Norges Cup Rollerski race in Askim

4 Jun

Raced today in the Norwegian Cup rollerski race at Askim. Here’s the start area by a dam on Norway’s largest river, the Glåmma:

After that came the long, lonely uphill:

Not that long, actually. This was an uphill sprint race of only 1340 meters. The race format was an individual prologue against the clock followed by head-to-head or three person heats.

So how did I end up here competing against the best rollerskiers in Norway? Crazy idea, I know. First I got a message promoting the event from Ragnar Bragvin. An all around nice guy, he was even offering to set anyone lacking fast wheels up with them. That made the race sound a little less intimidating, but still wasn’t enough to convince me to participate.

Then I saw this talk by Malcolm McLaren of the Sex Pistol’s fame where he told the story of an art school teacher who told Malcolm and his classmates that his greatest wish for them was that they become spectacular failures. The point, in fact, was about how the fear of failure can rob you of best learning experiences.

So, that convinced me. I would take that train an hour south of Oslo and fail miserably. There was some method to this madness because getting slaughtered by Norway’s best would be good training for the Cosnes-Sancerre race in France where I’ll get to race against my own age.

However, when I signed up for the race, I got lumped in with the two others in the veteran age category. Would have been nice, but I don’t have classic style rollerskis and the veteran race was the exception compared to the others, going in classic style and with slow wheels.

I didn’t realise I’d been slated there and missed my initial start time because my intention was to skate with the Senior class and get spectacularly destroyed by 20 year-olds.

This confusion meant I had to run down to the start. Happily I was given the final departure slot in the prologue and thus had time to catch my breath.

I lined up at the start line and as the clock ticked down towards 14:35 in the afternoon I got the instruction that I needed to double pole until the second stripe 10 meters ahead of me. Then the beep went off, the start man lifted his hand from my shoulder and…not much happened. I really need to work on double-poling starts. Good I learned that before the French race in October. So, my failure plan was working well thus far.

I eventually got up to speed, got over the second line and started skating. A girl had taken off thirty seconds before me and my goal, as it was shaping up underway, was to pass her. Coming around the first corner I saw her and it looked doable. Though I was breathing very hard, I didn’t really realize it until I got near her heels.

You know, it it works better if you avoid meeting your goal before the race is over. Another lesson learned. Moreover the pavement got nasty at that point and without the distraction of her out in front of me I realized that my lungs were about to explode. So I gave up on actually pulling ahead and decided I’d just come in right behind her.

My head was in a blur as I rolled over the finish line and heard something about the number 8 from the microphone. My oxygen-deprived mind panicked and somehow imagined possible that I had taken 8 minutes and some collection of seconds. That would have been slower than the 12 year-old girls. That couldn’t have been right.

A few minutes later I saw the Senior men’s results posted without my name. Was I too slow to be counted? No, I was counted. In the veteran class as the winner of the prologue. Which was really unfair to the two others with their slow rubber wheels and classic rollerskis. My time, for what it was worth, skating on fast wheels, was 3:53, which works out to a little over 20km/hour.

So I went and spoke with the race-leader and asked to be moved to the Senior class for the next round. I had decided my quest for magnificent failure was not to be daunted by cheating success. Or maybe I couldn’t bear the thought of facing the two others to pick up my trophy by ill-gotten means.

While in the first round everyone walked (or in my case ran) down to the start area, for the heats a bus took us down to the point of departure. It was exciting to be there, smell the sweat and feel the nervous tension. Down at the start I warmed up a little with the others until I heard my start number called.

This time we were three. I lined up behind the other two, having no pretensions of beating them. When the beep went off they double-poled more effectively and got away from me. But then I started to close the gap in V1/enkeldans in the initial less steep part. However, once we started climbing they shot ahead of me. There I decided to try to just ski relaxed and effectively.

This time I felt better coming over the finish line. I think going more relaxed and at a more even pace I put in a better time. But that good feeling was was shaken by the realization that I had avoided by a handful of seconds the danger of being passed from behind by the next heat. The thought scared me because I didn’t want my amateurish presence to disturb the pros. But, on the other hand, the fact I stayed clear of them meant that they didn’t beat me by a minute, which was good and reassuring.

So, I remained discreet and slipped through the cracks. Didn’t fall or get in the way or do anything truly ridiculous. Still, being 27% slower than the winner of the prologue isn’t great, so I guess the failure mission was accomplished. But I learned a lot and that was the point.

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One Response to “Norges Cup Rollerski race in Askim”

  1. Engelski June 7, 2011 at 8:31 pm #

    Good effort! It takes guts to not be afraid of failure & one often surprises oneself in any case.

    Keep up the good work, Sounds like you’re making great progress

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