Sunday, December 7, 2014

No complaints here

Last weekend Marius came to visit me in Bergen for the Light Festival. We were a little disappointed because there were not as many Christmas songs as the last time we went, but the fireworks at the end were still good.

[Christmas atmosphere in Bergen]

[Annual Bergen Light Festival/Tree-Lighting]
[Beautiful sunrise on my way to work last week]

Right now we are at the cabin in Synnfjell for our first ski weekend of the season with Tron and Rigmor. We also have Kajsa with us because her owners are in Copenhagen for the weekend, and they asked us to dog-sit (she is the old cocker spaniel). Marius' two younger cousins who live near Oslo are also up with us, and they like having Kajsa around but forget that she can't hear.

[Kajsa likes to roll around in the snow whenever she gets the chance]

Tron, Marius and I arrived to the cabin on Friday night. I woke up with Kajsa around 7:30. It was still dark and the moon was really bright. After a little breakfast we relaxed with some coffee in front of the TV and watched skiing. The skiers are in Lillehammer, but we decided to not do the hour-long drive over to root for the Americans. After watching the girls ski, we went for a 20 km ski trip. We were finished around 2:30 and the sun was already disappearing behind the mountains. Rigmor and the two little cousins arrived just before we got back from our ski and they were busy baking cookies.

[Beautiful Saturday morning - ca. 9:00am]

[Great start to a beautiful day]

[Skiing and dog cuddles]

[First ski trip of the season!]

We had a mini Christmas Eve with a Norwegian style Christmas dinner and opened a few presents. I was very happy to receive my new rainboots for when I go back to Bergen this week (tons of rain in the forecast).

And I hit a milestone last night! I saw my first northern lights after living in Norway for over three years! It was spectacular!! I took Kajsa out one last time before bed and saw a beautiful green band in the sky! I hollered to Marius to grab the camera and he took a great picture for me!

[The northern lights as seen from the cabin! Marius is an amazing photographer!]
[Mini ski trip (6km) with Kajsa and the little cousins]

Less than a week til Marius and I land in Detroit and we are SO EXCITED!

Friday, November 21, 2014

In case you missed it, I moved back to Bergen

But only temporarily, as of yet. In the beginning of the month I took the train from Oslo to Bergen. It was a beautiful trip cross-country ascending to over 1000m above sea level and back down again. My friend Knut said that I could stay at his place until an apartment was available to rent. I picked up the key from his mom, dropped off my things, and went back downtown to go to my Norwegian course. He was out of town for the week for work, and my first day of work was not until the following Monday. So I used the next five days reacquainting myself with Bergen....mainly by running around my old neighborhood.

On Monday (Nov 10) I started my new (tempoary) part time job at UniResarch Sars International Centre for Marine Molecular Biology...UniSars for short. Technically I am called a "research technician", but I'm more like a glorified dishwasher at the moment. I made sure to tell the researchers that I am more than capable to help them if they need an extra pair of hands, but so far I've only been recruited to help clean some plankton tanks...Hey, I'll take what I can get!

Everyone here is very nice and my boss said that if something permanent were to open up that he would be sure to let me know. I have a fair bit of down time between autoclaving (sterilization) cycles, so the administration ladies make sure to give me all sorts of random things to keep me occupied. For example, recycling papers and sorting files. One of the ladies said, "Everyone is over qualified for that kind of work, but it still needs to be done," and the lady giggled.

View from my office...sorry it is sideways
It is getting darker earlier and earlier! Yesterday I took a walk up Mount Ulriken in the dark with my headlamp. I'm not the only one. I often see headlamp light coming down the mountain at night, and it looks really pretty. When I got to the top it was snowing! I made sure to go back down very carefully (as always). I survived my first night hike up Ulriken and I'm looking forward to trying it out again since there's no crowd. There were only three or four other people taking the trek that evening.

Today I'm flying over to Oslo! It has been about three weeks since I've seen Marius, so it will be nice!

attempted panorama

view from the top

Monday, November 3, 2014

Marius' birthday and Halloween

Marius turned 29 last week! And sticking to tradition, he got his 3rd annual birthday pumpkin. We took it over to Tron and Rigmor's to show them (and grandma) a little taste of Halloween. 

We didn't have scary music, but Grandma Oddny was interested in the carving and seed baking procedures. But once we showed her pictures that people posted on Facebook of the decorations and costumes she quickly "ba humbuged" the holiday saying "Uff, Americans" and waving her hand down. hahaha 

Well, Halloween is still getting more and more popular each year. There's significantly more Halloween activity in Oslo than in Bergen. I even saw trick-or-treaters! (None came to our apartment nor the Engebrethsen's house though)

I baked Marius a chocolate cake, and of course it had to be a scary cake!

Marius tried to give Rigmor a little scare

I also was contacted for an interview with a research group called Bioforsk. They work primarily with crops. I've been practicing what I will say in Norwegian...yep, an interview only in Norwegian! The interview is tomorrow (Tuesday) and on Wednesday I'll be catching the 8AM train from Oslo to Bergen. There has been some flooding in western Norway, so I was a bit worried about taking the train, but it is so much cheaper than a plane (250 kr (7 hrs travel time) vs. 600 kr (2 hrs travel time))

I'm going to live with our friend Knut for a few weeks until the apartment I'm renting is available. In Bergen I'll be working as a research technician preparing and cleaning lab space and equipment. I'll also be back in Norwegian classes. 

I'm glad the year finally kicked in for me. It's been great since September...2014 just got off to a rather slow start. We are excited to see what else will happen before the year is over!

Just 5 weeks until Marius and I will be in the mitten for Christmas!

Marius and I ran a couple of laps around Sognsvann on Saturday

Monday, October 6, 2014

Scandinavia roadtrip, part 3: back in Oslo

We drove from Copenhagen to Oslo in one day; it's only 6 hours. While we were still in Denmark we found a grocery store to stock up on cheaper beer and some road snacks. But then the GPS took us the wrong way, and we found ourselves in line for the ferry from a city just north of Copenhagen to Helsingborg, Sweden. Instead of backtracking to the bridge, we decided to take the 20 minute ferry ride across.
We obviously went way north!

Six hours later we were back in Oslo. We took it easy the next day and walked around our neighborhood and up the river. It was good weather for a long walk. Rigmor had us over for dinner and served moose "gryte" (a stew) and "Troll krem" (troll cream = lingonberry, egg whites and sugar) for dessert.

We still had some must-sees to cover in Oslo. Mainly the royal palace and ski jump/ski museum.

We made it in time for the changing of the guard.

Skis varied by region and were over 15 feet long back in the day!
Dad became a polar explorer with a big head
We went to the top of the ski jump for a view over the fjord. No crowd since we got there just before it closed.
A little pit stop next to the ski jump and museum is an old "seter" called Frognerseteren. Seters are used as ski lodges in the middle of nowhere for skiers to warm up, eat some waffles, and drink coffee. Frognerseteren is huge and has great views. I'll have to stop by with Marius for a $7 coffee after skiing this winter.

Mom and Dad left us on the 11th just before my interview with Greenpeace to go around door-to-door and sign up monthly donors. So in the past month I have been working 3 nights per week. And since September 25th, I was dog sitting. His name is Bobo and he has been enjoying hikes everyday. He feels like our dog now, so I'm going to miss the little guy when his owner picks him up tomorrow.

He is not a fan of going in the water

But he does enjoy running with me, as long as it's not too fast
Great weather and fall colors yesterday when Rigmor joined us for a walk in the woods.

Saturday, October 4, 2014

Scandinavia roadtrip: part 2, Copenhagen

First Carlsberg of the trip
As we crossed the bridge from Malmö, Sweden, into Denmark, we saw blue sky, blue water and white sail boats. The bridge was long, but before we knew it we were in Denmark...yet again, no indication that we actually entered another country, and it felt more like we were crossing the bridge up to the U.P.

Following our GPS passed lots of houses that Marius described as "typical Danish", but to me they just looked like "typical northern Europe": brick homes with steep roofs. There were tons of cyclists! A lot of people bike in Norway, but Copenhagen sets the bar really high. We came to the street with our hotel and parked in the street. As well as there being two other hotels, there were also two "gentlemen's clubs", and the street smelled like pee. At least the room was alright!

We went to the tourist information center around the corner and got a map for a walking tour of Copenhagen that "should only take like three hours". We hit all the highlights and I really enjoyed the walk! We did the first half because we meandered and maybe it takes "only like 3 hours" if you don't want to stop and look at other things along the walk. The first stop was the town hall and then lunch on a cozy corner bistro.

Our tables were in the road. A few cars made 3-point turns to get around us.
The next stop on our walking tour was the Old Stock Exchange

And then the famous Nyhavn, where it is customary to have a beer. You can buy one "to go" or sit at the restaurant. Dad tried a plate of pickled herring to go with his beer...I had the Carlsberg Nordic (aka non-alcoholic) since my training didn't recommend alcohol.

Time for a group picture
Our walking tour had us weave up along the water, past the palace where the Danish royalty reside and the Marble Church. And we ended at the citadel, home to the Little Mermaid statue. Dad's first reaction: "That's it?! What a rip off!"....
Yup, that's her.

 After a long day of walking around Copenhagen, we rested up for day two at the Carlsberg Brewery. We walked there from the was probably about 1.5 miles, and we booked the guided tour. There was surprisingly a lot to see at the brewery about the history of the Carlsberg family and how much power they had over the city of Copenhagen. In a couple of years they will tear a lot of it down and turn it into a new neighborhood, so I was very glad we got to see it.

The Elephant Gate

The old copper pots.
Of course we couldn't forget about the second half of our walking tour! Poor Mom and Dad were taken along for my brutal, only-by-foot way of seeing Europe. So we went to the Round Tower to see the skyline of Copenhagen before enjoying dinner at the oldest restaurant in the city. The morning before we drove back to Oslo, we stopped by the small, but impressive, Rosenborg Castle.

Inside the Round Tower. Along the way there were little historical pit-stops, including the old privy.

Atop the Round Tower

Rosenborg Castle

The first (more impressive) crown. There was another for the next king, but this one
was waaayyyy fancier.

I think this will have to be a three part series. Our return to Oslo will be in the next post since this one was so long. Copenhagen was a great city. A good size for a long weekend, but we could have used another day to squeeze in a little more. But a weekend was just the right amount of time for the main highlights.

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Scandinavia roadtrip: part 1, Oslo and Gothenburg

I realized I never wrote about Mom and Dad's visit back in the beginning of September. They were here from September 2-11. We started in Oslo and then drove down to Copenhagen, via Gothenburg, for a long weekend before coming back up to Oslo. It was a lot of fun! I wish I could remember the "Dad-isms". I should have written them down! I will try to think of them for the next post.

We had them in our little 44 m/sq apartment, so it was definitely pretty tight with the four of us, but we all share hotel rooms when we were on our little roadtrip anyways, so it we got used to it fast. When they left, though, it seemed so quiet.

When they arrived we quickly got them into the Oslo experience with a visit to the famous sculpture park, Vigelandsparken.

A walk is the best cure after travelling.
The next day Marius went to the office and we went to the Viking Ship museum. But Marius caught up with us in time for the Kon Tiki museum. I highly recommend both of those!
Next to the biggest of the 3 ships in the museum.
The Kon Tiki
We made sure to hit all the highlights of Oslo! And we had perfect weather for a walking tour, which included: the opera house, fortress and downtown Oslo
In front of the Oslo Opera House
Tron and Rigmor had all of us over for a great halibut dinner, and the next day we were ready to drive south. Crossing boarders isn't as exciting as you'd expect considering we are crossing international boarders. There isn't even a "Welcome to Sweden" sign. Our first stop was Gothenburg, the second largest city in Sweden. I set much higher expectations for this city, and I was disappointed there wasn't much to do there besides walk around (unless you were there for the amusement park).
Smiling faces all around
The "Fish Church" (fish market) on the canal

The next morning we got up and continued our drive through Sweden. Three hours of Swedish farms later, we approached the bridge into Denmark!
Øresund Bridge
...nope, no exciting "Welcome to Denmark" signs here either. But, YAY! Copenhagen!

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Oslo Marathon Race Report

I'm officially a marathoner!!

16 weeks of dedicated training came to an end...and I am not going to say that the marathon was my "victory lap" for all that training, because it sure did not feel like that. But I'll start from the beginning.

I was so excited to go to the running expo and get my number. Adidas was the first half, and the other half had some 2XU, Garmin, Maxim sport fuel and other random stalls for compression wear and Runner's World Norway. Jack Waitz (husband of Grete Waitz) was also there signing a copy of his book. I've become such a Norwegian that I didn't get a picture with him, but I probably should have. I say that I'm a Norwegian because if they see someone famous they observe from afar and do not want to disturb them.

Got home with my goodie bag, which was mainly tons of brochures for things. I got one little sample bottle of soap (less than 1 oz) and a pink sweat band. At least I got a free copy of Runner's World Norway. But DOH! I realized I was missing my bracelet that would get me gels along the run. I paid an extra 150 kroners to get Maxim energy gels 4 times along the course (a worthwhile investment!).

Woke up a little before 6:30 the next morning, turned on "Desert Runners", and made some pancakes and coffee. To my surprise, Marius woke up with me. We caught the bus downtown with some other runners to get there 30 minutes before the start. I sported my new American flag shorts and a black tshirt. I should have had a flashy shirt to make it easier for Marius and Rigmor to find me in more crowded areas, but the shorts were a good start!

Ready to go!

After a little delay we were finally on our way! Nearly 3000 runners took off down the streets of Oslo. My Garmin was having trouble getting signal for the first 4 kms, I'm guessing because it was overcast? So I had to pace the old fashioned way and try to find the 400 or 415 balloons. The balloons are marked with a time goal and tied to pacers for those who don't have a fancy GPS watch to guide them. I didn't realize how slow I actually started out of the gate! Finally after about 10 kms I caught up with the 400 balloon. I was feeling fantastic for a while...then the magic number 12...

In the beginning of my training, the 12th km brought on left knee ITBS-like symptoms. I did not experience them as I added more mileage, but race day did not give me a break. Despite that I was able to maintain a nice pace for the whole first half of the marathon and I was so happy to see Rigmor cheering me on at a couple different corners between km 19 and 20. I was even cheered on by a couple of other women in the crowd I did not know from before, but they saw me (and I presume, my shorts), and each time they saw me they would really shout and cheer me on. I loved that! It was the best motivation!

Ahead of the 400 balloon and feelin' good!

Thanks to my Garmin's brain fart, I don't know how long it took me to run the first half, but I crossed half way in front of the 400 balloon, so that was good. But of course my left knee got progressively worse, and then my right quad began cramping. The whole second half of the race was a struggle. Every few minutes I stopped to try to stretch out my cramping right quad, but it was like a vicious circle! Run a little bit, but then my quad would cramp harder...Stop running and then it felt even more difficult to begin running again! The second portion of the race was definitely a shuffle. Every fuel station I would take an energy gel, pour a water over my head and then take a cup of sports drink.

Finally at km 40 I could see the light. Rigmor recruited some random other people in the crowd to cheer me on, and my one fan from the Opera house stretch had even moved to km 40 and hollered for me, and I yelled back "There you are! I missed you!".

A couple of girls came sprinting up behind me, but I just didn't have the fuel in my legs to get them to move faster. When I ran my half marathons I had enough fuel in the tank to sprint the last couple hundred meters, but not today. I definitely gave it all I had. I crossed the finish line in 4:09:13.

Look at that determination! You can barely tell that I'm in pain! 

Born in the USA finally came on my playlist ;)
Very pleased with that result for my first marathon! When I found Marius, he asked me how I was doing. I started to cry a little and said "I'm never doing that again! I was in so much pain the last 20 kms."...Let's just say that 1 hour later that went 180 degrees, and now I'm thinking about when I can try to finish my second marathon in less than 4 hours!

Summary: 247 of 465 women running the marathon
86 of 177 in my class (K24-34)

I wish they had done an overall place that includes the men's times, but they kept us separate. Here you can see how I went up in the ranks for the first half, and then a landslide back down haha

Split Gross result Net result Lap time min/km km/h Place
4 km 21:24 21:21 21:21 05.20 11.2         225
8 km 42:34 42:31 21:11 05.18 11.3         175
12 km 1:04:22 1:04:19 21:48 05.27 11.0         161
15,5 km 1:24:32 1:24:29        20:10 05.46 10.4         155
21,1 km 1:55:31 1:55:28 31:00 05.32 10.8         178
25,1 km 2:17:42 2:17:39 22:11 05.32 10.8         183
29,1 km 2:42:28 2:42:25 24:46 06.11 9.7         198
33,1 km 3:09:22 3:09:19 26:55 06.44 8.9         217
36,6 km 3:33:37 3:33:34 24:15 06.56 8.7         203
Mål         4:09:16 4:09:13 35:40 06.22 9.4         247

Obviously, the second half was a struggle.

Ran two laps of the half marathon course

Hardest thing I have ever done. And I am so proud of myself.

Act for Arctic