There I was, back in Nikkaloukta again. Ready to toe the line with a lot of familiar faces and a few new ones. Even though I had problems with my back/hip, I had never been so well prepared for this race. That probably says more about my consistency than my form though. Also it looked like the stars would align and both me and my brother would be able to do the race at the same time. In the past we’ve taken turns for a variety of reasons but it seemed like this would be the year.
Everyone was talking about the weather, how much would it rain on race day? How wet was it going to be out there? How much snow was left, more than a couple of years ago? How cold would it be? The questions were many, but the answers were few.
Roland did the countdown and suddenly we were off. Me and Jonas went out in a moderately high pace since this is the most runnable part of the course. After a few hundred meters we noticed no one was chasing us and that’s how it would stay for the rest of the race, even though we felt people closing in more than a few times.
Everything went well to Kebnekaise, we were there in about 1h45m. Filled up our bottles and continued on. The weather was great, around 8 degrees celcius and a cloudy sky. Just about perfect for running in the mountains.
Hip pain and dark periods
In Singi, about 35km in, I started to feel some pain in my hip and told Jonas so, but we kept on going in the same pace, either it would get worse or it would subside. Thankfully it subsided and I could run unobstructed again but I would later turn out to have some side effects. My quad and my calf had to do some heavy lifting to compensate for my hip not doing it’s job and I knew I had to stay in control of it and manage it the rest of the way.
After Sälka Jonas had a dark period, he figured it was because of lack of energy and so he started eating bloks. We slowed down the pace a bit, which we had to do anyway because of how technical the trail is right here. It’s better to take it slow than to end up standing on your face on top of a sharp rock. After eating an entire pack of bloks in minutes Jonas was sure the lack of energy was the problem and soon we got closer to the Tjäcktja pass and he was back on track again.
Up until Tjäcktja there had barely been any snow at all and now it only seemed to aid us more than it slowed us down. Instead of sharp rocks it was smooth rather well packed snow under our feet. We kept on going past the Tjäcktja hut and towards Alesjaure. Somewhere around here I had a dark period, my quads and calfs were in pain doing the job of my bad hip and I didn’t feel I had any energy left but we kept on going. The good thing was that I knew I had a dark period and I also knew dark periods end, they always do.
From Alesjaure there’s only about 35k left and this part pretty much goes on autopilot. But it’s dangerous to relax too much, I think Jonas would agree on that. He was running in front of me and all of a sudden he was on his back on a footbridge, it all went so fast I didn’t understand what had happened. He got up again and fortunately avoided any serious injury. From here we kept a steady pace, just trying to get passed this part because after this you can almost feel the finish line. Even though it is a long ways to go you know it’s within reach.
After a few more close calls getting seriously injured we reach the ever so welcomed Kieron decent. It felt like we were literarily flying down to the suspension bridge below. It was the first time I had felt this good at this part of the trail, I had a few pains but nothing serious and I had eaten well but I was very careful not to bonk here, I’ve done just that so many times before. I just wanted to keep a steady pace all the way to the Abisko Tourist Station.
Having to recalculate
We had kept steady on record pace all the way, kept track of it to not let it get away from us but now we had discovered something wasn’t right. The remaining kilometers and the time didn’t add up and once we got to Abiskojaure we knew for sure we had to recalculate and speed up the pace. Jonas kept us on track since he had a little more energy than I at this point, I was really focused not to do anything stupid like forget to eat or fall down. He asked me if I wanted to get updates on how far it was left and what pace we needed to keep but I wasn’t interested. I told him to stay on pace for the course record and I would keep up with him.
The rest of the way went according to plan, not many words were spoken, I had full focus on going forward. A few hundred meters from exiting Kungsleden you can see the bridge over Abisko jokk and it’s a beautiful sight. Crossing the finish line once again, hand in hand with my brother in course record time and also a new FKT on the route was amazing. My girlfriend, my mother and Jonas’ wife and kids, Roland and all of the people helping out was all there to cheer us across the finish line after 11:52.35 out in the Swedish mountains. After the finish I stayed there for a long time cheering on all the others crossing the line, one after the other. It’s great to be there and see the joy in people’s faces when finishing, great performances all around.
A few reflections
This was my first race using mainly a fluid source of energy. I used Tailwind which worked really well for me. The taste is of course a bit sweet but I noticed the “naked” flavour worked best for me, it has the least taste of all and barely no after taste. The only problem I haven’t worked out a fix for yet is how to load up in an efficient way. I used the stick packs which tends to be difficult to open and even more difficult to pour into the bottle. If anyone has any tips on how to load up quickly, please let me know!
The conditions were as close to perfect as possible this year. It was cool but not to cold, barely any rain and the snow fields seemed almost laid out in strategic places. It was some mud and a bit slippery at places but with a good shoe choice this was barely noticeable. I used the Altra King MT which was a great shoe for this course and these conditions. It will probably never be as good conditions ever again, but one can always hope.
The race has never felt this “easy”, don’t get me wrong, it’s a tough race but compared to the other times I’ve ran it this was by far the most comfortable I’ve been. We kept a steady pace from start to finish, we kept an eye on the course record the entire way, made no big mistakes and we had perfect conditions. Another big factor I think, at least for me, was having a running partner I knew the ins and outs of. I think we complemented each other pretty good out there on the course.
No sub10 this year either, but I get closer every time. It’s good to have something to come back for. But I will tell you it felt truly great to set a new PR, course record, FKT and to cross the finish line together with my brother. That’s something that doesn’t happen too often in once life.