Post SAU recovery went surprisingly well, after limping around like an invalid with stiff legs for a day and a half I went for a shake out run and after that I was pretty much back to normal.
With only 3 weeks until the Tromsø Skyrace, my goal was to try to get a decent amount of vertical into my outings, having focussed mainly on mileage whilst preparing for the relatively flat SAU course. I got some quality runs in: 3de Toppen, Rombakstøtta, Beisfjordtøtta, but the absolute standout was a run up Dronninga. I ran from home under a clouded, murky sky, not really anticipating any great views. Over Ankenesfjellet and up the regular route, with no views of the surrounding peaks. But once I'd passed Litltind I broke through the cloud cover and was rewarded with some amazing views with the peaks around Skjomen jutting up proudly from the sea of clouds. My time to the summit was 2:55 from home in Narvik and I lounged around a bit on the summit before running back. Round trip time was 5:30
Out of the blue, on a run up to Forsnesvatn, a day or two later, it suddenly felt like someone had stabbed a knife into the outside of my knee. Early stages of the dreaded ITB syndrome I think. The impact of running was quite painful, so I decided to play it safe and cut out running for a few days. Happily this coincided with an sms from Markus asking if I was keen for a bit of skiing somewhere in Skjomen.
We left town at 5pm (after a day at work) and decided that Storitten would probably be the most likely candidate for having decent snowcover that wouldn't require too much of an approach hike. I had stupidly forgotten my ski socks, and discovered just how difficult it is to get a tight pair of alien sock style skiboot liners on without them. It took me about 15 minutes to get the bloody things on, and I was pretty close to giving up.
The approach looked a lot worse than it actually was, a mere 200 metre hike and we reached the first snow band. A few more short hikes through thick vegetation brought us up to the plateau and from here the skin to the summit was stunning and surreal. 9pm skinning in the sun in late July- the perfect antidote for someone with a dodgy knee pining for winter.
The summit itself straddles the border of Norway and Sweden, so it has a particularly cool cairn with a rock carving from 1930. The turns down were terrific, and not just because they were unusually late in the season, they really were just as good as any day in spring.
This past Sunday it was time for a proper sufferfest and Tromsø Skyrace delivered the goods. I don't know why I should be surprised given the course is designed by Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg, but it was without a doubt the most brutal 45km imaginable. With 4500 metres of elevation gain/loss, plenty of off trail, and some wildly technical (for a race setting atleast) scrambling with lots of exposure. The steady drizzle and rain only served to make the rock slick and even more sketchy.
The field was pretty stacked as it is part of the Sky Running world series, so there were plenty of speedy euros who made the trip north for the race and even a handful of Australians. I'm reasonably happy with how my day went, I felt like I was managing my pace pretty well and overtaking people at a steady rate on the first climb up Tromsdalstind and the second major climb up Hamperokken. However my descending skills were severly lacking, due to a combination of being worried about falling and a simple lack of training on this sort of terrain, my pace slowed to what felt like a snail's pace.
In the end I crossed the line in 8:50, making it by far the slowest and most debilitating 45km run I've ever experienced. Strangely though this was still enough for 32nd place in the mens field out of 125 starters. The most telling stat for the brutality of the course is that the DNF rate was 25%.
I only took one photo during the race as I was too busy trying to keep it together, and also was unable to unlock my phone because it was saturated from the rain.
Three days after Tromsø and I'm starting to feel pretty good again. I was up on Tredjetoppen doing a bit of renegade trail maintenance and marking this afternoon and snapped the photo below.