Jeremy goes NUTS Karhunkierros 166km

Jeremy goes NUTS Karhunkierros 166km

NUTS Karhunkierros 166km in 2024 Report

ArmaSkin Ambassador and fan of ArmaSkin blister prevention, Jeremy, competed at NUTS (Northern Ultra Trail Service) Karhunkierros 2024. We are delighted to reproduce his race report here as a way of expanding interest in Finland Trail Running and Rogaining. There's more info at his website Jeremy in Finland  The photos are from Poppis Suomela and Rami Valonen

"I completed the NUTS Karhunkierros 166km race this year for my 7th time. This year I was about 35 minutes slower than last year, but this is mostly due to the conditions as well as one egregious mistake I made in the latter part of the race (read more below). But this is the first time I have ever made the podium at this event! I got 3rd place male...yay! Two excellent female runners beat me. Results here https://my.raceresult.com/259274/live.

Third place male in the Karhunkierros 166km race in 2024. Photo from Rami Valonen. Juuso Simpanen won and it is an honor to share the stage with him. He is one of the top ultra runners in Finland and beat me by several hours. The other guy is awesome too!

Start with the feedback!

Let's jump right in and start with my feedback to the organizers. Yes, I still think there should be an aid station between Base Camp and Oulanka, but now I am finally getting used to the distance (30km) so maybe this is no longer at the top of my list. What is at the top of my list? I still think age group awards should be given, even if it is simply a handshake and photo opportunity on the stage, which would incur exactly zero extra costs to the organizers. And now I know that there is a precedent for such an arrangement because I saw that in the 13km race awards are given to two ago groups: under 15 and 15+. Therefore I suggest a similar approach to the other distances as well, but maybe start with the perustmatka (l166km) first. The age groups could be 18-49 and 50+. I actually think < 45 and 45+ might possibly be better, but that would immediately serve me and I am not making this suggestion with only myself in mind.

Photo from Rami Valonen.

My race

I think it is appropriate to title this section as 'my race' because I was trying to run my own race and not worry about where other runners were at. Yes, I do like to count the runners coming back south at the Hautajärvi/Napapiiri, but it does not really influence my pace or strategy.

The conditions this year were exceptionally difficult and probably the most challenging ever. I say this having witnessed the snow year of 2017. Perhaps I would allow that the start of the race in 2017 was more difficult for the first 7-10 km, but thereafter the route and temperature conditions were better and the snow had been crushed and packed down before my return trip (this is an out and back race). This year there several long patches of deep snow in the first 10km, but mostly on the north sides of the hills rather than everywhere like in 2017. But this year in addition to long stretches of snow, heat was a problem. I think the temperature was higher than ever before -or at least similar to 2018, the hot year. I packed snow in my hat several times and stopped at many streams to cool off. There were also several flooded areas which required one to stop running so as to navigate through the knee deep water. The cherry on top was the rain in the evening that turned the trails to mud. These conditions led to the did not finish (DNF) rate of over 54%, which was the highest its ever been in the seven times I have completed this event.

The mistake

Because this race is an out-and-back, I knew I was 5th male and 7th overall up until the aid station Oulanka at kilometer 111. When I entered the race tent, I saw a runner icing his ankle and I knew I was 4th. What I didn't know at first, is that one very talented and very young runner had dropped out. I soon learned this information and the thought of third place excited me to the point that I completely forgot to take the gels (nutrition) that was supposed to last me the next many hours on the single most difficult/long/horrid section of the race, 30km until the next aid station... middle of the night. I was supposed to take 9 gels but I completely forgot in all my haste. Luckily, I had 2 gels still in my race vest and somehow I managed to eventually make it to the next aid station, but I was so hungry and running on fumes when I arrived that I had to stop and eat for a while before continuing. I think mistake probably cost me 20-25 minutes because I slowed down due to low carb intake during the longest leg, and I had to use time at the aid station to replace some of the carbs I would have had. I think it is safe to say that the remaining 26 km were also partially tainted by this mistake, but somehow I held on to 3rd place (but just barely!).

Redemption

My support crew (family) saved the day and brought gels to the next aid station even though this required a midnight hike (because cars are not allowed all the way to Base Camp). My family also helped crew me at many of the other aid stations. They are a part of my success. I am happy that they did some hikes in the area while I was running between aid stations.

This is a difficult race, but it is possible to finish if one can train smartly during winter, avoid injury during winter and the race itself, and exercise proper race management when the problems begin during the actual race.

I do not have much more to say, so here are some photos and a link to a short after-movie.

We crossed 5-6 of these suspension bridges on the way north and again coming south. Photo from Rami Valonen.
This was just after the suspension bridge photo above. The Karhunkierros route has multiple places you can stop and camp (for free). Photo from Rami Valonen.
In the heat of the first day. Photo from Rami Valonen.

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