From sea to sky in the Arctic Circle

As I look out over the beautiful Tromsdalstinden mountain on my last day in Norway, I reflect on what an adventure it has been!

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Tromsdalstind in sunshine – it didn’t look like this on race day!

I can’t remember when I decided I wanted run “Tromsø”, but on the day entries opened way back in February I was franticly entering all 3 races – the Blamann Vertical, the Tromsdalstind Skyrace and the Hamperokken Skyrace (part of the new Extreme Skyrunner World Series). It would be perfect back on back training for the Transalpine run in September, right?

Unfortunately the Tromsdalstind and Hamperokken races were scheduled for the same day so I choose Hamperrokken!

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Nervously waiting for the Balmann Vertical to start!

Fast forward to 2.45pm on Friday 5th August and I’m warming up (i.e. everyone else is jogging up and down the road so I thought I should join in!) in anticipation of the Blamann Vertical – 1044m ascent over 2.7km!

Everyone I spoke to seemed to gasp when I said I was running the Hamperokken Skyrace in the morning. I pretended not to be surprised whilst wondering what I have let myself in for!

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The fast start to the VK!

The VK (vertical kilometre) started with soft grassy trail (similar to British fell race terrain), straight into an abyss of cloud. I power hiked and got a bit of rhythm but I find this terrain really hard and the shock of setting off so fast had given me stomach ache!

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Reaching the sky! Photo: Simon Ellis

Then after about 500m of ascent the rocky trail started and I really started to enjoy it. By about 700m we were though the cloud into the sunshine. At 45 minutes I was at about 750 metres, so I pushed a little more in the hope of reaching the summit in under an hour.

With 50 metres to go, I got a cheer from Emelie Forsberg and Yngvild Kaspersen as I pushed the final few metres – I made it in 58 minutes (14th Lady, not bad for my first VK!) and was greeted with an incredible view of the surrounding mountains peeking out the cloud for miles around!

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Nearly at the top! Photo: Zoltan Tot

Here is a video of the race https://www.facebook.com/tromsoskyrace/?fref=ts

Saturday 6th August and time for the Hamperokken Skyrace – nearly 60km and 4,650m of ascent, taking in  the summits of Hamperokken 1404m and Tromsdalstinden 1238m (twice!).

In the week leading up I’d been ridiculously excited at the thought of heading out to Tromso. On the morning of a race I’m normally really nervous but also super excited. I didn’t feel either of these. The race is part of the Skyrunner World Series so I think I wasn’t nervous as I really felt no pressure to “do well”, given the calibre of the field.  I think the lack of it being a real race for me probably also took a bit of the excitement away. By the time Race Director Emelie called “5 minutes to start” I didn’t even want to start!

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Smile and it will be fun, right?

The race starts along the Tromsø Promenade and then over the iconic Tromsø bridge before joining a steep woodland path and trail to the summit of Bøntuva. The trail up through the wood was a pretty slow single file queue and I felt like I should be going faster, but overtaking was near impossible. One guy (together with his very uncontrollable poles!) tried to overtake, resulting in an unintentional back flip. I decided it was best to just stay in the line!

The first checkpoint surprised me at 5km and I wasn’t prepared. I grabbed a handful of mini Pomegranate and Chia Cliff bars (this was exciting as they are not yet available in the UK!). Then continued running into the clag. You couldn’t see more than 20 metres ahead – it was a case of follow the yellow flags. The field was spreading out now. The grassy trail quite soon became rocky and eventually big boulders – my favourite terrain! I hopped and scrambled over them until I heard the cow bells. I’d reached the first proper summit of Tromsdalstinden!

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The summit of Tromsdalstind. Photo: Daniel Lilleeng

The route from here is a very steep decent off the back of Tromsdalstinden. Being similar to a lot of Lake District descents I felt pretty comfortable. The snow chutes were hilarious. For a moment i attempted the foot glide (like i’d seen Kilian and friends do!), but this appears to require skill. I took both snow chutes on my bum!

The descent continues before a very steep forest decent and along to the first proper aid station. I felt really good. I was eating, drinking, and having an awesome time. I’d overtaken quite a few girls since the first check point and another 2 on the descent from Tromsdalstinden but I’d no idea on my position.

The climb up Hamperokken started with a muddy forest track, before grassy fell and turning into boulders. I knew i felt good but when I started to overtake at least 10 people on the climb I wondered if I was going too fast too soon. Just before the ridge started, I caught up with Niall McAlinden.

Another guy let us past commenting on our tough Scottishness (I am English, Niall is Irish!).

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Haperrokken Ridge. Photo: Kilian Jornet!

The ridge along Haperrokken was really fun and I lead a group of 3 along most of the way. It was awesome to get cheered by Kilian Jornet and Yngvild Kaspersen! The summit arrived really quickly. I was told i was 6th lady – i was shocked! I grabbed a few pieces of Freia Melkesjokolade chocolate (the Norwegian Milka, only better!) and wondered if I could catch/keep up with 5th Lady who I could see was just a few minutes ahead.

The skies were beginning to clear as I began the descent to reveal a perfectly turquoise tarn many metres below – the first view of the day and it was so beautiful! The ascent was a super steep and super fast scree slide! There was a lot of “rock!” as we all tried not to take each other out!

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Haperrokken Ridge – you can just see the beautiful turquoise pool to the left!  Photo: Kilian Jornet!

Back down to the aid station and I still felt really strong. Maybe it was time to start pushing. The ascent back up to Tromsdalstinden was tough but I continued to overtake more guys and before long I was collecting more chocolate from the summit. My watch had clocked 4,200m. I assumed that was it and gave it my all on what I thought was the final descent back into Tromsø.

I was wrong. I knew it was 3.3miles back to Tromsø from the final checkpoint so I was expecting to get to the final checkpoint at about 31.5 miles. 31.5 miles came and went, as did 32, 33 and 34 as I continued to ascent another hill. Just before reaching the final checkpoint (at 35 miles and 4,600m) Niall caught me up. I knew this really was the last descent and so gave a last push.

I arrived at the finish to be greeted by a wonderful crowd. 10 hours 14 minutes and 5th Lady! What an epic day!

Whilst I was running the Hamperokken Skyrace my 61 year old mum was running the Tromsdalstinden 30km route. This is my mum’s 2nd SkyRace this year. I am so proud of my fearless supermum and the adventures we have together!

Thank you Emilie and Kilian for creating such a wonderful race!

Thanks also to MountainFuel for the my Extreme Energy Fuel and post VK Chocolate Ultimate Recovery Fuel that helped get me ready for Hamperokken!

Here is a video of the race https://www.facebook.com/tromsoskyrace/?fref=nf

See http://www.skyrunnerworldseries.com/britons-storm-the-tromso-skyrace-podiums-led-by-owens-and-paris/ and https://iancorless.org/2016/08/06/tromso-skyrace-2016-summary-and-images-skyrunner-extreme-series/

 

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