Written by Teemu Virtanen
Statistics by Polar
This Saturday, thousands of skiers participated in this year’s Birkebeinerrennet, the biggest ski race in Norway and one of the most prestigious sport events in the world. This 54 km race leaves from Rena and goes to Lillehammer, the 1994 Olympic town. The course goes over some mountains where gusty winds can often greet exhausted skiers. The scenery is certainly breathtaking, but to get up to the top one must climb for about 20 kilometers. And that’s not all as there is another long climb before the course starts descending towards the finish. This race is definitely one of the most challenging ones in the world of long distance skiing.
Most of our pro athletes manage to double-pole the course, but for recreational skiers kick wax is mandatory. Even then, the race can be very hard but rewarding once you have completed it. Let’s take a look at an amateur skier and his performance in the race – we can call him Mr. Birken for the sake of this article.
Mr. Birken spent 5 hours and 5 minutes and four seconds on the course from the time he started recording his performance on his Polar Vantage V watch and to the time he stopped it (his active time 4:54:57). The total distance for him was 53,57 km (51,6 km from point A to B), his average heart rate was 177 (max 195, min 129), total climb 1,055 m (descent 840 m), average speed 10,5 km/h and he burned 5,806 calories.
These are really impressive figures as anyone can see that Mr. Birken had a long and challenging day on the tracks. Based on the Polar statistics, he certainly didn’t have an easy run through the mountains. On the contrary, he kept pushing himself to the limit from the beginning to the end.
Mr. Birken spent about 4 hours and 40 minutes skiing with a high heart rate; 71%, 3:35 hours at the level 4 and 21%, 1:05 hours, at the level 5. The latter being very close to the maximum where the heart rate goes over the anaerobic threshold, and the former is well above the aerobic level. He spent only less than 23 minutes at the level 3 and only a minute or so at the level 2, which might have been just at the start before embarking on his journey.
This means that he had no sufficient recovery on the course even if there were some extensive downhill sections. It also seems that he took some downhills quite carefully as his speed quite seldom exceeded 35 km/h whereas our pro skiers managed to come down at about 55-60 km/h (however, Mr. Birken’s fastest speed was 48.5 km in the final section towards Lillehammer).
When compering his performance to our pro skiers, we can see how professionals can recover quickly and spend most of their time skiing on lower levels. Due to the fact that they do not need to go as close to their maximum levels and that they don’t spend as much time on the course, they also end up burning less calories.
As a conclusion, we can state that Mr. Birken underwent a tough race, pushed himself quite hard and was most likely very tired at the end. From a physical point of view, his performance was much harder than that of our pro skiers. But I bet he still enjoyed it, at least when he was done. To “win yourself” is the key factor in any endurance sport and Mr. Birken certainly did that!