Monday, May 21, 2012

10K around Kungsholmen Island

Racing season has begun. 

For me it started over a month ago, on a 5k through a muddy, hilly forest north of Stockholm with mounds of snow alongside the trail and trees toppled over as obstacles. 
Not my best time, but a good start.

That day, however, is not the photo you see above. This photo, taken on May 5, is from the 
10-kilometer Kungsholmen Runt
just a few weeks later.

At this point in the race, we had just powered up one of the course's long, slow hills and were just under 2 kilometers from the finish. We also happened to be passing just by my apartment building, at which point, part of me wished I was still in my bed on a Saturday morning as I'm sure so many others were. But that momentary longing passed and I focused on a strong finish.

My goal was to finish in under 50 minutes. For some reason, from the first kilometer, I'd got it in my head that I needed to run 4:30-minute kilometers. Really no excuse for such lousy math in the first kilometer. But with the speed of my first few kilometers*, I was able to finish in
[drumroll please]
and 87th out of 679 women

Next 10k goal> under 49:30   Next race> undecided     Next run> tomorrow

*it wasn't until halfway  through the race that I figured out my calculation error

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Tyresta National Park

20 kilometers south of Stockholm, Tyresta National Park offers 5,000 hectacres of nearly untouched land. Us city dwellers found a true escape there on May day,* when we hiked 10 kilometers through this gorgeous woodland. With both pine and deciduous trees, Tyresta has such variety to admire, as well as (apparently) 8,000 different species of animals. We only saw a few, mostly bugs and birds, but we did see 2 small snakes basking in the sun, which was the same idea we had. 

We settled on a sunny rock by this lake for our picnic lunch, and soaked up as much sun as we could, despite the chilly wind. We hiked and we climbed and we orienteered our way, and then we ate and relaxed and hiked some more and then we were very thirsty and drank some water and hiked again

and then we were back where we started where we waited for the bus to the train to the metro to home. Our woodlands adventure was a success! Thank you Sweden for your May day holiday!

*yes, this post is slightly outdated

Friday, May 11, 2012

Dags för Fredagsmys/ Time for Fridaycozy

One of my favorite things about Sweden is Fredagsmys!

The word mys means "cozy" and can be used to describe many situations or things - a dinner, an outing, a teddy bear, a cafe, whatever. But Swedes have a special place in their hearts specifically for Fredagsmys [silent g], literally translated to "Friday cozy."

Fredagsmys is the cozy, end-of-week evening snuggled on the couch in front of the TV, usually with a bag of candy and a bowl of chips [Swedish chip manufacturer OLW has capitalized on this concept with their Fredagsmys commercials, see above]. 

Sweden's long winter nights are well-suited to Fredagsmys, as are warm Friday evenings in May, as it turns out. Although laundry is probably not included in the typical Fredagsmys agenda, I've added it to spice things up (getting pretty crazy over here).

I can highly recommend Fredagsmys - if you haven't experienced it already, do so now. It's Friday afterall.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Valborg in Stockholm!

While my hometown of Annapolis, Maryland celebrates May Day with a flower basket-making contest, Sweden celebrates a bit differently - by lighting enormous bonfires throughout the country, burning any remnants of winter and welcoming spring at long last.

This celebration is called Valborgsmässoafton, or Valborg for short. The holiday is celebrated in many countries throughout Northern Europe, and is named after the English missionary Saint Walpurga, who was cannonized on May 1. The day falls exactly 6 months before Halloween.

It's difficult to fully appreciate how welcomed this Valborg holiday is if you don't live through the long winter that overtakes Sweden each year. I understand it even more so after my 2nd winter, which felt longer than the first. 

Valborg marks the beginning of the season not only of warmth but of lightAs I write this post, it is 9:45pm and the sky is not fully dark yet. Each day the sun is rising earlier and setting later than the day before, culminating on June 21 when the sky is dark for only a couple hours. There is an energy that comes over Stockholm at this time of year, and I am so thankful it is finally here... still, I won't be surprised if we get another snow shower before it's really summer. But at least we're almost there!