I reckon a decade or two back, I would have thrown in the towel after just 70 kilometers. Can’t say I recall much from that last outing in 2022 up north – just that it was a tough slog, a long and lonely one. Funny how the brain has this nifty little delete button that wipes away all the grim bits pretty efficiently. Last Sunday up in Lappland, the weather was a bit of a mixed bag. The days leading up to this years Nordenskiöldsloppet were all sunshine and those legendary northern lights. But come race day, we were greeted with a blanket of snowfall that just didn’t let up. And you know what that means – slow tracks all day long.

This year’s mode of travel was the night train from Stockholm. We rocked up to Murjek the next morning and hopped on the bus to Jokkmokk. It was one heck of a journey – one that really hammered home just how far up north Jokkmokk really is.

Once we touched down, we wasted no time hitting the tracks, venturing out and back along the infamous race course. The tracks were nothing short of spectacular, basking in the glorious sunshine. Now that’s what I call a proper welcome greeting.

Ski waxing sure sparks a fierce debate among skiers. I kept my peace on that front until we rolled into Norrbottens län. That’s when we stumbled upon our fellow German ski friend, Peter, right outside our cozy little cottage at the local campground. He kindly offered to give our skis the royal treatment the day before the race. And let me tell you, his handiwork was nothing short of splendid.

As Marcus and I sailed down a long downhill stretch early in the competition, we couldn’t help but grin and tip our hats to Peter’s craftsmanship as we breezed past other skiers. It was the first time I truly felt the difference between a good ski and a great one. Without Peter’s expertise, what was already a tough day would’ve been downright brutal. Hats off to the man!

And then came race day, along with a fresh dusting of snow. With a 5 a.m kick-off, the day started fairly early. As we arrived at the start line, there was a serene calmness in the air. We huddled around the tent, trying to ease those pre-race jitters. One thing I love about the Nordenskiöldsloppet is its laid-back atmosphere. Unlike Vasaloppet, where the crowds can be overwhelming, here there’s just around 600 racers. The vibe at the start isn’t as frantic, everyone knows they are in for a long day.

Getting to that start line feeling healthy and eager is always the biggest challenge, especially when you’re juggling family life. But being here with my friends, at a race that I’ve grown to love, is something special. We managed to stick together for the first hour or so, gliding along and soaking up the incredible atmosphere and scenery. Skiing with friends in this breathtaking landscape—it just doesn’t get any better than this.

As the race unfolded, it naturally began to stretch out. Knut bid adieu to our little crew pretty early on. Can’t quite recall exactly when we went our separate ways, but I found myself in a group of four after hitting the aid station in Granudden (71 kilometers). We had a fantastic dynamic, working together seamlessly and efficiently. Whether it was taking turns at the front or offering words of encouragement.

I didn’t feel particularly strong right from the start, so this group was a lifeline for me. They helped me push through, focusing on something other than my own struggles. By the time we reached Tjåmotis (87 kilometers), after a grueling uphill battle that saw us picking up a few more skiers along the way, I was pleasantly surprised to bump into my finish Swimrun mate Jaakko Mäkelä. He was there crewing for his brother. It was a real boost to see a familiar face in the middle of nowhere, when you least expect it.

Leaving Tjåmotis, I knew the toughest part of the course lay ahead. Those steep climbs up to Sågudden are an absolute killer. I was flying solo by this point, struggling to find my rhythm. But hey, it was all hands on deck—fight mode activated.

As the Nordenskiöldsloppet course loops back on itself, it’s great to see the faster skiers heading back home. I bumped into Ville Mäkelä, Jaakko’s brother, cruising comfortably in the Top 10. Saw Waxmeister Peter too, and just before the turnaround point, there was Knut. Hitting that small loop around the little forest in Njavve and heading back home was a sweet relief. But here were still a whopping 110 kilometers left on this journey.

Stopped off quickly at the Njavve aid station, grabbed some Maurten gels to keep the engine running, then back to tackling those climbs from the other side. Ran into Daniel, Agnes, Martin, and Ole, all in good spirits, over the next few minutes. But those steep climbs and never-ending uphill stretches in the next part were brutal. Couldn’t find a decent group, so I was flying solo for the most part. Just before Granudden (145 kilometers), I ran into another skier. At the Granudden station, Renee and Jonatan were waiting and they were buzzing with excitement. I left the station in high spirits, tagging along with the group.

Bälkasgårrå (159 kilometers) was my saving grace. I was counting down the minutes to my drop bag, getting colder by the second and wanted these dry clothes. Shifted into survival mode, and on the last long uphill toward the station, I had to let the others go. Spirits were low, but getting my hands on fresh clothes and loads of food at the aid station lifted my mood. When I left, a fellow Czech skier, Ondřej, joined me and it was a game-changer. We stuck together for the rest of the race, cruising through the cold and darkness.

Purkijaur (201 kilometers) was the last stop before the finish line. To my surprise, I started feeling better after that station, just in time for some additional nasty climbs ahead. We caught up with some other competitors, and as soon as I recognized the tracks, and knew Jokkmokk was near, relief washed over me. Without Ondřej, the last part would have been a nightmare.

Crossing that finish line again after a grueling day, it was a moment of pure relief. I dug deep, don’t even know where I found all that energy, especially with my back, shoulders, and elbows screaming in pain for hours. Thankfully, one of the incredible helpers took off my skis, and I relaxed beside the finish line fire, utterly spent. What a day. What a night.

This race, it’s a proper iconic beast, no doubt about it. Honestly, I’d completely forgotten just how massive this course is, how punishing the distance can be. Despite the grueling challenge, there’s so much positivity wrapped up in this competition. From the helpers to the organization to my fellow competitors, there’s this special vibe that I truly appreciate and hold dear.

And last but certainly not least, massive thanks to Fischer, One Way, Balingsta, Maurten, Coros, Jokkmokks SK and the Nordenskiöldsloppet Organization for making all of this possible. Even though I might not feel it today, looking back, it was one heck of a ride.