On May 26th I left for Norway to begin six weeks of studying, adventure, and training in Oslo at the University of Oslo International Summer School. I am not to return to Minnesota until August 11. Since then, with a friend on the St. Olaf soccer team, I've been able to backpack around western Norway, see some AWESOME views, live on a farm with a family in a small town called Snåsa about two hours north of Trondheim by train.
I certainly have a goal of taking advantage of the excellent training opportunities while I'm here in the top cross-country skiing nation of the world. Farm life in Snåsa led to pretty inconsistent training, but I was able to squeeze strength workouts and a few OD rollerskis and runs into the "work" of bailing hay, herding sheep into the mountains, chopping wood, playing "fotball" (Norwegian for soccer) and drinking raw milk (which may be the best part). The farm life was great and my host family was fantastic. We fished, shot moose hunting guns, ate moose meat, looked for moose and moose antler sheds, watched videos from their moose-attracting salt licks, played with moose-hunting dogs, and talked about fishing and moose hunting in our free time.
After learning which hills didn't have metal grates or wicked hairpin turns at the bottom, rollerskiing in Snåsa was fantastic. Nice rolling climbs and beautiful countryside. Always great views, even when it rains! Now that I'm in the great city of Oslo, I'm missing the speedy dirt bikes and slow-and-steady tractors that would pass me in the countryside.
However now that I'm at the summer school, I have the freedom to make my own schedule, which is a blessing when you really want to focus on training. This last week I was able to really get back into it. Training included intervals on the rollerski track at Holmenkollen (the best part is going over the bump!), OD skis out from the city into the surrounding valley and countryside, and running up in the forests around a beautiful lake called Songsvann. The only real bummer about the roads and trails here is: (1) there are no stop signs preventing a car from running into you, and (2) every bike path or road eventually will go down a steep hill and dump you into a busier road or path with an even steeper and more dangerous hill. I almost miss flat Minnesota.
Norway is really a small world after all, having the same population as Minnesota. Not only did I meet Eldar Rønning at a random restaurant in Trondheim, while running at Songsvann last Friday, I also happend to run past Therese Johaug. The reigning world cup champion and I met on a random skinny winding trail in the middle of the woods. At first I freaked out inside, however I pulled myself together and played the ignorant but interested American card (which, by the way, seems to work every time if you want a Norwegian to be your friend). I asked, in Norwegian, if she was a ski racer. She said "Ja," but it was apparent that she wanted to keep to herself. Yet when I said in really bad Norwegian that I was also a ski racer, from America, she became friendlier and said "Ja ja keep training!" So we are best friends now, I think.
It is great to be surrounded by skiing culture everywhere you go. The Marit Bjørgen billboards, the rollerskiers and skibarnehauges (skiing kindergartens) that are everywhere are keeping me motivated. That and knowing that all of you in the midwest are training just as hard, so keep it up!
-Posted by Jake Brown on Jul 1st 2014