Markveien – Oh no, not again! Bymiljøetaten wreck another project to improve our city

This is 2012, as if you didn’t know. All over the western world and elsewhere, pople, politicians and city planners are beginning to transform inner city areas as we have gradually began to understand that urban areas need to be reclaimed from the car and once again used by the community as a place where we live our lives. Markveien in Grünerløkka has for a long time been one of the most popular streets in Oslo for pedestrians. For the people of Grünerløkka, Sofienberg and even Torshov it is their main walking route into the city centre, and it has a thriving economy of independent shops, cafes and restaurants. And with very little motorised traffic, of which only deliveries to the shops are necessary, it is the perfect candidate for a pedestrian area, free of cars. The bydelsutvalget (borough council) understood this and passed that it be transformed into a pedestrian area. The city council followed this up by also passing that the  lower half of Markveien be paved over and motorised traffic removed. The job of implementing the policy were then passed on to the Department of Environmental Affairs and Transportation (Bymiljøetetaen), which hired Norconsult to work out the details.

Markveien at the weekend

Markveien at the weekend. Illustration by Marika Lüders Some rights reserved

The result of this process is becoming all too familiar, and is happening time and time again. What starts off as a decision by our elected local politicians to make changes to existing streets in Oslo to provide a better urban environment for residents, commuting workers and visitors, once handed over to the technicians is reduced into an exercise in making simple superficial changes that do little more than make a street look a little more pretty, and in this case less practical. In Markveien the technicians have decided that motorised traffic will remain (this  in itself makes no sense, since there is no need for cars in Markveien), the two-way cycle path will be removed to allow for much-needed space for pedestrians, the road will be widened by 25cm (yes, 25cm!) to allow for cycling against the direction of the one-way traffic, and space will still be provided for the parking of cars on the street. This is incredible! Why is a considerable area of tarmac (or cobbles, wow!) to remain for the parking of a handful of cars? This makes no sense.

The “new” design for 500 metres of Markveien from Grüners Gate to Søndre Gate

I think it is safe to say that the whole local population want Markveien to be pedestrianised, the city’s elected politicians want it, the city maintains it prioritises cycling (though, in practice, always does the opposite), visitors to Grunerløkka want it, businesses in Grunerløkka want it, yet once again it is a hired consultancy firm that makes the final decision to use hundreds of millions of Norwegian kroner on little more than laying a few cobbles and planting a few trees (and in this case erasing one of Oslo’s most used cycle paths). So, motorised traffic will still completely unnecessarily have 6 metres of the road width for the lower half of Markveien (that’s 3000m²) completely against the wish of the residents, visitors, local politicians and against all ideas of urban regeneration.

And I think it is about time we, the people of Oslo, stood up and stopped unelected bodies make a complete mess of urban redevelopment in Oslo. They made of a mess of Carl Berners Plass, they wasted millions on Thor Olsens Gate in an exercise in planting 4 trees and laying impractical cobbles, they are about to make the same mess in Bogstadveien, where they are to reduce pavement widths by 43cm and not introduce any measures for cycling (again, decided by Norconsult).

The final version of Torgata is not going to be much better either:

The final plan for Torgata. Note: cars still dominate, even though only delivery vehicles need to use the road.

In each of these projects of urban development the original ideals of making our urban landscape an easier, safer more pleasant place to move around in have been rejected in favour of a simple exercise in allowing motorised traffic to dominate as before, and attempting to hide this fact by using some pretty and expensive paving stones and the addition of a handful of trees.

I really think it is time we stood together and demanded that these regeneration projects deliver something of their original promise, and deliver to the people of Oslo an urban environment that is better, safer and more healthy than the traffic-dominated ugly city landscapes of the 20th century.

My first marathon – Nordmarka Skogsmaraton

I have said for years that I am not interested in running a marathon. I run often, I happily run 20km, and have been known to run 30km, but 42km is too far. And then, in the last two or three years, I began to get Nordmarka Skogsmaraton on my mind. A hilly marathon in the place I like to run and cycle best, Oslo’s wonderful forest. And so, in the end, I just had to do it.

It had been raining torrentially for much of the morning before the start of the race at 11am, and it was very difficult to decide what to wear. I ended up in shorts and with my old Nike running shirt under my running singlet, so I had two thin layers on my upper body.

I lined up towards the rear of the field of about 570, and off we went, I started my watch as I crossed the start line and as space opened up I began to jog. Everything that I have read about marathons has led me to have a huge respect for the distance, so I was very happy to take it easy. They say that a marathon really starts at 30km and that the last 10km are really tough both physically and mentally, so I had every intention of still being in decent shape after 30km so that I had something left for the last 10km. I have run 10km with sore muscles and pain in my legs before, and it’s no fun. Today, I wanted to enjoy running in the forest; I didn’t want a world of pain.

In the first km or two I had a chat with a fellow triathlete who recognised me from previous races. I said goodbye to him and jogged up through the field. I then came across two guys running together, who were discussing their pace. I asked them what their target was. They had run the forest marathon at least a couple of times before, and were quite confident of a time of about 3:45. They were using a gps watch to measure their pace. My multisport watch is out of commission at the moment, so I was running purely on instinct with only a basic stopwatch on my wrist. I told my new friends that their target suited me perfectly, and, if they didn’t mind, I would run with them. And that’s how I ran about the first 12km of the race, and a couple of the race’s notorious hard hills.

I felt great. I was jogging lightly, chatting, and enjoying Nordmarka forest, one of my favourite places to be. We were gradually making our way up through the field too, so I thought our pace must be decent. There are a few hills in the first 5km, and I noted already that some runners were breathing a little hard. My own breathing was light and my body was functioning fine. After 10km the first big hill came, and I jogged up it nice and easily. At the top my new friends had fallen a little behind, and I decided to push on a little faster.

So, I increased my pace a little, but still loose and easy, and I started to run past people. The next few kilometres were hilly before the long steep downhill of “Døderen” and then followed a gentle rise towards the turning point at around 19km. The three km before and after the turning point is the only part of the course you get to pass others running in the opposite direction, first those ahead and then those behind you. There, I  could see the pace of the runners at the front, and they were fast and running hard. I sped up a little more. By now I had run past many fellow runners, and I continued to do so. I reached the turning point and continued to run past people.

By now, several times, I had caught people who were ahead and thought “this is a pace that suits me, I’ll stay with them”, only to run off ahead within a minute or two. 21km, the half way point, came up and my legs still felt fresh and I was still running comfortably, well within my capacity. I had now run a hilly half marathon, not breathed hard once, my legs felt great, and my watch said 1:46. For the first time I thought that I might come in under 3:30. I was smiling.

But there was still 10km to run before the marathon really starts at 30km, so I decided that I would continue to run nice and easy to 32km, and then see if I had anything left for the last 10km. And that’s how the next 10km were, past Kikutstua and up to Kobberhaughytta. My fellow runners were getting quite stretched out now, so every time I ran past a group of two or three there was a gap of a couple of hundred metres up to the next group, but to my surprise the gap was bridged quite quickly and I ran passed them, and then began to look at the next group ahead.

The weather: We had been lucky at the beginning of the race. The sun came out a few minutes before the race started. Some runners ran for the changing rooms to shed jackets etc. And so the race started in fine weather. But the threat of more rain hung over us and it was after 20km that the heavens opened. It was cool in the forest before the rain, perfect for running, but with the rain my legs began to get cold and I could feel the muscles on the top of my thighs stiffening. I began to plead for the rain to stop, since I thought that if anything was going to ruin my good run it was the cold rain on my legs. It rained, it stopped, it rained again, it stopped. But my legs weren’t being affected, and I ran on.

At Kobberhaughytta, just short of 30km, we left the gravel forest roads for the only time in the race and hit the hiking trail for 3 or 4 kilometres. There was not much over 10km to go and I was beginning to be confident of a time that I hadn’t hoped to achieve at the beginning of the race. I was now towards the front end of the field, but the trail had already become a muddy slimey mess. Mud, rocks, roots, water and more mud, and I was in with a chance of 3:30 and wanted to push, but the trail was treacherous. Luckily, I had come up behind 4 runners who set a good pace on the trail, and for the first time in the race I was making an effort to keep up. The trail took every ounce of concentration. One wrong step can bring you down on such a trail and can ruin the whole race.

The trail ended, and we were back on the gravel roads. I ran straight past the guys I had been following for 3km and I didn’t see any more of them after that. Some downhill followed and then the last major climb up to Ullevålseter. 35km were completed and my confidence was up and my legs were strong. I continued to pass a few more runners and noticed that a few had slowed right down. People that had started too fast must be feeling it by now. The last hill up to Ullevålseter is quite a long one, but my legs were still good and I took it at a steady pace reminding myself that I wanted speed for the last 5 or 6km to the finish once at the top.

I reached Ullevålseter and was still feeling good. My legs were beginning to feel tired, but I knew they had plenty left in them. I was then surprised that the course didn’t take the normal main route back to Sognsvann, as I had just assumed it would, but took the alternative route that first heads upwards on the ski trail towards Frognerseteren before turning off and heading sharply downhill towards Sognsvann, and the Norwegian School of Sports Science (NIH) where the finish line waited. This last little bit of uphill was quite steep and unexpected, and finally my legs and lungs threatened to force me to slow down. I focused, came over the top, and then I started my 5km charge for the finish line and 3:30.

For the last 5km I ran hard, and took it as I would a 5km road race – full focus, full effort, full speed and no more time for smiling, looking around and enjoying myself. I felt confident I was under 3:30, but I was taking no chances. I couldn’t remember how many hundred metres I would still have to run after the 42km came up. 40km came up and I had 9:30 (I think) to make it to the line. I ran hard. Those last two kilometres began to hurt, but I was charging. The last stretch before I came down to Sognsvann seemed to take forever, but then there I was. I took the last turn, charge over the rise and into the grounds of NIH, the loud speaker blaring out. I sprinted for the line and passed the 4th placed female with metres to go, ran over the finish line and stopped my stopwatch. It said 3:29:30. Later, my official time was published at 3:29:58, to which I have only one response –   😀

Nutrition

I saw plenty of people eating gels or energy bars before the race, many with gels stuffed in their pockets and in belts, and eating gels whilst they ran. I had a good breakfast less than 3 hours before the race, and I wanted to carry nothing on the run. There were drink stations every 5km and food stations every 10km and I thought this would be enough for me. I drank half a cup of sports drink at 5, 15, 25 and 35km, and I ate a half banana and drank half a cup of water at 10, 20 and 30km. This was plenty, and apart from a few burps here and there I think I got the nutrition spot on.

Clothing

It wasn’t much over 10 degrees Centigrade in the forest, overcast, some breeze and the occasional cool shower. I wore my old Nike running tee under a Ron Hill vest, Ronhill shorts, Hilly socks and my new Brooks Ghost 4 shoes. I was concerned when my legs got too cold, but their performance wasn’t affected. Otherwise, I was mostly at a comfortable temperature, but did get a little cold once or twice in the rain in exposed areas where the wind gets up a little. The sock-shoe combination was perfect. My feet were perfectly comfortable for the whole race. The Brooks Ghosts provide a soft and comfy ride, but still fun, and I didn’t suffer even a single blister thanks to the Hilly twin skin socks. [Edit] I was also wearing my 2XU compression calf guards, which have been a revelation for me the last 18 months. Before I started running in these I used to get very stiff calfs on long runs, and my calfs would stay stiff for two days afterwards. Since starting to use them this problem has been totally absent. I notice that the winner of the race was wearing an identical pair see photo of winner Arild Christopherson

Closing thoughts

I am very happy indeed with my first marathon, as the preceding text indicates. I started the race as a relaxed social occasion, took the whole first half at an easy jog, and only really felt like I was in a foot race in the final 10km. In terms of my time it is 10 minutes quicker than I guessed I could run it, and yet I believe I could have run the first half of the race 5-10 minutes quicker without it having affected my performance for the second half (but who knows). Nordmarka skogsmaraton is a hilly marathon on forest roads (see profile), and many say that it takes 15 minutes longer to run than a normal marathon. I have every reason to be pleased.

The race itself is very well organised. Everything is simple and it works. The functionaries were enthusiastic, and all the food and drink stations were fully stocked up. Thank you for a great race.

The only negative thing I wish to note at all is that I saw a fellow competitor throwing away an empty gel tube in the forest, kilometres from the nearest drink station. That is not acceptable. The athlete was being supplied with gels by cyclists in United Bakeries livery during the race. I hope the litter was cleared up (I fear not), and I hope someone takes responsibility for this. Many competitions now penalise athletes for littering. Norway is a little behind the times regarding this matter, and I hope it catches up fast.

Grefsenkollen Opp

Grefsenkollen Opp
saturday June 14 saw the second running of the uphill running race Grefsenkollen Opp, and since I was not able to get down to Gothenburg for Gothenburg Triathlon I decided to have a go at this race. Not least because the start is only a 10 minute walk from my home. The race course begins in a park and follows local roads to the top of Grefsenkollen, a popular local hilltop from which to gaze down upon the city of Oslo and Oslofjord. The race course is only 4.5km long and rises 270 metres in altitude to 379moh.
In the male 40-44 age group I was one of 29.
The great thing about a local race is that you can just get changed at home, jog to the start line to warm up and then race. And then jog home again. A few minutes after two o’clock the race started and off I went omewhere in the middle of the pack. I find that at all these races involving everal hundred of peope there is a mad dash from the line to start with before things settle down. I like to start things a little easy and get into the swing of things before cranking up the pace to a hard sustainable tempo. This also suits me as I like picking my fellow races off rather than myself being hunted down. Anyway, I can understand the potential race winners going off hard, firstly to get clear of the pack which could slow them down but also because a number of runners like to open up a gap between them and thei competitors a they feel that the extra energy they use in doing so is rewarded by giving them a greater advantage than the cost to them.
I was probably a litle over half way down the pack an as the fiel narrowed from the gra field to the narrow tarmacadam path we had to low due to the weight of runners in a narrow space. In total though I wouldn’t have thought that I lot much more than ten seconds there.
so, there was I and 277 other runners running up a hill. A girl was directly in front of me as things began to settle down and the field had gotten stretched out. he looked like she could run a bit and wa running a good pace for me, so I fell in behind her and used her as a pace maker for a few minutes. A kilometre up the road the hill became a little steeper and I ncreased my effort a little and left the small group I was with and started to work on coming up to the next group that was about 30 metres ahead of me. I kept checking my watch, and my heart rate was hovering around 170 or so an I felt that I could continue like that for another 10 minutes or so. I reached the group ahead, but as I tried to push on passed them I realized that the effort of catching them had cost too much and I had to drop back a few metres.
By now we were passed the half way stage runners were beginning to find out whether they had run too hard or whether indeed they had more in them than the early pace they had chosen. There was more forward and backward movement in the field, but generally mot runners including me continued at the pace they had settled on. I passed a few more people. One or two people passed me, and after the third km mark I was really beginning to pant for breath, but pressed on nevertheless. The 4km mark came up and I was beginning to feel that it would be so much easier if I just stoped running and walked to the stop instead. Of course I didn’t do that, and finally the 200 metre mark came up and I tried to put everything I had left in an effort to catch the group of 5 or 6 runners that were only 10 metres ahead of me. But they must all have been putting in a similar effort and I just couldn’t close on them except for one that dropped back toward me but still maged to cross the line two or three metres ahead of me. And then I crossed the line gasping for air. I hit the top button on my watch. It said 22:38, almot one minute quicker than my singlr training run up the same course a month previously, so I was pretty pleased.
At the top of the hill is a small car park and a restaurant. The car park was already ready pretty crowded with runners and others as I arrived and it continuede to fill up with hot, exhausted, excited athletes. I grabbed a cup of water and a cup of sports drink, took a carton of orange juice that was my reward for uch an effort and jogged home.
I was home a little over an hour after I had left, just as if I had been out for my regular running training, but I still had y race number proudly pinned to my chest.

Saturday June 14 saw the second running of the uphill running race Grefsenkollen Opp, and since I was not able to get down to Gothenburg for Gothenburg Triathlon I decided to have a go at this race. Not least because the start is only a 10 minute walk from my home. The race course begins in a park and follows local roads to the top of Grefsenkollen, a popular local hilltop from which to gaze down upon the city of Oslo and Oslofjord. The race course is only 4.5km long and rises 270 metres in altitude to 379moh.

Grefsenkollen Opp

In the male 40-44 age group I was one of 29.

The great thing about a local race is that you can just get changed at home, jog to the start line to warm up and then race. And then jog home again. A few minutes after two o’clock the race started and off I went somewhere in the middle of the pack. I find that at all these races involving several hundred of people there is a mad dash from the line to start with before things settle down. I like to start things a little easy and get into the swing of things before cranking up the pace to a hard sustainable tempo. This also suits me as I like picking my fellow racers off rather than being hunted down myself. Anyway, I can understand the potential race winners going off hard, firstly to get clear of the pack which could slow them down but also because a number of runners like to open up a gap between them and their competitors as they feel that the extra energy they use in doing so is rewarded by giving them a greater advantage both psychologically and physically than the cost to them.

I was probably a little over half way down the pack and as the course narrowed from the grass field on which we started to the narrow tarmacadam path that led up to the road we had to slow due to the weight of runners in a narrow space. In total though I wouldn’t have thought that I lot much more than ten seconds there.

So, there was I and 277 other runners running up a hill. A girl was directly in front of me as things began to settle down and the field had gotten stretched out. She looked like she could run a bit and was running a good pace for me, so I fell in behind her and used her as a pace maker for a few minutes. A kilometre up the road the hill became a little steeper and I increased my effort a little and left the small group I was with and started to work on coming up to the next group that was about 30 metres ahead of me. I kept checking my watch, and my heart rate was hovering around 170 or so, but I felt that I could continue like that for another 10 minutes or so. I reached the group ahead, but as I tried to push on passed them I realized that the effort of catching them had cost too much and I had to drop back a few metres for the next minute or two before pushing harder again.

That's me in the blue

That's me in the blue

By now we were passed the halfway stage and the runners were beginning to find out whether they had been going too hard or whether indeed they had more in them than the early pace they had chosen. There was more forward and backward movement in the field, but generally most runners including me continued at the pace they had settled on. I passed a few more people. One or two people passed me, and after the third km mark I was really beginning to pant for breath, but pressed on nevertheless.

Running hard with 1km to go

Running hard with 1km to go

The 4km mark came up and I was beginning to feel that it would be so much easier if I just stopped running and walked to the top instead. Of course I didn’t do that, and finally the 200 metre mark came up and I tried to put everything I had left in an effort to catch the group of 5 or 6 runners that were only 10 metres ahead of me. But they must all have been putting in a similar effort and I just couldn’t close on them except for one that dropped back toward me but still managed to cross the line two or three metres ahead of me.

And then I crossed the line gasping for air. I hit the stop button on my watch. It said 22:38, almost one minute quicker than my only training run up the same course a month previously, so I was pretty pleased. I was 14 in my class of 29 runners, so I came in the top half. And only 9 women beat me, which only goes to show that women do have a physical disadvantage when it comes to racing.

At the top of the hill is a small car park and a restaurant. The car park was already ready pretty crowded with runners and various other people as I arrived, and it continued to fill up with hot, exhausted, excited athletes. I grabbed a cup of water and a cup of sports drink, took a carton of orange juice from a pallet, which was my reward for such an effort and jogged home.

I was home a little over an hour after I had left, just as if I had been out for my regular running training, but I still had my race number proudly pinned to my chest.

Holmestrand Sprint Triathlon 2009

Saturday 30 May 2009 was the date for the first triathlon of the season in the Norway Cup (Norges Cup) series. The venue is the small Vestfold town of Holmestrand on the Oslofjord coast. I took part in this race last year immediately after a 2 week holiday on the French Riviera with my wife and our baby daughter. Good food and wine and little training had left me poorly prepared, and I suffered in the heat. This year I was much better prepared, but have just had a nearly two week rest from training due to a heavy cold, which I still hadn’t quite shaken off. At least my muscles were well rested.

The first thing that happened regarding the race was that when I went to register for it 6 days before the race the registration web page said that all the places were taken. I thought that that can hardly be true. Last year was a very quiet affair, and I gained the impression that outside of Holmestrand (where they take their triathlon pretty seriously, I have come to understand) there is not much interest in this sprint distance race. Anyway, the race was full this year and I was very lucky to get a place after having direct contact with the organisers and getting the one place that remained after a withdrawal. Next year, I’ll sign up early.

I got to the race venue to find a big crowd gathered, and the pre-race briefing was already underway. Luckily, there was nothing strikingly different from last year, so I didn’t miss anything important. What was different was that a good number of Norway’s top triathletes were gathered for the race. It looks like each Norway Cup race, this year, will be hotly contested. 

There were 51 competitors this year, whereas last year it was more like 25. Since the swimming takes place in a 25 meter pool with only 5 lanes it is divided into four heats. Then, after a short break the cycling starts in a staggered start with the quickest swimmer going off first and then the other competitors starting behind by the same time that they were slower. I was in the last heat of the swimming. There were three of us in the lane, and we worked out between us who would lead, according to how long we expected the 750 metre swim would take. I had decided to use crawl, although I have previously raced with breaststroke, since my crawl has been improving and I thought that it was now about on a par with the breaststroke (although I hadn’t bothered actually comparing them by doing timed distances with each, even though I had planned to the day before – lazy on my part). After having first watched the quicker swimmers my heat started and off we went in a flurry of arms and legs and a churning of water. I was in the middle of the three, and as we started I went off hard to try to keep on the feet of the swimmer in front to get the draught and so to be pulled along quicker than I can swim by myelf. Morten, the swimmer in front, had gone off even quicker (too quick for himself I think) and I couldn’t keep up. Morten wa gone and the third swimmer was already tapping my toes, but I just could not swim any quicker. Perhaps I should have switched to breaststroke, but I had a race plan and I was going to stick to it. The taps on my toes got more and more insistent, and I moved over on every lap to let the third swimmer past, but he stayed behind me for most of the swim, probably just to torture me, eventually passing me with 4 or 5 laps to go only when I actually stopped to let him go by. I couldn’t keep on his toes either and eventually finished about 15 seconds behind him. My time? 15:42, one minute and eight seconds slower than last year when I used breaststroke. Still, the distance and intensity of the swim caused me no problems. It was just that I can’t swim crawl any quicker.

I was 4 places from the back at the start of the cycling – in a field of 51. Not too impressive, huh? The good thing was that there was a fair bit of overtaking potential, which is alway good for motivation. We were chatting and joking at the back of the field as we waited our turn to start the cycle leg and as the fast ones disappeared into the distance at the front. Eventually, it was my turn, and with two other competitors about 15 and 20 seconds in front of me I went off in (hopefully) controlled pursuit. 

On a good day, the cycle leg for a slow swimmer can be a bit like Pac Man after you have eaten the magic pill. The other competitors are the ghosts that are now your targets and you zoom along the maze trying to gobble up as many as you can. Well, something like that anyway. I kept checking my heart rate on my watch as I raced along and for a 20km course I felt happy keeping it at about 165bpm. If it went over that I slowed a little, and this seemed to work well for me. I gobbled up about 5 other cyclists on the bike section and got gobbled up by one myself (who I then passed again in transition T2 while he changed his shoes : -). I’m not a strong cyclist, but I’m such a weak swimmer that at the back of the field I am a comparatively strong cyclist.

 

I came into transition T2 sucking on a bottle of water and feeling pretty pleased with the cycling – I hadn’t tired like last year and had improved my cycling time by 3 minutes. A quick change of shoes (I am a firm believer in overtaking people while they are changing) and I was off in pursuit of a runner that was only 100 metres down the road. I should mention here that Holmestrand Triathlon had taken the trouble of organising helpers to take our bikes from us as we arrived at T2. It was the first time I have experienced this in a race and it really does increase my enjoyment of the race. Thanks Holmestrand Tri. So, were off on the run leg. The weather is warm and sunny like last year, and I’m wary of wilting out there in the sun. The run course like the bike course is quite hilly, and its not that easy to pace oneself on. You know it’s only 5km, which means a run of not much over 20 minutes, so you can push yourself relatively hard, since long distance endurance is not an issue. But, you still have to maintain a pace for twenty minutes, and your legs have already been pushed hard on the bike for 30 minutes or so. It’s a balancing act that you learn with experience, of which I don’t have too much, expect from the Bogstad training tris, which are great experience for this race.

Again, I was having a good day and gobbled up a couple more competitors on the run. I was now not far behind what I can do, and things were going very well. Hold a decent pace and concentrate, I said to myself. Km1 was fine, km2 was painful, but keep concentrating, it’s not a long run. It’s so easy just to slow down but don’t do it. Km3 and things begin to go better again, and it’s easier to concentrate once more. Km4 and Kristian A, a young triathlete who I overtook on the bike, comes up alongide me. He’s running on much springier younger legs than me, and I expect him to sail past. But maybe he has put a little too much into catching me and his calves begin to cramp up, causing him to shout out in pain and slowing him up, restricting him to my pace. So we run in together the last km, exchanging a few words as we run side by side. The women’s winner, Kristin Lie, has finished a good few minutes ahead of us and she now comes jogging back down the road shouting encouragement at us as I try to summon up a little more puff to get me up the last hill. I, just trying to hang on, and Kristian A, whincing intermittently with cramp pain. But we’re up on the flat last section of the run with three hundred metres to go. It’s time to summon something for the final sprint to decide which of us is victorious over the other. And Kristian A just kicks and off he goes effortlessly opening up a gap, and finishes a couple of seconds ahead of me, still intermittently hopping in pain. I think I need to work on a sprint finish sometime.

 

And then it’s over. And my time is 5 minutes quicker than last year, despite being over a minute down after the swim. I feel good and happy, and so it seems does everyone else. It was a very enjoyable race, and I gained some more vital experience. 

 

Thanks Holmestrand Triathlon.

Hill Intervals up Grefsenkollen (run)

This is just a quick post to note the details of my training run up Grefsenkollen on Thursday this week. I ran the the Grefsenkollen Opp race course as a hard long hill interval and to gauge my running fitness at this very early stage in the season. The course is 4.5km in length and has an altitude increase of 270 metres, which is about an average 6% slope. The profile of the course is here After an 11 minute warm up I ran the course in 23:44 and according to my HRM my pulse averaged 162 on the way up. This is a few beats below what I could sustain in a race, so I assume that under race conditions I can go quicker. If my time was included in the results list for my class from the 2008 race I would have placed 11 out of 19. This is pretty good for a training run and my first purely uphill run of the year. I’m on track for my best season.

If you are interested you only have to register for Grefsenkollen Opp 2009, which takes place on Saturday 6 June 2009.

I hope I’ll be there.

Marin Gavia – CX bikes rule!

Marin Gavia CX bike

Marin Gavia CX bike

One evening last summer I was out for an evening training ride on the road that runs up and down Maridalen. Maridalen is a valley north of Oslo, and the highway into the forest for many of Oslo’s MTB cyclists (and the forest covers thousands of square kilometres). There is only one road into Maridalen and one road out, and so many of Oslo’s road cyclists, including me, spend some of their training sessions cyling up this scenic country valley until the road ends and then cycling back towards the city. Then cycling up the scenic country valley until the road ends and then cycling back towards the city. Etc etc. So I’m out on my ride, and a little bored, and then I see I’m coming up to a muddy track that I can see 50 metres down before it swings off to the right behind the trees. Sod it, I say to myself, and hit the track at full speed. For 4km I ride down the track, through the mud and the puddles and sliding round the loose corners before shooting out on the road again, a smile on my face, to continue my road session. The CX bike is the perfect do it all bike for the cyclist. I spend hours training on it on the dirt roads of the forest, I do my training on the road on it, I commute on it, and I have once or twice put my race wheels on it and raced on it. The CX bike is a great machine to have in your stable. Everyone should have one.

I wonder if I’ll ever do a CX race on it.

Enebakk Rundt 2009

enebakk_rundtIt’s May 1st and the date for Enebakk Rundt cycle race in the countryside around Oslo. Enebakk Rundt is one of the most popular road races in Norway, with a long history. Its popularity probably stems from the fact that it starts and finishes in the outer suburbs of Norways capital; that coming on May 1st it is one of the first spring races in the country; and that the course for the race is a fine quick course that goes through mostly rolling scenic countryside. This year Enebakk Rundt has seen a record number of entrants with 1400 registered to start the race.

This was my first bicycle race, and I was anxious and excited. In fact, after a couple of warnings that this race in particular see many crashes, I had been toying all week with the idea of quietly backing out. No one would notice if I didn’t turn up today, and my wife and daughter would have been pleased to have me at home this morning. Luckily, a quick look at a local Internet cycle forum and I was assured that the whole experience would be enjoyable and a great experience.

So at 0910 this morning I jumped on my racing bike and lightly pedalled my way up to the outer suburb of Skullerud where the race was to start and finish. It being the May 1st the streets were more or less deserted and I pedalled slowly in peace, surprised not to see at least a few other cyclists also heading for the starting line. It wasn’t until I rounded a roundabout 10 minutes from the strating line that I saw a group of 30 white and orange clad cyclists coming from the other direction. As I approached the starting area, now in a flock of cyclists from a club in a farming community 25 miles to the north-east of Oslo (and very nice road cycling country) I encountered cyclists everywhere. They were warming up, whizzing up and down roads in all directions, they were adjusting their bikes, they were lounging by the side of the road or chatting with friends, they were urinating against the fences of residences or in bushes and they were moving up to the starting line as their group got underway.

With so many entrants the race in run in groups of 50, with 5 minutes between each group. I was starting at 1000, having chosen a group that was defined by the target finishing time of 2:25-2:45 hours. I actually had no idea how long I needed for the race, and so Just made an educated guess. If I was cycling this route on my own I would probably be very hard pushed to manage a time under 2:50, but in a group of cyclists you can use up to about 25% less power than you would travelling at the same speed but cycling on your own. That 25% can make a huge difference to how quickly you reach exhaustion. Anyway, I was hopeful of a time of around 2:30 hours.

With three minutes until the start I moved into the group waiting at the start line. Not having done this before I was quite happy starting near the back of my group and was expecting to stay well back in the group while I learned the ropes of riding in a field of cyclists. And then we were off. Due to the electronic timing mats that we ride over the start is quite narrow and then we file out onto the public roads. By the time I get onto the road the riders at the front are already disappearing into the distance and a gap is opening up to the group I find myself in. Not wishing to fall from the group at the very start I immediately take up chase and close up the gap. As I reach the back of the leading group I glance over my shoulder to discover that I have brought the whole following group up with me. Riders pass me on either side, and I’m a long way down the field.

The first 15km or so of the race wove its way through some outlying suburbs and residential areas that link Oslo to Lillestrøm to the east. The route took in fast quick descents, roundabouts, right turns, short climbs, more roundabouts. A pattern formed as the field kept getting stretched out and gaps opened up and then next time it hit a short rise it would all bunch up again. I saw an Oslofjord jersey up ahead. One of my club members was in the field. I can’t see his face and I probably don’t know him, but I’m pleased. The race continues in this vein for a while. It’s Kalle up ahead in the Oslofjord jersey – Kalle who came from nowhere sprinting passed me just before the finish line at Bogstad the previous week. Eventually, we get passed Lillestrøm and hit the beautiful winding country road to Enebakk. The field has now settled down, and during one short climb when it slowed right down I jumped passed most of the pack and am now in the leading 6 or 7 riders.

In a field of 50 I quickly discovered that sitting near the front is much the better option. Near the front the ride is much smoother, with less bunching up and then catching up, you can see exactly what’s going on and what’s coming up, and you don’t get bunched in to the extent that yo cannot react to events until the riders around you have reacted. Being near the front is a pleasure. The field wound its way down to Enebakk and onto Ytre Enebakk. We were now passing riders that had dropped off groups ahead of us, and riders were strung out down the whole road. At the front of our group just a hard core of, at most, 10 riders were doing the hard work of going up front for a few minutes and driving the field. The rider at the front takes the full force of air resistance head on, while everyone behind gets an easier ride. I want to feel what it’s like to be at the front driving. The first time I go to the front is when the pack slows on a hill. I like to shoot up short hills, so it feels natural to pass the riders in front of me and it the front. After about thirty seconds at the front I look behind me only to see that no one has followed me. I’m on my own about 50 metres ahead of the field. I slow down and let the first few riders pass before slotting into the field agin. The next time I move to the front is on a flat section. We have a wind against up and the lead rider is slowing down. I go to the front and ride hard. Three minutes I say to myself, and then I’ll let someone else take over. It’s hard at the front. I check my watch. The three minutes are going awfully slowly, and my heart is racing along, quicker and quicker. I can’t keep this up for much longer. Then, before I’m ready to give in and move over, a couple of riders pass me and one of them takes over at the front. I drop down to about 15th and tuck in, now gasping for air. For the next five minutes the muscles in my legs are complaining and I’m gasping air, while maintaining my place in the field. And then I’m fine again, but now the muscle fatigue in my legs is getting stronger. We get to Ytre Enebakk and turn around for the final section of the race back towards Oslo.

It’s gone really fast so far. The last time  I rode this route on a training ride it seemed to take half the day to get to Ytre Enebakk, and then the ride back into Oslo seemed never to end. Not this time, we are flying and the pace hottens up a bit more as riders start to taste the finish and position themselves nearer the front. We pass Fjell, then Sørmarka and I know it is not now far until we reach the motorway for the final dash towards the finish. I’m down in around 2oth place. I see Kalle up ahead in around 5th, and we are approaching the roundabout that lead to the motorway. I don’t know the terrain here, but there’s a hill up to the motorway, and the leading riders jump off the front of the pack and quickly open up a gap. Everyone is now struggling to keep up, but I know that this is the decisive move and I don’t want to let them go without  fight, so I put my head down and chase. I quickly leave the pack behind me am now on my own trying to get up to the group ahead. The pace ahead is obviously to hot for Kalle and he has fallen back from the leading few riders. I think that there’s only three of them. I chase and come up to Kalle. I pass him and he slots in behind me. We are on an exposed piece of motorway, with cars now shooting passed us, on the top of a hill, and then comes the descent. A long fast descent. I check my computer. I’m going 67km/h. We come off the motorway at the next turn off. Some of the riders have used the descent to get closer to us, and they’re strung out down the whole slope as I risk a quick glance behind me. We are close to the finish. just a short sharp climb to go, and I give everything I have left to spin quickly up the hill to the finish line, leaving Kalle behind me. I think I’m about fifth or sixth from our group, but there’s no way to confirm this. What a great race!

enebakk_rundt_result