Wednesdays in the AIK world mean a 17 km run on the hills surrounding the north part of Skellefteå. It's a tough session, with many uneven upward slopes that make it hard to find a good rhythm. Add to that the fact that it was really warm during last Wednesday's session and you'll understand why it felt more like a crawl than a run.
The first time I joined AIK for this particular round, I had to stop and walk up a hill a mere kilometre after the start. Granted, it was at the end of a long slope; but it didn't bode well for the rest of the session. As the weeks passed, these stop-and-walks came later and later, until I could run all the hills up to the very last one: the mother of all steep, long upward slopes. This slope is vertical, I kid you not. Not only do you need crampons to climb it, it is endless. Both times I attempted to run up this hill, I made the mistake of looking up from my feet. That's what our coach has told us to do, in order to promote a good running posture. But he didn't mention the psychological disadvantage it would entail to look up and see just how many more kilometres there are left to this particular hill. You might as well be climbing up to the moon. Each time I've made this mistake, on the verge of collapsing from a mixture of mental exhaustion and lactic acid poisoning in my thighs, I've gotten so disheartened that I have immediately given up and started walking. What is even more disheartening is that everyone else seems to be able to climb that hill without crampons and/or permanent psychological trauma.
As hard as the first 9 km or so may be, it is all worth it once that diabolical hill is behind you. Because what lies ahead are glorious kilometres of pure, wonderful single-track through the woods. Stones, roots, mud, the works. If you can forget about the task at hand for a second (and, really, you shouldn't, because it's easy to stumble and fall if you lose your concentration), then you might notice the bird song and pine scent around you. I didn't want the run to end.
Yet, end it did, and I made my way home happy as a clam. I made myself a smoothie and munched on some cashews. Ten seconds later I started feeling funny in my tummy. I felt sick. I tried to ignore it, but it was impossible. I had to go and lie down. A couple of hours later – BARF. Yep. The dreaded stomach flu, the bane of everyone's existence, the intrusive parasite that turns grown-ups into little babies, had arrived for its annual visit. I moved from the bed to the sofa so that I wouldn't disturb J in his sleep, and suffered an uneasy night tossing and turning, drifting in and out of sleep, thirsty beyond belief, yet unwilling to get up and get some water in case it made me toss up my cookies again.
With parched lips and haunted eyes I lay silently staring at the living room ceiling and wishing that morning would arrive, so that J would wake up and fetch me some water.
I spent the whole day yesterday sleeping, waking up from time to time only to look at the clock and fall asleep again. I managed to eat some watermelon last night, which was the only solid food I had eaten in 24 hours. Despite having slept all through the day, when the night finally came, I slept again, this time a deep, dreamless sleep. I woke up exhausted, with a severe headache and some heaviness in my stomach but no tendency to throw up. Meanwhile, my body had obviously resorted to cannibalising itself when it didn't get any food from me, and I had lost over a kilo. Either that, or one of the things I threw up was actually my stomach.
Today I'm planning on doing as little as possible and getting rid of any residual alien forms in my body. I need to be in good shape tomorrow, as I am going on a weekend running course. Some of the topics included in the course are running technique, planning your training and, of course, diet. I'm really looking forward to it, so don't get in my way, stomach.