Tuesday, 29 December 2015

My 2015

So here it is, what you’ve all been waiting for, the thing you’ve written letters to Santa for but he only gave you an ugly sweater (that fat bastard), the Annual Summary Of The Year That Has Gone By ( or ASOTYTHGB ® as it's more widely known).

A million hungry reader voices exclaim in relief: FINALLY. Well, my friends, you have to wait no longer!

It was a strange year. A surreal year. A life-changing year in many ways. A couple of tough months that I'd love to go all Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind on. A couple of wonderful months, reuniting with dear old friends who helped me cope with the tough months, and making some pretty cool new ones who have helped me look ahead instead of back. Life skidded off to one direction only to swerve at the last moment and head off into the opposite one. You know, like life usually does. Sometimes you can bury your head in the sand and wait for it to pass, but this year I faced all challenges head on and I want to believe that I came out of it a stronger person. With a little help from my amazing friends and family.

Hey, Karma, that’s not to say that I want you to throw even bigger challenges my way. I’ve had enough drama to last a lifetime lately, thank you very much.

Running-wise it was perhaps my best year yet. I started off strong after an injury, increasing my mileage carefully until I could run 30-odd kilometres on any Wednesday evening unscathed and put in double long runs in a week. Rovön 6H in the beginning of June served as my last long run before the year’s main, 75 km- goal at the end of the month, High Coast Ultra. I took it relatively easy, ”only” covering 50 km during the six hours I had on me. I recovered unbelievably quickly. I was right on track to meet my goal.

High Coast Ultra was an event I won’t soon forget. A race so beautiful, so tough, the hours seemed to fly by and drag on at the same time. I was in a great mood throughout the almost 12 hours I was out there and I made it to the finish line exhausted but happy.  It was a race that taught me a lot about myself and how resilient I can be if I need to, both physically and mentally. I'm pretty kick-ass, really. And modest, too.

Making it to the finish line of HCU made me swear off races despite having enjoyed the experience, only to start thinking about my next goal approximately 3,4 seconds later. I talked to a friend about doing Black River Run in September together, a 80km race, and extending it on my own to shoot for 100km. I had done the training for it and I felt ready. You never know if you’ll ever be as well-trained as you are right at that moment, especially with an injury history like mine. As the weeks passed, however, I felt less and less motivated to travel the 800 km to the town the race took place in considering it was only an unofficial 100. So I ran them on my own, right here in Skellefteå.

That was it. I had achieved what I had always dreamed of. I ran 100 km confidently, like I knew I had it in me. It was great fun at times, boring at other times when the landscape consisted of grey tarmac and fast cars. 

And then I realised that somewhere along those 100 km I got injured.

My feet were destroyed. My hip fell off and hopped away on its own as far away from me as possible. It took me several weeks to convince my body parts to cooperate with me again and help me run. My whole autumn was one long comeback. I finish the year with an average of 200 km per month, my strongest year since I started running.

And now, while we are standing on the ledge waiting to leap blindly into the new year, I wonder – not without considerable apprehension – what 2016 will bring. Some BIG changes are on the way. When it comes to running, I want to become completely injury-free so that I can run far again. The mountains are calling. They are always calling.

Monday, 14 December 2015

Aurora runner

What a show the universe put on tonight. In an impulsive move that will go down in history as one of my best ideas ever, I skipped training with AIK to embark instead on a solo run by the river. I took my headlight with me, thinking I was going to need it on the southern side path where there are no street lamps.

I didn't need the headlight. I ran on snow that many feet had trodden on, even, smooth, perfect. The trees around me almost formed a canopy, barren but for their white winter dress, sparse enough to allow glimpses of the Northern river bank. There, there were street lamps, casting an orange light on the thin layer of ice that lay in patches on the river.

But I spent little time looking around me. My head was turned up towards the sky.

I am completely convinced that, if people spent more time looking at the sky, there would be a lot less fighting in the world. For how can anyone hate when something that is so much bigger than us, eternal, beautiful, takes place all around us, all the time? How can anyone care about pride and power and material possessions when the real magic, the kind of magic we believed in when we were children, is not fairy tales but within reach, if you only put on a pair of shoes and go for a run on a dark, cold winter night and look up?

A quiet dance, a breeze stroking a curtain on a summer day, a rainbow, soundless fireworks interrupted by falling stars. One, two, three, four Geminids. The spruce trees laden with snow, orange light from the street lamps across the river, the sky above an undulating green. My footsteps light on the snow, I am alone, I laugh with tears of joy, I am a child again. I am comforted by the presence of something so magnificent in the face of so much despair in the world. I stop, I look up again, my neck already stiff and I'm wondering how I have managed to avoid falling into the river. Northern lights swirl so rapidly now, their tentacles forming a spiral so tight that it's like a solid ceiling over my head and I can't believe my eyes. I have seen them before, but never like this. You can almost see the particles hitting the magnetic field, like iron chips gathering around a magnet, and you see the pulleys and levers behind the magician's curtain, as if you've seen through the magic. Yet, when you look again, you see only beauty, and you're willing to accept the fact that you'll never understand it all, you are too small, and that's what makes it magic.

Saturday, 12 December 2015


I stepped out into a white world yesterday after work. Snow on the ground and fog closing in around me made me feel like I was crawling inside a cotton ball. It was almost otherworldly, the backdrop to a tense scene in an old-school horror movie, escalating towards a particularly gruesome murder or the revelation of a horribly deformed villain. I ran with my stomach trying to climb up my throat, a sensation I always get when I go running directly after work, as if the day's worries are a physical entity that I can just expel out my mouth like spoiled food. It went well, despite all that. I covered 10 km and could relax after an extraordinarily long week.

This morning, I stepped out into a completely different world. A pale sun struggling to rise above the horizon turned blue snow into orange, and you could almost feel the heat bouncing off the few scattered clouds above. A mean feat when the temperature was as low as -10 degrees. I tried to listen to a podcast on my way to meet AIK and managed instead to push play on one of my most favourite songs, Sad Captains by Elbow. Poetry. Magic. Love. Also, sadness. I've been thinking about a dear friend of mine a lot lately who seems to be struggling, and about how sometimes it's hard to help those that refuse to open up and choose to create their own personal hell and live in it alone. I sang along quietly, letting the words reach my heart and letting my heart mourn what feels lost.

Our coach had asked me to pace the group today, as he had a little surprise for us later on. We were 20 strong, plus two dogs. My sadness took a back step to leave room for other things, discussions about everything under the sun and even a lovely 15 minutes or so of singing Christmas songs while we ran. Well, it was lovely for the three of us who actually sang. Some of the others suddenly seemed to have trouble keeping up with us and lagged behind.

Halfway through the run, we were stopped by Santa and his little helpers. Our coach had warmed glögg (mulled wine), which he served together with gingerbread cookies and candy. The glögg tasted like the sweetest nectar and felt like the warmest blanket. 

We didn't stay long, as the cold was a mighty adversary even for the glögg and found its way into our very bones. We ran back to the hockey arena where we had started and parted ways.

I ran home, my spirits high once again. 23 km will do that for you.

Saturday, 5 December 2015

Swedish beauty

Just when you think your running motivation is at its lowest, an amazing almost-long run makes you want to stay outside and cover kilometre after kilometre until the sun sets. Which, in Northern Sweden, is about 5 seconds after it rises. But you get my drift.

I don't know if it was wise of me to go running today, considering that hills made me gasp for breath and old ladies pushing walkers overtook me, but I haven't needed to get hospitalized yet, which I take to mean that I am now completely, 100% healthy after my suspected tonsillitis. I will continue to hold that position until pneumonia hits me. What I do know is that I didn't regret it. 

The light in the sky on my way up to our meeting place with AIK was surreal, more dusk than dawn, with flames of pink and red slashing the dark blue of early morning. Buildings were on fire.

I knew we would run up to Vitberget and the forest, and was a bit apprehensive. Despite its name, Vitberget (White mountain) is only a hill, but it offers some steep climbs if you know where to look. These, combined with the 10 cm snow covering the rocks and roots that litter all smaller paths there, made for some tricky, demanding terrain.

But oh, the beauty. The tunnels of weary tree branches, white and heavy with snow. The views towards Kåge and the sea, under stripes of grey and orange sky. The trails, asking way too much of my injury-weakened feet and ankles but more than making up for it by offering such great exercise in return. I was ecstatic. 

On my way home, I took a little detour but still decided to be happy with ”only” 19 km. I had somewhere to be afterwards, and besides, the weather had taken a turn for the worse with icy raindrops slowly working their way into the soft snow and turning it into ice.

This. This kind of running is what makes me want to sing. Or at least – to everyone's relief – blog about it.

Thursday, 3 December 2015

Ramblings of a sick woman

This blog is updated about as often as Halley's comet does a drive-by these days. Last updated: 15th October. Wow. Not much has happened running-wise since then. I have been trying to revive my running career, albeit halfheartedly because of icy pavements and a deep-seated hatred of spikes, only to suffer setbacks every other week.

Take last week, for example. I managed a whopping 24 km long run, bringing the week total up to an astounding 50 km. Yes, I am being ironic, but that was my longest run since September and my hip injury, so I'm happy. And then? Two days later? My motivation to go running is replaced by a pressing desire to lie on the couch and nurse my tonsillitis.

With Saturday – long run day – fast approaching, I am trying to get a sense of how this disease is progressing and if I'll be well enough to run by then. I have obviously gobbled down a golf ball at some point, or more likely a curled-up hedgehog judging by how much it hurts every time I swallow. But does it hurt as much as yesterday? The fever is down and I only get light-headed when I overexert myself, like by crocheting or turning the pages of my book. I am probably good to go!

There are many downsides to not putting in the miles. Restlessness and starting to resemble a Buddha statue are only two of them. Hey! Just because you can't go running doesn't mean you have to stop eating like a runner. When traumatic events, like injuries, occur, it is important that you continue living your life as if nothing has happened. Otherwise the injury wins. But, to be fair, there are upsides as well. There is more time to make pretty things. With Christmas around the corner, making pretty things is such a relaxing activity, as far from the shopping hysteria and stress as you can get. 

With the end of the year less than a month away, I wonder if I should be making plans for 2016. I have only one goal when it comes to running, and that is our annual Rovön 6H. I don't plan on entering any other races, nor on embarking on extravagant own adventures. As the years go by and my legs tolerate more and more of the abuse I put them through, it becomes less and less important to put them through abuse. That's not to say I won't; just that it has become some sort of habit, as natural as the cup of coffee I drink in the morning. I don't have to plan for it, I don't have to give it any thought, but I still have to have it or I will wander around like a zombie with a wicked headache. It doesn't define who I am any more than any of my other interests, but it is an intrinsic part of who I am in a way my other interests will never be. I just don't have to shout it from the rooftops anymore.

Does any of this make sense? Because I think my fever is coming back. Dammit!