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Old July 15th, 2007, 03:44 PM   #8
SeJoWa
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Join Date: Aug 2006
Location: Basel, Switzerland
Posts: 180
Default Finline 2007

Here goes for my Finline 2007 report - please bear in mind I won't be minutely picking apart the itinerary and delving into every detail of the ride (and what a ride it was), for I much prefer to actually get out a condensed write up than let the clock tick this task into oblivion.

To reiterate, the main site of Street Gliders Finland is: http://www.katukiitajat.fi/index.htm
and the English Finline page can be found here: http://www.katukiitajat.fi/english/finline/

Pics of the trek are up for your inspection too: http://www.katukiitajat.fi/english/f...lbum/index.htm

For those unfamiliar with the event or turning over the question of participation in their minds, let me lose a few explanatory words. Finline is a weeklong skate organized every year since 1992 by a hardy bunch of enthusiasts on their own time and energy, with the route constantly changing, and covering something like 30 to 60 miles a day. Oh, did I mention it passes through Finland?

If you can skate 50 miles, you can do this. Overnight stops are usually in hotels, your baggage is trundling along on the tour bus that follows wherever the master planner has decreed, and going to a relaxing after skate sauna is the local religion! I missed out on that, but more about my own experience later.

Honesty does, however, compel me to raise a flag of caution: the roads in Finland can be rough at times (at best you will be muttering something unprintable sooner or later), and the hills on one day turned into a daunting test of most everyone's resolve. You need to think of what material is necessary in case of rain, and yes, the bus did provide a comforting retreat from time to time.

Finnish is an indeciferable language, but you'll get by on English, and it's really worth the effort if you like long distance skates in good company.

Right.

Wout from the Netherlands had this to say too: "450 k and 200 meters of tape". It was rough. There was a point where I wished I hadn't come. Would I miss the memories? It depends on what I do with them, actually. This is where the personal part begins, by the way!

This year had, for a long time, not been kind to my skating addiction, and I wasn't all too sure if I would make it to any long distance skate, or race in Switzerland, for that matter. Obviously, matters improved. The idea of trundling about a distant and slightly exotic nordic country slowly insinuated itself into my brain, and I was delighted to discover that last year's Rando Des Dunes speedgroup consisting of Tommy from Sweden, Xavier from France, and myself would be reconstituted at least spiritually (Xavier actually made it just in time from Le Mans - he personally scouted the whole 400 km RDD through western France last year).

Upon arrival in Helsinki, I met up with the Netherlands contingent of SkateFresh fame, a whole gaggle of Russians, the two representatives from Sweden, two from Germany, as well as our Finnish hosts. Little did we know what was in store for us when we boarded the bus for Valimaa on the Finnish / Russian border...

What do you expect when you embark on a skating week like this? Never mind vacation! According to Bart, we are people who need punishment from time to time. I'd rather talk about putting in the effort, but maybe he has a point (gulp). Of course, you meet old friends and hopefully make some new ones (I'll be working on that one), and to me, it is also a unique chance to really examine technique. There's nothing like a few nice, long skates when it comes to getting feedback from minute adustments, and simply getting into the glide.
Exchanging painformation and comparing debilities can also be comforting!

Is this where I finally get to the skate part? Did I mention that wonderful garlic Restaurant that goes by selfsame name in Helsinki? Do all Finnish women have somewhat diminutive noses? Yes. Now I did. Close - how boring would that be?

Let's do the hard one first. On the fourth day, Panu had planned a panoramic skate of about 100 km through Finland's lake country - the beguiling picture is what actually got me hooked to join up in the first place. I rolled in a speedy group with Bart, Pieter, Veronique and Xavier at first (did I forget someone?), and we covered quite some ground, hopping from island to island, munching on crackers, bananas and cucumbers supplied from the bus during breaks, and keeping up a great pace.

Unfortunately for me, I coulnd't keep up - the group would go on to some rip roaring downhills though (small wonder when Pieter, a former downhill championship skater, was up front). By this time, I had had one whole night sans sleep and was not feeling up to it. I am not used to loosing my sense of balance, and let me tell you, it's frightening.

I latched on to a group taking it easy, and we started to get into never ending hilly delights! The joy was indescribable when we faced the umpteenth hill, and our whoops were heard from afar! You didn't forget that this was a 100 km skate now, did you? Kinda like our own private A2A (Speedy, please don't try... it's just a bit out of the way).

I was really missing blasting along, by the way - just as I had suspected, going slow was a slog. A subgroup of Roland (the funniest Swede I've met), Wout (the Man in Pink, er, Magenta, who looks fast just standing still), and I labored to fulfill our destiny, and at one point, I was ready to hang in the towel. I remember that ghastly little hill towards the end pretty well, and actually had to start slaloming up to abuse an alternate set of muscles (Roland was quite perplexed, I recall).

We did make it. Some faces reflected the hardships, while a select few still bore a passing resemblence to your habitual homo sapiens.

I'll be smoothly seguing into the more delightful parts of Finline, but hitting the post button first.
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