In the spirit of taking on new adventures, this year’s target has been the Salomon Xreid (www.xreid.com). It is a 123km multi terrain race over the Norwegian Hardangervidda. The race is also sponsored by Red Bull and so the blurb tends to be a little Xtreme, the best claim I found on the website was: “This is the landscape that played the role of ice planet in the Star Wars film “The Empire Strikes Back”.

For those of a less sensationalist nature I would describe the race as a single push, run/trot/walk in an area a bit like the Cairngorms but much bigger and with some pretty remote (but well serviced) mountain huts. There were check points every 20-30km and drop bags were transported to two locations along the route. The course could be described as undulating for the first 110km followed by a decent of 1000m into the village of Rjuken and a steep 1800m climb to finish on the summit of Gaustatoppen.

Source: www.xreid.com

And so it was after a several days of travel I pitched up with my Norwegian friend Frode to take part. Katie (my wife) was along to support too with a cow bell for good measure – which we never tired of hearing along the route!

The race was very well organised and the efforts by the sponsors was obvious to see: Journalists from local papers and several camera crews were there. Out with the Ronhills and tatty thermal tops and in with the pristine shoes and long white compression socks.

The race was started at midday by the blast of a shotgun and the 120 or so runners pushed over the start line at a pace that obviously wouldn’t be sustained for more than a few kilometres. Despite the prospect of multiple river crossings throughout the race, the crowd backed up when the first puddle crossed the path and the white compression socks were no more.

Frode and I pushed relatively hard for the first 73 km (fast walk up hill, run on the flats and downhill) on what was, in the most part, lovely mountain single track. We arrived at the first bag drop at Kalhovd and changed from fell shoes to road shoes.

The next 37km was along an unending gravel track (think Linn of Dee to Derry Lodge) and with the light fading so did our eye of the tiger. We slowed considerably on this section but somehow managed to maintain a reasonable position at the end of the leg.  The 1000m decent into Rjuken was not comfortable and the climb out of the valley was not much better!

We climbed 900m to the compulsory medical check point prior to the final ascent. After some confusion, it was clarified that the doctor didn’t need me to drop my shorts and Frode and I were passed as fit. We then headed off with more gusto through the wind and rain to the final summit passing a few silent souls along the way.  The breakfast finish was somewhat anticlimactic and the TV cameras were nowhere to be seen.

Given Frode and I hadn’t trained together (he lives in Norway) we were very well matched and it was nice to have raced the event as a team rather than take part as individuals. The snow had all but melted on the route and despite complaints from some of the competitors about the wind and rain, on balance; the weather compared favourably with a middling day in the Scottish mountains.

So, if you fancy a well organised race, with a fantastic atmosphere, in beautiful surroundings this might be the race for you. If you like keeping your white socks pristine… then perhaps not!

A short video made by one of the competitors can be found here: http://vimeo.com/100070747