– Yes, Morten.
– Do you remember the year that Irish fellow tried to do the Romsdalseggen mountain race?
– Ahhhh, remember? Hahahahaha, will I ever forget, Morten? He had all the gear and everything.
– The gear, the maps, the shoes, yes, yes, hahahaha. But when he got to the top and looked back down, he was too afraid of heights to continue.
– Hahahahahaha, yes, that´s right. We had to call the mountain rescue just to get him back down to town.
– Yes, hahaha, then two volunteers from the knitting club went and fetched him. Hahahahahahahaha!
Snap! I sit up, bolt upright in bed, and slowly realise it´s only a dream, the same one I´ve been having since I registered for the Romsdalseggen Løpet a couple of months ago. How was I going to cope with this, the steepest short race I´d ever seen, never mind entered?
Romsdalseggen Løpet, 8.6km, 980metres of ascent, is a race in Åndalsnes, a small town in the Western Fjords of Norway. Myself and my girlfriend had booked our holidays there and, as an afterthought, I decided to see if there were any races I could enter. I trained hard. In fact, I trained harder and longer than ever before, but felt that nothing I did would prepare me for the brutal climb at the start of the race, 800m up over 4km to reach the peak of Mjølvafjellet (1210m) before running across the boulder strewn ridge, up another peak, and down to the finish, a small plateau on the mountain.
We arrived in town 4 days before the race. What an amazing place! Words cannot describe how beautiful it is.
A couple of days before the race, I decided to hike up to the finish area to get a closer look at the type of ground, etc. It was during this ´hike´ that I realised why the finish was not in town (at sea level). The trail to get to the finish area was only 1.8km long but 700m up. Too steep and narrow, full of tree roots and hikers, with about 250m of ascent covered by a stone staircase built by sherpas.
There´s no way you could race down it. Run? Perhaps. But race, overtake? Not a chance. The view from the finish line was unbelievable, and it was then that I decided to bring my phone during the race so I could take a pic from higher up.
On race day, I arrived at the Norsk Tindecenter for registration. I started to feel a little worried when I saw the other competitors. Everybody, and I mean absolutely everybody, looked EXTREMELY fit. We registered, and boarded the coach which would take us to the other side of the mountain and 350m up to the start. At the start, everybody was milling about, looking up at the peak we would climb.
At 11.30, we were off.
A couple of hundred metres on the road, and then onto the climb. The first 5 or 600m were over more of those big stone steps. Upwards. I settled into the middle of the field and tried to find a rhythm. It wasn´t long till I was breathing heavy and the field was strung out. The steps finished and we started the climb in earnest, a steep hands on thighs slog up the side of a stream, boggy and rocky, and very little chance of running. I wasn´t being overtaken, so I guessed I had found my pace. We reached the top of the stream and turned into a massive boulder field. It was still climbing but everybody managed to break into a slowish run. Up, up and up, and then we turned to face the peak. It was just rocks and boulders all the way to the top. It wasn´t running, not even walking. It was hands-on scrambling all the way to the peak.
I was gasping, breathing heavy, and my legs were getting heavier and heavier. I looked at my watch. We had done 3kms. I knew that the peak was at about 4km, but it was so much higher than where I was now. Climb, climb, climb! This fourth km took me 20mins and 34 secs. I didn´t stop and I was going as fast as I possibly could, but Jesus, it was neverending. I reached the top and WOW!
I had to stop and take a photo. Who cares if it´s a race? Just look at this!
I was passed by about 4 people but I didn´t really care. I thought I would get them on the ridge/descent as I love descending. I managed to catch 2 of them but I was also overtaken by some woman, who was flying. At the other end of the ridge, we climbed the second peak, using chains bolted into the rock to pull ourselves at the very top. Then, from there on, it was about 3km to the end, and it was downhill.
Any notion I had of flying down and catching loads of people were quickly swept aside when I realised it was all boulders and rocks. I passed a couple of people and was passed by one or two. As is the norm for me, I somehow managed to end up in a sprint finish at the end with a local guy. According to the results, I beat him by 0.1secs and ended up in 48th place, which in a field of 97 meant I was just inside the top half.
1 hour 31mins and 0 secs. The winner had done 1:02:59 so my time was pretty good, for me. It was a great race and an amazing holiday in a spectacular area of Norway. And I didn´t have to be rescued. Happy days!