Clever Or Not?
The terrain race Nordmarkstravern, held in the deep forests surrounding Oslo the first Saturday in September every year, epitomizes everything I love with races in Norway. The track is as entertaining as it it challenging, mixing gravel roads with my beloved forest trails, and the atmosphere of the event is the envy of many a race organizer in the region. I’ve grown accustomed to friendly, smiling volunteers handing out water, cookies and lemonade and I’ve even come to expect the weather to be pleasantly sunny. The finisher t-shirts are outstandingly cool (they stamp a big red X on the chest in front of the distance you’ve run) and the buses that carry the runners out to the start in the middle of nowhere are comfortable and nice.
So all in all, I was delighted when the Queen of Slopes Hedda herself, texted me a week prior to the race to ask if I would be running the full 30 km this year. When I picked her up early on Saturday morning, her eyes were all aglow with eager anticipation. We picked up another one of her friends, Eskild, on the way and drove up to Sognsvann to catch the bus to the starting line. When the three of us arrived at the start next to lake Stryken, the sun had already started to warm our faces. There were more than 700 of us that started out together at 11.00, and the tempo was pretty high from the start. I tried to trail after Hedda and Eskild but had to let go after around 4 or 5 km since they were running in a pace far faster than I could hold up. As you may remember, my heel has been bothering me since March and I have been worried that I would injure it again if I started to venture out on trails too soon. That’s why I’ve confined most of my training to the treadmill. As long as I have taped my foot properly I’ve been OK but I’ve understood that the lack of terrain training has been detrimental. Better to run indoors on a good foot than not being able to run at all. In this year’s Nordmarkstravern, my lack of terrain training showed big time. I rehydrated with water and lemonade at the first pit stop at 7 km and felt pretty OK as things went, but as soon as we ducked in on the first of many trails, I suffered. Badly. Normally my favourite part of any race, my conscious neglect of specific trail training started to show very quickly. I got winded and started huffing and puffing up the slopes and to my great shame I was passed by what felt like hundred of runners. I walked up several slopes, not being able to push myself as I usually do. Uphills are normally my forte. I’m supposed to be the one passing people in the climbs. Not so today. But at least the forest was as beautiful as always and I slowly started to enjoy myself while passing between the small lakes Langvann to my left and Trehørningen to my right. The last two kilometer climb through the brush up to the topmost part of the course at Gørjahøgda (450 m) – exactly at the 15 km-mark – was evil, pure and simple. About one hour and thirtyfive minutes had passed since I set out and my sub-3 hopes were slowly being crushed. I didn’t feel in shape at all and I cursed my stupid summerplan of not running any trails due to my plantar fasciitis.
Downhill though, I started to feel a tingling ache in my heel. Maybe it hadn’t been such a stupid idea to let my heel rest after all. The thought gave me pause, and unconsciously, I sped up when I hit the gravel road again after 16 km. Nordmarkstravern has a pretty”fair” elevation in that it’s a steady climb from the start to about the 15 km-mark and then it runs steadily downhill to the finishline apart from a small hill at around 20 km. Running down through the forest from Kamphaugåsen towards the drinking station at the end of Skjersjøen I felt invigorated and finally let out a smile. I had passed 20 km in two hours and suddenly felt as if I had a sub-3 race within reach. I reached the pitstop at Skjersjøen at 25 km, just before the path crossed a dam and headed left down onto a downhill littered with small stones and slippery logs. I ran along a river tumbling down toward Maridalsvannet and finally passed several runners on the wide trail and even spared a wave and a smile for the official photographer. The last 4 km were nastily rollercoaster-like and having run the race before certainly gives you an edge over firsttimers that don’t pace themselves. I must admit that I walked up a few of those hills but at least I thundered down them on the other side and for the last 5 km of the race no-one passed me. Well, a few of them did but I soon passed them again. The last kilometer from Sognsvann to Kringsjå Skole was brutal and neverending, despite it being completely flat, but I miraculously managed to pass 9 more runners during the last 200 m before sprinting up the last hill and waving frantically at miss H and Panda standing next to the finish line cheering me on.
Last year I managed to snatch the race badge (awarded to every runner who manages to run no slower than 50% more than the victory time) with ten seconds to spare, but today I missed it by 67 seconds. A shame, but no matter. 2.57.27 was still a lot better than I had imagined climbing those pesky hills at the midpoint of the race. Still, I promise to do better next year. And how Hedda fared? My awesome friend managed to squeeze into the female top ten, managing a 5th place in her class and an 8th overall. Congratulations! And our pal Eskild beat me soundly wih almost 15 minutes, despite never having run the distance before. The best thing about talented friends is that they spur you on to become faster and stronger. Hope they’ll join me for next year, along with coach Stefan whom I missed during this year’s race. Get well soon!