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Fossavatnsgangan

by Konrad Wiltmann

 

Konrad in Georgian Nordic race suit. Justyna Kowalczyk in black/redKonrad in Georgian Nordic race suit. Justyna Kowalczyk in black/red

Windy, mild..snowing, klister or zeros....choose carefully. Konrad made that decision a week earlier in Dillon. Windy, mild..snowing, klister or zeros....choose carefully. Konrad made that decision a week earlier in Dillon.

It was a very last minute decision to travel to Iceland and participate in two ski races. I booked my place ticket about 2 weeks before take-off. This event is called the Fossavatnsgangan and takes place in north-west Iceland, in the small town of Isafjordur.

Temperatures are mild in Iceland, however, there was still plenty of snow up in the mountains, where the races were taking place. I had my first race on Apr. 28, a 25km skate race. I had waxed my skis before making the trip so I just had to get myself to the start line on time. After a short warm-up and naiive attitude of what was to come, the race was off! It was steady climbing for about 5km, some rolling terrain, more climbing, more rolling terrain, with finally one massive long uphill before a 7km downhill into the finish. Conditions were quite fast and I was probably going at least 60km/hr at times. I talked to a rescue guy who was driving a snowmobile and he said he was getting passed by skiers while doing 60km/hr! The race went well. I was able to hold off a nice guy named Martin from Denmark. He was a much better climber than I, but I was the better descender. The highlight for me though was only being 4.5 minutes behind former women’s world cup champion Justyna Kowalczyk. Being 11th overall was pretty cool too.

I raced again on Apr. 30. This time a 25km classic race. Waxing is much more critical when it comes to the classic technique. If you mess up the grip, you can be screwed. Luckliy, I nailed it. A friend of mine leant me his zeros skis and they worked like a charm. Conditions were apparently much crazier than in past years this year. There was strong gusting winds, blowing snow and poor visibility on top of the mountain. I had another good race but was beaten by a chubby Finn in his 40’s on the last hill. I thought he was doing the 25km race, but he was actually doing the 50km race. The fact that he was able to still go as fast as he was, is incredible! I placed 2nd but the 25km is just a warm-up for the 50km race. You are not considered a man or woman, until you have done the full 50km. Unfortunately because I registered so late, I couldn’t sign up for that race anymore. Next year!

The people from these Icelandic nations are tough as steel. They can ski forever at a fast pace, in whatever conditions and at whatever age (I was beaten by a 16 year old, and only narrowly beat a 14 year old in the 25km classic!). There is truly something to be learnt from the people of Iceland. How they embrace nature and fitness together.

On my way back to Reykjavik, I was offered some Jaegermeister by 3 old Finnish men sitting in their van. They said it is the best drink for after a ski race. Maybe that is the Scandinavian secret!