The beginning of February I headed off to Bardufoss, northern Norway to compete in a 100 mile race called ‘The Frostskade’. I had all my gear ready and prepared, as this was a survival race, so everything I needed to survive in the Arctic wilderness in the middle of winter was going to be pulled behind me in a pulk.
The race started on the 1st of Feb, and I had until end of play by the 4th to cover the 100 miles. Well, it turned out to be around 115 miles due to the race now starting out of the centre of the town. I powered on through the start, finding a steady but determined pace early and managed to overtake most competitors while we spent the majority of the first day crossing a frozen lake. The ground was hard so there was no need to change into my snowshoes just yet.
There was only roughly seven hours daylight at this time of year, so it fast became dark. Due to my military background, I had no problem navigating the terrain via my map and GPS. After about 14 hours moving I reached the first check point of a race staffed tent, and found that I was in third position. I used this time to set up my tent and get some warm food in me and try sleep off the cold, it was averaging about -27°C.
I woke to darkness, but found I had slept for around six hours, so I gathered my belongings dispute the reluctance to get out into the cold and move on. The terrain turned mountainous, starting off with thick woodland then sprawling out into a valley between mountains roughly a 1000 meters high. The wind was fierce during this six hour valley trek, visibility was next to nothing but I knew my bearings and pushed through. Not one inch of my skin was exposed, too great was the risk of frostbite. The surrounding wild reindeer didn’t seem to have a problem with it though!
After around 10 hours of leaving my first campsite, I arrived at checkpoint number two, again a two manned staff tent. I learnt that I was now in second position, which gave a great motivation boost. After a quick warm drink and meal, I set straight out into the seemingly untouched wilderness.
I covered as much distance as my legs could carry me before making camp, it’s wise to know when to rest, it’s no good expending all energy in covering ground if you then later can’t make camp! But as I found a suitable spot, underneath faint showings of the northern lights, and just tucked beneath bunch of trees, I bedded down.
Another six hours sleep and I was off again, now catching up with the lead competitor. We travelled together for some time, going through deep wilderness. The snow was energy sapping, as my feet fell, and I would be stuck waist high. Little did we know that just a kilometre to the East of us there was a hardened track. It was here we fell behind, eight hours wading through untouched snow slowed us down terribly.
As the hours ran through the night, a huge climb came before me, but I knew at the top of this 800 meter climb there was the original 100 mile half way point, so I pushed on again despite tired legs.
I reached the lovely warm cabin, and was greeted by other competitors, being only an hour behind the lead guy. I knew with only a day left to finish and to ultimately get my booked flight home, I decided to call it a day here. Better to get off the mountains easily and close to civilisation then when I’m not. It did sadden me, but I enjoyed the warm nights sleep in the cabin, and marked the whole experience down as a bloody good training run!