Beitostølen Skimaraton: pain is weakness leaving the body. It’s when your spirit gets up and leaves that you’re in trouble
Since the end of last Winter much hard work had been done in the form of competition, mainly in the form of hill or terrain (XC) races. There had been some brutal courses with brutal injuries to match, most notably during the Salomon Tour Trail series. Rollerskiing had been non-existent over the autumn due to a touch of shoulder bursitis, more than likely brought on by poor skate ski technique, so when the first snow fall arrived at the end of October I was keen to get out on the snow. Unfortunately the snow didn’t last and all I had to show was a few km skate skiing from Vestmarksetra. October is generally a month of less activity, both competition and training wise. The calmer period is much needed after a full on September and is a good way of adjusting the body prior to the ski season. Normally the seasons first ski race appears in January. However, this year Beitostølen was organising the seasons first tour race in early December, and rather fortuitously, Engelski Junior was to have a training camp at Beito on the weekend of the race. The opportunity was too good to miss, although I was likely to get a pasting with a strong field in evidence. Still the race would provide a good workout and some vital information as to how my preparation for the Winter was going.
XC Ski Panacea
Beito is a pearl for cross country skiing in Norway. Sjusjøen may be more popular and potentially has better facilities, but what it lacks is the stunning mountain scenery that Beito has being on the edge of Jotunheimen, the largest mountain range in Norway.
Furthermore, Beito has a snow guarantee, having stored snow from last season over the Summer. On arriving at Beito it was plain to see that the tracks had a good sole based on the stored snow from last season. I was aiming to race for the first time with a heat exchanger (Lungpust) so I opted to test it out. On the eve of the race I’d strapped my skis on virtually outside my cabin and scooted about on the tracks in and around the stadium where the race was due to start. After practicing with rock skis for the last couple of weeks my racing skis felt good, although the cold temp of -16C was reducing glide quite considerably. The Lungpust worked well and was a good alternative to a mask, usually a necessity when temperatures exceed -15C. The only negative with the Lungpust is the amount of gob it produces and this ultimately ends up freezing on the racing suit giving it the look of a Van Gogh neo-impressionist painting.
I am sure that everyone that competes, at whatever level, has a nemesis somewhere. My nemesis is a guy called Arvid that usually beats me by approx 1 minute no matter what the competiton or distance. Over a period of about three years and twenty races, Arvid has beaten me in all but one race by a solitary minute, whether it be cross country skiing, roller skiing or trail/hill running. Arvid probably doesn’t know or care who I am and is probably too busy looking up the result list to care. However, I knew who he was and was determined at each race to take him out. I did manage to kick his arse once in a terrain XC race which gave me immense satisfaction, thinking that at last I’d turn the screw on my nemesis. This wasn’t to last however, as Arvid continued to whoop me by a minute in all events post this.
Espen’s nemesis, as it happened, just turned to be me. I only discovered this after he introduced himself to me as a frustrated athlete who was always playing second fiddle to yours truly. I was rather embarrassed, but yet also flattered as he reeled off the events I’d beaten him in by a matter of a few minutes or indeed seconds. Even though Espen had showed vast improvement over the last few years, whatever he did I was able to match, less one minute or so. Even when he improved his Birkie time by 40 min and he thought he’d done me, I’d improved mine by 41 min. There was no escape and it look as though Espen was doomed to be second best in his little dual. As it was Espen was warming up prior to the race and came over to say hello. He made some excuses in advance to defend what he presumed was to be another loss, we wished each other good luck and continued with our warm up. I went to visit some of my former Bakery team-mates, and now new Skigo team-mates, prior to the start and we did the usual last minute discussions of whether to add the extra panic wax layer or not. The temperature at start was again -16C and conditions were slow. I opted to bypass powder glide as it was the first race of the season and I was likely to get caned no matter what I had under my skis. HF violet grip wax afforded great grip.
As loyal reader(s) will know I have a tendency to balls things up if given the chance. I’ve had my load of poor starts and incidents in the starting rows of races and it was beginning to look like I’d actually learnt something over the years after several mistakes by myself and others. Well, never underestimate the stupidity of mankind. Read on….
Arms and Legs
There were about 6 tracks on the grid to acommodate about 100 skiers or so. However, I observed that the 6 tracks immediately went into two tracks on crossing the starting line, a rather odd lay-out from the organiser. Noting this fact and aiming to start quite high up on the grid I tucked in about three rows behind the first row containing messers Aukland, Aukland, Østensen & Tveiten. As the starting pistol went off, to my immediate right a gap appeared in the track to my side. I’d have to move into this track on crossing the starting line or double pole out of the tracks until I could get a slot, so this immediate vacancy appeared very attractive. I leapt out of the tracked into the aforementioned space, but something went bizarrely wrong. I’m still not sure what it was. It could have been a ski tip catching the snow or a misplaced pole or contact with the guy behind, but whatever it was caused me to smash down into the snow at high force. There was a lot of commotion and I can only equate it to being caught in the January sales stampede on Oxford Street or Harrods. Even though there was no bargain sofa on reward I retrieved the situation and was up in a flash only to be taken down yet again. There were arms and legs everywhere. The second fall came in the melee and resulted in a rather hefty guy landing on me at speed and smashing my left hand down into the pole. Mr Hefty was none too amused and swore violently as his full weight hammered into my thumb. I was unable to retort as I had my Lungpust in position and was only able to utter a muffled sorry that probably sounded like a quack through the duck attractor. At this stage we hadn’t even crossed the starting line and I’d already been decked twice. Even for me that is some going.
On eventually crossing the starting line, now at the back of the field, shooting pains starting seering threw my thumb. This rather strange experience had been encountered before. Whilst performing a lesser art of skiing I’d had a rather spectacular wipeout in the Poconos and had jabbed a ski pole hard into the ground resulting in a broken thumb. Immediate visions of ths came flowing back and I remembered how the pain came and changed in stages as the extent of the injury was revealed. I twigged that I’d probably done the thumb, but adrenalin was coursing through my veins and the endorphin production factory was now working overtime. Together with the -16C temperature numbing the pain temporary moderation of the incident allowed me to focus on other matters at hand. I was now at the back of the field and the fear of potentially coming last brought me back to reality.
I was able to gun it and already by the time we had reached the ascent up the mountain I had passed a dozen or so people. My intentions at this stage were to essentially suck it and see and wait to see just how much grief the thumb was going to give me. The shooting pains had started to come, but fortunately they were superceded by a rather more pleasant stinging and warm sensation, no doubt as the body’s natural defence system was kicking in. So far so good and the ascent largely demanded diagonal stride which I was able to accommodate without too much discomfort.
On the continued ascent up to the first drink station at 7k, I passed a few others including Espen, for who I was his nemesis. I gave Kristin some encouragement on the way up and began to get into a good rhythm. I also passed the Bearded Wonder who shouted words of encouragement as I passed him by. How nice I thought until I realised he was going to stick to me like glue over the next 7k while I did all the donkey work. I checked the GPS on reaching the drinking station, 32 min had passed since the start. I felt in good nick, despite the thumb, and wasn’t in need of taking on board liquid so early into the race. It wouldn’t have been possible without much difficulty in any case due to the duck attractor in my mush and my knackered left hand. On reaching the top of the alpine pistes the terrain became much more undulating. Up to this point I had made good ground on team colleague Tille. She was about 30 secs in front and I had been gaining on her throughout the ascent. On the top, my intention had been to open up and cream it to get back some time after the nincompoopery at the start. However, conditions weren’t facilitating good glide, at least not with my skis, and I had to work hard to keep Tille in my sights. At both 10k and 14k there were two short descents of approx 50m in height. Both descents confirmed my worst fears that my peers in front had superior glide. I really had noone else to blame having opted to avoid powder. I was able to reel in the group in front on these two occasions, but it was painful work. My thumb had now gone over into throbbing modus and the rather pleasant stinging feeling was long gone. Double poling was proving difficult without jarring the thumb further and I just had to grin and bear it. Furthermore yo-yo-ing back and forth with the Bearded Wonder was starting to do my head in. His pleasantry wasn’t courting favour seeing as he wasn’t prepared to pull his weight in the field.
At the second drink station after 14k, I managed to remove the duck attractor and get down some liquid. I wasn’t looking forward to the final descent as I knew what was to come. Memories of this years Tolver’n came flooding back when I’d done the race on 16 year old rock skis and had pissed on everyone on the ascents, only for to have them do me on the descent on the way in as I double poled. Sure enough on the way down I was picked off one by one. The Bearded Wonder took me first and informed me how shit my glide was as he flew past. Thanks! Like I really needed that. “Quack” I shouted back in response.
Over the next few km several others, who probably thought I was out of sight on the way up, also zoomed by. Thankfully they didn’t rub it in by telling me how shit my glide was, it being pretty apparent to all. Suddenly a familiar shape appeared. It was Espen. Espen was about to do his arch nemesis. He powered on past, but unfortunately for him the tracks levelled out and I was able to stick with him for a km or so until the descent continued. Then he just disappeared into the horizon. Well good for him I thought. It’s great that it was looking to be his day.
At the start of the descent I’d clocked the GPS registering just over 16k. The organisers had reported the race as being 22k, but I was already getting suspicious that there was more to this course than we’d been informed. I was preparing myself for several extra km knowing that once the descent was over we would have to circuit the lit track. Halfway down the descent I started preparing the body for an extra 6km which I though may be at hand. By this stage the thumb had had enough and I was working hard to still keep brain engaged. At the bottom of the hill we entered the stadium in preparation for the lit track circuit. The track winds back on itself several times and gives one the opportunity to see at very close hand just who is in front and who is behind all at the same time. I reached the stadium as the bearded wonder was exiting indicating that I’d lost probably about 500 m to him on the descent. As I was exiting the stadium I met Kristin and she gave me some good encouragement to keep up the good work. I quacked back as best I could. Then in the distance coming towards me I could see a familiar figure. It was Espen. I could see that he was giving me the stare with great satisfaction. We didn’t acknowledge each other as we didn’t need to. As we passed each other I could see it in his eyes that he just knew that he’d done me good and proper like a kipper.
I plodded on trying in vein to keep my technique in order. I reached the Danskebakken. Fortunately I was out of view of the stadium and noone could see me do the bum shuffle technique up this short pathetic little hill into the stadium. I crossed the finish line with relief. It had been a good workout in many ways and as a “bonus” I’d had the usual early season mental workout during the race. The plan now was to get off the gloves, view the damage and get to an Accident & Emergency asap. The only problem was that this was a 40k drive, and on getting there I discovered that the nearest X-ray machine was a further 110k drive away. After visiting A&E I didn’t have time to do a 300k round trip for the X-ray as I had to get back to see how Engelski Junior was getting on.
I managed to sort out Junior and gained some respite as I sent him off for a restitution swim. I used the opportunity to visit my good Skigo colleagues to review the race frivolities. So without poles, and with six pack in hand, I skied down for a good chin wag to regail the days tribulations.
Simen Østensen 1:08:56
Anders Aukland 1:10:08 (age class winner)
Nikolai (Team Skigo) 1:22:44
Petter (Team Skigo) 1:28:11
Torbjørn (Team Skigo) 1:32:45
Morten (Team Skigo) 1:34:47
Stig (Team Norgeshus) 1:39:17
Linda (Team Skigo) 1:46:16 (3rd place)
Tille (Team Skigo) 1:50:46 (5th place)
Espen (Team NPro) 1:54:04
Engelski (Team Legevakt) 2:02:54
Kristin 2:08:56 (8th place)
Last place 2:23:03
With rollerskiing being one of my prime out of season activities it is probably no surprise at the rate that I get through a pair. Rollerskis tend to last between 1500-2000 km in my experience which means that I usually get through a pair after 9-12 months of hard use. Previously I have had rollerskis from Pro Ski and Swenor and I opted to experiment with SkiGo this time round.
The model I purchased was the XC Classic Carbon S from SkiGo for lightweights, ie a weight restriction of 75Kg. The same model is also available for pie eaters over 75Kg in weight. On opening the box one is pleasantly surprised by the contents. The skis have a design that is pleasant on the eye, however I doubt that there are too many skiers bothered about that. The skis have a longer stem than both Pro Ski and Swenor and also robust splash guards over the wheels.
Weight wise there isn’t much to separate SkiGo from other skis that I have used previously. With bindings Swenor Fibreglass weight in at 200g heavier per pair. Despite their extra 5cm in length the SkiGo rollerskis weigh in identical to Pro Ski with aluminium stem. In addition to having a longer stem, the SkiGo skis are also noticeably wider by several mm.
The SkiGo wheels have also a noticeable greater diameter and are narrower than Pro Ski yet broader than Swenor.
The rolling resistance by hand, ie with no wait applied to ski, is much greater than both Pro Ski & Swenor. The manufacturer states that the rollerskis afford a more ski-like experience presumably due to the overall greater dimensions.
The route for the field test was chosen to be through Maridalen and up to Grefsenkollen. The variety in terrain would yield a good opportunity to test the skis using different techniques. Furthermore, it was absolutely pissing down which would give an added challenge to the test. Not only would aquaplaning and grip issues raise their heads, but both squashed frogs and slugs would be out in force to add extra treachery to the course. Slugs and rollerskis do not mix and the only thing that was missing was autumn leaves and early Winter grit.
For the test I had managed to coerce my old adversity Rune out for a zone 3 session. Rune is a far better double poler than I am, but he promised he would go easy, particularly as I’d warned him about the SkiGo wheels in advance. Due to their extra resistance on spinning the wheels, I’d informed him that the wheels were like Pro Ski, ie C-2.5 as opposed to C-2. Rune immediately saw through the bullshit within two minutes of rollerskiing out of Brekke as I was able to freewheel away from him and his Swenors down a gentle decline. With this followed accusations that the wheels were in fact C-1.5! This was a big, but pleasant surprise.
Immediate impressions were that the skis were a little clumsy seeing as they were much larger than what I was used to. However, this impression disappeared after about two minutes. Performance-wise the skis were equivalent to both Pro Ski and Swenor whilst double poling. A bonus though is that the extra length and fibre-glass stem affords good insulation against vibration and handles small potholes very well. However, on getting to Låkeberget the lower friction of the SkiGo wheels became more apparent as I left Rune behind on the short downhill, and with that came more C-1.5 cat calls.
Liquid Sunshine Test
On getting to the church ruins at Maridalen the heavens really opened and it started to bucket down. In many areas water was now washing over the roads and was increasing drag. The splash guards were functioning extremely well keeping my boots and ankles dry. However, the rest of me was saturated. I’d been double poling up until this stage and the conditions weren’t giving me much hope of getting up Grefsenkollen, the target for the equipment test. On getting to Skar I opted to try out some double pole with kick on a short incline just to see how treacherous the conditions actually were. I was expecting to slip and not get any grip whatsoever on the kick stride. Surprisingly the wheels gripped the tarmac without any reduction in friction. On the way back out of Skar I intended to attempt to test the braking options on the decline where speeds of 40 kmh are easily reached into the bend at the bottom. I was very wary of speed due to the now dangerous conditions so I began to plough at the top of the decline expecting to mimic Bambi on ice. However, the extra stem length facilitated braking and the fantastic grip from the wheels meant that I was able to make a wide V without fear of slipping across the road. This really was totally unexpected and a positive bonus as Rune became less aggressive on the downhill stretches whilst I was able to rollerski as I would under normal dry conditions.
The way back to Brekke was a real pleasure despite the conditions. The skis afforded increased confidence in the conditions and it was able to go harder than normal without having to resort to double poling. Another positive was revealed up the short ascent to Låkeberget. Diagonal technique worked a dream with good grip and also great directional stability. Despite the extra stem length the rollerskis were actually a joy to perform the diagonal stride with, and as the manufacturer states, actually mimic the feel of diagonal stride on snow.
The real test was to come as we reached Lachmannsvei and the start of the incline up Grefsenveien. A 200m ascent over 4km in atrocious conditions would not normally be my idea of fun. However, I was keen to see how the new skis would handle a 5-20% incline at various stages of the ascent. Up to this point Rune on Swenor skis had been holding back and keeping in touch with ease. However, from Lachmannsvei it was clear that his grip was suboptimal and I was able to ease away without too much effort, remaining in zone 3. The skis performed exceptionally well and I was able to double pole with kick all the way up to Grefsenkollen without a single slip back, which I would normally have experienced with both Pro Ski and Swenor.
Overall the skis from SkiGo handled the conditions exceptionally well and far better than anticipated. The rollerskis have a closer feel to skiing on snow with both diagonal stride and double pole with kick. No discernible difference was experienced double poling, though rolling resistance was slightly less downhill. The wheels handled the wet conditions well and even on steep hills did not slip. Furthermore, the extra stem length gave good directional stability and also facilitated ploughing. The skis can be highly recommended, particularly for beginners. The extra stability and ease of braking, particularly in wet conditions, should give a real confident boost to experienced skiers who are new to rollerskiing. For experienced rollerskiers the skis are still recommended, though the benefits are reduced somewhat due to greater efficiencies in technique. However, the rollerskis give a closer feel to skiing on snow when not double poling. Sprint ace Johan Kjølstad has used the same model over the last few weeks and is also impressed with their handling. Well recommended!
5 days into the new ski season (preparation starts 1st May) and already a golden nugget of a race to look forward too. Råskinnet (see last years blog http://engelski.wordpress.com/2011/05/02/raskinnet-mud-sweat-and-beers/) is an extreme running race through lakes, streams and in particular the quagmires of Nordmarka. It’s a great workout and tremendous fun that can be recommended for all, including those not focussed on time. The main goal for many is just to finish. The kudos one gets for being a real “Råskinn” is well worth the effort.
Waking up on the morning of the race, a peak out of the window showed that King Winter was back in town. +2C and a blizzard meant that the race looked like it was going to be one of the more extreme versions, aka 2003 (see http://ht.ly/aItvg).
Fortunately after breakfast it had ceased snowing and it was time to start ferrying the Juniors around to various sporting events and birthday parties. By the time the kids had been shipped out and lunch was wolfed down it was already 45 min prior to start. At least things began to brighten up with occasional sunshine and temperature now peaking at a distinctly tropical +8C.
With a Wave 2 start out of 5, I was eagerly looking forward to a smoother race than last year. I started in wave 1 out of 1 then and chaos ensued as it proved difficult to get past slower runners in the more technically challenging areas of the course. Although there were going to be alterations to the course, I knew that we would have to traverse the Sognsvann lake a couple of times and probably run up the Langmyr quagmire for about 5 km. Last year I’d ran in Nikes vintage 1996. Not being able to find any gaffer tape to hold them together this year I opted to bite the bullet and bring out the Inov8s, a potentially risky act knowing that the swamps are known for their consumption of expensive running attire.
On getting to the starting area I had 15 min in order to do a brief reconnaissance during my warm up of the start and finishing zone. I immediately spotted that we would be starting in the opposite direction to last year and that the trail would take us directly to Sognsvann. This appeared to be a much easier start. Last year we had to negotiate Hell Hill, one of the ski jumps, and the nearby farmers fields before getting a brief taste of swamp action before entering the lake. Still you don’t look a gift horse in the mouth and after watching wave 1 start, I lined up about 3 rows back in wave 2. During the 5 minute wait I looked down to see in the myriad of starters that the competitor to my left was wearing a brand spanking new pair of Inov8 Talons. Lovely! I’d noticed that he’d been looking down at my feet too. Just as Volkswagen Beetle drivers toot their horns at each other we engaged eye contact, not difficult being about 3 inches from each other as we were as tightly packed as sardines. I laughed and said “Nice shoes! That’s real bravery giving them an initiation like this”. My erstwhile Inov8 Talon colleague seemed pleased to have found a shoe brother and commented that my shoes were well worn in. I retorted that he’d done a fantastic job tying his shoes laces into a beautiful triple knot tucked in to the “foot” bow. He said that he wasn’t taking any chances as he had heard about the ravenous swamps. It was then that I began to feel self-conscious. I had only tied a double knot in my laces and hadn’t even been arsed to tuck them in. Was this going to be enough?
When the shotgun went off I was still trying to digest the three cheese sandwiches I’d scoffed for lunch. As proved earlier, this is a great tactic eating just prior to start. With a stomach in motion like a Zanussi, my body was diverting blood flow to digest the food as quickly as possible in order to avoid a regurge. This lack of blood flow and accompanying feeling of apathy meant that I opened in a rather casual fashion, a good move if one is to avoid lactic acid build up early on. In no time at all we had gotten to the lake traverse. In contrast to last year we were all bone dry and mud free by this stage. It was just a case of hopping straight in to the water knowing that the critical area was going to come as the depth gradually increased to the gonad line. Sure enough it came: the equivalent of a snail having it’s antenna touched and rapidly diverting back into it’s shell. Steady as she goes. I’d learnt from last year not to be too enthusiastic in the water. It was important to smile to the admiring papparazzi who were busy clicking away as though Madonna was in town. The lake was accomplished without a full submersion this time around. However, when I got out of the water I felt as though I had lost my shoes. I looked down to see that they were still there. I’d been fooled by the coolth. My feet had gone completely numb and as I ran out of the lake up on to the embankment any sense of feeling in my feet had long gone.
Best of Both Worlds
On my way out of the lake and the gentle ascent to Langmyr I was being accompanied by a runner with silver hair. I couldn’t figure out whether the individual was male or female in our battle through Langmyr and the next 5km of mud. We kept passing each other and just when one of us thought they had burnt the other off we would pass each other again. My mind was now preoccupied with finding out what this silver fox thing actually was. I eventually opted for the fact that the individual in question must be a hermaphrodite as I really didn’t have a clue and needed all my brain power to concentrate on getting me through the swamps. My orienteering skills were now coming into their own. Fortunately the map reading skills weren’t required because that bit of orienteering is the bit that I’m really shit at (errr isn’t that a critical part of orienteering?). However, I am good at speed and bounding from tree root to tree root in order to avoid the bogs and I was being quite successful and managing to overtake a few. Now and again the tree roots would disappear and with it I would descend into the brown stuff, usually down to the knees. Extracting myself from the brown gunge was a slow process and one that demanded the use of much energy. After each extraction I’d have to reduce pace in order to get the heart down into a reasonably comfortable I-4 zone. At one point, one of my co-runners pointed out a loose shoe in the depths of the quagmire. We never did see the runner with one shoe and assumed that he/she quit the race soon after.
We were offered a brief respite from the swamps. After rounding the small lake Nedre Blanksjø we were faced with essentially a 10M wall to climb. A scramble up this proved quite successful and my Inov8s were clearly giving me a good grip advantage compared to many of my competitors. The respite was brief, however, and the squelch of the swamps called once again. The mud factor this year was extremely good and much higher than last year. There were many occasions where I would slip into the mud down to waist level which would demand a lot of energy to get out.
Fly Like a Kiwi, Swim like a Hippo
From Nedre Blanksjø the swamps tended to gradually subside as we entered more jungle-like zones. I was pleased that I’d once again opted to wear sunglasses. Last year they’d come in handy in order to deflect the blood out of my eyes after getting a tree branch catapulted at my head by the runner in front. This year was to be no different. Thwack! A huge pine branch was launched in my direction at the speed of light by the runner in front in the dense undergrowth. I had actually been garotted before I heard the thwack. I was left holding my neck as we carried on running. Fortunately it appeared as though it was a meer fleshwound.
Up out of the jungle I saw a course marshall. I felt sure that it was time for the ski jump facade so I quizzed him if we were nearby. He pointed down and we legged it 40m down at a 70% gradient gliding through the air like a Kiwi. A bit more swampy stuff at the bottom then it was time for a 60m ascent back to the top. Due to queues forming I opted to take it easy, though I went on the outside to overtake any slackers that couldn’t keep up with the pace. There didn’t seem any point in stressing and I used the opportunity to plan what was to happen next. The hermaphrodite was back along side and it’s long silvery mane was starting to piss me off. We had been yoyoing to and fro continuously for about 5 km and it was time to do something about it. As we got to the top of the ski jump I opened my legs and showed my class (Colemanballs!). The terrain had suddenly gotten much easier with heather and tree roots being the only obstacles. The Hermaphrodite was well and truly burnt off and I wasn’t to see it again for the duration of the race.
After the “easy” section I began to prepare myself for what was to come next. The real severe swamps occur at the North end of Sognsvann and we were in the vicinity. The long grass suddenly became damp and then saturated as we entered the periphery of Bog City, a gorge completely enfilled with mud with photographers on either site waiting to capture the unfortunate joggist. Last year many runners had clung on to the edge of the rocks to avoid the suctioning swamps. This year the course marshalls had wisened up and were ordering people out into the middle of the beckoning bog. A few people had made a break on the right hand side of the gorge away from the course route and managed to evade much of the cavernous mud. However, they did not evade the bollocking from a course marshall and the rest of us just manned up, put our noses in the air and dived in.
My first step out of the squelchy long grass into the bog was rather unfortunate. Up to now I’d been watching where others in front had been putting there feet. Now I’d lost concentration. It was just like out of a silent comedy film with the lead stepping into a puddle. The guy in front (Stan Laurel?) stepped to the left and only went into the water covered bog, up to his ankles. I (Oliver Hardy?) stepped to the right and encountered a hole and ended up in the gunge up to my waist. Fortunately rescue was at hand as a big beefy guy came from behind and pulled me out. I thanked him and continued my course through the watery bog. On occasion I would get stuck and sink again down to waist level. This meant having to extract myself by getting on all fours, by immersing my hands too.
Tough Mudder? More Like Puff Mudder
After negotiating the tough gorge quagmire it suddenly started to hailstone. Great! What could possibly go wrong now? We were nearing the second lake traverse at the North end of Sognsvann. However, before getting there we entered another long grassy area followed by more marsh land. I was doing my best to follow in the footsteps of the guy in front and succeeding quite well. That is, until yet another comedy moment as I slid off the long grass into yet another mud hole waist deep. This maneuver was accompanied by a shout of “Oooh ya fucka!!” as cramp surged through my left calf muscle. My immediate thoughts were that I was doomed. The immediate surge of cramp always sets in a panic as I flounder wondering how long I’ll be in agony for. Fortunately my panic attack was longer than the cramp, and it forced me to take evasive action to get out of the hole. The paparazzi were encamped on the embankment and weren’t able to view my demise, at least not at this stage. The traverse across Sognsvann proved to be once again unproblematic though my feet were once again numb on exiting the lake.
The Wheels Have Come Off
On exiting the lake I knew that the most technically challenging part of the course was now behind us. What was next on the list was three annoying diversions away from the SRM track around Sognsvann. At least this year I was prepared and knew what was in store. I powered up the 40-60m ascents in each case and ensured that I gave gas on the descents. This was a very successful approach as most people were resting on the downhill stretches. At the start of the third and final diversion I made out a familiar sight. It was Mr Kondis. He’d beaten me by about 10 secs last year in Sørkedalsløpet claiming that he wasn’t very good at terrain running (yeh right!). Jeez he looked to be either taking it easy or struggling a bit. As I got closer I saw that it was the latter and that it looked as though the wheels had come off. I said hello and offered words of encouragement as I went past.
On the way down I gunned it and we eventually came to the field leading to the 2nd ski jump. Across the field I overtook a couple more, giving words of encouragement as I passed then posed for a photographer. As I approached the bottom of Hell Hill I’d thought that I’d left Mr Kondis for dead. How wrong I was as he completely floored it and tore up the hill being egged on by a fellow bakeries team-mate taking pics. As I ran up the tunnel of people cheering us on, I couldn’t react to his attack and two others also overtook me on the way up. At the top I could see that Mr Kondis was already close to the bottom of the hill and the other two geezers were also in front. At this point I was determined to not mentally disintegrate and decided that no matter what, I was going to take out all three before the finishing line, now only about 300m away. I quickly dealt with the other two geezers on the way down from Hell Hill, but could still see that Mr Kondis had a big lead in front of maybe 20m. I was approaching zone I-5 and miraculously was able to take out another gear as I began to eat into his lead. As we cornered into the finishing straight I was now only about 5m behind with approx 100m to go. A voice from the crowd called out to cheer me on (Ingrid?) and I gunned it down the home straight willing Mr Kondis to gear up as I shouldered him. I acknowledged him hoping he would react and tore through to the finish line. We high fived and congratulated each other with smiles all round.
I’d had a great race and finished in a descent time of 1h 1min & 46secs, enough to afford 484th place out of about 1500 starters. At the finish we picked immaculate white Råskinnet T-shirts as prizes. I was disappointed that there was not washing powder prize this year, as I had a real job to do on my kit when I got home.
In the car park I met a few of the guys that I’d ran with for the most part. I’d managed to pull away from them on the less technically demanding parts at the end of the course. I got one of the guys to take a picture of me as a souvenir of Råskinnet 2012. It transpired that he lost a shoe in the swamps and had done a remarkable job to finish. After getting home it was off to pick the Juniors up from their afternoon events. I picked up Engelski Weenie from a birthday party and became engaged in discussions with one of the fellow parents. That is until rather embarrassingly, one of the other parents broke in to point out that I still had an ear full of mud. Did I give a shit! Absolutely not. I retorted that I was a genuine “Råskinn” and left the party with a feeling of pride.
As usual Kondis have put together some great race reportage and pictures. These can be viewed at http://www.kondis.no/sylta-og-bjerkreim-vant-raaskinnet.5051017-127676.html
Øystein Sylta (winner) 41:33
Gjermund TUB bike 42:32
HC TUB 56:26
Ole-Martin TUB 57:36
Class winner 46:18
Mr Koll 56:54
Engelski TUB 1:01:46
Nils Arne 1:06:30
Mr Kondis TUB tri 1:06:48
Tilla Marie TUB 1:12:06
Mr TUB2 TUB 1:16:08
Last place 2:12:06
A Cure for Cramp?
The People’s Fest
It had been 5 weeks since Holmenkollen Skimaraton (sic). There had been many long trips technique training, intervals and skate skiing trials on the World Cup circuit. However, something had been missing. 5 weeks without a start number on the chest was bearing its toll. Fortunately Ringkoll-løpet was around the corner, a fast 24km race in a beautiful part of the world. Ringkoll-løpet is a confidence boosting race usually held about a week in advance of the Birkebeiner. It is just long enough so that one can go hard all the way and can be used as the weeks hard workout.
Better Red than Dead
Ringkoll-løpet is a circular route around the Øyangen lake. Øyangen is famous for being the lake that Leon Trotsky landed on on his exile from Stalinist Russia in the mid 30s. Trotsky stayed in a cabin near Kolltjern until the secret police interrupted his tranquillity. Trotsky had been given a choice of either exile in Madagaskar or Oslo. Seeing as there was a distinct lack of snow, wooden planks and tram-line tracks in Madagaskar, Trotsky naturally chose Oslo. Trotsky was a hirsuit geezer and presumably maintained his sculptured looks by the use of Universal klister for his fine bouffont, KB 20 spray klister for the beard, and VR70 for the ‘tache. The latter selection notably gave way to the slogan “Better red than dead”, probably.
An unseasonably mild start to March was creating havoc with the snow tracks in all but the highest of places. Fortunately there had been a big dump of snow mid week which had been enough to revive the tracks. I’d managed to convince Mr App from the team and arch nemesis Rune to participate, and picked them up nice at a reasonable hour for the 80 min drive to Ringkollen. Bright sunshine met us upon our arrival at the stadium. Upon picking up start numbers we met Trude and Guri, highly competent skiers and likely class winners. I’d been able to hang on to Trude for about 35 km during Holmenkollen skimaraton (sic) and she only pipped me at the finish by 1 minute. She had however, slagged off my downhill skills, or rather distinct lack of, and I was determined to show her what the embarassment of being beaten by an Englishman felt like. Guri had stiffed me by 10-15 min in the same race and I thought that odds were stack against me beating her today.
Conditions were good, but with still 90 min to go before race start the sun was going to do some damage to the tracks. This had to be accounted for in our waxing strategy. However, when Rune caught sight of my waxing case it brought about streams of laughter. Being a practical type (read tight wad) I’d opted for a bread bin as my waxing case. Mrs Engelski hadn’t been too keen to share the bread bin with both Fiber Aktiv bread from the bakery and ice klister, so when I bought her a new bread bin I inherited the old one. Pro!
I had sprayed KB20 klister in the grip zone and opted for Universal klister with HF red wax on top. This afforded good grip in the starting area, but conditions were going to deteriorate rapidly, especially since start was at 11.30.
Last minute race preparations involved stuffing my face with 4 slices of bread, chocolate and cheese spread. The lard arse tactics 15 min before start were meant to prevent a rather optimistic acceleration out of the blocks until the nutrients had entered the blood stream further down the track. I was determined to avoid last years start fiasco (http://engelski.wordpress.com/?p=213&preview=true), but was still slow getting my skis on the grid. At least I wasn’t on the back row this time. Mr App had lined up with Rune on row 6. So much for being “Først i sporet” I thought. Surprise surprise I had not gotten my arse into gear and had sneaked in on row 12. I was sandwiched directly between Guri and Trude, though not quite in the way some of you filthy readers are probably imaging (please!). As the starting pistol went, Trude aggressively raced in front and shot off. After departure of the stadium and 500 m down the track she already was out of sight. She obviously hadn’t fancied witnessing more of my superlative downhill skills, and a potential wipeout, and had decided to make a break for it before the potentially tricky downhill stretch. It wasn’t only Trude that had set off at a frantic pace, but it was looking like the whole field in front of me had also heard rumours of my downhill expertise. With two big thick hefty sandwiches still resting in my stomach I had no option but to gear down and let the field drift further away from me. I had a hunch (hope) that many had opened too hard and that I would be seeing them later over Mosjøen.
On the way across open terrain and Femputtene to Borgersætra I could see a number of skiers in the distance. I could just make out Guri and it appeared that she was slowly accelerating away from me. Conditions were reasonable, particularly in the shaded areas, and I had respectable grip and good glide. The races highest point at Borgersætra was reached after only about 20 minutes. An extra 400m had been scheduled around Borgersæter this year for one reason or another. The track here is one of the highest in Nordmarka. A gradual descent took us down 70m to Vambua, before a climb back up to 660m and Øyangsrøysa.
I was pleased to be on my own with no skiers in the near vicinity as we headed for the downhill stretches and I presumed that Trude was also content with that. The stretch down to Spålen is great and avoids some great views over Ringerike. The problem is that the downhill stretch can be unpredictable depending on conditions and the track quite narrow. Fortunately, today conditions were firm and pretty much lacking in ice and out of control skiers and I was able to descend to Spåltjern without incident.
From Spålen the next 5 km allowed for a good chance to make ground on those in front. On the downhill stretches I had caught glimpses of the field in front as we rounded corners into straights and I analysed that the gap was about 100m. With vigorous double poling I estimated that I could make up the gap in about 5 minutes over the next 1-1.5 km. My calculations were valid and I had already overtaken the Fossum twins by the time we got to Sinnerdammen. At Store Sinnera I could see Guri in front with a guy with a pink striped racing dress, Pinky. Guri kept veering to the left to overtake Pinky, but Pinky would continuously edge in front. My mission from here was to try and assist Guri in getting past Pinky. I snuck in behind Guri and manage to cross into the left track. I offered her some words of encouragement. Guri was struggling with here skis and hadn’t optimal grip. She wasn’t the only one as the sun burned down on the tracks. My glide had been disappearing since Vambua and I had decided to get my head down and double pole. I told Guri to hang on in and to try and get a free ride from Pinky and myself. After about half a kilometer I realised that Pinky was slowing down so opted to burn him off before getting to Mosjøen. Unfortunately Guri wasn’t able to follow and I continued on my mission to hunt down as many skiers as possible to the end of the race.
Mosjøen offers the last opportunity to put some severe distance between yourself and others in the close field before the final, and sometimes gruelling, ascent to the finish. I am not a particularly good double poler and my technique is severely lacking. However, months of stamina building rollerskiing in Lommedalen, Sørkedalen & Maridalen was starting to pay off. On the lake I had a good battle with a guy I called Marmaduke (looked oddly like the comic strip dog). As I overtook him he tried to stay in my slipstream over the lake. Fortunately I was too strong for him and about halfway I was able to shake him off. After exiting the lake the ascent starts over Tørkerudhaugen. I could see Starsky & Hutch in the distance. Fortunately they were without their Ford Gran Torino and I was making good ground. Disappointingly jive talking Huggy Bear was nowhere to be seen. Spectators were lining the tracks from here over the cabin region Nysætra. One of the spectators had biked it in and I acknowledged his support, but couldn’t help myself in telling him how disturbing it was to see a bike in the forest so early in the ski season.
I was slowly making up ground on the cop detectives. Hutch looked the stronger of the two and was making a break for it over Nysætra. I dealt with Starsky via double poling with kick, and left him trailing in my wake. Hutch was proving a tough nut to crack and had opened up a 30-40 m gap. I’d close on him on the gradual ascent, but on the steeper ascent the sneaky bastard would start skating. This got me rally riled, especially as I was also struggling with grip. Bizarrely I had experienced an over zealous skater two years previously in the same race, but was able to burn him off before the finish. I was determined to nail the cheating bastard that was Hutch, and managed to claw alongside him after several minutes on hard exertion. I discretely informed him that this was a classic race and Hutch cowered and went back to a duck paddle technique to get up the final ascent. I drifted past him thinking that would be the last I would see of him. How wrong can one be.
As the ascent gradually flattened out and we neared the stadium the speaker could be heard over the tannoy. With only 2km to go a reinvigorated Hutch decided to double pole looking like a piston on a Bullet train. He accelerated past and I attempted in vain to tuck in behind him . Hutch gradually increased his lead as we came into the stadium and I focussed on keeping my position. Behind me I could see Scouser (Liverpudlian Graeme Souness look-a-like) in a red racing suit about 50m behind. He was slowly gaining on me, but I thought that I had him in control as I double poled the circular route around the stadium. All the time Scouser was eating into my lead. With 100m to go I heard someone on my left barking out orders. It was Rune. Rune had finished a few minutes earlier and was seconding me like a Sargent on a military drill. He could see what was happening and was bursting my ear drums with encouragement. I was double poling like mad and now I had Scouser alongside doing diagonal with only 50m to the finishing line. What the hell was going wrong? The conditions from Mosjøen in had been challenging and the tracks had been sucking my skis down as the snow melted. As it was shown an hour later by Eldar Rønning (as he edged Dario Cologna in the 50 k at Holmenkollen), double poling was surprisingly not proving to be as effective as diagonal stride in the “sugende” conditions. Rather embarrassingly Scouser did for me at the line going over in diagonal stride as I double poled a few metres behind. All the same it was time for a victory cry and time to picked up the honoured Silver medal for 4 race completions.
After finishing I met up with Trude, Guri, Rune & Mr App for a race debrief. It transpired that Mr App hadn’t had a good day and had decided to throw in the towel halfway round. Potentially overtrained or sick, Mr App wasn’t taking any risks before the Birkebeiner. There were a handful of DNFs during the race, yet none of them were as discrete as Mr App. I don’t know how he did it, but he managed to slyly avoid being listed DNF in the result list. Top man!
Winner: Stian Remseth Andresen 1h11m18s
Course record holder (1h03m): Børre Næss 1h11m34s (3rd place)
Class winner: 1h15m16s
Engelski: 1h35m36s (3 seconds faster than 2011! woohoo)
Last place: 2h45m52s
Mr App: disappeared without trace a la Leon Trotsky on a holiday in Mexico
Q. Hvordan bruker du å komme deg til Rena? Erfaringer du kan dele med en birkenfersking som meg?
Fjorårets opplevelse kan leses her: http://engelski.wordpress.com/2011/03/21/birkebeiner-mercenary/
16th February, 2012
To whom it may concern
Dear Sir or Madam
Please accept my application for the post of Team Anchor for Holmenkollen Fristillrenn , 24th March 2012. Having watched the OBIK freestyle race yesterday and having seen many skiers opting for classic technique, my brand of freestyle skate skiing would only add value to the race.
I was intending to go solo and do the whole 50k, but with Ringkoll-løpet & the Birkie in advance of the 5-mila I have decided to lower expectations and opt for 2+ laps as part of a team instead of the solitary 6. Furthermore, 2 lactic acid fuelled laps of the track tonight have confirmed that my technique is crap and that I probably wouldn’t make it up Hellner Hill for a 6th time in any case. In support of my application I would like to say that although I did taste blood tonight I did not puke, at least not in the tracks anyway. Technique-wise my V2-double dance is good, V1-single dance okay and crab technique superb on the steep hills. I have also great experience of padling having received a kayak for my birthday and have padled Bogstadvannet rundt and Sørkedalselva langs.
Depending upon the quality of the team I would also be willing to go 1st leg. This would be particularly relevant if there are actually worse skate skiers out there. Alternatively, if anyone is prepared to do a Giorgio Di Centa to repair the damage of a lousy first leg this would also work.
Looking forward to a positive response.