To the bitter end / jusqu’au bout / fram til sluttet

20 Mar

People who don’t live here need to believe in the Norwegian winter. In the time of climate crisis thinking that some blissfully unaffected paradise exists gives hope. Alas, this is not paradise, we are not spared either. Oslo ski possibilities are quickly drying up. Yet we finally got ample snow only just a couple weeks ago.

A place called Sørkedalen is the last near to Oslo reprieve with decent snow conditions. But with afternoon temperatures over 15C and burning sun you have to get there early to avoid a slushy slog. The early bird gets winter’s lovely swan song: a fast just-nicely-icy freshly prepared track to fly up (and down again).

Les gens qui n’habitent pas ici ont besoin de croire aux merveilles du l’hiver norvégien. En ce temps de crise climatique la pensée qu’il existe un paradis épargné des effets néfastes du réchauffement rassure. Or, ceci n’est pas le paradis. Le possibilités de ski se rétrécissent déjà, bien que la neige en bonne quantité ne soit arrivée que depuis deux semaines.

La vallée de Sørkedalen est à ce jour le seul endroit près d’Oslo qui bénéficie encore de la bonne neige. Mais avec des températures maximales au dessus de 15C, accompagnées  d’un soleil brûlant, il vaut mieux partir tôt pour éviter de skier dans la soupe. Le beau chant du cygne de l’hiver mourant appartient donc à ceux qui se lèvent tôt: des pistes rapides, un tantinet glacées, ou tu peux vraiment voler.

De som ikke bor her trenger å tro i den norske vinter. Tanken i denne klimakrise rammet tiden at det finnes enda et vinterlig sted i verden er betryggende. Men her er det ikke noe paradis. Skimulighetene blir daglig mer begrenset selv om vi fikk endelig nok snø for bare to uker siden.

Nå er Sørkedalen det eneste sted nær til Oslo med god skiføre. Men med temperaturer stigende over 15 grader og sterk sol er det lurt å stå opp tidlig for turen. Da kan du nytte vinterens svanesang: bitt litt glasert løyper hvor du kan virkelig fly.


GTJ 200

8 Mar

Poor bloggy-blog! I’ve so neglected you it would be easy to think I’d quit skiing.

Not quite. This last weekend I participated for the second year in a row in the GTJ 200, an ultra distance ski race (skating style) in the French Jura mountains. The organizers say it’s the world’s longest.

The race format is a 15km prologue on Friday followed by 185km on Saturday. You compete as a 2 man team staying together for the whole distance with a 3rd support person following by car to take care of nutrition and other needs.

My team did the 185km in 15:30. Conditions were slightly icy, fast snow. This year we started from the opposite end compared with last year, going from Giron in the South to Chauffaud in the North. There we finished in the dark this time just like when we started in the dark at 04:00 last year.


Training for uphill running race Sept. 28

19 Sep



Rollerskiing in the French Alps

29 Jul

I spent last week in the French Alps. I brought my rollerskis with me even though I wasn’t sure if I’d get the chance to use them.

As you can see from the video, it was a wise choice. I rollerskied almost every day up the same 5km route to the Col de la Madeleine.

The weather was delightful and it made for really efficient training. The sign in town said I started at 1650 meters and the sign at the top of the pass said 2000 meters (the GPS actually claimed another 25 meters).

The top

Today, back in Oslo and nearly at sea-level, climbing Grefsenkollen felt amazingly easy in comparison.


Thank you winter!

10 Apr


L.A. Rollerski

5 Jun

Spent the last week in Los Angeles. Went out almost twice daily on the bike path along the San Gabriel River channel.
Starting in the relatively high mountains behind Los Angeles, the San Gabriel river emerges into the vast flood plane where most of the L.A. area lies. There the mountain river is transformed into an inglorious drainage ditch carrying rainwater from city streets to the ocean 50 odd kilometers to the South.
While most of the channel is dry outside of the winter wettish season, the stretch I trained along begins with a fully concrete lined segment carrying a steady flow of treated sewer water. A bit further down I that turns into a brackish segment with some natural looking riparian habitat where the sewer water met the tidewater. There you see a lot of waterbirds, including ducks, herons and egrets.
The path itself is quite flat, except the small segments where it drops down and rises up again to go under bridges. The asphalt was fresh and good in three of the four cities I traversed: Cerritos, Long Beach and Seal Beach. The exception was the second city, Lakewood. I broke two pole tips there before finally deciding I would always free skate that stretch of deeply cracked asphalt. The cracks were so wide I had to be careful about falling going over them and they looked like they might even be seismic damage.
The other factor that made the route interesting was the wind. A dependable sea breeze comes up mid-morning getting stronger throughout the afternoon before sometimes tapering off in the evening. This is the result of a cool, if not downright cold ocean, coupled with extremely hot inland desert areas. The air over the latter rises letting the cool coastal wind stream in. The cold water, incidentally, isn’t the only thing that clashes with the California stereotype. Once it comes ashore, the moisture in the sea air condenses during the night time cool down, ensuring that most mornings start with fog and low clouds that burn off mid-morning.
These geographical details aside, the morning clouds gave me welcome cover from the hot sun, while the sea breeze gave me some resistance to work against while heading toward the beach and a strong push when heading back.
The other detail of note was the reaction of the other bike trail users. Quite a few shouted positive things as came by them, or at least I suppose comments like “that’s dog, man” weren’t insults. Some cyclists sternly shouted “on your left”, startling me a bit, but I think they do that even when you’re on two wheels.
So it ended up being a relatively good week of training that hopefully helped me maintain my fitness gains after the 300 km marathon in France.

300 km rollerski in France

29 May

Participated last week in a 3 day, 300 km rollerski trip in France. The tour organized by the Alliance Glisse Franche-Compté club and inline wheel and rollerski manufacturer Roll’x started next to the Swiss border and finished near the city of Beaune in Burgundy.

We were 19 participants, 14 inline skaters and 5 rollerskiers. Additionally there were the support staff that made everything possible. They transported our luggage, provided frequent food and water breaks, protected us from traffic, ferried us through breaks in the bike paths, set up camp and fed us great food for lunch and dinner.

The trip stayed mainly on greenways closed to car traffic along canals, rivers and disaffected railways. When we ventured out onto country roads with vehicle traffic we usually were protected by a van in front and another behind us. So we got to experience the route in fairly ideal conditions of comfort and safety.

The weather, on the other hand, threatened to be less than perfect but finally worked out much better than expected in the end. We only faced heavy rain at the end of the afternoon of the second day.

The biggest challenge for me was the speed. Since we were with inline skaters with speedskating equipment, our average pace frequently exceeded 30km/h. This meant that the rollerskiers had to use hard, polyurethane racing wheels which I’m not used to. In Oslo I tend to train with slow rubber wheels.

Starting out on the first day the cruising speed came as a shock. In the initial minutes I was already making mental pictures of large expanses of skin scraped off from falls at such high speeds.

Moreover, to make matters worse, my luggage failed to arrive with my flight from Oslo to Zurich. That meant I had to borrow equipment the first day. I ended up with boots 3 sizes tool small that also gave me very little ankle support.

Happily my falling fears didn’t materialize any way significantly the first day. Once, when the inline skaters in front of me braked abruptly I had to throw myself onto the grass and bushes beside the path, but that only provoked minor scratches. However I realized then I quickly needed to learn the inline skate t-braking technique where you drag the wheels on one foot perpendicularly behind you to stop.

The more pressing worry shortly afterward at the lunch break was my left calf that had started to cramp up. I really wondered if I was going to make it the whole 300 km.

Clearly the ill-fitting boots weren’t helping. Happily my luggage arrived from Switzerland at the end of the nice meal prepared for us that we ate all together, sheltered from the rain under a couple big tents.

After a group breakfast, and setting off from the campground to our next departure point, the weather threatened but semi-miraculously it only rained heavily while we were under the tents for lunch. The followed bright, warm sunshine to dry the path off. That was great because hard wheels slip more on wet asphalt than the rubber ones I’m used to. Moreover, with better boots that actually fit me my leg cramp went away.

Even though we got completely soaked by rain the last hour, the rest of the day went well. I spent a lot of it not using my poles, just skating in the group of participants with inline skates. Staying close to the person ahead of you you get sucked along in their air pocket and can maintain your speed with much less effort. However being so close at such speeds entails risk because you can’t easily see hazards and obstacles in front if you. That requires teamwork, where each person signals obstacles to the skater behind him, whether cyclists or pedestrians, barriers, cracks or branches on the asphalt. Nevertheless, in spite of these precautions, we had one group fall the second day. I was out ahead with the other rollerskiers and so avoided it. Nothing broken but some nasty scrapes.

After a cold and rainy night the final day dawned with welcome sunshine. The first part of the day’s route was gently downhill through beautiful Burgundy wine country. Before lunch took a slight detour to visit the 18th century Salines Royales. Here in a large complex of grandiose and ornate buildings briny spring water was boiled down to salt. The return route, which was mostly uphill degenerated into something of a race.
We then took another van transfer to the last stretch of the day. It went through rolling terrain approaching the history rich city of Beaune, the capital of Burgundian wine. While my initial objective was just to survive, by this time my ambitions had creeped up to wanting to go fast. I guess I’m never satisfied.

I spent a good portion of the last kilometers switching between drafting behind and leading with just one inline skater from the group. I had taken it a but easier because of fears of falling or cramping up again. But with nearly three days experience rolling fast and the finish nearly in sight, I gave it a bit more gas. The finish itself came as a surprise since our route was cut short because of a horse show making entry into Beaune itself impractical.
It was a great experience. Thank you to the organizers for the hard work that made it so successful and to the participants for all the good times!