Rovaniemi 150 Background
Ultra races are a test of mind, some body and a lot of soul. The added snow and ice gives an ultra an added twist. Here participants can die from hypothermia or become badly wounded with frostbite. Temperatures can swing from 5 degrees celcius (in 2016) to -27 degrees celcius (in 2017). No year is the same.
Superficially participants come to be out in the wild to survive. In reality, they come to face their demons. Everyone of us (readers included) have hurts and fears that we have pushed to the dark corners of our mind.
60 people entered the 150, 45 completed the entire event. Unless you have formed partnerships, you will be alone, perhaps in darkness, listening to the forest “pop” sounds.
It is in those moments of loneliness that our minds wander along the corridor memory banks searching those hidden corners, pulling forth the demons so that we can do battle. Out in the darkness, with no one around, no distractions, our demons are exposed and we must fight them. So that we can find the peace and joy of the world around us.
The demons I fought in Arrowhead 135 (which I have yet to complete), caused tears to fall. I had to stop my emotions running away as my eyes began to form ice, and were sticking each time I blinked. The second attempt to complete Arrowhead, ended early with grade 2-3 frostbite which took 3 months for the outer skin to heal and nearly a year for the finger to have 95% feeling but I was still in battle mode.
2015, Rovaniemi 150, sickness prevented me completing. Although I made the time limit, it is miserable when you are fighting yourself and fooling yourself. When your health is poor an endurance event will not heal it!
2017, Rovaniemi 150, I am at peace with my world (see previous post). With prayers and scripture behind me, I was prepared regardless of the lack of physical training. One more of “Peter’s winds” would try to hijack this victory…. a sleepless, restless night. In total, 22 hours awake before the event had started. Faith and trust were my focus.
The 150 Race
Although this is called a race, it is also about humanity. We all have our reasons for being here, but this is an evemt where participants help each other to be safe. The cold can kill. And it soon becomes apparent we all want each other to be well. Sometimes we have to take charge of a fellow participant, ordering them to put on clothes and gloves, to dry out, or making sure there are logs for the next participant to make a fire.
It was great to catch up with Rachel who would go on to be the first lady to complete the 300km event and Marketa who will complete the Lapland Challenge, a 900km event, that will end on the 20th March. These are women who are filled with joy and love, with spirits that dance in the wilderness and watched over by angels.
A glorious, sunny bright day, sees everyone start with gusto, a quick “get-away” on Lake Porohovi for the next 12.5km.
Despite a night void of sleep, my mind feels alert and thus the body is able to jog the first 10km. After all, dragging a 30kg pulka on a solid flat icy ground is effortless, though the lungs had to do a little adaption to the -10 degs C start.
This year the hills were easier to climb ….though many people still overtook us (Lumi and myself), I could breathe!
This year, the “pain in the arse” first forest section ground was solid – no snow shoes were required unlike 2015. Though care still needed to be taken on the steep undulations. 30kg smashing into your legs is a little painful!
Entering Lake Sinettäjärvi, we could resume a run, walk. In fact, I walked more of this as I enjoyed the feeling of health and thankful for my face mask to protect the face from the biting breeze. This is a long 20km lake stretch and with nothing to torture my mind, except a Mongolian song to loop round over and over again.
Unfortunately as this route unfolded, gel and bar wrappers had been left on the ice. Perhaps accidently dropped. After having picked up 5 wrappers, decided to leave the couple more I came across, hoping that someone behind might pick them up. It was a moral dilemna of responsibility as the area is pristine and yet annoyingly there are wrappers seemingy tossed on the ground by other participants! Plastic trash that will pollute the rivers that would eventually end up in our oceans or swallowed by a fish. I did not pick up 2 that I had seen and now was guilty of ignoring the trash on the ground, just as so many in society ignore the trash around.
More than 8 million tonnes of plastic leak into our oceans….Read here from the UN.
5 measly pieces of trash…..I was ashamed for turning my face away from the rest. It would be great if the organisers gave an award to people who picked up other people’s trash so that everyone took responsibility. However, I believe that there were other “aware” participant who would have taken responsibility for the trash I refused to pick up.
Note to other participants: I still have someone’s selfie stick that was dropped on the trail.
The Dancing Lights
As night fell, temperatures rapidly dropped. From the lake to CP 6, we would continually leap frog a Spanish duo (Carlos (150km) and Esteban (300km)) who would in turn overtake us when we were going up hill.
Approaching CP4, Carlos and Esteban stopped. Their light beams seemed to capture ice crystals suspended in the air that surrounded us like fairy lights, and there was a strange alien green light swirling in the sky.
At this point my Mongolian head song is interrupted by War of the Worlds music by Jeff Wayne:
The Pain in the Arse Rickety Bridge
By about 8pm we are crossing the rickety bridge. My plan was to turn the pulka on its side to drag Lumi’s fat rubber body thru. In 2015 I had managed to wedge Lumi between the wooden posts and was forced to climb over the pulka to release Lumi and carry her separately to the other side of the slippery bridge.
My plan to drag Lumi on her side failed. Thankfully Carlos and Esteban graciously helped me, carefully carrying my pulka across the bridge.
As temperatures dropped to -25 deg celcius, I put on my big mitten gloves. Unfortunately I dropped one of them in the forests. My one hand was becoming frozen. I knew I needed to find the lost glove or face having another round of frost bite.
I called back to the Spanish duo and they had thankfully picked it up.
Energy renewed, we were on our way to CP5. There I met a participant who was shivering by the fire and commanded her to put on clothes and her overgloves. Immediately I apologised for being so authoritive, though it was what was needed. Sometimes we think we are with it, but actually we can become confused, as I was at the end of this tale. She was at a check point, safe. It was questionable whether she would go on. I left her to be looked after by the volunteers so that she could deal with her demons.
As we headed into midnight, we were treated to another blast of green swirling lights. We were in a magical wonderland and still feeling very lucid despite the sleep deprivation.
CP6 @ 02:00. The plan was to spend @ 3 hours at Kuusilampi, to eat and dry clothes. It is the only hut that has a closed door and a burning fire inside. It was great to see Ollie and Jaana again.
I was surprised to see Simone enter in only 1/2 an hour after me. She had got herself together and made the journey to CP6. Her boyfriend had only just left CP6 as I could not give him positive feedback on whether Simone would make it. He had waited some hours. I felt bad for her and found myself again commanding her to get her clothes dry.
Being dry does much to lift the spirit. We talked and she seemed much more positive. We both filled our Nathan Bladders with hot water. As I continued to bimble around, Simone felt ready to face the world and went on outside to move onto the next check point. Unfortunately her bladder somehow burst and her clothes were wet. At this point she decided to call it a day and I left her in the safe hands of Jaana and Ollie. I thanked God that my water bladder did not burst in the same way despite me filling it with very hot water.
My gripe to other participants: Trash was left on the floor and on the benches of the Kuusilampi hut. This is a self supporting event that just so happens to have an awesome shelter that was built by Ollie! If you enter this event again, please leave no trace and be responsible for your own trash!
Note to other participants: If you use your pulka as a sled, remember to check for road traffic and slow down at the road crossings. Always listen for the silence.
Just over 24 hours into the event (plus the 22 hours of sleep deprivation), my concentration was sometimes waning and I took a 2 hour detour believing I had seen the correct signage. Before I went up the detour, a lady called me. She had seen a glove on the road that I had left at my break stop and had decided it belonged to me. It was my glove! I thanked Geoff and Stephen for their prayers as a lot of “luck” was accumulating. Snow shoes on, I wandered along the incorrect track believing signage I had seen was the event’s signage. After 2-3km in, decided I was just on an exporation route. With a sudden sense of urgency, I returned back to the road and met Stein who confirmed the correct direction.
Reflecting back, nothing was really correct, but my mind tricked me into believing it was correct. I had to be more careful. Although I thought I was lucid I was tired. It is @ 52 hours since I last slept (about 30 race hours + 22 deficit pre-hours). Here now in broad daylight on the track up to CP7, I began to have minor hullucination, thinking I could see people dressed in red or blue, the trees in the snow looked like a little cemetary, and sometimes I thought I heard voices. I let my brain toy with me, sometimes enjoying seeing an imaginary building in the woodlands. Who needs LSD!
CP7: I forced myself to drink some luke warm chicken soup. After all I didn’t really want to continue to the end with 2 litres of liquid still in my pulka. I still had a mostly full 750ml bottle and 2 litres in my bladder.
Having forced myself to breathe through my nose though most of the journey, I found that I didn’t need to drink so often. My throat was fine. I could still sing to the weary participants at CP7 to get them going with “eye of the tiger” or “when you’re happy and you know it….” I must have been annoying!
On to the “never ending road” and Alex (Organiser) passes by, asking me who I am!….Guess I must have looked wild with white frozen hair and a tyre behind. You know beared guys look like Santa Claus with their ice white frozen beards!
Note to self: If you have to pee, just pee and don’t worry about anyone seeing you out on a long road…..far better to get it out than having to deal with an embarrassing accident!
Onward bound and as darkness set in, I checked the markers mulitple times, no longer trusting my own eyes.
56 hours sleep deprivation and at the lake before the final check point Porohovi, I had to make a decision to go left or right. I took out the map to make sure the signs I was following was correct.
Now in the final woodlands, after flying down a hill, I decided I had gone the wrong way. So stormed back up 500m to confirm I had gone the right way! Oh well “whee” all the way back down.
Back on the final lake pass with the city lights in sight. I found the city lights annoying as they never seemed to be in focus. Instead I enjoyed looking at the signage waving at me as I went by each one of them!
60 hours sleep deprivation (38 hours 49 mins race hours + 22 prior deficit) – a gang of 4 fat bikers cheered us in through the door. We clocked in at 38 hours 51 mins.
Our first snow and ice ultra completed with loads of thanks to the volunteers; organisers; Esteban and Carlos for being my initial angels, Rev Jeff & parkrun buddy Stephen for prayers; the participants who stayed to support incoming participants; Bjorn for helping me take my gear to the wrong flat (my fault), getting me to see I had taken him to the wrong flat and then him helping me take everything over to the right block of flat; and thank you to God and his team of angels.
Sending apologies to the flat owner whose bell I rang at 1am and probably rang a couple of times as I thought the button was the light switch. I was so confused about the door change! (wrong building)
To get a feel of Rovaniemi 150, here is a French version with moving pictures: http://www.lci.fr/sport/la-rovaniemi-150-kilometres-en-laponie-seul-face-a-soi-meme-2027255.html