My 2019 bucket list

I know that 2019 is still three months away. But there are so many things I want to do that I figured it’s time to start my bucket list for next year already now, before I start forgetting one thing or the other… I tend to be forgetful like that.

Most of the dreams on my bucket list involve sports in one way or another. But there are also the less ‘active’ things, like finally working my way up to fluent French or learning the art of growing my own vegetables. My ultimate goal with this list is to explore new paths, learn new skills, and - of course - have fun along the way.

Anyhow, enough with the rambling. Here’s what my bucket list for 2019 looks like - so far.

→ Attend an outdoor guide training program
→ Become a certified yoga teacher

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→ Attend a crawl class (swimming)
→ Sign up for my first swimrun
→ Run a multi-day stage race. Maybe Gore-Tex Transalpine Run? Who wants to be my partner? Applications are open :-)

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→ Learn how to grow my own vegetables
→ Visit friends in the U.S. It’s been two years since last time. And 9 (!) years since I first stepped my foot on North Dakotan soil as a 15-year old confused and terrified exchange student.
→ Develop my skills as a mountaineer and climb lots of mountains :-)

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→ Visit Lofoten, Norway
→ Buy a mountainbike
→ Run the entire Upplandsleden (a 450 km long hiking trail in the area where I live)
→ Practice my French until it’s fluent

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→ Possibly start learning another language? I’m especially intrigued by the idea of being able to speak Italian. With English, French, German and Italian I’ll be queen of the Alps.
→ Take a painting class
→ Sleep outside more

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→ Learn skimo (ski mountaineering)
→ Fall in love

…and to be continued.

My mom asked me yesterday if I am planning on doing all of these things in ONE YEAR?! I told her it’s a list of dreams, not a list of goals that necessarily have to be achieved. It’s not a new year’s resolution kind of thing. And I think it’s much better that way - to write down a list of things you would like to do, not that you have to do. That way your expectations start from zero, and anything you’re able to tick of that list is an achievement in itself. And the stuff I don’t do in 2019, well, there’s another year coming after that.

What’s on your bucket list for 2019?

Swiss Trail Tour

Summer's finally here and so is crazy running season! (!!). Last weekend I ran EcoTrail Stockholm 16 km and finished in a very unexpected third place. I had been working with the race the days prior to the race (Team Nordic Trail are the organizers of the Swedish event), and I started handing out bibs to the runners already at 06.00 on Saturday morning. After a couple of nights of not much sleep, I didn't exactly expect to be in my best shape... And I didn't even know if I would have enough energy to stand on the starting line! But somehow I had made up my mind that I wanted to participate, despite working from 6 am to just 30 mins before the start of the race, and then having to continue working as soon as I had crossed the finish line. Crazy! I am just happy that I crossed the finish line and was able to enjoy the race, and coming in third was a nice bonus.

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Right now I am beyond excited for this year's upcoming running and mountain adventures. As some of you might have heard, I was supposed to run from Chamonix to Zermatt via the Haute Route this summer. But unfortunately, after a couple of months of injury and other hurdles that I've had to overcome in my personal life, I haven't been able to train the way I'm used to. I have taken it really slow, not pushing myself too hard. My body (or mind) is simply not ready for 20-40 k of running, 6 days in a row, up and down mountains already this July. Sad, but it's definitely the right decision. Health and well-being always comes before performance and prestige. The Haute Route won't disappear anytime soon and I'm planning to do it next year instead. I'll be going down to the Alps anyway, attending a mountaineering course in Chamonix and then spending a couple of days in Zermatt.

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And there's really no need to cry, because I have something equally as awesome to look forward to this September - Swiss Trail Tour! On the weekend of September 28-30, the first edition of Swiss Trail Tour (STT) takes place in Lenk, in the heart of the Swiss Alps. STT is a three-day stage race where you can choose between a shorter distance (30-35-10 km) or an ultra distance (40-50-50 km). And of course - a lot of altitude gain is involved. My favorite part :-) I'm going to participate in the Ultra and I can't wait to share this experience with other trail running lunatics like myself in one of my favorite places in the world. I urge anyone who's ever thought about doing a stage race to join me at STT in September - it's going to be an experience of a lifetime!

If you're interested in knowing more about the race, check out their website. Or shoot me a message and I'll tell you more about it.

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Photo courtesy: Ronny Bauman/Human Sports Management AG

My focus for the upcoming months is to do mainly lots of low-intensive, long distance training in order to prepare for STT. But as the true kid I am, I'll be mixing things up sometimes and just doing what feels right for my body. Interval training, short and fast races, sky races (Gran Trail Courmayeur 30k in July), obstacle course training... Because in the end, the most important thing is that I enjoy what I do. It should feel like playtime every time I get in my running shoes, otherwise I might as well do something else.

I hope you had a wonderful weekend and that you got to spend tons of quality time out there together with Mother Nature ❤

Let another amazing summer begin!

NOLS Wilderness Medicine

Back home from a four-day long first aid course in the Swedish archipelago. The course was arranged by NOLS Wilderness Medicine, one of the leading (or maybe even the best?) organizations providing first aid courses focused on wilderness and mountain settings.

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Together with other aspiring mountain guides, I spent each day learning about how to do a full patient examination, treatment of injuries and wounds, and how to use the few things you've got in your hiking backpack in an emergency situation. I've learned maybe 10 different ways to use a sleeping mat... We also got to showcase our acting skills when some of us had to pretend to be wounded (I was hypothermic at some point.. in 20 degree heat..) while the rest practiced the skills we'd just learned. 

And despite long days and short nights I had the best time. I love these kinds of happenings and events where one is just living in a little bubble, far from reality and the hustle and bustle of city life. I got to know some amazing people, swam in the sea, shared a tiny kitchen with 25 people, and slept under the stars in my new MSR Freelite 1-tent.

I'm already excited for a 10 day first aid-course with NOLS at some point in the near future. Learning is the bomb!

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24 hour weekend getaway

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This Saturday afternoon, I turned my phone on flight mode and didn't turn it back on again until 24 hours later. 

My sister and I packed our 25 L backpacks with tent, sleeping bags, food and wine for the night. Then we headed out and into the woods. A two hour walk later, we arrived at our sanctuary for the night, a little clearing in the forest. We had long ago stopped hearing the noise of passing cars. Our little bubble was our only reality. 

Wearing three layers of clothes and cuddled up in warm down sleeping bags, we slept under the stars that night. When I woke up, my toes were numb and my soul was happy.

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It's funny how everyday things (like checking your phone, going through your important to-do list) can become so trivial in a setting like this one. What is left are the necessary tasks of survival - lighting a fire to make dinner, collecting water, staying warm. Life becomes so simple, and each task is performed with care. All that exists is the present moment.

I've realized that even just a quick weekend getaway like this one can do so much good to the body. Sometimes, 24 hours of turning your phone and e-mails off and temporarily leaving civilization is all you need to get back in balance.

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How to trail run

There are days when my job is just a little bit better than other days.

Days like Wednesday evening, when some 200 excited runners showed up outside our office to be coached in trail running technique, and then running a 5 k lap of next week's event Stockholm Trail Run together.

Alone I coached half of those people (~100 beginners) the basics of proper trail running technique. Witnessing that "aha"-moment on people's faces when they finally get it is one of the most rewarding gifts as a coach!

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I thought I'd share with you three of the fundamental tips that I brought up yesterday. I believe these to be essential aspects of a trail running technique that is safe, prevents injury and improves your overall running efficiency.

1. Stay relaxed. A lot of people tend to tense up when they run, especially when they run on trails, most often due to fear and because it gets their minds to think they are more in control of the situation. But being too concentrated often leads to the opposite, which is a stiff running technique and a greater risk of injuries because you're constantly on scared of what will go wrong. Keep your shoulders low and allow your body to move in a natural flow. With a little practice you'll eventually feel like you're almost floating above the trails... That feeling of freedom is really hard to beat!

2. Read the terrain. As a trail runner, it is important to be able to read the terrain in front of you and, in some sense, predict your future moves. Unlike road running, where there are rarely any obstacles coming your way, trails can be tricky in that there may be loads of small rocks or roots on the ground. This requires a higher level of concentration, that is, reading the terrain and being able to move with it, rather than against it. Keep your gaze forward so that you can see the ground a few meters in front of you. Eventually reading the terrain will become a natural part of your trail running habit, and you won't have to think about it as much. You'll be able to run more smoothly.

3. Shorten your stride and maintain a high step frequency. A common misconception among runners is that taking bigger and longer steps will make you run faster. Let's never do that again, shall we? Running this way actually makes you even more tired, and so in the long run, you'll not be able to run as far as you would taking small steps. Also, it increases the risk of injury - how can you control a body that is everywhere at the same time? Running with smaller steps and shortening your stride will both tire you less and allow you to control your movement more on tricky trails.

 

All this being said, most of all I wish that anyone who practices trail running does so with joy. Don't think too much, just enjoy being outside and be grateful for your healthy and amazing body. Trail running feels like being five years old again... I promise! So, next time you're headed out for your road run, I challenge you to explore new grounds and allow yourself a little play time on the trails. You won't regret it!

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The Walker's Haute Route

Since I started running long distances four years ago, I have always strived to test my limits and to learn what my body is capable of. It started with a 50K trail race back in 2014, which in turn was followed by several ultra races and longer tours on my own. Each time it’s been a little bit harder, a little bit farther. Where is my physical limit? The breaking point? How much mental strength and will power do I possess and how can I build more of it? When it comes to ultra running, these are the questions that constantly run through my mind.

  September 2014 -  20 years old I ran my first 80k race, Black River Run 50 miles

September 2014 -  20 years old I ran my first 80k race, Black River Run 50 miles

Today, I am lucky enough to be constantly surrounded by people who inspire me to adventure. I have gotten to know people who have turned their adventure dreams into reality, running hundreds of kilometers on their own out in the wilderness, biking across the globe or climbing some of the highest peaks in the world. Each time I hear these people’s stories, I am in awe. 

And each time I think: I want to be like these people. I want to do what they do. I want to experience what it is like to be out on my own, vulnerable in a vast landscape with no other company but myself. Sleep, eat, move. Repeat for days at end. Sure, I’ve participated in several ultra races, ran 100 km in one go, and done plenty of hikes and day tours, but nothing like that. Nothing so challenging as pushing your mind and body to the limit, for multiple days - or sometimes even weeks and months.

So, a couple of months ago, I started doing my research. What could become my adventure? Most of the people who know me, also know that my heart is in the Alps. Specifically, in the area around Zermatt. In the summer of 2017 I worked at a mountain hut there, 2940 m asl, and fell in love with the place. 

  July 2017 - the view from the hut where I was working

July 2017 - the view from the hut where I was working

Somehow, I came across the Haute Route. The Haute Route is an extensive route from Chamonix to Zermatt covering a distance of over 150 kilometres and a total altitude gain of 10 000 + meters. Most people have likely only heard of the Skier’s Haute Route (which is done in winter obviously) but there are also two summer versions – the original Haute Route and the Walker’s Haute Route. The original summer route requires a certain level of mountaineering and climbing experience (which I don’t have – yet!) and most of the time stays above altitudes of 3000 m with several glacier traverses. The Walker’s Haute Route, however, never goes above 3000 m and mostly stays on hiking/alpine hiking routes. Sound like a walk in the park? It’s not. Instead, on this route you repeatedly go up mountain passes and back down to the valleys, which means a crazy amount of altitude gain and loss. Every day. The sum of it all is a challenging adventure from Chamonix to Zermatt, 170 km and 12 000 ascent meters. And as if that doesn’t sound grueling enough, the Haute Route is not in itself a hiking path, but consists of a network of several different trails – which means you always need to stay alert and know where you’re going.

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Said and done and plane ticket booked. So this summer, I'm going to run the Walker's Haute Route solo. I’m flying down to Chamonix in the beginning of July, and then I’ll start my long way to the final goal, Zermatt. Other than being a solo mission, I’ll also bring all my gear in a single 25-30L running backpack, including tent, sleeping bag, dry change of clothes, food, water, etc. For ~ 6 days I will cover distances of between 20-30 km and 2000 height meters.

I can’t wait to be back in the mountains and the trails, in an area that has a special place in my heart. Most of all, I can’t wait to do what I love most and living in my own little bubble of eat-sleep-run-repeat for a week. But I am also prepared for challenges, both physical and mental. And factors which I can’t control, like changes in the weather. But no matter sunshine or rain, I know that doing this – and doing it solo – will build character. Because to me, that is what ultra running is all about. It has the power to inspire you, to build you, challenge you, break you. It has the power to make you the best person you can possibly be, to yourself and to others. Not to mention the places it can take you...

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My purpose of running

Åda Wild Boar. What a race. Just south of Stockholm, in a place where you don’t expect to see so much wilderness, so many steep hills to climb. Disguised and hidden behind a golf course – a thick forest with magical trails. A trail runner’s dream.

That is where I spent my weekend. Two friends and I drove down to the race early Saturday morning. They had signed up for the 12k race, and I for the 24k. That’s two laps on this crazy beautiful, insanely difficult course. It was the first race of the year for me, and although I didn’t quite feel the zen, I couldn’t help but be excited to spend my afternoon out on the trails with other like-minded people.

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I didn’t quite know what to expect, in terms of my own performance. This past running season has not exactly been ideal for me. Challenges and hardships in my private life has caused my running suffering. Running has been sporadic and mostly a way of moving my body because I know I desperately need it to at least feel somewhat in balance. For a couple of months now, something has not felt quite right in me. My body has simply begged for less stress, less intervals, less physical pain. So, whatever the definition of being in shape is, I am not there right now. But prior to yesterday’s race I was hoping that maybe, just maybe, a race like this one will spark the light in me again? I’ve always loved to race and the feeling afterwards, of having pushed your body to its limit.

Already from the start of the race, I had a strange feeling. Physically – but even more so mentally. I felt out of place. It’s difficult to explain now. Nonetheless, I was going to give it my all. So when I heard the starting signal, I started at a high pace. I was able to keep the pace throughout the race – could probably even have finished on the podium – but I felt as if my mind was telling my body to push more than it was capable of. I felt like I was running with a bottle of vodka in my blood, unable to keep my balance and stumbling over myself.  I couldn’t allow myself to focus on the beautiful course or surroundings. In short, I was doing myself more harm than good.

About two kilometres before the finish of the first 12 k lap, I suddenly did something pretty clumsy: I ran into a tree and started bleeding from a wound on the left side of my face. I remember thinking: Where the heck did that tree come from?! And after: Only two centimeters from my eye. That could have ended badly. And although it wasn’t the worst thing in the world, to me it somehow felt like the universe’s ultimate way of telling me that something truly wasn’t right. So when I got to the aid station, I stepped off the race. 

Today, I feel like I’ve ran an ultra. Felt feverish after the race, sore muscles everywhere. And I only ran 12 kilometres? 

Now, afterwards, I know that yesterday was given to me as a lesson. A turning point. I’m not going to bother you all with a novel, but I realized that the feeling I had yesterday – it was the same feeling I’ve had since last summer. Only I have not fully understood it until now. It is the feeling of a tired body, a body in need of love and care rather than constant performance and an obligation to prove something. Running to win.

In reality, I love to run. More importantly, I love to run on trails, out in the forest, experiencing that feeling of freedom. So what is the point of participating in a beautiful race like this one, when you can’t even enjoy it? When your only thought is that you have to finish on the podium? Even though you know that your body is not ready for it? What am I trying to prove, and to whom?

Somewhere along the way, I've perhaps lost my purpose of running. And now I have to ask myself: why do I run? Do I run to win, or do I run because it is the best thing in the world? I guess that when your passion turns into an obligation, the joy you feel in it can get lost.

It is time to find that zen again. The feeling that made me fall in love with running in the first place. Because in truth, I don’t have to win to be good enough.

Åda, I’ll be back next year with a new mindset. This race, this whole event, is too good not to be enjoyed. Everything – from course markings, to organization, to the ambience in the forest – was truly magical. So although things took a different turn for me, I am still super happy and grateful I got to be part of it all. And the rest of the weekend was all smiles – I think I’ll let the photos below speak for themselves.

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