Driving to the small town of Hvalså Kirke, it was hard not to notice it was a perfect day for a marathon. I could say there was not a cloud in the sky, but there was that one cirrus cloud. And the windmills that dot the countryside were barely moving. It was also nice and cool. There was only one thing missing and that was my life running partner, SR. He was working and not happy about it.
I arrived over an hour and a half early. I was worried I would have trouble finding it. But we have this little navigation GPS computer called a Tom Tom. I don't even know what the equivalent is in the US. When I arrived, I sprinted to the bathrooms. I had been terribly queasy all morning and had hoped I could, well, get the problem behind me before I started.
There was plenty of time to chat with people from our athletic club in Næstved, HGATM, and runners from Facebook Løbeklub. I wasn't nervous. I had very low expectations. I have not had time for a long run since Voyageur (a month and a half ago) and actually that was my ONLY real long run of the summer besides Naturmarathon. I simply have no time. My intervals are improving, but one can't improve a marathon time with intervals alone. So, if nothing else, it was finally time for a long training run.
I talked to a fellow lover of ultras, Britta Karlsson right before the start. She warned me how many hills there were and that the trails were technical. I had better not make my usual mistake of starting out too fast.
Here is the elevation change profile.
We had "group warmup" at 10 am to music. All the marathoners were kind of forced to dance in time and it was great. And then we started.
(I am the girl in dark pink, 15 seconds after the start and already checking her garmin)
7:45 pace was what I was trying to hold it to. That quickly became an average since after 1 km the hills were too steep to keep a steady pace going. There was a girl running with me who would sprint every time she saw I had caught up with her again. We kept running together, me feeling good in my skin that she probably hadn't run too many marathons before with that kind of technique. I was actually worried about her finishing. But then again, if you start out a marathon that quickly, you must have some reason for thinking you can run that fast. Anyway, after about 5 km, I pulled ahead of her for good. I could see I was 3rd woman.
My stomach started out feeling kind of bad, but more heart burn than anything. But then I realized I had more than heartburn to deal with. Luckily there were many options for hiding - log stacks, thicker areas of forest, bigger trees. By the time I was done, I could see that the wonderful curry dish from last night, made by my Malaysian sister in law, was the culprit. I felt really weak and every time I tried to pick up my pace again, my stomach hurt and I got nauseated. I was really glad I had run with my Camelbak, since staying hydrated would give me a shot a finishing.
The hills, views, lakes, farm fields just harvested, it was just amazing. I breathed in the air - this is Denmark, this is my home, I am happy.
My legs were sore by the time I reached the half marathon in 1:48. I didn't feel I had it in me to keep up the same pace. I worried I wouldn't make it under 4 hours. With 18 km to go, we were joined by the half marathoners. This actually had a good effect on me - despite it being hard to pass on the narrow paths.
If you would like to see pictures from the route here, taken by Lars Merrlald.
The second half is hillier than the first. Did I forget to mention that, unlike most other Danish long races, there is no running in circles here? Just a long, winding trail through a very large forest, which as far as I can tell, actually doesn't have a name.
But with about 10km to go, we did run over an important place, that does have name. And it was hard to get there. We ran over a long stretch of hills, which were completely unrunnable, at least to me, leading to Sjælland's highest point. Many readers are probably already aware that the most populous area of Denmak, including Copenhagen, is on the island of Sjælland. The point is 126 meters high and is called Guldenløvens Høj after a long-dead king's son. This point is clearly artificially made the highest point since there is like this enormous ant hill appearing hill on top of the real hill. We all were funneled over the stairs and tiny path over the ant hill. It was pretty cool.
So, back to the race. I was feeling a lot better now. I passed lots of half marathoners and even a couple marathon men and believed I was still in 3rd place. The last 8 km were really pretty and I kept beginning to cry. I can't completely understand why. Something having to do with it being a huge physical challenge and me being really wiped out and just the shear beauty of the course.
With 5k to go, I knew I'd make it under 4 hours and I was happy with that. I ran with a group of women who were about my age for about km through the beautiful woods looking out over the country side. It was a gorgeous view and the weather was still perfect - couldn't have been more than 18 degrees Celsius (64.4 degrees F to be exact). I pulled ahead of the ladies as we ran down into the town and then the tears really stared coming. I crossed the finish line in 3:54 something and was blubbering like some kind of baby. The babyish kind of baby, I guess. Everyone was looking at me, unsure of what to say.
I quickly wiped away the tears when they called my name to the podium to receive my 3rd place prize. Yay! I walked over and finally got to meet Lars Merrald, who I have gotten to know through blogging over the last half year.
(guess I'm still having some stomach problems)
He had won this race the last many years, but due to knee problems hadn't been able to train as well and came in in about 16th place. Training really does make a huge difference and we both had just experienced the negative effect of not being able to train. I went up to receive my flowers and a gift certificate when I was told that a woman who had been registered as a man was actually a woman. It was a mistake that was hard to contest. So I ended up with 4th, which is fine in itself, but did not include flowers or a gift certificate. I was kind of bummed. How had I not noticed a woman had passed me? The womans' winner was Helene Andersen in an impressive time of 3:35.
(that's the wooden finisher's medal between my legs, in case you were wondering)
Jakob, Lena and Johan among others invited me to a little Facebook Løbeklub after run gathering, but I had to go pick up the kids - plus I still felt kind of terrible and shell-shocked. I had a lot of trouble speaking Danish. I quickly got into the car and gave SR a call - actually we only speak Danish to each other, but we can always understand each other. He was too busy to chat. I couldn't wait to see the kids and have a nice drink of diet orange soda. It was about a 40 minute drive back to Copenhagen.
It was THE Danish marathon, at least of my year. I am glad I set the bar low for next year (in terms of my time) so I will be happy with my time when SR and I run it together next year.
Finally, I have to take a moment to congratulate Piccola Pinecone on a 4th place at the Monteal Marathon. I'm sure she'll write her story soon.
Running Song of the Day: Action/Reaction by Choir of Young Believers