When recapping my final race I discussed how, through the Eiger Ultra Trail E101, I fell over for the primary time in a race. We’ll I feel it was a floodgate second. In my subsequent race I will need to have fallen about 50 instances, no exaggeration, I spent loads of time on my bottom in Norway…
The Stranda Fjord Trail Race in Norway had been on the playing cards for a very long time. Originally I signed as much as the race again in 2019 and hoped to do the inaugural 100km run in 2020. But everyone knows what occurred that 12 months and the identical trigger meant 2021 additionally wasn’t potential for us. Oscar, the Race Director, was extremely supportive in deferring entries till we might journey to Norway and race. So in 2022, a barely smaller than deliberate group of us headed out to lastly run within the fjells of Norway.
In the times main as much as the weekend it turned more and more clear that the climate was going to be lower than very best for the race. Clouds and rain meant a climate warning and amendments to the 100km route had been activated for security. At this level I used to be form of happy with it. We can’t management or change the climate, and I used to be anticipating the path to be very tough. So eradicating a few of the most tough sections could be in my favour I believed. A small profit to lacking out on the legendary panoramic views from Slogen.
Nick and Natalia woke at 1am to escort me right down to the city of Stranda for the beginning. An pointless and type gesture from them each given they would wish to get up in a number of hours to organize for his or her 48km race. After accumulating my GPS tracker I sat contained in the constructing (the place we collected our race numbers) with the opposite runners, ready till it was nearly 02:00 and time to run. We first lined up beneath the finishers arch earlier than being led across the nook to the actual begin line. Here I fell for the primary time, stepping in a gap within the concrete pavement, earlier than the race had even begun!
Section 1: Start –Duklidalen
The course begins in town sq. in Stranda. From Stranda you’ll first be working a number of km on a asphalt highway till you hit the trailhead on Framhus. From Framhus you can be working on a pleasant path as much as Dregetua (693) after which off path over to Vardnakken (878masl) and additional to Blåhornsvatnet on path. From Blåhornsvatnet you can be working on a pleasant path right down to Vasset. From Vasset you can be working a number of km on a gravel highway till you hit the trailhead for the path in direction of Lievarden (799masl) and Duklidalen (820masl). In Duklidalen you will discover an assist station.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
Moments later and we had been off, working the tarmac highway change backs for the primary few kms. I used to be pleasantly shocked at this level that we caught collectively principally as one huge group of runners and that I hadn’t been left behind utterly.
The roads quickly gave method to the forest and we started working in single file within the darkness. And it was very darkish, one thing about it felt darker than the standard nights I’ve skilled. Though the paths had been clearly lit by the handfuls of head torches bobbing about.
Mostly it was silent now apart from the sloshing sounds as we ran by puddles and muddy trails. I felt that almost all runners had been, like me, making an attempt to keep away from getting their ft moist. I accepted that it could be moist however didn’t plan on being waterlogged for the entire race so was comfortable to skip across the trails once I might. I ought to have recognized higher that weeks of rain on this space would have meant the bottom circumstances could be far worse than I imagined! It was quickly clear that the paths would constantly be this manner at the perfect of instances.
Through the forests two issues stood out in my reminiscence. Almost getting misplaced – the spacing between runners was now growing and some of us overlooked the runners forward of us and this part was not course marked. A fast cease and verify of the GPS and we had been again on observe earlier than the harm was carried out! And some extent the place there was a pleasant bunch of supporters with colored lights and music who cheered us by one small part of the observe. It created a great ambiance and led to a couple of us to begin speaking. Whilst speaking to a couple climbers who had been doing the race it made me realise that a lot of the runners round me had been head to toe in waterproofs (or carrying mountain climbing trousers!) and there have been only a few like me in shorts and tshirts and not using a waterproof on. Even although it was drizzling with rain, I knew although that I’d overheat on the early climbs so was ready till the climbs had been uncovered earlier than I’d layer up.
After slightly part on some wider gravel roads, the forests returned and have become slightly steeper and really, very muddy. Every every now and then a collection of wood walkways assisted in avoiding a lot of the mud. The forest quickly gave approach and the mountain opened up into an unlimited uncovered climb. The single tracks we adopted, nonetheless making an attempt to skip across the mud and bogs. So far so good though it was now very windy and chilly (the drizzle of wonderful rain had develop into extra fixed now) so I took a second to layer up with my waterproof jacket.
We continued climbing earlier than reaching the primary of the smaller summits (which will need to have been Dregetua) marked by a stone trig pillar. We then started descending and working once more. I set off and was having fun with seeing the top torches of different runners approach off within the distance. Here although it was turning into more and more tough to keep away from the mud because the slim tracks left little room to manoeuvre as the bottom was so uneven. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than I used to be soaked to my shins and lined in mud. At one level my left shoe got here off, caught and wedged within the mud utterly. I needed to bend down and pull with each palms to get out again out. I took the second to tighten each my laces! We then climbed slightly extra in comparable lumpy circumstances which was fairly tiring on the terrain and within the chilly of night time. The warmth from the primary little bit of climbing meant my t shirt was soaked with sweat so I couldn’t actually keep away from getting chilly even with the jacket on!
From the following trig level (Vardnakken) we started descending. Down we went by an extended collection of lumpy bogs. The undulating terrain meant it was fairly tough to get a great rhythm when working. One foot would descend then subsequent foot would ascend a lump. I felt like I used to be jarring up and down and working very inefficiently. There had been rocks hidden within the darkness too.
Once extra my shoe acquired sucked off (the correct one this time) and after retrieving it I tightened my laces much more. They had been so tight now that they weren’t significantly comfy. But fortunately they by no means got here off once more!!
The descend was constant till we reached Blåhornsvatnet. From right here the descent turned steeper and considerably more durable. We we taking place muddy and rocky change backs, typically off path, typically by streams and all the time having to look and see which approach was the obvious. It wasn’t lengthy earlier than I used to be on my arse and lined in mud. Within a couple of minutes I had fallen a number of instances. The mud was so thick that there was no method to grip it correctly. Whilst my Inov8 Trailrocs aren’t very best for muddy runs, I additionally couldn’t think about many trainers being a lot use right here! I wasn’t alone. I might hear the gasps and groans of different runners within the night time too and will see runners in entrance of me falling over.
I used to be already considering to myself that this was the least enjoyable I’ve ever had in a descent. It was relentless and torturous and I simply needed to settle for it. Accept that it could be uncomfortable and that I’d preserve falling. So I simply stored transferring, letting gravity pull me down, hoping it could be carried out faster that approach. There had been a number of factors the place I simply ploughed straight by bogs above my knees and needed to drag myself out with my poles. There could be no warning as the bottom simply sucked you in. Mostly although it was nearly shin excessive. I bear in mind considering to myself that this was suppose to be the best part of the race! The alarm bells had been ringing. I then took an almighty slip, skidding slightly bit on my heels earlier than twisting and taking place on my left facet. I do know I swore loudly (not for the primary time) and I heard a sound from my pole which I landed on high of. It gave the impression of a crack however I hoped it was simply the sound of it hitting the the bottom and my weight on high. Once once more I picked myself up and carried on, fortunately the paths lastly got here to an finish and we had a bit of gravel observe to run on. It felt fairly lengthy however quickly sufficient we had been climbing once more (which I imagine meant we had been now related to the place the 48km runners would begin). The gravel was a welcome change and I took the chance to take away my jacket once more. I used to be additionally shocked how shortly my ft and sneakers appeared to dry out. It was round 04:30, the morning was breaking and the solar beginning to rise, giving a glimpse of the wonderful views of Stranda and the Fjord under us.
Inevitably the gravel highway turned a forest observe and the climb turned more durable because the moist floor and dirt returned. Over the course of some 100m of climbing the tracks turned off/observe because the mountain opened as much as us. The tracks returned and introduced with them unimaginable views off to our left of the Fjord and over to Liabygda. I finished for a couple of minutes to layer up once more because the uncovered mountain meant extra rain and the temperature had dropped because the wind picked up. It did give me a possibility to soak up the views throughout me within the early morning mist.
From the climb we descended once more, the tracks weren’t too steep however they had been very moist and we ran on waterlogged tracks and bogs from the various streams. Up forward a tent could possibly be seen alone within the wild. The first assist station at Duklidalen and the primary alternative to eat one thing!
I checked my watch and timings and I had lined the 20km or so in just about the time I estimated I’d. Not a foul get thinking about the state of the paths!
Section 2: Duklidalen – Fjørstad
From Duklidalen you can be working on and off path up the Mønet. There are sections right here that´s as much as 45 levels steep, you’ll have to use your palms at instances on this part. Mønet is a cliff with a a number of a whole bunch meter drop on the fjord facet, watch out and keep on the path. Further on you can be on and off path in scree as much as Fremste Blåhornet (1478masl). From Blåhornet you can be working off path alongside the ridge excessive above the fjord over Rjupskartind and in direction of Åknesnibba (1296masl). This part is very technical because the ridge is slim with drops on boths sides. We advocate you to be catious right here. There are components the place gentle scrambling is concerned on this part. Before Åknesnibba the course will take a tough proper flip down into the valley with a steep technical descent down, that is additionally a great place to be xtra catious. Then alongside Rjupeskarvatnet, and additional out Fjørstaddalen previous Heimfjørstadsætra and right down to Fjørstad on a pleasant path. On Fjørstad you will discover an assist station.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
Immediately from the help station we started making our method to the ‘wall’. I imagine it was the cliff referred to as Monet. But to me it was a wall on the sting of the world. I couldn’t see the place we had been heading. Making my approach in direction of it I used to be texting Natalia forward of her race and slipped and fell once more. This one was my fault for not paying consideration. The floor was soaking moist and chilly the place I fell.
As I reached the ‘wall’ it turned clear we had been climbing up it. I might see runners scaling it and have become apprehensive. It was steep. I held my poles in a single hand and used the opposite to tug myself up with every step. I dared not look down however accepted that it wasn’t as dangerous because it initially appeared and I used to be on the high possibly quarter-hour later. Up high the grassy cliff turned to rock nearly immediately. The climb nevertheless continued.
Looming in entrance of me was a large of a mountain. Grey in each approach. Grey rocks. Grey clouds. Just gray. I assumed this was the primary change within the route and that is the place we wouldn’t climb. I used to be unsuitable although. People forward of me stored going additional up and disappearing into the gray clouds. I placed on my gloves because it turned colder the upper I went. I then put away my poles and commenced climbing on all fours. It was faster that approach. I briefly began speaking to Kristofer who’d carried out the 48km final 12 months, who defined this was simply the climb to Fremste Blåhornet (I imagine he referred to as it ‘Front Bluehorn’) and that the eliminated a part of the course was additional up nonetheless. He powered on handed me. Eventually I made it to the summit and the timing mat and rotated. Now we had been on the diversion route which meant going again the way in which we got here then throughout and down a valley.. There had been a number of runners forward of me however they quickly disappeared into the space as I transfer so slowly over technical descents like this. I stored watching and making psychological notes of the place they had been and went so I didn’t get misplaced. I felt alone now, for the primary time within the race. I quickly couldn’t see runners forward nor behind me.
After finishing the rocky downhill the diversion route took us left and away from the following climb. There was no path although and it was an off observe descent from right here to the following assist station Fjorstad. I used to be starting to see the sample now and off observe terrain meant crossing plenty of streams, slipping hundreds within the mud and bouncing up and down with the lumpy floor. Every every now and then I’d get a glimpse of a single runner forward and one other behind me. This was one other down hill I didn’t take pleasure in. I used to be initially glad when the route entered a forest space however that happiness quickly gave method to frustration because the mud returned with a vengeance. Once once more I used to be consistently on my bum. I began saying “fuck you” loudly. Like a chant. Every time I stubbed my toe on a rock “fuck you”. Slipped on my arse “fuck you”. Stepped in a bathroom or stream “fuck you”. It turned my mantra as I continued tumbling down.
Finally the forest let me free and I ran the small down hill to the help station, slipping and falling for the supporters and volunteers to take pleasure in! We all smiled and laughed realizing I wasn’t the primary and wouldn’t be the final to supply the leisure.
The assist station was a great one. Kristofer was there and becoming spare garments. On this race you would have a drop bag at every station. I’d opted only for one on the 63km level. I regretted it barely seeing Kristofer become dry garments as I used to be soaked by. It was heat contained in the constructing so I packed the waterproof away once more and noshed down on loads of watermelon, crisps and cinnamon buns.
Section 3: Fjørstad – Habostadsætra
From Fjørstad you can be working the asphalt highway down the Strandavalley for 4km after which into Moldskreddalen on a gravel highway for 3km to Mesætra. By Mesætra you’ll hit the trailhead to Storhornet and cross the river on a bridge, and begin the climb as much as Storhornet (1309masl) on and off path. Parts of this path is technical. After summiting Storhornet you’ll flip round and comply with the course again down for 1km, after which flip proper and hit the path right down to Habostadsætra. Ths downhill part may be very steep however the path may be very good. On Habostadsætra you will discover an assist station.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
Before lengthy I used to be again out working with Kristofer on an extended highway part. It felt good to run. I’ve by no means wished to run alongside a predominant highway with vehicles driving handed me (very safely and courteously I ought to add!) a lot in my life. It felt prefer it was the primary time I might truly run. It was additionally a surprisingly therapeutic few kms realizing I might see this highway from our unimaginable mountain lodging.
From the highway we had been as soon as extra on a gravel observe uphill earlier than, yep, you guessed it, we had been again within the moist and slippery forest mountain climbing off observe up a steep climb. Kristofer began getting additional and additional away as I huffed my approach up. Once out of sight I needed to focus extra searching for the crimson path markers painted on bushes or rocks. This climb felt prefer it took a lot longer than it in all probability did. After the forests it was wild and rugged terrain. Up and down lumps while nonetheless typically getting greater. There was an individual out right here on their own. It took me some time to grasp he was a photographer. It took some time longer for me to get to him, he waited patiently and snapped me as I stated howdy and made some dangerous jokes. I requested if it was Ian, and it was. A world reknown adventurer and photographer. I’d learn his weblog from the 2021 occasion and we had a short chat evaluating the contrasting climate circumstances. He kindly shared some recommendation on the climb and temperatures awaiting me and wished me effectively on the journey.
From right here issues acquired slightly more durable. The climb went off for an out and again part to the following summit of Storhornet. It went ‘up’ fairly steeply and the path was extra distinguished and clear for a short time because the the mud and wild terrain tagged out and the went rocky tracks tagged again in. There had been many runners coming again and I’d allow them to glide effortlessly handed me. I had no concept how far I needed to run to get again so far. But up I went. There was one other photographer filming runners coming down and he needed to movie me slowly strolling up. I made it clear I wouldn’t be working down like all of them had been!
Like the Blåhornet summit, this one turned very rocky in a short time. It was now similar to earlier than as I used to be stumbling from rock to rock heading into the mist within the route shadows had been coming from. Here I had one second that ‘threw’ my thoughts slightly off. A girl was coming down and began chatting with me, I assumed in Norwegian, and I defined I solely spoke English. She then informed me that it was very chilly additional on and requested if I’ve any extra garments to placed on. I used to be caught off guard. Whilst her intentions had been little doubt filled with kindness and help of different runners, I didn’t fairly perceive the remark. There was necessary equipment and I used to be clearly within the race with a full bag on my again I additionally had on my mackintosh and gloves on, so I don’t assume I appeared under-prepared in comparison with anybody else. I assume she was involved as a result of I used to be simply in shorts. But I reassured her I used to be wonderful and carried on. Soon Kristofer ran again handed me and someday later I looped across the summit and too was heading again down. On this part many runners overtook me as I as soon as once more descended so slowly.
Eventually I accomplished the out and again and was then taking place a steep hill in one other moist and slippery forest part. I used to be all over. Sliding and slipping in all places taking place the switchbacks. A girl behind was asking if I used to be okay as I used to be swearing consistently. Then it was her flip as she slipped and did a pencil roll down one bend/flip. I can’t fairly describe how fantastically she rolled and ended up down forward of me and again on her ft laughing at her ‘shortcut’. She then sped off descending quickly with ease. She referred to as again to verify on me a number of minutes later once I let loose a slightly loud expletive laden cry. I used to be okay. I’d fallen once more (Fuck you!). This one was worse although. Whilst I used to be wonderful, within the course of I’d snapped my fucking pole once more (I snapped one within the VDA final 12 months). I used to be actually pissed off. It snapped proper on the deal with the place it slides in and the locking button is. It was fucked and ineffective now and I’d solely lined round 40km of the race. In a temper I carried on into the help station that wasn’t far-off.
Just a few runners checked out my pole and the volunteer was a famous person, working round searching for issues to repair it (his plan was to tape a small rod to the deal with to strengthen it). I knew it was a misplaced trigger although however I appreciated their efforts. I stuffed my sorrow with meat soup (which was frikken ace) and Coke. The assist stations had been fairly nice for selection in my eyes! I checked my timings and, as soon as once more, felt I used to be fairly spot on to plan because it was about 30 minutes earlier than the primary reduce off. And so, having skilled working with one pole earlier than, I knew I might overcome it, I packed it away and carried on with the only pole.
Section 4: Habostadsætra – Myrsætra
From Habostadsætra you can be working on the marked DNT mountain climbing path trough a lush birch forrest to Nysetvatnet with a fantastic view in direction of Brekketind and the Brekketind glacier after which additional to Patcellhytta the place the climb to the long-lasting mt. Slogen (1564masl) begins. You can be working on the marked DNT mountain climbing path as much as Slogen. The final half as much as Slogen may be very steep and includes scrambling, be catious on the way in which up and down. From Slogen you’ve got an impressive view over Hjørundfjorden. The summit may be very slim, so one need to be carefull on the highest. Here you’ll flip round and return the way in which you got here up for 1,5km. But as an alternative of going again right down to Patchellhytta, you’ll flip left and proceed in direction of Isavatnet and additional down Langseterdalen previous Storevatnet on a pleasant path. At the car parking zone at Myrsætra you will discover an assist station.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
The subsequent part started with us strolling up a stream. Really?! Fuck this path I believed. I used to be ready for the ache of regularly moist ft to kick in. Like the remainder of the route, there was nothing to do about it besides energy by. It was form of up hill, however very mild and definitely not runnable (for me) because it was principally rocky. My energy hike was in full move although and I used to be having fun with the intimating views of the mountains surrounding us on all sides and thunderous roar of the river moreover me. Off within the distance I might see the girl together with one other runner. I stored considering I used to be gaining on them however I actually wasn’t. The part was one other that felt prefer it went on for some time, however I used to be content material realizing we had been at the very least climbing steadily greater. And so my thoughts wandered slightly. I acquired considering again to that final assist station and my timings and realised that each one wasn’t fairly what it appeared. Whilst I used to be ‘on time’ and inside the reduce off. We hadn’t carried out the climb from Blåhornet nor the ridge or its ‘extra’ technical descent. That was the very technical part and little doubt a more durable descent for me. So I extremely doubt it could have accomplished that longer part of the route in my spare half-hour. I realised I’d have been timed out on the first reduce off (which was 13:00 on the final assist station) if the route hadn’t been modified because of the climate. I clang onto the hope that if the climate was higher then the terrain could be much less muddy and I might need moved slightly faster!
In the space there was slightly mountain hut of some type and a man out sweeping the decking space within the rain. It amused me. As I walked handed a volunteer referred to as to me and waved me as much as him. I checked my watch, sure, I used to be mindlessly following the 2 in entrance. I referred to as after them and so they walked again to affix me on the climb. Each climb on this race appeared to discover a method to be tougher than the one earlier than. This one was only a ache to begin with because the terrain fluctuated between single observe and off observe incessantly and we traversed so many streams and flows of water down off the mountain. It was simply miserably moist. Like the variety of instances I fell, I want I’d counted the variety of streams we’d crossed on this course, I’m sure it could be a whole bunch. The mountains had been leaking water in all places because of the current climate. It solely stopped the upper we acquired. And it solely stopped as a result of the terrain turned rocky. Once extra we had been taking part in dot-to-dot connecting the crimson path marks and traversing the massive boulder fields.
There was a large sleeping right here. To my left I might sense and massive presence and was admiring the mountain within the clouds. It was Slogen. The authentic route included an out and again to summit of Slogen for ‘panoramic views’. But we wouldn’t be doing that in the present day. I used to be glad. This was additionally one of many hardest components within the race so I used to be relieved to be skipping! Instead we carried on straight handed it. Straight into and throughout the snow fields. These had been pretty brief however tough with one pole and never so aggressive soles on me sneakers.
After a while we started our descent in direction of Myrsætra. This is the place my drop bag could be. So I used to be in good spirits anticipating it. But the descent was powerful. It was, you guessed it, rocky. So the the three of us moved slowly. I don’t bear in mind rather more than passing down alongside some lakes and rivers. I do bear in mind we had been in a valley and it jogged my memory slightly of a bit the TDS route in the way it appeared (however more durable!).
There was loads extra falling over right here too and I used to be dropping observe of my orientation and the place we had been going. The girl jogged my memory that quickly we’d have the out and again to the help station to the left after which we’d return to the correct to climb out of the valley. It made sense when she defined it.
Oddly, right here I additionally realised my eyesight was slightly hazy. I might see okay, however it wasn’t crystal clear. Almost as if I had clingfilm on my eyes. There wasn’t something I might do and I assumed it was a mix of tiredness, fixed focus, the wind and the rain and maybe the white glare from the snow. Anyway, I wasn’t anxious, however I used to be acutely aware of it and to keep watch over it (Whey hey!)
We reached the out and again part and now, like earlier than, noticed runners and acquainted faces entering into the wrong way. There had been quite a bit much less of them this time although! I didn’t understand how lengthy it could be to the help station however I used to be conscious of how moist and muddy the observe was once more. I instantly determined that I’d not be altering my sneakers or socks. My socks could be soaked as quickly as I modified them so I believed it wasn’t definitely worth the effort. As I rounded the final nook into the help station I had one in every of my greatest falls but. I slipped in some mud and each ft went up within the air, above my waist, as my palms and head threw up behind me with the movement. I landed on my bum and again straight right into a boggy patch. I used to be lined in mud. The volunteers laughed as I arrived (they heard the ‘fuck you’ scream) and I apologised as I sat straight in one in every of their chairs and lined it within the recent mud. I ordered extra soup, ate extra cinnamon buns and at last become a dry tshirt after 14 hours.
Not lengthy after the three of us reached the help station, we had been shortly adopted by a fourth runner a Polish man I’d been close to all through the day. We sat and ate and drank and joked with the volunteers. We had our personal little celebration earlier than cheering ourselves again out realizing we had 5 hours to cowl the 10km to the following (and remaining) reduce off. Easy we thought… Wrong…
Section 5: Myrsætra – Brunstad
At Myrsætra you’ll run again up the identical path you got here down as much as Langsætra the place you’ll comply with the DNT marked path as much as Gullmordalsvatnet passing by the Gullmorglacier alongside the path (you’ll not be working on the glacier). This part may be very technical and you can be working components of it on scree. After passing Gullmordalsvatnet you can be on the highest of the Gullmorbrekka (979masl) go, from right here you can be working technical downhill to Velleseterhytta and additional on gravel highway right down to Brunstad the place you will discover an assist station. This can be the placement for the the reduce off time at 21.00.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
The first part was okay. It was a repeat of the out and again. After which we we had been consistently searching for the path. This part wasn’t marked by the race and no crimson path markers could possibly be seen anyplace. We adopted our GPS and could be on what appeared to be a path, then unexpectedly the GPS would say the path is off to our facet by 50-100 m. This meant we had been zig zagging up the climb. Crossing all types of untamed terrain to make sure we stored on track. Every every now and then the Polish man would seem from nowhere. He was having the identical navigation points. After an ‘age’, the lumpy foliage turned to rock. But that didn’t make it any simpler and the identical factor would occur as we’d flip at proper angles to attempt to preserve the right route. We at the very least might now often see some crimson path markings on rocks although.
At this level we had been sticking collectively as a foursome as we crossed many extra snow fields and rocky sections climbing and traversing our approach out of the valley. The girl, who was from Argentina, girl stored kindly providing me her poles as I used to be actually struggling on all of the snow crossings. So principally I used to be behind all of them and would time to time shout out once I thought we had been ‘off route’ once more. To me it felt prefer it was night time time. We had been deep within the clouds and the grey-ness of the mountains. The solely gentle was coming from the snowy flooring we trudged over. It was surreal and disorientating on the identical time, but it was solely about 17:00.
We had been trudging throughout one other snow part once I observed we we beginning to get farther from the path, which was going off on a form of angle above us. We stopped and debated for a while the place to go and finally agreed we shouldn’t proceed on the snow. For one factor, we couldn’t see any current indicators of exercise on them! The problem nevertheless was that the snow was sloping and above it was a wall of rock. It didn’t look possible that the route could possibly be up there. But that’s what the GPS was saying (and scrolling out we might see that the route would flip additional that approach after a few km additional alongside). If we carried on the snow as an alternative we’d quickly be far astray and will see nothing forward to make us need to proceed (into the unknown).
So we again tracked and headed for the rocks. It took me a very long time with one pole to rise up to the rock and my troubles didn’t cease there, the climb dealing with us was a beast. It was basically bouldering and mountain climbing. I used to be making an attempt to make use of power from my arms which I simply shouldn’t have to haul myself up onto rocks. And it was all free. Admittedly I used to be scared. Actually, very scared. A fall right here could be dangerous. A certainty of a severe damage and sure a really lengthy wait to be rescued. I used to be glad I wasn’t alone and Argentinian Lady was very supportive and sorted me with fixed reassurance. I knew we needed to preserve going although and that we should always even get slightly greater to be safer and farther from the steep drop.
The climb, even simply protecting a number of meters, was very sluggish. We had been barely transferring and the free rock was inflicting us difficulties. Several instances we knocked rocks again on one another, one time I launched a sizeable one which went tumbling down. My warnings weren’t sufficient for the Polish man to get out of the way in which in time and all he might do was elevate his arm to guard his head because the rock fell straight into him. I felt so dangerous, however he reassured me that he was okay, simply aggravated by the state of affairs. It solely added to our frustrations and issues of security.
We had been at the very least now monitoring in the correct route based on the GPS and the rocky climb finally gave method to firmer floor, albeit extra snow capped fields. I believed it couldn’t worsen than that part, however I used to be unsuitable (once more). We had been now confronted with one other directional dilemma. The route indicated we would have liked to depart the snow and descent a really slim, very steep rock face. I appeared over the sting and it felt like an abyss, the top of the world. Meters under us all I might see was a darkish gray mist cloud wrapping the mountain. I couldn’t see a path or path. It is truthful to say I used to be not eager and I didn’t need to go that approach. The various although was to stay greater up and stroll alongside the snow lined mountain. I’d had sufficient of them although and we couldn’t see far sufficient forward to find out the place we’d go or how we might re-join the trail if we did proceed that approach. It felt like ‘down’ was truly the higher possibility. Two of us began to descend…
I used to be nonetheless on high of the snow when, within the distance, a lonely determine, in a vivid blue coat, emerged by the clouds together with his hand within the air waving. I didn’t know what to assume. He was clearly gesturing to us so we referred to as again to let the others know somebody was coming. We walked on and met him. He defined he was a volunteer from the race and he’d present us the way in which. He confirmed we might go both approach, however the snow could be the simpler route for us. So we adopted him.
He was transferring so effortlessly I struggled to maintain up. He pointed down a steep snow slope and stated we are able to go down right here. And off he went, sliding, snowboarding (with out skies) down hill. The French man went subsequent and just about made it the entire approach standing up too. I adopted and instantly landed on my arse. I sped down like I used to be on some form of toboggan, bouncing up and down with the lumps. In no time in any respect my arse was so chilly and beginning to harm with the freeze and friction. The entire factor lasted a matter of seconds. Looking again, my Strava signifies we went down a slope of roughly -50 deg and lined round 70m in descent. My obvious tempo was 1:32 km per minute. What a trip!
One by one all of us made it and we had been at the very least handled to an unimaginable view of the Gullmordalsvatnet lake and valley surrounding it. The draw back, I might nonetheless see no clear path or path. We had been informed that we would have liked to traverse alongside to the correct of the lake. I couldn’t imagine it. What?! It was simply the slope/facet of the mountain with alternating layers of snow and rock. How? He reassured us that as we acquired nearer we’d see some race markings to point the way in which we should always go. He informed us that we would wish to climb and descend on the rock and keep away from the snow slopes always. I might see why, in the event you slipped on these, nothing would cease you sliding all the way in which into the freezing lake. Game over. There was one other catch although, first we would wish to ascend on the preliminary snow slope, however to not fear, there’s a rope. Fuck sake…
One by one we ascended the rope climb. This was terrible for me. I had no power or power to tug myself up and no grip within the snow to supply any traction. It was yet one more very sluggish ascent. I relied on a tactic of pulling myself up and looping the rope round one hand with every pull to get extra leverage. I believed my shoulders would come out right here. Thankfully I quickly reached the sanctuary of the rocks. Ha! Now I used to be considering that the rocks had been my associates!
The volunteer left us right here and went again to search for the remaining runners behind us within the go someplace. We thanked him however I by no means acquired his title. His remaining phrases had been “it’s 2 hours to the following checkpoint”. I checked out my watch. We had 2 hours and 10 minutes till the reduce off. Shit. I believed we wouldn’t make it, that we’d be timed out. If he was saying 2 hours, it could in all probability take us longer. I held on to the glimmer of hope that there could be some sections we might run and that he was speaking about strolling time.
We nonetheless needed to travers the lake first although. Painstakingly, we looped up and down every rock part, possibly as much as a 20m climb and descent every approach. Looking and following the path flags which we might lastly see. Each loop required a small traverse both alongside the highest of the snow slope or alongside the underside, proper subsequent to the water. I might really feel the chilliness coming off it. At one level I despatched one other rock tumbling. Down the snow it rolled after which bounced off the underside of the slope, launching into the air and over the water onto a floating patch of ice with a ‘growth’. The lake didn’t flinch and I didn’t need to comply with the rock!
As we lastly reached the top of the lake, the paths did develop into slightly simpler. They had been removed from runnable although. Just simpler than what the previous few kms entailed. It was nonetheless a horrid down hill although. In possibly 3km we descended over 500m. It was very rocky and really slippery as we navigated by tens and tens of waterlogged paths and streams. There was loads of falling over and slipping right here too. We principally descended in silence. I’m unsure what the others had been considering, however all I might take into consideration was the reduce off and whether or not we’d make it or not. I wished too, however I used to be additionally questioning how I’d really feel if the choice to proceed was taken away from me. I genuinely believed that, after this reduce off, we’d have loads of time to complete (there was 13 hours for the final 20km or so). So I puzzled if we had been near the reduce off if I’d be of thoughts to attempt to negotiate my proceed. It was all theoretical, however it stored me targeted. Going additional down, quick mountain climbing, transferring with objective. It as all I might do.
We then came across a forest part which was far much less steep than earlier than. The trails turned slightly drier and apart from a number of huge leaps throughout streams (with damaged planks that had been supposed to be crossed) the following few hundred meters of descent had been slightly extra forgiving. We nonetheless weren’t working, however had been capable of choose up the tempo at the very least. We had been racing the clock although as time was in opposition to us and I stored taking a look at my watch and doing the calculations. 50 minutes to go, 40 minutes to go, half-hour to go… With each step I adjusted our development, however it didn’t actually make a lot distinction. It was going to be tight if we couldn’t run. And then luck was lastly on our facet…
From the forests we got here throughout a home with a woman gardening and a person tending to the trail. We ran down, stated howdy and left by their gate. He wished us effectively and stated he hoped we had been having fun with ourselves. I feel I simply laughed. But, from the gate, there was a gravel highway. It was steep, however it was dry and even terrain. Gravity did its ‘factor’ and we ran. We had been slightly spaced out as all of us descended at barely totally different speeds. But we had been all working. After possibly 1.5km, there have been individuals additional alongside. It was the help station at Brunstad. I checked out my watch. We had 20 minutes to spare. We’d made it. This 10km part of the race had taken us 4.5 hours to finish!
I bumped into the help station with perception. I believed now I’d end. I believed in me. The determination to proceed was in my palms, and I do know there is just one reply to that query, pulling out is rarely a consideration, by no means an possibility. I’d proceed and I’d end. We sat and set about refuelling. Eating extra soup, extra cinnamon rolls, extra chocolate sweets and crisps. At the help station, the Argentinian girl’s household had been ready. It dawned on me that her and her husband, together with their canine, had been sitting reverse me within the reception at first line some 18 hours earlier. With the positivity we had been feeling, the Polish man stated what I’d been considering “all of us stick collectively now proper, and end?”. There was no hesitation from me. Absolutely, sure I stated. The French man agreed additionally. I’m unsure if I missed it someplace however the girl had determined that this was the place her journey would finish. She merely had no extra want to proceed. I solely realised when she was providing me her poles to proceed on with as ‘she didn’t want them anymore’. Even now, after bowing out she was nonetheless supporting and taking care of me. I felt unhappy and emotional that she wouldn’t be seeing it by with us. I declined the supply of the poles although. I made it this far and was assured I’d be okay.
As we set again out we had been slightly deflated that we nonetheless had over 20km to go. The amended route GPX had indicated we’d be doing round 88km in complete, however we had been already round 77km at this level. It made sense although, the ultimate two sections had been unchanged and we nonetheless needed to full them. We left simply earlier than 9pm (after which stopped right away as I had forgotten to get my head torch out prepared for the darkness).
Section 6: Brunstad – Svartevatnet
From Brunstad you’ll run to Brunstadsætra by lush birchforrest and crossing the river proper earlier than Brunstadsætra. On Brunstadsætra you’re going to get on the good and really steep path as much as Storevatnet. From Storevatnet you can be climbing off path as much as 1100m and traverse over to Vassdalen (The course is just not going to the height of Ystevasshornet) the place you can be working downhill on technical path down Svartevatnet. At the car parking zone by Svartevatnet you will discover a assist station.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
Initially we had a gravel highway ascent much like what we had simply descended. This was good for relieving again into the duty forward. We took this chance to speak and for the primary time exchanged names. It felt foolish that we’d been by a lot collectively with out realizing who we had been. This was the place I discovered that the Polish man was Kamil and the French man was Matt. From the outcomes desk I now know that the stunning Argentina was Margarita. These had been my companions, my saviours.
Just a few kms later the gravel modified to forest. The gradual climb, with no warning then turned very steep change backs as we climbed for an additional 500m within the slippery dense forest. I needed to cease a number of instances to catch my breathe and refocus. It was powerful going, however I used to be happier with this sort of climb than the various we’d carried out earlier than.
After leaving the forest it was extra off-track plodding within the open mountainside as we proceed to about 850masl the place the bottom flattened out. Here we might see up forward a semi-circle of mountains surrounding us. Once once more I had no concept the place we had been going and the way we’d ‘escape’ from right here and descend again down. We continued strolling in direction of it because the day gentle diminished and darkness started to set in.
We reached a lake the place our head torches began to choose up the feint shimmer of the reflective tape for the race markings. One or two at a time. They gave a sign of the place to go, however not an excessive amount of perception as to the place we had been truly heading. Slowly it turned clear that we had been simply going ‘straight up’ to get out of the plateau. Seriously? Fuck you. In the darkness we started to climb the rocks once more. I used to be fighting the climb. Matt and Kamil had been getting progressively additional away. I set myself a goal to relaxation and breathe at every flag marker, solely meters away from each other, however I used to be stopping a number of instances between every one. We climbed for possibly one other 200-300 meters, up and throughout scree slopes, the rocks free beneath foot and once I grabbed at them with my palms for help. As I reached the highest we had been now in full darkness. Besides the reflective path markers I might now additionally navigate by following the top torches of the others within the distance.
We started the descent which wasn’t any simpler. Loose and sharp rocks, winding change backs and moist streams to cross. We stopped at one stream and stuffed our bottles with ice chilly water. It was pleasant. I gulped again two bottles right away. Like many earlier than this one, the streams we would have liked to cross had been typically bursting on the seams and the ‘path throughout’ was submerged beneath rampant and highly effective flowing water. They had been tough to cross and much more so within the night time. It was a case of steadying ourselves and hoping for the perfect, accepting that we’d be moist to our shins. The goal was to get to the opposite facet and to not get sucked in or fall over. The roar of water within the night time was fairly one thing. It was the one factor we might hear out right here within the wild.
After some time the rocks gave method to forests and also you already know that these had been steep, muddy and slippery. As we progressed, an enormous lake began to return into focus under us. Way off forward, on high of a mountain silhouette within the darkness I might see two head torches approach up within the sky. I knew the place we had been heading now. We would descend to a highway crossing (Svartevatnet) earlier than the ultimate climb on the opposite facet. I bear in mind taking a look at this part after we drove alongside the highway into Stranda after we first arrived.
I used to be glad to get off the forest observe as we bottomed out on the lake. Here there was a barely flat gravel part in direction of the highway. At this level Kamil, who was in entrance on the descent was now behind me. Matt was up forward on the highway and I shouted at him once I noticed the markers on the opposite facet. We began to cross. Then a great deal of volunteers got here into sight additional up the highway at a lay-by. They gestured us in direction of them. It was one other assist station that I had full forgotten about.
Here I used to be prepared to depart fairly shortly and simply get on with it. I used to be sick of soup now so ate some crisps and cookies. Matt had some soup and a French man got here to say howdy to him. He was within the space, noticed in regards to the race and heard there was a French particular person working, so he stayed out to say howdy and cheer him on. How beautiful that was. Kamil sat in a chair and informed us to go on with out him, that he was going to have some sleep as he was fighting fatigue. He wrapped up and tried to get comfy. I let Matt know. Whilst we had been there I had a half cup of espresso to attempt to combat off my very own tiredness earlier than we set again out. For now, we had been down to 2. I used to be certain Kamil would meet up with us sooner or later on the climb within the night time.
Section 7: Svartevatnet – Stranda
By Svartevatnet you’ll cross the highway and get on the path to Langevatnet and additional to Roaldshornet (1230masl). From the summit of Roaldshornet you may benefit from the epic view over Storfjorden and right down to Stranda. You will proceed to Blåfjellet and downhill Trollvaregga with technical working right down to Skuravatnet. (The course is just not going as much as Skurahornet, it goes straight to Stranda from Skuravatnet) .From Skuravatnet you can be working on a pleasant path all the way in which right down to the outskirts of Stranda, after which on gravel and asphalt roads right down to the end line on the city sq. in Stranda.
Excerpt from the Race Manual
And so, at 01:00 within the morning we started our remaining part. From the help station we crossed the highway and commenced heading into the darkness of the forests as soon as extra. The bushes lasted solely a short time and the climb started. Initially I had flash backs of the primary climb of the race after we left the forest and the mountain opened up. The terrain felt very comparable. It was a collection of gently inclining winding huge paths suffering from bogs and waterlogged foliage. Compared to the opposite climbs of the race I used to be very comfortable at that second in time. This felt very manageable.
As we had beforehand, we navigated by reflection of the race markings. Each one opening one other perception into the place we had been heading. The giant silhouette of the mountain standing tall in entrance of us and getting nearer with every step. As we neared it, the climb took us to the mountain face and the rocky ascent started, however, it was no the place close to as dangerous as those earlier than. I felt this was the best climb of the night time and probably of the entire race. I used to be grateful.
Before we reached the summit, my watch died. I hate this watch. I settle for it’s now a great few years outdated (it’s a Suunto 9 Baro) however the battery simply doesn’t final what it signifies it can. Barely 24 hours with a few of that on the Ultraks mode. Useless. I couldn’t care much less about charging it now. I simply wished to complete the race and relaxation.
The climb wasn’t too dangerous both and we emerged onto the roof of the mountain. It was, after all, rocky however for essentially the most half we had been now traversing the highest alongside to the following level at Roaldshornet. It was very chilly and windy on high and we stopped to layer up prepared for the ultimate climb to the summit. As we hiked alongside to the summit, with a mild undulation, the solar began to rise to the East. It was going to be spectacular. We’d miss the total dawn and views from the summit, however we had a glimpse of the orange glow breaking apart the darkness. We stored transferring and lined the ultimate little dip and climb again as much as Roaldshornet the place we might begin to see the panorama forward of us for our descent again to Stranda. From right here it was all ‘downhill’ (after all each path downhill has some sneaky ‘uphills’ included!).
The descent was going to be lengthy although and it was nonetheless very technical. Once once more lumbering over a boulder subject of rocks. For many components I needed to sit and decrease myself down and we had been looking for the perfect and most accessible route between markers, typically straying from the extra apparent path resulting from slippery rocks or muddy sections that we had been nonetheless slipping and falling on. Eventually, additional down, we might see a brief ridgeline approach under resulting in what appeared like dry dust trails. We had been heading for it and we’d then loop down into the forests again in direction of Stranda. We had a visible goal, though it nonetheless felt like a really very long time till we reached the ridge.
We continued the descent from the ridge which was quite a bit more durable than I anticipated. It was an entire mess from the rain and the mud and bogs had been in all places. Where potential we prevented the path, working over the lumpy floor alongside the edges as an alternative. In some locations, wood buildings had been there to go over the marsh land, however they weren’t actually useful to us. With so many runners having been by the day earlier than, the land was utterly churned up and the walkways lined in mud and equally as slippery and harmful. I feel I fell extra alongside this part than anyplace else on the course! Matt will need to have been sick of listening to me swearing and groaning. I did one spectacular fall the place I slipped and skidded downhill, finishing a 180 spin and falling flat on my entrance, face first, right into a bathroom. The mud muffled my scream. It was slower progress than I anticipated at this level and it actually wasn’t the dry dust trails I’d been imagining from the view on the high. From time to time we appeared again, anticipating to see Kamil come bounding handed us. At one level I swore I noticed a head torch on the summit at Roaldshornet.
The mountain facet began to provide method to forest tracks, which weren’t all that higher. They felt steeper and, while drier for essentially the most half, nonetheless had many moist and muddy sections. The profit now was that the bushes could possibly be used to regular ourselves and break our falls. As we ran down, we had been getting hotter and warmer. The layers from the mountain had been undoubtedly not wanted now, however the inclination to cease and delay the end additional was low. We wished it to be over as quickly as potential.
Just a few kilometres later we left the forest and hit some highway. We crossed some fields and had been then again on the highway in a bit we each recognised from visiting the city. It wouldn’t be lengthy now till we had been on the primary highway into Stranda and right down to the end line. We had been working. Probably very slowly however we had been working for the primary time for a lot of, many hours. It was painful and sluggish however we had been inching in direction of the end as we ran down the abandoned and quiet highway. It was a while after 06:00 within the morning.
We rounded the ultimate flip and climbed the steps into and thru the lodge earlier than the end line (it was unusual passing straight by a constructing to get to the end!) and emerged into the ultimate stretch to a lone clap from a volunteer on the end line. We walked over the road. The remaining finishers. We hello fived and smiled. We’d carried out it.
I believed the volunteer was Oscar (the Race Director) however it was Martin. He informed us he was on the final assist station with Kamil when he dropped out. It took us a second for the realisation to set in, Kamil hadn’t continued on after his try and sleep. I felt dangerous for abandoning him and puzzled if he would have been okay if he stored going? Martin gave us our medals, congratulated us and went and fetched us pizza. Then Matt’s spouse, Natalia, Nick, Arlene and Gif all arrived and congratulated us, taking us again to the security of a bathe and mattress! We had carried out it.
I knew this race was going to be tough and would come with terrain that I’m not all the time comfy with. However, it was worse and more durable than I imagined. The climate for the race was truly okay, however the terrain had suffered from weeks of rain and that made it far tougher that it might have been. I reckon I will need to have fallen 30-50 instances. I wouldn’t be shocked if we crossed 100s of rivers and streams all through the 100km. I’m truly shocked my ft weren’t in a worse state once I completed (they had been fairly mangled although!). Oscar acknowledged the circumstances in has put up race breifing:
SFTR 2022 was simply as exhausting and muddy as it may be! We acquired a little bit of every little thing with some glimpses of solar, rain, snow, wind. The suggestions from the elite subject in Golden Trail World Series was that this was essentially the most technical race they ever participated in. So all of you who joined the race ought to be pleased with your effort! The excellent news is that we ordered solar for SFTR 2023, the dangerous information is that we ordered solar for 2022 too 😉
It is doubtless the hardest 100km I’ve carried out (and we didn’t fairly get to the 100km mark!) It took round 5-8 hours longer than my typical time for a mountainous 100km. That is sort of a major time distinction. Despite the course and the circumstances, the native Scandinavians ran unimaginable instances. I’m amazed at how effortlessly they cowl this form of terrain, they’re phenomenal athletes.
Reflecting again on the progress, I truly would have been timed out on the first reduce off (round 40km / 11hrs) if the route hadn’t been amended. I see no approach I might have accomplished the unique route within the time I had remaining on the reduce off. The gods had been on my facet on this event!
I additionally assume we’d have been timed out on the second reduce off (Brunstad) if it weren’t for (1) the volunteer who discovered us within the Gullmorbrekka go at confirmed us the way in which (thanks a lot!) (2) the brief highway part right down to the help station at Brunstad which meant we might run! with out these, I’m certain we wouldn’t have made it in time.
I got here away from this race with my ankles fairly crushed up, a great deal of cuts and bruises, one damaged pole, a ripped pair of gloves and a sneakers shredded on all sides. Yet, I noticed it by, I persevered and as soon as extra can say I’m a finisher and have re-evaluated my very own limitations and strengths. I like this sport!
As with each race I met some unimaginable individuals. People who present every kind of willpower, power and can energy who go above and past to assist and help you. Thank you Margarita, Kamil and Matt. And after all, thanks to Oscar and his group and thanks Norway!
For an professional view on the race (all distances) take a learn of Ian’s race report – Strand Fjord Trail Race 2022.
Some of the skilled race pictures: