Sitting in my nice warm kitchen it’s easy to forget just how cold I was at times during the Ice Ultra!
Having signed up for this cold race I started worrying about what kit to take. Although I had done a cold race before this time was very different; I wasn’t pulling a sled I was carrying my kit in a backpack and so would be going faster (I would hope!) and would need lighter clothes. Having spoken to a lot of people, did some research on-line I eventually decided on my final kit choice (although still worried it wasn’t right once out in Sweden!)
The race takes place in Northern Sweden where temperatures can be as low as minus 20 – 30, luckily or unluckily for us (depending on how you look at it) the temperatures were unseasonably warm which made the snow very sticky and soft and made running in trainers tough going (almost impossible). Part of our compulsory kit was snowshoes which I don’t think any of us were really expecting to wear a huge amount; as it turned out we wore them for 95% of the race! As you can imagine none of us were used to running in them for a long time. I had been lucky enough to go to Italy where I spent 4 days hiking in the mountains wearing my snowshoes but that really didn’t compare to running 230km in them! Fellow competitors complained of sore shines and achilles due to the change in their running gait, thankfully I didn’t suffer from any of those issues, but I did have a slight sore point on the top of my foot but nothing too bad.
Having arrived at Gallivare at 9.30pm we caught a very expensive taxi to our hotel and went straight to bed. The following day we managed to enjoy some sightseeing before getting the coach with the other competitors to the Arctic Base camp at Stora Sjöfallet mountain centre located in the Laponian world heritage park.
On arrival at our base camp we were given the race briefing and had kit checked then shown to our accommodation for the night; a teepee with snow on the ground and a reindeer pelt that we slept on! Thankfully I had a minus 40 sleeping bag so was extremely cosy.
The race started at 7am the following morning and although cold it was manageable. I had two layers on but quickly had to stop and take off one of the layers as I felt too hot.
The first section was a 12.5km stretch of road covered in snow, a great way to warm up and try and get my chest under control as my asthma wasn’t liking the cold conditions. However at the first CP we turned right and headed towards our first lake crossing which I didn’t find easy to run on as it was very rutted and the wind picked up so the temperature dropped. Once off the lake it was an long up-hill section. This is where most of us put on our snowshoes, much easier than our feet being buried in the deep snow. Thankfully I managed to get myself into a nice rhythm and made good progress.
After leaving the final CP there was a long, long climb and nearing the top a storm started to come in which meant any sort of path completely disappeared, the wind was extremely strong and cold and even the Sami went past on their Skidoos and asked if I thought it was safe to continue! At one stage I struggled to see the posts in front of me so went slightly off track a couple of times into the deep snow, but thankfully managed to get to camp before the worst of the storm hit.
The following day myself, Robbie, Austin & Shaun all started about 45 mins after everyone else – I really hate this as I’m immediately at the back (the boys were all way faster than me) and I had to catch everyone up – PANIC!
Thankfully though I managed to catch up the first lot of runners at CP1 just before the first lake crossing – panic over!
Due to the unusually warm temperatures (it was still about minus 10) there was overflow on the lake which meant that our feet would get wet – I’m not very good with water so felt very unrelaxed on these sections but after the lake when we went through some stunning wooded areas which were glorious to run through.
It was after this at CP2 that I bumped into the girls, Jenny and Heidi who seemed to be having a great time – they were always cheerful and positive.
Day two was supposed to have been a 60km day which meant that most of us would have been out for hours longer than usual simply because of the snowshoes. I had met up with my friend Caroline between CP2-3 and just before CP4 we were met by Kris on a Skidoo who told us that due to overflow on the lake the day was being cut short and we only had 4k to go once we passed the CP! As you can see from the photo I seemed happy with that decision. The distance for the day was 43km
Day 3 we had another lake crossing, this time the over-flow was even worse and although they had set up a mini CP on the other side of the like I didn’t enjoy going across it. At one point my right leg went into the water up to my waist and my other leg up to the knee (it looked as though I was sitting down) each time I tried to get myself up my arms would sink through the ice (DON’T PANIC MR MANURING) eventually I managed to get myself up and to the otherside of the lake where Kris took the ice off my snowshoes before I continued on my way.
Going through a wooded area I remember seeing a tree that was bent over the path like an arch, it looked stunning.
The final section of the day was a 15km stretch across a large lake. My strategy for this was run to a pole then walk as it was the only way I could keep my asthma under control. While running across the lake a herd of reindeer passed right in front of me, I had to stop and watch them for a moment they were so beautiful.
Day 4 was supposed to be the long day 64km but the lake we were supposed to be running on had way too much overflow on and would have been dangerous so we were all taken on Skidoos (about 6km) to the road where we were driven to what would have even CP3. The day was shortened to 30km. I asked for this photo to be taken so I could show my grandchildren what I looked like covered up like a mitchalin man!
My asthma really played up today as the temperature had dropped, if I ran too much I simply couldn’t breathe so was constantly having to use my inhaler. Caroline had a good pace so I did my best to keep up with her – thankfully I have a fast walking pace which really helped.
We finished the day by going over another lake, this time in the dark and more overflow. Caroline and I picked our way through the water managing not to fall in finishing at our accommodation for the night a very large teepee.
I walked in and immediately my chest tighten due to all the smoke from the fire as they weren’t able to open the vent at the top properly as it had frozen – my chest was heaving and during the night I woke several times not able to breathe properly.
The final day arrived and it was a quick sprint to the finish (hahaha!) The temperature during the night had fallen to minus 26, but although cold it was a glorious day. I ran the last section with Shaun which was fantastic and really great to have his company – a great end to an amazing race.
This race was made tougher by the fact we had to wear snowshoes for 95% of the race which none of us were expecting but it was amazing to be running in such beautiful surroundings and spending time with great people and my marvellous friend – a true adventure.
Definitely worth giving it a go although I would say don’t skimp on the kit and certainly do some training in snowshoes!
Thank you to Kris and his team who looked after us well and the medics who made sure we didn’t get frostbite!
I will put together a list of kit I took which might help in with your planning.