27 Temmuz 2016 Çarşamba

Confessions of an Ultra Newbie –NUTS PALLAS 2016 (16th July, Lapland, Finland) Race Report

During my never ending quest for a new race to join, I came across this one http://nutspallas.fi/en/. I have always wanted to cross the Arctic Circle, so I thought it would be a great challenge for me to complete a race of 55k with +1642m/-1801m elevation. (There are also 26k and 134k categories for the same race.)

The race was on Saturday. I arrived at Hotel Pallas on thursday. I flied to Helsinki from Istanbul and then to Kittila from Helsinki. It was interesting that the plane first landed on Ivory and then to Kittila. I felt like I was on a bus. The nice French guy I was sitting with told me that Ivory is much better than Kittila and that he goes there for fishing every summer. No matter how fun his stories seemed, I had a little bit more on mind than fishing, just a 55k race on a terrain I had no idea about. He warned me to be careful about the flies. Yes, the mosquitoes that conquer beautiful Lapland in July. Flies, insects, i mean all kinds of such small creatures do love the taste of my blood. Moreover, the race organizers strongly recommended that runners carry insect repellents. Years before, I had watched a movie called “Lovers of the Arctic Circle” (Los Amantes del Circulo Polar). I didn’t remember any mentions about disturbing flies on that movie. Neither did I know that I would fall from slippery rocks rather than falling in love JJJ.

A nice girl I met at Kittila Airport told me she had come alone like me and asked the race organization to be a volunteer till the start of 55k. This was such a nice idea, she followed 134k runners, who had started in the evening on friday, on the GPS. I decided that next time I join a race, I will ask to be a volunteer if I don’t have much to do before the race.     

I had hired a car at Kittila Airport. So I decided to see around. I went to Muonio and Enontekio, nice, underpopulated small settlements in the heart of nature. The only problem seemed to be the deers that literally jumped on the road with no hesitation. Driving slowly and very carefully is a must in Lapland unless you want to face a painful experience.

Beautiful Lapland with several such spectacular lake views

                                                             View from my hotel room :)

Lapland Lakes and a poor innocent girl with no idea about future on the bottom right :)

The weather was nice, warm and sunny the day before the race. I thought the only problem could be the mosquitos, so i bought insect repellents and put them in my newly bought CamelBak hydration pack. Here I should add that the price I paid at the race center was much cheaper than Intersport shops in Helsinki. Although I had used it for the first time, it was very comfortable, it caused no problem at all. Buying it was a great idea J

As soon as I woke up on the race day, I learnt that my country, Turkey or Türkiye (I prefer the second nameJ), was going through rough times. Extreme events (by extreme, i mean an unsuccessful coup, thankfully unsuccessful by the way) involving killings of many citizens had happened the night before. I talked to family and friends, read the news, tried to follow and comprehend what was going on back there until the last hour before the race. I hesitated whether I should join or continue following the news but later i decided that there was nothing I could do being thousands kilometers away. And the more I learnt, the more my heart kept aching. The stress I had was eating me up. What would people like me do under such stress? Eat or run? I had the chance for doing both at the same time, an ultra marathon ahead of me. So finally I got dressed and joined the crowd. Being among other runners changed my mood a bit. Also, Finnish runners, actually Finnish people in general, seemed so nice and warm to me. Even my instagram friend had lent me a charging cable for my Suunto watch the other day.

It started raining heavily on the race day. The temperature had dropped suddenly. The race organizers warned that Goretex waterproof clothes would be a must to use especially at the hill tops. I couldn’t imagine how cold it could be up there. The best was yet to come J

Rain before the start (and almost until the finish)

                                                                 Some happy runners :)))

The hills on the terrain were short but the terrain was rocky. There was no other way to go than slippery stones. In addition, we crossed several swamp like surfaces. I thought of going through the sides but those places were even muddier.
Looking on the bright side, stones are your friends if the surface is covered with water and mud.

If you love running on rocky terrains, you will love the hills in this race:)
This many stones ehh im not used to :)
Climbing up 

There is a good saying “Run as good as your training”. That is exactly what i couldn’t do for the first 15 kilometers. Normally, i had started slowly and paced myself while climbing the hills but after that i got faster while trying to run through wet rocks and slimes. That’s mainly because i am not used to running on such technical terrains. Therefore i used up my energy, lost my concentration and an inevitable fall came shortly afterwards. I kinda slided through stones for a few meters and cracked a right rib meanwhile. When i got up, i heard my fractured bone say “This race is over” J

Hell yeah! The race was over but the torture had just begun. I am not a good, fast runner who can even run up steep hills fast. But at least i know i can run 50k in less than 8 hours despite of steeper hills or equally technical terrains. However, this time i was not able to run any further due to a very disturbing pain in my chest. I even thought that the broken rib was tearing tissues apart while i was trying to run. I continued like this until the first check point at around 25th kilometer. There i was delighted to see a restroom. Something that seemed too luxurious to have at that time. Due to heavy fog especially on higher grounds which caused danger of falling from rocks and getting stuck in mud, my eyes were exposed to people peeing very close to the path we were running through (Don’t panic their backs turned of course J).

First checkpoint
Filling water at the checkpoint
I checked my chest and i was very relieved to see no blood. I got in the queue at the checkpoint, ate a few slices of bananas and filled my hydration pack. Before the race, a more experience runner had adviced me to remove kernels of dates and fill inside with walnuts. Those dates were the main source of energy for me during the race. I didn’t use any carb gels or protein bars but took 3-4 salt tablets and other 3-4 magnesium tablets totally. 

A song that played in my mind "Show must go on-Queen"
"Inside my rib is aching, my make-up may be flaking but my smile still stays on :)"
The cold weather had soothed the pain by which i could continue till the second checkpoint at the 43th kilometer. The hills were foggy, cold, windy and snowy, by snow i mean ice cubes. I don’t remember exercising at such severe weather conditions even in winter time. A runner from the north may respond this statement with a violent laughter but unfortunately this was the case for me. I was totally wet, i mean a non-runner has to be thrown into water with clothes on to understand how wet. If i could be running, i wouldn’t have gotten such cold. All my motivation while walking was to be able to see a doctor. Because I thought there would be a doctor at the checkpoint.   

Views which make this race worth joining again, again and again :)
Where there is no fog, everywhere you look becomes a feast for your eyes... 

Small but foggy hills...
Finally i arrived at the second checkpoint feeling as if a miracle had happened. Firstly, i happened to see another restroom, again a feeling of pure luxury went through my veins J By restroom, i mean no water, no flush, no toilette paper (something we should be carrying ourselves) and so on. But at that time, it felt so comfortable that i would return to God if I were an atheist.

A Finnish sauna waiting for you at the finish line :)
Of course ones who seek more privacy can use the ones inside the hotel :)
Unfortunately, volunteers at the checkpoint told me that the ER doctor was at the finish. Though they were very friendly and they told me that someone could come to take me. Then i thought i would have to wait in wet clothes until someone came and i was freezing. In addition, I had become numb, i felt no pain in my chest and there were only 12 kilometers to the finish line with no hills left. I decided to run, very slowly but I ran anyway. In this way, I was able to see the finish line and get my medal, which i loved since it is small enough to be worn in a necklace, bracelet or earrings. Since the same organization gives similar medals for each of their races, one can even spare a jewellery set after joining a number of races J I just loved the idea. 

I just hope every medal could be this small and pretty, ready to be worn as jewellery :) 

The ER doctor relieved me by telling that I had a small fracture and no treatment would be necessary. But I would have to wait a few months before I could do any sports activities. My not being able to run was enough pain in the ass but anyway i was lucky. Because I had fallen 4 times and yet I had gotten off lightly. 

The runners could use shower and sauna facilities at Hotel Lapland Hetta, which was unbelievably relaxing. Being clean and dry again with my blueberry soup in my hand and my medal in my bag, there is no explanation that I know of to express the joy I felt at that time.

I went back to my hotel by the service bus. As for my thoughts about the race, the landscape was spectacular. The untouched nature we witnessed during the event was not something you could easily see. It was easy to follow the path, there were flags in orange color and wooden posts to show us the way. The food at the checkpoints and at the finish line was adequate, volunteers friendly and smiley.

Long story short, no matter how much I suffered from my fractured rib during this race, I believe that it can be an excellent adventure once I have accomplished enough training and I have obtained necessary equipment. A Finnish runner used to running in such terrains may not need shoes with spikes such as Salomon Spikecross or Goretex clothes as desperately as I do. But I would like to join this race once again and run more of the race this timeJ. I loved Finland, especially Lapland, meanwhile Helsinki is one of the most peaceful and beautiful cities I have ever visited. I loved Finnish people, I made friends with nice runners. 

To sum up, at NUTS PALLAS 2016, I had the time of my life JJJ

Visiting Roveniemi, the land of Santa Claus where the Arctic Circle passes through

Helsinki, one of the most beautiful cities I have ever visited... 

Enjoying peacefulness in Helsinki

Beautiful Helsinki, a one time visit is never enough...

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