Six, that’s how many times I’ve run this course, the most famous part of the Kungsleden trail, that starts in Nikkaluokta and ends in Abisko. I’ve run it the opposite way once and I think it’s fair to say that I know it like the back of my hand. Still there’s something new to discover every year. The conditions changes and so does the weather. This year was no different, the snow melt had started earlier than usual and it seemed like it would be the driest year yet, but that’s not always a good thing.
Me and my friend Mikael had decided to drive up to the start this year, make a road trip out of it. I’m not entirely sure why I thought this was a good idea. I hate driving and it isn’t awesome for my back to sit still for a huge amount of hours at a time. But in the end I guess the adventure and the company more than makes up for that. It’s a blast just hanging out with your friend and getting to see a lot of this beautiful country of ours and we also planned to head over to Norway for a few days after the race.
We arrived in Nikkaluokta just in time for the regular pre-race meeting in the church. All the usual suspects were there, Sten, Adrian and Rober, Bruno, Perttu and Jonathan to name a few. That’s what makes this event so special, it’s like a homecoming every year. You get to meet your trail family and run around in the mountains for an entire day, that’s pretty cool if you ask me.
Spirits were high and everyone seemed really excited. Usual talks about the weather, the course and previous years were going on left to right. There were more participants than ever before, around 50, and one of the big worries is always someone getting hurt or lost out there. I’m happy to conclude no major incidents occurred this year and everyone who finished did so in less than 24 hours. That’s pretty cool considering it’s completely self sufficient.
The start went off and me and my brother Jonas quickly set the pace. Even though none of us were sure we would even race this year, until just a couple of days before the start, we went out in a good pace. It’s fun to start relatively fast and it is the most runable part of the course. We were both rather decided on taking it somewhat easy considering the big goal this year is the UTMB and we didn’t want to risk getting injured just a month before. We knew the splits from last year and tried to hit them more for fun than anything else.
Everything went pretty smooth, we were ahead of the splits but we didn’t push especially hard. We were conversing a lot, which for anyone who knows us is considered out of the ordinary, and having a good time just being out there. In Sälka we stopped for a coke and had a quick chat with the cabin host there. The trail was dry, probably the most dry it’s been for years, and it was obvious we wouldn’t run into a lot of snow, if any, this time around.
When we got to the Tjäktja pass we realized we were a lot ahead of the splits so we were in no real rush. We looked back to see if we could spot anyone behind us but we couldn’t make anything out, although we knew Anna couldn’t be far behind us. We took a few pictures before continuing on. There is usually a lot of snow right after the pass, which is a good thing cause the enables you to take the winter trail instead of the summer trail and it’s a lot easier. This year we wouldn’t be so lucky. The summer trail was the only option and it’s mostly balancing on sharp rocks trying not to trip and cut yourself.
Before Alesjaure we were hitting fast kilometer splits and I think this is were my stomach started to shut down. Even though the pace didn’t feel that strenuous I think it might have been just a tad too fast for me at that point. Up until that point I had been pretty spot on my energy schedule even though I had been feeling a little queasy from the start, most likely because of the road trip, but from then on it would be tough. I struggled to get anything in and in the end that’s what stopped me from finishing the way I wanted to.
We noticed we had a chance to break eleven hours and so we did one last push to see if we could do it. But even though we ran as fast as we possibly could the technical terrain and fatigue at this point wouldn’t allow for fast enough kilometer splits. My lack of energy intake during the last couple of hours started to catch up to me. With only eight or so kilometers to go I got extremely dizzy and was afraid I would trip. I decided force down a gel and walk for a bit, either I would get my head back or I would have to stop and throw up for a good while. I told Jonas to go on without me and I would try to catch him before the finish. In the end I did manage to get rid of the dizziness but I had fallen too far behind to catch him.
I finished in 11:11:15 which is over 40 minutes faster than last year and with no real dark spots during the entire race I have to consider that pretty good. I still need to work on my energy plan but one of these days I’m going to figure it out and I’ll be able to finish strong.
A big thanks to Roland for such a special race and to all the volunteers who makes it possible. Congratulations to Jonas on another victory and course record and to everyone who finished and I hope to see you again soon. Also a big thanks to Cecilia Rydberg for the fantastic cover photo.