What I learned by running the Bèrghem Ultraløpetid 2017

Posted by JM on Mar 18, 2017

Running on compact ice is bloody hard.

I contacted the Bèrghem Ultraløperklubb in late 2016, probably after finishing the Furusjøen Rundt, and still sitting on cloud nine after the Rondanestien hike.

Somehow I managed to find Fulvio Øksendal, the club organiser, after doing a search in Facebook for anything related to the Rondanestien. Thinking about it now, I had probably been doing post-hike research. On our hike we had written a lot of detailed notes, and were planning on putting a journal or log.

When I saw photos of Fulvio running the Rondanestien, bells and whistles went off in my mind, and I almost did a few cartwheels and backflips in my room.

Although I had no idea about running ultras, and had failed miserably at running the Schwarzwald marathon, running the Rondanestien sounded like heaven.

So I got in touch, and although the race along the Rondanestien was subject to approval by the parks and wildlife authority, I was invited to join one of Fulvio’s infamous winter training runs. This one being 70 km.

How do you train for a 70 km run? Especially when you haven’t completed a 42 km run, and the longest you’ve ever done is 21 km? That’s the beauty of ultra running. Anything is possible.

Fulvio gave me some tips and told me not to worry. He was more confident about me finishing the race, than I was. I had had zero experience running in snow, ice and sub zero temperatures up until that point.

He also introduced me to the concept of interval running. I hadn’t done an interval in my life before then and it took me a while until I started using them in training.

Although I had two long runs of 19 km and 25 km in -12 and -5 degrees respectively under my belt prior to the race - distances for training runs that were previously unheard of in my world - it wasn’t enough for me to reach 70 km. Not that I had really believed I was ready for 70 km, especially not in winter with the shorter days limiting how much time you had to get those kms done in. But I did achieve 30 km - which was pretty great.

What did I learn by running the Bèrghem Ultraløpetid 2017? A lot. Who cares about a marathon when you can run even further. Who wants to run on asphalt, when you can run on beautiful Norwegian trails. Why run in the city, when the outback is waiting for you.

I learned that I was about to enter a completely different world of running - the world of ultra running. A different beast altogether.

We started the training run with a 6:00 min per km pace, which in the beginning was fine, but as the run wore on, especially as it became harder on my feet, it was more difficult to maintain that pace. As Fulvio was dependent on keeping that pace, so that we wouldn’t be running well into the night and eventual freezing cold, calling it quits at the 30 km mark where the drinking station was, sounded like a good idea. He and the other runner could then continue right to the end - which they did.

But for future races, it would be better to run at my own pace.

The amount of battering your feet take on ice and in snow, are also something you have to get used to. That the body uses up a lot more energy to stay warm and to avoid becoming cold, in sub zero temps, is where food and drink, as well as clothing, play an important role. Something I was underprepared for, and partly why I lost steam and started dragging behind like a lead balloon.

The 30 km mark was achieved in 4 hours. I didn’t have a watch or timer, so this is an approximation only.

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