Wednesday, February 24, 2016

Latvia and back on the track

Last week was a slow training week, mostly due to the fact that I spent three days in Latvia, socializing with old friends. Last week also marked 10 weeks to my first big race this season, Sentrumsløpet 10K and 14 weeks to Oslo Ecotrail 45K. I hope to PR in the 10K (again) and finish the 45K strong. In other words, it’s time to stop fooling around and get running!

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Riga’s Saint Peter’s Church. Lots of beautiful old buildings in the old city where we stayed!

Monday: After the Storsalen Epic, a rest day was in order. I couldn’t help but drool at the fresh snow that was falling in Trondheim though, and I vowed to get out the next day.

Tuesday: AM yoga + strength training. Dad and I decided to try and leave work early to get in a descent ski before the sun went down. Long story short, we failed miserably, but the sun doesn’t go down so early any more so we still got to ski (mostly) in the light. We went for around Skjelbreia lake and then did a bonus lap in the lighted trails at Fjellsetermyra for a total of 16K. My skis were terribly slow, so even though I felt snappy on the uphills I lost free speed on the downhills.

Wednesday: I got out for another ski in the AM, this time in Estenstadmarka, on the other side of Trondheim. The waxing conditions were heinous, as the temperature was +3 C low down and went below freezing (I suspect) further up in the hills. I alternated between slipping and collecting gigantic clumps of snow under my skis. If nothing else, it made for a good workout.

Since I spent 7 hours in the afternoon on the train back to Oslo I was glad I gotten out in the morning to combat the restlessness that comes with sitting still.

Thursday: Back in Oslo, it was time for the first track workout of the year. I’m trying to shake things up and improve on my weaknesses, and the track is an obvious place to start. I convinced Audun (who is planning to take revenge on the 10K distance) to go to the indoor track at Bislett with me.

The indoor track is kind of bizarre. First of all, it wraps around the outside of the regular track, and is therefore 546 meters instead of the more conventional 400 meters. Also, the track (as far as I can tell) is circular rather than oblong, so you can’t really gauge how far you’ve gotten as you run around it. During the hours it’s open for the general public, it’s also rather crowded with people going at speeds varying from a slow jog to a sprint. The only thing to do is to go about your own business and get your workout down.

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Satisfied a session of 400m repeats well done!

The workout of the day was 6x400m repeats. I’ve never run 400m repeats before, but according to the illustrious Jack Daniels, I was supposed to be running at about 4 min/km. I had no idea how fast this would be and went out about as hard as I felt I could hold comfortably for about a minute and a half (if that makes any sense). To my surprise, all of my reps ending up being much faster than the suggested pace, even though I felt like I was going an an appropriate intensity.  Could it be I’m not the tortoise I’ve always pictured myself? I also felt that this ‘fast’ workout was easy compared to many workouts I’ve done, simple because the intervals were so short.

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Workout splits, for all the running nerds out there.

Friday: Rest day, travelled to Riga, Latvia.

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We ate cake.

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And also drank beer. From the left: Åsmund, Fredrik, me and Ambjørn.

Saturday: Still in Riga, I decided check out the hotel gym. It was very simple, but had a treadmill. Although I generally advocate run outside in new places, in Riga it was around freezing and the streets were covered in a deep layer of slush. I don’t mind the cold, but cold and wet make for miserable running. So I decided to take the easy way out and spent an hour on the treadmill, slowly increasing the pace to relieve monotonous boredom. Now that I remember how boring treadmills are, I won’t be doing that for the rest of the season!

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 Moar cakes!

Sunday: Rest, and travelled home from Riga. Got a deep tissue massage in Riga before we left. Wish I treated myself to massages more often, there is nothing more relaxing!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

The Storsalen Epic

As we climbed up the steep, snow-covered road through the forest, each of us silently switched off our headlamps. First me, then Dad, then Ben, a fellow Vermonter who has found his way to Norway and was joining us for a weekend’s adventure. The darkness slowly sank in and grew brighter as our eyes adjusted. The moon was only a quarter full and surrounded by light cloud cover that diffused the light. It gave just enough light to see the track ahead of us and the dark depth of the surrounding trees. The world was rendered in muted greyscale.

Innerdalen is often called ‘Norway’s most beautiful valley’. Although I can hardly claim to have visited all of Norway’s numerous valleys, I’ll admit that Innerdalen has a certain mystical appeal. The DNT cabin Innerdalshytta located in the valley is spectacularly located below Innerdalståret (‘Innerdal Tower’), a cone-shaped peak that conjures to mind trolls and fairytales. Innerdalstårnet is a spectacular hike, but we were there to ski. Our goal for the next day was Storsalen, a chunky, 1700-meter at the very end of the valley.

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Innerdalstårnet (left) and Skarfjellet (right) lit by cloud-shrouded moonlight.

As we left the cabin at 8:30 the next morning, the sun was just warming the tops of east-facing peaks above us. The last weather forecast I had seen before we left Trondheim was for cloud cover and light snows after lunch, but the forecast had changed nearly every day for the last week. One thing you learn about the weather in Norway is that you have to be willing to gamble to win; there is no certain weather forecast! This one looked to be panning out well, although the top of our goal, Storsalen, was encircled in clouds.

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Dad crossing the frozen lake near Innerdalshytta, Innerdalstårnet to the right and Storsalen in the clouds in the center.

It took two hours to ski the 6 kilometers up Innderdalen to the base of Storsalen. We had to break trail, but the snow conditions weren’t too difficult. Ten centimeters or so of fresh snow lay on top of an older, more compact layer. The most challenging factor was the brushy stands of trees we had to worm our way through. I wondered how many days or months it had been since the last people other than us had skied up this way. There were no tracks to tell their tales.

At the end of valley, we finally bushwacked our way above treeline. The valley sides were pretty steep, but the conditions were very stable, avalanche wise. The sun was creeping towards us on the the valley walls, even though it was well past 10 o’clock. The arrival of the sun after the darkest months isn’t sudden; it’s gradual, with a little more light every day.

In the upper bowl of Storsalen, the terrain was barely covered by snow, and we had to weave a path through rings of rocks to get to the summit ridge. The snow that covered the rocks was light and tantalizingly fluffy; this was definitely ’shark’ terrain, where a surprise rock could appear in the snow and bit your skis as you descended. Luckily we spotted a more direct line from the top that looked have better snow cover.

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Ben and Dad traverse the final band of rocks to the summit ridge.

The sun had been lurking behind light cloud cover, but it came out in full force as we climbed the summit ridge. I had that magical feeling of being in just the right place at just the right time. The weather was great, the conditions were great and we had the mountain all to ourselves.

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Dad on the summit ridge just as the clouds disperse.

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Group summit photo.

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Looking down into Innerdalen from the top; the shadow of the mountains on the valley wall. Photo: Dad.

The skiing on the way down was everything I had hoped for, fluffy and fun. I struggled a bit on my skinny skis at first, mostly because if you go too fast they start to wobble, but soon adapted to the great conditions. I’ll let the pictures from the descent do the rest of the talking:

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Ben in the summit bowl

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Dad in the summit bowl 

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Making tracks.

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Too much fun!

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Virgin pow.

After finishing our amazing run and arriving back to the valley, we skied out 6K back to the cabin as fast as possible, trying to beat the imminent sunset. Our tracks from the morning made for fast going. After we stopped at the cabin for a snack, the sun had already crept behind the horizon. We needed our headlamps for the fast descent back to the car, and the final leg of the day passed quickly and in silence. I was beat, and I took the silence of the others as a sign of fatigue. It was the beautiful fatigue of a day well-filled with great skiing!

Here’s a brief recap of the rest of my (rather light) training week. No pictures because I broke my smart phone a week ago, and don’t bring my camera with me on runs!

Monday: Rest. I really needed a whole rest day after last week.

Tuesday: Rode my bike to and from work and into the city for dance class. Total 40K biking. It rained a ton on Monday, and the bike paths were basically completely ice and snow free. Although the biking was refreshingly fast, I would rather have good ski conditions and slow biking!

Wednesday: Feeling under the weather, so I took an extra rest day. Better to be undertrained than overtrained. I took the night train to Trondheim to do research in the my lab there.

Thursday: Really easy jog with mom, just to get some fresh air. Just over 5K.

Friday: AM 20 minutes yoga session with some functional core work. Then I took some time off during the day to get in a run. It was sunny out, which was great considering I’m spending all day in a lab with no windows. I ran the river trail, which is a nice green lung in the urban part of Trondheim. The trail was crusty snow with a narrow line of footprints packed out in the center, which made for slow going as I was trying to stay within the packed out area to avoid scraping up my ankles on the crusty snow. Total 11K

Saturday: Because of #PhDlife, I spend most of my Saturday in the lab, but went out for a lunchtime run to keep sane. I choose to run on bike paths and sidewalks which made for a faster pace than Friday. Total 10K + 20 min AM yoga + evening ski to Innerdalshytta.

Sunday: Storsalen. 10 hours on the go, around 28K and 1500 vertical

Totals:

Bike: 39.8K, 460 vertical meters, 2h21min

Run: 26.3K, 360 vertical meters, 3h11min

Ski: 32.5, around 9 hours moving time and 1700 vertical (GPS died on the way back!)

Yoga/strength: 40 min

Total time: 15 hours, totally dominated by the Storsalen ski trip.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

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