Ben’s Cross Country Ski Challenge – Vasaloppet 2022
One of the scariest aspects of Covid has been the lottery of not knowing exactly how it will impact you. Would you be one of the lucky ones who has no symptoms? Would you end up in hospital? Or would you be one of the 2.5% of people who end up with “long covid”, fatigue symptoms that continue well after your body fights off the initial infection.
Our Pathway Coach for Cross-country Skiing, Sarah Young, caught up with one of the newest Fife Roller Ski Club participants, Ben Finch who is suffering from long covid. Having fallen ill right at the start of the pandemic, Ben and his family have had to deal with his symptoms during a period when the term “long-covid” didn’t exist and where there is still a great deal of uncertainty around his symptoms, support for the condition and recovery time.
As part of his recovery, Ben has set himself an endurance cross-country ski challenge!
The official strap line of the challenge is “long covid to long ski”. Ben pitches it is a recovery adventure to rediscover the bits that got lost during the illness. A test to see if it is possible to complete the Vasaloppet 2022 – a 90km classic cross-country ski race in Sweden.
Why the Vasa?
The Vasa is a famous long distance ski race that draws over 15,000 participants annual. Ben says it has been on his periphery as something that he would want to do some day. Having previously done and organised ultramarathons, the Vasaloppet seemed like a good stretch goal when casting about for something to challenge himself with and to be the focus for his recovery efforts. It would also allow him to get back to cross-country skiing, which he’d done as a teenager.
Why cross-country skiing?
The story of Ben’s introduction to cross-country skiing is pretty unique and has good deal of nostalgic whimsy. Apparently, his dad just turned up with cross-country skis one day. Then they went on a series of family holidays to Sweden, leaving the house on Christmas day, catching the first ferry from Hull to Gothenburg on Boxing Day and driving somewhere in Sweden to cross-country ski for the week until New Year. They didn’t have any lessons or training, they just went.
What is it like training for the Vasa?
Luckily, Ben’s partner Nic, is a personal trainer and she’s been managing his training programme. They’ve had a steep learning curve on how much training is possible, when Ben can push through and when he needs to rest. The general rule seems to be “either mentally or physically tired, never both.”
At the moment they are looking at building endurance, which includes hitting up the FRSC Monday session, an easy ski during the week and a longer ski at the weekend.
Ben also had a trip up to Kingussie to ski with Roger Homyer of Highland Nordic after reaching out to Nordic clubs through Facebook. The trip was great for building confidence – Ben describes it as two guys out on skis enjoying themselves.
What roller ski equipment?
As the Vasa is a classic race, Ben has purchased classic roller ski equipment. In post-Brexit January, equipment was difficult to order. Decathlon was out of stock, but in the end some Skate Pro skis were tracked down. Ironically, when they arrived, there was too much snow to go out on them!
Ben commented that one of the Development athletes at the Fife sessions has been complimentary about his boots. He thinks this means they might be quite good quality, which is good as he admits he didn’t really know what he was getting when he ordered them.
How’s training with long covid?
With the Vasaloppet challenge, Ben’s really hoping to encourage others further behind in their recovery from long covid that there is light at the end of tunnel. He knows first-hand that the lack of certainty is terrifying. Completing the race will prove that it is possible to get back to normal and even to do something exciting and new. Long covid is not a full stop.
In fact, Ben said at the end of our conversation, it doesn’t even mater if he actually does the race. He’s getting out and doing something regularly, which wasn’t something that seemed possible last July.
If you are interested in following Ben’s journey you can check out his Facebook page Ben’s Big Adventure.
More info on the Fife Roller Ski Club on their Facebook page!