Tromsø Skyrace was the first Skyrace in the World Series that I managed to win and has been the mountain event I have returned to the most number of times since. To say it is a favourite of mine would be an understatement but when I finish I am always filled with the same thoughts and feelings, namely along the lines of ‘that was very painful’ and ‘why do I put myself through this’. This year was no exception but at least I was finally rewarded with full sunshine and 100% visibility and views for the entire 57 km with 4800m of climb.
The course for the past 4 years has started in Tromsø centre before making its way on a runnable trail to Tromsdalstind (1200m), from here you take a straight line dropping down the other side to the valley floor. 2km of flat valley running takes you to a steep climb and ridge to the iconic top of Hamperokken (1400m). Another steep descent follows but in extremely loose stones before heading back to Tromdalstind via the steep downhill track from earlier in the race. Once summiting Tromsdalstind again you would think it is all downhill from there but the course follows painful uphill undulating track before finally dropping the rest of the way to the city. In all it is a demanding course to put the body through and there are not many people who cross the line having experienced type 1 fun the entire way.
Having raced many times before I decided that this was a good opportunity for me to try a few new things. The biggest being poles. I had never raced with poles before but have been meaning to try for a while. Carrying all my food for the entire race plus the poles felt like quite a load but I was hoping that the benefit would outweigh this draw back.
It wasn’t long after the race started that I started to get the feeling that this could be a tough day for me. Weeks of too much driving and too little quality training was apparent in how my legs felt and I was unpractised in how to use the poles efficiently. I could also clearly remember how in control I was in last years edition, so my apparent lack of control now added to my pshycological distress.
First top done and I was in third but then went onto completely screw up the descent. This involved going of course, resulting in me missing some fast snowy sections and falling over resulting in a smashed up knee and a hole in my hand.
Hitting the valley floor I knew I had muddled the first mountain and used too much energy but there was still time to calm down and regroup… about 5 hours worth actually.
The second mountain went better and I found myself in the lead pack of three steadily heading up in what didn’t feel like a breakneck speed. The ridge went smoothly and shows a drastic change from the early years…what was a wild pathless exposed ridge now felt like a contouring path that rarely followed the pointy edge.
Summiting together the next downhill was once again atrocious for me. I am not a fan of the abundance of very loose big rocks and can’t seem to force myself to be reckless enough to run down there with any speed. This coupled with me running off course to drink from a waterfall left me lagging far behind. It is often a hard decision to slow down and try to look after your body but it was one I was glad I made considering how the warmer than usual weather was affecting me.
Once again on the valley floor I knew the next big climb is always where this race is decided. I took the lead but couldn’t create a gap. In the last river I fully submerged myself, cracked open a caffeine gel and figured it was now or never. Finally the poles seemed to give a real advantage and I opened a sizeable lead.
Eventually summiting it was now a case of forcing past everyone completing the shorter race distance and keep a steady jog through to the finish.
A race where my head wasn’t where it should have been at the start but I am proud to have salvaged the situation in the best possible way. Well needed points earned and now with a training block before any more big events I could celebrate passing the halfway mark of the season with a smile (once I had wiped the finish line grimace from my face).