For the second time in less than a week dad accompanied me on one of my races. Not as a spectator but as a fellow athlete! How cool is that? After last weekend’s ultra race Alesia Trail in the Burgundy region of Eastern France – where dad opted for the shorter, but still very much respectable 16k version (500+ vertical metres) – we picked up the Mountain Queen on our way to the starting line in the middle of Sørkedalen on Saturday morning. Oslo’s Bratteste is literally Oslo’s steepest uphill race with 407 vertical metres in 2,7 km. And where do you find a steep enough hill where one can accomodate so many runners (3000+ this year, breaking the record for the fifth year in a row) at once? Well, you find a ski slope of course. Arriving at the bottom around an hour before start, I caught dad squinting curiously up the gravelly slope asking me how he should pace himself and what kind of strategy would be the wisest. “The careful one”, I answered. The hill starts with a deceptively low incline before you collide face-first with Helveteskneika – The Hump From Hell – where only first-timers try to run. The rest of us normally choose an easier pace, smiling smugly when we pass the amateurs a couple of hundred metres further up.
I can see that I sound like a grizzled oldtimer that has run the race all of it’s previous four incarnations. Not so. In fact, this is the first race I have ever run twice. Nordmarkstravern a month ago doesn’t actually count since I’ve run two different distances (15k last year and 30k this year), arguably two very different races. But I guess the floodgates have opened. This precedent means that I can safely apply to NY Marathon next year if I like. Or maybe even Marathon des Sables? OK, maybe not that desert race. Just yet.
The organizers had divided us up into groups depending on our projected finish time as well as letting the ladies and gents start in different corrals. Dad took off like a cannonball at 12.10 p.m., hoping to finish in under 40 minutes. Say what you will about my dad, but he has guts. When I first ran the race last year I had at least three of four training runs under my belt. Dad hadn’t even laid eyes on the slope before today. He even asked if the top he could see from the bottom was far from the finish line? “Dad, you won’t even be halfway there when you get to the top you can see over there…” “Oh, OK then. Maybe I should take it easy until I can actually see the finish line?” “Good idea, dad.” Twenty minutes later I took off in a slightly more ambitious group than last year’s (when I finished in 24.00), this time opting for the “18-23 min finishers”-starting group. Surely I wouldn’t be outrun by everybody in my group? To tell you the truth, the only thing that mattered was that the Mountain Queen didn’t overtake me just before the finish line, starting as she would at 12.40, ten minutes later.
The gun went off and patting me on the back, coach Stefan – whom I always run into at the coolest races of the season – passed me by in a cloud of neon orange. I started a careful pace up the Hump from Hell, shoving aside a spindly fourteen-year-old who stepped on my foot. I had great a great grip with my newly washing-machine-washed INOV8 Trailrocs and felt I had good control over the proceedings. The good thing about being in a starting group where you can barely manage the tempo is that you get pulled along by better runners. Which is why I always do my more serious hill training with the Mountain Queen. I reached the top of Wyller in a pretty OK condition and took off down towards the next lift station around 2,1k into the race where the final elevation starts up towards Tryvannstårnet, the 118 m tall broadcasting tower standing sentinel right by the tape. Last year, if you remember, conditions were muddy like hell and I had to fight and shove with some overambitious fellow runners to stay erect, but this year I pedalled down as fast as I dared before I turned upwards again. With 200 m to go (the last 100 m are a complete bitch – you feel like you are climbing a vertical wall, but if you start walking here, they’ll literally shoot you) my calves were burning painfully, just as they were supposed to. I crossed the finish line in a new PB of 22:58, shaving 1:02 off last year’s time and feeling pretty satisfied.
And you know what’s funny? Dad only had a single reason to run the race. The beanie I got in my goodiebag last year. He’s been gazing at it for almost year and finally got a chance to win his own one today. Impressively enough, dad didn’t even look winded when we met up after the steepest race in Oslo, this being his first ever uphill race! Miss H and Panda were, as is their custom, waiting by the fence, taking photos and being the best support team ever!
Anyone else up for winning a cool beanie of their own next year? You’re welcome to Oslo around the last weekend of September 2014 and we’ll make a race out of it. Loser buys dinner. And what about last weekend’s ultra Alesia Trail? Don’t worry, we haven’t forgotten about it and are preparing a thourough race report for your reading pleasure. But just for the record: Jakob & Jakob managed to snatch their final UTMB-point in France and are now in the possession of seven qualification points for Ultra Trail du Mont Blanc. In three months, we will be applying for UTMB 2014. We’ll know whether we have won a spot or not come January next year. So keep your fingers crossed!