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.