Thursday, November 17, 2011


I said my goodbyes to Muonio and traveled to Norway yesterday.  While it was great to be able to do a big block of training on snow before the seasons started, after three weeks in Muonio, the darkness was setting in, and I was ready for a change of scenery.
Sunset in Muonio.  This picture was taken before 3pm.

The first World Cups of the season are this weekend in Sjusjoen, Norway.  There is not any snow here either so we will be racing on another short manmade loop of snow.  The organizing committee is doing everything they can to protect the snow so the loop is closed until the races with the exception of a three hour inspection period tomorrow.  Since there isn't any skiing here today the US team decided to stay as long as possible at the ski tunnel in Torsby, Sweden, where they are currently training and will not be arriving to Norway until later tonight.  I already had a ticket booked for yesterday and since I skied many kilometers around the track in Muonio, I knew it would be alright to have a day off from skiing and I was excited for a solo day in Lillehammer, where our team is staying for the weekend.

After eating as much delicious breakfast at the hotel buffet as I could hold this morning (soft boiled eggs, toast, brown cheese, yogurt, keifer, cereal, smoked salmon, pickled herring, crepes, and more!!) I was ready to go for a run.  By this time it was fully light outside and the sun was up and shining brightly OVER the hills.  I asked the lady at the front desk if there were running or ski trails nearby and she replied, "Of course, everywhere."  Stupid question, this is Norway.  I left the hotel, picked a random direction and didn't run more than a few hundred meters before I came across a single track path.

The trail headed uphill away from town and paralleled a rocky brook.  After being in Muonio, it felt so hilly here!  It was cold outside with a thick layer of frost but still no snow.

This pool looks a little too cold for an ice bath

It at least looks wintery

Which direction to choose?  I think I'll save Sjusjoen until tomorrow

Looking down over Lillehammer from above

I followed signs to Olympiaparken, site of the 1994 Olympics.  The building on the right is now NTG Lillehammer, one of Norway's ski academies.

They were blowing snow in the stadium and I made some fresh tracks (footprints I guess) through the "powder."

From Olympiaparken I followed signs to Sentrum and soon popped out in the center of town.  The main street was very touristy with shops, cafes, and restaurants.  There were a few vendors selling waffles which smelled delicious.

Normally I would feel weird running with poles and wearing spandex in a city center but it felt oddly normal here.

A park in town

A church I had glimpsed from above and wanted to check out.  

My camera batteries died at this point but it was also time to head back to the hotel.  

Racing gets going on Saturday with a 10km skate! 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

C'mon winter

The warm weather in Muonio has continued and it feels a lot like April in Vermont.  The forecast had called for a fair amount of snow the past two days here but then the temperatures were a few degrees too warm and the precipitation came as rain.  Luckily they spread the manmade and saved snow thickly and it is holding up quite well.  The skiing remains solid even though it hasn’t even froze at night for the past few days, preventing any more snow from being blown.  Thus, each day the white ribbon of a trail develops a bit more of a brownish hue.
Reports from around Europe and especially Scandinavia make us feel quite lucky to have our 3km loop.  With incredibly few options for skiing anywhere on the continent, more and more skiers are travelling to Muonio in search of snow and ski races.  The Czech and Belarussian national teams are the latest arrivals and we’ve heard that the Germans, Swedes, and others are on the way.  Each day Muonio becomes a little busier.  The ski trail is packed and we were even throwing elbows in Muonio’s small gym yesterday afternoon.   On distance days I’ve realized it’s easiest to just  ski my own pace and not worry about all the people around me.  If someone wants to pass me, I keep going and let them go around and then do the same when passing other skiers.  It’s easy to get intimidated and jump out of the way for every approaching skier but that just makes for a lot of stopping and starting.
Intervals on the busy trail become exciting and great practice for skiing in a pack.  Today we did some 2 minute hard classic intervals in the rain and right in the thick of the crowds.  We lucked out and the majority of people were skating today leaving the classic track a little more free for us.  Still, there was lots of passing and jumping in and out of the track necessary.  In the middle of one of my intervals, I was gaining quickly on another classic skier in the track ahead of me, another guy doing skating intervals was passing me and meanwhile we were all converging on a train of four Russian biathletes skiing distance with their guns.  The skater doing intervals and classic skier tangled and went down, one of the biathletes let out a surprised and high pitched scream while another yelled something loudly in Russian and by sheer luck I was able to scoot around the mess to the far right being careful to not fall off the raised ribbon of ski trail.
Here are some pictures Hannah took of our rainy, hard, but fun workout.  When winter does arrive, the hard extra blue tracks are going to seem just a bit too easy!
Pepa on the side of the trail
Pepa on the side of the trail