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

Tuesday 6 September 2011

Skovløberen Marathon 2011

Let's see if I can write a train of thought post on a train. Just parenthetically, it feels so cool to be able to get on a German train from Copenhagen to Hamburg on a normal work day and just get off at my stop at Næstved. Also, sitting on the carpeted floor of the train, feels like a hip thing to do. This is what excites Americans like me. Why am I alone on a train? Today I was at day #2 og 3 of a Stata statistics program course at The University of Copenhagen.

After the Skovløberen marathon Sunday, I was dying to write a race report. I have never really been good at running a race tactically and successfully - that was until two days ago. I just haven't had time to write about it, well, because of the obvious fact that I have a baby and a three year old, but also because I was attacked by fever, nausea and vomiting. The Lorax had it two days earlier and SR in the middle of the night last night.

Then it dawned on me: there probably aren't many of you who want my advice on running a marathon. Plus most of you will look at my finishing time: 3:49 and think "that's not fast at all!" But this was a tough trail marathon (!); the way a marathon should be. Trails mean no injuries. Trails mean you can run the next day without pain.

But let's get to the race (take the advice if you like):

Skovløberen (The Forest Runner) is a unique experience in Danish marathoning. Aptly named, it is almost exclusively in a forest. It even goes over the highest peak on Sjælland (Steve Q will particularly appreciate that). Some of the trails are single track, some technical. None of it is repeated except the first and last 2 km, which are the only parts on roads. The scenery is gorgeous. It is in my favorite place in Denmark to run: Hvalsø Kirke (whale lake church), which I have discussed multiple times before. Finally, there are hundreds of spectators lining the route, 8 aid staions and an astounding amount of helpers. If you are going to run one marathon in Denmark, this is the one to do.

I started out slowly. I didn't eye up women. It was weird. I just wanted to run a smart race at a constant effort the whole way. It was a new kind of challenge. It was simply going to be a fun run - I didn't feel I could expect much more out of my first post-partum marathon and no tapering. I wanted to avoid looking a my Garmin. No music. Just me and the trails (and all of those other people). I was so tired from the week before - lots of hard training sessions (thanks to my mom!) and very little sleep. I was in such a daze before we got started that I didn't even realize my start number was my birth year: 79. Perhaps a good sign?

I was also trying to make sure everything was set up right for my mom with The Lorax and Mattias. Fortunately, SR had 2 hours before his half marathon started - and he would be a huge help to my mom.

It was fun to line up with so many friends: Birgitte, Anders, Britta, Jesper, Lasse, and Daniel (who actually sometimes comments here :)).

Once I was on the trails, my mind was clear. I realized that in order to maintain a constant effort, I needed to speed walk all the hills like I had seen the day before in the Race Walking world championship 50k in Daegu. Always have two feet on the ground, but go fast. Everyone seemed amazed by the fact that I could walk and actually pass people running up the hills. And it really protected my right hip, which was still giving me trouble. Beyond that, I didn't get out of breath going up hill. People have told me to do this many times, but I never really "got it" before.

At every aid station, I had chocolates wrapped in an American flag waiting for me (a very cool system they have of delivering personalized snacks out to the aid stations). I didn't rush the aid stations. I thus never dealt with lack of calories or dehydration.

As I neared the half marathon, one of the helpers pointed out to me that I was right behind the second and third place woman. This amazed me. This is, after all, the biggest trail marathon in Denmark (1100 participants in the quarter, half and whole marathon this year, though only 130 marathoners) - or maybe it's not the biggest; I just can't think of a bigger one. I came though the half marathon in 1:53. My finishing time on this course the year before was 3:54, but I had come through the half marathon MUCH faster - around 1:43. This time I felt like I could run the second half faster than the first. Why haven't I run all marathons like this??

I played it cool and hung behind the second and third place women until I couldn't hold out any longer and I passed (one of them was a good friend, Britta K and the other I didn't know). Then we joined the half marathoners, who had started 2 hours after us. This is where the race gets hectic and my new challenge was to try to figure out how to pass people politely. Continuing my tactic of powerwalking all hills made this easier.

Here is one of the few places out of the shade of the forest.

I was second woman and no women behind me as far as the eye could see. I passed and passed people, feeling as though I was running a faster and faster pace all the while. I passed a lot of men who had started the marathon too fast (wow - what a feeling to actually not be in their situation!). And suddenly - at the last aid station- I passed a woman with a yellow marathon number on. I was in first! She looked to be struggling and I didn't see her making an attempt to keep up. The last 5 km are wonderful because they are basically all down hill. I ran with all I could and made it to the finish line in 3:49 something. And as I crossed the finish line - nothing happened. Well, there were tons of spectators but no one cheered for first woman and most of all, SR, my mom, The Lorax, Mattias and SR's mom were nowhere to be seen. Weird. I had just won ... and... oh well.

Then they announced that the top three women were in and called my name for third place. Wha???

I then saw SR and he was like "what are you done??!! Already? Someone just fainted! I gotta help out! Did you get third?"

I asked how his race went and he said he got third in the half marathon and then he was off to play doctor. I probably should have helped, but they had just called me to the podium. Plus, SR handles those type of situations well.

To make a long story short, the woman who I had passed near the end with the marathon number on was not running the marathon and must have switched to running the half marathon at the last minute. Naughty!

The first place woman, Anne-Marie Lyngbye, was far ahead of me the entire race and finished in 3:34. She is a Hvalsø local. She had run the first 32km in 2:40, but then had stomach issues and ended up with a slower time than anticipated. But what an awesome performance on that course. She was actually 10th overall.

The second place woman - well, they never found "her" and only later Sunday night did I learn that the "woman" was a guy with the name Joan. And that confused everyone.

Long story short, I may have run the best marathon of my life thus far and it was all about concentrating on a constant effort and utilizing power walking on the hills and not getting behind on energy. It was the most fun I have had at a marathon with the exception of Copenhagen Marathon 30 weeks pregnant, which may never be surpassed. I beat my time from last year of 3:54, despite probably being in worse shape, simply because I ran smart.

SR ran the half in 1:24, which as stated got him a third place, in a much bigger race than mine. He, however, appeared to be enjoying it slightly less...

(actually I'm not sure whether he was having fun or feeling nauseated here)

but he's definitely coming back next year (and says he'll do the whole marathon instead).

Here are a couple of pics my mom took at the finish.

Now, the dowside of taking a train is we have been stuck on the tracks for 20 minutes without moving because the train in front of us stopped working...


SteveQ said...

I was waiting for this, after reading SR's report, but after chuckling at the Garmin plus watch (I totally get it - I have to have some way to tell the time without wearing down the battery - but it looks odd), I noticed: no wedding ring. Okay, that's a reflex in perpetually unmarried guys to notice, but I take it it's a matter of taking it off because of swelling?

Umm, so congrats, and now I have to go find out if the high point of Sjaelland is more than 50 feet.

Daniel Ditlev said...

Sounds like you had a really great marathon! I started out too fast even though I tried to keep it slow ;) I agree with you, this is one of the best races in Denmark that I have tried. I've never heard about that power walking 'trick' before but I sure try it next time :)

Best Regards,
Daniel, Sorø Triathlon Klub

Danni said...

Awesome! It took me a dozen marathons before I learned how to run smart. It's so hard to believe that banking time doesn't help. It really hurts...

SteveQ said...

"Dogsløberen" would be a great name for a race.

SteveQ said...

This is the last 90 degree day here, so here's a last summer running song: Howler's "I Told You Once." It sounds a bit like "Sound of Sunshine."