This race was just yesterday, so I’m still quite excited about it and my legs are just starting to hurt. With 25 km and over 1000 meters of elevation gain this was by far the longest and most demanding race I have participated in so far. The second longest was the 15 km trail run in Portugal this May, which was very steep and hot but a whole lot shorter.
I wasn’t really sure if signing up for this trail run was a good idea, since I have an injured shoulder that hurts in many situations, mostly when I carry or lift something. So this summer going hiking with a backpack hast proven itself impossible but running has actually not had any negative aspects on my shoulder.
To make sure it was okay, I first went to see a doctor in Tromsø and then I went twice to a chiropractor that actually helped me a lot. Both said that it shouldn’t be any problem to participate, as long as I didn’t feel a lot of pain.
The days before the race I stayed close to Tromsø and enjoyed the city and the amazing mountain landscape around. I did some shorter day hikes and got to know part of the trail I would have to run on race day.
Yesterday morning I started the day with preparing my small backpack for trail running, which is basically a vest with 8l volume. The organization gave out a list with mandatory items to bring with you, such as a whistle, compass and map, food and additional clothing in case it would get cold (and it got quite cold!).
I opted for a small bottle of half a liter only, since there were several aid stations along the trail and I wanted to keep the weight of the vest as low as possible to not cause pain in my shoulder.
Kilometer 0 to 6: The race starts with a total of 114 participants. The weather is not too bad, no rain and 8 degrees. Right after the start the differences between the really good runners and the rest is apparent – they just run away as if the race wasn’t 25 kilometers but maybe five. I decide to take it slow, because that is the only option I have to make it through this. First the trail is a wide gravel path and after a while it get’s more rocky and uneven. It’s quite easy to run on but it goes uphill all the time.
My legs feel heavy and stiff and I start to feel anxious about the race. What was I thinking to sign up for this? On a day like today even running 5 km would have felt long and draining – and now 5 times 5 km in these mountains?!
Kilometer 6 to 11,5: After the first resupply station the trail starts to become a proper narrow mountain trail and leads me right up above the tree line. It’s quite steep and nobody around me is even trying to run. The best I can do is trying to find a walking pace that I can keep for the next five kilometers without having to stop. It’s tricky to not go too fast so that in the end I would have to stop and just stand there panting and trying to catch a breath.
The trail reaches a beautiful lake in a hidden valley and suddenly some strong gusts and dark clouds approach. It starts to rain and hail (or maybe snow?) and I decide to put on my rain jacket and a wool hat.
Although the situation is maybe not the best (uphill and cold rain) I really start to get into the groove and suddenly participating in this trail run seems like an awesome idea. I make sure to hydrate a lot and also eat some sugary gels. I climb higher and higher and finally disappear into the clouds. There are small bright flags that mark the trail and despite the fog it is not too hard to follow these. Finally, I can see on my GPS, the highest point of the route is finally coming closer.
Kilometer 11,5 to 15: The peak, with two volunteers from the Norwegian Red Cross, is coming in sight and I take a short break to get my gloves and a bag of chili nuts from my pack. The visibility is really low and the temperature is around freezing. I’m getting cold really quickly and need to start moving as soon as possible.
I have done all the uphill and from here on it will be a lot easier!
I’m already familiar with the following kilometers since I walked them a couple of days ago. It’s steep, rocky and very wet. I can’t really see anything around me since everything is covered in a dense fog and the rain is pouring down on me. Suddenly the clouds open a bit and I can see the fjord and the city of Tromsø in the sunlight – a magical moment and I run downhill even faster and with a big smile on my face.
How lucky I am to be here!
Soon I arrive at the cable car, which is another aid station. I drink a glass of coke and fill up my bottle once more with sports drink.
Kilometer 15 to 19: From the aid station the trail goes steadily downhill and eventually reaches the birch forest again. The running is not as easy as I had hoped for: the trail is extremely muddy and slippery. Every couple of meters there is a little stream crossing the path and I have to be careful not to fall. I eat some more nuts and some Glucose, which always give a nice burst of energy.
By now I have been out running for almost three hours and I start to feel my legs getting tired. Luckily enough my shoulder doesn’t act up at all but I also make sure not to move my arm abruptly or to lift it over my head. Going smootly and steadily is my goal. I haven’t been overtaken by any other runner since kilometer 10 and although I can even see some more participants behind me, no one is trying to get past me.
Kilometer 19 to 25: I come down to the last aid station and fill up my bottle for the last time. I’m content that I have been taking care of my hydration and I believe that it makes a big difference in my energy levels. Now I’m back on the trail that also consisted the first 6 kilometers of the race, so it’s mostly downhill on a quite wide and easy path. I run through the forest and slowly start to realize that now nothing (well, almost nothing) can stop me from completing this race. I speed up a little and with a look on my GPS I realize that I have good chances to finish under four hours, quite a lot faster than I had hoped for!
The trail becomes more urban and partly even paved, I cross a brigde and finally reach the campground where the finish is. After 03:51:08 the race is over for me and I’m incredibly happy and excited.
I have made a 92nd place overall and 42nd out of 55 women that participated. That’s maybe not an incredibly high classification but I’m very content, considering I’m still new to trail running and that this has been my longest run both and time and distance, besides being the one with the highest elevation. I managed to save my energy and went at a calm pace that even allowed me to cross the finish line without feeling completely destroyed.
Overall a very positive experience in an incredible wild and rough mountain landscape.