To race Stranda Fjord Trail Race was never part of the plan. I even went to recce the course with some friends but was still intent on concentrating all efforts towards the CCC and training myself back up after Covid. It was actually Henriette that made the decision in the end, I only found out I would be taking part when the email confirmation of entry came through.
Ultimately it was too good of a chance to miss. A big race close to home, classic Scandinavian trails and a course I had even raced before (albeit during a longer version).
So finishing a 2.5 week base training bloc post covid I did 1 hard session and started resting up. It’s a strange feeling though; living in your own home but tapering for a race. It almost felt like an easier training week and I was just gearing up for a big training session. I was almost worried that I didn’t have the usual pre-race buzz to get me fired up.
In some ways the course was to my advantage but in others I felt like it suited me less. The key factor was the trails (or lack of in some sections). Swamp and muddy trail running is a skill in itself and one I have practiced in the past thanks to orienteering and obstacle racing. The majority of the second half of the race was downhill on boulder fields, both flat, uphill and downhill swamps as well as a good helping of muddy trails. I was sure I could move well over this terrain, I just had to be in contention at the top.
Thankfully I was. The start was fast and started climbing immediately but I concentrated on running a smooth speed and tried to keep up without burning too many matches. I never got more than 200m back and was in the lead group by the top. Starting to descend I knew it was ‘now or never’ so let rip on the boulder sections and kept pushing until I was sure I had a gap.
Concentration was at an all time high all the way to the line and thankfully I didn’t make any major mistakes. A few falls are mandatory in that terrain but I managed to stay in one piece, crossing the line after 2 hours and 24 minutes.
So a race that I didn’t know I was doing, to one that I wasn’t sure what my chances were after Covid, to one that I felt I should win considering the terrain and weather. It almost felt like cheating to take southern European athletes out of their comfort zone in such a way and expose them to such brutal Scandinavian terrain, but then it is still trail running…just not the gourmet kind, and it could certainly have been worse.
My focus now moves to the 100km CCC which will be a very different challenge, on very different trails, in very different weather!
Photos by Jordi Saragossa & Philipp Reiter