Of course, Vegard Vinje is not your average weekend warrior. But a 27 year old Norwegian has a full time job outside skiing thus fully qualifying for the “amateur” title.
However, after Vegard has finished 3rd last weekend in Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet 220k, world’s longest regularly held race, the title “World’s Strongest Amateur” is due.
We can’t quite remember the case when an amateur athlete beat pros – and rushed to speak to Vegard after his unprecedented gig.
– You beat Petter Eliassen himself. How is it even possible for an amateur skier – to beat Eliassen?
– I was a bit surprised as well. He was a bit unfortunate to be a bit behind in the pack when Øyvind Moen Fjeld and Hans Maenpaa decided to attack. Eliassen had to use some energy in the headwind towards the turning point. He never caught up to us, but I was never sure while skiing solo towards the finish.
– What for? Surely you answered that question about a thousand times already since the finish of that 220k so have all the answers lined-up. So why a busy career man at the prime of his life would want to go Purkijaur of all places to run 220k on narrow planks
I really enjoyed to add long sessions, and consecutive days of long-distance sessions up to 7-8 hours to my training program this season. For Nordenskiöldsloppet I got to test how effective the training has been against three of the best skiers in Visma Ski Classics in addition to some other skiers that are super strong in ultra long-distance skiing.
Definitely the pure passion of cross-country skiing we all share makes this race something special. The atmosphere and the mood is perfect. No stress. Happy people cheering along the tracks, and we were also cheered along by skiers in the race when we met them after the turning point.
I always like to try out new concepts in racing and training. Daniel Tynell from the organization reached out to me and invited LYN SKI to join the race. I managed to convince some of my teammates to join, and traveling with the team to new places is always fun!
– At what point in the race you first thought “… and my mates in London must be already having a third round at a pub by now…”
– I first started to have other thoughts at about 140 km. I was running out of fuel, and still had some kilometers to the next feeding station. At that point you’d want to be any other place than in the middle of nowhere. However, after a few sandwiches, bars, bananas and gels at 150k the motivation quickly came back! Many of my friends competed in the 50 k in the Norwegian championship the same day, so I had a fresh start at 50 k to go, getting motivated by that.
– Any thought that never ever came to your head before visited upon you in those forests of Northern Sweden?
– The mental challenge of doing 220 km, and the last 100 km all by myself was a real challenge, and new strategies to stay motivated during the race came by in the woods of Northern Sweden. It’s a bit surreal to think “Now it’s only 4 hours to go! That’s just about a normal long ski session. I’ve done that before. It’s not too bad.” Or “Well, there’s 40 km to go. Well, really 20 km to go. From 20 km and in I know the course, and If I can keep it to the feeding station at 20 km to go, I know all the turns and hills, so it will basically be a walk in the park from there and in.” It sounds a bit silly, but this is what works for me.
– How does 220k affects the body? Don’t you get sick afterwards because the immune system is so depleted?
– No issues with my body so far. Feels like I avoided to get sick as I feel better every hour now. I’m just a bit more tired than usual all over, which I consider normal given the distance on saturday. I will just do a short session or two between sunday after the race until friday, and then I will race in Troll Ski Marathon 120k on saturday.
– Have your read this study ? Thoughts?
– I had not read it in full yet. It’s interesting but I read a bit more about it in regards to ultra-runners because the literature is wider there. Seems like many of the same things apply to bigger groups as well. I don’t want to be concerned, but keeping up with these long distances many times over and over it seems like I should give myself a medical check every now and then!
– Some says that nothing gives you as much of an ego-boost and generates as much respect in the right company as that modest Nordenskiöldsloppet sticker on the finisher’s skis. True? False?
– It definitely gives you some respect! For most people, just finishing that race is very impressive in itself. I can’t imagine how tough it is for guys using up to 30 hours to finish! Although I am extremely proud of my race in Jokkmokk, I’m not going to get carried away. When getting back to Visma Ski Classics skiing, I know there is a lot of guys that will beat me back on the ground.
Vegard on his ski preps for Nordenskiöldsloppet 220K
” There are actually some details in the rules there that are not clear. You are allowed to put on extra kickwax as many times as you want. However, whether you are allowed to put on glidewax is not clear from the rules. In the Norwegian version the rules say you are only allowed to put on “festesmøring” (kick-wax). In the english version it says you can put on “wax”, but only in classical technique. In the Swedish version you are allowed to put on “valla”. The problem is that both wax and valla kan be used for gliding products as well. I decided to not live on the limits of the rules and did nothing to my skis during the race. Double poling all the way.
” My skis were prepared by Knut Nævestad, a Lyn Ski legend, before we left for Jokkmokk. He used Skigo CM17 powder ”
“I chose to run on a pair of 902 construction Speedmax skis. If I knew the conditions all along the track, I might have used Speedmax double polings skis”
All photos are courtesy of Red Bull Nordenskiöldsloppet
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