The experience of becoming "Italian champion" in the marathon distance at my very first race after the birth of my baby was completely unforgettable. The most exciting part was once again to be racing in rough and demanding terrain.
We amazed ourselves, and probably many others, by going right to the very top in my first race after little Bjørnar came into the world. A good physical feeling throughout the race, and the fact that I was able to complete it, confirmed that we have made many correct decisions in our training so far.
So as a message to all you mothers who have recently given birth: it is not necessary to lay all your personal dreams and aspirations aside for an indefinite period of time. I believe it to be possible to combine ones own interests with being a good mother, as long as one plans well and wants it enough.
What is the Gunn Rita Marathon?
Montello Gunn-Rita Marathon consists of three different distances: Classic at 44 kilometres, Marathon at 76 kilometres, and Extreme at a total of 117 kilometres. This year the race also included the Italian championship marathon, an open championship with possibility for international participation. The elite women's class did the 76-kilometre distance while the men had to do the extreme round. My winning time was three hours and 47 minutes in total.
The marathon distance for women provided us with undulating terrain, many short and steep climbs, and very few flat sections. It totaled 1,800 vertical metres of climbing. There were a few short stretches on tarmac, a good deal of gravel roads, and a lot of exciting singletrack. Heavy rain that day and the night before meant that many of the technical sections were extremely muddy, making it more demanding for both cyclists and equipment as compared to a dry track.
The organisation behind the race, Pedali di Marca, has made an impressive effort for many years now with this race and has received the European Championship marathon for 2010 and the World Championship marathon in 2011. The race starts and finishes in the town of Montebelluna, just north of Treviso (in the Veneto province), in the north-east of Italy. We've been training in this area many times and really enjoy it here - wonderful food, beautiful nature, a lot of interesting history, friendly people and delicious wine. The special white wine called Prossecco - something like champagne, only a lot better - is made in this district.
Check www.gunnritamarathon.com and find several videos of the race.
Travelling with a baby
This trip to Italy was our first time travelling with Bjørnar. We were naturally a little apprehensive about how it would go and what new challenges that would arise along the way. Kenneth's older sister, Hege, came with us as Super Nanny, and it worked really well. Bjørner seemed to enjoy both the aeroplane trip and the experience of a new place.
It was very special bringing Bjørnar up onto the platform with me to I receive my medal. He has given us a lot of energy and motivation in everyday life, so it was a natural thing to include him in the ceremony. It was a bit unreal to be taking part in a race again, feel the atmosphere, savour the pumping adrenaline and meet a lot of cycling enthusiasts and fans and friends again.
As usual, we received excellent assistance from the organisation, Pedali di Marca, and our sponsor NorthWave. In addition, Luca from Merida helped us as mechanic and bottle provider during the race, and we really appreciated his help. Kenneth packed and assembled bikes, and polished his grin both before and after the race, which is a job he's been doing for many years already. In other words, it was a fantastic experience for all of us to be at our first race together as a family ?
Tomorrow we're leaving for the cabin with my mother and father, and we're really looking forward to that - lots of fishing, barbecuing and relaxation. Next race for me hasn't been decided yet. It's important now that my body gets to completely recover again after this last tough experience, and then we'll make a new set-up for training and possible races in the time to come.
Have a wonderful and active summer no matter where you are!
Cyclist’s greetings from Gunn-Rita, Kenneth and Bjørnar
Multivan Merida Biking Team
[Translation: Crispen T.P. de Lange]
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Norwegian cross country mountain bike racer Gunn-Rita Dahle Flesjå is a favorite on the international mountain bike circuit. For years, she has delighted loyal fans as she raced her heart out in cross country and marathon events.
She made an impressive comeback in 2008 after a season of illness. In 2008, she won the Madrid, Spain, round of the UCI World Cup and the UCI Marathon World Championships and finished 12th in the World Cup final standings.
Dahle Flesjå then took on the challenge of motherhood in 2009 when she gave birth to her first child in the spring. With the support of her husband Kenneth Flesjå and her family, she returned to competition within a few months after becoming a mother.
Dahle Flesjå was World Champion in 2002, 2004, 2005, and 2006, plus Olympic champion in 2004. In 2003 to 2006, she dominated the sport, winning the World Cup overall.
Follow her faithfully recounted exploits on Cyclingnews as she balances the roles of mother and elite racer. Or, for more Gunn-Rita, see her personal website: