Thursday, August 25, 2016

Knarvik Xtrem race report

Last night was the Knarvik Xtrem trail race - 10.7 kilometers of slippery, wet, muddy, rocky, mossy terrain. It is the first of three races in the Fjord Viking series; of which there are a total of 52 people are registered (12 of them women, including myself; 3 of us in our age class). The next race is a 10 km road race on September 3rd and a half marathon the next day.

I took the bus after work to Knarvik, and had a bit over an hour to burn. I walked from the bus with another runner all dressed out in Salomon brand gear, I figured him for a brand fan...turns out he (Stian is his name) is a sponsored runner and won the race! He was very humble and gave no clues that he was so good. I got my number and tried to find a smart spot to leave my bag since they didn't have a baggage service - too many locals driving cars I guess. I was number 315.

After a couple minutes of light jogging I watched everyone else warming up. They looked super professional: top brand trail shoes, good form, etc. I put myself towards the back of the pack at the start and then we were off. People started so fast out of the gate that I knew I was not going to be very high up on the result list. I could hear AC/DC's "Thunderstruck" loud and clear, and as our feet stepped to the first bit of trail just silence. I could only hear breathing and shoes hitting rocks and puddles.

The first section was uphill on rock face. It rained a bit during the day so the course was very wet. Uphill was hard, and downhill was slippery, and when finally there came a flat section we had to either go around the water as best possible or wade through it (often up to the knees). I opted to wade through the water in the first half thinking I'd save time, but it was so exhausting to pull my legs out of the mud. I probably would have used just as much time trying to navigate around the bogs.

There was one other woman running about the same pace as me. I would pass her going up hill, but she had me on the downhill. The final section was all downhill, so she finished before me. As soon as I hit the flat road and running track my legs felt like they were back in normal territory and I could sprint to the finish. I came in at 1 hour 47 minutes and 54 seconds. This was by far the toughest, most challenging race I have ever run, and it was a lot of fun!

Results for the Knarvik Xtrem 10.7
Overall: 158 out of 177 (202 registered, 177 finishers)
Gender: 28th out of 38 (48 registered, 38 finishers)
Class (Women 23-34): 6th out of 10 (15 registered, 10 finishers) 

[Race elevation profile. Lots of up and down!]
I hopped on the bus back to Bergen around 9PM with mud-covered legs. Little did I know that from 8PM there would be road work that delayed my arrival home. A trip that should have taken roughly an hour lasted two and a half hours. I was freezing on the bus and not so thrilled to be stuck in traffic, but I got home and a hot shower, and straight to bed.

I prefer to be in the top 50% of the field at the finish line, but that's the thing with small races. They either make you or break you. You can be in the top of your age group and gender, or, as in the case of this race, be surrounded by people who are crazier than you are and in much better form for such a race. Marius pointed out that it is "probably only crazy people running that kind of race, and now you're one of the crazy ones. Likely not too many runners that you typically see at half marathon road races." I think he was right. Looking at the statistics, the top female finishers were 36 and 38 years old! I think this means I have a good shot at only getting better as time goes on.

[Some stayed around to cheer for us slow folks]
[Mud to the knees!]
[All done!]

Monday, August 1, 2016

Wonderful Tromsø

We pulled into the so-called "Paris of the north" - Tromsø, on Friday night, and it was great to see land again. The views from the boat were pretty amazing.

Saturday we moved everything from our boat onto another boat that would take the gear and samples back to Bergen. We were pretty efficient so I was able to walk around town as well as take a nice long hike.

The weather was of course perfect for a long hike, and after a bit of research I opted for the popular trip up Fløya (671 meters above sea level). I ran from the boat and up a fair amount of trail before halting to a fast walk. It was really warm in the sun, and I was on cloud nine.

After a long sleep I had a light breakfast before we had to all catch a taxi to our plane. We flew directly from Tromsø to Bergen, and I was greeted at the luggage carousel by Marius.

It was a good survey, though, occasionally uneventful due to how the stations and our work shifts lined up. On Thursday I'm flying to Oslo to pick up Pancho and we'll have a weekend in Geilo for more hiking. Next sea excursion is in September!

Cruising into Tromsø

Awesome trails for running and stretching my legs - ran a 14km loop

View from the top

View of Tromsø from where the cable car comes up

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Mackerel / Summer Ecosystem Survey 2016

The route my boat is taking is the green line.
After three years I'm back at the Institute of Marine Research (Havforskningsinstiuttet) on the summer ecosystem survey on the hunt for mackerel in the Norwegian Sea. It was hard at first because I had to leave two days before Mom and Dad left Bergen. And since I had to leave before they did it made it a little hard to be excited to work on the boat again.

The view from my tiny plane.
I flew from Bergen to Stokmarknes (near Lofoten) with my colleagues. From Bodø to Stokmarknes we were transported in a tiny plane that was so small we weren't even assigned seats. The ticket just said "free seating" - a first for me. The views from the plane were great! When we got there we got to the boats and met the others who were continuing the survey. The institute hired two commercial fishing boats for the survey, and mine is called M. Ytterstad.

These boats make living and working at sea very comfortable. There is a "cinema room" and even a small gym. Our resident chef prepares delicious meals, and even a daily cake at 4PM to have with our coffee (which I learned to avoid three years ago to prevent weight gain HAHA). I was assigned the night shift: 2am - 8am and 2pm - 8pm. After a few days I found my rhytm and have even managed to work out sort of regularly.

Bad weather in the beginning.
The first few days are always a little bit rough trying to find my sea legs, but it didn't help that the weather was also rough in the beginning. I didn't get seasick, but I get very sleepy from the boat rocking in the waves, making it nearly impossible to work out. It's amazing how little one walks while working on a boat. You're pretty much restricted to just walking up and down stairs because of the way the ship is layed out, thus, why I think it is so important to get to exercise in the gym when I can.

We sample 100 fish in total. We try our best to release the ones
we know we won't get to as soon as possible.

The fish are hoisted up to weigh the total catch
before we sort out the different species.

This guy hitched a ride with some
seithe we caught in a deep pelagic
haul for blue whiting (kolmule)
Mackerel trawling occurs at fixed locations alonged pre-determined transects in the Norwegian Sea. This means that sometimes a trawl haul comes in on my shift, and sometimes not. Unfortunately, more of the hauls have come in for the other shift making the days go by quite slowly for me. I prefer being busy. When the day is divided into two shifts it makes the day feel twice as long since I sleep during both off shifts.

I haven't spotted any whales or too many exciting things in the trawl. We've gotten a couple of wolf fish, one squid and lots of seithe. That's about as exciting as it got so far. Still, it's fun getting mackerel and seeing how far north the distribution has spread. I did get some bioluminescent plankton one night, but of course it was the one time I didn't have my phone on me to get a picture.

Today is the 26th, and I will be back in Bergen on the 31st, but we have to be in Tromsø by the 30th to load everything from our boat onto the other one. I'm excited to get back to Marius and get Pancho back home too.

2:30AM and pulling in some fish on a calm morning.
Bjørnøya (Bear Island) in the distance.

Summer vacation (Norwegian wedding summary)

After just one week at my new job, I took two weeks vacation for our Norwegian wedding in northern Norway. We picked up Carolyn on July 4th, and started driving north. We drove about 13 hours the first day, and made sure to stop a couple of times to fill up coffee and give the dog a break. The second day we drove the last 7 hours, and made it to the summer house at Gjelvågan in time for dinner.

Driving through Songdal - fjord Norway (western Norway) is the prettiest drive.
Summer skiers...people skiing on the 4th of July - only in Norway
Hard to see, but just behind Marius is the landmark for crossing the Arctic Circle
We had a few days to finish decorating the old gym and some fun stuff before Mom, Dad, Aunt Jill and Uncle Jeff drove in. We decorated the old gymnasium of the community center with a marine theme. Rigmor was very creative. To drop the ceiling, she borrowed some fishing nets from her brother and bought some rice paper lanterns. We found some glass floats in the basement of the summer house, that back the day were used to hold up fishing nets. For the centerpieces, Rigmor bought some cheap glasses from IKEA and we filled them with a layer of sand and a few shells from the beach. It came together very nicely!

After hours of decorating, Marius and I took Carolyn and Pancho for an easy hike up Storgjedden before going home to make dinner. The next morning we woke up to great weather so we decided to do some kayaking, swimming and running. I love it up there!

Moose (elg)

Thursday night, the rest of the Americans drove in. We stayed up til 2:30AM talking and getting excited for Saturday. Friday night we had a dinner for the people who travelled up for the wedding, as well as the family members who would be hosting some of our friends. Dinner was served at an old general store that has been turned into a museum (called Falkbrygga). We ate a traditional Norwegian meal called lapskaus, and were given a short presentation about the place (which included a reading of the insurance papers - we thought that was really funny for some reason).

Saturday morning came, and the weather was very grey. Luckily no rain! Elisabeth (Marius' aunt) came by and took a few pictures of us; a couple on a bench, a few with our beloved Pancho, and some walking along the beach.

We went to the church and had the ceremony. Some of it was in english, but most in Norwegian. Marius' little cousins, Veronica and Isabel, played a classical piece their violins during the ceremony and they did so well! Then before we knew it, the ceremony was finished and we walked out of the church. Outside stood Uncle Ingvar's old DKV from the 1950's East Germany. A Norwegian flag and an American flag were fixed to the front bumper and in the back window was a sign that read "Third time's the charm". Hysterical! Our driver was Marius' younger cousin, Knut.

From there we drove to our wonderfully decorated hall and partied. Our friend Knut Erik was a great toastmaster. Toasts are the main feature of the Norwegian wedding reception, and Knut proved to be the best pick. He was good at introducing people, inserting comedy and some fun new games that were supposedly Norwegian tradition. One such game was that whenever Marius or I left the room without the other, then all the single guys and girls had to come give us a kiss on the cheek. The band was also great! They played our song from Grand Rapids ("More of You" by Chris Stapleton) and lots of my favorite songs. We didn't get home til 4AM! It was a lot of fun and totally different from the wedding we had in Grand Rapids.

Beautiful mittens knitted for us by a cousin with the coordinates
of the wedding location and the wedding date. Mine have the fish!
Our friend Kjetil played his accordian for us!

Sunday we moved pretty slow, but the day zipped by, as it did the morning after the Grand Rapids wedding. We ate leftovers and cake, lots of cake, and caught up with all of our friends who took on the challenege of getting up there.

Monday we did a hike to Svartisen with the family and some of Marius' family. The weather was perfect for it! A good day for everyone!

Just after crossing two ice cold glacial rivers. Carolyn and I each took turns
carrying Pancho over
Pancho was outside almost 24 hours. He preferred sleeping
outside in the grass.
On Tuesday, Carolyn, Mom, Dad, Jill and Jeff drove to Bodø and Marius and I drove back south to Bergen. Pancho stayed with his "besteforeldrene" at Gjelvågan so that they could help me out and watch him while I work on the boat. On Thursday, Mom, Dad, Jill and Jeff made it to Bergen, and I was due to head out to sea on Saturday. So we did a hike up Ulriken on Friday and then ate dinner and had some beer downtown. I was sad to leave before they did, but I was glad at least Marius had a couple of days of transition before suddenly being alone for two weeks. Now I'm at sea. My next entry will be about my first week on the boat.

Thanks for a great summer vacation Mom, Dad, Aunt Jill, Uncle Jeff, Carolyn, Marius, Tron, Rigmor, Katrine, Knut Erik, Martin...and everyone who came to be with us for our Norwegian wedding. Both weddings were extremely memorable and I can't wait to start making my scrapbook!

Ulriken hike

Friday, June 17, 2016

San Sebastian - 4 days in the Bosque country

The most sun we saw in San Sebastian - lasted for about 10 minutes.
This beach is called Playa de la Concha.

This week I was invited by my new employer to join the research group on a trip to San Sebastian, Spain. The aim was to have a meeting to discuss priorities and a mini-symposium with some Spanish collaborators.

Only some of us managed to make it to San Sebastian on Monday. The plane we were supposed to take to Amsterdam had engine issues, so our boss did his best to figure out a solution. He went alphabetically, so I was lucky to be in the first group out (after sitting in the Bergen airport for 6 hours). Twelve of us managed to make it to Spain by midnight on Monday (Bergen - Copenhagen - Brussels - Bilbao - San Sebastian (bus)). The rest would eventually make it by Tuesday afternoon and late Tuesday night.

Tuesday was meant to be a meeting about plans for the  new employees (3 of us in total) and discussing the upcoming surveys. However, since the others hadn't arrived, we only had a short meeting including my presentation about myself and the PhD and post-doc students presenting their work. Then we had the afternoon to explore.

Very empty meeting room when so many of us haven't arrived yet

My Brazilian friend, Thassya, and I decided to walk around as much as possible to go sight seeing, even though it was raining - the others decided to just sit in a bar. The rain came on and off quite frequently, but being from Bergen, we didn't mind. We wanted to see as much as we could. Even though the weather was not the best, Spaniards were still out swimming and surfing.

Walking through the "old town"

Panorama from a viewpoint

I have tons of pictures from the beach (Thassya on the right)
That night we had a long dinner, including lots of sea food and lots of meat. I quickly found out that Spain is not the idea place to be for a vegetarian because meat and fish are in almost every dish. I was flexible and enjoyed the food that was given, but Thassya was stuck with eating just bulgar and asparagus. Wednesday and Thursday were more of the same - lots of meat and bread....and wine.

Wednesday we were invited for a mini-symposium by the AZTI Institute in Pasaia (about 20 minutes from San Sebastian). We collaborate with them because the mackerel stock spawn in the Bay of Biscay before migrating into the Norwegian Sea for the summer feeding migration, and mackerel is an economically valuable species that is increasing its geographical distribution as a result of the warming seas. The talks were very interesting, and got me excited to work with pelagic fish again!

After the symposium, we took a boat from the institute to a small fishing village called San Juan. The lunch lasted for 3 hours, but it flew by with such good company. Only 4 hours later would we be eating dinner...SO MUCH FOOD!

ATZI Institute in Pasaia

On the boat to San Juan for lunch

Remided me of Bryggen in Bergen

This was only the first of 6 or so dishes
Ran along the beaches in San Sebastian, the main one is more for swimming, this beach was only occupied by surfers.

Thursday morning I walked around the city and in the sand one more time with Thassya and we bought some chorrizo to bring home. But wait...another massive lunch before our flight at 5PM. We took a bus to Bilbao and ate lunch at the Güggenheim Museum. We didn't have time to look at the art, but there were some neat features outside to take pictures of before the rain hit us again.

Back in Bergen late last night, but what a nice way to get to know my new colleagues in a fun, social atmosphere. Everyone is very friendly; just as I remembered them from when I worked on my masters at the IMR. One more week at the Sars Centre with the Nematostella before I officially start at my new job.

Outside the Güggenheim

Monday, June 13, 2016

Birkebeiner Race Report

June 11th I ran my second trail race in Lillehammer. The first being EcoTrail Oslo in May. This race was really fun, even though I could not have music to keep me going. Trail running makes me have to focus on my form and where I step, so the race really felt like it went by really fast since it was so refreshing running through the woods.

Marius and I drove over on Friday night, and thanks to how long the day is, we had beautiful views the whole drive. Due to a rock slide we had to take a detour that added an hour onto our drive, but it turned out to be very fun. There were lots of sheep wandering around the roads giving us a good laugh, and trying to squeeze around corners with cars coming in the opposite direction kept us awake. We got to the cabin at 2:30AM and went straight to bed.

Lambs crossing the road on our detour

Lucky for me, I didn't have to start running til 1PM on Saturday. The weather was perfect for running. Not too much sun and a nice breeze. I didn't feel too nervous because I wasn't expecting a personal record. The profile of the race included 300 m of incline, so I told Rigmor to expect me to use a good 2 hrs on this course.

I started running, and right away it was just up up up. The first 5 miles were up hill, and thanks to living in Bergen I have had plenty of training with running up and down  hill. I felt so good when I was able to run up the entire way and not stop to walk at all. I slipped by all the runners (who I joke were probably from the flat part of Oslo). The hills came easy for me and I didn't mind getting my $32 Saucony shoes dirty.

The drink stations were perfectly placed and I really felt in good form. Then in the last two kilometers a woman next to me tripped and fell pretty hard. I stopped to help her since she had blood on her forehead and was moaning. I sat with her for a minute to make sure she was ok, and then she told me to keep going. Finally when I saw some volunteers I let them know about her and tried to make up for the lost time to the finish.

The last 200 m were downhill and I flew past so many others who had passed me before when I stopped for the lady. I listened for my fans, but I thought maybe I missed them. I heard one voice holler "Good job, Justine! Well done!" was Morten! He is my age, the son of our cabin neighbors. I went through the shoot and got my recovery drink and hot dog and then walked around a little to see if I could find Marius. There they were, waiting to watch me cross the finish line, expecting me to use 2 hours. I was 6 minutes faster than I expected.

Finishers "Diploma"

We walked around the sports expo before getting ourselves icecream and driving back to the cabin. I even got an extra award called "sølvmerket". I tried to figure out what that meant, but I'm still confused. Now they got me hooked to run it again next year and get another "sølmerket". We cooked food over the fire pit and stayed up til 2AM planning the next wedding.

On Sunday we walked up a small "mountain" that we usually ski up in the winter, ate an early dinner and drove back to Bergen. The rock slide was cleared off the road so we didnt' need to take the detour. That was a relief! Beautiful views again on the way back to Bergen and clear blue sky.

The result after the cleaned up rock slide about 1 hr drive from Bergen

Beautiful panoramic views at a nice rest stop after a 25km long tunnel

Now I'm sitting at the airport with my new colleagues. We are trying to fly to San Sebastian, Spain, but our plane has engine problems so we are hoping to get on the next flight at 2PM. We'll see how it goes. So the next blog update will probably be relatively soon about how this trip goes --- if we get out of Bergen! 

Act for Arctic