Arctic Circle Cross Border Hill Repeats: A Finland-Norway Runaround

People always talk about running XC (cross country) in school, but today, I truly ran cross-country.  I crossed an international border over and over again as part of my hill repeats.

Here, let me explain.  The Girl and I are up in Northern Finland for the week checking out the Northern Lights with some friends.  I’ll cover that more later in the weekend.  We’re staying in a tiny little cabin along a river.  Which, is about as descriptive as you can get about this pretty place.  If you can find the Middle of Nowhere on a map, we’re perhaps a kilometer or two from there.  We are heavily outnumbered by reindeer.  Serious.

Now during the day there isn’t a lot to do up here.  And by day, I mean all four hours of it.  Right now it lasts from roughly 10AM till 2PM, though the 9-10AM and 2-3PM timeframes could be debated.  So the last two days we’ve gone for runs.  Here’s one from yesterday where The Girl and I did a nice 10K from our cabin out to the nearby village, and then across a bridge to Norway:



It was a great little run, and we had no problems using YakTrax as usual for snow running (we have a long history of running in the snow together).  If you’re running on ice, they’re the best $20-$30 you can spend.


This day, we split up for our respective runs.  In my case, I decided to go for some hill repeats.  I did this because it was getting towards sunset and the light was pretty thin.  I didn’t want to be out on a lonely snow/ice road without light.  Whereas the bridge over the border/river up to the border shack had a handful of lights.


Note, when I say border crossing, I basically mean a small shack.  And even that is only used for large transport trucks.  All other cars just pass through.

In any case, after a 15-minute warm-up, I got started on my hill repeats.  Each time I’d start from just on the Finland side of the border, then up the hill to the border crossing, before recovering while returning across to the Norwegian side of the border.  You can see the beginning of the hill just at the start of the lights.


Rinse…and repeat…five times.


All my hill photos came out fuzzy, so instead, here’s the river where I started each set (and the official border between the two countries).


There’s a small two-sided sign in the middle of the river indicating the crossing of countries.  And in the case of traveling into Finland, there’s an additional sign indicating entering the European Union.


After my repeats I decided to then do a 10-minute tempo run back to the cabin, slightly up-hill, and passing a single reindeer.  Nothing fancy, but it was enough to trigger the FR630’s lactate threshold value along the way, so that was neat to see post-run.

I’d note that there were no Strava Segments on my route either of the first two days.  Nothing at all:


So I created one, from the border to the top of the hill.  Now, I’m literally the King of the Mountain.


I’ll be sure to do a real solid go of things on Friday before I leave, since the above was from an easier run. Open season for anyone who wishes to travel this far. Smile

Finally, for those curious on the tech side, I had a slew of watches with me.  I was using the FR235, FR630, and carrying along the FR920XT and Suunto Traverse.


In addition, I was also testing the Polar A360.  For the two optical units (FR235/A360), they were on my wrists (one each).  While the others were being toted along, mostly for data collection.  For example I was interested in the new Running Dynamics metrics on the FR630, and then using the FR920XT for gathering Stryd Power data.  And the Traverse, just cause I’m curious what it’s all about.  I figure it’s fitting that I’d use the Suunto Traverse while in Finland, given both Suunto and Polar are Finnish companies.



In any case – more to come!


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  1. David P.

    Nice. Can’t wait to read the review on the 235 and 630! Plus I’m a little jealous that you are seeing the northern lights!

  2. Scott E

    Looks like a bike run would have also net a KOM. Would be interesting to see how many HR drops there are at those temps.

  3. Gerald Brown

    My 5 year old wants to know if you have seen Santa’s reindeer….

  4. Rob

    Normally I’m pretty envious of your travels, Ray. This time, not even a bit. That looks so COLD. However, I guess that it’s good conditions to check optical heart rate monitors. Kippis!

  5. mixuli

    That A360 screen looks super bright and clear. is the optical sensor any good?

  6. Dan

    Good to see you still finding reasons to travel to surprisingly interesting parts of the middle of nowhere while self employed.

  7. Alex

    Good luck with seeing the northern lights, haven’t seen anything but grey clouds for weeks down in Helsinki:(

  8. Matthias

    So as you mentioned in your TT Spark review yesterday optical HR sensors tend to struggle in cold conditions during the first few min. of the run.
    Wondering if you did see the same pattern with the FR235?

  9. slartiblartfast

    Talk about getting away from it all!

  10. Looking forward for a post regarding the trip to Karigasniemi :) , accomodation, transport and of course the north lights

  11. Try to get some cross country skiing in if you can, it’s the best exercise for using your whole body and improving “kondisjon”

  12. Fabio

    No picture of your map log?! ahhhhh

    I’m always thrilled looking at the odd places you visit (run/cycle). As a travel enthusiast I love looking at maps.

  13. Mike B

    How about a prize for the first person to beat your KoM?

  14. giorgid

    You are only 235 km from Hammerfest. I have no idea what is there, but I like the name. I wonder if Sufferfest is nearby… I agree with an earlier post – I’m usually thinking about how I can get to some of the cool places you go. This one is too cool – literally – for me…

  15. Scott Kreitz

    Nice to see you get out of town for a bit an enjoy the peace and quiet of a snowy night

  16. Robert

    Makes me cold just looking at the ice and snow. I know its coming and I love running on snow – but just not quite ready yet.

  17. Geoff

    Not mentioned was the Ambit4 you’re secretly testing while in Finland…


  18. Joseph

    Suunto Traverse looks exactly like Fenix 3. Some originality please!

  19. Charlie Anderson

    That’s a great example of the fundamental problem with optical heart sensors (for me). I’m going to want to wear long sleeves and gloves, yet still view HR. No exposed skin at the wrists.

    Send snow to the midwest please.

  20. Peter

    I spent 3 winter months in Sweden (Kiruna) for work about 15 years ago. The grey din of perpetual twilight in your pictures brings back fond memories. I have a similar picture of a Norwegian border crossing sign from a road trip to Narvik.

  21. Hei Ray, that’s only a few hours (by car) from Tromsø, where I live now since three years.

    Good luck with watching polar lights, here it’s a bit cloudy for that (and no solar activity to speak of).

    Greetings and good luck, Frank

  22. SteveT


    This is why your site is so great. You can make the middle of nowhere . . . somewhere interesting.

    Love it!



    P.S. Any XC skiing?

  23. Mike Richie

    Brrrr those photos look coooold! Can you share any first impressions on the FR 235? Is the optical heart rate monitor (Elevate) about the same as the Vivosmart HR. Early reports there suggest it may be one the best optical HRMs for both activities and 24/7 monitoring, although looking forward to your experiences. Also, I was wondering if you used it for broadcasting on Ant+. Does it stop all other functions (i.e. activity recording) like the Vivosmart HR?

  24. Mark

    Liking the snow. Almost envious. But then again, I did drive to work in a convertible with the top down this morning. In late November. In metro Boston!

    If that trail would have been across the border between Oslo and Stockholm, would it have been that easy to cross? (insert disclaimer about Norway not being an EU member here). If you did that between Seattle and Vancouver, US border patrol would probably shoot you, or the RCMP would take you to get Timmys…

    • JR

      Norway is part of the Schengen area, so there’s no border control or need of travel documents if you are coming from EU (like Sweden).

  25. Ekku

    Welcome to Finland! This time of the year there is’t much daylight in the northern Finland:) try again in summer time then we have sunligth around the clock.

  26. Lex

    Do those new running dynamics also come to the 920XT?

    • Not at this point. But just an hour ago Garmin released a beta firmware for the Fenix3 adding it, so I’ve gotta believe we’ll soon see it on the FR920XT/Epix units (usually it takes a few weeks to a month for all of those features to ‘even out’ between product teams).

  27. J.K

    Suomi mainittu! Torilla tavataan! ;)

    • Anonymous Coward

      Narikkatorilla? Taitaa olla liian kaukana susirajalta, eikä varmaan polarilaiset tai suunnon väki jätä turhaa joutoaikaa.

  28. Gary B.

    I’m a big fan of a border crossing also, not sure why but fascinated me since being a kid.

    Can’t wait for the 235 and A360 reviews.

  29. David

    Hi Ray, how come there is so few reviews on Suunto Traverse out there and even you seem to mention it only very occasionally? I’m a garmin guy but I thought that for the Suunto lovers the Traverse was a new hit just like the fenix 3 or 920xt were/are.

    • Aleksander Helgaker

      I’ve been wondering the same. It seems to have got very little attention in general. When I first read the original announcement I had trouble figuring out what the deal was (who the target audiance is, functionality, etc).

    • It’s mostly because the launch was so confusing, so many outlets honestly lost interest – and then consumers never heard about it. I talk through it a bit in my ANT+ talk that I posted a week or so ago.

      I’m not yet entirely sure who the audience is. I like the unit, but it’s really hard to justify having less features for the same amount of money. The only physical differences (additions) are that it doesn’t have the bump at the bottom anymore, and does have vibration alerts. Beyond that, it’s all super-slimmed down feature-wise.

      I’m putting together a post next week to try and explain it a bit more.

    • David

      Thanks Ray, I would assume that the Kailash Collection (e.g. the 1000-bucks GPS Kailash 7R) is something you don’t normally review as it is not targeted for wide public, right? But if you ever come into contact with that watch, could you take and post some real pictures?

      Thanks again – really appreciate the work you do – I myself have bought two watches based on your reviews :-)

    • I’ve expressed my interest in getting some hands-on time with a unit to Suunto, as I figure it’d probably be something that’d work in terms of a quick post serving more as ‘an explainer’ if that makes sense. Since I think there’s a fair bit of confusion on it too.

  30. paolo

    Ray, welcome to visit us at Vertical and have a short lecture to our teams if you travel via Helsinki! And i cannot add in comment filed!!!

  31. Dirk

    Looks like fun!

    I’m guessing this means an in depth review of the FR235 is just arround the corner? :D

  32. Jac

    Awesome post! Out of curiosity, did you see any GPS acquisition time or accuracy issues being above the Arctic Circle?

  33. Nick Njegac

    Can’t wait for the FR235 review, looks like it’s got everything I really want in a running watch. I’ve got a long 7 day hike next year coming up(Kokoda trail in PNG), just wondering how you’d think this watch would go at hiking, along with all my current running, which is mainly cross country(though not literally cross country). My main attraction to it is the optical HR, I’d prefer that than a strap. Would be great to hear your thoughts on using it for Kokoda, cheers!

  34. AlbertMC

    Are you going to test some openwater swimming features across the river? :)

    • I limit my ‘freezing my balls off in ice water’ time to once per year. This was not an approved venue for that time.

    • Adrian Bengtson

      If you do want to try an exotic true cross-country open water swimming competition (without freezin your balls off) there’s always “Swim the Arctic Circle” (link to in Torne river between Sweden and Finland. I haven’t swam it (yet) but I’ve heard it’s quite a fun event. It’s also cross-time zone!

  35. Brody

    Looks fun! And I was complaining about the running weather here in Indiana!

  36. Roberta

    Can’t wait for your Polar A360 review!! Saving up the Birthday and Christmas money in case you give it your seal of approval!!!!

    Keep on running!!!

  37. Sheldon

    Hello Ray, could you please give me some info about the new HRM-Run, it is compatible with the garmin 920XT ? What is the new feature that will unlock on the 920xt ? Thanks

    • The new HRM-RUN is compatible with the FR920XT, but at this time Garmin hasn’t yet said whether or not they’ll add the Gen2 Running Dynamics to the FR920XT. They have however this weekend pushed out a beta update for the Fenix3 enabling that functionality. Typically the FR920XT/Fenix3/Epix stay in lockstep.

  38. SteveT


    Did you by chance (or invitation) get to stop by the Polar HQ? Seems like a good opportunity to see how things went 1+ yr later for all the products launched or attempted to launch/struggled (Flow,V800, V650, M450, M400, A300, A360) since then?


  39. Phil A

    Used a pair of the Yaktrax Run for the first time the other day and they are pretty awesome.