Sweden and more

Spring passed too fast this year. And summer came and we are already in August and I accomplished less than I usually do. The China trip feels like yesterday and a year ago at the same time and the foot still feels and looks broken. The kids and I took almost three weeks off from everything and went to our other home in Sweden. We had a nice trip, slow and without many plans. We stayed with mom and dad, waited for the sun that never really showed up. Traveling with adult kids is stress less, life is easy when you have good kiddos. But we brought Doris the adorable puppy, our fourth child, to add some extra stress. Think 3 babies with motion sickness and ear infections. That was reality 15-20 years ago and for some reason I forgot what that was like. The trip there was a nightmare, Doris acted like a ferret, she was all over the place. The flight back was a breeze so we might even bring her again. We handled it and survived. Doris is now a Swedish citizen and member of the European Union, with a bright blue passport. And I think some family members really want her to come back.       

This year’s sightings from our other home: There is still a crazy amount of dairy in the grocery stores. Yoghurt and quark, with extra added protein. (I even found candy with added protein.) The weird fitness wave is still going on. Here we just workout, get our bikes out and up in the mountains for a few hours, run our trails, swim in the lake, go to the gym. The hipster Swedes dress up and get their bike kit on for a 45 min ride in the flatlands around their house. And then they blog and Instagram it. The Cross Fitters all dress up in Reebok gear and trim their beards and ride to class on their single speeds. You all look very classy. Juice bars and smoothie bowls, burger bars and very young women with duck lips (I thought the duck lips passed a few years ago). And the Swedes didn’t get the memo about getting too sunburned. Tattoos. Sometimes I do think less is more. And capris on men, a scary sight, women wearing skirts and short white tights under, ouch. The no car thing in Uppsala is not working. I know I still have a few friends working in politics back home. The parking thing is a disaster, the roads down town, the so called “parad gatorna”. You just killed downtown. People need options; cars, busses, bikes…. And clean up the streets, it’s ridiculous that I don’t want to let my kids out at night because of spineless politics and bad people. Don’t get me wrong, I still love it but we see the differences. A lot happened the past few years and not all for good. And if I could, I would import good crisp bread, Skagenröra from Hambergs, crayfish, cognacsmedvurst and leverpastej.  

Thank you all that made our visit great! We love you and miss you! Come see us.      

I really didn’t have to take any time off after the Xtrail Expedition in China, the race was short and we had plenty of travel days where we basically did nothing. Since my foot got a bit banged up I didn’t want to run but I could swim and bike. I tried to squeeze into my wetsuit and realized something happened since my last ÖtillÖ (or maybe wetsuits shrink when they are not used). But I had plenty of time to work on that. I packed the wetsuit, goggles, cap and earplugs and took off. I started running again, felt pretty good and started counting the weeks until race start. Sharing an experience makes it real. I was looking forward to sharing this epic race with a few hundred racers again, even if I felt fear this time too. And then my partner got injured.

So a couple of days ago I finally sent the email to the race crew saying that we will not start this year. And it feels like I closed a chapter in my life that will never open again. Relieved, sad and extremely disappointed. But this is what happens when you make plans; Life changes and so will you. I have a feeling something interesting will show up in the future. Rumors say that there will be a long Adventure Race in Sweden next summer.




Once again I experience and suffer through the hangover after a race. I remember after my first marathon, I had no clue what was going on, life kind of ended, I had no drive and everything felt meaningless. It passed after a few weeks, when I signed up for a new race.

This is different. Adventure racing is different. The months before are filled and every single moment of your life is scheduled. From long bike rides and the endless hikes with elevation carrying a full race pack. The long paddles and the not so long paddles indoors. And the packing, the packing takes endurance. Every single race is different and has mandatory gear lists that makes your visa card burn. And then you need to fit in family, work, social life, the workouts you do for fun…   

This time racing took us to China. We spent the first three days in Beijing doing stuff tourists do, the Great Wall, The Summer Palace, Tiananmen Square, riding the subway, walking the streets, eating noodles and Beijing duck. People everywhere. History around us. China is overwhelming and big. It’s not the same in the cities compared to the countryside. Beijing was interesting and fun. The culture shock people said would hit me never really hit. It takes about an hour until you are used to the constant flow of people, the traffic and the smoke. People smoke everywhere. Your personal space is constantly invaded and for a boring Swede there are too many people bumping into you and it’s too unorganized. But in a strange way, you get used to it. And it was a good experience: entertaining and fun. Beijing is a great place.  

We all know that China has changed, and with it left behind a lot of sad and horrible stories. But in a way it’s still there. There’s a sadness and smoggy look on people’s faces, cameras catching you everywhere, security on the subway, in stores, on the streets, a broken down eastern country trying to rebuild, and in a way, adapt to the western life. It’s going to take generations to turn it around and get the country back to its old self and to become modern. You don’t haul around your 2-year-old on a scooter, without a helmet, with three other kids crammed on there too while texting on your phone. Driving on the shoulder – no problem – it’s empty so it’s an open lane. No fridge, no problem, it doesn’t matter if the food is left out in the sun all day, the food will eventually get cooked anyway. Blocking social media. Controlling people. Those little things…

We took a plane to Urumqi, the capital of the Xinjiang district, in northwest China. A pretty big city with 3-4 million people, marked by the harsh winter weather, broken, torn with a mix of modern and it felt like we left civilization. I am embarrassed to say that I had no clue the closeness to Kazakhstan, Russia and Mongolia would be so visible. All signs were written in Chinese and Arabic, and sometimes Russian and the city felt divided between ethnic groups. One block had Chinese stores and restaurants, and one block away kabobs, lamb on open fires, people speaking Russian and Arabic and mosques in every street corner. We walked the streets at night and visited the bazaar and it didn’t feel like China, it was a strange mix of the Middle East, Asia and Southern Europe mixed with some dried camel milk, chop sticks, new baked bread, nuts, plastic toys and carnival food.

The area is marked by decades of violence and bombings and as late as 2009 the city experienced one of the largest eruption of ethnic violence in China had seen in decades. It’s far from Beijing in many ways, 3200km, unpolished, raw. Surrounded by deserts, isolated and extremely hot in the summer and extremely cold in the winter.

After a night in Urumqi we had a driver take us closer to the race area. We drove 15 hours to get to Kanas, passed endless oilfields, deserts, lakes, and then up in the mountains. From brown and dry to green and thriving. We passed yurts, camels, wild horses, hundreds and hundreds of cows and sheep. Amazing views and beautiful places. We also passed border controls and security more times than I can remember and our passports were the talk of the town. They filled out forms with our names and reason why we visited which was a mystery for most. Both the letters and how we looked. Old athletes? And women too? Westerners don’t come here, its been a closed area for decades. But most people were very friendly and our pictures were taken everywhere usually in the form of selfies. Selfies with SWAT teams, it was a new one for me. It was an interesting drive and we got to see another side of China from the car window and some stops on the way. We took an hour or so at Five Color Hills beside the River Irtysh, a big tourist stop but even there people seemed to be more interested in taking pictures of us than the beautiful nature.

We stopped for a late lunch in a town called Urho and got treated like celebrities. If you ever stop for kabobs, or even a whole lamb, make sure you check the restaurant wall for a huge professional photograph of a group of pale people from Seattle.

We finally made it to the resort in Kanas, built like a little Swiss village. It looked pretty good on the outside but the inside… not so much. We walked around, got our rental bikes that we built and broke down and built again. Tried to fix wheels that didn’t spin, brakes that didn’t work. We walked a little, tried to find coffee, tea and fruit, moved around to get our race legs going. The food situation at the resort was more than interesting. I am all for local and experiencing new things but we all struggled. Kanas is far away from the rest of the world; we could really tell in many ways. A few days passed and it was finally time to race.       

We started out with a run through a little village. People were out cheering us on, filming and taking pictures of the spectacle. They looked at us with puzzled smiles really wondering what the heck was going on. We ran to Kanas Lake and switched to kayaks got the paddles, PFDs, spray skirts and took off. It was a beautiful paddle but longer than expected, the water was turquoise and the sun was extremely hot. We paddled north, got our checkpoint and turned around 20k from the Kazakhstan border. Back at the boardwalk it was time to get the gear and our boat ready for rafting. There were people everywhere, volunteers, tourists and SWAT teams, an interesting combination. It was all new to me, we are usually all alone when racing. A little lady dressed in colorful clothing and sun wrinkles around her eyes came up to me with her phone in her hand pointing at me, herself and the phone. She wanted pictures. Her husband and a young man that I think was her son did their best to get all the pictures right. She didn’t even reach up to my shoulder, she was a very tiny woman. She squeezed my biceps and wanted more pictures. A very odd experience when you are half naked getting ready for the next stage in a race, in a time crunch, trying to swallow some energy and get ready. We took our time and she got her pictures.

After carrying our boat and tied up our gear, we got into the water and started floating down the river. What we thought was a slow and steady raft got to be a fun and wet couple of hours. I’m happy I’ve done dome rafting the past few years. Our boat barely stayed afloat, it was filled with water and it was close to flipping a few times. 2 out of 4 paddles broke but we laughed all the way. Chip did a great job guiding us from the back of the boat. We somehow got to shore and started carrying heavy wet backpacks, gear and the boat up a steep hill and the off to the next transition. The next TA was at a rest stop beside the road. A few tourist busses had stopped and as usual we had cameras and people around us. We got out of soaking wet clothes, ate and filled up our backpacks with water and food for the next 24 hours and took off. Uphill. Uphill. Uphill. I had trouble breathing which felt weird so early in the race. We walked and walked and the day became night. The hill became a mountain and elevation all made us feel a bit off. We passed yurts with families, mountain tops, valleys, open fields with flowers, rivers and wild horses. Wetlands and herds of cows, ice and snow. Far away the thunder rolled in and the night was cold. You walk and walk and rest on your poles for a 2-minute nap, walk some more and the sun disappear. Find a checkpoint and move on. The night feels endless and the cold and the wind sneaks in under your fleece and coat. And then it turns around and your body wakes up and it feels like you’ve been sleeping. After walking down a steep river chute for hours I managed to get a bit stuck in between a few slick rocks and hurt my foot. We took a 15-minute nap sitting by a river around 5am and waited for the sun to raise and then we started walking again.

We hiked through valleys in in the forest for hours and finally made it to Hemu village by afternoon, got the next map up and did a 10k orienteering course in the village before we headed to TA. Hemu is considered one of the most beautiful villages in China and it didn’t disappoint. It’s quiet and picturesque, still relatively isolated from modern life. It’s a thousands of years old settlement space for the Tuwa, a local nomadic minority with its own religion and language.

We walked to the outer parts of Hemu to find the next TA. It was crazy hot and we couldn’t find shade anywhere. I finally took my shoe off 10 hours after I slipped and heard a little crack. It didn’t look too good and it was very swollen and blue. Surprisingly an ambulance was parked beside the TA/parking lot and a hopped over to find someone who could tape up my foot. They just shook their heads and called for the doctor that was 2 minutes away. He came over and started squeezing and bending my foot. The translator said that it was broken. Ehhh, don’t think so. I asked for tape and the very nice doctor wrapped it up in gauze and told me to sit. He smoked 5 cigarettes in 10 minutes, talked intensively and said stupid over and over. I hopped off and tried to get ready for a 350km bike leg. I couldn’t get my foot in the shoe and peddling didn’t work so to not keep the team in TA too long I decided to let the team go and meet up for the paddle after the bike. They took off and I packed up. They had a grueling bike ride a head of them, it was hot and I heard reports about huge amount of bugs.

I tried to catch a ride to Altay, 5.5 hours away, to get ready to paddle and after that a long hike in the desert. I waited by the TA with the police. We had a conversation going for hours, I spoke Swedish/English, they spoke Mandarin. I tried every single language I’ve learned but not even a word in Dutch/French/German came through. The smoking doctor came by a few times to check on my foot. The only English words he knew was “stupid, no race”. I have no clue what we all talked about but we all laughed every now and then. It was 38 degrees Celsius and they kept bringing me ice for my foot and hot water to drink. I also found the first cup of coffee in over a week (for $8). Good times.  

I finally got picked up by a driver and 3 young volunteers and we all drove to Altay. The conversation kept going in the same way, but now via google translate. Are you hungry? No. Are you tired? Yes. I fell asleep after a few hours but had to wake up for passport controls. Since I was racing and most of the time in water I didn’t have my passport. The driver took care of the problem and I tried to be very quiet in the back seat. 

I hopped in without shoes in a hotel lobby in Altay and I actually had a room waiting for me. A really nice race volunteer helped out and I even managed to find my luggage that was waiting for all the racers. I was dressed for biking in very hot weather, with no shoes, I smelled pretty bad and looked everything but fresh after paddling/rafting/hiking for a long time and the first thing happening at the hotel was more selfies with the hotel security. I found my phone and checked on the dot so I knew when to meet up with the team. They moved really slow, I slept for a few hours and checked again. Made sure I had a ride to the lake, taped my foot and waited. And waited. They kept biking and I kept checking the dot.

All of a sudden the course was cut short. It was really windy so the paddle legs got cancelled. It changed the whole race. I got ready to meet up by the desert to hike 50km. Everyone told me it was a bad choice to get out there, the bugs, wind and heat was overwhelming. I waited and all of a sudden more teams came back in and our team #8 changed route and were headed my way. They got short coursed and had to head back to Altay. Not what we wanted and not why we went all they way to China for. But the part of the course we finished was magnificent. The beautiful views, the green grassland, yurts, horses, camels, endless forests, snow, heat, blue skies and mountain mists. And to be where only nomads wander, animals feed and birds fly, to see that part of the world, that was a once in a lifetime experience.

We all of a sudden had a few days to kill in Altay. We walked, spent time with new found friends, slept and ate until it was time to head back to Beijing. This time we flew back from Kanas – Urumqi – Beijing, a trip that took a day. That also gave me a new perspective on flying, dealing with security and luggage. That’s another story, another day. We made it back to Beijing and we spent a long time in the executive lounge by the bar, spent one night, had a continental breakfast that lasted 3 hours and flew back. And I almost missed the flight since I didn’t have a visa to Canada.     




Livet går fort nu. Dagarna rullar på och jag blir lite småsvettig när jag ser datumet i kalendern. 10 dagar till avfärd. Kina. Hela vägen upp, nordvästra hörnet, långtbortistan. Ni vet så långt bort där det inte egentligen inte bor några människor utan bara kameler och annat löst folk. Det är så det brukar vara på sådana tävlingar. Först åker man långt, så ser man bara träd, sen bara djur, sen vatten och så berg, så skumpar man vidare i bussen och så ett flyg till…och så åker man en bit till och där…där går starten. Där lastar vi ur lådor, cyklar och kalorier. Där man fyller vattenflaskan i bäcken utan filter. Fleecetröjan åker på och sen ryggan och så bär det av. Nervositeten är definitivt här. Verkligen här, men det blir bra när starten går. Det är nu samtalen går runt i huvudet. Har jag tränat tillräckligt? Rätt? Är orken här? Kommer jag kunna hålla mig vaken en vecka? Hur illa blir det? Vilken mat behöver jag? Vad kommer jag verkligen bli sugen på dygn tre utan sömn? Lyckan var fullständig idag när jag hittade 6 Dextrosol paket i ett skåp i köket. Den som ändå hade ett kilo Nötkräm liggande. Inget är packat än, inte ens ett par strumpor. Jag har en papperskasse i köket där jag börjar samla prylar. Dålig planering. Jag borde ha en plastlåda stående med allt nödvändigt. Jag borde polera paddeln, olja maskineriet, rygga upp sadeln och rulla runt kullagret eller vad man nu gör med kullager . Jag saknar fortfarande ett antal prylar såsom batterier a 200 dollar styck till pannlampan. Typ ganska väsentligt. Har liksom förträngt behovet av upplysning på 4000-5000 meters höjd. Viktigast i detta läge är att vi har skaffat en hund. Mitt i alla förberedelser. Eller vi har fått en lite valp, Doris. Livet, sömnen, vakenheten, träningen… allt förändrades över en natt. Johanna och jag åkte ner till Oregon för att titta på en valp och vi kom hem med Doris. Nu har det gått en månad- Liten men naggande god. En minitax som är mer än mini. Mindre än ett ägg vid födseln och nu har hon jobbat sig upp närmare 2kg. Humör, envishet och ett konstant leende. Fläckig päls och en rund liten mage. Lyckan är fullständig. Hur ska jag nu kunna åka till Kina?

Brain function

Let’s keep this thing rolling. I got an angry email saying that it’s not fair to pull the Swedish card and write in a different language than English. Too bad for you, easy for me. Here is the summary: Race season is coming up and the real training started. Looking forward to new challenges but fearing the waves in the Baltic. There you go, saved you a few minutes.

Let’s talk about the brain. I’ve always been a fan of movement in combination with kids and learning. I truly believe that you need to move and play in different ways to learn and get your brain wired right. And kids need challenges, they can’t just do what they like and are good at. That’s a reason why I love PE in Sweden, recess time and teachers and parents thinking outside the box. It’s awesome to bring kids outside to the playground but how about the woods or your back yard where you can climb, walk and jump on uneven surfaces and work on your balance and use new muscles. Ice skating, skiing, running, jumping etc as well as moving your body inside during actual school time. We need to surprise the kiddos brains not just let them do what they know and not what is easiest for the adults. Keep the brain guessing, develop and keep fire those wires. And the little movements and brain games counts as well. Eye hand foot coordination, concentration, talking but also listening, taking instructions, I truly believe it’s all connected. To hear the melody when someone reads out loud. To know how it’s supposed to sound before kids are old enough to make the sound. I think it’s a bad sign to see that kids have issues with holding a pen and finding it really difficult to write on a piece of paper. I love computers but if you miss that step you’re not doing the brain a favor, your leaving blanks that will come back and bite you on the tail. That playtime when kids use their fingers, hands and bodies, is there for a reason, it’s a step in their development and that will help reading, writing and connecting the dots. If they move, they train the brain and have easier to learn. This is basics. How come the trend is the opposite in the schools 2017?

And then we grow up and forget about movement every day and in different environments. Adults need movement too. Not just because it’s good for your body to move around, good for your heart and that muffin top of yours. The blood flow in your body needs to be pumped up bit, you need to get your heartrate up every day to feed and develop your brain. The brain. We always talk and check our heart but forget about the brain. Will your brain shut down a little bit every year and do you have the brain that you get when you grow up? Oh boy, that is so wrong. The brain can develop and the more you use it the more it develops, those wires gets stronger and sends even better signals. And apparently this development strengthens when you get some exercise… who knew 😉 So exercise and learning goes hand in hand. Even for adults.  

I’ve always thought that cognitive training helps your brain to stay on top of things. How many times have you heard that Sudoku and crosswords will train your brain to stay young? That is so 2005. The new thing is movement. A combination of endurance training and strength training – that’s the new thing. If you train regularly your brain will thank you and remember and learn new things.

Dags att packa ryggan igen

Nu är jag här igen då, här där jag inte varit på länge. Så kan det gå. Jag har mest ägnat mig åt att skriva i tanken och ni ska bara veta hur ofta jag tror att jag skriver. Men nu kommer det. Det är mitten av mars och tiden rullar vidare. Det är mycket annat som också rullar vidare. Alla skolor verkar ha finals i några veckor, fast inte samma veckor och det sätter sina spår här hemma. Det är blinkande datorer, uppslagna böcker här och var, lösa papper med anteckningar och allmänt mycket annat viktigt som ligger och skräpar i hörnen. Anspänningen gjorde att ett barn vek sig, feber och genomförkyld, och kan nu hittas i soffan. Vi andra håller oss på avstånd och spritar händerna och allt annat som inte är beklätt.

Volleybollen rullar vidare för både spelaren och coacherna. Det är ett något överväldigande schema som vanligt. Det ser inte så illa ut på pappret när kontraktet ska skrivas i början av säsongen men sen slår det till och helg efter helg ringer klockan vid 5. Snart bär det av till varmare trakter, Spokane. Klättringen fortsätter med både coachning och klättring. Just nu ägnas det även tid att hänga upp mamman på väggen. Jag ser tydliga framsteg.

Tävlingsschemat börjar fyllas och det finns inte mycket tid över där heller. Det läggs till och läggs till, det ena roligare än det andra, mest typ 2 roligheter. Ni vet sådant som är roligt och njutbart efter, när loppet är slutfört, innan är det mest djup ångest och magont och under själva loppen smärta och sömnlöshet. Två stora tilldragelser blir det och många mindre klämmer vi in mellan. Jag ser fram emot ett veckolopp i Kina framåt sommaren. Jag håller tummarna att allt går i lås och att vi får ihop planerna och pappersarbetet. Hur kul blir inte det? Cykla runt i en annan världsdel, skava sig upp och ner för ett berg eller 5 och paddla runt i en och annan sjö som man inte kan uttala namnet på. Låter bra tycker jag. Nu gäller det att börja leta i garaget efter klättringsselar, cykelhjälmar, paddel och annat livsnödvändigt som finns på utrustningslistan. Och det blir nog till att införskaffa en och annan ny långkalsong och yllestrumpa också.  

Nästa stora event efter Kina är i en annan del av världen, nämligen hemma i Sverige. Vem skulle kunna tro att jag skulle kasta mig ut i havet igen? Inte jag. Ja, men så blir det. ÖtillÖ. Kläm på den ni. Det ska bli spännande att komma tillbaka. Med mig i repet får jag en simstark amerikan i sina bästa år. Jag hoppas på solsken och svag vind. När kan man börja titta på väderleksrapporten för september? Nu dansar vi ingen vind och inga vågor dansen. Och träningen kommer att delsvis ske i ett valtätt och iskallt Stilla Havet. Snacka om att leva ut sina mardrömmar.

Tack vare ett väldigt varierade tävlingsschema så är mitt träningsschema något schizofrent. Det ska cyklas, springas, hikas, klättras, simmas, paddlas och lite till. Och så ska jag ju börja simma med skorna på igen och springa i våtdräkt. Och så ska jag ju bära på alla prylar under en vecka i Kina samtidigt som det ska cyklas och joggas runt i varierande miljöer och helst uppför så då innebär det att jag måste vara stark som en mindre björn eller en liten älg. Just därför så fortsätter jag med att langa kettlebells över huvudet och lyfta löjligt tunga marklyft och andra riktigt coola saker varje dag. I kombination med all annan evighetsrörelse. Och vet ni hur bra det är för hjärnan? Nehej. Ja då får vi prata om det en annan gång.         

The fear of being cheesy

Fear has a place in our lives. It makes us grow, take that last step, jump out of a plane. We talked about fear the other day. I met a person with a snake on her arm. A pretty large brown/black snake moving around doing snake stuff. I lost the feeling in my legs. I know it’s not rational and I know the snake doesn’t give a damn about me but I still have to turn around and try to drag myself away, far away. And breathe through my nose.

Maybe it’s because of the new year and that people around me made New Year’s resolutions, maybe it’s mid-life speaking to me or maybe it’s because I like feeding my fear every now and then. Leaving your comfort zone is a very overused expression. Scared shitless is better. Pushing yourself is not very pretty. But if you want to become more comfortable and feel ready you need to practice and feel uncomfortable every day. That zone is not something you take a step into, it’s not a room or a situation. It’s a passion in one way. An optimistic obsession, positive risk taking. It’s when something is stuck in your mind and you need to use your body to work through it. You need to get your mind and body to work together. In this case I am planning on doing it again; obsessing and going overboard, going to a crazy place, competing in a race, making memories that will last, hoping to find camels. Who doesn’t like camels? I’m checking maps and elevation, animal life (ie snakes) and water sources. When summer comes I will be packing my backpack and taking my bike apart and stuffing it into a box. If everything goes as planned.

I believe that fear changes you. Fear creates self-doubt, and that’s not pretty. It can eat you up inside out and creep into your head and get stuck there. That’s when the journey starts. The “mind and body journey”. You hear all the time that if you show up then you are half way there. That’s bs. Showing up is easy. You need to do the work, bike the hills, fill your pack and carry it, swim your 50s, run long every week or hike up and touch the sun, when you fall on your bike you need to get up and keep going… showing up is overrated.

You don’t finish a race by showing up but it starts the process. And the process goes on for a while, in your mind and your body. And one day the calendar says that the training is done. That’s when I will go look for camels.

In all the seriousness I make my ridiculous playlists, trying to make it a bit easier. I make sure I have pretty shoes and nice hats. Gloves that sparkle and snacks that tastes good. That’s how you make the everyday uncomfortable something to look forward to. And I know if I can get a cheesy mantra to get stuck in my mind, the body will follow, or vice versa, it’s that easy.

And I know this whole thing will work out. Very Marty McFly.