Some 50 people lined up in the rainy pre-dawn outside Rude Skov. The race director gave a quick speech about the course and went on to tell us to disregard the the required head lamp. There was no gear check, despite the stern warnings on the website. I hate running with a backpack but the instructions had been clear about including a 1 liter hydration system, 2 meters of gauze (!), 3 bandaids, an emergency blanket and a collapsible cup for the aid station. I hate running with a backpack, but saw no other options.
The lead pack ran together for 10K, quite slowly. We got lost several times, so it was not very attractive to run alone. Dorte Dahl and Søren Rasmussen did most of the pacing; Dorte is a international-caliber age grouper and Søren is a former 2:21 marathoner. I did notice that they ran with tiny hydration belts. Nothing against them; the list of required items was decidedly silly, but I wish I had known the race director was not going to be tough about the rules. Once before a race in Denmark, the RD almost disqualified runners without a collapsible cup. Again, I would have loved to run with a belt or handheld, but the website said all runners would be checked before entering the start corral.
For a while we were 6, but going up and down Maglebjerg 4 times broke things up a little bit. Søren took off and Dorte and Claus Høier fell back a little. It appears that Søren got lost, because suddenly he came racing up from behind and re-joined the group. Talk about a thoroughbred runner; I don't think he was used to running so slowly. He eventually took off, never to be seen again.
That left three of us fighting for two podium spots (and prize money): Christian Nørfelt, Anders Aagaard Hansen and me. One of us was not like the others. That one was me. There was a clear pattern of me losing 20-30 yards on each downhill and then catching back up on the flats. On each flat, Christian would complain about how mind-numbingly boring it was NOT to run off-trail, steep, muddy hills. I said nothing.
I hated those hills. I raced in Asics racing flats with no traction whatsoever. Before you roll your eyes, please realize that that is all I have ever raced in. The only time I raced in non-flats was when I ran Chippewa this spring in Inov8 Mudrocs, and that was, I think, the only time I have not placed in the top 3 in a 50K. Those shoes sucked, and made my, if possible, more of a curmudgeon. But yesterday, my shoes were inadequatw. It rained all day, and by the end, all the downhills were made of slick, shiny mud. i wiped out completely in one turn and Bambied dangerously countless times.
At the end of lap 1 (of 2), there was a long non-technical section. I had some vague plan of breaking away from Anders and Christian, if we were together near the end. I'm sure they thought about dropping me on a technical section (as well they should).
I think the 3 of us ran together for almost 2 hours, debating doping, training, Danish trail/ultra, various race directors, Killian Jornet and everything else under the sun. Anders is a future star of Danish trail running, with lots of bright-eyed passion. The dude hiked the entire Pacific Crest Trail and throws around words like GI index, junk miles, fartleks and Maffetone. I'll be honest: at times, Danish running feels like it is too much forefoot running and colorful gear, and not enough tempos and intervals. Hearing a young guy discuss training theory warmed my old stone heart.
Here we are (maybe early on lap 2). credit: Andreas Carlsen
At one point we acted out the stars of ultra running. I was the speedy, but non-technical Sage Canaday, and they were Killian Jornet and Marco de Gasperi. Marco had to defend himself after his wife was caugt with EPO, and Killian had to admit that he didn't really live off mountain roots and berries. It got very animated, especially when Killian screamed in broken English that he was taller than Emelia Forsberg in real life.
Ok, none of that happened.
Then came 4xMaglebjerg. On the first long downhill, Christian and Anders did their usual Legolas-from-Lord-of-the-Rings downhill, gapping me by almost 50 yards. I had to sprint to catch back up and ran most of the next climb (while they powerhiked). Just when I caught them, the second downhill started and they uber-gapped me again. By then, we were passing lots of runners from the shorter-distance races (and possibly a few from the 50 mile race), so mentally it was harder to focus on catching them.
After the fourth downhill, I had lost sight of them. I never saw them again.
The rest was ok but not great. Without having anyone to keep up with, I too fewer risks on the downhills and generally slowed down. At 40K, I started cramping up in my right adductors during a bad Bambi moment on a very slick downhill. I thought that was the end, but curiously, the cramps went away and I was able to run the last non-technical miles fairly fast.
My time was 4:21. That's slower than the insane-vert UROC, which shows you how tough the course was (at least for a clutzy runner like me). Certainly not my type of race, but admittedly tons of fun.
The crazy part? Christian trains mostly on roads, while I train mostly on trails. I don't know how he gets so good at the technical stuff. I have gotten better over the years but my trajectory is not exactly stellar.
The biggest story of the day was the non-prizes for the top women. The Girl was going to run the 50 miles, until she found out about the lack of prize money. Let's say she got a little mad. It is fun to imagine how she would have felt, if she had won and then gotten no check on the podium.
The whole thing set off a social media shitstorm, which Politiken (a big Danish newspaper) got wind of. The Girl was interviewed by them this evening, so it'll be fun to see what happens next. Søren ended up sharing his 10.000 kroner with the top 3 women in the 50K, which was a pretty damn classy move.