For the curious and alert ones amongst you: you’re right: Olne-Spa-Olne was last Sunday! And since you’re reading this I guess you might even want to know how things went? Well, let’s not spoil a perfectly good story by skipping right to the end and start where one’s supposed to start: the very beginning.
Of course, I let go of my +2k plan about 2 weeks before OSO. The weekend in the Ardennes with my parents 2 weeks ago seemed like the perfect occasion to do some hill training – which I did – but running for 5 hours during a weekend with your family isn’t the most social thing to do. All in, I did do my 40k, but in 2 sessions. Not the best hiking paths there either. Preventing an injury gained priority over sticking to my +2k plan.
But anyways, Saturday November 27th., Dries & I left for Chaudefontaine, where we would spend a wonderful night at the “La Beole” bed & breakfast (pity our main priority was sleeping and getting up early but thanks to our hosts who woke up extra early to make us breakfast!), we headed for the start around 7:20 in the morning. Once there, we queued to get our numbers and geared up. I’d eaten so much muesli that morning that I’d probably last way past noon with all the energy I had in me, but still packed some cookies and cashew nuts (which would end up staying in my backpack for the entire trip and, more than anything else, make a lot of noise). The place was really crowded: almost 500 runners showed up. We teamed up with Greg and Kristof, our brothers from our small and totally unprofessional “run to the hills” team.
What we lacked in professionalism, we made up with enthusiasm. Pictures were taken, predictions were made and quotes worthy of a place in the run to the hills biography were spoken (not suitable for publication though) and around 8:10 we finally left.
The most unexperienced one of our group, I decided to stick with the others. We talked & joked as if we were doing a quick morning run instead of a morning, noon and pretty much the rest of the day run. But soon enough I’d lose my buddies for the first time. I waited when I had to queue anyway at a flight of stairs, but at the first descent I was gone again. I’d see them once more when, after about 4k, the first half of the runners took a wrong turn and had to turn around (again, jokes were made and it was agreed upon that my extra 500 meters would be taken into account when we made our own ranking). The next downhill part… I was alone. I decided to stick to my own pace and easily made it to the first and second stop. 30k down, 38 to go. But I didn’t know that since it was supposed to be 35, not 38. Luckily, I also refused to check my watch so I had no idea how much I’d run at all. The road to the third stop seemed to last forever, with some steep uphill parts. I had to walk, but since everybody else was walking as well I wasn’t thrown back. On the contrary: every time it went downhill, I caught up with more & more runners. My stomach started hurting because I was unable to eat any decent food. The third stop came right in time. I took a 5 min break, ate some chips, refilled my camelbak for the first time and was on my way again, feeling a whole lot better.
Not long after the third stop I caught up with 2 Flemish guys and we started chatting. The younger one of the duo turned out to be the number 10 of last years edition, but he was having a hard time this year. I stuck around for a while, but eventually left them behind and continued at my own pace. I caught up with more & more runners while only a few caught up with me. Meanwhile, I was expecting Dries & Kristof any time. Nobody came from behind and instead I caught up with a Walonian guy who was doing his 12th. OSO. We talked for a while until a downhill part where I left him behind.
We met again at the very last stop. For the first time I checked my watch. 62k. Only 5 more to go. My average was about 8.6 and I realized I wasn’t going to see Kristof or Dries until after the finish. I ate something and pushed onwards. Some crazy dude gave me a detailed description of what was waiting for me. 2 uphill parts and that was it! However, I was counting every street that went slightly up as an uphill part and quickly hated him for being such a liar!
And then, after what was in my opinion the 7th. uphill part of those last 5k, the finish came within sight. Sure enough, one more hill to climb, but the eye was on the prize and there was no way I was going to let it go now. I pushed onwards with all I had left and finished in 7h 55 minutes (garmin proof here!). 88th. out of 316 finishers and about 450 starters. Given the fact this was my first trail run and first 42k+ run, I couldn’t be happier.
So to sum things up, my first official trail run was great and left me with a craving for more! I’m not sure yet where I’m headed, more distance or better times, but this is definitely not the end. After all… there is no finish line!