Jizerská Padesatka

9. 180 heartbeats, days before Jizerská Padesátka

by Michael Förster

I’m sweating like a pig, my breath is coming short, my heart rate’s close to 180. Nothing unusual during a ski-marathon. But maybe unusual a few days before the start?

This year’s Jizerská Padesátka wasn’t the first time my pre-race anxiety driven heart rate has outreached the peak of heartbeats during the following race. After seven years, I still remember the search of my skies in the middle of thousands of skiers at Engadin Skimarathon as if it was only yesterday. I still get goose bumps by thinking at the moment when I identified my pair of skis just in time. Five minutes later, 12.000 skier would have grinded them into little pieces.

Fortunately, I’ve learned my lesson. But despite all experiences there are always things out of control.

Weather for example. This winter season once again suffered under lack of snow. But when it comes to Jizerská I was optimistic because of the promising date in February. In the final weeks before the race my hope faded. Rain, temperatures above freezing and only little chance for fresh snow weren’t the messages I wanted to receive. Every morning a Czech friend supplied me with the latest photos of the Jizera Magistrale. It was a rollercoaster of feelings. We were literally counting every snowflake.

The day came on which we received the email from the organizer which presented the prospect of an alternative scenario. I became dizzy by imagining a race with countless loops. That’s not what Jizerská represents. I was looking forward for this unique course on undulating terrain surrounded by snow covered trees.

Four days before the race day I received another message from the organizers. My delayed Xmas present: Snowfall in Bedřichov. The original course was fixed.   

Would this mean a relaxed journey to Liberec? Not at all. A week earlier, when all my hope disappeared I canceled my hotel room. But I corrected my mistake only seconds after the announcement of the fixed course. Probably I wasn’t alone in this scenario. So, the receptionist in the hotel told me they were overbooked. My heart rate increased again. Fortunately, she found a solution and transferred our booking to a partner hotel.  

After this thrilling prologue the race was somehow unspectacular in a positive sense. Perfect conditions with freezing temperatures, lots of snow and sunshine. Winter wonderland straight out of a fairy tale. From the starting line we could see majestic snow-covered trees that looked like watchmen of a well-guarded secret. To figure it out you have to pass them. The first ascent stretch promised a challenging lactic acid party. But the cold fresh air inside the forest, the reduction of complexity to black and white makes enduring the pain easier. Almost three hours later when I crossed the finish line, I was proud and happy but somehow sad that the fairytale was over. A few minutes later with resting heart rate I wondered which adventure of the Worldloppet series would evoke 180 heartbeats again. 

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