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#65 Rovaniemi 150: Luck, Angels and LSD

Rovaniemi 150 Background

150results

2017 Results

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

routemap

Map of route but plenty of markings/signage to indicate direction

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Yellow and black route markers by the side of the route – photo by Watson Bassett

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.

 

new-old-friends

The 2015 gals are back in town; Rachel to complete 300km; Marketa to complete 900km – photo by Aleksander Wiatrowski

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.

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Lumi posing with Rachel and Aleksander

A glorious, sunny bright day, sees everyone start with gusto, a quick “get-away” on Lake Porohovi for the next 12.5km.

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Lake Sinettäjärvi – photo taken by Paolo Della Patrona

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

arctic-lights

Captured by Watson Bassett

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

bridgepain

Photo by Watson Bassett

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.

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CP6, Kuusilampi in the twilight. Photo by Paolo Della Patrona

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!

downhill-with-lumiSunday, 6am the motivation for hauling Lumi up hills is to use her as a seat to ride down. Va va voom.

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!

lumi-towards-cp7

Little trees making cross signs

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!

Sunday @16:03

on-the-trail-with-lumi

Selfie with Lumi

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

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#65 Rovaniemi 150: Preparations

Some History: Better Heath than Being A Hero

One day, as I was completing a 50km event in Salisbury, a fellow participant told me about Arrowhead 135. He had tried to fat bike the distance and failed and was unlikely to enter again as it was too hard…….so I entered my first snow and ice event in 2012. I failed due to not understanding how to work with soft packed snow under foot and suffered with “beaten up” achilles.

I attempted again in 2014 and failed again due to not being vigilent enough and being complacent. Extreme cold is unforgiving and frost bite can take hold in 5 minutes! I had frost bite on my fingers by the first check point and thought I’d prefer to have working fingers rather than be a hero.  The hand specialist in London wanted to chop, thankfully I had spoken to more experienced consultants in the North of the UK and Minnesota who gave some sound advice….leave it to see how it heals. However my confidence for dealing with cold by myself was low.

I needed something shorter, so I entered Rovaniemi 150 in 2015. At the start of the event, I was not well. However a Polish participant had given me some anti-flu pills and I felt temporarily good. I pulled myself out at 115km due to lungs seemingly blocked and breathing difficulties despite the warmish weather (about -5 deg C at the time).

After all as Alex (the Event Organiser) has said to his participants: “This event will  be back next year. Better safe than having permanent health issues.”.

2016 I didn’t attempt any snow ice events due to insomnia messing with my system. Sleep deprivation before an event is hard to deal with. For the Glen Coe sky running event, I had 5 days of no sleep prior and was on the start line thinking “Just enjoy the scenery and hopefully you will physically exhaust yourself to sleep deep”. I completed 1/2 of the course. Note this is a tough event as you do have to scramble up mountains and I did not take a tyre companion with me.

Really there are no failures in life, just as long as we reflect and make our experiences to become better the next time.

….and here we are in 2017…. I have kind of learned how to deal with the insomnia!

Preparation

homewood-parkrunHmmm…..Parkrun 5K every Saturday (this is free to join – walk it, run it, pull a tyre in it)…if I felt like it.

Life has to keep rolling forward. It is not that I was complacent, but I was focusing on the thoughts of tax, work to pay for stuff, renovations, fixing stuff, social stuff…… you know living!

Ok really….I focused on “seeing” myself complete the event. Those who have been following this blog will know I finally understood the power of visualisation in the Rome Marathon and separated it from the “imagination of the distance”.

4 weeks before the event, Isaiah 40:29-31 was given to me.

He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak.
Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the Lord will renew their strength.
They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.

NIV version

And I met a Buddhist monk friend who reminded me about Peter trying to walk on water. Matthew 14:22-33

22 Immediately Jesus made the disciples get into the boat and go on ahead of him to the other side, while he dismissed the crowd. 23 After he had dismissed them, he went up on a mountainside by himself to pray. Later that night, he was there alone, 24 and the boat was already a considerable distance from land, buffeted by the waves because the wind was against it.

25 Shortly before dawn Jesus went out to them, walking on the lake. 26 When the disciples saw him walking on the lake, they were terrified. “It’s a ghost,” they said, and cried out in fear.

27 But Jesus immediately said to them: “Take courage! It is I. Don’t be afraid.”

28 “Lord, if it’s you,” Peter replied, “tell me to come to you on the water.”

29 “Come,” he said.

Then Peter got down out of the boat, walked on the water and came toward Jesus. 30 But when he saw the wind, he was afraid and, beginning to sink, cried out, “Lord, save me!”

31 Immediately Jesus reached out his hand and caught him. “You of little faith,” he said, “why did you doubt?”

NIV version

My preparation was spiritual to remind me God can take us through the worst storms.

2 weeks before the event, I checked into my local church to see how they were going. I saw they were still trying to raise funds for their building. However they had progessed on forward and borrowed the funds instead to make a vision reality. They now need a couple of million to pay back and it seemed right to dedicate this event to them and God. If you want to support me in my endeavours, it would be great if you could place a donation with them to help them with their building which serves Egham community and put “TyreLady” in the reference so I can thank you. (See previous post)

The Winds of Doubt

A week before the event, a cold was sneaking in. Also I did a 4 mile cross country event on the Saturday prior and appeared to have a niggle on the left foot. On the Tuesday prior to the event, I completed a 7 mile run with Runnymede Runners and my left foot was sore with tendonitis. My thoughts flashed back to Peter……and like the wind he encountered, this too would just blow over. Prescriprion “calf massage and R&R (Rest and Relaxation)”.

Calf muscle massage saw me in giggle fits (very tight calves). As for R&R I still had packing….which took me all 3 days prior to flying. More insominia smacking me round the head….average 3-4 hours a night. But still it would all be positive, afterall I would be looked after. I had reverend Geoff of St John’s praying for me + a running buddy Stephen from Audio Kitchen keeping me safe in prayer.

Wednesday evening I was ready.

Thursday evening we had arrived in Rovaniemi and I was ready for bed!

sledarrival

Sled arrived in one piece

Thursday’s sleep was great and by Friday, we had rejoined with Lumi

lumi-ready

Next post: Rovaniemi 150: The Event.