Friday, December 19, 2014

Remember the awesomeness

And now we've reached the end of another year here in Uppsala. And what an amazing year it has been - both orienteering and otherwise for me. Although I feel like I had my fair share of ups and downs this year in orienteering, I actually think it was my best year since 2010. I tend to remember only the bad things (especially now, sitting here injured for the first time ever and feeling like a big slug). So here is why this year was awesome - yep, a list of my awesome year :)

Tenerife! This was one of the few vacations I've taken with only Ross and with no orienteering (but lots of running!) It was awesome.

The off-limits (due to snow) Teide in the background.
In the spring I set a new 5km PR, 18.10 at Blodomloppet.

The IESU work team
I competed in all the Silva League races, which meant lots of traveling to new places in Sweden and running on new maps.

Silva League in Småland. Photo by Matija
10mila I was on team two, and I ran second leg. Before running, I was super nervous, so I didn't eat a lot for dinner the previous night or breakfast. This led to a very upset stomach for another 24 hours and puking on the van ride home (not in the van!). I was a bit hesitant in the beginning of the race, getting pulled a bit by others, but then found my own stride. I remember running uphill at one point with no one in front of me, but turning around and seeing a never-ending steam of women behind me. Team two did an awesome job!
Linné Team 2!

Handing off to Elisa. Photo by Ken Walker
Since WOC was in Italy, I traveled down to Treviso in the spring where I did some sprint training and spent lots of time exploring that adorable city.

I went to Venice three separate times this year, mostly for training but also snuck in some site-seeing with Cristina and Melissa the first time.

Jukola was far north this year. Our flight was delayed and we took a long team-bonding bus ride north. I ran first leg on team 2, and I had an awesome starting spot, since team 2 did so well last year. I had a really good race, spiking my controls and staying ahead of most of the pack.

Oh, Finnish, you funny language you.
Ross and I were invited by the Luis family to spend a week with them in Provence, France. I cannot say thank you enough for having us. It was an amazing week, and those hill intervals that Cristina and I ran in the heat I think fine tuned my race-mind and race-legs like nothing else could have.

If you are ever here, buy ALL of their cookies!
sunshine and views
At World Orienteering Championships, after a fairly panic-y qualifier race, I squeaked into the WOC sprint final. Although I've made finals before, last year at WOC was hard for me, and it felt so good to redeem myself. My final was a solid race, but not as awesome as you want your WOC race to be, but I got to sit on the top-three victory couch, which has been a life-long goal.
Over the bridges of Venice. Photo by Ken Walker
Victory couch! Photo by Ken Walker
I then got to run the lead leg on our 4 person sprint relay team, which is the newest discipline at WOC. I was so nervous before the race I had a bit of trouble breathing, but it was awesome. Crowded, fast, twisty and I finished my leg in 10th.

Finishing my leg in sprint relay. Photo by Ken Walker
My forest relay might as well make it's way in here too. I got very lost in the beginning and came through the arena in absolute last place. I can still feel how frustrated, embarrassed, disappointed, and low I felt running through the arena. And I cannot describe how important it was to hear my family, friends and teammates cheering for me. I didn't feel that I pushed extra hard in the end, but looking at splits I kept pace with the lead pack, and I tagged off to Alex, our second runner, in 17th place. It means a lot to me that everyone still supported me, and that I was able to mentally pull off a solid end of a race that started out as one of the most horrible of the year.
Tagging off to Alex, who had an awesome leg. Photo by Ken Walker
Then the traveling! Traveling with Mom and Dad was amazing. We stayed in beautiful places and went hiking running, mountain biking and siteseeing. Northern Italy is beautiful.
Mountain biking in the Dolomites 
Trying on local fashion
Villa Carlotta
Sunset over Lake Como
Dinner on the porch in Bellagio
View down to Bellagio
Swiss O week continued the awesomeness. Ross and I stayed with Cristina and Melissa in Zermatt. I had three awesome races at the beginning of the week, and enjoyed that elusive feeling of full speed, no mistakes.
Look at the view! (This happened a lot)

But we also had days like this!

Running in the shadow of Zermatt
Hanging around with my besties.
At the middle distance Swedish championships I ran another smart, but not fast, race. I relished in that feeling after the race, assuring everyone that I had a good race for me, but of course I wasn't in the final. I had a slow heat though, and I made it to my first Swedish Champs final! I swear, these things are harder to get into than WOC finals. I ran a fine middle race in the final, despite some early mistakes. I was really just proud to be there!

Swedish relay championships were another opportunity for me to run first leg again this year and use the speed that I worked so hard to build this year. I cut too sharply in front of someone near the end of the race and they stepped on my shoe, pulling it off. I lost a bit of time trying to get it back on again, but then got to run hard to try to catch back up again!

SM Relay. Photo by Lars Rönnols
The season finished off with North Americans. I had some strange stomach bug for half of the weekend, but the NAOC long is the race I am most proud of. Besides some wandering to #2 I ran a really good race. A race to be proud of. And it's wonderful to be rewarded with a gold medal and a earned spot at the WOC Long this summer in Scotland.

The Björn Kjellström trophy, with the female gold medalists from the weekend.
To top it all off, even better than all those awesome races, I got to marry the most wonderful, kind and understanding person ever.
photo by Chris Joyce, our awesome photographer
2014, I'm going to miss you. As one can tell from reading this, I love racing and traveling. 
I love competing. I love feeling fast and strong and focused in the forest.
But more than all that, I love Ross :)

2015, you have a lot to live up to. Looking forward to it!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Wedding Thank Yous

From the Summit Motel, morning of the wedding. By Eric Luth
I've been thinking a lot about writing this post, and finding it a bit daunting to explain with words the feelings from the entire day. Ross and I have been together... a long time :) I was counting down the days to the wedding and looking forward to it with enthusiasm. I was looking forward to being surrounded by friends and family and celebrating our relationship, no nerves. Ross and me are... well, Ross and me. We've been together for almost half our lives. He's my best friend. Marrying him? No problem, I can do that - who doesn't love a celebration of love! :)

So I wasn't very prepared for the overwhelming emotions and the river of tears that I cried throughout the evening. The love! The happiness! The support! The family! The friends! It was all much too much to take in. Not going lie, eyes tearing up again as I write this. This is what you all did to me :)

And so we want to start by saying

Thank you, from the bottom of our hearts
Which doesn't even come close to expressing our full gratitude to everyone who was there. The evening flew by so quickly that we never had the chance to say thank you in person to everyone who came. People came from near and far - and near still means a few hours driving since we weren't actually close to anything! We had international friends and family who flew from Sweden, Switzerland and Finland, plus friends that flew from Hawaii, plus at least 15 others who flew in from other parts of the country. We're honored that you came.

Ross and I could not have imagined a more amazing evening. People had to carry their own chairs inside in the rain, and sit in the slowly warming tent, and there may have been a few down jackets worn, but the love, enthusiasm, laughter and tears never ended. There were toasts, prepared and impromptu, guessing games, orienteering games, videos, and Ross and I will be drinking tea every day for the next few years, while reading some of the pearls of wisdom and well-wishes:

Only a few of the many! Click to enlarge and read.
Sure, there were some technical difficulties at the beginning of the ceremony, but it allowed Ellen and my dad to practice their standup routine, and Ross's aunt Anne to tell embarrassing stories about him. The bridal party was narrating the scene outside to me, which included such statements as "The groom is running away from the alter" and "It sounds like a game of The Price is Right". It also meant that the rain didn't come until all the wedding party was up front, with no shelter, and I was just about to arrive. Once everyone made their way to the tent, trying to stay dry and moving all the chairs, I got my grand entrance (too bad they forgot to leave me an aisle... :) ). Here's one of my favorite pictures that I have of the evening. (Thanks, Zan!)

Photo Credit: Chris Joyce, New Dimensions
There's so much more I want to write. I want go document the entire evening, here, so that I can remember everything that happened, forever. I was so busy enjoying it, I took no pictures myself! Some of you have put up photos on Facebook, which is wonderful, but I would love get to photos from more of you! Feel free to put up what you have on Facebook, if that's your thing. Otherwise, it would be great if you could share them with me using dropbox, or your favorite way to share photos. I want to see them all! 

Of course, our fantastic photographer Chris Joyce took tons of amazing photos, which you can see at his website.

Also, check out Eric's beautiful fall foliage photos from the weekend at his site.

And all this doesn't even included others who mean so much to us, but could not be a part of this day. We have such a community of friends and family who have supported us throughout the years that we could not bring them all to the top of the mountain with us. Which is sad, but there are more fun adventures for all of us ahead!

Because that was so much fun, we're still planning on having a second celebration here in Sweden too! There are so many wonderful people who were not able to join us from this side of the ocean, and we feel we need another reason to cry our eyes out - I mean, to celebrate! Stay tuned for more details on a spring wedding.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Baita Belvedere

We know how to cook on our own. We have lovely dinners :)

But sometimes you have to go out and see what the local cuisine has to offer! After a day of walking around the gardens of the local villas...

We headed out to dinner! The owner of the house we're renting also owns a restaurant up the hill from Bellagio. He and his wife also makes cheese, yogurt, jams, and he runs a shoe store in town. And he has 4 kids. And he has a beautiful garden here, and a house of his own to take care of. Some people have way too much energy! :) We got picked up just outside our own lovely place by the owner and driven up to Baita Belvedere Restaurant. The views were spectacular.
Hazy due to lots of rain before, and now intense heat. Bellagio down below!

The sun finally set behind the mountains. Humidity contributing to the haze.

The atmosphere is amazing, and the views are unbelievable. We met much of his family, who were working there, and his adorable 3 year old daughter. Everyone was incredibly friendly and welcoming. Polenta seems to be their specialty and came in many different forms on the menu. Everything we had was tasty, and we were too stuffed to have dessert (how unlike us!!). After dinner, we got a ride back home in their van, which they use to shuttle people to and from the restaurant if you book in advance. No need to bother with the windy 10 minute drive yourself!

Afterwards, there were incredible fireworks from Villa del Balbianello. (Where we couldn't go today because it was closed all day for a private event... wonder who's?) And I LOVE fireworks! And this was the second firework show that I've seen this week! Does it get any better?
Ok, who is awesome enough to rent the place for the entire day, and then get a fireworks show?

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Traveling after WOC

And we're out the other side! And WOC done - and I would say pretty darn successful for us both. There are of course disappointments, but it's important to think about the positives. If you want to read more about some of the racing, you can go on over to the Team USA Blog (starting here).

Ross went back to Uppsala to work (life of a PhD student) and I'm traveling for a week through northern Italy with Mom and Dad (life of a teacher). First, we stopped in Bolzano, and took the cable car up to Rennon, where we hiked to see the earth pyramids.

Awesome rocks balancing on the tops! How do they do that?!

Then we continued to Siusi, Italy for two nights. We took the gondola up to the plateau Alpe de Siusi, and rented mountain bikes! We thought that since it was called a plateau, it would be flat. It was most certainly not!

View from the apartment in Siusi

Almost up the first hill (we started down by those buildings)

Long downhill

Long uphill

Dad and I on another looong downhill :) Resting our hands (and the brakes!)
In the morning we went exploring to see the castle ruins on the hillside. I say exploring because we had the worst map ever made. Not to scale, not orientated, not legible!

Mom at the castle

Permanent story time along the trail! (Italian and German only)
Didn't want to leave there, but now that we are in Bellagio, Italy, we never want to leave here! We have a beautiful house, all to ourselves, with full access to their garden outside. Strawberries, blackberries, tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, lettuce, eggplants, peppers all picked from right outside our door.

View from my bedroom balcony of Lake Como
Evening sunset over the lake