Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Redbull Ragnarok 2011

I just returned back to the UK after a week in Norway at the Redbull Ranarok! Im absolutely exhausted and 1 pot of strong coffee hasn't been able to kick me in to action.

The Rebull Ragnarok was a new experience for me. I've never been to the snow before although we have had snow in the UK before so Im not a complete snow virgin however when it comes to snowboards, boots, Mariano wool and snow kiting I had no experience whatsoever.

I had no preconception for the Redbull Ragnarok apart from that it had a awesome name and great history. I was aware that it was a tough endurance challenge not only in distance, but terrain and weather conditions too. Last year the Ragnarok was completed only by 4 people out of nearly 200. They experienced whiteouts and howling gales. This year word had spread and there were around 300 people in Haugastol in Norway for the event. 200 were given entry including me. The circuit was around 12 - 15km's long and the race was to make the lap 5 times in the shortest time possible.

Having had no experience I hit Norway with Jalou Langeree 3 days early to try to get some snow kiting practice in.

Day one we had no wind, so I strapped a snowboard to my feet and hit the slope outside our hotel room. It was only a few meters long and lovely powder so Jalou held me hands then flung me on my way. After 10 or so goes, blood sweat and tears it was time to hit the ski slopes of Gailo for some better practice.

Over the coming days I was able to spend a few hours at these slopes and by the day before Ragnarok I was riding down a red run linking turns and kind of getting the hang of it. Bruises on my bum show the pain and the burning thighs were a not so subtle indication to me to take it a little easy and not burn myself out for the Ragnarok itself otherwise I would have liked to stay longer into the evening to really crack it! Thanks to Christian Rangen and Craig from Bluejuice for their patience and help.

Next up we had some wind for my 9m Torch. The conditions were - intriguing and we cautiously drove from 'spot to spot' following the red lights of the car in front as it was pretty much a whiteout. I couldnt tell the difference in the spots too much as visibility was just a few metres and we ended up back at a place close to the hotel.

It didnt take long to get the hang of snow kiting. It was similar to kiting on water only with more traction. Popping was wierd and I was throwing myself of small kickers to help get airborne. The wierdest thing of all was the vision - or should I say lack of it. I could see one guy up ahead who could well have been flying. I could make him out and his kite, but everything around him up and down looked exactly the same - white!

While riding it was like kiting blindfolded and I couldnt really tell if I was going uphill, downhill, fast or slow. Falling over backwards was a good sign of coming to an abrupt halt. After an hour or more I actually began to feel a it sick and made my way back to the car so I could get some kind of orientation. WIERDDDD, but it didnt stop me for a second session when fortunately the visibility improved.

Day 4, 2 days of boarding down and 1 day of snow kiting it was the time for Ragnarok itself! There was media everywhere, helicopters, skimobiles and more! The buzz was very excitable and there were a lot of new faces - male and female. There were a lot of nervous people and others extra confident! Not many really knew what was to come and there was a lot of talk that was best to avoid! Talk of whiteouts, 40 knot storms and blizzards that would cover you from head to toe if you even stopped for a minute to catch your breath. At kitesurfing competitions its easy to know who to avoid and who to hang out with to draw strength, but this was hard to find at Raganrok and in the end I just absorbed it and tried to hang on to what seemed the best words of advise and ignore the crap.

The race was made up of 5 bouys approximately 3km's apart. Most of them were up a hill or half way up at least! Some hills were gently rolling and one was a lot steeper. It was a challenge in itself working the kite to create enough power to go up hill while at the same time avoiding all other kites that were in the same predicament. It was a stunning scene full of adventure and much more mellow then I had expected. After the up was a serious down hill. I found a way through unmarked snow and shot down super quick only to meet the fate of many others below who hit the no wind zone. 10's and 10's of kites lay down unruffled upon a frozen lake and it became my destiny too!

At this stage there were kites a long way to be seen all lying on the floor, so I along with a bunch of others decided to hike to until the next bit of wind arrived.

Overall I found the course to be intense, but less intense then I expected probably due to chinks of sunshine that came through the cloud making it possible to see the way. I seemed to hit patches of no wind on many occasions and alternated between times of walking in knee to waist deep snow with kite either under my arm or dragging along behind. Other times I would be cruising round the course with perfect power. I was always gagging for water and felt that I was generally suffering from overheating as opposed to hyperthermia which some of the girls suggested. I made one lap of the course in a pretty slow, but steady pace. That was my goal having never been to the snow before, so I was pleased. After 4 hours the race was called off due to lack of wind. Every rider at one point found themselves walking or sitting for a stretch of the race.

The winner completed 3.5 laps of the race before it was called off, so I have some work to do to make a good time for next year, but Im up for the challenge. Covering distance on kites is amazing and there are some fantastic sights, big drops and hills to haul up! Its all part of it and there is probably no where quite like the Lake District (my home) to get experience on that for next year! For one thing Im hoping for snow again next season, but if not Scotland is only up the road!

Thanks to Craig at Bluejuice for coming to document the trip! Watch out for our video on Naish TV in the coming weeks. Also thanks to the Nowegian and Danish possie who put us up in the room for a couple of nights, but not only that, but took us under their wing. You guys made my trip! See you next year!!

PS Just read that back and it doesnt make much sense, but my brain wont work to correct it! Hope you can make head from tail and hope it encourages you to push yourself out of your comfort zone this season! Its worth it!!

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