Photo from Mount Royal, Frisco, Colorado.

"That is happiness; to be disolved into something complete and great. When it comes to one, it comes as naturally as sleep." - Willa Cather

Monday, 7 April 2014

Fyr til Fyr 60k - The Epic Battle for First Female

It has been nearly a month since my last entry and there is a lot to tell!

 1. I got a residency training position at the University of California-Irvine in Physical Medicine and Rehab starting July of 2015. We are quit excited about this new adventure and I am thrilled to have matched in a field that suddenly has become among the most competitive in the US. Like so many other things in life, it was much more about knowing people (especially through my work with Western States) than any other factor. I really owe Kentaro Onishi and Marty Hoffman for their help with "the match".

2. SR finishes his job in Duluth in September and will move back to Denmark to work again in Næstved before we head to California for 3 years. The long term plan, as described earlier, is to try to start a Physical Medicine and Rehab training program in Denmark after I finish. And the most important part of the plan is- our family will actually live together again! (it is so hard with both SR and Christian in the US right now)

3. I have had my most exciting and productive training cycle leading up to the Fyr til Fyr 60k yesterday, including one training PR after another and a ½ Marathon PR on the rather hilly Griseløbet route of 1:26:51 (header photo from this ½ marathon). I am curious whether it is my change in diet (2 months and going strong of a natural low carb, high fat (LCHF) (still gluten free), which isn't really that high fat, my "off season" with skate skiing over the winter or the realisation that all of my step classes in Næstved were the source of my vastus lateralis tendonosis in my right hip. Probably a combination of all of these with my recent ability to sleep up to 10 hours a night (oh, and I may give my coach a bit too little credit!).

Fyr til Fyr 60k
Very unique point to point race route from Dueodde (the southern tip of Bornholm) to Hammerknude (the northern tip) - literal translation of fyr til fyr = lighthouse to lighthouse (fyr is not fire, I know what you were thinking. "ild" is fire, so just stop thinking and then Danish will come. Oh, but if you want "to fire" someone, you can say "fyr".See. Perfect nonsense.)
Yes, I was cold before we started, but I think I was one of the only runners who didn't overheat. Then again, I think I have an unusually low threshold for getting too warm. 

Photo from the start of the race from the southern lighthouse on Dueodde. The sand is truly this white. There were nearly 400 participants this year. Photo: Stine Sophie Winckel. 

Whether or not I wanted it, there was a lot of hype leading up to Fyr til Fyr. Pia Joan Sørensen is pretty much unanimously considered the best ultra runner female in Denmark. She can run close to an 8 hour 100km and hopes to go under that at the IAU World Championships. She is a recent addition to the Danish running scene despite being in her 40's. We have both been signed up for the Fyr til Fyr 60k since last year and both have been training with the same coach, Ole Stougaard of Multitesta.

We have been comparing training times and, as the race drew near, it seemed inevitable that we would be battling it out for the win. I told her the day before the race that I could not let myself have a "goal" of beating her, since I wanted us both to run our best race. And frankly I am probably more interested in her getting fast than me because I think she has a lot more talent and potential.

But SR kept saying "it is going to be really close". And I was getting that impression from Ole, too.

The start is so dramatic and lovely with a sprint over the sand dunes. I passed Pia here, but she soon caught up again and we ran the first sandy, rocky 10k in 46 flat. We were both winded, both wondering who would slow down first. I have never been in a neck and neck ultra race with a woman before and it is exciting and hard. But we talked and had fun, too.

Pia was right on my heals here (about 8km) before we entered a more rocky, technical section. She stayed with me there, too. As did Anders Hjortlund, who is a professional Danish triathlete (cool to run with him!.. I'm thinking he's ever so slightly faster than me on his bike and in the water).
At 17km, I skipped the first aid station pulled away from Pia here with a solid lead. I had planned out my energy so I would not stop at either of the aid stations during the race. With 2L of fluid, I was probably actually transporting too much.
Above was the next section we entered. Danes have an inferiority complex about their ultra trail races, but I want to say that THIS race has the most varied terrain of any ultra I have run and it must be because it is on an island where there are so many microclimates affected differently by humidity, wind, waves, sunlight, etc.

Here Pia had run about a marathon and I learned from a friendly bystander that she was about 4 minutes back. This is a hilly section in the woods along the coast with spectacular views. It is called "Helligdom" (the shrine).
At around the marathon distance, I knew I was having a great race. No energy lows and by the end, I had only eaten a half a Clif Builder's bar. I drank under 500 mL of fluid (½ natural tropical juice ½ water) the whole race. I was quite astounded since at this same race last year I ate 5 Clif Builders bars and drank 2 L of fluid. I can only deduce that my new diet has improved my ability to burn fat over sugar/glycogen and this decreased need for sugar, which also meant less stomach problems and a nice, constant energy level.

But already at 35 km I started noticing my right hip and knew I was running with a limp (for those who don't know me, I always walk with a limp, but only limp when running in long races). The changes in terrain really helped keep any pain at bay. As I have discussed with Ole, anything that makes me take shorter steps helps prevent the pain and problems from developing. I focused a lot on technique from 35 km on. It helped as always.

I looked at my Endomondo file and I came through the marathon in 3:33 and the 50k in 4:18.

I learned from Kim Rasmussen (mastermind of the Hammer Trail race route) with 5k to go that Pia was "at least 4 minutes behind" me and looked "very tired." I guess you could say I thought I had the win, but not 30 seconds later, Pia came sprinting past both me and Kim.

Susan Bargholz captured the point in the race with 4km to go when the female winner was decided (in front of Hotel Romantik). When I tried to sprint to keep up with Pia, my right calf started cramping. I have never had calf cramps before -ouch! Despite a high level of energy, my right leg wouldn't cooperate and I watched her disappear over the horizon to the final ascent up to Hammerfyr. As you can see, my running technique fell apart here and my steps were way too long. There are oh so many factors that come into play in a perfect race. My race was almost perfect; but when the right leg doesn't cooperate at the end, there is room for improvement. 
Pia looked so strong as she ascended the dunes and rocks to the final lighthouse. I had to give it to her- she won fair and square. But I was not disappointed because we both had an awesome race, greatly exceeding our expectations, mostly because we were there to push each other. We both finished well under Dorte Dahl's course record from last year of 5:47. Pia came in in 5:12. My time was 5:14. This is neither here nor there, of course, but I ran 12 minutes faster than SR's time from last year on the same course, same temperatures; we had the benefit of the wind being at our backs this year and it came from the side last year. I ran 47 minutes faster than I did last year. How could I not be thrilled? And I was!! 
From within the lighthouse at Hammerknude at the northern finish. Photo: Stine Sophie Winckel.

Goal! 59.2 wickedly wonderful km in 5:14. Photo: Moses Løvstad

The winning man was Jesper Noer in an amazing 4:15 (new CR; race report). Second was Kenneth Kofoed (pictured below) in 4:45. Pia was 5th overall and I was 7th. Kind of cool in a race with nearly as many participants as Western States! Results here. I am ok they added an extra "h" to my last name. Høegh sounds like an even faster hawk to me.

Just after race finish, Pia was offering me wipes to clean off my blood. It was fun sharing this adventure with her. I am in my usual duck-footed position (or at least with the right foot)
What a fantastic weekend. The ultra running community in Denmark feels like my family. I love the way people who are injured or not running travel all the way to Bornholm just to volunteer,to support and be with their ultra running friends. There were people cheering all along the route. Huge thanks to Moses Løvstad, Thure Kjær, Ravn Hamberg, Maibritt Skovgaard and Peter Riis. There are so many other helpers I wish I could name. Thank you all! And thank you to SR's parents, Beth and Asger for watching Mattias who now has chickenpox :-). And thank you to Salomon Denmark --- I don't feel there is much room for improvement in my running gear or clothing. It is nice to not even have think about that and just enjoy the race.

And I don't think I was the only one who had fun! (photo- Stine Sophie Winckel; jumper ??)
And I probably had a bit too much fun traveling with Christian, Per, Dan, René, Martin and Pia. The above picture is from Brazz restaurant in Rønne the next day where I treated myself to my favorite fish- herring. Christian and Per pictured here.
And the other side of the table at Brazz: Pia, Dan and Martin.
And we all survived the car ride in my SUV Porsche (does Porsche make SUV's? Oh, I guess they do - the Cayenne?!); thanks Christian Bering for that unexpected gift ;-). I don't think it's too early to say "see you next year!"

As always, you can see my races and training in detail on Endomondo- here.

Running song of the day ...because someone at Bikram yoga asked me if I was Medina :) ... if you want to make my day, just ask me if I am Medina.

One more, since this weekend made me feel like a kid on the beach and this song is the essence of Denmark, not least of all the strange English lyrics.


Robyn said...

Congratulations! It sounds like it was a great day, and a very competitive race. What a cool route!

Anonymous said...

Wow, everything about this sounds great! Your improvements, the scenery, the competition, and of course your time! I hope you have reminded SR at least a few times since the race of his solid wifing.

Pia deserves a special award for being possibly the youngest-looking runner "in her 40s" ever--I would have said she was about 20 from that photo.


sea legs girl said...

Thanks, Robyn. I want you to know that I showed your selfie ab picture to 50+ people at my lecture on Thursday. They were more impressed with your abs than mine! Crazy.

sea legs girl said...

Hello Anonymous Alicia! I just told Pia that when I met her last year I thought she was 18, so yeah, I agree!

But as for the "wifing", well, I think officially we would need to run the same race at the same time. And if I don't mention that the course was more clearly marked this year, SR will get hissy. But in truth, I got briefly lost this year, too (but that is par for the course for me, of course).

Alicia Hudelson said...

By the way, you never answered my question on Facebook about how your talk went--i want a report!

Olga said...

I want a report on the talk too!
Now that I have this out of my way - great race! You found your niche, improvement with healthy competitiveness, attention to details, coupled with OCD, and look what is happening! I am thrilled for you.
I also agree Pia doesn't look a day over 30 if I try to stretch my imagination.
SR will survive. He needed this a while ago:)

sea legs girl said...

A blog post about a lecture? Am I not boring enough already?

Jill Homer said...

Congrats on the California residency. I was hoping you'd place in the Bay Area, but it's great you matched with a program you're happy with. Congrats on a great race as well.

Anonymous said...

Congratulations on a great race and a great match! Are you still working on your PhD in Denmark before you move to CA?