For a long time I’d been thinking about running a bigger race on old wooden skis with bamboo poles and in an old-style costume. I wasn’t interested so much in the fun of the enterprise, instead I wanted to experience the exertion of old-time skiers and to compare my time with theirs. I found my equipment in the extensive family collection (good that dad hadn’t managed to burn it all) inherited from my grandad and great-grandad from Špindlerův mlýn.
After preparing 75 pairs of skis for other participants with my colleagues on the day of the race, I dressed in a historic costume, had a drink and went to the elite section of the starting line. The organisers assigned the track on the very left for me. A comic interlude consisted of me borrowing a hammer so that I could install my boots in the bindings. The Italian women next to me couldn’t believe their eyes. Then came the starting shot. I was surprised how slowly everyone was running. All the way up to the Buk it was a classic technique skier’s dream – the tracks, good waxing, my style the quality of vintage wine plus thousands of fans along the trail who cheered me on.
On the way downhill from Buk I realised the skis were not going fast enough (everyone was in a tuck, I had to stride) and I started to fall behind into the first wave. On the uphill section from Blaťák I was sliding back badly, so at Kristiánov I stopped at the Swix servicemen for the first time in my life. I also discovered the first problem with my clothing. It was too warm for fast skiing and I was sweating like bacon on a pan. What was even worse was that I hadn’t put long johns on under the wool trousers, so from about the fourth kilometre the material started to scratch the inner sides of my thighs as if it shaved my legs with sandpaper with every stride.
At Kasárenská, I finally realised it was not going to be my kind of race. To make matters worse, after the snowstorm the trail changed into a smooth field without any tracks, so I stopped competing and instead concentrated on keeping the planks in the right direction. Naturally it was impossible not to fall; my legs went apart, I put one pole between my legs and fell to the ground like a charred totem. Following the old rules, I properly covered up the hole I had made falling into the snow so that other skiers could easily cross the place. I’d been struggling for two hours - with Mother Nature, the pair of wooden boards, bamboo poles, the ice skating rink a.k.a. the trail and also with my shaken spirit. The handle on one pole fell off again, I had white knuckles from holding tight it in my frozen mitten, blood was streaming down my thighs, my clothes were soaking wet and heavy. The flat cap kept falling into my eyes, the pulled muscle attachment on my left ankle was bringing tears to my eyes and my favourite Promenádní became the suffering of Jesus Christ. On top of all that my skis stopped for good since they soaked up water and doubled in weight.
I got a second wind in Smědava because I received the news that Standa Řezáč had won and all the way up to Knajpa I was gliding like a youngster. However, the flat area around Máří was never-ending and my legs were buckling under me. I was worn out...
While going down to Hřebínek, I was getting ever stronger cramps in my thighs and back and I was struggling just to get there. I managed after four hours. They had to massage my legs to relax the thighs locked in cramp, I stuffed myself with four sausages, eight portions of soup, uncountable amount of sports drink and a whole carton of chocolate wafers. If I hadn’t been in the historic costume I would have given up, I knew very well that I had almost reached the end of my tether.
Running down to the stadium I heard the cheering of all my fans which made me speed up so vehemently that I broke one of the bamboo poles and I reached the finish with just one. After crossing the finishing line I had tears in my eyes. Despite the brutal conditions, I managed to get my time under five hours. I fulfilled my long-standing dream and I was moved because my parents and friends from our Ski Trab Mára team were waiting for me with signs and congratulations. Thank you.
They helped me reach the service area where I just collapsed. Only after an hour of sleep was I able to get changed and drink something. I must have been a sorry sight at that moment.
Anyway, although it was a real nightmare, I enjoyed it very much and now I admire all the skiing legends even more since they performed even better and on old skis.