Sunday, August 2, 2015

tromsø skyrace 2015, tromsdalstinden

Race report: TROMSDALSTINDEN SKYRACE, Tromsø, Norway

Distance: 20 km
Elevation: +1600m
Route: Loop from Fløya to Tromsdalstinden summit at 1238M
Conditions: Chilly, foggy, light rain
Rank: 5/85 kvinner,  2:55:01 Women's results here.

Today was one of my most favorite days, ever, of all time. A race morning, so we woke to the usual soggy tent, but with no thoughts of not wanting to run. We were excited to get moving, and so thankful for the opportunity to participate today. The long Tromsø Skyrace drew us here initially, but by the time we committed to making the trip, the two longer distances were fully booked, capped at 200 runners for ecological purposes. We came for the combination of the VK here, and an Ultra in Sweden next week, but thanks to a helpful race organizer and a few no-show runners, we got ourselves registered last minute for the 20km. Bonus race!

A group of runners staying at the campground gathered to make the trip up to the start- a warm-up hike to the top of the telecabine at Fløya overlooking the city, although, today not overlooking anything but fog. We lined up together, the 20km and 45km runners who would face a much longer, harder day in the difficult conditions, some of us regular runners beside our heros all waiting for the same start. 

The beginning kilometers were fast and fun. We covered bouncy low shrubs, mud, snow, and rolling terrain up until the hands-on-the-knees climb up to Tromsdalstinden, choosing the best footing among the mounded boulders. I was happy for the conversation of a strong Czech runner, the only woman to race the long one in it's initial phase last year, as we pushed through the final few hundred meters of climb to the split, where she continued her journey to Hamperokken over the edge of a cliff. 

The short race turned left to start our steep descent from Tromsdalstinden, down wet, slick rocks. The fog made it difficult to follow the flag markers, and once I found myself climbing back up to the previous marker to correct my route. There was no one ahead of me (not within view) to follow, and I was relieved when someone passed so I could relax a bit from leading our current bunch over the scree. I met the Russian couple (traveling for the same Norway/Sweden races as we are) and for the first time learned that I had a good position in the race. He told me there were only a few women that had passed before me, so my racing switch turned on. I had been running very calm, up until now, knowing we were just 4 days away from our longest race. After some slow and careful movements (and a few stumbles), our feet returned to a muddier trail and it was time to run. My next encounter was a strong Norwegian VK specialist who I met at Blåmann. She was also hiking in this wet weather to support the racers, and her cheers gave me a huge boost. I felt so strong as I started passing a few runners, barreling through stream crossings and flying over the grassy rolls. She also called out that Derek wasn't far ahead of me, so of course I was going to fly.
We made a sharp turn left to begin the final climb back up to Fløya, I knew there was a woman just behind me and soon I would see Derek, not too far ahead. The gradual incline curved it's way through mud, water, and snow, through a seemingly endless fog, leading to a finish line that might appear around any corner, but never did. Good- that will give me time to catch up. I slip in the snow and when I bounced back up, my bib was hanging by one pin. I kept trying to tuck it into my pants and jacket, but it didn't stay. I decided not to fiddle with re-pinning it, the finish line would be here any second, so it will hang on. I looked down again and had no bib. Since the timing chip was attached, I figured I couldn't finish the race without it. So, I turned around, I ran passed the next woman (she might have thought we all made a wrong turn) so I called to her that I had lost my bib. I could see she felt bad, we had a good competition. Then another runner, then one more, and he was carrying my bib. Thank you! He passed it off, and I turned and sprinted back up the hill. Let's see if there is enough race left for me to catch up... There was nothing left, I crossed the finish line less than a kilometer after recovering my bib, 18 seconds behind 4th place, and only 30 seconds behind Derek (he got ahead of me in both Tromsø races...I've got some work to do). It was a better finish than I expected, and I had so much fun the entire race.

We started to get cold after our body temperatures dropped and we were soaked. The long race would be going for some time yet, so we made our way back down to camp for a warm shower and drier, heavier clothes before coming back up to cheer on the 45km runners. They really experienced something today in the difficult conditions and rugged terrain, and I hope to have a chance to face that challenge sometime, too. We were fortunate to watch several new friends finish the long run, and how about this welcome party!

Something special happened here, really far north, on a wet foggy day. There was a positivity and excitement that kept us hanging around into the evening, not wanting it to come to an end. Congratulations to the victors, to all the runners, and a big thank you to the organizers and volunteers. You all made this one of the best races ever!  

A first look down at Tromsø as the fog opens for the first time tonight.

Head in the Clouds, Feet on the Ground,  article about the Tromsø Skyrace by photographer Ian Corless.

Everything was tops in Tromsø, including these great videos from Crux Films. Here's a taste of the races and atmosphere, and the gorgeous scenery.

Friday, July 31, 2015

from sea to summit: blåmann vertical

Race report: BLÅMANN VERTICAL, Tromsø Skyrace, Norway

Distance: 2.7 km
Elevation: +1044 m
Route: from sea to summit, Store Blåmann
Conditions: Cool, foggy, humid, lighter above the clouds.
Rank: 15 kvinner,  58:19

The first race of the Tromsø Skyrace series, and of our northern trip, the Blåmann Vertical ran today just outside Tromsø, Norway. Most of the racers met in the city this afternoon, and rode buses to the start, a few tents beside the road. It was damp and cool, and possibly fortunate that the fog swallowed a majority of the mountain above us. When it was time to start, we all corralled toward the sea, so that our heals were nearly in the water. From sea to summit, following some of the fastest mountain runners in the world up through the clouds, here we go! 

The start was normal enough, everyone sprinting forward, hoping to avoid the backups as the runnable trail narrowed to single file and funneled into steep climbs. Soon after the start, this race became something different than the VK that I knew. We did not use poles, there was no chance to stabilize into a steady rhythm, left right left right. Everything was irregular and awesome! Soon after departure, after soft, slippery mud and stumps, we were already using our hands to pull ourselves over climbing passages, leaping from snow fields, angling across slanted rock faces. Everything was wet and slick, looking for grip for your hands and hoping your shoes wouldn't slide down (or the shoes above you wouldn't slide down either). This was so much fun that I almost didn't want to reach the top, one of crags I could see above me, a dark ghostly point appearing through the thinning clouds. I turned a corner, and was face to face with Killian Jornet, cheering and taking photos of us on our way up the Blåmann - now that's not something that happens everyday! A little more climb and some bolder hopping and already I was at the finish line, where the racers ahead of me were  all balanced on rocky perches like a herd of colorful chamois.

I didn't perform as well as I hoped, and yes, it was the first race of the season that Derek finished ahead of me, but it was about as much fun as I can imagine, so I didn't care about my time today. We had just participated in something special, the first Blåmman Vertical. This wasn't a typical VK, this was something rare, wild and free, playful, and just a little crazy. 

After some time on the summit talking, meeting other racers, all that was left was to go back down the way we came up. 

Thanks to all the organizers for an incredible event, and congratulations to the winners, Stian Hovind-Angermund and Emelie Forsberg. Full results here.

Post-race photos, coming back down:

Want more race videos? Check these out:

Tromsø Skyrace 2015 Blåmann from Red Cross RPAS Team Tromsø Norway
Blåman Vertical 2015 by Tommy Stoa

Thursday, July 30, 2015

sight seeing

Tomorrow we are running the Blåmann Vertical in Tromsø, so today we are sight seeing, a.k.a. running 20km in the mountains! We know that warm sunny days are a rare gift in northern Norway, so we plan to make the most of it. We started on a trail leading away from our camp site, and before long found ourselves in a lush green bowl surrounded by streams and waterfalls and rocky routes upward. 

Nothing tastes as good as cold clean water from the rushing streams, so we stopped often to enjoy a drink.

We reached a snowy patch and run up and slid down - repeated several times for fun.

It's the day before a race, so we don't want to tire ourselves out too much - better take some photo breaks and stop and admire the view.

From the ridge, we spotted a group of reindeer over the other side. Dark dots on the snow- this is as  close as we would get to them on our trip.

A lovely view from the summit of Tromsdalstinden, 1238M. (We didn't know we would be running Sunday's race- or even that it was a similar route, but we were happy to have seen some of the course, especially the rocky descent).

We took another pause to lie in the soft shrubs and enjoy the sunshine before racing through the birch forest and back to camp. Tomorrow is the VK!

Wednesday, July 29, 2015


Derek and I are headed north! We will be running two races north of the arctic circle:  a vertical kilometer in Tromsø, Norway and a 120km ultra in northern Sweden. It's going to be a great 2 weeks of races, running, camping, celebrating our 11th wedding anniversary, and whatever happens along the way! 

Check out the races: Tromsø Skyrace and Tierra Arctic Ultra and follow our adventures with #stromsgønord