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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.

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Winters first ski on snow

5 Dec

Went on this season’s first ski trip this past weekend. Two days on man-made snow in the Natrudstilen area of Sjusjøen, above Lillehammer. Happily a fresh dusting of snow in the trees made place look properly winter-like.

Since I got some video footage of myself, I’m now wondering (or worrying) who I look the most like from Sindre Wiig Nordby’s great parodies here:

And here:

I vote Emil Jönssson from the second one.

The love of summer

31 Jul

In spite of the views to the contrary I’ve expressed here, summer is not the enemy. I take everything back I said about it being the all too easy to love season, preferred by shallow people.

No summer must be earned too. While in France I saw a documentary on Vivaldi where the presenter, Stéphane Bern, explained why the final “summer” movement of the Four Seasons is the darkest of the lot. In the heat of Venice, summer meant suffering.

Here too, the sun beats down, it’s hot and humid, hungry bugs attack all exposed flesh and the evenings tend to explode into frighteningly intense electrical storms.

Because I heard distant rumblings of thunder, I headed out for today’s rollerski training right in the heat of noon.

When it’s so warm the body is relaxed, fluid and easy to move. It comes naturally to go hard because nature’s hot pulsing intensity rhymes with the feeling of life churning through your veins.

If spring makes one think of birth and childhood innocence, then summer is season when the body ripens into its vital maturity. Some of the best TV I’ve ever seen was a broadcast of the ballet choreographer Jo Strømgren wrote to accompany the Four Seasons:

(Image: nrk.no)

His summer is hot, out of control and vibrating with an excess of energy. The crescendo is a sea of sexy, lightly-clothed, well-muscled bodies writhing frenetically as a bullfighter gets run over by a rampaging lawnmower.

Out today rollerskiing the heat and the distant thunder brought the whole scene back to my mind. Mine is dangerous sport, made violent by the hard impact of metal pole tips on the asphalt. There, wearing little and feeling alive in a hot sweaty body with power to burn, the scene from the ballet made perfect sense.

Alive, alive. Don’t hurry the days on by anticipating others. Stop, pluck the peach warm from the tree. Savour it. Let the sticky juices run down your chin and wrist. The snow I so desperately want will now be here all too soon:

THROUGH winter-time we call on spring,
And through the spring on summer call,
And when abounding hedges ring
Declare that winter’s best of all;
And after that there s nothing good
Because the spring-time has not come –
Nor know that what disturbs our blood
Is but its longing for the tomb.

(W.B. Yeats, “The Wheel”).

Burying the variable

15 Jun

I’ve gone faster than ever on my last two rollerski trainings. First up Grefsenkollen and then along the valley floor in Maridalen. The only problem is figuring out why. On the one hand my experience in the Norges cup race in Askim gave me a new burst of inspiration. Getting slaughtered by 20 year-olds left me fluttering  between despair and renewed resolve. But the balance finally went resolutely toward the latter. And now I’ve got a new drive to work hard.

Moreover the weather has been chaotic which has pushed me to train in a more varied and probably more complete way. I’ve done a mix of spinning classes, Ski-Erg and short and long rollerski trips.

Finally there’s an equipment factor. I just got new wheels. Beautiful things. Each machined from a single block of aluminium. Lovely, shiny and precise. And they feel divine. They make fast comfortable.

So has my speed increased because of easier rolling wheels? Or is it just the extra training. Hard to say.  But for what it’s worth, my average speed on my Maridalen route has crept up from 15,8 to 19,2 km/h in a little less than a year’s time.

Just when I thought this was the last goodbye

31 Mar

The trail prep man headed out late yesterday evening. Only a couple skate skiers got to it while the track was still soft and happily didn’t do too much damage. Still, this brave new GPS world where every obsessive ski troll can stalk the prep machine does has its disadvantages.

But no moaning today. Skiing was lovely. I went my normal route twice before work this morning. I wanted to to sponge up the last bit of gravy left near my house from this ski season. Or so I thought it was the last.

But in reality it hasn’t stopped snowing since about 8.30 this morning. Sure it’s wet snow, but vastly better than the forecast rain. Just hope it doesn’t turn into that overnight.

Yay winter!

27 Mar

The tide has turned and the good side has started taking territory again. No, I’m not talking about Libya. It’s winter that has recaptured some far flung outposts.

Here in Oslo the carnage of spring has slowed. The snow depth readings on my snow dashboard has shown the rate of loss way down over the past three days:

Moreover, doping off on the Interwebs, I saw advances in far-flung spots. The most improbable of those was Rim Nordic in the mountains behind Los Angeles. After closing for the season because of warm rains March 7th, they got snow again Thursday and Friday and were able to open for one last weekend. I’ve been there a couple times while away from Norway. The resort is run by friendly and enthusiastic people and has nicely groomed trails. I highly recommend it!

I also saw that Craftsbury Nordic Center in the US state of Vermont has a whopping 73cm base. The picture I linked to above shows lovely trail conditions on March 24.

Here around the house I skied today on both sides of the valley. On the East side I again broke my all-time speed record without really trying.The first km was nasty cement-like stuff with crap blown down from the trees and peoples’ footprints all over it. But the rest was firm, fast, extra-virgin corduroy. Moreover the ice patch I slipped and fell on walking home had shrunk, so I didn’t need to break another pole.

I went in fact on mismatched poles, one carbon and one super-sexy carbon titanium. While perhaps very fragile, I now see in comparison that the top model is crazy light and incredibly alive. But since I broke the right hand one, going on a mixed pair I had the super good pole on my weaker side. The effect was interesting, and not at all bad. Power on the right versus left was perhaps a little more balanced.

Whatever the case, I flew through the forest with every nerve tingling joyfully. I looked forward to the climbs for the sheer thrill of projecting my body up and over them. That fun was compounded by the feeling of progress I’ve made with my paddling gear. I now pull my “hang arm” all the way through and then also ride out the glide better on the off leg. That new recipe keeps my speed up on even the steepest climbs.

Tomorrow I’m debating whether I’ll cross the valley before work or just stick to this side. Since the goal is to lap up all the gravy on winter’s plate I skied there too on my way back home. It was bumpier and had suffered from all the trail-trudgers and “custard” skaters. But if the prep man goes out late (or early) enough, I think the damage can be sufficiently reversed to let me unfurl my wings.

Speaking of birds, le coq à la crête noire now has a rival on the East side of the valley. A grouse has decided it owns the East-side trail-head and has been squawking its head off every time I come over to ski. My dear little cantankerous fellow, I understand your feelings. Please give the dog walkers, joggers and similar ski trail vermin a good beak-lashing for me too!

Where were you when I broke the pole?

26 Mar

One of the defining moments in Norwegian sport history happened in 1982 when Oddvar Brå broke a pole heading for the win in the men’s relay in Holmenkollen. That gave rise to the epoch defining question “Where were you when Brå broke the pole?” / “Hvor var du da Brå brakk staven?”.

My pole break at 9:15 this morning was less significant. And far more ridiculous. I slipped and fell on a sheet of ice walking back home from my morning ski. Moreover, it was was one of those super-light, super-sexy and expensive carbon titanium jobbies.

But I was so happy with my ski tour I think only my dignity took a hit. I was in fact daydreaming about what I’d write here and not minding my feet when it happened. My intended title for this post was ski-o-therapy. It was that good.

But it didn’t start out very well. I went first to my home trail on the East side of the valley. Didn’t hit any speed records there because of the frilly lip shaped tracks left by skate skiers going right after the machine late last night. There’s something disturbingly anatomical about such traces. They had frozen into glide-eating, life-threatening obstacles. I call them “custard” tracks, after a mishmash of two perfectly fitting but unmentionable worlds. So in springtime please don’t be a “custard” and skate right after the machine at night. Wait for the morning when the trail prepper’s work has had time to firm up. It will be better for both you and me, I assure you.

But, as promised, the point of this post is not bitch bitch moan moan. Fearing all the while I’d get the more of the same, or maybe even a loathsome jogger who followed right behind the trail prepper, I crossed the valley to try the trails on the other side. But there it was perfectly virgin. And so firm I could barely see my own tracks on the return trip. Moreover it was rocket fast. Pure joy. I broke my  speed record without even trying.

I didn’t even think about going fast. I just enjoyed it. With no lips of death to trip me I could throw my weight onto the front of my skis and glide like mad. The thing that’s been working for me with skate skiing lately is to imagine I only have a front half of each ski. That trick keeps my butt up and lets me ride out the glide as long as I want to. Today it felt like flying. And at mostly over 20km/h, it was.

In comparison the ice patch incident was minor. I’ve already run to the sport shop to pick up a new pair. They were out of carbon titanium in my size, so had to settle for carbon only. The new ones are slightly heavier than the featherweight pair I broke, so hopefully tougher too.