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Thank you winter!

10 Apr



Winter techniques

17 Dec

A great thing about skiing is that it’s not just skiing. There are a whole host of related activities you need to master to be good. One, quite obvious one, is ski waxing. Both glide and grip. I feel like I’ve been doing that better lately. Yesterday, however, I failed miserably at grip waxing. I started out with violet wax and got no grip. Since most of my trip was downhill, I figured I’d just double pole and then put on some softer grip wax when I turned around to go back. Then, since I was slipping so bad when I tried to kick, I went straight for red wax. That was a bad choice and my skis instantly loaded up with with snow killing all my glide. As I struggled back to my start point I got passed by people. Not so usual for me.

Today I made a better choice. I focused on making the “wax pyramid” whose crest lies right in the middle of the curve of the ski in the kick zone. This structure along with the flavor of wax I had chosen worked well on my roughly 28km ski trip today. My skis slipped a tiny bit but glided extremely well.

The snow was light at the bottom of the hill but got progressively much better. I went with my old touring skis in the event there would be gravel at the start. But I took my good poles since the route had a lot of double-poling.

On the way back I got to hone another one of my skills. I love taking the bus to go ski. It makes me feel stronger than those who feel they need the comfort of a car. But when I’m lightly clothed and it’s cold, I need special bus techniques. With the current snow conditions I have to go far, with several bus changes. I therefore plan my route in advance with layovers in cafés and grocery stores. That way I can drink something hot and eat some energy while staying warm. The way home takes a little longer, but it’s bearable in spite of the cold.

As you say in Norwegian: alt skal læres. Everything will be learned.

Skiing off into the sunset

12 Apr

Here’s the view looking North yesterday. I was tempted to keep going. The snow was soft, but nice. If I maintained my cap I’d end up in Northern Norway, take a boat to Svalbard and continue skiing. For quite a while. Unless I got eaten by polar bears.

Race against me and spring

21 Mar

Snow was still up over the little fence in my back yard last Saturday. That’s how I measure winter’s advance and retreat. However the tenuous little bridge of snow crossing the chain link barrier looks ready to fall away today.

This is the agonising period. But there is good is mixed in with the bad. My physical form and technique are still advancing. Have been regularly hitting new speed records on my usual routes. On my little classic round I finally started breaking the 16km/h barrier. Seems like technique is what is making the difference: stop slapping/klakking and the speed just comes. And it’s nicer to go through the woods with only the sound of my breathing.

While I’m a little worried about abandoning my ever improving classic now, skating is so good I can’t be bothered to deal with klister. Rest assured I’ve mastered my phobia of the stuff. It’s just that applying and, above all, removing klister is vastly more complicated than just grabbing my skate skis and going. But in the very late season when it gets too soft to skate pleasantly I’ll definitely pull out my gravel skis and go classic again with Red Aqua klister.

I’ve been breaking records with skating too. My times have been continually dropping on the trails on both sides of the valley. My average pace is up more than 2.5 km/h. Makes me wish I had a ticket for the Skarverennet.

Snow levels are high for this time of year. Today’s snow depth reading at Bjørnholt in the Oslo forest stood at 90cm. Even with warm weather forecast this week that bodes well for a long late season.

Birkenprøven – Test Birkebeinerrennet

13 Mar

Repeated my yearly trip over the mountains from Rena to Lillehammer yesterday. I followed the route of next Saturday’s 54 km Birkebeinerrennet. This time I had better skis than last year. And, as before, snow conditions weren’t really a problem.

There wasn’t a cloud in the sky and temperatures were right around 0 degrees when I left Tingstadjordet on the east side of the town of Rena. But the big issue this time was the wind. Strong, nasty and nearly constant.

However the wind wasn’t too bad until I crested Dølfjellet at the 15km mark:

Getting over that mountain usually marks the first respite after 15km of non-stop climbing. But no rest for me yesterday. My slowest kilometers were km 17-18-19. There, above the tree-line in fairly easy terrain, the wind howled at a 70 degree angle and filled the track with loose snow. It was depressing. I felt nearly reduced to the pace of the Saturday afternoon plodders. Nature is a great equalizer. Last year after Dølfjellet I realized just how slow my skis were. This year it was the wind. They should rename Dølfjellet to Dødfjellet: dead mountain.

In most circumstances you don’t wish for more hills. But since Raufjellet’s looming mass worked as a partial wind shield, I was happy to climb again. Despite the hill my per km splits went from the six minute range down to the low fours.

Not too long after that I crossed the bridge over the river at Kvarstad. I mistook Kvarstad for Nyseter. The latter is the halfway point. Time stood at 2:10. So, it turns out that when I came through Nyseter I was actually ahead of my goal pace:

Computed Splits and average speed:

SkramstadSetra 0:46:54 11.5 km/t (7.2 miles/hr)
Kvarstad 2:10:02 13.0 km/t (8.1 miles/hr)
Sjusjøen 3:15:24 11.9 km/t (7.4 miles/hr)
Mål 3:59:59 18.8 km/t (11.7 miles/hr)


After that it was the climb up to the last big obstacle, Midtfjellet. Coming out of Kvarstad I picked up my first serious route mates. One guy I passed while fighting against the wind caught back up with me as I stopped for a drink. Another, who was either resting or just starting out there, started biting my heels as I headed up Midfjellet’s flank.

Last year Midfjellet came as a surprise. This time I was again over it easier than I thought I would be. On my way I up I retook the one skier that had passed me from behind. Didn’t see him again. However the other one took off like a shot with very energetic herringboning going up over the top of Midtfjellet. I let him go.

After Midtfjellet I again expected things to go easy. The route from there is mostly flat to downhill all the way into Lillehammer. But the wind plagued me again. Double-poling felt useless with my body acting as a sail in the now direct-facing headwind.

The big drop after Sjusjøen came, like the year before, as a deliverance. There I got to enjoy fastest downhill in the entire route. I’m happily at my most relaxed and fearless when exhausted. My speed topped out at 47km/h without being the slightest bit worried.

Just before the fastest part I picked up a new pair of road-mates. A quite fast woman skier and her dog with a bell around its neck. She actually made me slow down by half-ploughing while waiting for her dog to catch up. I didn’t appreciate that, but unfortunately didn’t have enough gas left to get around her. So, we were stuck together, double-poling to the annoying music of her dog’s bell.

I got ahead of her when I crossed right over a big sheet of ice that she more carefully went around. Again, fearless when tired. So together we went, double-poling along. I think she was annoyed too about not being able to shake me. So, at one point, she piped up:

Fast woman skier: Kan jeg gir deg et staking tips? / Can I give you a double-poling tip?

Tired, annoyed me: Nei. / No.

She was clearly taken aback by my blunt refusal of her expert help. But frankly, at that point, I knew what I was doing wrong and was having a hard time avoiding not giving a damn. Still her little pedagogical intervention gave me pause for thought and I tried thereafter to keep my tired butt up instead of sitting down while double-poling.

The last few kilometers were a heart-wrenching fight against the clock. Every new little climb came as a spiteful, evil conspiracy between time and terrain. Still, when I finally rolled into the Birkebeiner Stadium my watch  somehow amazingly displayed 4:00. I hit the stop button before I lost that magic number and then just stared at it unbelieving. My actual time was 48 seconds over the hour, but I’ll take it.

The weather is, of course, an integral part of the race. I therefore can’t say that if it hadn’t been for the wind I would have been considerably faster. There’s always bound to be something, and a big part of the race is just dealing with it.

So, I’ll take it. Leaves me room to grow next year.

Trip details:

  • Wax: base of Rode Blue Super Extra / top layers of Rode Violet Multigrade
  • Air temp: -0C max / -4C min
  • Style: Classic.
  • Distance: 54km

L’honneur est sauf

27 Feb

Nicer snow the day after the race at Lillehammer's Maihaugen

Participated yesterday in the Sør Ål Runden ski race just South of Lillehammer.

It’s a fun local race that nevertheless attracted a lot of participants from Oslo, in addition to the local crowd.

The 40km classic style competition is also a seeding race for the Birkebeiner which explains why it drew so many from far afield.

To accentuate the Birkenness (Birkosity?) race organisers changed the route this year in order to approximate the climbs and drops of the Birkebeiner course from Rena to Lillehammer. However it wasn’t required to have royal-sprog-weight-approximating backpack.

Before the race it looked like all was going for the best in the best of all possible worlds. I was healthy unlike before the Grenaderen. I had a technique course the Thursday before in which I got complimented on my progress since last season. I ate well, had a nice trip to Lillehammer and got to bed early.

Even the weather looked cooperative: -2 to -3 with lots of fresh snow. But something had to go wrong and that thing was the weather.

Morning dawned with zero degree temps and drizzle. Impossible waxing conditions. Just for the race. Not the day before, nor the day after. And with long Birken style diagonal climbs it was going to be de la merde.

I tried my skis prewaxed with 0 to -2 rated Rode multigrade. Felt like trying to go diagonal on skate skis. I knew I had an ace up my sleeve but still didn’t believe much in it: Rode zero wax.

Maybe my error was only waxing in the zero zone marked on my skis. Maybe I should have use klister. Maybe I corked it too smooth.

Whatever the case when my start group left I had almost no grip. But since the race climbed I could feel my terrible situation improve as I painfully gained altitude going outside the track the whole time. I went from 5 percent grip to ten and so on.

As my pitiful situation improved I saw other’s decline. As snow accumulated under their skis those who waxed with klister stepped out of the track (or not!) to scrape their skis together, cursing all the while.

At the highest point in the race I had nearly decent grip and next to no snow “klumper” problems under my skis.

But alas the race organizers wanted lots of elevation gain which implied lots of altitude loss. And that meant descent back into slippery hell.

The same story repeated several times until I approached the deliverance of the finish line. But, just for the pleasure of experiencing the zero grip low altitude zone, they made that uphill.

When I finally and painfully pole-heaved myself over the finish line 2:52.40 had passed. My goal was 2:50. Close enough. L’honneur est sauf!

That pace translates to a sub 4 hour Birken. If I hit the wax better that goal should fall easily when I do my Birkenprøven one of these coming weekends. I’ll leave the real one to the crowds. Don’t need them to time my race.

Still my no grip effort this weekend took a toll of pain. But as I write this it feels like I’m recovering nicely. Thank you rollerski!

Here are Erling Jevnes best ski technique tips

9 Feb

I have never seen such a good ski technique tip video. Covers all the classic techniques. In Norwegian, but I find Jevnes Norwegian is uncharacteristically easy to understand.