Monday, January 17, 2011

The Fridtjof Nansen Ski Race - January 16, 2011

Yesterday I participated in The Fridtjof Nansen Ski Race at the Tower Ridge Ski Trails north of Eau Claire, Wisconsin.  It was a cold, clear, and crisp day with the temperature at the start at -14C and only warming up to -11C.  The Tower Ridge Ski Trails are very well maintained, wide, and perfect for skate skiing for both beginners and advanced skiers.  In fact there were junior and kids races as the trails only have a few steep hills with mostly flat and rolling terrain.  All are very scenic though the woods.  The picture to the left was taken just after I finished the race near the wonderful warming chalet that is located at the trails too.

I was curious about the name of the race and after only getting bits of information on the website and through asking people I did some research and found information at the Nobel Peace Prize website which I use here. The race is named after Fridtjof Nansen who was a Norwegian that was born in Oslo in 1861.  Growing up he became expert in skating, tumbling, and swimming, but it was his expertise in skiing that was to play such a large role in his life.  In school Nansen excelled in the sciences and in drawing and, upon entering the University of Oslo in 1881, decided to major in zoology. In the next fifteen years he united his athletic ability, his scientific interests, his yearning for adventure, and even his talent for drawing in a series of brilliant achievements that brought him international fame.

For a long time Nansen had been evolving a plan to cross Greenland, whose interior had never been explored. He decided to cross from the uninhabited east to the inhabited west.  The party of six survived temperatures of -45° C, climbed to 9,000 feet above sea level, mastered dangerous ice, exhaustion, and privation to emerge on the west coast early in October of 1888 after a trip of about two months, bringing with them important information about the interior.

Additionally, Nansen and one companion, with thirty days' rations for twenty-eight dogs, three sledges, two kayaks, and a hundred days' rations for themselves, had set out in March of 1895 on a 400-mile dash to the North Pole. In twenty-three days they traveled 140 miles over oceans of tumbled ice, getting closer to the Pole than anyone had previously been.

Nansen went on to work on several humanitarian projects including working with prisoners of war after WWI, directing relief for millions of Russians dying in the famine of 1921-1922, repatriating refugees from Greece and Turkey for the League of Nations, and in assisting to save the Armenian people from extinction.  He received the Nobel Peace Prize in 1922 and died in 1930.

I drove up to the race with Garrett Ping who is a Chiropractor from Winona, Minnesota.  Garrett is an elite skier who has done several American Birkebeiner and other regional ski races.  He is also a road cyclist which is where I got to know him, through a post he had made on the listserv that he was going up to the race.  Garrett had never done the Fridtjof Nansen Ski Race either.  He is pictured to the left in red with Brant Wesolek.  Garrett came in second place overall with a time of 43:38.7 or only 4 tenths of a second behind Brant.  Garrett and Brant's best placement overall in the Birkie is 99th and 45th respectively.

My time was quite a bit behind the leaders but, like all the races I do, my main purpose is to have fun and just ski!  I had waxed a bit warm so my skis were sluggish but when things don't work out just right I just take in the beautiful scenery, work on technique, and be thankful that I am enjoying such a beautiful winter day in Wisconsin!

The race was advertised at 15.6 K but we were told that it was just over 14 K at the beginning of the race because of grooming in one of the areas.   My Garmin showed 14.69 K and my time was 1:26:18.  The map of the race is to the left.

1 comment:

  1. Nice post Ed. It was nice to meet you on Sunday. A very fun race on some good trails. Tough to lose at the line, but fun to have a chance at the win.