March

My finger hovers over the mouse these days, I don’t seem to be able to post anything, unable to click.

Back from a long weekend of double tournaments in Spokane, the extraordinary city in the eastern part of Washington. I love to pack up the car and drive far. It seems like I am the only one in the family. One kid staying at one hotel and playing downtown, and the other kid staying at another hotel and playing at another arena. The car going back and forth, early mornings and late nights. Cracked the windshield the first day, not a good start. Add on a ton of bad food, lack of sleep, and sore bodies. Tournaments are tough for kids. It doesn’t matter how fun it is or how well you play, it’s intense. It’s a team effort. Rough patches in sports can feel like opening your heart to someone who doesn’t love you back. A long tournament really sucks the energy out of both kids and adults. Monday comes, the week goes on and the whole family is left with a hangover. The kids came home wanting real food, they are like super humans with metabolisms like Spiderman.

We came back to sad news from Brussels. Once again terrorism strikes Europe. I am grateful that friends living in Brussels checked in on Facebook. It’s difficult to understand, and maybe we don’t want to understand. Anger and sadness, and feeling helpless. Terrorists getting too close. Disturbing peace and trying to mess with our everyday life’s. The heart of Europe that was my hometown for a short time in the 90s. Je suis sick of this shit! And I follow the news from here and it seems so far away. I hear the kids talk about Belgium and their friends don’t know if it close to France or Russia, and that worries me. The world is growing smaller and closer yet some countries live outside and far away. Where is the center of the world? Trump worries me. A lot of things make me worried. And angry. And sad. It’s even more important to vote for a person capable of running a big country in a world in stress.

I’ve been following a debate in the Swedish news the past weeks. If they should allow only women a few hours per day at pools. There has been incidents were men get too close, men that can’t handle seeing women swimming with lighter clothes on. And women that swims covered with clothes believes that they should be able to swim with only women. This worries me too. It has taken a long time to get where we are now. Women’s rights, equal rights, men and women, voting, equal pay, maternity and paternity leave. Why? No. Equal. Think about it. At first I felt that the women should have their hours for themselves but when I actually thought about it… no. I don’t think it is right. We are different. If there are men that can’t handle it, move on. We swim, live, work, run…together. Don’t ruin decades of work. Men and women are different but we live under the same sun.

And as always…a training update. I try. I really do try. I am not really a Marvel superhero at the moment, not even trying to act a part. But I am healthy, balanced and pretty strong. Maybe that is good enough. I am trying to build the machine, feed the flame with firewood. But sometimes it’s not all that fun. That’s where I am now, at the intersection of I’m putting in 2 hours per day and not feeling it. I complain in my head before I run. I hear myself take deep breaths, of boredom. I can’t help it. I need something to look forward to, something impossible and beautiful. Mud, rain, wind and some snow. It builds character. You want to look forward to a warm shower. You want to look up at a mountaintop with a pumping heart and tired legs feeling overwhelmed and saying to yourself – Hey, it looks pretty gnarly but think of the view at the top. At the intersection of pushing your limits and experiencing joy is where the magic happens. I need to find that check point on the map. It’s close, I am sure. And goddammit, I really want to be fast again.

We have two scary opossums in our backyard. A man and a woman. We have even seen some opossum porn and it was not very nice. Rabbits, birds, dear, raccoons… you are all welcome. But opossums. Holy crap. Have you seen the teeth? And the tail? Just sayin’. I am more scared of opossums than bears. I sing every time I take the trash out.

Come fly with me

Some of us are on vacation or home, it’s difficult to know really. Home or away from home, who knows anymore. We live out of suitcases so I guess it’s vacation. A lot of things have changed since last time. And a lot of things have changed since we moved. I can’t always say what it is but it’s different. Maybe it’s us. Uppsala feels a lot smaller and everything feels close. A walk downtown took forever 15 years ago, now it takes me less than 15 minutes. A run around the closest trail is done in 20 minutes, very frustrating, that’s just a warm up.

The flight over had no surprises really, just plain boring. I think I might have grown since last time, it felt like I didn’t have any space for my legs. We had a few hours in Amsterdam and had the opportunity to listen to people speaking Dutch. I didn’t understand a word so I really had to listen up and concentrate. How can your brain shut off like this. It’s been 20 years or so since I said a word in Flemish or Dutch but how can I forget everything? And how can it be 20 years? The only words I can think of is schaar and fiets. It feels like yesterday when I walked the foggy streets of Leuven and bumped into the prince of Belgium.

And a small cappuccino in Holland is not the same as a small cappuccino in Seattle. I think I’ve been away for too long. One sip and it’s empty.

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It didn’t take us long to adjust this time. I think the kids felt ready to be full time Swedes on the flight over. But the weirdest thing is when people address us in English in stores and on the street. Do we look different? I had to explain that I speak Swedish in a store in Stockholm and the woman behind the counter looked surprised. What is it that makes us different? The hair, the clean faces with no makeup, (we are on vacation and I couldn’t care less) the clothes? It’s very obvious that some things are very popular here and not at home. Swedes love Polo Ralph Lauren in bright colors, Abercrombie and Fitch (ouch) and Converse, it doesn’t matter if you are 10 or 65. Let’s just say that I don’t think you should walk into a A&F store if you are over 18. And no short, skinny, colorful pants on men.

The first week passed really quick. Dinners, fika and some reading time. My plan to visit every CrossFit gym around is not working that well. I can’t wear shoes because of my toe and I still can’t use my right arm/shoulder because it’s in a weird way frozen and out of place. I’ve been squeezing my toe into a pair of shoes and have tried to run as far as I can without shooting pain. My longest run so far – 50 minutes. And it only lasted that long because I had to run back home. It can only get better.

So, what changed since last time.

The grocery stores are overflowing with new dairy products and apparently lots of people think it’s very healthy to eat kvarg (curd cheese or quark) It was called kesella a few years ago but to make it more trendy someone renamed it and did some clever marketing.

There are hundreds of different yogurts. Who eats all the different kinds and when?

The bread section is overflowing but I hear people complain about the lousy bread in regular grocery stores. It’s not comparable to the terrible bread in the US. I am overeating bread with extra everything.

Roast beef, cheese, ham, sausage, salami… so much more flavor.

All the roundabouts?? What’s up with those? I’m driving in circles!

IKEA is actually nice here. IKEA Seattle should really take an educational trip to a proper Swedish store. I almost bought a sofa and chair but realized that I don’t own a house here anymore.

A lot of people, young and old, throw in a couple of English words in a normal conversation. And add some bad words too. Shit, vi hade så kul. Oh my god, så jävla bra. Stop doing that, it makes you sound a little bit stupid.

Since when do Swedes say “Have a nice day”? I’ve heard “Ha en bra dag rå” in every store in Uppsala I’ve been in. No, no, no, it sounds ridiculous in Swedish.

And I still get the question “when are you moving back home?” every day. We are not moving back anytime soon. And yes, we live a normal life “over there”. We work, eat, sleep and read the newspaper. It’s the same as here but different. Very different. And I am happy that I get to enjoy both worlds.

I am not travelling with kids anymore. They are officially adults. I have stopped counting kids every time we stop somewhere and I actually want them to do things on their own. It’s up to them if they want to join me or if they want to do something else. I am happy to say that they usually want to join me. Former summers’ constant chaos and jetlag that made me wish for a cyanide pellet is gone. One nice things is that we don’t have phones. And that seems to make people around us more frustrated than we are.

Highlight so far, a visit at a moose park. Flashback to Alaska but less wild.

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Body and injuries …or how to age 25 years in a week

We ate, we moved and we actually avoided injuries. Nothing really bad happened. But even if nothing happens your body feels torn and achy after a week. Eric took a big fall on the bike but shook it off. It resulted in a huge bruise on the hip. It took a few hours to fix the bike in the middle of the night but after that he kept going. He fell down a steep hill and was lucky to hit a boulder that stopped him. He basically disappeared in the darkness. I took a couple of falls on the bike but nothing that hurt. It was tipping over because I fell asleep riding. One of those things that happens when you don’t sleep.

Feet: You can imagine what happens when your feet are wet for 7 days straight. We had our first river crossing 12 miles into the race, I got wet up to my waste. I went through 20 pairs of wool socks in 7 days but the socks never stayed dry more than 5 minutes. Crossing the glacier in ice and snow took us close to 2 days of walking and climbing. I had cold feet from the first step and got hypothermic the first night. When I finally took my boots off after 2 days my toes had changed color and shape. 4 days into the race I had blisters on every toe and around my heals but it was not as bad as I thought it would be. My toes and feet are still numb and I am on my second round of antibiotics for an infection. I still have trouble wearing shoes, but I finally got a pair of runners on and got a few miles in. I have a big toe that looks yummy.

Fingers/Hands: Bushwhacking in Alaska is not so different from bushwhacking in Washington. The only difference is probably the huge Devils Club that goes through everything, even gardening gloves. I had a bad infection under my fingernails from all the thorns when I returned home and my hands were covered in tiny blisters. It only took a few days to clear it up with penicillin but I am still completely numb and very clumsy.

Lungs: Got a lot of water in my lungs after the pack raft got caught in a strainer upside down. And a sore throat and stuffed up sinuses. Still working on that.

Hips: Completely seized up before the 70 mile bike. It was so painful to walk but if I managed to get up on the bike, and I was fine. Overload of pills for the last 3 days of the race. I still can’t lift my left leg and it looks like I’m 85 when I get in the car.

Shoulder: I had no strength in my right arm when I paddled the last days but could not really figure out what it was. Realized when I got home that it popped a little bit out of place. It’s now completely frozen and my shoulder blade points out. I can’t even lift a milk carton out of the fridge or hold it straight out. And my strategy has been to wait it out… it’s not working that well.

Bruises: All over the body from bumping in to rocks, ice, trees, falling, tipping over…

Tailbone: Coming down the glacier included a really steep climb down tundra and a bushwhack in the dark. I managed to glide and fall a few times which resulted in a very sore tailbone. We were all happy we still carried our ice axes for self-rescue gliding on the grass. I crushed my tailbone a few years ago and got the same feeling this time, including the bleeding part. Biking and paddling did not feel comfortable.

I will bring more socks and shoes next time. Even if they get wet it’s a nice feeling to put on dry shoes.

I think we all did well with clothes. I wore double jackets a few days and sometimes even triple. I even wore my down coat under my dry suite a few times. Glacier water is cold. I would bring one more down coat for the TA next time and one more sleeping bag to keep in my bin.

So, it’s overall pretty good. Nothing broken this time but lots of stuff to heal. It’s been nearly two weeks since I left Alaska and I think it’s the first time in years I don’t feel like working out. But if I had a bike around I would probably go for a ride. I’ve been out running the last 3 days, short runs. Lots of compresses and tape on my toe and roomy pair of shoes. I don’t feel tired, it’s easy breathing 8 minute miles but my body feels torn. I think it’s time to sign up for a new race to get the mojo back.

Food

I wish I could say that it was all about bananas and rye bread, avocados and lean meat. Think sugar and carbs, chocolate and gummi bears. When you plan your food intake before a long race it’s all about calories. How can you get enough calories to keep going. If you do a race that is long, 2-3 days or so you can still pack fresh foods and vegetables. When it’s 7 days, not really. Like a shorter race we packed 6h zip locks and then brought enough zip locks to last until the next TA. Let me just say that I failed a little bit. I apparently have a big fear of starving. I ate more or less all my food during the glacier walk so without knowing I packed food for 4 days or so for the next leg and that gave me some nice extra weight in my pack. And I kept doing that until Robin stole my pack and my food and repacked it to his pack.

Food feels complicated before you start the race but then it kind of just happens. You eat all the time, and it’s not the kind of food you would eat on a regular day. It’s the kind of food I would never touch on a regular day. It doesn’t taste anything really, you just know that you need to eat. It’s granola bars, fruit leathers, fruit cups and nuts that works and every once in a while some candy. Jerky and gels doesn’t work for me. Robin was desperate to make me move faster on the bike at the end of the race and I feel really queasy when I drink 5 hour energy (or Red Bull) and try to avoid it but felt desperate enough to try it. Three minutes later I am on my knees heaving by the side of the trail regretting it. But it somehow worked and we did speed up a bit. And you only live once, I tried again midnight paddling. And I almost enjoyed the next one I had.

Ramen noodles, still a bit crunchy, tasted divine after 40 hours without food. But, I will never drink unheated chicken noodle soup from a can. Seriously guys, so classy.

After race: Give me food! Anything works. I have developed an ability to inhale food. Hotdog, 3 seconds. I found myself inhaling a large burger and an ice cream when I got to the airport at midnight. And then another burger. I knew this race would make me grow personally.

Sleep

If you think you are tired, think again… it can only get worse. Sleep is an interesting thing. You can barely stay awake, your eyelids close with every step you take, every paddle stroke. You close your eyes and sleep a few minutes without stopping. And then after a few days you get into T.A. Drop your backpack and all of a sudden you feel so light, you take your shoes off and it’s party time. You know you need to sleep, it’s only a few hours until you need to pack up and go again but it feels so good to chat with the volunteers, drink something warm, warm your wet and stinky feet by the fire. You take your socks off and hold your breath waiting for the worst, and count your toes and nails.

I somehow lost a few hours when we got off the glacier. I am 100% sure I stayed awake since we walked on a dirt road. If you can sleep with your eyes open, that’s probably what happened. I had a bottle with warm tea in my hand and suddenly the tea felt cold and I asked how long we had walked. Over an hour. And I turned around and realized that I had no idea where I was. At the same time I saw a big group of deer dancing on the side of the road and a black bear waving. That road was of course empty but that’s how I realized I was hallucinating. And it kept going. I saw animals, TV screens and houses. The first time was after 20 something hours on the glacier. I saw a group of big houses and a big playground. And I was looking for the helicopter because it would be impossible to get there by car. And when I told Eric about the nice looking houses he just nodded and said that he saw them too… liar. I laugh a little bit and feel really stupid but at the same time I think I am so right and I am a bit sad that they can’t see it.

Napping is great. Sitting on a tree stump, laying down on rocks, standing and leaning on your poles, floating in the pack raft… everything works. A rescue blanket on and it feels like the Four Seasons. I used a lot of blankets. As soon as I stopped someone wrapped me up knowing that I would be a big problem if I got cold again. 10 minutes felt like 8 hours. And when you finally get in to a TA, get some of your wet clothes off, get your sleeping bag out and lay down on the asphalt or the gravel, it takes less than 20 seconds and you are out.

Sleep got a bit more complicated after the race. Exhausted the first short night in a too hot hotel room, woke up like the Michelin man. Swollen. Could barely open my eyes and legs, feet, arms, hands, etc. were double sized. Flew back the second night and thought I would get a good night sleep on the plane but stayed awake the whole flight. And then, finally home. And the nightmares started. I woke up staring out the window at the mountaintops (our neighbors’ house) and couldn’t find a way to get down from the glacier. Steep climbs, lots of ice and no shoes. And all my gear was gone. The rope was tied wrong. Sweaty and breathing really hard, impossible to sleep. And I woke up coughing, not able to breathe, under water. And it goes on… I wake up every night looking for my shoes… I am really looking forward to a good night’s sleep. And a long, slow run with dry shoes.

Surviving Alaska

Expedition Alaska is over. It was all we could wish for and so much more. 7 days of extra everything. Every single step had a meaning and not one mile were there to fill the course or get teams from one activity to another. Even a 7 mile hike became a 10 hour steep climb uphill with a view, with all your gear in your pack. The course was designed with a purpose. This race followed the footsteps of the classic races from the golden age of Adventure Racing, when races included survival and adventure in the same sentence. When it came to the term survival, I think we got value for our money. Chip on our team summed it up one morning saying OMG, they are really trying to kill us, every day!! And that’s how it felt. Things could go wrong the whole time but we managed to stay alive and keep moving.

Before I write more gibberish I need to mention all the volunteers. The small group kept everything running. They had our gear in place, they made the TAs great and kept everything running smoothly. They probably got less sleep than the racers. Warm water and noodles, fire pits and endless smiles… what more can you ask for. Thank you all! And the team… Thank you guys!! You saved me more than once and I am pretty sure I wouldn’t be alive without you.

For many racers this race ended early. People got injured, sick, and cold and got airlifted from the course or got picked up by boat. Our goal was to stay together, all four as a team until the end. I’ll have to admit that I had my moments when I just wanted out, to be beamed up, transported to a better place. But those moments usually didn’t last more than a few minutes and you keep going and forget that there’s another world outside the race. I also felt my limits a few times and that’s even worse when you feel like your body can’t take more. Paddling and rafting the last two days really got to me and it felt like I couldn’t move my arms. I realized when I got home that my right shoulder was really out of place and frozen so that gives me an explanation why. It’s still a non-working body part that acts like an alien.

When I think back to each and every leg there are a few things that stands out, that I will remember as long as I live. The glacier was in every way fantastic but also so unpredictable. We managed to do well, slow but steady and without any surprises or falls into crevasses. The route we took got a bit longer than expected but we stayed out of trouble. We started out the glacier trek with wet boots after a grueling river crossing. It’s been a long time since I felt so cold. I thought I would get frostbite on all 10 toes, it took days in to the race before they got the right color again.

The Soul Crusher (day 3-4) really crushed me. I felt broken and ready to go home after day 4. We hiked with all out pack raft gear for a long day and ended up far away beside a river in the middle of the night. We fell asleep on our rafts on the riverside after deciding to wait for daylight. We all woke up 45 minutes later so cold that we couldn’t take care of ourselves. We were lucky to have another team close by that helped out with fire and sleeping bags. Second round of close to hypothermia. We warmed up for a few hours and took off. The visibility was bad and I didn’t make a corner. I ended up on the side of the river, caught in a strainer upside down. I couldn’t flip out of the boat and I got all tangled in branches. I heard bad words echo in my head thinking this is it, what a horrible way to go. And then I saw Chip pulling, dragging me out and I refused to let go of my paddle. After puking up water and sitting for a few minutes it’s time to go again. It took me hours to get back in the game and I will be forever grateful for the rescue and guidance for the rest of the pack rafting in the race. I left all my confidence at the bottom of that river and I wouldn’t have made it without the team.

I thought sleep would be a big problem but it worked surprisingly well. Tired has a new meaning. You can be tired and keep going, and you can be tired and not be able to move. It takes a long time to reach the state of not being able to move. I remember the naps more clear than the race, like a great birthday present. Sleeping felt so good, even for 5 minutes. We took a nap at the 70 miles bike section by a river that I will remember as long as I live. I didn’t even take my backpack off, just laid back on the wet grass and closed my eyes. Someone got my feet up on the back wheel of my bike so my feet wouldn’t swell up. I snored so hard I woke myself up. The best nap of the race.

The race course was monstrous, evil, amazing, and didn’t have one mile were you could recover. I waited for an easy hike or bike, like a transportation to the next leg but the course just kept a constant ON mode. When you thought you had seen the most beautiful mountain top, lake, or ridgeline there was always a new waiting the next day. The landscape really took your breath away every day and night and you had the feeling that you were the first human to see this.

When we did the 30 mile paddle over Kenai Lake on evening/night 6 Robin tried to keep us awake and took us through the racecourse in detail. I must admit that I can’t remember some parts of it, and I don’t remember in what order it all happened, it’s more in chunks for me. I will write some kind of proper race report and post pictures when it all comes back. This is it for now. I am still waiting for the nightmares to end and my appetite to get back to normal, I eat every hour.

Chip, Eric, Robin – I LOVE MY LIIIIFEEEEE!

Home from Alaska…

…and so many things to tell. Happy to be alive and so glad I got to experience this epic race. So many experiences to share. Don’t know to how to start or where. Icecold glacier water, grueling, hard, tough, exhausting mountains, pain. A never ending glacier. Hypothermia. Gorgeous views, great teamwork, sleep monsters, fatigue, fear and tryhard moments. Falling asleep standing up, walking, sitting, paddling, biking… Never been so scared in my life but at the same time had the time of my life. Highs and lows. Need a few more days to process before there will be a story to tell. Need to heal my body and get more sleep, get over the nightmares and hunger.