Luagavegur Ultra 2017

Luagavegur Ultra 2017

So, on January 11th I was browsing through my Facebook feed and was somehow reminded (subliminal?) on a running-gig in Iceland, a country which was still on my list to visit sometime. This subliminal message was actually @manon-runs who enlisted herself to join an Ultra-Trail of 55km through vulcano mountain areas of Iceland. Since Manon and I somehow have this spontaneous habit of joining races I figured this was a great opportunity to join! And so I did ;-).

Preparing

During the preparation months ahead it was clear to me, us, that those mountains in Iceland do not exist over here in flat cheese-country. So we needed a plan to somehow have our legs and fitness-level up to somewhat a point we should be able to finish those 55km, about 1800D+ and 2200D- within a reasonable shape.
Every now and then I do train through the beautiful areas of Schoorl which has some challenging hills combined with loose sand and dunes, but still that does not even come close to what we will be heading for in Iceland. Manon found a great solution to that, namely the X-trails Vogezen which was a 2-day event in France with some nice D+’s included. Obviously, we decided to go on Friday afternoon and the next morning we were heading towards France 🙂 It was a very good weekend with a 22km night-trail and a 25km day-trail with in total about 1800D+, including snow-ground but also lots of sun.

As the preparations were taking shape nicely and Iceland was nearing, I decided to mainly focus on making long, easy, distance runs combined with intervals and sprints on the Nescio-bridge for the last 2 months. Basically I ran 30 to 40km with a roughly 5:30-5:45 pace on a weekend day up til the 2nd weekend before Iceland. That weekend was the start of getting things easy and preparing to start the tapering(and non-alchohol!) period.

Accidents happen

The last week, before my tapering week would start, I received the very unfortunate news Manon had a serious injury while playing on a slide in Berlin. She basically broke her lower-leg and tore about all ankle ligaments there are surrounding that area. This is seriously sad for her, it would’ve been her first UltraTrail and she was training like a maniac for it (wish I was that focussed). Shit happens and it did, big time. So this incident changed the planning a bit for me but that’s not even close to how that must have felt for her. I decided to stay focussed for the two of us.

Judgement day

While Iceland and Rekjavík are VERY nice to see and visit, this is not a travel-guide. I will focus on the running and prepping for it part.

That, almost, 24 hour sun light thing in Iceland is not to be mistaken! This can completely mess-up your rhythm and it kinda also did that for me. I have had better nights of sleep before 😉 The day before race-day I packed all my gear and triple-checked if all was there. The nerves made me doubt every time again, when I convinced myself I was good to go, I went to the city and ate pizza ánd pasta, with a coke(…). Went back to the hotel and focussed on sleeping early because I had to get up at 03:00 to catch the race-bus leaving at 04:30 from a different part of town. I. Did. Not. Sleep. Well. AGAIN. Ah well, showered, packed my things, went outside and saw some other runners who gave me a ride to the bus (I love this trailing mentality!). It actually were quite funny Swedish guys also.

The race-bus trip from Reykjavík to Landmannalaugar took about 3 hours of very interesting terrain, bouncing back and forth(including a flat-tire) for the last hour through the vulcano and mountain areas (pro-tip: take some anti-travelsickness pills with you) upon arriving at the starting area in Landmannalaugar. The weather was chill and it started to rain a bit for the last 20 minutes. Ok, so last check again, put on that water- and wind-proof jacket and head up to the starting area, Red group (with two large groups after me, what was I thinking when registering?!).

A discrete whistle (a canon or smth would make more sense) was blown and there we go, a small single track and then uphill, since we needed to directly ascend 500D+ up to the Hrafntinnusker top.

The first climb always throws my heart-rate insane (well for me, that’s up to 165 or so), I guess because I need to get used to it. The views were instantly breathtaking…

The first 16km went pretty smooth as I was also forcing myself to save energy, since I knew there was a lot of downhill but also snow, uphill again and long flat runs to come (besides the almost 40km). The views again were absolutely amazing! I could post about 50 pics but will limit it to a few below.

Arriving at the top things became getting interesting and boy was I happy I already had the jacket on. It started raining, snowing, hail, ice, hard wind.. COOL! That’s absolutely part of a good ultra-trail in the hills.

At the Hrafntinnusker, having a short stop for a drink and some cookies I went on towards the downhill, which was going to be fun also since it had rained at lot we were told it was going to be slippery and difficult during that approximately 700m descend. The good thing about the amount of snow in the higher-areas was that we did not have that many ascents and descents, because there was a layer of ice and snow filling up those parts, so we could basically run over it (avoiding interesting holes in the ice of about 10 meters deep). In the end.. it was pretty doable to be honest. Yes there were loose and slippery rocks and even mud, but my Salomon SC3’s proved to be trustworthy again(but seriously @Salomon, that inlay-piece-of-c**p-sole?!). After the downhill experience we had to cross the first serious river-crossing (we already had a few minor ones) at Bláfjallakvísl. There was no way around it, but to be honest.. it was nice and refreshing knee-deep. At this point the drop-bags were also available for those who prepped them, I put in some Isotonic drink, shirt, shorts but in the end just took a few sips from the drink and moved on further, all felt good and I did not need any change of clothing AND I did not want to lose too much time. Also, this is where you appreciate wearing good technical (dry-fit-)clothing, after about 1km all was fine and warm again.

First checkpoint and 4 hour cut-off

Having done the Jökulthungur downhill I arrived at the first 22km cut-off checkpoint Álftavatn, where we had to make the first 4 hour time-cap. I had about 1 hour left so I felt pretty confident for the next cut-off. Legs were still fine and I was fully enjoying the ride! (not my best pic, I know, but who cares while running an Ultra).

 

 

 

 

 

The flatlands

So, Iceland is not only about mountains and vulcano’s (well, essentially, yes it IS all about that given the history) it also has quite some flatlands (pun intended), this is a very nice spot to catch up on your time since it’s flat, it has a nice path without(many-)rocks and the weather was really nice. Even though it felt like running for 25km over those flat-lands, it was only about 6 or 7km, but the nice panorama helped me through it, see below;

Guri (see comment below) mentioned she is actually in the picture above here, what are the chances? haha. She also wrote a nice blog about the race, please have a read here!

Second checkpoint and 6-hour cut-off

At 38km there was a second cut-off in Emstrur checkpoint in which you had to be within 6 hours from start. My 1 hour safety shrank to about 20 minutes when arriving here, so I lost quite some time during the downhill and the hills after the flatlands. My legs were getting tired also (so strange! ;-)) and this impacted my running, so I had been walking for some bits also, as did other runners – which makes you feel a bit less of a loser when walking, haha. I again enjoyed some drinks, chocolate and salt-cookies and decided to move on, since the anticipated sub-8 hours was still within reach, I thought.

 

 

The end is near

Sounds dramatic but at a certain point those hills and descents are really getting on your legs and eventually also on your knees since the upper-leg muscles are pretty much done, so the knees are taking over, which hurts, a lot. So my last approximately 10km were not as smooth as I hoped they were going to be. Legs done, knees hurt, every climb or little step down you need to do very carefully and at these moments the mental struggle begins. I. Need. To. Move. On. And so I did 😉 Just before the last 5km there was the second serious river-crossing at Þtröngá, which was a real relief for my legs, knees, ankles and feet, loved it! There was another small support-station with water and chocolate, took a quick sip and again some chocolate and looked forward…. where I saw a very nice surprise;

Another nice climb up! Somehow this one was pretty easy to climb, I guess due to the mental battle I was already in and succeeded in convincing myself I could make it and I would make it to the finish at Þórsmörk.


Long story short (sorry, I really tried to compress all the thoughts and impressions along the way), if you haven’t yet done this one, you should! It should be on your shortlist for sure! Organisation wise it’s absolutely perfectly arranged up to showers and a nice dinner in the end.

Thanks for reading 😉
Roel.
trailfun @ roel.net

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7 Replies to “Luagavegur Ultra 2017”

  1. Hi, this is a really nice recap of the race! Enjoyed reading. Happily surprised when I saw myself on your photo just below the title “the flatlands”. Could you send it to me? I would really love that.

    1. Hi Guri! Thank you for the compliment, I tried to catch the highlights I experienced during those 55km’s, but I guess you will only understand if you’ve joined it 😉 Sure I will send you the original picture. The funny thing is that I also see myself on a picture on your wordpress blog post, just below the ’17 k’ text, in light-blue jacket in the background, haha.

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