end up in a rut with my running and finding little joy on the repetitive nature of my solo runs, I worried that I was about to crash headlong into the over-training wall. The group has a long run planned on Saturday, the now-classic Alingsås - Gothenburg (50 km) and I thought about how I should take an easy week and rest so that I can cover the distance. I thought this easy week would give me a chance to get some of my motivation back. A chance to miss running.

Today was supposed to be a run-free day. But I felt like running. And when the motivation finally is there, knocking at your door, you don't turn it down. Overcast skies, empty streets, even some bird song put me in a weird mood. Good weird. Kind of in a trance. I even ran a couple of fast kilometres where the ground was bare.

Maybe the motivation was knocking at my door because I wasn't out there looking for it. The run was unplanned. It was fun and easy and spontaneous. I have set a weekly goal of 60 km, but the way my legs felt this morning I couldn't help shooting for 70. Sometimes it just clicks.

Saturday, 4 February 2012

Temporary insanity

After a lot of internal turmoil about how I would spend this sunny day (grocery shopping and then climbing? Running and then climbing? Running to the climbing gym? No running at all?) I decided to head out for my usual Saturday run. What can I say? I'm a creature of habit.

The usual round. Rinse and repeat. Motivation was low, despite the sun's valiant efforts to lift my spirits. I'm just sick of running the same round. Sick of running on ice.

Fortunately, about halfway I realised I was keeping a pretty speedy pace, although the ground was icy. That gave me the kick that I needed, and I covered a few kilometres at a 5min/km pace. But then I was by the sea, and everyone and their mother was out for a stroll in the sunshine. And everyone was staring at me, some even with a grin on their faces. The circus was in town and I was the main attraction.

Could be the fact that I'm so stunningly beautiful. Or could be my drooling Lungplus. Nah, it's definitely my beauty. 

The condensation on the lens is of course a conscious choice, an artistic intervention to highlight the uncertainty of a blurry existence.

I glared back and pushed on. I glanced at my Garmin, wondering if I'd manage the half-marathon in under 1:50, then wondering if I even cared. I now had the sun on my back, and my face was freezing so badly it hurt. I wanted to get home, have a cup of tea and let a hot shower warm up my bones.

Then I ran over a pedestrian crossing a little too fast, making eye contact with an oncoming driver, and I slipped on a curve, falling down on my right side.

1 second later, I was pausing my Garmin. Yeah, I'm a living stereotype. If you see me collapse, pause my Garmin, and everything.

2 seconds later, I was getting up, doing a mental check to see if anything was broken. Nothing was. The car had driven by slowly without stopping, trying to avoid my body as it lay across the crossing, presumably because he didn't want to get any bloody bits on his car. And then a wave of emotions hit me.

I started crying with shock and fury. I was a living, breathing ball of rage. Stupid driver that didn't ask if I was ok. Stupid cars that drive over the nice, soft snow and turn it into icy death traps. Stupid Gothenburg weather, stupid shoes, stupid me. It was so unfair that this should happen to me. I was like a spoiled little child who didn't get what she wanted for Christmas, and was now jumping up and down, shaking her fists at the sky and swearing through her clenched teeth that the universe could go shove something sharp up where the sun doesn't shine.

When I came to my senses again, I shook the snow off my clothes and pressed my hand against my thigh and knee. They felt ok, so I started running again. It could have been much worse, I pondered. I could have broken something. I could have gotten a concussion. Or worse: my Garmin could have broken! Thankfully it was only my pride that was wounded.

The out-of-focus effect is a purposeful comment on the fleeting nature of- oh, f*ck it. I have a shitty mobile.

Once at home, I saw the beginnings of a huge bruise on my thigh and some scratches on my knee. Nothing that a glass of wine can't fix. I think I deserve it.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Look at me, being all positive

As I walked through the door, icy tears down my frostbitten cheeks, drooling from my Lungplus and with my jacket covered in snot icicles, I looked sheepishly at J and hoped that I wouldn't have to cite the clause in our marriage contract that said ”for better or for worse”.

It's getting very tiresome, this ice business. Not only do I have to negotiate freezing headwinds when the temperature is -10, but I also risk either breaking a leg or twisting my ankle on the bumpy icy surfaces. The few people who were around to witness this Friday afternoon miracle saw a black-clad ninja tiptoeing on a mirror-like pool of dark ice, while sounding like Darth Vader. Without slipping. Much. And without swearing. Much.

Luckily, for my extraordinary patience and elegant ice-skating display, I was rewarded with a spectacular sunset. The sun was just sinking behind Näset as I ran by the seaside. Heavenly. 

Thursday, 2 February 2012

The road to hell...

I occasionally get these great ideas late in the evening, that I can go swimming in the morning. While I look out my window at the frozen world outside, I imagine how warm and relaxing the pool will be and get really excited about the prospect of spending an hour splashing around in it. And how gracious and strong I'll look in my swimsuit.

Then the morning comes, I hear J's alarm, open my eyes and see nothing because it's still so bloody dark, and -the strangest thing!- remember all those things about swimming pools that I hate. All the people. The kicks in the face. The burning sensation of chlorinated water in my nose. And the knowledge that someone always pees in the pool. Bleh.

So, despite my good intentions last night, there was no swimming this morning. Instead, I did some strength exercises: core, legs and the upper side of my body, that is so tragically weak that, were it any weaker, it'd be needing a wheelchair.

I hear swimming is good for that?

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Miss Shaman's feeling for snow

Tired to the core, tired to my bones and tired of the ice that's spread like a parasite over the whole area, I reluctantly went out for a long run. I waited until the sun started coming up and took my mp3 player with me, trying to find some motivation to hit the same old route I run every Wednesday.

I headed off to run it in the other direction for a change. With the sun on my face, good music in my ears, singing along under my breath and taking in the beautiful scenery by the sea (completely mesmerized by the patterns made on the sea surface by ice patches), I started enjoying it. Then suddenly my mp3-player died, 3 km into the run. 


I really tried to see the fun side. The fleeting warmth on my black clothes when the sun, still low on the horizon, managed to break through the trees. The pastel sky colours reflected on the sea. The cool, crispy ai- oh, wait. That's right. It was -8 degrees and I had forgotten to take my Lungplus with me, making each breath a struggle. My throat doesn't seem to like it when it gets colder than -5 or so. Especially when I have to breathe that cool, crispy air for 21 km.

Couple that with the uneven bumps of ice on the pavement and with not being able to run on the ice-free roads because, you know, I'm deathly allergic to getting run over by cars, and you can probably understand why I couldn't wait to get home. Oh how I long for a warm, fragrant spring day on soft forest paths.

Yesterday's resolution to focus on the good things didn't last long, did it?