Tuesday, 10 September 2013

Norwegian adventure

We've just returned from nearly two weeks exploring Norway. Our first stop was in the south where I raced in one of the largest mountain bike races in the world: Birkebeiner. Birkebeiner is a really fast point to point race (Rena to Lillehammer) on fire roads. There is no singletrack and it's not at all technical. The weather is often wet and it can be cold. I guess I'm not selling it, but I haven't mentioned that more than 20,000 people participate over 2 days and for that reason it's worth taking the trip over and giving it a go, because it really is a spectacle. The organisation for a race of this scale is top notch and pretty impressive. Despite the mass participation you can race uninterrupted across the 97km course because there is no congestion; riders set off in waves throughout the day. It's a race where you can ride amongst thousands and compare your time to the pros. There's a pretty good after party at the finish too.

The compulsory 3.5kg backpack adds to the 'unusualness' of the race. The weight symbolises that of a baby prince who was rescued by an XC skier, or so the legend goes. The contents of the backpack becomes pretty useful if the weather turns bad and I guess the number of hypothermic riders being recovered from the mountain has reduced since the introduction of the compulsory clothing (water proofs, thermal top), a drink and food, and additional things such as spare chains, tubes, CO2 canisters etc. The only downside of the bulky baggage was that my backpack was bigger than me ;)

Ninja Turtle ;)
After an incredibly successful race season and one where my legs have performed time and time again, I cannot really blame them for finally saying 'no'. It was around the 5km point where my legs simply stopped responding and I had to let three girls ride away while the group behind started reeling me in. I felt terrible and doubted if I could make it to the finish. All I wanted to do was to stop and sit down. But I never DNF in a race unless I really cannot continue, in fact the only time I have DNF'd was when I collapsed from dehydration and woke up in an ambulance in 2007. So I decided that I would make it to the finish even if it took me 5 hours! In the past I've been upset when other girls who've been deemed race favourites have DNF'd because they were having a bad day. Out of respect for the other riders I wanted to cross the finish line. As the race progressed, my legs painfully turned and the kilometres slowly accrued. Amazingly, I eventually joined the girl in 3rd position and together we passed the second placed girl on the last climb. In a scramble to the finish I managed to secure 2nd place. Of course I'd have liked to have won, but I was really pleased for Borgild Lovset (my partner from the 2013 Transalp) who took the top step.

Our next stop took us to the very north of Norway - a 2 hour flight north of Oslo to Alta in Finnmark. We then drove another 2 hours north to Hammerfest, the northernmost city in the World. We were greeted with the best hospitality, amazing food and a real cultural experience, all part of the Skaidi Xtreme mountain bike race. On the first day we took a boat to Honnigsvag where we caught, cooked and ate king crab; biked to Nordkapp - the most north part of Europe; and finished off the day with an overnight stay and great meal at Kokelv Seahouse, set on the banks of a secluded and peaceful fjord.

Fishing for a big halibut but returning home with a small cod!

The one that got away. The fisherman was perplexed by my decision to rescue this king crab. Think I'm the first person to throw one back overboard!

Kokelv Seahouse
The Skaidi Xtreme is an exceptionally well organised event which prides itself on providing a complete cultural experience. The food - included in the price of the race entry - is high quality, locally sourced and cooked by experienced chefs (they go out of their way to cater for fussy diets like mine!). With free drinks throughout the event, it's unbelievably good value. We arrived at Skaidi Hotel on Friday just in time for lunch (gluten free pasta with locally caught salmon; smoked reindeer and potatoes; blueberry salad; and stacks of fresh fruit). After more than 20 years of not eating red meat I can now highly recommend smoked reindeer ;) Later than evening we had a BBQ and once again the food was really delicious (barbecued fish cakes and home made gluten free focaccia). Now you're probably starting to realise that I absolutely love eating!

Reindeer on the race course
The race started at 11.30am on Saturday...hooray, no early wake up and a long, relaxing breakfast :) After mild weather and sunshine all week the rain, starting almost at the same time as the start gun, added to the fun by making the course muddy and slippery :) Better legs than the previous week meant that I was able to push harder, have some fun and win too. 

A perfect week was finished with a banquet after the race. The only problem is I've returned home with an extra kg or two around my waist ;) 

Until next time Finnmark 


  1. A good read over tea and toast. You made a good point about DNF's you want to beat your rivals when you're both having good days. You'll soon burn off the calories of the Norwegian experience I'm sure. Well done

  2. Thanks Graham :) Yeah, for me it's important to finish races even if the result isn't what I want. Anyway, I'd give myself such a hard time for a DNF that it's simply easier to finish ;) Really nice to get your feedback and know that you enjoyed reading it :)