sabato 3 dicembre 2016

Rovaniemi 150 Interview with the Race Director Alex S. Casanovas

 I will make Rovaniemi 150 with a Pulka

Hi Alex,

Please can you tell to our readers a bit of history of the Rovaniemi 150? When was the first edition? First edition was in february 2012.

How did came the idea to organize the first winter ultramarathon in Europe which combines three categories: by fat-bike, by ski and on foot? After participating in Iditarod Trail Invitational 2011. I saw that once you cross the McKinley range the lanscape is very similar that the one here in Lapland. Rovaniemi150 is a copy of those winter races organized in Alaska since the end of 80's adapted to Finnish regulations and on my way.

Did the course change during the last years? We start with only a 150 km race. In 2015 we add two more distances: 66 km and 300 km. We change some rules and little technical details on the way we get experienced. 

Did the participants increased in these years? First edition we had 14 participants, only 3 finish it. Since then the participation had growing every year. Last edition we had 106 athletes in starting point. Anyway this year, when there is only 1 month to the end of registration, looks that we do not arrive to 100. But who knows? untill the last moment registration can grow up.

You are a polar guide. You are an expert of logistics in extreme conditions and you are an expert of the Polar environment: What are the main peculiarities of the Polar environment? Basicly the logistics in isolate places. Of course the extreme cold is a problem if you don't know how to manage in such temperatures. Anyway lower than -30ºC you have to be very carefull even with experience. 
What are the main challenges of this peculiar type of environment? It’s the cold? The lack of daylight? How many hours of brightness are there? The big challenge is always the cold and how fit you are. Experience is important to well now how to dress in the right way. Normally the lack of daylight is not a problem, is all in your mind and more batteries for the headlamp. Here in Rovaniemi the less hours we have is 4 (from 10:00 to 14:00) but after december 21st the days are getting longer (30 minutes per/week). We start to feel a longer daylight after 10th of january aprox. 

what are the main differences of running an "normal" ultra in alpine enviroment and Rovaniemi? Temperatue can be as low as -30/-35 celcius, what have been the averages/Max/min in the latest editions, we know there was a huge difference?
In all five editions we never had more than -15ºC (!) but in possible that in february we could reach -30ºC or more. In fact always some days before the race we had reach those temperatures (in 2012 one week before the race we were for 10 day between -33ºC and -37ºC), but never during the race. So participants have to come here with enough clothes to face that low temperatures. Then during the briefing I tell them how is going to be and the track conditions, so they can choose the gear better. Last edition was warm (-1ºC/-2ºC) but was windy, snowy and humidity and many people quit: in Rov150 finished 53% (29 of 55) and Rov300 finished 14% (4 of 28). Rov66 is easier so finished 87% (20 of 23) 

Knowing all these aspects: what you suggest as training for people that want to take part of the Rovaniemi 150, but live in conditions like Continental Europe? The best if possible is to train in cold weather in places like Alps, Pyrenees or similar. The most important, even if you train in a industrial freezer is not to get wet. Never, never have to sweat! If you do you have to slow down or stop. 

What should a runner of the Rovaniemi always have in mind during that race? Now sweat, good hydratation. Better start with a lot of clothes and then little by little take it out to mantain the body hit without sweat.  

What do you suggest a runner of the Rovaniemi has to bring with him other than the compulsory equipment?  In our web page you can find a good list. The most important is to have a very good down 700/1000 grms jacket, goretex pants and very good mittens to use it when stops and if temperature goes down. Shoes are also very important, whatever kind of shoes you wear it must be waterproof and big enough to fit two (2) socks: a thin and thick ones. Gaiters help you keep you warm and protect the ancle from the snow and cold. Also overshoes are good in case of extreme cold and/or overflow (water on top of ice in lakes and rivers). Is very important also to well protect neck, head, nose and eyes if is windy.

Why are “pulka’s” used?
Carry the weight in the pulka is more confortable than in your back. In fact with a pulka you can pull more kilos than your weight. Some athletes in Rovaniemi150 used a bagpack, is up to them, but most of the athletes who do this kind of competitions use a pulka.

As an expert of this peculiar environment, do you think that the Polar environment is threatened by the climatic change? Yes. After 8 seasons in Antarctica you can see very easy how the small glaciers go down and backward. Anyway all the scientifics I have been working with never worried about that. 10.000 years ago Europe was cover in ice... Long time ago were dinos... Many species had dissapeared... "The Planet is fine, the people are fucked!" (George Carlin dixit).

Alex your life is like a romance. To make it really short: you are catalan when you were a kid you sailed, then you started climbing and you climbed all over the world including Antarctica, you worked as expert of logistics for humanitarian ONGs, and you are an expert in polar expeditions… how do you manage to do all this only in one life?? What the best advice that you can give to people who live in normal way? What the best advice that you can give to me that I am about to realize my dream taking part to Rovaniemi 150? Only one sentence: Better do what you really like than wish the hope.