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The Twelfth Wheel of Time

January 14, 2012
Tolver'n: the twelfth wheel of Kjerraten as displayed on the trophy

Tolver'n: the twelfth wheel of Kjerraten as displayed on the trophy

It’s the Devil’s Work

After last week’s waxing catastrophe in Vestmarkrunden I decided to get my racing skis planed and re-structured since they didn’t appear to take on any powder glider. The news from Mislykkern (sic) was that I had somehow burnt the sole which just about explained everything. Ironically I wasn’t alone in doing this as one of my skiing colleagues simultaneously received the same message about his skis too. This meant a week without the racing skis, which fitted nicely in with my plans of having a week of restitution since Mrs Engelski was away. I was left with the Juniors and the task of taxi chauffeur in order to ferret them to and from training all week. On her return Mrs Engelski could obviously see that I was a little bit tetchy and seeing that Engelski Junior had scrapped the KM classic on Saturday encouraged me to get out for a 3-4h tour.

Dilemma

Whilst mulling things over on Thursday night I suddenly had the urge to do something more useful with the parole I’d been given. There’s no better training than competition and there were 2 races on in the vicinity, Finansavisrennet (dvs Bærumsmarka rundt) and Tolver’n, both 25km. Whilst Bærumsmarka rundt appeared attractive due to the route, I wasn’t so keen on a yuppified stress race a la Birkebeiner in areas of potentially little snow so I opted for the safety of Tolver’n, a smaller race in a snow rich area of Buskerud. The only problem now was to get hold of a pair of racing skis. Mislykkern (sic) had planed my racing skis but wouldn’t be able to set the structure in time so that was out. Rune kindly offered to lend me his Nanosonics which would afford me at least good glide. However, the skis had the flex for 93Kg, some 20Kg more than I weigh. I knocked the offer on the head as I didn’t fancy herring-boning up each and every hill. My last resort was to get out the rock skis, relax and just take a big hit in the result list. At the least I would get a great work out, particularly from double poling downhill, due to a distinct lack of glide.

Rock n roll

My rock skis are probably skis that someone like Pål Gunnar Mikkelsplass could only have dreamt of back in 1982. The skis date back to 1996 and were probably a top range model back then. However, with the advancement of technology, they now resemble NATO planks. In 15 years the skis had never once had glider applied to them. They were so heavy and solid that stones and grit used to run for their lives when I was skiing. They are the equivalent of a Volvo weighing in at around a tonne. It is easier to cross country ski with alpine skis than with these beasts. The sole of the skis was a complete nightmare, being more banged up than Joe Bugner in his prime. The skis had always been used to ski in and out of car parks or to take a boozy trip home after visiting friends, and had had many a meeting with stones and kerbs. The bindings were also a load of crap and would often ice up and need defrosting in the car with the heater on at full pelt. However, the rock skis were able to safely negotiate me around the Stenfjell course at Gåsbu in my first ever ski marathon back in 2009. After coming in at a time of a little over 4.5 h the skis were immediately dumped for a pair of Nanosonics. They tend only to see the light of day at the beginning of the season when snow levels are low and rocks/grit poke through the snow teasing skiers with their newly structured skis.

Rock skis: a podium finish at Gåsbu after 2000 other ski revellers had finished 1-2 hours earlier and then buggered off home. The finishing area was deserted when I crossed the finishing line, though I did manage to beat a 100 others. Note Pål Gunnar Mikkelplass like attire

Knowing that the rock skis were going to severely hinder my performance, I relaxed and did some Friday night intervals with the Birkie heads from work. On hearing of my woes, Iren kindly took the piss accusing me of having at one time gone into a shop to order some grusski (rock skis). I denied the incident, since 15 years of complete neglect had given me a perfect pair of rock skis. My apathy was beginning to show and I didn’t even bother to prepare my skis on the night of the race. I figured that since I had good grip during the interval session that this would also suffice for another 25k in the morning. I treated the rock skis to a quick wax clean and applied some LF7 glider, but assumed that this would be a complete waste of effort in any case.

Tolver’n: a Historical Perspective

Back in 1800 an incredible construction that the world had never seen the likes of before, nor since, was built in the Buskerud forest. The Tolver’n race gets it’s name from the halfway point of the race, at the drink station at Storflåtan. Here lies the remnants of what was the 12th water wheel of Kjerratan. In 1803 Peder Anker wanted to sneakily avoid tolling logs through Drammen and devised a plan to transport them from Steinfjorden through to Bogstadvannet and from here down to Vækerø, where the logs would be cut down to planks and sent for export to London. Bringing on board a Swedish engineer, Samuel Bagge, they constructed a series of 12 water wheels to transport logs from Åsa to Storflåtan, a climb of approx 400m. The logs were pulled with iron chains connected to the water wheels and a log could be transported the 4km and up 400m in 3h, giving a throughput of 240 logs per day or one every 6 minutes. The first 11 water wheels were used to transport the logs from Åsa to Damtjern. After crossing Damtjern the twelfth wheel at Storflåtan was unable to transport the logs due to low water power and a horse driven railway had to be built to complete the journey to Storflåtan. Remnants of the twelfth water wheel can still be seen at Vassendvika, Storflåtan and the immense construction gave rise to the name of the ski race that passes through the heart of the Kjerratan.

Map showing the 11 water wheels that were used for log transport in 1800. The twelfth was built, but due to a lack of water power it was replaced with a horse driven railway

NATO planks

On getting to Damtjern, the start of the race, I found myself with an unusual amount of free time. I’d already tested the skis and found that last nights wax (SkiGo HF red) gave me good grip, but was probably a little too soft for the conditions. Being a lazy git and knowing that my performance was going to suffer regardless, I opted to not remove the old wax, but just cover it with a thin layer of VR45. This seemed to do the trick and prevented snow sticking to the sole of the skis. Tolver’n is the only race that I know that starts and finishes on a lake. Down on the lake I was recognising some familiar faces. Race favourite Børre Næss was testing out his whole ski park, as was dark horse Kjetil Dammen. Both eyed me with suspicion to see if I was any serious competition, particularly as I had placed my skis on the 2nd row of the grid directly behind Børre Næss. They viewed my racing attire which didn’t give any signals that I was a charlatan and then, shock horror, they glanced at my rock skis. The rock skis gave the game away and I turned in shame in the way that a Formula 1 racing car driver probably would on being found out that he drives a Fiat 127. Dammen had been inspecting me more closely and I was beginning to wonder if he recognised me. He’d taught a rollerski course back in June in a thunderstorm and had commented that my diagonal technique was not like a wheel going round, but more like a boiled egg wobbling along on the floor. I hid my shame again and made myself scarce until race start.

Tolver'n

Tolver'n: lining up for a clear start on the lake(from 2011)

Omnes viae Løvlia ducunt (or All Road Leads to Løvlia….again)

Tolver'n: Damtjern-Løvlia-Vassendvika-Høgås-Vikseter-Vambu-Borgersetra-Langtjern-Damtjern

It was interesting to be at the front of the starting grid for once, something that I’d never experienced before. There were only half the number of anticipated starters, numbering just 115. This was going to give us a smooth start to the race. Normally there is considerable jostling for position in crossing the lake as 10 tracks gradually merge in to two before the first ascent. As the starting pistol went, Børre Næss went like shit off a shovel and left me virtually standing. Many of the pack behind had also overtaken me in no time at all as my rock skis creeked and groaned before finally inching forward. Double poling across the lake is normally an easy way to start, but here I was already at full throttle as my skis resisted every double pole that I could enforce. The lake was safely negotiated and gave me a taste of what was to come in the ensuing 24km. The first hill was also going to challenge my technique as a 150m ascent had to be climbed. Although I’d lost a lot of ground across the lake I could already see that my diagonal stride was performing well. Thursday night had afforded a brief technique session with the O2-snapper and his words of advice were starting to pay off as I caught up and passed many skiers on the way to Løvlia. Once we neared the top, a regular pattern began to emerge. All the skiers that I’d overtaken passed me on the flat as my lack of glide began to take its toll. Fortunately I was left at the back of a pack as we descended into Løvlia via a 135 degree turn and was able to avoid a potential wipeout.

Race profile

During the next few kilometres I was able to once again claw my way back to the field in front. I was now behind a lady with an uncanny resemblance to Justyna Kowalcyk, and a guy Joe90. Joe90 was to prove to be a pain in the ass for much of the race as he continually blocked me in whilst I attempted to overtake. Kowalcyk had a good rhythm and was proving a lot easier to handle and I opted to tuck in behind and conserve energy. It was at this point that I noticed that Kowalcyk had literally got her knickers in a twist. Each double poling action was causing her racing dress to ride up and reveal her thong. Now being in such close proximity I didn’t really have anywhere else to look. Instead of going naturally down into the crevice the thong had taken a detour and appeared to be at a rather unusual angle across the left buttock. At least this now explains Kowalcyk’s unusual technique as anyone attempting diagonal stride with their knickers in a twist will know. After several kilometres we were now a bunch of six skiers going at reasonable pace. I continually had the urge to go up front and start to hunt down skiers in front, but realised that this would be a fruitless exercise due to my lack of glide.

Twisted knickers: Joe90 & Kowalcyk

My improved diagonal technique was keeping me in the hunt on the uphill. However, we were approaching the descent into Vassendvika and I knew that I would soon be in trouble. Sure enough, the five in front accelerated away due to their superior glide and I had to result in double poling downhill to just about stay in touch. My balance was good particularly on the turns, and I was able to get in front of Joe90 as I took a perfect turn cutting into a corner. I was able to stay in front of Joe90 to the drink station, but just before I got to the drink station I was passed by Mr Magoo. Now Magoo had been burnt off long back, but his better glide had given him a considerable edge and suddenly he was back in front out of nowhere.

Reunification

After pounding down a couple of drinks another 150m climb gave me a chance to haul back the others in front. One by one I picked them off, first Mr Magoo, then Mr Leeds (Leeds hat), a couple more and then I was reunited with both Kowalcyk and Joe90. They were forming a good team and sharing the workload. I wasn’t prepared to do diddly as I was having enough problems with the skis. Once again I tucked in behind Justyna and was tempted to hook on to the thong for a free ride. I was able to keep apace until a flatter straight meant that both were able to double pole away. I was able to keep them within my sights, but knew that chances of passing them were slim, since the last few km were downhill. At Langtjern I lost them completely as we started our descent into Damtjern. It was at this point that the expected hoards from behind started breathing down my neck. My rock skis still had the hand-brake on going downhill and one by one Tom, Dick and Harry scooted on past. As I made it back onto the lake I could see that Joe90 had bottled the last hill and was only just in front. I double poled for all it was worth, but was not able to edge him out at the finish. My time at the finish was actually quite a respectable 1h43m, only 2 min behind last year with my good skis. However, conditions were faster this year and Børre Næss was able to break the course record by a minute. Still I was more than pleased with a hard workout and a time which was far better than I originally anticipated.

Kick in the Pants

I enjoyed the drive home and was revelling in my performance on rock skis. When I got home Engelski Junior was chomping at the bit so we went up to Holmenkollen for skate skiing training. After several laps the downhill double poling began to take its toll. On our final trip up Hellner Hill, Junior left me well and truly parked as he went over to V1/V2 whilst I struggled to paddle up the hill. It was all a bit too much like Hellner/Northug in reprise and once we rounded the stadium I called it quits. Embarassed once again by an 11 year old. At least it was a good sign for his race tomorrow at the kretsmesterskap at Holmenkollen.

Next Vestergyllen, a 40k seeding race on Sunday. Should have my good skis back by then. If I get them back before Wednesday I may even do OBIK. Thanks for reading.

Results

Børre Næss 1:03:29

Kjetil Dammen 1:03:45

Class winner 1:12:00

Last place 2:17:46

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