Friday, 2 August 2013

Hornindal Rundt - 06/07/2013

Looking fairly composed five minutes before the start!
The advance publicity for this race offered a "38 km fjelløp. 2 900 høgdemeter!" and a "75 km ultrafjelløp. 5 600 høgdemeter". I don't think a lot of translation is required but a fjelløp can be roughly equated to a fell race. I found the event on the UTMB qualifying events list (not so much because I wanted to gain UTMB points but because it's a great way to find events), and entered early this year. The main event of the "season" was the LDWA 100 and this was six weeks later, so I figured there would probably be enough recovery time to get it sufficiently together for a big fell ultra. After all I'd done Brecon 40 and the Tour de Hellvellyn, both at 40 miles and about 10,000' feet of clibing, not to mention last year's CCC at 56 miles and 19,000' so 45 miles and 18,500' should be do-able, right?

I organised to travel over on the Thursday to give Friday to settle in / recover and reccie a small section of the route, then race on Saturday, recover on Sunday and travel home on Monday.

It all went fairly straightforwardly and I arrived in Grodås (the main village in the valley of Hornindal) as planned on Thursday night, and spent Friday doing a gentle reccie of the final section of the 75km full round and registering then attending the race briefing.

Saturday morning dawned dry and hot and we all gathered at the start. There was a delay while some chips which had been wrongly programmed were cleared, but at 09:20 we were off.

The first section headed out of town along a road  before an undulating bit of forest road.
Five minutes in, on the road out of Grodås
Right after the first checkpoint though it ramped right up and a steep rough path led up through the forest to about 2,000' where we came out onto open fell (fjell?). Looking back there was a great view to Hornindalvatnet, Europe's deepest lake
Climbing Middagsfjellert, about 650m up
A more steadily graded section (but still rough underfoot) led to our first summit of the day.
Summit of Middagsfjellert
From the top the descent was initially fairly similar to Scottish fell running conditions, fairly soft underfuut, but rough with lots of rocks and peat hags, but it soon steepened. The next section dropped about 500m steeply down on a very rough, narrow trail which was rocky at times. Pretty soon we were down in the valley and running a 1km out and back to CP3 on an easy forest road. I took the opportunity to walk for a few hundred metres, rehydrate and eat a cereal bar. Another section of forest road took us gently up past some lovely hay meadows towards CP4.
An easier section, the gravel road near Grothaugen between CP3 and CP4
Norwegian barn at Grothaugen. This was the easiest going for 25km.
After CP4 we started the climb that would eventually lead to the high point of the race at Gulkoppen. The first section was a steep climb up through woods to reach a large wet meadow and aother short haul up under power lines to get on the west ridge of the Saetrehornet.
Doesn't look too bad up the power lines onto the west ridge of the Saetrehornet,
but this was rough ground and a faint track which was boggy where it wasn't rocky.
Just onto the Saetrehornet ridge, looking back
I made a bad mistake on the ridge - I was in a fair sized group and I knew there was a checkpoint coming up but I just assumed that I'd see it as everyone stopped to make sure their electonic tallies had registered. Head down and climbing hard I must have gone straight past CP5.
Climbing the Saetrehornet, just after I'd missed CP5. I went up almost as far
as the peak on the right before I realised and double backed.
I continued on for about twenty minutes, covering about 1.5km and 200m more climbing before I realised that I must have missed it. A quick chat with a fellow competitor confirmed that I'd gone past it, so I had the heartbreaking job of running downhill past maybe fifty competitors to get back to the checkpoint and register my tally. I then started back up and had tob try to forget about it. I lost 35 minutes in the end, and probably went a bit too fast on the re-ascent too - never get angry on an ultra, it can lead to some really bad decisions. Anyway I got it back together and went fairly well up to CP6, taking back a few of the many places I'd lost...
Small snowfield just below the 1102m summit of Størehornet.
CP6 at the summit of Størehornet with Niels.
Niels kindly took a picture for me.
At CP6 I took a few pictures and while I was doing that weighed up how things were going. I'd probably gone too quickly up the climb and I was blowing quite hard with my heart racing. I was concerned I wasn't recovering as normal, so despite a brief stop my HR wasn't dropping much. I decided to take it easy and make sure I enjoyed the next few legs and see how things went. Taking it easy wasn't particularly straightforward on the next leg - the last stage of the massive 1,100m climb to Gulkoppen. We could see the snowfield that unlocked the approach to the summit with many tiny figures climbing up it. As we got nearer we passed a guy from the local mountain rescue all kitted up ready with a stretcher! I took a bit of care on the snowfield, which was very steep in the centre section... We were soon up it though and a short jog along the ridge led to the summit.
Tiny figures climbing the final snowfield on the way up Gulkoppen

On the snowfield, this was steeper than it looks!
The gradient on the top section of the snowfield did ease off somewhat!
Checkpoint at the summit of Gulkoppen (1,304m) - the end of a continuous
3,600' climb.
The descent from Gulkoppen was almost as big as the climb, initially with huge open vistas across boilerplate rocks and small snowfields to the peaks in the distance. I went down at a reasonable pace to start with, speeding up and passing people as the oack and snow gave way to mud and bilberries and then to scrubby woodland. There were two out and back sections in Knutsdalen, first downhill through the open birchwood to CP7 at Holskardsaetra. There was a good crowd here and a nice vibe, but I only stopped for long enough to register my tally.
The start of the descent from Gulkoppen gives an idea of the vastness of
these landscapes. 
High mountain lake Holskardvatnet with Holskardhornet (1,247m) behind
Back up past the waterfalls to the end of the out-and-back and I noted a lot of dumped rucksacs which seemed a bit unfair - if you're asked to carry kit to my mind you carry it all the way round. Anyway the route now climbed quite steeply up to the next chackpoint on the Daurmålhornet. The total ascent was only about 300m (the smallest on the whole route) but I felt absolutely spent here and couldn't manage anything more than a slow walk up the hill. It wasn't even that steep or particularly rough by the standards of this route anyway. The Daurmålhornet (890m) is a rocky plateau rally. We crossed the northern edge of it, clipping at the checkpoint by the cairn.

The next leg took us down 120m to another out-and-back, this time starting with an uphill section over rough moor and boulderfields to a cabin by the picturesque lake at Kupa. I was tired but managed to run much of this, drinking loads of clear cold water from the river near the lake outlet and taking five minutes to sit in the shade on the hut's veranda and eat a KitKat and a gel.

We now had a 280m descent over the next 2.6km through scrub and bog to reach a lovely wooden bridge over the river in the bottom of Knutsdalen. I swapped places with a nice local lady who I'd been with on the climb to Daurmålhornet a few times over this section. Finally at about 28.5km we hit the first bit of forest road in 15km. Another 300m and we were at the first manned checkpoint (A), Sandgrova, just a cluster of cabins and a rather disinterested marshall (he may have had a mechanical on his car because his head was under the bonnet - I'm not sure how he logged my time but he did).

Looking up Knutsdalen with peaks in the 1,300m to 1,500m range
Hornindalsrokken from just above manned checkpoint A, with some
 typical race terrain in the foreground.
From Sandgrova the climb up to the next CP was just unbelievable. It started fairly steadily, but ramped up until the slope of the ground around us must have been close to 45°. Even the map shows a section of about 300m horizontally where the climb is 200m vertically. All I could do was grind out 50m or so of climbing then stop and rest for half a minute, then do it all over again, still having problems con. Towards the top I caught up a guy called Mattias and we chatted which helped pass the remainder of the climb. There was a local lad called Rolf with us there too - he couldn't have been any older than 17 and was doing great. The checkpoint was on the top of a hill called Muldsvorhornet.

Crossing the river in Knutsdalen
On the summit of Moldsvorhornet, looking to Hornindalsrokken
Rolf and Mathias at Moldsvorhornet

By now I had decided that given my difficulty with the climbing I'd call it a day at the halfway point rather than risk having problems late on in the event on the exposed section of mountain terrain around Hogenibba where there would be the least amount of light (the Norwegians call the peculiar light when dusk merges into dawn "the grey light"). So having made that decision there was only one thing to do coming off the final summit - belt it down. I had a pretty good descent, taking aorund ten minutes off the competitors who were with me at the top in 4.3km. I reached my final checkpoint at Horndøla bru at 18:08 for a total time of 8:48. I'd done 41km and 3,100m of climbing (25.5 miles and 10,200').

Little Saetra with typical old time huts above upper Hornindal

All done for the day at Horndøla bru

There was hot soup and chocolate milk for the finishers (and for those going on to do the full loop Ultra Fjellop). I got a lift back to Grodas with the Race Organiser and arrived with plenty of time to snack and lounge about, then take pictures of the leading guys finishing the full round. My neighbour in the B&B, Mattias Gärdsback, finished an awesome second and he and his grilfriend Caroline shared dinner with me in the late evening. I popped back out to the finish line to see a few more guys completing the round including another I had chatted to in the B&B before the race, Per-Einar Roth.

Winner, Kristoffer Normark just beyond the end of the final descent

Second place was Mattias Gärdsback, my neighbour in the B&B

I went back in the morning and saw the last finishers come in, three locals, just before the presentation, then had a great afternoon out on the hills which form the last quarter of the full course.

Final finishers, Stian Løkken, Anne Raftevold, and Inger Margerthe Nordskov
after 25 hours 50 minutes out on the 75km course

Brilliant race organisers!

Men's podium

I'll definitely be back to complete the full round.

Lessons learned

I struggled with hydration, drinking a lot of water (all from streams and rivers on route) but I think my salts got out of balance a bit. I forgot to take any salt tablets with me and only managed to buy some Ritz biscuits as a substitute. Although I ate several at one point I don't think they really were as good!
I also didn't really take account of how I was feeling early enough and went too hard on the first climb and descent when I lready felt I was struggling.

And finally I do really need to sort out my health issue which may be underlying the odd off day when I can't seem to control my HR. That's twice I've had a problem, once on the CCC which I put down mostly to being mildly hypothermic but I had very similar problems at Hornindal - maybe it's when there's additional stress (heat, dehydration / salt depletion) as well as the normal ultra running issues.

I did have a great day, and actually a great trip with good runs the day before and after the race too, and a fairly smooth journey in each direction. More details of the race are at:

1 comment:

  1. Hello Tim,

    It was nice finding an Hornindal Rundt race report in English. I enjoyed reading your story and the photo's made it complete. I subscribed for the Hornindal Rundt 2017 and are going to give it a try on the 75k route.
    Thanks for the inspiration!


    Bouwe Bossenbroek
    The Netherlands