By Teemu Vidgrén, UKONILMA.COM
A warm and sunny morning, high cliffs by calm forest lakes, narrow trails through wet and muddy swamps and 1000+ runners – a perfect setting for the opening of my 2016 trail running season!
The Bodom Trail is one of the most popular trail running races in Finland. This year, more than 1000 participants had signed up, and the race center at Pirttimäki was buzzing with anticipation hours before the race start. Conveniently, Thursday May 5th is a holiday in Finland, and the morning was warm and sunny.
I had signed up for the 21km race, consisting of two loops, visiting the race center at 12km. What makes it funny is the fact that you’re also allowed to bail out before the second 9km loop and still get a result in the 12km category! I had my mind set for the full 21km and promised myself not to even take a peek towards the finish line before the full distance was covered.
Before the race set off, I spotted a mobile kitchen preparing salmon soup for the finishers – another reason to get the job done as fast as possible.
Photos: Teemu Vidgrén
I’ve never shown up at a race with less training under my belt than I did on that race day. Since January, I had been struggling with continuous knee problems, and the Rovaniemi 150km race in February didn’t really speed up the recovery.
I was able to keep up proper run training only for a couple of weeks before the race, and this added to the uncertainty. I rarely participate in short races, and the idea of keeping up an uncomfortable level of effort for 2-ish hours didn’t really sound appealing.
15 minutes before the race was scheduled to take off, we were summoned to the start line. I was assigned to the first group alongside the ‘real’ athletes aiming for the podium. 1 minute before the start, we cheered for good luck, the chatter quieted down and in no time we were off towards the forest.
I had planned to maintain a moderate heart rate for the first loop and pick up the pace for the second one if I was still feeling strong. My first look at my Garmin proved the plan useless, however, as I continued pushing along in the long queue of runners with my heart rate way above the planned levels. “I guess 21km is not such a long way after all, and I’m feeling too good to slow down…” – so much for a controlled and easy race!
The race is on! – Photo: Jarmo Koskela
My knee was holding up well and regardless of the frighteningly high heart rate, running felt surprisingly comfortable. After the first few kilometres, the queue broke down into smaller groups. The trail transformed to a narrow path undulating over rocky hills, every now and then dipping down to wet and muddy valleys and swamps.
Photo: Karri Jalava
I kept up with a small group of runners, switching places every now and then depending on who was able to run faster on the downhills, uphills, through swamps, on rocky paths or across roots. My decision to take along a water bladder proved to be a good one, as the day was exceptionally hot for early May in Finland.
The first 12km was over in 1:06, and I headed off to the second 9km together with our Minister of Finance, who’s an avid triathlete and was experiencing his first ever trail running race. The second loop was wet and muddy, but the views more than made up for it. High cliffs, calm forest lakes and beautiful swamps rolled by while we worked our way towards the finish line.
By 15km my continuous high effort was starting to take its toll. My legs were starting to feel heavy and I found myself stumbling dangerously on the technical sections.
With the finish line already within reach, I made the decision to keep up the current effort even with a bit of risk of exploding before reaching the finish. Luckily, the last couple of kilometers turned out to be less technical, and I arrived at the finish line in 2:08:08.
It was a tough day at the office! Close to 170 average heart rate for a 2+h effort is not really a comfortable ride, and the heat of the day added to the feeling of exhaustion. I grabbed my fair share of the finish line buffet and found myself a place to sit and catch my breath out of the sun.
Photos: Teemu Vidgrén
The Bodom Trail offered a great start to my 2016 trail running season. The vibe of a 1000+ participant race, excellent organization and logistics, a beautiful trail and the perfect weather made it definitely a race to remember.
Regardless of the lack of training, my running felt surprisingly comfortable and I was honestly surprised to be able to push through the race with such a high continuous effort.
Now it’s time to recover, up the training mileage and get ready for the Karhunkierros 80km trail race in three weeks.