Today, I pinned on a bib, tied my running shoes and ran up a hill. But I wasn’t racing. What is racing, anyway? Most of the time, it’s a state of mind. It is the willingness to find your limit and find out what all your training is really worth.
Arriving home from 7 days straight mountain biking in Spain (more of which later) late last night wasn’t the best recipe for a race to begin with. But my friend Ivar was directing the race, and donating the proceeds to the annual national charity cause, which this is year is to help give people access to clean water. Running uphill in the mud? And for charity? I couldn’t resist.
My thoughtful boyfriend, Audun, said I could participate on one condition: that I didn’t race. That I ran it as recovery off of 7 hard days of biking. “Alright!” I said. “You can run with me, and watch my heart rate monitor! We’ll be slow together!"
So that’s how I got to be standing in the chilly Sunday morning breeze at sea level, fresh off the plane from Costa del Sol, ready to head 530 meters up to the top of Gråkallen.
Julie, Audun, me and Dad - ready to race (or something)
The start gun went off and 150 people charged up the hill. Audun and I jogged off, joking that we should have started sprinting as hard as we could go, just to bait the forerunners. Before we knew it, we were at the back of the pack, letting people slip by as they inevitably got caught up by the excitement of racing.
Part of me wanted to catch them, pass them and let them eat my dust. The other part of me was just enjoying the sunshine, the sensation of running, and Audun’s company.
Working hard or hardly working?
We cruised steadily up the hill, stopping to walk any time it was steep enough for my heart rate to exceed 162 bpm. It was an interesting experience, racing against a heart rate monitor rather than people or myself even. I tried to do yoga breathing, to see if I could lower my heart rate. I couldn’t.
It was clever to give the heart rate monitor to Audun. That way, neither of us could lie, and we kept a steady effort up the hill, passing several runners who had started to hard. Sunday hikers cheered us on through the forest, but it felt kind of like I was hiding something from them. “I’m not actually racing,” I wanted to tell them, “I can be much faster than this.”
The day was beautiful, and the trails wound passed a series of charming dams to Skistua, where the ultimate, steep climb up the ski hill to the top Gråkallen loomed. I got the same sensation I felt looking up the hill at Oslos Bratteste - like we would literally be going up a cliff. We jogged the final flat stretch before walking slowly, painfully slowly up the ski slope.
What am I doing here? Halfway up the ski slope
The last stretch passed surprisingly quickly, and I felt guilty for not being in pain and giving my all the final meters to the finish in a burst of lactic acid.
All said and told, I prefer actual racing to this new form of recovery racing I tried today. Why go at it without giving it your all? It was an interesting exercise in restraint, but one I would rather go through in training. I’ll be back giving my all soon - once I’ve recovered for real!
- The Wild Bazilchuk