The ‘must-attend’ SkiO race in the early part of the 2015 winter season is the Sjusjøenrennet, taking place this weekend in, you guessed it, Sjusjøen. With World Championships in Norway approaching (Feb), the chance to race in Norway just 100km the WOC terrain is an opportunity not to be missed. Norwegian track networks are very different to their Swedish and Finnish counterparts: winding around trees, looping over the contours and gently curved junctions. With many of the organising team the same as for SkiO WOC, this is most certainly an excellent training opportunity.
I wanted to use my fatbike for the competitions: first a sprint (today) followed by a middle (Sunday), but I was told by HJ I would have the rest of the week to play fatbikes in the track network. In my mind, using a fatbike for SkiO is far safer for both myself and others. It has brakes. Ski’s do not. Meet me going downhill on a SkiO path, and the chances are you will get run down. I have no chance to stop, or turn. Once my bodyweight is centered in the snow plough, I can’t move out of it. So fatbike is safer!
With use of the fatbike forbidden, I was forced to take part on ski. The same races visited the same terrain last year, and I remembered fearing for my life on the steep slopes, and turning into a snowman on the descents. Nervous about finishing in tears again, I approached the event with trepidation.
In MTBO a good race is determined by full, attacking speed, excellent orienteering and a good ‘feeling’. In SkiO the standard is much lower. I just have to not cry, and it’s a bonus if I can stay upright, with double bonus points available if I can double pole the ascents! With that in mind, today’s event was a success for me, with all three target criteria met.
Over the past few months I have spent a good deal of time focussing on stability, balance and strength, particularly around my core, shoulders and arms. Already I have noticed a difference in ‘feel’ while biking. It’s easier to move my weight around the bike, and I’m able to ride more challenging climbs and descents. The real test will come in 2015 with various time trials and races, but for now, the ‘feel’ is good. The benefit however has been twofold, as my upper body strength has improved to the point where I can go up moderate climbs in SkiO paths with some degree of speed. Less penguin steps, more style. Maybe. In addition, despite only 10 ski sessions in 2 weeks, my balance seems to really have improved over last winter.
Although I finished feeling pleased, I was disappointed to see the results. 50% behind the winner, Miss Alexandersson from Sweden, who not only won, but dominated in style taking victory by 1 min 4 seconds. In a sprint race! More appropriately (and to make me feel better) I was about 37% behind 2nd, which would make it one of my better races. The closest to the winner I have had was 35% in a 10 min prologue last year. I still lost 7 mins to the winner, but was able to take 25th place out of 57 starters, all of whom are far more experienced at skiing, and most have higher WR points, and beating some women who would normally be several minutes faster.