Reflections on 50 World Loppet Cross Country Ski Races…..at last!
By John Miller
Completing my 50 th World Loppet event at Obertilliac recently brought many emotions to the fore…exhaustion,exhilaration,gratitude and some profound relief,as there had been some unexpected delays along the way- in arriving at this goal. And my speed has diminished markedly in the last year… since Bronchial frostbite in Germany early last northern winter..with times reducing by about 30%…
Internationally it all started in Canada in 1993…… so its been a long journey of 20 years.
When one inevitably hits the wall as is the case with my low levels of skill and now fitness..my early and now departed buddies from the Wangaratta Ski Club…Peter Bailey, Norm Allen, Graham Welsh,and Bruce Osborn..appear before me and start pulling me along to the finish..with words of encouragement and sometimes understandably…abuse!
The World Loppet and its events now in 16 countries is a wonderful concept…and as the Austrians say..”One only competes against oneself ” It’s thus great to be involved in a sport where at my level , participation is the key and completion…. rather than winning…. the emphasis.
Membership of the London Region Nordic Ski Club has been essential to my recent involvement and the completion of events in Czech Republic, Poland and Obertilliac, where Paddy and Hilary drove me all the way from our most successful excursion in Bessans was so appreciated.
As a young graduate working at the Wangaratta Woollen Mills joining the local ski club with its great lodge in the Mt Hotham alpine reserve, was the beginning for me. WSC has always encouraged ski touring and has had several Olympians in our XC discipline.The support of Ruth has been essential and is much appreciated and although she is one who feels the cold, she has accompanied me to Italy,Switzerland,Finland,Estonia,Canada and on several occasions Japan…and recently Bessans.
I prefer the events that start and finish at the same point and dislike very much those requiring an early start and standing around in the cold at commencement..thus to those in the know…. Japan,Czech,Finland the Kangaroo Hoppet ,Canada and Obertilliac were my favourite locations …and my favourite races are thus …..The Hoppet, Canada, Sapporo, Czech, Lahti and Passo Lavazza classic in Italy. Of course venues that reward travellers with more than one event are for practical reasons well attended. For a social skier such as myself one of the other attractions is the quality of local treats..coffee, cakes, and even the beer..and the opportunity to cross borders for a relaxing day trip to sample such pleasures.
But the overriding feeling on becoming a Global World Loppet Skier and now a five times master is gratitude to the friends I have made in this extraordinary journey..from Canada -Robert Palliser, Peter and Marg Macleod, from the US Bengt and Kathryn Karlsson and Paul Reznick, in France Hannes Larsson and his brother Einar from Finland, Poland.. Piotr and Jacek… and in the UK Paddy and Hilary Field, Judy and Alan,and Alan and Margaret and Peter and Julie. Jeanine saved my life by suggesting that even tough Aussies need a face mask when it’s minus 15 and with a biting head wind! In Japan Akira and Yumi Komori and Minoru and family were wonderful homestay hosts.
It has been our pleasure to be able to occasionally reciprocate such hospitality .
I am now no longer in the game of collecting passport stamps..my recent times have been quite poor..and I want to enjoy new challenges..to skate, I have new boots and skis .. with many trips with London Region Nordic mates in mind … and may in due course join a friend on a long sea voyage sailing on his two master 55 footer back to Aussie.. from the other side of the world…
With profound thanks to all who made my voyage on snow to date, so enjoyable and satisfying …