Sunday, 9 December 2012

Ski-O. Attempt 4!

It finally feels that all this ski-o and skiing practice is paying off. Not only am I managing to not fall over on the steep descents and flat, but I'm no longer finishing last (although I do seem to only be able to 17 year olds!)

I was lent some skis by Barbro Kvåle which I used for the race as they glided better on the fresh snow that fell last night. I also had the added challenge of beating HJ's father who was skiing the same course today, but I was really most keen on not being last two days in a row.

The course was one of two halves. The first half with a track network skirting the edges of smaller marshes and tree lines on the hill, while the second half was more technical with some steeper climbs and descents and a denser path network.

I started steadily and quickly realised that I would have a challenge counting off all the paths as those that didn't have controls or on route choices, were hard to see as the fresh snow had covered the tracks. With no skiers using them, finding the right track became much harder. I paused at the junction before the first control as despite it was the first track junction I had seen, I had to pass 3 on my map. With a control half way up I figured it was mine and was rewarded with my control! The route to 2 was difficult, I opted to head straight out to the ski track and then 500m later turn back up the hill on scooter tracks. I was reluctant to take this route as there was 35m of climb (hills not being a strong point) but the other route which contoured more with shortcut options looked too technical and with invisible paths I felt it was asking for a mistake.

The next controls passed uneventfully, but I was starting to tire. I'm ok at skating on wide tracks and I can co-ordinate the movement, but as soon as I hit narrower ski-o tracks my skiing becomes increasing unstable and uncoordinated. Which is frustratingly hard work! Not to mention inefficient!

6 to 7 was a frightfully scary leg, with a short sharp climb out of the control, and then 2 steep drops with corners at the bottom. But I made it with no snowplough and no fall, but just a little unsteady! At 7 I proceeded to get stuck in a tree as my skis went under the foliage and into the dip in the snow. Getting out was a pain and look a good 30-40 seconds. The slight slope and marsh plants poking through the snow meant everytime I got the skis clear, I slid back in at another angle! It must be comical to watch me ski sometimes ...

I loved the descent to 8, I knew there was nothing scary in the way of drops so I picked up a bit of speed and cruised all the way with a smile on my face. After that I fatigued quickly and couldn't find any power, so the final km's back to the finish, uphill, were something of a struggle.

I was 25th today, with a 40 second gap to 23rd. Damn that tree! I was 22 mins behind the clear leader, Tove Alexandersson who won by a massive 4.5mins. I was 150% behind second place and the rest of the ski-o mortals! It's pleasing that I can continue to get closer to the winners. Just a little more coordination needed!

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Ski-O. Attempt 3

Today's ski-o race took us to Sjusjøen near Lillehammer in Norway. We arrived yesterday afternoon and headed straight out for our second session of the day. I was building on my first sessions of ski drills and had an emphasis on poling with each skate stroke. My natural tendency is to be one sided as my balance isn't yet good enough to get a long glide on the ski's. I was doing pretty well and nailing some climbs, when I got a little cocky on a descent. As I came to the junction I made the right hand turn without a snow plough but caught my ski in the classic tracks, and as I was still heading to the left, hit the snow twisting my finger (of all things!). A bit of TLC needed, but no shortage of ice for the swelling!

The first race of the weekend was the sprint, 4km around the semi open fell. A look at the start list showed I had a middle start of the girls (must be last start of the unranked skiers!). HJ didn't want to hang around in the cold too long, so we arrived at the event 30 mins before my start (do I need to emphasize the stress??). I ran off and missed the route to the start and was wandering around a campsite for 5 mins hoping to find some ski-orienteers.

Heart rate and GPS route of course. Max HR zone from just after start to finish (and a few small sections where it dropped to 185).

Naturally by the time I got to the start and had started the course, my head was far from the right place. I skiied off and messed up the first, by not sticking to my plan and getting distracted. On the way to 4 I was caught by some faster girls who had already overtaken me, but I followed them at a turning and then realised I was wrong. Relocating quickly I then found the control while they skiied around some more. They finally caught me again by 6. 6-8 was a straight line and I was lucky to realise when I hit the main track that I needed to get 7. Fortunately I was only 50m away, so a quick shortcut dealt with that control. After that I got in to the flow a bit and despite not having good glide on the hills, managed to pick up some speed.

I finished in a long 43 mins, and skiied straight back to the cabin along the ridge with a glorious sunset which made the mountains look to be on fire.

I beat 8 people in the womens race and 2 men (who skiied the same course), so I'm pleased despite making at least 3 mins of mistakes.

Time to rest, recover and eat before a middle distance tomorrow (and keep my fingers crossed for WRE points!).

Friday, 7 December 2012

A few pics!

Someone built a GIANT snowman looking in the window!

-27°C and nice and warm!

Ski-O. Season begins!

Having finally reached a grand total of 6 weeks skiing in two years, with 3 ski-o events, I was a little anxious about the first races of the season in Saariselka, Finland. Flying up to Ivalo airport in Lapland, we were met by the cold. I was immediately grateful for my warm snug Craft kit, and armed with thermal trousers, thermals, hats, down jacket, ski trousers and mittens, I braved the cold.

I felt as if I had steadily been improving my skiing and my balance was considerably better than at the beginning of the Val Senales trip. But downhills are still scary. And corners still require a snow plough so I was concerned at how I would manage on the narrow ski-o tracks, where penguin steps are difficult!

My goal for the season is to not finish last in one race. In early 2011, I was more than 200% of the winners time. Earlier this year, I was 180%, so I knew with more practice I could only improve.

Sadly I didn't realise that controls might be placed close together on the same path, and I mispunched. BUT, I would have beaten an Italian by 3 minutes! The middle distance was ok, not as hard as I imagined. I made it up the hills, despite being shouted at by everyone passing me. I've no idea what they were saying, but I'm guessing it wasn't a polite conversation they were continuing as they skied on up the hills. I know I'm not a fast skier, or particularly good one. I move out of the way as fast as I can, and let's not forget that while I'm not winning, I'm still trying not to be last. I had to contend on several occasions by the other skiers pushing me out of the way, because I wasn't in control of my ski's enough to move a quickly as they wanted. 

Middle distance map:

The next day, we moved onto the long distance. An 18km epic. From the start I was last, but it didn't stay that way. As I came up the hill to control 2 I met a couple of lost girls. They caught me up at 5/6 and then I made a mistake and lost them good. But the signs are there that things are improving. My cornering practice in Italy, has improved my cornering skills no end, and I'm now confident enough to skate around corners. Steep downhills still require a snow plough though!

I finished in 1:49 and the winners in 1:09 so much less than 200% of the winner :-) I was exhausted at the finish, mainly due to picking up the map and thinking it was long enough and there would be no map change. So from 6 onwards I was sprinting my feeble arms off (the narrow tracks mean it's difficult to skate and thus the arms are used!) to catch up the Italians, but I was mystified when I wasn't allowed to finish. I was then handed a new map and realised I had to go back up the big hill and do the other gaffles! So the last half of the course was seriously tough, and my arms burned! My core gave up and with it went my remaining speed! Lesson learned, don't sprint from 25% of the course.

Long distance map (my gaffling was: A, C, B, D)