Sporting in Joensuu

Being the active person I am, I have spent some time these first 2 weeks in Joensuu exploring my options as far as sports and various activities to participate in. Being an avid hiker and kick boxer, I had a feeling those opportunities would be few and far between here in Finland, the country of lakes and seas (and therefore no mountains). Kickboxing may have been an option in a larger city such as Helsinki, but here in Joensuu there was just one option. I went to one class, but decided it just didn’t create the feel and sense of community I was looking for (and the wonderful one I have back in Denver), so I began looking for other options.

All it takes is reaching out and asking questions and more connections continue to come my way. After putting a post in the Joensuu English Speakers Facebook group I joined, I was hit with responses and connections to a local climbing group that meets here at our sports arena, the “Areena”. After about 10 years out of the sport, I was a little rusty, but was introduced to a nice group of people who made me feel welcome in their climbing circle.

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The climbing wall at the Areena

The indoor gyms and exercise options are great for when it is below freezing temperatures, or too dark or snowy to do much outside, but being the active outdoorswoman I am, I am eager to get outside and get exercise. I am quite impressed how active people still are despite the precipitation, cold, and dark. Each day I see plenty of people riding their bikes, going for a jog, and walking all over the city. Since my failed attempt at riding on the snow and ice, I’ve been a little leery to get back “on the wagon” (we’ll wait for my bruised butt and ego to heal). Maybe next week. I tried jogging a little around my neighborhood, but it was pretty treacherous as well, and I lasted all of 15 minutes in the 20 degree temperatures. So what next? What all Finns do from the time they can walk of course, cross country ski!

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Strapped in and ready to go!

On Friday, my advisor, Kari, picked me up at my house to take my skis to school so I could check out the cross country trails right behind campus. I was, however, fully prepared to walk to school with my skis strapped to my pack and boots in hand, but Kari laughed, and assured me it would be much easier to go by car. After a busy morning of learning and visiting the elementary school, the sun was beckoning me to the cross country trails.

I learned a few things on my first venture out:

  • My downhill skis don’t fit in those nicely created paths the cross country skiers made for me. Oh well, I’ll create my own path. This would have been ok with some better snow, however the trails had not been groomed and I was skiing on a mix of ice and crunchy snow.
  • My downhill skis, even with the alpine touring bindings, are significantly heavier and slower than the cross country skis. I definitely got a few looks as I was doing my best to keep up.
  • My energy expenditure was significantly more than I anticipated, especially over any rolling terrain. When my friend joked that I could ski 15km to her house over the lake when it was frozen, I thought that seemed like a reasonable venture. I was used to hiking 8-10 miles- no problem, right? Now I am thinking I need to get in a little better skiing shape before I attempt this.

My first venture out did not discourage me, and Saara connected me with a friend of hers who called on Friday to ask if I wanted to go cross country skiing with her. Not one to turn down an offer, I gladly accepted. Another great opportunity to connect with a new person who is also in education- how fortunate I have been!

Tiina picked me up and took to me to another section of trails near the Evangelical Lutheran church here in Joensuu, which also happens to be the spot of the main sledding hill here in town. There are several kilometers of trails, and they overlook Lake Pyhäselkä, which on this sunny day, was quite a site to see.

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This time there were a few more hills to climb and some nice rolling downhill sections, and I worked hard to keep up with Tiina. Her patience was much appreciated as I plugged my way up the hills and stopped to take pictures of the amazing sunset (yes, this San Diego/Denver girl is missing her sunshine a bit).

My final musing for today:

I am on the hunt for actual cross country skis. Think I found my new love.

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My smile never faded, even at the tough hills!
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Sunset on Lake Pyhäselka, as seen from the cross country trails.
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Wow. Just wow.
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