Mt. Esja rises above Reykjavík across the bay north of the city. It is one of the most popular recreation areas close to Reykjavík. The most popular peak is Þverfellshorn (780 m) which is accessible by a marked path, yet fairly challenging.
Some 15 years ago I decided to race to the top as fast as I could. The result was that I reached the summit in 55 minutes. Over the past few years I have regularly said to myself that it was time to break that record. Regularly I have tried. Regularly I have failed. Regularly I have reached the summit in 58 minutes. Regularly I have said to myself “if I had just pushed a little bit harder”.
Today I argued that there was time to have another go at the record. I argued that now I could finally do it. One could quite convincingly argue that maybe I am 15 years older now than I was 15 years ago. However, after a couple of +20k jogs in Collserola hills earlier this spring, I argued that I must be in a better shape now than I was then. It was thus inevitable that I would thrash my previous record.
When attempting a record breaking hike one has to face several choices. The first one was between running shoes and hiking boots. I chose hiking boots to avoid the risk of twisting my ankle in rocky terrain. The next choice was between the old route and the new route. I chose the new route for two reasons. First, I would have an easy excuse if I failed to beat my record. Second, even if the new route is longer I argued that it is less steep and I could therefore walk it faster.
On I marched — in my hiking boots — along the new path. Soon I realized that I was up against a steeper challenge than I had anticipated. I had underestimated the mountain and overestimated my form. The hike took more out of me than I had expected.
When I reached the midway point in the valley below Þverfellshorn I had already been walking for half an hour. It was clear that I was not going to thrash any record. But break it? Maybe. Hardly. I marched on as fast as I could. Which was not very fast at all. I was tired. I was so tired that it even crossed my mind to stop and take some photos (a.k.a. catching ones breath). I had not given up all hope. It was however not looking good.
My next landmark was a stone. It is interesting that in a country that is hardly anything but rocks and stones, a major landmark is referred to as a stone. To its credit, it is a major stone. Anyway. I reached a stone after 45 minutes of hiking. The final stint a head of me was steep and included some climbing. It was possible to do it in less than 10 minutes. However, not likely.
I gave it everything I had. Which was not much. I marched on. The time marched on. The time at a somewhat constant speed. I at a somewhat less constant speed. I marched on step by step. The time marched on minute by minute. Ten minutes passed without me reaching the summit. I had once again failed to break my record. I backtracked to my next goal. Reach it within an hour. Ideally below my all too common 58 minutes.
In the end I reached the Þverfellshorn summit in 57 minutes and 49 seconds. I said to my self: “If I had just pushed a little bit harder”. There is something magical about these 58 minutes. It seems to be my natural rhythm. Oh well. At least I had a nice hike and got some nice photos on the way down.
Of course I blame the new path for my inability to break my record. It has obviously nothing to do with my shortness of breath or tired legs. It is the path that is the culprit. Really. I’ll just have to remember to keep going the new path in order to avoid discovering the truth. Or do some more systematic training. I think I’ll go for the new path.