Word "terrible" is an understatement to describe my feelings after my first ever long distance xc-skiing race, Arctic Circle Ski Marathon, that took place in Rovaniemi last Sunday. I thought about dropping out the whole 4 hours and 29 minutes that it took to complete the race.
The race turned out to be the worst kind of via dolorosa. Unique in its atrociousness.
Normally when I race I can at least think what I'll eat next, but this time I was too occupied with this disturbing thought of giving up. I was eventually the last one of the female participants, but at least I did it. Three women and thirteen men dropped out during the race.
We don't know much about xc-skiing, but on Sunday morning we could feel that there was something wrong either with our skies or with the snow, of which the latter turned out to be the cause of this nightmare. Obviously fresh snow together with more than ten minus degrees offers the worst possible conditions for xc-skiing. It was impossible to make skies slide on that. I had spied the weather forecasts the whole week and it wasn't until at the end of it when the forecast started to show that it'll be hell cold on Sunday morning. It was –19 celsius degrees when the race started at 9am and the temperature didn't change much during the race, so in addition of non-sliding surface we had cruel arctic temperature. By the time when I'd have liked to have some energy gels I found them totally frozen, and Anssi needed to melt me his in his pants. I call that true love!
We participated 50 km's race with approximately a hundred of others and immediately after the start I dropped behind most of the people. I felt terrible, from the very first second to the very last one. My pulse was all-rightish, and I'm still not sure if there was something wrong with me or if it was just the conditions, but I'm happy that I could make it at all. For Anssi it was much easier, he skied with me with decent heartbeat his average being approximately 150 beats per minute (bpm). Mine was ten beats more, which is rather low race pulse to me. Afterwards it felt more like a long practise.
A friend of ours, who has completed thirty-something xc-skiing marathons, said that the conditions were the worst she has ever experienced. She nevertheless skied 100 km's and holds now the first place in my personal Toughest woman -list.
Comforting fact is, the conditions were the same to all participants. Maybe next time won't be that bad.
See you there next year!