Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Kia Fjällmaraton 43K

Kia Fjällmaraton from Vålådalen to Trillevallen was my first fell race in Sweden. It’s a beautiful course that goes through three peaks: Ottfjället (1265m), Hållfjället (900m), and Välliste (1025m). Total climb on the 43K course is 2100m. The profile is fairly gentle and nice compared to European mountain races but this time the wet weather made it pretty tough and challenging. Mud was expected but what surprised me was the amount of duckboards. They may be okay to run when dry but awfully slippery when wet. And the layer of mud on top of it acted as lubricant. I thought I had right shoes for wet conditions but realized soon that it wasn’t the case. I had absolutely no grip whatsoever on those wet wooden paths and chose to run aside in marshes. It was definitively better but tough.

I had an ok start but could feel some tiredness in my legs early on (that tempo run a few days ago wasn’t such a good idea after all). I try to take the first long climb up to Ottfjället as easy as possible. There are many other orienteers along and it's fun to meet with friends I didn’t know were running. I climb up Ottfjället with Lilian Forsgren, a Swedish national team orienteer from Tisaren. But then in the first descent she disappears quickly. It’s wet, muddy, and slippery and I’m struggling big time while trying to keep balance on the way down. My shoes have no grip in the mud and I’m sliding wildly. For me mud is much more challenging than rocky alpine paths. I fall a few times before I decide to take it cautiously instead of risking. After all I want to run the whole thing and don’t want to get hurt. Elin Dahlstedt-Tysk, a former national team orienteer and an old friend from Lidingö, catches me on the way down and I continue running with her. It’s good to chat with a friend. She reminds me why we are here and I forget my frustration over the mud for a while. According to route description there should be nice views on the way down but it’s so foggy that I don’t see a thing.

Down in Nordbottnen is the first drink station at 15,6K. I’ve already taken one energy gel in the top of Ottfjället and here I grab a piece of energy bar before I continue. Next we climb up Hållfjället. It’s steeper but shorter than the first climb to Ottfjället. After the steepest climb comes a plateau with another drink station at 19,2K before the last short climb to the top. Here they serve air-dried meat and thin bread deli chips. I take a slice of dried meet and it tastes heavenly. Lilian (who had stopped earlier to help a friend) and Elin come right after and pass the station much quicker. I’m still chewing my thin bread chip but try to hurry up and catch Lilian as she runs off. But she’s fast and there are already a few runners between us. I follow her from distance and reach the summit at 21K just half a minute later. But then again in the descent she vanishes quickly and I need to focus in my steps. It feels like the descent from Hållfjället down to Ottsjö takes all my strengths. Downhill is supposed to be the easy part but I feel defeated. Once again, there should be magnificent views over the lake Ottsjön but all I see is mud.

After Ottsjö at 28K I more or less give up. 5h time goal doesn’t seem to be within my reach anymore and it hits me hard. I continue but there’s no drive anymore. I lose whole 20min on the last climb up to Välliste and a few positions too. It’s unbelievable how much time you lose after you give up trying. To my defense my legs and abs were cramping, making it impossible to push. After reaching the top of Välliste at 38K I thought the worst was over. Just 5K down, how hard can it be? But the last descend is the worst. The path is ok and nothing compared to previous two descents but with cramping abs it’s nearly impossible to run down. I lose 5min and one position on the way down but there’s nothing I can do. I just have this awful pain in my tummy and it is only afterwards I realize that it was my cramping abs. I finish 15th with the time 5:10. Gutted to lose so much in the end. It leaves you with an empty feeling. I had really hoped to go under 5h but the conditions made it quite hard. Feels like I have still loads to learn and improve before I can call myself a mountain runner.

Anyway, if I forgot to mention, Swedish fells are indeed incredibly beautiful and on the top of Välliste the sky actually cleared up for a while and the views were pretty nice. Even if I had a bad day the event itself was great and the atmosphere was very nice and relaxed.

Pictures taken from organiser's site (

Climb up to Ottfjället

One top reached, two more to go
Body language tells it all

Laughing to my own clumsiness
Not my best day on fells but still worth a smile