Monday, January 12, 2015

Ice skating on "long skates"

Team Form Multisport is always up for new challenges and this year David and I are toying with the idea of trying Vikingarännet, an ice skating race that runs from Uppsala to Stockholm (or Sigtuna to Stockholm if you do the half-version) covering 80 km of ice on "long distance skates". (The half-version is 35 km.)

"Fleet" skates made in Sweden by Lundhags. "Durand Mid WP"
boot made in the USA by KEEN. 
If you don't know what long-distance skates are, you are not alone. Called "långfärdsskridskor" in Swedish, these seem to be a piece of sports equipment that is quite unique to the Northern part of Europe. They are some sort of hybrid cross between a cross country ski and a skate, with a blade that measures nearly a half-meter long and a binding that attaches either to a pair of cross-country ski boots or to a pair of hiking boots. (See my picture to right.) The ones that use a true binding and boot system also come in two varieties--fixed heel and loose heel. I don't know if I'd want to try skating on a 50 cm long skate that is only attached to my toes, but according to other sites I've read this is all the rage.

Anyway, this weekend we set out to try our hand at this sport and to see if we might spend a good bit of January training for a debut run in Vikingarännet. Saturday we made our way to our favorite boat launch in Knivsta (where we always meet in the spring and summer for kayak training), strapped on our skates (we both have the non-binding type) and set off on the plowed path around Walloxen.

At the boat launch in Knivsta in May (left)
At the skate launch in Knivsta in Jan (right) 
What an experience! Having grown up in New Hampshire on a property with a pond, I've been skating for nearly as long as I can walk, but this was completely different than what I am used to. In hockey skates, you sort of push off and lift your toe behind you while gliding on the other foot. Attempting this motion in the long skates results in the sharp tip of the skate catching in the ice which sends you lurching forward in what must look like the world's least-graceful arabesque over the next 10 meters or so. Instead, the trick is to sort of push to the side and glide on the skate contacting the ice--much more like what you do when "skating" on skis. This is a hard motion to adopt after years of regular ice skating, and it also works some muscles that you're not used to using. But poles make it easier too (we both had poles with us), because you can take a break from time to time and just propel yourself forward on the ice with your arms.

Saturday we managed 11 km in just under an hour. Not exactly a stunning performance considering that the winner of Vikingarännet covers 80 km in just over 2 1/2 hours. But we had fun and tried something new. The 80 km track probably isn't in the cards for us this year, with only 3 weeks left to train, but the half-distance from Sigtuna is a real possibility. With cold weather in the forecast for the next week or so, the ice should be good and we'll have some more opportunities to practice.

Happy training!   

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