Sunday, 7 June 2015

Rovön 6H - 2015 edition

The day of our unofficial 6-hour race was finally here. They say that how your day starts sets the tone for how the rest of it is going to be. Well, I started my day by accidentally pouring energy drink all over my clothes, 2 seconds before I had to leave the house. An hour or so later I knocked over a big bottle of Coke all over our snacks table. Coincidence? I think not. 

Those were not the only things to go slightly awry yesterday (or even ”ohshitohshitohshit”-awry) but the good stuff far outweighed the ”20 years from now we're gonna look back at this and laugh”-stuff.

There were 8 of us organising this event, and we worked together perfectly, each person knowing exactly what they had to do when we met up at 7.30 to set up the start/finish/aid station area. I turned up 5 minutes late because of the energy drink incident, sticky and smelling like lemons, to find that the others had already put up one of the party tents and hung a line of flags over it. I wanted to hug each and every one of these crazy people. They're the best. I felt a familiar wave of pride and excitement wash over me. I was close to tears with joy.

Anja helped us dig a hole for one of the signs.

Damn right we're international.

A little over a year and a half ago, I asked some of my running buddies from AIK if they were interested in starting up a 6-hour race, seeing as nothing of the sort existed in Northern Sweden. It wouldn't be official, at least not yet. It was to be an experiment to see if people in the area were interested in this kind of thing. To my surprise, they said yes. And thus started a journey that was smooth sailing thanks to these amazing people and their hard work and enthusiasm.

Now, our little baby was growing up so fast. Last year, 24 people ran the event. This year, the number was up to 40. Some people (a few of them eminent, experienced ultra runners) traveled to Skellefteå to run it. The rainy weather did not seem to deter them. Nor the mosquitoes that feasted on our energy drink spiked blood.

Runners started gathering a few minutes before start

I ran the first 5,5 km round with my Camelbak on my back, the water splashing around in there and causing a racket because I had forgotten to empty it of air. When I came back to the aid station, I decided to take pity on my fellow runners and my poor knees and left the Camelbak with my other stuff. The reason I had it with me in the first place was to practice carrying some weight for HCU but I figured that could wait until a shorter run.

When you run for hours, you go into a sort of trance. Faces, voices, places all melt into one. I remember running with some friends from AIK. I remember running alone. I remember running with J. I remember we laughed and talked about serious stuff and made plans for the future and made plans for dinner. I remember that the question I asked and got asked most often was ”how is it going?”. I remember meeting the AIK group that was running in the opposite direction from us and cheering us on. I remember my arms feeling cold, then warm, then cold again, depending on the wind and rain. I remember trying to do math in my head to see how many rounds I had left and failing miserably. I remember looking across the river and seeing other runners and shouting hellos. 

It was Sweden's national day

After almost four hours I was running with E and G from the club. I wondered where J was. He hadn't run more than 15 km since last year's Rovön 6H, and more often than not much shorter distances than that. But he had not gone home and he was not at the aid station. The results board told me he was still out there soldiering on, and the next time we passed the aid station he had finally decided to give up. He had run an amazing 33 km on legs that had ached from the get-go. I felt so proud of him, so happy, so impressed. Undeniably one of the most fantastic performances of the day.

On the South side of the river, with the headwind picking up

A lot of people broke their personal distance records

I went on running. My goal was to run between 40 and 45 km, as a last long run before HCU. I didn't want to risk running longer than that and cause an injury. But I should know myself well enough by now. When I passed the aid station again after 44 km on legs that weren't sending any warning signals worth taking seriously, I decided to continue. I ran the last round first by myself, then joined once again by G, who was about to break her personal record by a staggering 20 km. When I had run 50 km, I stopped and walked back to the aid station where I proceeded to stuff my face with chips, chocolate, biscuits and coffee. I wasn't hungry at all, but I knew it would be hours before I got the chance to eat dinner.

With just under a half-hour left to the end of the race, I put on every last bit of clothing I had taken with me and tried not to mind the mosquitoes that attacked my bare calves. I talked with people, cheered other runners on, packed my things and put them in the car. When the race was over and all runners had gone home, it was time for the circus to move on. Down with the party tents, down with the flags. Empty the water and energy drink cans, throw the garbage away. Collect all signs and tapes, dismantle the makeshift toilet booth. All of this under a persistent drizzle that soon turned into proper rain, chilling us to the bone.

An hour later, 13 of us were sitting at a pizza restaurant with a calorie-rich pizza in front of us and a beer in our hands, toasting each other. I laughed so much that the only body part that didn't ache (my jaw) also got a great workout. At that moment, tired and overwhelmed by months of planning and hours of running, I couldn't see myself participating in the organisation of another Rovön 6H next year. But this morning, after I'd had some sleep, ”no” had turned into a ”maybe”. And I'm already starting to think about what further improvements we can make. Better weather is only one of them.

HCU is less than three weeks away. It's time to start tapering for it and let my body recover. I am so relieved and happy that I could run 50 km without my knees collapsing.

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