Sunday, September 17, 2017

UTMR Day 3: Power

Read about UTMR Day 1 here and Day 2 here.

The front of the field set out fast, too fast, and my legs burned with effort as I struggled to keep up on the first few hundred meters of pavement. Soon enough everyone was walking as we hit the climb. It take us 1500 meters up in 6 kilometers, to Monte Moro pass on the Italian-Swiss border. I had latched on to Elise and Christian, a Norwegian couple who had run a faster than me in the previous two stages.

A little quartet of Christian, Elise, myself and Jodie formed, following switchbacks up through the dark forest. Soon the headlamps of the fastest runners disappeared above us, but the next headlamps were at least one switchback below us. We were climbing at a much harder pace than I had dared the first two days.

Once again I reminded myself to eat, and I took tiny bits of Snickers, letting them melting on my tongue. I was working too hard to spare breath to chew.

We ascended into the mist, and I could see very little as the beam of my headlamp bounced off the water droplets. Halfway up the climb we passed out the mist and suddenly it felt light out.

It was a very long climb. Quiet piano music played in my head, which was devoid of thoughts other than a complete focus on uphill motion. I kept hoping Christian and Elise wouldn't accelerate anymore, as I simple couldn't climb any faster sustainably. We had dropped Jodie, but were in turn caught by a couple of racers. 

The weather forecast had been for rain, so I had suited up in long tights, wool shirt, gloves and buff. I was almost too warm until we approached the top of the climb and entered the chilly fog and wind.

Reaching the Monte Moro checkpoint. Photo: Zoe

Zoe was at the checkpoint, scanning the wrists of runners who came through. I passed through quickly, absorbed in my quest of forward movement. From the checkpoint, the route climbed a little more to the top of the pass, where a giant gold Madonna loomed out of the fog. Welcome to Switzerland, I thought as I scrambled up the wet rock.

The Madonna on Monte Moro pass.

The descent was wondrously technical, and I passed numerous racers including Elise and Christian, thanking them for pulling me up the pass. Eventually I found a woman who was going at just the right speed, and latched on to her. As we rounded a switchback, I saw a deer-sized animal with curved antlers in the distance.

"Mountain goat!" I yelled as it ran away. "Or something!" We never did figure out what it was.

Descending from Monte Moro, with Mattmark dam in the distance.
I wasn't feeling quite so fast on the dirt road along the grey-blue Mattmark dam, and soon I lost the woman in front of me. I could see a woman in white gradually reeling me in from behind. She caught me on the technical single track that descended from Mattmark dam towards Saas Almgell. I saw from her race bib that she was running the 3 stage race as well. I couldn't figure out who she was, but later realized it was Maggy, a German woman who came in second overall.

A break in the clouds reveals the mountains above Mattmark dam.

After bottoming out in Saas Almgell, the road climbed gently towards Saas Fee and the next checkpoint. I could still see Maggy ahead of me, and alternating jogged and hiked up the grade, determined to keep her in sight.

Entering Saas Fee was breathtaking. I have been there before on skis, but then I descended from the glaciers. This time I was ascending and the cascading glaciers appeared from above, awe-inspiringly huge and chaotic. There were non-runners wandering around Saas Fee. Some seemed to know what was going on and cheered, while others seemed clueless about the sweaty runners suddenly dashing through the streets.

I saw Maggy in the aid station, and consequently spent as little as time there as possible. I stalked her out of Saas Fee, running when she ran, and walking when she walked. I noticed we had another shadow, a girl in pink (Katrin, the German woman who came in 3rd place overall). I was sure I would be caught, but I certainly wasn't going to make it easy. I was tired, so tired, and my legs ached.

To my surprise, it was I who eventually caught Maggy. 

"Where were you the first two days?" she asked.

"Saving my legs, I guess, kind of in the mid pack," I answered. "I just wanted to run hard today and see if I could leave everything on the course."

"Then go! Run! Today is your day!" she exclaimed, "I think you are in 2nd place now!"

My legs immediately stopped aching, and I shot off. I would defend my place at all costs.

The trail climbed gradually, occasionally flattening out and descending some. I had to switch between running and walking, I was never able to find a steady rhythm.

The valley walls steepened and it became inadvisable to fall off the trail. I was a little bit nauseous from the hard effort, and stopped eating solid food. Keep taking gels, I reminded myself, don't become the woman who was one bonk away from 2nd place.

Feeling the burn above Saas Fee.
Signs warning about falling rocks had been placed along the trail, and I crossed a large boulder field. I was cautious, not wanting to roll an ankle at this point either.

It was a long, lonely climb. To guts, glory and a red dawn! I thought dramatically to myself. I passed several back-of-the-pack 170K runners (who now had been racing for nearly 3 days), and several indicated that they were entertained by my tights.

Looking up at the source of a potential rock fall. Steep!
I met a flock of enormous sheep on a narrow stretch of trail. It was incredibly steep on both sides of the trail, so there really was no were for them to go. 

"Shoo!" I cried in exasperation, "I'm racing here!" I pushed passed them, too tired to be cautious.

With the shadow of the German women chasing me, I mashed up the final climbs so hard I grew dizzy. Finally - finally! - the check point at Hannigalp appeared. I barely broke stride; there was only 3 km to go, and it was all downhill.

I pounded down the hill, going absolutely as fast as I could. Signs indicated the distance left were placed along the course every 100 meters for the last kilometer. I realized that the German women weren't going to catch me, I had held on.

I had gone absolutely as fast as I could all day, and I sprinted across the finish line in a mess of sweat and tears.

"Are those happy tears?" Lizzy Hawker, race director and ultra runner extraordinaire, asked as she hugged me at the finish line.

They were.

Me and Lizzy Hawker at the finish of UTMR in Grächen.

Stats Day 3:

Distance: 43.9 km
Elevation gain: 3444 m
Time: 7h26min
Rank: 2/18 female, 6/51 overall

Results here.

Thursday, September 14, 2017

UTMR Day 2: Persistence

Read about UTMR Day 1 here.

I couldn't understand how the other racers could eat so much at 4:30 am. I nibbled at a croissant with jam, a little cheese and figs and a cup of coffee. Not enough calories for the big day ahead, I knew, but I was starting to feel queasy and wanted the little I had eaten to stay in my stomach!

It was dark at the 6 am start, but at least it wasn't as cold as the previous day. The volunteers around the start told us that there had been a thunderstorm the night before, and snow over Passo di Salati, our first big pass of the day. The ultra race (170 km, insane stuff!) had actually been paused during the night to keep the runners safe.

Our ranks had swelled, as the three day stage race was now running parallel to the four day stage race. Nearly 200 runners took off from pre-dawn Gressoney, and headlamps soon snaked up the steep grassy slope ahead of me. Gondola chairs loomed overhead, reminding us of the irony that we were climbing a slope that could be ascended mechanically.

Runners leave Gressoney on Day 2 of UTMR. Photo: Zoe
I had started in the middle of the field, and the pace was leisurely. The trail was very narrow for the first half of the climb, making it difficult to pass. I spent the time making up for my meager breakfast, gnawing on Snickers and nuts as I walked uphill. I passed several 170 km ultra runners, who looked like zombies compared to us carefree stage racers.

After about an hour of hiking, it was light enough to turn off my headlamps. I chatted with a Swede, Ebba, then Jamie, a British man whose wife was riding in Zoe's rental car around the mountain due to an injury, and finally Charlie, a younger woman who was braving her way through the four day stage race. But my legs had awoken, and I gradually pulled away from my new-found friends. We were at nearly 3000 meters again, and my lungs seemed to have adjusted to the altitude.

In the fog, near the summit of Passo dei Salati.
It was cold and foggy on top of Passo dei Salati, where a warm hut greeted us. I was grateful to be inside, but wary of staying too long. A volunteer gave me some hot tea that I dumped into one of my water bottles. Then I pulled on my rain jacket and high-tailed it out of there.

I positively flew down the 11 km descent to Alagna, passing runner after runner. Below the thick fog capping the mountains, muted views of steep green mountain slopes appeared. My quads were starting to turn to jelly as I bombed the final section of steep trail through the forest.

Steep hillsides appear out of the fog on the descent to Alagna.

I stopped briefly at the big aid station in Alagna, filling my bottles and reacquainting myself with profile for the rest of the course for the day. Another big climb, another big descent. The path out of Alagna weaved through old wooden Waliser houses before climbing gently along a river. 

A guy in flowery board shorts whom I had leapfrogged with was ahead of me, and Tina, a Swede whom I had passed on the descent, was behind but quickly caught and passed me. I let them both go, jogging slowly as I munched on a tuna sandwich and tried to gather strength for the gargantuan ascent to Col de Turlo.

Moving along the river, I was suddenly struck with a paranoid thought that wouldn't shake loose. The previous day, Zoe had swerved to avoid a bus on a hairpin turn when driving from the start to the finish of the stage and scraped a hub cap. What if she were in an accident today? What if she was in the hospital right now? It would all be my fault, since this was all my stupid idea! I almost began hyperventilating, and decided to call Audun. He calmly reminded me to focus on the race, and reassured me that Zoe was fine. 

Once I had collected the scattered pieces of my irrational brain and refocused on moving uphill, the calories I had eaten kicked in and I started moving at a fair clip. I was further motivated by the appearance of two more racers chasing me, and I caught Mr. Flowery Board Shorts. My chasers soon caught me however, and I chatted briefly with Jodie as she powered past.

The trail up to Col de Turlo was built like a narrow road of rocks, and graded nicely. Still, it was a long, lonely slog. Vanessa Carlton's "A Thousand Miles" played on repeat in my head. If I could fall into the sky, do you think time would pass me by? 

Finally, the last rocky section up to the Col appeared. I passed a woman who was stopping frequently for breaks. She said she was "just tired". Aren't we all, I thought. I wouldn't stop. Persistent, constant forward motion was the name of this game.

The top of Col de Turlo appears.

Descending off of Col de Turlo was pure joy. The trails were nicely graded and well-built with solid footing. I soon passed all of the runners who had overtaken me on the ascent, and was virtually alone on the mountain.

It was a monster descent, and I began to watch the numbers tick down on my altimeter, wondering when I would get to the final aid station at Quarazza and the last easy 5K to the finish.

The descent towards Quarazza.
The route flattened and turned into a technical trail following the river through a valley. According to the distance on my watch, the Quarazza aid station should be anytime now. Almost there!

The aid station came nearly 2 km after my watch said it should, and I passed another woman, Eilidh, just before it. Feeling competitive now, I only stopped at the aid station to note the profile for the final 5 km - mostly downhill but slightly uphill for the last kilometer! - before leaving.

I ran steadily on the dirt road leading to Macugnaga, ready to get this long day over with. The final, uphill kilometer was pure torture, but I passed a couple more guys running the 170 ultra and reminded myself that I couldn't complain. I was, after all, doing the easy race.

Forcing a smile on the final stretch to the finish of stage 2 in Macugnaga. Photo: Zoe
Finally - finally! - I crossed the finish line, feeling worked. Zoe met me with an Orangina and shepherded me to our hotel where I stretched, ate and prepared for doing it all over again tomorrow. Tomorrow was the last day, and there would be nothing to save energy for. I planned to race hard, to summon everything I had left and find out what I was made of.

Recovering like a pro.

Stats Day 2:

Distance: 46.5 km
Elevation gain: 3392 m
Time: 8h25min
Rank: 5/22 female, 15/62 overall

Monday, September 11, 2017

UTMR Day 1: Patience

The sun illuminated the steep, angular sides of the Matterhorn. It hadn't yet reached the narrow streets of Cervinia when a man in glasses shouted "GO!". Seventy-two runners were corralled in a tiny start pen, and somehow I had ended up at the very front. I began to run, then realized I had started too fast.

The start of the UTMR three day stage race. Photo: Zoe
My competitive self reared its ugly head as I let eager racers fly past me. I wanted to latch on, to stay with the front pack and race hard. But this race would last for three days and over 116 km, and I needed a strong body on the start line every day. Patience. 

Racers below the Matterhorn.
The first 6 kilometers consisted of a long climb up the ski slopes behind Cervinia village. It was a chilly morning, and I regretted not wearing gloves as my fingers went numb. I climb at a steady but leisurely pace, stopping frequently to photograph the photogenic Matterhorn. I reminded myself to eat, snacking on Snickers and nuts.

The Sun!
What a glorious day! The sun's rays eventually hit the runners, and warmed my cold hands as well as the frosty grass around us. I watched the numbers on my altimeter tick upwards, drawing closer to 3000 meters. I was breathing more heavily than I thought I should given my speed - maybe the altitude was slowing me down?

Near the top of the first pass.
I crested the top of the pass, and a new vista opened up ahead. I followed two racers ahead of me down hill. It was steep and rocky, and my legs felt slow and unresponsive. I reminded myself to let gravity do the work, and to flow like a drop of water, always finding the path of least resistance. I tried not to mind when the Spainard just ahead of me pull away. Patience.

Towards the bottom of the downhill I was caught by a group of three racers. I later realized they were running the four-day stage race, and were thus actually in a different race than me. Still, when they pulled by I hung on and used their momentum to run the downhills a bit faster.

Finally we were at the bottom of the descent - I had been descending for nearly an hour! The course looped around a bucolic meadow and heading uphill. I kept up with my gruppetto until we reached the first aid station at Refugio Ferraro, 1 km into our second climb of the day.

Following some four day stage racers at the bottom of the descent
The aid station was sparse, offering only cookies, juice and water. I was glad I had decided to carry enough food to be self-sufficient. I filled the two water bottles in the front of my race vest, but, noting there was only 12 km to go, decided to dump the extra weight of my third water bottle.

This turned out to be a mistake. The final climb of the day, although shorter than the first, turned out to be an absolute beast. It grew steeper and more rocky with every step, and the sun beat down. It was hotter than I had anticipated. I felt dizzy and weak. My only consolation was that the racers I saw ahead of me weren't moving any faster.

The rewards of a long climb.
At the top of the climb, a brand new view of the tumbling glaciers and Monte Rosa herself appeared. Gressoney, my goal for the day, was at my feet, one thousand meters below. I flew down the descent, passing several runners, I ran out of water on the final kilometers. When I crossed the finish line in Gressoney, my legs still felt pretty fresh but I was definitely dehydrated.

Nearing the finish line in Gressoney. Photo: Zoe.
My sister Zoe was at the finish line, busily snapping photos and volunteering at the check point. She brought me an Orangina, and I spent the rest of the afternoon relaxing and recovering. I even had time to take a little nap before dinner! I was happy to have run so patiently - the next two days would be much more challenging.

Stats Day 1:

Distance: 28.6 km
Elevation gain: 1953 m
Time: 4h51min
Rank: 7/28 female, 18/72 overall

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

Ultra Tour Monte Rosa: Pre-race thoughts (and tracking links!)

Tomorrow is the start of the 3-day stage race Ultra Tour Monte Rosa, which is the culmination of my running season. I vacillate between excitement (running! in mountains! for three days!) and terror (the race lasts for THREE DAYS!). I'm trying to think of it as an extra long hike.

Mountainous training on the way up Bispen
I have no idea if I'm prepared for UTMR, since I've never a race over several days before. Due to my foray in to road biking, I've run fewer kilometers this year than at the same time last year. I definitely wish I had a few more long runs under my belt. However, I know I am fit, healthy and mentally prepared to get the job done. My main priority is finishing, and I will take it easy and converse energy on the first two stages to try and finish strong on the final stage.

As always, I will write a race report, but there also are two ways to track me live during during the race:

1) The official race time points
2) The GPS tracker provided by the race organizers.

In both cases my bib number is 704. I'll be starting at 8 am on September 7, and 6 am on September 8 and 9, central European time.

Send some happy thoughts my way!

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Honeymoon adventures part 2

Audun and I got married - read part 1 of our honeymoon adventures in Norway here!

It was the gentle east wind that greeted us on the narrow ridge leading to Sjurvarden, a completely different world from the mountain we had been blown off three years ago. The steepness of the tractor road hadn't changed though, nor had spectacular view out to sea.

Ridge riding, right near where the wind threw us both off of our bikes a couple of years ago!
At the end of the narrow ridge, the trail divides, leading to two different peaks. We went up Sjurvarden first, and enjoyed a windy lunch at the top before riding back down to the saddle to take in Melen, a next door peak. Sheep grazed in the grassy terrain high on the mountain as we whizzed by. Plots of farmland were wedged into the flat area of land far below us, using every available piece of land.

Enjoying the descent from Sjurvarden.
The climb up to Melen was gruelling, and I push my bike up the long final section. The trail followed an old stone wall, now crumbled to a line in the earth where a wall used to be. The hill grew steeper, but the wall persisted. I kept thinking to myself, "I'm not going to ride any of this downhill, why should I bother to push my bike up it?"

Push bike up Melen. Sjurvarden, the first peak we went up, is just behind my head. 
I was pleasantly surprised to be able to ride most of the descent, although certain sections were too steep and rocky for me. Audun didn't have that problem.

Audun on the descent.
The weather forecast was for sun on the coast the next day, so we drove north to Tustna. Audun was ready for a rest, while I was ready for a day running in the mountains. The idea of traversing the entire horseshoe-shaped ring of mountains that encircles Gullstein valley on Tustna has appealed to me since we first visited the island.

It was an absolutely gorgeous day, and I set out from Gullsteinvollen hut to run a couple of flat kilometers to the road before the first big climb to Knubben. My legs were feeling pretty flat, and I started to wonder if this wasn't such a good idea after all.

So I put on a podcast, put my head down and ground up the hill. As I rose above the trees, the views grew and my motivation grew with them. By the time I reached Knubben, I didn't need my headphones anymore. It was just me and the mountains.

Mountains beyonds mountains near the top of Knubben.
After Knubben, I followed the trail along the ridge, with a steep drop on my left and a mellow grassy slope on my right. The trail was mostly runnable and I felt sky-high as I frolicked all alone in the mountains.

I crested Jørgenvågsalen, the second peak, and stopped on the top just long enough to write my name in the book before charging down the steep rocky descent.

Descending Jørgenvågsalen, with Skarven, the last peak, in the left half of the photo.

I reached the saddle, from where I could easily have bailed back down to the hut. But nothing would stop me now, and I charged up towards Skarven. There were delicious blueberries among the rocks which I snacked on as I ascended. The path was steep and rocky, and required the occasional scramble.

I met two women hiking up towards Skarven, and as we chatted, a wispy cloud settled on the peak above us. I passed them and ascended towards the cloud. Miraculously, the cloud had settled on one side of the ridge, while the other side was completely in the clear. I followed the path on top of the ridge, on the knife edge between cloud and sun, for some ways.

Then there was a long descent, rocky and first and then boggy and muddy, befor the final few kilometers on a tractor road to back to Gullsteinvollen hut. The traverse took me just over 4 hours {Strava here}. I was happy to relax for the rest of the day as Audun and I drove towards the Valdres region, the only bright spot in the otherwise dismal weather forecast for the weekend.

We pitch at tent near the road part way through the drive, and continued driving the next day through heavy rain. Just as predicted, the rain let up as we neared our destination. Based on some recommendations online, we decided to ride our bikes on Jomfruslettfjell.

Beautiful high mountain trail on Jomfruslettfjell
We did a loop around Jomfruslettfjell with trails of variable enjoyment. The very best were open mountain paths, while the worst were overgrown, wet and virtually unridable. The final descent to the car brought the fun-o-meter back up again though.

Audun on the descent from Jomfruslettfjell
For our last day, we rode up Spåtind, a 1400 meter peak. I was starting to feel pretty tired after 7 challenging days. I grew increasingly frustrated at not being able to climb what looks like simple trails on my bike. I threw myself into the uphill, my heart rate peaking at 195 as I desperately tried to stay on my bike for as long as possible. I couldn't keep that up for long though, and soon was pushing my bike up steep sections.

After the first long climb, the trail flattened out and provided fun riding in open terrain up to the mountain peak.

When the trail go rideable on Spåtind.
I felt nearly invincible on the descent, riding down rocky sections that I am sure I would have walked on some days. I know that my mind is what limits me when riding a mountain bike. Some days I am filled with an ineffable panic on difficult sections, whereas other days I am just able to relax, ride and see what happens. If I fall, I fall. It really shouldn't be that scary. I wish I knew what switches on the bad days, and I think I'm not alone. 

Descending Spåtind.

- The Wild Bazilchuk

Monday, August 28, 2017

Honeymoon adventures part 1

After hosting what everyone agreed was the best wedding ever (more of which later), Audun and I had one week to enjoy Norway at its prime. One of the disadvantages of travelling as much as I have in the last couple of years is that I don't get to spend enough time in the beautiful Norwegian mountains.

Instead of settling on one area to visit, we decided to keep our options open and follow the weather. This resulted in a lot of driving, but we enjoyed good weather for most of our trip, which is never given in Norway. Here's where the weather took us!

We started off the week by staying put. The wedding took place in beautiful Norddal, tucked inside a long fjord arm in western Norway. We decided to tackle Heregga, the mountain in whose shadow we were married.

Hiking through goat-grazed grass near Herdalssetra. Photo: Audun

Heregga is a dramatic dinosaur spine that looks impossibly steep from the front. The normal route meanders around to the back of the mountain and takes a relatively mellow route to the summit. We had heard tell of a direct route up the side of the dinosaur spine, and we decided to go looking for it. Our plan was to take the steep route up, then go over the ridge and take the normal route back.

Audun poses next to Heregga. Our route took us up the steep chutes on the side you can see hear.
Most of the chutes up the side of the mountain seemed to end in steep, slabby rock, but using binoculars we found a strip of green that seemed to extend to the top of the spine. It was a mossy, direct highway to the top of Heregga. And it was VERY steep!

Halfway up Heregga, looking a long way down to the valley. Photo: Audun
The strip of green turned out to be the steepest moss field I've ever seen. It was strange to clamber up squishy moss on rocks, and we joked that we needed to invent a 'bog anchor' for this type of climbing.

Clamber on slabby rocks near to top of Heregga. Photo: Audun
I hoped that this route would take us to the top and we wouldn't have to turn, since downclimbing steep stuff if generally more difficult that climbing up.

Audun climbs a genuine Norwegian vertical bog.
Like magic, our highway of moss and lichen lead us up onto the ridge, and we popped up into flat, relatively safe terrain.

Audun poses near the summit of Heregga.
The 'normal' route back along the ridge was a lot longer and a lot less thrilling. I'd had enough thrills for one day. Strava here

The next day we made inland, driving over ever-spectacular Trollstigen, and I suggested we stop on top to shake out our legs and take in a mountain top.

We decided on the short and steep climb up to Bispen (The Bishop), an iconic cone shaped mountain that looms above Trollstigen. The ascent from the road to Bispevatnet (Bishop lake) was a well-worn trail, but soon we were hopping boulder and scrambling rocks, following sporadic red marks.
Hiking up from Trollstigen, Bispen looming above me. Photo: Audun

The hike was not for the faint of heart, with vertigo-inducing views of the valley below and lots of time in steep terrain with loose rocks. 

The view straight down to the valley on the way up Bispen.

We looked over at Kongen (The King), a nearby peak that is often scrambled in the same hike as Bispen. Somehow it looked even worse, the only obvious path up following an exposed ridge. We would have to save that challenge for another visit, since we had a dinner appointment to keep.

Audun near the top of Bispen, with Kongen to the right.

The scariest moment came on the way down, when the trail suddenly veered right. I was ahead of Audun and decided to stop after I rounded the corner and take a picture as he came towards. But he never came.

Suddenly I was filled with terror - what if he had fallen? But why hadn't I heard anything. I backtracked to the last point I had seen him and looked around, then started yelling: "AUDUN!" I didn't hear anything in return and was about to start hiking down towards the lake to look for his mangled body when all of a sudden I heard a faint reply. He was fine, of course. Turns out he had missed the sharp right turn and headed straight down to the lake, which looked to be even steeper then the route we had taken up! Strava here

Just before the right turn where we lost each other. Audun was headed straight down for the lake. Photo: Audun.

That evening we stayed at Kongsvold, a mountain hotel on Dovrefjell. In 2011, Audun was working in Oslo and I in Trondheim, and we met up at Kongsvold to ride mountain bikes (which we realized belatedly is illegal in the national park, so don't do that!). We were students and I had just spent all my savings on a mountain bike, so of course we were tenting out. It absolutely poured rain that evening, and we went inside the reception at Kongsvold hotel just to spend a few minutes in a less cramp locale then our tiny, two-person tent.

Kongvold serves really fancy food. I remember looking at the menu and resolving that someday we would come back and eat here. And what better time than our honeymoon?! We had 7 courses and it was delicious, but somehow I missed staying in a tent.

A taste of muskox meat at Kongsvold.

The next day we drove into the nearby town of Oppdal to take advantage of the sun and ride some trails. We started out the day on Svarthaugen, a nice and easy out and back trail that took us to a view point and provided some fun, not too challenging downhill riding.

Audun on the way up Svarthaugen.

Since I was focused on training for Jotunheimen Rundt this spring, I've barely touched my mountain bike. It takes some time to get back into the swing of things!

It had clearly rained a ton the night before, but the sun shone while we were out and who minds a little mud?! Strava here

Descending Svarthaugen. Note the puddle I am cleverly avoiding. Photo: Audun.

A rain shower passed over Oppdal as we were inside eating lunch, but then the sun came back and we decided to revisit Raudhovden, which was where Oppdal Enduro was held a couple years ago.

Casper on the summit of Raudhovden, with Gjevilvatnet lake and Trollheimen in the background.

We took an easy way up - almost everything was rideable. After a first technical section off the top, everything was flowy, fast riding downhill.

Wall-riding some slabs on the descent. Photo: Audun.
And mud of course. Gotta love me some mud. Strava here

Post-Raudhovden ride. Photo: Audun

Elated by the great mountain biking in Oppdal, we decided to try our luck on Sjurvarden, the mountain we were blown off of in 2014. The forecast was for east winds, which should be milder on the coast. We drove out to the coast and I scoured maps and satellite images, looking for a good campsite.

I noticed the tiny island of Kråkholmen, connected to the mainland by a bridge. Zooming in on the satellite images, it looked like there were a couple of houses and a whole lot of grass. We decided to drive out to Kråkholmen and look for a quiet corner to pitch our tent.

Kråkholmen turned out to have amazing tent sites. Someone had cut back a lot of the natural, bumpy heather and sowed and manicured smooth grass, perfect for pitching a tent. And then there were the views. Sjurvarden, the mountain we planned to ride, on one side, and the open sea on the other.

The Palace of Spaciousness and Luxury pitched on Kråkholmen. Photo: Audun

The sunset gave us a real show, and we spent a quiet evening watching the sky evolve, enjoying just being.

Sunset on Kråkholmen. Photo: Audun

To be continued...

- The Wild Bazilchuk