So, how did I get to be sharing an apartment with a gentle giant and his minion on a Sunday night?
Dutch corner in Rovaniemi was busier than it should have been for a Sunday night. I don’t think any of us were expecting to be there but it wasn’t by coincidence either!
Rewind by three days and Helsinki airport saw two Dutch and three Brits all sitting around a small table trying our best not to mention Brexit! Whoops, did someone just say that!? Maps, snow and temperatures were the main discussion and something that is called training popped up.
Training, hmmmm, why didn’t I think of that?!
Fast forward two days and we had regrouped but this time on a river. Not any river but a frozen river that was hosting the annual Rovaniemi 150. The sun was rising, the race starts and we all end up chasing the long shadows of the leaders….
We chase and chase. I started at the very back and slowly worked my way through the mass of runners, skiers and their poles, dodged the sleds and make progress through the strung out peloton. A quick stop to change layers and dropping Constantine and Fraser, I caught up the friendliest man in the bike world, Harold. We kept pace together for the next 70KM, gently pushing and encouraging each other through the race. We made good, steady progress but we were both not firing on all cylinders! Check point after checkpoint, we ate and took on fluids, conditions under rubber were amazing but we weren’t going quite as quick as the course suggested.
After a few sections, we were drained and pushing on sections that could have been cycled, we called it a night at CP 6 and fell asleep next to a roaring fire. Temperatures dropped on -25C that night (and the fire died too) and it was difficult to get going. Harold made the first move but by this point, I was in the opinion of scratching!
Fraser set about making a fire and I slowly came to my senses! Two hours later, fed, Fraser and I broke trail in a stunning, open forest. Tyre trouble for Fraser resulted in slow progress for Fraser and a failing pump didn’t help matters. Plenty of stops and a ‘do or die’ effort in fixing the problem got us back on track! At the 100KM mark, we stopped for food, it was bitterly cold but we found a small shelter.
We got our food and stoves out and then I realised all my food, except my nuts and raisins were frozen solid. Sitting there I realised that ultimately, this was the end for me. Yes, I had decided much earlier I was going to scratch but this was the last act for me. An exhausted body can be pushed on and on if the mindset is good, but it can’t go on for another 200KM if it isn’t fuelled.
We parted way, Fraser planning on a slow return to Rovaniemi and exploring the area, me taking the direst road home (40KM directness though). I collected the keys for Dutch corner, went to the Golden Arches and returned to the apartment to be greeted by Harold and Constantine. All three had scratched, Harold with stomach troubles since CP 1 and Constantine making a few errors along the way and not feeling it.
All three were feeling low, Harold retired to bed, whilst I had a dream with Constantine in a Mexican restaurant.
So, what went wrong and what can I take from my half efforts…
…it’s easy to blame a busy family life, lack of training or the wrong type of snow for failing (actually, the snow was perfect!), so what can I blame.
Poor food choices are key. My clothing seemed good, no faults through that (even if I did lose the feeling in my hands several times turning them pure white and into blocks of ice). Perhaps a lack of heart for the race and certainly respect for the temperatures were key points. In temperatures of -25C, you can’t afford to make a mistake and expect not to feel the effects, or reprocussions of them.
Two major faults then, water not in a flask did not help matters (I used salt tablets to lower the freezing point but if it gets too cold, salt tablets make it worse. Who knew?). Plenty of times my water froze, whilst my flasks did not. Pre race , temperature were looking at -5C and this setup would have worked, but the weather soon changed and I created problems for myself.
Secondly, food. Nutella at my home does not go in the fridge, it goes hard and is unusable, so what the hell was I thinking of taking it into the Arctic Circle with me and expecting it to survive! Still, those 3000 calories looked good just sitting in my bag…..
Lastly, boil in the bag food caused me a whole host of problems! I took two types, hydrated food in case my stove broke and dehydrated food for light weight. Both proved to be a disaster. My dehydrated food was spoiled by pouring cold water onto it and thus making it unusable (next time instead of relying on the helpers information, I’ll check it myself). That was a days food wasted. Hydrated food was a big mistake, mainly as it froze solid, as did my energy gels and sweets! Next time, cheese and cold meats will be taken.
Oh well, it’s all a learning curve for next time. Next time, hmmm…..
*Within 24 hours of finishing, I came down with a cold. Ah, the perfect excuse…!