Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Let the snowsports commence!

Tue 08 Dec 2009 10:34 GMT

Saturday was a day of firsts for us; Guy's first cross country ski of this winter and my first ever running race in the snow.

Fortunately it would seem that the ski-ing is like riding a bike and that you never forget how! Starting again after some 8 or 9 months off is a great time to address any bad habits that you may have picked up last year and nip them in the bud for this season. Guy skied first at Autrans (where I was running) and on Sunday headed up to Alpe d'Huez where it was less sunny and warm, but snow conditions good.

The run that I took part in on Saturday was a small affair, some 150 participants. It followed a similar format to many cycling events; a choice of circuits (12km or 20km), feed stations, friendly marshals and a pasta party meal at the finish.

The sign-on and start in Autrans was in the pretty town square. We didn't need the digital thermometer there to tell us that it was minus 10 degrees C - the shivering masses waiting at the start line were a clear clue. 150 heads bobbing up and down on the spot to keep warm, I wouldn't be surprised if something had registered on the Richter scale! I was relieved when the starter (Dawa Dachhiri, a cross country ski Olympian) waved the flag for us to set off. What I did not realise as I jogged off enjoying the easy pace was that this was merely a practice run around the block for the benefit of the gathered press and TV. Sadly the pace for the 'real thing' was quite a bit quicker!

As is my need for a top-up of suffering when the bike is not available, I opted for the 20km route. The total height gain during the 20km was 770 metres. Most of the 770 metres seemed to all come at the start when we made our way to the top of a ski jump slope as used in the '68 Olympics, it's a long way up there (hats off to you Eddie the Eagle)!

The course was beautiful and varied. A lot of tracks through fields, following streams, through villages and on forest fire roads. A skidoo had gone on ahead of us and left a small trail of compact snow to run on, but since I was one of the back markers there were already some good tracks to run in, an advantage over those who came in first. The snow conditions were just about perfect, not too wet and slushy. In some spots the snow was powdery like running on sand, frozen pine cones are surprising hazards - like little hand grenades waiting to slip you up, and farmyards were always a good source of sheet ice!

When running on snow, your feet are fairly stable points whilst there's a commotion going on in the torso area and for the most part your arms are out at your sides like a tightrope walker! I reckon even Paula Radcliffe would have looked like she was running for the last bus at closing time! The best part of snow versus tarmac/off-road is that the next day you feel so much better and hardly beaten up or stiff at all, snow seems to be the greatest of shock absorbers, and your trainers come back pristine!

For more info' regarding this and other similar running events:

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