And life moves on

As summer continues here in Sweden, my Versys is stored away in Spain together with five boxes containing our possessions and I’m prepping my “new” Swedish registered bike. It is a 2002 BMW F650GS. The very same model I rode in Australia a few years back for the WIMA rally. But the history of me and BMW goes back further than that. I was actually close to getting a BMW years back when I instead got my second Ducati – I test rode a BMW Scarver and my brother was cheering me on wanting me to buy it. I wasn’t ready then, and I would even own a third Ducati before I again contemplated the purchase of a BMW.

The same year my brother died, 2005, I rode a BMW GS in New Zealand and absolutely hated it. My friend and I had both rented a GS and when hers broke down and she got a replacement Honda Transalp that she couldn’t reach the ground on I was happy to swap bikes. But life changes and so does one’s needs and likes. When I at last prepared to leave the Ducati world, the GS was back on my shortlist, along with the Suzuki V-Strom and the Kawasaki Versys. The vote fell on the Versys, as a secondhand GS was more expensive than a new Versys with cases and the V-Strom felt too bulky.

So finally, I’ve gotten myself the bike that I crossed path with so many times and I must say I love it, it is an absolute delight to ride, so light and easy to handle and the engine is so responsive. The engine runs so much smoother than the Versys and the weight distribution is so much better. I wish my brother could see me now.

My Versys was bought with panniers and top case, the only thing I had to sort out was the tank bag. My GS has a small top case and nothing else, so I’m busy getting stuff sorted. I would be happy travelling with just a pack roll if it wasn’t that I will be picking up Christopher and he’ll be pillion for part of the journey. Therefore, I needed to source out panniers for the bike, and to fit panniers I need pannier racks.

The amount of time that has gone in to searching for “the right” panniers and other equipment is ridiculous. In the end, the challenged proved to be the pannier rack, which not only is ridiculously expensive – 3795sek or roughly 400 euros for just the rack if I would order from Touratech! Besides, they have a 3-month delivery time. Instead, I sourced the pannier rack from SW Moto and ordered from Polo Motorrad – the cost was half the price. However, when, after some days, I called asking after the delivery date as they had not provided any, I was told they had a 3 weeks waiting time before they would get the rack into stock, that would be after I’d started travelling.  Following this, I found a Swedish company who would sell the rack and deliver within 10 days, so I bought it from them paying 2750sek.  The rack from the Swedish company has not arrived and no new delivery date has been given, in the meantime Polo has shipped my rack and with a little bit of luck it will arrive tomorrow so I can mount it on the bike. Fingers crossed… I was going to arrange for them to be sent along my route but they shipped much earlier than expected. The panniers themselves are yellow waterproof soft bags from Nelson Riggs and I’m really eager to put them on.

The tank bag is another story. I generally don’t want to spend money on a fantastic tank bag as it could easily get stolen, so I’d rather buy a cheap one no-one is interested in. I have purchased a large tank bag from Biltema for very low cost and I re-constructed it to fit the tank which is made of plastic. All I needed to do was to attach straps to the bag and remove the magnets.

Along with the pannier racks, I’m also awaiting the RAM mount for my phone. It seems impossible to ride while reading maps and street signs after being accustomed to following the GPS – for good and for bad, it saves so much time and effort.

Anything else, yeah, right, my tablet died – but I have ordered one to be picked up at an electronic store along the route.

Local running

I run therefore I am. This is very true and although other things has taken over my life and I have given up my ambition to run 42 when 42, I’ve still taken part in some really cool events during the last year. I have focused on the local events and enjoyed the proximity of the beach.

Lucky me, being born on the 1st of November which is a public holiday in Spain so I get the day off work. I always enjoy doing something special on my birthday and last year I ran Cursa de Tardor, the autumn race – a 10k trail race with start and finish in Altafulla old town. After the run we could enjoy the beach and some tapas before taking the costal route riding back to Calafell. I hope to comeback for this run next autumn again, since I really enjoyed the route, running mainly on forest trails.

The little village of Calafell where we live has “Tot el any” or “The whole year” as its slogan and the village is trying hard to put on different events every other weekend outside the tourist season as well. On two occasions I’ve taken part in 5k races along the beach and although the beach promenade isn’t the most exciting place to run, as I run there every week anyway, I like to support the local events and just can’t say no to a race on my doorstep.

I was super pleased finishing both these 5k races sub-30 minutes, which proves that even though I’m not as fit as I used to be, I can still match my parkrun results.

I only run 2 times a week these days, 3 in a good week and the mileage is nowhere near what I added up when living in London, but I don’t stress about it. Running is something I do for my own pleasure and I try to mix it up, once a week on the beach promenade and once along the waterfront in the sand. As often as I can, I finish my run with a splash in the sea.

But the sun isn’t shining all the time in Spain. This was especially evident when Anneli joined me for the El Corte Ingles 10k race in Barcelona. Together with about 65,000 other runners we joined the free of charge race on Barcelona’s streets and the rain was bucketing down during the most part of the race. It isn’t half as bad to run a race in pouring rain as it is to be the photographer. Christopher was not impressed with me failing to notice him where he tried to catch us with the camera. That would have been a good day for contact lenses, glasses were absolutely useless, I ended up running without glasses seeing marginally better than with steamed up glasses. Anyway, Christopher has stated that he, for one, very much prefers the 5k races on the waterfront. I do not blame him.

The final race before leaving Calafell for this term proved to be the ultimate challenge. Calafell Historic Trail was the first ever mountain race I’ve run, I’ve done the Harrow Hill 10k and the Watford Half during my time in London and, while both were acknowledged for being challenging hilly routes, they were nothing, absolutely nothing, compared to this race. I’m no where near marathon-fit these days but during the second half of the Historic trail I was contemplating if it possibly was harder than a marathon. Suffering is optional and I tried to be good spirited about it. I had a massive energy crash, nearly vomited and had to walk. Slightly embarrassing, as a teacher from my Catalan class happily ran past me with bouncy steps coming from the 16k route. The trail itself was amazing with fantastic views – you do get that after running up the mountain, and there were stations with historical roleplayers illustrating the civil war, the stone age and other significant events in the local history. During the whole race I was running more or less together with another runner, sometimes she was a little bit before me and sometimes after. The last kilometre we ran side by side and we crossed the finish line together, celebrated with watermelon and shook hands. It was an amazing feeling to not have to run any further, very much as finishing a marathon. The organisers offered sausage in a bun and beer. We even got T-shirts, you get a lot for your 10 euro fee in Spain. After the race, I went down to the sea and soaked myself in the cold water. It was absolutely amazing and horrible at the same time. I hope to do it again next year.

Shortly after arriving in Sweden, I got the possibility to run a race in my home town, Karlstad Stadslopp. It was a 10k race along the streets of Karlstad which also included running through some park areas and pretty much the whole city got involved. Those who were not running were having picnics along the route. In an interesting comparison to the previous local race where I paid 10 euros and got a T-shirt, snacks, fruit and drinks half way and at the finish line + sausage and beer, I now had to pay 35 euros and I got a banana and a bottle of water at the finish. I totally get that salaries are higher in Sweden, so it might not be that much money for local people, but I still wonder why it has to cost that much. Besides the economic drainage, I had a fantastic day and enjoyed my race immensely. I even broke my previous finished time from some 25 years ago – which was actually the first ever race I’ve run. In addition, I was only 5 minutes off my PB for this distance.

As I was running on the streets of Karlstad trying to find my supporters, I couldn’t help analysing the crowd support. In Karlstad, there were a lot of people but the audience was mainly waiting for “their runner”. Very few people cheered for everyone. In addition, there was minimal interaction between runners, beside people who very obviously knew each other or were running together, of course. The races I’ve run both in England and in Spain I have always been cheered on by total strangers, people who are there to support all runners even though they might be looking out for a friend or family member as well. The crowd support was something that I weighed when evaluating if I would run a certain race again or not.  I always let my mind wander when I’m running and I like to ponder different things.