This race report was submitted by our friend and summer SkinTrack contributor Shaun Stephens-Whale.
The Tromso Skyrace is a technical trail/mountain running race held outside of Tromso, Norway. At 58 kilometers in distance and with over 4400 meters of climbing, the race has become a part of the new Sky Extra discipline – a merger of the Sky Extra and Sky Ultra disciplines in the Migu Run Skyrunner World Series. Designed and organized by ultra running legends Kilian Jornet and Emelie Forsberg , it should be of no surprise that this race is advertised towards highly experienced competitors with mountain knowledge.
The course itself traverses through a wide array of terrain: from the lower valley swamps and rivers to the upper scree climbs, narrow ridgelines and alpine lakes. Two distinct mountains, Tromsdalstind mountain, climbed twice, and Hamperrokken mountain are the focus of the event. Jornet and Forsberg flag the course days in advance and often chose the most efficient line – whether that is traversing a narrow ridgeline or a 50 degree slope. This constant up-down assault on the legs favors the stronger athletes; perhaps, it should be of no surprise then, that the course record is held by Great Britain’s Obstacle Course Racer Jonathon Albon.
The 2018 edition of the Tromso Skyrace returned for its 3rd edition on August 4th . In addition to the featured 58 km distance, the race offered a vertical climb and a 32 km event, providing a more modest challenge to those unready to face the full distance.
» Tromso Skyrace website
How the Race Unfolded
Within the first hour, a group of three men emerged from the pack on the cloud soaked slopes of Tromsdalstind – Jonathon Albon alongside fellow countryman Andy Symonds and Russian Dimitry Mityaev. As they crested Tromsdalstind, the three were still within striking distance of one another but on the steep descent a conservative Albon began to gap his rivals. Scarce course markings encouraged participants to craft their own lines down into the valley below, likely benefiting Albon and his past knowledge of the course.
As Albon continued to extend his lead, the podium battle behind him was shifting, with Symonds relinquishing his podium position to Pere Aurell of Spain. After an accident the previous year, a section of the rocky Hamperrokken ridgeline had been removed from the course – a decision that shows how delicate the balance between masterful course design and inevitable injury is. Pere Aurell began to pull away from the Russian on the slopes of Hamperrokken, while Symonds continued strong, in fourth position. As participants crested the mountain, the usual snow covered gully that brought racers back to the valley floor had been replaced by a jagged boulder field, which would prove one of the most challenging sections of course.
Despite a mounting gap, Albon continued to push up the final climb and was rewarded with an incredible 15 minute lead by the top. On the last downhill this lead was only extended and Albon finished in a time of 7:04:06, only three minutes slower than his course record set the previous year. Aurell continued to run in second, out of sight of his nearest competitors. While after slipping down to 6th position on the perilous downhill, Symonds maintained confidence in his climbing legs and began moving up the field, cresting the final climb of Tromsdalstind within reach of Mityaev. On the final descent, the two battled for the final podium spot, with Symonds gritting his teeth and capturing 3rd , in 7:32:54. Pere Aurell was not to be challenged in 2nd , finishing in 7:28:56.
The women’s race proved a closer battle for the top podium spot, with US Hillary Gerardi battling Spain’s newly minted World Trail Running Champion Gorgia Tindley onto the slopes of Hamperrokken. Though Tindley had been outclassing Gerardi on the early descents, Gerardi was able to pull away from Tindley on the slopes of Hamperrokken and never looked back, cruising to the finish in a course record time of 8:14:09. This time, incredibly, was good enough for a top ten overall position in a deep male field. Fellow American Brittany Peterson, was having a successsful day, keeping both Hillary and Gorgia within minutes of her all the way to the final climb of the day; she was rewarded with a 3 rd place result of 8:40:38 – over an hour clear of the next competitor. Gorgia Tindley held on for a strong 2 nd place finish, in 8:27:13.
For full results see here.