You save a lot of time and headache by preparing both your skis and your mind for the course, and several steps can be done even before departing.
“Do as much as you can before you leave home,” says Jan Erik Berger, a wax tech who has worked both with the Norwegian national teams and several of the professional marathon teams.
Berger also recommends bringing a pair of old skis for training and wax testing at the venue.
Prepare for wear
In terms of specific wax tips, a lot depends on the temperature and the weather on the race day, but there are several steps that can be prepared before leaving if you do some research on the conditions ahead of time.
“For instance, with a race like the Marcialonga, the snow will vary from fine grained natural snow at the start and up to the turnaround in the end of the valley as well as a little ways down the valley again, roughly the first 20-25 kilometers of the course. From there you will have a mix of natural snow, man-made snow and snow that has been trucked to the course where the course is using roads and paths, Berger says, adding that man-made snow is particularly hard on the wax in terms of wear.
“Regardless, a race like Marcialonga will cause a lot of wear on the wax job,” Berger says.
Berger also explains that with a course that varies as widely between start and finish both in terms of temperature and snow conditions, it is hard to have one pair of skis that work optimally through the entire range.
“Often, it is cold at the start, and totally slushy at the finish. Given those premises, it is hard to have perfect skis the whole way. You have to compromise and decide where it matters most to you to have the best skis,” Berger says.
He notes that a lot of racers prefer to have skis that are slightly off at the start, but that get better as the day progresses.
“In our experience, it is better to have skis that just keep getting better,” he says.
Prepare the bulk before departure
There are several steps in the wax process that can be completed before leaving home. That makes the night before a lot less stressful in terms of waxing.
“Do a solid job with the glide zones, and that can easily be done at home,” Berger says.
Berger recommends several layers of glide wax, and several products in order to prep the bases for wear and allow optimal glide throughout the race.
“Start with a layer of graphite, then a layer of Swix marathon glide wax or a different product similar with durability, scraping and brushing between all. Then top it all with a powder that covers a wide range of temperatures and conditions around freezing and that is formulated for dirty snow and man-made snow,” Berger says, adding that all of this is easily done before leaving home.
“Do all of this at home, and just pack the skis with the powder on the bases. Then brush your skis out the night before, while doing the base prep for the kick wax,” Berger says.
In his opinion, a fairly coarse grind and hand structure works well at the Marcialonga.
“You should choose a grind that is a hair coarser than what the conditions at the start should indicate, since you know it will change for the slushier, he says, recommending a 1-2mm manual rill on top of the stone grind. The rilling is done right before the start.
“Your skis might seem a little draggy for the first 20K, but I guarantee they will pick up as the day progresses,” Berger says, adding that there are a few tricks to overcome that disadvantage.
“Try to draft others for the first part of the course. When the course turns and you start going down the valley you have easy cruising until you turn again in Molina and start going slightly uphill again for a few kilometers before you reach the final steep 3K climb into Cavalese and the finish line,” Berger says.
Kick waxing for a race like Marcialonga is not easy. The brutal wear on the wax, which makes it hard to keep the wax on the ski, is one factor, the vastly changing conditions is another complicating factor. But Berger serves up a few tips to combat both.
“Putting in a solid base layer is crucial if you don’t want to double-pole up the final 3K hill. If you don’t have a burned in base you can just forget about finding anything that will last throughout the race, Berger says.
“Heat in a generous layer of base wax, and don’t add too soft of a wax for the start,” he says.
Berger also emphasizes that pretty much everyone has to rewax for the final climb. A lot of racers choose to add klister at the base of that hill, but in Berger’s experience, there is a lot to be saved by using hard wax.
“I would suggest using a thick layer of soft kick wax for the last hill, and don’t even cork it out. That gives just as much kick and it only takes half the time to apply compared to klister,” Berger says.
The rest of the gear
When the skis are ready to be packed, spend half a minute looking over the rest of your equipment. Be particularly careful about packing your poles and protect them against brutal baggage handling.
It might also be a good idea to pack you boots in your carryon if you are flying. If you should lose your bags, at least you have your boots. It’s much easier to borrow poles and skis, but it’s rarely comfortable to ski 70K in new or someone else’s boots!
Also, survey the equipment after arrival to make sure everything weathered the trip.
“Make sure the poles are intact after the trip, hold on to your poles tightly at the start, have good glasses and a comfortable drinking belt with a bottle,” Berger suggests.