Wednesday, July 31, 2019

Birthday flight

For the third time this summer, I was back in Istanbul and its brand new airport. Stopping by the lounge for some birthday mint lemonade, it was easy to forget how Trump’s rhetoric is strengthening Iranian hardliners or how deep the fractures between Turkey and its NATO allies have become after it took delivery of the S-400 missile system from Russia. Maybe the same sense of geopolitical amnesia is why I feel so attracted to Beirut Marathon and its simple message of “bringing runners together for the greater purpose of peace and love”.

After trying some traditional Anatolian “Mantı” ravioli with yoghurt and warm paprika-butter dressing, it was time to board TK629 and fly out over the turquoise waters of the Mediterranean. And then, almost five hours across the most unforgiving of deserts in a 737-900ER, leaving me with plenty of time to fill out landing cards and reflecting on what lies ahead on this our first journey to West Africa. Onboard, I also got a chance to finally watch the movie “Red Joan”. With many scenes set in Cambridge, the movie told the story of how a woman (played by Judi Dench) was able to pass on atomic secrets to the Soviet Union in the 1940s in the hope that war would be less likely if both sides had the bomb. With history sort of vindicating that hope, the movie offered an intelligent reminder of how hard it is to tell right from wrong sometimes and how many layers of ambiguity there are to every story.

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Tuesday, July 30, 2019

Checked in

After two fun-filled days in Kalmar featuring, among other things, a grand night out with my childhood friend Johanna, a visit to the maritime museum with the coolest seven-year-old ever and a seaside run with my mother, I am now waiting at Kalmar-Öland Airport for the continent shuffling to begin.

Back in Malmö, I had struggled to contain my frustration over Sydsvenskan’s long read article on nuclear energy which, beyond simple factual errors (such as that 134 rather than 31 people died as a direct result of the Chernobyl accident), asked Lars J Nilsson of all people for the “truth” about nuclear power. At first, I thought I should write a response, maybe invoking Bamse on information literacy, but then I decided that I valued my vacation more than yet another academic fight. Sometime though, I wish I had the energy of my friend Mattias Lantz who tirelessly and patiently keeps responding to all the anti-nuclear misinformation.

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Saturday, July 27, 2019

Splashdown

Like Apollo 11 splashing into the Pacific, we returned to the Pirate Land for an epic splash followed by many hours of birthday celebrations as Eddie turned seven.

Long before Legoland opened, I was able to set a new 5k PR along the airport perimeter road, even racing the first kilometer in true Concorde speed of 3:23 min/km which I fear will be hard to beat under the African sun. But first, a train ride to Malmö and a few days in south Sweden.

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Friday, July 26, 2019

Next stop Legoland

In true Burkean fashion we are captive to our traditions so, for the third year in a row, we are now on our way to Billund and the world capital of plastic bricks. However, before we return to Umeå, we will also get a chance to swing by Malmö, Kalmar and Accra so this surely promises to be an adventure out of the ordinary.

Wednesday, July 24, 2019

Progress

Reminiscent of the Bloody Mary salad I made after returning from California in April, I escape the heat with some seafood and celery on the porch, accompanied by the house wine from N.Z.

Waiting in line at COOP earlier today, I was standing behind two guys in their thirties talking about that the plastic plates had been replaced by wooden ones. What was interesting was the blasé way by which they were contemplating the end of the world and the perceived unsustainability of everything around them.

I am often told that I am exaggerating, that Malthusian thinking is not widespread in society and that “environmentalism” remains highly marginalized. I am not so sure. In fact, at least in Sweden, large swaths of the population seem to have adopted a kind of meta-narrative of future environmental collapse, that things may be good now but soon the world as we know it will come to an end.

Such defeatism in turn reflects a deeper sense of lost agency. Despite all the evidence to the contrary, many people have come to think that social progress is impossible and that it is simply downhill from here on. Even in the United States which used to be known for its optimism about the future, recent survey data from the Pew Research Center shows to that a majority of Americans think that the economy will be weaker, life harder and healthcare less affordable in 2050. Obviously, such predictions may turn out to be self-fulfilling, especially if combined with distrust in democracy more generally.

So, what do I personally think about the future? I must say that I remain extremely optimistic about our long-term prospects even as I recognize that there may be some major stumbling blocks on the way. Saddened as I may be when I read about plans for new mid-century fighter jets, I think that other forces are simultaneously bringing the world together and that, for all their apparent strength, localism, chauvinism and ruralism will not fundamentally challenge the dynamics that have defined the last couple of centuries, and that as the world becomes more urban, open and fluid, people will become less interested in fixed identities and traditional hierarchical norms.

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Tuesday, July 23, 2019

Achilles tendon

When I first learnt about overtraining, I was confused as to why people did not just take a few days off and allowed their bodies to absorb the training before going out again. However, as I have become increasingly addicted to running myself, I understand that it is not that simple.

During my second 100+ km week, my Achilles tendons were beginning to feel irritated with some pain and swelling. While logic clearly told me that I needed to cut back on my running volume, I knew I would have to do that anyway during my upcoming trip so I decided to push on although I did end up running a bit less last week. And after only running a kilometre at the gym yesterday, I was feeling better today so I went for a half marathon in my red Craft V175, even as I recognized that this was a stupid form of gambling as I really want to be in this game for the long run. But with this run behind me, I promise to take a few rest days and let my ankles heal.

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Monday, July 22, 2019

Double IPA

Though not a småparti beer per definition, I found a limited edition Double India Pale Ale from Poppels which felt well-deserved after another day of hyper-intense “vacation” even if the alcohol content was a bit on the high side for my taste. For dinner, Monocle had a new recipe for potato salad with sundried tomatoes, grilled asparagus and anchovies but, since I am still scared of small fish after living in Korea, I decided to keep it entirely plant-based.

With three days remaining until the big trip, I was happy to finally find a nice hostel for the last night in Accra. Affiliated with Bohemian Hostels in Prague and made of recycled local materials, it seems to be sort of the antithesis to the 5 Star Kempinski Gold Coast which I had originally booked. For the first two nights, I will use Marriott points which offer some exceptional value (3.2 cent per point or more than three times the most recent valuation by The Points Guy).

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Sunday, July 21, 2019

From Bali to Beirut

One thing I like about running is the feeling of being present, to be in the moment but also the possibility of its exact opposite, to suddenly be jazzed away in one’s imagination.

If last year was mostly about the Atlantic Shift, it seems as if this year will see me running at both ends of the Pacific, and, if Ally gets her vacation approved, also along the Med. Yet, this morning I was just there in the woods of Nydala, breathing the cold morning air and feeling grateful for having fairylike trails like these right outside my door.

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Dog sleigh

One of the most legendary trails near Nydala is the so called “hund- och pulka” track. Last year I ran it with my colleague Rolf but this morning I went alone with my new water belt as I am trying to figure out what equipment to bring for Umeå Ultra 50k in September. Currently number 24 out of 987 runners in the Swedish edition of the Strava Distance Running Challenge this month, I decided to throw in a few extra kilometres at the end, bringing my total mileage this week to 87 km which feels surprisingly sustainable.

Otherwise, I have started packing for the upcoming Legoland + Ghana trip. Given how happy I was with the Moroccan Polo from Magnoli, I followed up with another iconic Bond item, this time the blue long-sleeved rugby-styled shirt seen in Casino Royale.

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Friday, July 19, 2019

Feta beta

While I feel far less alone than I used to do a decade ago before there was such a thing as “ecomodernism”, it is still heart-warming but also slightly surreal every time I receive an e-mail from another scholar who expresses views similar to my own. Even if these voices remain marginalized, in particular in Germany, there are growing signs that the current approach to climate mitigation is failing and that other countries are becoming more cautious about following California and Germany down the same cul-de-sac of fossil dependency.

At home, I keep running even if I have cut back on volume a bit from the previous weeks to save my Achilles tendons which were beginning to show signs of overtraining. With one day left until the Moon landing, I open that bottle from Emilia-Romagna that flashed by the other day. It tastes of jasmine blossoms and unfinished journeys.

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Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Torquay

While Apollo 11 is hurling towards the Moon at a speed of 39,000 km per hour, I cycle home as a thunderstorm is closing in. Yet, rather than being trapped in a tin can in space, I am thinking of arrivals, of finally being at the sea continents away.

A couple of hours’ drive from Tullamarine Airport lies Torquay with its windblown trees. It is where the Great Ocean Road starts but for me it has somehow come to symbolize where the road ends or at least takes a long dreamless pause.

V.S. Naipaul has written at length about the enigma of arrival and how our own pre-conceptions of a place affect what we see. On the other hand, maybe caring about aesthetics is stupid in the first place, that none of this really matters to anyone with remotely normal sensibilities. Nevertheless, I am afraid of just that, that my life will never come into focus again.

Strunge

My friend Gabriel sent me a few lines by the late Danish poet Michael Strunge:

Vi går nu, även om vi inte kan inhämta den, horisonten. I gengäld kan den absolut inte inhämta oss.

To my disappointment, there were summer houses all along the shoreline once I got to Ultervik so I guess I will have to run to Holmsund after all to see the unbroken horizon. Still, I was very happy about my morning run, feeling incredibly energized and strong all the way through as my legs are finally bouncing back after those two high-mileage weeks.

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Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Good to go

Today, the FedEx courier delivered our passports with the visas for Ghana that seem to have been issued correctly. Given that our departure is just two weeks away, any changes would have been extremely difficult to make from a logistic point of view so this was a great relief.

Fifty years ago, Neil and the others were getting ready at the Cape. For Strava’s “Race to the Moon”, I will make one last push tomorrow and run to the sea, something that I have dreamt about doing ever since moving to the house three years ago. Originally, I had planned to run all the way down to the ferry in Holmsund but since that would be more than 35 km roundtrip, I will cheat a bit and rendezvous with the Baltic already in Ultervik which should only be about 18 km back and forth.

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Poppels

Some time ago, my friend Ally recommended that I listened to one of the radio programmes by Mia Blomgren. After some browsing, I found a documentary about an old Swedish sailor that sparked my interest. Looking back on a long life at sea and twenty years of living in Australia, the sailor Nisse Andersson has now come ashore in Majorna where he spends his days looking out over the port of Gothenburg and the distant sea.

While I generally prefer the silence of the forest to music when running, I must say that I appreciated this break from my usual routine. And from the excellent “Sommar” IPA from Poppels microbrewery in Jonsered to registering for Göteborgsvarvet 2020, Western Sweden was somehow already on my mind. I have written before about my mixed feelings for Gothenburg, but at a distance it is always easy to romanticize and, as a parent, I have discovered that it is a really great city for kids with all the parks, ferries and Universeum.

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Monday, July 15, 2019

Half mast

Cloudy skies and all the city’s flags flown at half mast, this Monday was turned upside down by yesterday’s tragic accident when nine parachutists were left dead after their plane crashed just a few kilometres from here.

In our own world, life is otherwise returning to normal as Anna is back from Wales. We also just received an advance notification from FedEx that the passports are underway from Ghana's embassy in Hellerup. And after two crazy weeks with 204 kilometres of running, I am finally taking a rest day, giving my legs some time to recover before my planned run to the sea later this week.

Saturday, July 13, 2019

Cumulative distance

Tonight, I managed to complete my second consecutive 100+ km week. In my experience, running one hundred kilometres in a week is exponentially harder than running sixty or seventy kilometres. Even if I try to alternate shoes, I can feel the physical toll that all these kilometres have had on my body so now I definitely should take a few rest days.

Contrary to my earlier plans, I have also decided to skip Tavelsjö and save the racing until September when I have three races scheduled already, starting with Umeå Ultra 50k on the 7th, followed by Varvetmilen 10k on the 21st and Tvåälvsloppet 25k trail on the 28th. Beyond that, I am still dreaming of Beirut Marathon in November, if only I can get Ally to come along to Lebanon...

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Thursday, July 11, 2019

Inflated altitude

After the Western States, I have been familiarizing myself with the “Run Rabbit Run” 100 mile endurance run on Youtube. On track to complete my second 100+ km week in a row, I feel very much like an exhausted rabbit these days so it is easy for me to relate even if the trails around Nydala are nothing like the ones near Steamboat Springs, Colorado. In fact, my new Suunto watch has proven what I have long been suspecting, namely that the Umeå altitude measures on Strava are seriously inflated and that I have been doing much less climbing than my stats have previously suggested.

As for the ongoing and equally inflated “ethics of flying” debate, the irony was not lost when one of the participants accused KLM’s new “Fly Responsibly” campaign for hypocrisy as she saw what was clearly a personalized ad for cheap first class tickets next to the news article. While this may all be verging on the absurd, it of course also begs the question what a better way forward would look like?

In my view, instead of further unproductive aviation taxes, I would like to see a simple tonne-for-tonne scheme that made it compulsory for airlines to offset their emissions through Direct Air Capture (a technology that is likely to be crucial for addressing non-energy emissions and eventually restoring atmospheric concentrations of carbon dioxide to pre-industrial levels). Even if aviation worldwide is only responsible for 2-3% of all carbon emissions, it is primarily used by the most affluent people on the planet who should be able to bear the high initial costs of a DAC scheme and thus help drive down its costs through commercialization. In that way, we can continue to bring the world together while doing something that will actually matter in the fight against climate change.

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Tuesday, July 09, 2019

Fire tornadoes

I remember when the kids asked me what was the worst possible weather and, after some hesitation, I came up with “fire tornado”, reassuring them that terrifying as fire whirls are, they are also extremely rare. New research however suggests that as climate change is making large fires more probable overall, the probability of fire tornadoes is also likely to increase in the future.

Disconnected from Twitter, I am able to stay away from most academic fire tornadoes but today, a new intense debate over the ethics of flying to academic conferences started on the Global Environmental Politics Editors-list and it took all my will power to not get drawn in. After all, I have already concluded that it is better to engage with these topics only indirectly and to avoid bringing more fuel to the fire. Still, it is incredibly frustrating to see how the bigger perspective is consistently ignored and how at odds these anti-flying academics are with broader global ambitions.

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Suunto time

For a while, I have been thinking of getting a sports watch so I could keep track of my heart rate when running and not having to bring my three year old Samsung S7 with me, especially as its battery time is getting shorter and shorter. When Suunto had a 30% discount now in July, I finally decided on a Spartan Trainer that I received yesterday just in time for my evening trail run. For the first two kilometres, the heart rate was wildly off as I was wearing it too loose but when I fastened the strap a bit the readings stabilized and now it works like a charm.

This morning, I got a new chance to test the watch on one of my lake runs. For once, I turned immediately right after the so called “China bridge” and discovered a small trail that let me skip the one kilometre of asphalt that has otherwise been interrupting the feeling of being in “nature”. Towards the end of the run, I also threw in some speedwork, running one kilometre in just over 4 minutes.

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Sunday, July 07, 2019

Limone

Sipping a glass of wine on the porch, my imagination drifts off to Lake Garda as I read about the Limone Extreme Skyrace in my “Running Beyond” book. The pictures from the lake exercise an almost irresistible draw on me, even as Angel Island reminded me of the very real risks of this sport. In any case, I have other plans for that weekend in October but the prospect of running adrenaline-packed trails in autumn sunshine is definitely something that I will keep in mind for 2020.

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Saturday, July 06, 2019

Pegasus

Through a fierce morning rain, I took my Nike Pegasus 35 out for some light racing. I have now had these shoes for a little more than a month and they have quickly become my go-to shoes. They are fast but also soft enough to support long-distance running and, while I would not take them out for a quick 5k race, they are definitely a favourite for easy days.

Talking about kilometres, this afternoon I finally made it to 100 km in one single week. With Anna leaving for Wales tomorrow, I am not sure if there will be much time for running so I thought I better seize the opportunity. Instead of building training volume, I may try to set a new 5k PR next week even as it may be hard to summon the same energy as that ghostly morning when I was racing in the fog near LAX. Maybe I should rather take comfort in the fact that I did not end up in the Los Angeles County Archives like some long-forgotten crime story from the 1950’s back then but rather made it safely back to the hotel.

To celebrate that and my first ever 100+ km week, I did the only sensible thing and ordered some pizza for dinner. At Systembolaget, I found a bottle of Pegasus Bay Riesling which, according to the tasting protocol, would taste of almond blossom, green apples and petroleum (sic!). Considering the week that lies ahead, some high-octane lemonade seemed like a good choice.

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Thursday, July 04, 2019

The Western States

Last night, I watched an inspirational video about the Western States Endurance Run which, together with some nine hours of sleep, magically restored my motivation to pre-Kalmar levels. While running 100 miles in rugged terrain may still be a bit beyond my ability, I at least managed to run my second half marathon this week with a staggering 280 metres of climb (about 5% of the Western States). Now off to the pool with Eddie!

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Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Deutsches Weintor

Browsing the latest arrivals at Systembolaget, I was surprised to find a pinot noir from Rheinland-Pfalz. Grown just next the border to Alsace, it is about an hour south of Schifferstadt and Deidesheim which used to be my points of reference in that part of the world. Together with some small dishes, it is time to escape to the porch and reflect on the first days of summer "vacation".

Yesterday, we biked 35.6 km with the trailer and toured all the local playgrounds which worked much better than trying to stay put at home. Breaking up the intensity with calm time on the bike seems to be a winning formula yet, combined with my running and visits to the local pool, I fear I will soon end up doing an Iron Man by accident :-)

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Tuesday, July 02, 2019

Bräntberget

With Sage Canaday running Mont Blanc Marathon, I went for a lunch run up Bräntberget (cf. Cajsa Warg). Obviously, my 353 altitude meters do not really compare with Sage’s 2,799 but it was fun nonetheless and I will try to progressively add more hills through the summer.

Down in Kalmar, my childhood friend Johanna suggested that I have a personality prone to substance abuse and, as far as shoes go, I am afraid she was right. In fact, after my May shoe shopping spree, I have been ashamed to admit that I also picked up a pair of black Salomon Speedcross 4 some time ago. Anyhow, today I got a chance to try to them for the first time and, luckily, they were just perfect so now I have some quality trail shoes for Umeå Ultra 50k in September.

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Monday, July 01, 2019

Post-Kalmar

With Eddie taking a nap after the early morning in Stockholm, I am again running around my lake. After a month of racing, this means that I am also back to long-term aerobic base building and having to remind myself to train slow, something that is quite hard after what happened in Kalmar. Motivation is also not the best, perhaps I do need to register for Tavelsjö half marathon on 17 August so I have something to look forward to?

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Parenting deluxe

As a parent, there are so many everyday duties and concerns; clothes to wash, bags to pack and toys to organize that one almost loses track of what really matters. As such, it has been so good to have a few days away with Eddie, to be able to spend time together outside the normal routines and schedules. Yesterday, Eddie even got to meet his cousin in Stockholm and swim a bit in their pool so, despite the lost wallet and all the block cards etc., this is one trip that I am very happy we made.