Day 1:
100% Natural Ice
Day 2:
On Lake Mälaren
Day 3:
Race Day in Uppsala
Day 4:
Baltic Sea Islands
Day 5:
Tailwind to Sigtuna
100% Natural Ice
Thursday, February 11

I skate on 100% natural, organic, outdoor ice. You may prefer the Zamboni-manicured surface of an artificial rink, but I'll always choose fresh air and sunshine over a fluorescent-lit, climate-controlled cavern.

Every winter I skate long distances on ice-covered lakes and rivers. Yes, I cross-country ski too, but in a snow-starved winter, I'd much rather go skating than stay indoors cursing the lack of snow. So when I heard about the world premiere of an 80-kilometer (50-mile) skating marathon on natural ice, I signed up immediately. So what if I'd never raced on speedskates before? So what if I'd never skated more than 30 miles in a day? So what if the race was in Sweden? I didn't let those little details bother me. I found a cheap flight to Stockholm, made a reservation at a bed-and-breakfast, and started training.

Carina Borg and Oscar Nassil skate along the Baltic seashore
A good training regimen means skating on any natural ice you can find, whenever you can find it. Before work, after work, lunch hours, weekends. It becomes an obsession. My first workout was December 28 on Post Pond in Lyme, New Hampshire -- ten laps around the perimeter of the mile-long pond on smooth black ice. The day after New Year's, I skated 25 miles on the Connecticut River near my home in Vermont. In the following weeks I skated frequently on Lake Sunapee in New Hampshire. Ten miles long, Sunapee offers a lot of scenery with its three lighthouses, numerous islands and 2700-foot Mount Sunapee towering over the southern end. The 20-mile round trip from Georges Mills to Newbury Harbor and back makes a good 90-minute workout.

On the transatlantic flight, I stayed up all night watching movies, eager for my first taste of Swedish ice. Pam Pearson, an American skater spending the winter in Sweden, met me at the Stockholm airport, and we drove straight to nearby Lake Norrviken to stretch our legs. It had snowed lightly the day before, and a snowplow was out on the ice keeping Norrviken's ten-mile-long plogade bana or skating track in perfect condition. At 2 o'clock on a Thursday afternoon, the parking lot was full, and there were hundreds of skaters on the track. A horse and buggy dashed across the snow-covered ice on the far side of the lake. We skated a lap around the track, then drove into Stockholm for dinner, and by then I was overdue for a good night's sleep. Friday morning I woke up fully rested at 7 AM (1 AM Vermont time). What a relief -- no jet lag!

Copyright © 1999-2015 by Jamieson L. Hess. All rights reserved worldwide.
Originally published in two Vermont daily newspapers, the Sunday Rutland Herald and Barre-Montpelier Times-Argus.

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