Confessions of a lycra gangsta

22 Jan

The title of this post would be less kind in Norwegian. Ski Norway becomes more polarized by the day, with battle lines drawn between the turgåer/tour-goers and the kondomdraktmafia / condom-suited mafia:

I’m not making this up. That’s what they call the lycra club here.

I have an uneasy relation with the latter group. I do wear tights and ski a hell of a lot. But kondomdraktmafia tend to be a little older than me, in deep mid-life crisis, desperately clinging to their declining virility. And, as you’d imagine, they’re usually complete dicks.

But I definitely don’t fit with the turgåer group either. Their goal is always to have a koselig / cosy time while they go in slow moving herds with un-predictable packs of dogs weaving amongst them. Their sworn enemies are people wanting to go slightly faster than nearly standing still, who do not like them stopping to chat while taking the entire breadth of the track. They occasionally remind me of American Tea-Partiers when they come out with the same kind of huffy, paranoid, wounded “folksiness”. But I do not speak to them and address the problem by avoiding them as much as possible. My headlight is my friend.

The turgåer have as much of a right to the ski track as I do. And provided I pick my trails and times right, their numbers are such that they are easy enough to go around. However there’s a third group that I agree with the kondomdraktmafia in disliking. They are the løypelabber / trail-trudgers.

They do have the law on their side. Everyone has a right to use the forest. However, stomping up the track-set for classic skiing is technically illegal because while the law guarantees free access, it prohibits destructive activity. But it would be hard to prohibit them from going in between the trackset, in the flat area reserved for skating on wider-prepped trails. That said, walking there is still destructive. Feet pack the snow more than skis do, their footprints make lumps, bumps and even holes when it’s warm, and they track dirt onto the trail that clogs up the bases of skis.

I recently saw one løypelabber posted a comment to a newspaper article where he said that those who oppose walking on ski trails are exactly the same that rollerski skate-style on the roads blocking traffic. Touché. But rollerskiing doesn’t wreck the road surface, cars kill children and should go slower anyhow, most rollerskiing is done on country roads with low traffic, and rolling on little polyurethane wheels is environmentally friendly, which you can’t say about driving.

But today was a good day. I didn’t run into a single løypelabber and successfully avoided the turgåer crowd by taking the very first bus to a great skate trail. For some reason today I flew on the flatter part of the trail coming back to my start point. I was mostly just free-skating at that point and enjoyed ludicrous speed. However one turgåer, or maybe it was a kondomdrakt mobster, attempting to pass in the left-hand track-set had a dumb idea and decided to step out right in front of me. Given how fast I was going the collision could have been nasty. I somehow miraculously got around him but ended up falling lamely, but without harm. He muttered the famous Norwegian word sorry and trundled off. Got off easy this time. But please don’t do it again.

My skating technique was probably helped by a course I took the night before last. It was mainly just a confidence booster. The final exam was going through a transition-rich V2/paddling/V2/V1 sequence of trail as the instructor looked on. I couldn’t believe it when as I passed through that sequence of skate gears the teacher yelled compliments. You talkin’ to me??

Happily it wasn’t all positive. I did pick up a few things. The first is that when paddling your “hang arm” should be much higher than the other arm. That happens naturally but I think I fought it in the past because I supposed it was wrong.

The other was that with V1 you should keep you arms narrow when poling down. Actually you should always do that with your poles with everything but paddling. But since my V1 feels unstable I tend to keep my arms wide to try to stabilize myself. And that actually makes you unstable. Happily I don’t have that vice with V2, where I feel steadier. Still, V1 is hugely important for rollerski racing, so I’d better work on it.

Trip details:

  • Style: Skate
  • Distance: 18.3 km
  • Elevation gain: 308m
  • Temperature: -4C
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