nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Edinburgh is going to host a ski race! Not until February 2020, but nonetheless, Edinburgh is going to host a cross-country world cup ski race. This aforementioned bid has been successful, and it's hosting the first stage of a tour that will then to go Sweden and Norway. As you can imagine, I am quite excited.

Unsurprisingly, there's not a lot of news on it in English, but I'm amused that translated press release includes my anticipated virtuous comment about getting more countries involved. It should be brilliant, I just hope it doesn't pour with rain. It wouldn't be a problem for the snow, but it would make spectating a lot less fun.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Two years ago I posted a clip of a bloke in a predominently white suit beginning the clip in 5th place and going on to win the race a minute later. I can't quite manage that this time round, but I can do a bloke in a white suit entering the clip in 6th place and going to to get fourth, 2.9 seconds of the leader, which is pretty bloody impressive when you're British and the sport is cross-country skiing. Although the Norwegian press swiftly labelled him, only part-sarcastically, as the best Norwegian since he trains there, has a Norwegian club, and is studying at the Univeristy of Trondheim, and pointed out that he beat all the Swedes, too. So congratulations to Andrew Musgrave. The Nordic Ski World Championships greatly cheered my post-holiday week, alas only two weekends left and then I'll have to find something else to iron to.

nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I am home from my skiing holiday, and lo! it was good. The aforementioned course was brilliant. While I would not proclaim myself a champion skater, I was respectable and it was a lot of fun. I'll definitely be doing more of it in future. Also bonus language practice thanks to the tiny group of two German speakers and two English speakers* each of whom knew the other language a bit, but not sufficiently to make either one dominate conversation*. The Alps were spiky and impressive even when the föhn was blasting a hair-dryer at the snow**, and a glass of wine with dinner less than a third of the price of Norway. It was all very easy and restful and I didn't have a cold during it (or, so far, after) for the first time in years.*** I expect next year to revert to where my heart lies, in the high white wilderness of the Norwegian fells, or at least Finland, but for this year the logistically easy and more populous version with shops was definitely what I needed. I managed just enough fitness to make the most of it, though at times it felt very noticeable to me that I had a veneer of energy laid over a pit of absence. But much as ice starts on the top of the water rather than the bottom, the veneer can in time be built into the real thing.

Back to work tomorrow! I feel simultaneously refreshed and reinvigorated for it and terrified of my inbox.

* The coach was Swedish and explained everything twice.

** Except the day it rained. I did my course in the morning, a diligent 3km of practice afterwards, and then went to the 'sauna world' to get rather more pleasantly drenched and hang around in a heated pool outdoors in the rain.

*** I have now not had a cold for about 5-6 weeks. This is amazing, maybe I've finally run out of new ones.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I have decided to give structure to my forthcoming holiday by booking myself a course of three mornings of group lessons in cross-country skiing skate technique at the extremely well-regarded school in Seefeld, where I shall be next week.

I am not entirely sure whether this is a brilliant idea that will teach me exciting new skills and be enormous fun, or whether I am completely out of my mind. I am definitely not ideally fit for it, but since at the moment my max distance skating is about 15m, I expect to fall over from technique fail long before my lungs/shoulders/legs give out. We shall see.

Naturally, I have not yet packed.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Many years ago, I read Tim Moore's account of cycling on Iceland, Frost on my Moustache. Other than it being gently amusing, I remember only two things from this book. The first being the dirty joke that gave him the title, the second one of the most useful pieces of advice in my adult life.

Anyone who was bought outdoor walking or other sports or exercise gear in the last few decades will know about 'layering'. Base layer - optional mid-layer - outer layer. It is the gospel upon which the well-dressed hiker's comfort is built. But almost all resources on this subject omit a really crucial piece of information about how to make the layering system work: that your base layer, i.e. your long underwear that clings mercilessly to your body, must be something that you are willing to wear, on its own in a public place with people looking at you. Because if it isn't then you can't make the layering system work.

Moore illustrated this with a vivid descripion of the cycling undergarment he had purchased, which he likened to an Edwardian fetish costume,* and the horrendous experience of trying to get out of it. I simply stood in Marks and Spencers and contemplated the black sports long underwear, and the otherwise identical white, and considered which I'd rather be wearing when I had to strip off my fleece. I bought the black.

And in short, that is why, 14 years later and thinking that maybe I am allowed a new set of sports long underwear and will go for an extra-warm set, I have once again bought the black. Admittedly the insulated downhill ski jacket I've just bought is in women's mountain purple, which I object to on principle because so much stuff is made in it, and also because it really suits me and I would like to be able to choose it, and not just have it because it is the Girls' Version, but because it is nice and also because outer layers should be colours that search and rescue can spot.**

TL:DR I blame the patriarchy for making me dislike pink. Also, I don't care how warm merino thermals are, I do not find them non-itch.

*Having years later seen a man walking up Vulcano in a cycling undergarment, I can only say that (a) Moore was right, and (b) I'm never going to forget that sight.

**Admittedly it is highly unlikely that search and rescue will need to, but you never know. Even so, my cross-country jacket is ivory, because the alternative was fuchsia pink, and I just couldn't.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The member of the audience leaping to the action to save the show is familiar from real life as well as 42nd Street. Singers do, after all, get coughs. The occasional actor will break a leg. If you're lucky, it happens in time for the management to get Thomas Allen fresh off the plane. If you're really lucky you're the student in the audience who happens to know the role, as happened to Patrick McCarthy years earlier when Thomas Allen was taken ill.* Of course, understudies exist, and most of the time the 'emergency' performer is well-rehearsed. It happens in sport, too, though again usually the person stepping up is someone who was going to do it anyway at some point.

And sometimes they are Lars Høgnes, a 36 year old waxing technician who works for the Norwegian World Cup team and found himself taking the third leg in the relay for the second team after one of the skiers got food poisoning. Høgnes is actually a good club skier with a couple of team relay medals from national championships as a young man, but he never reached the top level. In true Scandinavian style he was sent off with the comment from the team spokesperson that "He's probably not very good". They did come last (minus Kazakhstan, who were lapped), but at least they were there.

Meanwhile, today's example of something I don't need in my life, a woollen sports bra.

*I learned today that Thomas Allen's middle name is Boaz. That's north-eastern mining communities for you.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Edinburgh may host a ski race in 2020!

Ahem. Unfortunately, I can't find a news story in English*, but in short, the Norwegian and Swedish national cross-country ski bodies have submitted a bid to the International Ski Federation to host a multi-stage tour in February 2020. This would, unsurprisingly, be held in Sweden and Norway, with the rather more surprising exception of the opening race, to be held in Edinburgh!

This is not actually as daft as it sounds. Snow always has to be carted in for city races anyway, there will be stored snow available at that time of year, and the temperatures will be low enough to sustain it for a few days. As I have said before, it is a good deal less stupid than holding the Winter Olympics in Beijing. The Norwegian ski federation already works with the British ones on matters of mutual interest**, and the press release gets to say something virtuous about the importance of inviting more nations to be involved with world cup races. I'm not sure when decisions are made, but my fingers are going to be firmly crossed!

*In Norwegian.

**I.e. British access to snow and resources, Norwegian brownie points for working with a small nation in the sport.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
It is, however, in only 6 and a half-weeks time, which is terrifyingly close for the end of term and last week of March. I had better get to the gym.* It is skiing, Norway, and I shall be breaking exciting new ground in seeing the E6 road from the train, rather than the railway line from the E6, because I am getting myself to the hotel independently rather than having someone else do all the organising. This feels a lot more adventurous when it is 300km in Norway in winter than continental Europe in the summer even though it isn't in actual fact, despite the fact that I've been to the hotel itself before. I am even being sufficiently grown up that I am paying an extra £25 for the week to have a room with an Amazing View. With a view like this, it seems money worth spending.

(The picture is on LJ again. I must look up how to put them on DW.)

Possibly I should put it on my work computer desktop as an incentive to survive the term.

*I won't get to the gym.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The UK has a podium place in a World Cup cross-country ski race! A third for Andrew Young in the sprint. This is the best result by a British Nordic skier ever*, and absolutely fantastic. It was in a field containing all the top racers, at a point of the year on which they are on good form, won by the on-form Italian Pellegrino, so it's a major race to have done well in. Seldom have I shouted so hard from the sofa as I did yesterday lunchtime. Young is the bloke in the white-ish suit with a union jack on the right leg, wearing number 3.

The total absence of snow surrounding the arena is a less cheery sight. The UK is not the only place having a ridiculously warm autumn.

*In a stand-alone race. Andrew Musgrave had the fastest time in a stage race last year, but as it was a stage it isn't officially counted as a victory. Of course, I count it as a victory.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
It is a truth universally acknowledged that a well-organised cupboard holds more than a cupboard into which things have been crammed at random and that you worry about opening the door of in anticipation of Stuff falling out. After a certain amount of work this afternoon my airing cupboard is now much tidier. Only the rest of the house to go before Tuesday's inspection by the agent. Tomorrow I get to clean the oven, oh joy, oh rapture. I wouldn't normally, but since I am specifically going to get them to get the oven door fixed so it doesn't require the strength of ten (pure hearts optional) to open, I should at least make a gesture in that direction.

A domestic weekend is much cheered by the return of the cross-country skiing world cup. Winner of the hardcore stakes must be Aino-Kaisa* Saarinen, who at four months pregnant is just looking for motivation for training rather than victory, but still - 1.30 min off the leader is pretty impressive. This year has no Olympics and no World Championships, so several of the older skiers have taken the opportunity to have a baby before returning to the WC next year as a lead in to another Olympics. As I am not hardcore, my achievement of the opening ski weekend*** is some significant ironing. I have a couple of quilt covers lined up for tomorrow.

I seem to have failed to write fic today. These things happen. Tomorrow!

*I love the name Aino-Kaisa. My hypothetical daughter is lucky she doesn't exist. Mind you, if my hypothetical daughter did exist, the many terrible names** I might give her would be the least of her problems compared to having me as a mother. As I put it once, "I would be fine as an upper-class Victorian father."

**The great thing about not wanting children is that the list of potential baby names is not bounded by fairness towards a real person.

***Except for those Norwegian races I watched a fortnight ago.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The world's best cross-country skier, Marit Bjørgen, has spared us* from the agony of waiting any longer, and announced that she is going to continue for at least another year. Huge cheers all round. Except possibly from Sweden.

Ed. Apparently DW (and now LJ as well) hates that photo. Photo on LJ, have a video here instead:

*OK, in this venue, me. But also the population of Norway. Someone's even recorded a song on the subject.

**As opposed to retiring in order to have children. This is the bugger of being a woman in a sport in which people perform well in their 30s. You have to choose, year by year, one or the other, because realistically it isn't possible to step out of the highest level and come back.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The last couple of weeks have been enlivened by the Nordic Skiing World Championships. As outside Scandinavia this is of limited interest, I have refrained from going on about it, but I cannot entirely resist. It was fabulous, and a great comfort when I was lying limply on the sofa with the latest bug that’s going around.

Anyway, this is not about skiing technicalities. This is about narrative. Because I have to admit that what I really like in a race, any kind of race, is the concept of pursuit. My favourite races are largely those in which Person A gets out in front, and Person B mercilessly hunts them down. So although the man is a complete tosser, and if I were a cross-country skier I would probably be considering taking out a contract on Petter Northug’s life, this really is a fabulous 1 min 30 seconds of an absolutely brilliant finisher destroying the competition (Norwegian commentary, sorry, but they are really enthusiastic. Northug is the bloke in the white, unfortunately transparent suit, who enters the clip in fifth place).

I try very hard to come up with descriptions of Northug that don’t involve phallic or masturbatory comparisons, but it cannot be done. A friend and I once had an entire conversation about him in which every sentence basically went “He’s such a wanker, but...” with variations that despite our best efforts did not get very far. It is probably not his fault that whereas some people suffer from resting bitchface, Northug suffers from resting sneerface. He personifies the line from Twelfth Night, ‘Oh, what a deal of scorn looks beautiful/ In the contempt and anger of his lip!’ ‘Beautiful’ is rather pushing it, but he really does do galactic-standard sneering. Actors playing Evil Nazis could model themselves on him.

The problem is, that while were there to be a World Championships in Being a Total Knobhead, Northug would undoubtedly be a strong contender*, he is also a really good skier. He is not the world’s best technical skier, which honour belongs to his female compatriot, Marit Bjørgen**, but when it comes to grinding your opponents into the dust with +2m planks strapped to your feet, he is the winner. In any case, it makes for massively entertaining viewing.

*At the end of this ski season, Northug’s next destination is 50 days in the Norwegian prison system due to crashing his car while drunk driving in May, which also involved speeding, leaving the scene of the crime, and lying to the police about who was driving.

** Bjørgen is basically the Roger Federer of cross-country skiing. Like Federer, and unlike Northug, she also manages to be a nice person.


Feb. 13th, 2015 07:25 pm
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Alas, not yet, but in the meantime I get to look forward to it (and do some training). Come the end of March I may be seen skimming* over the fells of the Rondane national park**, the hillier bits of which look like this (photo on LJ...)

Hopefully the weather will be good so that I am able to see them.

This does mean that I really need to do some training over the next month or so, though...
There is a 35km guided trip that I really want to do. Walking it would be no problem, but skiing is another question altogether!

*Well, trying to.

**See icon for a different bit of it.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
My first week back at work has been enlivened by watching the Tour de Ski on Eurosport online (and on one occasion, some Russian channel on YouTube). For the second year running there were Norwegian victories for both women and men*, but this year was also enlivened by serious British interest (men’s), with two top twenties in the sprint, a staggering fastest time in the fifth race, and after all that a slightly disappointing 20th place finish. Since the British cross-country ski establishment essentially consists of a small club outside Aberdeen and a minibus, this is not bad going. Having spent my adolescence wanting to learn and being fatally hampered by being British, I am slightly envious but realistic that while I have about the right basic shape for a female skier (if you took my height, build, and weight, and turned it into pure muscle), I completely lack the work ethic and need not to come down with colds in chilly conditions.

However, despite the inspiring examples in front of me over the weekend, as a bunch of the world’s fittest people skied up a downhill ski slope, some of them to a sprint finish, I nonetheless completely failed to go to the gym for my pre-holiday training. Says it all, really.

*Norwegian top four for the women, reflecting last year’s men’s result. And finally, Marit Bjørgen got it, and in barnstorming style. *waves little Norwegian flag*
nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Harriet)
I had a great holiday. The scenery was beautiful, the weather was fantastic - sunny, but not over warm, with the occasional snow shower to keep things fresh and not too much wind - the sun was high and daylight hours long, the northern lights managed to be out on my last night at the same time as me*, the skiing facilities were brilliant, I was reasonably competent, my hotel room was very pleasant**, and I had some very nice food. The restorative powers of a large apple doughnut are remarkable. A week off work in which I haven’t even been able to do my unpacking is a small price to pay***.

Some random comments:

• Seldom have I seen such a large concentration of moustache-wearers. Finnish men appear to develop a compulsion aged c. 50 to go out and grow one.

• It is vital as a British skier in Finland to accept from the start that you will be comparatively rubbish. Then when you are overtaken by 7 year olds, 70 year olds, women with multiple babies in a sledge, and blind people (not joking), you will not be downhearted, and instead can enjoy overtaking 5 year olds, 75 year olds, and the rare Scandinavian who doesn’t like downhills.

• I am going to set up the Lapland Airport Coach Safari Company. On the way from the airport to my hotel I saw a fox (red) slinking in the edge of the wood (looking exactly like this print), and an arctic hare, and on the way back to the airport, two reindeer. They are paler in colour than I had anticipated. I also saw a second hare (from my hotel bedroom window) and a capercaillie. Birdlife was otherwise disappointing – magpies and great tits do not count, and the Siberian jays for which the reason is known must have been on holiday in Siberia.

• I was quite pleased with my skiing. I did c. 125km over 6 days, plus a day on the downhill pistes (advantage of an evening flight home). I wasn’t as fast on the flat as I’d have liked, but I definitely improved my XC downhill confidence and technique, which I'd set as a personal goal.

Some photographs on LJ, which is much easier to upload them to.

*And then I went for a walk for an hour at midnight in case they came back, which they did a bit, but which was probably not the greatest idea. I had my pyjamas on inside my ski kit.

**Although the English-language news channels were Euronews and France 24 UK. I learnt a lot more than I would have anticipated about the French municipal elections and their impact on Hollande’s government.

***Russell Crowe’s Robin Hood film, which I watched this afternoon, was a large price to pay. Utter drivel.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I may be the equivalent of a Manchester United fan living in Buenos Aires*, but that was an AWESOME result for Norway in the women's 30km cross-country race in Sochi today, taking first, second, and third place. Marit Bjørgen won in 1 hr, 11 min, and 5 seconds, taking her to ten olympic medals, six of them gold. I shall be attempting to cover the same distance on holiday in about 6 hours. It would help if I started doing some training. Silver went to Therese Johaug, bronze to Kristin Størmer Steira to break her four fourth places in individual olympic races (she has a relay gold).

Right, now to dash to the supermarket before the slalom starts.

*Although in my defence, in most races there is no British racer for me to support, and it makes it more interesting to follow someone. She says, defensively.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
The English cricket team may be hopeless (as the news put it last night, "finding ever more improbable ways to lose"), but all is not completely doom and gloom in British sport. Yesterday not only did Britain's Lizzy Yarnold take her fourth victory in the skeleton this season, but Andrew Musgrave comprehensively beat the Norwegian cross-country sprinters in their national championships*. Cue humorous headlines, national embarrassment, and interview questions about skiing in a kilt.

*For obvious reasons, the UK's national skiing championships are not particularly competitive on a global scale. Norway's, on the other hand, are the best, and they kindly let us play.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Just talking aloud, really. More interesting LJ posts will resume, I promise!

The ski holiday company have informed me that the holiday I’d expressed an interest in won’t run due to lack of take up. This isn’t a complete surprise, as it’s at the end of the (British) season, and they’ve told me in time that I can make alternative arrangements if I want to. Which is a question...

When this was a theoretical issue I gave it some thought, and decided that I would damn well go skiing this year regardless, even if it meant a week in (Finnish) Lapland on my own. Now it’s concrete, the question is inevitably less straightforward. I’ve ruled out guided holiday alternatives on grounds of cost and (in one case) location. I could go alpine skiing, except I’d rather go cross-country, and anyway, alpine presents exactly the same question as to whether I actually want to stay on my own in a hotel for a week. On the other hand, not going has the definite downside of not going. There’s always a weekend in Scotland, but it’s not exactly guaranteed snow.
Of course, it would help if I weren’t great and being enthusiastic about things in the abstract, and then got worried when things get more concrete. Anyway, I shall think about it and try to decide what I want to do, and which decision will make me happier to have made (the “leave the shop without it and see how you feel/buy it you can take it back” method of determining this works very well for clothes, but is less useful for other things!).

Meanwhile back on the treadmill my cold has receded, but I have spent the day smelling a mix of phantom smells thanks to catarrh. I was puzzled even while dreaming as to why on earth I was dreaming I was at a tobacco trade fair trying to persuade people to eat tobacco-flavoured sweets instead as less bad for their health. It turned out that when I woke up it was to a strangely powerful smell of tobacco smoke. Other features of the day have been liquorice (the office) and aerosols (a meeting room). However it seems to have been receding this afternoon, which is all to the good.

*I could go self-catering, but then I might end not talking to anyone for a week.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
Short answer, no. At least not where I am. It is, however, that time of year when I turn to webcams, hunting for signs of snow. Said signs have swooped in on white wings this weekend, and I am looking on with envy at northern or high points from Norway to Etna, while simultaneously whinging that it’s forecast to be 6C when I visit my parents this weekend.

It is also that time of year when I try to reconcile an ever-expanding definition of term with fitting in a skiing holiday, while refusing to go at New Year because I want to spend the time with my family and sniffing at late-season Scandinavia, beloved by Scandinavians because the weather’s actually nice, because it is too warm. This is stupid. While cold snow has the advantage for wimps like me of being a bit slower, and I do not enjoy ice, there are also advantages to being able to feel your hands after lunch. Alternatively, I could go really early in Jan. when it would still be freezing, and very soon after Christmas.

As with so many things, this is basically an issue of getting my act together and making up my mind. Which means I am consumed by “But what if I make the wrong decision?” That is stupid. There is no ideal decision, because I can’t go on holiday in mid-February. So I just have to pick one of the choices I do have and stop fretting.

Meanwhile, in the land of WTF, the Three Dales ski resort moves a bit closer: the entrepreneurial farmer of Halifax has got his hands on snow-making equipment. The mind boggles.
nineveh_uk: Photo of Rondvassbu in winter (rondvassbu)
I made it to the ski slopes of Ogden near Halifax, where there was snow (and the odd grassy bit to avoid - alas, there has been a lot of thaw in the past few days, with snow dissolvéd-ing like anything, though we still drove past some 5 foot high drifts getting there), and I got to go skiing.

As a result of two hours of said activity, and a rope tow, my arms hurt, my hands hurt, my thighs hurt, my calves hurt, and I have been reminded how tremendously unfit I presently am. It was a lot of fun, though.

Also, that accomplished, the weather now has my permission to warm up.


nineveh_uk: Illustration that looks like Harriet Vane (Default)

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