17 February 2012

North and South

15th January: Nike Winter XDream along with Peeter and Kristo. It was a cool day (also literally) in Kõrvemaa. The men were good, the pace was good, the result was good! Under the snow, the marshes were very wet and „pretty“ cold! Only thing that helped, was to run faster. We made a good plan and despite some minor losses in the beginning, executed it pretty smoothly. First, the predicted winning time was 3 hours, then 3:15 and later it was even 3:45 or 4:00 due to additional snowfall. We wanted to disregard those times and aimed at the previously stated 3:15. In the end, it took us 3:30 to complete the task and our victory with 26 minutes was very clear. In the beginning, it looked like ski-orienteers had a good advantage this time, but as the race went on, it was looking more and more favorable to us. And ski-orienteers were left far behind...
Results, map, GPS replay (team My Super Sweet Sild Experience).

Photo: Jaanus Ree, Fotoluks
Next I went on to seek for good skiing conditions again to Delta camp in Jämi, Finland. Except for that one hill, the courses are very flat and easy. Nevertheless, the atmosphere was very good and enjoyable. We had a 10 km skiing competition, where all of us were unmercifully beaten by Josefine Engström. Only Janne could keep up for 15 meters, or maybe even 25 at best. News article.

After the short camp, I was still sitting with Santas, Kings and whatnot in cold Finland and clicking on last minute flight offers to the south. Eventually I found a suitable choice and took it: I was going to Tenerife for a week! And on a good week also: while it was around -30 degrees at home, I got about +20 instead! The whole trip was a blast! Felt like typical summer weather at home. In warmer and sometimes cooler weather, I had the opportunity to have awesome running trainings in very beautiful and raw nature. The living conditions were good and the meals were very delicious! All at a very reasonable price and I even got estonian service at my hotel, what a coincidence!
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I was staying at a town 600 m higher that the sea, where the weather was not all that steady. A couple of times I visited the famous black sand beaches down in the resorts where it was always warm. While rubbernecking down there was fun and taking a dip in the Atlantic was a must (which I enjoyed very much), I rather preferred to go uphill. Most of my trainings were up to 1500 m over the sea. When the first half of the week it was very sunny and warm T-shirt (or even shirtless) weather, then the second half was a bit cooler, especially higher in the mountains. Some of the trainings I was even running in the cold humid clouds. It was interesting that opposite to "normal" conditions, it felt like raining under the trees while it didn't under open skies. The reason: since it almost never rains there, basically the furry pines catch the clouds and drop the water with their needles. So no point in looking for shelter in the forest! Anyway, I visited new fascinating places every training and the volcanic terrains were always a sight!
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My favorite area was around volcàn Chinyero, where the trails were very varying in soil, grade and surroundings. Within a short time, one could experience running on gravel, sand, ash, pebbles, rocky lava fields or even a soft layer of pine needles. The good thing about that area was that there weren't any too strenuous long climbs, like anywhere else on the island. This allowed to have faster paced trainings, instead of just strength oriented runs.
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For the last treat of my camp, I had planned to conquer the Pico del Teide, which reaches 3718 m. I did not have the intention to start from 0 m and reach the summit with 5 hours, like crazy Olav Lundanes did. Instead, I wanted to have a reasonable training and start from the plateau at about 2000 m. On the previous days, I had tried to hitchhike, but it did not work, since most who are going up to the national park, are retired tourists and they don't like to take company. But when going up, I decided to give it a last 30 minute try to get a ride. On the last minute, I got lucky and was picked up by two very polite germans. At last, the climb could start! The way up was physically difficult due to a steep incline (obviously) and very strong wind. The lack of oxygen fortunately didn't get me. But the strong headwind made breathing very difficult and it almost blew me off the mountain on a few occasions! The wind was strong in the lower parts of my route and then some parts in the middle, but not in the last part, since the mountain itself protects from it. Having reached the massive crater of the Pico Viejo on the way, I tried to get the strong wind effect on my camera, visible and audible on this clip.
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I was thinking if I should continue because of the wind, as I couldn't imagine how much worse it could be up there... I decided to continue as long as possible. Then, as I said, it got much calmer and the journey continued. I was more worried about getting past the refugee 200 m before the summit, since one needs a permit that I didn't have. Reaching the top from any other side would have been a real challenge. But lucky me: due to the strong wind, there was absolutely nobody in the refugee and I could easily get past it. Before reaching the summit, I met two very nice people from Hungary and had a small chat, while I put some more clothes on. Up on the top it was cold, the wind was brutal, the sun was strong and the smoky crater stunk of sulphur, but the views were magnificent! Because of the harsh conditions, skin was peeling off my nose even more than a week after the "expedition"! Sitting on the inside edge of the crater, protected from wind, it was a marvellous place for an enjoyable picnic! So my new altitude record is 3718 (600 higher than the previous)!
On the way down, I soon caught up with my two new friends and they offered me a ride to my hotel if I only hiked down with them! What could I have against that? It's amazing where one can make friends!
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Now the studies have begun again at school and I'm back in Tartu. The next notable event for me is Haanja Marathon (classic cross-country skiing) next Saturday. It'll be an important milepost in my preparation season as usual. But it's held a week earlier this year and because of that I'm not taking part in Tartu Marathon this weekend. I'm also very related to the ski-orienteering Estonian Championships in relay and a sprint relay competition on the 10.-11. March, since I'm the course setter! Insert it in your calendar today!