Stage 2 | The Frozen Lakes
We said stage 2 was going to be full of surprises and we were not wrong. The runners had to dig deep today to push on through deep snow on the ground and fresh snow falling around them only to find themselves trudging through surface water when they emerged from the snow and headed out onto the frozen lakes. The lakes provide an ever changing environment as they heave and creak beneath the runners’ feet and today’s relatively warm temperatures added a layer of freezing slush across their surfaces.
Nevertheless our runners persevered until our race team made the decision to pull them out at check point 4. Ending a stage early is not a decision our Race Directors take lightly but nothing is more important to us than the wellbeing of our runners and the team felt that it was time to bring them back into the warm.
There were still some excellent performances out there today though. Yesterday’s front-runners were held back by 30 minutes at the start line this morning with the intention of keeping the runners more tightly packed out on the lakes. Robbie Britton apparently hadn’t read the script and hit CP4 way ahead of the rest of the field leading the BTU team to begin speculating about how he moves so quickly. So far it has been suggested that he may have tamed some of the local reindeer and fashioned a sleigh, he may by riding a moose through the snow or he has rocket skis.
Luckily I got the chance to ask him personally as he arrived at tonight’s camp. There are hot showers, warm places to sleep and even wifi so the runners can briefly connect with the outside world again.
Robbie refutes the claim that he had any rocket powered equipment out there or had a lift from any of the local wildlife. He does however claim that a moose offered him some advice for running in the snow which suggests that the tough conditions out there might be causing delirium.
Robbie was able to give us a little insight into the harsh weather and how all the runners are holding up. He described today as ‘bloody hard work’ which is understandable given the snow and the slush across the lakes. The slush was a foot deep in places which is problematic enough, but considerably worse when that slush then freezes and sticks to your snowshoes and trainers. He said it was like ‘having lead weights on.’
Despite the punishing weather and the strength sapping cold he said spirits among the runners were high and people are enjoying the journey as they steadily eat up the miles. Hazel and Jenny may not be fast but he says they are ‘properly tough’ though he did point out that they laughed at him when he fell over on slushy lake this morning. Caroline ran a strong race today and Robbie had a chance to run with her for a while and chat about her experience at the Tor de Gaents.
All the runners were determinedly pushing on today and Shaun Marsden and Austin Jarrett are pushing each other. They running a very close race and Robbie has been riling them up even more. Though at the time the only team members who know who came over the line at CP4 first this evening are out in the wilderness on snowmobiles. We’ll let you know as soon as we know!
I also asked Robbie how you train to run in snowy conditions. For anyone considering taking on a race like this (booking for the Ice Ultra 2017 is open!) he recommends finding the muddiest filed you can find and running there. That should help strengthen the little muscles in your feet that help keep you stable on the tundra.
Robbie also said that personally he was holding up well but is at the point of looking at everything as possible food and asked us not to worry if his tracker shows him going off course as he’ll most likely be trying to catch a wild animal to eat. Fair enough, Mr Britton. Fair enough.
Tomorrow at 7am local time (6am GMT) the runners will head back into the snow for Stage 3 – The King Road. A relatively short 42km. They will leave camp and re-connect with a section of the Kungsleden, a 440km hiking trail created in the 19th Century to provide access to the remote wilderness. They will run through tranquil ice forests, where every tree is coated in glittering ice and snow. After winding through the woods they’ll meet a huge frozen lake, home to our Red Jersey Stage for this race. A flat 15km expanse of frozen lake covered in a 30cm layer of snow.
See you all bright and early!