The running is getting better. I am still worried about running at all-out speeds, but my training is high quality. Compared to last year, I am a fat, old man, but at least there is no summer of 100 degree weather around the corner, so maybe I can find the summer peak I missed out on last year. Still, it's hard to imagine that I ran a 15:55 5K and won Chippewa just one year ago. I am at least 5 pounds overweight, to the point where Natali skillfully grabs my fat rolls to measure my progress.
This Thursday, we are racing Skærtorsdagsløbet here in Næstved. If it wasn't on our local trails, I wouldn't even consider running it. It has decent money prizes, but I don't even know if I can place in the top 3 in the 10K (which is the least competitive race). The Girl is on a crazy roll. Right now, she is probably setting her PR in a race up in Copenhagen. I imagine she will go sub-40 for the first time in a 10K. And that's coming off a 100K high-tempo week, without any taper. In fact, I don't think she has told her coach about this race.
Life is a uncertain as ever. Too uncertain to describe here, even.
We had a wonderful week skiing in Austria. Easily one of the best weeks of my life. Skiing is such a well-defined mini world, where kids progress so quickly. I was able to ski very challenging runs with Christian and Natali, feeling as a cohesive unit. The Girl's parents came all the way from Wisconsin to spend the week with us, my brother's family and my parents. Truly a unique experience. Both granddads are very able-bodied, strong skiers, so the inter-generational bonding was strong on the mountain. The grandmas took care of Mattias and his 3-year old cousin Ayla.
One day, we got stuck in some of the thickest fog that I have ever seen. There was no wind, so we could hear each other quite well, but visibility was only a few feet. The Girl's dad, Christian, Natali and I stuck ridiculously close together, progressing slowly down the mountain. We went off course into deep snow once, and had to walk back to the official run. It was scary and fun at the same time. A great team building experience.
The Beatles dominated the trip. Natali has gotten very good on the guitar, and she would entertain every night during our after-ski sessions. She is in a Beatles phase right now, just as I was 25 years ago. I remeber liking With The Beatles, Please Please Me and Help. Slowly, I accepted the weirder stuff on Rubber Soul, Revolver, Sergeant Pepper's etc. Natali has gone through the same thing. Everything was a beatles reference, every other sentence being sung to a Beatles tune.
My favorite moment came when Christian was making it past a group of Germans, half jumping, half skating on his tiny skis, on a little flat section. Without thinking, he loudly exclaimed "Hey, Bungalow Bill!" at the top of his lungs. Across language and cultural barriers, a little boy on skis, singing Bungalow Bill will bring out smiles all around.
The trip back was bittersweet. I have grown so close to Natali that the thought of not living with her after this summer is unbearable. She loved skiing and whenever the conversation turned to "where are we going next year?", she grew quiet. It's almost unthinkable that last week will end up being the only one of its kind.
Months ago, I told her the medley on Abbey Road was the best music ever made. She didn't believe me, rolling her eyes and strumming "I Should Have Known Better" on her guitar. Well, she has come around. Coming back from Germany, Abbey Road was the album we had saved for the very last drive into Næstved, both of us singing along to the entire album (except I Want You (She is so Heavy), of course).