6 hours of straight running. It wasn't like a trail ultra, where one has an excuse to walk up steep hills. There were just little breaks at the aid station and then back at it again. And the competition was so tight. The only thing I could do was to ignore the placement of the other women as much as possible to remain sane.
The pre-race was, perhaps, the best part. SR dislikes showing up early because it simply means more time to be nervous and do nothing. I have started to love showing up early because it is the only chance to see my wacky friends who also run races like this. Actually Henriette is far too sensible, relaxed and type B to fit the mold of ultrarunners and, perhaps, that's why we get along so well. And then in walked May-Britt, Denmark's ultra star, who has battled a shoulder injury for many months now. I have a sort of child-like fascination with her and her dedication to running. She didn't hold back about the fact she was worried I would beat her. Her honesty is quite charming (um, especially when it is a compliment to me :)).
This is a pre-race picture, which doesn't exactly prove that I am social before races (hint: blue sweat pants)
Thanks to Ulrik Torp Pedersen for the picture.
I felt really good. I had slept well. I had had 2 runs (albeit both hard) since Brocken Marathon 3 weeks earlier. Otherwise I had been swimming, biking, stair stepping, pulse training, core training (you name it)... even tried zumba once (!) to occupy myself.
But back to the race. We ran it last year. I ran 61.4 km in 6 hours then and ran a pretty poor race, in that I started way too fast and cracked. Let me add, it is really, really challenging not to crack when you have to run a 2.2 km loop over and over.
But, the scenery and weather weren't half bad.
This year would be different. I planned to run a 9 min/mile pace the whole way. AND run the entire first 2 hours on the grass next to the asphalt. I also started out with a hydration pack (kind of weird considering we were back to the aid station every 2.2 km).
Here I am after the second or third loop, still with hydration pack. I am not running like I am going to fall over backwards because it is heavy. That is simply how I run.
Picture courtesy of Løbeklubben på Facebook
I ran a nice, easy marathon in 3:50, hoping that meant I had a lot of saved energy to unleash in the remaining 2 hours. The interesting thing was that even with a relatively slow marathon, I thought I was the first place woman after the 42.2. km (though I wasn't sure where May-Britt was). There were twice as many participants as last year and also a marathon at the same time. But I could see that only one of Denmark's top ultra running females had decided to run the marathon (Britta Karlsson, who has been injured).
As last year, after we had run a marathon, the real race began for the women. I was, after 1-2 laps, passed by two women running around 8 minutes per mile. I didn't know who they were. But when I attempted to bring out the speed and energy I had been hiding, I found I had nothing extra. So I just kept going at the same pace. I knew I was still ahead of last year's winner, Kirsten Dau Nielsen, and still wasn't sure where May-Britt was. SR told me he hadn't seen her at all, so we figured she must have dropped. While it should have relieved me, it actually made me feel kind of crappy, since I was hoping her shoulder injury was getting better.
I ran the 50k in just under 4:40 (8 minutes faster than my previous 50k PR, and time from last year). But even more importantly, I felt I had a lot more energy and was much more mentally sound, with just a little over an hour to go.
I could not at all keep track of the men's race. But SR seemed energetic and was running fast every time he passed me. I told him at some point, as politely as I could, that he was not allowed to run with me. He has the same effect on me that a mother has on her little child - I start feeling a strong need for comfort when I am with him - and this far from helps when success is entirely dependent on remaining mentally tough.
I had turned on my music with 2 hours to go. Once again, my crappy i-pod headphones stopped working and I couldn't change the volume or song. Luckily the volume was okay and all the songs were good. How fortunate that I have such good taste in music :).
All was actually lovely running between hours 4 and 5. I kept an even pace and was so happy to see Helle and Lene and Jesper cheering each time I came to the aid station.
Re the aid station. I should have mentioned I brought my own weakly-mixed sports drink, homemade cookies and hot choclate. But I will also add that they had, in contrast to last year, the most well-stocked aid station of any Danish race I have been to. Take a peek:
Again, thanks to Ulrik Torp Pedersen for the picture.
I had also ditched my hydration pack after 2 hours, having drunk nearly all of it and, wow, did that feel good.
One oddity of the race was that I drank my entire hydration pack, plus drank every 2.2 km and STILL didn't pee the entire race or the hour post race or the entire hour drive home. It is amazing what stress hormones can do.
With about 50 minutes left, I really, really wanted to drop. I started questioning why on earth I ran races like this. I felt so nauseated. Every fiber in my body wanted me to stop, except for those few neurons that make me crazy, which told me I had to run further than last year. Why is it those few insane neurons always win?
I kept a good even pace, though was on the edge of tears and close to vomiting. As is so typical for ultras, I passed almost every man on the course - they were all walking now. Not that I had run further than them, but men just tend to really burn out at the end of ultras. The women on the other hand seemed to speed up. On the second to last lap, there was May-Britt out of the blue. Had she been hiding in the bushes this whole time? Anyway, I had no energy to try to keep up, plus I wasn't sure if she was on the same lap as me or a lap ahead.
I was so excited when I pushed beyond the point I thought I had run last year, which turned out to be over a lap beyond where I ended last year. There was never a more pleasant sound than the horn that ended the race.
63.7 km and 4th place for the women. I am pleased in retrospect, but felt like absolute crap at the time. Turned out I was just 100 meters behind May-Britt, who took 3rd. And there was another woman, Tina Vikke, just 60 meters behind me, who I didn't notice until they had blown the horn. What a tight race.
I had actually miscalculated how far I had run because my Garmin was in miles and I thought 32 miles was 50k and not 31 (almost too embarrassing to admit), so the whole time I was almost 2 km ahead of where I thought. It actually helped push me even more because I knew I had a better race in me than last year. Needless to say, I was happy to do the conversion when I got home and realize I had run over 63 km. And that I had a 9 minute 50k PR at the same time.
Congrats to Birgitte Nielsen and Rikke Thestrup, who were first and second women with 65.6 and 64.0 km, respectively. As far as I understand, 2 of the top 3 women have at some point been on the Danish National ultra team (I, of course, mention this, so I appear close to elite level :) - sorry).
SR ran an awesome race. His total distance was just over 73 km. It is absolutely amazing he could do this considering he ran 66 km last year. He was really, really happy and ended up in 5th place in a large, competitive and international men's field.
Here are the results.
What's next? Well, I am going to take a relatively long period without racing (um, 5 weeks). I need to train more and race less. The next race I will run is the Orlando half marathon on December 4th.
Running song of the day: The Ghost Inside by Broken Bells