Western States 2018: frostbite in 40° C

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Photo: Facchino Photography, taken near Red Star Ridge

It was 04.37 the morning of the race. Lisa, who had flown out from Massachusetts to crew for me was buzzing with excitement, a huge grin on her face. My sister Sara, who had come over from Norway with me, asked if I wanted coffee. My current mood: meh!

I think it was only in these last few minutes before the start it was starting to feel real that I was running the Western States 100, the oldest and most prestigious 100 mile race in the world. I was thinking back to Thursday before the race, when I was interviewed by irun4ultra. Nathan, the photographer, asked me to say a little about myself and the challenges I had faced while preparing for the race. I started taking about the heat, forecast to be in the 40s on race day, and how I was naturally more used to cold since I live in Norway. Once I got started on the subject of challenges they suddenly seemed to multiply like toadstools. There was the fact that I got in from the waitlist only 3 weeks before the race. Although I knew the likelihood of getting a place was nearly 100 % I still found it hard to fully commit myself to the work I needed to do to prepare. And the fact that I live at sea level, with only tiny, tiny mountains to train on, and therefore could find the 2000m+ of altitude in the first half of the course challenging. Not to mention my achilles problems, that had meant that I had done almost no hill training whatsoever for the last 9 months before this race, which had 28 000 feet of elevation gain. After rattling off all this I felt rather stupid for saying at the beginning of the interview that I was hoping to be in the women’s top 20, but that my coach had hopes for a top 10 finish.

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Thames Path 100 2018 crash report

Friday night a couple of weeks ago I was packing for my 4th attempt at the Thames Path 100 mile race. I think I was the most relaxed I had ever been before a 100 miler. I knew I was familiar with the course, that even though I had finished in a very respectable 16.55 last year I could probably run even faster on a good day, and although I have struggled with an Achilles injury for most of the winter I had had a really good training period in March and April, so worries about my fitness had also settled. Tough interval sessions on the treadmill had started to feel comfortable, and in a half marathon a month before the Thames Path I improved on my time from last year and ran under the old course record. (Unfortunately someone else ran even faster.)

The morning before the race I ran the first few miles of the course with my sister, who as usual traveled with me as crew. It was a beautiful, sunny morning, and I was running with a huge grin on my face, pointing out how lush and green it was along the path, and doing my best to persuade Sara to sign up for next year’s race. My legs felt fantastic, and I did not want to turn around after just over two miles, I wanted to run the whole distance to Oxford at once instead.

The morning of the race was even warmer and sunnier – no need for a jacket or trousers as we walked from our hotel to the start. The registration process was smooth as usual, and the last hour before the race spent chatting with other runners and crew. Some I got to know during last year’s grand slam, some I had met at other races, and some were people I am friends with on Facebook but had never met in real life.

Initially when I signed up for this year’s Thames Path my plan was to work on achieving a marathon PB this year, and the TP was meant to be my only ultra, a fun run to stay in touch with the Centurion community and run one of my favourite courses. Then, as I ended up signing up for the whole grand slam again, my ambition became to rectify all the mistakes I made last year- such going off course and racking up bonus miles in the TP. I thought that if I could run just as strongly as last year and stay on course I should be able to finish in around 16,5 hours, which I hoped would be good enough for a podium place. With a women’s field this year including course record holder Samantha Amend, GUCR record holder Cat Simpson, Norwegian 24 hour record holder Therese Falk that was not to be taken for granted.

During the first few miles my main preoccupation was to do with my race vest. I have used it lots of times before, but suddenly realized that as I bought it last autumn I had only used it in combination with long sleeved tops and jackets. Now that I was wearing a sleeveless top with quite thin straps I became aware that it was jumping around quite a lot, chafing my collar bones and neck. After lots of attempts at adjusting it I ended up stuffing my arm warmers, which due to the heat I did not need, under the straps of my sports bra. Chafing problem nearly solved (I still ended up with a huge sore on my right collar bone) I started paying more attention to my pace.

In the first and second hour I covered 12 km/h. I was worried this was a little too fast, but if felt comfortable. I also kept a much closer than normal eye on my heart rate, making sure it stayed well below threshold. I made no attempts at catching runners in front of me or match the pace of runners passing me. The rising temperature, stops at aid stations to take on food and fluids, and increasing traffic both on the roads and the footpath as the day progressed meant that my pace started to drop a little in the next two hours, as expected. The first 26,2 miles was covered in 3h 43 min – exactly the same as last year. It looked as though my goal time was achievable, and I expected to be at the half way point at Henley after around 7,5 hours.

Another thing I was conscious of was my eating. I know that eating both early and regularly decreases the chances of stomach problems later in a race, so I made a conscious effort at doing both, letting no more than 60 minutes pass without taking something either from my own supplies or the aid stations. Using a combination of gels, raisins, jelly sweets, fruit and sports drink I estimated that I was getting close to 200 Kcal an hour, which is what I was aiming for. I was also conscientious with regards to electrolytes, popping electrolyte tabs into one bottle, and energy drink powder with both carbs and electrolytes into the other.

Usually the sections of the Thames Path that goes through the towns along the river are among my favourites as the stretches of road mean you can increase your pace, however this time the heat reflecting off the tarmac and buildings made it very hot and uncomfortable. I talked to one runner after the race who had a thermometer attached to his backpack, and he said he had recorded a high of 36 º C! I watched dogs swimming in the river enviously. If we had been running along the coast, or if I hadn’t noticed the warnings on Centurion’s website about the dangers of Weil’s disease, I definitely would have dived in. (The people living near the river seemed to either not care or know about Weil’s, as I met several in swimming costumes who definitely looked as though they intended to go for a swim). Luckily the guys at the aid station at Dorney after 30,5 miles had adapted to the weather an offered suncream and ice lollies. I wanted to stay there and eat them all (the ice lollies, that is), but settled for one and hoped it had enough calories to get me to the next check point as the heat now was so intense that I did not feel like eating anything. I also filled my bottles with Tailwind as my own supplies of electrolyte and energy drink had run out at this point.

Running through Marlow I had a little detour as I lost sight of both the Centurion markers and the official Thames Path acorn signs. However, after crossing the river I found them again (I think someone might have removed the markers on the other side of the bridge, Centurion usually puts up lots of signs and arrows at bridge crossings), and also saw Cat Simpson on the path in front of me. I had been told I was in second place after Samantha, but Cat was probably only a few minutes behind and caught me while I was on my little detour. I made no efforts to catch up with her, I just tried to maintain an even pace and keep my heart rate at a sustainable intensity. However, running along a road some miles after I saw that I was closing the gap and that Cat was slowing down. Some people walking along the road noticed it to and starting cheering. «Ooh, you’re going to catch her! Go, go, go!». Suddenly the heat felt extra intense, and I had to stop and drink before being able to continue. Rounding a corner I saw Cat again, she was walking and obviously in discomfort. I asked her if she was ok, and she replied she had a foot injury that was bothering her. Soon after she stopped to meet with her crew who was waiting for her along the road. I continued on, and half a mile or so later flopped down into a chair at the Hurley aid station at 44 miles.

At Hurley I intended to guzzle down as many cups of coke as the volunteers were willing to give me, as I was feeling low in energy and very aware that I had not managed to eat anything since the previous aid station (where I think I only had some coke and water melon). However, after the first cup I suddenly felt unwell, and soon after what seemed like all the foods and fluids I had taken in during the whole day found their way up again. I had sweated a lot, but there was still a huge volume of fluids coming up.

During last year’s grand slam I experienced stomach problems (vomiting) in three of the four races, and when running the Bislett 24 hour race in November I had also been sick. At Bislett I discovered that a cup of really salty vegetable broth removed the nausea and made me able to keep down foods. I had therefore put loads sachets of instant miso and vegetable soup in my drop bag for Henley. As vomiting has always occured around 70 miles or later in a race I had not really considered that this could occur before the half way mark, but luckily I had still slipped a miso soup sachet in amongst the supplies I was carrying from the start too, just in case.

The volunteers at Henley were wonderful. Nici positioned herself between me and the path while I was vomiting to give me a little privacy. I was then placed in a chair with cold compresses on my neck. Nici had to leave shortly after, but I heard her give the others strict orders that I had to sit for at least five minutes before being allowed to leave. At the A100 last year Nici told me off for taking too long breaks and kicked me out every time I was at the race HQ in Goring, so I must have looked pretty rough at Hurley.

My sister was supposed to meet me with food and soup at the crew access point after Wallingford (77,5 miles), so I sent her a status update while sipping my miso soup to let her know that her services might be required earlier than anticipated. As an afterthought I also sent the same message to Sondre Amdahl. He used to be my coach, but this year is acting more as a mentor/advisor with regards to my likely participation in WSER, and I had promised to let him know how the Thames Path went.

When my five minutes were up and I had managed to keep down both the miso soup and some fruit I decided to continue on my way. I hoped that the soup had settled my stomach, and that if I could manage to eat properly at Henley there was a chance that I could still finish quite strong.

I had only been running for a few minutes when a runner that looked familiar came bounding towards me from the opposite direction. It was Sondre! No, he had not disapparated Harry Potter style from Norway upon receiving my message, he was already in the area and roaming the course together with Elisabeth Barnes looking for his coached athletes. He gave me some ginger for the nausea, told me that I looked better than some of the other runners he had met, and then turned around saying he would run ahead of me to Henley.

I was still feeling sick as I plodded along and I did not manage to eat anything or drink much, but at least the soup and fruit I had at Hurley stayed down. When I arrived at Henley I had not been sick again, but was feeling as if it might happen an any moment. I therefore asked for coke and somewhere to be sick when the aid station marshalls inquired what I needed. Sondre was waiting for me as he said he would, and fetched me a plastic bin liner to be sick in and my drop bag. Usually I have pasta at Henley, but this time I was not offered any hot food. I don’t know if it was because they did not have this kind of catering this year, or because they thought it would be no point in giving me any as I kept saying I was going to be sick.

As I sat there forcing down some of my vegetable soup, coke and coffee (anything to get my energy levels back up) it was actually the heat more than nausea that bothered me. I therefore laid down on the ground, hoping this would help to both cool me down and increase the likelihood of the soup staying in my stomach, and this is where I was when Therese arrived and exited. I got up and decided to push on to Reading too, sticking my head under a tap on my way out of the check point to cool off.

Just after leaving Henley I met Sondre again, who pointed out that my now restocked race vest was bouncing around a lot and adjusted it for me. I myself used all my energy willing myself not to be sick again, I could not care less about a bouncy race vest, something which I would punished for later in the evening.

Between Henley and Reading I managed to drink some Tailwind (or whatever it was I had in my bottles), but did not manage to eat at all. On the plus side I did not vomit again, but when Sarah Sawyer, who was waiting to pace her husband Tom from Reading, asked me how I felt all I managed to say was «not good». After making my way up the stairs to the check point in the rowing club I bumped into Samantha, who should have been way ahead by then, but had been forced to drop due to heat illness and stomach issues. Cat had also dropped due to her foot injury, so Therese was now in the lead, and I was still second female, as I had been most of the day. Samantha pointed out my bleeding armpits (I kept meaning to ask for some Body Glide or similar at aid stations, but somehow forgot every single time) and adviced me to drop out as well, saying it wasn’t worth sacrificing your health just for a race. I was feeling low in energy rather than nauseous then, so I decided to have some miso soup as a preemptive measure, hopefully followed by some of what was on offer at the aid station buffet. A lovely American girl (or possibly Canadian) brought me my soup, some fruit, and a glass of ice water. The ice water was lovely and I gulped it down. Maybe the volume of fluids was too large for my stomach to handle just then, maybe it would have happened regardless, but immediately afterwards I had to dash to the toilet to be sick again, bringing up all food and fluids taken aboard since Hurley. I tried again with the miso soup and some fruit, and this time it seemed to go better. I don’t know how long I spent at Reading, but it was probably more rather than less than half an hour.

While at Reading I phoned my sister and asked her to come meet me at the next crew access point at Pangbourne, just half a mile down the road from the Whitchurch aid station. I wasn’t sure exactly what I needed her for, food, morale support, pacing, or getting me to our b&b in Oxford after my retiring from the race. I still hoped that things could turn around, that maybe the combination of food and the temperature dropping could get my body to stop revolting and pick up the pace again. Even after all the vomiting I was able to run at a decent pace, and was catching runners who had left the aid station ahead of me. However, a voice in my head had started saying that dropping out would be the most sensible thing to do. Running almost 60 miles without food or fluids, especially after such a hot day, would mean a high risk of kidney problems or rabdo, and certainly a very long recovery period. I have pushed myself to finish races before while having a really bad day, vomiting blood at the Isle of Wight in 2014, and dragging myself to the finish after hardly being able to stand up after the first kilometer in Hornindal Rundt in 2016. In both those cases it took many months before I was able to resume normal training again.

On my way out of Reading the bottles in my race vest seemed to bounce a lot more than previously, and now it was not just annoying but also very painful. Later when I undressed for the shower I would find that my stomach was covered in bruises caused by my race vest, which from now on will be used in autumn and winter only. I started taking things out of the front pockets and carrying them in my hands to make it more comfortable. I tried eating one of the smoothie pouches I had stocked up on at Henley, but this just made me retch. I also soon ran out of energy, and had to implement a run/walk strategy, which is something I have never done before. Then when I stopped to turn on my head lamp I started vomiting again, and I knew it was over. My head said no, my heart said no. At that point I wanted to go to a pub and buy all their soft drinks much more than I wanted another buckle. So I met my sister, after getting lost in the housing estate at Pangbourne as usual (not that I cared about wasting a few minutes by then), and we walked up to the Whitchurch aid station at mile 65 where I declared that I wanted to drop.

Of course I had to argue for quite a few minutes with the guys there – no one is allowed to drop out without a fight at a Centurion event.

At first they pointed out that if I dropped I would no longer be in the grand slam. I was OK with that. I think I accepted that the grand slam probably would not happen back in December, as I learnt I was on the wait list for WSER just hours after signing up for the A100. Two days after that I was told I had made the Norwegian team for the European 24 hour Championships, which would come into conflict with the SW100. (And which I ended up declining due to my Achilles injury, as I had doubts over my fitness and was still semi injured as the deadline for accepting my place approached.) I had also noticed during the winter that my drive to go out and train for the grand slam was not as strong as the year before. I had not really intended to do back to back grand slams, but as the registration opened up for each of the Centurion 100 milers I got carried away and ended up signing up, afraid to miss out on the fun. However, my heart was probably not really in it.

When the grand slam argument did not work they changed tactics, pointing out that I could walk the rest of the way to Oxford and still make all the cut offs. I might even make it under 24 hours. I agreed that I could probably make it to the finish, but by doing so I would face a very lengthy recovery period at best.

Finally they pointed out that it was just 4 miles to the next aid station at Streatley. Surely I could manage four more miles, and then I could pick up my final drop bag too before dropping out. In other words: If you are going to drop, please do it at someone else’s aid station. However, there was noting I wanted or needed in that drop bag at that point, and since we were staying in a b&b just across the road from the finish in Oxford it would be even easier to retrieve it the next morning. Upon realizing I had made up my mind their attitude changed, suddenly they were worried that the 10 minute walk to the train station would be too much, and offered us a lift. We managed the little walk just fine.

I don’t regret my decision to drop. With my stomach problems starting that early in the race and not going away it was the sensible thing to do. Even though I had to drop out I still had a lovely day along the river. Best of all, I ran 65 miles without feeling any pain or stiffness in my Achilles tendons, during or after. Maybe I can finally trust that my Achilles tendons have healed and stop worrying about them?

In the week following the Thames Path there was a lot of action on the WSER wait list, and it seems like I can soon book a flight to California. Sondre have also helped me come up with a plan to get ready for the hills and heat of WSER, and hopefully avoid a recurrence of my stomach issues too. The Thames Path served to highlight some of my weaknesses – such as heat. Hopefully working on those weaknesses in the coming month will help me ensure success in the WSER. And then there is always the Arc of Attrition next year to look forward to, where heat definitely will not be an issue!

I will never run Bislett 24

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Photo by Anders Tøsse

…is what I said many, many, many times, right up until the day before I signed up for this race. I had long wanted to try a 24 hour race, preferably in beautiful surroundings, during a time of the year or a place where the temperature would be pleasant, running on trails – but not very technical trails, I wanted a course where I could get a good distance. Problem was, I could not find such a race that would fit in with my schedule. So Bislett it was, an indoor track underneath Bislett Olympic Stadium, running on concrete, and surrounded by white walls.

Bislett was perhaps at a perfect time, 5 weeks after the last race of the Centurion 100 mile grand slam, meaning I could probably coast on all the training I had done for the grand slam. It could also mean that my body would be broken or worn out from running four 100 mile races in six months, giving me a convenient excuse to pull out. However, my body held up well during the grand slam, so with no convenient excuses at hand I started preparing for my 24 hour debut. My preparations consisted of three stages:

  1. Buying shoes. This took two days, two local running shops, and most of the staff employed there.
  2. Lying on my sofa eating candy whilst stalking my competitors on facebook and instagram.
  3. Reading blogs, hoping to pick up tips from more experienced 24 hour runners.
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24 hour races – just an excuse to buy more shoes?

One of the blogs I turned to was the Centurion blog. After all, RD James Elson’s had provided me with the framework for my grand slam training, could he also tell me how to be successful at 24 hour racing? Alas, the answer was no. Debbie Martin-Consani, North Downs Way 100 course record holder and a very accomplished 24 hour runner, did have a lot of useful tips. However, it struck me that she does not seem to enjoy these races very much. I therefore posted in a facebook group for ultra runners, asking for race reports from runners with positive experiences from such races. What I got were tales of suffering and woe; blisters, vomiting and diarrhoea. If this was considered fun, what would constitute a bad experience?

In the last couple of days before an important race my focus is usually on resting and fuelling. Before Bislett 24 I did the opposite (not by choice) – working long days, skipping meals, and not getting enough sleep. This went on up untill and including the night before the race. I was staying with family and a misunderstanding, and an overdose of politeness on my part, meant that I did not eat any proper meals at all between lunch and bedtime. Which is why I ended up sitting in bed eating dry bread in an attempt to take the edge of the hunger pains and get to sleep.

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My ultra race staples: Powerbar smoothies, GU gels, Torq energy drink, Kendal mint cakes, Goodie Good stuff vegan gummy koalas, nakd bars, flavoured raisins, baby food and Clif shot bloks

With this kind of race preparation it was perhaps no wonder that I kept making silly mistakes on race day. At Bislett I got my start number, went to the dressing room to get changed, and then wandered off to the runners’ depot to grab a table and set up my personal buffet. Race day mistake number one – I should have done all this in reverse order. All the tables nearest the track had already been taken, so I had to make do with a table in the second row, meaning every time I needed something I had to leave the track and run through the depot, adding a few bonus metres each time. Race day mistake number two was only bringing one waterbottle, so I would have to refill it with electrolyte drink every hour, and since I didn’t have a crew (race day mistake number three?) I had to do this myself .

To pass the time the final hour before the start I checked out the nutrition strategies of the other runners, the guy next to me had simply brought 24 chocolate muffins, and chatted with people I knew. Which were lots, since most of the Norwegian ultra running community were running, crewing for runners, or marshalling. There were also many Swedes, some Germans, a couple of Mexicans, a sprinkling of other nationalities, and Craig Holgate, the course record holder for Thames Path 100,  from Team Centurion Running.

I did not really have a race strategy, but wanted to stay close to Therese Falk, the current Norwegian record holder and reigning champion, Ninette Banoun, a former Norwegian record holder who has represented Norway internationally, and Guro Skjeggerud, who was best Norwegian female at the world championships in Belfast during the summer. I have met Therese and Ninette at several races before, Guro was one of the runners I had stalked on instagram. In addition there was Kirsti, who has beaten me regularly in local half marathons, but who had never run further than 65km prior to Bislett.

Ninette and Therese set off at a blistering pace from the start, both clearly wanting to win. Actually, I did not even see Therese until several hours into the race, even though by then she had lapped me several times. With 160 runners and just two lanes the track was quite crowded, which could be why I didn’t see her. Or maybe she just happened to lap me every time I was having a toilet break?

I was running with Guro and Kirsti for the first few laps, chatting a little bit and being entertained by speaker and DJ Henning. To get us in the right mood he was playing songs about shoes, pain and suffering, and the Swedish Eurovision classic «Främling» by Carola. This song seemed to have an invigorating effect the first time it was played, but after the 10th time, sometime in he middle of the night, vocal protests could be heard and all the Swedish runners threatened to quit the race. Henning had also given out his email adress so that family and friends could send greetings and messages to the runners, which Henning read out loud. Not all the runners got greetings, so the single, unloved, friendless runners was therefore encouraged to write an S on their calf so that they could meet another single, unloved, friendless runner during the race. At regular intervals thereafter we were entertained with stories of all the couples that had formed. We were also informed that all ultrarunners are divorced and/or single, followed by songs about heartache and breakups, so mixed messages…

After a couple of laps my calves and neck started feeling achy, it seemed like these muscle groups were absorbing most of the impact from the hard surface. I hoped these niggles would go away after a while, as often happens during ultra races. (Spoiler alert – they didn’t.) More worrying, my stomach also started cramping, and I felt like running to the toilet. I remembered Debbie M-C’s advice about waiting as long as possible between toilet breaks, so I waited, but after an hour or so it felt really urgent, and I gave in and dashed to a toilet. …where nothing happened. However, I did feel a little better when returning to the track. After a short while my stomach started cramping again, and for the next six hours my running was punctuated by futile toilet breaks at regular intervals.

We changed direction of running after six hours, and the second quarter of the race was much better for me. After about 7,5 hours of running the real cause of my stomach cramps revealed itself, and then the cramps and the related urge to go to the toilet seemed to go away. However, the stomach issues had taken my attention away from the need to eat and drink. I had eatn regularly, but after six hours I still had not refilled my waterbottle even once, and I was getting dehydrated. I am bad at drinking enough even during 100 mile races where I carry fluids with my at all times, when I had to stop every time I needed a drink I was absolutely terrible. So I carried my bottle with me for about an hour, until I had emptied it a couple of times, and also started drinking my calories in the form of soya chocolate milk and smoothies during pit stops. This seemed to work really well both for removing hunger, rehydrating and topping up on energy.

Every hour the speaker read out the women’s and men’s top 10. Since I did not have a crew this was more or less the only information I got during the race about how I was doing. There was a screen just after the timing mats that displayed the number of laps, lap time, distance etc, but so many runners crossed the mats at all times that it was difficult to pick out your own name as you ran past. Despite all my problems and mistakes in the first quarter I had been as high as second among the ladies, and then slipped to fourth or fifth as the toilet breaks became more frequent. When I felt better I was able to pick up my pace again and climbed back up to third.

One of the runners out on the track was the clown Melvin Tix (I can’t remember his real name), who was running in full costume and make up to raise money for charity. (We had been made aware of this before the start so that we would not think we were hallucinating when we saw him.) Another runner became a great grandmother during the race, her family sent her a greeting via the speaker to inform her. We were therefore reminded at regular intervals that if we quit now, we would be beaten by a clown and a great grandmother. Not many runners quit, however lots of runners availed themselves of the massages and treatments offered by a local clinic. I spotted Craig from Centurion on one of the benches, and his  knee was heavily taped up when he finally reemerged onto the track. Lots of runners also seemed to be getting treatments on their necks and calves, so I was clearly not the only one getting grief from these muscles.

After the twelfth hour people hobbling away from the arena became a more frequent sight. I was still feeling good, and lapping Guro every now and then. Ninette and Therese was still ahead, taking turns being in the lead. Kirsti I had not seen for a long time, she had also been complaining of stomach issues, and then she had spent a long time being sick into one of the rubbish bins before disappearing. Suddenly, after 13,5 hours, my stomach problems returned as well, and this time the stomach cramps were not a false alarm. I decided to nip it in the bud and stopped by the first aiders to hear if they had something I could take. Their attitude was that stomach problems is part of the ultra running experience, MTFU! So I continued to the runners’ area where I stopped and asked Bjørn Tore Taranger’s crew for help. Bjørn Tore, who was in the top 5 in the men’s race all day, is one of Norway’s most accomplished ultra runners and also a really nice guy. Luckily, his crew was just as nice as him. (Maybe it also helped that one of them, Håvard, belongs to the same running club as me?) Of course they could help me.  Unfortunately, the stuff they gave me did not help, or maybe it jut took a really long time to kick in, my stomach problems just kept getting worse for the next hour.

After 15 hours I was sitting in one of the toilets, crying with pain and frustration. I was having an argument with myself about whether or not to quit the race. I decided to go back to my table and take a timeout. So I stopped for about 10 minutes while weighing up the pros and cons of continuing. In the end I decided that it would be a huge shame to end such a great season with quitting a race, so I decided to keep going at least until I reached the 100 mile mark, which meant another 10 km. I changed shoes, putting on a pair with a greater heel-toe differential to give my calves some relief, and after downing some food and drink I hit the track again.

After a couple of slow rounds my legs started loosening up. Then a wave of nausea hit me and the food and drink I had just had ended up in a rubbish bin. Thank goodness there were lots of them around the track! I walked over to the food station hoping for some vegetable soup, but ended up with something even better, vegetable broth. This removed the nausea instantly, and after walking a lap I was able to refuel and then start running again.

Vomiting aside, the 10 km from 150 km to 100 miles went pretty smoothly, so I decided to continue until I had reached 200 km. I promised myself that when I hit that target I would leave the track. Or maybe stay on the track, but walk out the time on the clock. So I continued running, albeit at a slow pace, getting encouragement from the fact that I was still running, and greetings from my dad, sister, Lisa in the US, and from other runners, their crews, and the race marshalls.

Upper GI problems seemed to replace my lower GI ones, and I continued to throw up every few hours. I was OK with that, as I now had a strategy that was very effective for dealing with this: walk a lap, have a cup of salty broth followed by some water, then some high energy food (boiled rice, vanilla pudding, coke, energy drink), then run! The girls at the food station were great, after the first vomiting episode I just had to tell them as I ran/walked past if I was feeling sick again, and then they would have a cup of broth ready for me the next time I went past, at just the right temperature so I could drink it straight away. Or they would pull out a chair and bring me some rice.

I was not the only one with stomach issues. Didrik Hermansen, who has several podium finishes from the UTWT and who had been in the lead for quite a long while, pulled out after 16 or 17 hours due to severe vomiting. I spotted Ninette sitting at the food station a couple of times, looking rather ashen, and on the track she started walking more and more. Therese was nowhere to be seen on the track for a while, and rumours had it she was outside, vomiting. However Kirsti reappeared after a 4,5 hour break, determined not to quit until the final signal sounded. Tough lady! Guro was also struggling, but with painful blisters rather than the nearly endemic GI issues.

When I reached my goal of 200 km it was still over 2 hours left and the runners still on the track seemed to be speeding up rather than slowing down. Guys who I had lapped regularly throughout the day now started lapping me. I broke my promise to myself to stop and instead set myself a new goal of 211 km, why I chose that number I can no longer remember, and wondered if I could reach 400 laps. One lap was approximately 550 m, so how far would I have to run to reach 400? I had no chance at doing the maths at that point, but it kept me occupied for about 20 minutes or so.

As my legs did not seem to have much left in them I continued at a slow pace in the second last hour, hoping to become reenergised for a speed burst in the very last hour. With about 90 minutes to go I was lapped by another female, who at the last announcement of the top 10 had been one place and 4 laps behind me. Bjørn Tore’s team screamed at me to follow, but I could not maintain her speed. However I managed to speed up a little, swearing to myself that she would not lap me again. I had just had a greeting over the loudspeakers saying I was in silver medal position in the Norwegian Championships and encouraging me to keep going. I was sure the message was wrong, I was in third position in the race, and although Ninette was now behind me a runner called Anna had now climbed into second place. However, until then I had not given much thought to the fact that Bislett also was the national championships. Now that I had been reminded I was determined not to be pushed off the podium, so I did my best to keep up every time a speedier runner overtook me, and to overtake a many runners as possible.

With about 10 minutes to go I passed the timing mats where the speaker stood. He shouted at me that it was just three more laps to go. I thought «I can do that», and finally found that extra gear I had been looking for. I completed the three laps with about 20 seconds to spare, and sprinted all I could until the final signal finally sounded. Twentyfour hours of more or less continuous movement were followed by having to keep completely still while the final measurements were made.  My 24 hour debut ended after 218,5 km, and I did indeed reach 400 laps. I was third in the women’s race, but second in the Norwegian Championships as it turned out Anna, who went on to win the entire race, was Swedish. Therese claimed gold and Ninette bronze. Bjørn Tore won the men’s race and claimed his fifth Norwegian Championship, while Craig Holgate ran the second furthest of all.

As soon as I tried to get up from the floor to reclaim my stuff and get to the medal ceremony I knew that at least one of my Achilles tendons were shot. However, I was still ecstatic to have finished the year and my 24 hour debut with such a great result, despite the shoddy preparations, no support, and all the problems I experienced on the day. Will I do it again? Well, I will definitely do another 24 hour race again, and if Bislett taught me anything it was to never say never. Besides, speaker Henning has promised me 50 % more Depeche Mode songs next year…

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The podium in the women’s national championships: Therese Falk in the middle, gold, me on the left, silver, Ninette Banoun on the right, bronze
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This was me when my name was read out during the meal ceremony. Photo: Ragnar Nygård

What revealed itself when I removed my shoes and clothes: a hematoma on my shin and a quite deep sore on my foot where the shoelaces had rubbed off the skin underneath.

 

 

 

 

 

The Autumn 100, 2017. Race report from the 100 mile grand slam finale

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A couple of weeks before the final race of the Centurion 100 mile grand slam 2017 the previews started coming out. Apparently, the women’s race was mine to lose, and if I could run in 16.51 or better the women’s overall grand slam record would also be mine. Not completely unrealistic, my fitness was good, I ran the first race of the grand slam, the Thames Path 100, in 16.55 in April, and the A100 is the course with the fastest times. Messages from other runners started pouring in, telling me they expected me to push at least one of the guys in the GS down from the podium (I was 4th overall going into the final race). Then the weather forecast came out, warning that Storm Brian was going to hit South England on the day of the race with up to 50mph gusts of wind. Did this do anything to dampen people’s expectations of records, trophies and podiums? Apparently not. No pressure then… Les videre

North Downs Way 100 (2017) – race report

I’m feeling good. Photo: Stuart March


This was 100 mile race number 3 in the last 4 months. This year’s NDW had it all, fantastic views, technical trails, roads, stepping stones, fields, hills, flats, sunshine, rain, thunder, high points, low points, old friends, new friends, facebook friends who became real life friends, lots of sweat, blood, 3 extra miles (the NDW100 is actually 102,9 miles long), and, as usual, quite a lot of vomit.

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South Downs Way 100 2017

 

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On Old Winchester Hill. Photo by Stuart March

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In the week leading up to the SDW100 it felt almost absurd to be making the final preparations for another 100 miles race – it felt like the Thames Path 100 was just a few days ago. Six weeks go by really fast.

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Thames Path 100, 2017, part 1: the numbers

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I usually write really long race reports, and it takes me ages to write them, so this time I thought I would try something new and start with a shorter post focusing on the numbers. So part 1 is for all you statistics fanatics out there (this post is more or less a write up of a telephone conversation I had with my dad earlier today), part 2 will follow soon with all the gory details for those of you who likes to read about body fluids etc. Les videre