The AXA Fjällmaraton is the biggest trail running race in Sweden and one everyone wants to win. The course is 43k long and includes 1,800m of elevation gain. The terrain is, in parts, very soft and wet, plus there are slippery wooden planks that need negotiating. With this in mind, I wore the inov-8 Oroc 280 shoes, which have metal spikes in the outsole. They grip to absolutely everything. I also wore the inov-8 Race Ultra Vest to carry my kit and fluid.
Last year I finished second in the AXA Fjällmaraton in what was one of my strongest performances of 2013. The only man who beat me was Andres Kleist and he set a new course record in doing so. Arriving at the start line this year I felt really good and was determined to push myself hard in a bid to win the race. In the back of my mind was the course record too. I knew that if I committed myself to the race and pushed my limits that I could go close to breaking the record.
From the start, Andreas Svanebo (Sweden) took the lead. He was pushing the pace really hard, so I tucked in behind and followed him. I continued to feel strong and felt I had the upper hand on Andreas, but, at the same time, you can never be too confident on such a tough course. It is always possibly to hit the wall at any time, so I made sure I ran sensibly.
At 30k I made my move, pushing ahead of Andreas and building a solid lead up the steepest and longest climb on the course. As I reached the summit I looked at my watch and saw I was a little behind course record pace but that the record was still breakable. Feeling strong and determined, I decided to try and chase the record. There was just 9k to go from the top to the finish, so I began descending fast, literally throwing myself down the technical paths.
Just 100m from the finish line I could hear the race announcer calling out my name and telling the crowds that I was going to break the course record by over a minute. As I entered the last 30m there was a red carpet to run down. It felt fantastic to run that last section and cross the finish line the winner and new course record holder.
In the days prior to the AXA Fjällmaraton I took part in both the Ottfjället Up (an uphill race) and the inov8sprinten (a series of uphill sprint races). The Ottfjället Up was run over a 6km course which featured 680m of vertical gain but was not that steep. I finished second, wearing the inov-8 x-talon 190 shoes. The sprint races were new this year. It started with a prologue, which was followed by quarter-finals, semis and a final. It was a great success. Every athlete, man and woman, gave it absolutely everything from the start. The course was a really short uphill blast and the lactic acid in the legs was booming! Everyone who crossed the finish line almost instantly fell over!
I finished second in the prologue. In the quarter-finals I found a good rhythm and the perfect tactic too, sprinting away from rivals in the latter stages of the race. I used the same tactic to win my semi-final and then the final. My time in the final was over four seconds faster than the best time posted in the prologue. I think I may just be a bit of a slow starter! I wore the inov-8 x-talon 212 shoes for the sprint races. They felt super-fast on my feet and delivered excellent grip and stability.
All photos courtesy of http://fjallmaraton.se/