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On August 20, 2023, the Ushuaia Loppet ski marathon took place on Tierra del Fuego in Argentina. Nikolay Kislov took part in it. About his unique experience of participating in the marathon “at the end of the world” Nikolay Viktorovich shares in the first person exclusively for SPINE.
What is Argentina like in winter?(Video)
I decided to fly to Ushuaia 2 weeks before the marathon in order to restore the "feeling of snow", which is invariably lost in the off-season during cross-country and roller ski training. The flight of Argentine Airlines took off from Jorge Newbery Airport, located right in Buenos Aires on the shores of the Gulf of La Plata. The process of registration and security control at the airport left the most positive impressions – clearly, quickly, without unnecessary ritual formalities with liquids and gadgets, which are so abundant in European airports. The flight took three and a half hours, after which the plane landed in the city of Ushuaia.
El fin del mundo
The unofficial tourist slogan of this city is "El fin del mundo", which means "the end of the world" in Spanish. Officially, Ushuaia is the southernmost city on Earth. This place reminded me of Kamchatka, only with mountains instead of volcanoes. The city is small, mostly one–story with houses unlike each other, about 80 thousand inhabitants, there is an industrial enterprise, tourism is very developed - sea cruises to Antarctica depart from here. Argentines and visitors of the country come here for tranquility, sea walks, active recreation – trekking, skiing and snowboarding.
I must say that this season in Tierra del Fuego did not come out with a lot of snow and the organizers had concerns that the marathon might not take place due to the lack of sufficient snow on the track. I even received from them 3 weeks before the planned start a very sad letter on this topic, illustrated with joyless photos showing cloudy landscapes with traces of snow.
But the trip was already planned and I decided to fly anyway. As a last resort, I thought I would visit a new interesting place to train. But I was lucky, because on the eve of my arrival in Ushuaia, the first heavy snowfall took place – about 30 cm of snow fell, and the sight of cars stuck in it on the way from the airport caused sincere joy and thoughts that I had not come in vain! Looking ahead, I want to say that during these 2 weeks before the marathon there were two more heavy snowfalls, which instilled confidence that the sports festival will take place.
Before choosing a place to stay, I studied the map, found a cross–country ski trail and rented a house taking into account the walking distance to the Circuito de esquí de fondo Francisco Jerman - that's the name of this place. And so it turned out, the way to the ski stadium was 3.5 km on foot with the need to climb 200 m up, which was a good warm-up before training. The road passed through picturesque places with views of the Beagle Strait, the mountains on both sides of it.
Interestingly, the border between Argentina and Chile runs through the middle of the strait, so the phrase "I'm sitting in Argentina, looking at Chile" perfectly characterizes this place.(Video)
On the first day, as a workout and to look around, I ran to the ski track, met the regulars and the main organizer of the marathon, Pablo. I found out that it is possible to prepare skis there and saw children studying cross-country skiing. This training track consists of several laps, the largest of which is 5 km with a total climb of 80 meters – there is a place to work.
In the off-season, my workouts usually include running and roller skis with mandatory strength training 1-2 times a week. On the snow, he also conducted various types of training – technical, high-speed and high-speed strength, volumetric. I am very grateful to my friends and coaches from Yaroslavl Sobolev S.V. and Mikhailov P.V. for their invaluable knowledge and experience, technical and methodological aspects of my training.
The Ushuaia Loppet marathon track is located in the town of Tierra mayor (Bolshaya Zemlya), which is a valley surrounded by mountains 20 km from the city. (Video)
She is supported by one family who are fans of cross-country skiing. There is all the infrastructure: a dressing room, a restaurant, equipment rental. It is gratifying that they are also engaged in training athletes with disabilities. Before the marathon, of course, I inspected the track. It consists of 2 circles of 21 km with a climb of 235 m per circle (according to Strava). Since the snow fell relatively recently, and in combination with a temperature of about 0, the track turned out to be too soft. Not having big paws to the sticks with him, I hoped to buy them when issuing numbers, but in vain. The process of issuing rooms was organized in the lobby of the shopping center of the city without the usual accompanying exhibition and trade in sports equipment and clothing. I think the reasons for this are high import duties in Argentina and a small number of participants – no more than 100 people for both distances, not counting the participants of the children's race.
In general, I liked the organization of the marathon, an additional positive impression was caused by the atmosphere of comfort, home celebration and enthusiasm of the organizers and volunteers. (Video) A collective transfer from the city center to the race venue was organized. There was enough room for everyone to change clothes.
Before the start, judging by the appearance of possible rivals, I thought that I would have to compete with 15-20 athletes. Immediately after the start, I found myself in the leadership group, which quickly disintegrated: the contender for 1st place immediately went into a breakaway and maintained the advantage throughout the race. Thanks to the local service people, the skis worked well, and the sticks were expected to fall deeper than necessary, breaking the "double poling" technique.
After the first lap, I realized that I could not catch up with the runner in front, when looking back I did not see the pursuers in the foreseeable space and drove more calmly. Finished 4th. The gap with the third place was about 6 minutes, which did not allow us to hope for a fight for the 3rd place, even if more forces had come from somewhere. The food along the route was not warm (water, isotonic, bananas, marmalade, etc.), but given the plus air temperature, this was not a big problem for me. There were enough spectators, they supported me, one even shouted "come on, come on" to me in Russian.
We thank Nikolai Viktorovich Kislov for such a detailed and emotional story and the opportunity to touch such an amazing and distant place!
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