In October whenever someone asked me how my training was going my answer was that I was not doing any training. If asked what races I have got planned for 2019, my answer was… That’s right; no plans for 2019 yet.
At first this was just how it should be. I had penciled in a break from running after the A100 to rest properly after this year’s races, recharge my batteries and decide on next year’s goals.
However, after a few weeks I started to worry.
Outside of work I did nothing but resting and sleeping, but I still felt run down and tired. Also, I still had no clue what races to enter for next year.
In 2016 I was in the same situation as now, lacking energy and having lost confidence after several DNFs, disappointing results and injuries. The difference was that back then I had set myself new goals for the following year, and was really excited about them. During the weeks I spent being so exhausted that I had to take a nap after watching TV for 10 minutes I still looked forward to training again. I was also doing alternative workouts in the gym, maintaining a minimum of fitness during my break from running.
Then, as we entered November, my inbox and social media news feeds were flooded with news and messages about races in 2019, and suddenly I had butterflies in my stomach and an idea of what I want to achieve in 2019.
It started with a message from a friend of a friend, who lives near the WSER course in California. Out of the blue he contacted me, saying that he had heard I was considering running the WSER or the Tahoe Rim Trail 100 mile races next year, and if so he would be happy to help me with crewing or pacing. I realised that yes, I did still want to run these races. The message also served to remind me that the ballot for the WSER opened the following weekend.
Then the IAU suddenly announced the new date and place for the 24 hour 2019 World Championships, which had to be rescheduled after the local organiser pulled out. Now the 24h championships are due to take place in Albi, France, in late October.
I had been waiting for this announcement as I had been hoping I would get another opportunity to qualify for the Norwegian team. I had already entered the Crawley A.I.M Charity 24h track race taking place mid April. With April 30th as the new qualifying deadline I got what I hoped for. Then Ninette Banoun messaged me, saying she will be taking part in a 24h race in Espoo in Finland in February, and asking me to go with her. Ninette has an amazing ability to say the right things to me at the right time. In the past she calmed me down before the start of races when I have been nervous and anxious, and other times she has threatened to beat me up when I have considered giving up on a goal she thinks I have the potential to reach. I initially messaged her back saying I already had a race booked in for February, the Arc of Attrition, but actually I already had a tab open on my laptop with the race info for Espoo. When signing up for Crawley I had thought that maybe I should enter this race too, so that I had two opportunities to qualify instead of putting all my eggs in one basket. Looking at it again this seemed like a better and better idea, even more so now that I knew that someone I know would be there. Also, it is an indoors event, eliminating the chance of having to run 24 hours in pouring rain, like at Tooting. Half an hour later my name was on the entrants list, and flights and a hotel room also booked.
After Tooting I concluded that if I am to succeed in a 24 hour race I need to focus 100 % on it, and not just squeeze it in between other races. Keeping this promise to myself means withdrawing from the Arc, but I have thought of doing that for a while anyway. When I signed up back in March, and during the heat wave this summer, I thought an unmarked 100 mile race in wet and cold conditions with little support would be just the kind of new, tough challenge to get me motivated after the end of this season, not to mention finally force me to learn how to navigate properly. However, now that I needed to start preparing for this race I didn’t really want to. The thought of putting together a training plan for a 24 hour race, on the other hand, got me really excited.
The day after the 24h World Championships announcement the entries for Lysefjorden Inn, one of my favourite races, opened, and Lysefjord Running also said that if there was enough interest they would also organise Lysefjorden Rundt next year. Lysefjorden Inn is a 62 km ultramarathon on roads and trails along the Lysefjord, with stunning views and frustratingly technical bits, which makes you want to jump into the fjord and swim to the finish line. Lysefjorden Rundt goes around the whole of the fjord, approximately 125 km.
When I started running ultramarathons in 2013 there was talk of such a race, and I swore I would be the first to sign up if it ever became reality. Of course, when it was suddenly announced in 2016 I was injured and also had other commitments. Since then a lot of people has been eagerly awaiting the return of this race, and now Lysefjord Running said it would happen again in 2019 if at least 50 people expressed an interest. Obviously the requisite number of people did, because this week, two weeks later, I got a message from a friend saying the registration had opened, telling me to «enter immediately». Then the RD contacted me saying basically the same and «tell your sister to enter too!». It turned out 50 entrants was the maximum, not the minimum, and 28 had signed up already. (It also turned out Sara was number 28.)
Actually, now that running suddenly seemed fun again, I had decided that my project for the summer and autumn of 2019 would be to finish all the races organised by Lysefjord Running in the same year. In addition to the two aforementioned races there is also Flørlitrappene Opp, where you go up 4444 steps from the fjord into the mountains, and follow a trail back down again, and Prekestolen Maraton, a trail marathon where you run five times up to the Pulpit Rock plateau, famous from countless postcards, internet memes and Mission Impossible 6.
Since these races have never all been organised all in the same calendar year before no one has ever done this. Also, when Lysefjorden Rundt was organised for the first time in 2016 there were no female finishers. Another opportunity to be one of the first. … The only thing was, Lysefjorden Rundt collides with the WSER. Therefore my plan was to sign up for Lysefjorden Rundt if I was unsuccessful in the WSER lottery draw in December. This also had the advantage of spreading the entry fees over two monthly wages, as my bank account was already haemorrhaging money. (I had just entered Lysefjorden Inn and Flørlitrappene Opp). Of course, I entered the next day and put it on my credit card. With three of Lysefjord Running’s races taking place in June next year it is going to be a busy month. Fingers crossed I’ll be unsuccessful in the WSER lottery! I only have one ticket, I have no chance of getting a place next year too, right?
Having suddenly got a full race calendar for 2019 my motivation and excitement for running and training suddenly returned. I have kept a running streak going from November 1st, and this week I was back up to my normal weekly mileage, 110 km, for the first time since August. I have been out on my local trails and doing regular strength workouts in the gym, also for the first time since the summer. I still fall asleep on the sofa most evenings, haven’t cleaned my flat for months, and more than one day a week I end up eating sandwiches because, although I have made a meal plan and all the ingredients, I am too tired to cook when I come home from work, but I do feel a lot better and have more energy now than for a long time. (I should still probably go to my GP and get my iron levels and vitamin D status checked though, just in case.)
My race schedule for 2019 looks somewhat like this:
February: Endurance 24, Espoo, Finland
April: Crawley A.I.M Charity 24h track race, Sussex, UK (if I manage 220 km or more in Finland I will probably withdraw from this race and run a road marathon instead, trying to finally get a proper marathon PB.)
May: Suleskar Maraton? (subject to the Suleskar road being free from snow and open, and getting a lift with someone up into the montains)
September: Prekestolen Maraton
October: 24h race or anther attempt at getting a somewhat impressive road marathon PB.