Since it is inevitable that I’ll be turning 28 tomorrow, I have couldn’t have asked for a better way to begin what is indisputably my late 20s.
My 30-kilometer Kristinaloppet cross country ski race was on Saturday, and I have to say, I was pretty nervous about it over the few days leading up to that cold, snowy morning. Friday night, NS & I rented a car and did our best to prepare for a hitch-less 6:30am departure for Norberg, about 2 hours northwest of Stockholm.
Late on Friday night, NS told me that I might want to bring my bathing suit, “just in case we come across a pool somewhere.” I’ve made it my mantra to bring my bathing suit on every trip for fear of missing an opportunity to jump into whatever body of water we happen upon, but it didn’t cross my mind for this particular adventure – it’s tough to swim in lakes coated in thick sheets of ice.
“And maybe bring some other clothes, just in case we decide to stop for dinner somewhere,” he added.
I was elated! I absolutely love surprises and couldn’t wait to see what this one would be.
Our 6:30 departure was a bit delayed, but we still had plenty of time before the race’s 10am start. That is, until we missed a turn (I can only blame myself, as the navigator, who needed a quick cat nap). Narrow, back-country roads wind-swept by mounds of light snow led us to our destination with 30 minutes to go go go! I made it to the start line just 20 seconds before the start gun sounded, without having waxed my skis (this is a crucial part of cross-country skiing, and one which I’m far from mastering) – ooops!
The terrain of the Kristinaloppet is not particulary challenging – it’s hilly, but nothing too extreme. However, for some reason, I didn’t get in a good flow until kilometer 26. That means 26 kilometers of against the wind perseverance – snow in face – ache in lower back – fingers stuck in a grasp of my poles. I struggled onward, propelled by dreams of blueberry soup (the traditional drink handed out to cross-country skiers at the hydration stations) only to be disappointed after a couple sips.
By the time I made it back to the finish line some 4 hours and 20 minutes after starting in the same spot, most of the spectators had gone home. I managed a strong finish, and passed a couple people on the way, but I have to say it wasn’t a heroic performance by any means. Still, I did it! 458th out of 511.
After booking it to the car to salvage what was left of NS’ frozen fingers, we headed to the surprise destination, which turned out be Friibergh herrgård. This beautiful hotel is located along the shores of a lake north of Stockholm in an estate dating back to 1329. We made it just in time for afternoon tea, and nestled onto a comfy fireside couch with finger sandwiches, baked goods, and beers. It was heaven.
After eating a few too many skagen (a delicious shrimp mix) sandwiches, we relaxed in the hotel’s basement pool and sauna before our 5-course dinner. The food was incredible – and we finished it all. Each course was paired with a specially selected drink – white wine, red wine, cognac, something else I’d never heard of. By the end, I was full beyond belief and could barely keep my eyes open. 30km + a 5-course meal will do that to you.
On Sunday morning, we awoke to see ice skaters fly by on the lake outside our window in the annual ice skating race from Uppsala to Stockholm – vikingarännet. We explored the grounds a bit before hopping back in the car and back home. It was an incredible weekend and the perfect start to my late 20s!