The next of the classic races is coming up this week: Vätternrundan – literally means round lake vätten. It has been suggested that Vasaloppet is the toughest classic for the body, but Vätternrundan is the toughest for the mind.
A few years ago the first snow happened when Europe was still on summer time, and lasted until after Europe went back onto summer time – not ideal for training! If you anticipate spending a good (well, that adjective is up for debate!) 12 hours on the bike on the day of the race, you really need practice. You need to train the legs for working hard, rest of the body to be comfortable on the bike for that length of time, figure out how to deal with energy requirements and importantly, which underwear option is the most comfortable. The last point might sound like a minor detail, but trust me, its not!
Driving down to Motala (the start and end of the race) from Stockholm, the excitement built with the increasing number of bikes heading the same way. Then I saw the lake….. and the wind turbines. Yes, it might be fairly flat around the lake, but its very often windy! Excitement became aprehension. Waiting to start, the excitement and aprehension merged into anticipation and for me, a slightly nauseaus feeling.
Starting in the night meant an awesome and slightly hypnotic train of red lights stretching out as far as I could see , but the compensation of seeing the sun coming up over lake Vättern was well worth it! Admittedly, after the temperature dropped, the rain and the wind started, by halfway around the lake at Hjö (prononciation similar to “you”) and in spite of an amazing lasagne (hunger is certainly the best spice!) I couldn’t care less what the lake looked like!
As the count down of kilometers to Motala droped below 3 digits, the optimism and enthusiasm returned. Us Brits believe that if you take an umbrella to a picnic, you wont need it. So having binned my old sunglasses in Hjö (hoping to provoke sunshine) I was blinded by the sun glistening off the lake and drunk on the high of success as I arrived in Motala.
Despite the worst conditions recorded for the race (2012), I had a blast! The organisation (most roads are closed to cars for example) is fantastic. Similarly, the range of people is huge!
Triathlon bikes and unicycles are not allowed, but otherwise, all kinds of bikes are present: Teams on very nice road bikes, tandem bikes, mountain bikes, old-fashioned road bikes and my personal favourite, the Pensioner riding an old military bike, which is heavy and with only 3 gears (I used every single one of my 24 gears!).
This has also been one of the few times where I’ve seen Swedes break the stereotype and start chatting to random strangers, its a good way to pass time!
Just one word of warning: beware of the endorphine high! it might make you sign up again to Vätternrundan the next year……
Written by Rona Strawbridge
Rona is a reformed couch potato who enjoys training in the gym, cycling, cross-country skiing and occasionally punishes herself with running. Whilst not particularly competitive, she enjoys a challenge to help her maintain her philosophy of exercising enough so she can eat whatever she likes. Her achievements to date include completing Vätternrundan and the halvklassiker.