My second mountain race
This weekend, my girlfriend Anne was asked to do a presentation for the “Balestrand Opp” event. “Balestrand Opp” is an annual mountain race, starting from Kviknes Hotel (sea level) in Balestrand and up to Raudmelen – 972m above sea level – over a 5,9km course. Anne’s invitation was of the “open kind”, where it was up to her to decide the contents. She is known for her “Opptur Sogn og Fjordane” and “Opptur Hordaland” books and she decided to let the presentation advocate the beauty of outdoors life in general.
This also meant that I was bound for Balestrand this weekend. I had been to Raudmelen before, so I wasn’t particularly interested in joining in on this event. But then the organizer asked Anne to ask me to sign up. The more, the merrier, etc. So I signed up.
Anne participated in the opening of the Lundaskaret path earlier in the day. She had looked after Karma this week and brough Karma with her. First time Karma made it on National TV…
Anne and I checked into Kviknes Hotel on Friday afternoon, and she was soon up for her presentation. Preceding her was an interview with Kristen Skjeldal – a legendary Norwegian skier and a two-time Olympic champion.
After Anne’s presentation (which went very well), we joined Kristen for dinner and – being an experienced mountain runner – he gave me some good advice for the following day. The primary advice was to stay true to my own pace and not to try following a group that was above my league.
I had only attended one mountain race (Skåla 2014), and I certainly tried to follow a group above my league, so I knew I had to take the advice seriously.
On Saturday morning, Anne (and Karma – our dog) checked out of the hotel early, to join the non-competition group going up to Raudmelen. I had a couple of hours to kill before the 12:30pm race, so I walked the course, all the way up to the forest – just to create a plan for the asphalt route.
So I had a 4km warm-up before I started to warm up. There were 97 competitors in the competition class, and as I *hate* mountain running, I was clearly an underdog. However, I do hike a lot, and I’m in good shape. That alone would make sure I wouldn’t finish in the last place. The only question remaining was where I would end up on the scoreboard, and I admit – the question intrigued me.
The race started 12:30pm sharp. I stayed true to my game plan and stared in the asphalt. I would concentrate on my own rhythm and nothing else. I quickly found “my group” and was passed on the flat legs and did good in the uphills. I looked forward to entering the forest, where the real ascent began. My home turf.
I passed one after the other and lost count after passing 20. As I passed the drinking station at 550m, I had no one behind me, and an orange shirt way ahead of me looked impossible to catch up with.
I had never been running more than 600 vertical meters, and I only focused on making it 700m. Then I focused on 800m. From there on, I had to switch to quick walking on a few pitches and I noticed that I was gaining ground on the orange shirt ahead of me. Before reaching 900m, I passed the guy – leaning to a rock wall – completely shattered.
When I saw the finish line – approx 100m away from it, I decided to go for a sprint to make a good impression. Just as I started my sprint, cramp hit my left leg. And so my finish wasn’t of the kind that I had pictured.
I passed the goal line 55m:44s after leaving Kviknes hotel. This time resulted in 24th place (of 97) and I was very happy. I had no one on my tail and I wouldn’t have caught up with the guys ahead of me without the cramp. There were no excuses. It was an optimal run – the best I could pull off.
I was #3 in my class (men 50-54) but I later learned that the two guys ahead of me do train for this and join a number of mountain races annually. The winner (41m:55s) – and even the runner-up broke the track record. We’re talking elite here…
Anne and Karma welcomed me at the top, and we walked back down to the hotel together.
Back at Kviknes, we joined the price ceremony at 4pm. Being #3 in my class, I was awarded a coffee mug and “gammelost” (old cheese) – a Norwegian classic which tastes just as strong as a goat smells.
Afterwards, we returned to Sogndal (where Anne lives) and I was really , really happy with my run. Actually, I think I will join more races…
Pictures from the weekend: