Time is ticking and the month of July 2015 will soon be history. That means this week it’s time for me and my family to leave Chamonix, were we have stayed for the summer, and go home to Finnsne in northen Norway. And that also means that it’s time for Tromso Skyrace 2015. This coming weekend’s race has everything I want in a skyrunning race. It is packed with steep ascents and descents, plus it features lots of really tough, technical terrain along its 45k route. The Tromso Skyrace will be the perfect welcome home gift for me after more than two months spent running and racing in The Alps.
Given the season I’ve had up to now, I’m going into this year’s Tromso Skyrace without too much expectation on my shoulders. The competition too will be very strong as this year the race is part of the Skyrunning Ultra World Series. Sports journalists and people interested in running in Norway keep asking me if I expect to defend my title after winning the inaugural Tromso Skyrace in 2014. I wish I could say yes, but at the moment all I can tell them is that I hope to have a great day running in the mountains that I know and love. All I can do is focus on my own performance, run a smart race and hope to finish strong.
I’ve actually made a deal with myself before this year’s Tromso Skyrace. The deal is that no matter what happens I will make the most out of the day. I’ve made a promise not to care too much about the result and instead run the race with a clear mind. All I want to do is enjoy the day, the mountains, the fresh air, the scenery and make the most of the opportunity to race the best mountain runners in the world in my own home playground. I’m both thrilled and humbled that we have the opportunity to show the rest of the skyrunning world what Norway has to offer. This is where I discovered my passion for mountain sport and I can’t wait for more people to experience it, so a big thanks to organisers Emelie Forsberg and Kilian Jornet for making this race happen.
As I say, my season so far has unfortunately not quite gone quite as I’d hoped. After 30k of the Zegama-Aizkorri Skyrace in Spain on May 17 it was as if my physical form disappeared in a blink of an eye. I had a small fall on the highest point of the trail after about 23k… perhaps my running form still remains up there, lost on the top of Aizkorri.
Ever since then I have been trying desperately to rediscover ‘the good feeling’ but without success. The IAU Trail World Championships in Annecy, France, were a struggle (31st place). The same can be said of the Skyrunning European Championships in Chamonix (15th in the Vertical K and a DNF in the Mont Blanc Marathon, one of my favourite races). Two weeks later came a brutal Vertical K race in Val d’Isere. Again it didn’t go as well as I’d hoped (19th place).
Between the DNF and Val d’Isere, I took time out to rest and enjoy activities with my family. Perhaps this helped as since Val’Isere I’ve started to feel a little stronger in each training session. I’ve competed in a couple of local races close to Chamonix and finally there has been a hint of force in my legs, the same force I felt before my season came crashing down on the top of Aizkorri. I have my fingers crossed that this feeling stays on until the Tromso Skyrace on Sunday.
I have chosen to compete in different types of races over various distances this year. They have fluctuated from a half marathon on the road, to stair running up the Empire State Building in New York, to ski mountaineering and cross country skiing on the snow back in Norway, to skyrunning marathons, long trail ultras and then vertical k uphill blasts.
I love the challenge this variation in terrain, length of race, amount of ascent/descent provides, both in terms of competing and training. However, for an ageing man like me (34), I’m starting to wonder if this is doing me more harm than good. Maybe it’s time to make a choice and be a bit more specialised in my running…
It’s not so easy to preserve the rapidity and power required for the steep and short races when also training for an ultra trail event. And it seems almost impossible to maintain a stride that gives speed and efficiency on flat ground when all you really want to do in training is run up and down steep mountains, on foot or with skis, or adventure over rocks and faint paths that you know will yield amazing scenic views.
That’s why for the rest of the season I have decided to concentrate on the medium-long races which feature the toughest climbs under the most challenging conditions. These are the kind of races that make my heart beat fastest and drive my motivation.
My international racing calendar for the rest of the season looks like this.
August 2: Tromso Skyrace (Norway)
August 22: Matterhorn Ultraks (Switzerland)
September 12: Lakes Sky Ultra (UK)
October 16/17: Limone Extreme Skyrace (Italy)
Good luck to all you other race lovers out there! Race and do your best – both in good and bad shape! The most important thing, however, is to enjoy your racing and challenge yourself no matter what distance or terrain you tackle.