Salomon Hammer Trail has been on my race wish list since my blogger friend, Tina Christensen, trained all year to run the inaugural 50 mile version in 2010, fell, got injured, lost and was located by a rescue team and carried off the course on a stretcher. That is what I call going down in style. And - seriously - a race on Danish soil that is so tough? Bornholm, as I learned at the Fyr til Fyr 60k, is a Baltic Sea island that is geologically entirely distinct from the rest of Denmark and bears more resemblance Sweden.
Last year, TIF athletic club added the 100 mile version to the race. 17 people started, 8 finished under 30 hours, including one female, Anne-Marie Rossen. What on earth?, I thought. Certainly I was intrigued.
THIS year, the TIF arrangers, decided last year's course was not hard enough. Therefore they added 2000 extra meters of elevation and 6 trips down an enormous set of stairs to ring a bell over an ocean inlet (Jon's Kapel) and back up again (edit: Jon's Kapel was not new this year. A more technical trail along the coast was). The world wondered: would ANYONE finish this year?
|bag check-in. Photo: Moses Løvstad|
|Me and D Ditlev - nervous energy. Photo: Dan Mygaard|
|12:00 start. Here we go! Photo: Moses Løvstad|
Here is a video from just before the start, made by Thomas Dupont, where I talk about my preparation for the race (especially for those who love to make fun of my accent)
And yes, it is true there was no specific preparation. In some ways this helped. I have been training a lot less than I am used to since the goal was to train for a sub 3 marathon. It may have been a magic combination of muscle memory from all of my old ultras and speed work + tapering over the last 6 monhts.
On the other hand, boy did I look and feel like a clod trying to run with my poles. Over half of the field ran with poles. If you knew how to run with them, certainly they were a help on the course. But I did not, so I had to drop them after the first 15km. At that point, I was in nearly last place, if not last. Oh boy. It was just so much more technical than honestly any race I had run, except the Trans Alpine (which I dropped out of).
|Photo by Stefan Stougaard|
|Hammershus- built in 1255 by Archbiship Jakob Erlandsen - has been occupied by Danes, then Swedes, then Danes. Photo: denstoredanske.dk|
Nowadays, I think Hammershus is occupied by the drunk guy with a rifle who Dan Majgaard and I met on the surrounding trails in the middle of the night (one of the many times I felt my life was in danger during the race).
Just before it got dark, I had finished around 70km. As you can see in the picture, I look like someone who ought to be finishing a race right about now.
|50 miles done. Photo: Jesper Halvosen|
With nightfall upon us, I changed clothes, though not my sports bra or underwear, as there was no privacy to be found and I didn't want an accidental embarrassing photo ending up on Facebook. Besides the fact that the men there were so tired that they had better things to worry about than looking away. I ate hot potato salad for dinner prepared by the volunteers. It was wonderful. I chatted with Moses and Jesper, who as ALWAYS were there, making this race so much fun for us runners. Tine, the woman who owns Tines Gjestehuz, where I had stayed the night before, had come to cheer us on with her husband. It is a small island and this was a huge event for them.
I had dreaded it. Worried that I would be tired. But the night was by far the best part of the race. Imagine this- being awake all night with your mind and body and full alert- hearing and experiencing the sounds and subtelties of nature in full splendour. I could hear the sheep and the birds and other creatures I could not identify - roaming, living. Before I got lost and found Dan Mygaard, I was stunned by the experience of my headlamp gleaming into the green retinas of 40 sheep eyes. Wow! (none of them had cataracts) Then Dan and I realized we had gotten lost but soon found the trail again. We ran together sharing headlamp strength. His was much better than my Petzl. If I did this again, I'd buy a super strong headlamp.
As we were scaling a mud wall over a quasi cliff overlooking the ocean, I stopped and enjoyed the sound of the tide coming in. Strong waves suddenly out of nowhere. And the stars. No moon as it hadn't risen yet. THIS IS LIFE!!! I am alive and experiencing this world.
|Here with 50k left to go and I WAS STRUGGLING. Photo: Jesper Halvorsen.|
|The stairs to Jon's Kapel.|
In a while I was back at Jons Kapel to battle the stairs yet again - round number 5 - one to go.
I had been feeling ok before this, but these stairs could really make legs stiff. Basically everyone I passed from the 50 mile and 50k races were cheering me on. It helped- but most thought I was on my last lap - the fact that I wasn't was a bit of a mental blow!
Henrik Leth Jørgensen had just won for the men in an incredible 22:14!
|Henrik Leth Jørgensen and Kenneth Kofoed, winners of the 100 mile and 50 mile respectively, leaving for their last 25km loop.|
|Maibritt Skovgaard battling her last 50km of the 50 miler. She would go on to win for the ladies in 11:12 (just for comparisson, she ran an 8:54 100km 3 weeks prior). Photo: Stefan Stougaard|
|And I won. 2nd ever female finisher of the Salomon Hammer Trail 100!!! Photo: Jesper Halvorsen|
Following the race, I was interviewed by the German running magazine, which I think he said is called "Running". He said in his lovely German accent - "You know this is the hardest 100 miler in the world". Well, I asked if he'd heard of Leadville or Hardrock and he looked at me a bit askance. Sure, let's just call it the toughest! Here is Leon Skriver Hansen's stats from the 50km (which he too 2nd in). So I guess you can multiply this by 3.2 to get the 100 mile race stats. 18,752 ft of elevation change.And that was enough for a flatlander like me!
Here are the results (for the 100 miler this year, 36 entrants, 15 finishers, I was nr. 12).
One bit of advice for runners wanting to complete a 100 miler: Look at it as a long journey from one point to another - no getting off until you have arrived - no way out - and you WILL make it. We humans are built for this.