Skating Copenhagen

Skating is not the most glamorous sport, but it sure is addictive. Copenhagen is actually a pretty good city for skating, with lots of open outdoors skateparks. For street skating it’s a mixed bag: Very rainy and lots of cobblestone. Most of the pavement is made of rough cement with big rocks in it. I’ve also been knocked off my board by the wind a couple of times. Riding downwind is fun though.

I’m very new to skating so I’m still in that happy place where it gets a little easier every day. At first I was a little embarassed to get on the board in public, but I soon noticed that nobody cares. I’ve been to Fælledparken Skatepark once, and I loved it. I did some slow fakies up the ramp, and on the second try I didn’t fall.

From here on it can only get better.

Custom grip tape

Custom grip tape

Young tagger

Young tagger

Skating bruises are cool

Skating bruises are cool

Sewing, snowboarding, buying a skateboard… the usual stuff.

Where to start? My mother in law and I came up with the idea of giving my wife a skiing trip for her birthday. But actually even before that, I was annoyed with all my favourite clothes being too big, so I bought a ridiculously cheap sewing machine. I “sized down” two pairs of jeans and three shirts in a couple of afternoons. They turned out really nice, and I saved money.

So naturally, when we started to buy gear for skiing (me being a real cheapskate) I said “Oh, I’ll sew a couple of ski pants, easily.” Famous last words. My (red) pants were done in 90 minutes. My wife’s pants took me several days and gave me a lot of frustration, but also a lot of pride afterwards. Air vents on the thighs, completely watertight, cargo pockets, edge protection on the inside of the legs, snow cuffs. SO MANY DETAILS. I also chose a really tough fabric that was hard to fold. And luckily she loved it. The stitching is pretty bad, but I think these pants will last a long time.

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My hippie pants. I am improving these with cargo pockets and a big waterproof padding on the butt, because… snowboard.

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As the holiday approached, I remembered that I actually used to rent snowboard instead of skis, back in the days. I haven’t snowboarded since 96, so it was a tough start at the top of the mountain. After a while it was insanely fun though. I had no idea riding was easier than skiing as soon as you go off piste in powder.

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Big smile!

I wanted to keep snowboarding home in Copenhagen (that was a joke), so I went and bought a cheap skateboard. (I’m going the opposite way of the board evolution: from surfing to skateboard to snowboard.) There’s a very nice skate park in Fælledparken, and I’ve been watching the guys who skate pools. That look like so much fun, how they just go on and on like an infinity machine. I have absolutely no shame when it comes to being an old rookie on a skateboard. Fatherhood takes away all shame I guess. BTW My daughter totally shreds, as long as I hold her hand.

And I’m still running, of course.

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Three books that changed my life.

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As we are approaching Jul, I have though about what faith is, and what it’s useful for. I’m generally a sceptic, which is great if you want to avoid computer viruses, be safe in traffic of avoid bar brawls. But when learning something new, at one point you have to stop searching for the truth and accept some things as given. Maybe that is what faith is all about. I’m not religious, but I still have some things that I chose to believe in; things that are controversial, but still seem very logical and “ring true” to me. I’ve had a couple of life changing epiphanies in the last years, and it’s really about belief, and searching for truth in some pretty complex and important matters. They might seem a bit mundane to some, but big things can come from small ideas. For instance I’m 20 kg lighter than I was 8 years ago, and for me that makes a difference far beyond vanity.

wpid-download-1.jpg.jpegThe first one is that sugar and white flour is not high quality food. In fact, just doing without those two foods has made overeating a non-issue for me. Food is simply a source of happiness and nutrition, which seems like the way it should be. I had an epiphany reading John Yudkin’s book on sugar. Sure, many scientists say he overfed the lab rats with sugar. But he says it so well in the first chapter of the book: “Neither you nor your children need to take any sugar at all, or foods or drinks made with it, in order to enjoy a completely healthy and highly nutritious diet”. You’re not missing out by not eating sugar, and that’s the truth. I’ve also read about Sam Feltham, who ate 5000 Kcal of fatty stuff daily for three weeks, and gained minimal weight. I know that most athletes eat a lot of starch. And so would I if I exercised three times a day. BUT sugar and refined wheat flour are relatively new inventions, so it’s safe to say it’s been proven that humans can survive without. Who knew you could cook from old French cookbooks and lose lots of weight? I’ve never eaten better in my life.

mcdougallborntorunThe second one is that a forefoot landing is the natural way to run. When I started running again in 2011 my knees hurt. I switched to a forefoot landing, and haven’t had any knee trouble since, and very little trouble in the way of injuries. I also just enjoy running more than before, because it’s so comfortable. I’m crediting the book Born to Run, but although it was a big influence, what started it all was this video. Cushioned shoes are a new invention, and running is old, so here again I go with the time tested recipe. There can be arguments against it, the best is maybe that we now run on pavement instead of dirt roads. But I still don’t buy it. Landing on the heel when running just feels wrong to me. Sort of like walking without bending your knees.

headfirstThe third one is a little less universal and maybe more a question of taste: Opera singers today sing with a voice that is too dominated by the chest voice. I’ve been reading the book “Head first” by Denes Striny, and suddenly I hear something new in other singers. I can’t go into all details about how this works, because I’m in the middle of the process, but it seems intuitively true to me. The bottom line is that he claims many popular opera singers today perform a kind of “mix-belting”, which would be foreign to singers of yesteryear, who sang more with the abstract idea of singing in head voice “in the mask”. A typical example of this modern school of singing, in my opinion, is Rolando Villazon. In his heyday he sounded so masculine and healthy as long as he was singing loudly, but he didn’t have great pianissimo high notes. The book has helped me hear other singers in a different way, and hopefully it will solve some problems for me as well. So far I’ve been yodeling around in falsetto every day, and ironically it seems to do wonders for my low and middle range. I’m not sure what this will lead to, but I know it feels right so I will keep doing it. The mark of a true believer.

I think what my new ideas have in common is that you shouldn’t work hard at the easy stuff. For instance running a fast marathon is very hard, but simply running is easy. It should be easy. Same thing with singing, and even weight loss. Sometimes it’s more a matter staying in balance than gutting it out and giving it your all. Most of the time, really.

BTW merry Christmas, whatever you call it!

Amager

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Another long run at Amager. Ome of the best places for a long run in Copenhagen. Discovered some good paths between Amager Fælled and Dragør.

Today is my birthday, and I think my wife has booked table at a restaurant tonight. Long workday yesterday, so today I’m doing nothing but running 26k and dining. And blogging.

Strive

I’m using an app called Strava. I think it’s a simplification of the Swedish word sträva, meaning strive, or work hard. I’ve used the app three times, but my wife uses it more often, and it seems OK. It has one function that is a little bit odd, but also fun. You are always competing for records on certain stretches around town. And most people probably don’t even know that they are competing. Typically, a challenge is to run across a bridge or up a steep hill. E.g. this 180m race track is called “temporary bridge”. The whole thing seems like something out of a computer game. In the future, when zombies have taken over the world, all bridges will have computer generated names like that.
temp_bridgeAs I don’t use the app, I’m not partaking in the competition, but the record is something like 23 seconds, and it took me 27. The bridge is really really flat, and a dream to run fast on. Even better than a race track, if you’re wearing cushioned shoes. The winner gets to have his name displayed at the top of the list, and people will probably suspect you of cheating by riding a bike. The game is on!

1% too much is a bore

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There is so much to love about runners and running in general. Runners are humble, funny people who have very little in common except a scary ability to enjoy what most people consider punishment.

But there are two things I don’t like. The first is the inevitable talk about burning calories. I don’t mind if people want to lose weight, it just doesn’t have anything to do with running. In my opinion at least. I just don’t want to hear about it. Sort of like hearing about peoples toenail problems. If I read an article about how to run 400m intervals, and the benefit of burning extra calories is mentioned, I become confused. What is the point of this exercise, to run well or burn calories? It’s just two different things, not related.

The other thing is the idea that running is something you whip yourself to do. I have never once had to overcome a mental barrier to get out the door. But then again, I run very irregularly. I’ve even stopped recording my runs. I love long runs as a way to get out and enjoy nature, and I time my shorter runs and intervals, but I’ve dropped the general idea of “putting miles in the bank”. I was getting frustrated with always looking at my watch and thinking about pace, and running extra junk mileage just to reach my weekly goal. I love running, and it’s not about results for me, but enjoying every run.

I was for another run with Sparta yesterday, and I’m having trouble finding the right group. Maybe I’m just too much of a loner, or too stubborn. I ran with a fast group yesterday, and I slept for 11 hours afterwards. A 15 km tempo run with these guys was just too much for me. I had no trouble hanging on, but afterwards I almost felt like I’d run a race. It’s not a lot too fast for me, but just enough to take the fun out of it, and make a tempo run something else, which does not fit into the training week. So I can say I have tried to gut it out, and it did not feel good. I guess there’s a right and a wrong way to do everything.

Most of the groups in Sparta are geared towards the marathon, which may be part of the problem for me: I like to run fast but not too far. Or far, but not too fast. Even with the slower groups, I feel like the warm up is much too fast, and the intervals too slow. And the faster groups are just too fast, except I can run some intervals with them. Or maybe I’m just being picky. I am still exploring what organized sport can do for me, and I’m learning a lot in the process.

One last swim in the ocean

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It may not look too tempting to go for a swim here… The water was 12 degrees Celsius, but getting out wasn’t terrible.

Long run along the coast today. The suburbs northeast of Copenhagen is dubbed “The whisky belt” because of all the fancy houses.

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Copenhagen was just as grey as the backdrop of The Killing today.  Sort of beautiful in a minimalist, gloomy way. I stopped at 20 kilometres. It’s hard to find time for longer runs than this, but I have felt an urge to run long lately. Probably because it’s colder, so it’s nice not to be breathing too hard.

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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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