Skiing the Vasaloppet

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Steve and Jill talk about Steve’s recent experience skiing the Vasaloppet in Sweden, one of the largest and most famous cross-country ski races in the world.

Steve: Hi, Jill.

Jill: Hi, Steve.

Steve: How are you today?

Jill: Good, thanks.

How are you?

Steve: Good, thanks.

We are trying out a new sound box here because I had some complaints about the quality of my sound and I went looking for different solutions like soundcards and we ended up with this external sound box.

Let’s hear your voice now.

Say something, Jill.

Jill: It’s a beautiful day today.

Steve: Looks like you are showing up on our little graph here.

Yeah, this is obviously our usual EnglishlingQ Podcast.

We do it because we hope that the combination of sound and text helps our learners and we also hope that we attract new learners to The Linguist System.

You know, just as an aside, it is very encouraging on my blog to get comments from people who very much agree with the approach that we’ve taken to language learning.

Some of them are involved in English teaching.

I had one person come from Japan and say how discouraged he is at the methods used in the school where they are teaching English and how we are on the right track in terms of making language learning fun and natural and aiding people to acquire words and phrases without going overboard on grammar explanations.

We are The Linguist http://www.thelinguist.com and this is our Podcast.

What should we talk about today?

What do you want to talk about, Jill?

Jill: Well, I’m fairly curious about something you were going to do recently.

I think probably most people listening to this Podcast probably have never heard of it and so I thought maybe you could talk a little bit about that and that is the Vasaloppet in Sweden, a large cross-country skiing race they have every year.

I know you and a couple of other men in the office here were going to participate in this 90 kilometer race last month.

Steve: Right. Well, first of all, the Vasaloppet is perhaps the largest ski race in the world; one of the most famous; 15,000 participants.

It has a long tradition because it commemorates an event that happened 500 years ago when Gustav Vasa who was going to become the King of Sweden, wasn’t yet the King of Sweden, was escaping from his enemies the Danes, the wicked, nasty Danes.

I think some farmers in the area around this town of Mora…he was actually escaping…went and found him and persuaded him to come back and lead a resistance to the Danes, which he did.

The thing is he was escaping on skis.

I mean the legend is full; 15 different versions but somehow or other out of this has come this Vasaloppet ski race, which is 90 kilometers long and attracts people from all over the world, so that’s the race.

Now how did we get involved?

Our lumber company K.P.

Wood buys lumber, wood, from a number of sawmills in the general area.

Two of our people were over there and they were probably drinking a fair amount of aquavit, which is the local drink, and they all decided they would go in this 90 kilometer race.

When they came back and told me that and they said that they had also suggested that I should go in and then I agreed so we were all committed to going in the race.

Jill: Now, I don’t think any of you were big cross-country skiers.

I think you have done a little bit but I think for sure the other two weren’t.

Steve: I think we had all done some and so this became a challenge.

I think I even made reference on my blog to, you know, just how important it is to have a challenge and to have some goals.

We had a goal.

We wanted to do well in this race and so we got busy.

We looked up on the Internet and found out that they recommended that you spend a lot of time training because 90 kilometers of skiing, you know, your body has to be ready for it.

One of the things they recommended was that you do, if possible, 500 kilometers of training so we set out to do a lot of training.

We hadn’t done a lot of cross-country skiing and we invested in new skis, you know, as inevitably happens and I spent a lot of time skiing.

Let me just take my own situation.

I skied a lot here on the local mountains and then I took a week off and I went up to a resort in the interior of BC called Silver Star, which you are familiar with.

I had a fabulous time.

I went out every day and I skied for four or five hours and it was beautiful and, of course, cross-country skiing is hard work so four hours of this and that was it, you know.

I did some downhill skiing while I was there as well but I just had a fabulous time.

I did my 500 kilometers and I was in great shape for this race; ready to go.

Unfortunately in my case, two days before the race I caught this terrible flu.

It’s funny, we were staying in the home of this person who owns the sawmill; very, very nice gentleman called Patrick Furdell.

Very, very nice gentleman and he invited the three of us to stay in his house.

We arrived there and we weren’t sure there was anyone home.

It was dark.

We arrived about 9 o’clock at night.

All of a sudden we heard someone.

We were upstairs and he was downstairs and we heard someone moving around so I walked downstairs and there he was in his bathrobe.

He has white hair and he says, you know, he is a very, very nice gentleman, and he said Steve, so glad to see you but stay away; stay away, stay five meters away, I have the winter vomit disease.

Jill: The Swedish term.

Steve: The Swedish term the winter vomit disease and it is very contagious; you stay away so I said fine; so we stayed away.

I can’t say that I got it from him.

I could have got it from anyone but living in the same house and we touched the same doorknobs and stuff, there’s a good chance.

Jill: Right.

Steve: Whatever.

For two days prior to the race and on the day of the race I was just vomiting.

I couldn’t keep any food down so basically I had nothing.

I could not possibly have gone in the race, so I was out.

It was like a comedy of errors.

At this point now the two other guys, Richard and Steven, were very afraid of getting the dreaded winter vomit disease so they decided to move out.

Jill: Oh, that’s what happened.

Steve: The other guys, the fellows from the Swedish sawmill, they were all gathering in a place that was three hours away from the start of the race whereas where we were staying in our house we were only an hour and a half away.

Jill: Okay.

Steve: Our original plan was to get up at 4:00 and take a bus to the start of the race and so we’d get there about 5:30-6:00.

The race starts at 8:00 because with 15,000 people the earlier you get there the closer to the front you are.

Apparently, you get there early and you put your skis down then you can go and have a cup of coffee or whatever you want to do; sleep some more, whatever.

Jill: Yeah, I heard that there were actually people that slept in the parking lot so they could put their skis out, you know, at 3:00 in the morning or whatever and then go back to bed.

Steve: Exactly. I mean 15,000 people!

But, Steven and Richard now they were frightened; they were afraid.

I mean, you know, here am I ever hour on the hour, day and night, I go to the bathroom right beside where they are sleeping.

They hear me getting up and, of course, they picture all the germs that I’m spreading around so they decided to leave.

They went out to this place in the middle of the woods three hours from the start.

They were with a group of these other people, the employees of the sawmill, and their plan was to leave at 4:00 in the morning so that would get them there at 7:00.

Richard and Steven complained and some of the others, the keener ones, so then they said okay, we are going to leave at 3:30 in the morning.

They get up at 3:30, wolf down some porridge and get on the bus.

The bus left late and, basically, they were on the road for about a half hour and one of the guys from the mill said I forgot my number.

They also have a little chip that you put in your shoe or something so they can keep track of your time so the bus had to go back.

The net result was that they got there with about 15-20 minutes to go so they were at the very back of the group.

They, in fact, couldn’t finish the race because if you don’t reach a certain point by a certain time they basically throw you out of the race.

Jill: Yeah, they don’t let you go on.

Steve: So, the three of us trained very hard and I basically came away with more honor than the other two.

Well, that’s not true, it wasn’t their fault.

I don’t regret for a minute the effort that I put into my training.

I had a fabulous time and I was motivated by the race and I was motivated by this particular measurable target, 500 kilometers.

Of course, I had a great time skiing.

Some days it was sunny and some days it was snowing in my face and some days it was windy and some days it was cold and some days it was warm, it didn’t matter.

In my blog I compared it a little bit to language learning that our long-term goal is to learn the language.

We have this image like I had this image of completing my 90 kilometer ski race; that’s 9-10 hours.

I mean maybe I can’t do it, I don’t know, but I visualized that I could do it.

I would never have trained if I didn’t think that I could do it.

Jill: Right.

Steve: I don’t know for sure that I can.

Jill: Well, you can’t have that attitude that I can’t do it because then what’s the point of all the training?

Steve: Exactly, you wouldn’t even try but I haven’t yet proven that I can do it.

Jill: Right.

Steve: Right.

Because I got sick I didn’t do it.

I haven’t done it yet but I believe I can do it; otherwise, I wouldn’t bother.

So, that’s my long-term goal, but you also need a measurable goal.

And so that was 500 kilometers and I can basically do that; 30 kilometers and another 20 and another 40 and another 30 and so I can gradually, you know, take that off.

Now I’m at 100, 130, 150 and stuff.

Jill: Until you reach your 500.

Steve: Until I reach my 500 kilometer goal, so it’s a very specific and clear goal.

That is, of course, what we’ve tried to do in The Linguist.

Your long-term goal is you want to achieve fluency.

Okay, for me, I want to complete the race.

I’m not going to win the race so it doesn’t matter to me.

If I complete the race, I’m happy.

Jill: Right.

Steve: I have the same approach to fluency. Fluency in a language doesn’t mean that you are perfect.

Jill: Right, sound exactly like a native speaker.

Steve: That’s right. You don’t have to be better, you know.

My pronunciation is better than Jill’s.

Jill knows more words than I do.

Who cares?

It doesn’t matter.

Jill: Right.

Steve: If I can speak, if Jill can speak, we’re both happy, we’re both fluent, we can communicate and we can continue to get better.

To that extent, there is also a comparison with language learning.

I just want to be in the race.

Well, I just want to be in the language.

Okay, I want to be fluent but to have more specific concrete goals is also useful.

That’s why we count the words and we have a number of measurables and graphs and statistics because it helps you.

If they had said to me just go out and train well, how much do I train?

I don’t know.

Jill: You have no measuring stick.

You have no idea whether you should be doing 10 kilometers at a time or 30 kilometers, you know, a total of 40 kilometers over several months or 1,000 kilometers so you don’t even know.

Steve: It’s motivating to know, okay, I want to do this amount.

Of course, the other thing is we at The Linguist want to make the content interesting.

Just as when you go skiing, I mean, I didn’t ski in a tunnel.

I didn’t ski in my basement on some treadmill.

I went to places that were nice.

It was in the snow, it was in nature, different trails so the whole thing was enjoyable.

On that basis,

Jill: It was hard work but it was enjoyable.

Steve: Exactly.

It wasn’t hard for me to get up the next day and go back out there skiing.

I had a ball.

I loved it.

So, anyway, that’s a longwinded answer to your question.

In the end, yeah, that was the Vasaloppet and, unfortunately, the three of us came back to Canada as we say with our tails between our legs.

Jill: But there’s always next year.

Steve: Yes, there’s always next year.

I think we’ve kind of covered the Vasaloppet.

Jill: I agree.

Steve: Okay.

Once again, this is EnglishlingQ.com where you can find a number of similar Podcasts and the transcripts will eventually be available in our Library.

For those of you who are members of The Linguist, you can then access the text and you can save words and phrases, you can add to your totals, reach the… not the 500 kilometer mark but the 5,000 word mark.

I should point out that in The Linguist we have a number of people who are at the 20,000 word mark and at all points in between.

So, thank you.

Jill: Thank you.

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