by Samantha Saeger

Since the end of August of last year, I have been living in Uppsala, Sweden with my fiancé, Ross Smith. So far, the entire experience has been a hundred times better that I could ever have imagined!

The best part about living here is orienteering with the local orienteering club, OK Linné. They are a fantastic club filled with friendly, dedicated and talented athletes of all ages. The club house is only a ten minute jog from my apartment and almost every evening there is club training which begins there. In the early fall there were orienteering trainings on Thursdays, and sometimes Wednesdays. On Tuesdays there were intervals. These trainings are aimed at the juniors and seniors in the club, but all are welcome. Most evenings there are also separate trainings organized and designed for the younger juniors as well. The training program is advertised on their club webpage, and you can see the details about each training and sign up. On the weekends in the fall, Ross and I traveled with the club to the district and national championships. These trips were a fantastic way to race against difficult competition and to bond with our club members.

Now that winter is quickly approaching, all of our trainings are done after nightfall. This means I have been practicing my night orienteering skills! Now that the winter training season has started, we have club trainings four days a week. On Mondays we do strength and play Innebandy. The strength is a combination of exercises for runners, focusing on jumping and core. Innebandy is floor hockey and is a great way to get your heart rate up! On Tuesday we have a long night line orienteering course. The whole group starts together and spreads out as people form smaller packs. There are course cutoffs, so everyone can run anywhere from 5km-17km. Afterwards, everyone warms up in the sauna and then gathers together for soup and socializing.

Wednesday night is orienteering technique training. I recently joined Linné’s training group and we are in charge of planning the weekly trainings. We decided that every orienteering training should have a specific goal, and this goal should be known by those running it. Often the course setter has a training goal in mind when they plan, but their thoughts aren’t passed along to the club members. Therefore, one training member put together a list of orienteering techniques and we put them in a logical order. For the first 3 weeks of winter training, the Wednesday night trainings will focus on reading contours. Many of our night trainings have been on contour only maps this month. In December we will focus on attacking and leaving the control. Other focuses include compass, route planning and map contact.

Thursday nights are for intervals. Again, the training group wants to make the purpose of these clear, so one of our members who knows a lot about running explains the purpose of each interval training. We all meet at the club house and do a 15 minute warm-up. Running drills are another important piece that I am learning, and we are incorporating new drills to our warm-up. Last night was the first time many people had done the drills, which meant there was a lot of explaining. I ended up cooling down more than warming up, but it will go faster next time! We run the intervals on the lit paved bike paths that are all around town. There are lit trails as well, but they are lit for walking or skiing, and there is not enough light to feel comfortable running at full speed.

Last, but not least, there is gympa on the weekends! This gympa is not with the club, but with the local gym. I just tried to find a youtube video about gympa so you could get an idea, but none of them seem to do it justice. I think the best way to describe it is dance aerobics, but it’s very simple dance. I am not coordinated, and even I can follow along! The same instructors do the same hour long routine each time they lead a class, so you can learn the moves and then start working hard! There is a lot of jumping and moves that get your heart rate up, combined with killer core and arm sections. At the very end of this intensive gympa class, I can get my HR within a few beats of my max.

As you can see, the orienteering and trainings are my favorite part of being here. The maps in the area are still challenging for me, but I hope that I’m getting better! The biggest change for me is the subtlety of the terrain. Most of the maps in the area have 2.5m contours and the terrain is full of small ups and downs. This type of terrain can wear you out if you don’t plan well and are constantly running all the small ups and downs. Also, the ground is softer than home and orienteers find themselves often running through soft, wet marshes. A marsh can sometimes provide the best running, depending on how much rain there has been. However, when I’m alone at night I am still hesitant about running through the open marshes. I’ve been told that none are deep enough to swallow me whole, but everything seems more sinister at night.

Meanwhile, I’m trying to learn Swedish, but the task seems daunting. Luckily for me, everyone I’ve met has spoken very good English. Most of the people in the club are fluent in English and are more than happy to switch to English when I’m in the group. This has made a world of difference for me, as I feel welcome and included. However, some of warned me that they are going to start switching to Swedish after Christmas, so I better start learning quickly!

After a winter of long night terrain runs, splashing through half frozen swamps and hours of gympa I hope to have a strong and successful spring season. To follow Ross and my adventures more closely, you can check out our blog at I try to post at least weekly with our latest adventures!