Tuesday, September 15, 2015

My great wall

It took six weeks of slow rebuilding before my right foot finally felt completely better after I injured it during my mountain escapade. Six weeks of slowly gaining momentum.  with my foot on my mind with every step I took, gingerly gauging. Will it start hurting again now? What about now? I was indescribably grateful for every kilometer. My functional range slowly expanded and I was able to soak in the views in the high places in the forest in Bymarka and enjoy those late summer mornings.

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Lianvatnet one early morning

Then came the time to pack up all of our things and move from Trondheim back to Norway’s capital, Oslo. I complained a lot about the move, but the fact is I have moved a least once a year since 2009. Hopefully this time it will stick - for all intents and purposes I should be based in Oslo at least the next two years.

The weekend after moving to Oslo, I finally decided that it was time for a Long Run. It was with some irony I realized that my first long run after my injury would be on the same day as the Ultravasan 90K, which I had decided not to start.

I designed a point-to-point run which involved taking the train along the border of Oslo’s public forest for about 15 minutes to get to the start point. I love using public transport like this, to allow me to see areas that I wouldn’t see just running from my house. I started early, and although it was a beautiful Saturday, the forest was mine, only mine, for most of the run.

Heather

My route had me running over the picturesque spine of Barlindåsen before dropping into a labyrinth of steeply undulating technical trails. I was glad when the trails finally spit me out on a dirt road and I could let my legs run on there own, without all the concentration technical trails require. I looked at my watch and realized I could have been nearly 4 hours into Ultravasen 90K, had I chosen to start. I was running 21 kilometers today; could I have done 90? I wondered what I would have been thinking about. I wondered if I would have been eating enough. Probably not, I never seem to be able to eat enough while running. Was I a coward for not going to Sweden and at least trying? Or was I smart for not risking many months of injury?

In the end, I had been more afraid of not being mentally prepared to run 90K than physically. I couldn’t start the race doubting myself; there would have been no way I would have finished! You have to start with the conviction that you are able and ready. And after finishing my long run, I was glad I didn’t have 70 more kilometer to go. Maybe I had lost some endurance in my down weeks.

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Free range, organic blueberries are the ultimate running snack. They are probably a superfood or something.

So what’s next? I’ve been casually training for a 10K in October; by casually I mean I started running intervals and stuff, and then immediately got a nasty cold. I’m still battling some remnants of coughing and congestion, and am currently unable to run hard without my throat closing up. Fun times!

I read somewhere that one should consider ones training like the Great Wall of China. The Great Wall is enormous and consists of some ungodly number of bricks. Every time I go for a run I imagine I'm placing another brick on my Great Wall. So bad days aren’t so important; if you skip a run that’s just one tiny brick. It’s the sum of all the runs, the consistency, that will build the Wall.

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Spiders have been hard at work during the night. From an early morning on Fuglmyra.

But 10K is hardly a Great Wall, and I’m all about big, hairy goals - that’s why I wanted to run Ultravasan 90K in the first place! So I’ll just put it out there. I want to able to run Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. Yes, the 166 km ultra race with 10K meters of climbING, and yes, I am insane. No, not next year, and maybe not even the year after that. This is definitely a long term project.

I first encounter the trail that runs around Mont Blanc through France, Italy and Switzerland in 2006. We hiked the trail over the course of 12 days, as a family.

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On the UTMB in 2006. Those views! Photo by Richard Strimbeck

I then returned in 2012 and mountain biked the trail in 4 days. Now I have the crazy idea to go back and do it in one day (or, umm, probably more like 30-40 hours, as anyone who is not Kilian Jornet is likely to take!). I long to be one of those superhumans who just keeps going through darkness and pain, and is rewarded with epic sunrises on the Swiss-Italian border and sweeping views of sprawling Alpen glaciers.

There are a laundry list of challenges to completing the UTMB. First of all, you have to get qualifying points by running other crazy races (Ultravasan would have given me 2 points). Then, even with the qualifying points, you have to make it through the lottery; you have to be lucky.

Next are the challenges of actually running UTMB. I was able wrap my head around 90K, but I still wasn’t able to go through with it. However does one prepare mentally for 166 km? This is a distance that, on Norwegian roads, would take at least 3 hours to drive. And 10K vertical meters is also mind-boggling. Climbing up and down that much will shred legs that aren’t strong enough, that haven’t prepared well enough. The greatest challenge for me, I think, is that UTMB starts in the evening. So the race has you running into the night from the very beginning. I am (very very much) a morning person, and thus I will be tired and sleepy just starting the race. How do I keep myself from quitting, and keep eating, through those long, dark hours?

I won’t surmount all of these challenges this week. All I can do is go out for another run, put another brick on the Wall, and hope that my mortaring skills are up to UTMB.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

2 comments:

  1. This is a great post! I did the TMB as a 10 day hiking trip a few years ago and can't imagine doing it all in a single (30 hour) day. Also: Researching for that trip was how I found your blog in the first place.

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    1. Thanks, Karen! I just looked up your posts on the TMB, so fun to read someone else's perspective. It's a difficult hike!

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