Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Martin on the TGO Challenge 2017

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Saturday 10 March 2018 – Sue’s 100th parkrun


There’s been a pause on these pages. The lurgy that Sue suffered in Poland passed to me, and without the benefit of antibiotics until yesterday, I’ve not felt well enough to write a report on the Polish loppet, let alone create any new postings since ‘Picture’.

Just before I took to my bed, Cary (veteran of our Apennine and Austrian hutting trips) was at our house and wondering how I created mobile postings. ‘Picture’ was my demonstration of how to create a posting in about half a minute. It’s a simple email to the email address of this ‘Blogger’ blog. Apparently there’s an ‘App’ called ‘Bloggeroid’ that allows images to be inserted within the text, rather than all appear at the top of the posting as per my method of ‘mobile’ postings.

I do hope Cary doesn’t get this bug, as he is due to set off on a Lizard Point to Dunnet Head walk on 25 March. Good luck Cary. He can be followed at and I’m sure he’ll appreciate all the support that he can get.

Meanwhile, on Saturday Sue was well enough to pop down to Wythenshawe Park for her 100th parkrun. She’d baked lots of cake, so she had to go. She is seriously tackling her Achilles problem, which means no running for a while. So her role as volunteer ‘Tail Walker’ was eminently sensible. The top image is an early Tail Walker’s view on the first loop of the new ‘Flag and Sandcastle’ course.

Below, Richard sprints past, lapping the Tail, and below that – others splash past at a more leisurely pace.


I’d hoped that Sue would provide a ‘cake’ picture, but it seems that by the time she had strolled home in rather less than an hour, some 159 other parkrunners had snaffled most of the flapjack, chocolate caramel shortbread, and lemon drizzle cake that she had provided. I was sorry not to be able to share it.

Anyway, that should bring readers up to date. I’ve had to abandon plans for a weekend in Snowdonia this weekend, but Sue is still going, and if I’m feeling any better I may get around to doing that Polish loppet report.

Wednesday, 7 March 2018

Saturday, 3 March 2018

Saturday 3 March 2018 - The Bieg Piastöw 50 km Classic Ski Loppet

Sue is happily feeling much better today, albeit not up to skiing 50 kilometres.

That left 17 of us to participate in the event that this trip is designed to lead up to. Andy led us in with a superb time, and everyone finished without any serious incidents.

Here are the results:

First man 2.16.41 (1294 men took part)

First woman 2.33.01 (156 women took part)

Total finishers: 1450

Our team, with name, position and position in age group:

Andy - 3.28.39, 314, 73/345

Phil - 4.12.12, 653, 159/345

Susan - 4.34.19, 798, 3/10 (on the podium)

Trevor - 4.38.02, 831, 207/345

Shane - 4.59.12, 982, 342/455

Matt - 5.06.20, 1036, 260/345

Stephen - 5.10.32, 1066, 15/36

Sam - 5.29.27, 1176, 17/36

Tania - 5.43.02, 1247, 22/36

Martin - 5.44.59, 1255, 155/188

Steve - 5.51.14, 1278, 161/188

Ellie - 6.12.00, 1342, 26/36

Jenny - 6.41.59, 1388, 45/47

Jim - 6.42.11, 1389, 32/36

Maureen - 6.53.42, 1407, 34/36

Karen - 7.16.59, 1436, 52/53

Lynda - 7.17.13, 1438, 53/53

The pictures show me at the finish, where Andy kindly cheered us all home, and Lynda and Karen joyous at having finished.

That's all for now. I'll do a more expansive diary entry in the next day or two.

That's virtually it from Poland as we go home tomorrow (weather permitting as we hear there has been snow in the UK).

Friday, 2 March 2018

Friday 2 March 2018 - Bieg Piastöw 7 km Classic Ski Race

The results of the 7 km race:

There were 763 finishers.

First man 19.25 (525 men took part)

First lady 23.02 (238 ladies took part)

Our team, with name, position and position in age group:

Andy - 28.52, 98, 19/102

Phil - 34.10, 196, 41/102

Trevor - 36.31, 232, 49/102

Steve - 45.27, 428, 60/102

Sam - 45.52, 435, 13/37

Martin - 46.44, 462, 64/102

Ellie - 47.39, 482, 16/37

Jim - 50.47, 531, 10/27

Lynda - 52.13, 570, 48/78

Very respectable if I may offer that opinion. Well done everyone.

Martin's Diary:

Nine of us assembled for this bit of fun by way of a warm up for tomorrow's 50 km loppet. Others lazed around after the exertions of yesterday's 18 km outing on the planks, rested, or enjoyed a trip to town via the little blue railway train.

The race started at noon on another sunny, cold day. I planted my skis, thankfully now endowed with enough tail and tip wax to last 7 km, right at the back of the last wave of starters, after keeping warm in the luggage tent.

Starting at the back meant that nobody was treading on my skis, but it had the disadvantage of having to do a bit of overtaking in order to get a vaguely respectable time. Over the course of the race I overtook someone every 35 metres or so, which indicates a lot of lane changing although I did use the piste outside the tracks (albeit a bit harder work than using the tracks) for much of the ascent to the 3 km point, after which a straightforward flat section took us to a final descent past skillfully avoided (haha) scattered bodies to the finish.

Sue had managed to leave her sick bed for a while to support us, and a few more photos may follow if we can transfer them from her camera. After the race I dashed off to deposit my skis for proper waxing overnight, forgetting to collect a finishers medal - I didn't think there would be one for such a short race.

Returning to the finish, after some initial difficulty I was rescued by Dorothea, a Technical Delegate who spotted my Gatineau loppet hat. "I was first lady home in that race in 1998" she exhorted, after authorising the staff to give me a medal. We had a long chat during which she tried hard to persuade me to buy a Worldloppet passport.

I'm pictured above with Dorothea.

Sue had appeared from her photographic duties and we joined Andy, Phil and Ellie for a pasta and chicken sauce lunch in the food tent. The 'goodie bag' for this event included a travel towel and a voucher for a rather meagre free lunch.

That was enough for Sue. We eschewed a visit to the Expo tent or the nearby town and spent a relaxing for me but painful for Sue with her continuing illness, afternoon in our comfortable room.

Dinner in Hotel Biathlon again. Luckily there's a good menu.

Thursday, 1 March 2018

The 10 km Night Race - Results

Here are the results of Monday's night race:

First man 31.15 (161 men took part)
First woman 32.00 (53 women took part)

Total participants: 214 (205 finishers)

Our team, with name, position and position in age group:

Andy - 45.37, 42, 8/32
Phil - 52.29, 78, 15/32
Trevor - 54.49, 90, 18/32
Susan - 58.00, 105, 2/8
Matt - 1.00.10, 116, 21/32
Tania - 1.08.13, 149, 4/9
Martin - 1.11.42, 159, 15/24
Sue - 1.11.51, 160, 5/9
Sam - 1.12.34, 162, 6/9
Ellie - 1.16.12, 169, ?
Lynda - 1.32.54, 186, 12/14
Maureen - 1.33.00, 188, 7/9
Jenny - 1.33.08, 189, ?

Ellie and Jenny were misclassified as men, hence the lack of age group positions.

Only 13 of us took part in this race. Others were saving themselves for later.

Feel free to comment or send 'race reports' that I can add to this information!  (

Thursday 1 March 2018 - A Bieg Piastöw Circuit

Today's 'slow' group numbers rose again with the addition of Sam and Tania, though Jim dropped off the team sheet. I think he paid a visit to a nearby village. Andy replaced Arthur as our guru. Sue was unable to join us on another sunny morning due to her continuing illness. 

Advice has been taken from medically trained members of the group and referral to a local GP has been considered unnecessary. That's not much consolation to Sue, whose holiday has been wrecked by this illness. At least we have an excellent family room.

It was very cold again, with a predicted high of about minus 10°C, so we had to keep moving to stay warm. Some tuition was provided by Andy, then some warming up exercises. Some people swear by these, but I prefer to warm up by starting whatever activity it is nice and slowly.

We started up a familiar 3 km gentle hill, then enjoyed a 10 km circuit that's included in the Bieg Piastöw ski race that takes place on Saturday. There was a lovely long, fast descent - followed not unexpectedly by a crippling ascent. Not crippling today, but after over 40 km of racing this hill will be hard work.

Finishing on the nice descent route of a 7 km race, we all assembled in the sunshine at the finishing line, before adjourning for lunch and an easy afternoon in the Hotel Biathlon.

Hopefully Sue will be feeling a bit better tomorrow.

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

J50 in the Czech Republic

Whilst Sue embarked on a second day in bed (she got up at lunchtime and feels a bit better tonight) the rest of us took a twenty minute bus ride into the Czech Republic. We found an access point to the 'J50' loppet route. That's the Czech Republic's ski race that some of our number aspire to.

I relegated myself to the 'slow' group under the guidance, if not tutelage, of local man Arthur (pictured bottom). 'Slow' is something of a misnomer - I struggled to keep up at times.

We found the J50 loop a little monotonous. We covered maybe 15 km of the loppet route on our 26.5 km ski. With the ski trail being very slow today due to snow conditions on another very cold day (minus 15°C plus windchill) it was rather hard work on our waxless skis.

After 13 km Arthur enforced a coffee stop when the majority would have preferred to continue to our pre-arranged lunch stop. We watched Arthur enjoy his lunch - it was after 12.30 after all. A cold climb after that saw my electric gloves come into use again, and several of the others were suffering from cold hands.

Eventually, probably around 2 pm, we reached our designated lunch stop after nearly 21 km of laborious skiing. Using waxless skis with little glide, most of us were finding it hard going.

My lack of Czech currency meant I had no money for lunch, so I can thank Ellie for the provision of funds for some excellent noodle soup and a shared bowl of chips. Thanks.

Our little unit - Jenny, Jim, Karen, Lynda, Maureen, Ellie and me - then tried to warm up again on the final 5 km ski back to the bus. The 'fast' group had been encountered at lunchtime after their 17 km ski, and had chosen to ski an adventurous 7.5 km route back to our hotel. They got there before we did, partly because of our 20 minute bus journey and partly because we all took our skis off to avoid a large patch of steep ice on our descent route.

Sue seemed much better on our return, but didn't feel like joining the group at a restaurant in a nearby town, so we've eaten here at Hotel Biathlon. Tomato soup for Sue - better than nothing! 

Tuesday, 27 February 2018

A Night Race, and a visit to the Czech Republic border

The top picture was taken last night before we set off with a couple of hundred others on the 10 km night race that is part of this week long skiing festival.

Sue and I skied together as she wasn't feeling well. We finished in 1 hour 12 minutes, around 160th out of about 200 participants. Quickest in our group was Andy in about 45 minutes, with Phil on his ski tails. Well done them. Some of the ladies in our group finished sedately in an hour and a half, but not without their adventures, with one of them having to be dug out of a hole and another skiing blind as her torch broke at the start.

All great fun, followed by another meal of huge portions at Hotel Biathlon.

Today a chap called Arthur had been recruited to chaperone the slower elements of our contingent on a pleasant woodland trail to Orle - for lunch where we had elevenses yesterday. Returning by a direct 5 km route, they probably managed 20 km today.

The 'fast' group (misnamed as I was in it) did a 6 km loop before chasing after Arthur's lot. We never caught them, perhaps as a result of the others having to wait for me every few km.

Both groups paused for photos at the border with the Czech Republic. Andy took the middle picture on a day of sunshine but extreme cold. My electric gloves went on after that stop - the phone needs bare flesh to operate its camera.

Lunch was a tedious affair. They were queueing out of the door at the café in Orle by the time I arrived. Rather than wait in a queue for an hour I skipped lunch apart from a few titbits from Stephen and Shane, and when their lunch finally arrived (thanks I think to Tania and others waiting interminably in the queue), I headed back to Jakuszyce on my own by a roundabout route to find Sue still in her sickbed. She seems to be wiped out by the bug that Helen then Ken had while we were in Canada.

My Garmin's battery expired after recording 26 km, probably within a kilometre of finishing today's ski. En route a skidoo was depositing wayside markers like the one in the bottom picture, offering a sense of what's to come on this trip.

After the lunch disaster a buffet meal in a restaurant in a nearby settlement will hopefully fill a few gaps, if not for Sue, who sadly remains poorly.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Skiing Around Jakuszyce

There are lots of ski trails in this area, some of which we explored this morning. It was cold - below minus 15°C plus wind chill, so we didn't stop much. However, it was pleasantly sunny and the ski trails were good.

Elevenses were taken at a café in what looked like an old chapel. That's in the bottom picture, today's other pictures having been taken on the way there. 

We had skied just under 15 km on a convoluted route that I won't attempt to describe by the time we got back to Hotel Biathlon, conveniently in time for lunch.

It's proving to be a restful afternoon as most of us are booked on a 10 km 'Night Race' starting at 6 pm. I have bib number 1, so perhaps there aren't many participants (I wonder why? What could be better than racing in the dark in about minus 25°C including wind chill? And who was crazy enough to insure us to do that?) 

By the time we've done that and had dinner we'll be ready for something other than composing blog postings.

Prague then Jakuszyce

After a good night's rest in the very comfortable Hotel Rott,  Sue and I enjoyed an 8 km stroll around Prague (pictured) before meeting up with Simon (a university contemporary of Sue's who just happened to be in town) for lunch, and then joining Susan in a taxi to the airport.

Here we met various old acquaintances as they flew in from Heathrow or converged from different parts of town.

Almost three hours on a very comfortable coach saw us over the border with Poland, a couple of kilometres beyond which the flesh pots of Jakuszyce beckoned. Namely the Hotel Biathlon, in which we are ensconced for the next week.

There's not much else here, apart from a load of cross-country ski trails accessible from the door. Luckily we came across a man from Estonia, Yuri, who had been recruited by our indomitable leader, Andy, to fit everyone out with skiing gear. He just about managed that before setting off on a 16 hour drive back to Estonia. It seems that none of the local outfitters was able to cope with our group of 18 people.

That left time for most of us to enjoy a pleasurable (once we warmed up) 7 km ski from the hotel, during which night fell. Luckily the moon is bright tonight!

We later discovered that the beer here is cheap and the meals are tasty and huge.

(To be sent tomorrow if I can find either WiFi or a phone signal.)

Saturday, 24 February 2018

Park runners on Wythenshawe's new 'Flag and Sandcastle' course, and where are we now?

It has been a busy but relaxing day in cool but sunny weather on which to celebrate Sue's n'th birthday...

Nuance Restaurant provided an excellent nosh for me and Sue and Susan (on a flying visit from Connecticut) before our evening stroll (pictured) to round off the day.

Tuesday, 20 February 2018

Back in Timperley

After a very easy journey via Heathrow.

I must smell of Canada - the eponymous geese chased me along the canal towpath!

Monday, 19 February 2018

Monday 19 February 2018 - Diefenbunker

On a day when skiing would have been an anti-climax, as it's 5°C and raining in Ottawa, Ken was despatched for his last week at work and Helen, Sue and I paid a visit to Canada's Cold War Museum.

The Diefenbunker complex was constructed in the late 1950s when the Cold War was at its height. I remember well the Cuban missile crisis in 1962. There were about 100 people employed here, with scope for over 500 people to shelter from a nuclear blast for a month. The desk shown above is in the President's Prime Minister's Office. Thankfully it was never needed, the only president Prime Minister in office who visited the site being Pierre Trudeau.

The site was decommissioned in 1994 and now houses this interesting underground museum on four levels.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Saturday 17 February 2018 - X-c Ski Number 12 - Gatineau Loppet (Part 2)

The route, a linear 51 km:

P17 (Wakefield)>#53 extended>#50 from P19>#36>P11>#36>Fortune Parkway>Champlain Parkway>Gatineau Parkway>#26>P2 - 51 km, 840 metres ascent, 5 hours 30 mins including 2 mins stops.

First of all, the previous evening, a visit to a school in Mont-Bleu, in French speaking Gatineau, is required in order to pick up bibs and timing chips. We obtained entry from a car park by a back door and joined a long queue, armed with our confirmatory emails. After half an hour in the queue, and after being queue jumped by a French group, we reached a desk where we were officiously informed that we must supply our bib numbers in order to receive our 'envelopes'. The bib numbers were on display about a metre to our left over a low barrier, thus easily accessible to the man who was demanding that we leave the queue to get our numbers and rejoin it at the back. He who had been quite happy to serve the people who pushed in front of us. We refused to move and eventually got our envelopes, which were supposed to come with a 'goody' (a hat) that the man serving us deliberately failed to hand to us. Luckily we saw that everyone else was getting one and eventually we managed to escape with hats and envelopes. We could easily have missed another desk where you have to scan your timing chip in order to 'register'.

Altogether an unnecessarily stressful hour that we really needed to prepare our skis.

Stage 2 of our preparation was a pasta supper, prepared by Helen (not doing the loppet) aided by Sue (I collected her envelope) with rather greater efficiency than the shambles at the high school where we hadn't had time to look at the Expo stands, other than to take note of waxing advice for the following day.

Stage 3 involved the waxing of skis. Susan was using waxless skis so just needed the tips and tails preparing with glide wax - a fairly quick job. Sue and I skipped this bit of preparation as our tips and tails looked OK, and the waxing of the main wax 'pocket' - the central part of the ski - was more important. 

Ken is an expert at this task and sorted out our waxing before tackling his own, with Sue and me acting as 'commis' waxers. The race day temperature was expected to rise from about minus 18°C to not much below freezing, on a sunny day, making waxing a complex process. The outer layer needed to be quite hard (blue) for the cold start. Underneath that, a layer of violet wax would be more suitable for the warmer conditions that would prevail after the blue wore off. As a base, horribly sticky klister wax would allow the skis to grip on the warm afternoon when the violet wax had worn off. So the three waxes were applied in reverse order, each needing to be rubbed in and cooled outside before the next layer was added.

Meanwhile, Shane and Stephen needed to do little by way of preparation at Lester and Lynette's B&B as they both have smart new waxless skis with 'skins' - a mohair grip zone. Such skis have improved a lot and have become more sophisticated since we bought our waxing skis.

The planned early night didn't quite come off, especially for Ken, whose last job was to meticulously prepare his skis after everyone else had turned in.

Come Saturday morning, we were up at 5.45 am and were on our way to the Mont-Bleu school soon after 6.30 am. Skiers are taken from there to the start at P17 car park outside Wakefield in a convoy of school buses. The start takes place in five waves - A to E (based on predicted finish times) - and as usual Sue and I hung around in the warmth of the school before heading to the last of the buses. We know our place, and were joined at the start by Stephen, also setting off right at the back of the 458 (in theory, actually closer to 400) strong field.
There was no wind, so despite the cold temperature we kept tolerably warm before the start, a good half hour later. There's a service for taking jackets back to the finish at Mont-Bleu school that some used, whilst Stephen and I came ready to ski.

Ken, Susan and Shane started ahead of the three of us, in earlier waves. Being at the back of the field isn't bad. There weren't too many in the 'E' wave. "These are the people who haven't done any training" observed the announcer. The multiple start lanes soon reduced to three and everyone was pretty polite. Sue, Stephen and I skied pretty much together, catching up with Shane around the 32 km point at P11. Here Sue stopped to have her skis waxed and achieved the pay off for that by passing me some time later along Champlain Parkway. She soon then caught up with Stephen and skied with him to the end, just behind Shane and just ahead of me.

Our results are shown below, estimated in my case as my timing chip didn't work at the finish and as far as the organisers are concerned I dropped out before the end. (Not impressed.)

Ken: Position 300/458, 4 hours 45 minutes, 28/43 in age category.

Susan: Position 329/458, 5 hours 4 minutes, 8/10 in age category.

Shane: Position 364/458, 5 hours 25 minutes, 36/39 in age category.

Sue: Position 365/458, 5 hours 26 minutes, 17/21 in age category.

Stephen: Position 366/458, 5 hours 26 minutes, 13/21 in age category.

Martin: Position 371/458, 5 hours 30 minutes, 22/27 in age category.

Less than 40 skiers finished behind me, so the 458 total must include nearly 50 who paid the £60 entry fee and didn't turn up.

We all reconvened in the school hall for a 'free' school dinner, and noticed Superwoman, Karen Messenger, who we met in Estonia and in Canmore last year, receiving an award (and cash) for being the second woman to finish. Her husband, Erik, was the fifth man to finish (assuming the leading men's timing chips were working). Well done to both of them.

That just about brings our Canadian skiing exploits to a conclusion for this year, with today being a chilling out day for Sue and me whilst Susan drives home to Connecticut and Ken takes part in the 51 km skate skiers' race over the same course as yesterday. He has just checked in with the news that he did that in about four and a half hours. Well done Ken!

We return home tomorrow, so don't expect much of substance on here for a few days. 

Sue and Stephen are pictured before the start, and the four of us who finished more or less together are pictured at the finish.

Any more questions, Conrad?