Fanaråken Opp (6th August) and Skåla 1848 meter rett opp (13th August)

The view from our apartment Skåla 1848m
After my first trip to Norway 6 years ago I've been back every year since, sometimes twice, to race, climb and soak up this enormous mountain country.

2008 and a the seeds of a plan were sown. I raced in Sweden with a friend Alastair Brunton, who had just come fresh from Skåla Opp, a race in Norway a few hours south of where he lives in Trondheim, an event he was raving about.  It sounded like a gargantuan struggle straight up a massive mountainside, so far so good.
Thea, David and Robbie Fanaraken Opp start

In the end the Sottish raiding party numbered four, Bill and Fiona Maxwell, Robbie Simpson and myself.  Through the course of our investigations another race had come to light, Fanaråken Opp, which was a week before Skåla and a good opportunity to test the uphill legs in a beautiful setting. Despite getting the race day wrong (doh!) Robbie and I arrived (just!) in time for Fanaråken Opp, an uphill race of around 9km and 1250m of ascent.  The pace was rapid from the start with a steep tarmac road stringing the field out.  The leaders shot off and I knew there was no chance of keeping up so settled in to the race in about 12th place.  The race levelled out for a few km along a beautiful Arctic alpine valley where I managed to drop the group of runners around me and settle into the steep ascent in 7th place.  And it pretty much stayed that way until the top !! The climbing was misty and cold, it was much like doing a time trial as there was no-one else around, but without the view and only an altimeter for company slowly ticking off the ascent.

 Robbie had an awesome run to finish 4th overall and first in his class in 1.02.56, I was 3 mins behind in 1.05.66 and 7th place, knackered but loving it...  Fiona Maxwell finished an awesome 5th overall and 1st in her class with 1.14.58, and Bill had a brilliant run finishing 7th in his class with 1.26.03.

Details of the event can be found on the excellent Norwegian resource kondis.no at http://www.kondis.no/bereket-og-buer-vann-fanaraaken-opp.4946036-127693.html

The sea trout tasted great Midweek training run up Norway's highest mountain Galdhøpiggen
Fishing, training, sleeping, fishing, training, sleeping, fishing, training.....

Before we knew it a week had passed and we were on the start line for the Skåla uphill race.

This time there was no flat run in and after about 15 seconds from the off the gradient starts to kick in.  I have never run in such a loaded field, David Schneider (with whom we had the privilege of training with all week), a first class Swiss orienteer and mountain runner, was amongst the favourites, as was Jonathan Wyatt (no introduction required), Thomas Bereket from Eritea, Ahmet Arslan from Turkey (5 time European Mountain Running Champion) and several others.  At 1810m of climbing in 8.2km this was one steep hill... Robbie was the first of the Scots at 1.17.58 and 11th overall,  I managed 1.18.56 to finish 14th, Fiona Maxwell ran a stormer with 1.31.53 finishing 1st in her class and setting a new age group record and Bill followed 19th in his class at 1.52.23. Ahmet won and set a new record in 1.07.38, a world class run from a world class athlete.

Robbie and David Robbie and Michael Selig on top of Scåla Robbie and Sam, very top of Scåla

Skåla finish Fiona at the finish
Further details of this excellent race can be found at: http://www.skaala.no/en/ and I'd say it is a must for all hill runners at some point in their running careers!!
The real race, downhill

Sam Hesling

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