Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Work, work, work

No time to train today. Working 6.30-14 and 16.30-19.

What gives? I hear you ask. There's plenty of time to train between 14 and 16. Well, throat is complaining too much today. Not sure if the cold I had two weeks ago is back for an encore, or if this is a new variety of bad-enough-to-miss-training-but-not-bad-enough-to-miss-work cold. You know the kind. No other symptoms are present except irritation in my throat. No fever, spots or any other sign that this could cause a pandemic and would therefore force me to call in sick.

Shame, really. With the exception of my toe blisters, my body has recuperated and is ready for some easy runs. Seems like it will have to wait until at least Saturday.

Monday, 29 November 2010

Is it Friday yet?

Starting the week on a Monday is a bad idea. Mondays suck. They should start with a Friday instead.

The day was going really well up until I left for work this morning. Which means, the good part of the day lasted about one hour. Then I waited for the bus for half an hour in the freezing cold at 6 am and it never showed up. I had to wake my husband to drive me to work, where I finally arrived late, stressed and in a bad mood.

Health-wise I wasn't doing much better. The irritation in my throat that started yesterday headed south to my stomach making me feel slightly nauseous. Nevertheless, I was set on going climbing after work today.

I should have gone home instead. I did not complete a single route. I just couldn't make my arms and legs do what I wanted them to. The grips were miles away from me, or too small, or too big. My feet hurt, squeezed in the tiny climbing shoes. The final straw was that I somehow managed to fall, half a meter from the ground, swing to the left and hit the corner of the wall with my shin with all the force carried by a falling body. My leg is now swollen and sports a lovely, colourful bruise. I shouldn't complain, really. The initial pain when my shin hit the wall was so intense, I thought I'd broken it. After that, I decided it was time to throw in the towel and go home.

I'm not surprised that climbing didn't go well, although I wasn't expecting such spectacular failure. I have not recovered from Saturday's Grand Adventure and I am kind of ill. It's ok. The running memories are still fresh enough in my mind to compensate for any climbing setback.

Sunday, 28 November 2010

The day after

Yesterday I was in a bubble, from the time we entered the city limits until I went to bed. I was so emotionally drained and detached that I seemed to watch the world from a distance. This morning I woke up with memories of yesterday's event in my mind, wanting to look at all the photos again, reading what people have written about it, trying to absorb every little detail and make it real.

Sometimes time has this strange effect of glossing over the less glamorous bits. When I think about yesterday's run, I see magnificent, sun-drenched fields, I taste the hot chocolate and feel the sugar rush through my veins, I admire Jonsereds architecture and I smile at the wonderful people I run with. Only good memories remain; the less pleasant ones (for there were no bad ones) have been put in a box and hidden away in a dark corner of my mind.

Physically I feel much better than I expected. Sure, there are parts of my body that ache, but nothing too serious. In fact, it's only marginally worse than the day after I ran the Gothenburg half marathon.

Today is exactly 6 months left to Stockholm Marathon. Yesterday I ran past the marathon benchmark in 4 and a half hours, having taken some breaks to eat and to walk. There is a lot of room for improvement, but it's nice to have run the distance and know that my body can do it. But I'll let you in on a little secret: the ride is so much more fun than the destination.

Saturday, 27 November 2010

Drumroll please...

I woke up nervous this morning. Yesterday's excitement had turned to what can almost be described as catatonia. Doubt started seeping in my mind. Who the hell did I think I was, believing I could run so far with so little experience? I was almost paralysed, unable to think or do anything. I hadn't even started packing until half an hour before I had to leave.

Somehow I pulled myself together. The World's Best Husband® drove me to the train station. I soon met up with Hans and Johan B. We were expecting a few more people to show up, but when the train started pulling out of the station and they hadn't come, we began to wonder what had happened. When we arrived in Alingsås, however, the head count was correct. The others sat on another train car. 7 eager runners prepared to start running.

I can honestly say that the first part of the run was my favourite. We ran in -7 degrees, through frozen fields, on snowy roads, the rays of the sun hardly warming up our faces but turning the snow into glitter.

Our first pit stop came after about 11 km. I had some water and a dextrose tablet and admired the view by the lake.

Our next stop was Floda train station just after we had passed the 20 km mark. We had run in the forest, on paths that were not ploughed, and I for one was thankful to stop and eat something more substantial than dextrose. I ate a "runekaka" that I'd modified by adding chocolate chips and ginger cake spices. It tasted amazing!

At this point, not knowing if there was more forest running in the cards, I started thinking that I'd be content if I managed to run more than my old distance record, even by a half kilometre (my record being just over 30 km). Our group had split in two, one faster that ran ahead, and one slower, that took it easy and even walked a bit of the way. I was in the second one, with Niklas and Johan B. Johan O. ran back to get us, and soon we joined up with the others in Stenkullen. The group then split again and I ended up running with Mia, Hans and Steve.

I was told that there were some hills just before Jonsered, which was to be our next pit stop. My body had started feeling like it was falling apart. My Achilles tendon complained, my toes had gone numb, and - what was worse- the evil cramp on my left foot was back with a vengeance. I doubted I could make it to Jonsered, which at that point was still 5-6 km away. I managed to pull through it, thanks to Hans who told me many interesting stories about local history, among other things. Time (and distance) flies when you're in good company.

Just before we arrived at Jonsered, our group split up in three. Mia and Steve ran ahead, Hans and I in the middle and the rest somewhere behind us. Hans and I left the main road to take a shortcut and met up with the first group in Jonsered. We stopped and waited for the others. I quickly munched on some more runekaka and washed it down with some water. The temperature made it impossible to take a long break. That's when we lost the others.

We met Johan B. at Jonsered's train station. Unfortunately some health problems were forcing him to take the train home. He informed us that the others were now ahead of us. We scratched our heads and wondered how we'd missed them.

The going was now tough. The wind seemed to have picked up, the surroundings were not as beautiful any more the closer to the city we got, and we were tired. The only thing keeping me going was the promise of hot chocolate near Partille, some 38 kilometers into the run. And of course the thought of being so close to completing the marathon distance, and Mia egging me on.

Meeting this man was like meeting a guardian angel. I don't take such acts of kindness for granted. I mean, he didn't have to make both coffee and hot chocolate, buy some gingerbread biscuits and stand in the cold waiting to meet us. It was the best hot chocolate I'd ever drunk. Thank you Stefan.

It was tough to start running again after this pause. I was frozen to the bone and exhausted. The marathon benchmark came and I raised my arms in the air in celebration, but I didn't feel it. I was emotionally numb, just so completely knackered that I could only concentrate on what was left of the run. The people I ran with kept me grounded and focused on the task, and talking to them helped me enormously through the last few kilometres. Yet, I never seriously considered stopping to take the train home, until we entered the city.

Darkness had started falling and we'd been running for approximately 5 hours, not counting the breaks. Traffic, high buildings, noise, people, roadworks and a sense of disorientation all contributed to my getting fed up. I just wanted to go home. Physically I could have perhaps run further, though it wouldn't have been wise. Emotionally however I was ready for a warm bath.

My husband picked me up at the train station and we drove to a pizzeria. I was so cold that even after I put on all the clothes I'd taken with me, I still shivered uncontrollably. I didn't really get warm until I'd eaten the pizza, drunk some beer and had a hot shower.

It still hasn't sunk in, what I did today. I'm not surprised; it was the same after I'd ran 30 km. Maybe it will and maybe it won't. I enjoyed every painful minute of it, mainly thanks to all the wonderful people I ran with, the nature and the fact that my legs managed the distance. All in all it went so much better than I thought it would.

Now, my body needs to rest. It hurts in both expected places (foot, knees) and unexpected (the underside of my arm?!). Today's run, not counting the breaks: Just over 49 km and a total running time of 5 hours 15 minutes. No matter how painful it is right now, or how numb I am, I'd do it again in a heartbeat. I think I'm waiting until spring though.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Can't wait

Tomorrow, at 10:00, we're starting from Alingsås train station and running to Gothenburg.

I am counting the hours until then. I have been going over in my head what I need to take with me, what I need to prepare today, whether I need to get some spikes for my shoes. I made lists. I even made a train timetable to take with me, in case I need to stop and take the train back.

Note that I wrote "in case". Yes, I know I've "only" run 30 km in the past, and it's another half-marathon to 50 km. But I suppose there is some crazy little demon inside of me whispering that I just might be able to pull it off. I'm in as good a shape as I've ever been. I'll have my new Kayanos on my feet. We will be taking frequent pit stops. We'll have the wind on our backs. We'll even be served hot coffee by someone who could unfortunately not participate. Plus I'll be running with some experienced ultra-runners. What more do I need?

Whether I succeed tomorrow or not, I will not have lost anything. No matter how far I get, it counts. If I set out thinking I won't make it, then I won't. If I set out thinking I might, then I will without doubt come home a richer person; richer in experience, in training, in friends. I can't wait.

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Run-free, but not training-free day

Oh how I wanted to run today. The air was chilly, there was a thin layer of new snow covering the grey ice, there was even a hint of sunshine. Unfortunately I didn't quite manage to wake up when the alarm went off at 04:40. My body did, and it got up and made some coffee, and got dressed and ready for work; my brain on the other hand was still deep asleep, unable to plan such complicated things as packing one change of clothes for running and another for climbing, and choosing what to wear to work. If I don't figure out such logistics the night before, it's near impossible to do it in the morning. So I prioritised my work and climbing clothes. Hence, no running.

I took the tram to town and went wall climbing instead. I managed a 6A+ that nearly killed my fingers and made me collapse into a heap with exhaustion when I landed. It was so worth it, however. The previous few sessions I'd felt I had stagnated, that I didn't dare take any chances. Tonight I was determined to climb that 6A+.

Tomorrow is a complete rest day. I might even take the car to work. Saturday's adventure is only two days away and I need to be in top form!

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Saving my legs

Running 5 km on the way home from work left me wanting more. Some sessions are like that. It's as if you just got started when you get home. Some other sessions feel tough. It might be that you're running with headwind. Or you're running uphill in the freezing rain. Or you're doing speed work and your heart is trying to jump out of your mouth and leave you for someone who treats it more kindly; but once you get home and the endorphins finally hit you, you're so happy you went for a run.

I wanted to save my legs, partly because I'm thinking about run commuting to town tomorrow and then go climbing, and partly because of that little adventure on Saturday. So instead of a longer run, I came straight home and did some leg and abs exercises.

Current weather prognosis for Saturday: between -13 and -9 degrees, moderate breeze, cloudy.

Tuesday, 23 November 2010

The icy grip of winter

It's funny. Some months ago - some weeks ago even - I couldn't have imagined myself running two sessions in one day. I thought it was just for elite runners. Turns out it's just a matter of perspective. If you, an average amateur, do it, then it's not just for elite runners. If you see these two sessions as an alternative way to get to work and then home, it doesn't seem so advanced any more.

Some people cycle to work, some people walk, some people take their cars and some people use public transportation. Using your own two feet to get to places is really no weirder than any other way. Forget about the fact that you're putting in valuable kilometres in your training; on run commuting days, think of it only as transport, a way to get from A to B, and lower your expectations about your performance - save those quality sessions for some other day. Just run because you were meant to, and I promise it will make sense.

It wasn't quite so beautiful this morning, but almost
Picture taken near Vargfjället last year

I woke up to new snow and thought it was Ground hog day. Wasn't this the same picture I saw before me when I went out for a run last Saturday? I'd planned on running both to and from work. I didn't have to be at work until 9, so I headed out towards the local church, completely in the opposite direction than work, wanting to get in some extra kilometres. It was easy, it was fun. People were gathered at the bus stop, probably thinking I was crazy running in the snow. I on the other hand thought they seemed to be freezing their butts off, waiting for a bus that was obviously late.

When I turned to run back towards work, I was met with a freezing headwind. I picked a less trafficked route. I finally came to work after almost 11 kilometres, took a shower and then enjoyed a buzz of energy and absolute bliss. It was as if my cheeks were on fire; the contrast between the freezing wind and the indoor warmth was striking. This buzz lasted for the better part of my day.

The wind had picked up when it was time to go home. The plough had scooped away all the snow from the roads and pavements leaving a treacherous layer of grey ice. I land on my forefoot when I run, which is probably why I didn't end up on my butt several times on my way home. I ran straight home, adding a few more kilometres to the tally. Total kilometres run today: 15,5!

Monday, 22 November 2010

Sleep deprived

I usually go to bed early, and fall asleep within seconds, especially in the winter. Sometimes I can fall asleep at 20:30 while watching TV on the sofa. If I'm really tired, I've been known to fall asleep as early as eight. If I had to describe my sleeping habits, I'd say I'm more narcoleptic than insomniac.

Last night was different.

A combination of having drunk a cup of coffee as late as 17 and stress meant that I couldn't go to sleep no matter what I did. I read, I tried the sofa-while-watching-TV-trick, I got up and surfed the Internet for a while, even listened to relaxing music, but nothing helped. My mind was hyperactive. What made matters worse was that I had to be up at 04:30. I just got more and more stressed as the minutes ticked by and I realised that there was no way I was going to get a decent night's sleep.

I finally resigned to the idea that I'd probably have to call in sick in the morning and managed to fall asleep at 2. My husband then woke me up at 5, unaware of my nocturnal troubles and certain I'd overslept. Thinking that I might as well go to work now that I was awake I quickly ate some breakfast and took the car to work.

I had plan to run home from work but after only managing 3 hours of sleep last night I'm skipping training. I can't imagine my body would thank me if I forced it to go running on so little sleep. Tomorrow is a new day; if I manage to get some sleep tonight, that is.

Sunday, 21 November 2010

Dreaming of Saturday's great adventure

Less than a week left to my life's so far greatest running adventure and I couldn't be more excited about it!

Our group will be taking the train to Alingsås and then running back to Gothenburg, a distance of more or less 50 km. We'll be stopping now and then to eat, drink and relieve our bladders. Should someone get too tired, injured or sick, it's never too far to a train station. Hopefully it won't be needed.

I've done the chicken dance, sacrificed a baby goat, prayed to all the major and even some minor deities that I won't get sick or injured, that my Achilles tendon holds, and that the weather is good enough. Early weather forecasts predict snow for Saturday, but weather here is near impossible to predict accurately, especially so many days in advance. I'm hoping for a sunny yet chilly late autumn day.

I'll be making some Runekakor to take with me, along with water, some dextrose tablets and warm clothes. I'm crossing my fingers that the Kayanos 17 I ordered yesterday will arrive this week. Might come in handy to have fresh, cushioned shoes on my feet when I'm going for a new distance PB.

Great company, many kilometres under my feet, new places to see: can't get much better than this!

Saturday, 20 November 2010

The world is dressed in white and all is forgotten

I woke up to a white landscape this morning. I felt like a little child who's never seen snow before and jumped into my running clothes for a long run. At 07:30 there are not many people about, so the snow on the pavement was untouched, just beautiful as it shimmered in the yellow light from the street lamps.

I set out with an easy, slow tempo. I didn't really have a choice. Running in new snow can be a struggle. I certainly didn't mind. In fact, I think I might have had a stupid smile on my face.

That smile morphed into a determined tight-lipped grin after 5 km, when I turned east and was met with headwind. Some snow flakes drifted lazily from the sky and landed on my glasses, making it hard to see. The surrounding horse pastures were so eerie and quiet though, that I completely forgot about the wind.

After 12 km I left the untrodden roads and pavements and turned homeward again. The second half of my run took me by a seaside cycle path, which is so breathtakingly beautiful in the summer and very popular with people in the area.

Unfortunately these same people thought it was great weather for a cosy walk. Many footsteps in the snow and 0 degrees equals slush. Slush equals cold water in my shoes. Well, at least they look cleaner now.

After some minor incidents including almost stumbling over a loose cocker spaniel and almost breaking my neck slipping on an ice patch, I was ready to call it quits. 20 km brought me home to see quite a different view than 2 hours earlier. The snow plough had been busy turning what once was a beautiful white landscape to stereotypical Gothenburg grey slush.

In the beginning of my run I was so stunned with how snow can turn even the ugliest of landscapes into a winter wonderland that I completely forgot about last winter's long lasting snow, and how it posed a serious problem for my running. Snow in itself is not a problem, even if it is tougher to run on. Ice on the other hand is a deal-breaker. Having to spend time walking in crutches might seriously impede my training for Stockholm Marathon.

That's why I won't be buying these beauties any time soon. But I think that Santa might be bringing me a pair of Icebugs this year instead...

Snow, I still love you.

Friday, 19 November 2010

Finally Friday

I kind of dreaded my run home after work. It was so nice and warm indoors, and it seemed so cold and windy outside. The weather forecast threatened with snow and 0 degrees, and I feared it would get dark before I got home. Gone are the days of running in glorious sunshine or on warm summer evenings.

A nice May photo to ward off the cold

I changed into my running clothes before heading out, and put on my new Craft base layer tights under my usual tights. I decided to run in my jacket, not brave enough to just wear a vest. I made my way home and my fears came true. Darkness started falling. Most of the way home is well-lit and well-trafficked, but there is a part that takes me through an isolated grove of trees. There are no street lamps there. Who knows what is there.

Needless to say, the impeding darkness made me run faster than I'd planned. I even incorporated some "fartlek" in my running (that is, some spontaneous speed increase - literally "speed play"). After 10 km I was finally home, happily tired and ready for some Friday evening relaxation. The wind had felt chilly on my cheeks after all, and our flat was so wonderfully warm.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

The only good thing about Thursdays...

...is that Friday is only one day away.

I woke up at 5 before the alarm went off, after 7,5 hours of deep sleep. My fingers were swollen thanks to yesterday's climbing, and I felt weak in my whole body. Usually this weakness wears off as soon as I've poured some coffee in me, but not today. I feel drained, exhausted, worn thin. Two factors have probably contributed to, if not outright caused, this fatigue: the fact that today will be the 4th day in a row when I come home no sooner than 18:30, and autumn darkness. Some days it's dark when I leave home, and it's dark when I get back. I need my vitamin D, dammit.

I'd planned to run to and from work today, but I think I'll just do some strength training exercises and take the bus in instead. And then I'll dream about Friday evening, when I can finally unwind in the warmth with a cup of tea, a good book and a purring cat on my lap.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Books and adventures

8 kilometres' worth of run commuting and 2 hours of wall climbing logged today. I even managed to climb a route that seemed impossible last time. Then when we came home, I saw that Runner's World had arrived in the post. It's been a good day.

Even if Runner's World tends to get a bit repetitive sometimes, it's always exciting to see that a new issue is out. To feed my addiction between runs, I also sometimes buy books about running. I'm not so interested in reading about how to improve my times and such; the most interesting books I've read are about adventure.

It's almost as fun to read about people's running adventures as to have one myself (almost). One of my favourite running books is "Born to run" by Christopher McDougall, another "Ultramarathon man" by Dean Karnazes. Both books sing praise to the amazing feats humans can achieve, whether they're a reclusive Indian tribe or a yuppie adrenaline junky.

Yesterday I received another eagerly-awaited package in the post. I'd ordered some new books, one of which was "Take a seat" by Dominic Gill. Gill recounts his adventure cycling on a tandem bike from Alaska to Patagonia, picking up strangers along the way to help him reach his goal. Gill also captured his adventure on film, which we saw about a month ago on BANFF film festival. It was really inspiring to watch a man set out on such a great adventure. Imagine all the amazing places he must have seen, all the kind and generous people he must have met! All the perils, all the hunger, tiredness and cold, all the uncertainty of reaching his goal, in short everything that made this trip special. Can't wait to read the book.

Now, I have no plans to do anything remotely similar. Yet there's something about pushing boundaries that speaks to my heart. Maybe it's the joy of discovery, seeing new places. Maybe it's the sense of achievement. Maybe it's both. Whatever it is, I have a feeling that one day it will take me further than a marathon.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

Some much needed rest

Last Friday I was like a drug addict with withdrawal symptoms, who was suddenly let loose in a meth factory. I went on a spree, overjoyed that I could finally run again after almost two weeks of illness. I started running when I finished work and didn't stop until I came home last night.

Ok, I might be exaggerating a little bit. But I have been out running 4 days in a row, apparently trying to make up for lost time. Today I had planned a day's rest, and here I am, resting. I feel really tired, though not because of training, but because of two long work days one after the other. I even -gasp!- took the car to work this morning. Here I was yesterday, on my way to work, laughing at all the losers stuck in their cars during rush hour, while I ran past them, elegantly yet vigorously. This morning I was the loser, scraping ice off the car windows and cursing because we still hadn't put the bloody winter tyres on.

Tomorrow it's back to run commuting, but with a twist. On schedule: run to husband's workplace (about 8 km) and then go climbing. Should be fun!

Monday, 15 November 2010

A nice start to the week

Today I ran both to work and then home after work. I'm so happy I can run again, that I do it twice per day now.

Well, not exactly. See, when I run home from work, I usually take a detour so that the total distance is 10 km. This morning I ran straight to work, and then in the evening straight home. So I only ran a total of 10 km anyway.

This is becoming a necessity in order to get my training to fit in with the rest of my life. Days are getting much shorter now, and it's not as easy to get out and run at 5.30 in the morning any more. Nor is it fun to finish work at 6, get home as soon as possible, eat something, wait an hour or two to digest it and then go for a run at 8. Some times I want to stay at home in the evenings, and, I don't know, be with my husband or something.

Thankfully, not all days are this long. On the days I finish work earlier, it's not a problem to take the long way home. But at 6, after a long day at work, I just want to get home and rest. Running home does not take much longer than cycling home. Not if you cycle as slowly as I do. In fact, I think that it only takes about 5 minutes longer. So there's really no reason to cycle (an activity I don't particularly enjoy just for commuting) when I can run.

Besides, if I cycled home, I wouldn't have had the joy of overtaking a cyclist who was struggling up a hill. Twice.

But it's not just necessity that pushes me to run commute. This morning, when I came to work and after I'd had a shower, I felt the endorphins rushing through my veins. I felt happier, more positive, more energetic. It's a perfect way to start your day.

In order for run commuting to go smoothly, it's of course necessary to prepare. Either have a good rucksack to carry a change of clothes in, or leave a change of clothes at work the day before. A great guide to run commuting can be found here (in swedish):

Sunday, 14 November 2010

How I started running

I wasn't a very active kid. My family was more academically inclined and the only sport we enjoyed was watching basketball on TV.

One day, when I was in 6th grade, we were told by our teachers that our school would participate in an athletics competition against other schools in town. No more details than that. What followed was a frenetic attempt to find who the best pupils were in a multitude of athletic events: long jump, shot put, long distance etc. How long the long distance was, I cannot remember. What I do remember is that we had to run around the school building once or twice, and that I was out of breath after running a hundred meters. I just wasn't long distance material.

Short distance, on the other hand, that's where I shone. Or almost shone. What follows is an embarrassing story about how I stole another girl's thunder.

Each class's pupils were to race against each other, to find out who the fastest boy and girl were. We were 4 classes in every grade, and the 4 best would form a relay team. When it was my class's turn, all the girls lined up to run a 50 meter course.

I knew I couldn't win. I had never thought of myself as athletic, let alone fast. The fastest girl in our class, in the whole school even, was a girl named Stephanie. Stephanie was 2 meters tall, or at least it felt that way. She had long, slim legs, that could probably cover half the school yard in one small leap. I didn't stand a chance.

Our teacher stood with a whistle in his hand. We kneeled down to starting position. The tension was palpable. Our anticipation grew with each passing second. Stephanie was next to me. I could hear her breathing, completely focused. Although I couldn't win next to such a gazelle, I didn't plan on coming in last either.

The teacher blew the whistle. What happened next was unfathomable. I shot forward towards the fence that served as the finish line. At the same time I caught a movement to my right, an event that seemed to unfold in slow motion. Stephanie, the school champion, had tripped over her long, slim legs, and fallen. I kept running. The fence seemed to be miles away.

I won. Not in the fairest way, but I won. I couldn't understand at that point what that entailed, but I was happy. Granted, my happiness was mixed with guilt. But I was going to run in a competition!

The competition day came. Our school had obviously not taken it very seriously, because we had hardly trained for any of these athletic events, and also: no one told me before we arrived at the stadium that I'd be representing our school in the 50-meter race. I just thought I'd be in the relay team. My dad offered some encouraging words. I saw some kids running up and down the stairs by the stands, and for some reason it seemed like a good idea at the time. It would probably make me super fast if I managed to run up all the stairs.

It didn't. I came in 5th out of 7 in our district. I wondered if Stephanie would have won.

Then it was time for the relay race, and I was to run the last leg. I saw how my classmates ran like the wind, and how by the time the baton was in my hand we had a comfortable lead. All I had to do was run the last 50 meters as fast as I could. And I did, and we won, and I was over the moon with happiness.

That was my short career in athletics. I wanted to continue running, but, as I said, my family wasn't much into sports, and my mom (who worked in a hospital) had many horror stories she'd gladly tell us about people who exercised, whose hearts stopped or got too big. Exerting yourself is bad for your health. That and a minor health scare some years later put a stop to running. I wasn't to return to it until 10 years later, as a grown-up, who could do her own research into how "dangerous" exercise is. But that story is for another time.

Saturday, 13 November 2010

Autumn running

If I hadn't missed a week and a half's worth of training, I would be participating in an exciting event today: 8x10 km intervals, arranged by jogg.se. What that means is that one runs 10km every third hour, beginning at 6 in the morning and finishing some time in the early hours on Sunday. I was of course not counting on running all 8 intervals, but I was at least hoping I'd manage 4. Then I got sick.

This morning I felt well enough to head out for a 10km run. I wore my "Training for Stockholm Marathon" t-shirt for the first time. That gave me an extra kick.

It was windy outside, but luckily it didn't rain. I don't mind wind or rain. I do mind when it's windy and raining at the same time. Late autumn is a great time to be running in the woods, so even though I had planned on running an easy, flat route, I changed my mind at the last minute and headed for the lake. Someone had fired up their fireplace nearby and the air smelled of winter. Not a soul was in sight. In fact, it felt a lot like Christmas morning, when everyone is at home with their families enjoying a holiday breakfast and the world feels deserted. I loved the solitude.

My pulse started out a bit higher than it should and I was worried that I'd have to stop running. Thankfully it soon settled on its usual level. I jogged on rain soaked ground, hoping that my socks would stay dry. I drifted into a nice flow, the rhythm of my breathing and of my feet hitting the ground in harmony. 10 kilometres never felt so easy or so much fun. I even toyed with the idea of running another 10km later in the day and participate in the event anyway.

If my Kayanos could speak, they'd have some nasty stories to tell about how I've been treating them. Especially in comparison with my old Sauconys, that look like they've only been used for ballroom dancing. A couple of months ago I went running with some really nice people on a 18-km forest trail. Running is perhaps the wrong word. Wading through mud is a better description. When I came home, my Kayanos were black and I had mud up to my knees. My shoes never recovered from this abuse, even though I washed them. Now they're getting close to joining my Sauconys in retirement.

Running with other people is something I enjoy occasionally. I mostly prefer running shorter distances by myself, but my long runs feel so much easier and fun if I have company. Last summer a group of runners decided to join forces and run together now and then. I have loved every minute I've run with these people and I am really excited about our next adventure: Running from Alingsås to Gothenburg, a distance of around 50 km. I doubt I'll be able to run more than 35 km, but just participating gives me a great buzz.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Now I won't have to change the blog title...

...from "Training for Stockholm Marathon" to "NOT training for Stockholm Marathon". That was a relief. Because, you know, I'd have to re-do the banner and everything.

What a difference a short run can make! I ran home from work in the rain, 6 kilometres at snail pace. I even got to test my new backpack and I was thrilled with it. Did I notice the noise from the endless traffic? No. Did I notice that I could hardly see where I was going, because my glasses were all fogged up from all the rain? No. Did I want to keep running? Yes. But I didn't. Because I didn't want to push my luck. The witch doctor seemed to be right about the painkillers, and maybe she was right about taking it easy with training. I took another painkiller when I got home, just to be on the safe side. If I still feel well tomorrow, well...who knows...I might even go for a 10K run!

I am a runner. It is a part of my identity. Certain titles describe us and form an image in other people's minds. More importantly, they define us and we feel safe in them. Accountant or actor. Mother or father. Middle-aged or teenager. Hippy or square. Tall or short. Conservative or anarchist. Just think how lost we'd be without these descriptions.

To describe oneself as a runner, one has to run. How often or how far is less important. However, an injury or sickness can really shake that description. How can I be a runner if I can't run? That is why being able to run today, even if it was a shorter run, made me so happy. I can still call myself a runner. I am still training for Stockholm Marathon.

Thursday, 11 November 2010


That was the sound of two hours of my life disappearing before my eyes. And I'm never getting them back.

I tried to book an appointment with my doctor, so that he could figure out what's wrong with my throat and how we can fix it. Unfortunately he had no time slots that suited me, what with having a full time job. I was advised to visit an emergency health centre.

Several people at work had been to this emergency health centre and spoke highly of it, and how the waiting times were really short. So I headed down there after I finished work at 6.

A few people were already waiting there, but when I spoke to the nurses I was told that there were only 3 patients waiting to be seen by the two doctors on duty. I guessed it would only take about half an hour before I got to see the doctor, and I just about did a cartwheel to celebrate. My optimism soon took a hard blow. People with more acute problems than mine kept stumbling in and moved to the top of the queue. Feverish kids, a lady who could hardly walk, someone with an allergic reaction, everyone and their mother in other words.

Completely knackered after a long day at work, I was on the verge of tears of frustration and regretted ever going there. I mean, my body could probably take care of itself if I gave it time? But my colleagues had frightened me with talk of streptococcus and how I might need to take penicillin.

After two hours I finally got to see the doctor. She seemed to have jumped out of a cartoon. She was a middle aged woman with crazy hair, a probably crazier mind and an unidentifiable accent. She informed me in broken Swedish that I had a virus and all I needed to do was sweat it out. Pop some painkillers and rest. I was to not shower until the virus was gone. I was to skip training until I felt rested. I wanted to scream that I'd done nothing but rest, and it didn't help. I felt disappointed. Did I wait two hours for this?! Streptococcus can be dealt with, a virus...not so much. Her recipe of painkillers and bad hygiene failed to convince me.

Then I took some painkillers before I went to bed, and woke up with a happier throat. I'm still coughing but it doesn't hurt to swallow any more. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that my health improvement continues. Maybe the loony doctor was right. Maybe, just maybe I can go for a run soon.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Rest makes me restless

My throat feels like it's filled with pebbles.

It's now 9 days since I last ran. I have tried to keep active by doing strength exercises, climbing and walking, but it's not fulfilling at all. Of course when you're not able to run, everywhere you look there are people running. Even seeing people in their tights and reflex vests running in the snow, in the dark, with a cold headwind, makes me long for it.

Running gives me, among other things, stress relief. I have a stressful job with lots of responsibility. Going out for a run after a hard day at work clears my mind, gives me new ideas, puts everything into perspective. It makes me feel stronger, more able to deal with problems.

This relatively minor health problem has naturally caused me to fall into a negative spiral. The more stress I have at work, the more I need to train. The less I train, the more stressful work gets.

So now I've decided, a week too late, to call the doctor and book an appointment. An infection has most likely made itself at home in my body, and it needs to get out, now. I need to get my training back on track, not only because I'm supposed to be training for a marathon, but, above all, because I need the balance it gives in my life.

Sunday, 7 November 2010


I used to train weights at the gym, and I loved it. I was there 4-5 times per week, even venturing out to the free weights section. I was in good shape, although I never got big. Nowadays I don't see what the appeal was. I never got anywhere with it. The only goal I had was to maintain the little muscle I had built. It got boring.

Running is a whole different matter. There is so much room for improvement, whether one wants to run faster or longer. I want to run longer, but even if I decided to keep to the distances I run today, there would still be enormous variation between my different rounds to keep me interested. I can run different routes, for example. I can choose to run by the sea, in the woods, in the city. Tarmac or trail. Rain or shine. Alone or with others. Short or long distance. And so on and so forth.

As the distance I run increases, however, it becomes more and more important to build up my strength. By building strong legs and core, one can hopefully prevent injuries. It's called pre-hab. The importance of it was never clearer to me than it is now, with my stiff ankle.

This morning, frustrated by the lack of running the last few days, I spontaneously did some strength exercises. Eccentric heel drops, squats (thanks Hans!), balance, the plank, crunches, shoulders. I can't say it was fun. Later today I might try to do some wall climbing, which is also good for strength, and undoubtedly more fun. Tomorrow, who knows...some really easy run commuting from work perhaps?

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Training schedule

There are so many training schedules on the Internet that tell you how to prepare for a marathon. They can vary a little bit but they all have some building blocks in common:
  • The number of kilometres run every week increases gradually up to some weeks before the race, then it cuts back drastically to allow the body to rest and charge. Most of them don't even require you to run the race distance in training.
  • There are days every week assigned to different aspects of training, that is: speed work, long run, easy runs, hills and so on.
  • They all have suggestions on speed for the various training sessions, depending on what kind of result you wish to achieve in the race.
My plan is not so nuanced. I get a headache just thinking about these schedules. No, my plan is more...eclectic.

I work shifts, and between that and having a life outside work, following a training schedule is impossible. Besides, I don't always feel like whatever is on schedule. Some days (well, ok. Most days) I don't feel like speed work. Some days I feel like running shorter distances, some days longer. If I'm forced to do something, then it feels unnatural and not fun at all.

Some die-hard runners would react to this and talk about how you can't develop as a runner if you don't sweat. It's probably true. However, I run because I think it's fun, not to win at the Olympics. Besides, the 26-minute improvement between my first half-marathon last year and my latest begs to differ. It just takes longer.

So my training plan looks like this:
  • 1 long run per week. My usual run is 22-23 km, and I'm hoping to gradually build the distance up until I can comfortably run 30. Then increase some more. Unlike what the training schedules recommend, I'd like to have run the marathon distance at least once before the race. It's not so much for stamina, as it is for psychological reasons.
  • Run commuting to / from work at least twice a week. These would be my easy runs, but I've used them for speed work once or twice in the past.
  • Run in the woods at least once a week. Built-in hill work.
All in all I'm starting at about 50 km per week. I'm planning on having fun training for this marathon. Through the cold winter rain, through icy pavements, through darkness, I am going to have fun.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Obligatory and much hated rest - day 4

I'm sick of being sick. The fever is gone, but now I'm plagued by a persistent cough instead. I can't do anything fun without my pulse sky rocketing. Just thinking about fun things makes my pulse sky rocket.

Fully realising that recovery could take much longer than I thought, I decided to take a look back instead on what my year has looked like so far. Take satisfaction from past achievements, so to speak.

In 2010 I've run a grand total of 1218 km. The longest I've run is just over 30 km. The longest I've run without taking a pause is 26 km. My fastest time in training or race is 5:03 min/km. That was a one-off though. I'm usually much slower. This year I've run one 10 km race (that was only 9 km in reality, due to a grave mistake in measuring) and two half-marathon races. Not surprisingly, I won none of those races. I got some pretty medals though.

Next year's big goal is of course Stockholm Marathon. Participating in races is not my cup of tea; in fact I think they're mostly just crowded and stressful. Why do I then choose to enter a marathon? I suppose it's for the medal. When I'm old and grey and lying in a retirement home somewhere, I'll be showing my nurses that I once was able to do such a thing.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

Why is it...

...that when you can't go out for a run, that's when you miss it the most?

The past few weeks I've had an enormous workload and I've often daydreamed about what my life would be like if I had different working conditions. For example, if I worked from home, or if I worked part time. If I had more time to train, and could do it whenever I felt like it, in other words.

Now I find myself with lots of time in my hands, but I'm ill and can't go running, or do any of the other things I daydreamed about. Baking: out of the question. Reading: The fever makes me fall asleep. Even catching up on all the films I've been meaning to watch -a passive, harmless activity- feels boring, when done in a fever-fuelled stupor. I get restless. The sofa starts feeling uncomfortable. My legs start twitching. I can't concentrate. But even if I just try to go and get some water, I realise just how sick I am.

There is clearly a discrepancy between my mind and my body. My body is ill. My mind on the other hand is (arguably) healthy and ready to go. Or extremely delusional and in denial. Either way, it doesn't seem to have gotten the message my body has been trying to send: Take it easy.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010


I felt it when I went running Monday evening, this feeling of dryness in the throat that often precedes a cold. I didn't pay so much attention, as it can also be a symptom of the cold autumn air.

When the chills started yesterday, however, and I could hardly cycle home from work, I knew that something was wrong. As soon as I came home, I collapsed on the sofa with a blanket, but nothing seemed to help. I was freezing. The thermometer showed a 38,7 degree fever, that later developed to a spectacular 39,2. I haven't had such high fever since I was a child. My throat hurt so much that I could hardly swallow.

So today I'm off from work. I have a ton of films to watch, which is the only upside to being sick. I'm trying not to think about all the training I'm missing. Instead I try to think about all the rest my poor ankle and foot will get, which they undeniably need. I'm not very good at listening to my body when it says that it needs rest, so it takes getting sick to take a break from running. Hopefully I'll bounce back without problems when I feel better.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Run commuting

My work place is not far from where I live. If I choose the shortest way there, it's only 4 km. Sometimes I run home from work, taking a detour to make my run 10 km. It's ok, if somewhat lacking in variation.

Last week I finished work early and decided to run further than usual. I had some chores to run (pun not intended!), so at the end of my extended route I ran to the optician to book an appointment and then to the store to buy some stuff we needed. Then I ran home. All in all I ran 14 km. This utilitarian running gave me satisfaction in a different way than ordinary running. I felt that I was making great use of time that would otherwise be "lost", that is by walking or driving to the store, or cycling from work. Two birds with one stone, so to speak.

Yesterday I received a note in the post informing me that a package had arrived for me. I knew that it was my new running backpack and socks that I had ordered. So I went for a run, first in the forest (which was dark and deserted by that time) and then on my way home past the post office to pick up the package. Again, the satisfaction of using this "dead" time to get exercise felt amazing.

Running has not always been a thing that people do to get in shape, or because they think it's fun. It used to be a means of survival, in order to hunt prey. Maybe by using running in a utilitarian way we "remember" that our bodies are made to run, hence the satisfaction derived from such activities.