Dieter Hohnke reported that he completed the 55K (34 Mi.) "Koenig-Ludwig-Lauf" World Loppet yesterday, Feb. 6, in Oberammergau, Germany, in 5 hrs 21 minutes. That was good for 1,062 place out of 1,152 "classic" men participants according to the race website. Dieter said there were 400+ entrants in the 60-69 age category!
In this Bavarian village best known for its annual "Passion Play" (first performed in the Middle Ages to thank God for saving the city from the plague that was devastating Europe), over 3000 skiers played out THEIR passions for nordic skiing on a race course that began with a 30K gradual 2000 ft. uphill climb, then descended to a flatter (read: "boring") area in the valley where double-poling served as cruise control. (Elite racers double-poled their way UP the course, as well, according to eye-awed witnesses).
Dieter said it couldn't have been a more perfect day for a two-track trek: skies as blue as the wax he used, perfectly-set tracks and conditions (-13C low, -6C high temps), and spectacular scenery to put one in a "Zen of kick and glide" frame of mind. Unlike the previous week's "Marcialonga" race in the Dolomites (http://www.nordicskiracer.com/cgi-bin/news/news_item.asp?NewsID=233), where snow had to be trucked in to cover bare spots, Oberammergau had received 3ft of fresh snow just before race-time and barely had time to regroom.
Can any of us here in snow-starved Michigan imagine the enviable dilemma of having TOO MUCH SNOW??!!
The only downside of the Oberammergau course was said to be its lack of "party atmosphere" in which the Italians reportedly excel: there was nothing to relieve the loneliness of the long distance ski racer, no villages along the race course and no throngs of on-lookers, therefore, lined up to cheer on the skiers as they expended their efforts. But just before the finish line, crowds of locals DID suddenly appear, yelling, "Hopp! Hopp!" ("Go! Go!"), as the spent racers sprinted past.
The Norwegians, Germans, and Italians generally account for a large percentage of participants in these races, but it was the Czechs who ruled this "King Ludwig Run": they won the classic (diagonal stride) race in 2 hrs. 19 min. and the skating race in 2 hrs. 12 min.
The winning time for the "classic" women was almost as fast: 2 hrs. 41 min.(151 total female entrants). These times seems remarkable when compared to that of the slowest skiers, who took 8 hrs. or more to complete the course. But then, for many, it's the "journey" that really counts.
On a final note, it seems that no race is worth its wax without a tale of intrigue: Johann Muehlegg, a German skier dogged by a doping scandal and stripped of his medal in the last Winter Olympics, was seen in Oberammergau hawking his autobiography, "One Against All".
And speaking of "all", that's it! (For more info, see: http://www.koenig-ludwig-lauf.com)