Thursday May 5, 2016 was the third edition of Bodom trail. The outcome of the race for me was everything else but what I had expected. I have taken part in all Bodom trail races and every time my time has gotten worse, that sounds frustrating and believe it or not –  it is. However this time I think I have come to understand a key concept of racing healthy some sort of maturing as an athlete – I listened to my body!

Right before the start my watch was showing a rather normal pre-race heart rate (HR) of 105-110 bpm, but once our wave was sent off and had reached the starting line (roughly 100m) I was shocked to notice my HR had bumped up to my anaerobic threshold from where it would never come down for the rest of the race. This meant I had to monitor my HR for a while as this new situation was not supporting my race strategy conceived beforehand.

Ben and myself, quite optimistic about the upcoming race.

my trusted off road shoes!

I was pretty confident a few weeks before this race that I actually could run rather well, as my training had progressed satisfactorily. I had nor skipped nor missed a single training session, which consists of swimming and running, since January 2016, moreover I had devoted more -in fact substantially more- kilometers to off-road running. I have been training very consciously, tailored my sessions taking into account my aerobic and anaerobic thresholds with a lot of interval sets both in running and swimming so that I would have a solid base come race day. My HR has been reliable, all spring I have known where I am at and always knew when I could push myself some more.
But then on race day nothing went as planned. I was going for a classic negative split, but besides my HR issues already the first kilometer proved to throw me off as I clocked 4:58 min/km, a crazy pace for me considering this is trail running! But it is very difficult to maintain your own pace when running in the pack even more so if from the start on everybody dashes off like crazy.

The first wave is sent off!

Still very wet - runners are trying to keep their shoes dry, at least in the beginning.

+ 20° degree Celsius

There of course are various reasons for this HR anomaly of mine. I think the main one is the temperature, the race started at 10 o’clock in the morning, each wave five minutes after the previous one – at that time temperature had risen to already 18° degree Celsius and rose to incredible 22° degree Celsius until noon. Mind you it was only May 5 and we are after all in Finland!

That were the weather conditions for the race which differed immensely from what we have been used here over the last few months. Temperatures have been around 10-15° degree Celsius during the last week and only this very week we have been experiencing temperatures higher than 15°C. And yet it was not long ago we still had freezing temperatures. So I would say average training temperatures have been 4-8°C. My best guess is that I could not handle these conditions.

Lesson learned: Training according to heart rate thresholds is fine, but do not count on them in a race!

Another wet obstacle, mind your balance!

Forget your heart rate in a race?

After monitoring my HR for a few kilometers I came to the conclusion there is no use in doing so. Slowing down had no significant effect on it and since I did not come for a walk I ran on, encouraged even more to do so as I felt rather good. I was not experiencing shortness of breath, any pain nor was I becoming tired – if something I was starting to feel the ascents in my quads.

Now why do we monitor our HR during a race and I stress race conditions? Is it really necessary? Maybe for a rookie! A person who has not yet learned to listen to her body, that might be wise. But of course there might not be one right answer to this.

Obstacles here and there, under and over, around and through.

Spotted a Tarahumara!

My indispensable accessories for trail running are sun glasses ⎧to protect my eyes from slashing branches⎫, a bandana ⎧worn on one wrist for cleaning my face⎫ and a wrist band ⎧to protect my watch⎫.

An experience richer

I have come a long way, I am a changed person. It is only my 5th season in the field of endurance sports and in these years I have gone from I hate running to I cannot imagine life without it. This all despite some negative experiences namely my knee problems I had in 2014.

After 2015 with my first full distance triathlon 2016 will be a short to mid distance race season with focus on swimrun only to prepare myself  for 2017, year I will be tackling marathon and longer distances with hopefully a visit to the Swiss Alps to do some high altitude running.