Spartan run

Went for another run with Sparta yesterday. I don’t feel completely at home running with a group, but I do push myself harder than usual. To be completely honest I’m not sure I like it that much, but I’ve paid for three months, so I’m going to give it a real chance. The worst that can happen is that I learn some new exercises and become a better runner. People are very friendly and talkative, but something about occupying the whole sidewalk with a group of runners makes me feel like a lemming.

I ran with a group of fast marathoners, and was close to dead last every interval. Totally spent afterwards. Note to self: don’t eat osso buco ten minutes before a hard run. And switch to the 4:45/km group, because everybody else is faster than they say.

I’m myself again after my long run in the mountain last week. I feel like trail running is the sport I really do, even though there is no trails where I live. Everything else, even racing, feels like a treadmill compared to the thrill of discovering nature on foot. I’m thinking of signing up for some trail races next year. Marathon distance.

Running in the city isn’t necessarily all bad. This fall has been the best one ever in Copenhagen.

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Bikčevićeva Trail, Medvednica

medvednicaMedvednica is a mountain and a nature reserve right north of Zagreb centre. A few of my friends were going to take a bus up to the top. I wanted to go with them, but I wanted to climb the mountain by foot even more. I couldn’t get anyone to join me, alas. It turned out to be an amazing experience (although I did spend quite a while talking to myself while running), and I got some well deserved envy afterwards when I showed the pics of a snowy peak. It turned out they took the bus to Medvedgrad (a fort further down) instead, and they hardly got to look at it, because it was closed down after yesterday’s storm. I did not tell anyone I ran 37km, because don’t want them to think I’m really crazy.

I found a brilliant website called Trail Running Croatia, and quickly decided on the Bikceviceva trail, and felt like I was in for some adventure. I ran from the Hotel Dubrovnik in the north of Zagreb, and pretty soon I was out in the suburbs. This part of the run was not the most interesting, and I would recommend taking a bus to Bliznec first. The only amusement I had was observing how everything was different from home, but still reminded me a lot of Oslo. The geography is very similar.

After a while I catch my first glimpse of the Croatian Amazonas jungle:

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The fog just increases the mystery. All I have is a written description and map on my phone.

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The first part of the trail is pretty steep but still runnable. The forest is beautiful and smells nice.

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At times you have to use your brain to stay on the path. Luckily, they have something like the Norwegian Turistforeningen, and they mark the trees just like in Nordmarka, north of Oslo. Puntijarka is kind of like “Ullevålsseteren”.

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It got cold after a while, and I was glad I brought my fleece shirt. Not used to this kind of altitude, since I live in Denmark, where the highest mountain is 130 meters. Dew on my tights.

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This little salamander nearly scared me to death. I mistook him for a snake.

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About halfway (in time, not distance) I reached Njivice, where several paths cross. This little hut marks the spot. From here I relied on the red and white markings. It looks kind of creepy in the pictures, but it was really peaceful and pretty in real life.

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Is that…. snow? At first I had to touch it to be sure. But this mountain is pretty tall. In Norway, mountains this high don’t have much vegetation.

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Puntijarka is the end of this trail. They are said to serve good strudels, but I had a peak to reach.

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But first I had to find it. At this point I got a little lost, but I didn’t really care. I just felt like I was home in Norway, and besides, I had several hours before I had to go to work.

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And just like home, some of the ski trails are terrible hiking trails. Overgrown and soggy wet.

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Finally found the path to the chapel!

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From here I could see the peak. And the fog was lifting!

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Here’s the top. 1035 meters above sea level. Felt like I was on the moon. The air was crisp.

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The west side of the peak was sunny, but the east side looked like in the picture below. It’s the same tower as above.

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In a month or so, skiers can enjoy their “pomfrit” with this poster of Tin, Grinc and Natko. I’m now at 22km, and I’m starting to head home. Since the path was so slippery, I decide to take the road down.

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But I can’t stay off the trails for long. Can’t remember the name of this trail, but it follows the Sljemenska road down.

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This log must have fallen down in yesterday’s storm. I jumped over it, because I didn’t dare put weight on it. Very steep hill to the right, and I’m not sure how well insured I really was. All in all, this run turned out a little wilder and more lonely than planned. If I’d known, I would have made sure to tell people where I was going, and maybe use some kind of “find me” app for my phone. Just in case.

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One or two kilometres down, and it’s almost like summer again. You can see Zagreb in the distance. The mountains here are so green!

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Is that a tame deer?

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The trip ended here, at the Zagreb Cathedral. I bought a Sky Cola, and some chocolate with nuts at Konzum, and that was the best superfoods I’ve ever tasted.

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All in all a great trip. What surprised me most was that I didn’t feel hungry, thirsty or tired during the run. I was also in decent shape afterwards. It probably means I could add some longer long runs to my scheme, as long as I keep the pace super comfy.

My recovery consisted of singing a couple of pieces for the Queen of Denmark and the Croatian president, dining in style with my fellow musicians at the Hotel Esplanade, and then getting only three hours of sleep before boarding an extremely noisy red-eye plane back to Copenhagen. Definitely a night to remember. Still sleepy, two days later.

Medvednica

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Just had an awesome, hilariously long run in Medvednica. And now I’m singing solo for the Danish queen – in Croatian! My life is equal parts weird and wonderful. Will post images later.

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Zagreb

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This is the most exotic location I’ve ever run in. I’m coming directly from Schütz-festspiele in Dresden, and that city felt alien with all it’s enormous grey dull boulevards. In Zagreb I feel right at home. It reminds me of all the other cities I like: Rome, Paris, Athens, Zürich. A bit like Oslo even, with narrow streets and hills. And unlike dresden, they take visa card everywhere. And the shops sell organic fruit and greek yoghurt, and the town is full of bicycling young people. There’s free WIFI at the airport, and the espresso tastes great. In other words, I feel like I already know this place. I expected it to be completely mindblowingly different from home. The language is a mystery though.

Today’s route took me through the poshest part of town, with embassies and such, and a church that looks like it’s decorated with Lego. Then I turned left and passed the film festival site and some cafés, and I wandered in the woods for a while. Every time I thought I saw some dangerous Eastern European men, it turned out to be a family with kids and dogs, and every scary dog I saw had a friendly owner.

All the houses on the eastern route look like mansions to me, but badly kept. They would hardly stand a winter in Norway. The climate here is just amazing. It’s October, but still hot and moist like a summer night at home. The parks have a nice smell of rotting pine needles and leaves. And they stack the wood from the trees they chop down in the park.

 

Sugar free ice cream

I got an ice cream maker a few months back. Soon after I had put on a couple of kg and was really sick of ice cream, so the machine has been on the shelf since then. (In fact it inspired me to eat no sugar at all for a while, thinking if I can put on weight that easily, maybe I could lose it that easily too.) Ever since I’ve been wondering about how sugar free ice cream would work. In Scandinavia we have a product called Sukrin (consists of erythritol, which is a sugar alcohol. Sounds healthy doesn’t it?). It has a tiny bit of “cooling effect” on the tongue (think tooth paste) but very very little, not at all as much as for instance stevia. It’s excellent for baking. Of all artificial sweeteners I’ve tried this comes the closest to the taste of sugar. It even looks like sugar. It’s expensive, but that is OK by me, I use it rarely. You could sweeten the ice cream with honey or concentrated fruit, but that sort of goes against the purpose of this exercise.

But I worried about what would happen to it as it warmed up and cooled down, and whether it would do something bad for the ice cream’s consistency. Sugar is very sticky and does not freeze easily, which are great properties for making smooth ice cream. I read about it on the World Wide Web, and people claimed to have all sorts of problems, mixing it with some other substance to be able to freeze it better, or alleviate digestive problems. These people either:

  1. Eat way too much ice cream
  2. Don’t know how to make real ice cream
  3. Or know something that I don’t know.

Anyway, it worked just fine, with one small caveat: While it tastes like sugar it does not give that little buzzy feeling you get from sugar, where you just crave more. That sugar craving is in many ways a bad thing, but it’s part of the ice cream experience for me and one of the reasons ice cream is so delicious. So it’s a little bit like decaffeinated coffee, or virgin cocktails in that respect.

You need:

  • 2 egg yolks (pasteurized or tested salmonella free)
  • 2 US cups milk with cream. Ideal fat percentage is around 12-16%, so mix accordingly
  • 1/3 cup of erythritol
  • Gelatine (optional)
  • Vanilla and/or other flavouring
  1. This is a bain-marie.

    This is a bain-marie.

    Warm up the cream and milk in a regular saucepan, with whatever flavouring you want. I used half a vanilla pod and two table spoons of lavender flowers. Whatever taste you add at this point should be concentrated and not too acidic. Sweeten it to taste with erythritol, remember it should taste almost too sweet when it’s warm, as freezing takes some sweetness away. You can stir in one flake of gelatine now if you like. Once it’s dissolved, strain the mixture through a sieve.
  2. Whisk the egg yolks. Set up a bain marie (pot in a pot), so that the top pot does not touch the water, but only the steam. (If that is not possible, make sure the water does not boil, and pay attention so the eggs don’t curdle.) Heat up the whisked yolks gently in the bain marie and pour the warm cream mix into it. You can leave it on for a while now, just stir a bit and check if its done. It should thicken just enough to coat the back of a spoon.
  3. And this is a spoon

    And this is a spoon

    Leave to cool in the fridge for between 1 and 12 hours, then cool it in the freezer for 20 minutes before churning in the ice cream maker. If you want chunks of e.g. walnuts or chocolate, add them after churning. Freeze until 10 minutes before serving. Tastes best on the same day it’s made.
  4. If you don’t have an ice cream maker, freeze the mixture until it’s almost frozen, and thick, then blend it well with a stick blender, and freeze it again. This is much easier than stirring every half hour for six hours, and gives an equally smooth texture.

Works with sugar as well, if you like that stuff ;-P There are many good recipes out there, and I think everyone needs to make their own perfect recipe. I for one try to keep to these rules of thumb: One egg pr cup milk/cream, and about 15% fat and 10% sugar. At least for me it’s easier to work with ratios than calculate based on a recipe.

New 5k PB: 19:25

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So another 13 seconds closer to 18:59. This post will be all about running form and pace. I promise the next post will be more fun. Hint: it will be about ice cream.

Beautiful morning, very zen, like a mac screensaver. I think I’m in love with Parkrun. The people are great, the distance (5k) has plenty of challenge, and it’s just a great way to start Saturday morning.

wpid-20141011_120925.jpgI ran in my well worn Vivobarefoot trail shoes today, and enjoyed the extra grip. Im going in cycles as to how far on the front of the foot I run. This last month I’ve enjoyed a more forefoot landing, which gives me some “free” springiness in my step. What I like about it is that it feels like the vertical movement works as a separate mechanism that requires no work on my part, like a machine, and then all I need to do is run. This sounds very nice, but I also have periods when I land closer to the heel, and I feel like I can conserve some energy that way. Not a heel landing really, but more to the outside of the midfoot. This second method works better if I’m running slow. Which I’m thinking maybe I should do a little less: I reminded myself to use my speed today, and it felt good. The sprint at the end was great (I’m always surprised to find some extra energy near the end of the race, even when I’m very tired).

What I’m beginning to think is that my speed when running is very dependent on running form, and that if I dont use my speed, and run at a pace where I’m efficient, I’m just wasting a lot of energy. Basically I’m terrible at grinding out medium fast high mileage, but I find it much easier to run shorter distances faster. One example is that I had enormous problems getting below 46 minutes for the 10k, because I ran out of steam, and had to resort to my crappy running technique for the last couple of km. As soon as my endurance improved, I could run 10k in 43 minutes relatively easy. In other words, it’s not like I can just reduce my speed by 5% and somehow save that energy for later. I feel like I got over a threshold for where I could “run” the 10k rather than just stick it out.

So the way I think about it is that my legs have a given speed that I need to use, and below that point I’m just not very efficient. The image that I have us that of a speed boat, which will lie too deep in the water at low speed, but at a certain threshold it becomes much more energy efficient. That’s exactly how I felt today.

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A foggy day in Copenhagen town… notice the moon is still up!

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Restitution: playing bingo. I lost. But who cares, I PB’d!

Awesome “Marathon” pasta sauce

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We have a very small kitchen and no dishwasher, so I’m a big fan of recipes that use just one pot. Or at least not more than two.

Marathon means “fennel” in old Greek, so what better way to carbo load than eating pasta with this fennel-based tomato sauce? Serves three ravenous runners.

The recipe is simple, but some ingredients may require going to the store. The key is fennel seeds and tarragon, which go very well together. The sauce is inspired by the Norwegian pizza franchise Peppe’s.

First I chopped all the vegetables.  I fried four onions in olive oil in a huge oven proof pot, and then added: four italian anchovies in oil, which I mashed, and four garlic cloves. I let it fry for a short while. Then I added, in order, a pound of minced pork, four carrots, one fennel root, one whole bottle of cheap red wine, six tomatoes, a pinch of fennel seeds, salt pepper.

I reduced the sauce to a thick consistency, put a lid on the pot and put it in the oven at about 160 Celsius for two hours.

Top with a big handful of fresh tarragon and serve with pasta, and grated parmeggiano.

I’m sharing it because it’s one of the easiest and most delicious dishes I’ve ever made. The combination of fennel seeds and fresh tarragon is just unbeatable.

Ingredients:

Olive oil, salt pepper.
Four onions
Four anchovies (the straight Italian kind in oil. Or just use a tiny amount of fish sauce)
Four garlic cloves
Four carrots
One fennel root
One pound minced pork
One bottle of red whine
Six tomatoes
One pinch fennel seeds
Tarragon for topping

PS: This is a picture of the fields of Marathon in Greece, which gave name to the race distance:

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