Birken run went today in glorious weather with a massive margin on the win for Martin Sundby, surviging even a Skidoo attack on the closing miles! Unfortunetly that was all which I have seen televised today as I was hoping for the type of coverage from the national channel akin to the BBC, which is NRK here.
Seemingly NRK had called the ski run's organisers bluff and not paid for TV rights at all, perhaps I am cynical. Anyway this was the very year I would want to see the course on TV and hear the race reports from different competitors, or participants as many are, on conditions, ski waxing etc. I have half a mind to train up for it!
The run is 54km which at current appaling fitness level would take me 5 hours odd, at a measly 10km/h,. and that is without thiniking about the weighted rucksack you must carry all the way. The furthest I recall logging in a session has been 22km, on a partiuclarily crisp day when I was a little under clothed and got cramps in my legs. I could have managed 30 km. Also my skis seem a little slow, I was on my fast touring skis, not my atomic training slim n' straight ones. It was only a couple of km longer than my very first day on skis at Geilo, when the instrtuctor said I was a little fool hardy doing the 'round the fjord' 14km after our session first had been up about 6km. I couldnt walk the next day for any distance and the thought of snowboarding which I had planned for the next two days, sent me back to bed with a hot drink.
Ski choice though is important for getting the most efficeincy out of your efforts of course, as is waxing or having the right conditions if you have 'furry soled' waxless like my Atomic Skintec 4000s. I noted Sundby was going like a train with relatively broad skis, presumably because of the extra weight he had to carry, and perhaps some soft conditions. Oh, breadth, length and arch tension..... how many pairs of skis to think about!!
Ideally then you may want to have a soft pair , possiobly a bit broader for new snow or slushy conditions to encourage float and make kicking adhesion work better. These would then not be skin skis, because these are conditions they do not work in, not all that well. In new snow they grip badly at lower temperatures , typical blue conditions, while in sliush they get waterlogged. They have an advamntage in zero conditions though, which you may experience underway. Then you could have your hard pair as skin skis, which would cover any older snow condtions right up to very firm, but not glazed conditions.
An akternative to both wax or skin skis, would be using Start grip tape, with a good application using a hair dryer or wax iron to a very clean, rubbed base. This stuff realluy does what it says on the box, and covers much the same range as skin skis, but tackling loose and wet snow much better. It is very resistant to wear in normal conditions, and tends to neither pick up too many hard crystals nor hold onto them that long. They have a race version I have not tried, but this would be a good alternative if you get to try them out on your skis first in a range of conditions, and get the length of application right, which in my experience is longer than clister zone, but shorter at the front and at the sole than a blue wax job. I had one applicatiion last a couple of months in mid winter, doing maybe 200 km in total, before though just two days 15km total took them down to almost bare.
Skinsks have the appeal for runs like Birke'n in that they dont need to be rewaxed as long as there are crystaline conditions and clean tracks without new snow, hard ice or slush. The issue with climbing is that you need a soft wax like purple to get under way and do the major diagonals on the way up (VR 50 VR 55 swix recommended today, on a clister binder with melted in green base known as a pro level endurance job) while the temperature usually drops and snow copnditions become mountain over the top and towards Sjusjoen. Soince there seems to be a good degree of double-poling (staking) once the first ascent is out the way, you could do a 'pocket only' job with lillac wax and hope it is grippy enough yet wears off enough so as not to clog with the colder, harder crystals over the top sections of the course.
Skin skis then today, would have been ideal with a range expected at my start time of almost zero at the start and down to minus 3 to minus six on the highest points. There would be little risk given the tracks were of course run through the night after any last snowfall was expected and done with decent weight onto a good base prepared in forehand. However the wrong arch tension could have made a messy day for you. Skinskis also by in large have a clister zone insert, which ends half way down the sole of the foot. So you could add about three to four inches of wax, or dare I say clister or even grip tape if conditions were to be loose or particularily hard on some portions of the Briken or any other run.
My 4000s are a bit too hard arch tension (spenn) for my current style as soon as the snow base becomes a little soft or gets icey. However it looked like they would have done fine today, and I would have been able to pole effectively much of the slack way down from the highest point witthout hindrance. However I think I could compromise with a little less in order to train up in longer, lighter tours and build my technique a little more, especially in the 'keep the wheel rolling' double pole with kick, which for me suits a softer ski I think. A softer skin ski may be a mistake though, because the skin might drag too much. However what really tires you physically and mentally is back slipping or not getting your effect of double pole kick over the semi fast sections. Staking over flat and softer snow down hill is very tiring, although fast for lighter skiers, it is not as efficient for a big skier like me as double with kick I beleive at least.
So I would be opting for about a 10% less stiff skin ski for the distance as in todays blue/violet, or over to older,cold hard snow and up to zero conditions. For pluss conditions I would opt for a softer pair of clistered skis with a green spray and ironed in wax, and rilling and glider done by a pro at the specialist shop here. For a new snow forecast , or possibility for a lot of wind blown snow, then I would opt for the same softer skis and do a day wax ontop of a good base and blue mid layer. VR seems to work a lot better in terms of durabilituy than no flourinated Blue and Lillac, but beware the temperature ranges are little different than standard wax.
Back to training up. Because we often have soft, new and melting snow here near the coast, I could not see myself doing forty km training sessions on my 4000s 2.08m long planks. I do see skins work well because one day it is blue, the next red, so purple so clister and I would save hours on end stripping and reapplying waxes. My 4000s would then be used for shorter, intense sessions where I practice sustained glide and timing the repowere after each glide phase on each leg optimally. You just cannot be lazy with them, they need a hard press down each time to release that carbon fibre insert.
Training up means about 8 hours a week until two weeks before apparently, when you do one last full lenght run or even 60km and then you scale back to intensity, before a light session three days out, and just stretching and suppleness two days up to it. To come in at 12km an hour, in just under five, then I would need to do that 8 hours a week for about three months, which would require either a good old fashioned winter, or access to a cabin above 500 m. lacking that, a gymn with specialist ski machines would help, or even roller skis of course. We are lucky to have 15 km of fairly gentle cycle lane alongside the route of the main road, with very little fish bone and only a couple of iffy downhills for yours truly. It really is an option with short sessions with the ratchet on, and longer round tours with skate style for endurance.
Given though very silky conditions on the day with snow just a couple of days old, and a stable temperature profile, ort one which favours skin skis, then I can see i could complete it with a lot less training, and having actually not done the whole distance before. But that would not really give me the satisfaction of peaking out from a good season.
Logistically it is annoying and expensive, but some clubs get packages together win bus and hotel combis to get you there and back., and there are some showers lorried in i believe. A bath tub is what is needed, and a sauna after, so an overnight stop in telemark somewhere on the way home, with poissibility for a morning swim in a heated indoor pool would be the ideal. All in all this is looking at not much change from a bout a thousand pounds, for entry, bus,. hotel and food. For me that would make it once in a life time.
If next season proves to be a good one, with an artic oscillation and the scandinavian high dominating from early winter, then I am determined to trian up for a 42km run, either the Telemarkhelten or one of our own concotion with my offshore mates if that does not match, or it is blown off or too cold. I am then not fussed if it becomes 42km on mountain touring skis, or in nicely laid tracks, as long as it isnt four times round a 10km course.
So I need three things, A softer pair of skis, skin or not, a good winter and a goal of 42 km before I decide to invest time and money in a future birken,. Next year it reaches 80 years old, but for me what ever year I do it will be the right year for me!