Salomon Hammer Trail is considered as the hardest trail run in Denmark and it happens in the the Danish island of Bornholm (in the hardest part of it). I’ve chosen to run the 50 miles distance this year, since I considered this distance to match my current shape and the kilometers I could put in my legs during the last 4 months or so.
There are several distances, from 25km to 100 Miles and the organization has tried to match start times so people would arrive in goal around the same time. The 50 Miles should start at 1AM on Saturday, the 4th of May, while the 100 Miles would start at 12PM the day before (Friday, the 3rd of May).
Starting in the middle of the night was a completely new element to me and I had no idea how my body would react to running through the night. Therefore, I’ve tried to sleep as much as possible during our trip to Bornholm and I’ve also managed to sleep 1.5-2h in the hotel before the race (despite the anxiety).
Maibritt and I were living quite close to the start line. So we woke up around 10:30PM, got ready and headed to the start line. We got our start numbers and not long after we were in the start line at the countdown.
The 50 Miles race is composed by a prologue of around 4km + 3 rounds of around 26km. Each round is run in the opposite direction of the previous, which adds some nice variation to the race. There were around 50 runners in this year edition of the 50 Miles.
The race started and the front pack broke out from the rest (3 runners). I was running in the second pack with 2 other very good runners. The pace was comfortable and we seemed to be breaking apart from the rest.
The prologue was in Hammer Knuden, and there was people from the organization showing the way, since we would not follow the market route at some point. The route was extremely well marked and, even though it was night and we were running with headlamps, it was not difficult to find the way.
Right from the start we could get a feeling of the kind of terrain that was ahead: mostly single tracks going constantly up and down, some steep hills and very technical trails. The terrain was constantly changing and there was all from sand and rocks to asphalt (VERY little of the last though).
What makes Hammer Trail hard in my opinion is that you cannot really get into yourself and forget about the race for a moment. The trails are very technical and there are so many obstacles and so much variation that you have to be aware all the time.
The day was amazing, there was not a single cloud in the sky. Therefore you can imagine that the sunrise was incredible (have a look in the pictures below, taken by Ulrich Petersen and Stefan Stougaard :-)).
After the prologue we crossed the main aid station and went on to the first round. It was very dark, but the three of us had good headlamps and it was no problem to see the trails. There was markings around every 100-200m, which made the orientation quite simple. We still managed to run wrong once, because we missed one marking that was in the middle of some trees, but it was not more than a couple of hundred meters. Running in the middle of the night with headlamps turned out to be a quite pleasant experience to me. I didn’t feel mentally tired and I was really enjoying it.
I was running with a Petz NAO, which has this reactive lighting technology that works remarkably well. I’ve been conservative when I programmed the lamp, so I had 2 profiles: with profile 1 (strong) I should get 4h30min of battery, while with profile 2 (medium) I should get 5h30min. Thus, I was sure that I would not run into problems, since the sun should start raising around 4:30AM and I needed only 3h30min of battery time.
I am quite satisfied with my Petz NAO. During the run I could see that the reactive lighting saves a lot of battery while running in group and if you have to look far, you just raise your head and the light instantly gets stronger: no buttons.
This time I tried to policy a bit more my nutrition, so I tried to eat something every 50min or so. I brought with me some SIS gels and some Shot Blocks. In my water bag I had around a liter of water with Nuun electrolytes, which I refiled after every round or in the aid station at Jons Kapel. I also had a Salomon Soft Bottle 200ml filled with Coca-Cola, which is something that really works well for me, and some salt sticks. The Soft Bottle is really a great item, it is very easy to carry in the hand and super easy to drink from.
Around the kilometer 40-42 I could not follow-up with the other guys anymore, so I decided to do my own run from there. I was still no. 6 at that point. The speed went a little down, but I still had a lot of energy and I kept running most of the time.
During my second round I started feeling tired and I was in the edge of a small crisis, but the run was so cool that I manage to find some extra energy and run further until I have reached the aid station for the third time (end of second round). During the second round, I think that one of the worst moments was to arrive at Jons Kapel and run down and up those stairs.
When I arrived at the main aid station for the third time, completing my second full round, the sun was already high and it was time for breakfast. I was very hungry, so I sat down and eat some bread, drank some Coke and relaxed (there is nothing like real food). I used 12-15min in the aid station, which I think it was quite a lot (something to improve for next time), but at the same time I started my third round renewed. I had plenty of energy and I ran most of the third round without any problems.
I was overtaken by another 50 miles runner by around the second third of the last round, so I was now number 7. The third round was great and I even ran up and down Jons Kapel stairs.
I was now running in direction to Hammer Knuden, which is the last section of the run. Since we ran during the night and each round was on the opposite direction of the previous, I did not really realize that there were 9km left. I crossed the last aid station (which is just beside goal) and I did not stop. During these last 9km in the Hammer Knuden there are lots of hills and you keep seeing Hammer Havn (goal), but it goes up and down and left and right, and when you think you are arriving, there it comes one more hill.
I have this irritating tick of stopping my watch when I stop, and I did this 2 times during the run. Therefore my watch was marking ~2.5km less than it should. So according to my expectations I should be in goal when my watch marked 78km or so. My watch was now marking 78km and I didn’t seem to be near the goal, and I was thirsty (I’ve emptied my water bag when my watch was marking 76km). I kept running and finally I see the last downhill. I was such a great sensation!
I arrived in goal after 10:27 in 7th position. I didn’t feel extremely tired and I think I could have kept running, which is great. My watch recorded then 83.5km (counting the missing 2.5) and 3000+ positive high meters. Overall, I think that I had a good day but there is definitely place for a lot of improvements. I know that I am still a relatively inexperienced trail runner, specially when it concerns long distances. I am still discovering my limits and race after race I’m sure that I will improve a lot – I’ll keep training harder and harder.
I think that I had the right amount of kilometers during my training but I definitely missed more hill training (and that I felt the day after :-)). I’ll do a better homework next time.
My girlfriend Maibritt Skovgaard also had a great race and finished in 11:12 and 1st among women in the 50M. I am very proud of her, specially because it was only 2 weeks after she had run a 100km race. You can follow her updates here. We met a couple of times during the run, since we were running in opposite directions, and it really gave some energy!
Salomon Hammer Trail was an incredible experience. The race was extremely well organized and, as usual, there were a lot of nice and good runners to share the trails. The weather was AMAZING and I doubt that trail running can get much better than this in Denmark.
After the race there was nice grilled food to fill up the energies. It was great!
Will I be back? For sure! I haven’t decided yet what it will be next year: a better time on 50M or a new experience with 100M. To early to decide yet.
After such a great race I was feeling empty some days after, since I had nothing big in my calendar for this year. So I subscribed to WINFORCE 100, which I’m sure will also be a great experience.
My restitution period is finishing and I am eager to start the hard training again!
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