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To South-East Austria for my first Ski Marathon

Updated: Feb 4

Pre race day: 19th January 2024

Today I left the Seefeld area for the first time since I arrived, bound for Lienz in South East Tirol. I travelled by train and really wasn’t sure what to expect and how multiple trains and transfers would flow together. The 6 hour train journey went surprisingly quickly and smoothly. The transfers kept me on my toes and engaged with the mission at hand - getting there! A few words I would use to describe Lienz are historic, religious, quaint and peaceful. It was chilly but there was no snow on the ground. Good thing the race isn’t in Lienz, and is instead in Obertilliach at a much higher elevation of 1,450m. After arriving I really enjoyed walking through the cobbled streets dressed with fairy lights hanging from the colourful buildings. I also took a stroll beside Lienz’s delightful wide river that has a solid flow and if you look up you see snowy mountains in every direction. The town has a population of around 12,000 and it was easy and enjoyable getting around the centre of town on foot. The town had a nice upbeat vibe to it with many locals out and about. There were multiple churches with bells that ring every 15 minutes, adding a lot to the atmosphere. In the afternoon I had a paddle in the amazing pool at the hotel and checked out the Sauna…. A very new experience for me! Let’s just say for my first time I was glad it wasn’t busy and I only bumped into another female!

Race day: 20th January 2024

Wow what a day! Sunshine, fresh snow on the trees and great trails!! It truly was a beautiful day and an awesome race:)

I took a shuttle bus to Obertilliach which was organised by the race committee. The sun was shining and it was a beautiful bus ride up and up into the mountains. I was already getting the vibe it was going to be a brilliant day! I sat beside a man from Sapporo, Japan and we talked non-stop for the 1 hour ride!

The race start/finish was at the Obertilliach biathlon centre. I heard some coaches and athletes in Seefeld saying they have often travelled there for training. From my limited biathlon knowledge it seemed like quite the set up and I thought of all the weekend warriors who enjoy biathlon at Snow Farm in New Zealand!

I expected it to be cold and it was. It was around minus 15 degrees so I thought I would wear 3 pairs of gloves and 3 poly pro layers. One could think I was overdoing it but I didn’t feel it on the start line. I even surprised myself when throughout the race my temperature regulation was on point and I felt I nailed the wardrobe choices. 

The race was 42km Freestyle consisting of 2 laps of 21km. There was a short climb, before a long downhill down to the river. There was some funky camber to the trails as we traversed back and forth down and across a large slope. My skis and my mind weren’t sure exactly how to act and I felt like I invented a new ski technique on those sections. There were also some super sketchy right hand turns. I saw some people in front of me nail it, but for me I resorted to the normally trusty pizza, but even that gave me zero control. I told myself there was the promise of another shot at them on the second lap. Unfortunately that proved to be just as out of control! In the end I was very satisfied to get around those corners without falling.

After the downhill, we turned around, crossed the river and followed it back up to the start, crossing over bridges every now and again. It still excites me to ski over bridges and through tunnels. Very novel for me and it makes me feel like I am skiing not just as a sport, but as a regular and valued form of transport.

Good snow conditions allowed the race organisers to swap a more adventurous route for a very pleasant 3km section at the end of every lap - through the trees, in the sunshine, with fun downhill corners - the type when you feel like a race car driver that’s in control. This was one of my highlights of the race.

It was nice passing the finish area for lap 2 with the beats pumping on the speakers. One of the instrumental songs sounded very traditional and one of the skiers behind me started singing the words in German. It felt like the kind of song which could be a national anthem but I could be very wrong there. The song was lovely and his singing mixed with puffing from behind brought me joy!

On the second lap I spent the uphill back towards the finish by myself. I decided not to stop at the last pit stop which worked out well because I was able to catch up to two skiers. It was nice to have people around for the last 5 kilometres.

Many firefighters were dotted across the course in case there was a fire. Joking! I don’t think that’s why they were there but I felt honoured they took the time to be part of the event and appreciated their cheers!

The finish line feeling never gets old and I enjoyed bonding over the experience with fellow racers in the biathlon centre hall. It feels like everyone really enjoys the sport of cross country skiing and is grateful to be able to do a wonderful and unique sport. Such fun meeting and connecting with all these people. I met a lovely group from America and a couple from Canada. I also enjoyed speaking to a family from Estonia over dinner. They were excited to hear I was from New Zealand and said “everyone in Estonia knows Campbell Wright.” Apparently Estonia as a country really loves Biathlon and it seems Campbell has a strong fan base there! I was also impressed when one of them came out with the name “Nathan Favae”. I found out he was also a very keen Adventure racer.


Pre and post-race chats with people from all around the world, skiing by the river and the last 3 kilometres through the forest were some of my highlights.Thank you Dolomitenlauf for the awesome experience!! Heading back to Seefeld where I will work until the Marcialonga next weekend.

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