Race reports from Besseggenlopet, Isfjorden skyrace och Mefjellet opp
My intention after the skimo races I did this winter was to write race recaps as I usually do on running or adventure races. But things came in the way, I prioritized other things and didn't want to have any extra time in front of a screen. But half written skimo races reports are still on my computer, so maybe, more closer to the winter season again I can share them.. How ever, I posted on instagram asking what your thoughts were on race reports. Is it just waste of time, or actually interesting reading? I came to the conclusion that for me it is somewhat of therapy to go through a race afterwards by writing down how it went and my feelings prior, during and after. Then I can also look back, reading and remembering. I've done so on races from 10 years ago, and it is lots of fun! (If you want to read some, there are both on this website, but also our old one called Www.syskonkarlek.webblogg.se , though mostly written in Swedish there.
By sharing my text with others, well, I believe it can only be a good gesture. So here we go!
Norway road trip including 3 running races.
It was time to go on adventure with our beloved Pärlan (Pearl) to Norway.
For fueling we've had some stomach problems on many races. We get cramp about 1 or 2 hours into the race. Often after a big climb and it's time to run downhill. We have been competing different types of races for many years, and it seems our bellies are a bit screwed up because of this.
Our own reflections from the last races with problems are that we have started pretty empty and then when taking a gel or drink the stomach has really got a chock, in combination with a tough effort, hard breathing and forward bend position for a long time and then when running downhill, the body is upward again and the diaphragm muscle aren't in action, which then cause this. (And as said, only own reflections and thoughts after discussion with each other). Though after many years of racing very long races as adventure races or stage races Transalpine run and Trans Rockies run our stomachs have been treated pretty badly and are therefore also be extra sensitive when it is racing time again. I mean the body doesn't forget you know..
However we managed during these races to just have slightly cramps for 10 minutes or so, not as in Zegama when both of us struggled with it pretty much half of the race.
Our strategy now (we tried on some training runs) we eat breakfast as usual about 3 to 2,5 hours before the race. And then about 1 hour before we snack a bar or similar and then 15 minutes before start, we take a Torq fitness gel together with some water. So that the stomach is prepared and energy good just before start. It worked as I said pretty well. So, fingers crossed for this!
An iconic hike where you take a ferry out in the fjord looking lake and hike the mountain ridge back. And we were going to run it.
The evening before it was foggy, windy and hell rain. But we woke up to sun and blue skies. We parked some kilometers away from the ferry harbor and biked there. I like to bike to start areas because once you're in motion all nervous feelings goes away and mind clear up.
Soon we met up Emelie Forsberg and Johanna Åström. Fun to be 4 strong Swedes here. Everyone boarded the ferry at 11 I had no idea how strong any woman would be in the rest of the group on the ferry. Many Norwegians look very professional and well equipped even though they are just out for a stroll in the park.
However the start went off and Lina and I took the women lead up a small trail. But Emelie soon overtook. Lina could follow close behind. I felt and feel a bit sad that I still can't keep up when they're setting off uphill. But I knew I would bonk if I rushed with them, so stayed in my own pace. Johanna also passed me. I enjoyed the trail on some stone slabs/rock slabs (I don't know if that would be the correct translation, but in Swedish it would be "Stenhällar").
As we came up on a ridge the views were stunning and I shivered just because of the affection the mountains gave me. I came to be a bit frustrated though since my legs and feet didn't find any flow on the rockier and more technical ridge. I run slower than I wanted but felt I would fall if speed up. Another girl passed me too. But I didn't let her away too far. Her shirt was bright turquoise so I had a great carrot to hold in sight. Even today the route was very popular for other tourists and hikers. So, several times lines of people were in the way. But I thought, let's not be angry, just smile and let them cheer on you instead. The second uphill was a bit of scrambling and I really find that fun. Just finding the easiest way up among big steady rocks. On the top I got surprised. I had expected it to be a ridgeline, but instead it was a wide and flat mountain ("egg") with small stones. It was as being on the moon. And very runnable. Of course, I got some stomach cramps here and couldn't push how I wanted. I had lots of energy. But I saw the turquoise shirt disappear and was okay with the thought of finishing 5th. As the downhill started, I again didn't come into any flow, until a guy came from behind in a high speed. I said to myself; "let's play a game and fight for the win against him". And then I really got an adrenaline rush and bounced down the rocks and the trail. It was so fun and I felt unstoppable. This was what I had been looking for all the race.
Surprisingly I discovered the turquoise shirt all of a sudden just 5metres in front. And in a second, I had passed. And even more surprised I saw Lina just some meters down. Time to catch her as well! I enjoyed that downhill run so much and the last stone stairs to the finish line was very fun taking 4 steps at a time and I could finish on the podium. The turquoise shirt belonged to a very nice American/Norwegian girl who had a house with her family here and were on vacation. She is a cross country skier who lives in Montana. This is the best parts with racing really, to experience trails with people from all over the world.
Because the race was only 14 k our legs were still energized, we took a 12 k evening run on the opposite mountains of the road. Here it was very soft and flat trails compared to Besseggen, so our feet enjoyed it very much. Perfect day spent in the mountains.
The two roads that leads through Jotunheimen on both sides of Galhopiggen are really worth a drive and visit. So many spots for vans and so many easy, accessible runs and hikes. Highly recommended.
Our plan in the spring was to only to Besseggenløpet and then drive down to Marathon du Mont Blanc. But as Isfjorden Skyrace appeared we couldn't resist the idea to stay a week longer here instead. And such a good choice!!
We had incredibly good days of runs and enjoying the Norwegian Fjäll and mountains. The weather forecast changed from hell rain to really shining sun all the time. Very nice!
Though sun means hot. And so, it was in the beginning of the race. We had chosen not to rest so much since we wanted to really use the time here to run the mountains. Legs could have been way fresher.
When we warmed up, I could really feel my body was weak. But I looked forward to the course. I planned to intake 3 gels and 500ml of water. A bit more than I usually takes on a 23-24k race. But it is good to test on training races. In the end I found it a good move since I didn't feel totally consumed too early. 🤪
However the first kilometers were hot and I didn't really feel fast. More clumsy. But it might be because we ran in some bogs and wet ground too. And I fell a few times on the wet, slippery grass and mud. The organizers had then marked up along a river, off trail. It was fun too and felt as on Linas and my runs when we often end up outside somewhere.
There were many people out cheering and up on the second ridge we had tailwind and I saw someone filming or taking photos with their phone. Then you got to run fast. Chest up and smile! And this awakened me and the speed increased. Though as soon as it got downhill with slippery grass and mud again I had to slow down and didn’t make it function at all.
I had a group of guys in front and around me for a long time, but the last climb up I could pass all of them and was on really good mode. The engine had started to work now. The climb and the ridge was both technical with lots of rocks and also some more runnable parts. I loved this bit and didn't want the race to end, I could have stayed up here.
When we came out on the last snow field, I got so overwhelmed and emotional so I was close to cry and laugh out loud at the same time. The flags were put sideways along the snow field so I kept waving my right arm to balance and not fall down. Could really feel that in my shoulder after wards… 😅
It wasn't far to finish now. But a steep and almost overgrown trail in the forest with lots of grass. I twisted my ankle a bit and was very careful from here. But it was nice that the last 1,5k were on a forest road so I could run fast again. (On some races that is a night mare, when you are forced to run very fast when you are tired) but now when I had slowed down on the small steep trail I really enjoyed pushing and running fast all way to the finish. As soon as I stopped, I felt how hot and humid it was again. Running downhill had been nice with some "natural winds". Lina was also over the moon by the experience of the race. So fun trails and ridges.
We came 2d and 3rd after Emelie who is really crushing it!
We drove directly down to the water for a swim. And saw some dolphins!
A 7k uphill race in Valldal about 1 hour away from Åndalsnes, you drive over Trollstigen.
The race was from Fjord to Fjäll (from fjord to the mountains). The nature here is spectacular. We didn't mind our numb legs from yesterday’s race when the scenery around us is this amazing.
I hurt my butt yesterday though and of course legs and lungs weren't super fresh, but why should they always be that before a race? We want to practice on running hard even though not totally recovered. (It can be several tough trainings in a row too, not including racing at all, but you may get my point). Because we mainly see these races as good training too.
These uphill races are special for Norway. There are many of them all over the country, small and bigger ones. And on this one it was mandatory to wear a backpack with minimum 2kg. (You weight it in the start area) and actually it doesn't matter what you bring, just that the weight is 2kg. But of course, if you're smart, bring clothing for afterwards, maybe some energy. I did this, but had only 1,5 kg anyway! I had to weight it 3 times before it got 2kg. I brought a selfie stick, 2 bananas, 3 bars, water bottle, wind jacket, shorts and tank top and my phone to get 2kg. 😆😅 But I get the idea that one should bring enough wear for being in the mountains in unpredictable weather.
The race started just by the water on asphalt. Uphill. Kilian went on his own literally after 5 meters. He flew up.
I stuck to Linas back and felt good upward as we went. I had Emelie just by my back, and 4 young guys in a group. Then a trail came and Emelie sprinted to get in there first. We stayed in a line of 6-8 runners with a little distance of about 3-20 meters apart. The trail was steep but runnable. (Read tiptoeing) many others walked, but personally for me I find tiptoeing the fastest and most energy efficient.
As most places now it seems, it was very hot and sunny.
And we came out on a dusty gravel road that (everything only uphill). Here it was really hot. But I couldn't drink from my bottle, because you're supposed to have 2kg in the finish line... Glad for the 2 drink stations we're I could soak my head with the water. That is always refreshing. I could keep the distance between Lina and Emelie in front. Now about 90-100 meters I think. I ran with the 3 guys who raced for 3rd place. And I saw Lina together with the 2d one. (Which meant Emelie went for 2d overall).
The gravel road was very 'open' with views over the fjord so even though the breath was intense, you could enjoy the views. The guys I ran with were really jojo running and walking. We passed each other several times along the gnarly gravel road. And I also nearly ran over a little black snake. It felt I was somewhere more exotic than Norway at this point. As we came closer to the last stretch which was eventually a trail above the tree line, I had come closer to both Lina and Emelie. They seemed to slow down. And as you may have experienced yourself; believing someone else is weaker, you become stronger. So did I feel. But still with 1,5k to go to the top I may have been too thrilled to push so I got really much lactic acid and I also saw the guy Lina ran with warned her that I was coming closer and closer, so she also put in an extra gear. And then I could only be happy to finish 3rd, not very long after Emelie and Lina. Happy and tired with a panoramic view of amazing snowy mountain peaks and green landscape by the fjord.
We enjoyed a time up on the mountain in the sun and some wind before jogging down again to swim, (read efficient shower) before lunch and price giving.
I'm satisfied that I could keep up with Lina and Emelie pretty Okay in the uphill since they are very strong in that. And I'm very glad that I have a positive approach to racing, with a lot of joy and happiness, because if not, there is no idea of doing it.
If you haven't been running in Norway, it is about time. I would recommend Romsdalen, Jotunheimen, Hjorundsfjorden and Hornindal, Tromsø and Senja. Lower mountain options are Dovrefjell and Oppdal for example. But there are loads, I've just been to a small part and those above are my favorites.
Thanks for reading. Next race reports will be from Pierra Menta Ete in France. A 3 day stage race that we run together!