Monday, February 22, 2010
race report: Grenaderen 90 km - cross country
This was to be a very long and very cold day!
04:30 - pack up the car and drive downtown to the bus-transport
05:15 - the bus drove us up to Hakadal
06:00 - at Hakadal, where there is an abandoned train station which is our only chance of being indoors. The actual starting point is a 10 minute hike uphill where we pick up our time-chip and get ready for start. There is a tent where there are port-a-potties, which is quite a chilling experience.
The temperature is -12 C and snowing. It is just barely getting lighter outside. "Sunrise" is at 07:35 now, but we will never see it today anyway.
07:30 - Start of race! There are about 600 competitors and there´s 7-8 lanes wide in the starting lineup. There is a mad start to get first up to the "bottleneck" where we go over a small bridge which only has 2 lanes. I manage to keep a good pace and I am feeling good.
As always in these races, it´s quite packed with skiers for the first 10-20 km. Already we get quite a few climbs, which spread out the people a little. Then as soon as we get to the first downhill I notice that I have no glide whatsoever! People are passing me pretty easily and I´m quite frustrated. I had prepped my skis the night before, but had a bad feeling that I had done this wrong.
The 1st food station is at Kikut, after 17 km. It took me 1:30 to get here, which is a good pace for me. I get some sandwiches with salami plus something warm to drink.
Plenty of climbs coming up. But then finally we get a flat section. It would not last long. More uphills before we get to the 2nd pitstop, Storflåtan. It took me 1:36 to cover the 15 km, so I am still on schedule.
After each stop though my hands start to freeze up. It would take about 30 minutes after each stop to get my fingers warm again. Luckily my feet would never be cold. It is also about here that my GPS battery died. After only 3 hours? It was a brand new battery, but I guess in -12 weather the battery won´t last long.
The 3rd stop is at the top (technically), at Løvlia. It took me 1 hour to cover the 11 km here, so I am quite pleased considering all the climbs. But it is also here where I am getting tired and having problems keeping my hands warm. Luckily they have warm drinks for us, but I wish I could put my hands inside an oven. It is still snowing and the wind is merciless... even though we have a tailwind for the most part.
More downhills! Really steep! I think this is where I had my first fall. I would end up with 3 total falls today, each one just me planting my ass on the ground, not wanting to careen into a tree or something.
It is 13 km to the next pitstop, at Kleivstua, and it took me 1:28 here. My pace is slower now.
It is here that I decide to have my skis checked out while I am enjoying some hot coffee. This nice Swedish guy manages to fix my skis (why did I not do this earlier??).
As I leave the pitstop, I notice an immediate improvement with my glide, and I hate myself for not checking them earlier.
I think the best last minute decision I made that morning was to add on a wind-proof vest under my jacket. The wind is still pretty strong, and the tracks are disappearing, making the visibility very poor.
I also notice that my water bottle is completely frozen! And this is one of those bottles with the big opening that I bragged about to Ellen just last week... because the opening never freezes. I even tried to hack away an opening with my ski pole, but it was rock solid. So... no more sport drink for me except at the pitstops. Bummer.
I am at the next to the last pit stop, at Sollihøgda. It took me 1:22 to travel 10 km, so my pace is slower than I wanted to be. I meet one of the guys that I had talked to on the bus this morning, and we were both looking forward to this thing to be over. We were at the 66 km mark, so we still had 24 km to go.
More uphills and more downhills. Seems like there were never any flat areas where I could just "walk".
At the last pitstop! Finally! At Sandungen. 15 km in 1:47. But here they are out of hot water! I am offered a cold drink, and I have no choice but to take it, especially since my water bottle is now just a block of ice. So I have some cold salami sandwiches and a cold drink.... mmmmmmmmm.
The last 9 km still remain! My hands are freezing! And we are still not getting any mercy from the tracks... or the weather. Lots of small uphills and downhills (although it seemed there were more uphills... if that´s possible). The tracks were now almost gone, from the side winds having blown fresh snow over them, plus no sunlight passing through the clouds creating a very flat light.
2 other guys have joined me, and we keep switching places, kinda like drafting... but I think it was coincidence. I would fall in the very last steep downhill, and the other 2 guys passed me. But as I see the 1 km mark, and the terrain finally flattens out (just a bit), I manage to pull away from them and cross the finish line about 30 seconds before them. Today´s little victory I guess ;)
There´s really no fanfare or noise after finishing this feat. There are 2 guys and a speaker, announcing my name as I cross the finish line, consisting of 2 poles and a flag. A drink station follows, with luke-warm energy drink.
My final time would be 9:44:01.
About 45 minutes slower than expected... but I am quite pleased considering all the elements that were against me.
Before I forget, I really need to send out a big thank you to all the people who donated their time at the food stations! It must have been insanely cold for them to stand there all day, out in the elements, handing us food and drinks. They were all so nice and gave us a smile and encouraging words. Thank you!!
After the race:
I shuffle inside the school, get my bag with a change of clothing (which has been outside in the snow all day, so the clothes are fairly cold). We have access to the school locker rooms, where we can take a hot shower... although, to me it just felt luke-warm.
I finally get to put on some dry clothes. Wool!
I wolf down a couple of hot dogs and a hot coffee... and go back to get a third hot dog, and a chocolate bar.
Plus I get a diploma! And a nice pin! Plus a little glass with the Grenader logo burned in. Makes it all worthwhile ;-)
I had to wait for the bus to take me back home. When I finally got to my car I had to almost dig it out from all of the snow before I could drive home. My coffee mug that was in the car, half full, was now frozen solid.
When I finally got home I had to dig out my parking spot before I could park my car. I REALLY just wanted to get inside and wrap up in a blanket.
It was now 8 pm.
Finally indoors, on my couch, under a blanket, sipping HOT cocoa... I could look back at what is, to date, my longest and coldest day (the only exception might be back in March 1993 when I spent the night in a small monastery in Suzdal, Russia).
On Sunday morning... the sun came out.