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Posts from the ‘Träning’ Category

Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie 2016, Race Report

Even though it’s been almost three months since my failed attempt at finishing the TDS, it didn’t take me long to start planning forwards again. I’ve tried a DNF before and it’s not an experience I relish. All the more so since the start of the race promised a beautiful day out in the mountains. I guess it only goes to show that running such a distance in that kind of Alpine terrain under those circumstances is not to be taken on lightly, not even for a seasoned ultra runner. There are so many details to get right, so many minute things that have to click seamlessly into place that when they do, and you cross a finish line, you almost never stop to reflect on how lucky you were. This time, I sincerely believe I was in very good shape and properly prepared for the task ahead. Even though I hadn’t put in as many kilometers as last year (your schedule gets pretty tight when you’re combining a full-time job with chasing two toddlers around), my coach Sondre had done a spot-on job of preparing me for the race, focusing as much on quality as quantity. As evidence, I would like to point out the fact that the first 51 km into Bourg St Maurice went faster and better than any ultra I have ever raced, and then I was still pacing myself not to run too fast downhill from Col du Petit St –Bernard. Still, I outran my dad who took the car down. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

I’ve been told that summer in Chamonix is even more popular than winter, which would explain the complete lack of affordable flats to rent for UTMB-week. Dad and I opted for a small and cosy apartment in nearby Argentiere as our base of operations and it worked pretty well. The only issue was finding a spot to park while in Chamonix but during these hectic days we managed to wedge our car in several tight spots without too much trouble. Standing in line for the bib-pick up, dad started up a friendly conversation with one of my fellow runners, a very pleasant fellow called Mark who had DNF’ed the TDS last year. He was a UTMB-finisher, but had to call it quits at the very last check point of TDS due to a knee injury, so he was here for a second go at this, the toughest of races. We chatted for a while and his impression of the course only emphasized my own idea of an extremely challenging course. After the pick-up, we met up with Sondre who would be joining me for the TDS, and his friend Didrik Hermansen who happens to be one of the best ultrarunners in Norway. Not only has he won both Lavaredo Ultra Trail (in 2015) and Transgrancanaria (in 2016), but even more impressive was his recent second place at this summer’s Western States Endurance Race. Sharing a coffee with these two royalties of ultra running was a bit surreal, and certainly a nerdy amateur runner’s dream come true, so I tried to soak up their bits of advice as well as I could.


With Mark at the bib pickup


With trail running royalty: Sondre Amdahl and Didrik Hermansen

For once, I had a pretty good night’s sleep before the race. I normally abhor early morning starts (i.e. before 8 a.m.), and this race was supposed to start at 06.00. We picked Sondre up at 04.30 before we headed for the Mont Blanc-tunnel and Italy on the other side. Sondre took us for a caffè at a local hotel before we both headed for the starting line. I gave dad a quick hug before we set off, knowing I wouldn’t see him again until lunch, at the top of Col du Petit St-Bernard. The TDS course is a lot more inaccessible than the UTMB, especially for spectators, which had forced me and dad to plan meticulously for the assistance I would be allowed, and how best to time it. I was especially looking forward to meeting up with Jakob’s sister Monika, a dear old friend of mine whom I hadn’t met in several years and who would be making the trip to the Alps just for the pleasure of seeing me run (she lives on the other side of the world, in Western Australia, so her visits are regretfully few and far between). The gun went off, the Italian spectators cheered and 2 000 headlights bobbed down Via Roma in Courmayeur towards the bottom of the first ascent up the alpine slope and the 800 m up to the first checkpoint at Col Chécrouit. Turning around, I was met by one of the more impressive vistas of the race with a light fog carpeting the bottom of the Aosta valley while the rising sun had just begun to chase away the deep blue darkness of night and paint the mountaintops the lightest shade of purple. Have I told you why I love these races ? After Col Chécrouit, the trail got narrow which led to slow queues this early in the race. After bundling past a few runners I arrived at the top of the ridge at Arête du Mont-Favre before I headed downhill towards the next checkpoint. I recognized the narrow trail from last year’s UTMB when I had run it uphill in the opposite direction, which means I knew what was expecting me around most of the turns down the mountain – always a good help when you are running a race for the first time. I believe I arrived at Lac Combal (15 km) in 2h 50 mins, and in good spirits beside. I even gave Mark a pat on the back while standing in line to get our canteens filled up. The sun was well and truly up by now, and I made pretty good time up to Col Chavanne at 2 584 m where I arrived just before 10 o’clock. I took a minute or two to admire the view due south where grey-green Italian valleys opened up in front of me. The gravel track down to the bottom of the long winding valley was pretty tedious, but I could at least keep a decent pace. The sun had climbed higher into the sky and I was beginning to feel it hammering on my head. I joined a few other runners by a small waterfall at the side of the road in order to fill up my bottles and pour icy water down my back. I crossed a small wooden bridge at the end of the road and started upwards once again. Up and down, up and down. Cheering and clanging cowbells reached my ears through a small stand of trees I was passing through, and as I emerged I found myself in the middle of a slowly walking avalanche of white-and-brown-spotted cows with cowbells while people who had parked along the side of the road were applauding and cheering us on. The climb up to Col du Petit Saint-Bernard went slowly, and for the first time during the race I suffered a bit. The little trail went up and down through the natural folds of the hills, and there were several official race signs warning us not to step outside the trail lest we damage the sensitive eco-system. More and more of the races I’ve had the privilege of running during the last couple of years have made a proper effort to raise awareness around the footprints we runners and the races leave behind us, and a conscious effort is more often than not made to reduce the garbage we runners leave behind. The TDS took us through some parts that were apparently ecologically sensitive and at a few of these places there were even stern-eyed race officials making sure we didn’t take any non-sanctioned shortcuts across grassy fields of flowers. I ran around a crystal clear lake (teeming with tadpoles !) before literally knocking head-first into a vertical wall separating me from the checkpoint at the little St Bernard’s pass. My face cracked into a smile when I both heard and saw dad running up towards me with the camera, patting me on the back and telling me that it was incredible that I had already reached the checkpoint, ahead of our calculations. He was so happy he snapped a few photos of me entering and exiting one of the porta-loos. For documentation purposes, you understand ; « One day, you’ll be happy I took those particular pictures. » Yup, dad. Can’t wait to frame them. I managed to gulp down some hot soup and then jogged along the asphalt road leading to the border crossing between Italy and France, where dad would leave me to drive down to the next check-point at 51 km at the bottom of the valley.


Leaving Col du Petit Saint-Bernard and heading down into Bourg Saint Maurice

The descent down into Bourg St Maurice went fantastically well. Finally, my hard work with specific downhill training in Wyllerløypa back home was paying dividends. I believe I passed 25 – 30 runners on the long way down into the valley, even though I was very careful not to overdo my pace. The heat waves rising from the yellow-greenish patches of grass were palpable and any chance I got, I stopped and submerged my head in one of the many water-filled stone basins I passed in the villages on my way down. I ran into Bourg St Maurice, and just before entering the checkpoint I saw dad again, rushing towards me with an incredulous smile. I had beaten him on foot down from the border crossing (admittedly, he had stopped the car a few times to take pictures, but still) and had reached the checkpoint before three in the afternoon, more than an hour better than my best estimate of how fast I’d run. He was so surprised he had almost missed me since he wasn’t expecting me yet. And lucky for me that he hadn’t since this was the first (out of only two) checkpoints where he could help me fill up my small cache of food. I took my time in order to rest properly, but I didn’t wish to dither too long lest I lose all of my headtime. I got delayed for a few more minutes while the runner sitting next to me fainted and crashed to the floor, but all in all I made good time (and yes, I helped him out). The time was around half past three and I was feeling extremely optimistic when I headed out from the Bourg St Maurice via the obligatory check of compulsory gear in my backpack. I knew that the absolutely worst climb of the entire race lay before me : 1 200 extremely painful vertical meters in only 5 km. You might as well hand me a climbing harness and a helmet for the ascent. I knew it would be painful, but as the old saying goes : suffering is optional. Well, not so optional as it turned out. The first third went well, since it was in the shade of trees. As soon as I left their comforting protection though, the sun hit my back and head with renewed force. The climb was on a completely exposed and southward-facing mountainside, and there was no place to run from the intense afternoon sun. Reports down in Bourg had the quicksilver hitting 33 ° C, and I was hoping against hope to reach the top without turning into a boiled egg. Unfortunately, that’s exactly what happened. I can’t remember a single race during the last few years where I have sat down on the ground between checkpoints in order to catch my breath and rest. Sure, I routinely stop for a minute or two during steep ascents and lean on my poles or a tree for support, but I don’t sit down. Ever. This time I did. At least half a dozen times. Or a dozen. I don’t really remember. Everywhere, I passed runners sitting down, and when I, in turn, sat down, they would pass me themselves. I must have met at least 30 fellow runners who had given up and were heading the wrong way, down the hill and back towards Bourg again. I was tired, sure, but I couldn’t yet imagine the fatigue that had led these poor souls to abandon the race. That would change soon as well. I normally thrive on the views and beautiful buildings along these trails, but I passed the impressive ruin of Fort de la Platte halfway up almost without glancing at it. When I finally stumbled into Col de la Forclaz I was dizzy, nauseous and had a headache normally reserved for patients with traumatic brain injury. I got hold of a water hose and filled my empty bottles again before I tried to find some blessed shade.


Studying the map at Bourg Saint Maurice

But after only a minute or two I started freezing and my teeth started to chatter, so I had to move into the accursed sunlight again. I was this close to abandoning the race right there, but decided to give myself a chance to rest for an hour before heading on. I had gotten that much headstart, at least, that I didn’t have to worry about the cutoff time anytime soon. When I continued, it felt as if I hadn’t rested at all and both my head and my body were cursing at me for not staying where I was and simply give up. This sounds as though it’s taken from a bad Hollywood movie, but I refused to abandon and walked on, up the gravel road. My head had cleared a bit and I was hoping to reach Passeur de Pralognan at 2 567 m before nightfall, but I just missed the last daylight on my climb up to the top and had to stop in order to shrug into my windjacket. I’d regained enough of my wits to realize that I was just then having the privilege of climbing a marvellous, but dangerously sheer cliff face with a phenomenal view of the valley we had only just left behind us. I sat down several times during the climb and had to rummage around in my pack for my headlight before I reached the top. There a grey-bearded race official gently but firmly gestured for me to grab my poles with one hand – for balance and to grab the ropes with my free hand – before attempting the steep descent on the other side of the ridge. As always, after nightfall, the view of the headlights bobbing steeply down the cliffside was surreal. Like little glow worms creeping down a hill. We were aided by ropes strung down the slope at regular intervals, and even though it was pretty steep, it still didn’t compare in the slightest to the panic-inducing drops of Tromsø Skyrace a few weeks back. But this part of the race made me realize that I didn’t have the strength left to safely finish the remaining kilometers to Chamonix, especially if there was more of this to come. The kilometers between Col de la Forclaz and the next checkpoint at Cormet de Roselend at 66,6 km dragged on forever. My pace had shrunken to a snail’s and I imagined that my ranking had plummeted like a stone since leaving Bourg St Maurice. I had already made up my mind to abandon at Cormet, and I picked up my dropbag before heading to the race officials to get my bib clipped and tag removed. At that point, I didn’t feel even the slightest bit of regret or disappointment. That came later. Right now, I only felt an enormous relief, justifying to myself that it would have been dangerous to continue and that I would have risked worse than the sunstroke I was suffering from. I boarded the bus for repatriation back to Chamonix and sent an sms to miss H, Panda and Teddy waiting back home in Oslo and to dad and Monika, waiting for me in Chamonix. And then I dozed off.

Right then and there, the dominant emotion was definitely one of relief. I’d fought as hard as I could, but in the end it was the heat of the day that killed me. I’ve had sunstroke before and even though I was quite rational about it once the symptoms kicked in, I couldn’t manage to pick myself up and I told myself that it would be dangerous to continue the race. These persuasion attempts notwithstanding, I still felt extremely disappointed when I woke up the following morning. How in the name of all that is holy could I have abandoned the race? I felt tired, for sure, and had a few aches here and there, but nothing major. But that’s the thing with sunstroke. All you need is fluid and a good night’s sleep to recover.


With Mon at the top of Chamonix

Dad, Monika and I spent a lovely day sightseeing in Chamonix and taking the by now obligatory tour with the cable car up to Aiguille du Midi for the fabulous view. Later in the day, I learned that my coach Sondre had also abandoned the TDS for almost the same reason as me, and also because he didn’t want to jeopardize his attempt at Tor des Geants a few weeks later. A few days later, I was also sad to hear that Didrik had abandoned the UTMB as well. Despite being one of the favourites to win the race, it was simply not his day out there. On Friday, dad, Monika and I drove to Croatia to attend Jakob and Marija’s wedding party in Vodice. Both the dinner and the party managed to conclude my disappointing race week in a fantastic fashion. Huge congratulations to the both of you and a huge armful of love!


How Jakob managed to catch this beautiful woman, I will never understand.

My running after TDS has been absolutely dismal. Catastrophic, even. A few highlights have included balloon pacing Oslo halfmarathon in September and surprising myself with a decent effort at Oslos Bratteste in October after having to skip the race the last couple of years, but apart from that I’ve been monumentally lazy. At the time of writing, I’m spending a few months at home on paternity leave with wee Teddy after having spent last month together with my family in Portugal. There, I finally started running again and am right now trying to dig myself out of the Pit of Inertia I’ve managed to fall into. I’m still working on both short and long term goals for next year, but I’ll keep you posted. God bless!

Spring And Summer Races

It’s only a week left to my big goal of the season; the ultra Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie (119 km, 7250D+), commonly referred to as TDS (a.k.a. UTMB’s little sister), and I’ve suddenly realized that neither Jakob nor I have given you the slightest tidbit of running-related information since my race report of UTMB last September. How can this be? After all, we’ve completed a few races since then. Well, put simply: life has gotten in the way. And it’s done so in the best ways imaginable, for the both of us. Starting with myself, miss H and I received a longed for gift in January, with the arrival of Panda’s baby brother, Teddy, and as you can probably imagine, our lives became exponentially more hectic as a result. Jakob, on the other hand, eternal bachelor as he has diligently tried to remain, was finally made honourable by our gorgeous childhood friend miss M, whom he married in April. Congratulations, fanfares and adulations all round!

So now, to the important stuff: the races! Let me give you a brief recap of the last year, so as to bring you up to speed. Duly inspired by my awesome feat of completing the UTMB last year, Jakob signed up for Sandsjöbacka Trail Marathon in January, aiming to run 82 km from the castle of Tjolöholm in the south to Slottsskogsvallen in the north, passing through the beautiful countryside of western Sweden on the way. Home turf for the both of us. Since Teddy was due to arrive around the time of the race, I had no choice (an ultimatum was made by my wife, suffice it to say) but to leave the crewing over to my dad and miss M’s dad, and by the looks of it, they made a suberb job. The race started in a pretty severe cold (-20°C) with frost and snotty icicles lining the runners’ nostrils and mouths, and the whole race was run in sub-zero temperatures. Deprived of my expert advice and assistance, Jakob managed to add an extra 17 km to the race by making several wrong turns at strategically important crossings, but still managed to finish the race and acquired 4 qualifying points (according to the new system) to the UTMB. Way to go! On a side note, the race was won by the always fantastic Sondre Amdahl, my very own running coach.

Next up was ecoTrail Oslo in May, where I opted for the shorter version of 45 km rather than repeat the complete loop of 80 km that I ran last year. The organisation had improved several of the minor hiccups from 2015, i.e. offering better markings of the trail as well as an extra checkpoint with water at Vækerø with 9 km left of the course. Despite having stomach troubles which forced me to a couple of unscheduled pitstops, the race was a very nice one and running along the quay in central Oslo for a finish at Sukkerbiten next to the Opera house will always be a beautiful way to finish a race.


With coach Sondre at the finish line of ecoTrail Oslo

The newly re-christened Gaustatoppen Opp (it’s now called Viking Challenge, after their main sponsor) was a very spontaneous challenge, presented by my good friend Hedda, the mountain queen as you may recall. Unfortunately she had to drop out a few days before the race in the middle of June due to a knee injury, but I made the three hour-trip north to Rjukan with two other friends, Eirik and Eskild, who were also enlisted. Gaustatoppen has been made famous by the world’s most extreme triathlon, Norseman, where the tiny station on the top (1883 m) is host to the finish line. Gaustatoppen Opp is a bit less extreme, but the 12 km we were to run from Rjukan (300 m) to the top made for an interesting climb of around 1600 vertical meters. As I was focusing all of my effort on TDS later this summer, I took this race as an opportunity to acquire some sorely needed uphill training. The race starts at the outdoor stadium in Rjukan with all of the runners squinting up towards the top and wondering how in the name of Christ they are supposed to run all the way to the summit, and passes the hydroelectric powerplant Vemork before turning up into the woods for the first climb up to a plateau above the town. Vemork, by the way, was made famous during World War II as a target for the Norwegian resistance to prevent the occupying Germans from making an atomic bomb. After the initial climb up to Trolltjønn, we had a few kilometers of farily flat, but muddy and technical running to the bottom of the mountain proper at the little lake Aslakstaulvatn. From here, a murderous climb awaited us with 850 vertical meters in around 4 km. It was tough and slow going for the most part, but excellent training for both legs and head. I was met at the top by my two pals who had started a few minutes earlier with the elite group and who had run much faster than I would have managed, and we drank a delicious cup of hot chicken soup each before heading back down again. The two of them via the intra-mountain railway halfway down the mountain to the bus stop, and me descending the 700 meters on foot on the outside of the mountain in order to get a bit of proper and technical downhill training. Yeay.


With Eskild and Eirik at the summit of Gaustatoppen

Last, but not least, I fulfilled a small dream of mine ten days ago when I finished the most extreme and brutal race I have ever had the pleasure (and pain) of competing in: Tromsø Skyrace, organized by the superstar couple of trailrunning Kilian Jornet and Emilie Forsberg. I have never been this far north before, neither in Norway or in the world. To give you an idea how far north Tromsø is, it’s 350 km north of the Arctic circle and lies quite a bit further north than Murmansk in Siberia and Anchorage in Alaska. The only slightly significant city further north in the world is Longyearbyen on Svalbard, a further nine latitudes closer to the North pole. Tromsø Skyrace (or more precisely, Hamperokken Skyrace which is one of three races in the Tromsø Skyrace circuit) is one of the races in the Skyrunner World Series and is sorted under the Extreme races (the other categories are Sky, Vertical and Ultra), a fact that wasn’t lost on anyone running the race. The clouds were hanging pretty low in the morning, and thus the view of the first climb up to the top of the cable car at 400 m was obscured from us. When we arrived at the first checkpoint at 5 km next to Fjellheisen, the fog was thicker than pea soup and the moisture in the air quickly condensed on my bare forearms and face. The climb up the first summit Tromsdalstind at 1238 m wasn’t particularly technical, but the descent on the southeastern part of the summit most certainly was. It was as steep a slope as I have ever descended and I frequently had to make use of both hands and feet in order to get down in a controlled fashion, avoiding to dislodge rocks on runners in front of me. Despite this, I fell spectacularly on my ass at both of the snowy patches where I speedily slid down on my backside to the end of the patches managing to brake with hands and heels just in time before the sharp stones at the bottom. The Portuguese runner right behind me wasn’t as lucky and managed to scratch up his entire buttocks and back thighs into a shiny red welt.


Condensed water in the fog


On Hamperokken ridge

We ran down the valley, crossing the little river a few times on our way towards a steep hillside resembling a muddy slide with a drop of 400 m down to the valley floor at more or less sea level. The next few kilometers were blessedly flat across a sparsely wooded forest towards the next checkpoint at 20 km. The climb up to Hamperokken was steep, but nothing compared to the ridge itself. Traversing the ridge for 5 km all the way to the summit at 1404 m was a scary experience, especially at the parts where the ridge narrowed to a width of only around two meters, with a sharp drop of at least 200-300 meters on each side. This part of the race went painfully slow since I took enormous care, often holding on with both hands moving around boulders and trying not to enjoy the view. The last scramble up to the top is described thus on the official website; “Last 50m to the summit are a short scrambling to the top, You need to be carefully, it’s exposed.” ”Exposed” is putting it mildly. It’s the trailrunning equivalent of, let’s say free climbing the Empire State building without safety equipment. OK, so I’m exaggerating slightly. But not that much. This part was seriously, definitely and humblingly the most extreme running and climbing I have ever attempted and was at the the very edge of my ability as a trail runner, just barely on this side of my comfort zone. Or slightly on the wrong side of it. We’d been told that to get a valid result, we had to ascend to the very top before turning down into the valley again, towards the lake. Sure enough, two fellows in down jackets and warm sleeping bags met us at the peak and dutifully scratched down our bib numbers to register that we had scrambled to the top. I tell you, I have deep gouges on my wedding ring to prove that I was hanging on for dear life most of the traverse. The descent into the bowl between Hamperokken and the ridge adjoining it to the west went equally slow since the major part of it was loose gravel and stones. On the way back to the checkpoint at 30 km, I passed a dozen runners walking who told me that they would DNF at the next checkpoint and if I intended to finish the race I should run past them, which I did, finding I only had ten minutes left to the cutoff. I filled my water bottles and rushed on, being the last runner to pass before they closed the checkpoint. I have never in a race been that close to a cutoff, but this race had turned out to be quite a handful and I’d be lucky if I’d see the finish line at all. The rest of the race took me back the exact same way I had come, up all of the steep slopes I had slid down on my hands and knees, and I had the safety runners sweeping up right behind me all the way back up to the top of Tromsdalstind and then on and on to the final checkpoint at Fjellheisen. At the top of the cable car, I once again met several runners who had decided to walk down to finish line since they (we) didn’t have a chance of finishing the race in 13 hours, which was the maximal time limit. I didn’t mean to give up, though, and passed at least six or seven runners on my down to the city and the impressive Arctic Cathedral before I crossed the bridge to Tromsøya. I passed the finish line in 13h 46m, and since I had in fact finished the race, I received an official finish time despite having missed the maximal limit of 13 hours. Apart from the terrifying scramble up to the top of Hamperokken, the most awesome moment of the race came when I highfived superstar Emilie Forsberg at the finish line and was waved to by Kilian Jornet, before Emilie interviewed me with a microphone. For us trailrunning and ultraracing nerds, it doesn’t get bigger than that.



View from the descent from Hamperokken

And that, dear friends, neatly sums up the last 12 months of running. Keep tuned in for TDS next week! You’ll be able to follow me live at Just click on TDS and search for my name, alternatively search for my bib number 6854, and you’ll be sorted.

All the best and promise to update you soon!

Race Report, Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc 2015

The inky black night sky is slowly turning a lighter shade of dark above the jagged horizon of mountain tops. I walk up towards a guy with an electronic wand and let him scan the bib on my chest. Beep-beep. I’ve climbed 2 876 metres since the starting line in Chamonix and have finally reached the top of Croix du Bonhomme, around 44 km into the race that is Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc. My Suunto is showing 2.30 on Saturday morning and I am as tired as I have ever been. Roughly a quarter of the race done, both in terms of distance and climbing, and I seriously feel like quitting. The climb from Contamines has been pure hell. I dig around in the side-pocket of my running vest and find a chocolate that I try to bite down. It tastes horrible. How did I even get here?

Dad below the start/finish arch on a rainy Monday afternoon.

Dad below the start/finish arch on a rainy Monday afternoon.

Dad and I arrived in Chamonix on Monday morning, after having driven through the night from Sweden. Our flat had a fabulous view overlooking the Mont Blanc-massif and after settling in, we took our first stroll around the rainy town. Despite the bad weather, the place was packed with people milling around at the ultra expo and the souvenir stores, and the atmosphere was high with anticipation of the week to come. The next day I finally got to meet my coach Sondre Amdahl for the first time. He had guided my training via e-mail and Skype calls for the last seven months, and I had been looking forward to meeting him in person. The first thing that struck me was the same stupid thought that strikes everyone meeting a celebrity for the first time: he was shorter than I had imagined. He still had at least a good ten centimetres on me, though. The second thing that caught my eye was his steady, graceful loping gait – almost like a leopard preparing to speed up and pounce – with which he ran with me towards the La Flégère cable car. We stood together in the tightly packed sardine can of a gondola and had a coffee at the top station. Over his steaming cup, Sondre briefed me on the entire UTMB route, and explained that today we would run the final eight kilometers of the course, from La Flégère to Chamonix as a final test run before the race. This short little training run with my mentor would eventually turn out to give me an enormous boost of self-confidence five days later, during the final hour of my race. Finishing my own small espresso, I followed him out of the top station and onto the gravel track towards the forest and during that short descent I learned what separates the elite runners from the rest of us mortals: running downhill. The ease with which he flowed over rocks and roots defies description. I was suddenly embarrassed by my constant kicking up of small stones down the path. We parted ways down in Chamonix again and Sondre assured me that the race would go great – my solid training would see to that. Always nice to get a nod of approval from the boss himself. After my morning run, dad and I caught the gondola up to the dizzying heights of Aiguille du Midi (3 842 m) and even had a bit of ultra celebrity spotting (Anton Krupicka) among the views of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley. Wednesday saw us picking up our race bibs; dad for the OCC (Orsières – Champex – Chamonix) and I for the UTMB.

The view from Aiuguille du Midi

The view from Aiuguille du Midi

Sondre and me after our final training session.

Sondre and me after our final training session.

This isn’t a race report on dad’s race, the OCC, but I’d like to share his crew’s short version of the race anyway, since it was part of a wonderful week dad, I and later Jakob spent together. We got up early on Thursday morning and I drove dad to his 08.15-start in Orsières, Switzerland. Since his Camelpak had leaked all over the back seat of my car, we had to fill it up again in the boulangerie next to the church by the starting line. I made sure dad was properly geared up, and then headed up the road to position myself for a few photos after the start. I waved at him before he disappeared around the primary school and towards the trail leading towards Champex-Lac. I drove up the winding road to dad’s next checkpoint, and spotted him just as he emerged from the forest. I cheered him on before driving back to Chamonix to pick Jakob up at the train station. We just made it back to the halfway point at Trient (24 km) before dad showed up among the trees and ran down towards us by the checkpoint. The OCC doesn’t allow help from a runner’s crew at any checkpoint, so we had to content ourselves with verbal encouragements and photography duty. Dad didn’t look worse for wear, though, and he had cleared the cut-off time with 45 minutes to spare, so Jakob and I relaxed and walked to the car for the drive back into France and the next checkpoint at Vallorcine (34 km). After a few hours, dad crested a hill and made towards us just as we were finishing our espressos. His cut-off time margin had shrunk to 15 minutes, but this didn’t seem to worry him as much as it stressed me. Convincing dad to take only a short break, I shooed him on after his brief replenishment of his Camelpak and told him not to dawdle. Just the thing you want to hear when you’ve been running for nine hours straight. Jakob and I had dinner in Chamonix, allt the while paying close attention to the LiveTrail-reporting that told us the minute dad passed the final checkpoint at La Flégère. Dad would run the final leg after night had fallen, and I was a bit nervous that he’d have trouble running with a head torch since he had never tried it before. But I needn’t have been. Dad turned up at Chamonix all smiles and waves, and Jakob and I followed him cheering and clapping all the way to the finish arch in front of the church, Saint Bernard du Chamonix. Not only was I elated for my dad having finished the longest and toughest race of his life, but also more than a bit relieved that he had done alright and seemed to be no more tired than after a particularly strenous longrun. Dad and Jakob celebrated with Champagne into the night, but I went to bed early in anticipation of my own race the following day. My trusty old butterflies had already started to churn.

Dad reaching the first checkpoint at Champex-Lac.

Dad reaching the first checkpoint at Champex-Lac.

Dad soaking his head at the penultimate checkpoint at Vallorcine.

Dad soaking his head at the penultimate checkpoint at Vallorcine.

I have started ultra marathons at any manner of times during the day; at 4 in the morning as well as 11 in the evening. Without a doubt, I like the evening starts the best. Firstly, you get a proper nights sleep before the race, not tossing and turning before an early wake-up call (in theory, at least), and second, I can sort out my troublesome belly during the day. Running early in the morning, much as I love it, always sets my stomach off in a bad way. On Friday morning, I forced myself to stay in bed until 9 and then got up to get some breakfast. Nervousness always turns both cereal and toast into tasteless cardboard in my mouth, but you need to press those calories down your throat. I enter into a bubble of my own before a race of this magnitude and withdraw into brooding (Jakob and dad would probably call it moody) silence. I meticulously prepared my racing gear and gave my crew detailed instructions on where to meet me along the route. UTMB has 16 official checkpoints where fluids and food are distributed. At five of these (Les Contamines, Courmayeur, Champex-Lac, Trient and Vallorcine), one member of your crew is allowed to enter the checkpoint tent with you to offer assistance. It would be vital for me to get help changing into dry clothes and replenish my bars and chocolates at these checkpoints, and above all: to receive some well-needed encouragement along the way. A friendly, well-known face cheering you on can sometimes mean the difference between a Finisher t-shirt and a DNF. The starting time was set for 6 in the evening, and Sondre had advised me to shoulder through pretty far in front in order not to get boxed in and forced to run single file in the beginning of the race. I had to leave my crew pretty early on in order to get a good position and then tried to calm my nerves standing among my fellow runners. There were 2 500 of us braving the Queen of these five Alpine races that make up the fabulous week that is Race Week in Chamonix; set for the final week of August each year. The races all either start or finish in front of St Bernard’s church at the Place du Triangle de l’Amitié in Chamonix. Getting closer to 6 o’clock, the throng started to press tighter and tighter while a song by Vangelis (1492, I believe) was blaring from the speakers. Someone had an eagle soar from a balcony by the starting arch just minutes prior to the start, and then the gun went off and the sea of runners started melting forward.

The profile of the UTMB, with Jakob's handwritten notes on cutoff times.

The profile of the UTMB, with Jakob’s handwritten notes on cutoff times.

In the thick of it at the start.

Mmm… Sardines…

The crowd was cheering like crazy and I don’t think I exaggerate when I say that it had to be close to 10 000 spectators watching the departure, thickly lining the streets. The only time I’ve come close to such a crowd support was in New York, but there, of course, we almost didn’t have any spectators at all at the starting line on Staten Island. I had to start and stop several times, due to runner’s congestion on the narrow streets, but soon enough my feet were thumping down a road along the river Arve and onto a gravel road further on. Sondre had advised me on a strategy that I was trying to follow as best as I could, which was to stick to my regular pace and keep it as long as possible, rather than open carefully and risk not making the cutoffs. I was in good shape and had a solid training foundation, and was full of confidence at this point. I reached Les Houches (8 km) in 50 minutes, which was pretty good considering I had spent more than six or seven minutes standing still at several points trying to get out of Chamonix. If anyone was in doubt that we were going to climb a whopping 10 000 m during this race, they got slapped to attention by the first 5 km climb (870+ m) up to Le Delevret. I felt I got passed by every single runner in the race, but I stuck to my pace and reached the top with breath to spare. It got crowded during the steep downhill part, and more than once I had to pass slower runners in front of me. The sun started to fall behind the mountains in front of us and after a while the falling darkness forced me to stop and rummage around in my pack for my brand new Petzl Nao head torch. I heard the crowds in St Gervais long before the street lights started popping up behind the trees, and after three hours of running on a more or less silent mountain, the roaring crowds that met us at 9 o’clock in St Gervais (21 km) were a bit of a shock. I tried to make only a quick stop to fill up my water bottles at this, the first proper checkpoint, but my crew were cheering madly at me from the side lines and I had to stop for a photo and highfive dad and Jakob with a big smile before, invigorated by their support, I ran on into the night. I checked the map in my front pocket and the 10 km to Les Contamines looked easy enough, but the incline on my tiny little map was deceptive and there was a fair bit of steep sections before I ran into the first checkpoint where my crew would be able to help me. Dad gave my arm a squeeze outside the tent and Jakob joined me inside, carrying the black bag I had prepared with dry clothes and food. There were runners and crew everywhere, and queues to the food that was laid out on the long, wooden tables. I hadn’t been able to eat very much and was worried I wasn’t replenishing calories fast enough. I had a chocolate bar, a cup of hot soup and a cup of coke before I changed into a dry Icebreaker and carried on with dad and Jakob walking with me for a bit along the road.

Starting the climb up to Croix du Bonhomme.

Starting the climb up to Croix du Bonhomme.

Still fresh and smiling at Les Houches.

Still fresh and smiling at Les Houches.

Put quite simply: the climb up to Croix Bonhomme was hell. I tried to keep the tempo up, but it felt like slogging through syrup. I leaned heavily on my Black Diamond running poles for every step and was breathless with the exertion. Runners passed me left and right and the reality of the situation started to sink in. I had around 1 300 m to climb in 15 km, which is pretty steep, but even so, I had done much worse during training up Wyllerløypa back in Oslo which I had conquered three or four times in quick succession a few times. And I had only been running for six hours, which should have been a walk in the park at this point. I thought back on my nutrition and fluid intake, but despite having bad appetite, I reasoned that these factors were also under control. How about the altitude? But I didn’t feel nauseous like I had in Cortina last year. Five days in Chamonix at an altitude of 1 000 meters had probably acclimatized me quite a bit. What then, was making my heart race and my breath coming in ragged, short bursts? I didn’t realize the answer until I would be leaving Courmayeur in another twelve hours, but what I was experiencing here for the first time during a race was anxiety. Pure and simple. When I reached the summit of Croix Bonhomme at 2 in the morning, I had covered 45 km and climbed 2 900 m, but I was focusing on something else altogether: the 123 km left to run and the 6 700 m left to climb. This, ladies and gentlemen is suicide during an ultra race, and especially during a race such as the UTMB. I’ve lost control in a similar way only once; just before the start of our Ironman four years ago. Since then, I had learned to control my nerves in the only way possible – by single-mindedly focusing on only the next checkpoint ahead and not on the entire rest of the race. A cardinal rule in ultra running. Well, at least for me. And just like that, by breaking that single rule, I came within an inch of quitting the entire race. I can’t recall much of the descent to Les Chapieux at 50 km, and quite frankly wouldn’t remember the checkpoint at all, if it wasn’t for the fact that this was where my coach Sondre unfortunately had had to abandon the race three hours earlier due to a hamstring injury. Dad and Jakob actually didn’t have the courage to tell me that Sondre had abandoned the race when I met them later during the day, for fear of my mental health since they later told me that I had looked like an emaciated ghost. That’s a good crew, right there. I probably would have collapsed in a heap if I had known.

I remember the climb up to Col de la Seigne (60 km, 2 507 m) better, since I reached the peak just before sunrise on Saturday, having run for around twelve hours. The view was spectacular and the slightly paler strip of black to the east clearly outlined the magnificent Italian mountains in front of us. Everything seems better in the morning and the rising sun always chases away the bad dreams of the night, and so it was for me. I wolfed down a chocolate bar and after a quick little selfie-movie by the official waymarker at the top I started down the trail towards the little group of runners that had passed me while I had admired the view. At this point I was glad I had decided to pack my warm Houdini Alpha Houdi, bright orange though it was, because it was a chilly morning. I quickly got warm during the run downhill, though, and pulled the front zipper down a bit while trying to avoid the bigger rocks along the trail. Very roughly speaking, and oversimplifying quite a bit, one can say that you have to climb ten mountain tops during the UTMB, and I found it easier to the tick them off one by one as I passed them. The third top, Col de la Seigne, was quickly followed by her twin top after only a couple of kilometers, but it was rough and stony going where I didn’t have a chance to pass any runners in front of me thanks to a very narrow trail with a sharp drop off to the right. There were several less thoughful enthusiasts behind me though, who happily flew by on not quite so nimble feet, kicking up stones and gravel as they went. How I love the thoughtful and respectful running of some of my fellow competitors. The long snake of runners trudged on until I finally saw an opening and nimbly – ahem – skipped past an Italian couple and set my sight on the checkpoint tent far below next to the little lake Lac Combal. I had to ask a slightly confused Japanese runner to move his backpack before I could sit down next to him on a narrow bench with my plate of noodle soup and hot cup of tea. At this point in the race, I had given up on trying to force down the jaw-breaking Italian biscuits, cheese, different salamies and raisin cake they were serving and was relying only on liquid calories, i.e. soup, broth, coke and tea with sugar, the bonus of the soup and tea being internal heating. I only had a short pit stop before carrying on and commencing the next climb up to Arrete du Mont-Favre (71 km, 2 409 m). There were several fenced-in pastures along this particular stretch of trail, but try as I might I couldn’t spot a single purple cow among all the traditionally coloured ones. Running down from the summit, I once again had trouble focusing on the next checkpoint in Courmayeur far below us, instead worrying about the devilish climb following immediately afterwards, according to my map. My brother has told me that Courmayeur is a fabulous place to ski since the Italians mostly leave the off-piste alone and focus on positioning themselves on the extensive network of sunlit verandas during lunchtime, and I could see that he hadn’t exaggerated the beauty of the place. The vista over this Italian jewel was lovely, and I identified several slopes worthy of my attention as I zig-zagged my way down through the leafy trees beside the ski lifts. When I exited the forest at the western edge of the village, I almost started to cry, so intense was my desire to rest my sore feet and meet dad and Jakob again at the halfway checkpoint of the race at 77 km.

Running through the streets of Courmayeur.

Running through the streets of Courmayeur.

When I hobbled down the grassy slope by the huge indoor arena, I saw Jakob taking photos and cheering. He took an involuntary step back when he saw my gaunt face though, and later confessed that he was a lot more worried than he let on. Dad met us with my bag inside the hall, where I changed from my warm Icebreaker into a cool t-shirt and also found my sunglasses and cap for the warm and sunny day ahead. Both of them were endlessly supportive and offered to get me both this and that from the foodstand. But not even the penne bolognese could make me answer in anything else than monosyllabic mutterings, and when I told them I was going to go and lie down behind one of the big curtains dividing up the hall into an eating and a sleeping area, they must have exchanged a knowing look. I have never lied down during any of my ultras, and once again, I came very close to submitting a DNF at this point, 18 hours into the race. I closed my eyes and relaxed every muscle in my body, trying only to focus on my breathing. 15 minutes of meditation later, I rose with a mighty effort, having decided to continue, and suddenly, I didn’t have a moment to lose. I curtly asked dad for my backpack, shrugged it on, picked my poles up and headed for the door. Dad gave me a pat on the back and a good luck out the door before heading back to their car, while Jakob wisely decided that I needed a boost of morale and some company. Since Jakob is a lousy liar, I shrugged away his effort at a complimentary comment about how fresh I looked, and instead gave his arm a squeeze of appreciation. Jakob knows me very well, and particularly how I react during these bouts of extreme mental and physical exertion, and it was a huge comfort to have him there right then. It was during the walk up a street towards the horrible climb through the woods up to Refugio Bertone where I made the decision. I haven’t widely advertised the fact in this blog that I am catholic and try to attend mass regularly, but the simple fact is that faith plays a huge part in my life and the literally tangible grace I feel in my own life on an everyday basis – both working with very sick children and in the faces of my daughter and wife – has often left me dumbstruck as to what extent God has blessed my life. At this point, I was as low as I have ever been in a race. Jakob left me at the edge of the little pathway disappearing up the mountain among the leafy birches and maples. I kissed the little amulet with Saint Anthony around my neck, looked up at the sky and whispered “Thy will be done, Lord. If I am meant to finish this race, then give me the strength and endurance to see it through. If I am not, then I’ll try to accept it. Can’t promise I’ll do it gracefully, though…”

Looking sceptically at my lunch at Rifugio Bonatti.

Looking sceptically at my lunch at Rifugio Bonatti.

The 5 km and 800 m climb to the stone cabin at Refugio Bertone was indeed gruesome, but I finally maintained control of my emotions and targeted only the one checkpoint ahead. The sun was grimly trying to pound a hole through my cranium, and I had to refill both of my water bottles at the water tanks. I chatted with a fellow Swedish runner for a few minutes before starting off at a run along the long, actually more or less flat, crest towards Refugio Bonatti. Jakob had climbed a good hour from the car where he had left dad illegally parked by the road and surprised me by catching up with me just before I passed the beep-beep of the official at the checkpoint. We shared a few minutes simply enjoying the gorgeous view of the Mont Blanc massif due south. This stretch of run, from Refugio Bertone all the way to the top of the highest peak of the race, Grand Col Ferret, was by far the most beautiful of the entire race. It was mid-afternoon and we took it all in by the breathful; the clear blue Alpine sky and the intensely white snow caps on the glaciers on the far side of the valley. No wonder people run this race year and year again. This moment reminded me of the sunrises Jakob and I shared from our tent in the Sahara. A brief moment in time to be cherished for its singular beauty. I had to move on, and gave Jakob a kick in the shins for not joining me for the entire race, the lazy bastard, and started off again. The slight descent to Arnuva featured at least three official photographers, surely due to the picturesque section of race we were currently on. After a semi-quick replenishment by the river, one of the steepest climbs of the race started. I had saved my audiobook for just this purpose, and to tell you the truth, the climb went as smoothly as any climb I have ever done. The sun wasn’t as cruel as earlier in the day, and I felt stronger for every climbing step I took up that emerald green slope. The highest point of the race, Grand Col Ferret (101 km, 2 527 m) marked our passage into the third country of the UTMB; Switzerland. I had been too out of it to reflect over the transition from France to Italy (it had been early in the morning, at Col de la Seigne), but now the achievement started to sink in. Not to gross any of you out or anything, but it is a testament to my efficiency (or simply laziness, I guess) that when I had to pee just past the summit, I simply took one step to the left off the gravel, and let it flow into a ditch, whereas earlier in the race I had almost ran half a kilometer into the forest for fear of offending anyone. Not so anymore. Exhaustion does that to people. I fell into one of my few conversations during the race with a friendly, Moses-beard-clad fellow (side point: what IS it with all these gargantuan beards sprouting all over the place?!? People look like they’re auditioning for Bible: The Movie…) from England. I hadn’t had such a high average speed since the early hours of the race, and despite getting mightily annoyed that the next checkpoint at La Fouly (111 km, 1 603 m) didn’t materialise soon enough, I felt I was back on track mentally. There really were a LOT of cows with cowbells lolling around in the pastures surrounding the village, and I was glad to escape the noise and duck into the tent for some hot soup and a change into a dry, long-sleeved shirt for the night. Dad and Jakob weren’t allowed to help me in La Fouly, but that would soon change. The first two-thirds of the race has only two checkpoints where a crew can assist their runner (at Les Contamines after 30 km and in Courmayeur after 77 km), but during the final 46 km you get to see their faces at almost every other aid station (Champex-Lac at 122 km, Trient at 139 km and Vallorcine at 149 km), which, all things considered, is pretty clever since that’s when you need them the most.

Leaving La Fouly.

Leaving La Fouly.

I turned on my head torch as I once again left the checkpoint with Jakob by my side tagging along for a kilometer before heading back to dad and the car again. Here, the field of runners started thinning out a bit, and I ran what felt like long stretches of trail on a steep ridge with only the sound of the river Dranse de Ferret far below me on my right keeping me company. We were running slightly downhill all the way to Praz de Fort where we crossed the river and continued on. The climb up to Champex-Lac took me on the same route dad had run in his own race OCC, and the final part of my race would be almost identical to what he had run. At the checkpoint at Champex-Lac, I suffered a minor nervous breakdown due to the fact that dad let me sleep for 45 minutes instead of waking me after 20 as I had asked him to. Jakob, alas, who would never have let me sleep that long, had been out hunting down a bag he had forgotten at a restaurant earlier in the evening, and hadn’t been there when I fell asleep. “But you looked so tired!”, dad defended himself, but to no avail. In his defense, he had of course done it with my best interests at heart since I had a good margin to the cutoff time and had fallen asleep in ten seconds flat on the narrow, wooden bench. But I had a really, REALLY difficult time calming down and after throwing a tantrum, I stormed out of the tent with my pack halfway slung around my shoulders and my poles sticking out in awkward angles. Well out of earshot, I cursed and bitched for at least ten minutes to the patiently listening Jakob who once again followed me to the edge of town, wisely holding his tongue. I know dad had only meant well, and even though I apologized profusely and sincerely for my outbreak at the next checkpoint, I stand firmly by the opinion that a crew has to obey – and I mean that in the literal sense of the word – a runner’s instructions to the letter. Especially an ultra runner. I had been running – or moving forward, at any rate – for 30 hours straight, the longest I have participated in any competition ever. This was my second night out and as fatigue goes, your people skills dwindle. Put simply, you do not have any margin whatsoever if things start to not go according to plan. I had all these plans for cutoff-times and finishing times, quite apart from the additional risk of stiffening up from sore muscles, and they all went out the window when I overslept. It wasn’t the end of the world, but it sure felt like it at the time. And I remember reflecting quite clearly during the tantrum that I was behaving like a child, but I couldn’t help myself in the slightest. All inhibitions were blown away, like leaves before a storm. I calmed down quickly enough, though. After a few minutes, I passed the first casualty of the night. One of the runners was lying in the grass next to the road, not a kilometer from the checkpoint, with his face up, head torch illuminating the moon and with a sweater draped across his torso, sleeping heavily. During the climb up to La Giete I passed several runners lying here and there, covered with saftey blankets, their snores competing with the cowbells for supremacy among the mountain tops. It was windy at the summit and I hurried down the trail toward the line of trees by the ridge, but the descent didn’t get any easier when the gravel of the mountain top turned into soft trail. This was one of the trickier, steeper descents where I didn’t make up much time running carefully downhill. One of the most irritating things about running ultras during the night is that you can often hear the sounds and music from a checkpoint long before you can actually see the lights in the darkness, and sometimes it feels like you’ve been running for hours before you finally reach the edge of town, which was my feeling before reaching Trient (139 km, 1 303 m). As soon as I saw dad, I gave him a hug and all was forgotten. Both he and Jakob – against the rules, dad posed as an official photographer, but I guess they relaxed the rules a bit this far into the race – joined me inside the tent, and helped me get soup and tea from the food stand, while one of the guys by the beep-beep put ABBA on the speakers when he saw the Swedish flag printed on my bib.

Jakob in Italy with the Mont Blanc massif in the background.

Jakob in Italy with the Mont Blanc massif in the background.

The climb up to Catogne was brutal with many large rocks forcing me to take high steps and work my already tired thighs, but luckily I was helped enormously by a second dose of audiobook at this point to help take my mind of the dreadful climb. The next descent took me past several skiing slopes and the morning sun lit my way among the ski lifts. I emerged from the tree line around a kilometer from Vallorcine (149 km, 1 270 m) to find Jakob waiting for me, bless him. Him and dad had slept for two hours in the car before driving on to Vallorcine and France. My first night out they had slept only four-and-a-half hours. Crewing during an ultra is not for the faint of heart, that’s for sure. It was almost 8 o’clock in the morning before I left the final checkpoint at which I could receive help from my crew, and I wouldn’t see them again until I’d cross the finish line in Chamonix. Despite the chilly morning, I had changed into a dry short-sleeved shirt, anticipating a hot day. After about a kilometer, I received my biggest surprise of the race when I was met by Sondre and his dad. Their presence at that particular point in the race gave me an enormous boost and for the first time since my Marianer-low in Courmayeur, I dared believe I would actually finish the race. “You’re strong, Jakob! Go for a good finish!”, was all it took and I literally flew off towards the final Climb From Hell, the 700 m up a vertical wall to La Tête aux Vents (The Head of Winds, I believe). The less said about the climb, the better. Suffice it to say that the sun made me suffer badly and I was greatly feeling the effort of having run more than 150 km. The severe-looking lady at the top beep-beeped my bib at an altitude of 2 116 m, and I looked up to enjoy the stunning view of Mont Blanc and the Chamonix valley in all its glory. I ran on towards the final checkpoint at La Flégère, and before I entered the tent by the cable car station, I waved to the webcam for the last time. I emptied a full water bottle over my head and decided to go all in during the final descent to Chamonix. Thank God Sondre had taken me down the same track a few days – or was it weeks? – earlier. How many times in my life have I run 8 km? Many, many, many times. I kid you not when I tell you that I thundered down that skiing slope like a Greek God of old, and not a neurologically challenged geriatric patient. Runners and spectators, old and young, stood and gaped at this apparation flying down the mountain side, not quite knowing whether to laugh or call an ambulance. Apart from the very first part of the race, this was by far my fastest leg during the entire race and I passed 26 (!) runners during the descent, finally ranking me in 976th place. I later found out that out of the 2 500 runners starting the race, more than 950 didn’t finish. UTMB is not an easy race by any stretch of the imagination.

Final sprint.

Final sprint.

With dad and Sondre at the finish.

With dad and Sondre at the finish.

I realize now that I have failed to mention the spectators and supporters. I’ve babbled on and on in earlier blog posts about the fabulous crowd support during the New York Marathon which truly was impressive, but the support the crowds showed during the UTMB was in a different league, not only for its enthusiasm and warm-heartedness but also for its tenacity and… well, endurance! Regardless time of day or place along the route, there was always someone cheering us and clapping us along. Like the farmer on the slopes after Le Delevret who had fashioned his own aid station, filling up water bottles from his hose with the most delicious cold water I tasted during the entire race. Or the girls who cheered and whooped when I stumbled into Champex-Lac in the middle of the night. Or the families and kids who waved me on and high-fived me during the final run into Chamonix.

I ran all alone along the river Arve towards the centre of town, leaving every other runner behind me, and the support from the expectant crowd was heart-warming. Dad and Jakob met me a few hundred meters from the square at the finish and ran with me towards the finishing arch. During the last few meters I raised my arms as if to fly across the line, and as I turned back towards dad, Jakob and the rest of the spectators, I threw my head back and arms wide and roared with emotion.

After 42 hours and 18 minutes, I was a finisher of the Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc.

Final sprint.

While in Italy, we visited my aunt who is a Benedictine nun at this lovely monastery on an island in lago d'Orta.

While in Italy, we visited my aunt who is a Benedictine nun at this lovely monastery on an island in lago d’Orta.

And an ultra race in the Alps is of course never finished until we've visited cousin Dot and her wonderful family.

And an ultra race in the Alps is of course never finished until we’ve visited cousin Dot and her wonderful family.

Our Last Pre-Race Update

Hello everyone! Just wanted to give you guys a quick update before the races kick off in earnest and we won’t have the time to update you quite as regularly. Dad and I set off from Göteborg on Sunday and drove through the night before arriving in Chamonix Monday afternoon. So far it’s been a week full of impressions and I’lll try to give you a detailed report of everything in due course. Not only did I have a last-minute run and chat with my extremely talented and outstanding coach Sondre Amdahl, who is here to defend last year’s seventh place at the UTMB, but I have also brushed shoulders with the likes of Anton Krupicka, Scott Jurek and my dear co-coach Margo! The UTMB here in Chamonix really is the biggest ultra trail running event in the world with more than 7 500 runners participating in one of the five races during this week! The PTL (300 km) started Monday evening and the TDS (119 km) set off yesterday morning. That leaves the OCC (53 km) for today, and the CCC (101 km) and UTMB (168 km) for Friday.


For those of you who wish to follow us, the easiest option is to visit UTMB’s official webpage at and then click on the link that says LIVE TRAIL, or simply click this link Enter our surname KLCOVANSKY in the top left window and both of us will pop up on the screen. Then you simply choose one of us and voilá: you can choose between following us on an altitude chart, a checkpoint-list or on a map. Please keep in mind that we will only be registered at the checkpoints, so several hours can pass in between the checkpoints. Dad’s race OCC starts today, Thursday 27th August, at 08.15 in the morning, and my race UTMB starts on Friday 28th August at 18.00 in the afternoon.



Don’t forget that we’re raising money for our charity Hand In Hand International, and that we’d love for you to visit our website at and help us out with a donation of your choice. You lovely and extremely generous people have already helped us reach our goal of € 2 500, but we’d love to reach € 3000 since that would mean that Jakob, Jakob and Jozef have raised 100 000 SEK since we started raising money for charities during our races!

Thank you SO much and God bless! Think of us tomorrow and during the rest of the weekend and keep your fingers crossed that we manage to finish our respective races in one piece.

Loads of love!

Jakob, Jakob and Jozef

Interview With A Runner

This is an interview my cousin Mária did with me a few months ago, about my life in general and running in particular. It was published in one of Slovakia’s biggest and most well-known online newspapers – Denník N – on May 4th 2015. The interview is in Slovak and you can find it here (, for those of you that would prefer to read it in Slovak. For the rest of you illiterates, here’s a brand-new translation of the interview for you to enjoy. I believe it will offer a few insights into my inner workings, and if not, well… I hope you still enjoy it.

What a Swedish doctor likes about Slovaks

– an ultramarathoner and a bookworm (an interview) –

by Mária Bruneau


In the Sahara, he listens to the sounds of the desert in the night, whilst in Slovakia, the high-volume discussions among his family members. Jakob Klcovansky works as a pediatrician and has sung in several choirs. A Swede with Slovak roots from worlds ranging from arts and medicine to farming. He lives in Oslo with his Norwegian wife and their two-year-old daughter. In this interview he tells us why he spends his time competing in ultramarathons as well as trying to find time to visit his family, which is spread all over the world.

This interview belongs to an interview series on the blog “The Principles of a Normal Atmosphere”, which aims to find a way in which to perceive said atmosphere. Straight from people whose atmosphere is visible, and who may inspire those of us who cannot perceive their own.

Ciao Mária!

Good evening, Jakob! Please tell us where you are at the moment.

In Oslo, Norway.

Would you say that Oslo is your home, and if not: where would you call home?

Home is where the heart is. Where my daughter and wife are here in Norway. Where Martin (brother), mom and dad are in Göteborg. At my grannies’ in Ivanka. Loads of places.

This would probably be a good time to tell us why you speak Slovak and why you have a grandma in Ivanka.

What, d’you mean people don’t know me in Slovakia?


My name is Jakob and I’m the son of Slovak immigrants who moved to Sweden 35 years ago. Born and raised in Sweden, which makes me a Slovak Swede.

Slovak was your first language?

That’s what they tell me.

And today, when you hear Slovak being spoken, do you consider it your mother tongue?

One of two, Swedish being the other.

How would you describe the childhood of a Slovak Swede around thirty years ago?

Wow, that’s a tricky question. But I’d imagine it was a bit different from the way you guys grew up in Slovakia [the interviewer Mária is Jakob’s cousin]. But I have fond memories. It all took a turn for the worse when my younger brother was born. Everything was basically downhill from there. No, no – I’m just kidding. We had a secret language – and that was awesome! Nobody in school would understand us. And nobody in Slovakia would understand us either.

Your first memory. What comes to mind when you return into the shoes of little Jakob in Göteborg?

We could change languages at a whim. Don’t listen to the know-it-all’s who tell you children can’t manage to learn two languages that early. Could be that I was extraordinary, but since my brother also managed it, it couldn’t have been that hard.



I remember a lot of stuff. How granddad came to Sweden and drove me in my stroller. How good we had it in pre-school. How I always had to protect my younger brother in school because he’d been cheeky towards someone older – and bigger – than himself, and somebody had run up to me and told me that he was in the middle of a fight. I had to come and solve the issue with the offended part, often explaining in detail that the only one who was allowed to give my brother a beating was me.

He should be happy to have you.

I tell him so every single day.

I know that you were interested in studying both Physics and Film. How come Medicine came out the winner?

Because it was the hardest school to get accepted into. It sounds extremely presumptuous, I know, but I wanted to see whether or not I could manage to get in. Medicine was the absolutely last thing I wanted to study, mostly because of several grown-ups in my family (not only my dad) who kept telling me over and over and over again that I should apply for medical school. And I always did the exact opposite of what I was told, especially when people kept badgering me.

And why did they believe you should study medicine? Did you like playing hospital?

Because I always had a book or other in my hands. And I had good grades. As if it would be a waste of talent not to pursue it. Nobody told me so explicitly, but I started to feel the responsibility that comes with being good at something. You don’t want to waste your talent. It’s a little like the story of the servants who were given Talents by their master, to invest and grow while he was away. And when I finally got in, I had to try it out. And I haven’t looked back since. But I know that there are loads of other things I could have done, that would have made me happy. I think it’s also rare to have a job where you really feel you make a difference. It’s not like anybody isn’t exchangeable, least of all me, but since I am a very egotistical person, I cherish the feeling I have when I return home after a day full of work well done.

What does your workday entail? Rescuing preschoolers in Oslo? What does medicine represent for you, especially since respect for doctors has fallen during the last century? In today’s hectic tempo, we often forget why it is we go to work.

OK, it’s not that deep or transcendent feeling I have after work every day. It’s just that once in a while, you experience something so profound, you feel like your soul has been touched by something or someone. I’m not talking about those action-packed situations where I’ve literally compressed the chest of a boy whose heart has stopped beating, or where I’ve stuck a needle in a premature baby girl’s chest to relieve it of a life-threatening tension pneumothorax. Those situations are dramatic and have a profound impact but there are other times, when you wave to and high-five a beaming five-year-old who received a liver transplant a month ago and who’s now flying past you in the corridor on a tricycle, or when you’re holding a mother’s hand who is about to lose her only child – a two-year-old daughter with the face of an angel – to a terminal brain tumor, and it’s in the middle of the night and the tears are streaming down your face and you have to tell the parents that there’s nothing you can do, save to lessen the girl’s anxiety and pain. I never forget why I do this. I really don’t. That’s why I work with kids. I love it. With regards to the population’s declining respect towards doctors, I have to disagree. I don’t know what it’s like in Slovakia or even France [where the interviewer lives], but in the countries where I have worked (Denmark, Sweden and Norway), I haven’t experienced any loss of respect towards the medical profession. Quite the opposite. People can be frustrated with all the trouble with hospitals, waiting times and such, for instance, but that can often as not be attributed to the entire organization. Meaning it’s often the fault of the board of the hospital, or the politicians. But never us – the footsoldiers that work at the hospital. Anyone who has ever set foot in a hospital ward, emergency room or an ambulance can see that the paramedics, secretaries, nurses, doctors and orderlies are running their butts off. Meaning they work very hard. No one ever became a doctor to become rich. At least not in Scandinavia.

It seems that the mood is different from country to country, as one would expect. I’m sure you have a healthy approach to illness yourself. Do you manage to keep that distance when you have to visit the doctor with your daughter?

Haha, we’ve never gone to the doctor with our daughter! When you have a father who is a pediatrician, you have to be pretty ill in order to convince him to take you to the doctor. You know what, I’m normally very objective when it comes to my work. I’m not sure why I told you about the extremes earlier, about the girl with the tumor, for instance. Probably because that was literally the first and only time I have ever cried at work. Normally, I’m very good at distancing myself. The first few months after our daughter was born, it was pretty tough to treat newborns who were seriously ill, but that soon passed. It’s funny. There are a lot of students in med school who dream about becoming pediatricians. Many are called but few are chosen, I guess. A lot of people can’t handle kids who are seriously ill. It’s not for everyone. I have very skilled colleagues, that’s for sure.

Your wife is also a doctor. Is family life compatible with two doctors in the family?

Never been a problem. It really hasn’t.


Apart from working in the hospital, you spend a lot of time in your running shoes. How did you start running? To put it mildly, you weren’t always a top athlete.

Hehe, that’s God’s own truth, that is. It was a way to get in shape. I had been overweight, managed to lose some of it, but needed it to stay away more permanently. One of my cousins had run the Stockholm marathon and then my best pal told me he was seriously considering to run the Malta marathon, where he lived at the time. I thought that if he could do it, I could do it. So I signed up for Athens marathon later that same year and my dad gave me one of the biggest surprises of my life when he told me that he wanted to give it a shot as well.The biggest was probably when I saw him cross the finish line. I had come from not having been able to run three kilometers without panting for breath, to completing a full-blown marathon. It’s easier when you lose the weight, though. Which taught us that nothing is impossible. Nothing. If you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right either way.

What was harder: the very beginning, or finally becoming an ultramarathoner?

Oh, definitely the first few weeks. You need to make a habit out of it. Like brushing your teeth, or going to church.You just do it. Every week. The rest has come gradually, in and of itself.The most difficult thing is to keep the habit of running regularly, and I really mean regularly. You can’t take a week or a month off every now and then. Well, of course you can, but you have to ask yourself what your goals are. Do you want to lose weight? Get in better shape? Permanently? Then, no. Do you run to introduce some variation into another sport, for instance swimming or football or dancing or judo? Then I guess it’s OK not to run regularly. I think you know what I mean. Oh, and do you want to become a better runner? Be faster, run farther, stay fit? Then, no, no, no. No breaks. Only easier periods of training. Now, let me clarify one thing. I’m not a trainoholic. My rest days are the days I love the most. But I wouldn’t enjoy them as much if I hadn’t ”earned” them, if you know what I mean. And also, it’s ever so much harder to get started after a long period without training. It’s much easier to just keep going all the time.

How do you organize yourself, your day-to-day life, in order to have time for everything you need to do during a week?

Well, for the bigger challenges, I hire coaches to help me with my programme. With the rest of my life? Well, I just do what my wife tells me. It always turns outbest that way.

Trail du Verdon

Trail du Verdon

Is having that kind of discipline hard to maintain?

I wouldn’t really know. I’ve always had it. I don’t train every single day. My body couldn’t cope. I love to lie around in the sofa too much. And I don’t have time for it. No, I don’t mean every day, I mean regularly. Two or three times a week is excellent. Brilliant, even! But you never skip those. Seriously, if Barack Obama – arguably one of the busiest people on the planet – has time for 45 minutes of exercise six days a week, then so, frankly, do you and I.

Haha, OK. You have a point there. Now on to Marathon des Sables. Was that the hardest thing you have ever been through?

Ah, my favourite subject! Not in the slightest! But it stands a fair chance of being one of the top five most entertaining and best.

7 days in the middle of an ocean of sand is entertaining… how?

Because I was with my best friend, without a care in the world, experiencing – and I mean experiencing in the sense of enjoying and breathing in – one of the most spectacular and beautiful places on the planet. You can’t experience the brutality of Sahara through a tourist bus window, or a 60 minute-stop with your sandals and shorts at one of the tourist destinations at the edge of the desert where you get to surf down the sand dunes on a snowboard. You need to experience it carrying your food, clothes and water on your back, wiping the sweat off your forehaed in 54-degree temperatures. You need to almost step on a scorpion while you’re climbing a djebel [sand-covered mountain]. You need to sleep on a rug in a berber tent, smell, listen and feel the desert sounds in the night. You need to have your sleeping bag being tossed hundreds of feet in the air by a freak sand-hurricane.

I believe I understand the beauty. Sahara is a dream. But is it easier to overcome the pain than one imagines? When one experiences pain, one never wants it, but on the other hand; while being ”inside” it, maybe that somehow makes it smoother, more enjoyable?

Absolutely, that’s poetically phrased. And the thing is, you never remember pain anyway. Just ask every woman that’s ever given birth. You know it had to have been there, but you don’t remember it. OK. Please don’t get me wrong. Of course you remember the pain. Scratch that. But I mean in the training sense.

Sahara Morning Glory

Sahara Morning Glory

Marathon des Sables

Marathon des Sables

I see. If you would want to remember it, you could, but you don’t have to. That’s how you can filter out the pain from your feet when you remember the sounds of the night in the Sahara. Let me return to the discipline you say you have always had. Do you think you were born with it?

I’m not sure, but I’ve always remembered being pretty structured regarding everything. My books, studying at Uni, training. So yeah, I guess so. Jakob tells me that my discipline is uncanny, and that he wishes he’d have it. He does, though, but in a different way. What it comes down to is motivation. If, deep down, you really don’t want to do it, or don’t yearn for it strongly enough, then chances are good that you won’t carry through.

Does that mean that it was easier for you in the desert than it was for him?

They were never easy, those long, hot and dusty days, and dark, cold nights. The thing is that Jakob and I are a team. When he was tired, walking with heavy steps and brooding silently, I’d give him a shove and start distracting him with questions or stories or something. When I, on the other hand, got weary and was grumbling and complaining, he cheered me up with funny stories and distractions of his own. We never had downs at the same time, and that has always been our strength as a team. We know each other extremely well and know what the other one needs. And focusing on your team mate’s needs helps to keep yourself distracted as well. It was tough for both of us, but we managed it together. I wouldn’t have done a race like that alone, and I’m hoping – even though he won’t be racing himself – that he’ll crew for me during UTMB in August. He’ll know what I need, and no one will be able to help me half as good as he will.

Deep down inside, why do you do these things? The tiresome travels, the stress of ever greater challenges, the repetitiveness of running?

Because it’s all an adventure!And I get to do it with my best pal. Finishing my first marathon, I realized that nothing is impossible. It’s just an imaginary line we tend to draw when we can’t picture what’s beyond the border of our own abilities. But the thing is, our abilities don’t have limits. There is literally nothing that we can’t do. Nothing. Impossible is not a fact. It’s just an opinion. In the words of Muhammad Ali; Impossible is nothing. After Athens, the races got progressively tougher. Jakob and I had one criterion for choosing our races. A new race would have to capture our imagination in a way that we would t first consider it unachievable, and that we couldn’t really imagine ourselves completing it. The step from scratch to finishing a marathon was just as big as the step from a marathon to a half-Ironman, for us. And the step from a half-Ironman to a full Ironman just as gruesome.The only nervous breakdown I have ever had in conjunction with these races was at 04.00 on the morning of our Ironman in England. The idea of starting a marathon after 180 km on a bike suddenly scared the living daylights out of me. I literally shook with anxiety for a few minutes, before Jakob slapped me on the back, gave me a wide grin and said something like: ”But wouldn’t it be cool if we managed to finish?” And I calmed down, took a sip of water to moisten my mouth that had gone dry as a desert. And then I took one lap at at a time. The swimming was divided into three laps, as was the cycling and the running. I took one lap at a a time, refusing to think about the next lap until I had finished the one I was doing. But the biggest jump must’ve been from an Ironman to the fullblown ultrarace Trail du Verdon, 109 km and 6700+ vertical metres of utter pain, but also exhilirating joy. I don’t know if you remember, but after we finished the race, we took a quick shower at the hotel, had breakfast, sat in our car and drove the 400 km to your little flat close to Lyon. We were exhausted but happy and I believe we both fell asleep after only a glass each of your husband’s wine.

Changing socks at a Saharan checkpoint.

Changing socks at a Saharan checkpoint.

I remember. You nitwits.

I also do it to see where the limits of my body go. I found a limit – of sorts – when I was forced to DNF (prematurely abandon) last summer’s ultra, due to several factors. But that failure has probably taught me more than all of my other personal running ”victories” combined. You learn stuff about yourself and how you cope with cold, fear, exhaustion, sleep deprivation, hunger, rain, irritation, hurting feet, disgusting energy gels. But then you take one look at the view from the mountains and you realize that everything has been worthwhile.

Do you feel happy? Do these – for the average ”normal” person, crazy – challenges make you more balanced as a person, do you think?

It’s only a hobby. That’s all it is. I confess that you get addicted to the physical shape you’re in. But it’s not that important. It’s something to tell the grandkids about. It’s something to brag and reminisce about when I meet up with Jakob. Sure, it’s empowering to realize that I can manage to push my body physically as much as I can. But anyone could do it with a little bit of motivation, discipline and training. There are more important things in life. The smile and happy scream on my daughter’s face, for instance, when I come home from work. Or the peace I find when I light a candle by the statue of the virgin Mary after mass on Sundays. Or the joy I feel when I visit mom and dad and my little brother in Göteborg, and they get to play with my daughter. That’s what’s important. Family. That’s what counts. Jeez… I feel like a commercial for Fast & Furious 7… Awesome movie, by the way.

With dad and Jakob in Cortina, prior to Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

With dad and Jakob in Cortina, prior to Lavaredo Ultra Trail.

Do you believe you have the principles of life figured out, at the tender age of 35? What I mean is; do you feel good about your place in the world and in the grand scheme of things?

I’ve never been happier, and I feel that I have everything I could wish for from my life. As long as my parents and my daughter are well, that’s all I need. I know it sounds pretentious, but it’s true. Soon I’ll take a break from all this training. It takes enormous amounts of time from my family, and I need to find another hobby soon. I’ll probably always continue to run, though, but maybe not as far. And yes, I have found the meaning of life! But it’s a secret and they made me promise not to tell anyone…

Everyone in your family knows you by your committed family spirit. Where did you find it, or rather; who taught you? And why is it worth your while to fly and drive around Europe from family to family, with tables full of delicious curd cakes and the air thick with noisy discussions?

Our parents raised us with that philosophy in mind, I guess. And also: we have an awesome family! What’s not to love? We were only three Slovak families (related, that is) in Göteborg during the 80’s, the Berlin wall and communism keeping us apart from our big, Slovak family. People could only come and visit us one at a time, sometimes in couples. We got used to cherishing those moments, since contact with our grandparents was sparse. And now we have all of the possibilities to visit you guys that our parents didn’t have for ten long years.

Do you believe you understand Slovak nature (not really being comparable to Swedish nature)?

Not as well as I could wish, unfortunately, since I haven’t grown up there. But I believe I could claim to know it at least as well as any second generation immigrant born outside Slovakia’s borders. But the thing is, that for me, Slovak nature would probably be indistinguishable from my Slovak family’s nature. And those two are probably pretty different. So maybe the answer to that question is really no.

In conclusion; atmosphere. Slovak atmosphere. What do you like about it, and what do you not like? What comes to mind?

I love the fact that there’s always another serving of food being prepared. And that as soon as you turn your back to your glass, somebody fills it to the brim with either red wine or Slivovica. And that people are always so interested and friendly, but that they’re never above a funnily sarcastic comment about your woeful inability to write proper Slovak.

Winter running in Oslo.

Winter running in Oslo.

Which ordinary atmosphere would you most like to get rid of?

There’s really only one atmosphere I would like to get rid of, and that’s the one that’s created when I have too many important things going on that force me to prioritize between things I want to do. I hate it, and I wish that there were 36 hours in each day and 10 days in each week, because there is never enough time for everyone I want to see and everyting I wish to do. Good thing is that I’m never bored.

Which ordinary atmosphere do you like the best?

The best is when my daughter wakes us up early in the morning with a rough, wet and noisy hug, while rays of morning sun are slanting in through our bedroom window.

Give us a greeting to all our Slovak readers!

Mám vás všetkých veľmi rád! [I love you all very much!]

And finally, something properly colloquial, something your dad would say. Something from Kerestúr.

As my dad likes to say, when me and my brother were speaking Swedish during our summer holidays in Slovakia: “Na Slovensku po slovensky!” [roughly: ”You need to speak Slovak while in Slovakia”], or “Krumple sa nevykopajú samé, chalani.” [roughly: ”The ’taters won’t dig out ’emselves, boys!”], or “Však ešte nalej, Janko.” [to my uncle Janko, roughly: ”Keep pouring, Janko!”], or “Ja vám vysvetlím, ako to vlastne je…” [”I’ll explain how it actually is…” ]. All of the above, quotes from my dad.

Thank you very much, Jakob. It was a sincere pleasure speaking to you!

Thank you so much, and likewise!



Friends and family, you are absolutely AWESOME!!! You’ve helped us raise € 1 772, which is 70% of our target! Way to go and a huge and heartfelt THANK YOU! Please let your friends and families know, send them the link for our charity site ( and help us reach € 2 500.


Loads of love and God bless!




The atmosphere in granddad's and grannie's Slovak Garden.

The atmosphere in granddad’s and grannie’s Slovak Garden.

The atmosphere of friendship, pure and simple.

The atmosphere of friendship, pure and simple.

Running From Göteborg to Rome. Figuratively Speaking.

Thanks to my beautiful, patient, loving, sweet and supportive wife, I have managed to log more kilometers during our vacation in July than I have ever done. I have covered a distance of 532 km, which is the distance between Göteborg and Norrtälje (yes, way past Stockholm), or between Oslo and Trondheim for my Norwegian friends. I have managed a little above 300 km a month a few times, especially leading up to bigger races, but nothing in the vicinity of this. As of Sunday 9th August, I have also run 2233 km since New Year’s (the distance between Göteborg and Rome), which is the earliest in the year I have reached 2000 km. When I am not in the middle of bulk training for a big race, I normally run a modest 50 km a week, give or take a few kilometers, and even during the most intensive phases prior to a race, I have rarely exceeded the 100 km-barrier per week. Not so in July. During the last five weeks I have run 120, 120, 111, 147 and finally backing off a bit: 90 kilometers (147 km being the most I have run in any week). Now, to put this into perspective, an elite ultrarunner can run up to 200 km a week, a few even venturing up above 300 km a week. A friend of mine (yep, I’m talking about you, Tim :) ran more than 5000 km last year, which is around 100 km per week, every week. My point here is that no matter how crazy you yourself – or your friends – believe you are, there is always someone somewhere more crazy than you, running amounts you’ve never dreamed of achieving (or even wanted to, probably). But won’t you destroy your body completely? Won’t your knees and hips wear out? What about your muscles, tendons and bones? And your heart, for God’s sake? Can it really be healthy to run all those miles?

Running statistics. You can easily see the bump in my schedule in April, for instance, when I was sick for 7-10 days.

Running statistics. You can easily see the bump in my schedule in April, for instance, when I was sick for 7-10 days.

Well, every man and womand has to decide for themselves, but I have found that three things are completely imperative if you want to avoid injuries; a) you need to be consistent in your training (i.e. don’t skip training because you don’t feel like running that particular day); b) you need to increase intensity and amounts progressively (i.e. don’t build up to 100k-weeks at once, but slowly work your way up to the necessary mileage) and finally and most importantly; c) listen to your body. If it tells you to back off and take a day or two off, then listen to it. Your instinct to back off rather than push through will rarely bring you wrong.

The view from the lawn in front of our little house.

The view from the lawn in front of our little house.

Early morning view from Nötesundsbron to Orust.

Early morning view from Nötesundsbron to Orust.

As most of you have already read, our two weeks on the French riviera were fantastic, even though it took a while to get accustomed to the 35-degree heat, let alone run in it. The final two weeks of our vacation were spent in a cosy, red-painted cabin a stone’s throw from the sea by the Swedish west coast. Heat was not an issue here, far from it. The less said about the weather the better, probably. At least I had ample opportunity to try out my rain jacket from INOV8, which has proved a very good buy. My coach Sondre has told me that if it rains during the UTMB, it rains cats and dogs and you’ll be soaked no matter what kind of jacket you bring, but it’s important to keep the water out for as long as possible. Wet = cold = increased energy demand = exhaustion = high probability of not finishing. The peninsula where we were staying featured a lot more hills than the beachside roads to Cannes and Nice, and I got plenty of vertical metres in. Still a lot of asphalt, though, but rotating between my shoes has helped a lot, as has taping my heel. I’ve become better at keeping an even pace, from start to finish, and slowly increased my speed during the final week (also known as Hellweek) where I hade three (!) back-to-back 35 km longruns. 105 km in three days is another personal record outside of races, but surprisingly, my body coped well. The training Sondre has been putting me through has really payed dividends. At least I hope it has. I’ve slept like a baby, and bedtime at 21.30 wasn’t all that uncommon during our last week. Luckily for us, our Panda is a sound sleeper as well. Right up until she wakes up with a smile and a holler at 06.00. By which time I’m normally long gone through the front door on one of my runs. Hence the gratitude to my wife at the start of this post.

Gentlemen and ladies, it’s only 2,5 weeks left to the UTMB. You fabulous people have helped us raise € 1288, which is more than half of our goal of € 2500!!! Please encourage your friends, family and colleagues to chip in some more for our charity Hand In Hand International by clicking the link to the right of this text or by visiting our website directly.

Loads of love and God bless!

Jakob, Jozef and Jakob

The last three weeks of training:

Mon 20/7        15 km (speed increases: 3x (3 km calmly (5.00-tempo) + 2 km increase (4.30-tempo)

Tues 21/7        45 km

Wed 22/7        Rest day

Thur 23/7       20 km

Fri 24/7           17 km (Long intervals: 3k warm-up/wind-down, 5×10 mins in 4.20-tempo)

Sat 25/7          14 km

Sun 26/7          Rest day

Total                           111 km

Mon 27/7         35 km

Tues 28/7        35 km

Wed 29/7         35 km

Thur 30/7        15 km

Fri 31/7            12 km

Sat 1/8              Rest day

Sun 2/8             15 km (Fartlek)

Total                             147 km

Mon 3/8         8,5 km (quick restitution walk)

Tues 4/8        15 km (220+ m)

Wed 5/8         13 km

Thur 6/8        21,5 km (four times up Wyllerløypa, the ski slope = 1750+ m)

Fri 7/8            20 km

Sat 8/8           Rest day

Sun 9/8          12 km (quick walking with the Panda in a child carrier in my back)

Total                             90 km

We even had time to catch some crabs, small as they were.

We even had time to catch some crabs, small as they were.

4 a.m. Wake-Up Call

I’ve spent the last few weeks on a longed-for vacation, and still have a single week to go before we return back to work. The first few weeks were spent in a big and comfortable house in Antibes on the French riviera, together with three other families. The ladies in the families have known each other since they were kids, and us – the husbands – have always gotten along very well. Eight adults and six kids (four of them between two and three…) made for two highly energetic, but absolutely fabulous weeks. Miss H’s only complaint was the lack of sleep-ins, since our daughter is an early riser. Couldn’t I have stepped in a few mornings, do you ask? Well, I would have loved to, but see, because of the heat, I really only could run early in the mornings. Very early, as it turned out, in order to be back before the quicksilver hit 30 degrees.

Sunrise over the bridge from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Nice.

Sunrise over the bridge from Cagnes-sur-Mer to Nice.

Since UTMB is held during the last weekend of August, I had long anticipated July to be my bulk month, i.e. the month in which I would have to do the most training. A few 35 km runs and a single 40 km run planned for those two weeks often meant a 4 (or at the very least a 5) a.m.-wake-up call. Horrible, you say? Fantastic, say I! Sure, dragging your leaden legs out of bed at 4 a.m. was tough, but running north up the stretch of beach between Antibes and Nice while the crimson disc of sun rose above the hills beyond Nice was nothing short of breathtaking. I must have honestly caught at least seven or eight sunrises during our time there. The beautiful cities and villages along the Côte d’Azur are strung like pearls on a string, from Monte Carlo hugging the Italian border in the northeast to Saint Tropez in the southwest. At 5 a.m. the streets of Antibes were illuminated by street lights and the sky was always an inky blue. My regular route took me down around the train station, past Fort Carré and onto the bicycle lane along a one-lane road right by the pebble beaches between Antibes and Villeneuve-Loubet.

The Promenade des Anglais in all its early-morning splendor.

The Promenade des Anglais in all its early-morning splendor.

Leo came with me on one of my 20 k-runs, and witnessed one of the sunrises firsthand.

Leo came with me on one of my 20 k-runs, and witnessed one of the sunrises firsthand.

During the first hour of running, I only crossed paths with the odd team of garbagemen emptying the trash cans by the road and waved to the fisherman who always had his four tall fishing poles strung out in the sea when I came running past. After around seven kilometers I had to run around a huge condominium complex before emerging onto a proper promenade at the outskirts of Cagnes-sur-Mer, which I followed until I reached Aéroport Nice Côte d’Azur after about 14 km. By this point, the sun had normally risen and I took care to run close to the fence guarding the airport runways in order to run in the shade. It took me a while to run around the airport, and when I ran out onto the Promenade des Anglais I had to swerve between the fashionable joggers, high society ladies walking their poodles and surfers cruising on their bikes who had started to emerge onto the promenade. My longest run took me all the way to the famous Hôtel Le Negresco where such renowned guests as Elizabeth II, the Beatles, Michael Jackson and Frank Sinatra all have stayed. For me, this elegant belle époque hotel was the halfway point at exactly 20 km from our house, and where I turned back to return to Antibes. On a few of my runs, I even had the pleasant company of Leo, Marthe and Alexander who all came with me on a run each.

The luxury of a long run. Alex and I ordered one each of these after another one of those 20 k-runs.

The luxury of a long run. Alex and I ordered one each of these after another one of those 20 k-runs.

The contrast between 35+ degrees on the French riviera, and 15+ degrees on the Swedish west coast couldn’t be greater, but I still have to continue my training. A bit more hill training here, and a lot more wind a rain. Good variation. UTMB is only four weeks and four days away, and I only have two more weeks of hard training before I start winding down and taper. Meaning that you, our trusty readers, have a bit more than a month to help us raise money for Hand in Hand International! Click on the link to the right here on our blog and help us reach our goal!

Last few weeks of training:

Mon 6/7        35 km

Tues 7/7        35 km

Wed 8/7        Rest day

Thur 9/7        20 km

Fri 10/7         18 km

Sat 11/7        12 km

Sun 12/7        Rest day

Total                           120 km

Mon 13/7      40 km

Tues 14/7      13 km

Wed 15/7      21 km

Thur 16/7      20 km

Fri 17/7         13 km

Sat 18/7        13 km

Sun 19/7        Rest day

Total                           120 km

Mon 20/7      15 km (Long intervals: 3x (3000 m calm, 2000 m speed increase))

Tues 21/7      45 km

Wed 22/7      Rest day

Thur 23/7      20 km

Fri 24/7         17 km (Long intervals: 3 km warm up, 5×2000 m (4.20-tempo), 3 km wind-down)

Sat 25/7        14 km

Sun 26/7        Rest day

Total                            111 km

The Staircase From Hell

It’s been five days and my calves are still aching after my seven trips up the stairs at Holmenkollen. My coach had this bright idea that I should toughen up my uphill training. Mission accomplished. Normally, muscle soreness after a tougher training than usual sets in after a day, more often two. Last week, my calves started stiffening up the same evening, after only twelve hours. Whilst on a night shift. That was a lovely night at work, with all my usual running up and down the stairs of the Children’s Hospital. I don’t cry myself to sleep anymore, but I still can’t beat my daughter down the stairs from our living room. And she needs to hold her mom’s hand for support.

View from the bottom. 417 steps. Yeay.

View from the bottom. 417 steps. Yeay.

View from the top. I know you don't believe me, but downhill is almost as bad as uphill...

View from the top. Downhill is almost as bad as uphill…

Well, what doesn’t kill me makes me stronger, I suppose. Dad is doing good in his training too, and things are running along nicely, pardon the pun. This week will see me increase my training to 90 km with 102 km next week. If I can cram it into my busy schedule, that is. I’ll be spending both Saturday and Sunday at work this week, before a week of night shifts. After that, it’ll be off to France for a spot of vacation. If anyone knows of some nice training routes for long runs in the area around Antibes, let me know.

This Friday, I have seven weeks of training left. Oh. My. God. UTMB is racing closer by the day. I spoke with Margo – a coach colleague of mine – last week, and she told me about that race week in Chamonix the last week of August. She had signed up for the TDS (Sur les Traces des Ducs de Savoie), a 119 km monster race with 7250+ (!) vertical metres a few years ago and told me about the tangible electrical atmosphere in the village during the race. Everybody in the entire area turns up to wave the runners off and then return to cheer them on in the mountain passes and finally across the finish line.

UTMB isn’t even the longest race during those magical seven days in Chamonix, and eager trail runners have five beautiful races to choose from. Apart from the UTMB (168 km, 9600+) and the aforementioned TDS (119 km, 7250+), we have of course the OCC (Orsières-Champex-Chamonic: 53 km, 3300+) that dad will run. The two final races are the CCC (Courmayeur-Champex-Chamonix; 101 km, 6100+) and the leviathan PTL (La Petite Trotte à Léon) which features 300 km (!) and 26 000 m (!!!) of positive altitude change. The PTL is only open to teams of two or three runners, at least one of which must have run the UTMB, and if I have understood the rules correcly, there will be no ranking. Every team that finishes is an equal winner. The maximum time to complete the race is 142 hours, i.e. a bit less than six days. Imagine that.

Here’s a description of the race from UTMB’s official site:

“The PTL® allows you to discover, while trail running and as a team, the most beautiful sites, the most inaccessible, the most engaging passages along the high paths of the Mont-Blanc massif. Despite the fatigue you will be blown away by the beauty of the sun rising on the shrouded mountains. The flamboyance of the setting sun on the sharp peaks will give your team strength and you will understand that together, it is always possible to go further…”

Now, if that doesn’t make you want to climb those mountains…?

A ranking of the technical difficulty of the five races. As you can clearly see, both TDS and PTL are considered difficulterer... difficulte... more difficult.

A ranking of the technical difficulty of the five races. As you can clearly see, both TDS and PTL are considered difficulterer… difficulte… more difficult.

As most of you know, Dad, myself and Jakob – who will crew for the both of us during the week – will be raising money for a very special charity this year: Hand In Hand International. Please help us support their grass roots work and fight poverty through the creation of jobs, and visit our fundraising site right here, or click on their logo to the right of this text.

Last, but not least, an enormously huge hug of congratulations to my dear friend Leo who ran his first ever marathon last weekend; the Nordmarka Skogsmaraton! You have to have balls to choose a tough terrain race as your first marathon… Kudos!

Loads of love,


Oh, and here are my last two weeks of training:

Mon 8/6        11 km (Wyller slalom slope x 2; 800 vertical metres.)

Tues 9/6        15 km

Wed 10/6      15 km

Thur 11/6      12 km

Fri 12/6          10 km

Sun 14/6        11 km (uphill intervals 10×3 min; ca 7% incline)

Total               74 km


Mon 15/6      12,4 km (Long intervals, 3×10 min)

Tues 16/6      20 km (450 vertical metres)

Wed 17/6      7,3 km (Holmenkollen stairs x 7)

Thur 18/6      12 km

Fri 19/6          8 km

Sun 21/6        12 km (uphill intervals, 300 vertical metres)

Total               71,7 km

Launching Our Charity!

Today is the big day! Today is the day that we start the fundraising for our charity; Hand in Hand International. We have set a hefty goal for ourselves this time, and we need YOUR help to reach € 2500! We’ve created a page at and you can simply follow this link in order to donate – it’s only a few clicks away! We hope that you, our readers, supporters, friends, families and co-workers will once again take up the challenge and donate money to this honourable cause.

Dad will start the 52 km OCC (Orsières-Champex-Chamonix) in exactly 75 days (27th August at 08.00) and I will start the 168 km Ultra-Trail du Mont Blanc a day later (28th August at 18.00). It’s scary how fast the races are coming closer…

ecoTrail Oslo, 1st edition

Finally, a proper ultra in my own backyard. As much as I love travelling to these races, it feels good to know that you’ll be able to collapse into your own bed after a competition every once in a while. ecoTrail Oslo is based on a French concept where trail running is combined with urban running, resulting in a highly popular race that has been held in Paris since 2008. The race is CO2-neutral and does it’s best not to leave any trace during or after the race. This novel idea has quickly spread over Europe and as of 2015, Oslo has joined the ecoTrail-family with a race of it’s own. Rumour has it that ecoTrail Oslo 2015 turned into the largest ultra ever in Norway with more than 1000 runners signed up for all three distances (18 km, 45 km and 80 km), with more than 600 of these preparing to run the two ultra distances. That’s more than twice the number of participants any other Norwegian ultra race has ever been able to muster. Not bad for a first edition. My own training had progressed well and after two weeks of tapering, I longed to start my first race of the season!

Climbing up along Akerselva in Grünerløkka.

Climbing up along Akerselva in Grünerløkka. Photo by K O Melaug.

ecoTrail Oslo started at 10.00 in the morning – later than I usually start my ultras – but it was nice to have a proper sleep-in for once, not having to crawl out of bed at 04.00. I met Andreas – one of my fellow coaches from Urban Tribes – at the start in Vaterlandsparken only a few hundred metres from Oslo Central station, literally in the middle of urban Oslo. Andreas is an accomplished and seasoned ultra runner and has among other races run Swiss Irontrail, Transylvania Trail Traverse and Kullamannen. He is also the author of a very well-written and entertaining running blog: Far From Home, which I can warmly recommend. When the gun started the race the speaker remarked that it was obvious that we were about to run an ultra – everybody took their sweet time to shuffle calmly under the big red balloon arch, nobody in any hurry. We crossed the road and ran along the pretty Akerselva heading due north towards Maridalsvannet. Andreas and I ran next to each other for the first three kilometers until we reached a big patch of grass close to Torshov, where I live. My wife has always complained that whenever she comes and cheers for me during a race, she spends hours travelling to a well-chosen vantage point close to the race track, maneuvering through the crowds with sharp elbows, meticulously preparing her camera, only to see me whizz past in a blur with a short wave and a smile, before I’m off again. “Dad always stops during his races and gives his granddaugther a hug, you dolt. Poor A is always cheering herself hoarse for you. The least you could do is to stop, pose for a photo and say hi.” It’s no use trying to convince the Love of my life that seconds really do matter, and that I can always pose with my medal after the race. But to be fair, in an ultra, seconds don’t really matter. Minutes do, but seconds don’t. Which is why I stopped by the stroller, gave my cheering daughter a big, sweaty kiss on her forehead and dutifully posed for a photo. A’s granddad was there as well, doling out generous support to my fellow runners: “Go on! You’re almost there! Not far to run!”, and was met with loads of good-natured merriment and laughter. Indeed. 3 km down, but 77 to go.

3k down and 77k to go. Andreas is pushing ahead, at the far right.

3k down and 77k to go. Andreas is pushing ahead, at the far right.

I had sent Andreas ahead with a pat on his back. I don’t have the shadow of a chance against him even on a good day and he would have edged ahead of me soon anyway. The first part of the race was uphill on asphalt and took us along Akerselva all the way to Maridalsvannet where we started up a dirt road on the eastern side of the big lake, glinting sapphire blue in the sunlight. Oslo was really showing herself from her best side in the beautiful weather today after a sorry week full of rain. The first hour passed quickly by and I passed 9,5 km in the first 60 minutes. Uphill. Sondre had given me two goals for the day: try to enjoy the race and keep a steady, pre-determined pace for the entire competition and not start out too fast and collapse during the final third. I had set a time goal of ten hours (and if I managed that, it would still be the fastest ultra I had ever run, even though the elevation wasn’t as monstrous as in the alps) which meant I had to keep an average speed of 8 km per hour. The first checkpoint emerged at the end of the dirt road at 15 km and I filled up my water bottles, grabbed a Red Bull and was quickly on my way through the trees again. The track wasn’t marked too well, flimsy and thin yellow ribbons tied to trees and bushes with regular intervals, easily missed in between the shafts of sunlight and light green leaves. On the other hand, every single kilometer was excellently marked with a big red sign stating the distance left to the finish line by the Opera house as well as the distance left to the next checkpoint. I passed one that said: “Opera 65 km. Holmenkollen 21 km.”

A km-marker in Sørkedalen.

A km-marker in Sørkedalen.

A half-marathon to the next checkpoint? Yep. The single big drawback of this race was the ridiculous distance between the checkpoints. An 80 km ultra with only three water- and food stations, with 21-24 km between them? The rules for this particular race clearly stated that you had to have at least 1000 ml of water with you in your backpack. During a long ultra race, you need to drink around 400 – 500 ml an hour, meaning that I would need 1200 – 1500 ml in the three hours I was planning to spend running between checkpoints two and three. I had an extra 500 ml Salomon rubber bottle with me just to be sure, but the water stations were still way too few. I wrote on the race’s Facebook wall regarding the problem, but didn’t get any reply from the organisation. They must’ve received several complaints though because the day before the race it was announced that an extra water station would be set up by the 50 km-mark in Sørkedalen, roughly two-thirds of the way between checkpoints two and three.

After I left checkpoint one I was struggling on the steep, uphill trail. I normally love to run uphill but my lack of specific trail training during the winter started to manifest itself in heavy legs and a panting breath. The trail was lovely and I tried to keep up with a Swedish girl with a curly pony tail whom I had been keeping a steady pace with, but I had to let her slip away just as I caught sight of the lake Skjærsjøen while cresting a particularly nasty hilltop. Annoyingly, I wasn’t in any mood to enjoy the fabulous scenery. It’s been a cold and rainy spring here in Oslo and sunny days have been few and far between, but today the clouds were nowhere to be seen and the sun was treating us to a lovely day. I started to recognize certain parts of the forest around us and sure enough, we were running on the same trails and gravel roads that the final part of Nordmarkstravern makes use of before dipping down to Sognsvann on a more easterly route, i.e. straight down on our left into the forest after crossing the dam at the mouth of Skjærsjøen. ecoTrail took us a bit further up before depositing us on the gravel road just a few hundred metres below Ullevålssæter. Now this was familiar ground! My strength returned and I took advantage of my detailed knowledge of the route and tried to make up for lost time during the forest climbs earlier on. I ran alone along the western shore of the familiar little lake Sognsvann, zig-zagging between curious onlookers before ducking into the woods again, heading up towards checkpoint two at Holmenkollen. An older fellow ahead of me struck up a conversation and luckily for me he distracted me from my aching legs during the long climb. Again I was sweating like a pig, even feeling a little nauseous. Too little food? By God, there would be no DNF today! I gritted my teeth and continued up the trail. We caught up with a woman wearing a tiara who had passed me several kilometers back in a furious pace downhill. At the time, I had been impressed at her good spirits and speed. As we caught up with her, she started talking to us in an EXTREMELY LOUD VOICE. My new companion and I passed her as she started limping a bit, but I was pulled up short by a blood-curdling scream after only thirty seconds or so. The woman had started to moan and scream and hop on one leg, complaining about a hellish cramp in her calf. The way she went on, you would have thought a bear had tore a chunk out of her leg. I hesitated for a microsecond but then got a nudge from my new-found friend who murmured: “Just keep walking. She’ll survive.” Leaving miss Drama Queen behind, we continued our sweaty climb until we reached Frognerseteren where we started to run towards Holmenkollen a kilometer down the road. It turned out to be three times that distance however, since the pisteurs had pulled the track in a cruel loop around a steep hill before letting us run across the twin time-mats at checkpoint two (35 km) just next to the Holmenkollen ski jumping slope.

Checkpoint 2 at Holmenkollen (35 km). Photo by K O Melaug.

Checkpoint 2 at Holmenkollen (35 km). Photo by K O Melaug.

For a resident Osloite, Holmenkollen becomes a bit bland after a while, but standing there in the shadow of the tower I had to give the race organizers a thumbs-up for placing one of the checkpoints in such a perfect spot. I sucked on a few pieces of orange and swallowed a cheese sandwich whole, but r chose to pass on the hot dogs and hamburgers at the end of the table. After resting a minute I continued around the bushes and up an asphalt road towards the highest point of the race; the TV-tower Tryvannstårnet at the top of the ski slope Wyllerløypa where Oslos Bratteste is run every September. Again, I was hit over the head with a hammer and was in pain during the entire climb, passing by the houses of the mega-rich and beautiful in a daze. I had actually started to feel queasy and felt like throwing up. What the heck was happening? I had just stopped for water, Red Bull and a sandwich, but felt like I was on the verge of collapse. I forced down a Bounty bar and trudged on. When I reached the halfway point of the race at 40 km, the timer had almost ticked to five hours meaning I was right on time, but at this stage I didn’t have much hope of managing to finish the race in under ten hours. If indeed I would manage to finish at all. I took a deep breath and started down the steep and serpentine gravel road that would take us down to the bottom of Wyllerløypa. A breeze picked up and my head cleared. The road was steep and my thighs were taking a beating but it wasn’t anything I couldn’t handle. After passing a marathon, I actuallt felt invigorated, even though I grumbled quite audibly when Drama Queen, a.k.a. Tiara Woman passed me in a frenzy, chattering LOUDLY all the way down into Sørkedalen with anyone who cared to listen. When the slope flattened out I carried on for a bit, enjoying the fantastic view and feeling the sun warm my back.

The view from the serpentine next to Wyllerløypa with the valley Sørkedalen in all its glory.

The view from the serpentine next to Wyllerløypa with the valley Sørkedalen in all its glory.

This part of the race took us along flat gravel roads and it was pretty easy going all the way north and then west into the heart of Sørkedalen where we hit asphalt again right in front of a red-painted and sweet little country shop. I ran over to a group of teenage girls who were manning the water station and asked for help topping up my water bottles. There was no food at this checkpoint, but I didn’t mind as I rummaged around in my pack for another Kexchoklad. This was the 50 km-mark and I was well inside my time limit having run for six hours. After only a few hundred metres, the yellow garlands marking the race track took me left and I walked over a dirt football field, the same one in fact, where the lovely race Sørkedalsløpet starts every year in the middle of August. It seemed that we were passing the venues of every race I had run in Oslo. At this point, the little trail by the football field turned into a gravel road that went steeply uphill for the next three kilometres. Instead of feeling exhausted and despondent though, I felt my energy coming back. I sped up and kept a brisk pace up the winding road, trying to catch up with a fellow with a backpack further up. I reached him just as the road but as I prepared to overtake him I stopped short and cursed. The forest path ahead of us was drenched in mud and as I lifted my eyes I could see that the trail would take us right through a soggy mire made even wetter by the preceding week of continuous rain. I banged my head several times against a willowy birch, composed myself and started walking. You couldn’t run in this even if you tried. Squish. Squish. Squish. Squish. Ploomph (sinking down to my knee in mud). Squish. Squish. Squish. Ploomph. Lovely. After a few kilometers, the ground became firmer and I picked up the pace across a granite slab of rock across the path. Suddenly I heard a scream I knew well. It seemed like Tiara Woman had succumbed to another one of her cramps. I wondered if they could hear her in the neighbouring city of Drammen? I waved shamelessly at her with a smile as I whizzed past and wished her luck, ignoring her detailed descriptions of her cramps. I joined another grizzled oldtimer (why are they always ahead of me in these races?!?) and had a pleasant conversation in a normal tone of voice all the way down to checkpoint four at 61 km at Fossum athletic park. Among other things he enlightened me on the subject of the trail markings, which I had suggested should be bright red and therefore very visible. “Well, not for the colourblind”, retorted my fellow runner. Guess I hadn’t thought of that.

Runners passing Rådhusplassen, only 2 km from the finish line.

Runners passing Rådhusplassen, only 2 km from the finish line. Photo by K O Melaug.

I consulted my Suunto at Fossum and saw that I had run for 7 h 45 min, meaning that if I could only keep my pace up as I had so far, I would just manage to squeeze in under ten hours. As I crunched away happily on a fistful of potato chips, I was told by crew members that Emmanuel Gault had crushed the opposition and won the race in 6 h 30 min. Un. Be. Lievable. I headed off again and soon found myself running along Lysakerelva, a meandering river with sheer cliff-faces of dirt flanking it, a trail caressing the top of the little gorge and diving up and down among the tress with a small and not-too-sturdy-looking handrail the only thing keeping you from careening down the hillside into the river. To my annoyance, I was once again passed by Tiara Woman (despite her vocal shortcomings and non-existent grasp of the finer points of tactics during an ultra race, she was obviously a pretty skilled runner), but no more than five minutes later I heard the familiar howl further down the trail. When I came closer I saw that no less than three (!) runners had taken pity on the theatrical woman. I skipped over her legs and was off again. I was really determined not to let her past me before the finish line. The final 9 km of the race were on flat asphalt from Lysaker all the way to the Opera house, hugging the Southern shoreline of Oslofjorden. I had an hour and ten minutes to finish and bar a serious injury, nothing seemed likely stop me. I relaxed, smiled and enjoyed the long home stretch and even managed to increase my speed resulting in what I believe was my first negative ultra split (running the second part of the race faster than the first part). I passed the small boats in Bestumkilen – the harbour at Skøyen – tried to avoid being hit by cyclists along Frognerkilen and finally entered the thick throng of people on Aker Brygge, the main see-and-be-seen-spot in central Oslo during the summer months. Here I collided heavily with a young, burly man from the Balkans. He looked surprised for half a second before he instinctively puffed up his chest and took a threatening step forward but by then I had sidestepped past him into the busy square in front of Rådhuset. Luckily for me, he didn’t give chase. I wouldn’t have been able to outsprint a forest mouse at this point. My legs were longing for a short rest but with 2 km to go my head refused to let them stop and so I soldiered on along Akershus castle and on toward the beautiful Oslo Opera house which I ran around in order to sprint the final 300 metres towards the finish line on the quay Sukkerbiten. As always, I sprinted the final 100 m and crossed the finish line in 9 h 49 mins. Smiling and with tired legs and feet, I received my medal and race shirt before I slumped down in a heap on the grass.

Even though the race was tougher than I had expected, and even though I struggled severely during several uphill trail stretches, I am very happy with how I managed to stick to my race plan. A bit surprising was the fact that I had felt better the further the race had gone on. All in all a very good day.

Finally, an enormous congratulatory hug to Hedda who finished third (!!!) in the women’s category and 12th overall at the 18 km race from Fossum to the Opera house. Hedda, you are awesome!

The women's 18 km podium, Hedda on the far right with her trophy :D Photo by

The women’s 18 km podium, Hedda on the far right with her trophy :D Photo by

Emmanuel Gault winning ecoTrail Oslo 2015. Photo by K O Melaug.

Emmanuel Gault winning ecoTrail Oslo 2015. Photo by K O Melaug.