PHOTO GALLERY: KangNu Race: Running in Nuuk Backcountry

IMG_0815Reality sets in when you pick up your race number and race shirt!

Greenlanders love to escape to the backcountry to have barbecues, hunt, relax, and even exercise! In Nuuk especially, there are quite many possibilities for organized runs like the Nuuk Marathon, a 120 km / 75 mi race from Nuuk into Nuuk Fjord, a mountain challenge to the tops of Ukkusissat and Quassussuaq (780 m / 2559 ft and 443 m / 1453 ft, respectively), and this very 20-35 km / 12-22 mi KangNu Race from Kangerluarsunnguaq (the next fjord south of Nuuk) to Nuuk.

Running Novice

Now, just because I participated in the KangNu Race, please don’t confuse me with some über-fit and dedicated runner. The only reason I felt comfortable signing up for the KangNu Race was because there was the possibility to hike the course – an option that 59% of participants opted for this year, actually.

While it is true that I love to get that post-workout high, a Runner I am not. In fact, the longest run I have ever done in my life is perhaps 10 km / 6 mi. And, a Trail Runner I am certainly not! As in, I have never run in the nature before. Herein lies the reason why the KangNu Race was such a personal achievement for me!

Believe me when I say that running the KangNu Race was never on my radar until the very moment the clock started at the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq, on 9 August 2014. perfect storm of motivations, and the coolest new friends, just made my feet start running. Even at that time, I never formulated the goal to run the entire race.

Mental Strength

Though I was by no means thinking to such a highly composed degree on race day, after 2.5 weeks of reflection I have come up with three mantras that quite accurately represent my mental state during the KangNu Race. Sorry in advance for turning into a life coach for a minute 🙂

1. You can do anything you put your mind to. Physical challenges are 20% physical strength and 80% mental strength.

I wish I could say I eat the world’s most balanced diet and that I had been training for weeks to conquer this run, but truthfully, it was all mental right there in the moment. I just took it from minute to minute thinking, “This feels okay right now. I could keep running”. So I did. I did not even listen to music during the run, and that is amazing to me, even now! What was I thinking of for so many minutes?? I cannot remember.

Instead, I watched my footing like a hawk, enjoyed the mountain- and fjord-view that literally never loses its impressiveness, and talked myself through sore hip flexors and heel blisters a few times. Suddenly, 3 hours and 8 minutes was over and I felt on top of the world!

2. Compete with yourself, not others.

There is something to be said about setting realistic goals and that all starts and ends with you. What works for someone else has absolutely nothing to do with you, so the only sustainable routine is to keep your focus inward. At the end of the day, you are your own biggest motivation.

There were one or two periods of the KangNu Race when I was totally alone in the nature, unable to see anybody in front or behind. At those times, how does one measure whether she’s going fast enough, pushing hard enough? You can’t. I couldn’t. I could only look at myself and ask – am I going fast enough for myself? Am I happy with myself? The answer was yes, so I was right on track 🙂

3. Every time you do something you thought you could not do, you set a new bar for yourself. Live life by constantly setting new bars and you will naturally evolve into the best version of yourself.

Sometimes these tests of character and willpower and strength come at the end of a long road of deliberate training and focus, and sometimes they fall into your lap out of nowhere. But no matter what, these events are monumental in shaping your person and eventually even a “new you”. Recognize that you have done something great, and give yourself every bit of the credit you deserve! Then promise yourself to always strive to recreate this experience with something a bit different, a bit bigger, a bit better.

As I said, before the KangNu Race I didn’t consider myself “a runner,” but now I am thinking about what races I can do in the future, both in Greenland and in the United States. The wheels are certainly turning, and so it seems maybe I am in the midst of creating a new Me…

Now for some pictures to show the day!

IMG_0882 All smiles here as we sail on Ivik from Nuuk to the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq, the next fjord south of Nuuk, on the morning on 9 August 2014.

IMG_0892 Passing Qinngorput, the most southerly development in Nuuk.

IMG_0902Kingittorsuaq is the landmark that lets you know you have reached Kangerluarsunnguaq.

IMG_0906 Eager participants at the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq. With participants arriving just 12 at a time via boat transport from Nuuk, there was bound to be a little bit of standing around and waiting. It’s all part of the experience!

IMG_0908 View from the starting line in Kangerluarsunnguaq. If you are ever so lucky as to stand here, please please take a moment to be grateful for everything in your wonderful life that has brought you to this point.

IMG_0914 A fjord ahead (Nuup Kangerlua)…

IMG_0918 … And a fjord behind (Kangerluarsunnguaq)…

IMG_0920 … And in the midst, one woman just running from yellow dot to yellow dot until she reaches the finish line! Photo taken after exactly 1 hour of running, 2 hours to go. Starting line was down by that island in the background.

IMG_0923 Seeing Sermitsiaq, Nuuk’s landmark mountain, means we are at the home stretch!

IMG_0925 After 2 hours and 45 minutes of trail running, one of my three running mates, Nivikka, and I are still in good spirits. We also know that we are VERY close to the finish line!

Of course, my adrenaline was so high at the end that I completely forgot to take finish line pictures, but Qanorooq, part of the Greenland national broadcast, actually captured me on film crossing the finish line (cue to 7:20). How cool!

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PHOTO GALLERY: Paragliding in Greenland

IMG_0459Is it a bird? Is it a plane? No, it’s a paraglider!

Across Nuuk’s treeless landscape one cannot miss the unmistakable half moon shape of a paraglider floating silently overhead! One afternoon when the wind is just right, look toward Tuapannguit road or Qernertunnguit neighborhood, or drive out to Qinngorput, and you will see these gravity-defiers launching from the rocky hillside into airborne bliss. I used to see them all the time a few years ago when I walked the dog in the afternoon. It was at that time that I made the mental note to put “Paragliding in Greenland” on my Nuuk Bucket List.

Max Petersen of Maximum Paraglider Sportsklub is the man behind all the colorful sails gliding over Nuuk. He is a competitive champion paraglider who has been paragliding in Greenland for approximately 20 years! In fact, it was this legend with whom I made my tandem flight. I couldn’t have felt in safer hands!

IMG_0467 Max Petersen sports his company gear.

IMG_0466Max Petersen and me after an adventurous tandem paragliding experience! I won’t soon forget it!

The thing with paragliding, and especially tandem paragliding since there are two people’s weights to consider, is that the wind rules all. It must be of a certain speed and certain direction, and if it changes too much then all bets are off. So when my friend sent me an SMS that the wind was perfect for tandem paragliding one Sunday afternoon so head toward Qinngorput, I did as I was told!

My friend had been paragliding himself that day with a GoPro style camera rolling, so my arrival to the launch spot is actually documented in full. Cue to 8:30. It’s just casual conversation and a few pointers about paragliding, so don’t make too much fun of me 🙂

IMG_0458Launch spot on the way out to Qinngorput, with Ukkusissat in the background. First the wing and its dozens of lines must be positioned for launch. 

IMG_0447 Then the seat is prepared. It’s like sitting in a backpack with a built-in foot rest.

Fortunately, there is no documentation of the launch! I said this to everyone I talked to that day, and I’ll say it here, too – the launch and the landing are very tough work while everything in between is a breeze! (No pun intended)

The moment the wing catches a bit of air, it wants to pull you up and all around, so I was instructed to use all my bodily power to lean forward, away from the wing. I’m a pretty physically strong woman so I felt confident in my ability to provide counter weight… That went out the window very quickly, even with two of us working together in a tandem rig. Nothing could have prepared me for how much force the inflated wing would have on my body!

The wing yanked us backward and when we got our footing again, we had to “run” sideways to get to high ground so we could launch out and over the coastline. To me, it just felt like we were getting pulled every which way. Thanks to a thick harness digging into my pelvis as the wing pulled us upward and we ran ourselves sideways, I was pretty much just using mental strength to get myself through these minutes!

IMG_0450 Airborne over Qinngorput.

IMG_0463So this is what the birds see!

Fortunately, once we launched and were floating above the coastline, the incredible physical activity was replaced with painless and effortless flying and only the sound of the wind. We sat back into our seats, put our feet up, and had fun!

IMG_0452 Airborne in the tandem rig!

IMG_0453 Looking up, there is only blue sky and colorful wing.

What goes up must come down. After probably 15 minutes of weightless flying, we came into a tunnel of cool air which carried us down closer and closer to the ground. I think if Max was alone, he would have just steered himself in such a way to stay up. He told me that one time, in a distance competition, he stayed airborne for over six hours without landing!

Not to worry for us, we just landed where the wind took us and carried our seats and wing back to the ideal launch spot to start it all over again!

IMG_0455 Max Petersen carrying the wing for us from our landing spot up to the launch spot.

IMG_0457Achieving something on my Nuuk Bucket List makes me one glad woman!!

Just another day in Nuuk, Greenland 😀

Greenland: A Great Place to Find Your Own Inner Greatness

Through my work interviewing tourists in Greenland, I have met many that “use” Greenland to physically and mentally test themselves. They consider Greenland an extreme – the farthest, the most challenging, the coldest, and so on – so if they can do Greenland, then they can do anything! It’s a bit dramatic, but to each his own. I could certainly empathize with them, but I, myself, never saw Greenland as such a “tool”… until this summer.

Without particularly aiming for it, this summer became one filled with firsts and personal achievements for me. Now, the feeling of pushing myself to go further, get stronger, go higher, or go faster is totally addictive! Read more about my exciting experiences below.

I have been thinking a lot about who influences who. Is it the person, with an internal drive for new experiences and personal development, that finds adventures wherever he goes? Or is it the place, with such magnificent beauty and aura, that can inspire anyone to seek such opportunities? I like to think it is a bit of both and, therefore, just one way to explain why I feel that Greenland is a perfect home for me.

Well, summer is not quite over yet, but here’s a look at what made the last few months totally awesome!

What will YOU accomplish when you get to Greenland!?

  • First time to hike to the top of Ukkusissat! (And second, third, and fourth thereafter 🙂 )IMG_9368
  • First time to do CrossFit training, ever! (Totally addicted from Day 1, by the way)10592925_10152616422178599_4777609839452747718_nPhoto by: Lulu Høegh

They say the gym is the best place to meet people. I was aiming to expand my network a bit, and the X-Fit NUUK community at Nuuk Fitness did not disappoint. It is full of friendly, open, fun, and tough-as-nails men and women with whom I genuinely look forward to spending five hard hours every week!!

  • First time to kayak, in Greenland!foto (2)Photo by: Malik Milfeldt

It is one thing to have a fjord- or bay-view from everywhere in town, but entirely another to be on the water… literally! With just a thin layer of plastic between you and the cold, deep sea below, and armed with little more than a watertight survival suit and a paddle, you are the master of your own route. How liberating! 

Read more about the experiences that still sit waiting on my Greenland Bucket List!