A season of uphill racing
|Fall light at Trollvann. Photo: Audun|
Uphill races really do highlight the pointlessness of recreation running. We pay money to put ourselves through a large amount of pain, with little to no reward. Still, I find uphill racing ineffably beautiful. All of the complexities of life are stripped to a singular goal of reaching the top, and real obstacles like rocks, roots and fallen trees block your way. All you can do is push as hard as your searing muscles and maxed-out lungs will allow. I achieve a zen-like flow state of being entirely in the moment, as the moment entirely consumes me.
On the first Tuesday of every month from June to October, an assorted group of runners meets at varied locations on the outskirts of Oslo to run up a different hills. The Maridalen Uphill Races are low key, short (the longest is 5.6K), and provide a lot of pain for very little money. I committed to running the entire series this year. Here's how it went.
Rett til værs (June)
27:38, 5th female
|Celebrating on top of Mellomkollen|
|My friend Urd on the home stretch. I convinced her to try uphill racing, she might have regretted leaving the flats behind.|
Fagervann opp (July)
17:29, 3rd female
|Dueling with Guro, the eventual 2nd place finisher, on the way up to Fagervann. Photo: Audun|
|Post-race swim in Fagervann|
Sellanrå opp (August)
20:46, 4th female
|The view of Øyungen Lake from Sellanrå.|
By now I recognized some of my closest competitors in the previous races. I was able to latch on to Guro, who had just edged me out in the last two races, and hang on the finish, finishing only 10s behind her.
Gaupekollen opp (September)
23:53, 4th Female
This race was only three days after I completed Ultra Tour Monte Rosa. If you think this sounds like a bad idea, you would be right.
It had rained a lot leading up to the race, and the trails were incredibly wet. While warming up on the course, I realized there was no way I would get out of this with dry feet. So instead of avoid puddles and streams I started to charge right through them, reasoning it was better to get my feet wet right away so I wouldn't hesitate during the race!
Although my legs felt pretty good, mentally I was exhausted and look at my watch constantly as I ran. The trail just seemed to get steeper and steeper and gnarlier and gnarlier. Despite my fatigue I managed a respectable time, although I paid for it in the days afterwards. I couldn't seem to sleep enough, and I was tired and unfocused at work.
Skjennungstua opp (October)
29:41, 8th female
|Gasping for air on the way up to Skjennungstua. Photo: Audun|
The last race in the series is quite different from the others, since it is on dirt roads rather than trails. I was chatting with Guro, who was my closest competitor in all the races, and was surprised when the race suddenly started. I was way further back in the field than I should have been, and spent the first kilometer passing people.
Gradually I found my place in the field. It was easy to find a steady rhythm on the dirt road, and my breath fell in sync with my footsteps. I felt in control and powerful. I could see Guro and one other woman not far ahead of me.
Here we go again, I thought. I'll probably finish 10 or 15 seconds behind them. Then I started to wonder if I was limiting myself simply by assuming they would beat me. What if I instead assumed that I could pass them? With 1.5K to go, I surged passed and didn't look back, convinced they would catch me. They didn't, and I sailed to the finish in just under 30 min.
After the race, there was a dinner and prize ceremony. I placed 3rd female in the race series and won a gift card at Löpelabbet, a high end running store. So there was a reward after all!
- The Wild Bazilchuk