Monday, January 26, 2009

Wes Denering at the 60km Dolomitinlauf

Wes sent the attached photo from the finish of the Dolomitinlauf. He is in yellow (not the guy in fron), with Amy Gunn to his right.

Wes' Report, Part 1
My wife Linda and I recently returned from a week's vacation where the focal point was the 60k Dolomitenlauf in Austria . In Innsbruck , we met up with our friends Charlie and Amy Gunn, who were coming over from doing a marathon in the Czech Republic . The weather up until our last day was sunny, with highs about 33F. I highly recommend this world loppet, mostly for the great overall experience.

I had some requests that I write something up for the CSU blog and for the list server. What I’ve written is taking me some time, and is pretty long, for I thought I’d do it in two installments. Here’s the 1 st :

Our top 10 reasons to go and do the Dolomitenlauf:


  1. The autobahn gets you there

We flew into Munich and drove to Innsbruck on Wednesday, Jan 14 th . This was our first time in Germany & Austria , and while we could have taken trains, driving gave us more flexibility. More importantly, it gave us a chance to drive the fabled autobahn, where there is no posted speed limit in many sections. We generally found the 130 to 140 kph most drivers were doing in the right two lanes plenty fast, and rarely chose to indulge in going faster in the left lane, although I did briefly push our car up to 185 kph. Billboards on the autobahn show a car crushed like an accordion. We have no idea what the words on the billboard meant, but Charlie interpreted them to be “welcome to the autobahn, have a nice day”.

  1. Downhill skiing counts as a cultural activity

We try to get some minimum amount of local culture/history etc. in each day when on vacation. We were very happy to realize that rather than visiting a stuffy museum, we could just go downhill skiing, as skiing is an integral part of Austrian culture. On Thursday, we downhill skied at one of the 6 or 7 different downhill areas to choose from close to Innsbruck . (An example of how pervasive skiing is- there were 18 channels on the TV in one hotel room, and 3 of them had different ski jumping events on at the same time. We also saw coverage of various events occurring in Whistler on the new Olympic course, and a 30k mass start biathlon race while we were there. Downhill ski events seemed to be on continuously.)

  1. Seefeld is on the way

Twenty minutes out of Innsbruck is the Seefeld XC ski area. This is where Bill Koch won his silver medal in 1976, and has been home to many, many world cup xc ski events. The trail network is enormous. We skied here Friday before driving on to Lienz. Linda proclaimed it the best place she’s ever skied (although, she often makes this proclamation). This may have been because of the stunning views and the technical, fun trail system. It may also have had to do with her going into one of the many trailside ski lodges, and being handed a shot of schnapps from the schnapps fountain as she walked in.

  1. Their XC sprints are better than the Superbowl

These guys have been holding sprint events for 30 years, long before they were cool. They know what they’re doing. They closed off the 800 year-old Lienz town center, constructed a course complete with a downhill starting ramp, a 15 foot climb, a corkscrew turn, a 3 foot jump, and a 180 degree turn. They also built a sound stage and put up 2 huge video screens. At about 6:30 p.m. Friday night, a marching band came in playing traditional German music. This was followed by a very good rock/pop singer and then by an equally good group of 4 drummers playing intricate, imaginative sets for the crowd of about 2-3 thousand spectators. At 7 , the cannon went off, and the 1 st of 6 qualifying heats of 5 racers began. 3 laps and 1 minute, 45 seconds later the heat was over, and the bands would start up again. 5 minutes later, the cannon would go off again, and the next heat would begin. As luck would have it, we had the best room in the house, literally. Charlie and Amy’s 3 rd floor hotel room was directly above the finish line. By leaning out the window, we could see the entire race. We did that for a while, and then went down to the street to watch the finals.

  1. Rodeln!

You know those wooden sleds with runners on the bottom that never worked when you tried them as a kid? We found out that they do work. A little too well. Rodeln is the name of this sport in Austria , and it’s taken quite seriously. It involves going down bob sled-like runs (on groomed snow, not ice) on the modern version of these sleds on courses ranging from 2 to 12 kilometers long. They usually go down all or part of local mountains. We (Amy, Linda, and myself; Charlie had more sense) thought this would be a great rest day activity on Saturday before Sunday’s marathon, since we found out we could take the chairlift up to do the local 7k course. However, we had not internalized that dropping over 4000 feet meant we’d be going down an average grade of 18% for over 4 miles, and that this might require some effort to control our sleds. It also occurred to us as we were going up the lift that we had no idea what we were doing, and might be in over our heads. Fortunately, Amy found a young woman to ask (who just happened to be one of the people who maintains the course), and she gave us a quick lesson. In particular, she emphasized- never let go of your sled- you'll never see it again! After a beverage at the summit lodge for sustenance, we were off. 30 minutes and about 50 switchbacks later, we were done. Needless to say, our Rodeln muscles were not well trained, and Amy and I were stiff and sore the next day. However, I don't think it affected our performance, and of all the things we did in Austria, this was the most memorable.

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