Wednesday, 31 December 2014

Bye bye 2014


Ah. The last day of the year. The day when we look back at how miserably we have failed to do all those things we promised we would do for our New Year's resolutions. The day before we make new resolutions, and this time it will be different. Suuure it will. And I have some prime swampland in Florida to sell you.

I don't remember what my resolutions were. To stop getting injured maybe? Well, we all know how that went. A runner's knee that could have been prevented if -you guessed it – I had been a bit smarter about my training. But being smart about my training might mean training less, and then I would have missed out on some awesome stuff:

Sunday, 28 December 2014

There is no such thing as bad weather

This post was inspired by C, one of my best friends and fellow runner.

Skellefteå was hit by a cold front a few days ago, which made temperatures plummet and snow pour down from the sky. But, seeing as this is the last weekend of the year, and weekends mean long runs, I didn't let the weather stop me. I wanted to see if my knee could cope with a proper long run to end 2014 with. One over 20km. It could, and it did. Yey!

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Contrasts

Thousands of miniscule shimmering disco balls poured down from the sky. I ran at a comfortable pace towards what should have been a sunrise but what was instead a wall of dark grey. I didn't mind. The road was lined by thick forest, interrupted only occasionally by country houses, and my steps were soft on the fresh snow. I wasn't the only one to greet this turn of weather with glee: birdsong broke through the otherwise all-encompassing morning silence.


I had gotten up at stupid o'clock, had eaten a way too early breakfast and had faced the dilemma: should I run by myself now or wait a few hours and run with AIK? I chose the first, partly because I can be very impatient when I have to wait for fun things to happen and partly because I figured I could then come home earlier and get on with other fun activities.

Monday, 15 December 2014

I get knocked down but I get up again

Last night I went skiing. I skied for a while. Then I must have thought it was getting boring with all that standing upright and getting some exercise and everything, so I fell down to mix things up a little. Even though I'm such a expert skier nowadays that I only fell down once, I am apparently also an expert at injuring myself (shocking, I know) and I twisted my thumb when I inadvertly landed on my ski pole. 

This is an old picture and those are some old skis. I now obviously own expert skis.

Because I'm stupid hardcore, I immediately jumped up and continued skiing. I can be quite reserved and don't like drawing attention to myself by, say, screaming in agony. I mean, other skiers might then have heard me and tried to help me! Better to save myself some embarrassment and pretend that nothing happened.

Saturday, 13 December 2014

Back on (single) track

This could have easily been one of those runs that make me want to sing (inwards, of course. Not outwards. I don't want to get evicted and/or involuntary committed to the mental hospital). The only thing stopping me was the constant worry that I might slip on a root or that my knee might not make it. Otherwise, all the ingredients that make for a delicious winter run were there: great company, fresh snow, undulating terrain and a pair of legs as excited to go out and play as a little puppy.

Oh, and some warm mulled wine afterwards. Strictly speaking, not a part of the run itself, I'll admit. But - all scientific evidence agrees - a very important part of the recovery phase afterwards.


Our coach had informed us beforehand that it was to be a short run, about an hour long and mostly on terrain. My plan was to try and run 15 km, an increase by one km since last week. My knee responded to last week's increase so well, I thought I'd push its limits just a little further. I drove up to the hockey arena some 40 minutes before we were to meet, left the car in the parking lot and started running.

Saturday, 6 December 2014

Leaps and bounds

After the end of a strange work week, when – among other strange things – I accepted an offer for a new job, I came home and collapsed on a chair. This was to be the first weekend in ages when I had absolutely nothing planned except to read a lot and drink buckets of hot beverages. I like having plans on weekends, but they don't usually leave me as well-rested and eager to get back to work on a Monday morning as having a chance to get bored. Not that I'm ever eager to get back to work. Less openly hostile maybe? Yeah, let's go with that.

I did have a little plan for this Friday evening though. I had complained to my chiropractor that I can only run 10 km before my knee starts acting up and getting stiff, and he advised me to add another 10 km run in my week instead of increasing the amount of kilometres on any particular run. So, naturally, I thought: ”Wouldn't it be great if I could run 14 km?” and – after a lot of hesitation because it was Friday after work and I was tired and lazy and it was snow-slushy outside and windy and dark and I'd rather be reading my Stephen King with a hot beverage in my hand and there was no one to give me a kick in the butt – I did just that.

Thursday, 20 November 2014

Karma doesn't care about you

Just a couple of weeks after I ran my first post runner's knee, walking break-free round, my foot started hurting.

I have had similar foot problems before. The first time was a couple of years ago, after I got hubris and thought I could do 27 km in my VFF. Well, I could, but then I got injured. The second time was just last summer. Both times the problem was the second toe tendon, on top of the foot and halfway to my ankle. Both times I had to take several weeks off from running.

This time, the dull pain came unannounced and with no preceding running hijinks to explain its existence. It just started aching last Tuesday afternoon (on my rest day) and then got worse as the hours passed.

Yesterday, my short lunch-break walk made my foot complain more firmly. So much so, that I came home from work and spent an hour worrying I would miss practice. Wednesday afternoons are easy run days with AIK. Should I run with them or should I rest my foot?

I was getting frustrated. Furious at the injustice of what seemed to be yet another injury, I shook my fist at the sky. Hadn't I paid my yearly injury dues with my runner's knee? Was my body falling apart, finally beaten after years of abuse by way of running? Would I have to take up birdwatching instead? I don't even like birds! 

See? They're evil! By Abode of chaos

I don't believe in karma, or cosmic justice, or ”what goes around comes around”. Just read the news. There's evidence all around us that bad people get away with doing bad things all the time. And there are good people in the world that live in misery, never catching a break, bad things happening to them all the time. The universe is indifferent to our fate, and nothing that ever happens happens for a reason. As much as it would stroke my ego to believe that I am the centre of the universe and all it is there for is to accommodate me and my whims, I find it impossible to actually do so. I'm just not that special. None of us are. To each other maybe, but not in the grand scheme of things.

Still, I couldn't believe that my luck was so rotten, that a deity I don't even believe in would punish me this way (yes, I made up a deity so that I had someone to be angry at. I call him Stan). I refused to accept that I had sustained yet another injury, so close to my latest one. On some level I must have believed that my righteous anger would scare the cosmic powers (=Stan) into admitting that they (=Stan) had messed with the wrong person this time, because I went ahead and joined the AIK practice anyway. My foot sent weak signals throughout the run, but today it's much better than it was yesterday before the run.

It might be too early to say for sure, but I think that the universe might have finally thrown me a bone. Thank you Stan, fictitious deity of my imagination!

Sunday, 16 November 2014

Maybe I'm a dog person after all

For about a week now, our older cat Tidus has been keeping us up at night. He's done it before. He becomes completely unhinged and embarks on a lunatic back-and-forth spree through the apartment, running and screaming like a possessed cow, while we try to catch some sleep. He does that every night for a while, and then several months can pass before his next fit.

Last night, it started around 3 o'clock.

* gallop gallop gallop*  
MEOW MEOW MEOOOWWW 
*gallop gallop gallop* (we should really clip his claws)

(I cover my head with my pillow, a futile exercise as said pillow does not contain, say, a ton of earplugs, but mere feathers, which are excellent at keeping you warm but not so great soundproof material. Still, it gives me a false sense of peacefulness. I drift back to sleep)

BANG!

(He has succeeded in opening one of the kitchen cupboards after a few attempts and crept under the false floor. I am startled awake from the most wonderful dream. I was dreaming I got a full night's sleep completely undisturbed. I try to ignore the scratching sounds from the kitchen and the perversely enjoyable thought that maybe the cupboard door has shut itself after him, trapping him inside until I decide to let him out in the morning, or maybe tomorrow morning or maybe the next day, and fall back to sleep in three, two, o-- )

* gallop gallop gallop *  
MMMMMMMMEEEEEOOOOWWWWRRRRRHIIIISSSSS
*sound of living room sofa getting moved three centimeters to the left as something heavy crashes into it*

(Now he's taking his energy out on his little brother Sote, whose sense of personal space is so strong that Tidus just has to look at him and he starts howling like a pig that's just realised he's bound for the slaughterhouse. Sote takes cover under our bed, making sure he knocks the mattress under me with his back as he does so, because why wouldn't he)

Cats are so adorable they even make napkins with cats on. Vintage napkin from the '90s, courtesy of JH's wife

A person can only go back to sleep a limited amount of times before impatience and annoyance win over the desire to sleep. Sleeping in on the weekends? I DON'T EVEN KNOW WHAT THAT MEANS.

Friday, 7 November 2014

Real and imagined dangers

While the rest of the country were stuck in the Friday evening traffic jam on their way home and some fredagsmys, I was driving in the opposite direction on my way to Vitberget. J and I had made plans to run 10 km in the dark. It sounded like the perfect way to relax after a long work week and kickstart the weekend. The moon was just one day past full, the air was crispy and our legs were willing. Now that's what I call fredagsmys. I also call it spending quality time with my husband, but I'm kinda weird. 


Like it happens with all great plans, there was immediately a hitch. J called me on his way home from work to let me know that his bike had gotten a flat tire and that he had to walk all the way back. I would have to run alone.

Run alone? In the dark? In the forest? But...moose! Bears! Sabertooth tigers! EFFIN' BIGFOOT! I felt my courage crumble like a stale cookie. I had run in the dark with only my head-torch for company before, but never in such remote woods. I hesitated. Maybe I should go for a run in my neighbourhood instead?

Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Out of the woods

...I am not. Not yet. I am standing on the edge of the woods, admiring the open fields before me, wondering where that lovely single-track leads.

Last Monday was the first time I dared run a proper session with AIK. I arrived at our meeting point first, eager to get going, my nervous anticipation betrayed by my constant jumping into place. I had no idea how this interval session would go. I had run a couple of test runs by myself last week, which went well, but intervals are a whole different kettle of fish. It could go either way.

As my fellow runners started arriving, I was greeted by more and more of them with hugs and lovely-to-see-yous. I was overwhelmed. I had missed this group so much, and to receive this kind of welcome meant a lot to me.

The intervals went well, at least knee-pain wise (let's not talk about my rapidly declining shape), so I joined AIK for the longer Wednesday run. As we ran under an almost-full moon and a crispy clear sky, the others kept asking me how it was going, if I was experiencing any pain, understanding my nervousness and excitement better than any non-runner ever could. They were looking out for me in case things went south.

Belonging. Caring. Learning. Daring. Laughing. These are just some of the reasons why being part of a running club rocks.

I completed the run with only minor niggles but I am not going to throw caution to the wind and start running longer runs. I am not out of the woods yet. But maybe soon I can find out where that lovely single-track leads, together with my running buddies.

Saturday, 25 October 2014

In the gym no one can hear you scream

At 07:30 on a Saturday morning, before the sun has come up and while the sky is still dark, there aren't many people at the city hall gym. Of course, I wasn't a hundred percent certain that I was alone when I let myself in and found that all the lights were off. But soon enough, when noone came up to me to complain about my choice of music on the stereo (cheesy hard rock), I deduced that I was, indeed, alone, and I could do all my rehab exercises as wrong as I wanted to without worrying that people would laugh at me for doing so.

It was a bit worrisome when I caught a sudden movement behind me, as I admired my perfect technique in the mirror while doing some squats and singing along to Mötley Crüe's Kickstart my heart. ”Seems like I've got company”, I thought irrationally, because where would the company have come from? There were no doors behind me. ”A ghost”, I thought coolly. Because I don't believe in ghosts, so if there was a ghost behind me, I had nothing to fear. That made perfect sense, so I kept doing my squats. 

Then, I turned around. What I'd thought was a ghost was in reality a bird, a great tit (get your mind out of the gutter) that had flown in through the window that I had opened earlier. See? I was right not to believe in ghosts.


Birds have been behaving strangely around me lately. The other day, I almost stepped on one while running. Go ahead, try to step on a bird and see how close you get. I had to perform a little dance to avoid crushing this particular one to death.

Rehab is going great. I'm almost liking this gym lark again. And running? Well, I'm almost back in business. I've been running in three minute intervals for the past month, slowly increasing the total number of intervals while simultaneously reducing the amount of walking time between intervals. I have one run left in my rehab programme before I try to run without breaks, and boy am I looking forward to not having to look at my Suunto all the time.

Being in running rehab for the past three months has left me with a devastating hole in my social life. If you think about how I normally spend at least five hours per week with other runners when I'm not injured, talking running and shoes and adventures, perhaps you can imagine what effect the absence of the above has had on my life, my routines, my topics of conversation (not to mention that I had to channel all the spare energy into trivial activities, like vacuum cleaning and making dinner and, I don't know, work or something). To put it simply: I miss running with the group. I miss running in itself, the freedom of injury-free running, but I also miss connecting with others about it. The nerdiness, the company, the mutual, unspoken understanding. I read posts about it on AIK's Facebook page and feel like everyone else is having a blast at the best party ever - except me.

But after I had been to the gym this morning and gone for a lovely walk with a friend, it was time to visit the annual ski fair. There, I ran into and talked to no fewer that four AIK-runners. Then, J and I went into town for some coffee, where I ran into three more. I even had time to discuss marathon plans with one of them. Suddenly, within the span of a couple of hours, I had talked running with lots of people. I felt energised. As if I belonged once again to that wonderful, wacky band of long distance runners. As if I had never been injured and fallen behind.

And, with the first interval-free run only a couple of days away, as if I'd just been invited to the best party ever.

Sunday, 5 October 2014

Silver linings

Every time summer starts drawing to an end, I start worrying about the oncoming autumn. How I will deal with the rain, the dark, the cold. It's as if, every single time, I forget that autumn is not just November. It's so much more.

It is, for example, my heart beating extra fast, giddy with fear-laced excitement during a run in the dark with my crappy headlamp on, its narrow, weak beam illuminating no more than two metres ahead of me. It is forests lit on fire by orange leaves. It is patches of blueberry bush turning Marilyn-lipstick red and fir trees hanging on to their dark green needles, providing contrast for the sepia toned birch trees. It is soft, bark-littered paths and trails under a canopy of neon-yellow rowan trees. October. What a great month to be a runner.


And runner I am. Even though I still have to run in three minute intervals. Even though I still sometimes forget I have already been out for the day's run when I gaze longingly out my window in the afternoon, because my legs are not tired after only 5 km. Even though I spend more time building up leg strength at the gym and going for walks than running. Because, despite all that, I am making progress.

I am being patient, careful, methodical. But I am not going to lie. On October days like this, I wish I could have a pair of injury-free legs to go on a long run under the autumn foliage with.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Alternative training

I am notoriously difficult to get out the door to exercise when said exercise doesn't involve running. Don't get me wrong. I love it once I'm out there, I love getting tired, but I need a lot of coercion to get going. Walks? Meh. Bike rides? If I have nothing better to do. Climbing? If you promise me chocolate afterwards.

So this long injury period combined with my reluctance to move my arse and my continuing to eat as if I still log 60 kilometres' worth of running per week has led to the acquisition of some extra cushioning around the waist. Realising that if my current lifestyle remains unchanged I might have to switch sports to sumo wrestling and it's something that I REALLY cannot see myself doing, I forced myself to get out the door this morning.

After an hour long walk, I went to the gym.

Not only did I go to the gym, I even did some exercises there.

Granted, some exercises were easier than others. Leg exercises, for instance, were no problem. My leg muscles have not yet deteriorated into jello.

Then I tried doing some shoulder and arm exercises. Pretty soon I formed a theory that I needed to build up my strength in those muscles considerably, when I found lifting the pin you put in the weights to keep them in place was hard. My suspicions were confirmed when I tried the Skierg machine (a machine that allows you to train your cross-country skiing muscles) and could only ”ski” for two minutes before collapsing in a heap on the floor.

Next time I'm shooting for the stars and aiming to ski for 2,5 minutes!

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The road to recovery is long

There are only so many hits a person can take before she breaks. Only so many disappointments. Only so many setbacks. One day, she finally has enough. One day, she realises that this is an abusive relationship and she's suffered her last blow. One day, she turns her back on running for good.

But today, good folks, is not the day. Today, setbacks and disappointments have given way to victory. And the love affair continues.

My visit to the chiropractor last week left me feeling carefully optimistic. After popping my knee back into place, he told me to rest for four days and then, he reassured me, I would be able to run as usual. If it sounds too good to be true, it's because it was. Four days later, I tried running and managed a measly 3 kilometres before the pain got so bad I had to stop. The gamut of emotions I went through may have been vast but I can assure you that happiness was not one of them.

I wallowed in misery for a couple of hours. Then I tried thinking rationally. This wasn't my first time at the injury rodeo. I had done this before and recovered and gone on to run ultras. But despite this rational thinking, the fact was that my knee hurt and I could not run. I was bitter and anxious that I would lose the benefits of all the hard work I had put in the previous months.

The day after, my determination, weak as it was after so many false starts and hiccups, got a second wind. Maybe I could not run far, but I could run. A little bit at a time. Just like I had done so many times before. Run 2 minutes, walk 1,5 minute. Lather, rinse, repeat. Tedious, uninspired, not even guaranteed to yield results. And my only hope.

So, this morning I took my bike up to Vitberget. Started my rehab for the third time since I got injured. As the autumn leaves gave up the fight against gravity all around me and fell to the ground, as the sun warmed the earth, I skipped between roots and stones, light on my feet, light in my heart. It is going to be a long journey back, but if each step is as magnificent as the ones I took this morning, maybe it doesn't matter.

Saturday, 13 September 2014

Soul for sale, CHEAP

Anyone with contacts down in the fiery pits of hell that can tell me if the Devil would be interested in purchasing my soul in exchange for a pair of working knees?

Two months of runner's knee. Two months of trying to make a comeback and thinking I have succeeded, only to fly too close to the sun and fall down face first onto square one again with my wings in tatters. It's getting tiresome, this cloud of despair hanging over my head waiting to release a thunderstorm on me.

Trying to think about all that is positive helps. For example, last time I had runner's knee I couldn't even walk, yet this time I've been logging 8-10km almost every day. I can run a little bit, even if I have to take walking breaks. It doesn't hurt after I've gone for a run, although the knee can get a bit stiff.

Friday, 29 August 2014

10000m worth of track

I am starting to get used to this endless roller coaster of injury - recovery - being in great shape - injury. That must be why my latest injury hasn't succeeded in crushing my spirits: I know that recovery is right around the corner. And I can run, after all. I'm not completely paralysed by my runner's knee. I just can't run very far.

The success rate of these running sessions has been variable, of course. Take Vasastafetten, for example. A short course over undulating terrain resulted in a 4:25 min/km pace with accompanying nausea and thoughts that wisdom tooth extraction without anesthesia would be painless in comparison. Yesterday's district track meet was twice the distance and only 5 seconds/km slower, yet felt like cuddling kittens. Go figure.

Heat 2, leading group

Monday, 25 August 2014

Vasastafetten 2014

If I could summarize an entire weekend in a sentence to spare you the trouble of reading a long race report I would. But I can't.

You see, there is so much to write about that I don't know where to start. The 11-hour long car trip from Skellefteå to Mora that could have been boring but wasn't. The atmosphere at the legendary Vasaloppet finish line. The struggle to keep going when I ran my part of the race. The Saturday night laugh-till-you-drop hi-jinx. The bittersweet aftertaste of coming home at the end of an amazing weekend.

So be warned. This is a long read.

Vasastafetten is a relay race from Sälen to Mora, on a 90 km long track that is better known for the Vasaloppet cross-country ski race. Skellefteå AIK running club entered the race this year with 3 teams – two all-female teams and one all-male one. Each team consists of 10 runners that have to run different parts of the course, on varying terrain. Some run on forest roads, others on single track, and some have to even cross bogs.

Our three teams drove down in four mini-buses. Spirits were high despite the fact that we set off just after 6 in the morning. There was never a dull moment in our bus. We somehow ended up competing with the all-male team bus about who would reach Mora first. Unfortunately the passengers in that bus made use of very questionable and decidedly unsportsmanlike methods to make sure they won. For example, they removed the hub-cap from one of our wheels. If they hadn't done that, I am sure we would have gotten to Mora first.

Once there and settled in our three-bed rooms, we headed out to get some dinner at the Vasaloppet party tent by the finish line. I had arranged to meet up with an old running buddy from Gothenburg there, who was to run the ultra version of the race. That is, while we others ran like we were being chased by a rabid Tyrannosaurus with a chainsaw in its hands (paws?) for a relatively short time, the ultra runners would be making their way along the same track but most of them at a more leisurely pace and for a most likely much longer time. Say, 15 hours or so (like some of the rear-of-the-packers I saw walking resolutely towards the finish line at 8 in the evening, hours after our team had crossed it).

It was strange to meet up with a friend from my Gothenburg days, especially in the company of my new, Skellefteå friends. Gothenburg is a city that I still love, and I have many great memories from the 8 years we lived there. Seeing my friend (and a couple of other dear Gothenburg friends who came to visit earlier this summer) brought back a lot of these memories and triggered an almost overwhelming longing to visit my old stomping grounds. At the same time, I was among amazing, funny, kind people, all of whom I've met the last couple of years in my new home. I felt lucky to have these people around me. Still, a trip to Gothenburg has been long overdue.

Later that evening, the three teams gathered in a meeting room by the hotel reception to talk logistics. My brain was mush by that point, overloaded by faces, places and information. Very little new information found its way in. I turned in not long after, completely certain that, exhausted as I was, I would fall asleep immediately. Instead, I lay awake for what felt like hours. I slept in intervals and woke up early, more tired than the night before.

After a prolonged breakfast, we got ready and made our way to our buses. Each person was dropped off at their station. I waited with the two other SAIK runners who would be running our 4,7 km part of the race from Läde to Eldris at a place that seemed to have jumped out of the pages of a story book. Log houses, flowers, green fields and spruce forests covered partly by brush strokes of mist were steadily getting hit first by a light drizzle and then by pouring rain. We stood there in our rain coats and trousers as ultra runners, among others my old friend, jogged past us. It would be our turn to run soon.

Läde

In my mind I was like a tight spring, full of pent-up energy. I had doubts as to my ability to reach my goal of 21 minutes. I had missed way too much training because of my runner's knee. My body, on the other hand, was quite relaxed. I was too tired to be wound-up.

Still, when my teammate showed up and handed me the chip, my tiredness melted away. I felt confident and took off in long, powerful strides up the first upward slope. A long downward slope followed, and I let gravity carry me at a speed far greater than I was used to. By the time I had run 2 km, I was struggling.

I was a diver running out of breath, swimming up to the surface only to find it blocked by ice. An astronaut on the surface of the moon with an empty tank. I tried to breathe and send oxygen to my muscles, but none existed. I slowed down but it didn't seem to help. I felt bad. So bad that I considered slowing down even further to a walk, but I was too stubborn for my own good and went on. I tried not to slip on the mud that covered the forest road I ran on, and to avoid as many of the meter-wide water puddles that stretched across my path. Rain drops forced themselves under my contact lenses and blurred my vision, but I could still see I was running past others. I was running past ultra-runners at least. And boy did I envy their leisurely pace.

At last. The finish line was in sight, my teammate was waiting for me to send the chip over the table separating her section of the course from mine and the rain had let up a little. I wished my teammate luck almost breathlessly and leaned over the fence to catch my breath. Then it was time to get to the minibus that was waiting for me at the parking lot as soon as possible. The ones of us who had already run would try to make it to the finish line in time to run past it together with the last teammate.

In our fathers' footsteps for future victories

To run under the legendary sign at the finish line in Mora was humbling, awe-inspiring. We entered the track as our teammate ran past and ran with her the last hundred meters or so, cheering her on as she finished strong. Our team efforts had granted us a seventh place out of 53 all-female teams. I later found out that I had run the second best time on my part of the course. My near-death experience had not been for nothing.

Of course we were not the only ones with a great result. The all-male team ended up in 11th place among over a hundred teams, and the other all-female team got themselves the 21st spot. No other running club had managed to put together more than two teams, but we had: three amazing teams. I am so proud to call each and every one of these people my club mates.


Needless to say, celebrations were in order. We started off by eating at the hotel restaurant, which served a luxurious buffet, and then we went for drinks at a pub in town.

If you think that the sorest muscles in my body on Sunday morning were my leg muscles, you are wrong. My stomach muscles were the ones that hurt the most. It must have been from all the laughing on Saturday night. Unfortunately they did not get to rest. The long trip back home awaited us, a tired bunch of runners and friends, already looking forward to next year's race.

Sunday, 13 July 2014

Kyrkstigen 2014, or Stupid is as stupid does

Gather round children, let me tell you a story about the time I outdid myself in sheer stupidity.

It was a warm summer morning, exactly two weeks after the day I broke my personal distance record and ran 60 km. Another person might have rested on their laurels and, well, rested a few weeks, but not me. Because I, unlike that other, weaker person, am the baddest ultrarunner this side of the Skellefteå river and I eat marathons for breakfast.

Resting is for silly little people who are afraid of silly little things like injuries. Not for immortal, hardcore, joints-of-steel me.

Besides, joints, who needs them! Amiright?

On this fateful warm summer morning, 19 of us gathered in the neighbouring town of Burträsk to run back to Skellefteå on trails, forest roads, tarmac. We were to follow the ”Church path”, a path originally created by people who took themselves to Skellefteå on foot to attend church ceremonies. This training run is organised annually by AIK but I had never had the chance to participate before. 


Most of us heathens were in a state of undress because of the heat. I was optimistic enough to believe that I could run in a t-shirt but it didn't take long before I removed that and ran in my sports bra (Psst, foreshadowing).

Sunday, 29 June 2014

The day I ran 60 km

A cold, dark, rainy evening last November, I was having dinner with some friends from the club. Then, I blurted out:

- You guys. Wouldn't it be cool if we put together a 6-hour event?

It wouldn't be official. Just a fun club thing maybe. Just to see how many people would turn up. Were people interested in this kind of thing?

I had run a race like this before. Skövde 2012. 6-hour races usually take place around a loop of approximately a kilometer. You have 6 hours to run (or walk) as many loops as you can and want to. I had had a great time in Skövde and broken my personal distance record. I wanted to share the elation I had felt then with my friends and everyone else who wanted to participate.

My friends were immediately on board with my idea. We started planning on the spot. It was going to take place by the river, on a 5,5 km long loop, on the 28th of June. I am so happy to have friends who share my kind of crazy.

As months passed and winter turned to spring and then to summer, all the bits and pieces slowly fell into place. We worked hard, fueled by enthusiasm and love of running. I won't lie and say that it was always easy. There was some stress involved. Especially on my part. But I knew that my friends were there, working just as hard if not harder, and we were going to make it.

A few days before the event, I borrowed some bibs and water tanks from the club secretariat. This was it. It was really happening. As this fact slowly dawned on me, excitement and trepidation took turns occupying my brain. This was not just a club thing anymore. The news had gotten out and people outside the club wanted to participate in our unofficial race.

This was serious business. Even if it was ”just for fun”, I felt I had a responsibility to make sure that everyone had a good time, everything worked as it should, hell, even that the weather was good enough.

Again, my friends were there. An hour before the event was due to start, we gathered at the start/finish area and started getting things in order. Signs, bibs, food and drink, a makeshift toilet, tables, chairs...

People started showing up to get their bibs. They chatted with each other as the sun shone on us all, and spirits were high. Soon, AIK showed up too. They were going to run the same loop as us, partly to keep us company and also, for those that wanted it, to provide pacing. I was so happy to have them there, both for the sake of the event but also on a personal level, knowing that many of my running buddies and our coach were out there.


Friday, 20 June 2014

Breathe

It's like holding your breath. You tighten your muscles until your face turns red. And then, when you finally release that breath, your shoulders slouch so much you almost fall forward. That's what the last weeks before going on leave feel like. You try to keep it together although every cell in your body is screaming at you to stop and relax already, because you know that if you exhale too soon, your colleagues might have to send you home a sobbing mess.

Sunday, 8 June 2014

My hips don't lie: 3x22 km

When I took my shorts off after this morning's run, it looked like I was still wearing shorts. White shorts. My legs have been exposed to a lot of sunshine the last few days. If only they could speak, they'd have great stories to tell.

Like what they were up to this morning. They'd tell you how they were still inexplicably fresh, despite the two long runs the last couple of days. They'd tell you how quiet it was around town at the beginning of the run, and, by contrast, how busy it was down by the river at the end of the run. They'd tell you how hot it was, because the brain of the body they are attached to may have been planning on heading out at 6 this morning to avoid the heat but slept until 6.40 and didn't get out the door before 8.30. 


Three 22 km runs in as many consecutive days. I've never done anything like this before. The fact that I did it is not in itself the best part of it all. The best part is how easy it felt to get my body going day after day. How pain-free it was. Of course, I am not stupid. Past experience tells me I always get injured when training is going really well. I need to be careful. But for now? For now I'm dancing with joy.

Saturday, 7 June 2014

Back-to-back yet again, part two

My brain has been having a party since yesterday, getting drunk on endorphins and high on vitamin D. Warm nights and hot, sunny days, beautiful girls in summer dresses and guys in shorts, jumping into the river in their underwear to escape the sun to the soundtrack of boat engines, sending waves of sunscreen scent molecules straight into my nose and making me fall in love with life.

Days like these make me consider emigrating to Jamaica or some place, where the weather is like this all the time. J says I'd get bored of it and miss the snow. LET'S GO FIND OUT SHALL WE.

After yesterday's long run, I was a little apprehensive as to how well my legs would respond to another long run today, this time with SAIK. 10 km into the run, I started wondering if I could manage a third long run tomorrow. That's how fresh my legs felt. They did get a bit more tired towards the end, but curiously enough I only realised that right after I left SAIK and turned to run back home. Coincidence? I think not. SAIK makes your legs feel fresh.

Pictured here: lots of fresh SAIK legs

It was a lovely run. Great company, high spirits, beautiful surroundings down by the river. Some of us were more adventurous than others and even jumped into the river. I wasn't feeling as adventurous so I just splashed some (lukewarm) river water on my face and arms. I needed it. The flood of sweat I was producing wasn't enough to cool me down.

Ok, so there are a few things I would miss if I emigrated to Jamaica. SAIK is one of them.

Friday, 6 June 2014

Summer in the city

Today is Sweden's national day. Being the good citizen that I am, I had to celebrate. And what better way to celebrate than with a run. Off I went after breakfast, letting my legs decide where to take me, with the radio playing rock music in my headphones.

As the temperature slowly rose from warm to ohmygodmyskinisonfire, I happily sang along some cheesy glamour rock under my breath. That is, until I ran straight into a swarm of gnat. My protein intake suddenly skyrocketed. In order to continue being able to call myself a vegetarian, I shut my mouth and tried to breathe through my nose. It wasn't hard. My pace was so low I hardly had to breathe at all.

That was soon to change. I left the paths and roads after about 10 km to enter the woods. Roots and stones, mud and undulating trails forced me to lift my feet, which in turn craved a greater respiratory effort on my part. Good thing the gnats kept away from the forest. Too bad the spiders did not. I wonder if spiderwebs are as nutritious as gnats.


It was an easy 22 kilometres. It had to be. Tomorrow, I plan on doing it all over again.

Saturday, 31 May 2014

A lazy long run

If you fantasize about jumping in the river while out running, you're probably on the brink of dehydration. Because said river was neither warm or otherwise particularly inviting as I took a detour at the end of my run to bring my total distance to 30 km.

A light drizzle obscured my sight this morning as I headed west for an hour of silent, solo running before it was time to join AIK. It was only 12 degrees and grey, but the solitude and tranquility of the river somehow developed pictures in my mind of warm summer mornings. I stopped to take photos with my phone now and then, something that turned out to be less than wise towards the end of my run when I realised I would have to put in some pretty fast kilometres if I was going to make it to training in time. But it was worth it. Some views were worth saving in more than my memory.


I arrived at the hockey arena with only a couple of minutes to spare. We then embarked on a tour around Vitberget, on paths and trails darkened by the recent rain. Someone had turned the saturation levels all the way to max, and the trees were a blinding green. At places, stones were slippery, roots were hellbent on making us trip and moss was doing its best to suck our shoes off our feet. Yet, no one was complaining. Quite a few of us were laughing.

Friday, 30 May 2014

With blood taste in my mouth

Like a little bird that is about to take its first jump off the nest, I hoped that if I moved fast enough, I would fly. Instead, I felt like I had shoved a sword down my throat and was slashing around with it with every step I took.

Track intervals are the worst. You have no hills to blame for your poor performance. Or for only running 4 x 1000 metres while you had planned on doing 5 x 1000 metres.


Well. There was a strong-ish headwind I could blame, but, on the other hand, there was also a strong-ish tailwind, depending on where on the track you were currently running.

Sunday, 25 May 2014

Decisions, decisions

The best way to torture me is not by causing me physical pain. No. The best way to torture me is to give me options that are equally good or bad. I will spend hours swaying from one of them to the other, and, when I finally think I have made up my mind, two words will pop into my head and get the ball rolling again:

What. If.

What if J and I drive all the way to Luleå for the half marathon, and it's too warm.

What if we drive all the way there and my knee, that has been bothering me for days, prevents me from running.

What if it's boring running around the industrial part of town - twice.

And so on, and so forth, until I make up my mind again.

(Yes, this is a first world problem. I live in a first world country. This is a problem I have. Hence, it is a first world problem. What's your point?)

Friday afternoon I made up my mind not to run Luleå half marathon. Instead, I made a vague plan to put a long run together by running to Lidingöloppet on tour (which was going to be held here in town), then run the 5 km race, then jog home. Saturday morning, I woke up, felt the heat, then changed my mind again. I didn't want to race on such a warm day. I would go running with AIK in the morning, and then maybe, maybe do the race at an easy pace in the afternoon (as if I could enter a race and just jog around it – who was I fooling?).

This plan was quickly abandoned as well. As we zigzagged our way up the ski slope, the sun deep-frying us like scampi, I could almost see my body moisture evaporating drop by drop. I tried to breathe, but the air was tar-thick.

”I can't breathe”, I told my teammates.
”Don't worry, your lips aren't blue yet”, answered the one with the medical expertise.
”I feel like you're not taking me seriously”. I couldn't believe I had the strength to move my mouth in this heat.
”Oh, I am. I am hypochondriac too”


Sunday, 18 May 2014

Just a VFF rebel

Have you heard all the latest reports how Vibram got sued because they claimed in their ads that their Five Finger shoes can improve your running style and prevent injuries? Yeah, turns out you can still get injured, even with VFF on your feet. Some people on the Internet have gone so far as to say that, UNLIKE all other shoe brands, VFF can actually cause injuries!

They can also cause diarrhea, acne, hurricanes, grasshopper plagues and alien abductions. Moreover, there are strong suspicions that they are responsible for the disappearance of socks in the wash. A friend of a friend of a friend's ten year old son said Five Fingers ate his homework. True story.


Saturday, 17 May 2014

Flocktjärn: Encore

While every other runner in the country seemed to be in Gothenburg to run Göteborgsvarvet (a.k.a. the biggest half marathon in the world), I and some 25 other runners from AIK gathered outside a school in the southern part of Skellefteå to run to Flocktjärn and back. The sun heated the air to a comfortable 15 degrees (which would later rise to 20), while a lukewarm breeze (which would later turn into what could almost be described as a hurricane) kept the air cool enough to breathe. 


I was worried. Three days ago, I ran the Wednesday terrain round for the first time this year. As much as I enjoyed running in the forest again, on merciless, dusty hills and spruce-shaded trails, I couldn't help but notice a nagging feeling in my left knee. One I was very familiar with. My runner's knee seemed to be making a comeback.

Then I went for a tempo run last Thursday, and the faster pace seemed to be doing my knee good. I didn't feel any irritation in it until after the run, and even then it was negligible.

I have a vague plan to run Luleå half marathon next Saturday. A runner's knee right now would put a spectacular spanner in the works. And that's without taking into consideration my real plans for later this summer. Plans which, if they come into fruition, are going to become memories for life. VIP: Very Important Plans.

So, I was worried. Would my knee withstand the pressure of 25 hilly kilometres? Or would I have to give up half way into the run?


When you're running with 25 other runners, you tend to drift in and out of conversations. Most of them revolve around running, and even if you suddenly do something completely crazy and, say, try to talk about something else, the conversation is going to turn back to running almost organically.

- Have you been to x country?
- Yes, I was there 5 years ago.

(Here, a normal person asks questions about the itinerary, sightseeing, means of travel and so on. And I did. But then:)

- Were you there to run a race?

There was another conversation regarding toenails and the state they get in if you're in the habit of running a few marathons per year, but I will spare you the visual image. Let's just say that the whole discussion started with an innocent comment about the cool nail polish on this runner's fingernails.


Seriously. It's an art. Give me any subject and I'll manage to change it back to running. You won't even know what happened. I won't even be doing it on purpose.

These conversations helped me keep my mind off my knee, and it seemed to do the trick. Whatever complaints it had, it kept its voice low. I ran the whole thing without any major niggles.

All's well that ends well? Well. Maybe I should avoid the Wednesday terrain run for a while. Unfortunately. But I can't risk it. My future plans are VIP.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Trail time

Soft, muddy, littered with stones and roots. That's how I like my trail. It was hard work to run trail again after the long, icy winter. My heart beats a different way than when I run on the road or on the track, maybe because it's so happy to be in the woods again. It beats extra hard, extra strong, urgently, like an excited puppy. 

Not trail enough

That's better!

Vitberget, the White Mountain, offers a wide array of single track. I picked a trail I had run a thousand times before, mostly with AIK. It's one of my favourite trails in the whole world, probably because the largest part of it is downhill and usually comes after 10 km of running up a million endless, seemingly completely vertical hills during our Wednesday runs. Simply put, I have associated it with the relief I get from knowing the hills are over and I can let my legs roll down the slope.


But it's also a beautiful trail. Hidden in the forest, in the shade of fir and pine trees, your legs brush past blueberry bushes, waking up mosquitoes and sending them chasing after you. Pine needles turn the ground into cotton, in sharp contrast to the big stones that protrude from the ground forcing you to concentrate on what you're doing or else risk scraping your knees – or worse.


It used to be a beautiful trail. I was met with this view at the bottom of the hill.


Trees, way too many trees, cut down, probably for a good reason like, I don't know, money? Forestry? I don't know, I don't care. My little slice of paradise was marred. It made me sad. I ran on in search of thicker forest, but this scar was ugly and cannot be forgotten.

Saturday, 10 May 2014

Just the run I needed

It was a tumultuous night. Our cats did everything in their power to keep us awake, short of actually clawing our eyes out (because how would we then see they had no food left in their bowl and know to feed them?). They visited the litter box (with accompanying scratching sounds) at least four times. They jumped on and off the bed. They crawled under the bed and sharpened their nails on the mattress. They wrestled and squealed angrily right by our bedroom door. If they'd known how to operate the remote control, I'm sure they would have started the CD-player and played some shitty music at full volume all night. Good thing they lack opposable thumbs, or else they might have carried a bucket of ice-cold water to the bedroom and emptied it on our heads.

I finally woke up just after 7 to the sound of rain. I admit it. I didn't want to leave my bed just then.

It didn't get any better when I looked out the window through half-open eyes a few minutes later, a cup of steaming coffee in my hand. The sky was grey and the trees were swaying with the wind. The thermometer informed me sadistically that it was only 5 degrees, which no doubt meant that the perceived temperature in the wind would be even lower. It was so nice and warm inside.

Despite my misgivings, I ran up to the hockey arena to meet the others from AIK. We then headed out eastwards, on soft forest roads surrounded by pine and fir trees. No soul in sight except us and a couple of horses we came across. Well, and their riders, of course.

Oh yeah, we had three dogs with us too. Cool dog Anja was one of them.

I knew it was going to be a longer run but I didn't know just how long it was going to be. When we got back to the hockey arena, I did some quick calculations and was very happy indeed with what I came up with. The run home would bring me to a total of 30 km for the second time this spring.
Brand new Kinvaras. Before the run...

...and after. Not dirty enough,, but way too wet.

It was just the run that I needed. My body needed the kilometres. My mind needed the good company and beautiful environment, not to mention the meditation-like benefits of the simple act of putting one foot in front of the other for three hours. Most of all, it was good for my confidence. This is what I like doing best, and it's great to know that I can do it.

This was so worth getting out of bed and facing the rain and cold.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

My engine has stalled

I have been waking up feeling groggy all week. Going through each day with the enthusiasm of a sloth. Work has been demanding, both time- and intensity-wise, leaving me no energy to do other, more enjoyable things.

Weeks like these, it's easy to fall into a vicious circle. No energy to go running, but I usually get a huge chunk of my energy from running. So, no running=no energy to go running. And a non-running Shaman is a grumpy Shaman. Whatever you do, do not invite me to your party if I haven't logged enough kilometres that week (unless you're a goth, because then I'm the life of the party).

That is why I have to escape this downward spiral. Indoor track-training with SAIK is over for the season, but a friend from the club suggested we meet up at the outdoor track every Thursday and run intervals, each person doing their own thing but still within sight of each other. That way, we can alleviate our collective Thursday interval session withdrawal symptoms.

Here's to a tired body with a fresh mind.

Tuesday, 6 May 2014

"Around the bridges" premier

So. After missing the first edition because I was working, the second because I was ill and the third because I was on holiday, it was time for my first ”Around the bridges”-race for the year.

Oh how I have waited for this. How I have dreamt about effortlessly putting 5 kilometres behind me. Not a drop of sweat on my forehead. Elegant like a gazelle. My feet barely touching the ground. And, of course, with a big fat smile on my face, because when you are running fast so effortlessly you are damned pleased with yourself.

What came thundering down the pavement like a bowling ball filled with led was instead a red-faced hippopotamus about to have a stroke. A berserk Godzilla. A glue-drenched steamroller. Or so it felt. After a fast start where I tried to shake off all the overambitious five year olds that had positioned themselves right at the front of the crowd behind the starting line, I had to drop my speed in order not to flood my legs with lactic acid. I overdid it. My speed dropped too much and I couldn't pick it up again. It would have felt suicidal to do so.

I could say that it depended on lack of fuel in my engine. I had eaten a big meal 4 hours prior to the race and nothing after that. I could also say that it depended on sore muscles after what should have been an easy strength training session yesterday. I could blame my wrong choices in clothing, or shoes, or tactics. All of it would have been true. But the factor weighing most heavily is that I was just not motivated enough to run faster. After the second kilometre, I started wondering why I was doing this. Sure, running fast can be fun sometimes, but you know what else is fun? THE ABILITY TO BREATHE.

My result is perhaps slightly closer to that of a gazelle than that of a hippopotamus (although not by much, and we're talking amateur gazelles here, not one of those elite, two-running-sessions-per-day ones), so, on a cognitive level, I am proud of myself and happy with what I accomplished today. I mean, I broke my PR by more than one minute. But on an emotional level I can't help thinking that a trail run with no demands on distance or speed would have been much more satisfying. Post-race blues or plain laziness?

Sunday, 4 May 2014

Two days, two countries

Not to generalise or anything, but usually when you tell people you are going on vacation to the Mediterranean, they imagine you coming home all sunburned and with several hours' worth of slideshow material to bore them with, when all they really did was be polite and ask you how your holiday was.

My story is a bit different. Mostly it involves bad weather and getting lost. I covered bad weather in my previous post. But did you know that the weather did actually get better for one day? Yeah! I even tried to go for a long run.

J and I set off before the sun had climbed so high on the horizon that it might pose a heat problem, but we needn't have worried because an hour later the problem we were facing was of a different nature altogether.

But first things first.

Think: Pine trees. Dry, almost red earth, powder beneath your feet. Clear blue skies. Breathtaking views of the sea.

Think: Salt. Weaver's broom flowers flooding your senses with yellow colour and such a powerful, dizzying aroma that it almost makes you faint.

Think: Healthy legs, all the time in the world, all the dirt roads in the world.


And then, a wrong turn, blue skies turning black, the threat of thunder while you're lost on top of a hill. A part of me wants to go on exploring, another is trying to listen to reason and head for lower ground. Reason wins this round and we find a road back down to the sea. 

Clouds are starting to gather on the left...


This road is not so much a road as it is steep, washed off rock alternating with loose earth, and soon enough my mood is great again. I let my legs relax and carry me downhill as fast as they want, my eyes darting from left to right and then back to left again, to make sure I don't miss a step and go flying instead. Running on a tough trail, with the Mediterranean in the background fighting for your attention, it's easy to make mistakes. Yet somehow I make it down in one piece, J not far behind me, and the first thing I do is let the cool sea water splash against my calves and thighs because I just know that they are going to be screaming tomorrow.


The threat of thunder went off scaring people some place else, I was disappointed that my attempt at a long run was only about 12 km long, but my legs were cooled down and I was happy.


Two days later, I was running on a different hill far from the sea, spectacular in its own way, with endless vistas, both rural and urban. The same evening we took a flight to Stockholm and then spent the night tossing and turning in the airport.

Airport fact number one: If someone sees you trying to sleep, they'll walk as close to you as possible and talk as loudly as possible.
Airport fact number two: Those cleaning machines that airport staff drive around in? They seem to find the floor around you particularly dirty - if you are trying to sleep.

This morning I woke up in a different country than the one I woke up in yesterday. This one is a stubbornly cold country struggling to be prepared for the summer season that is racing towards it. Yesterday's country was struggling too, to achieve season appropriate temperatures, shake all that water from its wings and take off. Europe seems to be in suspended animation right now.

But guess what. I got to go for a swim. It consisted of me easing into a much colder sea than the one that had splashed against my run-warm legs, throwing my arms around trying to make it look like I was swimming while in reality mostly trying to survive death by exposure to freezing temperatures, and then twenty seconds later running out of the sea to wrap myself in a warm towel. Let the summer begin.