Saturday, 30 April 2011

The day I started running and just couldn't stop

No Forrest Gump jokes, please.

What I was planning on doing this beautiful morning was to run 25 kilometres. The air was slightly chilly at 06:30, but after running a couple of kilometres, the temperature felt just right. I ran relaxed, easy, with a huge fat grin on my face. Most of the people I met returned my goofy smile, and even threw in some hellos and good mornings. Everyone seemed to be in as good a mood as I was.

It wasn't just humans who enjoyed the warm early morning light. The birds were singing ridiculously complicated melodies which would put Mozart to shame. Horses turned their heads toward the sun, eyes closed. Cats rolled on their backs, stomachs exposed. Sheep, well...sheep just ate grass. But I'm sure they loved the sunshine too.

I took this picture during our bike ride last Monday, but the horse was still there today

I was lapping up this multivitamin for the soul. Kilometre after kilometre disappeared under my feet, hills were conquered, records were broken. Problems were forgotten, future plans were formed, and all the while my pulse was kind enough to stay at an appropriate level.

A picture I took yesterday. The tree was still there today, too.

The feared 16-km dip never came. 21 easy kilometres brought me to a crossroads. If I turned right, I would be heading straight home, according to my initial plan. If I turned left, I would be heading towards the sea and a detour. My hesitation only lasted for a second. I ran to the seaside.

I kept waiting for the inevitable wall to hit me but it didn't come. So I ignored the bridge that I usually cross to get home and ran straight forward instead. I had run 27 kilometres, I couldn't stop now! I extended my detour. At precisely 28 kilometres, I started feeling the first symptoms of weakness in my ankles and knees. I went on regardless. Garmin showed 30 km, and the grin on my face got bigger. But I remembered how experienced runners recommend running by time instead of distance, and I was only 6 minutes away from 3 hours. Running these last few minutes uphill felt less challenging than it usually does on my puny 5-km runs from work.

At 3 hours, I stopped my Garmin and started walking. 31 km never felt easier.

Pictures or it didn't happen

Thursday, 28 April 2011

When running doesn't cut it

Can being in a bad mood infect your training? Running usually equals therapy for me. Through running, I let go of my problems, even if it's just for a short while. Sometimes I do think of my problems while I run, but they are put in a different perspective. I get some distance from them and I am able to analyse them objectively, dispassionately. Running is great for solving problems.

Today, though, everything was upside down. I had things on my mind that grew completely out of proportion and obliterated any joy I might otherwise have felt when I ran to work or, later, home. I was tired, which only made it worse. I couldn't get a nice flow, I couldn't get into that meditative state that I find so beneficial. Instead, it felt like my arms were holding the strings to my legs and were forcing them to move jerkily forward. It wasn't pretty.

In fact, it does feel like I have an infection in my body. One that makes my pulse high, one that tires me out, one that sucks out all my energy. This frustration and anger I feel because I can't solve this particular problem that's been bugging me for a year now, no matter how many hours I spend in ”therapy”, is like a virus that won't go away. And I'm sick and tired of trying to self medicate.

Wednesday, 27 April 2011


There are a lot of things that I should be doing this beautiful morning. I should be chasing dust bunnies with the vacuum cleaner. I should be doing the dishes. I should be doing laundry. And I will. In a minute. Promise.

But first I had to go out for a run. The light rain that was predicted by the Swedish Meteorological Institute took a rain check (Ha ha. Sometimes I crack myself up) and the sun shone brightly. A chilly wind kept the temperature at a pleasant level. The forest had really benefited from the last couple of days' good weather: new leaves were coming out on trees that were still bare as late as last week, and purple flowers were shyly peeking out between the myriads of anemones covering the side of the path.

It was a tough but fun run. After 7 km I came home and did some strength exercises, which I had been neglecting lately. Now if I could only remember what else I was supposed to be doing today...

Tuesday, 26 April 2011

Run commuting, part 4539583097

You can tell how happy I am about today's run just by reading the title.

Long day at work. Looong day. 11 hours long to be exact, which managed to suck out any energy I had painstakingly built up over the Easter weekend out of me. Somehow I thought that running home at the end of it would go well.

I suppose it went OK. I did run all the way home in my VFF after all, and apart from some tiredness in my right calf, I didn't experience any foot aches. My leg muscles were no longer sore, but they weren't that enthusiastic about helping me to climb up any steep inclines, either. It would be strange if they were, really, after the way I treated them yesterday. My pulse was high.

Tomorrow I have the day off. Cloudy with a chance of rain according to the Swedish Meteorological Institute. I should really go swimming – I bought the goggles and all, and I have only used 4 of the 10 times I pre-paid for. But...swimming indoors is just so...mind numbingly...BORING.

Monday, 25 April 2011

Back on the saddle

After yesterday's supposed easy recovery run that spontaneously turned into fartlek, J and I went for an 11-km walk in the woods. And when I say in the woods, I mean IN the woods. J had seen some strange blue markings on some trees on one of his walks, which seemed to indicate a trail, and he wanted to find out where the trail led to. It was almost comedic how we ended up losing the (almost invisible) trail in the middle of nowhere, and having to cross a marsh and climb over rocks to get back. As you can imagine, my legs were quickly getting fed up with trails and were longing for nice and preferably even forest paths.

So after covering a total of 38 km within two days, you'd think I'd take today off running. You'd be right. I did take the day off running. But here's how you do the rest day thing right. First of all, you rest. Let your tired muscles recuperate. Put your feet up and read a book instead, or watch TV. Whatever rocks your boat.

Second of all, do not go for a 40-km bike ride.

Tempting as it may be to spend this bank holiday outdoors doing fun things like destroying muscle tissue, it is probably not a good idea. Less so, if you try to push for speed. Which I did and paid for on the way back, when my legs were so tired that I started wondering if I should try and find a cave or a room to spend the night, as I was obviously too tired to make it home.

It was such a warm, beautiful day. Everyone was enjoying the sunshine. Some people were sitting by the sea, some brave kids were jumping into the sea from cliffs, some were cycling. We made our way towards Särö on bumpy tarmac. The cycle path was like an obstacle course because of all the people and potholes out there. There was a hint of summer in the air, though. It made everything ok. Well, it was less of a hint and more like someone shouting in your ear with a megaphone that it is summer.

On the way back, we chose to leave the seaside and avoid the crowds. It was much more peaceful to cycle inland, but it still treated us to some small treasures.

Tomorrow it's back to work. It is not a thought I want to entertain right now, much less dwell on it. The long weekend has been so beneficial to my tired brain in so many ways, and having time off was not the only reason. The combination of amazing weather and exercising outdoors triggers an indescribable happiness in me. Let's hope that this coming summer has a lot of sunny days in store.

Sunday, 24 April 2011

You've come a long way, baby

It was supposed to be an easy recovery run. I packed my VFF in my backpack and ran towards the forest. It is becoming a routine: run there in Kayanos, then run barefoot, then put on the Fingers for the rest of the way home.

If I had been even a little bit apprehensive about running barefoot, today was to be a challenge. More people than usual were out and about, jogging, walking their dogs or simply power walking. Some were content with sideways glances, others were not as discrete. A couple with a dog stared at my bare feet, as I was bracing myself for a steep incline and the small stones covering all of aforementioned incline. The man asked: ”How is it going?” ”Very well”, I answered truthfully. It was going well. My feet were tense, which I paid for by stepping on a couple of stones heavily, but no real harm was done. It was fun, in a child-like way.

I met the same couple when I was almost back at the beginning of the loop. The man asked: ”Is it still going well?” ”Yes”, I answered, a bit less truthfully this time, as I had run further than last time and was getting mentally tired of having to watch my step. I assume it gets better with time. Then the woman quipped, seeing me carry my VFF: ”But you have shoes!” She must have thought I was poor and couldn't afford shoes the first time she saw me.

I stopped to put my VFF on. Another runner was there, using the outdoor gym. We chatted for a short while, and he told me that he'd also bought VFF and thought they were great. I then started running, and something wonderful happened. I got in the flow. You know, THE flow. My legs were moving powerfully, yet effortlessly. I was running fast, yet my breathing was relaxed. My feet hardly touched the ground. My technique was probably better than it had ever been. I managed a sub 5 min/km kilometre (fast by my standards), followed by a slightly slower one, where I alternated between fartlek and easy jog.

Running had never felt so easy. Especially not the day after a mammoth run. My theory is that, having run over 2 km completely barefoot and having to watch my step intensely, I suddenly felt liberated when I finally put on my VFF. It reminds me of one exercise that Markus Stålbom showed us during his running technique course, to help us relax our feet: The runner bends the foot upwards, so the toes point to the sky, while a friend pushes down the foot toward the ground. After 8 repetitions, the runner starts running, and it really feels like the feet have suddenly sprouted wings. My feet had sprouted wings.

Saturday, 23 April 2011

Torrekulla trail

On schedule this morning was an 18-km trail run together with the group. I need to get in more trail runs, in order to prepare for this summer's goals. I'm rubbish at trail running. And that was one reason why I changed my mind at the last minute and went for a run by myself instead. The others in the group are more seasoned runners than I am. I am slow and get tired easily - I would only hold them back. So I decided to run Torrekullaleden.

Torrekullaleden is a loop trail that lies within the boundaries of a nature reserve. I've run this trail once before, last summer. It's a technically challenging trail: hilly, uneven, with lots of roots and stones, but also with lush fir woods and beautiful lake vistas. It is popular with all sorts of outdoor enthusiasts; mountain bikers, especially, seem to enjoy the challenges it poses.

I could tell from the start that it was going to be a tough run. It was pretty warm, even at 9.30 in the morning, and despite wearing shorts and a t-shirt, the heat got to me directly. I had chosen to wear my compression socks, partly to protect my calves against stray bush branches and low vegetation, and partly because they did a good job of keeping my legs fresh last time.

To get to the trail, I had to run a couple of kilometres on tarmac. After a few more kilometres, Torrekullaleden leaves the prepared forest path and turns wild. I was immediately greeted by a mud pool that always seems to be there, no matter what the weather has been like. Little did I know then that this mud pool was only a fraction of what was to come later.

Leaves covered the path, concealing the stones that lay below. I jumped enthusiastically, yet carefully between patches of bare ground. More mud pools followed. I avoided them by running around them. I was having a lot of fun, but I was focused on the ground right before me.

I stopped often to take pictures. At one point, a mountain biker went past me and said hello. I crossed a small creek, right before coming to the top of a steep descending part. I walked down it, not willing to risk slipping on the stones that were hidden under the blanket of autumn leaves.

I then came to my favourite part of the route. Thousands of wood anemones covered the ground, making it seem like it had just snowed, if it weren't for the splashes of green in between the flowers. Spring was in full bloom here; flower power indeed.

After taking some pictures, I started running again. I came to a crossroads and turned right. I should have known better; I may only have run this route once before, but I've walked it several times and I should have turned left. I ran a couple of hundred meters in the wrong direction, and if my memory of places hadn't been as good as it is, I would have ended up 20 km south of where I live. I called J to make sure I was running in the wrong direction, because I didn't want to have to run back and realise that it had been the right direction after all. He confirmed what I suspected. That cost me an extra half kilometre. Not that much of a detour, really, but it cost me more psychologically. It turned out that it was all downhill from here (only figuratively speaking, unfortunately).

I met another jogger, who had stopped in order to circumvent a mud pool. I ran past him only to stop a hundred meters further, where yet another mud pool was blocking the way. This was becoming a serious problem for me. Not only did it interrupt my flow, but some water had found its way into my shoes and was happily creating a blister-friendly environment. I wished I was wearing my VFF. Still, nature was embracing me with its warm colours and I was willing to forgive the little detail that THE TRAIL WAS A MUDDY MESS.

A creek was now flowing right between two steep hills, one of which I naturally had to run downwards. I knew from previous experience that it was tough. Last time, thorny bushes covered the trail and clawed at me, making my legs look like I had run through barbed wire. This time, the bushes were tamer, but the trail itself was nothing more than a dried up brook bank. Did I just write ”dried up”? Scratch that. It was wet. And slippery. And walking down it didn't help. I still sank two decimetres into the mud, turning my pristine white Kayanos grey.

What goes down must come up. I ascended up the other side, stumbling on the roots and almost twisting my foot in the process. I had some choice words for this trail, and they weren't kind. A scenario popped in my mind now and then where I twisted my ankle and had to suffer in agony alone until help came, or worse still, knocked my head on a stone. There weren't many people around. Who knows how long it would take until someone found me? Hours. Maybe days. And by then, I would have been eaten by hungry roe deer. Never mind that they're vegetarian. I could see the headlines before me: "Runner on a 16-km trail run gets eaten by deer, a hundred metres from civilisation".

Stopping to rest a couple of thousand times, I somehow made it out of the forest for the short part of Torrekullaleden that runs alongside a golf course. It is pretty there, what with the finely clipped grass and the funny-dressed Republicans, but it's beauty is drastically diminished by the fact that it neighbours a motocross track. These devil's machines roared angrily, the noise echoing in the hills surrounding the golf course. I wondered how they got permission to build the track there, so close to a nature reserve.

I left the golf cart road and turned back into the woods and their silence. I knew that there wasn't much left now. Running downhill strained my knees, running uphill made my thighs burn with lactic acid. And it was either downhill or uphill. There were brief parts where the trail was even, but they were few and in between.

Finally, I was back on familiar ground. The lake where I often go running, the well-trodden path that shines in its lack of tricky stones and slippery roots, the crowds of fair-weather joggers and walkers. I pushed on despite my tiredness, choosing to complete the Torrekullaleden loop instead of turning right and taking a short cut home. I left the woods and the nature reserve. My feet hit tarmac. Suddenly, it was easy again. Suddenly, my technique was better, my thighs felt fresh, my breathing was easier. My tempo increased. I was thirsty. I had drunk the last couple of sips of the water I had taken with me a few kilometres back and, worryingly, even mud pools now looked appetizing. After an even 20 kilometres, I was home, covered in mud and slightly sun kissed. It had been one of the toughest runs of my life.

Friday, 22 April 2011

Keeping busy

What's a girl to do, when she can't go running because she has to save her legs for a 18-km trail run the following day?

Well, I don't know what she would do, but I am going climbing later. But I got up early this morning and celebrated the summer-like Easter weather by dressing our balcony in colourful flowers.

Happy Easter!

Thursday, 21 April 2011

A whiter shade of pale

I have no nice photos for you today. Because while I expected a nice big sun in a clear blue sky, what I got when I left work was this uninspiring landscape:

Despite the terrible set-back that this weather entailed, I bravely jogged home in my VFF. I'm not sure how I managed. I've been feeding on sunshine the last couple of weeks, but today I had to go without and starve. My only consolation for my malnutrition was that my chalk-white legs, which I now proudly displayed for the world to see, no longer were whiter than a milk-dissolved albino aspirin. Thanks to the past few days' reckless exposure to sunshine, my calves are now not only well-trained; they are a lovely shade of pink.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Oh deer

I dragged myself out the door at 07:30 this morning. My body refuses to believe that I am a morning runner. It doesn't matter that it gladly got up at 05:30 almost every day last summer; it has forgotten how wonderful it is to breathe in the morning air.

Yet somehow I made it to the forest. I wanted to run a favourite trail that I hadn't visited since last autumn, one that takes me to another lake further away. I also hoped that I would see some deer.

The long and winding road

I have seen deer in the forest several times while running or walking, but have never managed to take a photo of one. Sometimes they run away immediately, other times they pose graciously but then I've left the camera at home. It hardly matters. They are a beautiful sight.

As I ran down the path, I looked around for movement or the tell-tale colours of a deer. Suddenly, I stopped. Across a field in the distance, I saw two white dots. It was too far away to be sure, but I thought it might be deer. I snapped a photo.



Bingo! That white pixel in the middle that you can hardly see? It's a deer!

Still unsure, I kept looking. Was it just my imagination? After all, my eyesight is not exactly pilot-good. But then, one of the dots moved. The dot was painted on the tail of a deer, and that deer was not alone. It had at least two friends with it, which I could see when they started moving. They disappeared into the bushes.

I started running again. I stopped now and then to take pictures. I've come to enjoy my Wednesday runs more and more. I love how I get to decide how far and how fast I run. I love how I can take it easy, and stop to take photos or listen to bird song. I love how I could stay out all day if I wanted to. No stress, nowhere I have to be. Just me, the forest and bird song. And deer.

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

I know there are bigger problems in the world, but...

The control freak in me is screaming. It needs to know now: did I run 4,5 km or 4,7? Garmin says it's the first, uploaded data in SportTracks says it's the second. It's important, dammit! I need to know if I really did run a 4,27 min/km, because I've never done it before! Not to mention that, had I known I was 300 metres away from a 5k, I would have kept running (yes, I like nice, even numbers. I'm not only a control freak. I am a number freak too. Though the two are probably related. Uneven numbers are

Relax. Think of spring and flowers and clouds and rainbows and ponies.

Monday, 18 April 2011

Sole music

Oh happy day. I get to run again.

Yesterday I took the day off from running and went climbing instead. I was very tired after Kungsbackaloppet, and presumably partly because of my cold. In the evening, J and I went for a walk in the forest, and of course, as is always the case when you can't run, everyone else on the planet seemed to be out doing just that.

But today I ran. I started with my non-responsive legs shod in Kayanos, the rest of me in t-shirt and tights. The mind was willing, the body, however, was not. I jogged slowly towards the forest in the warm sunlight. Some people were just getting home from work, others were already outside in their gardens enjoying the beautiful weather, but the streets were mostly quiet.

I arrived in the forest and had a brief conversation with myself. Did I dare? What if someone saw? Was it going to hurt this time? This indecision lasted about 2 seconds. Then my shoes and socks were off. I suddenly ran lightly, landed softly, moved more confidently. My tiredness disappeared. The first jogger ran past me, saw me carry my Kayanos and smiled. A couple of girls on their bikes stared at me. Another jogger. I didn't care, I just enjoyed not being confined by shoes.

After increasing my previous barefoot distance by a couple hundred meters more, I put my shoes back on. What a strange sensation. My feet were tingling with energy, but they immediately felt heavier, my gait altered. I went from delicate dragonfly to raging rhinoceros in seconds. I hit the ground with fury. I was surely raising a cloud of dust behind me? Because it felt like I was digging a crater into the ground with every step I took.

Sunday, 17 April 2011

Letting go of winter

Shhh...I think that spring really might be here, but I don't dare say it out loud. Because then a snowstorm would surely hit Gothenburg.

This past winter was so long that I can't believe it's finally over. I enjoyed the first couple of months of snow, but then it overstayed its welcome by 3 months. In fact, despite any previous posts I might have written about signs that spring is here, I've been subconsciously holding back and lowering my expectations. I didn't want to let myself believe. I wanted to just open my eyes one morning and see summer outside the window. Spring is too fickle, beautiful as she may be; her relationship with winter is tempestuous, and she often gives in to his whims, letting him lead while they're caught up in a stormy tango. Summer, on the other hand, is by definition the opposite of winter. Even though she might sometimes surprise us with rain, at least we know it's not going to snow.

Yesterday evening, J and I were out on our balcony. It was a mild evening. Several neighbours were outside, enjoying the warmth. Suddenly, there was a commotion in the woods nearby. Passers-by had just seen a moose and were now warning others that were out walking. It was surreal. A moose, in our neighbourhood?

But the most surreal thing for me, the spring denier, was that everyone else seemed to have accepted the fact that winter is gone. They were embracing spring. They were out walking in the evening. They were on their patios, drinking. Some of them had planted flowers. And I unexpectedly stopped wishing for summer to get here already and let go of my irrational fear that winter will come back.

Saturday, 16 April 2011

The world's longest half marathon

Like a hungover frat boy, the words that are coming out of my mouth in the aftermath of Kungsbackaloppet are ”never again”.

It all started when I spent half an hour running around Kungsbacka asking strangers to find out where to pick up my bib, only to find out that it was exactly across the road from where I had left the car. Then I had to move the car, because the parking lot where I'd left it had a 3 hour limit and it was more than 2 hours left to the start.

Then the day got better. I met up with Anders and Martin from the group and had a pleasant hour or so chatting about running, shoes, races and other nerdy things like that. My mood got better. It got so much better that I forgot my pre-race sandwich in the car. My last meal at the time of the beginning of the race was consumed no less than 5 hours before. I ran the whole race on an empty stomach.

So few participants and I still managed to not finish last

That wasn't a problem during the first half of the race. I had the wind on my back and I knew that I wasn't the last runner (which was my goal with this race – to not finish last). I glanced at my Garmin after a couple of kilometres. It showed I had been running for 18 minutes. 2 kilometres in 18 minutes? I cursed under my breath. I had taken my pulse last night and forgotten to reset the clock. I had no idea how I was doing time-wise.

As I reached the half way point in Lindome and turned to run back towards Kungsbacka, I started suffering from the effects of my empty stomach. My energy weaned. I was now running against the wind. And my cold made my chest feel heavy. I was miserable. I somehow managed to keep my speed under 6 min/km and my feet moving. When I was 5 km away from the finish, the Partille angel appeared before me, once again helping with the drinks. I told him I was tired. The halo around his head shone brightly, his magnificent white wings spread wide and he said with a thunderous voice: ”What the hell! It's not even 5 bloody kilometres left!”

I would very much like to say at this point that I got a second wind. That my determination gave me the boost that I needed. But the truth is that it was pure, unadulterated stubbornness that carried me to the finish. One foot in front of the other. Plus, how else would I get to the car? The road seemed to go on forever. I don't know where the last drops of energy came from. But suddenly I was crossing the finish line, and at the same time I was getting a text message on my phone saying I had run the race in under 2 hours. Yey!

The booty from the race. Some blister bandages, shower gel, body lotion and a plaque.

I crawled to the car, wolfing down a banana and taking huge sips from my juice. I was starving, I was depleted, I was fading away. As the sugar hit me I started feeling better. I had just run the oldest half marathon in the world. But never again. Not until next time, anyway.

The placebo effect

The power of suggestion can be very strong. Believe that the placebo you're swallowing is going to cure your cold, and it might. In my case, the placebo was old wives' medicine: salt water and garlic. Also? No vampires disturbed me last night. I ate well, I read a book, I slept like a baby for 8 hours.

I am feeling much better today, even if not completely 100%. My throat is not sore, my energy levels are normal, my pulse and temperature are as they should. My sniffles are still there though, so my initial plan to see Kungsbackaloppet as a training session is reinforced. So what if I finish last? Someone has to.

I'm sorting out some logistics, like how to drive there, what time I have to leave, what I need to take with me and what clothes to wear. In other words, all the things that I should have sorted out yesterday. There is a strange absence of butterflies in the stomach. No pre-race nerves. No excitement. While everyone else will be running for a PB, I will only be running to complete my Saturday long run, on a there-and-back route, on the side of a motorway. Knowing that I can't push myself today makes me indifferent to the whole ordeal. Yesterday's ill Shaman was whirling like the Tasmanian Devil trying to find the cure to the common cold. Today's almost-healthy Shaman is just shrugging her shoulders and saying ”Meh”.

Friday, 15 April 2011

Sniffle *cough*

As it turns out, I wasn't being paranoid yesterday when I thought I could feel the first symptoms of a cold. I didn't sleep very well last night, because my throat was getting more and more sore. Today I can officially say that I have a cold. A tiny one, one that's barely noticeable, a case of the sniffles, but a cold nonetheless.

I've had such tiny colds before. Sometimes they've gone as fast as they'd come. Other times they've turned into full-blown Godzillas of a cold. Coldzillas. So I'm not taking any risks. I'm eating my Strepsils. I'm drinking my water. I'm eating oranges. But deep down inside I know that it doesn't matter so much what I do today. What matters is what I've been doing the last few weeks. How I've been eating (badly), how I've been sleeping (badly), how hard I've been working (and working out) (hard, on both counts).

Now only time will tell if I can run Kungsbackaloppet tomorrow.

Thursday, 14 April 2011

Stupid is as stupid does

I was supposed to be resting today. Taking it easy a couple of days before a race. But how could I resist when the sky looked like this this morning:

I promised myself an easy, slow run. Instead I somehow managed to run in my "fast" pace (you know, the one that could only get slower if I were running in a puddle of syrup). Great way to rest before a race, don't you think?

That will teach me to run when I shouldn't (though it probably won't). Tired legs. Laboured breathing. Little aches and pains all over my body. Bad posture and technique. And the obligatory pre-race paranoia: am I about to get a cold? Why did I sneeze? And doesn't my throat feel a bit hoarse?

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Nice doggie

My heart wanted to dig a hole through my chest with a spoon and escape from its rib prison, as I made my way up to the lake. Running uphill is not the greatest way to warm up. I should probably cut back on my coffein intake, too. It makes my pulse skyrocket.

When I got to the forest, I switched to my VFF and, as always, it immediately made me feel better. No matter what my sidekick, mr Garmin, says, it suddenly felt easier, even if data showed a slight increase in my heartbeat.

Hey bud

I ran my usual trail. Some rain drops found their way to my body past the tree foliage, but they weren't many. I met a lady walking her two dogs. The dogs were loose. Not a month goes by when a topic doesn't come up in some running forum with regards to loose dogs. A lot of runners have a problem with this, and a lot of them are afraid of dogs. Even though I am not afraid of dogs myself, I can understand why this is a problem for many. There is no way of knowing if a dog is friendly or not, if they only want to play with you or if they want to tear you to pieces. I find the small ones particularly annoying. They always seem to be in a world of their own, as they absent-mindedly head directly towards you. I am afraid I might trip on them. Or step on them and squash them.

This lady, however, was a shining example of a good dog owner. She held on to one dog's collar as I approached and informed me that there was another dog behind her, but that she was nice. I thanked her. It's not every day you meet a responsible dog owner, one who is aware that their dog can be perceived as a threat by runners. One who talks to you in order to ease any potential discomfort.

Once again, when I got home after my run, I wondered why I hadn't just kept on running. I don't have any pressing matters to attend to, J won't be home until 4 and the forest was almost deserted. I was enjoying this too much to go home. There is of course the little detail that I'm running a race on Saturday, so I should content myself with my 7 km...

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Rain keeps falling on my head

I have two things to boast about today. First, I ran to work in the rain. And second, I ran home in the rain. My clothes hadn't even dried during my 10 hour work day and they were pleasantly cold when I put them on afterwards.

I might have bended the truth there a bit. There is nothing pleasant about putting on wet clothes. The only upside was that there wasn't much room for more water in them, so I could run in the rain without having to worry about my clothes soaking up even more liquid. Because I would have been soooo worried about that, had my clothes been dry.

At least I got a decent pace out of it. Usually when it rains, you're in a hurry to get out of the rain and into a dry environment. And you usually want to get out of your wet clothes and into some warm, dry ones. So an overprotective survival instinct takes over and forces you to run faster, despite your half-hearted protests that you're ”not made of sugar”.

But seriously? Rain -when there's no wind- rocks. Oxygen. Need I say more?

Monday, 11 April 2011

Rat race

My head feels like a storm at sea. Big waves crash against my temples, tons of murky ocean water press against my eyes, there's a constant buzzing in my ears and I'm struggling to keep my balance like a drunken sailor. To think that an extra hour of work can turn your brain into mush.

As you can imagine, there will be no running today. The weather is simply perfect, especially for an evening run, but now that my head is having a tantrum and after 5 consecutive days of running, I think I need a day's rest. There will be other beautiful evenings to spend outdoors.

On Saturday I am running this year's first race. Kungsbackaloppet is the world's oldest half marathon, this year's edition being number 114 in a row. I see this as a training session, with no other goal than to complete it and get a shiny medal, but it would be nice to do it under 2 hours. I'm meeting up with some people from the group beforehand, which should up the fun factor quite considerably.

Midnattsloppet 2008

I have very mixed feelings when it comes to races. I know some people feed on the pre-race excitement, but I just feel stressed and start too fast. I don't enjoy races until I actually cross the finish line. The only race I have ever enjoyed was Prinsens Minne in Halmstad. I had such a great time running in an unfamiliar environment, one that was so beautiful with its sandy dunes and pine forest. I was able to shut out everything that was race-related and focus on exploring my surroundings. That's why I might run it again this year.

Then again, I somehow find myself entering at least a couple of races each year. I don't need the motivation that they are supposed to provide, I don't like running with thousands of other participants and I certainly don't like getting carried away by the crowd and running faster than I'm used to. But afterwards, with a medal around my neck and perhaps a new personal record, you bet I'm smiling.

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Baring my soles

My VFF might be magical, but you know what's even more magical? My bare feet.

If you don't like feet, feel free to navigate away from this page. Because I'm not only going to talk about feet, I'm going to show you pictures of feet. Feet, feet, glorious feet.

It was warmer today than yesterday. A première for t-shirts and shorter tights. I put on my old Kayanos and ran towards the lake. My legs were heavier than ever. I couldn't get them to wake up. I was slow, but on the plus side, my pulse was low.

I reached the lake and the soft forest paths. I took my shoes and socks off. It was the moment of truth: my VFF were in my backpack, but I was itching to run completely barefoot. I decided to put my Kayanos in the backpack and hold my VFF for easy access, and just try walking barefoot.

I took a few tentative steps. The ground was cold. There were small stones here and there, and pine needles that looked dangerously sharp. I tried stepping on them carefully. They were surprisingly nothing like I imagined. It was like walking on feathers. I started running, the heaviness in my legs giving way to what felt like flying. The small stones were irritating, but they didn't hurt. They kept me alert, my eyes focused on the ground. After a couple hundred metres, my feet were almost numb and only the sharpest of stones registered in my brain.

I met a few people. I got a few strange looks. A few reserved hellos.

I ran a kilometre without shoes on. I didn't dare go on any longer on my first barefoot run. I brushed the worst of the dirt off my feet, slipped on my VFF (for the first time without any socks on – another première) and ran home. The difference was huge. I didn't have to worry about where I put my feet, which was a double-edged sword. I could increase my tempo and run with small, light steps, but the sense of absolute, child-like freedom I'd got when I ran completely barefoot was diminished.

VFF or not, I am hooked on barefoot running.