Gotta love the AXA Fjäll (mountain) marathon. This is what the volunteers do to prepare for the race: Homemade cardamom buns!
For the second year in a row I created my own AXA fjäll marathon “multisport style.” I paddled across the lake to the start, had a great (half) marathon run, then finished off with some hill intervals on the bike.
Vålådalen Mountain Station is a great venue for the event. Last year there were 200 runners in the half marathon, this year well over 500! (next weekend is the full 42 km marathon). Photo: Johannes Poignant
I figured the best way to prepare for my upcoming four-day stage race in Wu Long China is to bike with tired legs in the heat. It was good mental training as I willed myself up the hill despite the long straight section ahead that was less than inspiring. But cheering on the runners coming down the hill created the inspiration I needed — many were suffering but they could taste the finish line!
So how did the AXA (half) marathon go?
Attacking the first hill. Photo Erik Westberg www.epixphoto.se
It went well! But I wasn’t happy that the race director himself (with only 2 hrs of sleep the night before) beat me. Well done Patrik Nordin But Simon Jörgonssen beat all of us with a strong performance and unique strategy …
Me, Simon, and Patrik (a.k.a “Sergei Tupolev”) at the finish.
My last race sent a clear message about “saving your energy early and releasing it late” (see previous blog) but this week’s race sent the opposite message: Go out hard!
In last year’s (42 km) marathon Patrik and I were running together after about 50 minutes when I turned to him and asked “Is this fast enough to finish in under 4 hours?” He said no, so I picked up the pace and never saw him again, finishing in 3 hrs and 59 minutes.
Patrik wasn’t gonna let me get the best of him this year in the half marathon.
My strategy was to let him go at the start and catch him at the end. Patrik — perhaps anticipating my strategy after reading my last blog (?!) — took a different strategy: Go out hard.
Patrik going hard on the first hill. Photo: Johannes Poignant
Simon, perhaps the smartest, played a strategy that fit his strength as a road racer. He went out “earlier and harder” than Patrik, setting a blazing pace over the first 5 minutes on the gravel road. He knew that as a road racer he could tolerate that kind of “early burst of speed” better than the gang of mountain runners behind him. He was right.
Simon going hard on the first hill. Photo: Johannes Poignant
For me the marathon race started a bit chilly … Despite a warm morning, the wind kicked up at the end of my paddle and I nearly took a swim thanks to some huge side waves. I was wet as I jogged up to the start to find the Norwegian family that had promised to deliver my pack and running shoes. I ran around in circles shivering for 10 minutes, but eventually found them. I washed down a Squeezy caffeine bar and a gel with some honey/salt water and put on a buff to stay warm.
Wishing Simon luck at the start of the race. I almost beat him last year when he “bonked” on the last hill, but I knew this year he would be better prepared. And he was. Photo: Johan Marklund
Staying warm was the least of my problems. The sun came out, the wind died and the lake was perfectly calm. Nobody believed me when I described the big waves just 20 minutes earlier!
I was in 7th place at the start of the hill and by the top I was in 3rd. The problem was that Patrik got to the top in 60 minutes and I took a little over 62. He had created a gap that was hard to close, even though I saw him in the tree-less terrain during most of the race.
Approaching the aid station, with Patrik in view ahead of me. Photo: Johannes Poignant
I threw down two cups of Coke at the aid station and looked longingly at the chocolate balls. They surely would have tasted great, but they were not what my stomach wanted at the time. So I took a banana and pushed on.
Over the top we faced a headwind that made it feel like I was jogging in place, but the view was grand and I was looking forward to the long technical descent.
Enjoying my view over Ottsjö! Photo Erik Westberg www.epixphoto.se
My body was fatigued, but I had strength left in my legs and abdominals to keep a good “active” running style on the descent. That’s the only way to run this part of the trail, which is filled with muddy holes, sharp rocks, long wooden planks, a few strategically-placed stairs, and some patches of grass.
The last part of the race involved some fun trails through the Birch forest and then a last climb up the ski hill. I saw Patrik as I started up the hill (about 1 km from the finish), but it was too little, too late. His strategy worked — he created a gap and I couldn’t cover it.
So how do you know when to go hard and when to start easy? It depends of course …
- How long is the course? Two weeks ago the course was 55 km instead of 21 km and favored endurance over speed. This race was different.
- Who’s in the starting field? What are their strategies likely to be? It’s hard to predict, but important to think about before the race starts.
- How warm is it? The 55 km race started in extreme heat, which favored a more conservative race strategy. A nice wind kept it moderate in this race.
- How’s the body feel? Even the best laid plans need to be adjusted if the body isn’t ready to answer.
Those are my tips for the day Happy recovery and see you next weekend for another multisport “AXA” adventure!
Full men results here: http://fjallmaraton.se/resultat/resultat2014/resultat2014_halvmaraton_herrar.pdf
Other results here: http://fjallmaraton.se/fjallmaraton/resultat/