The next morning as we woke up, the view outside did not look good at all. It was snowing so heavily that you basically could not see anything. It seemed that it had snowed that heavily for the whole night. Sure enough, as I went to get the skis, the owner of the hotel told me that there was news in the radio about the competition being cancelled. We still went to get dresses and started driving towards the start uphill, but soon enough there was police on the road not letting us through. Apparently the mountain roads were filled with snow and closed.
Nice. We quickly went back to hotel, packed our things and started driving towards Andorra (#55) so that we could at least do some skiing there. The route to Andorra was very picturesque with very nice views. We did get there on time, but as we put our ski chains on the tires again, one of the chains broke and it was clear that we could not make it high enough on the mountains to be able to ski. So, we checked in hotel and made a tour in the centre and did some shopping. In the evening I went to a small run on top of the hill overlooking the city.
On Saturday morning at 9 Erik started on 120 km distance (prior to the race he had skid 1200 km this season) and I took some time to relax before by 11am start. Just 5-6 minutes before the start I exited my room and went to the start. The front rows were all taken, but I figured that it didn’t matter since the track seemed quite wide and I was not going to race, right?!
As soon as I put my skis down and smelled the snow and the kind wax odour of the skis and saw all the other athletes warming up I knew. I knew that there was no way I would not try to give my best in this competition. I just can’t take it easy at a competition.
So, as the race started I rushed to gain some ground. Very soon did I find out that I was wrong on the other point also – it was only the starting corridor that was very wide, in fact, just a hundred meters down the track was wide enough for only two skiers. This meant that it was quite soon that the bottleneck developed and it took me around 1,5 minutes just to cross the startline. But once I did I started looking for ways to gain ground. I would ski at the side of the track to get ahead and I would double pole to pass other competitors. Inside I knew that this pushing was going to cost me later on, but, what the hell. I gained quite a lot of ground and at some point the track was quite empty and I could ski at my own pace. The weather was sunny, but it was very windy and this made the race harder. The track itself was also quite tough: the total vertical ascent for the 45km was more than 500m, perhaps twice as much as in Tartu Maraton for example.
Just before the halfway people would start passing me. My legs and arms were not feeling that good, obviously for the reason that they weren’t used to make these moves. And the uphills started getting harder and harder. I had skipped a few service points, but from then on I made sure to get sportsdrink/water and maybe raisins from each of the following service points. Then around halfway the hardest part of the track began – pretty much constant uphill to the highest point of the track. More and more people overtook me. But the worst was still coming. Then, 10km to go, the inevitable happened. In Estonian we call it “getting the hammer” or “getting the panel” and there are other very colourful phrases to describe the feeling you get when your glycogen reserves are depleted and every part of your body starts to hurt. You know if you’ve ever felt this feeling. The thing you need to do is to get energy asap and then wait for the feeling to go away. My problem was, I had nothing to eat with me (I did not intend to race, after all) and the next service point was full 3 km away. There was really nothing I could do about it. My pace slowed down close to walking with the sole objective of getting to the service station. People passed me from my left and right. At one point there was a guy with cotton hoody passing me, his back all soaked in sweat. I did not remember when anyone not knowing a thing about sports apparel passed me on a competition before, but it didn’t even matter – I had to get to the final service point.
After something that seemed like an hour I did. There I made a longer stop. For the next 7-8 minutes I would just stand there, eat raisins and pickles (that was all they had there), drink water and sports drink and think about my life. Finally I was ready to go and left the station.
The last seven kilometres were not that hard, mainly due to the reason that the service station was at the highest point of the track and it was mostly downhill from there. I still took it easy and tried to enjoy the race. Finally I got to the finish in 2:52, perhaps the slowest competitive 45km in years. Just as a comparison – in 2011 I raced in Poland a track with perhaps only slightly easier difficulty level and finished the 50km distance in 2:24…
But there I was and another Euroloppet race was done. I got my medal from the finish, went to my room, washed, ate a bit and then went to see around a bit. Erik would finish a couple of hours later with an excellent time for 120km – 7:34. In the evening we went to sauna and quite early called it a day.
The next morning we woke up at 6am, had breakfast at 7 and around 9 went to have a short skiride. We skid with easy pace to the same service station where I had eaten all their raisins the previous day and then some more. The weather was nice, there was no wind and my legs and arms felt like new. We finished the 16km ride with faster average pace than my competition the previous day and I started to love skiing again.