Elevation change

I had been looking forward to feeling like a superhero on my first run in Sweden. Dropping from a mile high to near sea level after “training” at altitude for months would allow me to run my personal best, or so I thought. Instead, I sat on my bum for the first few days after my return, as rain fell and jetlag slowed me down. When I finally ran for the first time, I was huffing and puffing, on flat ground.

But I’m still probably in pretty good shape. I ran up a hill on my second run, which sits squarely in the middle of one of my usual loops in the forest near home, that tended to completely stymie me before I left last summer for Boulder. Last week, I actually ran all the way up it without stopping. (No way I was going to sprint it like the two crazy young people doing repetitions on that steep slope! But I did make it, and in fairly good time and form, I think.)

Boulder living is good that way. Everyone is out and about, hiking, biking, walking, skiing. Swimming, too, if not as visibly, and even stand-up paddling or kayaking on the local Boulder Creek (crazy people doing it while it’s near flood stage, even). I stayed active through the winter in Boulder, in the sunny snowy weather there, whereas here in Stockholm, I might not have wanted to go running in the dark.

I also gained at least five pounds in Boulder — and not all of that was new muscle mass. Probably more like extra beer mass and extra food. I suspect I will slowly shave that off, but that’s another post (I promise to muse on food differences later in the week, and possibly body image also).

With the elevation change came a few pleasant surprises, which in retrospect should not have been surprising. The first was when I boiled water for pasta last weekend — my word, that happened so fast compared to at higher elevation!  I had forgotten about that aspect of baking and cooking in thinner atmosphere, as I’d become accustomed to it over the past nine months.

And thank goodness for the second change, which is gross, so skip this paragraph if you need to: my nose has stopped bleeding. Living in Colorado means drying out at higher elevations. I was in the habit of drinking tons of water, slathering myself in moisturizer, showering less, and yes, having a bloody nose every morning, as my nasal membranes desiccated over the winter in Boulder, 5820 feet above sea level. After a week here in Stockholm, my skin may still be dry, but my nose is not bloody in the morning. Welcome to sea level!

And of course, welcome to somewhere closer to the Arctic. I was pretty happy about the ever-lighter evenings in Boulder at the end of my stay, as the sun set at around 8:30 pm at the end of May. And the other night, at supper with friends in the countryside outside Stockholm and without a watch, I was amazed to look up and realize the sun was setting — at 11 pm. And hadn’t really set, actually, as we looked to the warm orange horizon on our drive home. This late-night light is still fascinating to me. (I’m glad I don’t live in Kiruna, where it is light all the time at the moment.)

Despite all that light, it hasn’t been that sunny here. I spent some time on Thursday and Friday sitting outside in the warm sun, after days of rain, and yesterday and today were cloudy with some raindrops. It tends to thunderstorm every afternoon in Colorado summers, but makes up for it by being sunny and hot. I still have my Colorado tan, but perhaps not for long — even if there’s long days and lots of UV here, I am covering up simply because it’s cold. (Plus: I get to wear a pair of favorite boots I left here at home; minus: I need to wear them and some warm layers to go outside and be comfortable.) One of my colleagues said she’d heard someone joke recently that “Swedish summer is a very nice day.”

Just several of the many little adjustments to be made on returning home to lower altitude and higher latitude… more thoughts to come later this week.

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