After my first DNF (short for: did not finish) experience at the SwissPeaks 100 it was obvious to me that I would take on this challenge once again. My curiosity and the desire to run for such a long distance was just too big! After extensive research, the Fjällmaraton in Ottsjö (Sweden) was at the top of the list. In general I heard over and over again that Sweden, with its beautiful nature, is a great place for outdoor activities. In addition, it is relatively not too far away from Germany in case there might be another corona wave and we needed to get home quickly.
The Fjällmaraton 100k is part of the Spartan Trail World Championship Series. It is also part of a whole week of running events, including the Salomon 27k, the PeakPerformance 5k Vertical and the Kia 45k Marathon, although that wasn't really important to me. I wanted to make a second attempt to run the distance of 100 kilometres, in this case rounded up with 3100 m of ascent and great views as the promotional videos suggested. Another advantage of this particular race was that I was able to convince my wife quite easily to come along, as she immediately registered herself for the other three events.
Spoiler: I achieved my goal and walked across the finish line after about 15 hours of running and hiking. Since I get quite emotional when exhausted, a few tears of joy ran down my cheeks afterwards. As usual in an ultra run, not everything was going easy and according to plan, which made my finish even more special for me.
Route: I'm still excited about the track. We ran 98 % on single trails across moors and mud, as it had rained a lot leading up to the race. Most of the moors could be crossed on planks, but there were also places where I sank knee-deep.
Of course it's less fun when it happens at kilometre 96 and you are in pain every time you lift your leg, but afterwards I have to laugh about it. I had pretty wet feet and at kilometre 53 I decided to change my shoes, wash my feet and put on fresh foot balm. This was one of the best decisions I made that day, because afterwards I was able to run approximately 30 kilometres in almost dry and mudd free shoes, as the rest of the route was quite dry.
Organisation: The whole event was very much focused on local participants, which made the whole event quite special and authentic. The only downside was that most information was not available in English. But when you contacted the event team, they always replied very quickly and friendly. The volunteers at the aid stations were also super kind. These aid stations often happened to be in the middle of nowhere in nature, far away from the roads. The track was also perfectly signposted and luckily I never got lost.
Fueling: I had prepared my HummusRocket and ate about 700 g of it over the course of the day. I also had my RollingPea puree at kilometre 53 after about 7:15 hours into the race which was a nice change in flavours and helped my stomach to stay calm. I supplemented it with some nut butter as well as salty nuts to get in more fats and calories. An electrolyte drink every now and then helped me to replenish my magnesium and potassium. Though the truth is also that during my last 20 kilometres I took a sweet energy gel to get over the last mountain. Luckily I never felt bad at any time and did not feel that I ate too less or something too hard to digest, which is often the problem in ultra-running at great distances.
Mental: I had only one goal and that was to reach the finish line. I was mentally so strong that I never fell into negative talk and until kilometre 82 everything went pain-free, so I could enjoy the weather, great trails and the beautiful views. The people cheering along the trail motivated me even more and I was even able to convince a few other runners not to give up. I am sure on this day only a serious injury could have stopped me. For sure, the mental preparation I did before the race played an important role as well and contributed much to me finishing the way I did.
Physical: I had a good preparation leading up to the race in Norway on very technical and challenging trails with many vertical metres. All of my long runs were in rain, mud and swamps, so I thought no matter what the day brings, it can't get worse. Unfortunately, I didn’t do as much strength training beforehand as I used to and should have, as I didn’t have enough room in Gerhardt (that’s our campervan) and it rained too often too much that I couldn’t do it outside. Until kilometre 82 I didn’t have any problems until my right leg started to hurt and forced me to a 12 kilometre power hike. Luckily, for the last kilometres, knowing that the finish line was within reach, I was able to dismiss the pain and I could run again.
Weather: After having not a single day without rain the whole month before and average temperatures of 13 degrees (while Germany had “comfortable” 30 degrees), I was rewarded on the day of the run. From 5:00 in the morning to shortly after 8:00 pm, when I arrived at the finish line, there was nothing but sun and a few clouds with super nice temperatures of 20 degrees. It couldn't have been any better!
Highlights: On the first uphill I was able to observe a free-running group of reindeers. I had never seen these beautiful animals in the wild and I was just completely thrilled. The other runners around me, of which about 90 % were from the area, seemed to not fully understand my enthusiasm.
My crew (aka my great wife Jette) gave me a kiss at many points of the track, supplied me with food and drinks and motivated me over and over again, which has made this event an even more beautiful experience. She only refused to wash my feet ;-) But I can understand that.
What I love about these long races are all the other runners you get to talk to at long races like this one. It’s a great opportunity to share lifetime stories, talk about other race experiences and to motivate one another so you forget about time and the distance ahead for the time being.
I‘m super proud that I’ve made it and that the recovery phase went relatively smoothly.