5 days into the new ski season (preparation starts 1st May) and already a golden nugget of a race to look forward too. Råskinnet (see last years blog https://engelski.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/raskinnet-mud-sweat-and-beers/) is an extreme running race through lakes, streams and in particular the quagmires of Nordmarka. It’s a great workout and tremendous fun that can be recommended for all, including those not focussed on time. The main goal for many is just to finish. The kudos one gets for being a real “Råskinn” is well worth the effort.
Waking up on the morning of the race, a peak out of the window showed that King Winter was back in town. +2C and a blizzard meant that the race looked like it was going to be one of the more extreme versions, aka 2003 (see http://ht.ly/aItvg).
Fortunately after breakfast it had ceased snowing and it was time to start ferrying the Juniors around to various sporting events and birthday parties. By the time the kids had been shipped out and lunch was wolfed down it was already 45 min prior to start. At least things began to brighten up with occasional sunshine and temperature now peaking at a distinctly tropical +8C.
With a Wave 2 start out of 5, I was eagerly looking forward to a smoother race than last year. I started in wave 1 out of 1 then and chaos ensued as it proved difficult to get past slower runners in the more technically challenging areas of the course. Although there were going to be alterations to the course, I knew that we would have to traverse the Sognsvann lake a couple of times and probably run up the Langmyr quagmire for about 5 km. Last year I’d ran in Nikes vintage 1996. Not being able to find any gaffer tape to hold them together this year I opted to bite the bullet and bring out the Inov8s, a potentially risky act knowing that the swamps are known for their consumption of expensive running attire.
On getting to the starting area I had 15 min in order to do a brief reconnaissance during my warm up of the start and finishing zone. I immediately spotted that we would be starting in the opposite direction to last year and that the trail would take us directly to Sognsvann. This appeared to be a much easier start. Last year we had to negotiate Hell Hill, one of the ski jumps, and the nearby farmers fields before getting a brief taste of swamp action before entering the lake. Still you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and after watching wave 1 start, I lined up about 3 rows back in wave 2. During the 5 minute wait I looked down to see in the myriad of starters that the competitor to my left was wearing a brand spanking new pair of Inov8 Talons. Lovely! I’d noticed that he’d been looking down at my feet too. Just as Volkswagen Beetle drivers toot their horns at each other we engaged eye contact, not difficult being about 3 inches from each other as we were as tightly packed as sardines. I laughed and said “Nice shoes! That’s real bravery giving them an initiation like this”. My erstwhile Inov8 Talon colleague seemed pleased to have found a shoe brother and commented that my shoes were well worn in. I retorted that he’d done a fantastic job tying his shoes laces into a beautiful triple knot tucked in to the “foot” bow. He said that he wasn’t taking any chances as he had heard about the ravenous swamps. It was then that I began to feel self-conscious. I had only tied a double knot in my laces and hadn’t even been arsed to tuck them in. Was this going to be enough?
When the shotgun went off I was still trying to digest the three cheese sandwiches I’d scoffed for lunch. As proved earlier, this is a great tactic eating just prior to start. With a stomach in motion like a Zanussi, my body was diverting blood flow to digest the food as quickly as possible in order to avoid a regurge. This lack of blood flow and accompanying feeling of apathy meant that I opened in a rather casual fashion, a good move if one is to avoid lactic acid build up early on. In no time at all we had gotten to the lake traverse. In contrast to last year we were all bone dry and mud free by this stage. It was just a case of hopping straight in to the water knowing that the critical area was going to come as the depth gradually increased to the gonad line. Sure enough it came: the equivalent of a snail having it’s antenna touched and rapidly diverting back into it’s shell. Steady as she goes. I’d learnt from last year not to be too enthusiastic in the water. It was important to smile to the admiring papparazzi who were busy clicking away as though Madonna was in town. The lake was accomplished without a full submersion this time around. However, when I got out of the water I felt as though I had lost my shoes. I looked down to see that they were still there. I’d been fooled by the coolth. My feet had gone completely numb and as I ran out of the lake up on to the embankment any sense of feeling in my feet had long gone.
Best of Both Worlds
On my way out of the lake and the gentle ascent to Langmyr I was being accompanied by a runner with silver hair. I couldn’t figure out whether the individual was male or female in our battle through Langmyr and the next 5km of mud. We kept passing each other and just when one of us thought they had burnt the other off we would pass each other again. My mind was now preoccupied with finding out what this silver fox thing actually was. I eventually opted for the fact that the individual in question must be a hermaphrodite as I really didn’t have a clue and needed all my brain power to concentrate on getting me through the swamps. My orienteering skills were now coming into their own. Fortunately the map reading skills weren’t required because that bit of orienteering is the bit that I’m really shit at (errr isn’t that a critical part of orienteering?). However, I am good at speed and bounding from tree root to tree root in order to avoid the bogs and I was being quite successful and managing to overtake a few. Now and again the tree roots would disappear and with it I would descend into the brown stuff, usually down to the knees. Extracting myself from the brown gunge was a slow process and one that demanded the use of much energy. After each extraction I’d have to reduce pace in order to get the heart down into a reasonably comfortable I-4 zone. At one point, one of my co-runners pointed out a loose shoe in the depths of the quagmire. We never did see the runner with one shoe and assumed that he/she quit the race soon after.
We were offered a brief respite from the swamps. After rounding the small lake Nedre Blanksjø we were faced with essentially a 10M wall to climb. A scramble up this proved quite successful and my Inov8s were clearly giving me a good grip advantage compared to many of my competitors. The respite was brief, however, and the squelch of the swamps called once again. The mud factor this year was extremely good and much higher than last year. There were many occasions where I would slip into the mud down to waist level which would demand a lot of energy to get out.
Fly Like a Kiwi, Swim like a Hippo
From Nedre Blanksjø the swamps tended to gradually subside as we entered more jungle-like zones. I was pleased that I’d once again opted to wear sunglasses. Last year they’d come in handy in order to deflect the blood out of my eyes after getting a tree branch catapulted at my head by the runner in front. This year was to be no different. Thwack! A huge pine branch was launched in my direction at the speed of light by the runner in front in the dense undergrowth. I had actually been garotted before I heard the thwack. I was left holding my neck as we carried on running. Fortunately it appeared as though it was a meer fleshwound.
Up out of the jungle I saw a course marshall. I felt sure that it was time for the ski jump facade so I quizzed him if we were nearby. He pointed down and we legged it 40m down at a 70% gradient gliding through the air like a Kiwi. A bit more swampy stuff at the bottom then it was time for a 60m ascent back to the top. Due to queues forming I opted to take it easy, though I went on the outside to overtake any slackers that couldn’t keep up with the pace. There didn’t seem any point in stressing and I used the opportunity to plan what was to happen next. The hermaphrodite was back along side and it’s long silvery mane was starting to piss me off. We had been yoyoing to and fro continuously for about 5 km and it was time to do something about it. As we got to the top of the ski jump I opened my legs and showed my class (Colemanballs!). The terrain had suddenly gotten much easier with heather and tree roots being the only obstacles. The Hermaphrodite was well and truly burnt off and I wasn’t to see it again for the duration of the race.
After the “easy” section I began to prepare myself for what was to come next. The real severe swamps occur at the North end of Sognsvann and we were in the vicinity. The long grass suddenly became damp and then saturated as we entered the periphery of Bog City, a gorge completely enfilled with mud with photographers on either site waiting to capture the unfortunate joggist. Last year many runners had clung on to the edge of the rocks to avoid the suctioning swamps. This year the course marshalls had wisened up and were ordering people out into the middle of the beckoning bog. A few people had made a break on the right hand side of the gorge away from the course route and managed to evade much of the cavernous mud. However, they did not evade the bollocking from a course marshall and the rest of us just manned up, put our noses in the air and dived in.
My first step out of the squelchy long grass into the bog was rather unfortunate. Up to now I’d been watching where others in front had been putting there feet. Now I’d lost concentration. It was just like out of a silent comedy film with the lead stepping into a puddle. The guy in front (Stan Laurel?) stepped to the left and only went into the water covered bog, up to his ankles. I (Oliver Hardy?) stepped to the right and encountered a hole and ended up in the gunge up to my waist. Fortunately rescue was at hand as a big beefy guy came from behind and pulled me out. I thanked him and continued my course through the watery bog. On occasion I would get stuck and sink again down to waist level. This meant having to extract myself by getting on all fours, by immersing my hands too.
Tough Mudder? More Like Puff Mudder
After negotiating the tough gorge quagmire it suddenly started to hailstone. Great! What could possibly go wrong now? We were nearing the second lake traverse at the North end of Sognsvann. However, before getting there we entered another long grassy area followed by more marsh land. I was doing my best to follow in the footsteps of the guy in front and succeeding quite well. That is, until yet another comedy moment as I slid off the long grass into yet another mud hole waist deep. This maneuver was accompanied by a shout of “Oooh ya fucka!!” as cramp surged through my left calf muscle. My immediate thoughts were that I was doomed. The immediate surge of cramp always sets in a panic as I flounder wondering how long I’ll be in agony for. Fortunately my panic attack was longer than the cramp, and it forced me to take evasive action to get out of the hole. The paparazzi were encamped on the embankment and weren’t able to view my demise, at least not at this stage. The traverse across Sognsvann proved to be once again unproblematic though my feet were once again numb on exiting the lake.
The Wheels Have Come Off
On exiting the lake I knew that the most technically challenging part of the course was now behind us. What was next on the list was three annoying diversions away from the SRM track around Sognsvann. At least this year I was prepared and knew what was in store. I powered up the 40-60m ascents in each case and ensured that I gave gas on the descents. This was a very successful approach as most people were resting on the downhill stretches. At the start of the third and final diversion I made out a familiar sight. It was Mr Kondis. He’d beaten me by about 10 secs last year in Sørkedalsløpet claiming that he wasn’t very good at terrain running (yeh right!). Jeez he looked to be either taking it easy or struggling a bit. As I got closer I saw that it was the latter and that it looked as though the wheels had come off. I said hello and offered words of encouragement as I went past.
On the way down I gunned it and we eventually came to the field leading to the 2nd ski jump. Across the field I overtook a couple more, giving words of encouragement as I passed then posed for a photographer. As I approached the bottom of Hell Hill I’d thought that I’d left Mr Kondis for dead. How wrong I was as he completely floored it and tore up the hill being egged on by a fellow bakeries team-mate taking pics. As I ran up the tunnel of people cheering us on, I couldn’t react to his attack and two others also overtook me on the way up. At the top I could see that Mr Kondis was already close to the bottom of the hill and the other two geezers were also in front. At this point I was determined to not mentally disintegrate and decided that no matter what, I was going to take out all three before the finishing line, now only about 300m away. I quickly dealt with the other two geezers on the way down from Hell Hill, but could still see that Mr Kondis had a big lead in front of maybe 20m. I was approaching zone I-5 and miraculously was able to take out another gear as I began to eat into his lead. As we cornered into the finishing straight I was now only about 5m behind with approx 100m to go. A voice from the crowd called out to cheer me on (Ingrid?) and I gunned it down the home straight willing Mr Kondis to gear up as I shouldered him. I acknowledged him hoping he would react and tore through to the finish line. We high fived and congratulated each other with smiles all round.
I’d had a great race and finished in a descent time of 1h 1min & 46secs, enough to afford 484th place out of about 1500 starters. At the finish we picked immaculate white Råskinnet T-shirts as prizes. I was disappointed that there was not washing powder prize this year, as I had a real job to do on my kit when I got home.
In the car park I met a few of the guys that I’d ran with for the most part. I’d managed to pull away from them on the less technically demanding parts at the end of the course. I got one of the guys to take a picture of me as a souvenir of Råskinnet 2012. It transpired that he lost a shoe in the swamps and had done a remarkable job to finish. After getting home it was off to pick the Juniors up from their afternoon events. I picked up Engelski Weenie from a birthday party and became engaged in discussions with one of the fellow parents. That is until rather embarrassingly, one of the other parents broke in to point out that I still had an ear full of mud. Did I give a shit! Absolutely not. I retorted that I was a genuine “Råskinn” and left the party with a feeling of pride.
As usual Kondis have put together some great race reportage and pictures. These can be viewed at http://www.kondis.no/sylta-og-bjerkreim-vant-raaskinnet.5051017-127676.html
Øystein Sylta (winner) 41:33
Gjermund TUB bike 42:32
HC TUB 56:26
Ole-Martin TUB 57:36
Class winner 46:18
Mr Koll 56:54
Engelski TUB 1:01:46
Nils Arne 1:06:30
Mr Kondis TUB tri 1:06:48
Tilla Marie TUB 1:12:06
Mr TUB2 TUB 1:16:08
Last place 2:12:06