Photo from the 2014 Ice Age Trail 50 Miler by Ali Engin. Permission to use header photo must be obtained through Ali Elgin.

"It's better to feel pain than nothing at all. The opposite of love's indifference." - The Lumineers

Sunday, 29 August 2010

Villa Gallina Race 2010 and when thinner ≠ faster

How thin does one have to be to be fast? My opinion on the subject has changed over the last half year. Over that same time frame, I have gained a bit of weight, though none of it fat (vanity strikes again) so I am at 53 kg and 5'6". I would have expected perhaps faster swimming and bike times, but slower running times. But, in fact, my running times are still getting faster. On Friday, I knocked 9 total seconds off of my 6 x 1 mile intervals (same route as always) giving my fastest interval training day of my life. Here were the times:

6:34
6:37
6:41
6:31
6:43
6:37

When I moved to Denmark 2 years ago this coming November, I weighed 50.5 kg and could not have run intervals that fast. Had you told me gaining 2.5 kg would help, I would have never believed you.

But there is a variety of factors at play here. My diet has improved significantly over the past 3 months. More fish, more eggs, more vegetables and more fats (more like the diet I had when pregnant with The Lorax). In general, just a bigger variety of food. It has done wonders for my energy level. And the second thing is, I never run two days in a row. All of my runs are intense (okay, the beginning of this past week was an exception when I had a low fever and a terrible cold and only had it in me to run long runs at slower tempos).

I used to have a full blown eating disorder (in 2002-2004 - a while ago now), which as Meghan Hicks pointed out, I have discussed openly, but some readers seem to be under the impression that I still have an eating disorder. Well, I don't. And I certainly don't think a woman could take 3rd place in a decent-sized half ironman and have an eating disorder. Do I still use running to burn calories? Well, of course, but who doesn't? But it has gotten to the point where kicking ass in a race is much more satisfying than an extra couple cookies or buying size XS.

Speaking of which, our favorite local race was today: Villa Gallina Løbet. It takes place in a large forest near Haslev, where there are wide trails over very challenging hills. One of the hills is so large that it is named Gøngehøvdingen after a particularly savage and successful 17th century danish warrior, Svend Poulsen Gønge. And yet another is called "Svenske kløften" - The Swedish Cliff. But seriously, none is so bad that is must be walked.

There were 5.5, 9.5 and 14 (actually 13.5) km distances to choose between. And each distance has around 200 runners. It is a big event in our area (it's about 15 km from Næstved). In light of my plan to run a marathon next weekend and a 5k race later in the week, I opted for the 9.5km distance. I told myself again and again - tempo run only! There is no bear chasing you - avoid injury at all costs!

It was raining at the start, actually quite a downpour, as the 5.5 km racers line up. I snapped this picture just before 10:00 am, when their race would begin. The 9.5 km would start 10 minutes after.



I couldn't help asking this guy if a wetsuit was really necessary.

He answered affirmatively, though I couldn't eek an explanation out of him. But the thing is, you just can't question someone who shows up in a wetsuit to a race. That is not something that happens accidentally. Anyway, what a hot race it must have been for him.

I should mention that SR was just getting off of his night shift, so unfortunately couldn't make it there in time for the start, otherwise he would have run.

After they yelled start for our race, I took off with the lead men. I think all of my interval running has left me too trigger happy since I ran the first mile in around 6 minutes. All of my attempts to "just run a tempo" didn't make that first mile any slower. I even ran without music, with the hopes that I would run more slowly and enjoy the forest.

Then the full-fledged hills started and the pace slowed. I stayed with the same group of guys, though the leader moved decisively ahead.

I came through the first 5k in 21:30. The thing about this race is just when you think there can't possibly be anther uphill, there is. Again and again. The same guy was running close behind me the entire time and I just kept thinking, when will he just stop the torture and pass me? (He was a really nice guy, I would learn at the finish - but I'm not one for small talk during a race). We stayed together. Finally, the last 1km is downhill and I saw SR and I was so happy to see his smiling face. He said to me: "200 meter tilbage - hvis du skal spurte så er det nu!" He was trying to convince me to outkick the guy behind me and, it turned out I did have enough energy in me to just barely beat him at the sprint. Though, he probably let me win.

My name came over the loudspeakers as first female. They even said my middle name. It was a nice moment. My time was nothing to write home about, but 42.40 on that course is something I can live with. And I know I did get a good tempo out of it at perhaps slighly slower than race pace. I was really pleased.



SR and I went for a run and he snapped a nice picture of me, also capturing the forest well.


I loved getting to run the trails again with him. But my foot was bothering me. Yes, the downside of racing. I hadn't noticed it one bit during the race, but suddenly I could barely run.

I should mention my Ecco Bioms worked really well even on wet, rugged terrain. I didn't run the race with the Amphipod, but it is a really nice water bottle for training, which I picked up in the US.



We went back for the prizes. Last year, SR won the 14 km and received a fancy glass blow. I walked by the results and saw Mette had won the 14 (13.5) km for the women in 52:50, which was less than a minute slower than the winning man's time. Damn! That girl is just so fast. She is my real life equivalent of Piccola Pinecone. It was so good to see her again. I had no idea she was coming so it was nice surprise to be able to catch up.

Here I am getting my prize (It looks sunny now, but a downpour would start again in less than 5 minutes).





Here's what was in the box (cars and ship not included):



18 comments:

cherelli said...

Hey SLG - well done!!! Sounds like a fun race...and sounds like your training is going really well with the diet and frequency changes, nice job. But I have to ask - are there really bears over there??? :)

mmmonyka said...

Your faster times are a combination of multiple things and I would say it is more about your training than your weight, isn't it?
You race a lot girl!
Good job on intervals and hills.

Ewa said...

You rock! Congratulations. It seems all the stars are lining up for you: food, training, shoes and your great attitude.
I wonder how the wet suit guy did. Maybe he is training for something but I can't think what that could be.

SteveQ said...

Did you list your height in feet and inches and weight in kilograms, just to force EVERYONE to do a conversion?

For those who were wondering, the middle name's Beth. (the stuff we learn on the web!)

mmmonyka said...

SteveQ, kilograms and inches is a good mix. It is true that this way EVERYONE must do a conversion, both American and European readers, nobody feels that the "others" have it easier:)

Karen said...

I wonder what kind of spots chafe when you run in a wet suit. Makes my skin hurt just thinking about that.

I felt so worldly when I didn't have to translate that French poem you put up a few months ago. Now, I was a little ashamed that I had to convert the KG to pounds with a translator. :P

Lisa said...

WOW! Great job?

I was wondering myself about the weight/speed connection just last night. I came to the conclusion that I just needed to train more. SLG, how do you fit in all that training with a job and kids? I can't seem to do it.

Lisa said...

PS, I meant "Great job!" not "Great job?"

amy said...

Your training has a lot more to do with your speed than your weight. Runners come in all shapes and sizes--skinny slow ones, skinny fast ones, larger slow ones, larger fast ones.

Have you ever considered tossing out your scale (I'm just assuming from your use of numbers and data, that you weigh yourself often)? It's a healthy and liberating move, in my opinion. I lost weight unintentionally once I stopped obsessing about numbers. At least I think I did--I have no idea how much I weigh--well, within 5 or 10 pounds, but not exactly.

Congrats on a great race! And great mile splits! I've started doing speedwork (on a track) for the first time in a long time. But I haven't gone beyond my favorite 200m workout yet....I will...

Lily Jane said...

I totally can relate. Running has become something that I "need"... I spent years during anorexia using it as a way to destroy myself, but it's so much different now. However, I do think that there are many people with eating disorders who are able to accomplish insane feats (such as a half-Ironman). You just can never know. At any rate, however, you just keep rockin' it!!! :D And I look forward to getting inspiration as I begin training for my own half-Ironman soon... :D

sea legs girl said...

I just realized I called SR's prize from last year a glass blow. Oops. :).

Cherelli,
I will say that there are a lot of men here named "bear" (Bjørn). Does that count?

Sorry about the KG, inches everyone! That is just how I think. But I like how it's equally challenging on each side of the Atlantic.

Amy, I've thought about throwing out the scale, but I'm still too scared of what it will mean for my weight. I have actually done it before and it wasn't pretty (in my opinion, at least). Very cool that you're getting into speedwork. I guess I am surprised that is new for you!

Thank you Lily Jane and welcome! Yeah, I do think it is amazing what a person with an eating disorder can still manage to accomplish. We humans have A LOT of reserve. BUT, I will just say that body fat actually makes one a faster swimmer along with muscular arms and that muscular legs are the key to cycling quickly and weighing more doesn't detract much. I have yet to see a successful triathlete who is sickly skinny, but maybe there are some.

Helen said...

Great job girl! Love to see how your trainin is coming along regardless of what direction the scale is going. I agree that it's the training you are doing rather than a few pounds either direction.

Congrats on the race - no way that guy "let" you beat him!

Ewa said...

Just wanted to let you know you got tagged. Check my blog. :)

Tammy said...

Great race! That guy in the wetsuit is hilarious. I agree with you about fat in the diet. I always feel better and I think run better when I have "good" fats in my day-to-day eating.

SteveQ said...

Well, I had to check to see if there ARE any skinny triathletes. Here's what I found: http://www.womensportreport.com/fotok/triathlonsweetlandryfmoffat.jpg

The girl in the middle looks like she might be 12 years old, though.

SteveQ said...

Got cut off... retry.
http://www.womensportreport.com/fotok/triathlonsweetlandryfmoffat.jpg

SteveQ said...

ARRGH! it ends:
sweetlandryfmoffat.jpg

sea legs girl said...

Steve, I got the link and found the ladies. The ones on the right and left look quite healthy, but I agree about the one in the middle and don't know if it is her age or body type. Who knows what her story is - but you must admit that it IS harder to find fast triathletes who are super/sickly skinny!