Friday, 2 March 2012

The last month of my life

After italy we made the travel to Turkey with an overnight stay in Munich on route. Unfortunately i had become ill just before traveled, as had the other Andrew. So we were in our own hotel room, a different buss and sat away from the others on the plane.
We got to Turkey quite late. The language barrier quickly became apparent, as good food was a nightmare. I couldnt be arsed waiting around trying to order food through a translator, so i just went to bed.
I was ill for a few more days, but things stated to sort them selves out. Meals became buffets, and we had been into town to stock up on snacks and bottled water as the tap water was undrinkable.
Eventually the day before the sprint i got out of the hotel at 2500m down to the stadium at 1800m. Skiing felt pretty horrific. I only did about an hours session and i was wrecked afterwards.
The next day i felt a bit better, so decided to start the sprint. We got on our bus at 8am to take us on the hour long journey to the stadium. After the first or second set of traffic lights the bus started making some pretty strange sounds and going pretty slowly. We creaked up over some hills and eventually conked out. Stuck beside the road at -25C waiting for a new bus. This was not the funnest half hour of my life. Fortunately the bus schedule was allowing for disappointment and the bus had really left over an hour too early. We got to the stadium in a new bus, and spent the next hour trying to warm back up to normal. But even by the time i raced i wasnt fully warmed up from waiting at a road side.
The race went ok considering the illness. 25th on the prologue and 29th overall, i went out in the quarterfinal.
On the way home, thankfully, we got a warm buss that didnt break down. Smog lingered in the valley, the mind doesnt realise how high you are as the mountains reach even higher, giving the impression you are down in a deep valley. The valley was pretty wide and extensive. There was nothing. The odd farm, villages made up of shakey brick buildings and elaborate mosques, with nothing but a snow covered dirt track leading to them. Occasionally a junction on the highway, a petrol station and a few abandoned broken down cars. But really it was a whole load of nothingness. As we approach the outskirts of Erzrum you start to feel civilization again, army barracks, heavily guarded with machine gun outposts, some small shops advertising kebabs and the traffic flow increases from occasional lorry to quite a few cars and buses. I asked our attache/translator why Erzrum was here. There was no industry as far as i could tell. But it mainly started as a place people would stay as they traveled from Asia to Europe.
We drive through the center of the town. Its like any other normal city. Rich parts and poor parts. Although there were quite a few buildings with parts of their second or third floor missing. Most of the city seemed to be made up of blocks of flats. There were mosques, with high towers, calling people to prayer. We drove out of the city again, up a steep road towards the Alpine ski center. Here there are a handful of hotels all the teams where staying in. Most of them pretty posh, apparently most of the customers are rich Russians on holiday. As we get out of the bus we can look back down onto the city and see a black, grey cloud hanging over the valley and the snow tarnished brown. Up here the air was thin and dry, but clean.
The next day was a training day. The buses ran on time and didnt break down. In the afternoon one of the attaches taught us to play 3 ball billiards in the hotel basement. I ate a lot. The food was nice. We had been worried about the food as we had heard stories from last year when the world uni games were held here. Many people had become ill and blamed the food. We on the other hand had great food. Chicken and rice nearly every day for lunch and dinner, but it tasted good.
The 10k classic the following day went awfully. I learned a lot from that day. Mostly that racing at altitude hurts. After the first lap i felt good and pretty strong, as i entered my second lap a wave of lactate acid hit me, my lungs burned and i struggled my way round to complete the race.
I was disappointed. Now i just wanted to get the last race done and out of the way. Try and do better than i had in the 10k. Unfortunately i had to wait another day. This was a day of nearly no training, only a 30min light ski. And 2 hours sitting a bus to be able to do this.
The final day of competition. The 20k skiathlon mass start. 10k classic followed by 10k skate with a ski change in the middle. I started well and found a nice pace behind two swedes on the classic leg. I came into the change in around 30th position. People where dying fast. The altitude hit people and the slowed to walking pace. I picked it up, got better and better, felt stronger and stronger. On the last lap i lay just off the back of a group fighting for positions between 19th and 27th. I just wasnt close enough to the front. On the last final big climb everything went to pieces. I kicked in to close the gap, the front kicked in to kill of the others. The front of the group was gone and i ended up behind a Swedish guy for the second time in the race. I ended up out sprinting him for 25th place. On ok result. The 10k was awful and it felt great to be on the way back up so quickly after that.
The U23s had a final day of competition after us. So myself, callum and katy had a day Alpine skiing. Our Accreditation got us a free lift pass and rental for the day being only £10 it seemed a waste not to go. It was a pretty fun day and there was some nice skiing. It was only my second time on Alpine skis since i was 5. But it was still fun to give it a blast.
That evening we flew to Istanbul. To an airport on the Asian plate. Then we drove in a minibuss full of ski bags and all the wax kit and our bags at insane speeds, over taking, undertaking, slaloming our way to the European plate and our hotel. We got a quick meal at the bar before a good nights sleep.
Andrew and i had a late flight the next day, so we just chilled at the hotel before going to the airport. At the check in there was a little confusion as they started to try and charge us for our skis and excess weight. We assured them we had payed and they were going on for free. I have no idea if we had or hadnt. But Andrew was pretty adamant they were going on this plane and it was nto going to cost us anything more. They called their manager and kindly accepted.
I made it to Oslo later that evening, flying via Riga. I took a train to the center of Oslo where Erik met me. I stayed the night with Erik and his flat mate √ėyvind. It was fun to catch up, i hadnt seen Erik since before Christmas.
The next day via a complicated process involving trains, cars and lots of planning i got to Holmenkollen for the start of a training camp with NTG. In two weeks the Norwegian Nationals are going to be held here. So we were training here for a bit to check out the trails. It was warm. Really warm. Foggy, really foggy. We had an easy skate ski and headed down to our accommodation at Bogstad camping. We stayed in some pretty basic cabins.
I was feeling pretty good, so although i didnt have it in the plan, i joined in a 15k classic time trial with the other the next day. It went pretty well. I felt good and certainly skied a lot better than i had there the previous year.
The final day in Oslo was really warm and sunny. With temps up at plus 14C and the sun shining it should have been a good ski trip. But i managed to fall and break my pole. It was now 10cm shorter than it should be, and then the wax started to go. We realised we were a long way away from the bus with not very long to get back on time. So i ended up going 20k with one and a half poles at pretty much max speed just to get back.
After that we came back to Geilo. It was great to come back, to clean clothes and my own place. Its been warm here to, with the snow going fast. Mostly just ice on the tracks now and huge bald patches appearing. The conditions are much more like what you would expect at the end of April not the end of February. But skiing in the sun is always a nice change from the darkness of winter.

I will add some photos later.
all for now

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