In three days’ time I’ll attempt to cover 42km on cross-country skis in the Engadine Marathon.
There’s no reason why I shouldn’t succeed; after all, 11,000 people do so each year, some of them less fit and less confident on flippy little langlauf skis than me.
What strikes me is that I’ll be exercising for four hours continually (Rivella and banana breaks excepted), which I have never done before. Cross-country skiing looks gentle but is surprisingly dynamic, and I the skating style definitely feels like proper exercise (I’m sure the classic style does too; I haven’t tried it).
My training regime (if you can call it that), the start of which I outlined in my last post, has continued as follows:
Feb 26 – 45min yoga in lunch break
Feb 27 – 1hr yoga
Feb 28 – 45min horse ride
March 1 – 25min run on treadill, covering 4.3km
March 2 – 1hr horse ride and 30min shovelling muck (good for arms and core)
March 3 – 2hr horse ride (including on foot up Leith Hill, to give the horse a rest and make me puff instead) and 30min bike ride up Pitch Hill
March 4 – ZERO! (Or is it called a rest day?)
March 5 – 25min Boris bike ride round Hyde Park in beautiful sunshine, plus a 3min sprint from the Tube to check-in at Heathrow airport while cutting it fine en route to Switzerland
March 6 – 15km cross-country skiing (we are in the Engadine now) followed by near collapse. Maybe it’s the altitude
March 7 – 22km of cross-country skiing: barely more than half of the distance we’re in for on Sunday but it still took nearly 2hr30
Before our half-marathon this morning we had a lesson (PJ’s idea – thank goodness one of us has some sense), to knock some proper technique into us.
Nora, our young Swiss instructor, who has completed the marathon in 2hr19min, began with the basics after watching me skate up and down a few times outside the Langlauf Centre at Pontresina.
Mostly, it was about how to push. “Don’t lift your hands above the level of your shoulders, and keep your poles angled backwards – you must never see your ski pole basket,” she said.
“Bring your hands back to the front each time you have finished pushing, don’t take a break there – if you take a break, make it at the front.” She added that extra power could be gained by releasing the grip at the end of each push and therefore making the push longer.
Then, it was about when to push. To date I had been doing a haphazard combination of double-push (both poles at once) and single (one at a time), depending on gradient and speed.
But actually there are several official types of push/step, the “two-one” (push with both poles every other step), the “one-one” (push with both poles every step, saying to yourself ‘sticks, ski, sticks, ski’) and the “asymmetrical” (push with both poles every other step, but at an angle, for going up cambered hills).
So what was that one-pole-at-a-time push I was doing yesterday?
“That,” Nora said with disdain, “is the lady-step.”
She conceded, however, that the lady-step can be useful for hills. There is a correct way of doing it, single-poling at the same time as the opposite ski, with the pole parallel to the ski.
Despite all these excellent tips, and a marked improvement in technique, after today’s post-lesson, 22km-long practice I was ready to drop. And I don’t think it’s just down to the altitude…
DO you enjoy this BLOG? Then SIGN UP to RECEIVE AN EMAIL each time I post a NEW ONE by clicking on ‘SIGN ME UP’ on the top right of THIS PAGE.