Friday, 25 April 2014

April fool

For the last few days I've been feeling a little under the weather. On monday night I came done with a sore throat and a cold. It's been a long time since I've felt this bad. Finally last night I started to feel a little better, and today it feels like I only have one collapsed lung. At the same time as being a 50 a day smoker and having the bubonic plague. It's not often that I feel I absolutely have to take parcetamol, but the last few nights it has become a must. You always know it's bad when you finish off a bag of cough sweets for breakfast. 

Over Easter Callum Watson and Phil Bellingham from the Australlian team came to visit me. They are living over in Sweden and were visiting a friend on the Norwegian border so thought to extend there journey a little to come visit me. Now I'm pretty sure that I got ill from trying to keep up with them skiing and at the afterski "barbie". But this morning I was told in no uncertain terms that the sole reason for being ill was because I had skied in shorts. So you've been warned... skiing in shorts will give you the plague, according to norwgian folk law. 
We skied a lot last week. I racked over 20 hours of training which for the off-season is quite extreme! The conditions were amazing with it freezing overnight and being between 10 to 15 degrees during the day in the mountains. Down in Lillehammer it was up towards 20 degrees. Cal and Phil were keen to get "bulk jobs done". Which I think translates from Australian to English as keen to do a lot of skiing. Most days we skied for 2 and half to 3 hours. And one day we went for a long one. We were out for 6 hours but skied for about 5. We stopped and ate along the way. Phil and Cal seem to really like going fast when they ski... the concept of a long easy ski seems sort of foreign to them. On pretty much every uphill I was dropped as they would sprint off up to the top... and then they'd complain about having to wait for me. Those two also carry the same approach to their cooking as they do to their training... full gas. We cooked up some feasts. After our 5 hour ski the asked if I had a BBQ. I do. So we decided to have a "barbie". However when we got home and I showed them our BBQ, which we had bought for 100kr, they were far from impressed. "Mate! That's not a grill!". Apparently coal bbq's are outdated and no longer used. So much so that the two experts didn't really know how to use it. I found it quite amusing that the Brit in the group was showing the two aussies how to cook outside on a bbq. 
Apart from skiing, preparing and eating food the aussies enjoy pass times such as faffing.... in fact that is the only pass time they enjoy because they never get round to doing anything else. If you think of the best procrastinator you know. These two are at least 10 times worse than that. Sjusjøen is roughly a 20min drive away. So getting up at 8 should mean you are skiing by 9. With these two we were getting up at 7 and we still weren't skiing before 9:30. To top off there necessity for faffing around doing pretty much nothing, Cal is the most forgetful person I know. We were half way to sjusjøen one day when he decided to tell us that he had one skate and one classic pole in the car. And when they left to go home they reappeared 10min later. Cal ran into the house looking for his wallet. Turns out it was in the car all along. 
For the first day or so I tried to keep them in line. So we actually got stuff done. But I quickly gave up and joined them. In the true fashion of "if you can't beat them join them". And so we ended up having quite a good few days. The skiing was good, and I managed to do a few new routes that I've never done before and I also went inside a snow hole for the first time. We bumped into Maffa and Trygve one day at the car park. They were just heading off so we headed with them. They took us up to look at a snow hole they had dug and slept in a week or so before. The thing was massive. More like a snow house than a snow hole. They said it took 5 guys 3 to 4 hours to dig it out. It had 3 separate bedrooms/shelves for sleeping on and was even finished with ledges on the walls where candles had been to give them light. 
And then after the two Aussies left on monday morning I got ill. Since then I've not really done much. 
I have however had a few exciting packages in the post. Firstly I got an indoor cricket set from Andy Cox. He had promised to send me a set when I met the Cox's last month when they were in Nordsetter. Played on a table with a ping pong ball and small hand made stumps and a bat, I can tell it could quickly become a fierce competition with in the british team. Perhaps even one day an indoor cricket ashes series between ski teams? 
I also got my first sets of Exel ski poles. I met them in Lahti at the world cup there in March and put things in place to move onto their poles for next season. A box with different handles, straps and poles arrived for me to do the first set of testing. 
Hopefully over the weekend I'll be able to wean my self off painkillers and cough sweets. It's less than a week until the season starts so hopefully I'll be "fit for fight" come next thursday. 

Tuesday, 8 April 2014

95k double poling

95k is a long way. I knew it was a long way before I did the troll ski marathon. But nothing can quite prepare you for over 4 and a half hours of ski racing. 

I decided to race without kick wax on my skis and just double pole the entire 95k. I went on classic skis. It felt wrong to glide wax over the kick zone on my classic skis, but I managed to bring my self to do it. Having talked with a few people and looked at the altitude profile for the race I thought having just glide waxed skis would be a huge advantage.
The race starts at 8am over in Vennabu, this means a 4am wake up call in order to get the buss over there in time. I ate breakfast on the bus, peanut butter sandwiches and carbo loader gels. At the start it was really cold, bellow -10. This was much colder than had been forecast and was an added benefit with not having to mess around getting the kick wax to work. I only had my race skis with me so I ran for 30min before the start to warm up. 
The first 5k of the race was fairly flat with a few ups and downs. The pace from the start was quite fast. But the first real raise in tempo didn't come before the first drinks station. The pace was up and down and every time it went up a few people dropped off the group. I stayed up near the front of the group but tried never to lead. It was a gentle headwind and there was a huge benefit to stay behind. 
After the second drinks station we came into a really tough section and the first time I found it hard going. After a short sharp steep climb, the track the continued up a long gentle climb into a head wind. There were only 3 people with kick wax left in the group. Markus Westgård, Peter Skinstad and Martin Nyenget. Markus was at the front going pretty hard, and the group was strung out indian file behind him. I ended up behind Skinstad. This was the most annoying place to be. Peter was kicking so I couldn't really get close enough to him to get any shelter from the headwind. Then I'd get too close and hit his skis, then give him too much space and have to close the gap. After a few k like this the terrain eased off into a flatter section and the group bunched back into two lines. 
There were a couple of bobsleigh run like descents, really icy with lots of turns. Some of the old guys who had still kept up weren't exactly loving the downhills and those of us with skate boots on made quite an advantage. I ended up right at the front after one of the downhills just as Team NPRO decided to raise the pace. I hadn't really noticed but the size of the group had pretty much halved and the halved again. There was only about 15 people left in the group. 
At about 45k into the race I realised that I couldn't keep up any longer. I let the group go, stopped for my first toilet break and took a gel. I thought the second group would catch me, but nobody caught me. I skied the next 50k on my own, with a few individuals that occasionally went past or I overtook. For the 30k after I got caught I felt really really rough. I drank and ate lots and started to feel better towards the end of the race.
The last 30k is the hilliest part of the race. The race does have over 1500m of climb. I would say most of that is in the last 30k. When you are on an uphill, your triceps cramp up, your abs cramp up and you don't have any kick wax... well I can tell you, it is not exactly the most fun place to be in the world. On some of the steep bits I actually think it took me a minute to go 100m. The biggest climb comes with 20k to go. It's about 3k long and is up to Pellestova. There are a couple of steep sections but it is mostly just long. At the bottom I had to stop for my second nature call. I'm pretty sure I could have gone the rest of the race without having to stop. But my abs were screaming at me, and even worse than that were my hands. All the muscles in my hands cramped up, I tried taking my gloves off and on again and adjusting my pole straps. But nothing seemed to work. Even now, 3 days later I still can't clench my hand into a fist because all the muscles in my hands are so tired. 
After making it to Pellestova and the last food station I grabbed a handful of biscuit and cake. I put some in my waist band gel pocket for later and the rest in my mouth. I clearly put to much cake in my mouth at once. I immediately puked it all back up, all down my front. The last 15k from Pellestova wasn't fun. All I wanted to do was get to the finish. When you look at your watch and see you have been out for over 4 hours but still have another 30min left... it's demoralising. There are lots of small sharp rises in the last 5k. Double poling them after having gone 90k isn't fun. In the end I made it to Sjusjøen, "only" 21min behind the winner. 
After a quick change and some food I headed home. I din't feel too bad after the race, but on sunday I was horrific. I couldn't actually stand up properly. My back was the worst. I spent the day either lying on my back or my stomach. Standing up hurt, walking hurt, sitting hurt. Everything hurt my back. 
Troll Ski is a fantastic event. 95k long and they manage to have manned drinks and food stations every 10k. They even give you some food afterwards. I enjoyed the first 45k, but the last 50 was miserable. I'll still consider giving it a go next year though. 

Yesterday I managed to stand up and be a little bit active. I "played" 90min of football for the first time since last spring. I say played, but really I just stood at one end of the pitch and waited for the ball. We play that you have to score with your head, a volley or 1 touch as long as the ball goes in the air not along the ground. Safe to say I didn't score. The loosing team had to do 150 push ups.... so I get to write 90min football and strength in training diary. Double bonus for me. 
Today it is raining/sleeting/snowing. So in true sprit of a skier in April, I'm staying inside. April is the one month where if I don't have to the I won't. I don't have to train in the rain.... so I'm not going to. Of course normal service is resumed in May.