Saturday, July 28, 2018

1. I finally ran the Elveløpet 15K

2. But not really.
3. There were probably 100 15K runners overall.
4. I was clearly dead last of the runners by mile 4.
5. Seriously. Just me and the very lonely road.
6. And the nagging worry that I’d end up running the wrong direction for miles and miles without knowing it.
7. In writing, we call this foreshadowing.
8. So there are lots of hills in Decorah.
10. But they’re nothing compared to the all-but-literal MOUNTAIN that started about mile 5 1/2.
11. MOU. NTAN.
12. Just hills and hills and trees and the road and me.
13. And at one point two startled deer.
14. Plus my irrational worry that I’d encounter a marauding band of feral gnomes who’d abduct me and I’d never be seen again except for occasional sightings of me in a chin beard and gnomey hat under a bridge.
15. Irrational.
16. Except it WAS Nordic Fest so the gnomes might have been emboldened and hungry.
17. But let’s not think about that.
18. Because there’s no such marauding bands of feral gnomes, right?
19. Anyway ...
20. The mountain kept going up and up and up.
21. And then you’d go around a bend and there’d be even more up.
22. But finally there was a plateau.
23. With a rough-hewn rock that had been mowed around in a figure 8.
24. Again: foreshadowing.
25. So the road started going downhill.
26. Finally.
28. The road eventually came to a fork.
29. The official Elveløpet directional arrow sign that had been stuck in the ground at this fork CLEARLY said to go left.
30. Which felt wrong, but I was so turned around that I had no faith in my sense of direction.
31. Foreshadowing.
32. There’s that word again.
33. So I went left.
34. And the road started getting uphilly again.
35. Let me interrupt this gripping narrative to mention that I’d been maintaining an 11:30 pace through my entire Alpine adventure to this point.
36. I’d expected to run a 12:00 pace, so 11:30 was both an awesome surprise and a genuine motivator to maintain my sprightly clip.
37. Though it was clearly epically slower than the collective pace of the other 99 Elveløpet 15K runners.
38. Because they were so far ahead of me that I was ALL ALONE on this winding, forest-of-trees mountain.
39. That was surely crawling with marauding bands of feral gnomes.
40. But back to our story ...
41. So I’m going up and up the mountain of hills, thinking it’s awfully odd that I’ve run a good two miles almost entirely uphill and it’s already mile 7 and I’d better get downhill soon so I can get all the way back to the finish line, which doesn’t seem at all like it’s only 2 miles away.
42. Oh, yay! I seem to finally reached a plateau.
43. Look at that interesting rough-hewn rock that’s been mowed around in a figure 8.
44. Hey—wait a minute ...
45. FUCK.
46. Yup.
47. That left-pointing arrow just sent me on mile-and-a-half repeat loop.
48. So I am no longer running the 15K course that had been mapped out.
49. So I am officially no longer running the race.
50. And now I’m so behind that the finish line may be dismantled and abandoned by the time I get there.
51. Again with the damn foreshadowing.
52. But at least it’s new and different foreshadowing.
53. In the mean time, I have no other option but to keep running and hoping I circle back to that FUCKING WRONG left arrow and see what happens if I go right.
54. Which I did.
55. Still having no clue if it would get me back on course or get me totally lost.
56. In the land of marauding bands of feral gnomes.
57. It’s amazing what a volatile mix frustration, uncertainty and mounting anger can be when you need extra power to fuel a long run.
58. Long story short: Turning right got me back on track.
59. For a whole mile.
60. Then the arrows just disappeared entirely.
61. But I had no way of knowing that.
62. Until a dude on a bike saw me and told me I’d run way past the turn to the finish line.
63. I had to trudge through a hay field to get to the trail I needed to be on to get back on track.
65. By then I’d on-good-faith run 10.3 miles of a 9.3-mile race.
66. I was exhausted.
67. And hot.
68. Because I was finally out in the sun.
69. And pissed.
70. Because through no fault of my own I technically hadn’t run the race I’d been dreaming about running for 20+ years.
71. So FUCK IT.
72. I walked the rest of the way back.
73. Which ended up being a whopping 1.5 miles.
74. Which almost adds up to a 12-mile journey.
75. Remember that foreshadowing about the finish line?
76. Well, it hadn’t been dismantled and abandoned, as I worried it would have been.
77. But it HAD been pulled off the street onto the grass so the street could be reopened to traffic.
78. Some dude was fucking still standing there with a fucking bullhorn and he fucking announced to fucking NOBODY that I crossed the finish line.
79. At this point I was furious.
80. Plus I was far enough from the long-abandoned starting line that I had no idea where I was.
81. But after I finished my Gatorade—I always run with a Gatorade in my hand—and found a bathroom, I calmed down a bit.
82. Because my half-marathon training schedule had me supposed to be running 10 miles this weekend.
83. Which I totally did in today’s 9.3-mile race.
84. And by the transitive power of holy shit when will these hills ever end, that number is more like 13.1.
85. Which—coincidentally—is the exact distance of a half marathon.
86. So I’m totally on track for rocking the half I’m running over Labor Day.
87. Eyes. On. The. Prize.
88. So I’ve decided to look at all of this as I ran the Elveløpet ... plus a lot more.
89. I’m sorry I don’t have an actual finishing time.
90. Because this race was ROUGH and BRUTAL and OTHER ROUGH AND BRUTAL WORDS so it’s totally a one-and-done.
91. But the shirts are awesome.
92. And I know I conquered some killer terrain at a better-than-expected pace for a good 7 miles.
93. Which I’m really thrilled about.
94. And also a little proud of.
95. Plus I rewarded myself with gluttonous amounts of sweet rømmegrøt pudding afterward, which was my only other goal of the trip.
96. Plus the Nordic Fest parade was more delightful and fun and even stirring than I had any idea it would be.
97. I love my cool-fun-proud-and-sometimes-goofy Norwegian heritage.
98. Except for its inability to point simple arrow signs in the right direction.
100. And it goes without saying its penchant for stirring up marauding bands of feral gnomes.

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