Thursday, February 11, 2016

Powhunting

Last weekend, Audun and I and our friends Joar and Anette drove to Vådalen in Rauland, looking to earn our powdery turns. We planned to camp, but only decided in the car on the way there that we would ski a little ways up a valley to find a campsite. No one had packed quite right, so we all ended up with ridiculous lopsided loads.

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Anette and Joar headed up the valley with big packs

After finding a flat, sheltered area in the trees, we set about making camp. Audun and I were testing the Palace of Spaciousness and Luxury in the snow, although it’s technically a three-season tent. It’s important to challenge the limits of your gear! Joar had a more traditional Norwegian tunnel tent, which does really well in high winds.

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Joar with his new tent, the Palace of Spaciousness and Luxury on the right.

By the time we were done setting up camp, it was lunch time, so we ate our sandwiches standing up before skinning up hill. The light was dramatic, with lots of shifting clouds, and the snow was loose, if a little heavy.

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Anette and I skinning up the valley wall.

The downhill skiing was more than acceptable, although I felt hesitant and slow since I was making my first turns of the season. We did two laps up to a ridge where the snow grew hardpacked by the wind. It was maybe 45 minutes before sundown when we decided to call it a day, hoping for some fresh snow during the night that could make for a great day of skiing on Sunday. 

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Not bad, not bad!

Back at camp, I unzipped my pocket and realized my GPS wasn’t there. Gulping, I remembered the sensation of something falling out of my pocket as we took our skins off on the last run. I had looked around, but didn’t see anything in the snow, so assumed it must have been nothing. Suddenly, I was sure I had left by GPS at the top of the last run. After a few minutes of deliberation, Audun and I decided to race the last of the light to the top of the run to look for the GPS. I went as hard as I could sustain uphill. As I panted uphill in my heavy tele gear, I thought about Emelie Forsberg, mountain runner and skier extraordinaire, who just tore her cruciate ligament. This is for you, Emelie, I thought, I’m doing this extra lap now because you can’t.

We reached our previous turn around point and spent a while digging in the snow. No sign of the GPS. As it was starting to get dark, we decided to turn and had a final delicious run down to the campsite, where Joar had dug a fire pit. He and Audun spent the next half hour trying to start a fire with wet wood. They succeeded in producing flames by literally put gasoline on the wood, but it didn’t last.

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Working on the fire.

After we ate, it started snowing, so we retired to our tents early for a long, winter camping night. When I took off my jacket for the night, my GPS feel out. Oops. At least the extra lap was nice!

Sometime in the middle of the night, the falling snow turned to rain. We all listened to the rain pitterpattering on our tent flys the next morning, and stayed in our sleeping bags for as long as we could justify. Here I am, cooking bacon from my sleeping bag. 

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Final we decided we had to go out skiing. Even if it was raining, there was still snow! As we skinned uphill, the rain turned to snow and the skiing conditions grew drier. However, the wind was picking up. We turned at nearly the same place as the day before, but barely talked as we removed our skins due to the howling winds, everyone bundled up in their hoods.

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Adverse conditions on the mountain

The skiing down to the rain line was good, so we did another lap, but then we’d had enough wind and wet for the weekend. After packing up the tents and skiing back to the car, I felt incredibly tired. The conditions were challenging to be out in, and it had been a long week!

Here’s a brief recap of what came before:

Monday: Bike ride to and from work. It snowed a lot during the day, and the going was slow on the way home. It was fine as long as you stayed in the track of other cyclists, but wobbly if you went outside. Probably a good day for a fat bike!

Tuesday: Run to dance class through the city. I was hoping that the sidewalks would be less slippery because some of the snow had rained away, but actually the rain had just exposed the ice underneath the snow. Oh the joys of winter running.

Wednesday: AM strength training + evening run with Audun. I was glad we had agreed to go running before hand, because boy was I feeling sluggish! We did about 12K, but with the fairly big climb uphill Grefsenkollen in the mix. The conditions were slow again, but we chatted and the kilometers passed quickly.

Thursday: Trying to avoid the sloppy roads, I ran 10K on the salted bike path into the city to go to another dance class. The bike path unfortunately follows a highway, but I rain through Frogner Park at the end, which was icy but as least slightly scenic. Evening yoga.

Friday: AM yoga and strength training + a long run home from work. I’ve long deliberated an extended commute route which would go through the forest rather than following the highway, and on Friday I decided to pursue it.  They hadn’t groomed the ski trails in several weeks, so I assumed they would be icy. It started snowing right after I starting running, and the trail conditions quickly morphed from icy to snowy. The run turned out to be nearly 20K, and could in some ways be described as grueling, but I was so excited to be in the forest rather than on roads that I didn’t care. I also brought Stroopwafels, special caramel waffel cookies I bought in Amsterdam on the way home from Japan. They tasted fabulous - maybe they will be my go to fuel now?!

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Eating my second Stroopwafel. So. Good.

Saturday: Backcountry skiing in Rauland.

Sunday: More backcountry skiing in the rain.

Totals:

- Running: 50.6K, 886 vertical meters, 5h41min

- Biking: 32.1K, 363 vertical meters, 2h2min

- Skiing: 19K, 1716 vertical meters, 5h38min

- Strength/yoga/dance class: 4h55min 

Total training time: 18h16min

This was a big week, and I definitely am feeling the repercussions. Time to rest a little and get strong!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Monday, February 1, 2016

Sunrise in Osaka and a photoshoot

There is always a tingle of anticipation when I go running in a completely new place. I look for parks or other interesting places to go. I study maps on Google and Strava almost obsessively, as if memorizing layout of the unfamiliar streets and tracks of other runners will show me what it will be like to run there. It never does.

Sometimes I wonder if it’s a bad idea to go running alone in a foreign country, but I try not let fear get the better of me. At least as long as I am travelling in relatively docile countries! Taking to the streets on ones own in the early morning is incredibly liberating.

Osaka, Japan is one of the most urban places I have been. I still managed to identify paths carving along the river not to far from our hotel, and got out to explore. I wasn’t alone along the river. There were people playing golf on the primitive course that followed the path. There were people walking their dogs, tiny elderly japanese women walking briskly in track suits, and the occasional hobo. Across the river were an extensive row of tall buildings, but right here, at the river, there was only the quiet morning.

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Sunrise on the river. I’m pretty pleased that this came out, considering it was taken on my phone camera!

One day we went to Kyoto University to meet a research group who has similar interests to my own. We decided that I will come stay in Kyoto for three months, to do research for my PhD. I will repeat that, to allow the reality to sink in: this fall, I'm moving to Japan for three months. So excited!

Afterward, we walked around the Gion district of old Kyoto. In this area there are lots of tourists and tourists shops and it should be a terrible, touristy place to be, but actually it is beautiful and tranquil and you half expect a geisha to come gliding around the every street corner.

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I want a tree in my house too!

We let the shades of the past chase us up the muted streets to the beautiful Kiyomizu-dera temple at sunset.

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This isn’t the temple, just one of the entrance gates. But look at that sun!

It was magnificent.

After visiting another research group at Osaka University, we took the Shinkansen to Tokyo and spent a day there before flying back to Norway. We spent most of the day in Ueno Park, and went to the final exam exhibition of the art students at Tokyo University. There was a lot to sculpture/art installation-type pieces, and the coolest thing was that the artists were hanging around so you could talk with them! This guy, for example, had carved a representation of Kasumigaura bay, including topography:

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A man and his sculpture. Wouldn’t fit in my living room, but what a cool piece!

We also went to the Tokyo Zoo, and saw so. many. animals. Anyway, on to the training log:

Monday: AM strength training session in the hotel room before spending the day in Kyoto.

Tuesday: First run along the Yodo river in Osaka. I wasn’t sure how much running I would have time for this week what with all the travelling, so I decided to do some intervals for extra training effect. I did 2x10 minutes at 5:00-5:10 min/km (moderate intensity), and then did 5x1min at a touch under 4 min/km. The fast repeats at the end came about because I started to think about how hard it would be run 10K in under 40 minutes, and I wanted to see what the pace felt like. I definitely can’t hold that pace for 10K - yet!

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Sunrise along the river. 

Wednesday: Second run along the Yodo river in Osaka. Shorter this time, just a quick spin before we took the train to Tokyo and spent the afternoon wandering around in Ueno park.

Thursday: I squeezed in a 30 minute run in Ueno Park before we left Japan. Definitely good to shake out your legs before a 12 hour flight! The flight was awful, I couldn’t sleep and spent the whole time getting more and more bored of trying to watch movies. I have to practice sleeping on planes...

Friday: After a fabulous nights sleep (there are some perks to not sleeping on planes), I did a quick strength session before riding my bike to work. I hoped that the fresh air would help with my jetlag, and I think it did. On the way to work my legs felt really heavy, but I actually rode a surprisingly fast time given that I was on my heavy winter bike with studded tires. My sister Zoe flew down from northern Norway to visit me this weekend, and we had a nice evening yoga session to keep me awake until bedtime (in this time zone!).

Saturday: I dragged Audun up early to get in some morning intervals. We ran a 3K warm-up and then did 4x4minutes at 10K effort uphill on the road towards Grefsenkollen. I’m avoiding the trails now because a thaw and freezing cycle while I was in Asia has turned a lot of Oslo to ice. There was a little ice on the road up Grefsenkollen, but it was fine without microspikes. I feel like I could have done another interval, especially since we didn’t reach to top of the climb, but probably it was good to hold back a little with so much stress on the body due to jetlag.

Zoe and I walked all over the city on Saturday, and I had serious sightseeing legs by the end of the day.

Sunday: After an AM yoga session, I ran through the city to Bygdøy, and Zoe took the bus and met me there. She’s a blooming photographer, and we walked around the forested park near the fjord and had a photoshoot. Basically I got to practice sprinting for the camera, because sprinting is the only way to look good in a running photo! We had some gorgeous light though, and Zoe got a bunch of real cool shots. Here’s my favorite:

Sprint bygdøy

I’m just going to pretend I always look this good running.

Totals:

- Running: 47K, 476 vertical, 4h51min

- Yoga/Strength training: 2h45min

- Biking: 32.4K, 342 vertical, 1h50min

Total 9h27min 

It feels good to be back home, and I hope this week I’ll get in some skiing. I can’t spend all winter running!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Monday, January 25, 2016

One week in Taiwan

I spent the last week in Taiwan, and in between the work meetings I’ve gotten a chance to see a lot of Taipei, and some of Tainan in the south. It has been cold here by Taiwanese standards, but 10 C is still 25 C warmer than when I left Norway. In fact, the day we were in Tainan it was 20 C. By Norwegian standards, this is summer. So naturally I was wandering around in a t-shirt. This caused the locals some distress. Didn’t this girl own any clothes? Didn’t she feel the cold? And when I got ice cream at the train station the other day, there was lots of whispering behind my back.

When you are a Westerner in Taiwan, it’s excruciatingly obvious that you aren’t Taiwanese, and people will stare and comment on your behavior.

My philosophy when it comes to exotic foods is generally Try everything, once. I regret to say I failed myself and did not try ‘stinky tofu’; the smell alone was scary enough. I did, however, try ‘meat floss’, as well as ‘soft fried crabs’, which doesn’t sound so ominous, but looks pretty ominous when you consider that the crabs have been fried and are consumed whole.

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Soft fried crabs. I would compare them favorably to potato chips. With legs.

A couple of days ago, we went to Shilin night market, which is the epitome of Taiwanese food culture. It is noisy and crowded, not a place to go for a tranquil meal. You buy lots of cheap, street food dishes to share. All around the night market are shop peddling clothes and accessories, and all manner of cutesy cartoon knick-knacks, from Minnie Mouse charger covers to umbrellas. I may have bought a bow for my hair. Or three.

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The crowds at Shilin Night Market

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In the foreground of the picture I am holding a sausage in a roll made entirely out of rice. The vendor is in the background.

We tried lots of good food, but I was surprised at how bland it was. I kind of expected Taiwanese cuisine to be spicy, but actually many of the sauces used are slightly sweet and subtilely spiced. I actually found some of the dishes not salty enough, which I guess says something about how much salt I usually eat!

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Ready for some beef noodle soup!

Although I mostly think of Taiwan as an urban nation, it turns out there are a fair amount of mountains here. So when I had the afternoon off I naturally found a way to sneak off to the mountains with my PhD supervisor Helge. We managed to get a nearly useless map and promptly got lost, but eventually found the top of the mountain we were looking for. The hiking trail took us past sulfurous vents, on a trail cut through densely packs stands of bamboo. The weather wasn’t great (it hasn’t been for the whole trip!), so there was no view from the mountain top, but it felt great to get there anyway.

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‘View’ from the top of Mt Qixing in Yangmingshan National Park.

On the way down there was a warning sign for poisonous snakes, eek!

After finding a bus back down to the city (not easy when all of the bus stops are announced in Chinese!), we went up Taipei 101, the 5th tallest building in the world. It was shrouded in clouds that day, and looking up, the brightly lit layers of the pagoda-inspired structure seemed to extend into the infinite. I was most impressed by the enormous steel ball in the 89th floor that is used to balance the swaying of the tower. The engineering required to build a structure of that magnitude is really interesting.

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Me and the giant balancing ball.

The people working at Taipei 101 spoke some of the best English on the whole trip. And that’s how it was - the further you got away from the big tourist attractions, the less English information.  I downloaded an app and bought a set of flashcards to learn Chinese characters. I recognise maybe 10 or so of the most common now, and by the end of the trip every metro ride was a big puzzle, scanning the signs for characters and fragments of characters that I knew.

If you look confuse though, people generally approach you and try to help. Taiwan is a really friendly country, if foreign, and I was glad of that when I went running in the mornings. Some people would stare and comment on my clothing (they always thought I must be freezing!), but it was always good-natured. 

Taiwan is also filled with gaudy temples, which seem to pop up from out of no where from behind otherwise drab street corners. They take their temples seriously despite the gay colors, and there are many different gods for everything from good grades to healthy childbirth to martial arts.

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A temple in the Anping district of Tainan.

Although the dominating religious views aren’t Christian, the Taiwanese still celebrate Christmas. Or they put up Christmas decorations at least - and leave them up until the end of January (at least)!

Here’s what I did, training-wise, last week:

Monday: First exploratory run in Taipei. I had studied the Strava Heatmap and decided to run to Daan Park. The park was nice, but there was a lot of stop and go waiting for crosswalks on the way there. I saw lots of older Taiwanese doing Tai-chi in the park; it was very peaceful to run past them. Total: 8.5K, 43 vertical meters, 59min.

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Happy to have found trails even in the big city!

Tuesday: For my second run in Taipei, I decided to head in the opposite direction from the day before. This turned out to be a good idea as I got to park areas more quickly. I ran through Xinsheng park and the Fine arts expo park; the paths through these were all paved. It was rainy (gack); it rained almost every day we were in Taiwan. Total: 6.3K, 13 vertical meters, 40min.

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Jogging track rules at Xinsheng park. I’m glad they made some rules so that I didn’t run in high-heeled shoes by accident.

Wednesday: I headed back to Xinsheng park and found the connector to Dajia park past the ghostly Lin An Tai historical sight. That park was all paved as well, and bookcased by the river on one side and a noisy freeway on the other. Not incredibly beautiful, but at least easy running terrain. Total: 10.5K, 18 vertical meters, 1h4min.

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Dragon head along the river in Dajia park. The big temple-like structure in the background is the Grand Hotel, the first five-star hotel in Taiwan. I refrained to take a picture of the noisy freeway on the other side!

In the afternoon I hiked up Mt Qixing in Yangmingshan National Park with Helge. I’m adding this to my total this week because we hiked fairly hard, and it was quality time on my feet, an important aspect to endurance training. Total: 10.2K, 746 vertical meters, 3h15min.

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Steep stairs through the forest on our circumvent way up to Mt Qixing.

Thursday: Rest day. This felt necessary; I woke up in the morning and really did not feel like running.

Friday: We spent Thursday night in Tainan, and I had planned out a running route and everything when I realized I forgot some of my running clothes in Taipei. Bummer! I did 45 minutes of fairly intense yoga to loosen up and shake off the restlessness.

Saturday: I had time for a slightly longer run, and decided to go back to Daan park and run the loop around the park, hard, to see what kind of Strava placement I could take. I ran via Chang Kai-shek Memorial park which is nearby. The Memorial is really grandiose; two enormous, temple-like structures and a big stone memorial in the middle. The park around the memorial is nice though, with lots of cool statues and little bridges and winding paths. 

I ran the two kilometers around Daan Park at around 10K effort and thought it would be good enough to take the Queen of the Mountain. Unfortunately, I started walking while still in the Strava segment and didn’t get it after all. Too bad, now I have a goal for my next trip to Taiwan ;)

Total: 11.5K, 76 vertical meters, 1h9min

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Sunday: Short run before we headed to airport - to fly to Osaka, Japan for more work! I went back to Xinsheng and Dajia, and accidently found myself on the final kilometer of the Taipei Standard Chartered Marathon race course! I ran along with some tired-looking 10K runners before ducking off the course just before the finish line. How funny would it have been to sprint across the finish line though!

Total: 6.9K, 15 vertical meters, 42min + 20 min AM yoga

Weekly total:

Running/hiking: 54.3K, 908 vertical meters (almost all on Mt Qixing!), 7h51min

Yoga: 1h5min

Total: 8h56min

Not bad for such a busy week! I’m in Japan for most of this week, more exciting meetings and maybe some exploratory runs are in store.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Sunday, January 17, 2016

Blue extra (Adventures this week)

This is my weekly adventure/training log for week 3 of 2016. You can find all of my logs here.

This week has been crazy in more ways than one, and I have two pieces of news. First off, the draw for the OCC was on Wednesday and I’M IN! That means I get to spend the summer training for a 55K race with 3300 meters of vertical. In Chamonix! I could not be more excited.

Second of all, I’m currently writing this post from Taipei, Taiwan, where I’ll be spending the next week on a business trip. Hopefully I’ll get in some fun runs as well :) One those notes, let’s move on to this week’s adventures!

I often call myself a ‘blue extra’ cross-country skier, meaning I like to cross-country ski mostly when the conditions are just right. In cross-country skiing different waxes are used in different snow conditions, and blue extra wax is what you use in the best of conditions. This week I have exclusively waxed with blue extra, and I haven’t done much else than ski.

Monday: Evening ski from Sognsvann to Ullevålseter and back, which are some of the busiest ski trails in Oslo. I was feeling sluggish, but perked up once we got going. Then there was this guy who was skiing right on my heels, and I kept thinking he would pass me, so I would ski faster to try and keep him from passing me. Probably went too hard considering the weekend we had!

Total: 10.9K,  256 vertical meters, 1h2min + 20min AM strength training 

Tuesday: Ran to work. I left the house in my studded winter running shoes, but quickly realized that the bike path was cleared and salted. Not wanting to wear out my studs, I went home and changed shoes. There was some snow on the bike path though, and it packed in the tread of my shoes and made them really slippery. Then the dirt road over Gjelleråsen was shin deep powder. All and all, not a fast effort, but I got to see the sun rise over Gjelleråsen and that made it worth it.

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Dawn at Gjelleråsen

Total: 13.7K, 236 vertical meters, 1h40min + 1h30min PM dance class.

Wednesday: Last week my friend Vibeke convinced me to sign up for one of the races in a weekly ski series, the OBIK Skikarusell. The races are short, usually around 10K, and everyone from amateurs to near pros participate. The race takes place at Holmenkollen, the stadium with the famous ski jump. On a good day, it looks like this:

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The top female skiers in Norway duke it out at Holmenkollen. This is exactly what I look like when I ski.

We were racing in the evening, so it looked more like this:

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Random guy racing the OBIK Skikarusell.

I was super nervous before start, and didn’t really think through the process of getting ready very well. I regret not warming up more for example, because the first lap felt like warm-up. The start was in waves of 4, and I started with two guys who took off immediately and one girl who set a good pace. The course was 3 loops totaling 8.6K, a little shorter than advertised. Each loop consisted of numerous short, steep climbs and equally fast descents.

The awful thing about a looped course is that you can tell how much worse you feel every time you start a new loop. I passed the girl I started with after 1.5 loops, but by the time I came into the final loop I was feeling destroyed and looking over my shoulder for pursuers. Not that no one was passing me. Many very fit men in lyrca who started after me had already whizzed by me at impossible speeds. But I wasn’t really competing them.

Somehow I made it to the finish line, the cold and my heart rate making my breathing painful. Cross-country skiing is not for the faint of heart. Just to prove that I was in true pain, here’s my heart rate graph. Ouch:

 

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Pain from start to finish

I end up 40th out 59 woman, which isn’t too bad all things considered.

Total: 8.6K, 210 vertical meters, 38min16s + 30 min AM yoga

Thursday: Rest day, 30 minute easy AM yoga

Friday: I finally decided to do something I’ve been thinking about for a while, and ski to work! I took the bus up into the forest, and had 13 kilometers of divine skiing in the wee hours of the morning. Suprisingly, all of the floodlights on the ski trails were on (in Trondheim they are only on in the evenings), even though I was the only skier out. It was really cold, a colleague of mine claimed -20 C on her thermometer, but I was dressed well and constant forward motion kept me warm.

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Thrill to hit the ski trails at 7am.

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Some sunrise action towards the end of the ski.

The last 2K of the commute were less smooth. First I had to walk one kilometer up a steep, icy road, which I had anticipated. Then I planned to ski down the dirt road that was shin deep powder on Tuesday - but they had scrapped it! There was barely enough snow to ski down, and I spent the whole time dodging rocks. This was disappointing given I had expected shin deep powder.

Total: 15.5K, 332 vertical meters, 1h34min

Saturday: My flight to Taiwan was on Saturday afternoon. Despite being slightly hungover after the New Year’s Party with Audun’s work, we got up early to get in a good ski. The conditions and weather were absolutely phenomenal.

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Audun near Skytta

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Disgustingly beautiful light around Kjusltjernet

Totals: 15.7K, 334 vertical meters, 1h 35min

Sunday: This was the day that disappeared in transit. Taiwan is 7 hours ahead of Norway, so I lost 7 hours of Sunday in addition to spend 15-odd hours travelling. We got here in time to check into our hotel, eat dinner, and poke around the block. Here’s an ornate temple we stopped by on our walk:

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Also, there’s technotoilet in my hotel room.

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What to choose?!

Now I’m going to do some relaxing yoga before I call it a day!

Totals this week:

Running: 10.9K, 256 vertical meters, 1h2min

Cross-country skiing: 50.7K, 1132 vertical meters, 6h25min

Strength training/yoga/dance: 3h35min

Total: 11h2min

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Monday, January 11, 2016

The Buff Bandit (Adventures this week)

This is my weekly adventure/training log for week 2 of 2016. You can find all of my logs here.

It’s been a cold week in Oslo, and this weekend we finally got the snow to match the cold. It’s winter, for realz! Although the snow wreaked havoc with my planned running mileage, I made up for it with skiing. Here’s a recap of my training this week.

Monday: I work about 15 kilometers outside of Oslo, and given my environmental consciousness and love of being outside, I try to commute under my own power as much as possible. During the summer I can ride my road bike and get the commute done in 40-45 minutes each way. During the winter, riding on snow bike paths on my (relatively) heavy hybrid bike with studded tires, it takes much longer. On Monday it was -12 C, and my toes gradually got colder and colder the longer I was out, despite my fleece-lined shoe covers. But I saw a man riding his unicyle on the bike path, and that made my day. After I got home I lay on the couch like a slug instead of doing strength training like I planned. No longer being on vacation is rough!

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The Buff Bandit emerges with the cold weather.

Stats: 32.2km, 398 vertical meters, 1h55min.

Tuesday:  Run too/from my weekly dance class in central Oslo. I was feeling antsy and ran pretty hard, although I wasn’t wearing my heart rate monitor. My playlist was egging me on! I ran past a whole block of buildings surrounded by police cars, which I later learned was due to a fire, not the TV-show-like crime scene I imagined.

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The Buff Bandit prowls the streets of Oslo in the dark.

Stats: 9.3km, 105 vertical meters, 56min + 90min dance class sandwiched in there.

Wednesday: I took the bus to work (which involves more time walking to and from bus stops than it does actual walking). Then I left most of my stuff at work so I could run home. The best part of the run home is the first 2 kilometers, which go through the forest. I jogged up the steep inclined to the top of Gjelleråsen while listen to Tour de Ski coverage on the radio and watching the beautiful colors of the sunset. 

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If the Buff Bandit goes out in the daylight, she stays in the forest to avoid blowing her cover!

Stats: 12.9km, 133 vertical meters, 1h22min

Thursday: On Thursday Audun and I met our friends Vibeke and David on the west side of Oslo for some cross-country skiing. There was just barely enough of a base for skiing, and there were both icy patches and twigs and brush sticking out of the snow in some places. It was snowing the whole time we were out though, so there’s hope for more robust conditions!

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The Buff Bandit has a Buffed companion.

The first 4 kilometers of the ski was all up hill, and I was feeling good, so I went hard. Then somehow Vibeke had convinced me to do a 10K ski race with her next week. Since I’ve resolved to work on my racing nerves, I decided to go for it. I’m already nervous!

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Stopping by woods on a snowy evening.

Stats: 15.5km, 347 vertical meters, 1h29min + 30 min yoga in the AM.

Friday: I biked to and from work in pretty snowy conditions. It was really slow going, and I felt totally drained afterwards.

Stats: 32.4km, 370 vertical meters, 2h2min.

Saturday: I finally convinced Audun to buy himself backcountry skis this week, so naturally we went out for a backcountry adventure this weekend. We went to Norefjell, and skinned up next to the ski lift at the resort before heading into the mountains. The conditions were pretty heinous - it was -15 C and very low visibility. Luckily the route to Høgevarde cabin is marked with big wooden stakes placed within 10 meters of eachother, so you can find your way even if you can’t see anything else. The stakes had been coated with frost and snow, and provided the only relief in the landscape. 

Initially we had planned to ski into a cabin further out, Toveseter. But the going was slow, and the route markings ended at the Høgevarde cabin, so we did the wise thing and stopped there.

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This is what Høgevarde cabin looked like we when arrived. Brrr.

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Self portrait: Buff Bandit trying out the icy monobrow look.

To our surprise, on this cold weekend in early January, seven other people showed up at the cabin. All of them were decidedly more hardcore winter travellers than us; some of them tented out that night and most of them sat around swapping notes from last year’s Amundsen Expedition. But, as one of them kindly pointed out, we had made it too the cabin as well. That counts for something, right?

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Audun digging out the area around the front door at Høgevarde.

Stats: 11.9km, 788 vertical meters, 3h14min

Sunday: The wind had picked up by Sunday morning and it was snowing even harder than the day before. We decided to take the easiest way possible back to Norefjell Resort, by following a marked route down from the cabin to Tempelseter and then picking up some cross-country ski trails That way we wouldn’t have to break as much trail as the day before.

The downhill from Tempelseter was some of the most horrendously difficult descending I have done on backcountry skis. It wasn’t steep, but the light was flat so you couldn’t gauge the steepness either. The snow was highly variable, from icy nubs to loose powder to wind compacted snow. More often than not, a nice patch of soft snow would suddenly turn into rigid wind pack, stopping your skis and throwing you on your face.

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Audun telemarking on his new backcountry skis. I kindly didn’t photographer the faceplant that inevitably happened.

After the frustrating decent, it was a relief to finally find the ski trails. There was less wind now that we were low down in the forest, but it was still snowing hard and there were gusts of wind whenever we crossed through open areas. I was glad we weren’t high up on the mountain, and even glader to get back to the car just in time to listen to the last stage of Tour de Ski on the radio.

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In the forest on the groomed ski trails.

Stats: 19.2km, 371 vertical meters, 2h56min.

Totals:

Running: 22.3km, 238 vertical meters, 2h18min

Biking: 64.6km, 759 vertical meters, 3h57min

Skiing: 46.6km, 1506 vertical meters, 7h39min

Yoga/dance: 2h

Total training time: 15h49min

This week my goal is to enjoy the beautiful snow, and start strength training again!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

What I learned about running in 2015

In 2015, I ran more than ever, totally 1953 kilometers and 46 007 vertical meters. It was the second year I decided to train ’seriously’  for running races, the first year being 2014 for Ultrabirken. I have had several successful races, but one less successful (Nordmarka Skogsmaraton, more of which in a moment), and one DNS (Ultravasan) due to injury/undertraining. A new year will bring new chances, and I hope to become even stronger in 2016. Here’s some lessons I learned in the last year that I will take with me into the 2016 season.

Racing really gets to me. I only raced 5 times this year (well, 6 if you include the spontaneous Scottish hill race), and looking back, the clear trend I see is that I let racing wrack my nerves too much, especially if I have high expectations of myself. Before Fjellseterløpet I was so nervous that I couldn’t eat after lunch, even though the race was at 6 pm. Fjellseterløpet was short though, and that mistake didn’t matter so much. Where they did matter was in the longest race, Nordmarka Skogsmaraton, I ran this year. I plan to race more often in 2016 and try to lower my expectations for every race. After all, you can’t PR every time!

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Running a PR on an empty stomach in the rain at Fjellseterløpet. 

I need to up my mental game. In some ways, it’s strange that I consider Nordmarka Skogsmaraton such a failure. I did, after all, PR by nearly 20 minutes. There are two reasons I’m not satisfied with how that race went. First of all, I am sure I was fit enough to run at least 10 minutes faster than I did, and secondly, I didn’t enjoy myself, not one bit. And although some people might scoff at my suggestion that marathons should be fun, I am definitely in the ‘if it’s not fun, why do it?’ camp. So where did I go wrong? I let my race nerves get to me. At the start of the race, when I didn’t immediately feel great, I let my internal monologue tell me I was having a terrible day and couldn’t possibly reach my goals instead of cheering myself on. I need to find a way to turn a bad day into a good day, to sell myself a tale of success even if I’m feeling crappy, because once you’re fit, racing is a mental game. 

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See how the two women behind me are having way more fun than me? At Nordmarka Skogsmaraton.

Consistency is king. The real way to get fit is not to eat some magic food or run some special type of interval, it’s to keep training. All. The. Time. Part of the game of becoming a better runner is becoming someone who is out running, despite dark or cold, despite time constraints. I feel I succeeded pretty well at consistency in running in 2015, but consistency also includes the stuff outside of running, especially strength training. This year I will strive to find time to do injury-preventing strength training, because being fit and injured is a horrible feeling. Which brings me to…

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Consistency is -10 C at 6 am on a weekday.

Respect the 10% rule. For you non-runners, the 10% rule is a rule of thumb that says you shouldn’t increase the distance you run by more than 10% per week in order to avoid injury. This is one of those stupid things that you read everywhere but you don’t actually believe until you’ve broken it and seen the consequences. Without fail, every serious twinge I had last year was related to a spike in mileage. The most serious injury I had in 2015, the nagging foot pain that lead to me DNSing Ultravasan, was due to a training block that looked like this:

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I’ll just spontaneously run a 100 km week. FOOL!

And to end on a positive note… I’m not a slow as I think I am. I typically characterize myself as a slow twitch, endurance type of person that could only ever be good at marathons or ultras. But I definitely feel like the 10K races I’ve done (Sentrumsløpet and Hytteplanmila) have come relatively easy to me. Although 10Ks aren’t exactly sprints, I have started to get excited about becoming a little faster. 

So with this wealth of knowledge and optimism, what's in store for 2016? I’m glad you asked, dear reader. First off, I have signed up for Oslo Ecotrail 45K in late May, and I plan to run Sentrumsløpet 10K again in April, with a goal of seeing sub-43 minutes. The more exciting part is that I have my name in the hat for Orsières-Champex-Chamonix (OCC), which one of the little sister races of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blance (UTMB). By ‘little’ sister, I mean that the OCC is only 55 kilometers with 3300 meters of elevation gain. The UTMB (and OCC by association) are the biggest ultra-trail running event of the season in Europe, and really want to be there. The lottery for the 1200 places at the OCC will be drawn on January 13, and I’m totally counting down the days. If I don’t get selected (and there is a very real chance that I will not), I will try to sign up for Tromsø Skyrace, which is also in August. Additionally, if I don’t get drawn, I plan to run Ultrabirken again in June to get qualifying points for next year’s OCC. The bottom line: I’m going to Chamonix, either this year or next.

Are you psyched? Cause I am!

- The Wild Bazilchuk