A Return to Hytteplanmila for a 10k Season Ender

After running Hytteplanmila last year, I was so pleased with the overall experience that I immediately signed up for the 2018 edition as soon as registration opened. A year has come and gone, and I closed off the 2018 race season by running Hytteplanmila 10k on October 20th.

To recap last year’s introduction, this race brands itself as the fastest 10k road race in Norway, and they normally have the results to back up that claim. Popularity has been on the rise since the first inception of the race back in 2005, and interest surged to another level when the race announced that the Ingebrigtsen brothers Henrik, Filip and Jakob would be making their 10k road debut here this year. Close to 3,000 people started the 10k this year, which was a new record.

Training

My marathon debut this summer was followed by a rough return to running, and race results this fall have not been at the level I had hoped. Despite running a couple of 5k races, I was not able to reach my goal of going below 17:30. With my best performance being a 17:50, this forced me to reevaluate how I had been training following the marathon. I still had a half marathon to come, and then this 10k to close out the season just a couple of weeks later.

Runner finishing Skiløpet 5k 2018
Despite a podium finish, I was not happy with the time I posted in my most recent 5k race

All the details of how I structured my training are in the weekly Training Logs, but the half marathon a few weeks back marked a return to positive race experiences. Even if I didn’t manage to go below 80 minutes as I had hoped, I felt good and knew I had raced well. This gave me hope of finishing the season on a high note and had me thinking that breaking 36 minutes in the 10k was possible. Doing it would require perfect conditions, and would be a significant improvement from my current 10k PR from earlier this year, which stood at 36:57. I got further encouragement by nailing my final hard workout before the race, which doubles as a 10k predictor session.

Pre-race

Weather forecasts were looking good as early as a week out, and for once the meteorologists were absolutely spot on. As I arrived by bus, a trip organised by my local running group, the fog departed and the sun shone through a light layer of clouds. Temperatures were in the high single-digit Celsius (around 45 Fahrenheit) with no wind to speak of. A perfect day for running fast.

The ever-growing crowd of runners displayed an expectant buzz as the start time approached, and many were talking about how the Ingebrigtsens would surely be taking down Sondre Nordstad Moen’s old course record from 2009. Jakob, the youngest, and perhaps the favourite, had pulled out after catching a cold. It would be up to the two elder brothers to better 28:50 and make yet another record part of the family’s long list of running merits.

Buoyed by the great weather and atmosphere, I was just aching to get out there and see what I was capable of. With about half an hour to go, I went out with a couple of other guys to warm up. A few kilometres and some strides later, I dropped my sweats and lined up towards the front of the big crowd of people ready to run. I was right where I belonged. I, too, was ready to run.

Race

Boom went the gun! And… nothing much happened. In such a crowded field, it actually takes a while before you get going. So I tippy-toed ahead at a slow trot for about 15 seconds before I finally cleared the starting line. Everyone around me sped up, so I did the same, and we were finally off.

1k (3:24 – 3:24)

Once we start running, the entire field is simply too congested to try and advance. You are pretty much resigned to spending the first kilometre running at the pace dictated by your part of the pack, and I decided not to fight it. I was probably further back than I wanted to be, but I also knew that most runners get swept away by the occasion and start off at headless chicken-pace. Especially in this race where the first 1000 metres are downhill. To my delight, the first split was exactly what I was aiming for.

2k (3:31 – 6:55)

At this point, the course flattens, and it is time to try and settle into a rhythm. I have to spend a bit of energy passing people now, as the field is going a bit too slow for my liking once we get started on the flat section. But I am feeling fine, and keeping up the pace without straining too much.

3k (3:42 – 10:37)

The third and fourth kilometres are the hardest of the race, on paper, because you have to pay back the downhill part of the start. I am still feeling relaxed, and when we start climbing I make sure to up my cadence, try to stay relaxed and not go too hard. The split plan for going below 36 minutes I made before the race involved going a fair bit slower than average at this part of the race, so the pace decrease doesn’t worry me.

4k (3:41 – 14:18)

A significant amount of runners around me are already struggling. Thankfully, the field has stretched out a bit at this point, and the road is wide enough that advancing is no problem. The road winds in both directions through this stretch, so I try to be smart and run the tangents. Carefully and deliberately, I’m veering from one side of the road to the other without losing rhythm.

5k (3:30 – 17:48)

The halfway mark is fast approaching and the pace of the pack increases as we leave the uphills behind and set out on the final significant descent of the race. I am still feeling alright, but find myself wondering if I am feeling a bit too tired muscularly considering that we’re not even halfway through the race. Did I not slow down enough on the uphills? Passing the halfway mark, I quietly celebrate a new 5k PR.

6k (3:34 – 21:22)

Slightly worried, I settle into a pack as we embark on the ominous “quiet before the storm” stretch of the race. This part ends with a 90-degree right turn that marks the start of the grind in earnest. Lost in thoughts about the hardship to come, I suddenly notice that there is a gap opening up between the two guys directly in front of me and the pack ahead. I can’t afford to get left behind in here, so I immediately move up to the pack ahead.

7k (3:38 – 25:00)

Crunch time! With a small, but steady incline, the next three kilometres will make or break my race. I struggled here last year, and the vivid memory of that experience has been replaying in my mind the last ten minutes or so. I settle into a rhythm and get ready to dig deep. To my surprise, I am feeling good.

Me in a white singlet with a red diagonal stripe near the front of a sizeable group of runners around 8k mark

8k (3:40 – 28:40)

One guy in a white long sleeve in front of me looks comfortable, and I latch on to him. The field has stretched out enough that we can maintain a steady pace while passing people. I switch my mind off and just let the guy in front of me guide the way. The hurt is coming, but I am ready to handle it.

9k (3:33 – 32:13)

If any thoughts crossed my mind here, they simply didn’t register. All I can tell you is what you can glean from looking at the split time, and that is that the guy in front of me apparently increased the pace, and I hung on.

10k (3:25 – 35:38)

Right now, every single interval session I have done over the past couple of years has been in preparation for these one thousand metres. I am relishing in getting reacquainted with that old familiar feeling of going to the well because I know that I am capable of pushing through it. There is juice left in my legs still, and I know that now is the time to burn through it. I up the pace, pass the guy who has been guiding me, and then a couple more runners. The pain is constant at this point, but I keep pushing.

Heading into the final two hundred meters, a full-on hill, I tell myself that, unlike last year, nobody will pass me on the hill. I give a final push! And then I start to fade, with half the hill yet to run. The low fall sun helps me by showing me the shadow of a runner approaching, and I remember my oath from a hundred meters back and give a second final push! I reach the finish line before anyone can pass me. I stop my watch before nearly falling over, and I have to support myself on the back of another exhausted runner who has hunched over. My finishing time doesn’t even concern me at this point, because I know I’ve run as good a race as I am capable of.

Post-race

After catching my breath, I immediately stroll over to the starting area to pick up my sweats, throw them on, and go for a cool down run. Exhaustion and excitement overwhelm me, both on account of having just run perhaps my best race ever. My watch is showing 35:39, and later I find out that my official time is another second faster, but I am just utterly delighted knowing beyond all uncertainty that I have broken 36 minutes for the 10k.

Back in the gymnasium where runners meet up before and after the race, the crowd is growing once more. Most of the returning runners look happy, and why wouldn’t they be? They are runners who just got to run a race on a perfect fall day. Henrik Ingebrigtsen beat his brother Filip in a sprint finish, won the race and broke the course record, which is the talk of the crowd at the moment.

Having had some time to digest the experience and look at all the data from my race, I am now convinced that this was, indeed, the best race I have ever run. In a race with a significantly harder back half, I practically ran even splits, equaling my month old 5k PR twice. This is right at the very edge of what I am capable of at the moment, at it feels fantastic that everything finally lined up and I was able to close out the season with a new PR that really shows what I am good for.

A Hot and Heavy Experience at Oppegårdmila 10k 2018

I am lucky enough to be situated in an area with a large variety of races on offer, both locally and regionally. Oppegårdmila is a trail race of the former variety, taking place just a short few kilometres from my house. As the date for this race coincided with the final tune-up race in my marathon training schedule, signing up was a no-brainer.

Even if I had not participated in this race before, I have done quite a bit of running in the area of the course, so I felt familiar enough with the 5k loop that those of us who were signed up for the 10k got to run through twice. The heat wave which had half of Norway sweating over the past three weeks still hung around as the day of the race approached, and it became apparent that the race was going to be a hot experience.

Still, I think most people, including those associated with the race, had hoped that it would be a little cooler than the 31 degrees Celsius the temperature gauged showed as the gun went off. The local running scene didn’t let the heat dissuade them from participating, though, and around 200 people lined up to race the 10k.

Pre-race

I drove to the starting area of the race, together with my number one cheerleader. That is my wife, of course, who had once more volunteered to snap some photos in addition to her cheering duties. Despite the heat, I opted for a bit of a warm-up and ended up doing a couple of kilometres of light jogging, in addition to a few strides to get going.

Oppegårdmila 10k course profile
The course profile for the 10k race, which consists of around 150 meters of climbing

While the main focus of this race was to get a good session out of it, I had been targeting a sub-39 finish time. That might sound unambitious given that I ran a 36:57 10k a couple of months back, but this is a completely different race. For one, the course is actually certified at 10 298 meters, so it’s quite a bit longer. Additionally, the race is mostly on trail, and with about 150 meters (492 ft) of climbing, it’s not really comparable to a quick road race. The heat was a bit of an unknown factor for me, though, and I had no idea how much it would affect my time. Instead of focusing too much on time, I decided to run more based on feel, to avoid a blow-up and make sure this was a decent experience just two weeks out from my big goal race.

A good few of the runners, especially those who lined up at the front, opted to run only in shorts. I remembered reading that a singlet can actually help you stay cool when it’s as hot as this, so I decided to wear one. Right before lining up at the starting line, I soaked myself in cold water, and I definitely think wearing a soaked singlet allowed me to retain the coolness of the cold water a bit longer.

Race

0 – 3k

As the gun went off, I immediately tried to find a spot in a pack. After about 500 meters or so a sizeable gap had already opened between the pack I was in and the one ahead, and I felt that my pack was running just a tad bit too slow for me. So I set out on my own, but instead of burning a lot of energy to try and catch up to the group ahead, I just upped the pace a little.

Runners at the start of Oppegårdmila 10k 2018Runners at the start of Oppegårdmila 10k 2018
The start took place on an astroturf football field, before a stretch of asphalt lead us into the forest and onto the trails

About 1 500 meters in, I caught the first guy who dropped off from the group ahead, and I went right past. We were now properly climbing, and I felt pretty good as I was gaining on the group as well, without expending too much energy. That group was about five guys big at this point, and they probably pulled away from me a bit again on the third kilometre, as they sped up more than me on the flats and downhills.

Kilometre splits: 3:46, 4:04, 4:03

4 – 6k

As we started out on the fourth kilometre, I caught another youngster who had dropped off from the pack up ahead. He tried to hang on to me for a while but had to let me go after a few hundred meters. It sounded like he was struggling pretty hard in the heat.

The final kilometre of the loop is where you get back most of the climbing you’ve done, and it had a net drop of about 30 meters. One more guy had dropped from the now three people group ahead, and I overtook him just as we passed the halfway mark. I had no idea which position I was in at this point, but I thoroughly enjoyed passing other runners.

Runner at Oppegårdmila 10k 2018
I was happy to spot my wife as I started out on the second loop!

Going out on the second loop, I felt quite confident and thought that I would be capable of increasing the pace a bit compared to my first round. As I started climbing and struggled my way past yet another runner who had dropped from the pack ahead, I realised that a pace increase probably wasn’t on the cards today. My body just wouldn’t let me shift gears. Frustrating, and a bit of a strange feeling as my legs still felt decent, but it was probably the heat taking its toll.

Kilometre splits: 3:48, 4:01, 3:58

7 – 10k + 0.18k (GPS)

The pack turned duo ahead split up during the climbing part at the start of this segment of the race. While I wasn’t feeling particularly fresh as I overtook the guy who lagged behind, I was pleased to see that I was still gaining on the final remainder of the group that I’d been chasing from the start. At this point, I still had no idea what spot I was running for, but I decided to at least give a proper go at reeling him in before the home stretch, figuring that it might be the difference between finishing inside or outside the top 10.

As I caught up to him, someone spectating shouted out that we were competing for the 7th spot. This probably made a bit soft, because I was well pleased just knowing that if I kept it up, a comfortable top 10 finish was on the cards. The guy who was now just behind me was a youngster, probably no more than 15 or 16, and I realised that the group I had spent the race picking off one by one, was probably his training mates. I told him to hang on to my back, and he’d smash all his buddies, and he answered affirmatively.

Runner finishing Oppegårdmila 10k 2018
At the finish line

Coming up on the final descent down towards the finish line, I once more turned around and told my new running buddy that he’d get that 7th spot overall, but I’d make him work for it. Alright, he said, cockily, and more or less started spriting a few hundred meters out from the finish line. At this point, I had very little to respond with and settled into a more comfortable finish sprint to take home the 8th spot with the official time 40:05.

Kilometre splits: 4:09, 4:06, 3:46, 3:46 + 0:37

Post-race

Crossing the line I high fived the boy who beat me, handsomely in the end and told him well raced. After that, I immediately started looking for someplace cool, as I was absolutely toasting. I had to make due with a couple of cups of lukewarm water, most of which I just threw over my head to cool down.

Despite being more than a minute off the time I had set my sights on, I was pretty pleased with my performance overall. I competed reasonably well and felt decent overall, even though I was working pretty hard throughout. It was probably not an all-out effort, but I’m confident it was well within the prescribed range for a tune-up race, and I am unsure how much of a limiting factor the heat was.

Check out my Strava activity for all the data from the race.

Fornebuløpet 10k 2018: First Time on Pacing Duty

Traditionally, most street 5k and 10k street races take place during the weekend here in Norway, while weekdays are typically reserved for local run carousels and the like. Fornebuløpet is an exception to this, and it brands itself as the most popular midweek race in the country with around 4000 runners participating this year. Runners can choose to run a 3k, a 5k, a 10k or all three distances (“The Triple”) for those that feel inclined to run three races on a single evening.

The 2018 edition of the race took place on May 24th, and I ran the 10k. Being a quite inexperienced racer, this night was a bit of a new experience for, as I had offered to pace a friend who was running. The main reason for this was that the race didn’t really fit with my marathon training plan for the week, but I still wanted to see what the race was all about. For all the details about my run, check out the Strava activity.

My friend lives close to the area of the race, and we jogged from his place to the starting area to arrive about 30 minutes before the gun went off. The weather was extremely hot for Norway an evening in May, with the sun blazing in the sky and close to 30 degrees Celsius. As my buddy hadn’t really trained too much in the lead up to the race, we were unsure about what time he should be targeting. But after some back and forth, we decided to try for 45 minutes despite the conditions, and adjust along the way if necessary.

Runners at the start of Fornebuløpet 5k
From the start of the 5k at Fornebuløpet 2018. Photo by Kjell Vigestad, Kondis.

The race had a staggered start consisting of at least five different waves all being sent off by a starting gun, and we went off with the fourth wave. We were able to hold our target pace of 4min 30sec/km for the first couple of kilometres, but after that, my friend started to struggle, and our pace dropped a little. Still, we kept on passing people and were well on track to get in below 50 minutes, which was his “must” goal for the race.

In terms of surface, the course mixed between asphalt and gravel. On a dry day in a hot period like this, running with thousands of other people on gravel paths isn’t necessarily fun, as there will be a lot of dust. The paths were also quite narrow at some points, making it hard to pass people Otherwise, the course was relatively flat, but there was a couple of very sharp switchback turns.

Somewhere around 6-7k my buddy had to start working quite hard to maintain the pace we were on at that point, which was closer to 5:00/km. At this point, I realised it was all about getting him to the finish line in under 50 minutes. I did my best to encourage him, and a couple of times between here and the finish line I was not very popular and got told to “shut up!” and “stop bothering me!” But we pressed on, and despite threats that he would start walking we managed to avoid any full stops or walking breaks.

Entering the final 1000 meters, I was able to talk him into increasing the pace a little. We managed to pass a few people, and, more importantly, avoid getting passed by anyone on the home stretch! We both got 47:55 as our official finish time, which was acceptable.

All in all, I had an enjoyable experience pacing someone for the first time, and I will definitely do it again if the opportunity comes along. Although he was annoyed by me as we race, my friend insisted that he wouldn’t have been close to finishing in under 50 minutes if I hadn’t been there to force him to give all he had on the day. I don’t think that’s true, but I know from experience in hard workouts that having someone to drag you along can help you push yourself a bit closer to the max. Having said that, I definitely felt a slight itch to race all out, especially as the first group of runners lined up. I guess it’s hard to subdue that old competitive spirit.

The race was well organised, and I particularly liked that they had taken some small measures to help runners in the heat by setting up three stations with cold, wet spunges and a few cold water sprinkles along the course. All in all a race I will run again if it fits my schedule next year.

Sentrumsløpet 10k 2018: A Beautiful Day for Running

Nothing says that race season in Norway is open for business again after its winter slumber with quite as much fervour as ten thousand runners lining up in the streets of Oslo to run Sentrumsløpet on a Saturday in April. The 2018 edition took place on April 21st, in beautiful if a bit windy spring weather, with clear skies and around 15 degrees Celsius. I toed the starting line aiming to beat my current 10k PR, which was set at Hytteplanmila back in October and stood at 38:31.

Training

Since running the 10k back in October, all my focus has been on my marathon debut, which I will be making in June. This means that I have been building mileage primarily through slow and moderate running. In fact, I had not done any running at faster than half marathon pace over the past six months before this race.

I was confident that my aerobic fitness was much stronger than it was when I set my old PR, but I wondered if the lack of training at 10k specific pace would result in me having a hard time running at the required pace. As a result, I set a relatively moderate goal for this race, hoping to run in under 38 flat, as opposed to having a go at my season goal of going under 37. There would be better opportunities to realise that goal later in the year, with some 10k specific training in my legs. And besides, the course profile with almost 100 meters (330 feet) of climbing is not conducive to the fastest of times. Or that’s the impression that remained from when I ran this race in 46:15 five years ago.

Pre-race

Working in Oslo, I was lucky to have easy access to private parking, changing rooms and showers in my office space. My wife and I drove into the city at around two hours before the start of the race, and she went and did some shopping while I changed into my racing gear.

As my office is right next to the park where the middle section of the race goes through, I went out for a pre-warmup run and did some easy recon of the course. Because my training had suffered a bit account of illness in the previous weeks, there was no room to reduce the training load to prepare for this race. My legs had felt heavy and my body a bit unresponsive the day before the race, but this little run offered positive encouragement. I felt pretty good and ready to go. But first, back to the office for the customary pre-race toilet visits, before jogging off to the starting line.

Race

As mentioned, Sentrumsløpet is not the kindest 10k you can run in terms of race profile. With a fair bit of climbing, the first third of the race can ruin you if you don’t show the course the respect it demands. My race plan, therefore, was to go out at a relatively comfortable pace hoping to pass the first half in about 19 minutes. If there was something extra in the tank on the day, I would turn it up in the second half.

1k (3:59 – 3:59)

The gun goes off, and we’re off! Well, those at the very front anyways. Being in group two, behind the elites, I had to wait ten to fifteen seconds before I got to the starting line, and could start running. The first few hundred meters contain the hardest climb of the course, up through the Royal Palace Garden. Thankfully, I was no the only one looking to run with the breaks on here, and I could just go with the flow without having to worry too much about passing people.

2k (3:46 – 7:45)

I realise that the people in front of me weren’t actually taking it easy during that first climb, because they are not upping the pace at all now that we have reached flatter terrain. It’s very crowded at this point, and I worry that I am spending too much energy trying to pass people. I have to run off the road and do lots of short sprints to weave in ahead of people whenever I see an opening. But when the split pops up on my watch, I see that it’s right where I want it to be.

3k (3:47 – 11:32)

A lot of people around me are dry heaving and barely breathing already. But, thankfully, the field has opened up a bit, and I am running comfortably right at the target pace despite having to pass a bunch of people.

4k (3:49 – 15:21)

The course now goes into the park where I ran earlier in the day, and on to a narrow gravel path. It is very crowded, and once more I find myself constricted by the relatively slow pace of the people in front of me. Once more I try to take advantage of every open pocket I see in front of me, carefully trying to not clip anyone. Halfway through the part of the course inside the park, the field opens up again and for the rest of the race, I don’t have to worry about being obstructed.

5k (3:30 – 18:51)

Finally, some respite from the climbing! With a net drop of 27 meters (90 feet), you should be able to turn up the pace here. My legs respond kindly as we start descending, and feel comfortable increasing the pace. I still try to hold back a little, because I have bad memories of what comes right at the start of the next kilometre. The official standings show that I pass the halfway mark as number 360 overall.

6k (3:43 – 22:34)

I have bad memories of the 400-meter climb at this point. It is the final proper climb of the race, and when I ran this race five years back I completely blew up at this point. Determined not to make the same mistake, I slow down immediately as the hill starts. People are passing me, and I let them. Once over the top, I up the pace again, and surprisingly find that I am still feeling strong. Race on!

7k (3:27 – 26:01)

Another stretch of downhill running, and I am focusing on keeping my foot on the pedal. At this point in the race, I don’t want to be feeling comfortable, and I have to be mentally present through every stride to not let my effort level drop during the descent. It is easy to fall into a bit of lull when running downhill because your pace will still be fast. But I feel like I am pushing it, and I am passing people, which are both good signs.

8k (3:32 – 29:32)

Runner Sentrumsløpet 2018
On my way into the cave as I pass my wife at around 8k.

We enter the Town Hall area of the city, and it is absolutely packed with people. My wife is probably standing here somewhere to spectate, but I am about to go into the cave and have to focus all my energy on keeping up the intensity, so I quickly give up trying to look for her. I let the great atmosphere inspire me, and latch on to a back that I see is passing people. Passing the 8k marker, I attempt to do some calculations to figure out what my finish time can be if I manage to keep it up. All I can deduce in my current state is that as long as I run faster the two final splits faster than four minutes, I’ll come in under 38. Challenge accepted!

9k (3:38 – 33:10)

“Here comes the wind!” is the first thing that strikes me as I enter the harbour area. I have been passing people, but now find myself with a bit of a gap up to the closest back. But that guy is big, and I can only imagine tucking in behind him will shield me a bit from the current headwind, so I up the pace to get up him. A few hundred meters later, we turn back in between buildings again, and I pass him as I start to prepare for the home stretch.

10k + 0.07k (3:32 + 0:14 – 36:57)

It is getting dark, but I am not dead yet. To my surprise, I am still passing people, and every time my body threatens to slow down I remind myself that I’ve worked just hard as this in training, and I need to nail that final kilometre. The final 400 meters of the race consists of a small climb, followed by a descent into the finish line.

As I start the final climb, I hear people behind me starting their final kick. I don’t want to be passed, so I try to respond. My pace increases slightly, but my legs run out of juice before I reach the top of the climb, and I slow again. Looking at my watch, I see that sub 37 could be within reach, but my legs are gone and I can’t muzzle up anything resembling a final kick. I am now paying for my lack of speedwork, and fear that sub 37 is out of the window as a result. As I stumble across the finish line, I stop my watch at 36:38. That’ll be 37:01 on the chip, I think to myself as I wobble in the general direction of where I hope to find some water and perhaps an energy drink.

Post-race

Meeting up with my wife, I am absolutely delighted to hear that my chip time is actually below 37 minutes, at 36:57. Improving my PR with more than a minute and a half in six months, without doing any 10k paced running? More and slower running obviously works for me.

I throw on a dry layer on top of my racing singlet and jog the three-kilometre stretch back to my office as a cool down. Reflecting on my performance, I conclude that all in all I have every reason to be pleased with how I ran. The first half went more or less exactly as planned, and I was able to turn it up during the second half, and had a negative split of about a minute. In the end, I finished 258 overall, which means that I passed more than 100 people during the second half of the race.

Runner after finishing Sentrumsløpet 2018
Happy with a chip time of 36:57, and having reached my goal for the season of going sub 37 in the 10k!

Given this race, I think sub 36 in the 10k before the end of the year is within reach. A period with speedwork, coupled with a more optimal lead up to the race and a faster course profile should let me shave a minute off my time. Well, if everything goes according to plan, that is! But for now, I am very pleased to enjoy being a 36:57 runner in a race that I finished in 46:15 five years ago. Training makes all the difference.

You can find all the detailed data from my race, including elevation, splits and heart rate by looking at the Strava activity.

Norway’s Fastest 10k Race: An Attempt at Sub-40

Hytteplanmila is one of the most popular 10k races in Norway, and many runners plan on ending their running season with new PRs in this race. The 2017 edition took place on October 21st, ad comprised more than 2,000 runners. I ran the race, aiming to set a new PR, and this is my report.

As soon as I started running this year, I set my sights on a sub-40 10k, which would be a substantial improvement on my current 10k PR from 2013. That one stood at 46:15. As my training progressed, running a decent half marathon took precedence, but this goal was always in the back of my mind. This race is sort of an unofficial season ender for my local running group. They’ve been the largest team (most runners) for a few years running, and they arrange a bus for the trip, and that’s how I ended up running this particular 10k. As it turns out, it’s a very popular race, and loads of people go here to finish off the season, in what is branded as the fastest 10k in Norway.

Like I mentioned, I went up there on a bus together with loads of other people from my local running group. As an aside, it’s pretty cool to be in the company of other runners and talk about running for more than two minutes without people signing out of the conversation. Will do again! We got stuck in traffic on the way up there because of an accident, and this resulted in the start being postponed by 30 minutes. I was kind of annoyed because the worst part of a race to me is the waiting before it begins. Anyways, I got changed when we got there, hit the roads for some easy kilometres to warm up, and finished getting ready with a couple of strides to get my HR up.

The field was absolutely packed at the start, and there are a lot of fast runners. I was confident of going below 40, and possibly even 39, so I placed myself around 10 meters ahead of the 40-minute pacer. This was the first time I ever heard an actual gun go off in a race, and it spooked me a bit! Anyways, we were off and I was absolutely jammed shut in the middle of the field. I knew that there were many quick runners here, though, and that I would gain nothing from trying to pass people at this point, so I just went with the flow. At around 500 meters or so, the field loosened up a bit, and I just tried to find my rhythm. As my first KM split popped up, though, I realised that I had been taken by the occasion (again!), because it went by in a way-too-fast 3:35. Oh well, it’s a downhill KM, so let’s just assume I can take that. I needed my splits to average at around 3:55 to finish under 39 minutes.

I really didn’t want to blow up though, so I made a conscious effort to slow down at this point. It went OK, and I saw quite a few people pass me during the second and mostly flat KM. It went by in 3:44. Still a little fast, but I took that buffer and ran with it into the inclines of the third kilometre, where I slowed down further. I knew that if I went too hard here, I would blow up, so when I saw that the third split was 4:04, that was alright. Another 500 meters of slight climbing at around the same pace, and I was ready to turn up the engine a bit. At this point, it was obvious that a lot of people had overextended themselves because I couldn’t keep count of how many I passed here. The fourth kilometre went by in 3:55, right on pace, and I knew that the easiest stretch of the race was coming up the next two kilometres.

I tried to find a nice and steady pace, but I kept having to pass people during this stretch. Sometimes I would try to settle behind a back only to discover that the person was going a bit too slow, so I had to accelerate again. I think this stop-and-go act here probably made this stretch cost a bit more than it should have. Still, my splits for kilometres five and six were 3:40 and 3:48, so more or less according to plan.

When laying out my race plan, I knew that if I passed 6km before 23:15, sub-39 was on. Checking my watch while I passed the marker, and seeing it was just below 23 minutes, made me happy. And likely a bit complacent, too. The hardest and least inspiring part of the race was coming up, and knowing that my stretch goal was probably in the bag already, I just kinda shored it up at this point. I searched for someone going at around 3:50 pace to try and hold on to, but every back I found ended up going a bit too slow, and those that passed me seemed to go way too fast. So I sorta drifted around these three kilometres, feeling a bit uncomfortable, but at the same time knowing that I probably had a tiny bit more to give. Anyways, my splits for kilometres 7-9 were 3:54, 3:58 and 3:52.

The final kilometre was a hoot. Markers every 100 meters, and I accelerated slightly and felt pretty good. But, I knew that the final 200 meters consisted of a pretty steep hill, and didn’t want to blow up there. So, for some reason I let my pace slip at around 500 meters, thinking I’d rest myself into the hill. Why!? Thankfully, one of the other runners in my club passed me at around 300 meters before the goal line, and that gave me a kick up the backside, and I sped up and passed him again. Unfortunately, I kinda overreached during the first half of the final climb. He passed me again midways through the climb, but I held on to his back and passed the finish line right after him for a final split of 3:47, and official finish time of 38:31.

In other words, a nice 7 minute and 44 second improvement of my PR, and well below my initial goal of sub-40. I’ll take it! I could probably have shaved a couple of more seconds from my time with a bit more racing experience and optimal pacing. But at the end of the day, this was pretty damned close to what I was capable of on the day, and I gotta be happy with that.

Taking a few days off now to let every niggle that’s been bothering me heal, before starting an 18-week base building phase ahead of next season. I’ve more or less set my goals for 2018, and when it comes to the 10k, my aim is to go sub-37. That means taking another minute and a half off of my PR. Doable? I don’t know, but I’ll give it a shot!

This race report was originally published over at r/artc, a great running community that has been invaluable to me as I’ve tried to progress as a runner.