Monday, September 5, 2016

Nuuksio Classic Trail Marathon 2016

This was the 5th Nuuksio Classic Trail Marathon, but my first time there - although I live only an hour away. Better late than never I guess. This is my race report. And here's my Strava and Movescount.

nc2013-ilmakuva-01 from Nuuksio Classic on Vimeo.

Previous participants have raved about how great this event is. It didn't disappoint me. The organisers, volunteers and spectators were all super mega awesome.

This event rocks, and not only because it runs over granite boulders formed by Ice Age.

NCTM course map.
The beautiful 42.2km course in Nuuksio National Park is more technical than most races I've done. It also throws Vertical Km (+1105m) climbing at you - and the same amount of downhill as well.

Awesomeness in Nuuksio National Park. (Photo: Poppis Suomela)
Statistics show it can be 50% slower and 500% more fun than your average road marathon. All 600 competitors were grinning from ear to ear. Most of the time anyway.

My 2nd start group ready to go at 10:05am! (Photo: Poppis Suomela)
Saturday, September 3rd dawned cloudy at race HQ Hotel Nuuksio by Lake Siikajärvi. It seemed like an ideal 15°C fall day for running. There were three starts at 10am in 5 minute intervals. I chose to start in the middle group. There were no signs of the forecast wind, rain or thunder yet. I carried a rain jacket in my UD-vest just in case.

The start of the first group at 10am.
My goals for the race were:
  1. To have fun, relax and maybe chat a little with runners and volunteers.
  2. To finish before the rainstorm starts and in any case under 6 hours.
  3. To keep my eyes peeled for good berry/mushroom spots for revisits.
3km from start following a long queue of runners. (Photo: Sari Heerman) 
Even the middle start group was surprisingly fast. There was a long line of runners, but it was moving  like a bullet train. After three km I high-fived my buddy Micke, who was up on a boulder we climbed. He was cheering us with cowbells while his wife Sari shot photos. The first 10K was along familiar trails and awesome natural sights like Lake Valklampi cliffs.

Focusing on not hitting roots and rocks. (Photo: Anne Dahlgren)
Soon we tackled the Swinghill at Solvalla, the biggest climb of the day. Messieurs Janne, Juha and other usual suspects were responsible for the loudest cheers of the day. They made runners fly up, as can be seen in the video below /my brief appearance around 7:23).

The first water station was on the top, at 11km point. In this race there were only three aid stations, and they served only water. I carried one 0.5L softflask with water and another one filled with various PowerGels I found in the morning. I also carried three PowerBar Smoothies and a ClifBar.

Loudest cheers and cowbells at steep Solvalla Swinghill 11km from start.
The second 10K was also mostly familiar to me. Lakes Orajärvi, Saarijärvi and Suolikas provide fantastic scenery and trails.
Almost halfway through at 19.5km - scenic shores of Lake Suolikas. (Photo : Samuli Pahkala)
Some of the cliffs were steep enough to require hands, although the climbs were smooth and easy. At 20km spot there's a tricky wet crossing, where I and probably a few other lucky runners fell in waist-deep murky water.

Trailrunning in wet shorts, socks and shoes at 21km - this is taken after my involuntary swim. (Photo: Antti Kuikka)
Km 20-25 was new to me and very technical with fallen trees, swamps and boulders. It was interesting to run by Lake Iso-Antias for the first time ever.  The second water station was at 26km and from there on we ran the popular Haukkalampi and Kattila trails. There are always some hikers, trailrunners and berry/mushroom pickers around.

This is what makes Nuuksio Classic slower but also more fun than a road marathon. (Photo: Lassi Pekkarinen)
The final stretch back to Hotel Nuuksio felt easier than expected, as the predicted rainstorm didn't start at 1pm. Nor 2pm. 3pm it was still miraculously fine weather, and I could hear the finish line sounds a few km away. I played it safe until the end and cleared the whole marathon without falling. This was great as I saw a few runners with bruises or wounds.

I slowed down a bit after falling in waist-deep swamp water. (Photo: Onevisionfi)
I sailed the final downhill down to the finish just before 4pm in 5:47:22. The heaven's gates opened at the same time.

Technical terrain forced me to use my imaginary trekking poles. (Photo: Poppis Suomela)
This was my second 42.2km trail marathon since Zermatt Marathon 2008 and my new trail marathon PB. Finishers were treated like kings and queens with free champagne, snacks, and a long-sleeve shirt. At the hotel a free sauna and meal was available.

A true trailrunning gentleman allows ladies first - almost there! (Photo: Aapo Laiho) 
A huge thank you goes to the organizers, volunteers, spectators, photographers and fellow competitors. NCTM is certainly the most fun marathon event out of the 44 I've completed so far. During the evening and night it rained 30mm in Nuuksio, and the trails were turned into streams. Finnish fall weather can be unpredictable, but this time it all went down very well.

Nice typical Finnish forest trails 2km before the finish. (Photo: Tomi Kallio-Könnö)
Nuuksio Classic Trail Marathon is one of the best events I've participated and I highly recommend it.

Crossing the 42.2km finish line just before the rain starts around 4pm. (Photo:Jussi Kaasinen)

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