Keeping the pace

I’ve lost a couple of kilos more this month. In all I’ve lost 5 since I started eating whole grains and no sugar. The best part is that I’ve never eaten this well in my life. We’re watching Masterchef Australia almost daily and I’m constantly picking up new ideas. Yesterday I baked whole grain hot dog buns with eggs and milk. So I’m not exactly starving myself.

I think it really helps in keeping my 5 minute pace (that’s about 8min/mile). Today I kept it dead on for 15km and a new half marathon PB is almost bound to happen soon.

I also managed to get my wife to run some intervals with me the other day. It might have helped that I bought her these cheetah-pattern Nike shorts:

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Zombies, run!

zombiesrunAfter a couple of years of listening to me talk about running, it seems my wife has finally caught the running bug. She’s not into the whole barefoot thing like me, and it was actually the treadmill at her gym that set her off. She is more of a numbers person and a lot more competitive than me, so she doesn’t enjoy running with me so much.

Now she has introduced me to a running app called “Zombies, run!” for Android (or iPhone). My old phone runs on Android 2.2, so sadly only the 5k version is available for my phone. That’s no good, so I borrowed her phone and did a “mission” today, and it was hilarious.

Basically it works like any other running app, tracking your mileage and speed, but instead of just saying “distance: 1 kilometer, duration: 5 minutes and 9 seconds” you get a full scripted story about a chopper being shot down in the middle of a zombie-infested area, and directions to run to the surveillance-station to assist fellow agents. You can run in any direction you want, but usually you can imagine some visual target fitting the description as e.g. “the old water tower”. From there a whole story unfolds, and in regular Intervals you get instructions to speed up to escape brain-hungry zombie hordes. As you go you collect items that you can use (while stretching out) to build your base in typical role playing style. In between the radio chatter you can listen to your own favourite gloomy electronica playlist.

Silly as it seems, I got carried away on a couple of sprints. And the best part: you look like any other jogger in the park.

All in all not a very serious coaching app, but a fun way to get some free intervals done, and really push those sprints. Just remember to keep one earbud out while running in traffic.

Read and run

jurekJust finished Scott Jurek’s autobiography “Eat and run”. I am addicted to books about running. Usually I get so excited to go running after a couple of chapters that I get a couple of weeks’ running out of a single book, but this one was finished in 24 hours (during which Scott Jurek could have run over 260km). Mainly because one third of the book is filled with vegan recipes, but also because each chapter is so short it reads like a Dan Brown novel. Also because it’s well written of course.

Jurek grew up working on a small farm, and initially he started cross country skiing, which as a Norwegian I can easily relate to. Those athletes are pretty tough and compete in Olympic races up to 100 km. There’s even an Image of him finishing an American Birkebeiner. It’s hard to think of anything more Norwegian that the Birkebeiner.

I am probably never going to become a vegetarian, and definitely never a vegan, although I must admit I’ve eaten a lot of veggie burritos lately, and smaller portions of meat. But all the sprouted grains and fermented tofu is a turn-off for me. I should probably try it sometime.

Surprisingly, the book is kind of dark, and for all the peace and love-vibes he sends out Mr. Jurek seems to have some demons to outrun, and one hell of a competitive mindset. All in all an awesome and inspiring book, recommended to all humble joggers like me.

Another thing I’ve noticed lately is that unlike what my idea was, most successful ultrarunners are pretty fast at shorter distances like the marathon and even 10k. Pretty close to elite athletes in fact. Of course, some might say…

I went cross training with my wife and daughter in the park yesterday, at a free aerobics class called “Friskis & svettis”. It doesn’t translate well, but it means something like “fresh and sweaty” in Swedish. Just like with fartlek, Swedish words sound dirtier in English than they really are. My feet are a bit messed up at the time, and some light jumping around with a bunch of kids and ladies seems to suit me well.

I am also thinking of setting a new PB on the half marathon distance, and may try to do some fast 15k runs to find a good tempo. I can now easily stay under five minutes / km for ten km, and if I could keep that tempo for just a bit longer, I could start beating some of my less eager but more talented friends.

New 10km PB (48:17), and some chicken tagine.

It’s not that I’m training well at the moment. I think I’m just seeing the results of all the good running I did in May and June. That ridiculous long run of 39 km comes back to bite me in the… foot, and I am not running as much as I want to. But I did beat my 10km record by about three minutes. The actual running felt pretty relaxed and easy, but two things made this run a little less enjoyable:

First off i have what feels like sore muscles in my feet (feels like any other sore muscle except I have to walk on it). It’s not that it’s really painful, I just worry and it makes me feel less invincible.

Secondly my stomach was overfilled with delicious chicken tagine. Seriously, try it! I had a ready made “tagine” spice mix with some ground sesame seeds in it. Sadly I had to substitute preserved lemons with fresh lemon, but even so, the result was just fantastic. I recommend all to try this dish after a good long run.

If you don’t have an actual tagine (clay pot) just use an oven proof pot and leave it in the oven for a while. If you have an old Römertopf lying about that would be perfect.

Ingredients in the spice mix (in order of amount): Sesame seeds, dried garlic, paprika, ginger, turmeric, white pepper, cinnamon. So quite simple for a Ras el Hanout-mix. I bought this from my new favourite shop here in Copenhagen, ASA Trading. They import spices from all around the world that taste much better than the supermarket versions. Especially spice mixes are hard to find elsewhere. Usually there’s so much salt in them that I can’t taste the actual spices. ASA have a Jamaican jerk spice rub also, which is amazing. Jerk spice is made from All-spice, “Scotch bonnet” chilis and some other spices, and is the ultimate barbeque spice in my humble opinion.

Find my what?

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Just thought I’d do a motivational poster inspired by Remy’s world. The original design is not mine, though. I just added the text in parentheses. Not sure if I made excellent happen or not. Motivational posters are easy to make fun of. Sports gear commercials almost do the job for you. It’s like they just spray some random words on a scenic view and then check if it sticks with the focus group. Weird Al Yancovic has made it pretty clear what he thinks on the subject of using adjectives as adverbs. Now they are becoming nouns too. Cool.

This one is my own creation. I don’t know where the photo is from, but I hope it inspires you:

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I had great fun running today. 1 minute fast running, 1 minute jogging, and repeat for about 5km. I just set my watch to beep every minute, Adharanand Finn style.

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I also baked pita bread for the first time today. It seems any bread will puff up in the oven like a pita if it’s flat enough, even if the dough is wet, and made from whole grain flour. I think durum wheat is the “correct” flour to use, but I just used what I had which was rye. I always have a dough ready in the fridge, so this is literally the quickest way to get bread for breakfast. I bake it for about 8 minutes on maximum heat. Really easy to make and great to serve burgers in. Speaking of burgers, this is my go-to recipe:

The most important part in this burger recipe is to buy good quality minced meat, and NOT season it. Pickles, mustard, mayonnaise and ketchup has plenty of salt already. The original five guys burger is reviewed here. I got that same reaction from my wife, even if mine was served with whole grain rye pita.

And here’s my favorite Remy’s world motivational poster:

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Are these for real?

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Are these for real?

I see a lot of people around town with Nike Shox, and it might just be that I’m getting old, but i giggle every time I see them. It seems sometimes we consumers are on the blunt end of a practical joke. The new Adidas Boost-something with styrofoam in the midsole is not nearly outrageous enough to make the joke work, but now Adidas has fixed that with their new “Springblade” model. Apperantly a bunch of little feet do the actual running for you, so you can just relax while the blades spring you forward. Looks like a decent shoe if you get rid of the tentacles though…

It doesn't get sexier than this...

It doesn’t get sexier than this…

Does anyone remember Buffalo shoes? A lot of my classmates wore these German plateau shoes. They make you look taller, while signaling to the world that you like house parties. The only problem was they could easily break your ankle, and they looked hideous.

Anyway, back to the centipede running shoes: I found them on Runner’s World. They come with a special tong to remove chewing gum and a steel brush to remove dog turds. I think.

If you like these shoes, you can also check out this old post about the most gimmicky shoes, according to Birthday Shoes. Sadly, the link to Birthdayshoes.com no longer works. That was one great list.

About running: No blisters or aches since my morbidly exaggerated long run. My feet are tired if I walk far, but other than that, no soreness. Which is nice.

I did not run a marathon today…

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…but at least I tried.

People everywhere! AARRRRGH!

Amager Strandpark. People everywhere! AARRRRGH!

The idea of a morning run was scrapped at ten thirty last night, while I was watching Arrested Development. Instead I had this idea that I would run around the island of Amager (see map above), roughly 42km. Amager is maybe the best place to get away from the crowds of Copenhagen. As a Norwegian I’m used to being alone from time to time. Denmark is quite densely populated compared to Norway. I’m used to wilderness, and that, arguably, is something you won’t find in Denmark. Sure, you can walk undisturbed for a few km through beautiful forest; but more than that and you will tumble in to a garden with a trampoline and a dog. Of course it’s not the Danes’ fault that most of Norway is uninhabitable and Denmark is not. Some would say it’s a good thing. Enough about that.

So to get that feeling of existential battle with nature, I chose to run along the Urban north side of the island first, and then enjoy the scenery on the way back. The real reason, of course, was to force myself to finish the whole route. Once I’d be out there in the unknown green area, there would be no way back, no buses to hop on. (Next time I might do the opposite, because I’d rather enjoy the scenery while I can.) I gave myself a 6 hour cutoff time, and started out by the famous statue of the Little Mermaid, full of expectation and self confidence.

Beautiful houses close to Dragør. They've built a ditch (left) to keep the sea out.

Beautiful houses close to Dragør. They’ve built a dike (left) to keep the sea out.

I was in pretty good shape until 20km. I should add that the longest I’ve ever run is 21.1km. I stopped shortly in picturesque Dragør to refill my bottle with apple juice. After that it started getting hard, even though the scenery kept improving. The far end of the island must be one of the prettiest landscapes around Copenhagen. I was still running most of the time, but from this point I was walking more and more. For every km I developed a new sore spot in my legs. I told myself that crashing through boundaries always hurts a bit. I ran/walked until 30km, still dreaming of finishing in 5 hours. At 30km I had to sit down and eat some chocolate. I felt like I was out in the desert with no idea how to get home. My legs were aching. This was what I came for, but I didn’t expect my legs to be this sore. I don’t think I technically hit the wall, but I think my legs are simply not ready to run this long. Hitting the wall might take a bit more effort.

I walked the next 6 km, which felt like much longer. Even walking was hard at this stage. I tried to get myself to at least walk fast, but that seemed impossible. I tried to envision images of the endurance athletes running the Badwater Ultramarathon, but that really didn’t help at all. The fields around Kalvebod Fælled are endless and the roads are dead straight, making this part of the trip a bit of a “Twin Peaks” experience. Luckily my wife called and told me I was awesome. I still had some vain hope I could make the six hour cutoff, but that would mean doing some more running.

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At about 36km I started running again. I really surprised myself there. I ran another 3km through Ørestad. (I’m not crazy about the architecture here.) I had to start walking again, trying to not look like a lost junkie on the highway. My six hours were up, and I’d only run/walked/crawled 39km. At this time It was painful to even sit down. I took a train home and bought a whole grain Kebop from my local Turkish take-away place (times have changed), and went home.

Ultimately I had failed, but I was still pretty happy to have explored the remote side of Amager island, and especially happy I was able to pick up the pace at the end. I’m even proud of the walking, just because it was so uncomfortable. Am I ready for a marathon anytime soon? No. I’m definitely going back to good old mileage training. But I feel like I have taken my first steps to knowing how far 42.2km really is, and hopefully this knowledge will come in handy. Maybe at least 21km won’t feel as long after this. I am truly curious as to how I will feel tomorrow at work, though. Right now I feel fine. Back to old episodes of “Arrested Development”. That show is addictive.

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Home alone

341220I get to spend a lot of time with my lovely one year-old daughter, for which I am thankful. But sleeping for 8 hours straight also has it’s merits. I’m home alone and I’m living bachelor style. Life is just so easy when you get to plan your meals as you wish. I get peace and quiet to get some work done, I can watch long movies about ultrarunning, do the dishes every other day, and just enjoy wasting time. I’m even playing with the idea of getting up before sunrise to do a long run before a rehearsal tomorrow. We’ll see how that goes.

running the sarahaYesterday I watched “Running the Sahara” and “Running on the sun”. The first movie is about three guys running from the western coast of Africa to Egypt and the Red Sea. On the way they meet nomads and travel through some historic North African cities. I wish they had given us a bit more background on the places they traveled through. For instance, I know a bit about Libya, but Niger and Chad still are mysteries to me. But that would have taken a big documentary film crew of course. This is more of a bare bones production, which in a way makes it more “real”. I liked seeing how the level of effort changed the dynamic between the runners and the support team, and the political situations in some countries makes this movie a bit of a thriller.

RunningOnTheSunThe latter movie was very inspiring. It portrays a number of runners participating in the 1999 Badwater Ultramarathon. It focuses on some of the top runners as well as some other extraordinary people, and it’s incredible at times to see the dedication these people show. Apparently blisters can get worse than I had imagined. I also learned that running long distances can seriously mess with your head, as a lot of the contestants get disoriented, and some even meet imaginary people along the way. I especially liked one gentleman by the name of Jack Denness, who, in typical British understatement, signed up for the Badwater because he had gotten “to that certain stage where you want, maybe, that little bit extra”.

Not your typical "fun runner".

Not your typical “fun runner”. Eric Clifton is spacing out. (from Running on the sun.)

Judging from these films, it seems like people generally look more and more fit and fresh as they got through the first 100k or so (or a bit more if you rest inbetween), but after a while their faces start to look wrinkled and drawn from the dehydration. Especially the Sahara guys looked very scruffy at times.

It made me think that maybe for me to attempt a marathon isn’t such a crazy idea after all… and that running anything over two marathons in a row is slightly mad. Anyway my idea of what is possible and impossible (or just a bad idea) has been rocked.