Skip to content

Archive for

My Brother’s First Race

Earlier during the week, my brother called me to ask if it would be OK if he came for a visit for the weekend, since he wouldn’t have a chance for quite some time during the next couple of months.

“Absolutely,”, I replied,”and as long as you’re coming, you might as well run a short race with me on Saturday.”

“Well, we don’t really need…”

“Think about it, it’ll be your first ever race with a starting number!”

“Yes, but…”

“Awesome! I’ll sign you up!”

Which, unbeknownst to me, sent him into a mild hysteria for the rest of the week. Even though the gym and tennis court have always been his preferred haunts for his daily dose of training, he’s picked up running during the last year. We’ve seldom found the time to run together, but this time I thought it’d be awesome to try one of the famous Norwegian uphill races together. Grefsenkollen Opp, as it’s called, is short alright; only 4,5 km. But what it lacks in horizontal length it more than makes up for in vertical height climbing 270 metres from start to finish. I kind of neglected to mention this to my little brother. Didn’t want to upset him unnecessarily, you understand.

"I hope this isn't our seeding number..."

“I hope this isn’t our seeding number…”

Oslo is surrounded by several hills and even though I’ve run up a few of them, I had only been to the top of Grefsenkollen once. The weather forecast had promised a coolish 19 degrees with overcast skies and even the possibility of a light drizzle, which would be close to perfect running conditions. When Martin and I arrived at the start by the green football fields by Sinsenkrysset, it was closer to 25 degrees with a blazing sun and not a hint of wind. I.e. not very perfect running conditions. We picked up our racing numbers and noted that we both suffered from nervous bladders, a well-known phenomenon for me before races but not so much for Martin, as this was his first one. I always have to pee at least seven times the last hour before a race, making it hard to maintain a proper hydration. Not that much of a problem in a short race, but still. We did a few warm up-laps around the football pitches as Martin confessed that he’d had a bit of trouble sleeping the night before, due to nervousness. When he’d found out that it was in fact an uphill race, he’d threatened to throttle me and call the whole thing off. Luckily, thinking it over had convinced him of how cool it would be to run his first race together with me.

Milling about at the start, we tried to figure out which runners were likely candidates to win the race, but it was easier said than done as everybody looked extraordinarily fit. The list at the start numbered 357 participants, probably with a strong bias towards seasoned uphill runners. When the gun went off, the entire field of athletes surged forward like a furious tsunami and we were a bit taken aback by how fast the top runners set off. The winner time, in fact turned out to be 17.04, which is incredibly fast. Since both my brother and I had woken up with a touch of the flu with sore throats, troublesome stomachs, fever running into the high forties, delirium and broken legs, as it were, we had pretty modest aspirations for the day. Joking aside, I had had an awful long run in the Nordmarka hills two days before and was still feeling stiff all over, and Martin has been suffering from hip troubles for the last month, so the goal was to finish the race running nonstop, preferably with a smile on our faces.

1,5 km down, 3 to go. All smiles!

1,5 km down, 3 to go. All smiles!

The steepest part behind us.

The steepest part behind us.

We had decided to run together, firstly because it’s more fun that way, secondly in order to snap photos and push each other up the hill. We ran left and right up a few streets lined by villas and even had a 50 metre dash downhill before a sharp right turn onto Kjelsåsveien. We passed a man in a fatsuit, cheered on by his friends who were saving his bachelor party for posterity by filming it, and were aiming for a slow but steady pace up the hill. The sunny day was lovely and the higher we climbed, the more could enjoy the beautiful view to our left, gazing northwest over Maridalsvannet. The onlookers could have done with a field trip to New York Marathon to learn proper cheering skills, but at least the kids waved at us happily. We spent most of the race chasing a slim girl wearing a white wedding dress (no, really) holding a very good pace up the hill in her matching green and purple sneakers. We never actually caught her, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. She was simply too fast for us today. With 500 metres to go, my brother asked me to push him on and overenthustiastic as I was I started pelting him with loud shouts, only for him to ask me to bring the cheering down a notch. I wonder if my pace group runners in Urban Tribes find my shouts as irritating as well. Probably, but I’m the coach. So there.

High chest, eyes up, hip pushing forward. Good technique. He has a good coach.

High chest, eyes up, hip pushing forward. Good technique. He has a good coach, that guy.

We sprinted across the finish line together, having run faster than we had hoped and not even coming in last as we had feared. Immensely proud with my little brother taking on a classic Norwegian uphill challenge as his first ever race! Huge congratulations! He even surprised me later that afternoon, saying that he was already thinking of finding a race to run with his missus later in the summer. Awesome news! We’ll make a marathoner out of you yet.

All smiles!

All smiles!

Cool finisher shirts.

Cool finisher shirt.

View of Maridalsvannet in the distance.

View of Maridalsvannet in the distance.


Nope, Still Hurting

Last weekend Oslo played venue yet again for the enormously entertaining Holmenkollstafetten, the world’s largest relay race. The competition had broken all previous records and featured almost 45 000 runners running for 3 000 teams. Once again, I had been invited to run for Nyfødtintensiv (the Neonatal Intensive Care Unit) at Ullevål. Last year I had had a pretty easy leg, but this year I was upgraded to the longest leg of all running from Holmen Bru down to Frognerparken via 2 850 m of asphalt. As you know, my heel has been aching from plantar fasciitis for the last several weeks, and I’ve had a self-imposed running sabbatical of two and a half weeks. Leg 10 of Holmenkollstafetten was to be my test run to see if it would hold.

As I stood among the throngs of people, craning my neck trying to see Tor Einar with the baton, I felt an almost palpable level of excitement. I always get extremely nervous when wearing a number pinned to my chest, regardless of competition. This was one of the shortest ones I had run, but exactly because of that, you want to run as fast as you possibly can. I’m not used to these infra-races, if you will, as opposed to ultra-races. Trying to get as close to your lactate threshold and then holding your pace for as long as you can is a challenge. Luckily, that’s exactly what I’ve been training for with our interval classes with Urban Tribes at SATS. I adjusted my green surgical cap and looked up the road towards Gressbanen again, and there he was, sprinting towards me like shot from a cannon. We’d opted for the caps in order to be easily recognizable during the change-overs, and it worked pretty well.

Why hasn't anyone else thought of this? Classy AND recognizable.

Why hasn’t anyone else thought of this? Classy AND recognizable.

I started running with my hand outstretched behind my back before he reached me and felt the cool baton being placed in my hand accompanied by a panty “Come on!” by Tor Einar and off I sprinted. The leg was downhill for the first 1 000 m before making a sharp right turn along the ringroad, ducking in under it by the fire station and then running back on the other side of the highway slightly uphill to Monolittveien before turning south again for the last 1,2 km. I had met a couple of fellow Urban Tribes-coaches, Andreas and Margrethe, on my way to my starting line, and inquired about the specifics of the leg, as Andreas had just finished it with an impressive time of just under ten minutes. I got a bit carried away running downhill but quickly regained my composure as I realized I had almost 2 km left. Annoyed at all the runners passing me, despite my own good pace, I realized that this was the leg most of the teams had saved their best runners for as it was the longest. Emerging from the tunnel under the highway, I managed to squeeze past my first opponent in the uphill (I LOVE running past people uphill!) and whizzed past another three or so before turning right for the final part. My legs were burning in a way they normally never do during a marathon or an ultra. Not from fatigue or exhaustion but from the beginnings of lactic acid, a HUGE no-no in long distance running. If you start accumulating lactate in your muscles during an ultra, you’re done for. But in a shorter race, it’s supposed to be OK. I was panting heavily and my heart was quite possibly beating a rhythm pretty close to my maximum pulse when I finally glimpsed the towering monolith at the centre of Frognerparken where Eivor would be waiting to relieve me from the baton. A cruel final uphill prevented me from increasing my pace, but at least I passed a couple of runners (ha-HA!) before I glimpsed a green cap and handed over the baton to an already running Eivor. Panting and with burning legs, but happy with my achievement (clocking in at 10:50 when I was hoping to run sub-12), I started jogging back to my car.

Part of the 15-man/woman strong relay team of NICU Ullevål.

Part of the 15-man/woman strong relay team of NICU Ullevål.

Encouraged by my result at the relay, I was hopefully optimistic yesterday when I ran with a careful, measured pace towards SATS Vinderen for my first Run Tough-class for three weeks. I ran through a light drizzle and across pavement moist by the rain, testing my heel carefully. Everything felt as it should and when I met up with my runners at the gym, they asked me how my foot was doing since they had heard I was out with an injury. Lovely people. New running drills and a brand new interval set was the itinerary for the evening. Our new head coach Tim had a brief, but inspiring introduction, and then divided us up. I led my pace group (4.10-4.20) through four 100 m sprints before we started the intervals proper; 5 sets of 1 000 m with decreasing rest between from 75 seconds down to 30 short seconds before the last set. I felt strong and I had an awesome pace group running with me, including a very interested fellow whom the pace didn’t seem to bother at all. He went on and on about physiology and asking me questions about lactate thresholds throughout every single interval and rest, leaving me pretty winded when we got to the last two intervals. I must learn to talk less. I still held the pace for the group, but it was – ahem – closer to 4.20 than 4.10, apart from the last interval when everybody started racing like crazy pushing us down towards 3.50. AWESOME and talented runners! High-fiving all of them, there were a lot of pats on backs before we gathered at the meeting point with coaches Stefan, Tim, Axel and Charlotte. Yep, coach Stefan of Nordmarkstraver’n fame, for the regular readers of the blog. Jogging back up towards Vinderen with my own little tribe, I started feeling the familiar aching in my heel and it got stronger by the minute. I started to despair a bit but was thankfully distracted by chatting with my runners. Reaching the SATS centre the heel was actually throbbing and I was now getting a bit worried. Worried enough, in fact, not to run all the way home but to catch a bus instead.

Head coach Tim starting things up in a beautifully green Frognerparken.

Head coach Tim starting things up in a beautifully green Frognerparken.

Coach Stefan making sure I'm paying attention :D

Coach Stefan making sure I’m paying attention :D

This morning, the heel feels a bit sore, but not at all as bad as it did a few weeks ago. Since my calves and thighs were also hurting yesterday after the intervals, I have decided to put it down to muscle stiffness and anxiety. Resting day today (again…) and then I’ll try coaching Run Speedplay tomorrow. Keep your fingers crossed, guys!

And please take a minute to donate to our cause: Reece’s Rainbow Adoption Grant Foundation! $250 have already been donated! Help us reach $1 000 before the week is out!

“You Are An Idiot”

I have been pretty lucky during my running career. The injuries I have sustained have rarely been serious or long-winded. There was the time where I suffered from runner’s knee (an irritated tendon at the lateral side of my right knee) prior to Edinburgh marathon and which only resolved itself after a final, desperate solution featuring a cortisone injection. Another time was right after having completed the Forestman triathlon – and the intense training regime that preceded that particular Ironman – when a metatarsal bone in my left foot was aching horrendously, finally prompting me to x-ray the foot to make sure I hadn’t sustained a stress fracture (I hadn’t. The pain was due to training overload and only let up after six weeks of rest from running.) Oh, and of course both of us had our share of blisters and disintegrating toe nails in the desert, but those were minor ailments.

Right now, I am being thoroughly annoyed by my right heel. It started aching after my long runs in Italy last month. Thinking it was due to my old shoes, it took the drastic move of throwing away not only my racing shoes from New York (with which I broke my marathon PB in November), but also my lovely trail shoes from Alesia. Sob. I have never gotten rid of any running shoes before. Ever. It was a sentimental moment for me. Albeit a bit ruined by the missus’ joyful whooping when she realized what objects I was tearfully and tenderly placing in the garbage bin. Last week, the problem got acutely worse after a high-intensity trail run, the first proper trail run of the season. Despite landing on my forefoot, both up- and downhill, I had a sharp, stabbing pain under my heel for almost the entire run. My predicament took all of the fascination of seeing dirty patches of snow in deep, shady hollows in among the trees away from me. To tell you the truth, the morning after, I found myself limping quite severely. What was this devilishly painful sensation below my heel?

Hello plantar fasciitis (or hälsporre in Swedish). Plantar Fasciitis is an irritation in the proximal (i.e. closer to the heel) part of the plantar fascia, a malleable but very strong piece of soft tissue that attaches the calcaneus (heel bone) to the tendons of the toes. It’s not an unusual injury, as running injuries go, but an extremely annoying one since it is so damn hard to get rid of. I can still run, preferably on softer ground, with only a slight dull ache in my heel. I can also walk shorter distances. But the second I take my shoes off to walk barefoot across our wooden floors at home, I start to limp again. And the mornings are horrible.

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 18.51.11

I wasted no time in calling one of our athletic club’s advisers and health care professionals, the most pre-eminent chiropractor in the realm. Who also happens to be my little brother. He initially gave me sound – after a fashion – advice on how to treat my foot, including stretching exercises, shoe insets, and the use of hard slippers indoors. And then the following conversation took place;

“And you do realize you need to rest, right?”

“Of course!”

“I mean rest-rest.”

“Why, yes.”

“Just for the sake of curiosity; how were you planning to rest?”

“Well, I have a resting week in my training program this week.”


“52 kilometers on four different runs. Only a 20 k long run this week. That ought to do it.”

“You do realize that as brilliant you are in many other fields [that’s proper sibling respect, right there], you are a complete imbecile when it comes to your running, don’t you? [not so proper sibling respect]”


“You need to back off for at least two weeks, maybe three.”

“Define back o…”

“No. Running. What. So. Ever.”

“What, no running-running? Not even 10 k?”

“You’re an idiot.”

Brief, but heated exchange of colourful expletives

Which is why I’m currently in the middle of a running sabbatical of two weeks. I’ve done some cross training (I hate that word), biking, rowing, strength exercises and carrying little miss Sunshine in a backpack in the woods. I hate this stuff. Where are the magical go-away pills when you need them?

Creating a cast for my heel.

Creating a cast for my heel.

The finished cast, made of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) a foam that makes up the middle sole in most of the running shoes on the market.

The finished cast, made of EVA (Ethylene Vinyl Acetate) a foam that makes up the middle sole in most of the running shoes on the market.

I haven’t consulted our chiropractor on whether or not I can go straight back to my training program when I start up again. A week total of 109 kilometers and a long run of 40 k should be fine. Right? I mean, we have an ultra in 7 weeks, for goodness’ sake!

Please don’t forget to donate to Reece’s Rainbow! They need all the money you can spare. Please visit our donation site and give a sum of your choice. A generous one. Thank you!

Screen Shot 2014-04-26 at 18.53.36