A-Okay Oakebeiner

Turnaround Trees

I know that for really fit and fast skiers, the men and women who win citizens’ races and better, 50 kilometers is a serious but not frighteningly tough distance to ski, either as training or in a race.

On the other hand, this middle-of-the-pack racer found 50 kilometers to be an awfully long way to ski – and simultaneously a fun way to spend the better part of an afternoon. Conditions were fantastic, for starters: the weather was ideal – beautifully sunny, pretty much windless, just about 20°F – and the trails were in very good shape – good classic tracks everywhere (solid and glazing over the course of the afternoon).

Prairie Trail

More than all that, I had juuust enough fitness to do the full 50 kilometers. I decided to try to double pole the whole thing, and happily the first 30km were pretty easy. I was consciously keeping my speed down and letting the slippery tracks do a lot of the work. The next 10km were substantially tougher, since my core muscles were weakening rapidly. Eating and drinking regularly helped slow down the onset of real fatigue.

The last 10km – even though I downed about 20oz of flat Coke and a caffeinated gel – were positively brutal. Every double pole made my shoulders feel like they were being squeezed in a vise. I climbed the last hill – a steep 200m ramp near the start of the last lap – at the slowest possible speed, just one missed pole-plant away from actually going backwards. But knowing the trails (and seeing the data on my watch) helped me break that last lap up into manageable segments, which steadily ticked by. I was pretty happy to hit 50km, at 3:33 into the ski – and even happier to glide into the “finish” a little bit later.*

In sum, though, my little Oakebeiner experiment was a great way to enjoy a beautiful winter’s day, and – I hope – valuable preparation for an actual marathon ski race. We’re only 352 days away from the 42km Mora Vasaloppet marathon in northern Minnesota!

Right now, though, I’m sitting on the sofa, soaking up the really incredible soreness of pretty much every muscle group above the waist (even my jaw is sore – wha?) and wondering just how I’ll feel tomorrow. I’d better keep the bottle of ibuprofen handy.

the final tallies
time: 3:34:47
distance: 50.21 km (31.1 miles)
pace: 4:17/kilometer (thanks to marginally better fitness and much faster tracks, this is actually almost exactly the same pace at which I skied the 24km City of Lakes Loppet earlier in the month!)
average heart rate: 145 beats per minute
nominal calories burned: 3,703 kcal

6 thoughts on “A-Okay Oakebeiner”

  1. Wait, did I just read that you *double-poled* for 50k? I can’t believe you threw that in there so casually. Either your trails are incredibly flat, or you’re insane.

  2. I dunno about the second, but the first is pretty much verifiable. There are only two “climbs,” and one is so gradual that it’s hardly noticeable (620m long, 50m gain). The other is much steeper, but much shorter: 115 meters long, 30m elevation gain. (Wait, that’s a 26% ramp!)

  3. Which way did you go around the loop? If you go along the river the climb is not too bad to double pole, if you go up to the top of the prarie right away that would be a challenging double pole indeed.

  4. I went straight up the ramp to the top of the prairie. The longer, shallower climb along the river is nice, but I wanted something a little tougher. It was certainly that. I’m looking forward to running it this summer.

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