Route: Circular with markers
Terrain: trail - snow and ice. Expect soft deep snow when going through two "pain in the arse" forest sections. Snow shoes would definitely be useful.
Check Points: There are 9 checkpoints at different spacing. Longest distance between 2 check points is 35 km. All except one check point has water and a fire.
Scenery: Lakes, very quiet villages, lots of forest sections. This is a very peaceful race
My housemates observe: "You sound sick".
I respond a little dismissive "maybe"
Housemate 1: "Did you race?"
Housemate 2: "You know it is dangerous to do physical exertion when you have not completely recovered from a cold. It is bad for the heart"
My mind reflected back to last week. In the past my body has been able to shake off a cold within 3 days. So when a cough eased into me on the17th Feb, I expected it to be gone by the 20th Feb. 18th Feb I had fever, 19th Feb I was sneezing and occasionally coughing......Friday I believed I was feeling better. However a Polish group of supporters/racers give me some "drugs". I readily took the Ibuprofen that day, before bed and in the morning of race day. Besides a little niggle cough I felt pretty well on race day.
Temperature range was predicted to be a warm -1 to -4 degrees Celcius. So I wore:
- Legs: Running tights and shorts
- Feet: 2 thin pairs of socks + waterproof socks + gaitors over running shoes to reduce snow entering in
- Top: Sports bra, technical vest top, pink base layer + shell
- Neck gaitor and head band
- Thin base layer gloves + one pair of glove/mitts
We (Lumi and myself) took our position with the rest of the group. There were at least 10 women participating. 2 in the 66 North and rest of us in the 150K. These women bubbled with positive energy. It was contagious.
The start is flat and fast along the river. The sled slid fairly easily despite my tyre buddy Lumi's extra weight. This meant we could jog all the way to the first check point in 1.5 hours.
CP1 - CP2 (Sinetta) = 10.3K
The route transitions from the river into a village and then onto undulating forest trails. CP2 is a vehicle set up just before the first "pain in the arse" forest section of deep snow and pine tree obstacles.
I armed myself with snow shoes. Lumi had a glint in her threads. It looked like someone had dug out trenches in the snow that we would have to pull our sleds over. But perhaps these were "snow angels" and deep holes cut out by the earlier bikers. These would cause the sleds to topple over. Lumi hung on steadfast despite the bucking sled. She was awesome.
Lots of "things" were being left in this section. Someone had forgotten to take their harness with them, and was left hanging off one of the sign posts. The Englishman in front lost his roll mat when he had not noticed his pulk was dragging upside down. Fortunately there was a Spanish pair who picked it up and chased after him. I picked up a thermos flask as well as a mobile phone that was buried in the snow. Alex' (RD) reclaimed the phone, having lost it in that section the week before!
Met Simone (Canadian) who had been suffering with cold/flu before the race and in this section decided to stop before she wrecked damage on herself. Gave her a hug and decided to continue on with my journey as I still felt reasonable.
It was suggested that there might be overflow along this area. However, being daylight, it was easy to see where there could have been possible underfoot problems. Some bikers beforehand had made cuts into the ice where the ground might have been soft.
It was here when I first met the three Belgium guys who were enjoying being out together. We would be seeing each other often as we leaped frogged each other from here until check point 7.
CP3 - CP4 (Morajarvi) = 15K
My mind was extremely alert however I found myself slightly disconnected with myself. As the night got colder and windier, I found that I began to cough more. I slowed down my pace as a precaution and found I coughed less.
This 15K section took 3 hours to complete.
This was the second "pain in the arse" section through deep snow and "biker trenches". The sled got caught on branches and Lumi was finding it a little more difficult to get through the tree gateways. The "open seasame" password was not the same as the previous forest section. Then came the bridge section.
Lumi was too wide for the bridge posts. However the bridge was narrow and she spent a good 15 minutes being stuck on just a short bridge section. We laughed at the absurdity. Am sure Lumi was laughing with me as her rubber midriff was trapped. "Lumi you need to lose weight!"
Found another dropped thermos flask in this section.
CP5 - CP6 (Kuusilampi) = 10K
Just outside of CP5, the Belgium guys decided to kip down for the night. I snuck pass them, knowing I would see them later.
My mind was still very alert but my chest was indicating other things were happening and my throat felt it had a lump. However I could still breathe through my nose. 3 hours later, I got to CP6 and a strained voice came out from me. I had time so decided to rest for an hour in a hut that had a log smouldering away and an Italian participant who was in a deep slumber.
"Oh dear I might have to stop" I gasped to Jaana.
"Do you want to stop?" Jaana responded.
As the wheezing continued, I took deep breaths and thought calm thoughts so that I would breathe properly...."Let me give myself an hour to think about it"
"Be wise with your decision" Jaana seemed to warn
I dried my shoes and thought about it. I had a whole day in front of me and would prefer to be outside then back in a hotel room.
"I'm going to take a slow journey to CP7 and see how I feel." Gave Olli and Jaana hugs and I was off onto CP7.
I had to move slowly up the hills. Any faster caused my chest to feel tight and the congestion caused me to cough up phlegm. I didn't want to cough any more.
Josh the Italian guy who had been asleep in the cabin overtook me 5K away from the CP. He gave me a hug and continued running. I watched as his pulk smacked into the back of his legs as he went down hill. He unhooked his pulk and ran with it, pulling it along side him.
"Sorry can't stop and chaaaaattttt", my sled had become a road vehicle and Lumi had become a perfect seat to steer the sled.
I was having fun, but my throat was numb and felt like a fist was inside. I had to approach the hills slowly so that the chest was not being strained. I was wrestling with the thought of finishing my race at CP7. I wanted to push myself to finish this event, otherwise face regret at not "seeing if I could" but at what cost to myself? The 35K would mean 8-9 more hours.
My mind went to thoughts of my nephews who I was to see the week after. I miss those "monkeys" and I became emotional at the thought of potentially disappointing them if I became too sick after the event. I imagined my "Singaporean Aunties" telling me off for being so stupid. I had dedicated this event to all of them, and so I made up my mind 15K before the check point that I would force myself to stop even though I would make the cut-off time.
I enjoyed the final 7K of hill fun and made the check point to applause from the Belgium guys. I could no longer speak as phlegm was compressed on the vocal cords and thick chunks were being spewed out.
I was asked to continue 2K to the road to meet Maria who would pick me up. As I trudged along, I was changing my mind. Perhaps I would carry on.....and there she was ready to take my sled away. I went willingly after all there is always another time and better a living dog than a dead lion.
Special thanks to
- Julian for lending Lumi to me
- Rachel for caring and looking after many of us in the race.
Note: The night I had stopped, I had coughing fits throughout the night that lasted 2-3 minutes. Had to sit up to sleep.