Our day started out in ideal conditions. Cold enough to be suitably arctic but not enough to cause immediate problems. Visibility good, wind calm and not a flake of snow in the air.
After a nervous night, the runners woke early and went through their respective pre-race routines. The gathered promptly on the startline in anticipation of the crisp, clear, arctic day ahead. There were plenty of smiles and a lot of laughter as Race Director Kris King huddled them together for the final briefing. After months of training and waiting the race was finally about to begin.
After a customary countdown the runners struck out for CP1. The first section of this race is the only section of road. 10km of tarmac leading to the first Ice Lake crossing at Kebnats. The views along this stretch of road give the runners a real taste of the beauty of Stora Sjofallets National Park. Across the lake a snow topped, frozen rock mountains. The runners cover this stretch wondering which of these ominous looking monoliths we’re going to make them climb. After crossing the lake from CP1, they find out.
Hill climbing in snow, wearing snowshoes is taxing and this part of the trip always takes it’s toll on the runners. Though it didn’t seem to have too much of a decelerating effect on the frontrunners, Andre Hook, Simon Grimstrup and Wim Smout tackled this section at high speed. As the crossed the exposed plateau which forms the central part of Stage One, Simon Grimstrup took the lead from Andre and the three completed the stage in that order. Norweigen runner Abelone Lyng also flew through the day, finishing as the first woman and in 4th position overall.
The second woman to cross the line today was one of our first entries from Sweden. Rianne Dasselaar, who lives near to the finish line of the race, crossed the line alongside our other Swedish athlete, Niclas Svensson. Both of whom finished only marginally ahead of joint 3rd placed women Olivia Gokhale and Georgie Hatton who have previously shared adventures with us as part of our amazing Exile Medics team.
These faster runners were spared the worst of the weather as conditions changed significantly in the mid-afternoon. As the sun started to drop, snow began to fall heavily in the area and the wind picked up on the wide open, rock ridges the runners needed to traverse to reach the finish line. The temperature fell significantly at this time also. This unfortunately led to a few retirements. Jax Mariash from the USA went first as she succumbed to the cold conditions which exacerbated an illness which seemed to have passed before the race. Saul Treherne and one other runner, were also forced to pull out.
Eventually the weather conditions became so difficult that the race team made the decision to cut off the stage early and transport the last of the runners over the final climb to Aktse on our snowmobiles. Rosie Burnham and Remon Van Goolen also made the decision not to continue after they reached Aktse.
The weather is forecast to be much better tomorrow. The forecast is for clear skies and very little wind. This should make for stunning views over the mountainous second stage.
[arve url=”https://youtu.be/Xnh6OxwemRw” /]