Things I’ve done: race day

Having successfully completed the Engadin Marathon trial-run, Friday and Saturday were spent preparing our skis with the right waxes, stretching our aching limbs to aid recovery and indulging in a spot of carbo-loading. After my beloved’s faux humour, everyone was very solicitous towards me, carry my skis, making sure there was room for me at the table, giving me a helping hand so I didn’t slip on the icy paths and so on. Frankly, it made a nice change from being ignored/taken for granted by my beloved.

2018 Engadin Marathon Map

The Engadin marathon starts at 08:30 for the elite racers however there’s a tendancy for everyone to turn up far too early for the start. We were there at 06:30 to brave the elements and the very, very long queues for the facilities. I see from the event’s website, they now provide heated tents for people to wait in, but (sadly) not back in 1990. As newbies, my beloved and I were at the back of pretty much everyone and, like the London marathon, it took a while just to get over the start line though no one was wearing fancy dress.

While waiting for the start, I realised I had drunk too much hot tea staving off the morning chill which meant I needed yet another comfort break. I took an executive decision. I wouldn’t ski back to the facilities at the start but would have a pit stop at the first set of facilities, because there were bound to be portaloos en route? Wrong! I note from the profile map above that there are now facilities along the course but (sadly) there weren’t any back in 1990. However, there were tons of spectators with their video cameras. A fear of featuring on someone’s home video kept me glued to the track rather than seeking out a tree or some bushes for a much-needed pit stop.

I consoled myself with the thought that I’d stop for a comfort break in one of the many villages on the route but I soon discovered it was well nigh impossible to leave the track. With an already overfull bladder, I moderated my intake at the feed stations where the biggest hazards were rolling paper cups, soggy snow from dropped liquids and volunteers encouraging you to drink Rivella – revolting!

As one of the race’s tail-end Charlies, I had plenty of time to take in the raucous support from the spectators lining the spectacularly scenic route which helped take my mind off my more pressing need. Finally, about three-quarters of the way into the race, I reached one of the villages (La Punt) where there was a small restaurant right next to the tracks. I threw down my skis and legged it to the toilets. There was a long queue for the ladies but no one waiting for the gents. Who cared? Not me, I rushed in. What a relief!

Needless to stay without that pressing matter my skiing much improved and I sped toward the finish. As I approached the line, I listened to the announcer. I was just ahead of the oldest person in the race, an 86 year old woman, a local. I positively raced across the line to beat her by a full minute – result!

This was my maiden attempt and I went on to improve my time subsequently, particularly once I learnt the skating technique. My best ever time for 42km is just over three hours while the winner – usually a professional ski racer – takes 76-78 minutes! I’ve never taken part in any other ski marathons  largely because so many are even longer and I fear I might need an overnight stop.


Things my beloved has lost: hire car keys

You may be wondering why I’m bringing this up over the holiday season but in the early 90s we were once again spending Christmas and New Year in Seefeld, Austria. This time, instead of driving from the UK, we’d flown to Munich and hired a car, a VW golf. After an overnight stay, we’d driven to the hotel on 23 December to discover the whole area was devoid of snow, although it was happily forecast for the coming days.

On Christmas Eve my beloved and I drove down from our hotel into the nearby Leutasch Valley. We parked the car next to a telegraph pole and went for a very long walk which included pit stops for coffee and lunch. As my beloved locked the car door, I suggested he put the key in the zippered pocket of his jacket. As we set off, there was a decided nip in the air and the sky looked ready to drop plenty of the white stuff. We walked almost the length of the valley, a great area for cross-country skiing, before finally stopping for lunch in one of the many restaurants dotted around the area.

We had set off for our walk after a plentiful breakfast at the hotel but the brisk exercise had given us an appetite and we’d lingered in the warmth of the restaurant before turning around and walking back to where we’d parked the car. By the time we reached the car, snowflakes had started to swirl and settle on the ground and the light was beginning to fade.

As we reached the car, my beloved asked me for the car key. Normally I would have taken the key and put it in my handbag but I’d not taken one with me. I’d shoved just enough cash in my zippered pocket for refreshments and lunch. I often find that when I’m out with my beloved I’m something of a packhorse as he happily expects me to carry everything he wants to take with him while refusing to carry a bag or backpack himself. My way round this is to carry the bare necessities – cash, lip balm and a hankerchief – in my pocket.

I reminded my beloved that he’d put the key in the zippered pocket of his jacket. Problem was the pocket was no longer zippered and no longer contained the car key. I have no idea when or why he’d unzipped the pocket but it was decidedly empty. We checked all his other pockets but none of them yielded any keys! I’ll leave you to imagine my reaction……………

There was no point in retracing our steps as the grass was now blanketed with snow and the restaurant where we’d eaten lunch most probably closed. There was nothing else for it. We walked into the main area of Leutasch and got a taxi back to the hotel.

Of course, we most probably wouldn’t have used the hire car over the Xmas period particularly now that it had snowed heavily. Our main method of transport would be our cross-country skis. After Boxing Day I contacted the hire company and explained our dilemma. I confess it was difficult to keep a straight face as I talked them through the problem and I’m pretty sure I heard a few sniggers at the other end of the line. No doubt our tale of minor woe would fuel a fair amount of amusement in the VW offices. They promised to organise a replacement key as soon as possible.

A few days before we were due to fly back home, a rendez-vous was arranged where we’d left the car, which by now was completely covered in snow. Luckily we’d been able to pinpoint it using the telegraph pole although we now had to dig it out. Fortunately, the hotel had lent us a couple of shovels though I had to explain why we needed them. Cue more smirks!

It took us quite some time to clear the car of snow but we’d just about finished when the replacement key arrived with a mechanic from the VW garage in Innsbruck. Unsurprisingly, the locks were frozen but he helped us to defrost them with anti-freeze and just like that we were mobile again!