Tuesday, March 1, 2016

Kilometers 220-262: The Finlandia-Hiihto Marathon

For those who are keeping track we have added four races to our original schedule and two have been cancelled. This along with some of the races being shortened means that we will race a total of ten races totaling 448 kilometers. Three weekends to go and only 186 kilometers left!

Before traveling to Lahti, where the Finlandia-Hiihto is held, we spent a couple of days in Helsinki where we stayed with Anssi, Emmi, and their two kids. We connected with them through a mutual friend and had a really nice visit. They prepared some traditional Finnish food for us, including a cheesy desert called LeipƤjuusto (pronounced ???), which is made from the rich milk of a cow that has just recently calved, as well as Karelian pastries, which are sort of like open pockets of rice porridge wrapped in a thin rye crust. After a sauna, we all watched the finals of Finland’s Eurovision Song Contest qualification, a European music competition at which Finland is notoriously bad, which topped off our traditional Finnish experience.
            We spent time exploring Helsinki as well. With a big harbor full of boats, lots of little islands, and a winding, rocky coastline, it reminded us a lot of Portland, ME. The connection to home made our time in Helsinki both very comfortable and reflective, which was a nice way to enter the last month of our trip.
On the move. We have a love/hate relationship with that bag. Anssi and Emmi lent us their daughter's sled to ease our walk to the bus stop.

We travelled to Lahti three days before the Finlandia-Hiihto. The city was buzzing. Groups of important looking master skiers walked the streets in droves and more than once we saw panicked Italian men running around with their skis. We went skiing several times at the World Cup venue, which is also where our race was held. The stadium and grooming are on par with the world’s best, with bridges and tunnels leading in and out of the stadium, and the trails extend over 50 kilometers out into the surrounding forest. The trees are mostly Scots Pines, which lose their bottom branches as they grow older. Snow collects on the branch stubs, creating a striking pattern on the trees and giving the ski trails a unique feel.
Evening ski. This trail was part of the race course!
Beautiful Lahti Forests. Mostly Scots Pines!

We continue to get creative with our wax set-up

As any hard core competitor would do, we started our race morning with a nice walk to get a couple of Espressos. When we had gotten our fix we then went made the 15 minute walk to Lahti stadium to test our wax and prep for the race. We continued to be very impressed with the race organization and our pre-race experience was great. There was a huge gymnasium/exhibition hall for us to store our skis and gear and for us to spread out before the race. The weather conditions could not have been better for waxing for a classic race and we found dialing in our skis to be very easy. For those who are interested this was our choice (fresh snow: dry, fine, untransformed, temps: -6 C warming to -3C, snowing lightly at the beginning and then sun): for glide we went with a Start Green, SkiGo HF Blue and Swix FC100 fluoro powder with a broken structure. For kick we ironed in a layer of Toko green base binder, corked in a layer of Swix v40 and then topped that off with 4 thin layers of SkiGo HF purple kick wax. We both thought the skis were great!

Entrance to the stadium
We couldn't have asked for better ski conditions and we both agree this was our coolest marathon yet. We started in the world cup stadium and climbed over the bridge and up behind the ski jumps before disappearing into the woods for 40km. We passed lakes, farm fields, downhill slopes and wove our way between towering pines. At 41km the race comes back out of the woods behind the ski jumps over looking the town before you descend on a screaming downhill back into the stadium. The tracks were fast, the competition was fierce and the sun was shining. What else could you ask for? Tyler finished in 28th position as the 4th non-Finnish skier (and he beat Jari Isometsa, a Finnish world cup skier from the 90's and 00's who got caught for doping at the 2001 World Championships) and Jackson finished 49th. Jackson was able to race with Riitta Liisa Roponen (currently on the Finnish women's world cup team) for most of the race...until she toasted him in the last 3km!

To see a map of the race and data collected from Tyler's watch click the link below. The time is a little off because the watch was started early.

Finlandia-Hiihto 42km Rac...

Here is a link to a short youtube video of the start and finish taken from a drone:


Jackson being interviewed
After the finish the day only got better. We were very happy that Anssi and Emmi were able to make the drive from Helsinki and they greeted us at the finish with huge cheers. It was really cool to be able to share the experience with them and see that they had so much fun watching! In fact, we may have convinced Anssi to race next year! (maybe...)

Morthen, our Norwegian friend that we met at the Jami42.

We are now in Stockholm training, exploring and gearing up for the Vasaloppet. We travel to Mora on Thursday!


  1. On Sunday we saw a summary of the race on Worldloppet (they had a link). We actually SAW you standing around after your finish; you looked really happy! Congratulations on your finish times, and good luck at the Vasaloppet! Per skied it twice, many many moons ago.

  2. Hienosti kilpailtu Lahdessa! Onnea Vasaloppetille, vaikka se onkin valitettavasti Ruotsissa.**

    **Well done/raced in Lahti. Good luck in the Vasaloppet, even if it is, unfortunately, in Sweden.

    (As related by a native Finn.)

  3. Nice write-up on both of you in the Bowdoin Magazine (Winter 2016). I love seeing stuff about former housemates :) Best wishes in your adventures.