Friday, 24 August 2012

Cannonball read #22: Slow food nation by Paolo Petrini

The message of this book is simple: try to eat good, clean, fair food. By good, Petrini means food that tastes like it should, and not the washed-out, bland doppelgangers that get transported around the globe to end up on our plates. Clean food is the kind of food that has minimal environmental impact. Fair food entails respectable working conditions for the farmers producing it and wages that match their efforts.

In this vision there is little place for monocultures and agricultural giants that bully small enterprises and cause environmental damage. Petrini stands up for the farmers and the consumers, and wants food to be more than nutrition. He wants it to be a culinary experience and he wants to preserve the cultural baggage it carries with it. Through the pages of his book he presents his vision, a global network of gastronomers (that is, farmers, cooks and consumers that share his ideals of good, clean, fair food) whose goal is to push for a new way of trading edible goods.

It is important for Petrini to point out that these gastronomers, himself included, are neither elitist nor want to revert to the previous state of things. He means rather to protect the cultural heritage associated with farmers, and to present a way of producing and consuming food that's more sustainable for our planet, a planet that is already on the brink of environmental disaster.

I am however not sure that he succeeds in convincing the reader of his intentions. His -at least initial- focus on the importance of taste in food brings to mind overweight Romans shoving all that is edible into their mouths, alternatively privileged older gentlemen that have little contact with the real world. I am definitely not convinced, as he claims, that a hungry, poor person cares so much about taste as they are about, you know, avoiding dying. As for the language he uses, it is stiff. The content, important message aside, is repetitive and tiresome. The book is plain boring.

Other authors with similar messages, for example Michael Pollan, have succeeded in capturing the reader's interest much better than Petrini. The anecdotes Petrini uses (presented to us as ”diaries”) are the most interesting parts of the book, without which it would just have been even drier and dull. And it is a shame, really; such an important message should be made available for all to read, and not just the most determined foodies, who -like me- probably don't need convincing to begin with.

The guide to successful procrastination

Take one boring thing that you have to do. Like the dishes.

Then take another thing that you have to do, that's even more boring than the first one. Like packing. By comparison, doing the dishes will seem more attractive.

Then don't bother with either one of them. Go out for a run instead.

Go, stop. Go, stop. Go, stop. This is what life is like right now. Pack a few things, then stop because you might need the rest of them. Go shopping for food, then stop and consider how much food you'll need for the few remaining days before the move. Be frantically busy for a couple of hours, then suddenly find yourself with nothing to do. I'm already a week ahead with my studies in photography and the courses don't even start until Monday.

Playing with Photoshop is a great way to pass the time. Not that this photo needed a lot of manipulation

Good thing running is so relaxing in its simplicity. Put shoes on, get out, run. Right foot, left foot. Breathe in, breathe out. Rinse and repeat. No need for time schedules, charts, lists and planning ahead.

It sounds like the most wonderful run in the world, right? It wasn't. My feet look like they've barely survived a war. The deep cuts on each foot are likely to leave a scar, but now I know how to protect them. Band-aid and toe socks reduce friction between my skin and the seams of my VFF. Tired, unresponsive legs that struggled to carry me around my usual forest round protested with every single step and didn't wake up until after 9 km, by which time I was almost home, exhausted and ready to enter a cryogenic sleep from which I didn't want to emerge until after the long trip North next Wednesday.

Wednesday, 22 August 2012

Easily amused

One thing there is plenty of time for while we're waiting for the movers to come and pick up our stuff next week is running. I've been toying with the idea of a long run, more or less planning it for this weekend, thinking that it should be doable if I took lots of walking breaks.

Then I got an email from Markus Stålbom inviting me and other past course participants to an interval session on Sunday. How can I say no to that?

My plans changed in a heartbeat to make room for this session. The long run was made shorter. It was also moved to today. The rain was pouring down when I left home, and my clothes were soaking wet within minutes. I had great music in my earphones and a burning desire to test my limits in my heart.

It all went so well. I took a detour on my usual road round (foot sole still sore) to make it longer. I was alone, the few people I met in considerably warmer clothes than I was, carrying colourful umbrellas. I took the seaside cycle path back. Pools of rain water covered it at places, making me splash through them like a child without wellies. Eddie Vedder's heart was breaking but mine was happy, so happy, because my knee was happy and it was raining and the sea smelled of salt and seaweed and I was running.

Then after about 9 km the pain started. I imagined how the blood soaked through my VFF and coloured the water puddles red, as the stitches inside the shoes rubbed against my skin. I tried to ignore it, then I tried to fix it, and when I couldn't fix it I tried to ignore it again. I thought about taking the shoes off and running barefoot. Thought about cutting my feet off and running on the bloody stubs, because surely that would hurt less.

I got home in agony after 15 otherwise wonderful kilometres, struggled to take my VFF off because, wet as they were, they clung on to my feet, and quietly inspected the damage inflicted on my bloody feet as my hair dripped on the floor. Then I rushed off to show J and see if he'd faint.  

Monday, 20 August 2012

Suspended animation

I bet you've all been wondering if I've fallen off the face of the Earth. No? You didn't even notice I was gone? Ehm. Ok.

I've been busy with the move and meeting friends to say goodbye, something that left me emotionally exhausted. The past three days I met up with 4 different groups of people, each dear to me for different reasons. It's been a lot of fun but very intense. So last night I went to sleep just before 11 and got up reluctantly just after 8. Time is moving at super slow speed. Now that all these goodbyes are said and only the tiresome stuff of the move remain, I wish I could fast forward this bit so that we skip over the part of packing and driving for over 16 hours across the country with two hyperventilating cats who lose control of their bowels at the mere sight of a car. But I'll have to wait another 1,5 weeks before it feels like we have a home again.

I thought a run would take care of this restlessness but I didn't really feel like it. Those who know me also know that this is a very rare occurrence, and it speaks volumes about my state of mind. I attributed my laziness to last Saturday's run, when a couple of friends, J and I ran the Torrekulla trail. My knee put up with a staggering 14 km of technical single track consisting of roots, stones, hills, and deep pools of mud that -at least on one surprising occassion- almost came up to my thighs. The walking breaks were far and in between, and -completely unintentionally, your Honour, I swear- happened to coincide with the worst slopes. I think I ran 25 minutes without a break at some point. My knee survived.

Sore muscles screamed obscenities to me as I finally convinced myself to step out the door earlier today. The plan was to run in the woods, but after a few kilometres of stones bludgeoning my left foot sole, tender from all the stones I managed to hit last Saturday, I was ready to find a nice patch of smooth, solid tarmac to run on. I took the easy way back and picked up some speed instead. At least for a while, anyway; my legs were tired and just wanted to lie down for a bit cradling a cold margarita.

What came out of this run was that I upped the ante. The running intervals went from being 5 minutes long to being 10 minutes long. My knee didn't seem to mind. Now I am very, VERY tempted to try a real long run. And I'm not as restless anymore.

Wednesday, 15 August 2012

10,5 + 12

I'm ready to put my feet up. 10,5 kilometres of blissful, almost effortless, remember-this-day-when-it's-raining-sideways running by a calm sea to the music of Bon Iver, the light breeze stirring up the salt smell from the water and carrying it over to me so I could soak in it, followed by 12 equally blissful yet hilly kilometres walking around a peaceful Delsjön and I think I deserved the chocolate cake slice I had at the Skatås café afterwards.

My poor toes, used to the freedom of VFF, don't like being squeezed into the relatively narrow toebox of my old Sauconys, which I used for the walk. As J and I were walking lost in thought, I smelled something burning (someone was grilling by the lake) and the first thing I suspected -I'm not even kidding- was my toes, because that's how much they hurt. I actually had to look to see if they hadn't caught fire. I know what you're thinking, has she gone mad? Well. The other day I tried to defrost my berries in the cupboard instead of the microwave. My brain hasn't been functioning properly lately. I blame the stress of the move. Or that glass of rosé I had a couple of weeks ago that killed off my last remaining brain cell. Don't worry, it was a mercy killing. It was getting awfully lonely in there.

This was probably one of the best days of summer 2012. I won't soon forget it.  

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Oh happy day

Getting back to running is coming along nicely. Kind of. Yesterday I ran a total of 11 km with J, following the old true and tested recipe of running for 5 minutes, walking for one. Although I survived the continuous running for 2,5 km that Saturday's little duathlon entailed, I didn't want to challenge fate any more. I've become a coward. I'll probably never dare run without walking breaks ever again. Oh well. It suits my ultra running plans.

Part of my rehab schedule calls for squats. I upped the ante by holding a couple of 1,5 kg weights, which worked great in the beginning. But this morning, as I was doing my squats, the knee suddenly sent out a warning signal so strong that it scared me half to death. It actually hurt a little, and that hasn't happened in months. Sure, it's been stiff, but I never pushed it so far for it to hurt.

As you can imagine, that turned my mood a shade of sour whiter than yoghurt. And when your mood is already this rotten, first world problems you might otherwise not even have noticed can send you over the edge. Like, not finding a sleeveless functional top to buy for when it's this warm. And ordering the wrong dish at the Chinese restaurant. I wanted noodles. I got rice. To my defense, the menu only said ”fried with vegetables”. I assumed the noun they had missed was noodles, because the dish was right there, under all the other noodle dishes. I felt a primal scream rising from the depths of my larynx, barely contained by my lips, as I realised my mistake. My irritation turned to fury and, since I was the only one to blame for this mistake, I took it out on J.

He was happily unaware as we walked home, going on about how I should stop doing my rehab exercises and just run. I stared at him sideways but he didn't seem to notice. The only thing coming out of my mouth was groans of frustration. I didn't want to hear this now! I was too busy trying not to spontaneously combust!

After a lot of stretching and massaging with the rolling pin, all I can do now is to rest and hope for this pain to be a figment of my imagination. Because if it isn't...square one is my least favourite square of all.

Sunday, 12 August 2012

Flabäck duathlon

What a wonderful, sunny day we got yesterday. It was the perfect day for me to test my boundaries. No, not those boundaries, the ones I keep testing by running further and further. No; these were mental boundaries.

A couple of friends live in this little community outside Gothenburg called Flabäck. Every year, a few people from this area gather there to participate in FIT, or Flabäck International Triathlon as they call it, probably with a good dose of winking while they say that name. There is a junior class and a duathlon class, too. There is no official timekeeping, no starting gun, no judges if you cut corners while you're swimming. Just a bunch of neighbours ”competing” against each other.

My friends invited me to this event, and since I neither could transport my bike there nor cycle the 22 km that the triathlon would entail without my knee cutting itself off from the rest of my leg and fleeing to Australia, I went for the duathlon. 250 meters swimming, 2,5 km running. The first part would be a test of my mental boundaries, the second a test for my knee.

The jetty we'd have to swim to in the distance
We floated in the water. My friend J said we could swim together, and I was thankful. I'm not a great fan of swimming in lakes. Correction: I'm not a big fan of swimming across lakes. Their water is usually murky once you leave the beach and you can't see what's underneath, if there are rocks you could cut yourself on for instance. Also, you don't see the piranhas coming. There were some teenagers in front of us, and another lady to the side, so the duathlon participant total was a staggering 7-8 people. The teenagers kicked our butt big time. The lady, too. By the time we had swum to the jetty across the lake and back, the teenagers were nowhere to be seen.

Oh well. I had survived the swimming part. I wondered why swimming always seemed to leave me breathless while running didn't. Both J and I had swum in our VFF, so we could just get out of the water and move seamlessly to the running part of the duathlon. Our support team, ie J's fiancée S, handed me my Garmin and we were off. We soon hit a patch of stone-littered single track which forced us to keep a lower pace. The conversation flowed freely and I was having a great time. I wasn't even thinking about my knee. It wasn't saying much, anyway.

The finish line for the junior triathlon. I think.
After a total of almost 24 minutes, 14.30 of which were running, we were at the lake beach slash finish line, where we got some applauds from S and the kids (and from a lady who was just there to sunbathe). I went into the lake again to cool down, and it felt wonderful. The weather, the company, this little neighbourhood event, it beat any Göteborgsvarvet for me. And the knee didn't seem to mind that it had run so far without walking breaks. And the day was not over yet.

J's focaccia. The best focaccia I've ever tasted.
While I was warming up in the sun on my friends' patio 10 minutes later, they were busy preparing dinner. We grilled, we ate, we chatted the hours away, until it was time to join some of the other neighbours for the Flängbäck festival. On a wet football field that hadn't been mowed in weeks, 50-odd people had brought foldable chairs and beer and their good mood, and sang along to Swedish summer classics that a band consisting of one guitarist, one singer and an Ipod enthusiastically and lovingly half-improvised on. Well, some of the public did not so much sing as shouted at the top of their lungs, but the intention was good, I'm sure. It was far from perfect; yet in a way it was just that.

Yep, there was dancing too
As the evening drew to its close, my friends made some hot coffee to go with the sinfully good rhubarb pie that S had baked. The sun had gone down and it was chilly. We said our goodbyes with promises to meet when J and I are in Gothenburg again. Perhaps for next year's Flabäck duathlon.

Have I mentioned that goodbyes suck?

Saturday, 11 August 2012

By the skin of my teeth

Last week at work, trying to get mentally prepared for all the emotionally taxing goodbyes, hugs and well-wishing, I've been fighting the tension headache from hell. In a way I wanted it to be over and done with, because goodbyes suck, yet in another way I didn't want to have to say goodbye to any of these people, whom I've spent almost every day of the last 3 years with.

The headache reached a crescendo half an hour before I got off work for the last time yesterday. I think I might have been trying to stop myself from showing any emotions, because, once I started, then I'd collapse into child's pose (my otherwise favourite yoga pose) and have to be escorted away by the men in the white coats. So I held it together and got a headache instead. That's how neuroses start, you know. Just don't be surprised if you see me checking for the thousandth time if I locked the door, is all I'm saying.

When the traumatic experience of separation from meaningful people in my life was over and done with, I drove home completely calm. Not pain free, not yet – but I guessed that a run might help with that. I changed into my running clothes and tiptoed to the woods in my VFF.

Short update on the knee situation: I now run 5 minute intervals and it's going great. No complaints from the knee. But then again, there hasn't been a thunderstorm in days.

While I was taking one of my walking breaks, a guy jogged slowly past me. A few seconds later, it was time for me to start running again and the little devil on my left shoulder whispered in my ear that wouldn't it be fun if I caught up with him and ran past him, preferably with my thumb placed firmly on my nose and singing nah-nah-nah-NAH-nah? The little angel on my right shoulder said that it was the stupidest and most childish idea it had ever heard. I didn't want to have to argue with any of them, so I settled for keeping him in sight, staying 10 meters behind him. But then he realised I was breathing down his neck and, apparently refusing to let a woman pass him, he put in an extra gear and ran away as fast as he could, looking over his shoulder right before he disappeared around a corner.

I guess his little devil won.

The headache did not disappear immediately after my run, but so far this morning I've been pain free. It's a good thing too, as it would otherwise have put a spanner in the works of today's plans: a duathlon of sorts, with 250 meters swimming followed by 2 km running and then grilling with friends.

Monday, 6 August 2012

All we need is just a little patience

Turns out you can survive the first day of work after a long leave, especially if you have great colleagues that make you laugh. Also, despite the grey weather, feeling really tired at the end of the work day and wanting nothing more than running straight home, you can run the planned 10 km there. Miracles do happen, moreover, and the photography course you didn't think you'd get into suddenly has a place open for you.

What was slightly less successful (only time will tell just how stupid it was) was to opt for increasing the time for my running intervals by yet another minute, only 2 days after I increased it from 3 minutes to 4. I'm in a hurry to get back, that's no secret; up until this point I've been a really good girl and followed my physio's instructions to a T. But my patience is running low. I don't want to keep looking at my Garmin to make sure I don't run more than I should. I don't want to be back to square one. I don't want to feel like I'm cheating when I look at how fast I run, because I don't include the walking breaks. I just want to run like I used to. Go with the flow. Let my mind (and my body) wander.

I'm nervous. What will my knee think of this latest development? What will it think of running on tarmac after so many rounds in the forest? And how long will I have to keep looking over my shoulder before I can relax and accept that my runner's knee is gone for good?

Sunday, 5 August 2012


Shouldn't having a month off mean that you return to work afterwards with your batteries charged, full of energy and new ideas, ready to take on another whole year of it? Because right now the prospect of going back to work tomorrow, even if it is for just one week before I go on my long leave to study, just makes me want to yawn, hide under the covers and hibernate until next July. When it's time to go on holiday again.

You'd think I'd be doing everything to take advantage of this day, but instead I've been moping around, upset that my computer seems to be on its last throes. The graphic card has given up the spirit and my hard disk can't be far behind. I've been maniacally backing up everything that is of any value, and J has been helping me set up another computer to get by until we can find a more permanent solution after the move. Seriously. You don't know how computer-dependant you are until it breaks down.

To top it all off, I managed to strain my shoulder while taking my frustration out on the plank. I had done some power yoga earlier, whereupon I re-confirmed my dislike for it. I've given yoga many chances now, still nothing. No sparks flew. It's like going out on a date with a guy your mom fixed you up with. He's probably good for you but he just doesn't get your pulse going. What the yoga did do was make sure my shoulders were all warmed up and exhausted in time for the plank. 

While in the side plank position with my feet balancing precariously on the sofa, I felt how my left shoulder twisted and ended up in a strange angle. Still supporting my weight, I glanced at the watch and saw that there were 20 seconds left to this particular exercise. A smart person would have given up. A smart person would know 20 seconds more are not worth risking an injury. A smart person wouldn't end up with an abused shoulder. I'm obviously very, very stupid. Or very, very dedicated to my cause. My cause being to attain a strong core and abused shoulders.

So, yeah. Crawling into bed and not reemerging until next summer seems like a great idea.

Saturday, 4 August 2012

Rude awakenings and making lemonade

I'm not going to dwell on the fact that I'd only slept for 4-5 hours before my run this morning. I'm not going to talk at all about the neighbour that decided that sleep is overrated and woke me up at 4.30 with loud music. After waking me up at 12.30, two minutes after I fell asleep, by having a shouting match with his friends on the balcony.

No! Instead I'm going to look at the bright side of the situation. Getting up so early meant that I could go for an early morning run, which I haven't done since last winter. I increased the running intervals from 3 minutes to 4 and lowered the pace, which – dare I say it out loud or will I jinx it?- worked perfectly. Seeing 4 (!) deer on my run was the icing on a very tasty cake.

There it is, right in the middle of the path

I had this perfect vision of finishing my run by the lake beach. I had taken a towel with me and figured that, at this early hour, I'd have the lake all to myself to swim in. Not so. Two guys were fishing on the jetty. I thought going for a swim right next to these guys while the rest of the lake was empty might send the wrong signals, so what's a girl to do? I ran on to find a nice cliff to sit on.

I found one just after a couple of minutes and got into the water. It was cold, but invigorating. But COLD. So I got out, changed into dry clothes and walked home. I could feel the blood returning to my extremities and my lips turning back into a more life-like colour. My mood got better.

Thursday, 2 August 2012


Life feels pretty awesome right now. I'm still riding a high that started just after I survived running intervals in Åby track earlier today. It was a strange experience for me, who never runs intervals.

Maybe I should write ”intervals” instead. My rehab schedule means running in 3 minute intervals with one minute walking breaks, and today's session was no exception. I didn't plan the pace. I ran at a fast pace I could maintain for those 3 minute intervals, and today that was between 4.30 and 4.50 min/km (at least for the first few kilometers, then I went back to turtle mode). No lightning speed, exactly, but very fast for me. I fantasized about emptying a bucket of water over my head more than once. Jumping into the nearby swimming pool. Running to the near super market and sticking my head into the freezer. Drinking up all the water in the whole world. Cars stopped at the sight of my face. It was hot

Nerdy fun. The diagonal lines represent the walking breaks - my Garmin was paused then.

The sore on my foot, which I had forgotten to protect with a band-aid, grew more and more painful with each meter I ran, until I couldn't stand it anymore. That happened about 7,5 km into the run. So I took my VFF off and, bleeding just a liiiittle bit, joined my friend N from the group (who had been running real intervals, whooshing past me quite a few times) for some barefoot running on the grass. The sensation of being on fire was lightened by the few raindrops that fell from the sky and the soft, cool mud under my feet. Running on grass was slow going but it felt so natural, such a relief after the relatively hard track. The jury is still out on whether mud is a good antiseptic for my bleeding sore.

We celebrated a session well run by snacking on some chocolate cookies and sipping on some coffee, exchanging ideas about future runs and enjoying the endorphin buzz. Then the reality of today's run finally sinked in. I had covered over 10 km for the first time since, what, May? without any complaints from the knee. My feet might be destroyed, but my knee is fine and THAT'S WHAT MATTERS.

Wednesday, 1 August 2012


Exercise gives you energy. It sounds counterintuitive, but it's true. Well, unless you run, for example, a 24-hour race. Then you're probably beat. And if you run intervals. That makes you tired. And if you cycle for 50 km. ANYWAY. My point is that exercise always gives me a buzz, the kind of mental strength that I need in order to do boring stuff. Like vacuum cleaning and packing.

The plank. Crunches. Toe lifts, hip lifts, arm dips, I did a full body session and watched the sweat form like pearls on me. An intense hour without breaks that left me pumped. A shower later I felt like a new person. Love exercising. Love it.