Friday, March 18, 2016

Easter preparations

Easter is a big holiday in Norway, not because of religion, but because of skiing. As the days grow longer, the weather in the high mountains starts to get sunnier, softening the wind-blasted winter snow. All over the country, Norwegians dust off their skis and take advantage of the three days of public holiday to take a long weekend, or a long week, off. 

As with all of my vacations, I go crazy daydreaming and planning well in advance. This year, I had my sights set on the newly established Jotunheimen Haute Route, which crosses ‘the Home of the Giants’ and ascends some of Norways highest mountains. In addition to Audun, our friends Vibeke and David planned to join us. 

As we head to Jotunheimen now, it looks as though the winter storms haven’t quite died down and we may not get the weather necessary to summit big peaks. Luckily there is a Low Route running parallel to the High Route, so we are still going to attempt our crossing of Jotunheimen. No matter what I’m looking forward to a week of adventure!

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What’s in my backpack.

Due to my departure to the high mountains, I’m recapping this week’s training early. I had a really good week, and was able to hit all of my goals training-wise. Let’s hope I haven’t tired myself out too much for skiing this week!


Monday has become long run day, and this time I was able to get out in the middle of the beautiful, sunny day. I optimistically thought that most of the snow would have melted around Maridalsvann, and ended up churning my way through several kilometers of slushing before rejoining the mercifully bare road. I had fun though!

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After running most of the way around Maridalsvann, I wanted to find the ‘secret’ system of trails I’ve been exploring, this time from the opposite end of the trail system where the trail is more faint. I headed off behind the farmhouse where I had popped out from the trails previously, and started following some tracks in the right direction. Upon closer inspection, I realized that the tracks belonged to a moose and not a human. And then I saw the moose. It was standing maybe 100 meters away, off the trail, in a stand of trees. For those of you who have never seen a moose, they are impressively tall and large and you don’t want to provoke them. The moose started to walk away from me, and I figured I could follow the trail around the trees it was standing in. I passed it a second time, glaring at me through the trees, and spent the rest of the run jumping at moose-like fallen tree branches. 25.5K, 340 vertical, 2h50min + 20min strength session


After work jog downtown for my weekly dance class. Legs felt surprisingly fresh! 6.9K, 33 vertical, 41min + 90min dance class


Bike commute to and from work. I’m still using my winter bike with studded tires, but the bike path was ice and snow free on Wednesday - I’ll be back on my road bike after Easter I think. 31.6K, 369 vertical, 1h45min


Time for my weekly thrashing at Bislett stadium. This week Audun went with me, although he had given blood earlier in the day and so took it much easier than me. I was glad of the company as I once again circled the monotonous indoor track. This week I did eight 400 meter repeats, which I still think are pretty fun because you feel like you’re going so fast! My foot pod reads a little faster than I’m actually going, which is encouraging but not useful for practicing holding a pace. Hopefully the outdoor track will open soon and I can get more realistic speed estimates. 10.7K, 34 vertical, 1h + another 90 min dance class

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Wearing my fast shoes on the indoor track at Bislett.



Commute on foot. I felt sluggish to begin with and thought a lot about giving up and catching the bus. I think that it’s important to have mental battles with yourself sometimes though, just to prove that you can persevere. So I saw it through. I can always look forward to the last part of the commute, which goes over a big hill through the forest. A great reward after many boring kilometers along the highway! 12.9K, 213 vertical, 1h25min + 20 min strength and foam rolling

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- Running: 56.2K, 628 vertical, 5h56min

- Biking: 31.6K, 369 vertical, 1h45min

- Strength/dance class: 3h40min

Total time: 11h30min

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

What's in a season?

I’ve been posting a weekly ‘training log’ since January (you can find them all here), and I realize it might not be entirely clear what I’m training for. It has taken me a while putting together the pieces of my running season this year. I wanted to do some big races that challenge me at the same time as I want to avoid injury. Although I considered trying my hand at some longer ultramarathons, ultimately I decided to limited myself to sub-60K distances, and to challenge myself with some new sub-marathon distances. It takes years, not months, to develop the strength to run long distances, and I have plenty of time to get there. Here’s a breakdown of the main running events I’m going to do, with my initial goals. It will be interesting to see if my goals change at all throughout the season!

Sentrumsløpet (10K road race, April 23)


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From the start of Sentrumsløpet 2014. 

Sentrumsløpet was my first 10K race ever in 2014 (race report here). It is a very large race, with 7000 people already signed up for this year’s event. The course tours the most scenic part of downtown Oslo, and there are lots of spectators. My A goal (given an ideal day) is to run sub 44 minutes on the 10K distance, shaving 20 seconds off my 10K time. I’ve starting doing intervals training specifically geared towards the 10K distance, and in a month we’ll see if the hours circling the indoor track at Bislett pay off! My B goal (if my day is only ‘OK’) would be another sub 45 minute 10K, and my C goal (given a bad day) would be a course PR, or sub 47:21.

Oslo Ecotrail (45K trail race, May 21)

Ecotrail logo

Ecotrail is a trail running series originating in France that highlights urban trail systems. Given Oslo’s extensive public forest, my home city is an obvious place to host such an event. I’m running the 45K distance, which is the second longest. Although this is only slightly longer than a marathon, I know that some of the trails are quite technical and the finishing times from last year reflect that. I don’t have any time goal for this event. My goal is to try and enjoy it! I still believe I performed under my potential at Oslo Skogsmaraton last year because I wasn’t enjoying myself and let negative thoughts get to me. Ecotrail will be all about positive thinking, and not about finishing times. Given last year’s finishing times though, I expect to finish somewhere around the 5:30 mark. To train for Ecotrail, I’m planning to build my weekly long run up to around 30K, hitting up technical trails along the way, which I think should be plenty for this distance.

Birkebeinerløpet (trail half marathon, June 11)

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From the Ultrabirken 2014 course, the last 10K of which is the same as the trail half-marathon I’ve signed up for this year.

Birkebeinerløpet is a running race in the ‘Birkebeiner’ series, famous for the iconic cross-country ski race. I’ve done the big sister of this event, the Ultrabirken, which dovetails the Birkebeinerløpet course for the last 10K. I’ve actually never run the half marathon distance before, and this seemed like a good opportunity. Additionally, I signed my incredible mother up for this race as her Christmas present (I always give great presents like that :P), so I figured it would be fun to race at the same time as her. My A goal for the day is to finish in the top fourth of my class, which based on last years times would require me to run a 1:48. My plan to train for this race is to throw in some longer, half-marathon paced runs as soon as I recover from Ecotrail. 

Hornindal Rundt (38K mountain race, July 9)


A promo picture for Hornindal Rundt, taken from the website. I’m expecting it to be stunning Norwegian mountains at their best.

My monster race of the season is the OCC in August (see more below), and during the summer I need to put in a lot of vertical to prepare (this means fun adventures in the mountains!). I decided it would be good to plan a shakedown race that also had lots of vertical, and settled on Hornindal Rundt. I’ve thought about doing this race for a couple of years now, although I really would love to do the long course (75K, 5600 meters of vertical). This year I think the short course better suits my needs though, which are training rather than pushing myself to the limit. I expect the course to be stunning, and for my quads to be completely destroyed at the end of the day. Based on last year’s results, I’m hoping to finish in somewhere between 7 and 8 hours, with a smile on my face.

Orsières-Champex-Chamonix (‘OCC’, 55K mountain race, August 25)

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Biking the Tour du Mont Blanc in 2012

As I’ve waxed poetic about before, something about the trail that encircles Mont Blanc enchants me. I’ve biked it, I’ve hiked, and now I’m going to run one third of it in one day. The OCC starts in Switzerland and ends in France, after tackling som epic climbs and spectacular scenery. I expect this to be hard; the average finishing time last year was ten and a half hours. That’s practically walking pace! I don’t really have any time goals for this event; just like Ecotrail, I mostly want to finish strong and enjoy myself. And start getting to know the course as a runner so that maybe, someday, I’ll be able to tackle the grandaddy of European ultramarthons: UTMB.

So that’s my race calendar for this year! All that’s left to do is diligently train for all of these adventures. Here’s my training log for last week.

I was in Trondheim to do some experiments and spent quite a lot of time in the lab. As a consequence, I wasn’t able to do in my weekly interval workout or long run. In the face of stress it’s sometimes better to back off than push yourself to the breaking point.

Monday: I got up at 5AM to catch my flight to Trondheim, and was at work until 8PM. Probably I should have just relaxed, but I wanted to test out the skiing conditions in Trondheim. Dad and I skate skied around the illuminated ski trails near my parent’s house. (Side note: if anyone ever asks me “Why Norway?”, public, free cross-country ski trails that are lit up at night in every city is a heck of a good answer!) Skate sking is hard work, especially on the hilly trails of Estenstadmarka. 8K, 254 vertical, 42min

Tuesday: I had planned to get in a long run after work, but I got delayed in the lab as well as on my way home. By the time I was ready to start running I was stressed, hungry and the sun was about to go down. I started running but quickly realized that my head wasn’t in the game. I jog 4K and went home to relax. Good decision. 4.4K, 113 vertical, 30min + 20 min AM yoga

Wednesday: Easy midday run with mom, did some drills and strides to shake off lingering calf tightness. It worked beautifully, my calves felt totally fresh after the run. Inspired by watching the Tour of Canada on TV, I went out for another quick skate ski in the evening. Run: 8.5K, 93 vertical,1h2min, ski: 7.7K, 265 vertical, 41min

Thursday: The weather was beautiful and I took a break from running experiments in my windowless lab to get in midday a run along the river. There was quite a lot of snow even at that low altitude, although I imagine it will melt quickly with sunny days like that.  11K, 164 vertical, 1h12min + 1h AM yoga and strength

Friday: Rest, travelled home to Oslo.

Saturday: For the first time in weeks I was in Oslo for the weekend, and I decided to take advantage of the great cross-country skiing we have here in the south as well. Audun and I took the ski bus to the far north of the Oslo forest and skied back to Oslo. Although the route was net downhill, there was lots of climbing to begin with and the waxing conditions were very challenging, with the temperature hovering right around freezing.

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On route to Oslo! 

This was by far my longest ski this year - over 40K! - but I felt surprisingly good afterwards. I guess the net downhill (and the waffles we stopped to eat along the way) helped. 41.4K, 1090 vertical, 3h56min

Sunday: We spent most of the day spectating the biathlon world championships at Holmenkollen. It was really exciting being the crowd; biathlon is a pretty nerve-wracking sport because every time the skiers stop to shoot it really shakes up the ranks.

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The pack heads out at the women’s mass start, eventually won by Frenchwoman Marie Dorin Habert. A Norwegian took the gold in the men’s mass start though, much to the crowd’s delight!

I was feeling restless when we got home and went out for a run before dinner. I felt good, and I think that this relatively easy week (running-wise if not skiing-wise) was what my body needed. 7.1K, 105 vertical, 44min

Weekly totals:

- Running: 31.1K, 475m, 3h30min

- Skiing: 57.1K, 1609m, 5h20min

- Strength/yoga: 1h20min

Total: 10h9min

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Friday, March 11, 2016

Ode to Sogndal

Last weekend we made the long drive from Oslo to Sogndal to visit our friends Ingvild and Øyvind (previously featured in posts such as this one and this one). They moved to Sogndal last fall and bought a house, which just begs for a visit. The weather forecast for Saturday was good, so we made a plan for a longish tour on Saturday. By staging cars on either side of the tunnel that goes under the mountains between Sogndal and Fjærland, we could ski over those same mountains in a satisfying point-to-point tour.

The day started out marvelously as we follow Tverrelv valley upwards below Frudalshesten. It was almost too hot climbing in the bowl between reflective snow slopes, and we quickly stripped down to the bare minimum of clothing necessary to climb a snow-covered mountain. As we skinned upwards, I marveled at the optimism that beautiful weather and good snow can bring. The evening before I had been tired and cranky, almost regretting the choice to spend my Friday evening in a car. In a morning’s sunshine, any regrets were wiped away.

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Ingvild in the sun below Frudalshesten.

Suddenly, the clouds descended on us. It happened so fast that we didn’t even contemplate the changing weather, and decided to continue simply because clouds that come in so quickly must surely disappear just as quickly. There were fresh skin tracks from some early-bird skiers headed in the right direction, so we followed them. The slope grew steeper and steeper, and I grew nervous when I realized I didn’t know what kind of terrain we had above us. Then we heard a rumbling sound, and Øyvind above me yelled, “Snow! Falling snow!” It wasn’t an avalanche, just some chunks being spit out by the sun-warmed slopes above us. This is not a good slope to be on in low visibility, I thought. But the decision had been made, and all we could do was try to get above the steep slope as quickly as possible.

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Audun in the fog. Note the chunks of snow in the background - those came down from above!

Imperceptibly at first due to the fog, the slope grew less steep. I continued to hear rumbles to my right, made horrifying by the fact that I couldn’t see how much snow was coming down. At least we weren’t below it anymore, but what if we had to descend this terrifyingly steep slope with the snow pack collapsing around us?

As suddenly as it came in, the fog rolled back. Or rather, it rolled down and we emerged above it, into the sunlight and stunning weather we had enjoyed earlier.

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Audun (left) and Øyvind (center) on the final climb to Frudalsbreen, with the ridge line Lammenipa above the fog.

Soon we were on top of Frudalsbreen and had found our chosen route down the backside of the mountain. We stopped for lunch in the sun, nervously glancing at the fog behind us, hoping it wouldn’t creep up on us again. All at once it seemed surge forward, about to attack, and we all jumped up and got read to try and beat the fog down the mountain. The attack didn’t make it over the top of the mountain, though, and we were able to enjoy the descent in shadowed (this was the north side of the mountain) yet clear conditions. The skiing was a few centimeters of powder on a solid, wind packed crust - nice cruising, but nothing legendary. The descent was long and enjoyably graded though, and I definitely felt like I was "getting my monies worth" in terms of the effort of skinning uphill.

We decided to throw in a second, smaller top called Skredfjellet (literally "Avalanche mountain”) on our way down to the car. Skredfjellet is called “Blog mountain” by the locals, because everyone goes there to take pictures for their blogs. Guess what? So did I!

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Audun and I enjoy the view from Blog Mountain.

The final descent to Fjærland was fun, playful tree skiing followed by a slide out on a rollercoaster of a trail. I arrived at the car feeling just the perfect amount of tired, elated and weathered by the sun.

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Audun playing in the trees.

The next day the weather was much greyer, and clouds covered the tops of all the peaks near Sogndal. The only option was to search for some good tree skiing, which we found on Skriki just outside of Sogndal. (All of mountains are just outside of Sogndal. Why don’t I live in Sogndal?!)

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Audun and Øyvind chit-chatting in the forest of Skriki.

We skinned uphill slowly and took an exorbitantly long lunch break before break tree line and turning around.

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My skis and the ‘view’ from our turn-around point on Skriki. Øyvind removes his skins in the background.

The descent through the forest offered lots of possible lines and some good powder snow. Back at the car, we all agreed the shorter tour had been the perfect cap to a great weekend in Sogndal. Thanks for the visit, Ingvild and Øyvind. We’ll be back!

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Ingvild enjoying the snow on the descent.

Here’s a recap of my training last week:

Monday: Just like last week, I did my long run on Monday, this time after work instead of in the middle of the day. Although I got home from work fairly early, I was still competing with the sunset for the last of the light. I drank a big smoothie before running because I thought it would digest easy, but it just sloshed around in my stomach for the whole run - not the best option!

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Twilight selfie.

Following a similar route to last week, I ran along the magical trail that only exists during winter along Maridalsvann before picking up the road. After I turned around and headed back towards the city, I sucked down a gel and started to progressively pick up the pace, working from the 6 min/km that constitutes my long slow distance speed up to 4:50 min/km. Focusing on keeping a faster pace helped stave off the boredom of the final miles on the road. All in all this felt like a good workout, where I got to practice a little leg speed without becoming overly fatiuged.

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A couple of skeptical deer on a field in Maridalen.

Total: 21.8K, 255 vertical, 2h11min

Tuesday: A bike commuting day, to and from work and then to and from the city center for dance class. Relatively fast riding due to the aggressive salting of the bike paths, but I misjudged the temperature and spent most of the regretting that I didn’t where my shoe covers as my feet got really cold. Total: 39.9K, 482 vertical, 2h24min + 90 min dance class

Wednesday: Unintentional rest day because of a long day at work. Spent part of the day in a clean room, which meant I got to wear this outfit: 

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Lookin’ good, feelin’ great!

I regretted not doing yoga or something in the evening because I was feeling kind of stiff and weird.

Thursday: Workout at Bislett, the ‘Pyramid of pain’. Audun was feeling sick and so didn’t join me, and I realized again that running around a track in a circle is kind of boring, but also fun because you feel fast.

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I put on some fast shots and went to the track and ran fast.

I did 2-4-6-8-6-4-2 min intervals, but since the foot pod I connect to my Garmin reads too fast of past I don’t know how fast I actually was. Fast enough, I hope, because it was painful enough. Total: 17.5K (actually probably slightly less), 100 vertical, 1h36min.

Friday: AM shake out run up the river. Basically felt awful the whole time. Thought it would be like last week where I would run off some of the weariness but that wasn’t the case. I still don’t understand how my body works sometimes!

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The river is beautiful even when I’m tired!

Total: 8.6K, 70 vertical, 1h1min

Saturday: Frudalsbreen - Skredfjellet backcountry ski in Sogndal. Total: 16.8K, 1378 vertical, 3h44min

Sunday: Halfway up Skriki backcountry ski in Sogndal. Total: 5.4K, 558 vertical, 1h24min

Weekly totals:

Running: 4h49min, 48K, 425 vertical

Cycling: 2h24min, 39.9K, 482 vertical

Backcountry skiing: 5h8min, 22.2K, 1936 vertical

Dance/yoga/other: 90 min

Total: 13h51min

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Wednesday, March 2, 2016

Where the fresh snow's at

It is difficult to overstate how very much Norwegians care about the weather, and in this respect I lump myself into the Norwegian category. During the ski season, I watch weather forecasts all over the country. Where will there be great snow? Where will there be great weather? Is it possible to combine the two?

Last weekend I was invited to my friend Fredrik’s cabin in Bjorli, and much to my enthusiasm, the forecast called for a ton of fresh snow during the week. At first the weekend was supposed to be sunny, and I thought, ‘Jackpot!’ But the forecast turned, and when seven snow-hungry skis rolled in to the cabin on Friday night, the potential for low cloud cover and high avalanche danger was all that was talked about. Then we woke up to this:

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Postcard conditions outside Fredrik’s cabin in Bjorli

Despite the weather not being nearly as bad as we feared, the avalanche danger was quite high. So we set our sights on an easy, safe peak close to the cabin called Rånåkollen. As first we followed a day old skin track uphill, but the skier had apparently given up before treeline, and we were stuck breaking our own trail.

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From the left Kenny, Daniel and Magnus on the first lap of Rånåkollen

Luckily there was seven of us, and like the front of the Tour de France peloton itself we rotated on trail break duty. There was nigh on a meter of fresh powder, which warmed both our hearts in a figurative and literal sense as we skinned uphill.

Alas, the forecast got the better of us in the end, and as we approached the top of Rånåkollen, the clouds rolled in.

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Kenny, Fredrik and Daniel folding skins in wind and white out.

Despite the low visibility, we thoroughly enjoyed the powder on the way down.

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Fredrik and Andreas getting the goods.

Rånåkollen was so small that there was nothing to do but climb it again…and again. The weather fluctuated all day, sometimes giving us tantalizing glances of the scenery that we could be seeing. Skiing the same mountain (or maybe a protrusion that one can climb three times in one day should better be referred to as a hill!) several times gave us the opportunity to find better lines down each time.

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Fickel weather on top of Rånåkollen.

The major mishap of the day was went Audun decided to jump of a cliff (this in itself is entirely normal), but discovered that the low light had obscured an entirely flat landing. He promptly did a face plant and broke his binding. It was then that I learned that even on one ski, he could ski faster than me. After skiing down the mountain teetering on his single good ski, he managed to repair his binding using a binding from some extra skis Andreas had in his van.

What a man.

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Audun in full tele in the moody sunlight.

It had been a magnificent day, and we retired after three laps up Rånåkallen to revel in powder glory and eat like there was no tomorrow.

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Daniel sits down to enjoy the view at the end of the day.

There was a tomorrow, and with the weather and conditions being similar to the day before we decided to try another local top, this one called ‘Toppen’ (which means the top). The skiing turned out to be not as fun on this one (too flat for all that pow!) but we had a nice day out and about. 

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Proof that we reached the summit of Toppen. You can totally tell we’re on top of a mountain, right? From the left Magnus, Daniel, Andreas, Audun, Fredrik, Kenny and me.

 Here’s a round up of the training week leading up to last weekend:

Monday: The weather was gorgeous in Oslo, and I decided to take time off in the middle of the day to go running (the perks of being a PhD student!). I’m experimenting with ‘inverting’ my training week. A traditional training week calls for a long run on the weekend, but during this season at least I would rather be skiing. So I’m trying to do the long run early in the week. I meant to do around 21K, but the discovery of a new trail along Maridalsvann extended it to about 23K. Maridalsvann is the water source for Oslo, so usually there’s a fence around the perimeter so you can’t get near the lake. But to my delight, the fence was open. I had to see what the trail was like. 

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Happy to be exploring new trails!

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A gorgeous day at Maridalsvann.

After about 15K, I picked up the pace from leisurely to focused, trying to keep a faster pace while still maintaining a relaxed feel. The last kilometers passed quickly.

Total: 23K, 259m, 2h18min

Tuesday: Easy half hour commute run to dance class.

Total: 4.5K, 28m, 27min + 35min AM yoga/strength work + 90 minute dance class.

Wednesday: Rest day. Had planned to squeak in a run in the morning, but wasn’t feeling it, so decided rest was in order. In the evening, I went see the National Ballet’s production of Anna Karenina  after an excellent dinner with my friend Hanne.

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Peruvian food at Piscoteket in Oslo. From the left horse meat with quinoa salad, cod ceviche, and squid with a yummy orange sauce.

Thursday: Bike ride to and from work, easy pace, good times. 

Thursdays are now speed work days, so I went back to the indoor track at Bislett in the evening. This time I was alone, and the intervals were of the extremely painful, 10 minute variety. My original idea was to do three 10 minute intervals but I felt my form getting sloppy at the end of the second and decided to call it a day. This is how I felt after the intervals:

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Don’t. Vomit.

Clearly I need to do this more often.

Total: 13.7K, 77m, 1h19min

Friday: Running commute. My legs were heavy from the intervals the evening before, but I seem to shed some of the weight on the commute. There definitely is something to recovery running.

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Happy morning face on the commute.

Total: 12.9K, 238m, 1h30min

Saturday: 3x Rånåkollen, 10.9K, 1159m, 2h30min

Sunday: Toppen, 8.5K, 703m, 2h7min

Weekly totals:

- Running: 5h35min, 602m, 54.3K

- Biking: 1h55min, 382m, 32.8K

- Backcountry skiing: 4h37min, 1862m, 19.4K

- Other (yoga/dance/strength): 2h5min

Total time: 14h12min

- The Wild Bazilchuk