Friday, January 23, 2015

The "LONG MARCH".... aka, Italy's Marcialonga

The "LONG MARCH".... aka, Marcialonga .... a direct translation. That pretty much sums it up. I'm writing a quick post before the race because I'm already afraid that after the race, my arms will be so destroyed that I won't even be able to type on my computer!

It's fun to be in Val di Fiemme again. Over the years I've spent a bunch of time here for the Tour de Ski and World Champs in 2013. But this time, the entire valley has come alive. The race is the biggest in Italy and perhaps the 2nd or 3rd most prestigious ski marathon in the world. The traditional, full distance is 70k however this year, due to the (seemingly) world wide snow shortage, the race is shortened 13k, for a total of "only" 57k. 

But first, the drive to Val di Fiemme from Austria... it was SPECTACULAR. From Austria we drove to Toblach and up the valley, mirroring the men's point to point Tour de Ski course. Every year the girls are stuck doing 5k loops in and out of the stadium while the men get a picturesque point to point trip through the Dolomites.  We drove up, through Cortina, and up and over some absolutely majestic mountain passes.  It was perhaps the most beautiful drive I've ever been on. Thank goodness for the GPS because without it, I'm not sure we would have ever found our hotel in Molina! 

A Euro life saver... 

Rob putting a "Go Holly" sticker on the sign at the Summit :) 

Team Santander & the Auckland Brothers have been staying at Hotel Ancora for the past dozen or so years of this race. The lobby is full of signed skis, poles, bibs, pictures, and congratulatory signs. It's a bit of a "Ski Museum" if you will...... 

This place has some serious character. This is only a small part of the "spa"...... there is an amethyst cave steam room.  When we walked into our room three days ago we both busted out in laughter because there is a stone pond/tub type thing and you can crawl through a glass draw bridge the shower. Apparently every room is different, and every room is "handmade" by the owner. 

But enough about the hotel, back to the race. Here's the modified course profile.  The initial 13k of the race was gradual uphill and now that's gone. Gone with it is the debate of whether I should use kick wax or no kick wax.  It's a mute topic now. I'm guessing that all of the girls in the elite wave will be double poling only. (Which brings the question - is classic dead?)  Double poling it seems has become a sport in and of itself. 

The thought of double poling 57k is quite intimidating to me. Especially with girls that train primarily double poling. But, in a race that is primarily downhill will it be as easy to get away? Different than the previous Swix Ski Classic races, the girls start amongst the men this time.  Coed versus same sex race starts are entirely different.... in the coed starts often the girls get separated from one another. I've had experiences where I am in a sea of men and have no idea where the other girls are, let alone what place I'm in.  

Here is the race map. As you an see, almost the entire thing is on the valley floor. This year the start is in Mazzin.  The course goes along the river and in and out of small towns.  Our "course inspection" the first day was a combination of skiing and walking through cobble stone streets that didn't have snow on them yet.  I am excited for the race and REALLY excited for the experience. 

As stated in my Anchorage Dispath News article, it seems like ski courses are large-scale construction projects rather than the result of natural occurrences. The Marcialonga is certainly no exception.  The ENTIRE 57 kilometers are man-made. I can't even begin to imagine the time, effort and expense that goes into such an endeavor but as I stated earlier, this race is the life blood and a huge economic engine of this valley. 

The new start in Mazzin

Rob standing on a rock-hard pile of artificial snow

The last three kilometers of this race is the most famous. After 50k of flats and gradual uphill, Marcialonga skiers must climb 3k UPHILL to the finish line in Cavalese. For all you Anchorage folks, think of double poling Potter Hill after a couple hours of double poling. That is what I'm going to do on Sunday. The final climb is called the "Cascata" and this photo, below is part of the course literally .5k kilometers from the finish line in Cavalese. I was up there earlier today and now the entire thing is covered in snow. The Auckland brothers who have tons of wins are podiums were nice enough to show me the course via car the other night after pizza. It was fun winding down the climb which is barely wide enough for one car.  The next day I went back and ran UP it just to make sure I know what to expect this weekend. 

In addition to the awesome ski culture here is the amazing food.  This Parmesan is fresh and from the next valley over. Perhaps it's hard to tell how large this is from the picture but I'd guess it weighs close to 30 pounds. (I guess I'm attracting all kinds of big cheese wheels this winter!) 

This fresh pasta was the best pasta I've ever had in my life. Jorgen, Anders, and Rob liked it quite well too! 

I have to say, I was touched by the small edition of the American flag amongst the bigger Norwegian flag. 

If you're at all curious to follow the race you can actually watch it LIVE via the Swix Ski Classics website.  I find it ironic that you have to pirate World Cups but you can watch the ski classics on the website here: 

Wish me luck & arms on Sunday because I'm going to need them! 
Have a fantastic weekend,