Saturday, 31 January 2015

She sells sea shells by the sea shore

My knees haven't been too happy about the optimistic increase in weekly mileage the last couple of weeks. They haven't been too happy about the wet, heavy snow that has been causing a lot of headaches for the ones in charge of plowing the streets and pavements. My knees aren't too big on thinking positively. They don't see this as a wonderful opportunity to get stronger, like I do. My knees are a couple of miserable, whiny old geezers and they want me to get off their lawn. I can't help wondering how long before those two kick the bucket and leave me to fend for myself.

As such, pain and its implications have been on my mind a lot lately. Why we do what we do even though it sometimes hurts. But more about that in another post. Today, let's focus on the good stuff, and how I ran 23 km without my knees firing any shots in my general direction. They just made some empty threats. No big deal.

One of the other runners in AIK suggested that we should run out towards the sea. I was glad she did. I grew up by the sea, took my first steps on a pebble beach and spent a lot of birthdays there as a child blowing out candles quickly so that the sea breeze wouldn't get to them first. If there is one thing I miss living in central SkellefteƄ, it is the sense of serenity only a sea horizon can evoke.

Rocking the bell bottomed pants. Hey, it was the seventies. But that coat is to die for.

The way there was by snow-heavy roads, framed by fir and pine trees. The conversation flowed freely, aided by the fact that it was downhill most of the way. Our goal destination was a summer house-lined bay, and once we got there we could see that the water had, of course, frozen and the sea was hidden under a layer of ice and snow. Still, at the narrow mouth of the bay in the distance, you could almost make out the point where the sea was too rough to let any ice form on it. Which is just as well, because otherwise it would be too easy for Finns to just walk over to Sweden and drink Swedes under the table.

We turned back the same way we had come, which meant that we were now facing a long uphill slope. My feet struggled to find purchase on the snow-covered road and I seemed to slip backwards with every step that I took. We all grew quiet, not wanting to waste precious energy on talking. That was soon remedied, though, when we rounded the crest of the hill and regained our strength. All that remained now was some easy kilometres back to where we had started.

After I left my teammates, I took the long way home. My knees started grumbling again, but I didn't let that deter me. I was just happy to have another solid long run under my belt.

Sunday, 25 January 2015

Perfect weather to fly

The wind is trying to creep under my clothes and claw my skin with its ice cold nails but I go on. I lift my head towards the sky and look up at the tree tops, the snow painted in summer afternoon colours although it is the middle of the winter. I am not as alone as I would like to have been, even at this early hour of the morning. But if I am in the way for other, faster skiers, they only have themselves to blame. I mean, who gets up at 9 on a Sunday morning to go skiing? 

Maybe they, like me, like the way newly prepared tracks crackle under your skis. 

It's not even noon and I've gotten my exercise for the day. Yet, who wants to stay indoors on such a beautiful day?

Saturday, 24 January 2015


Why, hello 24 km! Long time no see! I would never have thought that my legs would be so happy to run you after such a long absence! And on a hilly route no less...

I love those runs that start off slowly, on stiff legs and wheezing breaths, and then end up triumphantly, with a big smile on your face and wings on your heart.

Monday, 12 January 2015


Tiny snowflakes pirouetted in the street lamp light and landed on this cloud of snow we were running on. The stars had fallen down from the sky – now crow black – and lay on every surface around us, seemingly shining from within and lighting up the world with their conviction. Their enthusiasm rubbed off on me, and I danced forward, forward, into a darkness illuminated by magic.

-18°C. Four runners, our coach included. Empty streets, warm houses, silence loaded with laughter, that tried to push itself past my lips and break out into the world. 15 km of runner's high.

Friday, 9 January 2015

Growing pains

Growing older and growing up are not the same thing. Everyone grows older, but not everyone grows up. Some people have to be dragged kicking and screaming into adulthood, others embrace it (I guess they really love paying bills?). Me? If I could cherry pick some aspects of growing up and never have to deal with the others, I'd be happy. Money? Yes please. Being the master of your own destiny? Yep! Eating peanut butter straight out of the jar without having to answer to anyone except your future, slightly fatter self? You bet! Having to sit in meetings and pretend you understand what everyone else is talking about? Not so much.

So after an intense first few days at my new job, when I was left with a head full of numbers, names, rules and, most of all, questions, I was ready to crawl into the fetal position and let someone else do the cooking, cleaning etc. Unfortunately, J was out of town on business, so I had no one to feel sorry for me except myself.

Now, feeling sorry for myself is an activity I try not to engage in that often. I save it for real crappy situations, like when I have a cold or if I've ordered some books online and one of the covers is creased in one corner or when I've made myself a grilled sandwich and one of the cats has jumped on the counter while I wasn't looking and stolen it. So, when I got home after work last night, I had a quick bite to eat, spent all of 30 minutes trying to will-power my stomach into digesting the food faster and then I went out for an eagerly awaited run. 

It had snowed quite a lot during the day and the snow plow had not yet been everywhere. Scratch that: they hadn't plowed anywhere. For my snow-deprived readers, here's an interesting Northern Sweden fact: fresh snow is very nice to look at but it's also soft and unstable and good luck trying to run up a hill in it. You get twice as tired running in fresh snow than on tarmac, having to lift your legs high so that you can get through it. It's true. Scientists have done research on it. And by scientists, I mean me.

To further establish my street cred as the Hulk of running, my legs weren't some spry, gazelle-like things, and not only because gazelles have four legs and I only have two (an unfair advantage that is only accentuated by the fact that gazelles rarely have to run in snow), but because I had been to the gym two days prior and the soreness was really starting to kick in. Still, I picked the hilliest route I could find, because I thought of the 2200-odd metres' worth of elevation gain at High Coast Ultra and that it'd be nice to train for it and avoid dying of lactic acid overdose on the day.

The highest point of this particular route is also the most beautiful one, and I was rewarded by the coziest little snow-laden spruce tree tunnel at the top. My stress started to finally melt away and I could enjoy the tickling sensation of snowflakes landing on my nose.

What goes up must come down, and a long downward slope awaited me now. At the bottom of the hill I looked back and briefly considered running up it once again, to get more hill training in. Then I remembered J was coming home soon and how much I had missed him. A thousand excuses later, I was sitting at home looking at the total elevation gain of this route.

70 metres. One thirtieth of the HCU. Wow. Well, it's a start. And today it's Friday. So, let the weekend begin. And may it bring with it a lot of cumulative elevation gain.

Sunday, 4 January 2015

Liar, liar

I've been going around telling people all about how 2015 is going to be about taking it easy, seeing where my training takes me, having no specific races planned.


Because the truth is, I am a weak, weak person. Some running buddies have group pressured me into entering the High Coast Ultra. Thankfully, they have only managed to convince me to run the short, 75 km version. Just think if they had nagged me to enter the 129 km one.

I assure you, I had no intention of entering this race. You know how repulsive I find ultras! In the past, people have had to torture and/or blackmail me to run all 5 I've done. This time they forced me with promises of beautiful nature. So I went to the race's website to get some facts that would allow me to stand strong against the fantasies of undulating fields and breathtaking vistas.

There is a total elevation of some 2200-odd metres over the course of these 75 km. The elevation profile looks a lot like a cardiogram. And! You are practically self-supported. Well, there are two aid stations, the first one turning up after 30 km. But if it's a warm day, as it very well can be at the end of June, the one litre of water the race organisers demand that you carry with you is not going to last that far.

Thankfully, the race offers generous cutoff times. In case you need to start crawling at any point - and there is a good chance I will have to - you have 17 hours to do so.

So, in the face of these facts, what's a girl to do?

I was so nervous/excited I had to go for a run, despite the fact that today is a rest day. Am I even allowed rest days when I'm training for this?

I must be crazy, entering a 75 km ultra about a second after my knee got well enough to make it through 20. Nervousness and excitement take turns occupying my brain. I have never run this far, and definitely not on such demanding terrain. How should I train for it? Will I make it? Will I get injured and have to drop out? Or will it be a wonderful experience?