Quick note: If you don’t read this whole report, make sure you at least see the highlights: (1) the bridge comparison photos and then (2) watch the video I linked to.
We actually registered for the 12 hour Salpaus Rogaining event in 2019 but it was cancelled two years in row. Finally on April 23, 2022, my friend Matti Virtanen and I were able to travel and run for 12 hours in the forest while trying to find as many checkpoints as possible. The following photo shows us arriving at 23:56, just a few minutes before closing. Read this if you don’t know what Rogaining is.
April 23, 2022 began at about 5.00 when I woke up, put on my race clothing, packed my bags, loaded the car and then drove 2.5 hours to Herrala near Lahti. The weather promised to be fairly warm in the day though cooler and nearly freezing in the late evening/night. I eventually decided to wear a hat lippis rather than a beanie pipo.
As usual in long Rogaining events, we had time (120 minutes) before the starting gun to check the map and plan our route. This took place in the local village school in Heralla in the cafeteria on children’s lunch tables. I ended up sitting near a student’s chair that had the name xxxxx on it. So cute!
We planned a route for about 65 kilometers, which is 15 fewer kilometers than we covered in 2019, because we knew there was abundant snow and flooding throughout the terrain. I decided to being running with 1.5 liters of water because I was well hydrated and I knew we would arrive at a water station in the next few hours. Luckily the organizers had prepared 3 different water stations for us at different locations on the route. This meant we only needed to have water for 3-4 hours at a time (I mixed Tailwind or other sports powder in the water for calories and other nutrients). I also had a soft flask Salomon water bottle with a filter in case we needed to collect water on the go from a river or lake. Food, however, is a different story; we had to carry everything we would eat during the entire 12 hours with us from the beginning. I brought about 15 small marmalade squares that contained lots of salt and sugar along with two kitkat bars, and a large hand full of chewy Werther’s Creamy Toffees.
At high noon the bell rang and we set off on our adventure. Our path first followed roads and trails with minimal bushwhacking through wild terrain. Not long thereafter, however, we had our first challenge to find a control (checkpoint) in the middle of a swamp in some wild terrain without many natural landmarks so we tried to follow the elevation lines – contour lines – around us. If you are unfamiliar with map navigation in general, just know that using only contour lines as points of reference is an advanced skill that requires considerable practice. I guess we both need more practice because this was a small pummi – mistake – that took some time to correct. This was our first taste of waist deep snow and extremely slow forward progression.
Spring has arrived quite late this year in Finland and the forest ground was still covered in snow in many places – some of it up the waist or as they say here munahanki (nut deep). Snow is certainly a challenge and slows down the average running pace, but snow wasn’t the only problem this year. Although spring was in fact quite late, it had recently arrived in full force which in turn caused severe flooding in local fields and forests. In fact, the organizers had to change the map to forbid us from using a certain bridge to cross a heavily flooded river. But that wasn’t the only bridge in play during the day and we soon had an opportunity to cross a bridge that was actually submerged under water! See the next photo comparison of how this second bridge appeared a few days before the race and then how it appeared on the actual race day! But please note that these photos are taken from different sides.
What an experience it was to cross a submerged bridge in water that was ice cold. Matti and I started from the side near the old yellow house. When we arrived, the first part of the bridge was floating off to the side so we wading in the water up to our waists to where the real bridge began. Unfortunately, the real bridge was under about 30 centimeters of water, so we had to use our feet to find the wooden planks. Although this was quite nerve-wracking, the cold water actually worked as a numbing agent and helped the pain in my hamstring dissipate for several hours. Yes, I have been dealing with a hamstring injury -tendonitis- for many months and I recently had an MRI that luckily revealed nothing too serious, so I am now doing physio therapy for a few months. Anyway, to really get a better sense of how crossing this bridge went, I will link to a video that my friend uploaded on YouTube (my friend was on another team in the same event). The bridge scene begins after about 12 seconds in the video.
I also like this video because it shows some of the trudging we had to do through deep snow.
And so we ran and hiked through mud, snow and even some dry trails throughout the day. Everything went quite well actually, other than hamstring discomfort: I was able to eat and drink enough to sustain a decent pace, I had no considerable stomach problems, I had no blisters. In the end, we ran 69.4 kilometers and stayed quite close to our original plan; except we did make one change that required crossing a cold stream!
Darkness soon arrived and we had a few hours remaining. We were able to find all the controls in dark … except one. The control we couldn’t find was number 95 and we even debated whether we should try to go for it at all: We had just under one hour to return to the finish line and at least 6 kilometers to go – mostly on roads but some across unknown terrain. We could cover that distance easily with fresh legs on dry trails, but with tired legs and unfamiliar territory to cross, we might have needed all the time we had. Nevertheless, we decided to try and get control 95. After some quick moving in the dark forest, we were unable to find 95 so we had to turn and sprint to the finish line. Matti’s stomach didn’t appreciate that final sprint. 🙂
In the end we came in second place by 10 points – to the same team that beat us by 10 points in 2019. Had we found 95, we would have won. But hey, I imagine the other teams could say the same thing “If we had gone for one more control…”.
I am grateful to the organizers for this amazing event and I hope to return in the future.